Illustration: Spring Arts Preview


Spring Arts Preview for the Washington Post Express

Spring Arts Preview for the Washington Post Express  See it on Behance


I’m very excited to share this: this week my artwork has been published as the cover for the Spring Arts Guide section of the Washington Post Express, a free daily found in yellow newsboxes all over Washington D.C.

The art director said he wanted to capture the grayness slushiness of early spring, with the hope for brighter things to come. That made me think of all the bright, colorful galoshes that people wear in the wet weather, and the bright pink of the cherry blossoms that are usually the first signs of color in D.C.

I was introduced to the art director while attending an open discussion course at the new Baltimore Academy of Illustration to brush up on my business skills; Instructor and co-founder Adam Fine runs the editorial class there and tries to find real-world projects like this for students to submit proposals for. They’re offering online courses too, if you’re not in the Baltimore area… enrollments for the spring semester are closing soon!

This art was drawn on paper with a Pitt Brush Pen and colored digitally using, in part, Kyle Webster‘s excellent watercolor brushes.

“Artist at Play” – new art!

Artist at Play - in progressLast month, I created a new piece for the Work+Play show at the Land Gallery in Portland — a group show in celebration ICON, the Illustrator’s Conference. Here’s a peek at the drawing when it was still in progress on my drawing table. I think this is the fastest I ever finished a piece this intricate — probably because I created it by throwing together all of the things I like to draw the most (except for myself… I’m not big into self-portraits!) and not thinking too hard about it for a change. Although I’m reserving the right to go back and tinker with the colors later….

"Artist at Play" If you’re in the Portland area, the opening/reception is Friday, July 11 starting at 8pm — but the show will be up for the rest of the month… and for a limited time there will be small prints available. I’ll post details about that when I get them. UPDATE: Until August 24 you can buy 8×10 prints from In the meantime, it’s kindofa big image, so click on it to see it bigger, and have some more details below! (also viewable on Behance)

"Artist at Play" detail"Artist at Play" detail with self-portrait

“A Moment of Reflection” in progress

Preliminary client sketches for a commissioned illustration

This recent commission was for a black-and-white image to be used as the cover for a short fantasy story, “Why,” written by Maggie Allen for author Janine Spendlove and published by the creator-run Silence in the Library Publishing as part of a Kickstarter backer bonus. The story is a bittersweet character study that takes place in Spendlove’s “War of the Seasons” fantasy universe. I worked with both Maggie and Janine to make sure I captured the style and spirit of the characters and setting.

Moment of Silence in-progressFor this drawing, I used the Pitt brush pen. I needed to work quickly and the brush pen is a good compromise between detail and speed. Although I used my light table to trace from the sketch, you can see in this picture where I made a few final adjustments in blue pencil before committing the drawing to ink.

Want to see the final product? Head on over to my Behance page! That’s where new finished artwork will be showing up, so if you’re a community member there Follow me to be updated when I add new work.

Plug Ugly Ball: Art on the Inside

Union ParkWhat does an author do when he wants his book to summon up the spirit of days past? He commissions custom illustration to grace his pages, of course!

When local Baltimore author John Thomas Everett approached me last year to create a series of illustrations for his new book of historical fiction, Plug Ugly Ball: A Mobtown Tale of Bullies and Baseball he had a clear vision of what he wanted. The story spans several decades of the late 1800s in the city of Baltimore, and he wanted to capture some of the flavor of that time by including illustrations that replicate the woodcut newspaper-illustration style of the period. The book is organized into several large sections that covered different time periods in the life of the main characters, so each chapter needed a different image for its title page.

The prologue and epilogue shared this image of Baltimore’s old Union Park ballpark, one of the key locations in the book. I worked from period photographs to reproduce the long-gone structure in pen-and-ink.

Union Park: detailStay tuned for the rest of the series!

Newly Published: Plug Ugly Ball

I can finally show you some work from a client project I’m particularly excited about! “Plug Ugly Ball: A Mobtown Tale of Bullies and Baseball” is a story of historical fiction by Maryland author John Everett. It covers the lives of a family over the latter half of the 19th century in the mean streets of Baltimore, sprawling across real historical events.

John wanted interior artwork for each of the main sections of the book that captured the feeling and style of the time, reminiscent of the woodcut newspaper illustrations of the period but depicting a specific scene from his story. And he also wanted a cover that would stand out on the bookshelves. In the end we decided for a more graphic approach in keeping with the posters and painted advertising signs of the period. Here’s the end result:

Illustration and Design by Stephanie Smith. Client: author John Everett

Illustration and Design by Stephanie Smith. Client: author John Everett

I’ll be posting another blog entry about some of the work that went into this cover, as well as that interior art, but for now I’ll just leave you with this:

Unlike most of my illustration work, this was created entirely digitally, although it started with pencil sketches and uses some scanned textures.

The fonts used in the cover design are from the Hand Shop family by Fontscafe — an awesome source for retro hand-drawn fonts!

The etching across the top depicts the Mt Vernon neighborhood where much of the story takes place. It’s from an 1862 etching published by E. Sachse & Co and can be seen uncropped and in vivid detail at the Library of Congress website (another awesome resource for history buffs!)

The book will be on the market by the end of the year, but for now can be pre-ordered at the publisher’s website, The Baltimore Bookworks, or at Plug Ugly Ball: A Mobtown Tale of Bullies and Baseball

More to come soon!

Getting ready for Halloween!

Illustration for lottery scratch-off Halloween promotion

Just in time for the season, another client piece! I wonder how many more-modern Halloween parties in the Northeast US this year will be disrupted by the storm currently bearing down on us…

This might be the last picture from the series I’ve made for Cactus to promote scratch-off tickets for the Colorado Lottery, although they were a joy to work for and to draw so I can only hope there will be more. I posted one of my sketches from this piece on my Critterwings Facebook page, and plan to do that more often so you  might want to mosey on over that way…

Illustration for lottery scratch-off Halloween promotion

All the pieces in this series were created for an e-mail campaign about traditional holiday celebrations (with scratch tickets) and the coloring is deliberately subdued. Original drawing 12×14 inches, ink on smooth bristol paper, colored digitally.

Happy Mother’s Day

 Celebrate the Seasons: Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there! I wouldn’t be where I am today without the love, support, and encouragement of my own mother. Love you, mom!

In honor of the day, here’s another client piece from the holiday series I’m drawing for Cactus. I don’t know if they actually made banners like that in Victorian times, but the client wanted it. 🙂

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Celebrate the Seasons: Cinco de Mayo

Wow, I thought I’d updated this blog at least once since the new year. All the more reason for a little fiesta to kick things off again! And on Cinco de Mayo, one of those holidays which has outgrown its origins, but what better excuse for a party?

This is another client piece I produced for Cactus to promote scratch-off tickets for the Colorado Lottery. I’ve missed posting a few of the holidays, so I’ll be playing a bit of catch-up. The project is almost done and I confess I’ll miss it. This was a fun one.

The Cinco de Mayo art is a bit brighter and more colorful than the rest, partly keying off of the traditional costumes and decor, and partly because it’s one of the few holidays on my list that doesn’t come from the Victorian visual tradition the rest of them do. We played around with the idea of making this art in a more graphic style reminiscent of Mexican poster art, but ultimately decided on greater consistency with the rest of the series.

More artwork to come soon, I promise!

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Joyous New Year!

Holiday Mischief

Ordinarily I try to wait and post my holiday card artwork after they’ve all been received, but a welcome overload of freelance work meant they were printed late and those heading to recipients are either in transit or being hand-delivered this weekend.  Because of this you can probably tell from the caption, I’m sort of thinking of them as “New Years’ cards.”

This year’s artwork is a bit sillier and self-indulgent than usual: a portrait of our older cat Tinkerbell and our new “teenager” cat Simon. The only meaningful difference between this picture and the daily situation at our house is how static and quiet it is. In reality, this tableau would be immediately followed by yowling and a pair of furry projectiles rocketing through the house. The two cats are actually getting along rather well after two-and-a-half months, except when Simon really, really wants to play… whether Tink does or not.

Holiday Mischief, detail

This artwork was drawn with Micron ink pens on bristol paper and colored digitally.

Here’s wishing everyone out there a wonderful holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone out there is having a great Thanksgiving, able to spend some time with family and/or friends to appreciate all of the good things in their lives. Personally, I’m very grateful for having been born into — and married into — a loving family, for meaningful work that supports me, for a comfortable home to live in. These are the things that really matter, more than “Black Friday” and all the other craziness that goes on this time of year.

Thanksgiving With Scratchoffs
click to enlarge

So what’s up with this somewhat…. unusual picture? Well, one of the things I’m grateful for has been an increase in client work, but it’s been cutting in on my time for making “for fun” work. As a result, instead of something more personal I’m posting a recent piece I produced for Cactus to promote scratch-off tickets for the Colorado Lottery. It should be only the first in the series for a campaign called “Celebrate the Season,” which is already shaping up to be a lot of fun. They wanted an old-fashioned look, so I drew it in ink to simulate an engraving and added subtle tints to color it; the rest of the series should be in a similar style. I produced this one in record time for the complexity of the drawing, and I look forward to taking a little more time to lavish details on the rest of the series.

I wish you all home, health and happiness for this holiday… have a good one!