Preparing for October Contact Period in Philadelphia

100619 preparing for October Contact Period

I’ve been working a lot at home getting ready for the October Contact period meet up and classes. One of the visits will be to IlluxconIX on Thursday the 24th.  I will be signing up for two portfolio reviews and hopefully will get the two I want most; Book Publishing Creative Directors. I just received my package of postcards and business cards (I didn’t have any ready for the July contact period). With any extras I will start sending out to publishers and other companies that I believe my artwork would fit nicely. These items were part of my Business of Illustration class and the business plan I built. The business plan and how I follow it and keep records of steps will be part of my Masters Thesis. So it is very important to get these steps started.  The next step will be to write up an introduction letter and start the email/ mailing process. I’ve already compiled a list and will be starting that process in the next week. The second year students were correct when they advised me to get an early start on the illustration and papers.  The time certainly did fly by quickly. 

post cards and business cards

post cards and business cards

The Cryptic Strays Entry 4: Standing in a sheet

I grew up living in a farmhouse out in the country. We had ducks, a couple of goats and lots of space to run around and explore. It was a great place to grow up. My story takes place when I was a junior in high school. I had come home from school and was the first one home. It was autumn and my brothers all had after school activities and my parents were still at work. Being autumn, the daylight was ending early and I was in the kitchen making a snack when I looked looked out the window over the kitchen sink to see a figure wearing a sheet, standing in the field staring towards the house. The figure didn’t move, it just stood there, facing the house. I thought it was a scarecrow that my brothers had dressed up for the Halloween season. After a while, I moved to another part of the house. As I went into the family room, I passed a different window that looked out onto an entirely different part of the property. The same figure was now in the yard facing the family room window. Now I was starting to freak out. I checked the doors to make sure that everything was locked down. I then ran upstairs to my room and called my Father. I only got his answering machine, so I called the police. As soon as the local police department picked up the phone, the figure quickly turned around and ran off into the woods. The police came by to investigate but found nothing.


The Cryptic Strays Entry 3: No Green Tissues

I was a sitter for some girls that lived in our small neighborhood. One of the few instructions their parents gave me was never use green facial or bathroom tissues. This sounds odd in today's world of all white tp and tissues -- but in the 80's, colored paper was a trend.

The story goes that a lady who lived in the house years before, lost her three young boys in a terrible accident. The mother was distraught and paced circles day and night dropping tissues as she cried. Finally she could not take the grief any longer and jumped from the upper floor over the stair railing and fell to her death on the stone hearth. She was wearing a green dress when neighbors found her days later.

Fast forward many years to a 17 year old me babysitting in the house. I knew nothing about the stories at the time. For some reason after the parents left, I found that I was in a house with no extra bathroom tissue... So I called my mother to bring some over. She brought over some rolls of green colored tissue, again, it was the 1980s and colored tissue was not uncommon.

I put new rolls in the guest restroom and later put the young girls I was sitting for to bed. Later that evening I was on the couch, watching tv and I started hearing noises. I thought it was the girls. So I went to their rooms and heard crying, but when I checked on the girls, they were both sound asleep.

I returned to the tv room to find a trail of green tissues running from the restroom all through the house. The family had no pets to pull the tissue loose and stream it throughout the house.

I thought the eldest son had gotten home from work and playing a joke on me. So, I pick up the tissues and tossed them in the can. After cleaning up, I was sitting on the couch and heard someone running up and down the stairs. Again. I thought it was the eldest boy trying to freak me out, either that or the girls were now up. I went back to check on the girls, only to find another trail of tissues and again hearing faint crying. This time I grabbed a fire poker and tried to convince myself that it was the wind coming down the chimney. I checked on the girls and they were still asleep. While upstairs, I heard cabinets creaking in the kitchen. I made my way down to the kitchen and entered just in time to see both the cabinet doors slam shut at the same time. The girls and I waited on the porch outside for the eldest boy to come home. When he returned home from work, all he said was 'didn't Mom tell you we can't use green tissues?'

No Green Tissues. 2019, digital, MFA The Cryptic Strays

No Green Tissues. 2019, digital, MFA The Cryptic Strays

Biography Illustration of Adam Savage - Final

I have made suggested adjustments and edits per the Program Director and believe that the piece is better for the changes. I am learning a lot already from the program.

Adam Savage Biography portrait University of Hartford MFA program July 2019 contact period assignment

Adam Savage Biography portrait University of Hartford MFA program July 2019 contact period assignment

Biographical Illustration: Adam Savage final sketch

After a couple of days of fine tuning, I believe I have a likeness that can be worked into a final illustrative portrait. Now for a diving into a technique that incorporates subtle color in a way that I have not dealt with in several years, and moving back into traditional media. I believe I have allowed for enough time to restart several times if needed. I also have the piece at a size that should benefit from this technique… being as this piece is smaller in dimensions. We shall see how this goes. Hopefully it will move forward without too many tears… hopefully.

Adam Savage for MFA July Contact period. Final sketch drawing.

Adam Savage for MFA July Contact period. Final sketch drawing.

OOPS! Assignment misunderstanding by me.

Here is where getting things done early pays off. I sent in the previous sketches and got feedback. While the sketches were accepted, a question arose that I may have misinterpreted the assignment. The assignment was to create a biography portrait of anyone, and that the portrait should reflect the work of one of the illustrators mentioned in the summer contact lecture series. So, with the additional time, I decided to start over and provide ideas for a memoir of Adam Savage, specifically from his recent exploration into building a working suit of Iron Man Armor.

Illustrator Bio Portrait- thumbnail sketch

So I took the week off after coming back from my first on sight class session. I used this time to build term paper drafts, get some freelance work completed, and to provide sketches for my first homework assignment. The assignment is to provide an illustration for a biography of an illustrator mentioned in one of the history lectures. My choice is to provide a work based upon the artist and idol of mine, the great Virgil Finlay. Not only am I working to try to get a resemblance of Mr. Finlay, but also to provide an image that reflects his style and visual narrative. I did a series of small 18 sketches and here are what I believe are my strongest ideas. Thanks for stopping by. -db

The Cryptic Strays entry 2

For the second piece in my thesis, I have chosen another work from the Dream Assignment, July Contact Period, July 2019. This piece is inspired by a story told to me by a friend of mine for over thirty years.

When my Father was a very young pre-teen, his Mother, my Grandmother had some kind of accident or fall in which she needed the use of a wheelchair. My best the chair was made in the 1930's or 1940's. My Father and his siblings would sleep in the same bed when they were very little. When the day was over, the wheelchair was placed in the bedroom with the kids. I guess one of the kids woke my Grandfather up screaming in the late hours of the night. According to the child, there was an old glowing old lady sitting in the chair. My Father said that was there, and the just she slowly faded away. All the children saw the figure and ran to the safety of their parent's bedroom. That next day the family took the wheelchair back to the hospital. At the hospital, they inquired if the wheelchair had a previous owner. They were told that an elderly woman had owned the chair and had used it every day for several years until she passed, just a few weeks prior to the family purchasing the chair.


The Start of my Thesis: The Cryptic Strays

The Cryptic Strays is a series of drawings inspired by strange or ghostly stories that have been told to me by those who experienced the incidents.

I was one of those kids that would sneak out of bed and sit at the top of the stairs to listen to my parents and their friends tell stories. I was fascinated by the humor, and odd stories that adults would tell to amuse one another. As a teen I discovered that other kids had done exactly what I had done as a young person… to listen and retell stories that amazed us, humored us, and especially the ones that scared us. This is a tribute and exploration of the love of storytelling.

This project started with a single question posted to my friends online; Have you experienced anything that could be considered paranormal or haunted. Please just answer back Yes or No.

Over a three day weekend, I received over 75 Yes responses. Of those who responded positively, I reached out and requested stores, to date I have been told over 35 stories.

The Phantom Priest.

Back in high school, I got a job as a weekend janitor and groundskeeper at a Catholic Church. One of my jobs included locking up the worship space after evening mass on Sunday. The first weekend I was locking up alone, I heard someone calling out "Who's there?"

Thinking it was the pastor, forgetting I now had lock up duty, I called out, "Oh it's just me. I'm just locking all the doors." Since I didn't get a response back, I went along closing and cleaning up.

Later, I ran into Father Edwin and asked him if he had forgotten I was closing up. He laughed and said; "No, I remembered. I've been giving a presentation to the youth group all evening. You have been up here alone."

And that was the first time I realized St. Mary's was haunted. After some inquires, I found that there was only one death on the premises. A priest named Father Francis passed away on site over 60 years ago. I figured it must be him checking up on things.

Throughout my tenure as a custodian at St Mary's, I'd had little run-ins with him. I'd catch what looked like a priest in the old garbs walking the halls every once in a while. Other times I'd hear the click of the long rosary beads priests use to wear from their belts as if they were hitting a pair disembodied legs walking at a leisurely pace.

Nothing was never malicious, it felt like an old pastor who never retired from keeping an eye on his church.

Beginning has begun

Beginnings are where you grow up

Beginnings are where you escape to a nurturing environment

Beginnings mold your identity and in some cases form your identity

Beginnings provide so much hope, and you are encouraged to go for it

Beginnings wrap a cocoon around you for you to ultimately emerge into something new


My first steps into beginning this trek have been completed. I am now entrenched in this new world of drawing and creation. It has proven to be a bit more work than I previously believed and I am so happy. The faculty that I have had are among the best in the field. They are legendary instructors and illustrators who have made their marks in the field and continue to push illustration higher and forward. I am honored to be standing in their shadows.

I have drawn more sketches in a week and a half than I ever have before. Looking back this was a fantastic exercise of drawing quick thumbnails… up to 50 per topic is something that I have stared to adopt in my professional life. I don’t think of it as “I have to” but “I get to” draw and draw a lot.

My fellow class mates and the upper classmates are a group of amazing artists. Each have their own visual voice, traveling on individual paths to a common goal, to be better than they were yesterday. They are genuinely welcoming and gracious people and I am proud to be among them.

I am now back home, preparing to work on my first term paper. I have gathered my research and organized my notes. Now to put words to paper.


MFA Week One classes are now history.

What a week. I have drawn more this week than I may have ever in my life. I have been given wonderful direction and my mind has been opened to new ways of creative picture making and storytelling. This program pushes individuals to reach beyond what they know with encouragement.

I already have seen my thought process move in new directions and it has only been five days of classes. The Business of Illustration is really good. There is so much info that I had not considered for getting into new markets.The instructor os really good at communicating ideas to us. The other class that I had this week was Ideation, which is concerting. How to build a visually compelling story. It is Amazing how much these instructors know. Then we had some fantastic guest lecturers.

The images I am showing now are some of the thumbnail concept drawings and then a final composite sketch. 50 thumbnail sketches for each of the 6 comps. That is 300 thumbnail drawings in three days in addition to the other classes we had. We all did it and are better for it.

There’s a Grandma in my  room thumbnails 1

There’s a Grandma in my room thumbnails 1

There’s a Grandma in my room thumbnails 2

There’s a Grandma in my room thumbnails 2

there’s a grandma in my room thumbnails 3

there’s a grandma in my room thumbnails 3

Grandma comp version 1

Grandma comp version 1

Ready... Set....

I head out in two days to step back in to the world of university learning. I have been preparing for my studio assignments. Hopefully I have built presentations that will please my fellow students as well as the faculty. Self doubt is always tapping on my shoulder, as I am sure it does for most artists. I have a studio assignment where I pick a topic; fable, song, editorial, poem, favorite film, historical event, lost or just cause, or original story, but it should mean something special to me. Next I choose a production category such as; Graphic Novel, limited edition prints, animated film, game development, or even picture book. Finally I am to build a body of work that represents this topic and category that i have chosen. My topic is a series of first hand paranormal stories that I have gathered over the last couple of years. I will hopefully produce a series of drawings as limited edition prints. I have been working hard for the last couple of weeks in the evenings and on weekends to build some sketches that I am proud of. Now we shall see if what I have produced for this project will hold up to student and faculty evaluation and critique.

thing in the tree

thing in the tree

No green tissue

No green tissue





Ghostly Friar

Ghostly Friar

Preparation and preliminary work for first term

I have been given my syllabus for the Summer session. I have three lecture classes and two studio classes. One studio class deals with Children’s Book illustration. For that I have the assignment of choosing a ‘public domain’ story or one of my own creation. Then I am to design page layouts and ultimately build a mock up book with sketches and verbiage, with no final finished artwork. This is to build skills in being able to repeat character designs, and build a well designed, consistent flow throughout a body of work. The story I have chosen is one that my dear Mother In Law Ann retold to me from her youth. I have attempted on two separate occasions to visually capture her story with varying degrees of success. Sometimes Concepts and technique are not equal tools to the task at hand. In those instances, I had high concepts but was still learning techniques, what to do and more importantly what not to do in order to achieve visual success. The Story is Why Are Cardinals Red. More to come on that as I get started with that project.

The second lab assignment is called “Dream Assignment”. This is an opportunity to abandon topics and methods chosen for career advancement in favor of subjects that are personally meaningful. For this one I had three possible projects outlined but in the end chose one that I am curious on how I will provide solutions. It is called Cryptic Strays. A collection of unusual events told to me by the individuals that experienced them first hand. I have attempted to work this project in the past with some degrees of success and admittedly some degrees of failure. But that is where learning come from. I must show up with a ten minute powerpoint presentation on my assignment and a one page summery for the faculty to keep. As of this writing I believe I have both the powerpoint and one page summery designed and created. If I needed to turn both on today, I would do so without fear. Given that i have a couple of weeks left, I may go back and tweak things as I review with fresh eyes. We shall see what comes forward. I am confident with what I have built so far. I am curious how others are progressing and am excited to see their proposals.

As always, thanks tor stopping by. -db

Pre preparation for my MFA in Illustration

Thirty Years after my undergraduate degree, I decided to go back to school. A series of events alined, some by my design, others completely beyond my control. After retiring from my former position and day job, I decided to take the opportunity to devote my time to bettering my artwork. A ten month exploration in self education began in May of 2018. I began working in earnest, mostly through research of Master Illustrators and Artists, studying compositions, color, visual story telling styles, and technique; what I liked, why I liked it. If I couldn’t understand and intelligently explain or express my thoughts on a particular image, they went into a folder for future discovery. (Note: I learned to do that with my own artwork. If I got totally stuck and couldn’t figure out how to solve a problem, It went into the closet until I had learned how to provide a solution.)

That time spent in self study also included a trip to the east coast to visit some amazing museums and study the works of Charles Dana Gibson, N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth, Howard Pyle, the works of Leo and Diane Dillon, Maxfield Parrish, Norman Rockwell, and many others as I and a dear friend toured the Delaware Art Museum, the Brandywine River Museum, The Eric Carle Children’s Book Illustration Museum, R.Michelson Gallery, the Norman Rockwell Museum, and the National Museum of American Illustration. This research trip drove my inspiration to new levels, providing fuel for a body of work that I am proud to call my own.

At the end of 2018, I started to research MFA degree programs. I was searching for a program that would allow me to continue to work and maintain my home base. I found that the University of Hartford met my needs quite nicely. The driving decision was however the faculty, led by Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame member Christopher Fox Payne.

So I am now three weeks away from beginning a two year journey of exploration, study, and drawing on a level that i have not experienced for quite some time. I am excited, hopeful, and nervous. I remind myself to just keep moving forward and do my best. Some days my best will be good enough, some days my best will present me with opportunities to learn what not to do next time. So I invite you to stop back, and follow my adventures as I begin this new path in my career and my life. I hope that you find this enjoyable, and as always, I thank you for stopping by.