(Sketchy) Skull-y Saturday

If there’s one thing to be said about sketching, it’s that its a training ground for ideas, concepts, and a scratchpad for something you’ve been toying around with.


Getting Motivated & Organized : The Storyline

Of all things that are most dubious, daunting or otherwise… none compare to the storline. If your jazzed about it, the complexity and excitement shows. If it’s just straight ‘meh’… it will get amplified. And if you’re in my boat…it’s downright terrifying (but in a good way).

Consider your own fears (for better or worse) an excellent reason to get motivated or view them as an opportunity for some good ol’fashion introspection. With the right amount of the stuff and harnessing it correctly, fear (or rather the urge to overcome it) can prove a to be a powerful ally.

Stepping Up to the Plate: The Storyline The storyline for the graphic novel of my mine is just about laid out. Some authors use post its, cue cards,  notecards…or just binders of scrap paper thrown together. Use whatever the method works for you. 

Those little index notecards just happen to be the right size for the sections of the narrative. Some sections happen to be more full, others… not so much. But good writing should be a blend of both a slower pace sequences matched near faster paced.

Consider your favorite piece of writing (or yarn, flick or graphic novel). There’s a pacing, a rhythm, a sort of melody in the way events and characters happen. 

The cool thing about index cards is that you can shuffle them around and rewrite or reorganize them without getting too overattached to them*. The flexibility is a happy sandbox for which you can really play around with.

*(The majority of good writers have the common advice of “not getting married to the first idea but rather having it be a springboard for new ideas”. Also, unless your James Joyce, your first go’round will be pretty raw/cruddy to begin with. Gotta start somewhere though! )

References: sketching and field trips

Sketching from life (still life, life drawing, field sketching) is a handy exercise to keep your eye trained that reference drawing can’t compare to. In this case, a field trip to a zoo that had a small variety of deer proved relaxing, informative, and downright fun. Most of the sketches were tonal or gestural. There were definitely angles of how the jaw located to the neck, unusual behaviors which the deer displayed, and  new body physiology that a reference photo (even Google’s hoard) couldn’t really display (re: folds in the fur, environmental details).



Needless to say, if you can get out there and sketch your subject (even little thumbnails), it’ll improve your drawing and educate your artistic endeavors.

Art style sketches + scribbles

About 3/4ths through the block of time carved out for project production, my mind starts to splutter. The writing gears just sort of give out.


That’s when art style and direction exercises take over. The scribbles & sketches seen above are experiments (though they might not look it) and studies of what works while using black ink, white acrylic, and Sharpie marker on toned paper.

There’s something cathartic about these scribble-dibbles.

#tonedpaper #sketch #doodle #art #creature #skull #skullbottle #ghosties #ghost #spooky #blackwhite #artdirection

“Dear”: Scripting + Narrative

Well, it’s underway. Framework & first round narrative script is coming along. Lots of research, tea, headaches, and conceptual elements are being thrown around.


There are rooted motifs that I’m sticking with and there are trashed ideas that I’ve thoughtfully set aside. But most of all the current working title is “Dear”. There’s an energy behind it that keeps pulling like a hook behind my belly button towards something true.


The great moments so far observed are that there’s a sorta ‘director’-ship running the creation of the graphic novel project. Half of my brain gets wound up over the writing of the story, characters, and setting/pacing while the other half distresses it by just … well drawing, creating, editing, and playing around.


And So It Begins: The Embers of a Graphic Novel

The next two weeks will be interesting to say the least as I’ll be colliding worlds with the reinvigorated journey on creating a graphic novel.


Currently setting down plot, character, theme, and narrative parameters. Scripting down key plot points. Going to be an interesting and long, long trek to say the least.

The Doc(tor) is Sin

After being intrigued, nay, engulfed by the brilliant artwork of gig posters, traditional tattoo design work, and many copious hours of listening to the the hilarious interviews at either San Diego Comic Con or New York Comic Con of the duo behind The Venture Bros. (and excellent cult-classic cartoon. Think “what would happen if Johnny Quest started aging?”) … an illustration piece was born.

A thoughtful look into the creative process behind the makings of a custom tattoo sleeve design illustration by Rebecca Miller featuring Doc Hammer of the Venture Bros.

[Upper left-hand photo] The rough sketch for the tattoo sleeve design illustration is hewed out onto a sheet of luxuriously soft cotton rag 110b white paper.

The feel of this paper is oh-so-charming that I know fellow letterpress printers flock to it for their haute couture wedding invites and business cards. Illustrators fawn over it as well since it’s a nice balance between hot and cold press. Re: hot press paper = generally smooth. Cold press paper = textured and slightly rough.

[Upper right-hand photo] After many critical edits, re-works and fine-tuning of the overall composition… the drawing is then inked. Microns and Faber Castel brush pens were used as they tend not to smudge or rub off when using an eraser to clean-out pencil lifework.

[Bottom photo] Finally, the last bit of inking is done and the artwork is digitized and cleaned-up thoroughly via Adobe Photoshop (hint: Brightness Contrast and Image>Adjustments>Threshold are your friends, really).

Lastly, color is digitally added as well as the final finishing touches. Usually I wait at least three days so the artwork can “sit” and I can come back to it. Normally, the composition is minutely tweaked until completed or my original rough final is still what I had in mind and no further tweaks are needed.

A thoughtful look into the creative process behind the makings of a custom tattoo sleeve design illustration by Rebecca Miller featuring Doc Hammer of the Venture Bros.

Prints available here for a limited time! Enjoy! http://www.designbyhumans.com/shop/framed-art-print/the-doc-is-sin/

(c) Rebecca Miller illustration.

#venturerbros #theventurebros #illustration #rebeccamillerillustration #dochammer #jacksonpublick #doc hammer illustration #doc hammer art #dochammerart #cookies #theventurebrothers #venturebrosart #venturebrosillustration #tattoo #tattooed #tattooillustration #tattoodesign #tattooart #tattootraditional #gigposter #gigposterillustration #tattoosleeve #tattoosleeveart #tattooflash #tattooflashart

“Dear” project update + recap

The “Dear” graphic novel project is making slight head-way as an upcoming production session has been scheduled for late December 2016 through early January 2017. Below is a recap of past sketches, thoughts and other ephemera that’s been floating around in this brainpan of mine.

From January 18th, 2015 blog post:

“Its been a while since i posted (life got in the way) but heres to hopefully a new year chocked full of progress shots of an upcoming long term project that is waaaay overdue and needs to get out of my system.   Above snapshot: pen and ink warmup and sketching study of deer.

The long-haul visual design project that is now in my creation queue is a graphic novel. It’s taken the better part of four years to be able to step back and be able to tell an un-compromised  story accurately but just recently there was a turn and catalyst about a month or two back(namely a few friends + supporting characters that you’ll see in days to come).

So consider the next oncoming entries the really rough visual underpinnings and evolving studies for final pages, pieces, cover art, etc. Some of the posts may be non-sequitur but these outliers will hopefully serve as fences and boundaries for the realms the project is going to enter.”

From January 19th, 2015 blog post:
About a few days ago, I stumbled across this gem of a youtube video from the excellent crew over at Extra Credits (long time fan of the show BTW) that covers the very basics of starting to create your own video game ( as well as thoughtful questions to ponder and advice before jumping in headfirst ).

A lot of practical applicable advice (e.g. don’t expect a Hollywood-esque result if it’s your first go but be proud that you’re actually making something) and just in time with regards to what I’m working on. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a wee bit of motivation and a very rough set of organization tips to keep whatever you’re doing on track.

From January 20th, 2015 blog post:


Just a quick snapshot of the sprawl that’s been over my workspace and a teaser of a WIP anthropomorphic creature that I’ve been in the middle of working through ( as well as glimpses into the chaotic thought process of filtering through what needs to go in the story and what doesn’t).

There are two large hand bound sketch pads that I’ve had for a quite a bit of time (and holding on to for good reasons) and this foray into the project seems a good use for them.

For those at home keeping tabs on this blog, the next year’s worth of posts are being dedicated to recording sketches, final pieces of illustration work and sequential art pieces. The (zealous) goal is aiming to finish a graphic novel in a year (as this is a long overdue project).  Some future material may not be suitable for certain audiences so I’ll do my best to leave warnings.

Anthropomorphic art: after reviewing past personal sketches, drawings an illustrations I realized that a common theme of more ‘finished visual thoughts’ started to emerge: the use of anthropomorphic imagery and subjects. It didn’t help that a few months ago, I was introduced to Misao Kinoshita’s mythological sculptural works that explored (and how!) the musculature structures envisioned for more well-known mythical & fantastic creatures.

masao kinoshita

(photographic image credit: Misao Kinoshita)

A portion of the novel seems to be gravitating towards this theme and its quite intriguing to question the use of it (especially in contexts of visual narratives in general).

From January 22nd, 2015 blog post


From the git-go, if you were to ask what is the first thing that caught your eye if you picked up a graphic novel or comic book, it’s going to be the characters (one dimensional or well rounded). This is just a quick warm-up practice sheet of just general facial expressions and a conscious effort to see the human form in an almost sculptural way. E.g. how does the nose change when looked from up above? Down low? What micro expressions on the face do you see  when you mix fear and anger?

Updates on narrative direction coming soon.

From January 23rd, 2014 blog post:
Just a quick snapshot of a some of today’s sketchbook character expressions/designs fun. One of the potential main characters will probably be a modified version of this. Just how much … That’s going to be the hard part as this character is set is directly based off of the whimsical, otterlike playfulness that David Tennant exudes.
From February 3rd, 2015 blog post:
A quick WIP piece that is an experiment in use of line and color blocks on cardboard. The crown and use of solid white with black outline near larger bodies of white (no outline with use of the brown toned paper) is proving to be aesthetically balanced. This piece is a reference style study for what’s to come potentially.

(Artist credit: Mike Mignola,  B.P.R.D.:Plague of Frogs Volume 3) 

I was able to get the chance to read  B.P.R.D. (an offshoot off of the Hellboy series) and just happend to fall in love with a small vignette of a story right at the end of vol. 3 involving a Wendigo creature named Daryl. The yarn is told via flashback as a “sad ghost story” and does a very good job exploring the legends and mythos of the Wendigo creature.

The concept of the ‘creature’ within us all and just what triggers this beast to consume/dominate/overtake us is a critical element on where my current work is heading. Questions of where does one stop becoming ‘human’ or ‘normal’ In today’s modern world and how does one cope or confront issues (personal/community/etc)? Is the ‘creature’ that we become our curse or an unapologetic mechanism of either progress or devolution.  And where does that fine line lie?

From February 6th, 2015 blog post
More experiments with block white highlights near stronger line work while sketching hands. Of all the items on the human body the hands (and to a certain extent the lips) are the punctuation in the visual statement of body language. Thoughts to chew on while sketching.

From March 8th, 2015 blog post


A very quick and dirty sketch of one of the main places the graphic novel is to take place. Most of the detail is taken from memory. The way the grass sloped up and the neat tree line flanking the rear and left side of this particular building. I haven’t been near this site in about four years…so needless to say..  a field trip might be in the cards soon. I know that there are a few angles of the building that I personally never saw but would like have done that would compliment the style I’m heading towards.

Side thought: They say that when your trying to “sell” anything fantastical or non realistic (illustration or drawing wise or even in a narrative) that there has to be either in the environment, characters, or objects/ideas something that the audience can relate to. Either it’s as small as a common item found in our world to the language / slang heard.  Where I’m heading… It just happens to be human personality coupled with a somewhat familiar American homes.

From November 16th, 2015 blog post 


Sketch Stretch# 3 Your Parents
(Micron on 1-ply bamboo white paper)

Before we go all Freud-y on this subject, if you’d ever seen my parents together the above rendered illustration is comically (and painfully) accurate.

Curiously enough, the same simplistic facial features and the way that proportions/linework for the upcoming graphic novel project and foreshadows of what’s to come and evolve.

The project (so far) has been a simmering and swirling plot of cerebral goo and intrigue. Hopefully the (micron) pen will be able translate what’s flurrying around in my brain.

June 20th, 2016 blog post

Sometimes getting back into the rhythm of things is like relearning how to speak. You start off rough, learn how to form sounds, piece together some parts and mash up others to form new words and meanings. Drawing or revitalizing a project can be looked at in the same manner.

Sketches of tonight’s rainy excursion on forming characters and art direction.