Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gleaming Mountain

The fourth piece in my series of watercolors inspired by Tolkien's illustrations.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015

House Over Waterfall

A third piece inspired by Tolkien's artwork. This one depicts a plateau with a small house overlooking a gigantic waterfall.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Land of Five Suns

This is another piece inspired by Tolkien's illustrations. I wanted it to be a scene from another planet, though, so I gave it five suns and tried to make the land a bit otherworldly.

Friday, May 8, 2015

River and Mountains

Few are aware that J. R. R. Tolkien was as great an artist as a writer. His art is incredibly inspiring. It inspired me to paint this piece.

This is the first of a new series of mine of paintings inspired by Tolkien's drawings and paintings. This piece is called River and Mountains.

If you're not familiar with Tolkien's visual art, go check out my Pinterest board of his illustrations to learn more.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Flowers and a Blue Potato

There's a really nice illustration by Chris Foss that I've been particularly inspired by: the cover art for Philip K. Dick's A Handful of Darkness. I'm a bit obsessed with that piece. I've created a few tributes to it involving rainbows shooting out of the asteroid.

Here I've painted yet another tribute. This version has flowers instead of an explosion, and the asteroid is actually a blue potato.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hand Lettering for Two Scoops 1.8

I've been doing hand lettering for a long time as a side hobby. You might have seen some of my lettering before, including the famous Pyladies script logo.

For the entire Two Scoops of Django series, I've worked first in pen and ink. This gives the letters a slightly wobbly feel. 

My hands are not very steady due to years of carpal tunnel, so I hold my right arm with my left hand as I draw the letters with a pen. If I don't do this, the lines really go all over the place.

Drawing lines with a ruler helps, but it can sometimes make the letters look a bit too regular. Here's the non-ruler version.

I also experimented with a calligraphy lettering style, but I didn't use it in the end because block lettering tends to be more legible than script. Here is a sample that I did with a brush pen.

The nice thing about mixing pen-and-ink with digital graphics is that it's easy to mix and match different kinds of lettering. In the end, the final piece was a composite SVG of many separate vector-traced pieces of lettering and illustration.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Early Watercolor of the Two Scoops 1.8 Cover

Here's an earlier snapshot of a work-in-progress version of the Two Scoops of Django 1.8 book cover. This one was a watercolor painting.

In this variation, I opted for less distinctive lettering in order to focus the viewer's attention on the surrounding plants.

The black strokes aren't pen-and-ink here, although the original was. At this point I had vectorized the line drawings in Inkscape, and this was a printout on white cardstock.

I wanted to post this and other in-progress artwork sooner! But I didn't want to spoil the surprise. More in-progress Two Scoops 1.8 art to come.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Cover Art for Two Scoops of Django 1.8

Here's the cover illustration for our latest book, Two Scoops of Django: Best Practices for Django 1.8. It depicts vines growing ice cream cones.

I did the cover by hand with pen and ink, scanning and converting my drawings to vector art and then coloring them digitally. For all the digital work, I used Inkscape.

The colors stand out on tablets quite nicely.

I also did the 50+ interior illustrations and wrote half the book. I'll be posting more about the art in the coming weeks.

The early release PDF is now available here: http://twoscoopspress.org/products/two-scoops-of-django-1-8

Thursday, April 30, 2015


One of my favorite plates at home has a strawberry pattern printed on it. This is sort of loosely inspired by seeing that pattern almost every day.

I used a mixture of regular watercolor and metallic watercolor pencil. For Day 14 of #100daysofwatercolor.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Metallic Flower Doodles

Just playing around with metallic watercolor pencils. They don't really look metallic. They're like regular watercolor pencils, but with the colors just a bit desaturated.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Giant Flying Dog

Book cover for a story about a giant flying dog who drools all over a quiet suburb, causing chaos and evacuations.

The story doesn't exist yet, but it will soon.

Day 11 of 100 days of watercolor.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Two Scoops of Ice Cream

Another fictional book cover. This one is a parody of a real book that you may have heard of :)

Day 11 of 100 days of watercolor.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Garden of Feelings

A book cover for a story is about a garden where all the plants have feelings.

The book doesn't actually exist. But I may turn this into another Wattpad story if I can come up with an interesting plot for it.

I really like how this one came out. Day 9 of my 100 days of watercolor.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Flying Dog Sketches

I started writing a short story about flying dogs awhile back. The story is a work-in-progress, but I hope to finish it soon and post it on Wattpad. 

In preparation for its book cover, I had to first practice sketching and painting flying dogs. Here was the result of my practice. This was not solely from imagination; I relied on a number of reference images.

There are certain objects that I'm good at drawing from imagination, because I've drawn them over and over. Ice cream, trees, architecture, rainbows, and flowers come naturally to me without much effort. I consider these objects and more to be part of my mental library of easily-drawable shapes.

There are also things that I lack the skill to draw confidently without a reference image, because I haven't drawn them enough times to commit them to memory. It really is just a matter of practice, though. I'm hoping that with time and daily study, I'll be able to expand my "library" significantly.

Dogs are one of those things that I require reference images for, but hopefully that will change soon. If I rely solely on my imagination, there are a couple of default dogs that I can depict repeatably on paper, but none of them are flying dogs. This practice session hopefully fixed that problem, though. We'll find out when I try to draw the final version.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Endless Food

This is a draft of a cover for another short story about food teleportation. For some reason I'm stuck on that idea. Not sure why.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Simple Garden

I have a confession to make. Sometimes when I work on my paintings for the 100 day project, I do them at night right before bed when I'm completely exhausted. My state of mind in these situations is wanting to get the painting over with as quickly as possible so I can get to bed.

On those days, I end up drawing the first thing that comes to mind, before the critical part of my brain can veto it and tell myself not to draw it.

Normally that critical voice would say, "Don't draw flowers! Other people already draw flowers! Draw something else!"

But last night, as with the other nights of exhaustion, the critical voice was asleep. Only the tired voice was still up.

"Hey, just draw flowers if you really want to," the tired voice said. "Just draw whatever makes you feel happy and warm inside, so that I can go to bed."

So I started drawing. I drew and drew without thinking. I was probably even asleep while drawing part of this. And then I painted it as fast as possible before climbing into bed.

It came out rather nice in the end. I realized afterward how much I was subconsciously inspired by my friend Annanda's project to do 100 days of coloring in a flowery coloring book. That was a nice surprise.

I remember being less self-conscious like this, back when I was in my 20s and had my art studio in San Francisco and then Oakland. I made lots of rainbows and didn't care because they just made me happy.

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Greatest Cheese in the World

Awhile back, I wrote a humorous story about Danielle and Andrew, two cheese connoisseurs who set out on a pilgrimage in search of the world's greatest cheese.

Here is the cover art. The story is called The Greatest Cheese in the Whole World and is now out on Wattpad.

It's the first time I've put a fiction short story out on Wattpad. If you enjoy reading it, your vote there would encourage me to write more.

Spring Garden

Abstract art is deceptively hard to create. It always looks so easy that a child could do it, yet it practice it's one of the hardest things.

I'm still a beginner when it comes to abstract painting, but I'd like to improve. I'll try to make some of my 100 Days of Watercolor paintings abstract or semi-abstract just for the practice. To start, here's a semi-abstract spring garden.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Typography for Into the Brambles Paperback

Lately I've been working on the inside design for the paperback version of Into the Brambles. 

Here's the inner title page.

A sample of a chapter. (For some reason the footers aren't showing. I'll have to fix that.)

I like it when books are pretty inside. It makes the reading experience more pleasurable. It's the difference between a book that's fun to read and one that feels like the author didn't care about the visual reading experience.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Ice Cream Cake With Starfish

Everyone has a default doodle or two that they make when they can't think of what to draw. Sometimes when I can't think of what to draw, my default is ice cream. I blame Two Scoops of Django for this.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Waves From My Dreams

When I close my eyes and picture waves, this is what I imagine. The shells are intentionally oversized because they are giant shellfish.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Moon Over the Waves

I tried to make the light appear foggy and iridescent, with sea sprays glistening in the light.

I also left space in the middle in case I decide to use this as a cover for a short story. I've been writing some surreal short stories and need covers.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Cover Design for Into the Brambles

I did the cover design for Into the Brambles, the first book of Daniel's forthcoming epic fantasy series The Brambles.

The explanation below of how the illustration works contains spoilers. If you haven't read the book yet, don't scroll down. Come back when you are finished reading it.

(spoilers below)


  1. The illustration is an optical illusion. First, you see a goblin just inside a cave. There are trees overhead.
  2. Then you see that the tree leaves overhead are the outer edges of a giant black bramble in the middle. 
  3. The bramble appears to be just a giant bush, but then you look at it more closely and realize that it has evil eyes, just like the goblin below.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Palace Dome, From the Presidio

The Presidio is a large area of parkland on the northwest side San Francisco. It used to be a military base, but now it's occupied by a mixture of residential and commercial buildings. I woke up early today to try painting from a coffee shop there, which turned out to be filled with employees of Intel, ILM, and other Presidio corporate tenants.

The place was packed and hectic, but the tables outside in the cold were empty. I opened up a hand warmer packet, slipped it into my sleeve to keep my wrist warm, and got my watercolors and paper out.

In the distance was the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts dome. From where I was sitting, I could see only the upper half and part of a colonnade. Trees and other buildings obscured the rest. I thought that the combination of the palace in the distance and the nature and buildings in front would make for an interesting composition.

Painting here was very different from painting by the Golden Gate Bridge. There was a lot of stress in the air. I heard one conversation about some very serious "strictly confidential" matters involving bad management decisions. Another table had a guy on a cell phone talking about some social media company with a wacky, arbitrary-sounding name. Yet another table seemed to have an interview going on. I wished I had brought earplugs.

I had trouble getting this painting to come together at first. It improved when I started consciously tuning out my auditory surroundings.

I spent the most time on the architectural detail of the dome. When I paint architectural subjects, I get very absorbed into every little detail of each facade. I don't know how to paint them loosely with just a few brushstrokes and still capture their essence. I think part of it is that it becomes an excuse for me to study the details and figure out how they work as a composition. It's kind of fun to look at an intricate building and break it down into parts in my mind.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge II

The other day, while I was painting the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance, I kept thinking about how I wanted to get closer to it and then do another painting.

Well, I got much closer. I walked from our Airbnb apartment all the way to the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. I discovered that it was more than just a place where the railing began. It's a nice spot for welcoming tourists with interactive bridge exhibits, a gift shop, relatively clean restrooms, and Bridge Cafe (more of a convenience store than a cafe, but full of tasty goodies).

I found a relatively comfortable spot on a concrete bench next to Bridge Cafe and painted this watercolor. When I first sat down, I thought I was going to paint for half an hour, then power walk across the bridge and back. That didn't happen. I ended up painting until dusk.

This is a very happy painting. I enjoyed working on this very much. It felt like the painting painted itself. The bridge was so majestic from up close. There was a hill at the tourist center that was covered in beautiful native plant landscaping. You can tell from this that I loved everything that I was painting.

The area was also full of excited tourists. Seeing an architectural work of beauty like the Golden Gate Bridge often inspires people to notice all the beauty in their surroundings. I often saw people take photos of the bridge and then start taking photos of the plants on the hill. Normally those plants would go unnoticed, but the bridge awakens something in visitors' minds.

Likewise, tourists noticed me painting and stopped to watch. I've had this happen a number of times, but not like this time. The bridge really does something to awaken the senses. Visitors were very curious and asked me a lot of questions.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Golden Gate Bridge I

The Golden Gate Bridge is one of those landmarks that's irresistible to watercolor painters, especially me. Even with all the other closer, brighter scenery around, the bridge and hills of in the far distance lured me to paint them.

I painted this while sitting on the large cement steps of SF Maritime National Historic Park in Fisherman's Wharf, in front of Ghirardelli Square. It was a lot of fun to paint.

It was rather chilly. I wore a thick jacket and used my thick wool sweater as a blanket. My hands got pretty cold and shaky toward the end. I started in pencil, then added watercolor.

As I was painting, an elderly Chinese gentleman came up to me and started a conversation. He said that we were in the same location where the SF Commercial Artists group used to have annual shows of small paintings. I looked online but couldn't find any information about those shows; it must have been decades ago.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Boatyard

Last year, Danny and I spent almost a month in Split, Croatia. It was the end of the summer, so it was pretty quiet.

Split is a popular vacation destination in July and August for Italian tourists. We were told that during that time, Split is so packed with vacationing Italians that you hear more Italian than Croatian spoken in the streets. But by September, the city gets quiet again.

On one of our random exploration walks, Danny and I found a boatyard. There was a large metal T-shaped post that was used to raise and lower boats. Two men were using it to raise and clean the bottom of a boat.

This is a painting of that boatyard. It's a semi-abstract painting. The abstract brush strokes evoke the feelings I had of breathing in the cool marine air and seeing the reflections off the surface of the water. The shapes of the scenery are outlined in black. I used a Chinese watercolor set which has beautiful, deep black and blue paints.

There was a cafe overlooking the boatyard. We sat there for awhile, chatted, and had espressos. The views were beautiful, but the cafe was oddly empty. We were the only patrons when we walked in. Later, three men came in for beer and took a table on the far end of the cafe in a dark corner, not even overlooking the view. They must have been locals.

This painting was very much inspired by the video "Abstract Fine Art Painting with Mixed Media - Part 3 - Robert Joyner" from Strathmore Artist Papers' 2013 Online Workshop Series.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Ceramic Bird

This bird was half of a pair of two, an engagement gift from Aunt Lois in October of 2011. She gave them to us when we visited her in Florida.

They now sit on the ledge in our dining room. One bird kisses the other on the cheek. This one is the kisser, with its beak pointed straight out.

When I look at them, they remind me of the early days of our relationship. They remind me of that trip to Florida, when we last saw Aunt Lois and Uncle Bill, and when we met cousin Mitch who took us to a swamp where we saw a mother alligator with her babies.

That was the same trip where Danny heroically ran into the ocean to save a girl who turned out not to be drowning, and his glasses remained in the ocean. He had a spare pair with him, thankfully. I took this all as a sign that he'd be a good father to our children one day.

Monday, February 2, 2015


Hi! This will be where I post my art: paintings, sculpture, mixed media, woodworking, etc. Enjoy!