The Making of "Spotted!"

Please raise your hand if in your childhood you wished to discover and care for a secret magical creature of your own? *both of own hands in the air* Now keep your hand up if you wish for the same thing as an adult? No? Only me? C'mon there's gotta be at least some of you...

Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

Did enough iterations to just about animate the pegasus' wings flapping!

I painted this about two months ago as an assignment Just For Myself (TM). Getting to work 100% for yourself is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. You can paint whatever you want! Also, you can... paint whatever you want... and you could easily get trapped because that gives you zero parameters and you'll self destruct in a never ending cycle of indecision.

Finally ended up on this-- a cover image for a faux middle grade novel I invented: a girl finds an injured pegasus and has to nurse it back to health. Unfortunately for her, she lives in the modern world which has no magic, so she has to go to extreme efforts to keep the thing hidden. Fun right? Definitely a story I would've gobbled up as a kid. And also now.

The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

The colors, Duke! THE COLORS

So since this was Just For Myself (TM) and I had no deadline, I spent lots of extra time in the planning stages. As you can see, I did 9 different thumbnails to figure out my composition, but that does not count the other 20 or so I did to figure out what scene from my fake story I even wanted to show!  If you're imaginative, you can almost follow along with my thought process:

Okay so they're in a barn together, and I want to show them getting spotted because WHOA that's drama! Ok so first let's see them in a horse stall and see a shadowy figure at the barn's opening. Hmm, ok should the pegasus' wings be unfurled or hidden under a blanket? Hidden under a blanket might make storytelling hard because people won't know it's a pegasus. Unfurled sort of cuts the whole picture in half, especially with those beams in the middle... hmm ok let's take 'em out, switch 'em around... trying adding in foreground elements. Nope ok, none of this is working, let's try a different angle. What if we're looking at them from close to where the shadow figure is standing? Ok we're back to the wing thing again...

After I'd nailed down what composition I wanted, I did 7 more thumbnails for values, half of which required a more refined drawing. I wanted to try out different dramatic lighting schemes to see what told the story the best way. I also tried a tilted angle (sometimes known as Dutch Angle), but decided it looked like a slasher movie. Scree! Scree! Scree!

The final "rough"

The final "rough"

Then I went through 6 different color schemes before settling on my final "rough." I was ready to go! Well, except not really. I wanted to make sure the perspective on this piece was perfect. Yes, I COULD have done it by hand... but ain't nobody got time for that. So I busted out my ol' copy of SketchUp to model the interior of the barn. Once the model was done, I was able to finally do my pencil sketch on top of the entire thing to get it moving!

Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

Hay Girl Hay! Since they're in a barn! I don't apologize for my puns. Pencils stage.

It's at this point that I'd like to point out that I had a TON of help and feedback from what I call my Circle of Trust (thank you Oatley Academy for coining that phrase)! It's important to get outside feedback from trusted artist friends about how a piece is going... especially when there's no client. I showed every single step of my process to my Circle, because I wanted this piece to be the best it could be! Think of it as using sandpaper; outside opinions and fresh, well-trained eyes are necessary to smooth a piece out.

To my Circle: You know who you are since I was emailing you about 20x a week. Thank you! <3

"Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

"Inks" is a weird term when the whole process is digital. Just think of it is as "smoother, nicer" pencils?

So once I'd gone through all that, I inked the piece. I ended up electing not to ink the hay, as I wanted to achieve the texture through painting. I kept the figures on a different layer than the background, as later I knew I intended to do what's called a "color hold" aka colorizing the lines. You seen any 90s Disney movies? Then you know what I mean.

"Nighttime" flat colors

"Nighttime" flat colors

With this particular piece, I ended up using an approach that was a hybrid of how I do both comics and painting. I flatted the painting, which means I separated out all of the local colors of every object so I could render them later. When choosing my flat colors, I went with what everything would look like in the dark, and then paint in the light afterward!

Rough lighting pass

Rough lighting pass

Which is what this shot is here. You can see that the flat nighttime colors inform the shadows, but the "lights" make those colors make sense. Here I'd started rendering, the hay is starting to take shape... and you'll note that all the lines are still black. Don't worry, you'll see the color held lines in the final piece!

It's finished! Whoopie!

It's finished! Whoopie!

So about 10 hours of rendering, tweaking, and 20 zillion more rounds of feedback, I arrived at the finished piece! You can see that the lines are no longer black-- it's subtle, but the color held makes the drawing of the figures less harsh against the more painterly background.

Also a little birdie told me that people enjoy seeing animated GIFs of a painting's progress (I've only done it once before), so here you go! Hope you enjoy it. If you like it, I'll try to make them more often!

The process with more in between steps added!

The process with more in between steps added!

Do you like it when I make "client-free" work? Do you like pegasuses? Pegasi? (Whatever the word is). Do you like process posts and animated GIFs? (Pronounced like GIF, not JIF, this isn't peanut butter thankyouverymuch). Feel free to leave a comment and tell me your opinion! It's the internet, sharing opinions is everyone's favorite thing. Don't be shy, I'll respond!

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Hood

Vegan Ramen  - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Vegan Ramen - Markers, ink, gouache. 8.5" x 5.5"

Like I said in my last post about Grand Central Market-- it's amazing and you have GOT to go if you're in the Los Angeles area! Seriously, call a Lyft or hop the train and get there right now. It's jam-packed with market stalls and restaurants that will take you on an epic food journey. Today's subject is the amazing Ramen Hood-- selected by us at random (ramen-dom, hah) because we were feelin' noodle-y.

This place is a counter-based ramen joint, but it can be tough to get a seat at times. It's usually safest to order it "to go" so you can snag a seat elsewhere in the Market's open seating. Also if you're a beer-with-my-ramen type, you'll need to send one member of your party to fetch it from another stall while you order your food and then meet up somewhere in the middle.


So I'm known for being pretty oblivious at times. I decided "Yes, ramen" and waltzed right up to the menu, scanning to try to find something with the least amount of FODMAP triggers* that they had. I somehow blatantly missed that this place was 100% vegan. Not only did I not realize it was vegan when I ordered, I somehow completely missed that what I was eating was vegan until I was halfway through it. 

"Our broth is made by simmering kelp and shiitake mushrooms to extract their maximum umami. Then we roast sunflower seeds with white miso and combine that mixture with the kelp/mushroom stock. Then it is all pressure cooked to release the natural oils and starches from the seeds. What's left is a rich, creamy, broth that rivals it's non-vegan counterparts flavor and texture." -

Yeah, I'd agree that it rivals its non-vegan counterpart. As a matter of fact, their broth is a lot lighter than most pork-based broths, so I didn't feel like a disgusting, blorpy greaseball afterward!


The thing that surprised me the most was the egg. And just what, pray tell, is a Vegan Egg?? What's it made from?! Clouds and smiles and fairy dreams?

The "egg" is completely vegan, made in two parts. The "white" of the egg starts as locally made, GMO-free soy milk, seasoned with salt and pepper and gelled with agar (a seaweed extract). The "yolk" is a combination of nutritional yeast, back salt and sodium alginate. We spherify the yolk using a little magic and place it in the center of the white. The yolk pops just like the real thing!" -

Whoa, ok, well there's my answer. See, there IS magic in it, I knew it.

Honestly? I couldn't tell it wasn't an egg, especially when it was mixed in with all the other bright, umami flavors going on. There was something ever-so-slightly different about its yellow and white edges (Uncanny valley, anyone?), but obviously not really enough for me to notice at first.


So the other stuff in the dish is nori (seaweed), scallions, bean sprouts, and chili threads. Threads of chili! What a concept! And delicious. When doing this illustration, it was super serendipitous because I actually had JUST purchased a new pen that was perfect for it! It was a size 0.3 Copic Multiliner in the color "wine." (affiliate link, if you buy this thing I may get a kickback! Yay!)

Actually my entire recent purchase at the local art store was perfect because I filled out the yellow/orange gamut in my marker collection. Turns out a lot of food is yellow/orange. And green. Who knew?

You know what colors you almost never use in food illustration? Purple and blue. Unless you're illustrating that Unicorn Monster from Starbucks.


But I digress. Back to the food! What about those definitely-fried-meat-looking items in your illustration, you may ask? Being that the dish is vegan, one might assume that it's tofu... but one would be wrong. It's actually King Oyster Mushroom**, which has a surprisingly meat-like texture. It worked harmoniously with the dish, and was actually one of my favorite elements in it!


So it took me forever to turn this illustration around, because life, stuff, and things.  At the time, we had a side of Avocado Toast... which may have been the best I've ever had. Sadly, it no longer appears to be available. I get that they probably update their menu with the seasons, but darn it how can we irresponsibly spend all of our disposable income on avocado toast instead of buying houses and diamonds if we can't find any?! ;) Regardless I'm sure their current offerings of side dishes are all great, too.

Anyway, in summary, whether you're vegan or not, if you like ramen, get thee to the Ramen Hood and eat everything you see there.

*Ok, what is this FODMAP thing you keep mentioning in your posts? I'll do a proper post about it sometime, but it's basically different types of carbohydrates found in foods that can cause digestive problems for certain individuals. It's been researched by the Monash University in Australia, and is becoming more widely accepted as a way to prevent and reduce digestive stress.

**But aren't mushrooms high FODMAP? How are you asking this question if you also asked the first question? Your Google Fu must be strong. But yes they are, and I am able to tolerate them. Different people have different trigger combinations, which is why it's important to do extensive testing with your GI doctor or a nutritionist.

Aspen's Halloween ComicFest 2017

I am a part of Aspen's Halloween ComicFest's issue again this year!

Aspen's HWCF 2017 Cover by  Simone Di Meo

Aspen's HWCF 2017 Cover by Simone Di Meo

"Aspen Comics' jam-packed, activity-filled, absolutely free coloring book returns... but, this time with a TWIST, and a whole gang of Aspen Animals ready to usher in a new era of fun! Readers can Choose Your Own Adventure in this time-spanning, fantasy realm-busting and speed-bursting new interactive tale! The Aspen Universe has been split into three and it's up to Aspen readers to help guide our hero creatures to safety and unite these worlds back together, all in one exciting coloring book!" -

I did pencils and inks for one of the story branches in this choose your own adventure-style comic, which, I gotta say, is a pretty cool concept. I read a ton of those books as a kid, and loved them. Ah, the 90s. In addition, if you've followed my art for even five minutes you'll probably have figured out that I love drawing animals, so a title featuring just animal characters had me super jazzed.

And what is Halloween ComicFest, you may ask? Well, they made a handy video to explain it so that I don't have to!

This book will be available for FREE at your local comic book shop on October on Saturday, October 28. Make sure you get one for yourself!

Check out the full list of Halloween ComicFest titles here!'s 1 Millionth Hit!

So I'm a few weeks late on this, but congraulations to my client, Stephen Owen of for hitting 1 million hits! Fox Deploy is a coding website that I've done branding for in the past-- because even tech blogs need cute foxen!

I've done work for FoxDeploy a few times before! Every time I work with Stephen it's a pleasure because his direction is always "GIVE ME MANY FOXES PLS" and my response is always, "OKAY!!"

I mean this time it was "GIVE ME FOXES CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN PLS," but, y'know, essentially the same thing.

I mean just look at how cute these guys are!

And because I always enjoy seeing how a client implements my artwork later, check out the neat graphic that Stephen made!

Ghost Coast


All my life I've enjoyed spooky things ("spoopy" as the internet calls it). As a kid I would gobble up any sort of ghost or alien-related media-- I had just about gutted my local library of anything it had on the subjects. The Goosebumps series by R.L. Stine was definitely a favorite of mine, as well as Scary Stories by Alvin Schwartz. Whether it was fictional or real-life accounts, I wanted to read it! My aunt and uncle took me to London at the tender age of ten, and I was excited and desperate to visit the Ghost Tower in Warwick Castle. Finally, I'd see some ghosts and learn that IT WAS ALL REAL! (Think of Baby Joie as a preteen Agent Mulder, yeah?) Sadly, no ghosts made any appearances, but I kept on reading and hoping one day I'd see something.

Even though I'm more of an Agent Scully now in my adult years, I still can't get enough of horror/paranormal/spoopy entertainment. When I was thinking up ideas for new illustrations recently, I remembered that horror-for-kids is a thing. In fact, I recently read a middle grade horror novel called Took by Mary Downing Hahn. (I really enjoyed the book a lot, btw). So, why not try something like that? I decided to cook up a faux middle grade novel about a bunch of kids who investigate paranormal stuff. Turns out it's a sub-genre which already exists in droves, based on my recent trip to the book store... but whatever, I wanted to do it anyway!

I didn't want the cover for this faux book be just a regular ol' "kids exploring haunted house" thing, though. I wanted something interesting and new-- I wanted the setting to be unique. They say draw what you know, right? Or does that just apply to writers? Anyway, I decided that the coastline of Oregon was perfect since it was so beautiful and specific. And, what sort of ghosts might one find near a coastline? A ghost SHIP! Of course the rhyme of "Ghost Coast" was my husband's invention, and I couldn't not use it.

So looking at photos from Battle Rock Beach and the general surrounding coastline of Port Orford, Oregon got me started. I've spent a lot of time up there, considering it's where Joel is from... and we also literally got married there last year. Dramatic rocky cliffs slathered in evergreen forest jutted up against a beach? You got it. Let's add in some kids who have found a map that draws them to the area and are an appropriate mix of "this is terrifying," "this is cool," and "I will conveniently miss any paranormal activity because I am always looking in another direction" respectively. (Of course, gentle reader, the latter's name is clearly Dana).

And finally, we'll add the "ghost." And I mean just look at that sick ship. Sick as in "it's a sickly color" but also "the concept of a ghost ship is cool." I'd be totally into seeing something like that when I go to the beach at night soon.

I enjoyed creating this illustration so much that I am going to do more with these same kids. So keep an eye out for that if you like this sort of thing. If you don't, there's not much I can do about that. Have a spoopy day!

Draw This: Celebrate

Three different quick thumbnail sketches to decide on my composition

Three different quick thumbnail sketches to decide on my composition

So the SCBWI does this monthly thing called “Draw This" for illustrators. They give out a monthly prompt word, and I thought "Well why not, this sounds like fun!" The prompt word was “celebrate” and since the 4th of July just happened (and annoying illegal fireworks going off until 2 AM in my neighborhood is STILL happening), I thought I’d do my piece of kid with a sparkler, enjoying the 4th with his dad. So let's see how it came together!

Drawin' it in more proper-like, but they ended up creepy eyes...

Drawin' it in more proper-like, but they ended up creepy eyes...

Fixed the eyes, and put in some sketchy shading to decide how I wanted to render it!

Fixed the eyes, and put in some sketchy shading to decide how I wanted to render it!

Inked this bad boy up, so now we're ready to go to (digital) watercolor!

Inked this bad boy up, so now we're ready to go to (digital) watercolor!

Done! Fun fact: I've never actually held a sparkler in my life.

Done! Fun fact: I've never actually held a sparkler in my life.

If you're an artist and you like both watercolor and digital paints, you should definitely buy Kyle T. Webster's brushes! They're magical.

UPDATE AUG 1: I was really surprised to get an email this morning telling me that I actually was one of the competition winners! I've never won anything, so this was a SUPER amazing day for me. Thank you, SCBWI!

New Illustration and Website!

Today is a day of new things: new illustration, new website, and fun new career goals! Wait, what?! I’m getting ahead of myself, let me explain!

First– my new illustration, Spotted! A girl who rescues an injured pegasus must keep it hidden from the world that won’t understand its existence? This is totally one of my 12 year old self’s fantasies. Straight from the heart, for sure! This piece is meant to be a cover for a mock middle grade novel of my own invention showing us a tense moment when the girl’s pegasus is spotted!

Second– new website? Why yes, you're on it right now! Awhile back, I had some technical issues with my old illustration website (you remember, right?) and I had to take it down, redirecting the URL to my comics website. Now that my comic site’s hosting plan is up for renewal, I decided to move hosts, relaunch my illustration website and consolidate everything on here! Make sure to change your bookmarks!

Third– over my career thus far I’ve worked in a lot of industries simultaneously including table top games, theme park design, animation, and primarily comics. Diversification is the name of the game when you’re a freelancer!

I’ve been wanting to reinvigorate the illustration side of my business for awhile now, and children’s literature has always appealed to me. When I found out about Middle Grade* publishing, I got extremely excited and wondered if it was something I could do, too. In my research so far, I’ve found quite a few all ages comics artists that I admire cross over into the line of Middle Grade illustration, and I think that’s got a lot to do with both industries having similar topics and art styles. Plus, I’ve had no less than three art friends/colleagues practically hit me over the head telling me to try it– so now it’s a new goal of mine to work toward!

Since this goal takes me into uncharted waters (for me), I have a ton of research to do! I’m excited though, because doing illustrations like this hits a nostalgic nerve that is hard to describe. My time between the ages of 9 and 13 is precious to me, as it was when my imagination was free to roam and my creativity was at an all time high. I’d love to recapture some of those moments in illustrations, and perhaps inspire a “Me too!” moment in my audience as well.


So that said, there’ll be more illustrations like this popping up soon! I’ve got another one that’s almost finished, and quite a few more in the planning stages. Additionally, I’m going to the SCBWI conference this weekend here in Los Angeles and it promises to be an amazing time. I’ll be sure to blog about my experience there later!

*Middle grade is a term for books that typically are targeted at kids ages 9-12, give or take

Last Minute Show: RoninCon

So a new show popped up this year down in Little Tokyo-- Ronin Expo! I hadn't heard of it before, but they had some last minute table openings for the one day show, and I jumped on it! It was my very first outdoors convention ever, so I'd never had to take wind into consideration with my display before. I didn't have too many problems, but some of my neighbors were just about blown away.

I was also positioned directly in front of the main stage, which had its pros and cons. It made it super loud so I could hardly hear customers when they spoke, but when traffic was slow, at least I had a show to watch-- and there was this really cool cosplay group called The Corps Dance Crew that performed all day! Cosplayers that dance! My college-age-cosplay self was just pleased as punch, since that's basically what I had wanted to once upon a time.

Overall it was a fun, short, and affordable show, and as an added bonus it was well-situated for lots of great food!

Oliver Oil

Back in January, I began a private commission for painting an olive oil label featuring an owner’s cat… aptly named Oliver. Cats? Puns? Food? I’m so on board.


When working with a client of any kind, I have a consultation with them first to discuss subject matter, timeline, and budget. I try to absorb as much info as I can about what they're envisioning, and then I get to sketchin'. I had received quite a few reference pictures of Oliver, who is one of those floofy cats that sometimes gets a hilarious lion cut. His face also conveys a lot of what I like to call "judgemental attitude." It's like he's peering directly into your soul and judging what he finds.

My client enjoyed all three sketches, but we both felt like it needed more oomph. For round two of the sketches, I suggested we pull in super tight around the cat’s face so we could really convey that facial expression.

We both really liked the one with the olive branch in his mouth, so it really helped sell the "Oliver Oil" concept. After all, this bottle is meant to sit next to a stove and be used, we'd better be sure what's inside! Once the sketch was approved, it was time to move to color comps. We chose option #2, and I began to paint!

I've painted a lot of fuzzy characters in my time, but I've never really, y'know, painted fur. Like in detail. It was actually quite fun to do, once I'd figured out a technique that worked for me. Once the painting and hand-painted text was buttoned up, my client had the challenge of "how to put it on a bottle." The issue with a label like this is that you need for it to be waterproof so the oil doesn't ruin the design. It takes a special sort of paper, and most "custom" olive oil label printing services require you get at least 10.

And so this is the solution my client came up with! The bottle ended up being a different shape than the one we'd planned for, but I still think it turned out quite cute. I'd like to come up with my own solution to printing olive oil (and wine!) labels, because I want to design more!

Interested in me painting your pet (or something else) for a custom wine or olive oil label? Feel free to email me!