Archive for Working Process

How to get things done… when you live with an auto-immune disorder

As many of you are aware, I was born with debilitating chronic diseases. The last decade or so, these diseases have been fairly active, making normal tasks very challenging. Any given day, I can be saddled with extreme fatigue, terrible gut pain, dizziness or confusion from the medication, and a whole host of other issues that simply make me want to curl in a corner and not move.

Unfortunately, life moves on, and if I don’t at least attempt to move with it, I will be left behind. I want to make my mark on this world, and after 41 years, I’ve come to learn that if I wait until I “feel well” nothing gets done. So then, how do I find the tenacity to push through the pain in order to accomplish the things that I have?

I’ve put together my steps and I hope you will find them helpful, too. These are great steps for anybody, even without disease, but they are helpful for me, especially on days when I’d rather just give up.

But first, I must recognize that I do have a disease. This is my reality. I know I cannot accomplish the same level as able bodied, well people can. And I must be okay with that. Thus, I must be intentional about scheduling rest, or else I will burn out quickly.

And speaking of rest, that’s how I’ll begin.

  1. It starts with the chair. I have an easy chair that is very comfortable. I’ll sit in the chair and I will close my eyes and I’ll take some time to pre-rest. I’ll take slow deep breaths, try and relax, and I might use the occasion to pray.
  2. Next comes the list. Once my mind and my body have come to a calmer place (when you are in pain, there is no such thing as pure calm place), I then start thinking about everything that I need to get completed. I think about client deadlines, work around the house, school lectures I need to prep, etc. I’ll put everything down on a mental list. Sometimes I’ll even write them down on an actual list. Then I make an evaluation of my current physical and mental state. I’ll separate the list by things that must be done by today and things I can get done vs things that I cannot complete today because I’m either too sick, or too mentally fogged to work on them.
  3. Now comes the choice. After narrowing down the list I select the one item that I feel makes the most sense to work on. It is usually some sort of perfect combination between highest priority and what I can actually physically do.
  4. Visualizing the task. I mentioned extreme fatigue is often one of my symptoms. At the time I make the selection, I often still do not feel like I have the energy to accomplish the task. That’s okay. This next step is very crucial in helping me get my work completed. I close my eyes and I visualize doing the entire activity. First I visualize getting out of the chair. Then I visualize gathering the materials I need, then sitting down and completing the activity, and then, of course clean up. I go through all of it in my mind first, eyes closed, on the easy chair, trying to be as detailed as I can as I imagine myself doing it.
  5. Getting up and doing it. After I finish visualizing it, I’ll take a few more deep breaths, and then I’ll peel myself out of the easy chair and I start doing the things I just visualized doing. Because I feel like I had already just done this activity, the mental strain of the task seems partially resolved, making the physical part of it slightly easier. Now as I go about grabbing my materials, working on the task, cleaning up, etc., it feels more like a familiar rhythm. This helps remove a slight edge from the task, making it just a little bit easier to achieve.
  6. When I finish, I collapse back into my easy chair, but now with a sense of accomplishment, knowing I was able to get something done. This final step is recovery, and depending on how sick I just happen to be on that day, that may take anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. But when recovery is finished, I’ll be ready to go back to the beginning and start the process all over again.

I hope this gives you at least a little insight into my life, and perhaps helps yours. I’ve had several people ask me how I’m able to get things done being as debilitated as I am. I finally was able to sit down and put it all down. Thank you for your support as well. The prayers and well wishes of friends are, no doubt, a powerful motivator.

How to Make an Art

Sometimes the process of going from a rough idea to a final finished drawing, reading for illustrating, can be daunting. How do we go from the vague to the specific, and what is the process in doing so? The key word here is process. When we break it down to a step-by-step process, we can focus on each step, one at a time, building upon previous work, until we arrive at a finished piece. Here is how it works in practice:

Above is a finished drawing I created for a project I’m working on.

Step One: Concept

The rough thumbnail I selected was one where we see a child’s desk and an assortment of articles abandoned, with the child seen running off in the window behind the desk. Once I established this as the general idea for the drawing, I redid the sketch as a semi-rough sketch.

Step Two: Semi-Rough Sketch

Perspective is important, but I haven’t started putting in any grids in yet. However, I know generally where the vanishing point should be and I point the receding lines that direction. But I’m not going to take the time for accuracy. That comes later. I’m just concerned about getting all the parts and pieces down.

Step Three: Preparation

When I’ve finished with the semi-rough, I’ll scan it in, scale it up anywhere between 200-400%, and reprint it. Then I’ll layer a sheet of tracing paper or marker bond on top and tape it in place.

Step Four: The Perspective

Tracing a few of my rough lines, I can determine exactly where my vanishing point and horizon line should be. I’ll use my T-square to draw in the horizon line. In this particular case, I actually have two vanishing points. I made the assumption that this child’s desk’s surface is at a slight incline. This means I need a slope vanishing point, somewhere above my original vanishing point. Everything that’s on the surface of the desk will be aligned with this new vanishing point and the subsequent new “horizon line” that is associated with it.

The box of crayons is not parallel with the rest of the desk, thus, it cannot be drawn in one point like everything else. So I found it’s two vanishing points, aligned, once again, on the slope horizon line, and not on the original horizon line.

Step Five: Foreground Items


I still needed to add the chair and the stuffed pig. Since I wished to keep my perspective drawing clean, and knowing I would probably be doing additional erasing to get the chair right, it was important to grab another sheet of tracing paper, thereby not disturbing the finished perspective work underneath.

Step Six: Background Items

For exactly the same reason as the foreground items, I layered one more sheet for all of the elements inside of the window. Also, keep in mind, that every time you layer another sheet of tracing paper, remember to add and create registration marks all the way through your layers.

Step Seven: Compilation

Scan everything in as separate layers and use your registration marks to align them back up in your digital program (I use Photoshop). I’ll then use my Cintiq to clean up the scans and seam them together nicely.

Now the drawing is ready for painting. At this point, I’ll probably print it back out, to size of my finished art, and transfer to my illustration board or canvas.

That’s how it’s done!

I have many more tips available. Stay tuned as we release them here, on Youtube eventually, and through upcoming online courses, workbooks, and tutorials.

New Website Makeover!

Thanks to my lovely wife, Cherish, I recently updated my website. My yellow from yesteryear had to go, but I was still able to homage the honeycomb pattern subtly in the background.

But better than that was an updated gallery function that I could add in WordPress. Now when you go to one of my illustration pages, either Color, Black and White, or Caricatures, you can actually sort by categories. Over the course of 30 years, I have created tens of thousands of illustrations, so choosing which images to go with and how to organize them has always been a challenge. This new gallery function helps with that.

Go ahead and check out the new design! I’m sure you will be pleased. I certainly am!

A Liver Transplant Journey

On March, 30 2017, Benjamin Hummel gave a candid talk about dealing with life long chronic illness, which includes ulcerated colitis and primary sclerosing cholangitis, the two transplants that it resulted and his art journey during that process. This inspirational, and sometimes humorous, talk was presented to the students and faculty of the illustration department at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Below is a video of that talk.

Replicating Louis Tiffany’s Masterpiece

Replicating Louis Tiffany’s masterpiece can be a challenging thing. This next illustration for the children’s book “Lights On!” illustrates Ike and Samuel walking down the Cross Hall as it might have looked in 1890. The problem is, there’s only 3 grainy photos I was able to find of the Cross Hall and the famed Tiffany glass partition that separated the Cross Hall from the entry way. In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt remodeled the White House and one of the things he did was have the stained glass wall removed in order to open up the space.


In order to make this illustration, I employed several tricks. First, I roughed up a generic point of view in my thumbnail sketches. Even though in this piece the vanishing points are really close together (much closer than would be in reality) I loved the gaping, cavernous feel it gave, so I kept the original perspective from my thumbnail sketches. (I tried a version where I “corrected” the placement of the vanishing points, and found the image to be too boring). I then gridded everything out and I aligned the columns, windows, and ceiling tiling in the grid.

Then, on a separate sheet of graph paper, I drew out the stained glass design as best as I could approximate. In Adobe Illustrator, I created a ceiling design based upon one of the photos I had. I took the flat stained glass design and ceiling design and digitally warped and fit them into my gridded perspective drawing. This was then all traced on board. For my underpainting, I separated the light areas and the shadow areas first, and then I proceeded to paint the detail inside of both. Believe me, the detail was as arduous as it looks. I labored over it, because I wanted it to have a wow factor at the end.

By the time I finished, seven days later, the paint on my palette had pretty much all dried up and my detail brushes were all shot. But, in the end, I think it’s worth it.

PS. I did not do enough research to know where the stained glass ended up, I’m guessing it’s in a museum somewhere. If you know, feel free to send me an email.


Travel Back to 1890 with Me

In case you don’t follow me on Instagram (…um… if not, why? @hummelillustration), I am in the middle of illustrating a historical picture book about Ike Hoover, the young man who wired the White House for the very first time. Those familiar with my work, know my propensity toward historical illustration, and in specific, I have a tender spot for the latter Victorian/Industrial age as it emerges into the Belle Epoch era at the turn of the century. Everything about this story is tailor-fit to me and my illustration style.

The book is titled “Lights On!” It is being published by Filter Press and will be released in 2017. I have a total of 20 illustrations to complete. I’m using this opportunity to really explore what I can do with perspective, as I have been challenged with a variety of unique settings both inside and out of the White House. As the book nears completion, I’ll release other blogs about it, so stay tuned!

Like all of my work, the process is what makes the final successful. A lot of research and a lot of time spent in the preliminary stages. Here is a sneak peak of some of the illustrations, but certainly, I’ll keep posting my progress on Instagram.

b-hummel-portfolio-art2 b-hummel-portfolio-art3 b-hummel-portfolio-art

Basic perspective drawing… made easy and fun!

Stay informed about the progress of the Perspective Book.

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I’m writing a book!

My own personal learning challenges coupled with in class experience led me to develop a unique and fun technique for teaching perspective, a method that cements these concepts into a beginning artist’s mind. In class successes proved my techniques to be highly effective, therefore, I decided to start putting them down into a book.

Educational Philosphy

My personal educational philosophy is this: Education should be both informative AND entertaining. That is the approach I take when teaching, and that is the approach of the book. I sprinkle my lectures with visual gags, running jokes, and stupid puns, but between those I weave in the concepts of perspective, focusing on the “why it works.” I truly believe that once you understand the “why,” remember the steps of the “how” become a lot easier.

For more info, sign up for the email list

This has been a project that I’ve been picking at for a few years now, remaining back burner until now. As I have been working on it, many of you expressed great interest in wanting to stay informed about this project and perhaps getting a copy of it when it is finished. My plans are to get enough chapters written and illustrated so that I can then pitch it a publishing company. When it is finally published, I will absolutely let everybody know, along with any book signings, talks, or other related ventures. So, please, please, please, sign up below! I will only send emails out in regards to the status of the book. But if I have enough individuals on the list, that will be a draw for potential publishers.

Everybody who joins the email list will receive a free gift! I will send them a chapter from the book, complete with all the illustrations, in PDF form.

Perspective books are usually two of three things: thorough, illustrative, and entertaining. Some books have great visuals, but not a lot of copy to explain exactly what is going on in the diagrams. Some thorough with both copy and visuals, but were dry to read, and boring. And some had great visuals and were entertaining, but the book’s organization made it difficult to follow. My book will be the successful culmination of all three: thorough, illustrative, and entertaining.


Zacchaeus was a wee little man…


For those of us who grew up going to Sunday school, we’ll recall the nursery song about Zacchaeus, the Jewish tax collector mentioned in the Gospels. So when Pastor Blake at Faith Bible Chapel, Carr St, brought him up as a case study into more adult topics it made sense as a part of my note taking to doodle the scene out.

I actually do this a lot. Instead of writing words, I’ll draw out the imagery that comes to mind as I’m listening to a sermon or a lecture. Sometimes those images are very concrete, as is this one, and sometimes they are more abstract. Often times, they don’t end up mounting to much, other than pneumatic devices to help me personally remember the different points.

In this particular case, I was rather pleased with the final sketch. The actual pencil drawing was only about 4″ high at most. Since it turned out well, I decided to scan it in, at which point I felt that I could enhance it even more with some digital color overlays. Trying to force myself to play around with unique color combinations, I went with these bold, out-of-gamut colors. It was fun, turned out alright, and so I felt compelled to share.

New Year’s Cards… in the third dimension!


In addition to my traditional, printed page, illustration work, I also am an illusionary 3D chalk artist. Yes, I’m one of those crazy guys who sits underneath blistering sun and driving rain as I try and bring my street art illustration, created in nothing more than chalk, into something that appears 3D in the camera. If you haven’t checked us out, I invite you to go to And while you are at it, if you know of or are in charge of an upcoming festival or event and you would like me and my team (aka, my talented artist wife) to come down and perform a custom (as in, you help choose the design) 3D chalk art piece, be sure to drop me a line and we can set that up. (*AHEM, AHEM*)

Thus, when it came time to come up with a design for my holiday card, I thought to myself, what if I could create a similar illusion, but on a smaller scale. What if those receiving the cards could take those cards, lay them flat, and then with their camera phones get a sense of that illusionary depth.

That is what I endeavored to do with this piece. Nothing is new in regards to how to set up the reverse perspective, except that instead of working in feet, I’m working in inches. I plotted out my reverse vanishing point and drew everything up on graph paper. The image below shows first how it is supposed to look when the illusion comes together, and then what it actually looks like when looking straight down on it. It’s pretty fascinating how, if you have the vanishing point in the right position, based upon the precise viewing area of the camera, the converging lines appear to look parallel.



Next, I had to plot out the shadows. The illusions work best if you have a strong shadow pattern and it is accurate according to a given light source. Assuming that most people would be looking at these cards with a light source directly above them, I anticipated this to be the light source, moving it to the left a little to give it some visual interest. With this in mind, I plotted both a shadow vanishing point and a light source point, in reverse perspective. Then every single to corner that can cast a shadow somewhere needs to be plotted to BOTH of these points, plus additional lines drawn back to the reverse vanishing point. To see how complex that ended up being, see below.



I took this shadow information and retraced everything onto illustration board so I could paint it traditionally. I painted a version digitally as a color study and used that as a guide as I went into this final piece.


If all of this sounds complex, … guess what, it is. However, I understand that perspective is a type of math that can be very confusing to the lay person or the right brained artist. For that reason, I’m writing a book on perspective, designed to be very user friendly and easy to understand and use. It’s in it’s rough, rough draft stage right now, but as I continue to develop it, I’ll keep you posted.


That’s all for now. I made a limited number of these cards, but if you send me a query from my contact page and let me add you to my email list (which I email once every seven years, I’m kind of like a comet in that regard), I’ll be sure to mail you any of the extras I have, first come, first serve.

Green Ribbon of Hope


Once again, I was privileged this year to create the art for the University of Colorado Transplant unit’s Christmas card. The image that we decided to go with was a more pastoral winter scene, something that invoked Colorado. Since the green ribbon has such strong symbolism with organ donation, we always try to tie it in (no pun intended) the design somehow. Some years, it remained hidden, other years it’s a part of the main attraction.

This year, we decided to weave it throughout the aspen, which then serves both as a compositional element, as well as convey the idea that the continuation of life is felt throughout. I know this first hand, as many of you are aware of my story, I’m a two time liver-transplant survivor, made necessary from the debilitating auto-immune disorder from which I suffer. These cards are very personal to me, and I’m very honored to be a part of this ongoing holiday tradition.

Once the initial concept was complete, I rendered several sketches, playing around with different value studies and color schemes. I decided to make it appear as if it is a new morning. Fewer things are more beautiful than a cold winter morning as the sun rises on freshly fallen snow, and I wanted to convey the sense of new beginnings through this idea.

All of it was done in acrylic on board (with really tiny brushes… which reminds me, I need to go buy more brushes…)

color studies

I did multiple color studies in Photoshop before moving to the final.