Monday, December 7, 2015


Ice skating beside the beach at the Hotel Del this past weekend

Robot in Balboa Park

Steampunk inspiration

Cracking contraptions

Drum Dream Girl: Literary Stroll around the neighborhood in Boston

From beauty salons to Cuban restaurants and health centers, the Drum Dream girl took a literary stroll around the neighborhood thanks to the Boston Public Library and an innovative idea that was the brainchild of Sujei Lugo. Read: Drum Dream Girl Story Walk in Latin@s in Kid Lit.

What a great way to have fun and integrate the community bringing families to the library.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


A week I ago I dreamt about this tiger from India and had to wake up early in the morning to paint him.

His face blushing in shame. The temptation proved too strong for Ferdinand the Bull as he munches away at the last flower that bloomed on his hilltop.

After learning that Little Red Riding Hood and Grandma haven't spoken in years, the wolf goes for Plan B. Red however is very clever and decides to shop online.

Study for Maybe Something Beautiful

Here is one of the studies I created for Maybe Something Beautiful due out next April. The story was inspired by the work we have done with many dedicated volunteers in the East Village of downtown San Diego. I was looking for mood and atmosphere as the story written by Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell starts with a little girl who lives in a grey city.

I wanted to try something new and challenged myself to experiment with this book. Riding around on my bicycle I shot photos of buildings in our neighborhood. I then painted the outer shapes of the structures using acrylic paint on wooden boards to get the texture background. One of my favorite downtime pastimes is photographing textures and these came from my urban file. This was compiled digitally to deliver the grit I was looking for.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Maybe Something Beautiful

This year several new books took flight from my drawing table. This one hits home.

Maybe Something Beautiful written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell due out this April from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

The genesis of this book was a personal journey that started in 1997 when my wife Candice and I bought an old car garage in an edgy neighborhood at that time, the East Village of downtown San Diego. We were in our thirties and put down all our savings to make it happen. My mother in law cried when she first visited and couldn't fathom our choice of a first home in a such a challenging part of town. Undeterred we rented two industrial wet vacuum cleaners to scrub the car grease off the floors and began digging car parts out of the back yard. For ten years we worked with our friend Daniel to transform our home into a live/work studio where we could create and dream. In 2007 we stood back and took a deep breath. The once cold, dark 3,200 square foot space at last felt warm, and inviting. We were happy, sort of.

You see there was a big issue all too evident the moment you opened the front door. Drug dealing and related violence ruled the streets. That gray darkness outside extended into our home. We noticed that most people in our neighborhood walked looking down. They were sad, depressed or perhaps just afraid to make eye contact. The signs of struggle were all around and the few families who lived nearby rushed across the streets to get inside quick and lock their doors. Not knowing what to do we put up flyers and held a meeting at a local school to try to figure something out. We decided the best thing to do was something we knew. To use art to transform our neighborhood. After many meetings in our loft which became the paint station and staging area, the Urban Art Trail was born. It started with the painting of electrical boxes once used as makeshift offices by drug dealers. I developed a series of large murals that worked like giant paint by numbers so untrained artists could be involved. The trail grew to include benches, sidewalk poetry, sculpture, urban bird houses and mosaics. Working together with neighbors, children, students, graffiti artists, teachers, designers, residents of women's and homeless shelters and many others we transformed our community.
The East Village today is a great place to live and work.

Imagine my excitement when Isabel Compoy and Theresa Howell crafted an inspiring story about young Mira and her neighbors based on the actual Urban Art Trail. Below are sketches from the pages of our book. Featured in this 2016 Picture Book Preview from Jbrary. Thanks Lindsay and Dana for your early support of this new book. 

As this is based on our own story it felt right to take some risks and try new mixed media techniques that blend original photographs I shot of the East Village, digital, watercolor and acrylic on wood. I look forward to sharing these techniques in future posts.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Power to Persevere

Looking back at the year I've been thinking about the power of perseverance and it's importance in my own life. What mattered most in the story Margarita Engle wrote about Millo Castro Zaldarriga, was her determined courage to keep going. It's much easier to give up than persist through setback and disappointments. 

The volcanic color and expressions in the eyes were important. Her sisters emotions include deep sadness, shock and numbness. I wanted the ache in Millo's face to reveal a hint of fortitude in her eye.
This scene needed to communicate the injustice and intimidation Millo felt. The pain of her rebuke is contrasted
by the carefree expressions and movement of children free to drum.
Millo's dream to drum is above all else yet out of reach.
She feels anguish, bittersweet emotion and longing.

Millo has unstoppable determination to overcome the distance to her dream.

In early November, I made this drawing of Churchill. He had vision and leadership but his persistence is what really stands out for me.

BIG ideas from Sir Winston:

Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no less enthusiasm. 
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.
Continuous effort-not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking your potential. 

He struggled with poor health, hives, boils, rashes, pneumonia, strokes, a lisp and was practically deserted by his parents. As a politician he was often disliked by his colleagues and like all of us had his faults. What made him remarkable is that each time he fell down he stood up again. He wasn't afraid to take an unpopular point of view and was known to cross the aisle if he believed in something. He pressed on and on to lead his country and the world.

Bessie Coleman from Wikipedia

BESSIE COLEMAN came from a family of sharecroppers and grew up in poverty. She walked four miles to school each day and excelled at Math. An avid reader, she was compelled to fly after reading about World War I pilots. As a black woman she would never be accepted to an American pilot school so she took a French-language class at the Berlitz School in Chicago and moved to France. Bessie simply refused to take no for an answer. Enrolling in flight school she eventually did exhibition flying as a barnstormer and gave lectures across the United States from 1922 to 1926. She turned down opportunities to perform unless audiences were desegregated and her career as the world's first African American pilot inspired those who would follow. Today there is a postal stamp in her honor, a library and middle school that bears her tenacious name.

JANE GOODALL the determined scientist and conservationist whose patience and persistence to understand animals contributed so much to the world.

MARIE CURIE whose admirable persistence in the face of many research obstacles made a difference. She used her amazing discoveries to help develop therapies for disease.

EINSTEIN took years to formulate his theories of relativity.  Despite learning disabilities he persevered transforming the way we look at the world. This amazing thinker said "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer".

Developing an attitude of persistence is vital to being an illustrator. I've learned that for every sketch that works, there are reams of ideas on tracing tissue that simply don't. I file them away in drawers and hold on to them just to remind myself to keep drawing. Sometimes an old sketch might spark an idea for a future project but often they sit there turning brown as the years go by. As a young artist I was intensely frustrated when things didn't come out just right. Over time I realized it's important to get over perfectionism and keep going. Procrastination takes over if you focus on your failures.

Now that I have a son I know it is most important to complement him on working really hard. I want to encourage him to choose more challenging tasks and know that in the marathon of life persistence counts. We all need to model persistence and teach kids it's good to make mistakes and fall short. Let them feel those big feelings when they fail, tell them to take breaks but most importantly keep going.When learning not to give up a child may hit the wall but you've got to aim their sights at the door and teach them how to find the opening.

I hope the story and images in Drum Dream Girl will encourage children to ask thoughtful questions and keep dreaming. To become problem solvers and never give up. Grow the determination needed to achieve their goals and keep practicing.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Monday, September 28, 2015

Howling at the Moon

"There are nights the wolves are silent and only the moon howls"-George Carlin

Perhaps it was because my mother used to sing an Argentinian song Cancion para bañar la luna to me as a child, but I remember staring for hours on end at the moon. As an artist I've succumbed to the moon's magnetic pull on my work. In San Miguel de Allende there is a tradition of giving your house a name and ours is called Manto de Luna-meaning cloak of the moon. Last night was one of those rare celestial events-the total supermoon lunar eclipse, right out of a science fiction novel.  I found a dark corner of Coronado Island and waited for the moon's hue to reach a blood red tint.

Winter Moon, Planter's Moon, Harvest Moon, Dragon Moon, Snow Moon, Wildcat Moon, Mulberry Moon, Moon when all things ripen, Twelfth Moon, Moon when geese return in scattered formation, Singing Moon, Lightning Moon, Flying Fish Moon. These are nicknames to describe the changing moon from Native American, New Guinea, Colonial American, Celtic and Chinese cultures.

Illuminating and inspiring poetry, music, literature, art and ME. Today I wanted to pay tribute to Earth's only natural satellite, LUNA.

Total Supermoon Lunar Eclipse from Coronado Island