Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Video: fountain pen drawing tips

Pen Drawing Tips from Graham Smith on Vimeo.

I drew this lovely young woman with my super trusty Lamy Safari fountain pen. I carry it with me everywhere. That little pen is a sketch booking workhorse, particularly when filled with Platinum Carbon ink, a truly waterproof ink that won't clog a fountain pen. It's my favorite fountain pen and ink combo! This drawing was done with a medium sized nib.

To draw the thinnest lines, flip the nib to the backside, and draw lightly with the "foot" of the nib. To draw thicker lines, hold with pen in the "right side up" position, and press!

Happy drawing!

- G

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Fidel Castro and the Generals of Cuba

Fidel Castro - Maximum Leader of Cuba
Pacific Standard developed a big story about Fidel Castro's potential successors with writer, Ann Louise Bardach, (the preeminent US expert on the subject). Fidel Castro and Cuba's ruling elite are all 80 years, or older, the Cuban Missile just had it's 50th anniversary, and the world is wondering, who will rule Cuba next?

Art Director, Craig Edwards visioned a full page illustration of Fidel, plus 2 spreads - detailed infographics with portraits of all Fidel's family, military leaders, and politicos next to rule Cuba, organized by family allegiance, to accompany the article.

My assignment was to find reference photos, illustrate them, then infographic-ize all the portraits into charts that helped visualize the many players and their relationships.

It was a dream to illustrate Fidel Castro - the United States Caribbean nemesis, his brother Raul, all the Generals and political figures currently in power, plus many members of his family, including children from his "liaisons", hiding in exile.

This was a research heavy job, I learned a lot about Spanish family naming conventions, but mostly, I had to draw really fast!

Raul Castro - Fidel's brother, currently ruling Cuba

Fidel Castro - detail - Graham Smith

Waiting in the Wings

I read each draft of the article many times, trying to discern which politico was loyal to which family branch, and which military leaders were loyal to Fidel or his brother, so I could draw the correct person and organize the information into the charts below. 

Clicking on the charts below opens an interactive feature, explaining who each of the Generals, politicos, and family members are, and who may be the next to rule Cuba. 

For instance, Raul's Castro's grandson is also his bodyguard. And Fidel's daughter is an outspoken advocate for human rights, who has no interest in ruling Cuba. 

Joel Smith (no relation) developed the illustrations into this cool interactive feature! Check it out.
The Generals of Cuba

La Familia

While doing the research I came across the coolest old time photos of Fidel Castro chilling with Che Guevara, back when they were young rebels, overthrowing governments, starting revolutions, and all that fun stuff kids do. Plus, this guy above, General Valdes, he's like the most interesting man in the worlds badass brother, and very likely to be Cuba's next leader.

I love learning about history, and all the great and notorious things people do as I draw their portraits. It is one of the best parts of being an illustrator!

For the drawing nerds: Lamy Safari fountain pen, on Strathmore drawing paper, with Platinum Carbon Ink. Brush pen.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Senator Arlen Specter - RIP

Arlen Spector - February 12, 1930 – October 14, 2012

Arlen Spector was a moderate US Senator from Pennsylvania, who made a run for the Presidency in 199.

He switched back and forth between the Democratic and Republican parties more than once. First, from Democrat to Republican, in 1965, switching back to the Democrats again in 2009.

Arlen Spector was a highly esteemed Professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, teaching a course between the relationship Congress and the US Supreme Court.

He died of Non-Hodgkins lymphoma on October, 14th, 2012.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

How to combine illustration and photography for a unique title sequence

BritneyDraftA from Chris Park on Vimeo.

Making this 3 second animated title sequence took a lot of steps, but was the funnest thing ever to collaborate on!

First, Tim Mantoani and I did a 2 set up photo and video shoot with America's hottest hammer thrower, Miss Britney Henry. One set up for a glamor studio shoot, indoors; and another action shoot, outside at the Olympic Training Center, where Britney throws her hammer.

Second, the photos were edited, and 24 action stills were selected.

Third, the stills were outsourced to India, to remove the backgrounds, and drop them out to white.

And fourth, one set was printed at a 1 hour photo processor.

I showed up at Tim's photo studio around lunch time. The plan was to draw something on the photos while filming the process, and then to make something with the footage we shot. I didn't really know much beyond that. We were going to wing it.

Tim set up a giant piece of foam core as a table, and I sat on an apple crate with my random selection of art supplies brought from my studio. I suggested Tim move his giant expensive looking softbox back a bit, because I felt the need to fling some ink coming on. He switched the light to a 500 watt halogen, diffused by a sheet of plastic, and he was ready to film. I still hadn't thought of an idea.

The Canon 5D fired a shot every second, and sounded like a clock ticking. I grabbed a brayer, some tracing paper, ink and acrylic paint and started to go for it. 6 hours, and thousands of frames later, I finished painting on the 24 photos for the title sequence, and film maker Chris Park's work had just begun.

Thousands of jpeg stills were imported into Adobe Motion, and saved out to a movie file, where Chris edited the assets into the dreamy interview, hammer throwing showcase above, using Final Cut Pro.

To get the arial shot of the hammer flying through the air, film maker Chris Park taped a Go-Pro camera to Britney's 8 pound steel hammer. She threw the whole rig 200 feet downrange three times - and the camera survived.

Here are some behind the scenes shots of the production. Peek at BHP photographer Teresa Heath's Behind the scenes photos, too.

Hand painted frame #18 of 24 of Britney Henry by Tim Mantoani and Graham Smith

Britney "the Hammer" Henry by Tim Mantoani

Britney "the Hammer" Henry on white, by Tim Mantoani

Chris Park tapes a Go-Pro camera to the hammer

Photographer Tim Mantoani at work inside the weight room at the Olympic Training Center

Getting the shot

Chimping for Britney

The assistant - Austin Sosa

Britney Henry from athlete to model in a day.

Britney Henry working the photoshoot

 At the hammer ring

The hand lettered credits were chucked in the bin still wet. We got a schedule to keep people!

24 hand painted photos drying in the photo bay.

Ok,  here is the set up - go ahead and make something!


Athlete                                       - Britney "The Hammer" Henry
Photography primary                 - Tim Mantoani
Photography documentary 1      - Teresa Heath
Photography documentary 2      - Graham Smith
Video / editing                           - Chris Park
Illustration                                  - Graham Smith
Make Up                                    - Momi Gonzales
Grip                                            - Austin Sosa
Location                                     - The Olympic Training Center, Chula Vista , CA
Music                                          - Cracks - Freestylers feat. Belle Humble

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kurt Cobain - cover illustration

Kurt Cobain: Graham Smith
Even though I was overbooked with assignments, when the call to illustrate Nirvana's Kurt Cobain for a 90's revival issue of the Phoenix New Times came in, I said yes, and worried about where to find the time, later! Read the article, by Chris Parker.

Art Director Peter Storch was full of great ideas that got me all pumped up to draw the portrait. But, as we developed the sketches, it seemed that some of the concepts were not really true to the ideals Kurt Cobain stood for as an artist. He died at 27 years old, feeling very misunderstood, and we wanted to be sensitive to that.

Detail - Kurt Cobain - Graham Smith
One of the ideas that didn't make it out of the rough stage, was an image of Kurt wearing buttons of popular bands from the 90's. Kurt would have hated to be a billboard, so we chucked the idea.

All my 90's era plaid shirts have all been recycled by craft projects or given away; but the Art Director kept one of his favorites, and sent me a scan.

I repainted his favorite old plaid shirt by hand, because the photo looked funny with the drawing. (I was a textile designer back in the day, so I knew just what to do.)

Once the portrait was finished, I crumpled, folded, and distressed a piece of paper to use as the masthead. Peter fine tuned it, and another collaboration was complete.

Young Kurt Cobain and his Fender - sketch: Graham Smith

Kurt Cobain, ink in process: Graham Smith
A big drop of ink fell right on his nose when I was darkening his eye sockets. The drop followed the ink lines conturing his face, and ended up looking like a black tear. I left the ink tear alone, instead of editing it out with Photoshop. Sometimes, mistakes are the best part.

- G

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sony Life Drawing Workshop - Fall 2012

Life Drawing Workshop
Fall 2012
Sept 18th - Nov 6th
Tuesdays 6-9pm
Instructed by Graham Smith

This fall, the Sony Life Drawing Workshop will go back to basics by drawing from nude life models in short poses. This workshop is open to artists and animators currently working at SOE and SCEA.
The sessions start with 20 minutes of warm up drawing, followed by pose from 2 - 20 minutes.


A big drawing board, at least 18 x 24.
18 x 24 paper - your choice
                smooth newsprint - erases easier
                rough newsprint - nice grainy texture
                sketch paper - white (Canson Biggie Sketch or Strathmore sketch)
Drawing implements - one or many of the following:
                charcoal pencil's, soft -  General
                woodless graphite pencils - 6b
                graphite sticks - 6b
                conte crayons
                colored pencils - get the cheap ones made by Blick.
                colored pencil sticks - the size of a small french fry, all color, no wood.
                pens - ball point
Pencil sharpener - get a good one, or a razor blade.
kneaded eraser 
Small eraser -  like the Tuff Stick, the mechanical pencil of erasers.


                Brush pens: Tombo, one end like a brush, the other end like a felt tip marker.
                oil pastels
                markers - bring half dried up ones too, they make a nice texture
                other kinds of paper - toned or color

Is there something you've always wanted to try? Experimentation is part of the workshop. Bring a few things to see what you like. 

Blick Art Materials

1844 India St.
San Diego, CA 92101
(619) 687-0050

Artist and Craftsman Supply

San Diego, CA
3804 Fourth Ave.
San Diego, CA 92103
Phone: 619.688.1911

Friday, September 7, 2012

La Gaita Movie Poster

My cousin Janine Fung, a fantastically talented film maker, premieres her newest documentary, La Gaita, on Sept 22nd and 27th at the Little Carib Theatre, and MOVIETOWN in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad.

La Gaita is a documentary film about 2 brothers and their band, who sole mission is to bring hope and comfort to the downtrodden, poor and lonely, by singing them traditional music, in the old time ways.

I illustrated this poster for the movie by combining imagery from the national flag of Trinidad, a red field with a white and black diagonal stripe, and the cuattro, the traditional 4 string guitar that characterizes Parang, a type of Trinidadian folk music. To emphasize to La Gaita's underlying themes, one can see a Christian cross, and rays of lights, emerging from the black ink.

La Gaita, roughly translated from the patois, means, " The bad is not to fix."

- G

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Drawing on Grocery Bags

Bree on brown paper: Graham Smith

Acrylic wash, colored pencol, white chalk on a brown paper grocery bag, from life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

School Lunch Savior

Aimie Hamlin - for Vegetarian Times : Graham Smith
Aimie Hamlin is improving school lunch. As the executive director of the New York Coalition for Heathy School Food, Aimie has been able to get State Legislators to pass a resolution to add one plant based entree per week to school lunch programs. Vegetarian lunches for the kids! Now, healthy animal lovers will have a bit of choice, besides fried food, pizza and soda.

Currently, the organization is working with 13 schools in NYC, and 9 in Ithica, NY. There's a waiting list, yo! Evidently, lots of people see value in improving the nations eating patterns.

Art Director, Scott Hyers of the Vegetarian Times assigned this portrait. I illustrated it in pen and ink, and a # 8 round brush. The background textures are an acrylic paint monoprint, created with a brayer, and digitally colored.

I illustrated a second version of the portrait using warmer colors - each drawing turns out slightly differently, I love drawing them, and magazines like choices!

Aimie Hamlin - for Vegetarian Times : Graham Smith


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Aesop Rock drops Skelethon

Aesop Rock : Graham Smith
Big time Art Director, Andrew Nilsen of the SF Weekly, called with a sweet little portrait assignment to illustrate Aesop Rock for the debut of his newest album, Skelethon. If you dig serious lyrical wordplay and stinky beats, you're gonna put this album on repeat for sure.

I watched a bunch of his videos and interviews, and while listening to the hard hitting track, Zero Dark Thirty, I penciled up a few sketchy ideas for the SF Weekly to choose from. The illustration was finished in an off-register, rough and dirty, 3 color screen print style. 

Read the article online and nod your head to his video for Zero Dark Thirty!

detail- Aesop Rock: Graham Smith


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Bostonians Changing the World

Deb O’Hara-Rusckowski, critical care nurse setting up nursing school in Haiti
It was pretty fun combining scratchy pen and ink drawings with bold graphic shapes while drawing these portraits of Bostonians Who Are Changing the World. You may gaze upon their portraits while imagining their amazing deeds, or you may read about these influential folks in Boston Globe Sunday Magazine online

Dr. David Hertzog, eating disorders Doctor at MGH

Glen Shor, director of Massachusetts Health Connector
Sonia Chokshi, Tufts student and co-founder of Kip Solutions social media company


Friday, July 20, 2012

Painting on Polaroid

I was invited to Tim Mantoani's photography studio last friday, to collaborate on an art project.

The plan was to draw Tim Mantoani, while Chris Park filmed the process. Beyond that, details were vague. We intended to improvise, collaborate, make something up on the spot - film it and post it on the interwebs. We figured that would take the rest of the afternoon, so we ate Vietnamese pork sandwiches first.

I asked to draw on an old camera box, something photography-ish, or personalized to Tim. Offering help, Tim dragged in a giant cardboard box - the box a Moto Guzzi motorcycle was delivered in. Nice piece of cardboard, but it didn't say Tim enough for me.

 "How about drawing on a Polaroid?" Tim ran up the stairs looking for one.

It was a lot bigger than I expected, thinking of those little, square, white ones. A large format Polaroid is bigger than my drawing board! 20 x 24 inches, plus extra at the top and bottom.

We tested a corner of the Polaroid with a dab of acrylic paint, and it stuck like crazy. The surface was better than expected to paint on. Colored pencils would not show up on the dark slippery surface. Markers would work on light areas. Ink seemed to stick. My mind was scrambling about how to draw on that surface.

Our idea was taking shape.

Painting on Polaroid.

One image slowly develops into the another, over the course of a time-lapsed video.

I'd paint his portrait, on top of his giant Polaroid self-portrait, and we'd film it. Both portraits combined into a collaboration - each artist treating the subject his own way, in layers. The process of transformation from one to another captured, in time lapse.

The whole idea was nice and symmetric. We decided to make an afternoon of it.

I sat in my place, waiting, with my drawing board and art supplies, while Chris Park set up a giant soft box, lights, and four Canon 5D cameras. We estimated 20 minutes to draw the portrait.  It took 34.

Chris programmed the overhead camera to slowly travel, about 6 feet over the course of the video. The rig crawled along a rail with a camera atop, clicking away every second. The second camera was on Tim, a third faced me, and Chris operated the fourth camera handheld.

Tim sat across from me, unsure if sitting still for 20 minutes would really suck, or not. Or how bad.

Chris said everything is ready, and all the cameras started clicking. They sounded like an old grandfather clock, but louder.

Yikes! I better start painting something - squinting at the subject, I started mixing white paint in a baby food jar to stall for time... Watch the video to see it all go down!

Tim Mantoani  Paint over Polaroid: Smith/Mantoani

20 x 24 inch Polaroid, white acrylic paint, Japanese brush pen, india ink.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Forgetting You

forgetting you - drawings from sketchbook 32

The girl you can't forget - no matter how hard you try. A sentimental longing for the past, a beautiful girl, a perfect night... and remembering things the way an artist does.

forgetting you - sketchbook 32 - Graham Smith
forgetting you - detail
forgetting you starts in Sketchbook 32 - with a blue acrylic wash over graph paper. The idea to draw something nostalgic built from that color. This color blue seemed both happy and sad, like remembering a girl from long ago, maybe, the one that got away?

Her figure was drawn in ink, with a fountain pen. Her skin, acrylic paint, thinned way down to milky white. The background, her dress, india ink black. Pink colored pencil. Her cheeks and knees were pink colored pencil. I'll never forget.

This drawing was filmed on my desk with the iPhone 4s, and time-lapsed using Stop Motion Recorder app. The titles, music, and all that, were created with iMovie.

Place a camera next to you while you draw and see what happens!


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Worth: A Year of Portraits

Over the last year, I've been lucky enough to illustrate portraits for Worth magazine's 20 Questions feature, Art Directed by Valerie Sebring.

It is an honor to be a part of this award winning magazines year. In celebration, I've collected all the 20 Questions portraits together. Here they are, in no particular order.

Worth Magazine's 20 Questions portraits: Illustrated by Graham Smith.

Aby Rosen - Real Estate Mogul - Read More
Tom Marchant - Hi Tech Travel Agent - Read More

Ink drawing of Mindy Grossman
Mindy Grossman - CEO Home Shopping Network

Blake Mycoskie - Gives away shoes

Duncan Quinn - Fashion Designer - Video

Howard Schultz - CEO of Starbucks - Read More

Willam C. Paley - Tycoon
Micahel Mina - Chef

Pen and ink. Hunts nib #: 513ef, 99 
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