I got the Blues!

This design was shot- down for use as a Blues Fest Poster, so I’ve re-purposed it as a tribute to Lightnin’ Hopkins, one of my favorite blues artists. If you get a chance, watch The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins by the great documentary filmmaker Les Blank!

Magical Memories

I was just going through my backed -up files and stumbled upon a bunch of toons I did years ago in collaboration with an old co-worker of mine, Josh Mandel. Josh was a writer/game designer for the venerable Sierra On-Line, creator of legendary adventure games back in the 90s. Josh did some Leisure Suit Larry stuff, Space Quest, Freddy Pharkas: Frontier Pharmacist…etc.  He’s a funny guy. Many years later, we found ourselves working together as freelancers for the National Institute for Health, creating an educational game, D.M. Dinwiddie, Physician in Training. We spent a lot of time on the phone and e-mail and eventually the fact that Josh does magic came up. We decided to pitch some cartoons with a magic theme to the great magician’s magazine, “Genii”. It was a classy publication with loads of cool articles and pointers. I love old magic posters and tricks so I was on-board! Now…I didn’t always “get” the gags, not being all that familiar with standard tricks etc. but the readers ate them up. I’ll share some of them with you here. I’ll include a couple roughs and a couple rejects as well

Our State TV Episode

Hey Folks! Here’s the Our State TV episode featuring me riffing on Andy Griffith’s legendary “What It Was, Was Football”. Now, you can watch it right here! (also…Here’s a post with behind the scenes photos)

That’s a Good One! Animal Crackups

I’m very excited to announce the publication of Highlights’ Animal Crackups Joke Book. It’s been a long time in the works and was a whole bunch of fun to work on! According to the Amazon description, it includes “125 wacky, laugh-inducing illustrations” by myself to accompany the jokes. The jokes are pretty darn funny too! I highly recommend this one for the budding comedian in your life. Here’s a sampling of the delightfully corny gags: Why did the dolphin cross the bay? To get to the other tide. Jordan: Do you have any dogs going cheap? Pet store owner: No, sir. All of our dogs go “Woof.” What do ducks wear to fancy events? Ducksedos. Tallulah: Turkey, what are you thankful for? Turkey: Tofu! I love a good joke and now I actually have some I can share with kids! All of the illustrations were done in pen and ink with a wash (usually, the wash was done in Photoshop).’ I worked rather small and quickly, I wanted to keep the drawings looking spontaneous and fun. Highlights, as always was a joy to work with. So go out there and get a copy for that little Rodney Dangerfield or Carol Burnett you know! If you get it from Amazon, be sure to give it a rating and, if you’re really cool…a nice review!! Get a copy HERE!

Art Materials Rundown
Rich Powell pen

Due to the recent post about cleaning nibs, I’ve gotten a bunch of questions from folks about the art materials I work with. It Just so happens that the wonderful David Paccia interviewed me in April of 2014 and covered just about EVERYTHING. Check out his excellent blog and learn a LOT about a LOT of artists! DAVID WASTING PAPER  

The Time Has Come

A dear old friend recently commissioned me to do a drawing based on Lewis Carroll’s poem, “The Walrus and The Carpenter”. It’s one of my favorite poems by Carroll and was originally illustrated by the great John Tenniel. His images are iconic and that’s always a tough one when attempting to illustrate the same thing in your own style. Disney did it in Alice in Wonderland but I think Tenniel did it best. It was fun, I let Tenniel’s illustrations influence me but worked as I normally would. The inking glove, a photo glove with all of its fingers cut off but the pinkie, averts smudging of the pencil. Watch Out For Wet Ink! The Walrus and the Carpenter BY LEWIS CARROLL  “The sun was shining on the sea,       Shining with all his might: He did his very best to make       The billows smooth and bright — And this was odd, because it was       The middle of the night.  . The moon was shining sulkily,       Because she thought the sun Had got no business to be there       After the day was done — “It’s very rude of him,” she said,       “To come and spoil the fun.”  . The sea was wet as wet could be,       The sands were dry as dry. You could not see a cloud, because       No cloud was in the sky: No birds were flying overhead —       There were no birds to fly. . The Walrus and the Carpenter       Were walking close at hand; They wept like anything […]

Powell’s Patented Nifty Nib Cleaner

I was getting tired of trying to get my nibs cleaned thoroughly without having to get up from the drawing table and stop the ol’ workflow dead in its tracks.These new waterproof inks are a gummy, messy lot and it can be hard to get the stuff off of the underside of the nib without a solvent. I don’t like solvents on my hands, especially when I’m working with a nice, clean piece of paper. Here’s what I came up with:

More Ink than you’d Think

Lately, I’ve had a couple of folks inquire about how I work. What do I do digitally, what do I do analog, what am I smoking… you get my drift. The simple answer is “Analog until Color…(but not always). I’ve recently posted  a quick video of how I typically work in pencil but the video got cut off just as I was laying down the ink. So…with a new commission in my hands with instructions to “Have fun and be Irreverent” I figured it’d be a good time to show myself inking in more detail than you’d see in THIS post. I set up the iPad to record and captured the following. Enjoy! (To get a good look, go full-screen and turn the resolution up to 1080) If you’re REALLY a glutton for punishment, I have the thing captured in real-time. The whole thing took about a half an hour. Here’s that one:

Our State Magazine Article on-line

Just posted! Written by Megan Crotty and photo by Marissa Kaplan! Read the article HERE!

Blues So Bad: Penciling

Ask Sam Viviano and he’ll tell you I’m a one-trick-pony. All I draw are bluesmen. Well, he’s partly right, there’s a guitar playing blues character that I love to draw and I’ve done finished drawings of him maybe 4 times now, each a little different. (There’s one hanging in Sam’s office at MAD). So when David Paccia of the wonderful site David Wasting Paper asked if he could commission one this morning, I jumped right on it. Nothing gets you back into the swing of things after a vacation than drawing something really fun! Also: I saw my friend Maria Scrivan messing around with a timelapse thing on facebook, I’d done a similar on in an earlier post but her’s looked quicker and better so I thought I might try to record the whole thing. Unfortunately, my iPad couldn’t hack it and filled up just after the Pencil stage so….now I have a video of me sketching the initial drawing stage for you! I left out the music this time around. You’re welcome! I had inking and a wash to do for this drawing but couldn’t video it…so I took photos. Here’s the Bluesman! The Initial Ink   Beginning the Wash (Taped to a board to prevent paper warping) And the finished artwork:  Have a good one!!

Home Invasion

If you’re a client of mine and you’re wondering where the heck I’ve disappeared to, let me apologize. After returning from Washington it was time to allow UNC-TV (North Carolina Public TV) into the house for a shoot to accompany an upcoming story I illustrated for them. Along with a bunch of excellent shows that UNCTV broadcasts, Our State is a magazine-format show about everything NC. They describe it better than I can: “Inspired by the pages of Our State magazine, UNC-TV’s half-hour monthly series, Our State, takes you down-home in North Carolina for an in-depth look at the people and places that make our state great! Compelling stories, stunning high-definition videography, and thoughtful narration take you beneath the surface, providing answers to the hows and whys of all things Our State”. So what the hell were they doing at my house? Here’s the scoop:  Way back in 1953, Andy Griffith recorded a monologue for Capitol Records titled “What it WAS, Was Football!”  It was a huge hit, sold 800,000 copies and pretty much put Andy on the map. The monologue is a description of a college football game, as seen by a naive country preacher who attends the game by accident and is entirely puzzled by it. It’s pretty hokey by today’s standards but it still has the power to garner a giggle here and there.  It’s still well remembered in NC of course as Andy is something of a saint here. So, Our State wanted to do a story about the monologue and […]

A View from the Bridge

I’ve been playing with a trial version of a Panoramic Photo program. Here’s what I’m looking at now!

Through the Wayback Machine!

A friend asked to see some old artwork I’d done for Playboy.com years and years ago and I couldn’t find it anywhere! So…I went to the internet archive’s Wayback Machine! Good lord, I had an ugly site back in the day! There was one thing I did miss though: This little animated me   My artwork was really different back when I was doing stuff for Scott Multer, the Art Director for Playboy.com (a great guy and awesome artist as well!). I was really searching for a style. Here’s a progression of the work: I thought the flat shading was the way to go..I guess I thought it was cool but it looks really dated now. This one is a little more successful but only because it’s more crap to look at. I began adding more life to the line on this one …and finally, here I left those color fields out of the equation! Thanks Wayback Machine!  


I spent Tuesday afternoon finalizing a tattoo for a friend. He requested Mjolnir, the Hammer of Thor, (made by the dwarven brothers Sindri and Brokkr) being lifted by the Ravens, Huginn and Muninn. Huginn represents Thought and Muninn represents Memory, so the client asked for “thought’ to be looking downward and “memory” to be looking backwards. I was surprised to learn about Mjolnir. It’s representation in Norse artwork was not what I expected. The handle is short, due to a mishap at the forge. It’s often decorated in popular culture with Celtic symbols, which makes no sense to me. I kept a braid on the hammer head but added different decorations to the handle. Simplicity was requested. Mjölnir is usually interpreted as meaning “That which smashes”. I love that. Here’s the drawing the client gave me: Here’s the initial sketch: And here’s the permanent thing (a little intimidating, permanency) Now, I commend it into the hands of another artist to embellish the client’s arm!  

A Walk in the Woods

Sometimes I’ll submit something to MAD out of the blue. You never know what the reaction will be and it’s always a crap-shoot. This one had a good shot, I figured. While it tickled their funny bones, wouldn’t it be my luck that there was a very similar (in theme) piece coming out in the next issue! Oh well. Problem is, nowadays nobody else prints this stuff.

Amaze Your Friends!

…AND SAVE YOURSELF A CRAPLOAD OF WORK!…”what?”  You say? Here’s how: Create a font to replace your hand-inked font that takes forever to do! I’ve always lettered my cartoon work with a unique hand-drawn font and I’ve really become accustomed to it but, it’s a real pain and not near as fun as drawing the actual cartoon. It was becoming a drag. Here’s an example: So I went out looking for a good FREE font creating software. What I found after much research was Birdfont. You can get the free version, but for 5 bucks you can get upgrades and stuff…so I opted to blow 5 bucks. Now that I had the thing, I started creating the font by using Photoshop, Illustrator and Birdfont. Initially, I drew my letters by hand, as usual but I drawed them real big-like. Then, I scanned ’em in at a nice, high resolution.  You can see how rough they look even when drawing them this large: So how to clean them up and make them nice and neat? Illustrator’s “Live Trace” Feature! I save the lettering file as a psd and open it in illustrator. Then, I tweak the settings in Live Trace to simplify any small wiggles and imperfections. I set this up years ago when doing work for Lisa Frank (yes…I went there..I’m a whore.) and here they are, vectorized: Now, I created another file in which to drop the single letters and save the file as an svg This can easily […]

What Gives?

Well, the holidays are officially over. With the arrival of my daughter  from college (with her boyfriend) and the many parties and meals that followed, I didn’t get a chance to post! I ended up working on a myriad of things though. Here’s a sampling! Probably the strangest assignment: My good friends at Lumina Wine and Beer wanted a window splash for Asheboro’s annual Christmas on Sunset. I’d never done one, but they were paying in wine…so I was in! Here it is, halfway through: Then there was a hidden pictures double-page spread for a Highlights collection:….plus, an illustration for Highlights For Children itself (rough and finish) …followed by a cover for a Highlights joke book (I’ll do the interior illustrations as well). I can’t show the finish on this one! Then, to completely switch gears, I took on a group of commissions for a bunch of friends who wanted a spaceship each, revolving around the same theme: Did somebody say “Switch Gears”? Logos! Here’s one I did for a new microbrew: and one I did for a Kick-Ass band out of Greensboro! an earlier version: And let’s not forget our Wide Open cartoons! That’s All Folks!  

A Shameful Experience.

A long time ago, I was asked to do a bunch of greeting cards tor Dubai. here’s the thing: I had to emulate the style of the weird Saudi Arabian artist that began the line and was probably put to death or something. Anyhow, I never thought I’d show these to anybody but I guess I wanted to get it off my chest. Here are three of the designs. I have no idea why the camels had to have a spandex tighty on.

Inking a Cartoon

Hi Folks. Did a little inking here today and, since it’s #inktober, I figured I’d make a little video. Enjoy!    

A Studio Visit From PBS

I had the great pleasure of meeting Morgan Potts, producer/director of UNC-TV’s excellent program “Our State” today at the studio. He’s got an idea for an upcoming program that I might be able to lend a hand in. Now, I’m not going to say what it is exactly but it will involve some illustrations and be in the humorous vein! I’m sure I’ll be able to tell you more about it as the project gets underway. I love the idea of doing some work for UNC TV, the quality of their programming is some of the best on the tube and I watch it often. As a matter of fact, I’m all over Antiques Roadshow tonight. Having an antenna, I actually get three separate channels for the network: UNC TV, UNC KD and UNC EX. So, if there ain’t something on one of the channels that I want to watch, chances are there’s something on another. Commercial FREE!! Anyhow, stay tuned. I’ll let you know when we get things rolling! And THANKS, Morgan, for thinking of me!