Archive for illustration

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.

Zacchaeus was a wee little man…

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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!

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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 PeopleOfTheChalk.com. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…)

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

A Wild West Encounter

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These next set of illustrations were created in partnership with Buffalo Bill Daze in Georgetown and in celebration of Buffalo Bill and his travels to the small, but significant Colorado town. For those who may not be familiar with Colorado, Georgetown is a one hour drive due west on I-70 from Denver. You might miss it if you blink as you are driving to Vail, but if you pull off, what a treasure awaits. We were invited to participate in the Buffalo Bill art show, and then partake in the Buffalo Bill Daze events, of which there were period actors walking all around us, mine tours, and a chance to meet the real Buffalo Bill in person! (well, not quite, but close enough. Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley were played by seasoned actors and were a thrill to get to know). The curator of the Buffalo Bill museum was present and offered a wealth of knowledge, as I picked his brain about the era, them man, the myth, the legend.

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When creating these paintings, I immersed myself into the designs of the old time show posters. I used these as inspiration in creating my own “poster-esce” designs for the two characters, including hand drawn lettering. I wasn’t content to do a simple portrait. As a part of my new mod-narrative caricature style, I wanted to see if I could apply the same technique to Buffalo Bill and Annie Oakley. I started with a ground base color and I built them up out of the color, using my thick flat brushes to try and keep it as loose as possible. I worked on Buffalo Bill first, and when finished, I immediately jumped into the Annie Oakley portrait. The second time around, I had a feel for everything, and it went much quicker and more smoothly. In fact, I felt so confident going into the Annie Oakley portrait, that I decided to time lapse my progress (and add funky stock music). The video you can watch below.

After finishing off these two, I’m wanting to do more. Perhaps more of the Buffalo Bill performers, including Wild Bill Hickok, Sitting Bull, and maybe some other bands as well. Considering all of the renewed attention to Billy the Kid and the recent photograph of him playing croquet, maybe Billy is next on the list?

Much was going on at the Daze that the originals are still available for sale. I also had high quality art cards professionally manufactured as well. If you want to own a piece of this exciting series, be sure to place an order. *Ahem* Christmas is just around the corner… Jus’ sayin’.

An Exploratory Collective

The title of my blog is called ramblings, and that is not accidental. I think part of the creative process is trying to identify oneself as an artist, and often times for me, this is understood through a journaling process. In this case, the journal happens to be transparent and online, but I’ve always been open in my struggles and triumphs, I wear my emotions and everything else on my sleeve. I’m an open book and I love sharing my process.

Anybody who has been following my art career can attest to how vastly all over the board it has been. I think my problem is that I love so many different types of expression that is has been very difficult to try and pin down one style and to brand that to myself as that, declaring, this is me, this is who I am.

This website is an attempt to try and reign in a certain look and a certain expression for my illustration, and that is mainly editorial, whether through the painted caricatures, to the black and white, pen and ink newspaper type illustrations, or taking those same pen and ink illustrations and colorizing them digitally. For the most part, what is showcased here on this site are all similar in look and style.

Oh, but it is only the beginning of all the vast collection of my total portfolio, and the temptation to include everything on this site (and thereby muddying the branding) is fierce, and I fight it constantly. So, I decided the best thing to do is to introduce some of these other styles in a blog entry, so that if interested, you can go and check them out offsite.

 Painting For Life

cape-cod-02-webI am quickly moving away from this realistic style for a variety of reasons, but when I first started, this was my bread and butter. I love storytelling and I loved Rockwell’s technique and so I studied his work intensely and I worked hard at trying to create my own Rockwellian type illustration and design. Not finding an application for the fine art pieces I was creating, I started my own production company titled Painting For Life, in which we produced, sold and distributed our own cards and gifts based upon the art I was making. In the end, I felt like the look was a bit dated and not as expressive as it needed to be, so I started to modernize my style. However, I still enjoy working this way once in a while, on a personal basis. To learn more, check out PaintingForLife.com.

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People of the Chalk


I can’t go on with out a shout out to our new venture, our three dimensional chalk art street paintings. We travel all over the country creating these pieces. My story of this journey can be its own blog entry, but I’ll spare you for now. Instead, you have to check out our portfolio and videos: www.PeopleOfTheChalk.com.

ModNarrative

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Not sure how to label this final look other than the name currently given it. It’s my attempt to modernize my painterly look, utilizing bigger brush strokes and trying to be more expressive and intentional with the color and design. This is a tough challenge for me, my background being strict realism. I have to mentally push myself beyond this and trust my instincts. I’m really exploring the stylization and I’m starting to produce a number of works that fall under this category.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening. Gotta get back to the ol’ drawing board.

Exciting News! Sneak peak on an upcoming book.

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Exciting news! Please keep following this blog, as developments continue to progress, I will post them right here, but I am so enthusiastic right now I’m about to bubble out of my skin. For five years almost, a children’s book I wrote in honor of my grandmother is finally being moved off the back burner and into my full, now only partially divided attention and I am starting to work on getting this thing illustrated. It’s still quite secretive, but as it develops I’ll leak out little bits and pieces, to keep your appetite whetted and to build the anticipation. Nothing like a good cliff hanger, right?

To get started, I’m not going to say much about the story except for this: Time travel, wild west. Excited yet? Here is are some model sheets for some of the characters from the book.

Customized Calendar Card for University Hospital.

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Just put the finishing touches on another customized holiday calendar card for University Hospital. Specifically, this was for the division of transplant surgery, a very meaningful place for me. Every year I am privileged to design their card, and every year I am challenged with how to incorporate the green ribbon into the illustration–the green ribbon symbolizing organ donation. For those who do not know my story, I am a two time liver transplant recipient, the result of an aggressive auto-immune problem. The gift of life is very sobering, and I do not take my second chance of living for granted. Though the auto-immune still continues to plague me, I make it a point to drink in every living moment I can and to make the most of the skills and opportunities given me.

If you are curious to see more, please watch the video I made a few years back (below). It also serves as another portfolio piece and an exploration into some ModNarrative animation.


Regarding the above card, because of the client, I went back to a more realistic style, but my biggest challenge was how to make the vignettes of people enjoying life appear as reflections in the ribbon. I knew color had to be the answer, but it was really quite the brain warp mixing green skin tones and trusting that this was correct. And with every calendar card created for University Hospital, I included the honeybee. Sometimes it’s hidden, this time he’s a little more prominent. To me, nothing represents life quite like bees do and it just so happens that “Hummel” means “Honeybee” in German.

Custom Holiday Card

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I just finished these illustrations for copyright and trademark lawyer Brenda Speer (shout out here, need help protecting intellectual property, give her a call and tell her I sent you…).

It is a wondrous privilege to work on these boundlessly creative illustrations for her. Every year the idea is different, this year the theme was Alien Abduction. Nothing says “Happy Holidays” more than being abducted by aliens right? Love it. Such a fun job to work on.

Oh, and that reminds me. If you are in need of some edgy holiday cards of your own, consider Hummel Illustrations as your source.