El Malpensante, "Love is Like..."

The great thing about El Malpensante Magazine is their willingness to trust you. The AD will often get in touch and simply say “have you got anything you’ve been wanting to draw?” Seriously. No sketch, no nothing, just “send us some final art and we’ll see if it makes sense with our stories”. On one hand this does take away the process of client/illustrator collaboration, but it also makes for a place where personal work can live. In this case as the cover of the magazine.

"Love is Like…" grew out of a similar idea for a different cover assignment. That job was about being unique amongst your peers, but what I was really thinking about was romance and relationships. Since it wasn’t chosen,I was (later) free to make this picture that captured the feeling of  hope for companionship that is exceptional, unique, and, ultimately, stands out from all the other “noise”.

I’ve been waiting a while to post this image because of delays in publication, but now have the green light. On news stands soon, that is if you live in Columbia (country).


Deep in Papua New Guinea, where tribal lines remain thick and most modern amenities are nowhere to be found, one major source of income for the locals are the tourists who trek into the jungles on guided backpacking tours.

Last September, a skilled guide decided to take a trip down a trail less traveled. The company’s trip was shattered when machete-wielding men attacked the native porters. The motive appeared to be robbery, but something else was at work—ancient tribal patterns of violence that would inevitably be avenged.

By far one of the most interesting, sad, gruesome, exciting reads I’ve ever had for an illustration. The story is complex and the players can get confusing, machete armed tribesmen attack and kill another set of tribesmen. The victims fellow tribesmen then set out with their own machetes to avenge the murders. This is the way of life for these people. Eye for an eye. Sadness, but vengeance. Mourning, but revenge.

These are the complexities I wanted to balance with the art. Set the mood between horrific and mellow, emotional but “armed”. At quick glance the men in the image could be mistaken for the original attackers, but with a closer read and an understanding of the mud masks they wear (traditional death masks of mud and ash) as a symbol of mourning, I hope it is evident these men are in pain.

The story is long, but I really suggest you read it, it’s incredibly fascinating. A very interesting look into cultural tourism, tribalism, violence, morals, and economics… Read here

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"You Only Die Once"

In discussion with friends this weekend I realized I am afraid of death. I like to think I live every day as best I can, so that at the end of the day, I can fall asleep knowing I gave it my all. So why do I fear dying? When I really start to think about it, it’s not in terms of looking back, but looking forward. Not getting the chance to experience any more, well, experiences that sounds depressing to me. Death just seems so boring!

ANYWAY, This illustration is for an article in Christianity Today Magazine titled You Only Die Once. Embrace death and live a fuller life, says the author, proposing that if we accept and (in some ways) welcome death as part of our life, every experience will be that much better. Living fully every moment while keeping the horizon of mortality in view.

Of course, maybe resisting death is another way to find fulfillment…

Ex-Patriots, by Peter Clines, illustration, Jonathan Bartlett

Back with more zombies! More apocalypse! More heroes! Peter Clines’s, Ex-Patriots. With book two my insecurities gave way to confidence and excitement for the subject matter and it’s challenges. As you can see, the general design of the series is to put the spot light on one main character per cover. With Ex-Patriots we have Cerberus.

Probably my favorite part, love this guy just getting totally decimated under Cerberus’s hammer of a foot.

I Wanted to share some of the brainstorming process this time around. These images are heavily reliant on accurate character design so I find myself doing some general studies to work out the build of each hero. I understand that’s totally common practice, but I never had the need for it before. Pro tip: Zombie battle reference? Photos of MMA fighters! SUPER helpful. Also, as I worked, I couldn’t help but think back on a vivid memory from my art education. When I was still an undergrad student an University of The Arts I made an illustration that featured battling robots. My teacher slayed me with his critique of the image. I’ll never forget the chastising, but also his words, “If you are going to make something up, it still has to feel like it could actually work! How would that arm bend? How does that head connect to that body?!”. That’s a little vague without visual context, but the point is, when drawing from make believe, in this case a fictional machine, to make people believe it’s power and authenticity, they need to believe it could actually exist. That’s not to say you have to draw up blue prints, but, you know, do enough to fool the eye. This rang through my head the whole time I was working on the cover.

The series is progressing quickly, stay tuned for book three in the coming months!