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Volcano Country: Here

I just realized that I’ve been here before. My website is unbuilt and I’m wallowing in frustration with the tools I bought to build it. It will probably turn out, but for now the sky over my domain is dark with regard to and I feel like a volcano ready to erupt.

Here’s a little background as to why I believe this torment will pass:

My parents favored me as a boy with the gift of Oil pastels – greasy little stubs of color that just made a mess when I tried to draw with them. After a few frustrations I left them untouched in a box. Time passed and I brought them out again for a project in art class. I did a copy of a Breck Hair Shampoo ad model also. They began to work, sorta kinda.

Without training or experience, they were nothing. Years later I saw what Degas and Cassatt did with them and decided they were actually a legitimate tool if I could figure them out. Today after much experience, I believe I can make world class art using oil pastels. I should prove this.

The same learning  process played out when I got photoshop. For the first year or two, all it did was anger me. There I would be, ready to make something happen, and the tool I wanted to use was nothing but a maddening obstacle.

I avoided photoshop until I devised a plan to get some value for my money. It all started with a car website that I wanted to contribute to.  The publisher of the site encouraged contributions, so I offered art. He wanted cartoons, but I wasn’t a cartoonist.

After considering it, I concluded that the difference between not being a cartoonist and being one was becoming one. So I sketched out the first concept in pencil and submitted it.

The next month was the beginning of the new year and I wanted to capitalize on a mixture of the standard elements of the season. It’s cliche to want to lose weight and make a resolve to start in January. It just happens that the car that is the darling of that website is a Lotus. Colin Chapman, who was the brains behind Lotus believed in making his cars effective and simple and then, “add lightness”. So I built a cartoon combining those themes.

The first cartoons were all drawn on paper with graphite pencils.

Wanting to dress them up, I opted to color them. My plan was to photograph the cartoon and apply fill using an application that came with my camera since photoshop was complicated. Slowly, I opted to try photoshop again because it seemed to have a better range of tools.

At first, I only had to know how to use the paint can tool for fills and be able to select the colors. One complication was that the lighting was never good enough when I took the picture with the camera, so the fill was invariably irregular.

Since the fill also seeped in to places where it didn’t belong, I had to learn how to use other tools to contain it. magically, photoshop began to be useful. Within months, I was doing the cartoon totally from scratch on my cintiq using photoshop.

Here is a progression

pencil only

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Done only with pencil and paper



Another Christmas idea based on the reputation British sports cars had for unreliability.

A Christmas theme based on the reputation of British sports cars as unreliable. The white fill was  from an app that came with my camera.

Owners discussing how to make their 1500 lb car lighter. Pencil with background fill from camera app.

Owners discussing how to make their 1500 lb car lighter. Pencil with background fill from camera app.

A play on the handling ability of the little cars that had a downside

A play on the handling ability of the little cars that had a downside

pencil with photoshop

I began to figure out how to color the images with this one

Color bursts on the scene!


The Van Seat Cafe. Still starting with pencil and using photoshop tools afterward.

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pencil with photo shop


I started with the dream bubble as the whole cartoon. Then I decided it made better sense this way which meant importing one cartoon into another


This was born entirely on the computer. I build the cartoons to be reproduced poster size. It plays on the tendency of the genders not to misunderstand intent.


There are too many Lotus Europa’s going to waste in fields and yards because their owners think they’re sitting on a cash generator.


By the time I did this one, it was almost second nature to build the cartoons entirely with photoshop.


One of the strong cases to be made for digital cartoons is that versions and big changes are easy and you can always go back. There are several versions of this one.

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I was pleased that to create this panel, I used no visual references. I made it all up from scratch using trial and error and lots of erasure.

totally photoshop 952r015



This was the first time I used photoshop to convert a painting that I’d done into a cartoon. All I needed to do add the thought bubble and draw the car in it.


Playing on the similarity in the appearance of some Europa’s to this El Camino, I altered an old car advertisement by hand drawing this car over the top of the Chevy of the original ad.


Another case where I took my existing painting and manipulated it in Photoshop to create a new cartoon


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