Making of a Monster – Part 7

Okay, the traditional art is now all completed with paint and pencil on paper. But that doesn’t mean the poster is quite finished yet. We still have some digital tools to use to see this frightfest to completion.

What good is a monster movie poster without the words on it to say what we’re selling? What we are selling is the Illustration West 59 art competition open to professionals and students put on by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles. So let’s make sure that is known!

To that end, I scan the painting into the computer where I will add some design elements in Photoshop. Remember my original color comp? Here it is again to remind you of where this piece is headed.



Originally I had intended for the “movie” title to be diagonal at the top right corner of the poster as a counter balance to the “Beware of the Deadline Monster” subtitle. Then the “Call for Entries” line would be at the very bottom. Those graphic design elements of the text areas needed to be created first, so I drew the ragged black bars in Photoshop and filled in the flat color to prepare the way for my text designer.



Once those elements were in place, I sent the above image to my pal Andy Heckathorne to create some vintage looking text for me. Andy is an illustrator and graphic designer from Pennsylvania who is much more adept at text design than I. (Check out his website HERE!) Our paths first crossed, ironically, at a national high school art competition when we were both seniors – he won first place, I won second. So all these years later, how appropriate that we got to collaborate on a professional art competition poster.

After a few back and forth attempts as we conceived of the text, as well as some editorial changes to what the text would say, Andy came up with this:



You know how sometimes you get stuck on an idea that you thought was creatively brilliant, but maybe it wasn’t? I must admit, it took me a while to let it sink in that the main headline should go horizontally across the top instead of diagonally. That was Andy’s idea. I had set the stage with that space up there, but ultimately, putting the text diagonally meant that the words would have had to be much smaller. After Andy kind of insisted this was the way to go, he was totally right.

Now that the text was complete, there was one last step I wanted to do to give this a vintagey feel. Dots. Old school posters sometimes would have a heavy dot pattern on them that derived from the way art had to be printed. I still wanted the details of the art to be seen, but some controlled dot patterns could be cool.

To achieve this, I purchased a plug-in for Photoshop called Mr. Retro. The software has all kinds of vintage poster looks it can help create with customizable sliders. I played around with lots of options, most of which took away all the hard work I had put into the details of the illustration. Really, I just needed dots.



After experimenting just with dots, I ended up running the art through the filter twice. I wanted big dots in the sky, and smaller dots on the characters and type.



I didn’t want dots everywhere, either. Since they were created on new layers, I was able to go in and erase dots selectively wherever they were not wanted as you can see below.



While I liked how the little dots handled the woman’s face, they didn’t look as good on the man, so those were erased from him.



Of course, it was fun getting dots on the SILA logo, which I manipulated a little by giving the eyeball a pupil like the monster has in his eyes.



So, all together, the final image looks like this…


Click on the art to see it larger (if you dare!)


Well, there you have it – the creation of a Los Angeles based art competition poster in which a monster is ravaging the city of Los Angeles. Good times.

If you are an illustrator yourself, I hope you will consider ENTERING THE CONTEST. The deadline for entries is at the end of this month – OCTOBER 31ST!!! I’ve assembled an amazing panel of judges who will be looking at your work – folks like Abrams Books editor Charles Kochman, MAD Magazine Art Director Suzy Hutchinson, and illustrators Jason Seiler, Mike Mignola, Justin Gerard, Kadir Nelson, C.F. Payne, and Drew Struzan!

In fact, I’ve been conducting interviews with my judges which are being published on the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles website, so CHECK THEM OUT!

Good luck to all who enter!

Making of a Monster – Part 5

Alright, it’s about to get real. Now comes the step where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel in this step-by-step tutorial of  the creation of this year’s Illustration West 59 poster for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

Let’s remove the liquid frisket from the face of the painting! Since it is rubber, I use a rubber cement remover to get it started by rubbing lightly on an edge. Once the frisket starts to come up, just grab it and pull it off. Think of it as peeling skin after a sunburn. Maybe not. That’s gross. Don’t do that.

By the way, I’m showing you the city being de-frisketed, but really, that was the last area to have it removed.



As you can see, the characters and Hollywood hills look nice and pristine without that frisket on it still. Sweet, eh? I left Los Angeles shrouded because that monster is going to take some work that I don’t want the city to suffer from. Those poor folks have been through enough as it is.



Before getting to the characters, though, using gouache, the fire and smoke get painted over on the hills. I’ve kept them pretty painterly, not wishing to hide the fact that this is indeed a painting.



Then using watercolor paint, a purple underpainting is created on the characters to help create some shadows on the figures when more paint is applied on top later on.



Do you see that rippling on the back of the monster’s head? I just wanted to point that out because THAT is caused by the liquid frisket. As it was being removed, it affected the paper in such a way that the watercolor revealed a new texture. This wasn’t necessarily desired, but it wasn’t too worrisome knowing that more paint was going on top that would likely hide that rippling later on.



Here you can see the whole piece again after the character underpainting was done.



What do I do next? Why, paint on the monster’s colors of course! It was just watercolors applied with a regular paint brush. Again, wetting the paper first with the brush, then applying the paint. Incidentally, I like using those 1oz condiment cups for my paint. I mix it in those cups, and then snap on the lids overnight. Keeps the paint wet, and makes it easy to dispose of things at the end of the project. I write on the sides of the cups with a Sharpie to identify what the paint is for, too. Easy peasy.



Next, I removed the frisket from the city buildings, then painted them with watercolor and gouache to blend them into the scene. You can also see gouache was applied to the monster. It’s all coming together now!



Come back tomorrow to see the colored pencil step in creating this monsterpiece!


Making of a Monster – Part 4

Hoo boy! There has been quite a bit stated in the first three parts of this step-by-step tutorial. Ready to read some more about the creation of this year’s Illustration West 59 poster for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles? Let’s do this!

So, now that a large part of the base background has been painted, let’s get deeper into the nitty gritty. With the frisket still on the art, there’s one more touch I wanted to do that could go horribly wrong – put some red spatter on the art.

Now, I don’t want to have spatter go just anywhere. It really only should go in the lower left corner. So, with high tech tools such as tape, a paper napkin, and some paper towels, I masked off a broad area where red paint would not be an enhancement. Why? Because I’ll be flicking it on with a toothbrush (preferably one that you do NOT use on your teeth), and also with a regular paint brush I’ll be flipping at the paper.



When done correctly, this is the result. Toothbrush did the finer spatter, flicking a larger brush created the bigger blobs. See how the lighter areas created from the salt work together nicely with the spatter?



Next, I want to dry brush on some ground with gouache over by the Griffith Observatory part of the painting. It is desired to have that BG orange show through, with just highlights of green to indicate the Hollywood hills.



Also with gouache, it’s time to paint that crowd. This is when it is a good thing to be able to see that ink line art through the paint. The gouache is going to completely cover it at this point. I went with a monochromatic approach. Takes long enough to paint all that detail as it is. No need to pick out a full range of colors on all those folks.

Notice some colored pencil outlines were created on some folks at this point. That’s because I wanted the pencil covered by some of those dry brush strokes that came after.



Speaking of those dry brush strokes, again with gouache, I painted some stylized lines emanating out of our escaping couple kind of in a radio wave type of thing typical of vintage space age art. Notice how those circular strokes kind of go up and join with the strokes of the green hills, helping to tie everything together design-wise.



Lastly, using gouache again, I painted a wavy border on three sides of the art. It’s a little wide, to accommodate image cutoff should this get printed as a poster, and to accommodate the art being put in a frame at some point. As you can see, the painting is taking shape, and is closely following that rough color comp created at the beginning of this project.



Come back TOMORROW when we will remove the frisket and continue on with the details!

Illustration West 59 wants your submissions! The deadline is October 31st! CLICK HERE for details!


Making of a Monster – Part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of the steps in creating my monster movie painting for the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles’ Illustration West 59 poster.

So, yesterday we left things with liquid frisket. Today we begin painting the background! There will be several techniques used in getting the background just the way I want it.

First of all, you must have your paper lying flat on a desk, NOT on an angle. Watercolor paint will certainly streak due to gravity if you don’t do this first.

That being said, watercolor still can have a mind of its own, and I want it to apply as smoothly as possible. To just start applying the paint, it dries so quickly that it might leave weird edges in the middle of the piece that aren’t desired as I try to cover as much space as is needed on this large 18×24″ paper. So, before applying a drop of paint, the technique here is to brush on copious amounts of water to soak the paper first. This will allow the paint to go on more smoothly.

While the paper is still wet, THEN a big ol’ brush comes out to slather on the base color. I made sure I mixed a LOT of this color, because if I run out, it’s a pain in the neck to try to quickly mix more that matches. Easier to throw excess paint out than to have the hassle of trying to match it later before the paint dries. Notice how the paint just kind of beads up on top of that frisket. I did tend to throw on swashes of darker orange in places while everything was wet, which you’ll see in the last image of this post.



You are also probably noticing some rippling in the paper causing pools of wet paint to gather. I use watercolor block paper because it helps minimize this problem. The block paper is bound on all four sides to keep the paper stretched so it can’t curl up when the water is applied. However, it still ripples a bit, causing those pools. If you just let those pools dry where they lie, then you get weird clumps of color on your painting. You can’t just watch the paint dry. You must be actively involved. So, what I do is while the paint is drying, I tilt the paper to allow the paint to move around preventing it from pooling. Later, after the paint completely dries, the paper will lie flat.



There is a special effect I wanted to do on the canvas while the paint was still wet. Before it dried completely, I sprinkled a little salt in some areas of the background. Salt repells the paint, creating little light areas that can be cool. Here’s a later image after the paint dried where you can see the salt effect in the upper right corner of the art.



By the way, the crowd running away from the wanton destruction was NOT frisketed off. Why? Because I didn’t mind allowing that orange color to seep through whatever paint was going to be applied later. But you can see how that ink line shows through nicely.



A second painting technique I wanted to do on the background was airbrushing. A subtle lighter glow was desired in a few areas, so some gouache paint was mixed, and then carefully sprayed on as you can see here. Remember, earlier I mentioned that gouache is an opaque medium. It covers. You can see here how it covers the liquid frisket, and it is beginning to cover the ink lines on the paper, too.



A third painting technique employed on the background is a dry brush technique using gouache. This is definitely a characteristic of 1950’s illustration, particularly of pulp covers. So, dabbing a larger brush in gouache, I painted on layers of colors from more subtle shades first, building up to lighter. They will look like energetic light beams emanating from behind the monster later on. Right now it all looks a bit chaotic.



Here’s the whole image as it sits after all of this. Looks like I may have airbrushed some lighter color on the burst behind the alien, too, and there is more of that salt stippling in the lower regions of the painting. You can also see patches of darker orange that was applied when the background was still wet. It’s just something to create some energy in the piece – some visual interest.



Okay. Overwhelmed yet? More details in the process are yet to come tomorrow!


Illustration West 59

I have been working on something over the past five months that I haven’t talked much about publicly, but today is the day to unveil it. The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles (SILA) asked me to run their annual illustration competition this year, known as Illustration West. This is the 59th consecutive year of this contest, and I am honored that they have entrusted it to me.

So, as the Show Chair of Illustration West 59, I am pleased to announce that today is our launch of the Call For Entries!! Folks around the globe may visit to see our amazing list of judges comprised of award-winning and highly respected leaders of the illustration industry, review the many categories they may enter, and check out the requirements for submissions.

I was also invited by SILA to create this year’s Call For Entries poster, which was thrilling and a little intimidating. I decided to work up a spoof of monster movie posters from the 1950s, setting it firmly in Los Angeles where our contest takes place!

The art is a combination of traditional watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil with a touch of digital for good measure. Click on image to enlarge.

I wanted to give a special shout-out to my buddy Andy Heckathorne for donating his graphic design skills to creating the type for the poster. It lends just the right touch of vintage monster movie nostalgia to the image!

I am absolutely thrilled with the people who agreed to be judges this year. While you can go to the Illustration West website to read all about them and see samples of their work, I’m more than happy to share with you the list right now:

The deadline for our call for entries is October 31, 2020, after which our judges will be busy reviewing the submissions in November, leading to a physical art show in Los Angeles in February 2021 where the winners will be revealed!

My thanks to everyone on our judging committee, and for my fellow SILA board members and staff who have been involved in helping to get the contest this far!

If interested in joining SILA, or just to learn more about this arts organization that was founded in 1953, visit their website

Sailing Away

After my previous post of a sailor cat, I thought maybe you’d enjoy a little throwback post of another sailing themed piece of art I did once upon a time.

This is a pencil drawing I did of San Francisco Bay when I was in the 11th grade for a statewide school competition in New Jersey. If I recall, this won either second or third place back then, but only first place went to nationals. (You know what they say, second place is the first loser!) Anyway, it was based on a photo I actually took when in high school, likely from the boat taking us out to tour Alcatraz.

Maybe one of these days I’ll show you the piece I entered the next year that DID win first and went on to nationals. For now, though, here’s something by 16-year-old Chad.


Somehow I left the funny stuff out of this image for a serious art competition. Maybe if I included a shark it would have won.
Art: Drawings Contests

Tuesdays with “TIM” BONUS!

Yeah, yeah, it’s Wednesday. Consider this a bonus issue of Tuesdays with TIM! The Tuesday thing still applies because the video I’m about to show you was filmed yesterday which was (drumroll please)….TUESDAY!

Well, since Brian and I are in our final week of fundraising on Kickstarter, we wanted to make you an offer that is harder to refuse! We really need your financial support to help us make this film. If we don’t reach our total goal, all the money pledged thus far will revert to its respective donors. So, between now and the end of our pledge drive next Tuesday, March 29, if you pledge $500 or more to us, I pledge to do an ORIGINAL drawing of our lead character TIM! The only catch is that we have to make our full Kickstarter goal before I start wielding my pencil for you!

The type of drawing you can expect will be like this one…

Tim Burton tribute
You can get a similar original drawing such as this one if you take advantage of our new offer! Click on the image to go to our website!


Each drawing will be unique because each drawing will be drawn by hand – my hand! In addition, with your pledge you will be entitled to any other rewards we are offering on Kickstarter for the level at which you pledge! Does this sweeten the pot for you? If you need further convincing, check out the video below that we just put together for your amusement:

TIM Video Update 3 from Wonder Motion Studios on Vimeo.


Thanks for your support! We are down to just a few remaining days in this fundraising endeavor! Come help make TIM a reality!

Tuesdays with “TIM”

Well, today over on the TIM the Movie Facebook page, we have just unveiled a contest to win the original art seen here! This drawing was inspired by something in our script that I was working on this past week with my pal and Director Brian Joseph Ochab. I created the 8.5×11″ drawing over the weekend with black and purple Prismacolor pencils on some nice textured paper, and both Brian and I signed it for whichever one of you may possibly win it!

Below the art are all the rules about how you can win this art! Enjoy!


Tim Burton
Nothing excites a young goth lad like a shrunken zombie head I always say.


Welcome to the first ever TIM the Movie spectacular contest!!

The prize? We’ve gone all out to create a very special one-of-a-kind original pencil drawing by TIM’s co-Producer/Art Director Chad Frye signed by both Chad AND Writer/Director Brian Joseph Ochab worth $350!* It’s a drawing of our lead character Timothy Todd dressed as his hero while gleefully holding a shrunken zombie head.

To be entered into a drawing to win the, ahem, drawing, all you need to do is to make a monetary pledge of $10 or more to our film through Kickstarter between now and Thursday night, 11:59pm Pacific time on February 24th! The contest is open to ANYONE who makes a NEW pledge during the contest period, so the odds of winning the drawing are up to how many of you participate!!

And the best part of it is the drawing will be sent to the lucky winner NEXT WEEK – you won’t have to wait until our fund drive is over on March 29th like you do for the other Kickstarter rewards.

Here are the only two things you need to do to enter the contest:

1. Go to and make a monetary pledge to our film there on Kickstarter for $10 or more. You will be eligible for whatever rewards package you choose from the list, plus be entered in this special contest.

2. After making your pledge, you must send an e-mail with “TIM CONTEST” in the subject line to: and tell us:

• your name

• your Kickstarter screen name

• and an e-mail address where we can notify you if you are the winner.

Keep in mind that these are just pledges. You are not charged any money right away. When you make a pledge on Kickstarter, you are only charged at the end of the pledge drive IF we have raised our total amount by that time.

The contest ends promptly at 11:59pm Pacific time Thursday evening, February 24th after which time one winner will be randomly chosen from among all the new pledges. The winner will be contacted to see where we need to send the original art!

Be sure to check TIM – the Movie‘s fan page on Facebook on Friday where we will be posting the name of the winner for all to see!

Good luck!

(*By the way, the actual drawing does not include “” across it. That’s just for our digital display here on the web.)