“Kids Draw” at the Library

2014-07-08 10.22.30


One of the coolest and most unexpectedly popular programs I run at our public library is Kids Draw. Every Wednesday, from 3:30-4:30, I set up tables and chairs in the downstairs meeting room. Some paper, pencils, and crayons are laid out, along with a few cool New Books packed with fun illustrations, and I pump up some Chip Tunes music from Pandora. Kids and their folks show up, grab their gear and a seat, and doodle away.

That’s it. Instant art event.

As a librarian, this is a hit on a multitude of levels. It’s incredibly cheap, weekly cost consisting of just a few dozen sheets of computer paper and a some simple art supplies used repeatedly throughout the year. As far as planning and prep goes, there is practically none. I keep all of the gear in a basket, snag a handful of good picture books on my way over, and the whole thing takes barely ten minutes to set up, most of that just lining up chairs. And since the focus is on social drawing over artistic instruction, there is no need for a lesson plan, or for the facilitator to even consider themselves an artist.

On a sappier note, it’s wonderful to see the interactions between parents and children. While some of the older kids get dropped off, at our library anyone under 10 must be with an adult. This has resulted in several parents that might not usually think to draw spending a solid hour sketching and doodling. Kids are so much more tuned in to something when they see their parents participating, and you can just watch a bond forming over shared art. As a bonus, the children have a tendency to talk and ramble as they work, and I’ve heard many parents getting a little extra insight into their young one’s day.

Beyond all of that, the educational value, the social value, the parenting value, I must admit that the thing that keeps me so invested in the program is the outright fun of sitting and drawing with these kids each week. We have a core group of regulars who show up for every session (even linger after and help pack up!), and as we sketch away on our monsters and robots and trolls we discuss current movies, favorite books, and general thoughts on life. I get instant Art Direction on what colors look best for certain space ships, and many is the time I’ve been prompted out of my comfort zone by a request for specific cartoon characters or someone’s favorite dinosaur.

If you’re a librarian, I highly recommend trying this out as an easy addition to your regular programs. If you are a parent, perhaps ask your local library to try something like this, or just set aside an hour at home for Art Time. If you’re an artist, grab some pencils and paper and go find some wee cousins, nieces, and nephews to draw with.

It’s worth it for everyone.

Show and Con Catchup

I’m way behind on show report posts! In the interest of completeness and simultaneous brevity, I’m going to upload a couple galleries of photos from Art Prowl 2012 and Omnicon 2013, and do my best to avoid my usual long-winded explanations.

Art Prowl: My dad and I were lucky enough to display at the Putnam County Library, which was pretty great, considering it’s where I spend all my weekday work days. He brought a slew of his awesome abstracts, which you can peruse in much greater detail over at his blog. I brought an assortment of my digital prints, as well as four new pieces I created in my Cryptid Americana series. These are a combination of acrylic and ink on stained pine planks. (previous post with more detail) The show was a blast, it’s always great getting to show your work to your community, and even better getting to do that alongside your dad!

This March was my fourth time displaying at Omnicon, Cookeville’s local Sci-fi/Comics convention, held at TTU. (posts from last year) I brought several new prints, as well as a collection of newspaper comics I produced a few years ago for TTU’s own “The Oracle.” But I was most proud of how I re-envisioned the Die of Destiny monster prints. This year emerging as the Tower of Tribulation, it is now a full-fledged micro RPG. I came up with four hero archetypes, each one with an accompanying character sheet complete with stats and special abilities. The player would choose an avatar, and then challenge one of the 8 available monsters (4 from last year and 4 brand new ones) to a duel, involving the Die of Destiny. As they advanced, they could win more prints, and eventually were either vanquished or victorious. It. Was. A. Blast. The wheels are already turning for ways to improve it next year!

Art Prowl Preview!

This weekend is the Art Prowl! The Prowl is a local gallery/studio crawl, spanning Friday and Saturday, in which all variety of artists display there works along the West Side district of Cookeville. This will be my second year exhibiting, and I will be showing at the Putnam County Library. As a special treat, I’m sharing a space with my Dad! If you can make it, come on out to see us!

Here’s a special Blog Readers Preview of some of the pieces I am showing. I’ve been working on a series of paintings on large wood planks, depicting American cryptids and mythological creatures. Shown below are my take on the Jack-a-Lope and Furry Trout. Jack measures in at 4 ft tall, with the Trout a modest 3 ft.

Hope you enjoy them!

Pen Reviews Pt 2

Here is the long awaited conclusion to my Jet Pens Pen Reviews. To recap, all of these pens were generously sent to me by JetPens for the purpose of reviewing and then donating to the Putnam County Library to be used as door prizes at our summer art programs. The summer program went so well that we are actually starting up a monthly drawing club, the PCL Teen Sketch Club, the first meeting of which will be tomorrow. If you know any arty teenagers in the Cookeville, TN area, send them by!

Uni-ball Signo Gel Ink Pen

I am not normally one for ball-point pens, feeling, quite haughtily, that they are the tool of the plebian worker types, not meant for lofty and discerning artisans such as myself. (please read with a thoroughly sarcastic and snooty voice, on par with any Downton resident.) Ignoring for the moment how blatantly idiotic such an opinion is, the Uni-ball Signo does a great job of bridging the gap between Mundane and Artsy pens. It has a nice feel in the hand, with a comfortable rubber grip and a suitable amount of weight. The .38 tip on this was thoroughly fine, allowing me to drop some very delicate lines. And the ink flow was wonderful, no noticeable globbing or skipping. The ink itself is a very nice black, and while I did not test it myself, claims to be water-proof.


All in all, if an Ink Artist should ever have to demean himself so much as to use a Writing utensil for Drawing, he could hope for no better than the Uni-ball Signo.


Sakura Pigma Micron Marker Pens

Sakura Microns were some of the first art pens I ever chose for myself. I greatly enjoyed how they have such uniform width on lines, but also come in such a wide variety of sizes. They can be a great tool for an artist just learning to play with line widths.

This set was an entirely different experience, with 6 pens in a variety of colors, at the same width. I am a creature of habit, almost exclusively inking in the jettest jet black inks I can find, so it was out of the box for me to play around with drawing, and not coloring, in reds and greens and blues. The pens themselves hold up well, as they always have. I know from experience that the nice felt tips will slowly wear to a bit of a point over time, and the labeling on the barrel will most likely rub off a bit, but this just shows your touch on the pen. These are made to be disposable pens, which they certainly are, but at $2-3 for singles, that’s not such a bad thing. The inks are consistent in color, and have a really steady flow, with no noticeable bleed, and the different colors are nice and vibrant.

While these would be poorly served as a coloring tool, I think they would work splendidly for anyone wanting to play around with sketching and doodling in a variety of hues.



Valentine Bookmarks

One of my favorite side duties as a children’s librarian is the creation of goofy themed bookmarks. Like so:

I have to say, normally I despise the Pun, and all it stands for, but when it comes to cheesy Valentine’s cards, well…I’m a sap:]


Hourlies and Dailies

 It’s nearly upon us! The Day draws ever nearer! Put your affairs in order and ready yourself for The Event!

No, no, not the Apocalypse. Much better. Hourly Comics Day!
For those unaware, HCD is an annual web event, created by artist John Campbell, where individuals all over the world (artful and non alike) chronicle every hour of their own February 1st with a very quick and and simple comic.  More details can be found here. In edition, be sure to check out archives of the last several years on the forum, which is also where this year’s comics will be submitted (thread forthcoming.)
Regardless of whether you consider yourself a cartoonist or you are bashful to post a play by play of your life to the entire internet, I highly recommend doing these. Even if just as a personal log. I’ve participated for the past three years, and these comics have become some of my most valued creations, capturing both an entire day of my life and the mindset of myself whilst chronicling it. It is like a multi-layered journal entry, a mental landmark if you will, to which I can look back now and judge just how far I have traveled and grown. Yes, that is a bit deep and sentimental, but truly, these things are pretty cool.
In addition, after I finished last year’s Hourlies, I so enjoyed the journaling effect that I decide to go on with it for the rest of the month. I find the idea of day to day Hourlies to be quite daunting, so instead I decided to jot down one moment from each day throughout February. As you can see below, I didn’t quite make it, somehow dropping the ball just three days short (whether from inability or apathy, I cannot remember) but I’m steeling myself to try to meet the goal this year.
Last Year’s Dailies for February
(click for a larger image, and previous and next from that page to navigate)
Wow, my handwriting really doesn’t hold up to that much magnification. Toddler scratchings!
Anyway, I hope you’ll consider doing some Hourlies yourself this year, and let me know if you do!

Grinch Bulletin Board

Another one of my art duties at the library involves designing and constructing bulletin board displays in the hallway. I’ve done several over the last couple years, ranging from a giant marker drawing on a single sheet of paper to intricate collages of multiple painted components. One of my favorites is the holiday board I made, depicting How the Grinch Stole Christmas. This is the third time I’ve displayed the piece, and every year it changes a bit. Most of the individual components are saved from year to year, but the landscape and text has to be recreated each time.

First step is to put my background paper up. Then, I take two long sheets of white, cut wavily for hills, and staple them up in layers. (I like to be a minimalist on staples, not really a fan of how they look. As I add elements, I will put staples underneath for hidden support. Like ‘Spanks’, I suppose)
Next, I add the bag of Christmas Contraband. This actually hangs from the ceiling, so I need to put it up first to establish my height levels. The sled and giant slope are then put in underneath. I also slap up the Who Hill, with the jubilant Whos behind it.
I add the Who village in a haphazard fashion, just randomly grouping the Who Houses. From this point out, all elements are attached with heavy duty clear tape (bookbinding tape) with staples behind to make sure the paper will hold up. These huts, and the later trees, were all made on construction paper and laminated.
Now for the Grinch himself, as well as a smattering of Seussian trees. It’s hard to see in my poor quality photos, but I’ve also gone in with a few cool-colored crayons and added simple shadows under the different elements, as well as some differention between the rows of hills.
The last step is to draw in the letters, and it’s done! I play around with the lettering a bit every year, sometimes with more success than others. There are a few on this rendition I might have done differently, but I’ll live with it. And there’s always next year!
Close up of my Congregation of Whos. I had a lot of fun drawing these, just free-handing the silly little things off the top of my head. I found it works best to draw all the bodies, and then I go back and join up the arms and hands. I also enjoyed putting a few fun cameos in there, for those of you who know my IRL people.
I’m proud of most of the elements of this piece, but the Who Houses were by far the most fun. Really, sometime when you have a few spare hours and some Seuss books handy, just start doodling characters and scenery from his pages. After a couple tries, you’ll probably start absorbing his style, and all of a sudden everything has soft loopy curves and odd angles. Fun!
The Main Man was interesting to assemble. The body is just basic thick cardboard, painted with tempuras. I then fitted some red vaux-velvet around him, and hot glued like crazy. Topped it off with a little white felt and fuzz, and I went back with an ink wash to add in some folds and depth. Honestly, I’m pretty surprised he’s held up to three years of kids tugging on that coat.

Have some Happy Holidays!

“Art Prowl” Show Re-cap

One of Cookeville’s most enjoyable community art events is the Art Prowl. An annual gallery crawl encompassing the downtown area, it is an amazing way to see the variety of incredible artwork created by our local artists. And this year, I was lucky enough to participate!

My work was displayed at the Putnam County Library, where I was fortunate to be sharing the space with my friend and valued art-advisor, Stacie Johnson. I had the entire lobby to myself, so I was able to dig in and establish my own little art den for the weekend.

"The HMS Strydr Wilhelm, Pride of the Atlantic Aerial Armada"


I brought two of my large cardboard constructs, “The HMS Strydr Wilhelm, Pride of the Atlantic Aerial Armada” and “Intervention,” as they had, to date, only been viewed by those present at Omni-Con or in my living room. The majority of my new work, however, was Ink-on-Wood drawings.












Poe and Twain





Alcott and Dickinson

Seuss and Baum





I’ve been doing a bunch of these lately, enough so that they really merit their own post at some later time. In this show, I had several of my assorted individual animals, a series of Great American Authors at Tea, and a couple one-offs of Beauty and the Beast that I feel may have sparked me into doing a whole series of fairy tale characters. I really love how the ink looks against the wood grain, but I’d say my favorite part is that when I finish drawing, I just have to slap a hanger on the back and I’m done. No matting! No Framing! For me, post-production is the enemy of productivity. You can put that on a pillow, if you’d like.

"Great American Authors, at Tea"

"A Midsummer Knight's Dream"

Classic Movie Monsters print set

"Library Adventurers"

"The Grim Fisher"

In addition to my plaques, I also produced several different prints. A few were from my Great American Authors series, but there also stand-alone prints from different recent illustrations. Most of these should be available at my Etsy store, if you are interested (Christmas shopping!)

Stacie and I, talking serious artist stuff.

Several of Stacie's excellent oil paintings.






Stacie's portrait of her father.

Tinkering at a new piece in down time.









All in all, it was a wonderful weekend. This was my first time displaying work in a formal setting (I’ve layed my art on a folding table before, but I’ve never hung it on a Wall and asked people to buy it:), and I really enjoyed it. Thanks to everyone who came out to see me! I would also like to especially thank the Putnam County Library for hosting my exhibit, Stacie and Jason for their invaluable advice, and all the family and friends who were patient with my hermit nature these past months.

Also, in addition to everything else I owe her, thanks to Allison for these wonderful photos!

“The Library Pumpkin”

One of the best things I’ve ever done was apply to be a part-time clerk at my local children’s library. Over two years later, I can honestly say my artwork wouldn’t be half of what it is today if not for the influence this job has had on me. From doodling bookmarks to decorating massive bulletin boards with paintings, I have been given so many great opportunities to grow artistically. One of my favorites has been the mini-comic/picture book I was allowed to create as a Halloween give-away.

“The Library Pumpkin” started out as a pretty simple activity book. It was going to contain a few mazes and word puzzles and coloring pages, and somewhere in there I wanted to do a little two page story about a pumpkin. As I started working on it, it grew and grew (pun intended) and turned into a full twelve-page story, written in verse, which necessitated it’s own book.

I like to find ways to challenge myself when working on a project, so I endeavored to do this entire book without ever touching a computer. Roughs were done in non-photo blue pencil. I laid them out on the page in the order that they would need to be printed and stapled, to form a proper mini. I inked them at size, and hand lettered every word (which explains the near illegibility at parts.) Then I ran the whole batch off on the library copy machine, hand cut them, and stapled the whole lot together.

Easily the most rewarding part has been watching the kids pick up this tiny book that they can keep, flipping through it to see familiar sites from the library around them, and even realizing that the jack-o-lantern on the pages matches the real one sitting on the desk.

Happy All Hallow’s Read to you all!