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James Franco

I saw Rise of the Planet of the Apes the other day (terrific movie, BTW). As anyone who does caricatures for a living can tell you, after you do it for a while you start to size up everyone you see to determine how you’d distort that person’s features. In this case, after staring at James Franco up on the screen for a couple hours I began to notice his overlong chin and ever-stoned look. Eventually, those observations led to this.



Lady Gaga

Here’s a painting I just finished of Lady Gaga. I took this one as a bit of a personal challenge. She was a bit of a tough one to caricature, not because her features weren’t distinctive, but because she’s always either changing her appearance or covering up her features behind huge glasses and other crazy crap. This is based on this Rolling Stone cover, BTW.

New York Observer Cover

Here’s my latest NY Observer cover. This was an ultra-rush for the magazine, so I had to pull out a bunch of time-saving tricks in order to get it done on time. The basic premise behind this illustration involved a series of editorial shake-ups at Conde Nast publishing over trouble they’ve had launching their iPad versions of their magazines. The idea was to show their art director as an app on the tablet behind deleted by the Conde Nast publisher. The pad and the icons are fully illustrated vector objects created in Adobe Illustrator and the hands are painted in Photoshop. This cover was especially bittersweet because it was the very last cover by the awesome Design Director Ivy Simones, who has moved on to another job with another publication. Ivy will be missed.



New York Observer Cover

I got to do another cover illustration for the ever-awesome Ivy Simones at the New York Observer. This is for their Gay Power List issue. From left to right are New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, movie producer Scott Rudin, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and fashion designer Marc Jacobs. I had a little more time than usual on this cover, so I really had time to focus on the likenesses and some of the fine details of each of their individual features.



Gil Scott Heron

I heard the sad news today that the great musician and poet Gil Scott Heron died. Here’s a digital sketch I did as a tribute to the man.



Robert Johnson

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the great blues guitarist Robert Johnson’s birth. So the legend goes that when Johnson was young he met the devil at a crossroads and he sold his soul in return for his musical talent. Here’s a painting I did to commemorate the date.



Franz Kafka for Kids

The current Caricaturama challenge over on Facebook is one of my personal favorite writers Franz Kafka. There’s a ton of brilliant work being produced for this challenge. I wanted to try something completely different though, which led me to thinking what a Franz Kafka children’s book would look like, an idea that amuses the heck out of me. So here’s my take on a childhood classic.



How to Use Vector Objects in Your Digital Paintings

I have a confession to make: I’ve only been digital painting for a couple of years now, and for many more years before then I did all my illustration work in vector programs like Adobe Illustrator and Flash. So even though I love digital painting with Photoshop, I still find opportunities to speed up my workflow by returning to my old vectory ways. Such was the case when I was hired to do my second cover for The New York Observer. It’s a real honor getting to work for the Observer, considering the amazing array of talented illustrators that have done covers for them, and Design Director Ivy Simones is awesome to work with. But being a weekly newspaper, the deadlines are extremely tight so in order to meet my deadline I have to use every trick I know in order to produce good work in the most efficient and timely manner possible. In this particular instance, by the time I received the okay to paint my original sketch, I had a little bit over one day to do the final illustration. I used to work a few years ago as an art director for a monthly magazine so I know how important it is for me as an illustrator to do everything in my power to make the AD’s life easier on deadline day. The editors were pretty specific in their request for not only doing a caricature of author Martin Amis and three other New York scribblers, but also they wanted a typical NY brownstone apartment building, a fence and even the Brooklyn Bridge in the final image. Whenever I have complex objects like buildings to illustrate, I find it’s easier for me to first build the underlying structure of the object in vectors, then paint over those shapes. I used Adobe Illustrator to build the foundation of my background objects, but Photoshop’s pen and shape tools can be used pretty much the same way as Illustrator.

I started building the fence first. I used the pen tool to draw a simple shape for the one of the slats.

Next, I wanted to give the object a little dimension, so I selected Copy (Command + C, or Control + C on a PC), then Paste in Back (Command + B). With the background object still selected I used the arrow keys to nudge it over to the right a little bit until it looked like this:
There I had my first fence slat. I copied the object several times. In Illustrator you can do this quickly by selecting the object, then by holding down the Option and Shift keys while dragging the object to the right to create an exact duplicate of the fence. I did this several times, then added a long skinny rectangular cross-beam on top until the finished piece looked like this:

 I continued this process of creating simple shapes and setting them each up on individual layers until I ultimately had the barebones version of my background.
Then, piece by piece, I selected the individual elements from my vector background and pasted them into my Photoshop document as Smart Objects (you won’t need to do this step if you build your pieces in Photoshop to begin with).
 I went back to work on my fence again. I used the Magic Wand tool in Photoshop to select the top and bottom section of my first fence slat like so:
 Then, because I knew time was short, I chose to add a real wood texture from a photograph. I dug up a cheap stock photo of some wood planks. Then used the Marquee Tool to select one of the planks. I selected Copy (Command + C), then returning to the selection I made in my vector object I chose the Paste Into command (Command + Shift + V). This actually auto-generates an editable mask around the texture and placing it on a new layer that fits perfectly.
And it looks like this:

I repeated this process for each of the wood slats until I had the entire fence built. After that, I went back in and reduced the transparency on each of my wood texture shapes. Then I used some custom brushes I’ve put together over the years, and painted over the wood textures so that they blended into the rest of the illustration. Lastly, I painted some shadows I on a Multiply layer. The complete fence looked like this:

I did much the same thing by pasting in some brick textures into the main structure of the brownstone. This saved me a ton of time I would have otherwise had to spend paintstakingly rendering each individual brick. If I’d had more time I probably would have done just that, but time was at a premium and even by taking these shortcuts, I still ended up finishing the illustration with literally minutes to spare before my deadline. Ivy was happy, which of course made me a happy boy as well.



Natalie Portman

Here’s a digital painting I did of Natalie Portman for the latest Caricaturama challenge over on FaceBook. The reference shot I used is from the movie “Closer”, which I’ve never actually seen (although I probably should, considering she plays a stripper). I really loved the colors from the photo and thought it would be cool to try to capture them here.



David Hasselhoff

I took my little boy to see the movie Hop this weekend and it was completely horrible. It did contain an extended cameo from The Hoff, and as I watched him on the giant screen I started to formulate how I would do his caricature. Here’s the result.