Franz Forever

Each picture needs some touching up, but it's final enough to share. Here are all 16 pieces in color:

Franz feel moody and alone in the 21st Century.

Color Blocking Franz

The first step to adding color is to digitize the line work and block out all the individual shapes. I've  included some general color treatments below, but nothing is set in stone. I'll be blending in more color and brightening things up while sticking with a nighttime palette.

Some basic color blocking. I've labeled the centuries here for reference.
Franz contemplating his loneliness in the 13th Century.

Franz and Henry hitching a train ride in the 19th Century.

A closeup of Henry showing the line work and texture at this phase.

Penciling In Time For Franz

I'm exploring the best way to digitize my process. For this project, I'm starting with small pencil drawings that I'll scan in and color in photoshop. I can add additional detail once on screen. This means I can work small and fast and still end up with high resolution images.

Here are some pencil sketches:

16 centuries worth of illustration.

Franz meets Henry at Notre Dame in the 15th Century.

Franz and Henry live it up in the City of Brotherly Love in the 18th Century.

Franz misses his friend in the 22nd Century.

Friends Forever... Literally

I'm working on a new story and it's one for the ages. Actually, it's a small little tale told over a very long time.

Franz is a young little vampire looking for a BFF. Of course, for vampires "Best Friends Forever" really means FOREVER. As vampires are immortal, we can stretch this simple story over the centuries, deep into the future. Inspired in part by Interview With The Vampire, Bicentennial Man, Hyperion, The Time Machine, and any friendship that hits hard times, Franz Forever is really about keeping friends.

Here are some early sketches:

Franz on some castle battlements in the 11th Century.

Franz and Henry sailing the high seas in the 17th Century.

Franz and Henry fighting in the 20th Century.

Franz wondering what went wrong in the 24th Century.

A Little Winter Animation

I've been using Adobe Flash to create my little animations all these years. I've got a great idea for a new video I'd like to do and I'll probably use After Effects.

Either way, computers are great because with a little careful planning, you can have the machine do all the animating for you. Every once in a while though, you need to do things the old fashioned way, which I attempted to do here for Savannah's ice skating. Hardly groundbreaking, but effective!

Christmas Card Stills

Here are some stills from the animated Christmas Card I did for my family. Savannah had originally come up with and recorded her song in the summer, but with a few little tweaks, I think it works for winter. The video needed a little punch, which is why my animated self suffered to no end in true National Lampoon fashion. Enjoy!

Operation SUGAR

I've posted the final pieces to my portfolio. Also, I've been seeing everything so big on screen but posting only little jpgs, so here are some close-ups to show the watercolor and paper texture—Enjoy!

World War Toothfairy

I wanted to do a little illustration for a baby-shower gift for a friend of mine. She's from Mexico and at some point we had discussed how in Mexico the tooth fairy is a mouse (!) which is cute or creepy depending on how you look at it.

Either way I thought the tooth fairy fighting Ratoncito Pérez over a tooth would do the trick. Below you'll find the final piece along with some quick process sketches.

Outdoor Mood Lighting

Again, I won't know until all the pieces are fully colored, but I'm thinking I'm going to want some dreamier, sunset tones rather than just the "true hues." Here's an unfinished example with the original:

A Few More Fully Colored Pieces

These are not finished pieces... just the full scans retouched and fully colored to a "true-hue" which mostly means what's blue is blue and what's red is red. Once everything is finished to this degree, I'll go back in and re-color for style and consistency.

Digitized Watercolor

This piece will likely still change as the others get closer to complete, but here's the general direction.

Watercolor pre-retouching

Here's the same illustration as before, but fully colored. The next step is retouching, which will include extensive color correcting. I'm also going to do the line work digitally with my Wacom tablet because I don't like the line quality I'm getting on the paper I chose.

#nofilter, #nothanks

I've decided I'm going to cheat. I started painting my drawings and while I'm getting results I like, I also keep thinking of things I can do digitally to really make these pieces special. So while I'm doing watercolor for each piece, I'm also going to be adjusting color, contrast, lighting, etc. in photoshop. Above is an in progress of the watercolor without any retouching.


I have questions about a big reveal. Does the story need one? Would it be better to lead with an overview shot to provide context. Is this image an it-was-all-a-dream cop-out? I'm not sure, but for now, for me personally on this project, it's a helpful framing device and a nice way to provide some closure to a simple story about borrowing sugar from a neighbor.

Watercolor the Grass

Color! After so many pencil sketches, a little color is so refreshing. I wanted to break out my watercolors and do a little test before I moved onto my official illustrations. I know of things I'll do different, but I'm going to try and keep things this loose. I'll probably include more whitespace.

Suburban Lady of the Woods á la Peter Jackson

Despite Billy being straying from his purpose, his journey comes to an end when Ben's mother arrives with sugar.

I like to think that Billy's mom called Ben's mom to be on the lookout as soon as Billy left the house. It's likely Billy made it from his front door to Ben's front porch within a couple of minutes before Ben distracted him. Ben's mom knew of Billy's task though, so she arrives like a magical lady of the woods to bestow Billy with the gift of sugar. I'm hoping to light this scene extra cinematically.

Adopt a Basset Hound Sphinx!

I wanted Billy to confront a pet in his neighbor's yard, and I wanted the pet to be some sort of adversary, but I didn't want him to be scary or aggressive. I thought a sphinx could be cool and give Billy a mental challenge. A basset hound seemed perfect because it's ears could have that Egyptian headpiece look.

To ensure the scene wouldn't look too much like just a regular yard, I chose to add agave plants in bloom. Agave blossoms look straight out of Dr. Seuss or some alien planet. I'd say they're more foreign looking here than they are in real life.

Medieval Fantasy meets Sci-fi

Billy's friend and neighbor, Ben, has fashioned himself Robin Ben Quick. He's the consummate woodsman, adventurer, and rebel knight. I liked the idea of Billy running into friend who's inhabiting his own different fantasy reality, but once they're together, their separate realities blend seamlessly together. Who care's that Ben is medieval and Billy is all future? The kids certainly don't.

World's Best Treehouse

Of course, Robin Ben Quick lives in the coolest tree fort there ever done was.

Drought-resistant Space Cactus

As Billy leaves his house, and overlooks endless plains (his lawn) he's flanked by two cactuses that exist somewhere between between fantasy and houseplant-next-door.

Irrigation System of Doom

This spartan looking piece will be Billy fleeing acid from monolithic black lawn sprinklers. I'm hoping to execute much of the piece in watercolor, hence the lack of pencil line. Here's an example of Billy not necessarily being small, but his surroundings being larger than life. The grass of his lawn is taller than him and the pop-up sprinkler heads are now gigantic—and toxic for no particular reason!

Time For a Costume Change

Billy's suit is destroyed by the acidic lawn sprinklers so he's forced to forge ahead unprotected. I didn't want Billy to have to spend the whole story in a cumbersome suit, and I like that it maybe wasn't necessary in the first place. Was Billy just wearing a play costume that gets wet with water from the sprinkler so he ditches it? Or was he completely imagining the suit? Or did his adventure start out more sci-fi, but he's not constrained by genre? Either way, he's free to play as he see's fit and the melting suit gives a sense of peril to his journey.

Nature Can Be a Scary Place

Billy encounters lady bugs in the forest (a shrub along the property line). I wanted the lady bugs to be ambiguously dangerous. Perhaps they're peaceful, but their sheer numbers make them a little threatening.

Once as a kindergartener in the woods on an army base in New Jersey, I found myself all alone. As I was walking I looked down and realized I had stepped in some sort of rotting stump. It was overgrown with big flat mushrooms that I had disturbed, sending bugs scattering. It was so unexpected and I remember feeling panicked and temporarily paralyzed standing there. Of course, it was all completely harmless, but the experience really stuck with me.

I imagine Billy in a similar situation. Perhaps he crouches in the bush to watch one ladybug and then realizes there's another one, and another one, and a dozen more, and he begins to feel overwhelmed, even though they're harmless.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Billy is led to his neighbor's fence, which he see's as a colossal fortified wall. And of course, no kid uses a gate when presented with a good climbing opportunity, even a vertigo inducing one.