Archive | June 2016

Getting Technique-cal

Pencils to pixels

Over the past few months, I’ve been plotting and planning a video tutorial series, and getting that rolling. Wanting to make it as in-depth and as close to real-time as possible, it’s become a monster indeed.

The plan has been simple: Show the workflow, the art, the technique an all of the warts and whatnots that go into creating a rendering or illustration the “Problem Child Kustoms Way.” Suffice to say, it’s been a ton of work thus far, but very rewarding and eye-opening for me, both from a technical standpoint and as an artist. I’ve realized many key things about my work, as well as just how often I let a few f-bombs fly. Crazy how that can go.

how to render in adobe illustrator

I thought that it might be fun to show a few in-the-moment screen grabs from a couple of pieces here, as they represent a lot of what goes into these works. There’s a ton of hidden stuff and work involved in making vector art look like, well, not vector art. Not that the purpose of my technique or approach begins and ends with that in any respect… I enjoy the fact that I can use a program like Adobe Illustrator to continue creating, even after my hands have given out as they have. It’s a mater of holding on to the style I had developed before going digital, and the incredible tools afforded by the software to push it that next step. A melding of man, will and machine… Funny how those can come together so organically, while often being thought of as being so different.

Some pieces like this big rig tend to get very involved. While working on a segment highlighting graphics and paint, this particular illustration spent a ton of time under the microscope, not only for its very involved process, but because I had to make vector paths appear more like candy paint, with all sorts of transparent and translucent qualities, reflecting and refracting light. Fun times…


…and how it all comes together:


I had taken some time as well to show how to create realistic reflections using only the pen tool in Illustrator, which offers a lot of control when altering reality just a bit:

Reflections in Illustrator

And, of course, rendering from paper and pencil all the way through to digital:


…covering glass, paint, shading and more using only the pen tool in Illustrator (no gradient meshes, brushes or presets… Just hands-on dirty work).

vector rendering

Look for more soon, and be sure to check out my website at for more tutorials and sneak peeks. Thanks for looking in, and feel free to hit me with any questions, comments, suggestions…

Cropping With Ockham’s Razor

To be remembered one day is an unspoken desire of most people. It’s one of those little motivating factors that drive us to chase a dream of creating things, be it art or music or prose. After all, why throw it at the wall if you don’t want it to stick, or at least leave a mark, right? And if you couldn’t care less about that as an artist, you can rest assured that at least SOMEONE out there does, judging from the number of magazines and blogs and television shows that exist solely to document these works.
A late-night thinking binge took me down the rabbit hole, considering that today’s artists will be remembered or even rediscovered in quite a different fashion from those who came before. What’s odd is that instead of learning about me in libraries or museums, someone will find my life’s work via some internet search, scattered among loosely-related images and links chosen by some algorithm. A life I stumbled into, stumbled upon via a search routine designed to guide some randomly-chosen whim, and forgotten the instant that their search leads them down another rabbit hole.
It’s all very fleeting in nature, and I’m only just discovering the beauty in that with reference to reinventing one’s self; although there exists the possibility of such digital cataloging to create a whole other picture of oneself that stands in stark contrast to the that which we’d like to be remembered.
That said, I find it logical to believe the most successful artists of the future will ply their craft not so much in creating images, but managing their image. Live by the blade of the internet or die by underestimating its sharpness. Funny how that all works out.

Father’s Day in Perspective

A few thoughts on Father’s Day, if you don’t mind…
I have been blessed with one of the Good Ones. I’ve known a few people over the years who weren’t so lucky. Perhaps they lost their Dad early in life due to health-related incidents or an accident, or maybe the guy just didn’t stick around. Life can be pretty cruel like that, and my heart goes out to all of you who may be without your Father today.
I have been fortunate to still have mine around, and he’s close by. That’s awesome, and something I didn’t think too much about when I lived across the street from him (and you thought my life was like a sit-com in OTHER respects? You don’t know the half of it), or even when I lived under the roof that he and my Mom worked so hard to keep overhead. When I lost my Mom, I gained a new perspective on my father, and learned a lot about picking up the pieces and moving on, but still paying respect to those you lose. And hat perspective fit neatly into all of the lessons he’s taught me over the years, strengthening values and giving me a great foundation upon which to build the three young men that I’ve been blessed to be a a Dad to. And hopefully those guys go out and do likewise when the time comes for them to have children, with the added benefit of more colorful language and cool techniques for throwing phones and pencils. Scratch that last bit.
My father has been my number one fan, pushing me through dark times when my hands weren’t (and AREN’T) quite working right, and getting me to see things as they are, not some deary vision I tend to cloak over things from time to time. Perspective. There it is again. The man knows how to view things realistically, yet optimistically. While I tend to lean toward pessimism, I do often give pause to what he’d take from a given situation, and find myself calling on him for advice quite often to this day. He’s saved a lot of people some dental work, listening to and diffusing me when needed.
The man gave me a sense of the absurd, an appreciation for dry humor and fart jokes alike, and the knowledge of when to employ each. He’s taught me to go into a fight prepared, and when to act dumb enough to get away with something, or use that to lower and adversary’s guard… But to always fight fair, and even to fight only as a last resort. It’s not about winning for the sake of winning. Keeping things in perspective. I see a theme here.
I’m not proud that there are times when I get so busy that I’m short with him. I’m coming to realize that nothing in life is worth that, and if you haven’t yet done likewise, take pause and do so now. I’m lucky to have great advice, moral support or a dirty joke just a phone call or few miles down the road, and thank God that I’ve grown up just enough to know what that is worth. Perspective again.
That said, with Father’s Day coming up, you now know who to blame for this mess that is me… And that’s a beautiful thing, because if you see the both of us in one place, you can’t say that you haven’t been warned.
A Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there who have taken on the job of putting things into perspective for your kids, or who are gaining some from your own Dad presently, or even reflecting on that which he left behind for you.

“Survivor” Sounds Like a Stretch

The Ted Kennedy Collection promises to be a huge draw at next January’s Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction…

(cue rim-shot)

In the Garden of Idi. I Mean…

Having had the song stuck in my head for nearly three days, I have concluded that I am NOT a rock, and I am no island.

I’m somewhere between a Nerf-like consistency and soapstone, perhaps, bordering on doughy, depending on what I ate for dinner the night before. And possibly more of a jetty or an isthmus or a peninsula, even. It’s not a commitment thing by any stretch, but more of some Darwinian deal, in which I’d prefer some form of diversity, yet I select to have this marshy land that’s difficult to traverse to get to the core of my land mass, you know? Not fully secluded, but certainly not to the point of having an Applebees and four Starbucks. A small town with some cultural history, yet not enticing to hipsters. Like sort of dangerous-looking, but mostly due to the abandoned, half-stripped car sitting on the corner near that really tasty rib place.

I’m sorry, Paul Simon, but while you touch no one, and no one touches you, I simply cannot keep my hands off of myself. And this isthmus/jetty/peninsula-man thing cries.

A lot.

The Leftover Uncertainty Principle. And Farts.

For years, I was convinced that we had somehow become stewards of Schrödinger’s refrigerator; at any given moment there may or may not have been food in it.
Since the oldest sons have moved out, it has not only become much more stable in there (a sort of “consumable constant” has emerged), but my fears of some Kitchen Aid warming/milk entropy state have dissipated exponentially.
On the opposite side, I am down two persons upon which to blame fart noises.
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