Saturday, December 31, 2016

A New Direction for a New Year

When I first started a Wandering Koala blog, the purpose was to syndicate new Wandering Koala tales one page at a time both as a blog on this site and as articles on the main Wandering Koala website. It didn't work out like I thought it would.

So I started another blog to syndicate Wandering Koala comics, and again after the first chapter of a new story, it wasn't turning out how I wanted it to.

I think I've finally got it figured out. Inspired by Jeff Smith at Boneville, I think I've finally figured it out. A week or so ago I redesigned the Wandering Koala website to both be modern and html 5 compliant and to handle the new direction I wanted to go. Today the first comic/post went live. Take a look and follow more somewhat daily posts at

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Illustration Style Study: Wandering Koala in Paradise

I'm a big fan of the duotone-type shading which is really easy and clean to do in Photoshop, but I've been trying to find a way to incorporate it and still look modern. Here is my latest attempt. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Art Philosophy: Inspiration is a funny animal

It's funny. I had all these grand plans to do all these cool Halloween-inspired illustrations during October. But every time I sat down to draw, nothing came out. I love Halloween, I love Autumn, so why did I feel so blah and uninspired? 

Inspiration is a funny animal. It's not very obedient. Sometimes it comes when I call, and sometimes it doesn't. And I'm not sure why.

I tried (and sort of completed) several illustrations in October, but this is the first one I'm proud enough of to show. The idea actually came from a discussion at church about an incident at a local corn maze. It was a fairly amusing story, and somehow inspired me to do this illustration that actually has almost nothing to do with it. Inspiration is a funny animal. I'll never understand how she works.

This was drawn with a Japanese Brush Pen and colored in Adobe Photoshop. Enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Art Philosophy: Decoration vs. Design

What is design?

I define design as function + aesthetics, meaning a well designed work should be both beautiful and functional. If a work is only functional, then it is utilitarian, not well designed. If it is only beautiful, then it is decoration, not design.


For example, a brochure needs to catch the eye as well as communicate information and possibly sell a client on a product or service. If it's only pretty, it's useless for anything but hanging on a wall to add color. If it isn't pretty, it's little more than a specifications listing. A website needs to look cool as well as be easy to navigate and find information. No one is going to spend much time or return to a website they can't find anything on.

This idea first began to jell in my head at art school when an architecture instructor talked about Frank Lloyd Wright's philosophy and how he didn't believe in decorating his buildings, but wanted everything to serve a purpose. For him, at least according to this instructor, he believed in enhancing his buildings using the structure to increase the aesthetics, not merely decorating it to make it pretty. That struck me.

So why am I bringing this up? Recently I've been working on a brochure for a high end client who has very clear ideas about what they want. That part is good, because it makes the job go much quicker and the client usually ends up more satisfied. The bad part is they make requests that actually hurt the effectiveness and/or quality of the work. This client wanted boxes that contained the most important information in the brochure and therefore should be the most prominent to be more transparent so they blend into the background and make the text less legible. The transparency may add to the overall beauty, but it makes the text difficult to read and therefore less valuable. The boxes with a small transparency looked nice. But this request pushed the design into decoration territory. They're paying for it, so I'll give them what they want, but it is a lost opportunity.

When I first started working professionally, things like that really bothered me. I used to argue and fight with clients trying to bend them to my way of thinking. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't. But I've been in this business long enough that I think very little of it. I've reached a point where a tell a client honestly, "Version A is more effective because of Reason 1, 2, and 3. Version B is less effective because of Faults 1, 2, and 3, but you are paying for the Work so I'll do what you want." It's worked well. I've done my job by informing and educating the client on what would give him or her the best results, but I don't fall into the typical graphic designer trap of "I'm so great and wonderful you should do whatever I say and not speak little dumb, uneducated public." That gets annoying and makes additional gigs hard to get.

The menu above is a design prototype to show a client what i thought would make a nice design for his Hostel. It looks quite inviting, but it's also practical in that it clearly lists items you can order, cost, a description of each, and they are divided by when you can order them. Beauty and functionality.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Genre - What is it, and do we need it?

I'm currently reading (actually listening to the Audible version) a new book by Neil Gaiman called The View from the Cheap Seats. It's a collection of introductions, speeches, and other nonfiction essays that were either published or delivered previously. At first that sounds like a really weird idea for a book and a pretty cheap way to get paid twice for the same work. But it's actually a pretty clever idea.

First, let me say that I am not a Neil Gaiman fan when it comes to fiction. I've read very little of his work, but everything I have read has left me unimpressed and uninterested. That just isn't my kind of fiction.

But I AM a Neil Gaiman fan when it comes to nonfiction. Whenever I see an interview online or an interview or an essay or some other glimpse into his mind, I always make it a point to watch/listen/read it, and most of the time I am thoroughly enthralled. Is that weird that I like one kind of his writing but not another kind? And it's not just his. There are other writers who I feel the same way about. And then there are writers whose fiction and nonfiction I really enjoy. I can't explain it.

But back to the book. Most of the events the speeches were delivered at, the books the introductions were written for, and the websites the interviews were published at I would probably never read/visit/hear, so having all of these collected into one book is a real treasure, because I get dessert without having to eat the nasty main course first. (I don't do this will actual food--usually.)

In one of his essays, he discusses genre and gives a really good answer. He says genre is something that helps a reader find something he wants by telling him what something isn't and pointing him away from things he probably isn't interested in. He uses the shelves of a bookstore with books located in sections. There are a lot of books in a bookstore, and one can get lost and not find what one is looking for without help. A reader who is looking for a space adventure doesn't need to waste time looking in the cookbook section, because he won't find any space adventures amongst all the recipes. (Of course, Neil explains it much better than I am.)

I've always thought of genre as a snobby term for category or type, and it is used that way a lot. I've also felt genre was too limiting telling an author what a story can and can't be, which sometimes is helpful to keep the story cohesive and coherent, but other times is too limiting. I've read a lot of science fiction that was equally a mystery or thriller or romance or some other "unrelated" genre. Growing up, my favorite shows were those that ignored the boundaries of genre and offered you a serving of everything on each plate (episode) such as SuperFriends, Jonny Quest, G.I. Joe, He-Man, and M.A.S.K., just to name a few. I found shows that are locked strictly into their genre to be a little boring and predictable.

But not everyone shares my opinion. A lot of people want their stories to be very constrained and get upset when an element from another genre creeps in. A novel I published a few years ago received a review on YouTube criticizing the book for being all over the place. The reviewer wasn't sure what kind of book it was nor who it was written for. The answer is obvious: I wrote it for me. That's the kind of fiction I like. That's the kind of fiction I buy.

So what does this have to do with the illustration above? I'm glad you asked!

I recently discovered a musician named Lindsey Stirling. She mixes classical music with techno, much like I do. Mmmm, a musician after my own heart. In one of the videos (shown below) she features dancing pirates. This reminded me of a WW Denslow illustration from Father Goose with pirates and dancing sailors. I decided to do my own take on this idea. As I worked on it, it slowly morphed into a Steampunk illustration. I'm not a big fan of steampunk, but while looking for inspiration and reference material, I stumbled across the fact that Steampunk, a genre, has been broken into over a dozen subgenres like Teslapunk. Who knew? It's amazing that something that seems so narrow and niche can be further subdivided, and yet, like Neil Gaiman said, it's wonderful because it helps me quickly eliminate those works I'm not interested in. And it presents me with many I might be interested in that I might otherwise overlook due to the sheer number of options.

Anyway, enjoy the illustration above, and enjoy the video of Lindsey and her dancing pirates below.

Monday, September 12, 2016


I created this for DeviantArt to celebrate 12,000 hits. It's colored in the style from The Phantom Coach, but with hand drawn lines and The Auction style texturing. Maybe my next comic will look like this.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Beauty of Black & White

No one can deny the power of color. No other element can draw the eye quicker or more powerfully. 

But color isn't perfect. It speaks to the visual part of our brain which is more ambiguous than the auditory part. Like words, black and white images communicate ideas much more clearly and more precisely. I've heard several theories on why this is, but I'm not sure anyone actually knows.

Above and below are two images from the Wandering Koala Adult Coloring Book. The book collects the Wandering Koala 80-page Giant #1, but strips out the color so the reader can add them himself. Or he can choose to enjoy the story in it's more raw form. Read it both ways and see which one draws you in quicker and tighter.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Music and the Written Word

There are very few things as magical as putting the right images with the right music. I'm not saying that I did that, but I am pretty happy with the result. The music is a tune I composed several years ago using Apple Loops. The video was generated in Apple Photos using pages from my first Adult Coloring Book. Enjoy!

Monday, August 29, 2016

Storytelling: How long should a story be?

Recently I let a friend of mine read my latest story before I published it. He came back with feedback that I hear a lot about not just my comics, but comics in general. "It's too short. It needs more character development. It needs more backstory." 

Almost every negative comment I get has to do with length and the fact that characters aren't "completely developed". I blame TV and movies. TV shows with "fully developed" characters tend to run in the hour range (with 15 minutes for commercials). Movies typically run 90-120 minutes. That's roughly 6-8 typically comic book issues. My friend has written a screenplay (like so many others) and while he did it, he obtained a lot of guidance from someone who has sold screenplays. He basically learned the formula (you must have certain elements, they must be introduced by a certain point in the movie, etc.) Commercially successful movies tend to follow the same formula, and I think people have come to expect that in everything and have actually subconsciously set that as the criteria against what all other media is judged. A lot of novels have gone to the "screenplay" format to both attract readers and movie studios for this reason. So when you try to do something different (like tell a short story or focus on something other than the main character's backstories) people assume that it is "bad" because it isn't what they've come to expect. 

Not everyone does this. Some people realize there are different types of stories, such as the concept story, and developed characters actually detract from that. I personally get a little bored with the traditionally formula that is used so often. It makes it so much easier to predict the twist endings, and while that's fun, it gets old after a while.

That's one reason I decided to go with 80-pages for a story instead of the traditional 18-22. It allows a much more developed story in one sitting that you don't have to wait until the next issue to continue. That break can be jarring.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Adult Coloring Books

A few years ago I was reminiscing about how much I loved coloring books as a youngster. I couldn't get enough of them. I wondered why they weren't made for adults and thought about all the cool things you could do with that format. But I never did more than that, because I figured it wouldn't catch on.

I should have known better and trusted my instincts. They're almost always right.

Just a couple of years after I had that thought, the Adult Coloring Book market exploded! I see them for sale all over the place. But most of those are just coloring books with a series of images to color. They didn't go beyond that.

But I did.

I created an entire graphic novel that one can color with a gallery at back with several pin up images. That way not only do you get a log of great art to color, but you get an entire story to read as well. It's like a two for one!

This is just the first in a series. I've already started writing the story for the second one.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

If at first you don't succeed...

So I had originally created a different cover for my latest graphic novel, and while it was good, it just didn't speak to me or feel like the story. But I didn't know what else to do, so I published it.

Then while working on the Adult Coloring Book version of the story (yes, there will be a Wandering Koala Adult Coloring Book for you to color all by your lonesome very soon), I decided to do something else for the cover so it looked like its own animal. I ended up liking this cover so much, that I decided to change the color eBook version as well. I'm much happier with how it turned out.

What do you think?

This was inked with a Prismacolor brush-tipped pen and colored in Adobe Photoshop.

The latest adventure of the Wandering Koala is now available as an Amazon exclusive.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The Auction, page 2

Brent and Kyle were out jogging, which--in case you didn't know--means Brent runs slowly around a park wheezing like he should be on oxygen while Kyle things he's competing on Ninja Warrior.

I bet he'd do well on that show.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The Auction, page 1

Wanna hear a funny story? Okay, maybe not "ha ha" roll on the ground funny. More like strange and ironic funny.

It was a dark and stormy night.

Okay, not really. The sun hadn't quite set, and there were only a few clouds in the sky, so it was neither dark nor stormy. Oh how that would have added atmosphere. But it was night. Almost.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Preview: Wandering Koala crashes The Auction

You've probably noticed I've been pretty quiet lately. There's a good reason for that. I've been working on a new 80-page comic book. I'm a little over half way done, so you should be seeing it in the next month or so. As usual, I'm trying something new art and storywise. Will it work? Will it be a complete failure? Who knows? But until then, here is a quick preview.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Film Noir on paper

Film Noir is a French term meaning "dark film" and describes a common technic used in the 1940s and 50s for many detective, crime, and mystery films. Visually it involves extreme lights and darks with heavy use of shadows. The type of characters, however, all tend to be grey in the moral relm with none being too righteous, especially the protagonists.

The look wasn't new as the visual style was very similar to German Expressionistic films of the 1920s. Fritz Lang was a prominent director of both German Expressionist films in Germany in the 1920s and Film Noir in the 40s and 50s.

But even that had an antecedent with chiaroscuro painting (italian for "light-dark") from centuries early. And likely this extreme contrast technic existed millennia before, but works don't currently exist so we don't know about it.

In the modern era this style is mostly used in comic books with Frank Miller's Sin City being the most well known example. The contrast provides visual interest to make up for the lack of color. And in more practical terms, the brain tends to process black and white art like it does works making it more effective for storytelling than colored art.

The image above is a Character Design for the René character in my Wandering Koala series. I've made several attempts at the character. I'm not sure this is the final version, but I'm getting close.

Let me know what you think!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fake it 'till you make it

I've written before about how the media you use should look like the media it is. That makes digital a little bit of a sticky wicket. It certainly has its own look, but at the same time it's really good at mimicking other media.

So is it wrong to try and make digital look traditional? I think so, because on is missing a real opportunity. There are things digital can do that nothing else can, and one would be silly to not take advantage of it. Of course, what does that mean? Certainly the time saving and money saving benefits. But what about the look of the final product?

I think even if one wants a work to look traditional, they should let a little of the digital's nature shine through to give the work that extra umph.

The two illustrations above were drawn with a Japanese brush pen and then colored in Adobe Photoshop to look like watercolors. But if you look very closely, you'll notice they are digitally colored, and I think it adds.

But what do you think?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wandering Koala leaping thru the air

Here is my latest sketch of the Wandering Koala leaping thru the air. Drawn with a Japanese Brush Pen and colored in Adobe Photoshop.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Art Philosophy: Digital Watercolor

In the 80s, several beautifully crafted graphic novels were released that used watercolors for the coloring producing beautiful hardcover volumes. In the 90s DC released a line of comics called Milestone that again used watercolors to produce a unique look. Unfortunately they did not use high quality paper like the graphic novels of the 80s and the effect fell flat.

I've always loved the look of watercolor and the actual experience of producing watercolors. There is such a hand crafted quality to it. Which is why I find digital watercolors so ironic, and yet so beautiful.

The illustration above was produced in Adobe Photoshop using flat colors, one watercolor brush, and a few filters and photoshopping to give it a watercolor look even though the color is 100% pixels. I really like the end result, even if it is cheating.

What do you think?

Monday, March 21, 2016

Art Philosophy: Is the Pen mightier than the Brush?

You've probably heard the old saying "The pen is mightier than the sword," but what about the brush?


Let me begin by defining terms. By pen I refer to words (creative writing, business/professional writing, critical writing, etc) either written or spoken. By brush I refer to visual art (illustration, painting, photography, sculpture, etc.). These tools may be used separately such as in a novel, poem, or painting on a wall. Or they may be used together such as in an advertisement or storybook.

Show Not Tell

Often English and Writing teachers and so-called "experts" will tell you to "show, not tell" implying that painting a visual picture in the mind is better than explaining a situation with words. They claim this creates a more vivid picture, evokes feelings, communicates ideas, etc. that mere "telling" just can't. This suggests that the brush is mightier than the pen. And this from proudly professed wordsmiths.

Wordless Stories

But then I've read many statements by comic book writers/artists that get all excited about creating a completely wordless issue (all start out as artists illustrating other people's stories) and then complain about all the limitations and difficulties they face not being able to put in simple captions such as "2 hours later" or "the next day" because while you technically can show these concepts visually, they take up a lot of space and aren't always clear. And in movies you see words used at the beginning to set the scene, at the end of "based on a true story" summing up how the story really ends, and throughout the movie even when we can visually see when and where we're at. This suggests there are times the pen is mightier than the brush, and this from artists first who later write.

So the simple question does not have a simple Yes or No answer. There seems to be times and situations when one is better than the other. So what about the meatier parts of the story? And is a combination of both better than the sum of the parts?

The Book was Better

Most movies it seems are either remakes of older movies or adaptions of books, plays, comics, etc., so there is a book or other written source to compare it too. And more often than not people who have both read the original and seen the adaption adamantly claim with absolutely no hesitation the book was better. Why is that? The book only had words, the pen. The movie had both visuals and words, both the brush and the pen. So shouldn't the movie always be better?

This may seem like a paradox, until one considers there are other factors involved. First, books tend to require several hours to read meaning they have more time and space to tell their story. Movies are, with very few exceptions, 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours long meaning something has to be cut, and usually a lot of somethings. Second, movies also tend to want to do something different than the book to justify its existence and because it is a different medium. I've seen direct adaptions to the screen and was always very disappointed. There are things film does very well and you have to make changes to take advantages of these. A lot of times people don't like these changes or resent them. Third, while books are just words, they can paint a mental picture, meaning they can mimic the brush and use it's strengths. A lot of times people complain about certain things being left out or not as well developed. This tends to be the narration or thoughts of the characters that are clearly spelled out and explored in great detail. Movies don't do that as well both because of form and time.

In my experience, whichever one I experience first is more likely to be my favorite, because it sets the expectations the other has to live up to. Of course, this requires a caveat. I usually experience both only if I liked the first. (I'll only watch the movie if I liked the book and vice versa.) If I didn't like the first, I usually don't experience the second and give it a chance. I liked the book Timeline better than the movie, but I liked the movie The Fellowship of the Rings better than the original novels. But this isn't always true. I saw the movie Paranoia before I read the book, and while I enjoyed both, the book was better.

These examples have complimented the matter further providing arguments for both sides while creating a third side.

I don't know much about Art, but I know what I like

Unlike math, science, engineering, IT, or other fields of study, art has a large measure of subjectivity you just won't find when adding 2 to 2. This subjectivity seems to throw a monkey wrench into the works. Someone may love a work of art because it brilliantly exemplified the principles of design while another person hates it because it's a picture of a dog and he hates dogs. This subjectivity tends to contribute a rather large undue influence over an otherwise objective evaluation of a work. This explains why the same book or the same story can appear on both a 10 ten list and a worst 10 list. There are some people that are snobs for one thing or another (such as book snobs that insiste the book is ALWAYS better even when it isn't or physical is better than Kindle edition even if they are identical). One can say, "well his or her opinion is only his or her opinion and doesn't matter," but it does--to him or her.  That opinions shapes not only thoughts but judgement and enjoyment.


The answer to the original question isn't as important as the journey to answer it. Through the journey one learns the strengths and limitations of both the pen and the brush and how external factors and forces influence them both. Using this knowledge, one will be better equipped to best communicate whatever story, message, emotions, etc. one has to spread. And isn't that the most important consideration for both a writer and an artist?

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Story Illustration: Pondering on the Meaning of Life

Have you ever found yourself alone amongst beautiful surroundings? Has the scene ever sent your mind down paths long ago tread? Have you ever wondered about why you are where you are and if that is where you are supposed to be? Do you ever ask your self "what if I had or hadn't" about choices made in the past followed by possible answers you will never know are right?

In the illustration above, the Wandering Koala is having just such an existential examination. I drew the image in my "combo brush" style with a Zebra disposable brush pen and Japanese brush pen, then colored it in Adobe Photoshop. This is a style and approach I'm considering for the next Wandering Koala story. Let me know what you think.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Tools of the Trade

I love walking into new Art Stores and Craft Stores and discovering tools and other items I have never seen before or didn't know existed. I love getting new pens, brushes, pencils, software, papers, and other items to see what I can do with them. Most of the time I don't find anything life changing, but occasionally I find some real gems.

I've been using a Zebra disposable brush pen and Japanese brush pen in what I call my Combo brush style. I've been throwing in crosshatching courtesy of Adobe Photoshop. I love the effect, but that doesn't mean I don't feel like experimenting.

I recently bought a dual-tip Zebra disposable brush pen with a thinnish tip and a thick tip. I was pretty excited to try it out. It gives me a thicker line than the fine-point Zebra pen, but a more controlled line than the Japanese brush pen. I thought it would give me the perfect line, but after completing several sketches, I don't know that I'm sold on it. I've posted my lasted below so you can compare it to my Combo brush style which is above.

What do you think?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Pulp Illustration: Wandering Koala tackles Shark Lizard

I am a huge fan of Pulps from the 30s and 40s. They show the raw energy of writers and artists who are full of ideas that haven't been worn down by years of experience. There is something fresh about them. In our day, eComics, eBooks, and blogs serve a similar roll with wannabe professions throwing their ideas out there for the world to see. Most are rough and could use a polish, but polish tends to tone down some of the freshness and fun and uniqueness. Pulps, both modern and old, serve as great inspiration for myself and many others.

The image above was drawn with my Combo brush style (a thin Zebra disposable brush pen and Japanese brush pen), then colored in Corel Painter. I love how it turned out! The colors are much more muted than I usually use, but they work in this situation.

Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Character Design: Sergio

Here is a sketch I did with a Japanese Brush Pen and colored in Corel Painter. I just love the painterly quality and hand painted feel you can only achieve in Painter -- or by painting the thing traditionally.

Monday, January 4, 2016

New Sketches for a New Year

Happy 2016! 

I thought I'd start off the New Year with some new sketches. These were all done in pursuit of a permanent style for my upcoming Wandering Koala web comic. I've made a couple attempts at it with a couple of different blogs, but neither of them excited me like I wanted them to, so here's hoping third time is the charm.

The sketch above was actually done on New Year's Day. I drew it with a Japanese Brush Pen and then colored it in both Adobe Photoshop and Corel Painter. I've tried a lot of different programs, but nothing gives you a truly painterly feel like Corel Painter. Adobe keeps trying, but it still looks and feels so digital, which isn't a bad thing, it's just not what I'm going for.

 These next two sketches were drawn in what I call my "combo brush". Basically I ink the figure with a Zebra disposable brush pen and then go over it with my Japanese Brush Pen to give it texture and grit. The background was also inked with the brush pen. I used a pattern effect in Photoshop to tone the image. I know it's retro, but there is something I just love about those thin mechanically-produced hatching lines. The color version was colored in Adobe Photoshop. I'm thinking of running it thru Corel Painter like the illustration above to make it look more painterly. While I approached both illustrations with the same basic technique, there is something so much more "painterly" about the above illustration.

As always, let me know what you think!