Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays!

Just about everything I work on that is “alien menagerie” reveals it to be an art project in slow motion. I’m fully aware of how many times I find myself writing in this blog about how this something-or-other was started “X” years ago. In 1995 I made a Holiday card featuring a whimsical green alien in a Santa hat.

I thought it could be the beginning of a theme - “Santas From Another Planet”. I’ve made a couple related cards in the years past, but the “Santas From Another Planet” theme just didn’t crystalize until this year. So here, 19 years later, is my Holiday card with a Collector Card attached to the front: “Santas From Another Planet #1” 

acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper

My New Years resolution will be to make a “Santa From Another Planet” collector card #2

I hope you all have a wonderful Holiday Season!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

x.37 - the prophet

acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper 8" x 10"

The ballpoint pen doodle that led to x.37 was made while I was sketching through designs for the previous alien. From the beginning I saw a mystical quality in the character, and imagined it as a prophet of some kind. I set that sketch aside as the basis for what I knew would be the next extract from alien menagerie. Looking forward, the nature and appearance of x.38 is up for grabs. I have no idea what that one will turn out to be.

Friday, August 15, 2014

x.36 - sphynx

acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper 8" x 10"

This one started as a messy ball-point pen doodle, shown below along with some of the thumbnail variations I made.

I refined it down to these two before I settled on the "sphinx" version.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

John Schoenherr

This is the first appearance of DUNE as it was serialized in Analog magazine, cover date - December 1963, photographed in front of 5219 39th Avenue in Queens.

I've been by this house hundreds of times. It's five, short blocks from where I've lived for the past 20 years! I never knew until just recently that it was where John Schoenherr grew up and worked before moving with his young family to rural New Jersey. The first visualization of DUNE was painted in his studio-  in that house. 

So was this: It's his second book cover, and a favorite of mine. 

So were these: Both originally covers for Analog magazine, but I knew them from the book TOMORROW AND BEYOND.

I couldn't quite believe it when I learned that the home he grew up in was so close to me. It was a wonderful, serendipitous discovery facilitated by some random web browsing, and a conversation with his son Ian, via twitter. John Schoenherr is easily one of my favorite illustrators of science fiction, and an inspirational influence. It was the Illustrated edition of DUNE I bought at B Dalton's in the summer of 1978 and read. Schoenherr's art left an impression on me equal to the novel itself. He painted starkly and powerfully. With a keen eye for color, lighting and mass, he made big statements without a lot of fussy detail.

His black and white work was just as stunning and dramatic.

For all of that, some of his best work, and from what I've read, the most dear to him was his wild life artwork. Perhaps it was his fondness for wildlife that made his aliens so convincing.

I'll end with the last page from the Caldecott Medal winning book OWL MOON:

Now when I go by 5219 39th Avenue, I always refer to it as the "Schoenherr house".

Ian's blog devoted to John Schoenherr

Friday, May 30, 2014


x.35 is the newest entry into my alien menagerie. I did a modest amount of redrafting, but my intent with the extracts is to work pretty directly from my sketchbooks.

acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper 8" x 10"

The original doodle is from 2003. In 2006 I used the sketch in a quick digital study to help visualize a move forward into paintings of these subjects. This may all serve as some proof that my methods are not all that spontaneous, but in truth it's also a lot of fun to circle back to an old sketch and bring it forward into a more fully realized version.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper 8" x 10"

Some of my aliens are designed to answer a specific theme or idea I'm chasing. Others are mined from sketches that I've accumulated over the years. i find value and enjoyment in both approaches, X.34 is a modest refinement of a quick doodle from 2011.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Boy Blockhead's Big Book of Outer Space Aliens

It was 1993 when I first started kicking around the idea of making some kind of alien-zoo art project. I wasn't really sure what form the project itself should take. I was keen on making some paintings, or maybe even some shadow box constructions. It was the first time I started really thinking about art that was outside of my book cover, illustrator niche. Maybe it's because a couple of my friends had success with their own book projects, that I thought a book proposal of my own was the best way to help this alien menagerie happen. I have to admit though, I didn't have much of a story to tell. Well, I did think that a collection of paintings under the title "Boy Blockheads's Big Book of Outer Space Aliens" might be a way to approach it. Boy Blockhead was a character I would occasionally doodle, and it seemed logical to enlist his aid in hosting my alien menagerie. I had a couple theories about his role in the whole thing; one had him finding a mysterious book of aliens, the other had him traveling in his spaceship documenting the aliens he encountered. A later, more surreal concept is that the box environment each alien is depicted in, is actually the inside of Boy Blockheads noggin. I still like that one.

I was typically painting more than 20 covers a year during this period, so making the time to do more than the occasional sketch was a big problem. I'm sure this is a pretty typical scenario for any busy freelancer too. It's really difficult to carve out time to indulge personal projects, and I was still finding a lot of satisfaction in the cover work as well. Another problem I had though was trying to imagine how "alien menagerie" and the other work I was doing would coexist. Here's a slice of the work I was doing in 1995, and my aliens were coming from a pretty different direction.

Without a solid plan, I would work on the idea every now and then. These are from a sketchbook I started in 1995. The sketchbook itself, is a really handsome, bound book that completely intimidated me. Of the 100 pages, I filled a dozen. I'm sure that available time took it's toll, but i was really afraid of making a bad drawing in that book!  After a couple of these partially filled in sketchbook debacles, I took to drawing my aliens on loose leaf paper and tossed them into a box for future reference. It certainly helped me keep a more steady stream of sketches coming, and eventually I got over my fear of working in a bound sketchbook too.

An awful lot of time would pass before I finally got around to painting the first one. Even today, I still run into periods where other work keeps me from my alien menagerie for much longer than I like, but I'm glad I never gave up on them either.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday, January 31, 2014

Happy Year of the Horse!

no comment on my absence from blogging except to say I'm glad to have something new to share. Happy Year of the Horse!

acrylic on Fabriano 300 watercolor paper 8" x 10"

~the evolution of a horse.

새해 많이 받으세요
chúc mng năm mi

Happy Lunar New Year!