Conventions Badges

I’m leaving this afternoon for Chicago for that convention I keep talking about, and tomorrow it finally begins! The attendees of these conventions often have characters/designs that they like to show off, so a really popular selling item is Badges; small illustrations of the client’s character with their name or pseudonym largely displayed. They are then printed, laminated and cut out to create a tag or badge that can be worn and displayed as people walk around the convention. They’re fun, easy, and great advertisement! What better way to show off your work then have people wear it around? Here’s one that a client ordered in advance of this weekend’s convention, to be picked up in person, of a cute Red Panda girl.

So I already had this image printed yesterday to about the height of a pen. Then I carefully cut it out to a general shape, laminated it, and now all I have to do is attach a badge pin to finish it off. If you’re a little confused by my garbled explanation of what exactly these are, here’s another badge that I did for a convention over the summer, this time with a photo of the completed product.

There’s also this one that I did, where I was hired to take a photo of the client and turn him into a satyr!


Character Designs 2

More random character designs out of my sketchbook… making up for a couple missed days.

Japan Trip Day 10 (Flight Home)

I have to say, I was feeling such a mix of sadness and relief on my way home from Japan. I had such an amazing time in a country for which I have so much love and respect… but at the same time, my feet were pancakes, my back was starting to feel like an 80 year old’s and I hadn’t had a full night’s sleep in weeks. It was time to go home and sleep it all off. I still had a 14 hour plane trip back to LA (on Korean Air, so it was pretty nice!), then a 4 hour layover and another 2 1/2 hour flight to Puerto Vallarta. I had the most amazing experience while sitting on the plane from Tokyo, though…

I love to draw the people around me on long flights or in settings where people are sitting still and not paying attention. I have to be a little sneaky about it though, since I don’t always get the best reactions from people when they see what I’m doing. I didn’t have too many options for this flight, since I couldn’t really see any of the people around me without leaning over them and staring awkwardly at the people beside me, so instead I drew a woman’s shoulder who was sitting in front and the the right of me, the man’s knee from across the aisle, and then the man’s hand who was seated next to me. I thought I was being sneaky, and I thought that the man next to me was actually asleep, but about half way through my drawing he sat up, tapped my hand and asked (in Japanese) if that was his hand that I was drawing. Oops..! I apologized and told him yes it was. I expected him to do what most people do; look at it for a bit, say it’s nice, then go back to whatever he was doing and hide his hands (or whatever I was drawing). Instead, he turned his light on and began admiring his hands! He kept pointing out the veins, positioning them in the way I had drawn them and saying “Omoshiroi… Omoshiroi desu ne?” (“Interesting… they’re interesting, aren’t they?”). He asked me a few questions and we managed to talk for a while in broken Japanese and broken English, then he went back to sleep (carefully putting his hands back in position for me), and I went back to drawing. He woke up a little while later as I was closer to finishing and again he admired what I had drawn for a bit, then asked to look through my sketchbook. He went through each page carefully, and commented on each drawing, before giving it back to me. Then he reached into his briefcase, pulled out a printout with some graphs on it, turned it over and began drawing. I continued drawing, but I was shocked when I looked over a little later to see that he had drawn my hands drawing his! And it was really beautiful!

He needed to keep the paper he had drawn his on, and he said that he didn’t want me to rip mine by taking it out, so instead we exchanged photos. We each signed our names on the drawings, then I took a photo of his on my camera and he took one with the phone he kept on a cord around his neck. Here’s mine,

and here is the drawing he did of me drawing! The lights in the cabin were all off, so the lighting is awful… but at least you can see it.

Signed by Nobuaki Komatsu.

We talked for a while longer and he showed me pictures on his phone of his wife and the shrine they had just visited, and I got to practice a lot more of my Japanese. So it turned out to be a very nice flight, and even though I was tired, the rest of the travel time back to Mexico wasn’t bad at all (despite being sat in the middle of a group of already drunk middle-aged tourists on their way to “Porto Valarta” from LA…).

Japan Trip Day 8

Day 8 was mostly a travel day for us, since we were heading back to Tokyo from Osaka, but we got up early in the morning and headed out to fit just a couple more things in. Our first stop was Osaka Castle. It’s a beautiful structure that pops up over the trees that surround it. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like when it was still in use; it must have been incredible!

The interior has been turned into a museum and each level is different. There are letters written by Hideyoshi Toyotomi himself, clothing worn by the people who lived in the castle, there are even little models mixed tiny live action reenactments (they’re adorable and Lan and I were hooked for a good 30 min even though we were in a hurry). When you get to the top you can walk out onto the balcony, and the view is beautiful.

The castle was great, but the best part was when I was suddenly mobbed by a group of school kids on a field trip. A girl was saying something to me (VERY LOUD) and I couldn’t quit understand at first. It sounded as if she was asking me where the bath was (“ofuro”)… then another girl whispered something to her and she said, “Where are you from?” (again VERY LOUD). I told them I was american in english and then japanese and got a chorus of “Woooooooow!!” and clapping. They practiced their english with me a little more, telling me things they liked and disliked. One girl said, “I am Japan.” then asked to shake hands. It was so cute! I wish I could have talked to them longer but we all had to move on so I shook a couple more hands and waved bye. Lan snapped a photo of the kids while they were asking me questions.

This was the first time any kids had actually stopped to talk to me, but throughout the whole trip we’ve passed by groups of school kids on their way somewhere to a chorus of “Hello! Hello! Hello!”. Almost always little boys, and almost always sounding more like “Herro!”

So we decided we had time for just one more stop after Osaka Castle before we headed out, and it would be the Osaka Ferris Wheel. It was a quick stop; a short train ride and we ran right over and hopped in line. There was almost no one there so we got right on. The view from the top was really pretty and we got to see the whole harbor .

That done, we hopped back on the train (after grabbing some takoyaki real quick) back to our hotel to grab our bags and make our way to the Shinkansen for one last trip back north to Tokyo.Here are some more train drawings and doodles.

The train ride wasn’t that bad and we were still hopeful that we’d make it to that movie we’d now tried twice to get to… but then there was the trek to our hotel… We got in at Tokyo Station, which is a beautiful station but nowhere near where our directions told us we needed to get onto the subway. Of course, we didn’t know that, we just followed the signs… for about 5 city blocks, with all of our luggage. Up stairs, down stairs, outside then back in. Finally we made it to the subway station we were looking for and had to walk another 2 city blocks just to get out of the station and to the hotel in Nihombashi! By the time we got there it was so late and we were so gross and tired we decided to just call it a night. Oh, and here’s the lovely view from our hotel window.

Yah, that’s an office. I could have reached across and stolen some of their pencils if I’d wanted to…

Japan Trip Day 7

Today was a special day trip from Osaka up into the mountains. From Nanba station we bought a train/cable car/bus pass for Koya San that included discounts to most of the temples and some restaurants in the area. From there it was about a two hour train ride through smaller and smaller stations until we were winding through the mountains.

It was a long ride so I had plenty of time to amuse myself by sketching the other passengers on the train.

When we finally arrived we immediately got lost (like we do). We ended up taking the wrong bus and thinking that the temple we were heading for was much closer then it actually was, we just started walking. We ended up walking in a long loop around part of the town and several temples, but it wasn’t so bad considering everywhere you look there’s something absolutely amazing. This post is going to be a little photo heavy… but just look at the place!

Since Koya San is so high up it it was definitely chilly and all of the leaves were changing colors. There were some trees that were so bright they didn’t even look like they could be real.

After a little more wandering around we caught another bus (the right one this time) to Okunoin Temple. This temple is the resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism, and surrounding it is the largest cemetery in Japan: almost 200,000 gravestones dating back over a thousand years. It’s the beginning of the traditional pilgrimage route through the peninsula so the roads are packed with men and women carrying walking sticks and dressed in white cotton outfits with bells.

If you take your time, the walk to and from the central temple could take you all day. There are two entrances, the shorter one where the bus drops you off and the long one that starts in the middle of town. We began at the entrance by the bus station and made out way to the central temple. There is a small bridge near the center of the grounds that leads to the main temple, over which no photos are allowed. It’s a beautiful large building which you are allowed to enter and inside you can see the priests of the shrine at work or at prayers. On the way back, we just happened to accidentally bump into family grave site of Hideyoshi Toyotomi…! My Japanese history may be rough, but even I know who this guy was.

We managed to find the longer path on our way back out and it was worth the extra time. The paths are small, surrounded by enormous trees and gravestones in every direction. There are small yen offerings tucked away everywhere you look; in small bowls set out in from of shrines, placed on top of grave stones tree trunks and stones, and even tucked into the bark of trees. There are also tiny idols that you can find all over the place, often so hidden away you may never see them.

When we finally made our way out of the graveyard we realized it was a little late… and we still wanted to make it to the movie that we missed the day before! We had to sit and wait (shivering… it was cold) for about a half hour before the bus came, then it was back to the cable car down to the train station and back towards Osaka. Unfortunately for us it took a good 2 1/2 hours for the train to get back. We had completely misjudged our movie time again and missed it for the second time.

Oh well, there’s still time!

Portrait of a… some random guy actually

I always entertain myself on long flights by drawing the people around me, so I have pages and pages of 3/4 view profiles of bored looking sitting people. This guy in particular I felt like I had to draw because I was absolutely convinced that he was one of my favorite authors (Brian Jacques, who has since passed away)… until he stood up at the end of the flight and I realized he actually looked nothing like him. I was all ready to nerd out and ask him for a sig too; pen and napkin in hand.

I did see him pick his nose quit a bit while I was drawing him though, so maybe it’s a good thing it wasn’t really him. Would have ruined the “author’s mystic”…

Pen Work – Mangal Singh

Another part of the Portrait series I did a while back. If I’m remembering correctly this guy took me the longest out of the four (shocker, right?). His beard alone killed about 6 pens! I think I timed myself around 45 hours from start to finish on him.

With the previous portrait I used a sort of “squiggly” technique, never really lifting my pen but using very light and even pressure to build layers of shadow, but that didn’t seem to fit this image. I started out using that style after loosely sketching the image, and you can see it in his right eye.

I quickly decided that it was too messy of a look for him; that I needed to find a way to separate the texture and shadows of his skin and his crazy-enormous-beard so instead I began using cross-hatching. On his skin, since that was the first part that I did, I was a bit looser with the type of lines I used, changing from long to short and not grouping them very well.

By the time I got to his coat I had realized that cleaner, more ordered lines were much better and I began grouping the lines into rough pairs of 4 or 5 letting them get larger and farther apart to create the gradient.

To give myself a break from the straight ordered lines of the rest of the piece I went into his beard bit by bit, section by section, as I did the rest of the shading on his coat, face and turban. To get the look of hair (and not just a crazy squiggly mess!) I used clumping. First I roughly sketched out the overall shape of the beard, then used long overlapping strokes to create smaller shapes within the beard. By going in and deepening the shadows where those strokes crossed each other it created the effect of overlapping hair.

By the time I got to his turban, you can see how much stronger and more confidant my pen strokes were, and how much more evenly the cross-hatching is used. The best part though, is that you can still see the original loose sketch underneath. It may seem sloppy to leave something like that behind, but I really enjoy being able to see the stages and growth of an image, just as much as the rendered final product. Without those mistakes this would be a fairly boring portrait, but with them it tells a story.

More People-Watching

Here are a couple sketches from a party I was at a while back of the guys providing the music.

Somewhere in my old pile of sketchbooks and papers I have an old spiral notebook that I had with me the day I went to an amusement park with some friends. I was feeling a little queasy after three roller coasters so I sat down in the shade and completely filled the notebook with sketches of all the people at the park, and I couldn’t have had more fun =)

(I had a little trouble with my post not showing up on the main page yesterday… hopefully today it’ll work, but if it doesn’t I’m sorry ahead of time for any double-posting!)


I have trouble naming images sometimes, especially digital sketches that aren’t necessarily going to be finished. This one was eloquently titled “fghjjjgh”.

I found a few others tucked away with titles like “kjjduuuuudjkf” and “haaaaaair”. To solve this problem, I used to titled pieces after after the movies that I watched while drawing them, splicing together the titles, but then I got names like “SecondhandBooty” and “SpiderBalls”…

Now I’ve settled on not being so lazy and using descriptives to name pieces, even if it’s just “TurtleneckLadysketch” or “ScarfyDude”. I’m still working on it…

Adventure Hat

A recent image I whipped up in between commission work. When I’m working on commissioned images I have to work on small projects of my own in between or my motivation and creative juices tend to fly right out the window.together…

So this one is actually based off of a photo of my sister taken by the amazingly talented photographer Nikhol Ester├ís. Go check out her WordPress, you won’t be disappointed!