Friday, December 20, 2013

The Doctor and I

I've recently done some Doctor Who fan art... for no other reason than because fan art is FUN. The challenge with this particular fan art is trying to show a Doctor we haven't really met yet (though, as of this blogpost we've all famously seen only his eyes.) This will change, of course, in the upcoming Christmas special next week. We don't know yet what the Twelfth Doctor ("No sir, all Thirteen!") will be wearing, only that he will be played by the very wonderful Peter Capaldi. And rest assured, Mr. Capaldi will make an AMAZING Doctor.
Twelve: The Midnight Hour
 I was originally going to do the whole picture in color, and then opted for just one
accent color: TARDIS blue. (This is done with acrylic gouache with black ink on bristol paper.)
I was also going for a sort of black-and-white retro look, à la the William Hartnell era.

Because I don’t know what Twelve will eventually be wearing, I kept it simple for now:
 long coat and a scarf. Everything is always more dramatic with clothes that can billow…

I’ve also always wanted to do a picture of a weird double-ringed planet, so here it is.
(Apparently it really is plausible if a moon has an erratic orbit and
 is breaking up. Anyway, when did I ever let the laws of physics
prevent me from drawing anything…?)
More speculation on what he was going to wear led to this cartoon...
   I was extremely excited for Mr. Capaldi the moment I heard he was in the running for the new Time Lord. Not only is he a brilliant and versatile actor, but we'd finally have an older Doctor again! Maybe I'm also all excited because he's closer to my own age. You see, I'm a Doctor Who old-timer. How old? Well...let's just say that Doctor Who and I debuted the same week back in 1963. The Doctor and I are both 50. (Well, give or take a thousand years.)

One of the many ways I spent my birthday week:
My sister got me a  TARDIS full of my favorite candy bars (Milky Ways) and
I worked on my graphic novel pages while listening to the dvd commentaries
of a stack of classic Doctor Who episodes I checked out from the library.
(I love listening to dvd commentaries while I work.)

When the 50th Anniversary special loomed and I did not have BBC America, I made a desperate attempt to avoid spoilers (they were popping up all over the internet) by slamming my laptop closed and pulling out my sketchbook to distract myself. I started doing a lot of very quick, silly Doctor Who cartoons that I will share here. (I apologize for the unfinished sketchiness of them but I was just goofing off while I was waiting for the Day of the Doctor to become available to download from iTunes... and meanwhile, all my UK friends were able to see it in cinemas with a live audience! I was feeling the agony of being BBC-less.)

But after I finally did see the special (about 2 a.m. in the morning, US Mountain Time) I was very pleased in my assumption that Twelve would indeed have a particularly powerful stare...

A huge surprise for me on Thanksgiving morning was finding that this
 second cartoon had been  featured on the official BBC America Doctor Who blog!

Everyone who knows me knows what a Doctor Who geek I am. Here is some evidence (taken earlier this year at the Phoenix Comic-Con):
Exhibit A
Notice how everyone around me is
completely unconcerned that a Dalek is
is trying to exterminate me.

Doctor Who premiered in November of 1963 in BBC television for the first time and starred the beloved William Hartnell as a mysterious and somewhat grumpy time-traveler. (I premiered several days earlier in a hospital in New Jersey.) I would not become aware of this peculiar British show until years later, when I was a small girl visiting my grandmother's house.

It was there on my grandparents' television set that I first became entranced by Jon Pertwee in his velvet smoking jacket and frilly shirt using Venusian aikido on some fiendish villains somewhere in England.

And here were scary plastic people coming to life and making me run behind my grandfather's easychair. For some reason, when I was a little kid, a man being done in by a melting plastic chair was the most horrifying thing I'd ever seen. (Forget Daleks and Cybermen: even to this day, I still view plastic chairs with a certain distrust.)

Despite plastic chairs and giant maggots and dangerous goo everywhere (hasn't anyone in science fiction learned by now that you should never touch the goo?! The GOO is always BAD!) I continued to watch this strangely wonderful science fiction show with increased fascination. I had no doubt that the man in the frilly shirt would save me from the monsters.

And I admit to having had a little crush on Jon Pertwee as a small girl. (Maybe it was the hair. It's always the hair with me...)

But this was just the beginning of my love for Doctor Who. It would be years later when I was re-introduced to the Tom Baker era and onward. And still later I would finally see the episodes with the man who had played the Doctor when I was born: William Hartnell. This was soon to followed by the marvelous Patrick Troughton who could seamlessly switch between clownish elf and  very intense scientist. The contrast between the Second Doctor and the tough, athletic Third (Pertwee) made for some of my favorite Doctor Who moments when they would risk a time paradox and meet each other.

Eight's gothic TARDIS interior.

While I think each of the Doctors has his own individual endearing qualities, I-- like everyone else who loves the show -- have my favorites. I'm loyal to the Third Doctor, but also grew to love the Second the more new episodes of his I discovered. I admit to being one of the Eighth Doctor's early defenders and having a longtime fondness for Paul McGann's very excitable, easily distracted romantic-- who had books and candlelabra in his TARDIS.  His is still my favorite TARDIS interior mostly for, well, how cozy it seemed with the rugs and the candles and the other gothic touches. It was like Lord Byron in space!
(Eight, of course, was later to become sad and disillusioned before he finally got his missing regeneration scene this year.)

I took one of those goofy online quizzes just recently. "Which Doctor are you?" Well, I must have been sufficiently grumpy when I took the test and ended up being the First Doctor. Apparently no one is ever to make the mistake in assuming I'm frail or weak. Also, I'm capable of tearing apart a planet for someone who's earned my trust. In The Five Doctors, he was the one who kept the coolest, wisest head (even if he was played by another actor) and he ended up saving the day. The other Doctors all deferred to him.
                                   Never underestimate One: he was a badass.

Trust me, this is not the end of the Doctor Who fan art. Between working on my other projects, I've started a portrait of William Hartnell in the same style as I did the Midnight Hour picture of Twelve. This will be followed by each of the other Doctors (yes, John Hurt, you too) until I get back around to Twelve again and we'll finally know what his costume will look like. Naturally, I'll have do a new one.

I leave you with some more silliness from my sketchbook, also done while  trying to avoid 50th spoilers...

For an excellent look at the early days of Doctor Who, I give my highest recommendation that  you see An Adventure in Space and Time. Written by Mark Gatiss, it is a touching, loving look at the William Hartnell years.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Inking the Cartoons...

As you probably already know, I have another blog called Pre-Raphernalia which is full of many, many silly cartoons based on the lives of the Pre-Raphaelite artists and their circle. (Read about the making of it here and here.) They're all done very informally in pencil, in my sketchbooks, which I then scan into my computer and post on my blog and on Facebook. You will see in these scans the edges of the paper, the seam of the binding, eraser crumbs, etc. As I  do this mostly for fun and my (and now hopefully others' entertainment) I was unconcerned about the casual appearance of the drawings, which I think is part of their fun as well. (Well, at least for me...)

Because I've been asked to gather them together into bookform for possible publication, it was also suggested that I go and clean them up a bit (in other words ink and actually neatly letter them, using a variation of my favorite medium, acrylic gouache.)

You can see the difference between the pencil drawing and the "cleaned-up" version here:

So I've been slowly but surely trying to ink and letter them when I have the time around other assignments and projects. Because they're cartoons and somewhat flat as far as outlining and shading go, they don't take as long to transfer and paint as say, my pages of  Heaven and the Dead City do. And I can get them done light years faster than any color work I do! (Color adds a new dimension and  much more preparation-- at least for me-- as I demonstrated in my last post about the Keats painting, which still isn't done yet. *sigh*)
I photocopy the cartoons from my sketchbook to a larger size, trace them onto a sheet of vellum bristol paper (on which I do almost all my painted artwork). I clean up and "fix" the drawing, then I get out my old-fangled Ames Guide to letter it. (Yes I still use an Ames Guide.)
Makes my lettering less crooked, or at least it tries...
Carla Speed McNeil, the creator of the amazing graphic novel Finder (read it!!), once gave me superb advice for lettering your own comic if you are particularly unsure of your own lettering skills. I had approached her as a newbie at a convention after attending a panel for independent comics publishers and she suggested typing the text up (in the proper size and font of your choice) on your computer, print it out, then use it as a guide on your lightbox to trace over. (This is where the Ames Guide comes in for ruling out where to place the printed type.) Using this wonderful idea (I bow to you for your advice, Carla!) I was able to appropriate even a Kelmscott font for this cartoon of William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones:
Then the drawing is lettered using my good ol' Micron Pigma pens:
I use a Micron Brush pen to begin the drawing.
It's like a brush... and a pen...
 Then finally I begin painting using my tubes of various shades of Acryla gray gouache. Only four shades rather than fifty. Hahaha... I crack me up. Okay, right, moving along...

I prefer using imitation Sable Rounds, as I've mentioned in a previous post on this blog. Acrylic gouache is an amazing invention: it has all the velvetty matte properties of a gouache finish, plus it's waterproof! It makes my brain explode with how useful this stuff is. Unfortunately, I can't just go down to the local art supply store and buy tubes of it because most art supply stores don't even carry it. I usually have to order it online and pay what I think is waaaay too much for shipping... (Oh, don't get me started...) But eventually it does end up in my mailbox and I am doing a happy Snoopy dance again.

Lastly, I use a brush and black paint to give what's hopefully a more organic flow to the drawing's outlines. Then I add highlights with Permanent White paint (most opaque), as well as using it to correct small errors.

So here are some of the cartoons that have been inked and painted so far using this method. Many, many more to come!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Starting Keats... (Part 1)

It's been awhile since I posted on The Watcher Tree since I've been busy with several projects: Heaven and the Dead City, the Pre-Raphernalia blog ( and new cartoons)-- and most recently a bookmark of Oscar Wilde for Graphic Classics. But I miss doing paintings unrelated to these projects (in my non-existent free time, since I also hold down a 40-hour a week job at a bookstore!) and often months (or years) can go by before I return to an idea for a painting.

This is one of those cases. I began a painting of poet John Keats that has been frequently interrupted for projects with actual deadlines.  I thought I'd share  the steps I take to get to a finished picture. In this case, it's far from finished, but this is where I am so far...

The original sketchbook drawing...

           Bear with me.

I wanted to do a new painting in gouache of a drawing in my sketchbook inspired by John Keats' poem "Ode to Autumn". My idea was to have Autumn herself as a fairy muse to the poet as he wrote.

And true to my propensity for  always getting an animal in a picture as much as possible, I added a kitten who is fascinated by Keats' feather quill pen. Though Keats was a cat lover, it's never mentioned if he had a feline of his own. Still, he was born on Halloween and I thought a black cat was appropriate. (I have a weakness for black cats as it is-- I have two.)

I photocopied and enlarged the sketchbook drawing and
transferred it to tracing paper.

On the tracing paper, I adjusted the figures as needed, found some cat reference and a font I wanted to use for the lettering in the banners.

Then when I was (sort of) happy with the revised sketch on tracing paper, I transferred the drawing --using a light-box-- to a sheet of vellum bristol paper to do the final drawing and painting. (I find that vellum bristol has the best surface on which to paint -- plus it's inexpensive and comes in pads.)

I printed out the type in the font I'd chosen, then traced it onto the bristol paper as well. I also adjusted it as needed to fit the shape of the banners.

The next stage was making photocopies of the drawing to look back at as I start to paint. I also use smaller photocopies to paint on to see which colors I want to use:

I taped the finished drawing down on my table so that when I begin to paint I can hopefully prevent the the paper from buckling.

(left) These are the colors I wanted to use (more or less).  I played around very loosely with my gouache on a photocopy.

I let myself be as sloppy as I wanted while doing this. Again, playing...


(below) The next step is "inking" the drawing. This is my way of sort of  preserving the pencil drawing underneath and I use waterproof sepia gouache. I do this incase I need to wipe paint away at a later stage.

You can see I smudged some of the ink on Autumn's face.
These "oopses" can be corrected easily in the painting stage...
This stage is also to figure out values (lights and darks) before I add color.
When I'm done with the sepia, then I get out the other acrylic gouache to make a sort of waterproof underpainting.

The idea for me is to keep these colors bright so I can later blend regular, non-waterproof gouache on top of it, and sometimes colored pencils,chalk or pastel as needed in places.

Using the color sketch as a guide, more flat tones of acrylic gouache...

And then the most fun, longest and often most frustrating part of the painting begins when I pull out the regular gouache paints and start blending on top.

So this is where I've left off so far-- the painting is at its awkward adolescent stage.

 I will post Part 2 when the painting is finally looking finished....
             More to come.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Merry Krampus!

I work in a bookstore and it's usually around this time of the year when I can't help wanting Krampus to make a visit at the store, if only to shake things up a bit and remind people of good behavior. (Including me!)

In certain parts of Europe, it's traditional for Santa and Krampus to work as sort of a Good Cop/ Bad Cop team before Christmas. (Just by looking at Krampus, you can guess which one he is.) Infact, December 5th is devoted to Krampusnacht, which is now beginning to be celebrated in this part of the world. For those of you who wish Halloween came more than once a year, say hello to the big guy with horns!

He knows when you've been bad or good.

Grace Nuth of the wonderful blog Domythic Bliss originally introduced me to Krampus last year and I was honestly surprised I had never heard of him, considering that some of my family came from the part of Europe where he's most popular.
Grace has written an excellent blog post about our horned buddy:

So, for fun, I did a few cartoons of Krampus in my sketchbook that I hope to turn into color Christmas cards next year. My idea was to give him a Victorian look, even make him a bit dapper. I really just wanted to see him in a top hat.

Krampus dressed and ready for a night out on the town.
Note the pocket watch for keeping those
important appointments...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Horns and Wings and Hooves

It's been quite awhile since my last blog-post here on The Watcher Tree. I've been drawing and painting new pages for my ongoing graphic novel, Heaven and the Dead City, as well as updating and drawing new cartoons for my other blog Pre-Raphernalia. All this on top of a 40-hour a week day-job at a bookstore. (Rent, food and kitty litter are very important...)

I mostly wanted to use The Watcher Tree to show some of my other work, but there hasn't been a lot of time to do some full-color paintings. There will be some new ones coming (currently in progress) but in the meantime, here are some more older paintings of mine.

Centaur, 1997. Gouache on tinted blue watercolor paper.

This guy has gotten a lot of attention over the years and I suspect he likes it. This was one of the fastest paintings I ever did, done on one dull Christmas Day at my apartment in New Jersey. I had bought a pack of tinted watercolor paper that was fun to use--pages colored pastel shades of blue, yellow, pink, green and gray-- and this one was done on a blue sheet. The company that put out the tinted pads of paper has since discontinued them (I guess they weren't a big seller) but I loved them because they were ideal for gouache. I still have a pad I saved over the years, waiting for just the right subjects.

These paintings below were also done on the tinted paper:

Unicorn , 1997, gouache.
Done on green paper.

Kirins, 1997, gouache.
Done on yellow paper.

Fire Angel, 2005. Gouache.
This guy above was done on a few hot summer days in Arizona, not on tinted paper, but since this photo was taken, I painted the background in metallic gold to sort of make it look like gold leaf. Notice his conveniently placed drapery and feathers.
                                Remind me I need to do more handsome angels.

I mean... I need to do a LOT of handsome angels. And handsome devils, too. (Let's not forget them.)

Another angel, this time based on a pen and ink drawing I did a long, long time ago (in the prehistoric 1980's) of a six-winged seraph. I like to take early pictures I've done and do "remakes" years later. I have a few more college pictures that I still (sort of) like that I would like to retry and hopefully do a better job on. This was one of those.

Seraph, 2009. Gouache and colored pencils.

I had been looking at an art book on angels from the Pratt college library and trying to figure out how to arrange the six wings a seraph is described as having. I imagined them sort of displayed like the petals of a large flower. There's also some Asian influence in the seraph's armor and it's definitely my most unintentionally "Burne-Jonesian" looking picture.
Another angel painting I've done is this old watercolor one that I  made for my grandmother one Christmas. I'd like to do a remake of this one as well, with goauche this time and correcting several things about it. (The "editing process" of an old picture is also sometimes a fun thing to do. You get to bring in any new techniques or knowledge that you've acquired since you did the picture the first time around.  I talked a little about that in this post.) It's based on a Polish folktale and is now currently hanging on a wall in my parents' house.
The Lady and the Angel, 1995, watercolor.
Wings of a different kind:
Tooth Fairy, 2000, goache and colored pencils.


Over the years, I've done a few commissioned portraits of people in fantasy settings based on their own photographs or ones that I took of them myself. This one above is of the latter: a co-worker at one of the bookstores I worked at came up with the concept of being the Tooth Fairy and I took several photos of her posed on top of the bookstore counter as reference. (Um, not during store hours, of course.) She told me what kind of wings, outfit, etc., she would like but the scepter/ toothbrush was my own idea.

Toaster Dragon, 2010. Gouache, colored pencils.
My sister's boyfriend Rob Lanning commissioned me to do a few "Kitchen Dragons" which are currently (of course) hanging on the wall of his kitchen. The Toaster Dragon (above) is preparing one of Rob's favorites, peanut butter on toast. He's handy to have during a power outtage.

Sink Serpent, 2010. Gouache and colored pencils.
A handy creature who actually enjoys doing your dishes. (And this is the actual sink from my old apartment.) The soap bubbles took the longest to do in this picture.
So now I will set tasks for myself to try to do some more new color paintings to show you over the next year. And also look for more silly fun (with historical notes) on The Watcher Tree's  sister blog, Pre-Raphernalia.
And as I've mentioned in previous posts, I will also begin to present the first pages of my  graphic novel Heaven and the Dead City here very soon as well. (And you can read the first three chapters here: )
Happy holidays all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Heaven and the Dead City, Volume 1-- The Book

Volume 1 of my graphic novel Heaven and the Dead City is out!
It's my first REAL published book!
(As opposed to all those imaginary books I've had published, that is...)
Look! It even has a spine and everything!

(Um, try to ignore the paint-spattered table it's resting on...)
And you can turn the pages!!!

(Yes, I do have a Lucky Cat pencil holder...)

This volume covers Chapters 1 and 2 of the ongoing webcomic.
You can read them in their entirety here : ,
as well as Chapter 3, currently in progress (on my drawing table as well.) :

As I mentioned in an earlier blog  post, this painting
will be the cover of Heaven and the Dead City,
                  Volume 2. (right)

Co2 Comics just recently did some blogposts about their artists and this week was my turn. You can read about it here:  (Ahh, puns...)

Heaven and the Dead City is available in
both hardcover and paperback forms here:

In the future, I will also be posting early pages
of the story in sequence in The Watcher Tree.
Stay tuned!