Figure Drawing Friday, On Saturday

20 minute figure drawing. 18×24 Strathmore (medium texture) drawing paper and graphite.

I intended to post a figure drawing each Friday, but before I posted my first one I already missed my deadline. So, here’s the first Figure Drawing Friday, On Saturday. I’ve been figure drawing on and off for nearly 20 years. It’s an indispensable form of learning and practice but it requires consistency to give you the full benefit. If you don’t figure draw and you want to improve your art, start now. Don’t worry about not being great at it. Nobody is at first. It’s one of those things that takes tons of practice, but it will inform and improve all of your art. It’s worth it.

This is a 20-minute drawing. I used Strathmore medium surface drawing paper. I really prefer Strathmore’s smooth surface drawing paper but I didn’t have any this time. Most stores regularly stock the medium stuff. Whenever my local art store has the smooth stuff, I usually but two or three pads at a time. I took a figure drawing workshop with Henry Yan three years ago and he recommended both smooth newsprint and smooth drawing paper for use with charcoal — at least for the technique he teaches. I’ve preferred using the smooth stuff ever since. His book is amazing.

For graphite drawing I prefer to use a 5.6mm “Mechanical Hardmuth” lead holder from Koh-I-Noor. I have several different 6mm lead holders, but this one feels best in my hand and I like that it has sort of a classic vintage look. I use Gioconda 6B Artists’ Leads with it and love the fact that at that 5.6mm thickness it doesn’t break. When I use charcoal, I tend to use General’s 6B charcoal pencils and while they work really well, I often break them while drawing so I usually sharpen three or four before a session begins just in case.

Thanks for reading. Now, go draw. Hopefully, the next post will be on time.

At Eternity’s Gate is OK

At Eternity’s Gate Movie Poster

I’ll start by saying I really like Willem Dafoe and the roles he usually picks. Some may remember him as Paul Smecker, the detective in “Boondock Saints.” He’s been in a lot of films and has over 126 roles and credits on IMDB. So, I was looking forward to this film about the artist, Vincent van Gogh and went to see it in my local little indie theater–you know, the small ones with chairs instead of recliners and a small stage that might be used for burlesque shows as much as watching movies.

I’ll get right to the point. I found the film ok. Yeah, just ok. The storytelling was really well done. The imagery, scenery, background settings, and acting were all really well done. So why just OK? Because the director made some choices in the way he shot it that just sucked. For example, there’s not a single stabilized camera shot in the film. It has that Blair Witch vibe with tons of camera shake. Scenes that would otherwise be gorgeous are hard to watch. The second point is the score. I’m not sure if the intent was to show the distress in van Gogh’s mind or anxiety, but there are segments of the film where the score consists of someone beating on a piano. It’s distracting to listen to and kills parts of the film. I recommend you watch it on Netflix if you’re going to watch it at all.

I’m bummed about how I feel auto this movie. I really wanted to like it more than I do. I like the actors in it and thought it was beautifully acted. The vehicle that brings us the story, however, the camera and the score seem to have been driven by someone under the influence.

If you’re a Van Gogh fan, check out his complete works–this 700 page book is pretty great. Van Gogh liked to paint quickly and was prolific. And if you like the poster, which I really do, you can get it here.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is AWESOME!

Official Movie Poster for Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse

Update: This film won the Oscar for best animated feature! It is available in 4K, Blu-Ray, DVD combo now!

When I saw the preview for this movie at the end of Venom, it didn’t really make me think I’ve got to see that. Instead I thought it was a bit of a contrived mash up, but I did like the style of the animation. 

Fast forward to the film’s release date and I started noticing a lot of comments on social media about how great it was. Really?  

So I went to see it. IMAX and Dolby style–with reclining seats that move with the sound. Holy shit. It was AWESOME!  I’m pretty sure it’s the best Spider-man movie that’s been made thus far.  I love the characters. I love the diversity and that it’s a modern story. You can tell that this isn’t the same story from 1962. Instead, the story stays true to its roots, but it’s been thoroughly updated for a modern audience.  It really deserves that Golden Globe nomination

Oh, let’s not forget the soundtrack! It’s pretty fantastic and consists of multiple collaborations that are woven into the film beautifully.  For example “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, “Familia (feat. Bantu) by Nicki Minaj & Anuel AA, and “What’s up Danger” by Blackway & Black Caviar to name just a few.  Although, I have to admit, after buying the soundtrack I like some of the songs much better in the context of the film.  Other than “Sunflower” and “Elevate” much of the album will likely not make it into a playlist I listen to regularly. 

Titan has even released a deluxe collector’s edition book.  Spider-Man: into the Spider-Verse The Official Movie Special. Look for a review here after I get it. Here’s the IMDB link so you can check out the whole cast, crew, etc. You can come back after you run out to the movies and watch it if you haven’t already! 

IMDB Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Out of the Forests Book Review

Out of the Forests … The Art of Paul Bonner

The Art of Paul Bonner Front Cover
The Art of Paul Bonner Front Cover


Paul Bonner is one of my very favorite artists. I’m excited to post this Out of the Forests book review. In the fantasy genre, he’s right up there with Frank Frazetta. In many ways, I prefer his work to Frazetta’s–mostly because of his style and the way I discovered Bonner’s work.  

The first time I recall seeing Paul Bonner’s work and begin dumbstruck was during my table-top wargaming days.  The game Warzone was just released and the cover art was stunning.  After picking up the book and leafing through it, I realized all of the interior art was equally stunning.  All of it was Paul Bonner’s work. His artwork created the feel of the game, gave life to the universe, defined the factions and forces, and made it feel much more “real” than most games at the time of release. My friends and I devoured the book, the artwork, and until an ill-advised second edition played the game often.  The second edition story is probably reserved for a wargaming blog, so I’ll stick to discussing Bonner’s magnificent art book Out of the Forests…The Art of Paul Bonner here. 

This book is amazing.  Bonner works in watercolor and his vision is simply gorgeous. He has created the backdrop and characters for many fantasy games and adventures. The book is broken into sections in accordance with the company for which work was created.  


The first section, Rackham, is the thickest section and draws on work created for the company’s Confrontation series of games and cards. The best part about this section of the book and the artwork is that it is definitely not the stereotypical fantasy world suffering from heavy Tolkien influence. Don’t get me wrong. I like Tolkien, but his original ideas have been copied so many times that a new variation on the fantasy genre is very refreshing.  Rackham’s designs give each faction its own identity and look. Once you see the artwork, you won’t mistake it for any other game or fantasy universe.  The Confrontation game never really took off in the United States.    Confrontation the Age of Rag’narok is still available on Amazon and deserves a look if for no other reason than the artwork is fantastic.  You can still find models and cards on Amazon, auction sites,  and in hobby shops. The early models, when they were still pewter miniatures instead of plastic were beautifully sculpted. The goblin sorcerer below is a fantastic example of the fresh approach to character design that made Rackham’s universe so appealing.  

The Art of Paul Bonner - Rackham
The opening pages of the Rackham section of the book 

While there are a lot of images in this article, I’ve only photographed a small sampling of the pages in all of the sections of the book. You really need to hold a copy of it to appreciate the amazing paintings.  Bonner is incredible at illustrating fine details–things like the sun-dappled branches in a forest. Look at the image below and appreciate the shadows on the ground that imply the forest canopy.  Or scroll back up and really allow yourself to drink in the amazing cover painting of the minotaur chained in place to guard a passage. Appreciate the play o flight and shadow and imagine the foresight and skill required to paint it.  

The Art of Paul Bonner - Rackham
The Art of Paul Bonner – Rackham

In addition to two-page spreads, there are full page plates and sketch pages as pictured below. I absolutely love the creativity and humor Paul Bonner infuses in his paintings. Look at the lancer and the dog in the image below. 

pages from the Rackham section featuring great character illustrations 
Dwarf sketch pages
The aftermath of an Orc & Dwarf battle

Orcs and dwarves.  Many fantasy games and stories feature orcs and dwarves as mortal enemies. Few, however, manage to capture the conflict the way Bonner does.  In the image above, both orcs and dwarves are fully realized and appear as though they may step off the page. You can appreciate the conversation the orcs must be having and at the same time you lament for the unfortunate dwarf in their grasp.  They’re all so well done that you don’t know who you should root for.  I root for them both. The spectacle of the battle is just great! 


The next section of the book features Bonner’s art for the Mutant Chronicles universe.  Again, the work is magnificent. Take a look at the creature clutching the woman in the image below.  Look at her expression and the gesture in all the figures, including the injured soldiers on the ground. You can hear them groaning in pain the same way you can appreciate the inquisitor’s intent as he levels the weapon at his target. The monster, whose name I have forgotten, looks almost smug as he defies his enemies.  This is one of my favorite mutant chronicles illustrations. 

The opening pages of the Mutant Chronicles section of the book 
Detail of previous painting
Plates featuring factions from the Mutant Chronicles universe. Imperial – left; Capitol – right

In the pages above, Paul Bonner’s work defines the theme for factions in the Mutant Chronicles world and games.  When a reader or player sees these paintings they show him what each faction looks like–how they are realized. With art like this, there’s no wonder the game took off as rapidly as it did! 

A two page spread featuring characters from the Warzone factions


This section of the book features a series of independent illustrations Bonner painted after traveling Scandinavia during his early years as a working professional.  In the open pages of the section Bonner describes his inspiration for the paintings and his effort to create “[his] own epic little folk tale.” The resulting images are a treat. 

Opening pages of the Northern Wanderings section of the book 
Two pages from the Northern Wanderings section of the book 

While each illustration is an independent scene, the viewer can begin to see Bonner’s style develop and his love for forests and their creatures.  This , combined with a touch of fantasy is present in each painting. 


Bonner’s work for RiotMinds illustrated the world of Trudvang.  Theodore Bergquist opens the section with a discussion of Paul Bonner’s impact on the RiotMinds team and describes Trudvang as a fantasy setting “not about streaming fireballs, or knights in glimmering armour and flaming sword, its [sic] about down-to-earth heroes trying to battle nature as much as trolls and other fabulous beasts taken from Scandinavian myths.” 

The image on the right page above is one of my favorites from this section. The play of light on the dwarf and goblin battle is fantastic.  You’ll also notice the dwarves and goblins are rendered in a more traditional style. Comparing this image to characters featured in the Rackham section illustrates how different a fantasy setting can be despite having similar foundations. 

Bonner’s work is marvelous and, for me, it’s the detail and consideration he puts into his work.  The pages above illustrate this well. You can feel the panic in the dwarf as he bolts for safety with an arrow clenched between his teeth! 

Let’s talk about scale.  Look at the size of this beast compared to the goblins. Now appreciate the lighting of the scene.  Magic.  The mood and emotion of the painting is palpable. 


The next section takes us back in time to Bonner’s early days as an illustrator and to the era where Games Workshop’s Warhammer universe was rapidly expanding.  John Blanch comments…

“What has fired my imagination is not the guns nor the snarling maws, but something that is intangible which I can only describe as Dickensian or Shakesperian. It has something to do with character, for Paul is unmatched in his ability to create a cast of motley individuals, each one with his origins in a mythology that harkens back many generations to ages of superstition and conflict.”

Yeah. There you have it. Couldn’t have said it better myself. Bonner breathes a life into his illustrations that you just don’t get with many artists. It’s uncanny.  For me, his early work on Warhammer was significant. I didn’t realize who the artist was at the time, but his illustrations of Games Workshop’s Orks influenced my appreciation of the game and started a slide deep into the world of tabletop war gaming. I’m still in recovery. 

Old Warhammer 40K players will immediately recognize the Shokk Attack Gun featured on the right page.

The Freebooter Orks had a great style. Bonner’s illustration defined them for many players.  I love the expression and detail present even in his early work. 


The intro to this section is written by Jim Nelson of Fasa and he begins with a comment on Paul Bonner’s humility and relays a story about Bonner’s doubts on whether or not he should enter work into the 1999 juried annual, Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art.  He went on to win multiple awards. 

Bonner worked on multiple games for Fasa. He did amazing work for Shadowrun, a role-playing game combining modern, sci-fi, and fantasy elements–currently in its fifth edition.  The image below, of the pirate troll and dwarves boarding an airship is one of my favorites. 

The dynamic movement, accuracy of the anatomy, lifelike expression, and overall character details keeps me engaged with this image.  It never gets old. 

Bonner also illustrated work for the short-lived game VOR.  The box art for the first edition of the game, featured above, convinced me to buy the game. I didn’t hesitate. Had to have it. The game didn’t last long, but the illustrations and paintings are as cool today as they were in the mid-1990s. 

The above pages show both VOR concept designs and a scene from Shadowrun. 


In the penultimate section of the book, Bonner invites us to join him in his appreciation for dinosaurs.  He recounts early influences and how his father introduced him to museums and exhibits and films that fueled his fascination with dinosaurs and other creatures.  He recounts how the 1986 book, The Dinosaur Heresies by Robert Bakker, full of wonderful illustrations, inspired him to create similar and high caliber work featuring the great, extinct beasts. 

Dinosaurs - Paul Bonner Out of the Forsests
Dinosaurs – Paul Bonner Out of the Forsests

Again, look at how dynamic the work is. There’s always something happening. Bonner’s paintings are never still. 

Dinosaurs - Paul Bonner Out of the Forsests
Dinosaurs – Paul Bonner Out of the Forsests

I didn’t include a photo of the sculpture pages–this review is already getting long enough, but they are in the book. Bonner created beautiful dinosaur sculptures in various sizes throughout the years. 


After talking a prehistoric stroll through Bonner’s dinosaur work, the book shifts gears as Bonner discusses getting an agent shortly after graduating from art school and having hopes of taking “London’s commercial art world by storm.” But it didn’t work out that way. It so rarely does. Instead he discusses the impact of his early adjustment to the demands of the market and how they influenced him to “stick with what made [him] happy.” This section is short and I chose not to include any images in this review from those pages since it’s already long enough. Plus, I think the next section is a treat and I’d rather spend the time there. 


If all the eye candy in this book wasn’t enough, in the final pages of the book Paul Bonner invites you into his studio and discusses his process and the way he thinks about his paintings.  As an artist, I love when I can learn how another artist, particularly one I admire so much, thinks and works. 

Remember the humility I mentioned earlier.  In this section Bonner says: 

“I really don’t look forward to drawing. I don’t consider myself good at it, one of those fortunate souls who seem to conjure up exquisite drawings with just a few deft flourishes of the pencil. It is a laboured struggle for me to translate my imagination on to a piece of paper…”

I absolutely love this.  He’s being real. It gives the rest of us hope. Art is work. It’s hard work. It requires dedication and time and energy and commitment.  (By the way, if you haven’t read Stephen Pressfield’s The War of Art, you should) 

Bonner goes on to discuss how he thinks about his work and how he goes from concept to finished painting. It’s a section worth reading multiple times and coming back to now and again for inspiration and as a reminder that it takes real effort. Even our art heroes have to grind at it.  It’s why they achieve such high quality work. 

And that's the end of the book. Out of the Forests...The Art of Paul Bonner back cover
And that’s the end of the book. 

That’s the end of the book.  Thanks for sticking with this article for this long.  It’s difficult to capture the beauty and wonder the 176 pages of the book contain. I hope this article has introduced you to Bonner’s amazing work if you were not already familiar with it.  If you knew about him but were on the fence about the book, get off the fence and buy it.  It’s a great and necessary addition to any artists (or fan of great fantasy art) library!  

If you enjoyed this Out of the Forests book review, be sure to check out my other book reviews as well.

Paul Bonner Resources

Paul Bonner on Facebook

Paul Bonner’s Website — sadly this link ( seems to have expired.  His FaceBook page is alive and well, however. 

Muddy Colors — Paul Bonner often contributes to the Muddy Colors art blog

Book Review: The Sensuous Frazetta

The Sensuous Frazetta Front Cover
The Sensuous Frazetta Front Cover

I’m a huge Frank Frazetta fan. I’ve been a fan of his work since i was a teenager and bought my first Frazetta art, the art plate set from Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice animated film  in ’92 with $50 borrowed from a friend. If you haven’t seen it, you can stream it on Amazon Prime and I highly recommend it.  In the intervening years, I’ve built up a collection of Frank Frazetta art books like this one–The Sensuous Frazetta (hard cover) from Vanguard.  I will review my book collection on this blog and hopefully help readers make buying decisions.

Table of Contents of The Sensuous Frazetta
Table of Contents of The Sensuous Frazetta

So far, I don’t have any regrets about the Frazetta books I’ve bought, but I do have my favorites and this book is one of them.  This book focuses on Frank’s work from the 1960s when he was illustrating for risqué paperbacks and men’s magazines.  Frank wouldn’t achieve popularity for his barbarians and other fantasy work until years later.  However, one constant in Frazetta’s work, is the appeal and sensuality of his figures, particularly his women. With that in mind, It’s important to remember this was the 1960s and the intent was for publication in men’s magazine’s of the time and much of this work might not be commissioned today given modern norms.

Chapter One “Between The Sheets”

This chapter focuses on his paperback interiors and features multiple full page reproductions as well as behind the scenes material. The full page reproductions are very well done. Additionally, I appreciated the section about Frazetta’s use of photographic reference. Frank had a well known visual encyclopedia in his brain and could create very dynamic illustrations from memory without the aid of photographic reference materials. Therefore, it’s nice to see that he did, once in a while, use photographs.  It gives the rest of us artists hope.

Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Chapters Two and Three, “Romance & Cigarettes” and “Pretty Funny Women”

The chapters spend their pages on Frazetta’s sequential artwork.  These sections are fantastic if you like sequential art and give you a glimpse at Frazetta’s early work that you don’t  often see or read about.  The chapters are a reproduction of sequential stories with inked pages and colored pages opposite each other. This is great if you want to analyze Frank’s line work without the effects of early comic color reproduction.  For most Frank fans, this will be a study effort well spent.

Two-page sequential art spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page sequential art spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Two-page sequential art spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page sequential art spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Chapter Four “Saucy Stories”

This chapter contains sketches and full page reproductions of Frazetta’s illustrations for men’s magazines of the time. I particularly like the pen and ink illustrations. Frazetta had a great sense of humor and, of course, the characters in his drawings are magnificent.  The man resting on the giantess’s breasts on page 157 pictured below is one of my favorites for both the humor in the illustration (which is for a story by Charles Baudelaire published in Cavalcade magazine, November 1964) and the expression on both faces, but also the exquisite line work and details. I looked at this illustration many times before I noticed the cow and farmhouse in the frame. Did you?

Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Chapter Five “From Casting Couch to…”

This chapter is only seven pages, but full of illustrations that Frank did for movie studios. These are easily some of my favorite Frazetta works. His ability to catch perfect, slightly caricatured likenesses of the biggest stars of the time was marvelous.

Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Chapter Six “Stars in Her Eyes”

Chapters Six is very brief at a total of eight pages. The good news is each of the eight pages is more illustration than text with each of the zodiac signs imagined as a woman.

Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta
Two-page Spread from interior of The Sensuous Frazetta

Chapter Seven “On Top of the Covers”

Sadly, I don’t have the slipcased edition and therefore don’t get Chapter Seven  “On Top of the Covers” — this edition is out of print, so if you’re a die hard fan, take a look around the used market. At the time of this writing there is a new, unopened copy on eBay for about $110.  The extra chapter isn’t worth it to me, but might be to you.

The Sensuous Frazetta Back cover
The Sensuous Frazetta Back cover

Thanks for reading!  I hope this review was useful to you. Please support my page by clicking through to Amazon if you’re going to buy this book. Amazon throws a few pennies my way when you do — at no cost to you, of course.

If you’re so inclined, feel free to drop me a note on the Ogre Mail page with your thoughts.

Behave Yourself

Raiders Fan Portrait

This was a fun drawing to do. It’s drawn almost completely with my Alvin Draftmatic .3mm Pencil on 11×14″ sketch paper. I used a reference image  that I sourced from a video by Zack Arias (photographer). In the video, he has a brief conversation with this man  and at the end of it, the guy in the hat says “behave yourself” in a slow drawl. I liked the interview and  had a lot of fun with the drawing.

This pencil is high on my list of favorite pencils. This particular model has a spring in the tip to reduce pressure on the graphite which reduces breakage, and I’m also a fan of the bright yellow color.

I have way too many pencils. I’ll post a comparison or review of my favorites soon.

Playing with Proportions

Get in mah belly!

I love playing with proportions. I used to struggle with really letting myself play and would try to make things look realistic. Here’s a secret: sometimes realistic sucks.  Exaggerate. Have fun. This character looks bigger and more powerful because his head is so disproportionately small. It’s an old trick.  Pick up your favorite comic with a big bruiser character in it and see if his or her head isn’t ridiculously small. Looks awesome though, doesn’t it? Go. Play.

I drew this in a Strathmore spiral sketchbook with a Mirado Black pencil–cool name but it’s the same as any other regular #2 pencil.

Have Hatchet Will Travel

Dwarf with Big Hatchet

This little character has an axe to grind–a big axe.  I drew this way back in 2011 and always meant to color it, but never got around to it.  I had a lot of fun with this drawing and let myself play with the details like the belt buckle and armor.  He’s got a little Paul Bonner vibe without the mustache and a touch of Rackham’s flavor–the French game company; not the author/illustrator. I was into their stuff when I had a minor wargame addiction and was disappointed the game never really got traction in the United States.

If you haven’t checked out Paul Bonner’s art book Out of the Forests: The Art of Paul Bonner, I highly recommend it. It’s one of my favorites. Look for a book review soon!

“I got it all up here!”

Gymnasts…Big guy isn’t letting his belly stop him.

I did this sketch for fun.  I was drawing a lot of sword and sorcery stuff centered on violence, weapons and monsters and needed a change. So, I doodled these guys up to kickstart my creative flow.  Sometimes it’s important to change it up.  I imagined that the big guy is telling the girl “Don’t worry, I got all the moves right here,” as he points to his head. She’s probably worried he forgot their routine.

I doodled this up with Col-Erase Blue Pencil and then inked it with Micron Pigma pens before scanning it and coloring it in Photoshop CS6.  I used an older version of the Wacom Intuos Tablet (medium size) at the time.

This is the original doodle that I worked from.

Just after the scan and before I started coloring.

Big Sword, Small Sketch

Concept thumbnail of warrior with greatsword

You read a lot about the value of thumbnails. It took a long time before I really started to appreciate the utility of thumb nailing. When you do small drawings to work out the idea that is bouncing around in your brain, you free yourself of the constraints of actually doing what you consider to be a good drawing.  Letting those concerns go often allows your creativity to flow and you wind up with something better than you would have if you’d just started drawing a larger piece that you hadn’t worked through in your mind yet.

The thumbnail of the swordsman in the pic is a great example of that. It turned out better than I expected because I didn’t have any expectations. If you work on an idea and let yourself plow through twenty or thirty of these exercises, which really only takes a few minutes, you’ll be much better off when you start to design your finished piece.

I did this sketch on a standard Steno-pad with a plain #2 pencil.