Inktober: The Headless Horseman

This year for #Inktober I decided to try and tell a story over the course the month, one day at a time. This is the Real story behind the Headless Horseman. Follow along on SketchbookJack’s Instagram.

Good evening, dear readers, I am your storyteller. Follow along this #inktober for the revealing of the real story of the headless horseman. Each day one panel of the story will be revealed.

Get Your SketchbookJack Custom Sketch

Now is your chance to get a SketchbookJack sketch of you, your mom, your dad, grandma, dog, tea kettle, teddy bear, gold fish, or maybe just leave it up to Jack. This is a rare opportunity to get a custom original for only $25 via the “The Island and the Plough”/”Captain and Crow’s ABCs” book publishing Kickstarter campaign. Not only will you get a custom sketch, but also a PDF version of the book of your choosing. Share the love: http://kck.st/1kDaMZ6

SketchbookJack Books Kickstarter

For those who have been following me for a while you have seen post after post of this book, that book, this app, and that sample page. But now, they have all come together in one single chance to make it all

Two books, “The Island and the Plough” and “Captain and Crow’s ABCs” (plus “The Island and the Plough” interactive iPad ebook app) are becoming real with the help of a Kickstarter campaign. Think of this a pre-order, not as a risk to invest in a project. The work is already done, we just need to get them printed!
Please, check it out and share with your friends. If you can’t fund, remember that just sharing the link and getting the word out means more than you might think.
http://kck.st/1kDaMZ6
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iPad App is Coming!

 

 

There is big news for SketchbookJack.  An interactive iPad ebook app is currently in the works.  The first app will be “The Island and the Plough.”  All the bold, black and white illustrations will come to life with animations, a narrator, and even an apple-catching mini-game.  I don’t want to spoil too much, so stay tuned and I’ll post a few more screenshots.
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ebook childrens book iPad epub black and white bold typography interactive style cartoon illustration art design layout mockup screenshot tree apple words reading design  app

Life of Pi Visual Effects protest

What “Life of Pi” looks like before the visual effects are added.

It was hard not to notice all the green yesterday as avatars, profile pictures and memes cascaded across the web.  Some of this has left many confused and even to those inside the film and computer graphics industries, the full story has yet to really show itself.

Why so much green?  The green is to symbolize the chroma key green color that is seen on film sets otherwise known as greenscreen (or in some cases bluescreen) which will later be removed and replaced with the glorious visual effects you see in the final film.  Consider it the pink ribbon of the visual effects industry.
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Waiting? Lonely?

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Leila waits for Papa to return home to the island in “The Island and the Plough”

Hello all.  For those of you have been following for a while and know of “The Island and the Plough” have probably been wondering where this book is and when it is going to be released.  Things are going a little slower than planned in terms of getting it printed at a reasonable price so I am trying to coordinate the printing process to provide the best quality for price.  I am glad to say, however, that I have proof prints in hand and they look great!  I have showed them to the people who helped me complete this project and everyone thinks it’s a great little piece and I am very excited to start getting it into people’s hands.

Stay tuned for updates, and of course, more art of other sorts.

6 Things to learn from the Book Proof

   The proof print for “The Island and the Plough” has officially arrived!  I must say, it is very exciting to see it in physical print.  Regardless of my thoughts on ebooks, and digital media, there is something really great about a book.  I am still sorting the official business with copyrights, and the ISBN registry, which will allow some time for the printers of the final version but it is so good to see this in near finished form.  I want to thank everyone who helped me along the way and have been so patient as well as those who follow and support the entire process.  I can’t wait for this to be a completed project, and then start the next!

  Here are six preview images of the book proof. I tried to choose six images that sort of represent something we can learn from this entire process.

1: First Impressions Are Important

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The front cover of “The Island and the Plough”:

First impressions certainly aren’t the be-all-end-all, but despite the old saying to not judge a book by its cover, people do.  I know I do, but more importantly than judging it is calling attention to and grabbing the eye.  Something catchy, simple, and strong is often a great idea for the front, cover, or introduction of any project. A book calls you by its cover.

2: Dot your Is and cross your Ts.

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Inner cover pages of “The Island and the Plough”:

The “legal/acknowledgments” section of any project is of the utmost importance.  Noting your sources and identifying yourself is crucial, even on a single image.  There is nothing I hate more than finding a great image or illustration on the web but there is no identifier as to where it came from, so I can never find more of that goodness!  Thank Google for the reverse image look up. Don’t forget to acknowledge those that may have helped. Be gracious, thank those that have honestly helped you, because no project is done alone (even those that physically are done alone, mental, emotional and inspiration support comes from everywhere).

3. Set yourself some rules.

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The children play but Papa warns them of the great white sea in “The Island and the Plough”

Like Papa warning the children of rules of the island, be sure to set yourself some basic ground rules.  Projects very easily get out of hand, grow larger than expected and veer off into unexpected territories.  Be clear with yourself about goals and expectations.  Most importantly make sure your project is manageable!  It is much easier to grow any project than to trim back an unwieldy beast.

4. Know your strengths and embrace weaknesses.

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Papa throws an apple down to Eli in “The Island and the Plough”

Papa has the wonderful idea to throw apples from the tree down to his son Eli who catches them.  This works well until he throws an apple too far, setting forth the entire story.  Know where your strengths will take you and what weaknesses you have that might hold you back.  Focus your strengths to really drive the project and carry the bulk of the work. You may even tailor a project (Like this project I focused on constrast with black and white) to your specific strengths. Work with weaknesses, not against them. Composition, for me, is tricky. To be frank, the children’s books out there have little of it (mostly just an image with text below); finding reference or examples was quite difficult. I needed to be creative and make composition a focus but not let it hold me back as I wanted a very graphic style and include dense typography to help tell the story.

5. Be willing to accept non-perfection.

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Mama consoles Papa in “The Island and the Plough”

There are many things, even in this final piece or a feature film I may have worked on of which I still want to change. The viewer almost never notices them, so learn when good is good for the sake of the project, time line, goals, and just over all sanity, to not obsess. Like Papa needing consolation from Mama, don’t be afraid to ask for help, critiques and comments. You are your own worst critic, so fresh eyes that aren’t directly attached to the project are best, but try to make it someone who will be constructive and give reasons to what they think rather than claiming something is not working.  Surely, too many comments can lead to a mess, but none is far more dangerous. I suggest getting feedback early on in the process, then work on it a bit for yourself, and then comments near the end (but not so far to the end you can’t take them into account). Try to ask someone other than your mother.

6. Just do what you want.

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The reverse/back cover of “The Island and the Plough”


Some of my story ideas are certainly a little “off the beaten path.”  An editor I once talked to said my work is wonderfully unique, but impossible to categorize (and therefore, market).  I was unsure if I should take that as a compliment or a critique. It may be true, and I might possibly only live in a niche market, but that is all I know; do what you know.  I write about what I think about, and things I would enjoy to read or illustrate.  Perhaps, this story is a little heavy for children and I wouldn’t even dare to call this book for children, rather an story for those who also like illustrations. If something is deemed “unmarketable,” I always go back to the fact that someone marketed and sells (a lot, mind you) rubber dog poop and plastic vomit.  Anything is marketable.

Book Proof on it’s way

the island and the plough children book mockup layout design cover

I have the first actual printed proof of “The Island and the Plough,” on its way to me.  I am awaiting eagerly for it to arrive.  This puts me ever so close to the finish line for this project.  Meanwhile, I also am working with a friend who is a developer to release an App version of the book with some fun interactive tid-bits and animation.  I hope to have that out soon after the print release.  The above is again, just a nerdy digital book mock up, but I will be able to finally post an actual photo soon!

Another Dead Soldier

I have killed another soldier, a faithful old pen.  He was but a commoner yet filled a many jacket, blackened a many hat, and darkened a many tie.  Yes, I use a Sharpie, sometimes, for inking.  I know it is not preferred and you may already be furling your brow at the low manner in which I behave but I have come to like the Sharpie.  It is simple and consistent and widely available.  I can carry them in a bag and are great for travel or quick works.  I know my dirty, low class pen will never survive the test of time without any “archival quality” ink.  It will wither and fade in the brash sunlight of west Los Angeles, but I don’t care, for it is a impotent artist who requires special tools.  It is a sad artist who blames his tools.  I too, once brandished a fancy Moleskine notebook of which holds glorious, legendary powers in hopes to harness the same genius that bled from Hemingway’s veins, hoping it would make my work magical.  I too, once carried the famed Micron pen and the Staedler pencils, because no actual artist would dare carry (dare not say use) an unbranded, hideously yellow, #2 pencil of which is not even worthy of using the HB insider lingo.  Alas, I still use India Ink, metal tip pens, and brushes but for most everyday workings I have squandered such dreams of Hemingway and draw many of my characters on the forbidden copy paper of which a common, gasp, digital printer might use.  Sure, judgments are passed, scoffs and tisks are handed by those in the supply store.  But I have work to do, dear critic; I have not time to wander the supply store in search of the lesser user of commoner tools I feel may need a lecture.  Unfurl your brow, fellow inker, embrace your unorthodox use of illegitimate tools.

Finishing One and Starting Another

The Island and the Plough book page preview mockup layout design

While I sort out the ISBN registries for “The Island and the Plough”, and navigate the intricacies of publishing a picture heavy book to the many eBook formats that are out there, I am busily working on writing and roughing the designs for my next project which I will begin to post about very soon.   I am super excited about my next book, as the story is really getting to me.   Everything is falling together pretty well.  Interestingly, it certainly has, unintentionally, some of the same themes as “The Island and the Plough” but in a very different way.  I have a pretty strong outline completed, promising concept sketches, and a few ideas for page spreads that I think will look really great.    I have yet to find a title that suits it but I am sure that will come along in time, but for posting purposes I will refer to it as “Salvador.”

The basic concept is a story of a fishing boat captain and his young ship mate, Skip.  The two are amidst a sleepy fishing village perched at the rocky cliff’s edge where the land meets the ocean. Their ship is but a small, single sail boat that barely seats two, not to speak of nets full of fish.  The captain also has an old tugboat, in severe disrepair, that he wishes to fix up and use because it is larger and could get them to deeper waters and carry more fish.  The naysayer villagers laugh at his inability to catch fish as well as his dream of using the tugboat for fishing.  Whilst readying themselves to push out one morning, a very unlikely new friend washes ashore.  The story unravels into three parts as the Captain and Skip adventure out to include high sea sailing, wrangling/wrestling with nature, and a hunt for an unusual treasure which can only be had with the help of their newly found friend, all while the cynical villagers laugh from afar.

Until then, I leave you with this book page layout-mock up of “The Island and the Plough” until I bring more news of a release date.

Bruce Mitchel : Private Eye

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My only worldly escape, sleep, came clamoring to a bitter end by the clanging, chattering telephone across the room. Like some sugared up kid, it was attempting to free itself from the clutches of the hook. The covers, over my forehead protecting my eyes from the piercing morning light, defensively crumpled up against the wall as I gave them a few angered shoves. After slumping off the bed and shuffling across the floor, spears of sunlight pierced through the slated blinds, amplified by the hundreds of beaming cars driven by incompetent, impatient workers and the puddles in the consistent water that loitered on the streets below.

Clang Clang.

There are only three seasons around here, raining, rained, and looks like it will rain. It does actually rain, but more often than not it has just rained, like it waits until you have turned your back. The streets bleed rain or something.

Clang Clang.

Sure is an insistent, sugared up kid, that phone. I switched the alarm clock off which was due to execute its daily abuse in just twelve minutes. Of course the telephone couldn’t have waited another twelve minutes. Who was I kidding; it was just like any other day. The sirens blaring, horns and engines fighting each other as peeved drivers insist right of way with a curse word or three, often punctuated with the help of the tallest finger on the hand. I don’t know where the hell it is, that everyone feels they need to be immediately at every instant of the day.

Clang Clang.

“Alright, alright already, shut your head,” I thought while scratching my well matted hair. It seems people make an extra special effort to avoid eye contact and conversations with everyone on the street, and yet practically pray for phone calls. Every effort is made to create quicker, more efficient communication with others all while making it more and more impersonal with each step. No one puts up with another person yelling for attention and surely doesn’t put up with children poking and pulling for attention, so why anyone allows some box on the wall to rattle its damn brains out for your attention is beyond me. And yet, despite my observation, my own feet still shuffled towards it.

Clang Cla-

“Yeah?” I muttered.

“Erm, no ma’am.”

“No, there is no one by that name here.”

“Yes’m, I’m sure.”

“That is the number, yes.”

“No, no one by that name.” I reassured.

“I have had this number for some time now.”

“Yes’m. This is an apartment, but…”

“No ma’am, I know everyone else in the building. There are only six flats and none by that name.” I insisted.

“Yes, I’m sure.”

There seems to be a divine belief that technology does not make mistakes, baffling to say the least. Normally this would have been the surrender point, or at least for one to become embarrassed over her multiple accusations that I don\u2019t know my own number. But instead, the woman on the other line went soft.

“I’m very sorry ma’am.”

“Please, uh, pl-please don’t.” I hesitated, not knowing how to react.

“Cry…” I sighed.

In any situation which ultimately leads to a woman crying is a situation with which I don’t want to be involved. Other than children, crying women put me in an awkward sort of place. My natural instinct then, was to just try and make it go away.

“Look, why don’t you give the operator a ring, and ask her to help you out, maybe the number got redirected.”

“Yes, I know you said this is the number.” I flustered.

Just as the lady on the other line began to respond, I clenched my teeth and held my breath to say the words.

“I’m sorry ma’am, this is simply the wrong number.” I winced and paused for a moment, and then hung up.

After only a brief thought, I trudged along the usual morning path to the far half of the room, or what the landlord like to refer to as the kitchen. The landlord, Frank Melchings, stood no taller than a parking meter, and took money just the same. As the first of the month encroached, a mass of spotty greased leather as an excuse for skin, a handful of coarse oily hair crawling along the scalp, and a neck that was eating itself, would assemble itself at your door earlier than the birds wake. And certainly more incessant than the clang of that morning’s telephone. What were supposed to be words, dripped from his crooked lip which offset his uneven mustache as he glared through his smudged glasses that slipped to the tip of his greasy, potato nose. No noises from him were necessary, as the only reason for his presence was either someone owing him money, or his excuse for why he shouldn\u2019t pay for a repair. Most have since stopped making such repair requests, so be it now, only one reason for his presence.

Leaning over what Melchings called the stove, I emptied the contents of the tarnished pot into a, probably unwashed, mug. The ebony substance oozed from the spigot in what felt like a near solid piece. I agitated it with a spoon, in hopes of giving it life, but the cold, bitter brew was good enough, as always, to survive the day. Surely, despite the early interrupted awakening, I could still be my usual ten minutes late for work. With my back turned on the world, I closed the door reading 3A, while scuffling with the keys on my ring in search of one that would fit the lock.

The morning sun forced its way through the gaunt windows that lined the street end of the hall. Winding rectangular stairs repeated down the five floor rental building. Melchings lived in 1A; being the first, he was probably staring out the peephole of his door waiting for late payers to pass. Melchings received his from me check the night before, so I should get a free pass on the troll bridge. As the key twisted to my apartment, I half listened for the clack of the tumblers clenching the door frame, usually only done so to avoid another necessary payment to Melchings for careless “non protection of the rental unit security fee” otherwise what do I have that anyone would want to steal? I turned away towards the oblong stairs of the main hall. Apparently more alert than my usual mornings, probably due to the molestation by said telephone, something seemed insidiously wrong. I smelled it, and saw it from the corner of my eye. Peering over my shoulder, the room spun to a halt, centering on the neighboring remains of the door 3B.

The lock was jimmied, wood splintered, and the door frame was smashed. The door slumped into the unit, held only by a warped lower hinge. Bitterly, the first thought that came to mind, was that he didn’t pay his rent and Melchings got the best of him, though doubtful he would impose any such damage to his property, regardless of the cash involved. Snapping from a deer-in-headlights state, I took a step forward, careful to not disturb the perfect chaos before me. Upon entering the unit, the scene unraveled its horrible explosion of events. Furniture lay dismembered, the sofa gutted, lamps decapitated, and the icebox left bleeding out, yet the bulb still burning its last bit of life.

Pictures hung crookedly noosed from the walls, signs of dirty footprints crawled to the back room, and a smell stained the air I breathed. In the back room, newspapers were scattered about, the telephone off the hook, and thick dust particulates, like witness bystanders, hovered in the air aroused from the scuffle and filtered the dim light bleeding from the slats of the single window. Shuffling my way through the back hall, I felt the depth begin to close in, narrower, and narrower still.

There, in the center of the frozen moment in time was a bloody, battered, body strewn over the solid oak desk. The arms laid straight off either edge, wrists limp, as did the head.

Flashback: Fluid

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Madame Lynch appears at the Brigham's front door.

Illustration Friday’s topic popped up as “Fluid” and I immediately thought of a past project I was working on about three years ago.  The villains in the story shed off black, inky, fluid as they moved about.  Unfortunately, this was one of those projects I just had to let die as, every time I sat down to work on it I drew a blank and struggled endlessly trying to achieve what I wanted.  It definitely taught me how to learn to let something die.  I have to admit that I really want to complete this project, but am not regretful that I dropped it.  It allowed me to clear my head and start over on several other projects since.  I still love the story and the concept, so I am sure I will return to it in the future.   The manuscript actually came together quite nicely with the exception of one plot hole, as did some of the initial pencils of each page.  But, when I sat down to some of the very important page layouts, to finish the ink for each page, or do the final treatments (and this book had a lot of “effects” involved) it just never looked the way I wanted it to and unfortunately the mood and plot of the story relied very heavily on the visuals.  I hope to add it back into my queue of projects sometime.

The basic set up for this page is that Benjamin Brigham is a rotter and just a really nasty little child.  He plays horribly (really horrible, some times life threatening ;p ) pranks on people, is grouchy and grumpy, and puts up a fight to nearly anything his parents or teachers wish him to do.  After being thrown from several schools and scaring away countless nannies and sitters, his parents receive a letter in the mail regarding the most prestigious academy for troubled youth that guarantees perfect results.  Madame Lynch, the administrator of the academy has come to collect young Benjamin.

Happy Birthday Charlie Dickens

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Happy 200th Birthday Charlie Dickens!  He is probably my favorite “classic” author.  The imagery and moods he builds are so robust, not to mention the themes and brilliant characters he designed are right up my alley.  London, smokestacks, chimneys, murders, dry humor, smart humor, dark humor, despair, hope, fear, shadows, chases, rooftops, thievery, spying, seedy underworlds, gangs, wars, and ghosts, all in tailed coats and top hats; what’s not to love?