SmArt School Beginning Illustration

I recently completed the class Beginning Illustration 102 with Marc Scheff through SmArt School. Marc’s feedback has been incredibly helpful for my work, and it was a great experience learning from the process of the other students. I also got to monitor the mentorships being run by Greg Manchess, who has a tremendous amount of wisdom to share when it comes to making pictures. I highly recommend his posts on Muddy Colors. These are the three illustrations I completed in the class. One was an assignment to make an illustration for the story Dagon by H.P. Lovecraft, and the other two illustrations I did are from the story of an original graphic novel I’m developing called The Isolation Suit.

Recent Figure Drawings and Studies

I recently attended Illuxcon in Allentown, PA, and it was an awesome experience. I was overwhelmed with the amount of incredible artwork. Everyone I encountered was very generous with their time, and I had a wonderful time hanging out with some amazing artists. While I was there, I got to take part in the Illuxcon sketchfest at Allentown Brew Works, where they had a number of figure models to draw. I also got to take part in figure drawing instruction from the incredible Steve Huston. His instruction was great and he said many things that were very helpful to me, he even sat next to me for a few minutes and drew in my sketchbook to show me a few things, which was awesome! One thing that stuck with me was how he related visual art to other kinds of art like music and dance. Musicians and dancers aren’t just performing one note or one step, but each note and each step relate to the other notes and steps to create a whole, and we must think of our drawings and pictures in the same way. Each “note” of color or value or line in your picture must connect with the other notes to create the image. This might seem obvious to some, but I don’t think it’s a trivial observation. Thinking in this way has helped me to be more aware of what I’m doing and has forced me to ask myself how what I’m drawing now relates to what I’ve already drawn or plan to draw, and to remember to connect things, to make them flow visually. Creating pictures is an incredibly deep subject. In figure drawing alone, there are more hidden dimensions to it than I ever thought possible.


Bargue Plate I, 54

My copy of Bargue plate I, 54, page 80 of the Bargue drawing course. This was done for the SmArt School illustration bootcamp with Marc Scheff. I was experimenting with toned paper. There are some issues with this, the toned paper is too dark, and my blacks are not black enough. There are also some errors in the copying.

Elf Portrait

This is a digital portrait I did for my illustration boot camp class at SmArtSchool taught by Marc Scheff.

CGMA: Dynamic Sketching 1

I recently completed the Dynamic Sketching 1 class with Peter Han and Johnson Truong at CGMA. This class was a lot of fun to do, and I took away a few important lessons from it that I think have really improved my drawing. First of all, I think that using pens and markers, which I had no experience with before this class gave me more confidence with my line work and helped me practice getting a line right the first time instead of being timid or sketchy about it, and I think that this has carried over to my pencil and digital work as well. Second, it gave me more of a sense of how to create contrast with line work and cross-hatching between different value areas. Third, I got a lot of practice thinking about focal points of a drawing, and keeping in mind where you want the viewer’s eye to go when they look at a drawing. Fourth, I got practice with idealization and simplification of reference. I had a realization a while ago while doing life drawing from a model that you don’t necessarily have to try to just robotically record what you see, that you can idealize, stylize, and simplify things to make a better drawing. It matters less whether it looks exactly like the reference and more whether it’s a pleasing image. This idea was a huge revelation to me, but I still sometimes forget this. In Dynamic Sketching, I was able to get more practice at this, and we were given strategies for how to simplify things, like a tree with thousands of leaves, but represent it convincingly in a fast way. Below are some of my drawings from the class.


Perspective Sketch

This is a practice perspective sketch I did after doing Matt Kohr’s Perspective Sketching 2 course at Ctrl+Paint. I highly recommend checking out his videos. There are tons of free videos to learn from with helpful tips for digital painting. Something I found very helpful that comes with his Perspective Sketching course are PSD files that help you make 2 and 3-point perspective sketching grids. Something I’ve always had trouble with in perspective drawing is where to start, and the difficulty of having vanishing points that are off the page. His process for working with grids and thumbnail sketches was really helpful. Looking forward to a lot more perspective drawing practice. I’m also doing the perspective drawing course from CGMA starting next week.



Figure Drawing, Nov. 7, 2014

My third session using charcoal to draw the figure.

Figure Drawing, Nov. 3, 2014

I’ve been taking a basic drawing class through the extension program at CCA in order to work on my traditional drawing foundation. Last week we had a model come in and pose for us. I’ve been doing uninstructed figure drawing for years, but this is my first time drawing a model this large (18×24) and with vine charcoal. My previous figure drawings have always been done in a 9×12 sketchbook with a pencil, and I was always trying to do very exact, controlled drawings. I loved working with charcoal, because it allowed much more freedom and speed, and a different kind of control. I liked being able to just rough in a big shaded area and then erase it out to get highlights. I plan on using more charcoal in future figure studies.

Google App Engine Local Setup

My goal was to configure my local machine so I could write Django web apps, and have them use a local MySQL database, and run under the Google App Engine development environment. This was a first step for me towards deploying Django apps on Google App Engine. As a later step, I may try to learn about how to use the App Engine Datastore, a nonrelational database storage solution with Django.

Installing MySQL with Homebrew

I started by following the Google documentation on Building an application with a local MySQL instance. It recommended installing MySQL through MacPorts. I already had Python2.7 installed, and was used to using local MySQL through MAMP. I ran into a great deal of trouble with this, I kept getting checksum errors with the MySQL port, and with getting it to work with mysql-python. I decided to see if I could get it to work with Homebrew instead, and I uninstalled MacPorts.

To install homebrew, open up a terminal and paste:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Then, you can install and start mysql:

brew install mysql
mysql.server start

Change the root mysql password:

mysql -u root -p

You will be prompted to enter the new root password. I use Sequel Pro to manage databases. Using the password you just set up, you can connect to your local database through Sequel Pro by using host:, user: root, and the password you entered above. Then, you can create a new database, add a user, and give that user privileges to access the database. You will need this later.

You can also install python 2.7 with Homebrew if you don’t already have it installed:

brew install python

Installing Virtualenv

I’ve only worked on one python project before this, and didn’t use virtualenv. That project was a learning experience for me, and I struggled with getting the local python setup, packages, paths, and environment variables straight. I knew there might be some problems in my current default environment because of this (that may have caused some problems with MacPorts earlier), so from here forward, it seemed like it would make the most sense to use virtualenv. virtualenv is a straightforward way to set up separate python environments on your system with individual packages and configurations. I followed this tutorial to set up virtualenv. Here is what I did:

cd ~/code/
mkdir virt_env
cd virt_env
virtualenv virt1

Activate your virtual environment

source virt1/bin/activate

I created an alias for activation of this virtual environment

sudo nano ~/.bash_profile

Added this line:

alias ve1="source ~/code/virt_env/virt1/bin/activate"

Reload bash profile:

source ~/.bash_profile

Now you can load your virtual environment with:


and you should see (virt1) at the beginning of your terminal prompt, meaning you are in the virtual environment. To exit, type:


While in the virtual environment, you can install packages:

pip install django
pip install mysql-python

Django Setup

Choose a location where you want your django projects to live, and go to that directory in the terminal. Create a new django project with this command, replacing ‘mysite’ with the name of your project: startproject mysite

This will create a directory called mysite, with and a mysite application folder inside of it. In the top mysite directory, create a file called app.yaml. This is the google app engine config file:

application: appproject
version: 1
runtime: python27
api_version: 1
threadsafe: true

- name: django
  version: "1.5"

- django_wsgi: on

  DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE: 'mysite.settings'

- url: /static/admin
  static_dir: static/admin
  expiration: '0'

For local development, the application name can be anything, but when you deploy to google app engine, this has to match a registered application id. Make sure that you replace “mysite” under env_variables with the name of your django project.

Make sure you have downloaded and installed the Google App Engine SDK for Python. Once this is done, you should be able to run your django app using: mysite

When you go to, you should see the default Django site. In the terminal, press Cmd+C to quit the server. Edit under mysite/mysite to include your database connection information:

    'default': {
        'ENGINE': 'django.db.backends.mysql', # Add 'postgresql_psycopg2', 'mysql', 'sqlite3' or 'oracle'.
        'NAME': 'mysite',                      # Or path to database file if using sqlite3.
        # The following settings are not used with sqlite3:
        'USER': 'myuser',
        'PASSWORD': 'mypassword',
        'HOST': '',                      # Empty for localhost through domain sockets or '' for localhost through TCP.
        'PORT': '',                      # Set to empty string for default.

Now, run syncdb:

python syncdb

If this is successful, you should be able to refresh your database in Sequel Pro and see that the Django tables have shown up in your database. Run your django app again: mysite

You now have a working django app with local MySQL working on the development Google App Engine launcher.