James OBrien
Personal work
I made this drawing of Macklemore back in August while I was watching the MTV VMAs with my daughter, later added color in Pshop.
I like using my Pentel Brush Pens but sometimes the ink comes out a bit too heavy. So I decided to trim one a bit thinking it would reduce the amount of ink coming out. It did but it also created a kind of rakey line quality which I really like.
Illustrator Primitive Shape tool demo
This is a demo I did last semester showing students how to create an illo using Illustrator's Primitive Shape tools.
I used the Rounded Rectangle tool to create the main head shape and then used the Ellipse tool to create the features. The triangles were created using the Star tool, reducing the number of points to three. The Line segment tool was used to create the line at the top of the mouth between the nostrils.
I then used the Shape Builder tool to combine the shapes. I lengthened the nostrils by dragging one of each circle's points down to the line above the mouth.
Starry, starry night. Happy holidays!
(The thumb for my animated gif was looking goofy, so I added a static image above the animation.)
Happy/Sad Monsters
This summer I created a few monsters as a personal project, here are a couple of my favorites. Each monster was made into an animated gif.
The Ape Fell

This is a personal piece about a man called The Ape, kind of a pulp noir, fall from grace type of narrative, a story about failure and resurrection. “Cursed are you among all.” A tragic villain.
Luke Russert

Luke Russert, with UFO.
Angry bear

Here’s another Illustrator doodle, beginning with circles and triangles, no plan but quickly developed into a bear. This one has a more finished look than the previous doodle, and is mostly made up of transparent gradients with a bitmap texture. No set rules for this one other then left/right symmetry. Below are the path outlines.

Bun E. Carlos

Bad Military Guy

One thing I don't think I will ever need to worry about is copy infringement for source images. I never seem to capture the photo I'm looking at when I draw. The drawing seems to take on a life of its own. So maybe you can guess who this is but trust me it looks nothing like the photo reference. Brush pen line with gouache color, with a bit of Photoshopy work, not much, just color and erasing here and there. No new pixels were created.
Cyclestache print

So I worked through my cycling angst and  moved on to a new friendlier illustration for the Local/Euro exhibit.
The idea for this one is a combining of the mustache with bicycle wheels. The rider has multiple mustaches, each twirled into a wheel. In the background, where the wheels are now, will be a pattern of bicycles.
The basis for this portrait is an 1895 photo of Paul R. Clauss, a famous rubgy footballer from Scotland, reference found here.
Below is the rough thumbnail concept sketch.

Below is the photo-sketch, combining the reference photo with the thumbnail sketch.

Below is the line drawing from the photo reference, with additional mustaches, eyebrows, and eyes.

Below is an in-progress step, building up the mustache, determining the palette, adding the background wheel pattern.

The first session in the print studio went well. I printed the yellow background and the pink skin color. The next session though I messed up when I left a ruler under the paper (a positioning method I was using) which caused the orange ink to darken at the edge of where the ruler sat (see the arrows in the bottom image below). After three prints, I realized what was happening and tried to fix it, but ended up getting ink on the bottom of the screen, just a number of mess-ups with the third ink.
The fourth ink started out well but my pulling technique needs more practice, ink again gathered under the screen (I think I pull too much ink). Later I realized the yellow and pink were too dark anyway, so a failed print, but hopefully a good learning experience.
Below are some process images from the screenprinting sessions.

For the exhibit then, I made a banner print, larger than what the screen print would have been which was good, and on Epson Fine Art paper, a sharp image on a soft cloth-like paper.
Cycling print: Printshop Day 1

This week, I am in the Printshop beginning work on the cycling print, with little progress. It’s been a couple of years since my last screen printing project so it took some guidance and help from my friend Shannon Brady and a little time to reacquaint myself with the process.
Above is the final Photoshop image. I decided to print this edition without the type. Below are the two separations, printed on vellum, one for medium red and one for dark red.

We exposed one screen for the medium red, image size is 16″ x 22.4.”
I was using the one-armed-bandit for the first time so I wanted to use newsprint for a test print which unfortunately allowed some ink to flow onto the bottom of the screen, ruining the first two prints. Below is one of the prints, big blotchy mess of ink. Plus we noticed a filled-in spot in the screen (big white spot next to the bottom of the front tire).

So not much accomplished this first day, although I have the medium red ink mixed and one screen exposed, and I feel comfortable with the process again. We’ll be back at it today with a clean screen and no newsprint.
Just realized I forgot to document this printing session. Screen was exposed for 30 seconds. Medium red was I think four parts Shop Red, one-half part Yellow, and one part White (or some mix close to that). Paper is 90lb. Stonehenge Vellum White. I’m planning for this print to be an addition of between twenty and thirty.
Cycling print update

Inked some line work for my cycling print. I plan to have a pattern in the background, Van Gogh energy suggesting smoke, heat, fire. This is the first look in that direction along with more resolved line work for the face.

Cycling print

Here's a project I'm currently working on, a screen print for an upcoming exhibit.
I’m trying out a pre-sale model using Kickstarter to fund the project, details here.
Project backers get a signed edition of the final screen print and, with a larger pledge, can get their name embedded within the art work, ala Hirschfeld’s “Nina.”
Above is the image so far. This shows preliminary hand lettering placement, still waffling over what top word to use; Psycho, Savage, Monster

Above are the initial steps into Photoshop where I’ll design the print. I first refined the sketch a bit, enlarging the front wheel, adjusting the road, other little tweaks. Then I chose a background color starting point, a warm red, suggesting heat, anger, blood. The next step will be to define the edges and add one or two more colors to the palette. I will also be refining the face with ink line work as well as other details. Not sure about the road, think I prefer the severe straight-edged version over the s-curve. The lettering has not worked its way into the composition yet.
Following are the preliminary sketches with notes:
I may look at adjusting the face and lettering but this first step was to get the arrangement of the body and bike within the format. This bike is very simplified intentionally to place more focus on the face of the rider but could use some corrections and details here and there. The word “Savage” may change, looking for a word that sounds well spoken with “Cycling” and suggests a fierce, focused, beast-like energy and attitude.
This version is a refinement of the next two sketches. The word “Savage” replaced the word “Psycho.”
This is the second version of the sketch where I corrected the handlebars.
This is the first version of the sketch with flat handlebars since I used my commuter bike for the reference. I tried bending my hands around the outside of the handlebars to suggest the lower position and angle that would occur with track style handlebars.
These are the thumbnail sketches. They began with a rough placement of the cyclist and bike within the format (top middle) which I refined a bit (middle right) and then tried adding more detail without using reference (bottom right) followed by a more finalized sketch (left two sketches) using reference photos.
These reference photos were taken by my daughter in our back alley, showing me as a ferocious cyclist. I didn’t realize she was taking the two pictures of me giving her some direction.

I’m working on a series of fingerspelling images. This is the letter “N” I drew at church as a quick reference drawing for the project. I wanted to add some hand lettering and “Luke” came from today’s lectionary (I know, begins with an “L” but I didn’t hear any interesting “N” words and couldn’t remember the sign for “L”). A couple of things I’ve learned about fingerspelling…
  • bridges sign language and spoken language to represent words that have no corresponding sign1
  • can be one-handed or two handed1
  • a person fluent in sign language reads fingerspelling by looking at the speller’s face rather than their hands, reading what is being fingerspelled through their peripheral vision1
More to come…
Sketchbook exchange updates

I made this for my sketchbook exchange with a friend of mine, started out as a drawing of David Suchet as Poirot, using a Nikko G-pen nib and brown ink, then became overrun with some doodling using  Dr. Martin’s True Blue dye.

Drawn with a Niji Water Brush Pen filled with brown Dr. Martin’s Dye.

Dell-user with frog eggs.

This began as a doodle with Nikko G-pen nibs and red ink, added gouache for the light blue areas.
Digital doodle
For the final project in one of my classes, I had my students make a digital doodle illustration where they created an image in Illustrator, Photoshop, or Painter without a plan, just started with a mark or shape and then worked from there, letting the initial mark and subsequent reactive marks build up to a final image. I do this in demos quite often, especially in Illustrator because I’m demonstrating specific tools. When I demonstrate in Photoshop or Painter, I usually start out with a reference sketch. Above is my digital doodle demo that began with a light blue circle.
A drawing of my shoe at church on Palm Sunday, with frog eggs.
Doodle with collage
This is a doodle with collage from one of my sketch exchange books, random drawings around this tree, also incorporated some collage using Eric Carle’s technique. The pink is ink that had bled through from the previous page.
Wooly orb
This is a sketchbook exchange entry for Aaron with some heavy influence from him. I made this with a Yasutomo Niji Waterbrush pen filled with Coffee Brown Dr. Martin’s Dye. I bought a full set of these dyes at Art Materials about twenty years ago and have never really used them, actually wasn’t sure if I still had them, then found them buried in the back drawer of my drafting table. A little messy filling the pen with the eyedropper but it flows through the pen fairly well. More to come, with additional colors!
This drawing began as a dot and then became a wooly dot and then an aura or explosion, just an exploration in waterbrush pen line quality. Done while listening to Wolf Parade.
Sketching at Spyhouse with students
I brought my Thursday class over to Spyhouse this afternoon to do some observational research, looking, listening, sketching. I had time for a quick brush pen sketch of a young man concentrating on his laptop.
James Whitmore in Them!

Balls of Yorke
Sketchbook exchange
I'm exchanging sketchbooks with a few artists this year. This image is the first page of the book I'm exchanging with Aaron DeYoe, made with a brush pen, colorized in Photoshop.
Mail Me Art 2
For my Mail Me Art 2 submission, I’m sending an oversized card. I used a scrap piece of board and adhered with matte medium a print of an Illustrator image I’ve been working on off and again for a few weeks. I repainted the white areas of the print to give it a more painterly texture and to make the white areas more opaque. Around this I painted and rubbed in some white paint and attached a few additional black drop shapes. Then I added text with a Pentel brush pen, address and “no value” labels. I filled the back with repetitive text and ink blotches. This image is a view of the front of the card at the top and the back of the card at the bottom. Still a little work to do, need to add stamps and may add some additional bits here and there. Also need to address it.
Kaki King
This is Kaki King, guitar virtuoso, from AMG,
"appeared on albums from Tegan and Sara and the Foo Fighters and contributed to the soundtracks for Into the Wild and August Rush."

Drawn rightside up.
Fink (UK)
This is a sketch of Finian Greenall, records as Fink, from Brighton, has evolved from ambient techno to acoustic folk with a DJ slant, his music reminds me a bit of José González, messed up the ear so drew a better one, photo reference here.
Lou Reed
Lou Reed drawn upside down with brush pen, photo reference here.
Nick Cave
I’ve been using Danny Gregory’s method of drawing upside-down combined with Jack Unruh’s semi-blind contour drawing method with some mixed results, often ending up with some wild distortion. For this one, I drew rightside-up and, after blocking in the head a bit, started with the left eye worked my way through the face and hair and down to the shirt. Reference photo can be found here. Love that mustache!
Neko Case
Neko Case’s music, according to All Music Guide, has “smoky, sophisticated vocals,” and, “dark, country-noir,” and, “sad cowgirl blues with all the rustic nuance of Patsy Cline.” Case possesses a “hauntingly beautiful alto, a siren call fashioned from country’s might and pop’s melody,”
Daniel Ellsberg
This is a ballpoint pen sketch with color of Daniel Ellsberg.
Dan Deacon
Dan Deacon’s music is described by All Music Guide as, “influenced by diverse artists like Devo, Talking Heads, Scratch Orchestra, Raymond Scott, and Conlon Nancarrow,” and, “whimsical electronic music sensibilities” and, “filled with hyperactive and often challenging electronic detritus,” and, “an extravaganza of noise-pop that looks, not to the dance field, but to the slowly burgeoning indie rock fetish of voices, either in harmony or in chorus.”
More Pentel brush pen drawings
The reference photos for these are here (among many other sites) and here. My Pete Townshend sketch looks a bit like someone I know and the Thom Yorke one looks a bit like someone else I know.
Sketch of Nick Lowe circa 2007 or so, reference from an At My Age press photo.
I was searching for a good Gene Simmons reference photo and couldn’t find anything I liked but stumbled upon this photo of Ringo Starr within the search. It was with a trivia quiz asking what band Ringo Starr played in prior to The Beatles. The answer (Paul Revere and the Raiders, although according to Wikipedia, he actually played with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes) included a Gene Simmons reference. I can’t find a credit for the photograph, found uncredited here, here, here, and here.
It was Elvis‘ 75th birthday Friday, watched Jailhouse Rock on TCM while sketching.

Mos Def looking a bit like Castro maybe, some distortion. This is from an upside down reference photo. I’m using Jack Unruh’s drawing method, blind contour drawing starting with one eye and working out from there, creates distortion. But I’ve noticed if I combine that with a reference to the frame, drawing the negative areas around the edge of the page (I crop the reference into a proportion matching my Moleskin), I get a bit more accuracy. So the Sillitto drawing is a little less distorted. Lorenzo Sillitto is the guitarist for The Temper Trap (sound like a Travis/Deerhunter blend).
This is a drawing of the actor Paul Bryar in an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode from 1955 called “Salvage” made using an upside down screenshot reference, drawn with a Pentel brush pen.
Kong!! This is from a photo from issue #108 Famous Monsters of Filmland of a sculpted Kong figure from the first film. Basil Gogos used this same photo for his painting featured on the cover of that issue.

This is a bundled up wool sweater portrait using an upside down photo reference with a Pentel brush pen and some messing around in Photoshop. January is just way too cold for me.

Kal Penn portrait
When I started this, Kal Penn was in the news for leaving House to join the Obama administration. The sketch was drawn upside-down using my Jack Unruh inspired semi-blind contour drawing technique, resulting in some distortion. I corrected a few proportion and alignment issues and added color and texture.
Sunday sketches
These are from the previous two Sundays.
Sleeping boy
This is a personal piece created for licensing, a sleeping boy.
Step 6: added final shading and textures.
Step 5: introduced additional background texture.
Step 4: replaced the sketch with final line work.
Step 3: added a white texture for the shirt and fingernails.
Step 2: blocked in figure and background color.
Step 1: this is the rough sketch for the image.
Couple of sketches
My wife and I have differing definitions of the word couple; I say it's always two and she says it depends on the situation, could mean three. So looking up the definition tonight, in fact, as an informal definition, "a couple" is an indefinite small number. There you go.
Above are two sketches of John Updike. I've been tracking the NYTimes' obits this year for some portrait projects and these two studies are in preparation for that.
I’m due for bifocals, actually should have them by now but keep putting it off every year. I prefer setting my glasses atop my head when I read and then putting them back on when I need to see anything beyond about a foot. So tonight when I was sketching a self-portrait using Photo Booth as a sort of mirror, I realized that I needed my glasses to see my face on my laptop screen but then had to look under them to focus on my drawing. And I was trying not to move my head too much so I struggled between maintaining my head position while at the same time looking down under my glasses at my drawing. The compromise seemed to be viewing my drawing half through my glasses and half under them, a split view with an odd mix of focus and blur. This resulted in a somewhat blind-contour drawing with a bit of distortion, along with a slight eye-ache. But I ended up with a nice sketch and my daughter’s hour-long Irish dance lesson seemed to go by much more quickly.
Fire-breathing dragon
I cut this image out of paper a couple of years ago to show my daughter how to use brads to make a little movable puppet. It's been hanging out on my shelf since then and I decided to scan it and make an image out of it. This is an image for my Veer collection.
Above is the paper dragon cutout.
Drawing in Flash
I've been playing with Flash lately, initially for animation and web design. But a couple of my students use Flash exclusively for inking their sketches. So I thought I would try it out and did a quick demo for the rest of the class. At top is a Flash drawing of the above sketch from my Downtowner project.
Sam Colt portrait
I did a portrait of Samuel Colt for one of my Hartford Art School classes (taught by Nancy Stahl and Jean Tuttle). First, I made a sketch using a couple of references and then reduced the distortion in Photoshop. I blocked in the color using Illustrator and combined it with the sketch in Painter to introduce some painterly textures. After messing around with that for a while (my Painter technique is tentative and clumsy), I posterized the image in Photoshop, about two dozen variations.
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