It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Next Big Thing

I was recently invited to
 participate in the Next Big Thing blog series. I was invited by my friend and business partner Rae Francoeur who was in turn invited by June Shaw a blogger on . I was asked to answer 

ten interview questions for the Next Big Thing about the book my wife and I are currently working on.

1. What is your working title of your book?

 Pyewackett of Salem.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

 The idea came from a visit to the Friendship here in Salem, MA. The friendship is a replica of a 18th-century Indiaman, a cargo ship that traveled to the far east. We were asking about the various imported spices and how they kept ever-present rats from spoiling the cargo. Although the sailors themselves sometimes would hunt rats with clubs to keep them in check, there was also a long tradition of having a ship's cat. These cats lived on board and not helped to preserve the cargo by hunting rats, but their presence also improved the morale of the crew.
British warships had ship's cats until 1977.

3. What genre does your book fall under? Children's Literature.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition? 
Well the main character is a cat, so I have no idea. For the role of Thomas the cabin boy, probably someone like young British actor Thomas Sangster. It would be nice to have known character actors play the captain and the first officer.

5.What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A ship's cat eye-view of a 19th-century sailing adventure as Pyewacket, a large, intelligent cat, and his new friend, Thomas the cabin-boy take their first sea voyage to Sumatra on the cargo vessel Friendship.

6.Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

We are not represented by an agency, and are resistant to taking the self-publishing route. We submitted it to one local publisher who passed on it. It is now at a second publisher and we are waiting to see if they bite.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Well my wife wrote the initial draft in a couple of days, but we've been revising and refining it for about two years.

8.What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Probably Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter by Richard Platt (author) and illustrator Chris Riddell.

9.Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My wife and I own a particularly-large grey cat with a lot of personality, and it was not a great leap to imagine him as a ship's cat.M y wife came up with the idea of Pyewackett's first voyage coinciding with that of a young cabin boy named Thomas on the Friendship's trip to Sumatra in 1802.

10.What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?
The book has a local-history connection. Although the voyages to the far east are well documented, the cat's-eye view of the trip will hopefully as a new angle.

Friday, November 16, 2012


A poster for the STC production of "Reckless".
The original artwork was lost, so I had to
reconstruct the artwork from 6 different pieces of art.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monday, July 23, 2012

Yes, I Do Maps

As you may know, if you follow my posts, I sometimes work for History Alive! a program run by the Gordon College Institute of Public History. One of the things that they run is Pioneer Village, located at Forest River Park in Salem, For years they have used this map of the village to guide tourists. Here is the old map:

Here is my take on the same map.

Although the old map is simple and gets the job done, I am trying to raise the bar by giving the map more detail and context, in a hope that it will entice prospective visitors by giving them a better idea of what to expect when they arrive there and to make it look like a more interesting and richer experience than the first map would indicate.

Friday, July 20, 2012

New England Pirate Faire Poster

Latest poster work for the New England Pirate Faire being put on at Pioneer Village at Forest River Park in Salem, MA, by Pastimes Entertainment and the Gordon College Institute for Public History.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Recent Work - Spring 2012

I haven't posted since April. One might think I was slacking, but I have been pretty busy with projects, as well as maintaining 6 blogs and several websites. I am also working on a logo for a new, Boston-area theatre company, developing ads for a well-known local music venue, and starting a very large logo/branding project.
Here is some recent print poster work for the STC Salem Theatre Company  and a rack card for the Essex National Heritage Commission for the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway project.

A PICASSO was so popular, the original run of the play was extended by several weeks. This is the extended run version of the poster.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Screwing around with Photoshop

It's been a couple of months since my last post. I haven't been completely idle. Besides several smaller projects such as logos and rack cards, my business partner and I have been working on a proposal for a very large contract job which involves the branding for several scenic byways in western, MA. If we get the job, we will be busy for the next 18 months.
In the meantime I have been experimenting (screwing around) with some of the 10,000+ photographs I have taken over the last 5 years. (digital cameras, boon or curse?) to come up with some interesting artwork. I sometimes will use my digital photos and Photoshop to compose images that I wish to paint or illustrate later. In art school I was trained in the old-school method of making numerous thumbnails for composition, then proceeding to sketches from life or photo reference and then incorporating those into a detailed study before committing the work to final canvas or illustration board. That is a very time-consuming and labor intensive process. I have shortcut that process by going from thumbnails directly to shooting the reference myself and then arranging the separate photographic elements in the final composition in Photoshop.
To my old-school, analog mind, this feels a little bit like cheating. There is something to be said for the longer process, but time = expense, and i just don't have that kind of time. I also justify this in my mind by remembering that artists I admire such as Norman Rockwell extensively used photographic reference in their work, and by the fact that I am taking the reference photos myself, and there is still quite a bit of thinking, re-drawing and artistic decision-making to be done. It is just a new tool for accomplishing the same thing. And I am all for saving time.
Here is one example. A photo taken of me (with my camera) by a friend at a Christmas party several years ago. (Why am I holding a Colt .45 at a Christmas party? It's a long story, but basically one of our friends had bought it as a gift,  and was going from this party to give it to the person he bought it for, and he hadn't gift-wrapped it yet, so he had it with him, and was very excited to show it to everyone. I was dressed as a Victorian for a Dickens Christmas event, and the old-time gun and holster just seemed to go with my outfit, so I seized the opportunity and asked a friend to take my picture).
Although I really like the basic pose, the photo was kind of useless as is as I am wearing mostly black, and photographed against a very dark background. All the detail of my outfit and the top hat get kind of lost. Photoshop to the rescue! First I adjusted the shadows/highlights so that I could delineate between the figure and the background. Then I selected/isolated the figure from the background and deleted the background.
I wasn't happy with the way that the top hat looked in the photo, so I took another photo of the same hat, that had similar lighting and dropped that over the top of my head. Now that the figure was clear of the background, I created a new layer and used the brush tool to trace over/outline the image details in black, enhancing, cleaning and adding to the image as I went.
I ran several Photoshop filters (paint daubs, poster edges, saturation) on the colored background, duplicating the layers and making each one a transparency of 50% to give it a more organic, varied and less-photographic, look. I then combined the layers and flattened the image.
Here is the result. I have used this technique before to "artify" photos.
Although it still feels a bit like cheating, it seems better than just running one artistic filter on the image as is. It gives me the ability to alter details to my liking and still maintain a realistic semi-photographic look. What do you think of the effect?

Original photo (left) and reworked "artified" image (right)

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Couple of Watercolor Studies

Just a couple of quick watercolor studies of water. Trying to get that translucent-water look is not that easy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Ram's Head Lighthouse

My latest painting is of Ram's Head Lighthouse, which is just outside of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. It was done as a birthday present for my father-in-law. I based the painting on a photo that I took on a trip to Boothbay 2 years ago. My wife and I stayed at a little place called the Tugboat Inn, and as part of our package, we got a free trip on an excursion boat around Boothbay Harbor. The photo was taken as we cruised by the lighthouse. The day was cool and foggy, so I added in the blue sky, the dory, and the seagulls. The painting is 14" x 18" on stretched canvas, and is painted in acrylic.