Opportunity Knocks

Here is a semi-recent project for Strategic Finance. The article was about an unexpected phone call leading to several merger / acquisition opportunities.


Made mostly in zbrush with a little photoshop at the end.

illustration made in brush of man answering knocking phone


No it’s not a movie sequel, an epipen, or a cable sports channel.


As I found out from working on this assignment from Strategic Finance magazine, EPM2 stands for Enterprise Performance Management. The “2” part is because a new generation of the software has been developed to better help MSCO’s (manufacturing and supply chain organizations) plan and manage their businesses.

Mary Zisk, the art director, always does a great job of helping me wade through the alphabet soup of corporate accounting that fills the prose of the magazine she directs. She boiled it down to thinking of EPM2 as helping companies that make and sell their own stuff. She suggested some kind of factory setting.



Northwestern University

Northwestern University commissioned me to illustrate several essays in their alumni magazine. What was especially fun on this assignment was their openness to taking an entirely different approach on each image.

First was an essay about Northwestern alums doing interviews with college applicants to make the process more personal. I thought of this as the alums creating a sort of portrait of the applicant.1310a

Next was a piece about helping people with aphasia – inability to speak or understand speech as a result of a brain injury.1310b


This was a lighter essay about a lifetime love of running.


and running as part of travel.1310d

The last story was about a student organization of veterans helping other veterans adjust to life at college after serving in active duty.1310e


Sports Radio

Twin Cities Business Journal hired me to illustrate a story about the high number of sports radio stations in Minneapolis / St. Paul.



A New Direction

So an illustrator is supposed to develop their style or “brand” (as they call it these days) and stick to it. Unfortunately that can sort of stunt one’s creativity. And I can only cut little people out of paper for so long before going a little loopy. So it was fun to take this assignment in a new direction.

I’ve developed a body of work based on drawing with Krink K-60 graffiti markers. John Paxson over at Washington State Magazine was open to taking this new bolder, simpler visual approach on an assignment to illustrate sleep research being conducted at WSU’s sleep research lab in Spokane. They are researching how sleep (and sleep deprivation) affect job performance. Particularly jobs directly relating to public safety. John and I were both especially compelled by the examples in the story about airline tragedies and sleep deprived pilots.




Not everyone was comfortable with this new approach but John lobbied hard to get it into print. Thanks John for pushing for it.

Behind the scenes process of one long job.



This was a project to illustrate an essay on “taste” for Washington State Magazine. I thought it would be a good demonstration of my 3D process – since it turned out to be a real struggle.


The essay covered a lot of ground as far as taste goes: food, art, literature, relationships, music and more. It was written in “three acts” to give some structure to the ramblings.


To begin with I just focussed on the idea of taste and the author’s disdain for the way our culture inflicts its tastes on us. There was also a lot about the collision of high and low culture.



runway rundown.

3 4

Adam and Eve even made an appearance in the text.


Disdain for “star ratings”.


a lowbrow wine taster


snob analysis



I guess these were too crazy and needed to stick more closely to the text. So I was asked to focus on the theatrical idea of the author’s “three act” structure and the clash of high and low culture.

Here is round two of sketches.


These didn’t go over so well either. I guess my visual metaphors were clashing with the essay’s verbal metaphors.

Now I really feel like I’m letting my client down. Sorry John!


John has the idea of using the imagery of Beethoven and a banjo. Both of which are part of the text. So I suggest maybe we could do some sort of dada mash up of the two (like Lautrémont’s  chance meeting of a vacuum and a sewing machine on a dissection table).



Or maybe we should just do Beethoven playing a banjo on a stage.





Now to roll up the sleeves…

first a very rough color sketch in photoshop.



then I project the line drawing onto illustration board from a projector and mirror system I have mounted in the ceiling of my studio. The projector is tied directly to my computer then bounces the image off a mirror onto my drawing table. Projecting straight from the computer allows me to easily adjust the scale and position of the sketch to work with different found materials I might use in the finished piece.



Here is the projected image which I trace onto multiple pieces of illustration board which I will cut out with an exacto knife.IMG_2653


My first thought was to try carving the borders of the stage out of wood but that went disastrously wrong. So go for the sculpey.




rolling out slabs of an even thickness.




traced and embellished the border onto tracing paper. then I go over that with ball point pen to imprint the lines onto the clay. Flip the tracing paper to make the other side symmetrical and repeat.

IMG_2626 IMG_2627

same for the sides.


It’s not the same as wood but much easier to shape. Building up a few details here.



Now for Ludwig. How would we ever recognize him without the hair?

 IMG_2632 IMG_2633  IMG_2635

Baking the sculpey pieces.





when they are cool enough I start painting them with acrylic. The paint dries quickly when the clay is still warm.IMG_2644

a layer of gold acrylic.



had to run to the fabric store to get velvet for the curtains. Woman at the store thought I was making a santa suit (this is just before Christmas).



Hot glueing the fabric onto painted illustration board background.



Now adding the finished frame pieces.



Now for the banjo: a piece of balsa wood, some sort of vent cover from the hardware store, a cut circle of illustration board and shelf support hardware.

IMG_2637 IMG_2638

Carving the neck.

IMG_2639 IMG_2640

fret wire.



finished (almost) banjo.


testing the banjo with the background.



trying all  of the pieces with the background before painting.


Need to make a stool. More balsa wood.

IMG_2651 IMG_2652

Painting the pieces of the figure with casein. I usually prefer casein because it doesn’t glare at all when I photograph it. Though sometimes (like the gold acrylic on the frame) I want some good reflection to happen.




grey highlights for the hair.

IMG_2657 IMG_2658 IMG_2659

Watercolor paper for the collar and some white rag for the neckwear. I glue the pieces together with foam core supports.

IMG_2660  IMG_2662

The pieces are together. Now I need to work on that face.


Yikes! Not going well. Aside from looking like an ommpaloompa, it doesn’t feel serious or historic like beethoven – just feels like some contemporary guy in a costume.


I try making an ink drawing for the face with hatchings sort of like an old newspaper. Then copy it onto different colored papers.

First diagnosis: jaundice.



the fracturing was starting to work a bit better for me here. Seemed more like a crazed genius (maybe I should have fractured it more).


hmm. That banjo needs strings.


thread from my travel sewing kit.


complete and ready to photograph.



Right next to the projector you saw before, I have my digital camera mounted in the ceiling. It too tethers  thorough a usb cable in the wall into my computer. I have remote view monitoring to adjust the lights and positioning of the art and seeing it right on my screen.



leveling out the camera.


both ways.






I take several shots with different lighting. Then I bring it into photoshop. Then I create clipping paths in photoshop to make that background perfectly white.

Adjust some levels and here you see the finished file.



Well, for better or worse, That’s my 3D process. It always changes depending on what materials are involved but that’s basically it. It’s a pretty crazy way to make an illustration and it drives me crazy too sometimes. Thanks for your patience John!