These are original student drawings from the 1911 class of the famous art teacher, George Bridgman.

Bridgman, constantly inebriated and chewing on a large black cigar, would rail at his students about the importance of mastering anatomy: "Don't think color's going to do you any good. Or lovely compositions. You can't paint a house until it's built." His students adored him and vied for his approval.

Some of the students in this class would grow up to be stars, such as Norman Rockwell, Mclelland Barclay or E.F. Ward. But in 1911 they were still ambitious teenagers dreaming of the future and striving to develop the kind of academic drawing skill that many illustrators today consider irrelevant.

The crowded classroom was warmed by the stench of tobacco, charcoal, perspiration and turpentine.

Many of the models were girls who had come to the city to work in department stores during a peak holiday season and were laid off after the holidays.  Desperate for money, they would apply for modeling work but once in the classroom some couldn't bring themselves to take their clothes off. Sometimes a young woman would attempt to pose in her slip and stockings, but she would be asked to leave. Recalled one of Bridgman's students, "she'd begin to cry and say she needed the money and what was she going to do."

These girls and their personal anguish are now just ghosts on crumbling paper.  All that remains of them are the images that shamed them.

Bridgman was a highly critical taskmaster, teaching as he did before our era of false praise. At the end of each class, he would designate one student's work as number 1. (You can still see Bridgman's notation, "1st" on E.F. Ward's drawing of the man's back, above.) But Norman Rockwell recalled a story that Bridgman would tell the class whenever he sensed that students were getting cocky about their grades:
Boys, a queer thing happened to me after I left the class last Tuesday. There was a coal wagon backed up onto the sidewalk on 48th street shooting coal into a cellar. As I passed by a fellow stuck his head, all begrimed with coal, out of the cellar and said "hello Mr. Bridgman." I said, "why hello there who are you?" Oh, the fellow said, don't you remember me? I was number one in your class last year.... The story varied; sometimes it was an iceman or a voice from a manhole.


I love Thomas Fluharty's working drawing of Hugh Hefner:

The purpose of this drawing was to capture the information Fluharty needed for an oil portrait. This could never be achieved merely by tracing liver spots. Look at the vigor and character of his line:

Robert Fawcett once wrote, "A design started tentatively rarely gains in vigor later on. In anticipation of the dilution... the first rough draft [is often] put down with an almost savage intensity...." The personality that Fluharty squeezed into this drawing will survive conversion to painted shapes followed by several phases of refinement and blending.

Despite the obvious energy and speed of his drawing, he has not sacrificed acuity. Note how sharply he records the eyes, never resting with an easy symmetry:

Best of all, as he digests information Fluharty infuses it with strong opinions. Here Fluharty takes liberties with Hefner's ear, treating it like the gnarly horn of a grizzled old satyr:

One of the things I love most about good drawing is the way opinions and judgments emerge in the evaluation process.

Fluharty teaches a superb course on oil painting in the tradition of the Dutch and Flemish masters.

Surreal Email

Over the years I've had all kinds of illustrative requests. Tonight I was up late working on a deadline due tomorrow morning, and the following email showed up in my inbox:

Strange but true illustration request.

At first I thought it was spam, followed closely by my suspicion that a friend was joking around with me, and ending with the thought of "How can anyone think this is a good idea or an appropriate solution?"

Needless to say I wasn't interested in doing these illustrations (Despite the very tempting $150 budget) and turned it down with a reply email that read:


This project wouldn't stimulate my interest.



Call me a creative prude I guess.


Many of Frank Frazetta's fans had trouble understanding why the "master of fantasy" couldn't fantasize a better lifestyle than a home in the suburbs with a wife and kids.

Frazetta was able to conjure up vivid worlds of savage barbarians and wild harem girls. He painted eyewitness accounts of magic spells on alien planets and colossal battles with dinosaurs.

How could such an imagination possibly be satisfied with middle class domestic life?

But Frazetta made no apologies for his choice, shrugging, "I got married, had kids, did my thing."

Frazetta said he picked his wife Ellie over all the other girls because "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never had that feeling about any other girl I'd been involved with." Apparently her ability to pilot a space ship was not even a consideration.

They started out with very little money, but you don't need much when you're young and hot blooded. Ellie recalled that when they moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn,
we used to have water pistol fights in our apartment in the dark. Have you ever been squirted with water in a pitch black room? Oh, it's creepy! We did all sorts of silly things when we were young. I had to clean up the mess in the morning, but so what? We had fun and it didn't cost a dime.
Years later, a more matronly Ellie tried to keep the evidence of their early frolics under wraps, saying "I don't want my grandkids to see their grandmother like that."

As the couple matured, Ellie primly scolded Frazetta for paintings she now considered "too sexy" or "sacrilegious."

"I really didn't care for... the alien crucifixion.... when you start messing with people's core beliefs, that's when the joke's gone way too far." --Ellie

When his art offended her, she threatened to destroy it. She pestered him into altering a painting when she thought a woman's rump was too large. To please her, he would paint pictures of Jesus.

Frazetta fans watched aghast: would married life tame their hero?

Outsiders can't always appreciate how marriage provides its own version of magic spells and alien planets. Marriage can introduce you to the true meaning of life-or-death stakes; you think a giant lizard with a ray gun is daunting? Try bringing new life trembling into the world, and taking permanent responsibility for it.

And of course, marriage also provides you with an opportunity to do your own version of that barbarian-and-harem-girl thing.

A couple must get beyond what poet Eavan Boland calls "the easy graces and sensuality of the body" and face life's true challenges before they understand "what there is between a man and a woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved."

The Frazettas stayed together through thick and thin, through lean years when assignments were hard to find, through vicious quarrels and illness and a stroke.

After Ellie died, Frazetta's publisher J. David Spurlock visited him alone in his studio. Spurlock discovered that Frazetta had taken down his world famous illustrations from the walls and replaced them with pictures he had painted of Ellie over the years.

Spurlock reported that even when the face wasn't an exact likeness, it was obvious that Ellie had been the inspiration for each picture Frank selected.

In case there was any lingering doubt about the role Frazetta's marriage played in his work, Spurlock spotted Frazetta's famous painting, "Adventure," on his drawing board.

Frazetta was carefully repainting the face on the girl as the face of his late wife.

TAD Original Art on Governor's Island

The Children's Museum of the Arts has an outpost on Governor's Island where they hold summer camps, free art activities and exhibitions.  "Building 20", below is currently showing their collection of children's art from around the world, as well as the original art from TAD.

If you're in or near New York, Governor's Island is a really fascinating place to spend a day.  It's got an otherworldly feel to it, just off the tip of lower Manhattan, but completely isolated and filled with abandoned but well-maintained military buildings, including a fort.  The best part though is you can rent incredibly dorky 4 person bicycle cars!  (The last page of the TAD book shows us in one from a couple of years ago).  More about Governor's Island here.

Graphic Heists

The original "Tribal Face" illustration.

Recently I've had a handful of infringements take place regarding my tribal artwork shown above. These types of situations tend to happen in clusters for some reason?

My tribal art hacked and sold on

This is now the second time has been caught selling my artwork on their site without permission. Last year the same thing happened with my hawk illustration and it turned out to be some design weasel in Serbia.

At least this time removed the art pretty fast. But it makes you wonder what their vetting process is.

If you're curious what if any recourse there is, there isn't. This is due to the inadequate and weak DMCA. Corporations like can hide behind it and as long as they remove the content when notified, they don't have to reimburse the copyright owner. (Thank you very little President Clinton)

Tribal art tattooed on some dudes arm.

Most of this arts infringements come via tattoo applications. The majority of these type of usages never get my permission, but thankfully some do.

Tribal art tattooed on some persons calf muscle.

I'm often asked "How do you locate these?" Well, most of the time I don't. For example with this specific tattoo my fellow design friend in Portland spotted this tattoo on a guy in the same store he was shopping at and asked if he could take a picture of it with his iPhone. He then emailed it to me.

Talk about walking portfolios.

Tribal art ripped and bedazzled by Diamante Transfer.

I've seen this art stolen in almost every way imaginable in the last five years but this was the first time any of my art has been bedazzled. When it's a company infringing I have to send out an official DMCA Infringement Letter. This usually does the trick without any further followup.

If some of these companies would just approach me I'd be willing to work out a fair licensing agreement with them. And the price I charge for tattoo usage is very reasonable.

In 2009 I had to deal with a total of "72" individual infringements. It got old quick. Thankfully 2010 hasn't been quite as bad, but it's still higher than I'd like at "33" infringements to date.

FYI: For information about my stock tribal designs or to have me create a custom tribal design for you visit

The Designers of Summer

"Hard Ball" Back print on white shirts.

Being a hired gun (creative pinch hitter if you will) means I do a lot of exploratory work that will never be used and tends to serve the purpose of helping an agency focus in on final solution. I'm not complaining, that's just the reality of the game.

Recently I was hired by Red Jacket Clothing to create a tribal tattoo themed baseball design. I love baseball, I think it has a lot of great metaphors that one can play off for all kinds of various concepts.

My client gave me full control of this project so of course I picked my favorite team, the Boston Red Sox to use in my design.

"Hard Ball" Back print on colored shirts.

I decided since this had a tribal tattoo look I'd play off of that theme with the term "Hard Ball." I also created a modular design that could be adapted for any of the MLB teams. This way the design would have a broader potential for the marketability and be relatively easy to customize by merely shifting ink and shirt colors either dark or light.

The hardest part of this design though was creating the baseball. The first one I did looked horrible. It didn't read as a baseball, it read more like a Klingon jig-saw puzzle instead. So I had to re-draw it a few times before I struck the right balance.

Logo front print on colored shirts.

The main design is a back print and this is the front center chest print. The team logo would be dropped into the middle of the tribal ring for each team.

It took roughly two months for the design to make it through MLB licensing circles and ultimately got benched. No reason was really given? But I've dealt with MLB licenses before and they are somewhat finicky IMO.

I'd be curious what others think regarding this designs marketability, so I created a simple poll you can vote in here.

Personally I like the design, it was fun to create so I'm just bummed it got put on waivers before it even had it's first at bat.

Maybe I should buy a steroid plugin for Adobe Illustrator? Hmmmm.