Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vacuum Table!

JAMES - So I finally built my own Vacuum Table for screenprinting. I've recently acquired an awesome extra studio space, which I'm sharing with my buddy Brent Fleury (great photographer), and I'm turning my half of it into a print shop for my own personal use. Psyched.
Anyway, using the great plans of AndyMac (which you can download here, if you wish), I built the table from scratch. Got me a bunch of large plywood, some formica, drill bits, screws, glue and all that stuff. With the help of Brent's table saw, I cut it all out how I needed, and began to set the formica to the top piece of the table.
After that, I drew a grid of 1" squares and began drilling holes - 1,827 if I remember correctly.

Some pics of the drilling process. It took forever. My drill is shit - waiting for the batteries to re-charge was the worst part.

Here's a shot from outside at night - inside, you can just barely see that I have a ton of weight on the table, waiting for the second layer to set.

This is what the second layer looks like - staggered strips to allow the vacuum suction to travel through the whole table and suck in through the holes on top.

Finally, I set the third layer, which is just a flat bottom. Added my hinges and went to Ikea for some table legs - one's that can go at an angle to assist my back during printing. I hooked up the Vacuum, and it totally works great. The finished size is 4' x 4' - so I can do some nice sized prints with it. Can't wait to get started....

Monday, December 21, 2009

Ra Ra Riot Poster Giveaway Today!

JAMES - My last poster giveaway for this year, thanks to the Inside The Rock Poster Frame site - it's the SOLD OUT Ra Ra Riot Poster. All you have to do is visit this link - Inisde The Rock Poster Frame - and leave a comment, and they will pick a winner later this week. And then bookmark that site, because it's a great place to visit everyday for all poster and print news and releases. Good Luck!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sketchbook Stuff

JAMES - I just wanted to share some recent (and not so recent) sketchbook drawings I've done that I doubt I've shown before. Some color studies, some inking warm-ups, and stuff like that.

Monday, December 14, 2009


TOM- It got prety darn cold this last week here in New York. Those who know me know that I'm not a real winter person, I much prefer the warm weather. I'm going to try and make the best of it this year though. Perhaps drawing pretty pictures with a winter theme could be my way of making nice with the season. Anyway, here's my first attempt...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Free Poster Giveaways!

JAMES - Everyone go to my favorite poster site, Inside the Rock Poster Frame - they have a few exclusive giveaways of my posters. Today, there's a Black Lips poster up for grabs. Yesterday was my new Lucero poster (which I have yet to blog about...sorry. Coming soon...). Don't know if the Lucero contest is still open, but it's worth a shot. All you gotta do is visit the site and leave a comment with your email address. Go do it now! Quick!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Buzz Buzz

TOM- Just messing around with a sketch I did. Trying to play around with some textures and coloring techniques while listening to the Buzzcocks...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Fuzzy Dress Part 2

TOM - And here's another...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fuzzy Dress

TOM - Playing with some China marker and ink on nicer paper. More to come. Thanks for checking in!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Oh, Drella

JAMES - This latest poster is for the Black Lips show from last week here in Asheville. I was psyched to see that these guys were coming to town - and I tried out some new ideas with this one that would graphically relate to the band and their sound.

I do remember that the beginning of this idea was done in my sketchbook, really really small - nothing worth scanning. But this here is the final sketch I did straight in Photoshop, in which i decided how the colors and composition would work out. (oooh, "composition"...hahaha)

These drawings were done separately, and rather small. The faces were done with brush/ink and the lettering was all done with a marker. I'm really digging this font style I've been developing slowly over the past few months - and I think it fits in with the 'garage-psych-60's' aspect of the band.

This was the final color separation guide - again, I'm making use of the overlap to create a third color. Notice there's no mention of the band-name's lettering....

...that's because after they were screen-printed, I made a stencil and spraypainted the name on each poster individually. The stencil was carved out of regular old matte board, which is thick and sturdy and not too impossible to cut through. To reinforce the really thin little parts (especially knowing this would be used over 70 times) I super-glued toothpicks onto those parts, which worked really well. Also, to make sure the stencil stayed flush with the paper as I sprayed, I glued metal 'fishing sinkers', which are small, dense and heavy - and these also worked like a charm (click the photo to see these parts a little better). I set up a small rig so the paper underneath would have a consistant position, and went outside with some spray cans and a tarp and a face mask.

I took this photo during the spraying with my phone's really shitty camera. And I got my thumb in the picture, to boot. But you get the idea of what the set-up was like.

detail shot

Yellow Lettering: 2-color screenprint + yellow spraypaint, 20"x26", on 100lb. Cougar Natural paper, edition of 45

Hot Pink Lettering Variant: 2-color screenprint + hot pink spraypaint, 20"x26", on 100lb. Cougar Natural paper, edition of 15

Metallic Gold Lettering: 2-color screenprint + metallic gold spraypaint, 20"x26", on 100lb. Cougar Natural paper, edition of 10

I decided to do three different colors for the lettering - the Yellow being the main one (edition of 45), with the Hot Pink (edition of 15) and Metallic Gold (edition of only 10) as the variants. They all came out super great, exactly how I had hoped. The actual show was so fantastic, the Lips brought the house down, and the opening band Turbo Fruits were really great too. I brought one each of the Hot Pink and Gold versions, and those sold right away - the rest I brought were the Yellows and they almost completely sold out at the show. There are still some available of all three, and you can get them in my store on my website.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nativity (Full Process)

JAMES - I was contacted by the Orange Peel to do a poster for their Halloween show, featuring NC metal band Between the Buried and Me. Halloween + Metal = a happy James Flames. I know I usually detail most of the steps of my poster-making processes, but I thought that this time I would get a little more extensive. So let's start from the beginning.

First is sketching in my book, thinking about concepts, composition, colors, etc. I knew this poster was going to be reproduced digitally (as opposed to my screenprinted posters), so the amount of colors I could use was essentially limitless. That's kind of important, because it generally defines the way I'll start my sketching. If I'm doing a screenprint and I can only use 2, 3, or 4 colors, I generally like to do sketching directly in Photoshop because the colors dictate the other aspects of the illustration. But in cases like this one where my colors are unlimited (or if there are none at all, like when I do Black&White posters), it's easier for me to just draw it out in my sketchbook, allowing the lines and composition to dictate the rest.

So I started real loose with the sketching. In a very roundabout way, I knew what I wanted to see in the end: some kind of skeleton creature, a bunch of dead bodies, and some ooze. Most of the time my final sketches are a little more well defined, but the above sketch was all I needed as a groundwork this time. It was a general outline, and the rest of the details were very clear in my head already, so no need to waste time.

Sometimes, in the cases where I do more detailed sketches, I'll scan them into the computer and blow them up to full-size, then I'll print it out and trace over it onto a fresh sheet of paper - it's a good time-saver. But this case was different, considering that the sketch is pretty abstract. So I started with Bristol paper, and I measured out all my margins and crops. Then started drawing - over and over and over. This particular sheet was pretty messy - all the little details in the creature were drawn over many times, so to clear it up i went over the important lines with a marker, and erased the messy pencils.

Once I had everything pretty much where I wanted it, I got another clean sheet of Bristol paper, measured out the same margins and crops, and put it over the previous sheet. Using my light table, I traced it pretty lightly with pencil (I use Derwent "B" pencils - they're my favorites). Sometimes this extra step isn't necessary - but in this case, the previous sheet was so abused that the final illustration would have been very dirty and mangled. Of course it's all easily fixed in Photoshop, but I really like the final work to be clean and "presentable".

This is my last chance for any adjustments before going to my brush and ink, and you can see some subtle changes since last time. Once it's all how I want it, it's time for ink. I originally thought I would use a nib pen to do most of the detail, but quickly realized I felt way more comfortable with the brush on this one. I switched between my Rosemary & Co. #2 and #0 brushes to get all the major work done. I used a thin marker for some of the tiny little details, as well as for the outline of the dead skeletons surrounding the creature - I wanted to exaggerate the difference in line weights between them and the creature. Finally I used a big ol' #6 brush to fill in the big spots. I didn't need a drop of white-out on this at all.

And then as is customary, I slept on it. When time allows (which it doesn't always), I like seeing it with fresh eyes the next day - I feel like it gives me a chance to see things I may have missed. I fine-tuned some of my line weights on some parts, and also fine-tuned the minor shadows cast on parts of the creature (like the horns on his head). Once I was happy, I scanned it all in. My scanner is regular size, so I had to scan this in three pieces and then assemble it all together in Photoshop.

Next is coloring, which in this case was done all in Photoshop. The one draw-back to not doing any sketching in Photoshop (back in Step 1) is that I don't have any color studies to draw reference from. Honestly, when drawing this, I loved it so much as just a Black&White, and I almost couldn't see it as color. But they were expecting color, so I had to really find the right palette to create the perfect mood for this.

In the image above, you'll see the 6 stages of coloring this went through. The Orange & Cyan colors from the first try were really disappointing me - it made the poster seem almost happy and cartoony, and that's not what I was going for. Back and forth, back and forth between every color I could think of, and still frustrated. So, when in doubt, I go look at some other artists' work that I admire and use it as reference. In this case I checked out some of Darwyn Cooke's "Spirit" comics, as his palette in those was always murky and dark mixed with hits of really bright and well announced color choices. I felt like I had a better handle on what I wanted, and by the 6th frame of the image you can see I finally came to the final.

Also you may notice the evolution of the "eye smoke". When I first drew it on the original drawing/sketch (it's got a red-marker outline), it was a little more zig-zaggy. But I didn't include it on the final inks because I always intended to draw it directly in the computer using vector. The vector would give me the silky smooth lines I was looking for. When I got to the coloring stage, I needed a placeholder for the smoke, so I just scribbled something loose (which you see in the first few color steps). Well, throughout coloring, I got so comfortable with the loosely drawn smoke that when I finally did add the originally intended zig-zaggy smoke (which you'll see in step 5), I was very disappointed. So I just went back to the scribbly style, turned it into vector and refined it a little bit, and I was very happy with the shapes it made. I love when spontaneous things like that happen - I could have never planned it that way, it just happened.

Here's a final detail shot. These are hanging all over town, and they look pretty cool, if I do say so. Final size 11"x17".

Sunday, October 11, 2009

"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash"

TOM - Here is a new drawing I did recently. It will be featured in A.G.A.S.T, the Annual Gowanus Artists Studio Tour. The tour will be going on the weekend of October 17th and 18th from 1-6pm. A ton of places in Brooklyn will be participating. This particular piece will be at
Mobile Mutts 257 Third Ave. Check out the link above for more info on the tour and a map of all the places participating. Sounds like it's gonna be a fun weekend!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Meridian of Mobility

JAMES - I was contacted awhile ago about doing a poster for Ra Ra Riot's show here in NC. I'm a big fan of the band (and also a very big fan of their side project Discovery - check that shit out!), so i wanted to have alot of fun making this - they're all such nice people, and I wanted to make something really special for them.

original sketch

I started with research: the band's recent album is called "The Rhumb Line", which refers to a navigational term used to describe a line or path that intersects latitudes (or something like that). While I was doing a little sketching of ideas, I came across a half-finished sketch I had done awhile ago. It had the basic colors and forms already set, but there was no concept or specific imagery. But it was a great starting point to wind up with what you see above.

The images consist of three main parts, shown above. The first two, the smoke and the train, were little model cut-outs I made. Similar to my approach with the demon on the King Khan poster, I wanted these parts to be three-dimensional, and eventually end up being photographed to show the shadows that these cut-outs make as they lean against paper (which you can see in the detail shot below). Since the whale was under-water, I actually wanted him to appear recessed into the poster - so I drew him as usual with a brush and ink, but I used halftones in the final coloring to make him appear 'within' the water.

detail shot

I knew this would be a two-color design, but I love the color created by the overlap of the two colors, giving me a third color to work with - and in the final print, that purple-y color looks so velvety smooth. I hand drew the lettering and added it to the composition, then drew the bubbles in Photoshop, and it was all done.

2-color screenprint, full-bleed 19.5" x 25.5", on 100lb. Cougar Natural paper, edition of 60

They were printed by The Half and Half, and they're full-bleed and larger than usual at about 19.5" x 25.5". The show was last night, and it was so fantastic. As I said, the band and everyone else involved were super cool, as were all the fans at the show. It's great to see people's reactions to the poster first hand. These were selling pretty fast last night, and I did manage to save some and they're available now on my website and through Click here to buy.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


JAMES - Another oversize illustration, this one originated almost exactly two years ago. At the time I was keeping a personal mini-sketchbook, a real free-form experimental type of book, and every once in awhile, I wound up with a good idea or two that have translated into future illustrations (one of them became my Henry Rollins poster).
Anyway, this particular one always stuck in my mind, and I finally took the opportunity to bring it to life.
Similar to The Pill, this one is 22" x 30". I really like working this large, cuz it's more of my whole arm moving across the paper, as opposed to just my wrist and fingers controlling my strokes.

original ink drawing

I started with taking some photos for reference and then made this sketch, done with marker on 8.5" x 5.5" copy paper. I scanned it, and blew it up to the size I would need it, then printed it out onto 12 sheets of paper. I assembled those to make one large blueprint of the artwork to use for the final piece.

color study

Then I did a little color study on a little piece of 5" x 7" paper, just to get a handle on the colors and layers before I attacked the actual illustration.

process photos

This time I used Somerset paper, which is very similar to Rives BFK, and was great to work with. I started with a light pencil outline, and went layer-by-layer with my colors - almost approaching it like a screenprint. All the colors are acrylic, and the outline is an ink wash. After the main color and outline, I covered the entire painting in a layer of translucent metallic gold acrylic, which I kept messing with to warp the coverage. Finally, I added the lettering, which took awhile to keep my hand really steady for it all.

finished detail shot

I had a specific reason for using the metallic gold, even though it is kind of subtle in the end. I feel like most of the art I make is all done with the idea of it being reproduced faithfully in different ways: screenprint, photocopy, digital jpegs, etc etc. But metallic colors are really hard to reproduce, which gives the original piece of artwork greater importance and uniqueness. The only way to get the full effect of the illustration is to see it in person - and in contrast to my usual work, that just seems like a cool idea to me.
Anyway, I had a good time with this, and I'm planning on doing a bunch more like this. One thing, though, is that I think it would be better to use an easel - I'll have to look into that.