Watercolor pencil sketch

There are colored pencils made by Derwent that are soluble in water, so you can draw with them then paint with a wet brush to turn your scribbles more into color washes. I used them for this little sketch of our neighborhood park, years ago when there were a number of lovely pink dogwoods blooming in the spring.

Illustrations for a New Literary Magazine

The Bucks County Writers Workshop and with the Doylestown Historical Society are developing a historical literary magazine by local authors, called Neshaminy. If you live in our area you know that the Neshaminy Creek is a tributary of the Delaware River and runs for about 40 miles, entirely through Bucks County.

Don Swaim, an author and radio personality, is the head of the BCWW, and it happens that probably 20 years ago my father became part of a writing club that Don also headed, so I was acquainted with him. When I heard about the project I asked if there were any need for an illustration or two in the magazine, and Don quickly assented, so I’ve drawn a few requests for him.

The first issue of Neshaminy, which should be published in early October, features a never-before-published interview with world-renowned author James Michener, conducted by Don. I drew this ink wash portrait of Michener for that piece, based on several photos I researched of the author.

Don thought a painting of the Neshaminy would be a nice frontispiece for the magazine, so I took some photos in the Castle Valley area of the creek. I imagined the art spilling over from left page to right, as in this first pencil sketch, base on my photos —

I made a tonal sketch with gray markers, below, and added a Lenape Indian in the distance, drinking from the creek. The Lenape lived in this area before Europeans settled. The word ‘Neshaminy’ means the place where we drink twice in the Lenape language.

The final ink wash painting for the frontispiece is below.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the published magazine, because at a launch party at the Historical Society a few nights ago we heard a bit about the prize-winning entries into the magazine, and they all sound like wonderfully interesting stories, some fiction, some non-fiction, some poetry. I’ve been asked to do one more illustration for this issue, and I’ll write about that as soon as it is finished.

An Illustration for Gamification

My latest article for Lodging magazine, a trade journal for the hotel industry, involved a new method being employed for training housekeeping and other hotel services: video games.

To keep employees engaged and improve their business, hoteliers are starting to use interactive games to teach skills – a kind of soft training that creates less stress than task-oriented drills. The example given to me was: workers are shown a picture of a spotless room and one with noticeable imperfections, and are asked to pick out what’s wrong with the second photo. Prizes are awarded for correct answers. In the process, staff members learn, in a fun and interactive way, what to watch for when they clean rooms for real. 

I sent three very rough pencil sketches with ideas. The first was pretty much an illustration of that example –

In the second I imagined pinball games with funny hotel-related names –

And in the third, a video game screen with employees acting like Mario Brothers characters –

They liked the last one, so I tightened up the little character drawings –

And then borrowed colors and actions from classic video games. Here is the finish –

Newest Illustration for Lodging Magazine

The most recent article I was sent from the editor at Lodging Magazine was once more a rather nebulous topic to depict concretely. It detailed that when mergers occur in the hotel industry, a not uncommon phenomenon I gather, the transition period is very important and if mishandled can result in a lot of staff disruptions. The hotel’s general manager and HR department are key in steadying the ship, and the article advises that they prioritize onboarding, data system upgrades, compliance and operational efficiency.

Quite a jumble of complex ideas! I came up with two simpler versions of this situation and sent them as pencil sketches. The first was the proverbial tangled ball of twine, with a general manager directing staff how to de-tangle.

The second, which I liked better, was a Rubik’s cube turning, with people climbing, clutching and interacting on it as it twisted. I thought this pictured a number of the things the article touched on: the churn of the merger, how staff feel displaced, the uncertainty, and the need to keep communicating.

The editors liked this one too, so I traced it onto illustration board, tightened up the people, and painted it in with those bright Rubik’s cube colors.

My Latest Illustration for a Hotel Magazine

My latest assignment from Lodging magazine was an article about the difficulty in finding good employees in the hotel industry, and tips for holding onto those dependable and conscientious ones. I personally found the article lacking in solid solutions for these problems, which made finding an idea to illustrate more challenging.

I did think of two scenes leading up to the hiring of an employee, so I sketched them roughly in pencil. The first showed an interviewee being coaxed by other employees as well as the personnel manager to accept the new job.

The second showed a woman passing a lot of Help Wanted signs on a hotel, with a manager leaning out the door to tap her on the shoulder, and hopefully to tap her skills too.

The editor liked the second idea more, and asked me to switch the people so a female manager was leaning out to tap a male hire on the shoulder. I sent a revised pencil sketch.

I made a quick color sketch using colored pencils on a photocopy of the sketch.

I drew this onto cold press illustration board in black prisma pencil, then painted it with acrylic washes. The finish is below.

My ‘Pirates of Penzance’ Poster Illustration

The Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society is once again gearing up for one of the Victorian playwrights’ funniest, most lyrical and most popular creations, The Pirates of Penzance. I’m happy to again be illustrating the poster for this wonderfully fun musical. If you have ever heard the brilliant patter song I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General, this is the rambunctious show for which that song was written.

I started with a very rough pencil sketch of a group of the colorful characters – maidens, pirates, bobbies, the Major-General – in a classic triangle composition.

I defined the characters a bit more in the next sketch.

I scanned this sketch and did a rough colored pencil blocking in of the colors

I traced this drawing onto illustration board, outlined the characters and began to paint it in using acrylic washes.

And now the finished piece is dropped into the poster design, below. I hope you consider coming, this will be a terrific musical comedy!

New Illustration for a Trade Magazine

The latest article given to me by the editor of Lodging Magazine involves manager tips for making a workplace a good environment for employee mental health. The key was offering support to workers in terms of acknowledging outstanding work, explaining employee goals in a clear way and setting an example for employees to model. I came up with an arched bridge as being the means of support, with the recommended action points spelled out on the pillars.

First I drew a pencil sketch with loose tones blocked in –

With the idea approved, I traced the drawing onto illustration board, outlined in prisma pencil and painted it with acrylic washes, using the sketch as reference to keep the values consistent.