Friday, March 28, 2008

NBA Friday: Caron Butler

Caron Butler of the Washington Wizards grew up in Racine, Wisconsin. He had a difficult childhood and started selling drugs at the age of 11.

By the time he was 17 he had been arrested numerous times and had recently spent 9 months in jail on drug and weapons charges. The view through the tiny window in his cell was a basketball court, seen between the steel bars. He believed basketball was his way out of trouble.

He recalls his grandmother sending him Bible versus while he was in jail, one of the most memorable being 1 Corinthians 13:11 that read:

"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things."

Basketball became Caron Butler's salvation and that's the most important thing I wanted to show in this illustration. I painted it with the influence of a medieval religious painting with a basketball halo around him, protecting him from the dangers and temptations of his hometown.

Caron used basketball as his way out and attended the University of Connecticut. In 2002 he was a lottery pick in the NBA and is currently having a solid season for the Washington Wizards, averaging a career high 21 points a game along with 7 rebounds a game.

You can see this piece larger on the Portraiture page or on SLAMonline in the Links by Lang Whitaker.

Friday, March 21, 2008

NBA Friday: Dwyane Wade

Yes, that's how you spell his name. Dwyane Wade is a great player for the Miami Heat who have been less than great this season. They won a championship two years ago and now they're the worst team in the league.
Nevertheless, Wade is a great player who earned the nickname Flash from Shaquille O'Neal when they played together.

I've always been a fan of the Flash comic character. I dressed as him for Hallowe'en when I was 10 years old. I dressed as him again when I was 17, 20 and probably at least one other time after that. My mom made me a great costume with a mask made out of a bright red tuque (winter hat) and an awesome hand-sewn lightning bolt symbol.

Because of my love of the Flash, I had to work that into my illustration of Wade. I studied a lot of Flash covers and decided to use a classic running pose with some speed lines. I put some of the Miami skyline on the horizon with some seagulls to give it more of a Miami feel. Wade wears number 3 so I snuck it into the illustration in a few different places.

You can see this piece larger on the Portraiture page and on SLAMonline in the Links by Lang Whitaker. It's best viewed large, so I'd recommend clicking either of those links.

Every Friday for the last 21 weeks I've drawn one player (at least) from one NBA team every week. In those 21 weeks I've drawn approximately 26 players and covered 18 teams. There are 12 teams remaining, so keep checking back every Friday for the newest installment of NBA Friday!

Friday, March 14, 2008

NBA Friday: Tracy McGrady

I have one very memorable moment from watching Tracy McGrady play in person. I was lucky enough to have tickets to a Raptors game when they were playing against Michael Jordan's Bulls in February 1998. All I remember of the play is Tracy McGrady jumping from way out and throwing down a dunk on Scottie Pippen. He actually missed the dunk, but hung on the rim for a little while with Scottie beneath him. It was very impressive and a bit of a glimpse of his talent in his rookie season. Despite being a Bulls fan I still wish that dunk would have gone down as it probably would rank amongst some of the best ever.

With the Houston Rockets up for this week's illustration I decided to paint Tracy McGrady. I had some requests to paint NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon and I was putting together some ideas for that piece when my brother text messaged me. He told me I should paint someone from the current team since they have just won 20 straight games (second best streak in NBA history).

I agreed and started to think up some ideas. The process started by researching rockets. I thought it would be cool to paint McGrady as a rocket scientist, posing with a couple of test rockets with schematics on a chalkboard. From there I developed the idea into making McGrady a rocket scientist/Rocketeer type figure with a steampunk (elements from the steam powered era combined with modern or fictional technology) influenced fashion.

Coincidentally, as I was working on this piece I learned that Dave Stevens, the creator of the Rocketeer, passed away.

The border includes schematics of rockets and was a lot of fun to draw. I really enjoy adding technical details to my illustrations.

It was a lot of fun to work on. I tried to make the Houston Rockets jersey subtly visible in his outfit. To push the steampunk direction I made the buttons on his jacket and his earrings appear like bolts and machine parts. I also had a lot of fun drawing the gears at the top of the image and the billows of smoke.

You can see this piece larger on the Portraiture page or on SLAMonline in the Links by Lang Whitaker.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Illustration Inspiration: Rien Poortvliet

One of my favorite illustrators is Rien Poortvliet. You may not recognize his name but you would most likely recognize his work. He is most famous for his illustrations in the book "Gnomes," which was published in 1977 and written by Wil Huygen.

This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and maybe one of the reasons I liked to draw so much. The paintings are beautiful, and the paintings of the evil trolls and Snotgurgles (below) haunted me. We also had a pop-up book of gnomes illustrated by Poortvliet.

For a long time I forgot about him and it wasn't until a few years ago that I was given the Gnomes books we had in the family. I've really found an appreciation for his work. He doesn't just paint cute little gnomes; he paints intricate landscapes and is able to capture a fox's fur or a bird's feathers with expertise.

He also does a great job painting buildings and adding interesting details to the gnome world he creates. He created the way we see the world of the gnomes - how they live and what they eat. The way we think of gnomes and how we see them is thanks to Rien who creatively gave them tools and clothing made out of things small enough for them to use.

As much as I enjoy the Gnomes series, I recently came across a copy of his book, "Noah's Ark." I had never seen this book before and as it was the only copy in the store I bought it right away for a great price. It's full of incredible paintings of animals. The theme is Noah's Ark, but it was really an excuse for Poortvliet to showcase his love of drawing animals. With oil paintings, watercolors and charcoal and ink studies this book is an extensive gallery of the animals on the ark. He paints them in their natural habitats and even illustrates how he feels the ark was designed, built and maintained.

There are a lot more books out there that he's illustrated that I'd love to have in my collection. He illustrated more than twenty books in his career.

Rien was born in 1932 in Schiedam, Holland and died at the age of 63 in 1995.
A museum of his work, The Rien Poortvliet Museum, opened in Middelharnis, Holland in 1992 and was dedicated to his works. Unfortunately the museum closed in December of 2006.

The illustrations shown here have been scanned from the Noah's Ark and Gnomes books. I highly recommend them!

Friday, March 7, 2008

NBA Friday: Luol Deng

I've been looking forward to doing an illustration of a player from the Chicago Bulls all season. They were my favorite team throughout the 90's and I still have a strong loyalty to them. I'm such a fan that the Bulls logo on the t-shirt was the easiest part of this painting because I spent most of my high school career drawing it in the margins of my notebooks.

This week I decided to paint Luol Deng. When I choose a player I try to look at a few things to come up with an idea for a painting. I look at the nicknames, the city he plays for, the team's history, the player's personality, where the player grew up or where the player was born, etc...

In this case I decided to work around where Luol was born, which is Wau, Sudan. He didn't live there for long though. His father moved the family to Egypt to escape the Second Sudanese Civil War. From Egypt Luol moved on to London and then to high school in New Jersey and college at Duke.

With the Sudan in mind I was able to portray Deng back in Sudan amongst some Dinka cattle (Luol was born in the Dinka tribe), which the Dinka people revolve their lifestyle around. They also make for good subjects in a painting of a Chicago Bulls player with their intimidating and impressive horns.

The drawings that border the painting are inspired by some unsettling images created by Sudanese children who have witnessed the conflict in Darfur.
I wanted to show Luol in Sudan because he has come forward to help with the problems there by appealing for help to stop the crisis in Darfur and is offering $50 for every point he scores this season to the campaign to help the refugee children in Sudan.

You can see this piece larger on the Portraiture page, or on SLAMonline in the Links by Lang Whitaker.

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Bogeyman

About a month ago I read about a call for submissions for art to be included in the second volume of an anthology of mythical creatures and monsters called Beasts.

There was one spot (or a few) open and I thought it would be fun to submit an illustration.

It wasn't too hard for me to decide on the creature I wanted to do. The one creature that comes to mind immediately from my childhood is the bogeyman.

I thought the bogeyman would be an interesting creature to portray since it has no specific appearance and because so many people grew up believing in it or being afraid of him. Its appearance is different for everyone who ever witnesses it or imagines it.

The bogeyman is most often thought of by children as the creature under the bed, in the closet or scratching at the window. It is also often used by parents to persuade their children not to misbehave, or the "bogeyman will get them."

There are a few variations of the bogeyman but I wanted mine to represent the version I grew up believing in - as the creature under the bed that threatens to grab your feet if you get out of bed before morning, or the creature that will pull you under the bed if you attempt to rescue your fallen stuffed animal (in this case, Franklin the turtle).

When I was younger my brother and I actually witnessed the bogeyman. We rushed out of the house after dinner with a backpack full of leftover meatloaf and some juice boxes. We met up with some friends under a tree where we inspected our laser guns and cap guns and set out to find and kill the bogeyman. After a while of searching for him, we "saw" him in a truck driving down the road that had no driver. We ran, and never got off a shot.

You can see this piece on the Portfolio page.