Graphic Design and Illustration.

And Now For Dads Who Kick Butt! (Or At Least Try To)

On Mother’s Day I drew a little something to celebrate all the Moms who I have managed to train with either online or in the rare times in-person training was allowed (with restrictions) via local public health orders. As a newbie it’s been challenging. Training with a youngster (who sometimes shows his Dad up) even more so. But I am enjoying learning Karate as a more mature person, so hopefully I will be able to keep things up when things get a little better. Fingers crossed.

Eagle-eyed people will notice there’s a few things… different about the background on this one. There will be an update that should totally explain what exactly I have in mind. Stay tuned!

For Moms Who Kick Butt!

Been training with a bunch of moms (and a few guys, some of whom are dads, but this isn’t their day, ours is coming up) so I’ve been toying around with this idea for a while. And pretty much ran out of time today. So here goes.

I don’t normally draw this way. I don’t really get a lot of projects that come my way where I get to draw in trendy editorial-style styles. But it was quick to do. As I understand it, that’s why it’s trendy. Hopefully I got the pose mostly right. This style tends to be rather simplistic, so getting the intricacies of Mae-geri might get a little lost. And while there’s a slim. but not zero chance one of my sensei might come across this post, I’m not really all that interested in all the push-ups my messing this drawing up might cost me. Fingers crossed!

So here’s to all the karatekas, yogis and BJJ professors that put up with klutzy, southpaw me! And to any other women out there who can kick some ass! Enjoy!

My New(ish) Drawing Pen

Over the holidays, my kids got a hold of my art supplies and managed to demolish my favourite brush pen. It was a Kuretake No. 8 Fountain Brush Pen. Not an expensive one, but it was next in line after the ubiquitous Pentel Brush Pen as my favourite pen. This was over the Holiday season, so I decided to treat myself to a new pen.

I picked up another Kuretake, as I really really like it as a brush pen. If I want some fairly consistent lines with a little bit of character, this is my go to pen. If I want something with a lot more character, it’s back to basics with the Pentel. But what else would I get? The Kuratake, while a fine pen, is fairly inexpensive. I could justify another pen for the right money.

Thumbing though my Instagram, I noticed someone mentioning their love of the Sailor Fude De Mannen pen. Fude pens are strange ones. It basically looks like a standard calligraphy dip or cartridge pen that’s been broken backward. It’s supposed to look that way. It mimics the look of a fude brush for Chinese calligraphy. So you find them mainly in China or Japan. Here in the West, they get used a lot by urban sketchers. With the funky bent nib, you can get a bunch of different line weights depending on how you hold the pen. Why carry 3 or 4 pens around when all you need is one?

Different lines weights can be achieved by holding the pen in different ways. Even holding it upside-down!

The Sailor pen wasn’t really available at the time. And it would have cost three times the price of the pen to get it to arrive even close to the holidays. Until very recently that seemed absurd. With the delays in today’s shipping it almost makes sense. Almost.

Instead, I found something cleverly called Black Forest Fountain Pen Bent Nib Metal Fude Pen (Fine to Broad Size). It seems this came all the way from China (as do a lot of fairly cheep fude pens). I didn’t really piece that together until it arrived. And fairly timely. Thankfully, the pen seems to be fairly well made, if a bit on the heavy side for me. As of this writing, this particular pen now seem unavailable. But other fude pens can be had.

I love it. The pen has a bit of flex, though still a little stiff, so the stokes can have a bit of character to them, with variable thick and thin lines. And with a little bit of getting used to, a nice variety of different overall pen strokes can be made. From very thick lines to very scratchy, thin lines (you have to hold the pen upside-down for that). My one complaint other than the weight, is the amount of ink this pen puts down. It is a lot. And according to my research, I am not alone in that assessment. Fude style pens like to put down a lot of ink. Thankfully, it came with a converter, so filing it with my ink of choice was no problem. I do find that the very thickets lines tend to break up a bit, so if you are looking for a clean, thick line you either need to be very careful with your lines, or go over them with a finer pen for some clean up afterwards,

Some quick samples of sketching with the dude pen. Note, these were some fairly small skates on some rough paper. Hardly finished work, but I like some of these characters!

And also please note. A lot of very cheap fude pens are made in China. Westerners freak out when they see these and then think they can get a $4 dollar fountain pen. It seems these are basically the equivalent of a cheap Bic or Papermate pen. So pen enthusiasts tend to be disappointed in them because these pens really aren’t going to be very good writing instruments. This particular pen I bought was around $20 Canadian, and the Sailor is generally priced around the same. I would consider that to be the base price for a decent pen like this. They also go into prices straight into the stratosphere, and are well beyond the grasp of this humble Graphic Designer.

I’m looking to do a lot of fun work this pen!


Mystery Girl

This sketch was inspired by a fun incident at my son’s school (remember schools?). Anyways, when my son was in kindergarten, they had some of the older kids act as mentors and read to them. Sone day when I dropped my son off to school, this much older girl came out of nowhere and gave my son a great big hug! Somebody was quite embarrassed. Not sure if it was the hug, or that his old man saw the hug, that caused him to turn bright pink. Somehow I thought this was going to happen when he got older.

Oh well. This was a quick pencil sketch done with a very blunt 6B pencil. Scanned into Photoshop with some quick digital colour and some touch-ups. Enjoy.


Big bad Brenda made it easy for people to social distance from her, long before it became necessary to do so.

This was fun little sketch I did a while back. Was originally a quick pen and ink sketch, but I gave into my self-doubt about traditional techniques and re-did the whole thing digitally. First in Illustrator, then in Photoshop. A nice, fun, loud palette of colours along with a hint of texture. And maybe just a hint of the frustration we all share right now.

And please, people like this who are angry and mean all the time, often are just afraid and maybe lack the tools to process it better, or just need some guidance on how better deal with their own emotions. And they can also pack a wallop, so please, approach with some caution. Enjoy!

And The Word Came Together as the People Stayed Apart

Hello. Greetings out there. It has been a while since my last posting, and boy, have things changed. Thankfully, I still have a job that is keeping me busy (at home) but I felt I should try and do something topical on my own. Was worth it just to get through some existential angst. I found this quote on someone’s window when going for a community walk with the kiddos. It’s been used quite a bit it seems, so I felt it would be safe for me to take a crack at this and not be stepping on someone’s toes.

The overall design is a bit outside my wheelhouse. I enjoy a good hand drawn typographic scramble like anyone, but I rarely get to do one in my day to day design job. Like a lot of things it is both quite fun and easy with a good dose of daunting added in. Was nice to throw away the rule book and just put something down on paper and see how it goes. And it goes.

I would like to do something more with this, but I’m not so sure I will. Be nice to put this on a shirt or screen print some posters, giving the proceeds to a local charity or business struggling through the strange times ahead, but I have neither the following or the time it seems to pull that off. At least I got to turn off the news for a few hours.


Do You Judge a Book By Its Cover?

Most designers would add a “yes” to that statement. Lots of people would probably agree as well. Publishers go to great pains to create engaging covers that will entice potential readers to pick up the book and read it. Colours, typefaces, imagery and layout all go through lots of iterations in the hopes of finding the “perfect” cover for a book.

And then I ran into something quite different.

While celebrating both my 45th birthday and a slightly belated Valentine’s day, my wife and I ditched the kids for a weekend and had a little staycation in the downtown of our home city of Winnipeg. We were shopping in the Forks Market when I noticed a fun little experiment being done by one of the local shops.

It was a sign asking this question: Do you judge a book by it’s cover?

Underneath were a bunch of books wrapped in plain craft or butcher’s paper with only a brief outline of what was contained therein. No title, author info, or imagery to explain the book to a potential buyer.

The mystery book. What exactly was the book underneath this simple wrapping?

Now the wrapping itself does have a certain minimalist esthetic that was well done and I do appreciate. So it’s not like there was no graphic design attention paid to the wrapping. The string was a nice touch. And it’s not like there was no information about the contents being shared. Some argument could be made that everything you really need to make a purchase was laid out plainly for all to see. So it does make one wonder just how relevant all the goings on with cover design are to making a purchase decision. A daring thing for a graphic design website to make. And while I do like the mystery that this experiment created, it probably wouldn’t work for all books. Some books you just really need to know specifics. Especially if you are looking for something pretty specific like a particular volume or author. But it does show there are a lot of other options for book design than what most publishers lean towards.

The mystery book revealed. It was all I could do to wait until I got home after our staycation to find out just what I had bought.

So I bought a book. The price was right ($4 CAN) and I was intrigued by the mystery. Once opened, the book did look pretty interesting (and pretty much matched the expectations presented on the other “cover”) and I look forward to getting to it in the next couple of months. Enjoy!

%d bloggers like this: