The shapes created by the spaces between things

watercolor painting of poppies in sunlight
Poppies in sunlight (watercolor)

One of the reasons I enjoy poetry is because it comprises all of my favorite ways of making. It’s creating images with words, yes; a kind of storytelling. But it’s about so much more than just the correct or precise words —more than denotation or connotation— it’s also about design.

It’s about how the words interact with the space around them; make a composition, make aural and visual rhythms; remainders as important as omissions.

As in any kind of composition, the negative space is crucial.

watercolor painting: fraternal twins
Fraternal twins (watercolor)
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Things bound with waxed sail thread and resin

drawing of mountains, riversMy subconscious has been working on a thesis for me lately; broadcasting things which on the surface (flattened and simplified by my waking mind) appear disparate, but on closer inspection are stitched together by a continuous thread.

Its thesis is about crafting sensible (or at least legible, recognizable) solutions, guides, codes to amorphous and unformed problems. Striving to find concrete solutions to riddles or puzzles only hinted at. Trying to map a place whose geography and even location is ever-shifting.

A reminder that, sometimes, the answers one wants or needs are unattainable because one is asking the wrong questions. It’s telegraphing this to me visually; that’s how I best understand the world. And the message coming through: I must widen my frame of reference, my view, in order to ask the right questions.

‘Maps for cephalopods’ is perhaps the most obvious— my subconscious’ version of hitting me over the head; a wry attempt at a movie-montage or voice-over exposition— and its point at least two-fold;

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Remember that project I mentioned? Inking fine lines

ink drawing portrait of a man
Here are some sneak peaks of the first two illustrations for the book I’m working on. These top to are photos showing much of the finished illustrations, and below are details of the scanned images.

ink drawing of a woman with long hair

I need to gain momentum; I’d like to complete 3-4 illustrations per week to keep this moving. Gotta stay motivated!
section of an ink drawing portraitsection of an ink drawing portrait
And here is a slice of the pencil for number two.

Do you have a new project for Spring?


I’ve begun a new project that I’ll be posting about here periodically (if not frequently). I’ll not reveal the details just yet, only a slice of the first drawing. I spent last weekend researching in preparation after an idea from last year resurfaced.

I love it when an idea that’s collected some dust raises its head again, unbidden. It usually means it’s worth pursuing. But until it picks up more momentum, that’s all I’m going to say. It’s still just a seedling at the moment— you understand. Look out for this also @edaggarart

What new project(s) do you have unfurling as the days get finer?

Like smoke suspended in the calm

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Here, a cluster of stone red-roofed cottages, and more of those trees with the art nouveau branches.

There’s a rock—huge!— out, away from the shore. It looks like a great fat sleeping bear. The mist hangs above the land in swaths, like smoke suspended in the calm of an afternoon pub.

Some beautiful old stonework houses with white wood trim. Fairy story houses in a patchwork land. A hilly autumn country of greens and golds, rich brown fields that roll and dip.

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My mind wanders– the slipping of eaves after a great storm; laden and bowed under the burden of water and other insatiable forces. 

How I have slipped, in the writing of my dreams; it’s a muscle, and muscles not worked regularly will atrophy.
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Look.
There are pictures in my head, stories— well, not stories, exactly, but beginnings; threads to be followed. Observations. My biggest challenge, always, is to discern and allow true things to come through. But the most impassable wall there is not the readiness of the stories, but me, the one telling. 

Fear causes inaction; that’s the obstacle.

The radiators have awakened for the new season; that moment when the smell of dust, of time, fills the apartment along with the warmth.

The steam-driven, radiant heat of old buildings is so specific— It feels sounds smells different than modern heating solutions; it’s too warm, too cold. It is by its by nature difficult to control; there’s no efficient way to temper it. I love it, and I hate it.

The soft rain has returned. It sounds soothing out the darkened window, and the neighbors have all gone back inside. No one is talking, no cars driving past.

I’m looking forward to a nighttime walk after a day spent indoors in front of the machine, collecting words against a self-imposed deadline.

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Process: from manuscript to illustrated book

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From manuscript to finished book: a brief process overview

This is a post about a project I’ve been participating in for a few months. It’s a noir-style children’s book in which nursery rhymes meet police procedural. A friend and client of mine, R. Andrew Heidel (owner of famous The Way Station bar), wrote True Crimes from Rhymes Square years ago and finally found an illustrator who was right for the job— Eric Hamilton. They hired me on as the publication designer.

Copy fitting process with thumbnail drawings
A sample spread during the copy-fitting process with thumbnail drawings

Eric spent months working on loads of thumbnails and sketches to work out the characters (of which there are many), as well as working out the illustrations. He provided me with no less than four thumbnails for each page/spread. I worked with the copy and layout design to arrive at a good balance of text-to-image, and Andy and I art directed during this process.

The same spread, after months of editing copy, Eric refining the illustrations, and me refining the design of the book

The book is being produced with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, and will be a sort of work-in-progress limited-edition hardcover, comprised of rough drawings, polished pencil illustrations, and final painted illustrations. It will serve as proof-of concept when Andy approaches publishers to create a series based on this initial story.

More images after the jump!

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A dilemma, revisited

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Funny little visualization in the sketchbook

After a week of percolating and indecision, an idea for this table hatched and I began the work (unironically) on labor day. I’ve stripped the top surface and all four legs, and have a plan to create a backgammon pattern on the top.

Having seen how beautiful the wood beneath the old finish is, I’ve elected to leave half of the diamond-sharp points natural, paint the other half metallic gold, and the remaining space will be completed with a dark stain— possibly dark walnut for contrast, or I may also try to match the existing finish still on the lower portion, where the legs connect.

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Stripped and sanded; as you can see, two kinds of wood were underneath

My primary concern: How to mask for stain? Stain is penetrating by nature, unlike paint which sits on top of a surface, so tape isn’t going to result in clean lines. After a bit of research, I found an ingenious solution: mask for where I don’t want the stain and spray clear coat there. Those areas will then have a kind of permanent mask, preventing the stain from soaking in.

I plan to polyurethane the whole thing when all’s said and done to achieve a unified surface (as well as for protection), so the ‘mask’ areas will blend away and not look conspicuously shiny.

I’ll not be sawing off its shapely little legs for use as a coffee table—instead leave it as a moveable table / island nearby the windows in the kitchen.