Lisa Blogs About the Mural

So my mate got to it before I did:
Blogging about the three-week mural-painting-bender we went on in September, from a Distinguished Bird.

Me, I just blog about the trip and the cool shops in SF. Seattle notes to come, if I feel so inclined. Or mayhaps my thoughts on the Rally to Restore Sanity (which was awesomefuntime). But you see, I haven't slept yet and sleep is tempting.


In the sere deserts of Somewhere Nextdoor...

Back from our trip, and three weeks since we worked on the mural at 826DC (They have a new website! Snazzy!) but we have yet to go check out the publicly-open storefront! Alas!

On the other hand, we did get to go see the original 826 Valencia storefront in San Francisco while we were out West. They have had 8 more years to get their store in prime shape... and let me just say, it's veritably ship-shape in perfection. Signage in epic numbers, beautiful props and furniture. It's a really awesome place. If you're in SF, please check it out. You'll be glad you did. It's only a couple shops down from Paxton's Gate:

The whole place is rife with mounted animals. It's a bit morbid, but if you dig archaic display cabinets and beautifully mounted insects, this is it. They also have a greenhouse and floral shop in the back. It goes surprisingly well with the "natural history museum" front space. Some great local metal artists on display here, too. And classes on all sorts of related things.

And now that I'm back, I want to share with you what we were working on for 826 prior to murals and vacations-cum-home-browsing. This is the first whole look at one of the final illustrations for the Catalog of Evolutionary Diversions anyone gets (unless you've been to 826DC since it opened, of course).

Zebu Constrictor. Dangerous. Starving. Watch out.


Been a while, but news!

Hey, so StarShipSofa Stories Vol. II is for sale! That's the anthology with an illustration of mine accompanying Tides, a Tobias Buckell story.

You can go buy it here. Or there's always watching the book trailer.

Really enjoyed working with these folks, and creating the artwork they commissioned. Superb fellows.

I'm back from our vacation in Seattle and SF now, so hopefully more posts will follow.


Art for StarShipSofa Stories Volume II

So I did an illustration back in May for StarShipSofa Stories Volume II. These guys have a Hugo Award-winning spec fic podcast every week, and they issue anthologies like the one linked above every year or so? I guess? Anyway, they have two now. Composed of new illustrations and reprint stories from some amazing authors (Neil Gaiman, China Miéville, Tobias Buckell, Pat Cadigan, etc.)

Well, they're revealed a new promo video for the book, and it has some neat music accompanying a nice "vast depths of extrasolar space" animation by Dee Cunniffe.

The art I did for the book was for Tobias Buckell's story, Tides.


Brief glimpse of the Unnatural History Museum

So this blog had someone come by and snap some cool photos of the space where we're painting the mural in DC: http://tiny.cc/uwq6j (via @newcolumbiahts)

I have to say though, it may look horselike... but that is far more bizarre than a horse. Just wait till the skeleton is complete and everything put together!

The mural wall is to the left of the skeleton and ladder in that first picture they have.


He Who Shall Not Be Named 2012

I got to be Lord Voldemort for a while today. I was tasked with getting into Voldy's head, scriptorium-like, and doing some calligraphy in whatever his style should be. This was a "thank you" letter. It'll be mailed to Brent Spiner. But it's not me thanking Data. It's He Who Shall Not Be Named. On behalf of the Palin/Voldemort 2012 ticket.

And yes, it was in green ink on parchment. With a serpent sigil in green wax.

...I have a really weird job, sometimes.


Stuff that does the goings on in the what.

Or, what Evan has on his plate pending upcoming and about-to-occur.

So, with the 826DC images handed off to our AD, and Lisa's latest commission winding to a close, we find ourselves at the mercy of Looking for More Work. The great part is, we still have work to do between now and the future when we have more work to... do... well, you get the point.
  • Personally, I have to put the finishing touches on the Elephants' General, now that it's been back with me for a while.
  • Then, there's some more final touches to a couple other pieces waiting for their last dabs.
  • And of course, Illustration Friday's topic is "Proverb" this week. Maybe I'll actually DO it on time. : )
  • Maga Design might hand me more work next week at my new REALLY WELL PAYING rate. Might, though.
  • Our onsite design contract has us in, on and off, all month.
  • 826DC is going to have Lisa and I paint some of our animals into their museum mural in a week or so. Woo!
  • I should do another Steampunk Hedgehog painting and plot out a decent story arc to write up and make them into a book. Shop it around.
  • Probably need to work on some more Etsy Shop bookplate designs when I have a sketching moment.
  • My participation in the Sketchbook Project is also needed... I've got a few pages in, now, thanks to 826DC.
  • I'd really like to find some new work and do that, too. 'Cause I'm a masochist of scheduling. Seriously, though--deadlines keep me working, and force me to actually get shit done instead of procrastinating... or doing laundry... or taking a walk... or browsing the interwebs.
And of course, in October, Lisa and I are heading out to SF and Seattle for 11 days... so much needs doing before then.

Though in terms of having relax-time, we went to a really nice going away party for a friend last night in Georgetown. She'll be in Chapel Hill, NC for 6 months and we will miss her. Speaking of, if you know anyone renting down there... here housing fell through, and she could really use a place to sublet or rent. Contact me if you have any info!


Prepare for ...

The awesome opossum book Lisa and Katie and I were working on for 826DC is more or less wrapped up from our end! Final art handed over to Oliver, and fancy-schmancy scans to come back from the high fallutin' imaging studio he's using. They'll be far and above the nicest scans I've ever been able to get short of giclée printing.

While 826DC doesn't want me to show the full artwork until after the Museum of Unnatural History opens in October, I have some quick and dirty teaser scans for ya. : ) Anyone who can't get to DC to see the books in person, don't fear! I will share the art on here as soon as I am able (though I hear they might do a digital version for non-locals to see). And maybe eventually they'll have copies for sale? I do hope so.

In the suddenly-free time I thought I had, I've been redoing my resume and thinking about a new look for the website. In a week or so, we'll probably be painting some of the creatures we did for the book into the mural installation at the 826DC space itself, however... so free time is fleeting, but painting wins out in the end!


826 DC Painting preview no. 1

So you've all heard by now about the copious arting I've been up to on behalf of 826DC, and you've probably decided that until I pony up something besides a few sketches, you'll think it's some sort of algebraic math nonsense from that whole "science thing".

Well, disparage no more! Here you have the first in the series of 7 I'm doing:

Speigal's Hooved Marmoset


Buggish blighted beasties

As mentioned a few times before... the fine folks at 826DC have contracted my wife, our friend, a NatGeo designer, and myself to illustrate some of the exhibition paraphernalia for their soon-to-open Museum of Unnatural History, in Columbia Heights, Washington, DC. Well, we were really stoked about this project despite the short deadline (September 1st!). And now, some views of the final sketches for my set of creatures:


Lisa is King of the Studio

Man, I'm so happy for Lisa, she gets the coolest jobs ever! Lucky duck has been tacked by Catherynne M. Valente to illustrate some promotional images for Valente's newest book, Habitation of the Blessed: a Dirge for Prester John. Think they're going to be print promo and on the book's website. Which book, by the way, shall have a new cover come release time. Not sure who by. Ignore the one there on NSB's website.

Go, Lisa, Go!

And of course, Lisa's working with us on 826DC's awesome Museum of Unnatural History catalog. Sketches from this to follow!


DAMN THE MAN: SAVE THE KINGDOM - A Letter For Prester John

DAMN THE MAN: SAVE THE KINGDOM - A Letter For Prester John

If you know Cat Valente's writing (and if you don't, you should), this is a must-read. It's a sad fact of the genre publishing industry (and maybe the industry as a whole) that these things happen.

Go support Valente's work for its greatness and repudiate Night Shade Books for their poor Art Direction.


Potential Nifties

Tonight Lisa and I met a rarity: Annapolis fantasy illustrators, at Art Things' Annapolis Art Walk event. The talented Beth Trott and Lindsay Fisk. Awesome & unexpected. Learnt about figure drawing open sessions!! Yes. It needs two exclamatories. They seem like keen critters, those two. And they get super respect for introducing us to Maryland Hall's figure drawing model sessions. Hard to find that around here.

Art Things is a superb store, in case I haven't sung its praises before. It's one of those incredibly well-stocked local supply shops that has exactly the weird thing you're seeking, and if they don't, they order it for you. We have a Michaels here in town, and there's an AC Moore 20 minutes away, but they pale in comparison. Except for nice cheap frames. Michaels has good frame prices with their constant sales.

Anyhow, here's a sample of Beth's work:

And here is Lindsay's:


Making Monsters with Friends

So Lisa Grabenstetter, Katie Schuler, and I had the most energizing meeting yesterday, with a design editor from National Geographic, Oliver Uberti, who is also one of 826DC's artistic gurus. That's right, David Eggers' 826. So we will be donating our time and artwork to the newest chapter of 826, DC's Museum of Unnatural History. How. Cool. Is. That.

We're makin' creatures. 'Cause that's what we do.

I didn't know anything about the 826 project, but man, is it nifty. They're creative writing centers for highschool-aged folks looking to push their writing and maybe delve into something new. Free, non-profit, national. DC's will be location eight, and each one is fronted by a shop that caters to specific needs. San Francisco has a Pirate Supply Shop. New York's is a Superhero Supply. There's a list here.

DC's is a Victorian (un)Naturalist's Society. There's examples of the sorts of cool stuff there on 826DC's blog. It's aiming to open September 24th in Columbia Heights.

If you need an explanation of why I adore the neoVictorian Museum Aesthetic, you've been sleeping. Making an imaginary museum/laboratory was my university thesis.

I cannot wait to get started on these paintings.


Lisa and I doing the Gadget Dance

So back in April, my wife Lisa and I collaborated on the cover for Crossed Genres Issue 19, Gadgets & Artifacts. Wasn't allowed to show you all until the magazine came out in June, and then I just got distracted by nothing. Forgot to put the cover up anywhere I hang out online! Shameful of me, really. Go grab the issue from them, in epub, pdf, or print formats. It's some good storystuff, it is.

While someone might've been put off by this delay, I hope the rest of you can forgive me. Maybe the actual art will help. So have Artefacts, and don't stab me?

We passed this one back and forth, from sketch to final. It was the first time we'd really gotten the chance to collab on something. Was a lot of fun, really. Hopefully do it again soon.

In the meantime, I just handed over final art for issue 22 of Crossed Genres, coming out in September.



...all the dark night long... *sings something twangy*

Finished cleaning up around midnight, after day two of printing the run for a bookplate commission I received back in ...March? Godsbother, it's been a hectic three months. I normally hate running projects that long, since I always feel best when I can wrap stuff up efficiently and deliver people their artwork sooner. Makes them happy, and I like making folks happy, generally speaking.

So here's a glimpse of the result of two nights' printing.

Lotsa false starts and working out the kinks of a print run go on during the first day's studio push/attempt/draft-run after the block carving is finalized.

Once the plate/block inks properly, the ink amount is calibrated, the pressure of the press is figured out, and the registration jig is fine-tuned for the paper... well, if you start late, you're pretty much done the prep work for the serious printing grind. I'm not averse to overnight print parties, but I really love sleeping. So the real printing happens the next day.

The Trader Joe's peaberry coffee in an Odin mug is there for scale. And for pure viking strength. Or artistic rune magic; not sure which.


Moo Printed Cards

These beautiful new business cards arrived the other day from Moo.com. It was my first time using them, and I have to say I am REALLY happy with the quality. GREAT stock, good print quality and color. And they're a green business, or try to be. That's awesome and beyond cool that they're now in the States and don't have to ship from the UK. I might drive to Rhode Island just to hug their printers.


New work to see. Not New York. But that'd be cool, too.

The time has come! I have new work! And more, that I can't show you yet. Bothersome! But, as for the days going by... good news on the continuance of I and Lisa's show at Sova: three more pieces sold while it's been up. : ) *jangly dance*

This piece was newly done for the show, but isn't what sold:

We do so like when people like the work we do. Sold were two of the pieces I'll post up here in a moment, and also the ever-popular Hedgehog Fighting Dragon Pterodactyls on an Airship with a Steampunk Blunderbuss:

I'm really happy I'm doing another couple pieces for different clients in the next month or two... or I'd be short on work for our next show. Next Lisa/Evan joint show, details coming soon.

These are the thumbs for my cover at Crossed Genres' Bildungsroman issue, though the one actually chosen isn't shown here:

And of course, we have the other pieces I did 'specially for the show, that we finally went up and scanned today... getting thoroughly in everyone's way and making a racket.

Blogging to resume soon, as the CG cover and my final art for StarShipSofa Stories are both due soon! I won't be quite so busy... though I did join ChildrensIllustrators.com the other day, so hopefully that turns into more work; I'd love to pick up some new projects.


The recovery

You may have heard Lisa and I had an opening party for our joint show at Sova in DC last Saturday. Well, I have to say it went smashingly. Easily 100 people came through and Lisa sold 6 pieces at the opening alone, and the artwork will be up for 6 more weeks, if you're in town and want to visit the best new up & coming area in the District. You can even get liquor, coffee and food at Sova. It's got wifi and everything you need except a bed.

Actually, we're thinking seriously about moving to the H Street, NE neighborhood this year. It's that damn snazzy.

We'll have photos up soon, and you can see the opening fun and be mildly jealous, if you like.


3rd knock at the door.

Hey fine feathered and fecund friendlies:

That's enough of that.

Are you in the Washington, DC area? Can you make it to the DC area? If the answer is yes, or you just discovered astral projection, come see art by Lisa Grabenstetter and myself at SOVA - Espresso & Wine on Sat. May 8th. The opening night of 3rd knock on the door. is bound to be a strange evening with music by Baltimore plucker James Von Lenz and fine foods & drinks available from the bar 'til 2 am.

From 6:00-9:00pm will run the opening, with a DJ set following for the rest of the evening. Artwork will be up for 6 weeks if you happen to miss it and be in the neighborhood later.  The new H St NE corridor is a funky place just by the Palace of Wonders and the Rock & Roll Hotel. It's a good place to spend a Saturday night, if I say so myself.

Here's the event page on Facebook.
And here it is on myspace.

Artwork by Evan Jensen & Lisa Grabenstetter

May 8th at SOVA come join a strange crowd where Perchta and the Salamander envoys mingle over tea, street peddlers call out cantrips, and bluegrass pickers discuss Hegel with Krampus.

3rd knock on the door is the opening night of SOVA's newest exhibition featuring DC area illustrators Lisa Grabenstetter and Evan Jensen. Accompanying music provided from 6-9:00 by Baltimore musician James von Lenz, while drinks, food & espresso will be available from the bar.

Come early and stay late! SOVA has a chill vibe and there'll be a DJ set from 9:00 onward with the bar remaining open 'til 2.

SOVA - Espresso & Wine
1359 H Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 397-3080


Tossed About

It's been a month since I last posted! ...and that is explicitly not acceptable. I promise to at least make an attempt to blog regularly and without the gaps I've thus far been leaving in between.

Today I spent 5 hours STRUCTURING AN AI FILE. Seriously. That's what I did for the dayjob today. Don't say I never told you about it. : ) ...Not to say I don't do more fun stuff for the dayjob, but that was today's requirement.

In the first moments after dropping Lisa off at work, and buckling down to the drastic and infinitesimally precise songs of Adobe Illustrator, I was privy to a lovely article on PhysOrg.com where I learned about the most amazing conjoining of awesome things next to the International Squid Calculator. Mushrooms. Mushrooms and LIGHTNING. Apparently, electricity shooting along the surface of the earth will make fungus multiply. Once again, science gives credence to the folk wisdom garnered through long observation. Not always, of course, but it happens often enough that I just wish scientists would set out to test as much folklore as possible for demonstrable results.

Some people might recall I mentioned a set of deadlines coming up over the the next 3 months! I can tell you all what they are now, and show you some sketches, though not specify which were chosen for final artwork in a few cases (NDAs are common in this business). The first project is the soon-to-be-delivered woodcut ex libris for a fellow down in Virginia, final sketch below:

The second project is for StarShipSofa Stories, a print collection by the fine folks at StarShipSofa Podcasts. The sketches I submitted below are for an interior illustration (hence, b&w) to accompany Tides by Tobias Buckell. I really enjoy Tobias' work, and this short story is a really cool one that I hope you all enjoy as much as I did when I read it. Not sure when this comes out in print.

Sadly, I missed the deadline for this latest ArtOrder challenge, though here are the sketches I had done for it (before I got swamped with stuff and couldn't do the final art). Oddly enough, in composing a wolf/rat/snake, I didn't realize how much Eastern dragons are based on similar animals, and it was turning out too close to one of those. So no wolf/rat/snake for me. A mantis shrimp/wombat was another idea but I couldn't get it to look right. In the end, I was going to go with the fungitoad in some sort of guard-dog position at a town gate/city docks, and I'll probably do that myself when I have a moment, since I really l like the image. : ) The small child gestures are from a day spent downtown watching people frolic in the sun.

And that's what I've been up to. I have more for you later, but this is enough for today, methinks. : ) Enjoy your evening! It's raining nicely here!


On freelancing variability

It's been a hectic, and rapaciously busy month, February has. That, and we got snowed in like the Winter Jack had taken an liking to the East Coast. After spending most of January sorta-working dead weeks at the dayjob, suddenly the work picked up again and I was locked in front of Adobe for most days. Funny, how working as much as you're paid to actually uses your time. I rather liked being on call without the actual calling... but yanno, responsibilities.

So I've had to put off finishing the Elephants' General painting. It's sitting in a more complete state than I last posted on here, but it's not finished yet, sadly. I have however, picked up four new projects I am contracted to do. One due in April, one in May, one in July. Woo! I'll let you in on a secret... the May one is absurdly amazing. I am agog with how awesome it is. The July is my first cover gig since working for ScrollQuest. More info as I get OKed to release it.

And the fourth is one whose sketches I just emailed off tonight. This particular commission is a custom bookplate! A personal ex libris for a fellow who found E.M. Jensen's Ex Libris Etc. on Etsy and wanted a series hand printed. This is just really nifty to have finally be hired to do a custom ex libris for a stranger. I've sold a few existing design sets, but custom work is the fun stuff! And, the shop is updated with some new items. Nothing you all haven't seen before if you follow me, but there's prints of "Plucking the Night Orchard" and the Arctic Explorer: Hogarth Merricule painting is up there.

Sometime in the last month I found time to join the SCBWI as well. I feel professional and snazzy, being a member of an organization... strange things happening. Speaking of professions, Lisa and I really want to go to IlluxCon in November. We'd love advice, anecdotes, horror stories, whatever, if you've been there.


Catherynne Valente on Valentines Day as told by Chaucer

Miss Valente has a really awesome post about the benefits of rituals, holidays, and Valentines Day in particular. This makes me re-examine my lack of fondness for the day.

One of my favorite bits:

Valentine's Day, boys and girls, entered the Western mind in Chaucer's Parlement of Foules, fully-realized as a day to celebrate love via an obscure saint, with red hearts and everything. Yes, celebrated in an allegorical bird-nation, but guess what? That makes it even more awesome. I will take a holiday my buddy Geoff invented over almost any other. If I had my way, we'd start exchanging bird-themed gifts and ditch Cupid.

This is a great holiday. It's pure physical, sensual pleasure, divorced from any dogma at this point. Saint whatever. Pass the sex and food.

That definitely makes it more awesome. Exponentially.


Big painting in the works. Not ready to show it yet. Be assured, you'll all see it soon. : )

I'm alive, just busy and been kinda bleh lately.



I had a great idea. It was an epiphany of artistic endeavor...

I was going to transfer the drawing from the previous post to the 20x13 Canson paper for painting with my archaic OVERHEAD PROJECTOR that I kept from my thesis installation. It was going to be put to USE. It was AN AWESOME IDEA.

...yep, not gonna work. Projector won't focus closely enough to keep it in size. If I needed a 36"-or-greater-width painting, it could do it, easy. But this is too small. Blast it all, I am at a relative loss for how to do this transfer. I usually don't do such a time-consuming sketch and instead work out the details on the WC paper itself... but I don't want to redraw the whole thing after spending all this time on working out the sketch...

Bugger. I need an opaque projector. Or a really big Epson printer.


The Elephants' General

Value study for new watercolor. Nothin' else doin'. Reference courtesy of the ever-kind Natalie Paquette, and a dozen photos of pachyderms.


Awesomeness of the Printmakery Sort

So if you follow me on twitter, you may have noticed me tweeting a lot about letterpress recently. If you follow closely, you might've heard mention that on Dec. 28th, Lisa and I became the accidental owners of our own Baltimore[an] 6x8 tabletop platen press. This is beyond amazing. It's an astounding little device that hasn't been manufactured since the first half of the last century, though other companies continued making presses like this till the 70s. So if yer nay on twitter-world, now you might learn about my latest obsession (though really it's just resurfaced... I wanted one of these in college).

The press is so, so pretty. And heavy-- 128 lbs. And dirty-- inkstained (as it damn well ought to be). Though you might need to be an odd one to appreciate antique cast iron that needs a cleaning as "pretty",  I dunno. Not sure when this particular press was cast, as the maker's mark is really hard to read... but an interesting tidbit of history: H.L. Mencken, Baltimore's famous journalist, learned to print on one of these that his father bought him during highschool. I'll find the link to that article shortly, if I can.

So... accidental ownership. This is 'cause I made an absurdly low bid on an eBay auction for this press, completely not expecting to win (check out ebay's press listings... they sell between 800 and 1800 dollars). So... I bid... and no one countered me. I was working on a design project and then suddenly saw the email notifier ping me with "You have won..." but the only thing I was bidding on was something impossible. Or so I thought! Ecstatic joy and amazement when I realized I'd actually got the dang thing.

After a couple days of communication with the seller, (who lived in Pittsburgh, thank the fates) Lisa and I drove out to western PA to pick up the iron beast. Shipping is iffy on cast iron. Tends to crack. And it costs more than gas did to just drive out and get it. ; )

It blizzarded on us during the 5 hour trip out and the longer night drive home, though. Appalachians, you are so awesome, but you pick the damnedest times to drop snow.

And, photos, since it DID happen:

After a week of this in its packing box, we finally sat down the other night and did the onerous "packing peanut shuffle" and set the press free, dusted it off, and checked out the parts to all be there and workin'. Which they are! I kept finding lead type among the peanuts, which was odd, considering the type it came with was in another box altogether. Um, that's the other thing: it came with a huge amount of type, photoplates and leading. 2 chases, a set of quoins and keys, and 4 rollers that need serious replacement, which thankfully, can be made new for cheap-ish.

I cannot WAIT to start printing!