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A journal and sketchbook (of sorts) where I post my random thoughts and scribbles from a variety of works-in-progress of my personal creativity and freelance work outside of the daily grind. I occasionally, but not always, post final color artworks.
Statistics for My Work in Progress

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1. All Hallows: Fall 2014

Wrapped in various projects this Fall 2014, but that doesn't mean I don't try and sneak in a little fun drawing here and there as a warm-up sketch. For example, my "life" drawing for Halloween...

2B Pencil on Strathmore drawing paper

Over the next few weeks, I'll continue to be chained to my drawing board, but I also expect to do some art progress posting again by the end of the month from my SmArt School class as well as some personal work, and possibly even some client work if I can get approvals for doing that. 

In any case, a few interesting things going on there, most definitely! :)

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2. River City Comic Expo

Attended the River City Comic Expo (RCCE) in Little Rock, Arkansas this past Saturday. Had a great time -- what a fun event! I met lots of really nice people, and enjoyed chatting with them about my art for comics and illustration.  Planning on being there again next year, hopefully with some new comics (at least two), and definitely with some new art.

Here are some con sketches I did at my table, possibly inspired by a few popular characters... :)
I'll color them (digitally) when I have some free time. For now, back to work! 

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3. Sketchbooks!

Received my first sketchbook collection today, just in time for next week's trip up to Spectrum Fantastic Art Live (SFAL) 2014!  I'll be bringing some of them with me, and a few will also have an original sketch on the first page. Additionally, I'll have some original art and prints as well as a few remaining copies of Issue #1 from WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE! I'll be at table 78 -- stop by and say, "Hi!".

Here's the info about the conference:
Spectrum art book comes to LIFE!!! Join me and 200 artists May 9-11 in Kansas City for Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 3 (www.sfalkc.com). Spectrum is a three-day celebration of the best in fantasy, science fiction, horror, and comic art. You will interact with Traditional medium artists, Digital artists working in the Film, Animation, and Video Game fields, Sculptors, Comics Artists, Cover Illustrators, and more. Additionally, there will be opportunities to attend workshops and panels, observe live painting and sculpting demos, meet art directors, conduct portfolio reviews and attend the Spectrum 21 awards ceremonies. If you enjoy my work and would like to experience a wide variety of what the field of fantastic art has to offer I hope you will meet me in Kansas City, May 9-11, 2014.

Facebook: Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
Twitter @SFantasticAL www.spectrumfantasticartlive.com

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4. Stuff on the Drawing Board

Some snippets from various drawing boards with illustrations currently (or within the past few weeks...) in-progress. I tend to rotate between working on different illustrations depending on the various project(s) in development. 

Primarily 2H pencil on Bristol, with some of the darker values using HB and 4B pencils, and occasionally graphite powder. 

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5. 2014 SCBWI Bologna Illustrator Showcase

Very happy and honored to find out that I received an honourable mention for one of my illustrations, Dragonworld, in the SCBWI Bologna Book Fair 2014 Illustrator Showcase Gallery!

See the grand winner as well as other entries in the gallery link, here:

 Original traditional pencil (left); digital color (right)

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6. Winged Battle

Fantasy illustration which is currently in-progress (the digital painting part). The scanned traditional drawing shown above is on 11 x 17 Bristol paper, using 2H/HB/4B pencils, a variety of erasers and some graphite powder painting.

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7. Happy 2014! This Year's To-Do List

10-min."life" drawing of polar bear (Safari model) in new toned-paper sketchbook
It's good to have goals. :) 

This year's list of stuff to-do gets some inspiration from various items I had on my list last year, along with a few additions. To make it all a little more interesting, don't you know. So, let's get started:

-- Submit entry for Spectrum 21 Fantastic Art
-- Participate in ArtOrder challenges (as time permits)
-- Sketchbook! Printing and selling my first sketchbook, collecting daily doodles and preliminary sketches from a variety of recent projects (not under NDA at the time of printing).
-- Conferences! Currently signed up for two art shows and bringing original art and prints to sell: 
  1. Spectrum Live (May)
  2. IlluxCon (September)
-- Picture Book(s)! 
  1. Subbing one project to publishers in collaboration with a writer already this year (January)
  2. Completion of two dummy book proposals as writer/artist
-- Comics! Complete client projects already in the pipeline, and get some new ones lined up for end of Summer/Fall project development...
-- Graphic novels! Complete proposals already in progress and get to pitching 
-- Book Illustration! I have a fantasy project collaboration with a new writer that I'm very excited about; she has a novella that will be out late Winter/early Spring...I'll be focusing on the art side of things (cover illustrations) along with a few related items.
-- Traditional painting! I already have various studies developed, now I just need to get going on the final paintings, particularly since I intend to bring a few along with me for my conference art tables. From mini to 20 x24 (approx.), mostly acrylic.
-- Update Portfolio(s)! Again. Finally? Especially my main one, www.tanjawooten.com, focusing on book jacket illustration (primarily fantasy and sci-fi for YA and adult markets), middle grade projects (jacket and interior art), as well as assorted comic book and graphic novel projects. Lots of new art and some existing client art to show there.  Like art from, for instance, the 2013 Harvey Award nominated WOMANTHOLOGY: SPACE! End of April deadline, but I foresee an "unscheduled" launch in March if not sooner.
-- Drawing and Concept Art! As though I would not be doing that anyways...

In any case, I'm excited to see all the possibilities for the next year, and discover what all comes to fruition. :) Happy New Year to my blogger followers -- may you also achieve your 2014 creative goals!

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8. Winter's Greeting sketching

Working on this 11 x 17 illustration a few minutes at a time over the next few weeks until it's finally done -- have a few other projects that have a much higher priority at the moment which is not a bad thing. :)

2H pencil on smooth Bristol paper, digital texture background added after scanning.


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9. Kelpie

A warm-up sketch from today, and an experiment: trying out graphite powder for the first time. It's a bit messy, but I like it!  I could be just a little inspired by The Scorpio Races...really enjoyed that story, particularly since it brought back memories of my own horse (not a kelpie -- ha) when I was a teenager. :)

Kelpie or "capaill uisce" or "water horse". 
2H and 4B pencil with graphite powder on smooth Bristol paper. 
Digital texture background.

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10. Wild Horses, in-progress sketch

Another one of those warm-up sketches that suddenly took on a life of its own: Wild Horses.
2H and 4B pencils on Strathmore drawing paper.

Think I'll color this one. :)

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11. The Various Roles Illustrators Play

This summer went by entirely too fast...officially only a few short weeks left.

But as I juggled my various personal and client projects with multitasking fervor, I realized that all of the various roles I played as part of my illustrator job might have had a little something to do with it:

  • Marketing Agent (art promotion, client and genre networking, social media posting)
  • Legal Agent (contract development, negotiator, invoicing overdue accounts when applicable)
  • Accountant (billing, invoicing, taxes, tracking expenses)
  • Clerk (filing, art storage, categorizing and backing up resource files, documentation)
  • Model (figure posing)
  • Photographer (reference poses, shots)
  • Writer (graphic novel development, blog and other social media posts)
  • Researcher (reading and developing and/or following art specs, considering new art strategies to improve speed and quality of project development, keeping up with or studying esoteric topics that flavor both art and writing, considering technology application for current/future projects)
  • Scientist (switching hats from biologist, zoologist, technician in order to design characters and/or creatures, and their environments)
  • Web designer (website maintenance, updates)
  • Computer technician (maintain my own equipment and some of the family's, on an "on call" status)
  • Graphic designer (marketing materials, print portfolios -- targeted to various genres)
  • Artist (illustration, sketching, anatomy practice, painting, layout design, color study, comics, all of the above)
And yet even after creating that list, I'm sure I managed to leave something out that is part of my weekly, if not daily, task list.

Keeping busy.... Read the rest of this post

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12. Painting Studies Prep

I've got a few traditional paintings I'd like to do before the end of the year...but it's been awhile since I've done any acrylic painting, so I figured I'd better get in some practice studies first. 

The canvas -- gessoed illustration board. Each study is about 6 x 9 inches. At the moment I'm deciding what type of fixative (if any) will be used to save the line work, since I do want some of that showing under the paint. Maybe. 

I did a quick sketch on each canvas with HB pencil.

Above study is "Jon Snow and Ghost" inspired by GoT. The other three are also inspired by my imagination...mostly: "Horse," "Warriors," and "White Deer".

I'll start applying color next week.

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13. Tiny Drawings: My 2013 Sketchbook

As much sketching as I like to do when I get started on a project, it seemed like a good idea to pull a few of those together into a small sketchbook collection. This way, I could post it on Etsy and also take a few copies with me to conferences next year (something I hope to do).

For my 2013 collection, I think I'd like to include a variety of thumbnails that lead up to the more detailed drawings that I completed from 2012/13. I have a some of those.  Might include a few other odds and ends for added interest, too.

The above sketch was a preliminary thumbnail for a cover illustration. About 3x5 inches done with a blue ball point pen on printer paper. After I scanned it, I converted it to b/w and then did a little bit of shading to push a few of the values. The final illustration for that one is currently in progress.

I like sketching out thumbnails with a pen because I have to deal with the permanent lines I've placed on the paper. It forces me to think more about shapes and layout as opposed to detail. And, if there are a few accidents, happy or otherwise, I can always write some notes along side it about what I'd like to change or keep...if I intend to push the thumbnail further with a more detailed drawing.

But especially -- no erasing! :)

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14. A Knife in the Dark

Keeping busy juggling a few projects this summer, which I'm happy to be doing. A few personal projects creep in now and then -- the above started out as a warm-up sketch and then, as someone mentioned on my Facebook page, it took on a life of its own. 

About to start a painting based on my Valkyrie portrait. I'll post a few stages of the progress at another time. It will be my first traditional acrylic painting in about 20 years -- whee!

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15. Valkyrie portrait (drawing)

This drawing of a Valkyrie and her horse was originally inspired by a Pre-Raphaelite model reference photo I saw the other day on Pinterest.  Have to see if I can find it again....

All else is my imagination.  The texture is from my photo textures folder.

Created it as a warm-up sketch before work -- used a 2H pencil on 8x10 Strathmore drawing paper.

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16. Dragon World: Final (almost) Pencils

The next stage of my "Dragon World" illustration: pencils.  

After gathering element references, taking a few pose reference photos and designing heraldry icons for the magical floating elements around the main character, I proceeded to create the final layout using 2H pencils on 11x 17 Bristol paper.

I've posted more of my progress images of this stage on my Facebook page in the album called "Dragonworld".

Considering some additional minor revisions before adding in more value with 2B - 4B pencils. Then on to final color in Photoshop!

In-progress photo of "Dragon World" illustration.

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17. Dragon World in-progress

The ArtOrder group run by WoTC art director, Jon Schindehette, has a new challenge up that I couldn't resist developing some concepts for -- dragons!  But there's a little more to it than that:

Today, I’m going to listen to the call of the community. A dragon challenge has been the number one requested challenge for years. I’ve always begged off, because I haven’t been able to come up with a challenge that befitted them. I mean, I could have just done a challenge where I said, “draw a really cool dragon”, but that is kinda lame, and judging that type of challenge can be difficult. One person’s cool dragon is another persons cliche. So today's challenge is going to have a spin…

If you look around our mundane earth, you will see dragons worked into everyday culture all over the place. They can be found in tattoos, clothing, architecture, art, and so many other places…and yet, dragons do not actually exist in our world. When I look at so many of the worlds in the fantasy genre, I can see dragons flying around, but I don’t often see them reflected in the cultures. Why is that?
This months challenge takes an iconic figure in the fantasy genre, and adds a layer of complexity.

The Dragon – Create a cool dragon and show me that you know dragons. Show me the emotional resonance that comes with a dragon. Capture the “essence” of a dragon, and breath some life into it.

The World – Now, you’ve got to integrate it into the world. And by “integrate”, I’m talking about more than just dropping a dragon into a scene. That isn’t integration, that’s just an illustration. “Integration” is showing how the world lives with, reacts to, is affected by, and influenced by the dragon. Maybe dragons are common place in your world and they blend into everyday life. Maybe there is only one in the world, and the myth of it is reflected throughout the world. Maybe your dragon is simply symbolic and you have to show it’s influence and integration in novel ways.

The more innovative and interesting you make your execution will affect the judging...Also, do not feel you are limited to a fantasy setting. Feel free to go off the reservation and find your dragon in any genre, time, world, or setting. This could make for some interesting editorial or book cover ideas – where you step out of the known and normal."

End Quote

While I wish I could have had time to work up a few pages for the Dragon World comic idea I initially came up with...I just don't...client projects took priority. But, I have two other ideas I've chosen out of my initial rough sketches that I'm developing further. One fits squarely in the "Book Cover Adult" or BCA category.  And the other should fit in the "Book Cover Children's" or BCC category...something that might one day be the cover for a story under consideration in "The Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy"....gotta dream big and work hard! :)

In any case, this sketch was the final rough version that I have since been developing further for the BCA category...and I'll post progress images for that in a later post:

Read more about the Dragon World ArtOrder Challenge, categories, rules and submission requirements as well as other art in progress by going to the AO site, here:

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18. The Cover Reveal

The mention of “cover reveal” is often an exciting time for writers, illustrators or readers – we’re offered a chance to celebrate with the author; whether it’s their first book as a published writer or the next book of an established series or the new stand-alone novel by a favorite story teller. It’s also an opportunity to catch a glimpse of an artist’s interpretation of a favorite character or characters, maybe in an exciting moment captured in the art that hints at a page-turning scene in the story, or a designer’s motif that symbolizes a key element carried throughout.

And then, think about how many times you've been in a discussion about a new book or maybe even an old favorite book and said, “I can’t remember the title or the author, but it’s the book with the picture of “(Fill-in-the-Blank)” on the eye-catching cover?”

My question for discussion of this post is –-

Why aren’t the illustrators and designers also credited in the “cover reveal” posts, especially when that reveal is done by the author, publisher or reviewer?

We know that the writer has invested time and effort in creating a wonderful story to share with their readers. The cover artists and designers who created the cover for the book have also invested their time and creativity to package that story in an engaging way that ideally shares the writer’s vision of the story…and will also help sell the book to its target audience.

And yet a majority of those articles whether on blogs, Facebook, Tmblr, Twitter and forum discussion threads don’t credit the artist, illustrator and/or designers that created that beautiful, intriguing, hopefully eye-catching cover that grabs the potential buyer to check out the book.

Why not?

Here's an example of one of the few “cover reveal” posts I found that actually does credit the artist/designer in an excellent fashion, mentioning author, publisher and cover designer: 

Quote: Today I have the cover for WEATHER WITCH by Shannon Delaney!! It’s hitting shelves this summer, June 25, 2013 from St. Martin’s Griffin! And it’s STEAMPUNK!!! YAY!

Here’s what Shannon had to say about the cover:
“This cover is another example of the lovely work of designer Ervin Serrano of St. Martin’s Press. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Ervin do beautiful covers throughout the course of the 13 to Life series and was excited to know I get to keep him for this steampunk trilogy! He’s wonderful to work with and great at bringing my vision to the public!”  End quote.

The artist, whether acting as illustrator or designer (or maybe both), can also be a partner for the author and publisher that broadens their reach to more potential readers of the book, increasing traffic to the “cover reveal” posts for reviewers and authors, as well as garnering interest from genre fans who appreciate the art whether it’s on a book cover, a card, or poster print; and, in fact, those fans might consider reading or recommending the book themselves because it was done by an artist as well as author they admire or follow.

From an interview by Joseph Mallozzi on July 25, 2008 with award winning artist/illustrator/designer John Picacio discussing cover art and design credit:

Do you think cover art is as appreciated as it should be?

“I think that depends on who you want to have appreciate it, and what you want it appreciated for. I think it’s maybe appreciated more than ever by genre collectors and fans. There’s been a growing number of cyber-discussions about cover art in recent months, and that’s a very good thing. I hope readers and professionals continue to exchange views about it because that will only raise the bar for the better.

On the publishing side, there was a time when cover illustrators weren’t even CREDITED with their work, which is absurd.

Today, cover illustrators generally are at least credited for their work, whereas I find that a lot of the pre-90’s paperbacks and novels sometimes didn’t print the credit, and that was especially the case with pre-1970’s books.

I think knowing who created the art helps foster an appreciation (and a marketplace) for the art itself in professional sf/fantasy work.”

So why is it so difficult to credit the artists, designers and illustrators for these book covers...whether it’s for children’s MG books, YA books, sf/fantasy or some other genre?

When the article by The Atlantic Wire 25 OF THE MOST WONDERFUL BOOK COVERS OF THE YEAR  was posted, many of the “most wonderful book covers” were not credited with the artists, illustrators or designers.   

Surprisingly so, when the title of the article states clearly and quite directly that it is all about the designs – not the stories, not the authors.

That being said, the article was later updated that same day with all of the proper credits not only because the information was easily available, but also because many of the commentors of the article pointed that out:

“… If the whole point of the article is to highlight visual design, it seems incongruous for the accompanied information to consist entirely of the author, title, and plot summary. I'd love to see the names of the designers, illustrators, artists, and photographers, with links to their sites!“

And so did an open letter by artist/illustrator/designer Marc Scheff, that was signed by various illustrators (myself included), and artists, art directors, designers and fans from the Facebook community:

"Your recent article, titled, "25 of the Most Wonderful Book Covers of the Year," celebrates the work of designers, artists, and illustrators (in some cases, all three) yet you and Jen failed to credit a single one of the image creators, save the ones whose names were actually printed on the cover. This is not only poor journalistic practice, it is probably a licensing breach to the owner of the image, the artist.

In my own research on the books you list (see below), I found authors who featured the book covers with great fanfare on their own site, with no mention of the artist. Frankly, I just don't understand how that even makes sense, never mind that it is not allowed. If you credit the artist, the artist will likely promote your piece, bringing more eyes and subscribers to your work. By crediting them, you harness the power of their social networks, and you missed out on that online traffic by a factor of 25….”

So as part of your next exciting event called the COVER REVEAL, why not in the future include credit for the illustrators and designers responsible? 

Cover image and design by me, Tanja Wooten.

Read more of the WEATHER WITCH cover reveal post here:

Read more of John’s interview here:


Read the open letter addressed to The Atlantic Wire by Marc Scheff, here: https://www.facebook.com/marcscheffillustration/posts/10151267056773376

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19. Womanthology: Space #1

One of my cool summer projects this year: working as comic book artist for the anthology “Womanthology: Space” issue #1 through IDW Publishing.  I partnered with writer Sandy King Carpenter on her story “Dead Again".  It was just released on September 19, 2012.

There is some preview material from issue #1, here:

The preview material...includes excerpts from "Waiting for Mr. Roboto" by Bonnie Burton and Jessica Hickman, which depicts the life of a bored space-waitress; "Dead Again" by Sandy King Carpenter with Tanja Wooten, which is a kind of ghost story in space; and "Scaling Heaven" by Stephanie Hans and Alison Ross, a speculative piece about a race to put the first woman on the moon. Not included but available in the issue is an exceptionally cute story by Ming Doyle and Jordie Bellaire called "The Adventures of Princess Plutonia," which puts a fun spin on the John Carter/Adam Strange trope, as well as the first installment of "Space Girls," a recurring humor strip by Stacie Ponder that imagines an all-woman crew of Star Trekkian-style spaceship that's actually my favorite bit of this ambitious new release. All stories (except Ponder's strip) are lettered by Rachel Deering.

This project was something different for me, a ghost story set in space; but I definitely enjoyed the challenge and gained some valuable comic book development experience once again.  This was my second contribution as a comic book artist and I plan on having more opportunities if at all possible...whether I work with another writer again, adapt a story for a graphic novel...or write and illustrate one myself. :)

Here are a few reviews for W:S issue #1:

Below is one of the early concept sketches I did based on Sandy’s initial thoughts about the story.  I posted some of the original pencils over on my Facebook page here as well: https://www.facebook.com/TanjaWootenIllustration

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20. My 2013 New Year's Resolutions...sort of

Happy New Year!

Keeping busy, which is good; but I've also been rather neglecting my blog
, which isn't good. Admittedly, most of the projects I've been working on are work-related rather than personal creative study, so can't post those as of yet...the frequent truth of a professional illustrator.  But that can be (hopefully) resolved by keeping my blog posts as part of this year's task list....

Or that's the plan. :) 

So here are my New Year's resolutions...actually, more of a project list...of my creative intentions for 2013:

-- update the portfolio with new art (!)
-- weekly blog and FB page posting of personal work (in-progress and/or finished)
-- submit art for Spectrum 20
-- create 10 traditional fantasy paintings; taking various concepts I've created to final paintings this year (if I can do more, even better)
-- develop fantasy illustration 12-month calendar to sell in Etsy shop (available November 2013)
-- illustration prints and a few original paintings for sale in Etsy shop
-- finish custom painting of Disney figurines project
-- product design concepts (licensed art series)
I am also involved in a few projects at the moment that will be subbed traditionally this year, or will be available digitally, or possibly both:

-- picture book (artist, but not writer)
-- picture book (artist and writer)
-- comic book 4 issue mini-series (artist and adapter); official announcement of this project will probably be in February with a few sneak peeks at that time
-- YA graphic novel (artist and writer)

My "plan-to-work-on-this-year" projects include:

-- a new middle-grade graphic novel (draft script and concepts)
-- 2 new picture book dummies (outlines already in progress)
-- YA graphic novel adaption (ongoing project)

The above does not include other prospective projects that I've been queried about, so I may be making additional announcements about those later on during the year.  And, of course, I'll be on the lookout for paying projects by prospective clients; whether for self-publishing, traditional publishing, licensed art development, comic books, or private commission. 

Gotta add a quick disclaimer here: no Work-for-Hire (WFH) projects!

Attending conferences last year was an amazing experience, but I'm not positive I'll be doing so again in 2013.  If I do attend any, these are the ones I'm currently thinking about:

-- New York Comic-con
-- Spectrum Fantastic Art Live
-- IlluxCon
-- SCBWI Austin regional
-- Austin Comic-con

So, that's what I've got for the start of 2013 -- what are your resolutions or project thoughts for this new year?

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21. Something in Progress

The above banner is one of the directions I'm considering for my portfolio 2013 redesign.  This year I'd like to focus less on product design (although I still do some of that) and more on illustration, particularly for fantasy, sci-fi and children's books.  Also, comic book art...want to do more of it. :)

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22. Winter Greetings: work-in-progress

A small unfinished hedgehog character from an illustration set in progress.  As are many of my illustrations, this one started out as a pencil drawing that I am now digitally painting in Photoshop.

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23. Dragon's Perch

My first dragon post for 2013! The illustration was developed from a warm-up sketch originally created late summer 2012 (posted below).  The dragon didn't change much from its original design, but I did change the pose of the girl and altered her costume as well, from fabric to style.  The background was inspired by a photo I took at the Dallas Arboretum about 10 years ago (at bottom).


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24. Old Knight

My panel of an old knight is getting a slight update as I go to final pencils.  This comic short story (fairy tale) is one of a few personal projects for 2013.

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25. Home on the Range

Early sketch for a middle grade sci-fi story.  This is a crop of the larger illustration, focusing on the main character here.  The final illustration is in-progress. 

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