Posts filed under ‘Commission’

2012 Milwaukee Film Festival Poster

From July 1 until October 19, I spent my days (and some nights) working for the Milwaukee Film as Marketing Coordinator for the 2012 Milwaukee Film Festival. I was mostly there to use my brain and words, coming up with film category names, and writing things like press releases, blog posts, the weekly (and daily) newsletters, and a fair amount of the non-film description copy in the official festival program guide. And during the festival itself, I was responsible for most of what you saw posted on Milwaukee Film’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Before my gig ended, Blyth (incredible boss, filmmaker, Director of Marketing) handed me one of the gigantic posters from the festival (designed by Cathy B. of Loneshoe Graphics) and asked me to draw all over it. The photos below are the end result.


10/23/2012 at 10:55 am 4 comments


A few weeks ago, I talked about being approached to use a piece of mine for a tribute card, to be handed out at a funeral. (And how being asked such a thing is simultaneously flattering and humbling.) I posted the piece here, but finally received the actual printed cards in the mail. If the printer is reading this, they turned out great:

For the sake of the card, i had to remove the text from the illustration, and lay it out on the back. No big deal. It looks much nicer this way:

Truth be told, this wasn’t the first time I’d been asked to contribute to the memorial card of someone near and dear to someone else. An incredible woman named Jane, who I befriended a few years ago, asked me to create one for her, too. Her mom had recently passed away, and she wanted something special to pass out at the service. The final piece wound up being a laminated bookmark. On the front, a field of lilies (her favorite flower):

On the back, an old Scottish saying:

It translates to, “Long may your chimney smoke.” Man, do I love that!

05/21/2012 at 2:11 pm 1 comment


Bethany Shady, a.k.a. “Sidekick22,” is an author. She wrote a children’s book called Matilda Turnip’s Endless Belly Button, and a novel for grown-ups called The Interview. (Click here to learn more about ’em.)

Jorge Garcia is an actor who’s appeared in a number of films and TV shows, including Becker, Curb Your Enthusiasm, How I Met Your Mother, and a little show you’ve probably never heard of called LOST.

When LOST was still on the air, the two of them had a great podcast called Geronimo Jack’s Beard. which I’d listen to every week because:
a) the two of them were hilarious, and
b) it was kind of cool to hear one of the actual show’s lead actors talk about what HE thought was happening, and what was going to happen.

Now Jorge’s on a new show called Alcatraz, playing the distinguished Dr. Diego Soto. Click here to watch the trailer. Then click here and subscribe to the new podcast he and Sidekick22 are doing about the show, called (appropriately and hilariously— or “hair-iously”) Diego’s Soul Patch. That shiny drawing up there is the podcast’s official artwork. Yes, I’m mighty excited to have my doodles affiliated with a show I’ll no doubt be nerding out about for seasons to come.

Check it out, then let them (and me) know what you think!

01/16/2012 at 1:12 pm 2 comments


This is my pal Julia. She’s one of my favorite people to draw. And this painting was my gift to her for her third birthday.

(Who are we kidding? This is more a gift for her MOM than it is for her.)

Happy birthday, peanut!

01/14/2012 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment


If you were out and about in Milwaukee during the month of December, and wondered why you didn’t see me much, it’s because of these paintings I’m about to show you. Every year, when December 01 rolls around, I find myself chained to my desk, painting until the Ghost of Arthritis Future shows up.

These aren’t all of them. Just the handful I wanted to share, in case you have some Holiday Gift Money burning a hole in your pocket.

First up is this sweet family portrait. It’s the first thing I’ve ever painted while listening to a Monday Night Football game via Internet radio. And despite the unfortunate outcome of the game, I managed to keep my sadness at bay and bring only happiness to the finished piece. I love putting people in boats. I also double-loved painting this particular dog:

A very generous mom emailed me for a painting for her son. He likes super heroes. She wanted me to paint him as a super hero. So I did. The original version was just him, in flight, looking at the viewer. Then I remembered when I was a little boy, how most of my playing consisted of me taking the good guy toys, and having them beat up the bad guy toys. I decided to let that inspire this:

Obvious safety issues aside, this was one of my favorite pieces to do this year. Largely because I know the proud Papa this was painted for. But also because everything just plain clicked for me– the colors, the textures. In short: the complete and total art nerd in me was pleased. Too bad the holidays made me so scatterbrained that I forgot to get a solid scan of this:

If you’re one of the six people who regularly read this, you know how much I like words, and love drawing them. Rebecca knows this. That’s why she asked me to letter this beautiful verse from a man named Arnold. It’s a poem that was a part of her wedding, and this was lettered for the man she married:

It looks even better framed:

Like I said– there were a few others. Some I have scans of. Some I spent a LOT of time on yet somehow managed to completely forget to grab a photo of. C’est la vie. (That’s French for, “Meh…”) But if any of you handsome water-drinkers ever needs someTHING special for your someONE special, well, I’m just sayin’… I know a guy.

12/29/2011 at 5:14 pm Leave a comment


First thing’s first. Watch this short movie trailer:

Good stuff, right? Obviously, that’s Louder Than A Bomb— a documentary that follows four Chicago-area high school students as they compete in a well-known spoken word competition. Based on the trailer alone, I realized two things:

1. There’s hope for the future yet, and

2. I didn’t even have half the command of the English language that these kids have.

I also realized this had to be the film I made a poster for. Milwaukee Film decided that, for this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival, they’d ask a bunch of artists to make posters inspired by the festival film of their choosing. Each poster would then be turned into a limited-edition screenprint, to be sold at the MKE Film Festival’s opening night party.

This was the first film poster I ever made. The first one I ever had a chance to make. It was also one of about 1,000 projects due at roughly the same time. But I saved this one for last, so I could dig in, uninterrupted. And since I’ve been neglecting sharing much of anything lately, I thought I’d post a very quick run through the process.


One of my least favorite things about modern movie posters is how they generally just show you who’s in the movie, instead of hinting at what the movie’s about. Not all, but most. For example: When Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11 (which I absolutely love) came out, I remember seeing promotional graphics that looked like this. Fantastic! Except I wound up seeing this version more. And it’s what stuck for the DVD, too. Bo-ring! I know what George Clooney looks like. I know what Brad Pitt looks like. But what I don’t know is what the movie is about. Looking at that DVD cover, you’d think it was a movie about a bunch of dudes standing around being good-looking for two hours. (Admittedly, it kind of is, so maybe this particular example isn’t the best one to use.)

I didn’t want to fall into that trap for this. I didn’t want to draw the actual kids reciting poetry. I didn’t want to use a film still and just plop some type over it. I wanted to make something you could look at, and walk away with a general understanding as to what the film is about. Something that used symbolism and references, since, you know, we’re all smart enough to understand that stuff. And so, as you can see in this first step, I tried to come up with things that would do that. The one thing that stuck right from the start was my desire to use Nate Marshall’s quote from the trailer.


After a solid seven days of that initial sketch starting at me, I realized I hated almost everything in it. There had to be a better way to convey that this was about a spoken-word competition in Chicago, Illinois where high school kids compete. A way to do it, without literally drawing kids, or a high school, or Chicago. I just so happened to be writing a letter to a friend. (Yes, I still do that sometimes.) On loose-leaf paper. And so, an idea I actually liked was born.


In my sketch, I decided to letter the Nate Marshall quote in the shape of a bomb, as a nod to the title. And, since the poster would be 19″ x 24″, I’d need to letter it bigger than I normally work. What you see here is the second of two versions I lettered like so. The first was inked in a less flowy way, kind of like how the words “So” and “come” look in this one. And I hated it. The letterforms weren’t clicking into the bomb shape like I wanted. So I started this second one, penciled the exact same way as the first. But once I started inking, I decided to ignore the pencils, and freehand it to make the letters better conform to the round bomb shape.

You can see places where I noted what I didn’t like in this one.

What you don’t see is the giant mental note I made for myself, about how, in the end, I completely hated the entire thing.

STEP 4: K.I.S.S.

One of the hardest things about being self-employed is not having an Art Director looking over your shoulder, telling you when the thing you’re doing is not the best thing for the concept/project. It’s a form of self-discipline I’ve tried very hard to work on over the years. This is one of those moments. What I was doing before? With that bomb-shaped type? Not only was it redundant, but it didn’t convey what the movie was about as well as certain other solutions would. “Keep It Simple, Stupid.” Most of the time, I keep this in mind. But it took me wasting an entire day drawing and inking two bomb-shaped clusters of type to realize I was only serving my own selfish desire to try out fancy lettering.

Conceptually, that stuff was inappropriate. The words needed to be legible, since the words are essentially the star of the show.

And no kid doodles letters on loose leaf paper using ink and brush. They use ball-point pen. Plus, as you’ll see in a minute, having the lettering shaped like a bomb would wind up being extremely redundant.


This is the digital final of the poster. I built a fake sheet of notebook paper in Illustrator (but left out the holes that normally fall in the margin), brought it into Photoshop, and placed the newly inked quote on top of it. I drew a microphone at the bottom, since most spoken word is done into a mic. And I drew the mic’s cord as a lit fuse at the end, as my sole visual nod to the title. I set the film title, credits, and show times digitally, trying my best to mimic a film poster. And the orange background was only to let the printer know I wanted this thing to be on orange paper.


The final poster was printed by the incredibly gifted folks at Orchard Street Press. I love when I get to work with them. They print my work as if they care about it more than I do. (They probably do.) Everything that was black in the digital version was printed in navy blue for the actual poster. It was the last conceptual detail I needed for the poster to be complete. This is a documentary that takes place in Chicago. Yet nothing on the poster lets you know that. In my pea-sized brain, the only color scheme that could universally say “Chicago” was the same color scheme used by the Chicago Bears. Sorry, Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks. Your color schemes could easily be mistaken for something else.

You can barely tell in these photographs, but there’s a lot of really nice semi-transparency going on in that blue ink.

I definitely made sure to give young poet Nate Marshall credit on the poster, too.

If you’re reading this before the dates listed on this poster, I expect to see you there. But don’t get there before I do. Unless you save me a really good seat.

I was always taught to sign and number things like this, just so folks know what they have is a pretty special thing (if only because there are so few of them in existence). So, keep that in mind if you want one. Milwaukee Film only has 25 of these (with an extra one for the director), and they’re selling them for $25. Every penny goes back to Milwaukee Film, so they can keep bringing great films (and a great festival) to this city. You could probably contact them using some of the info listed here.

09/28/2011 at 1:08 pm 6 comments


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Last week, Nate (The 5th Goonie who also hosts some great events at Jackalope Lounj) texted me to make a flier for his Thursday night giggity with DJ Black Mix. He let me loose to just do what I do. (Take note, people interested in hiring me.) So with the help of some old timey etchings, a copy machine, and my own scribbles, this came out. Made me realize how much I prefer a limited palate.



07/27/2011 at 5:51 pm Leave a comment

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