Graphic Design and Illustration.

Long Time No See!

Time to dust off the this old blog and get back to some basics!

This past little while I’ve been busy with work, and chasing after two little ones. While I have still been pretty busy generating new content and expanding as an artist, I’ve had very little time to write up any articles and postings. I think it is high time to change that.

Over this past winter, I found out the local Anime convention Ai-Kon was holding what looks like an annual contest for the mascot. I had an idea for the contest and thought I would give it a try. Turned out the contest was ending soon, so I had very little time to actually put something together. A couple of very late nights and viola!

And it worked out better than the last time I tried my hand at this! I was the first runner up, thereby giving me a free half table for the convention this July.

That gives me a few months to put some things together. While I have always admired the work coming out of Japan, I am hardly an Anime and Manga enthusiast. I grew up watching Astroboy as a kid, and I remember really liking Battle of the Planets when I was really little. But I’ve only ever seen a handful of Robotech episodes (though I have read all of the novelizations) and I’ve only watched the North American version of Nausicaa of the Winds, so I have quite a lot of catching up to do.

My goal for the con is to get a least 10 original drawings as prints of various sizes (sorry, no fanart –I’m trying to steer clear from other people’s IP if I can) and try and see if I can pick up some commissions.

I will also be posting some teasers and previews on my Twitter and Instagram feeds so stay tuned!

Font Experiments

Font design is a complex design issue, barely raised in my old design classes. Getting a minimum of 26 upper and lowercase letters to work together to form words along with punctuation, numbers, accents, and other foreign language characters – you get one daunting task.

Over the years, I have dabbled in font design. While I have never released anything, into the wild, these are a few designs I feel confident talking about on my blog.

Totally 80s Font

Inspired by 80s era neon signs.


This was my first attempt at font design. Done way back in 1998, this was a make work project to teach me how to use Fontographer. While it looks crude today, it still can make nice words and short phrases. Perhaps one day I will update the worst offending glyphs. Mostly the “S”, ”E”, and “F”.


Inspired by the likes of the Tron and Terminator movie franchises. A very masculine and techno looking typeface.

Bitmap font

An experiment in type design, Bit Map simply started out as Helvetica with an Illustrator effect applied to it. A year or so of painfully tweaking the results left me with this – a totaly different and unique looking display font.

Not This one

Still a bit of a work in progress. A simple sans serif font inspired by the fun magnetic letters of my childhood. In fact, I have hopes of getting a version of this one laser cut in plastic shapes. Named after my son.


Loosely inspired by a really small and low resolution shot from Calvin Klien’s Eternity men’s cologne I found while Googling for something else (honest). Had to make up a lot of new letters.


Image of the Month – December 2015


Trying to get something in before the big move. On to bigger, and hopefully better digs! So to start the month off I tried a little something different.

This was a quick warm up sketch done my hand using a Zebra Brush Pen. I was watching a documentary on Billy the Kid and thought I would play around with the story a bit.

I also wanted to use a different colour palette. So while I am sometimes of two minds when it comes to the artwork of Noelle Stevenson, I do admire her use of colour (it tends to be quite different than mine – less saturated than what I tend to choose) so I stole… er, borrowed some colours from a similar composition she did. Check out her work over here.

I then added some extra effects to achieve a slightly old-time effect. Turned out rather nice. Enjoy!

2015 Blog in Review


As I have done in the past, I took my blog and ran all the text through to make a tag cloud based on my word usage. This year seems pretty similar to last year. This does not include any of the blogging I did for Threadless this past year. I did increase the total number of words for the program to look for just to make things look a bit different.

Unless anything changes over the next year, this will probably e the last time I do this for a while since I have clearly made a pattern for myself and future tag clouds wouldn’t look much different than the do now.

You can see the tag cloud I made for last year here:

#@?%$! or An Evening with Aaron Draplin


The other night, I went out with my wife (on a date night, yippee!) to see a talk by legendary American graphic designer, Aaron Draplin. I first found out about him on Twitter. His name kept popping up in my Twitter feed. I knew nothing about him or why people were excited to go to his talks. Then the local chapter of the GDC (which I am STILL not a member of btw) announced that he was coming to Winnipeg. So I thought, what the heck? It was open to non-members to go, so I bought tickets to what would be my third GDC event in 20 years. I first went to a “Tales from the Darkside” event when I first graduated from design school, then I went to a joint GDC/Secret Handshake/New Media Manitoba Christmas party a few years ago. The GDC Manitoba chapter really knows how to draw outsiders in! Well… not really.

Anyways, back to my story…

I went into this not really knowing what to expect. Mr Draplin looks like a total redneck hillbilly, but his design aesthetic is fairly modern and hip, so I was intrigued. And since my wife is a photographer, I didn’t think she would be totally bored by what is basically an industry event for graphic designers.

With an intro like that, who could resist?

With an intro like that, who could resist?

The venue at the Park Theatre was sold out to a crowd of mostly younger designers. But I recognized a few old timers like myself among the crowd. Nice to see some of us are in it for the long haul. Dsigners stop designing and get real jobs far too often.

After a brief delay the show was on! His slogan was, “I swear, you’ll love it.” And swear he did. Actually, he didn’t swear that much really. I grew up with much, MUCH worse!

Turns out, Aaron Draplin was pretty cool. I had no idea he was involved in the creation of Field Notes notebooks. I bought a few packages of them last year for Christmas gits at a stationery supply store here in Winnipeg, called Tiny Feast. I blogged out it here. Field Notes books are very reasonably priced and come highly recommended on the interwebs.

Field Notes

Some notebooks I bought last year as gifts. And they have been well used since!

Aaron Draplin also gave some good takeaway advice to desingers looking to make a living at graphic design. We say “no” far too often. When he went freelance, it sounds like he busted his ass taking on every job that came his way. And his generosity with his time and talent paid off in future dividens. Though he also admitted to quite a bit of luck to his success. It’s not every designer that has influential movie directors phone out of the blue to create logos for them!

The man of the hour working the crowd.

The man of the hour working the crowd.

The other take away from the talk was to break out and design cool things for ourselves. His success with his Field Notes and posters and other merchandise speak to that. I especially like the Canada poster he made. The small touches are hilarious! If any prints still exist later I might buy one for my future house (fingers crossed)!

I especially like the old Manitoba logo, the very old CBC logo and the old Expos logo! Click the image to see more!

I especially like the old Manitoba logo, the very old CBC logo, and the old Expos logo! Click the image to see more!

So in the end, Mr. Draplin was an entertaining and energizing speaker and I would gladly see him speak again. Maybe I need to plan a family vacation to Portland, Oregon? I guess I had better pack enough food and be careful of where I go for rest stops.


For more information:

The CDC Manitoba Chapter website.

Draplin Design Co. website.

A fun and work friendly Aaron Draplin video.

Getting Ready for Inktober!

Inktober_2015 Banner

Inktober is coming up soon. For more information about what Inktober is about, follow this link. Last year, I chose a theme of sketching out whoever was walking by my window that day. It worked out fairly well most days. I only had to break the rules a few times. You can see the end results following this link here, and you can see a few of them with some quick colour dropped in here.

This year I wanted to do something a little different. Last year I designed a character for a local comic convention. It wasn’t chosen, so I felt I should probably use her for something else. So for Inktober, I am going to have the character, now dubbed Northern Lights, interact with various Canadian superheroes. To help me out with this I expanded to Canadian comic characters or characters that were created by Canadian based comic artists. I will also break the rules twice to cover some comic heroes that inspired the overall costume design for Northern Lights. The list will go as follows:

  1. Wolverine
  2. Captain Canuck
  3. Guardian
  4. Nelvana
  5. Scott Pilgrim
  6. Johnny Canuck
  7. Fleur de Lis
  8. Puck
  9. Deadpool
  10. Major Mapleleaf
  11. Red Panda
  12. Sasquatch
  13. North Star/Aurora
  14. Delilah Dirk
  15. Cassie and Tonks
  16. Superhero Girl
  17. Northguard
  18. The Grenadier
  19. Shaman
  20. Batgirl
  21. Mr Monster
  22. Ms Marvel
  23. Box
  24. Spider Gwen and Squirrel Girl
  25. Gary and Zii from Ménage a Trois
  26. Kid Thor
  27. Superman
  28. Hero Bear
  29. The Red Ensign
  30. Cerebus the Aardvark
  31. Northern Lights solo

At least that is the plan. Hopefully it all turns out well! FYI, Deadpool is kinda controversial. He apparently has claimed to be Canadian, but there is quite a lot about the character’s history that might be suspect, so who knows?

And now for my weapons of choice:


  1. Pentel Pocket Brush – my first brush pen. I was introduced to it in school 20 years ago and fell in love. A great pen that can create both fine lines and thick lines with lots of character.
  2. Zebra Disposable Brush Pen Fine – my new favourite brush pen. A much harder tip than the Pentel, and can still create a wide variety of line weights. The lines are more fluid and sharper than the Pentel as well.
  3. Tombow Brush Pen Soft – the softest tip of all the felt tip brush pens I will use this year. Good for medium to thick line weights. Though the thicker line weights break up a bit.
  4. Kuratake Disposable Pocket Brush Pen Fine – a softer tip than the Zebra and a generally heavier line weight as well, but cannot make quite as many varied line weights.
  5. Gelly Roll white pen – a white ink pen with a fine line. Goes down pretty good as long as the dark ink underneath is bone dry.
  6. An old fine line Sharpie. A really really fine line. Only good for small details or fixing up lines made from the other pens.
  7. Bamboo reed pen – I picked this one up from a local art supply shop that was going out of business. I have no idea what kind of lines it will draw. I am anxious to use it.
  8. On old pen nib – waaaaay back in the day, I was interested in calligraphy. I never really was very good at it, but I managed to inherit quite a few pen nibs from my grandfather. They were the pen nibs he would have used in grade school. Will be interested in how this one turns out.

This should be an interesting upcoming month. I am currently trying to sell my house and work has been very busy lately. Hopefully I will have the time to do all of this! Enjoy!

World Art Drop Day 2015


After a long hiatus this summer, this is my first real blog post in a while. But summer is pretty much over, and I am ready to start things up again. So here we go!

This past week, I patricipated in World Art Drop Day, where artists all over the world left little gifts for people to find. Just check out out the hashtag #ArtDropDay in Twitter, Instagram and most likely Facebook. Or you can go to this page where it all started.

Last year, I drew out a series of artist sketch cards and hid them in various locations while taking my son to his daycare. This meant a lot of outdoor locations. And a torrential rainstorm. Read about it here. This year I wanted something a little more durable.

I fist started out with the idea of vinyl stickers. And while I did find Some nice places online, it was just too much money for just a few stickers I would need. It’s not like I was plastering the entire city with stickers!

I decided to 3D print a figurine instead. I had already settled on a theme of robots and it seemed like a natural. I hadn’t printed out anything of my own in 3D for a while so it was a good exercise to do.

I originally started out with a sketch. I sketched out quite a few different robots until I settled upon the design of the pillbot.

Robot Sketch

Once I had a sketch done, I used my iPad and a program from Autodesk called 123D Design to build most of the parts.


Once I had all the main pieces put together, I put everything into a 3D program called Blender. Here I could fine tune some shapes and get him posed.

Blender Screen Shot

Once I had the little robot posed, I output an STL file and sent him off to be 3D printed at the nice folks at Shapeways. He is printed out on a very fine detailed translucent plastic. I then quickly gave him a very thin coat of primer to help bring out the details.

Little Prints

If I were to do it again, I would have attached the arms to the base for some added reinforcement. While it printed out just fine, one of the arms did break off and I had to glue it back on. Hopefully the people who found the figurines found them fully intact.

Thoses of you who are interested, these little guys are now for sale online at Shapeways. I have the same robot in a few other poses and I may make them available if there is any interest in these little robots. Follow this link to purchase.

Just be aware these robots would not make very good toys for very young children.  They are very small and fragile. The would be okay for a much older child (like a pre-teen or teen) or the young at heart.


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