March 23rd, 2014

Tattoo Pitches

In the hopes of staying fresh in my artistic endeavors and in trying to avoid too much repetition in the imagery that gets tattooed today I’d like to pitch these ideas out there and see if anyone would be interested in getting my version of any of these ideas. My usual wait time for tattoos is a few months but if anyone is interested in any of these please email me at and we can see about getting you in much quicker;)

Pieces I’m interested in doing:

• I’ve got some good ideas for some art nouveau inspired roses. Or just roses in general. These are great single session tattoos.

• Animals with ornamental details, like this painting series I just finished.  I’d be interested in doing variations of this series or trying new animals in this theme. Namely Buffalo, Elephants, antelope, most anything that’s furry.

• Animals that I haven’t done at all or not enough of. Gorillas, Rhinos, Zebra, Deer or different kinds of Antelope like Kudu or Sable. Jacob’s sheep, Elephants, Hawks, Big beetles like elephant ,rhino or stag.

• American West Imagery. Cowboy/Indian stuff. I’m always a fan of this stuff. I’ve been incorporating a good bit of Navajo blanket patterns into my work in a graphic way and would like to see what else I can do with it.

• I’d like to do some classy lady head tattoos, similar to my banner painting I’d like to do some theme versions of lady heads.

Favorites I’d like to do would be:
- The Wicked Queen from Snow White
- Malificent the Evil witch from Sleeping Beauty
- Storm, Rogue or Jubilee or Phoenix from X-men.
- She-Hulk
- Red Sonja
- Valeria from Conan the Barbarian.
- Uma Thurman  as Marcelus Wallace’s wife in Pulp Fiction
- I’d like to do an illustrative Marilyn Monroe
-Lucille from I Love Lucy
- Morticia Addams could be super fun
- Dolly Parton will always be a favorite. Bigger the hair the better.

• There’s a few Star Wars characters that I’ve got good ideas for: Chewbacca , Leia or Stormtroopers. Or a character I’ve never tattooed before, Obi-Wan Kenobi

• Any Planet of the Apes character. So long as it’s an ape.





January 22nd, 2014

Pop Portraits

Recently I did a cool tattoo of Walter White from Breaking Bad. I was pretty inspired to try a new series of tattoos in a similar style. If anyone has any ideas using these characters or other pop culture esque people please shoot me a buzz at unnamed12364_341925655945247_1276838927_n 47627_341909279280218_2059154252_n


Here’s a few tattoos I did from this inquiry post. I was super happy to get to do a few of these guys.

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December 28th, 2013

Death Waits Step By Step

A few months ago I took part in the “Fuck Art, Let’s Kill” exhibition put on at Nick Caruso’s Bound For Glory shop in Staten Island. It was a death and reaper themed art show. I’ve always been a big fan of drawing skulls and reapers and as excited as I was to be a part of the show the idea of trying to come up with something nice and original that would stand out was daunting. I decided to try to paint something a bit out of my comfort zone. I stuck to my preferred mix of watercolors, inks, and liquid acrylics, but I tried to give the piece a renaissance feel using those media.

Before I’d started this project I’d downloaded a bunch of books from to my iPad. I thought I’d just grab a variety and see what there was in them. They were cheap enough  that I ended up getting a heap of really good stuff for a fraction of what physical books would cost. There was a lot of visual information there in a variety of styles. I found it handy when I was struggling for ideas in coming up with the composition for this piece. I flipped through the books on my iPad until I saw something that caught my eye. I saved the first two images (Ref. 1) because I was drawn to the composition. I started formulating the idea of doing a reclined death. It just seemed different. Like he was just kicking back like a dude on a lazy Sunday. There were some good examples of drapery in there as well. In the third image (Ref. 2), I really liked the candle’s being snuffed out and the light effects. The last image (Ref. 2) is the skull from the cover of the Illustrated Monthly book of skulls. I thought it’d be fun to paint an ancient looking skull with missing teeth.

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I’ve always done my brainstorming sketches very small. I like to do two or three tiny versions so I can work out the composition before dedicating time to the details in a full size sketch. I meant to take a photo before trashing the other tiny sketches but I just kinda forgot. I chose the sketch whose composition I liked best (Fig. 1)  and enlarged it on the copy machine to the size I wanted the final painting to be. I then laid tracing paper over the quick version and did some fine tuning to  flesh it out (Fig. 2).

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This piece is 12″ x 16″ and is on a piece of Windsor & Newton Aquarelle paper. This is my favorite paper to use for most every project. It’s similar to Arches cold press in terms of durability, but the tooth of the paper is much finer and allows for much finer line work when you’re using ink. I usually cut my piece of paper larger than I want the final image to be and mask it off with orange artist tape. It helps me keep my compositional constraints in mind by giving me a border where a frame would be.  I also like to have an edge to test paint on that’s from the same ream of paper. Paper always ages differently and I think you have better results if you can test your colors on a piece of scrap paper that’s identical to the piece you’re painting on.  You can see what   my primary paints for this piece were in Fig. B. I used the FW Liquid Acrylic colors Flesh Tint, Crimson, Antelope Brown, and Purple Lake; the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Hydrus watercolor series Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna; and the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Slate Blue and Van Dyke Brown in the concentrated and transparent watercolors. The black i’m using is Speed Ball black. B

After tracing the image onto watercolor paper in light pencil lines using a light box, I took an Exacto knife and cut out pieces of the tape where I wanted the image to extend past the border. I wanted the smoke and the scythe to break the border. I tried to avoid using any black outlines for this piece as it wouldn’t have matched the look I was going for. I tried to do things a little differently since this is an illustration and not a tattoo.

Using the grey washes I mixed up (Fig. 3), I started by blocking in the big areas of shadow in the painting (Fig. 4). At this stage of any painting I use primarily inks and liquid acrylics which are permanent after they’re dry. This allows me to do multiple layers without my colors blending together.  I’m using the candle as the light source and pulling the black into lighter tones surrounding the candle.

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I used a ruler and a pencil to make lines in random sizes radiating from the candle’s flame to the edge of the paper to give the impression of light rays. I used the different mixes of grey washes to pull the areas together (Fig. 5). I was trying to imitate the feel of the candle that’s in the top image of Ref. 2. I liked the tiny glow to it but wanted mine a bit more dramatic.


Next I started with color (Fig. 6). I used my same grey washes and  the FW Liquid Acrylic Purple Lake color to start building up depth in the cloak. I work from light to dark and slowly add in the black . It’s always easier to make things darker than to make them lighter so I try to build it up slowly.


I use two types of paintbrushes when i’m painting (Fig. A). Both are made by Raphael; the black handled Martre Kolinsky 8404 are primarily used as outlining brushes for cartooning. They’re fucking expensive but will outlast any pen you’ll ever buy if you take good care of them and keep them in brush cases.  I like using them for doing grey lining and textural bits. The other kind is a Raphael 8394. It’s a soft but durable synthetic brush. It soft enough that it doesn’t tear up my paper even if I layer color multiple times. I used the size 1 Kolinsky to do the wood grain in the handle of the scythe (Fig. 7). #7  #A

After the grey lines dried I mixed up some of the Dr. Martin’s Van Dyke Brown and the Yellow Ochre in my palette. Again going from light to dark  I started layering in the wood tones in the hourglass and the scythe handle. I used the watercolors here so it has a transparent look and lets the grey grain lines come through the paint (Fig. 8).


I started the hourglass by mixing the Ochre with just a bit of the Crimson and the Van Dyke Brown to do the sand. Then with a drop of two of heavily heavily watered down Dr. Martin’s Slate Blue and some of the light grey wash I started giving some shape to the glass. When it was dry I used my finest brush and some more brown to stipple the glass to give the sand some texture. I used a super fine pen as well to add a few dots of black as well to add more value (Fig. 9). Using the Yellow Ochre and the Van Dyke Brown I started doing light washes on all of the bones to give them a base tone (Fig.10). Light colors show changes fast so I always do small graduations and build it up slowly. I started out just using the washes and then left it to dry for a bit (Fig.11).

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While the bone tones were drying I start blocking in the red. I used FW Liquid Acrylic Crimson to wash the areas with flat red and then layered in a bit of the grey wash while it was still wet to make it a richer red tone.  I jumped back and forth  with my grey wash in the bones and the red collar (Fig. 12). You can also see where I started adding the flat yellow tones to the medallion.


Once my first layers were dry, I could see where using the grey washes with the colors to build up my values had gotten me (Fig. 13). My next step on this piece was a little different for me. I started overlaying the image with charcoal to add to the textural tone and really give it that rich renaissance look (Fig. 14) I don’t feel like it’s an effect that could have been achieved with just watercolors. The tooth of the paper really held onto the gritty charcoal and added a whole new level of depth to the piece. Here’s where I referred a lot back to my skull reference for the anatomy and cracks.

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I had stayed away from the candle until I had most of the other colors established because I was having trouble deciding what color to use. After looking at what I had I decided to go with a tan flesh-like tone. I thought it would work well to symbolize melting mortality, though I’m a little worried it looks like a dripping wiener. I used the FW Flesh Tint and the browns that I already had out and built up the texture and depth of the drips. I also mixed a bit of the Pen White into it to make the candle very opaque. Fig.15


Then I used my Slate Blue and watered it down to give the smoke some shape and filled in the gem on the medallion (Fig. 16).


At this point the wrinkles in the cloak had depth, but as a whole the image was still lacking it.  Looking at the Ref 1 photo and comparing my own painting I could tell that the entire composition needed more shadow. It’s a hard thing to do at this point for fear of ruining it all. I did something pretty risky and covered the painting in Workable Fixative (Fig. C) I saturated it pretty well and let it dry. Afterward I used a larger size brush and gingerly started washing in heavy areas of dark grey washes and black. I was trying to create the vignette from the glow of the candle. I was really pleased with the technique and happy I didn’t totally screw it up trying a new technique.  As much as I’d avoided using paints and inks that wouldn’t run when reactivated with water the concern is always there that the paper will get overworked and the colors will start looking muddy and not as vibrant. Comparing Fig.13 to Fig.17 you can really see the difference it made.

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After the washes had dried, I pulled off my tape to get a good look at what the piece really looked like without the orange border changing the tone of the whole.  With the tape out of the way I took a regular graphite pencil and added a bit more depth to the smoke and fine tuned the edges in the blue smoke. Lastly I took the Dr. Ph. Martin’s Pen White (Fig. D) and the finest Kolinsky brush I had and went throughout the whole piece adding tiny white highlights and light rays. D

All in all I was really happy with this piece and was glad that I tried to do something a little different. Looking at the references that I’d picked up in Illustrated Monthly inspired me to take this in a direction that I don’t think I would have if I’d just stuck to Google image or my current reference library. Prints for this piece can be found in the store section of my website.#18FIN

December 24th, 2013

Artwalk Alpine 2013/ New Works

I went back to my hometown of Alpine, TX recently to display some new work created for the 20 anniversary Artwalk event. I’d love to do some tattoos based off  any of these paintings. If you’re interested please email me at

Easynow ElJeffeLil'BlueMandalaPronghornhometownheroPaisanoAndale

My newest stuff was greatly inspired by my recent trip to Japan. I went to Kyoto to the Municipal Art Museum where they had two exhibitions on Takuechi Seiho. One was all of his preparatory sketches for his paintings and the other was his corresponding paintings. His sketches were so cool to see. His paintings are all huge single brush strokes that looked so simple paired with lifelike illustration properties. When compared to the sketches you could see that the simplicity was all mapped out first in the drawing stages. Seiho was a painter from the late 1880-1940s. He was one of the first proponents in Japan of drawing from life. It’s an idea that I agree with as well and try to use in my own work. Taking reference from my heritage and where I grew up in West Texas and adding in my own illustrative touches.


July 10th, 2013

Rocket Girl Redux: Step by Step, Part 1

Mike Bellamy's star head

A while back I decided I needed a new banner, as I’ve been using a shitty Kinko’s copy of one of my old ones for while now. I thought it’d be a good excuse to do another step-by-step of my painting process. I’ve included the photos of the references I used. I’m a big believer in having true life references for all projects.

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I started with an image that my business partner Mike Bellamy drew and that has been our shop’s longtime logo. I wanted to keep the overall composition more or less the same but make my own version. I changed up the proportions, added a tiny RR logo , and gave the girl more Alphonse Mucha styled hair. I love that art nouveau stuff.

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Typically when I’m sketching I like to use Prismacolor Col-Erase pencils on heavy vellum, which can stand a fair bit of abuse from erasing and sketching. The Col-Erase pencils are pretty good at staying where they’re put and not smudging too much. Some details in here are just plain pencil too.


Before starting any illustration project I like to do a few things that I think help in the long run. Basic stuff that most people know, but I’m just saying to put it out there. Here’s a quick list:

1. I always like the final painting/illustration size to coordinate with a standard frame size. iTeems like a no-brainer, but the dimensions of Arches watercolor blocks (which are a favorite of mine) are not the same as standard frame sizes. The blocks are meant to be masked to allow bleed areas and test areas on the same page. The 10 1/4 x 14 1/8 block paper looks crappy in an 11 x 14 frame. Mask it down to 9 x 12, 8 1/2 x 11 or even smaller. That way if you want to make prints of your artwork you’re not paying extra for cutting or passing the cost of a custom frame job onto your customers. Even an awesome print of an odd size painting can end up in the bottom of a stack of things to frame one day because the custom framing price is too much to spring for.

*For this project, using a standard size didn’t matter as much to me, as I was just planning to have a large-format canvas print made to use as a convention banner.

2. Always quench your paper before you start your project. (I don’t know if that’s the right word, but it’s what I call it.) Take the loose sheet of paper and brush  lot of plain water over the whole thing. You can even use a spray bottle or a mister. Then hang it to dry with bulldog clips or lay flat to keep it smooth. Let it dry for a hour or so before starting to lay down your lines. Watercolor paper sits around on shelves and on display and can lose a shit load of it’s humidity. Something about quenching the paper before anything else lets you do your inking easier and keeps your colors more consistent on the page.

*For this project I used a big brush and some coffee grounds here and there to dirty up my paper. I always start with a little dirtiness to keep me from freaking out if I spill a drop or a loose speck gets on the page. If it’s already dirty, it’s much easier to just roll with it.

3. Label the back of your watercolor paper as BACK. Cant tell you how many times I’ve started inking on the wrong side because I’d flipped stuff a couple times on the lightbox. I label the back and establish my guidelines in light pencil for where I want to tape the paper to my vellum when I get to tracing and inking.

4. I like to have more than one lamp at my station. One on the left and one on the right. I hate trying to paint in the shadow of my hand, and for my technique I find it crucial to be able to see where I’ve laid water down before color.

5. Use a coffee mug or something else heavy for your water.  Spilling and ruining your painting will wreck your day.

6. Keep your brushes and water clean and your palette dirty. I haven’t washed my palette in the 6 years I’ve had this one. Watercolors always reactivate with just a touch of water so rinsing it out is just a waste.

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After I’m happy with my sketch I’ll use the pencil guidelines on the back of my paper and artist’s tape to adhere the vellum in place. Artist’s tape is great. It’s a little less sticky than masking tape and usually less acidic.

To ink this project I used Faber Castell Pitt pens. They’re more of a pigment liner than a regular pen. They come in multiple colors and in a variety of sizes.


I like to vary the line weight a lot in my projects. I grew up on comics and always drew with pen and ink. So a lot of my paintings use those same techniques. I’ll do a lot of textures with these pens before I even pick up a brush.

I tried to give the flight cap a distressed leather feel. I know that the final product won’t show most of the texture but it let me get a feel for the depth and where I wanted to put the wrinkles in the cap. At this stage I just did the outside perimeter lines in the hair. Later on I did the hair’s separation in yellow ochre and gold lines to give it that platinum blonde look. When I’m painting I like to try techniques that I usually avoid when I’m tattooing. You really cant get away with doing yellow lines in a tattoo and hope for longevity, but it’s great for something like this.

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This is the final pen lined drawing plus some pencil lines to establish where the star frame goes. I didn’t want a heavy line on those. You can really see in this photo how dirty my paper was in the beginning. I think it would drive most people nuts but to me it’s kind of freeing.


The next step is to go into the painting with black ink. I like using Speedball super black ink. It’s consistent to work with and dilutes easily into washes. I like to approach illustrations like a chromo lithograph photo., by doing a fully rendered black and grey image first using permanent ink (watercolors wont bleed it) before overlaying color on top of it. Liquid acrylic black works too, but it’s a little glossy and has some plasticity to it, and some watercolors don’t saturate correctly on top of it. Ink is better if you’re going to lay color on top because it allows for more even saturation. If you’re going to add in black at the end liquid acrylic works well and looks super black. I use an old empty syringe dropper thingy to keep my washes consistent. I pre-mixed some dark, medium and light washes. If you look at the photo you can see my ratios.

The brushes I use are Raphael Kaerell. They’re a good intermediate synthetic haired brush. I like a good in-between that’s not too stiff and soft enough that it won’t damage the paper if I work an area a lot.

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I keep my palette on the left. I’m right handed. I don’t want to bump the palette or the rinse cup with my arm or drip shit across the painting dipping in and out. I only use one brush at a time. The same one does water and paint. I also don’t “spitshade.” That’s where you use your mouth to rewet your brushes. I use Dr. Ph Martins Liquid Watercolors and a heap of them say how toxic they are on the side of the bottle. Years ago I used to spitshade all the time and would go to bed with the worst heartburn and stomachache all the time. It turned out all the paint was eating away my throat lining. So now I use a damp sponge or a paper towel to wick away excess moisture from my brushes.


Using one of my medium brushes I brush water onto the area I’m trying to paint. I stay within the lines and try not to wet more of an area than I can get to before the water dries. You can always re-wet an area, but there’s a certain sweet spot as the water is drying when you touch paint to it and it just floats on the water in a semi-perfect gradient. After wetting the area I pay attention to the light from my lamp and when the section looks damp, but not shiny like there’s still water on the spot, I dry my brush off on the paper towel and dip into my lightest wash. When I place my brush to the area I’m painting I always set it down on the spot that is supposed to be the darkest and feather out in semicircles to the lightest point. Then I rinse my brush out in the water. Dry it off and work in reverse. Quickly I go back to the lightest area with my damp brush and feather the edges smooth. I continue dipping in and out of the various washes to build up my contrast. I’m didn’t do any straight black at this point. In this instance I left that until after I finished the color so it didn’t get too dark.

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Here’s what it looked like after I finished with the flight cap.


Next I did a little light gray shading on the cheeks and around the eye. This is where my reference really came in handy. I also did some hazy shading around the perimeter of the circle and star to add more depth.

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After the black washes were dry I moved on to my Dr. Ph. Martin’s. This stuff comes in a wide range of colors and in transparent and concentrated varieties. The brown here is Van Dyke in transparent. The transparent colors are great because the black shows through even after I’ve overlaid the color, which adds value and gives it a much richer look.

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Onto the skin tone. I used FWLiquid Acrylic’s Flesh Tint plus whatever else wa dry on my palette. Don’t ask me what it is. If you look close at the photo of my palette there’s a speck of a pink in the left hand corner that I was grateful for when doing the rouge on her cheeks. I use the liquid acrylic in areas that I wont be re-working the colors much. It’s rich, opaque and permanent. Not a paint for dilly-dallying.

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At this point I did something I regretted. I used this transparent watercolor from Martin’s for the lips and diamond logo on her cap, which was fine, but using it in the big star was a bonehead move. The star was done in pencil, so there was absolutely no border between the two different colors. As soon as I moved onto the border of gold on the star the colors kept bleeding together. Live and learn. I also used that red Pitt pen to add texture to the lips and do the cap’s trim and stitches. I could have done it with a brush but I’m an illustrator not a purist. Whatever gets the job done. The red gradients were done by wetting the area next to the girl’s face except the tiny border of white I left. Then filled the corner of the star with color and blended it out to be smooth. Ish.

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Next I moved on to Hydrus, which is a more pigment heavy watercolor made by Dr. Ph. Martin. It’s re-workable after it’s dried and will run if you get other colors on it.  Hydrus is a lot more opaque and rich looking than watercolor which is important in the lighter tones. I used Yellow Ochre for the darkest areas of the hair. I was just trying to get some tones in there and planned on adding the structure later.

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For the lightning bolts I added the color Gamboge (also Hydrus) to the palette and mixed it with the Yellow Ochre from the hair and the Van Dyke Brown from the cap to give them that gold metal look. I also did the star border with the same mixture. This is when I started cussing about the red running into my yellow from the scarlet being watercolor instead of acrylic.

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To help hide some of the leaky red I went into the gold color with a Prismacolor marker called Goldenrod and upped the value to a darker tone. I used the marker because I figured it would be less wet and give me better control.

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For the goggles I watered down some Slate Blue from Martin’s and worked around the perimeter of the goggles to give them a see-through look. This is why using the Liquid Acrylic flesh tint was important. If I had done this section with watercolor it would have bled all over the skin tone and ruined it. Instead I was able to overlay the color with ease. I mixed the blue and the brown to up the contrast on her eye shadow. Then I mixed that blue with a little flesh tint to make a light blue for the pupil.

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More Pitt pens for the hair. I used some sort of yellow ochre color to add in the lines for the individual hair separations.

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After everything was dry I ran through the whole thing with Copic Toner grey markers. There are various tones here—light, medium and dark. I use them where I need to up the contrast.  In this case, mostly the eyes and goggles and some drop shadows here and there.

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Next I used Pen white ink and a fine sable brush to go through the whole painting adding shiny stuff to it. Texture on the hat to give it that leather look. Glean on the metals. Wet lips and a twinkle in the eye. This stuff makes a huge difference.

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Done and done. Real happy with how it came out. Hope ya dig it. Part 2 will be about the lettering and surrounding areas.


April 19th, 2012

New Screen Prints

Iv’e got a lot of new screen prints in limited quantities on my Etsy store. Check them out.

January 23rd, 2012

New Store Items

I’ve added a few new things in my web store. Finally got around to getting copies of these paintings made. They’re museum quality replicas;14 X 30 inches on heavy watercolor paper. Done by the amazing people at Alpha Repro. Have a gander.

April 28th, 2011

Tsuchigumo Progression

This might be of interest to a few of you who like to paint in watercolor. It’s my preferred medium as I suck with most others. I did a painting of the giant earth spider Tsuchigumo recently for the Gomineko book project of japanese creatures. It’s from it’s moment of death when the belly of the beast was sliced open spilling  a lifetime of skulls along with hundreds of baby spiders. Cool story.

I tried to take a photo every night or whenever I was about to start a new stage in the progression. You can kind of see my process in layering my colors. Most of this is Dr. Martens Hydrus and Concentrated watercolor. There’s a little FW liquid acrylic in there too. All the black is Speedball ink. It’ was my first time trying that brand of ink in a painting and I had mixed results. I tried out a different kind of paper for this one much to my disliking. I used Reeves BFK on this for it’s smooth texture. It’s like a heavy linen hot press paper. I really struggled with it. It was great to line the design 0n but the concentrated water color would bleed like crazy. I really had problems getting the stuff to stay where I put it. Somewhere through the process I switched to Hydrus and the thicker paint with the pigment in it didn’t run nearly as bad. Suffice to say I won’t be using that paper again for this kind of project. Have a look. If you’re on facebook I’d love some feedback there as I’ve turned off comments on my site due to too much fucking spam. I’ve also got a few prints of this. Email me if you’re interested.

April 21st, 2011

Tattooing in Toronto this June

I’ll be coming to  Toronto again this year for the Northern Ink Exposure. I was honored to get to do the artwork for the poster this year so I very much look forward to seeing it posted everywhere. I think it came out pretty rad.I’ll also be Joining my friends at Seven Crowns Tattoo to do some guest work there as well. I’ll be there before the show doing tattoos that Tuesday and Wednesday the 14&15 of June. Contact me here to get tattooed at either event.

January 28th, 2011

New Prints available

I’ve been toting these around selling them at shows for a while now but never got around to posting them here. They were my contribution to my Visions of the Empire show last year. If anyone’s interested in buying prints I sell the set of three 5″x17″ prints for $50.00 bucks plus shipping. Email me at