Posts Tagged ‘Space 55’


How I learned to stop worrying and love the color wheel…

December 17, 2018

When it comes to drawing people in public I always run into two big challenges:

1) People rarely sit still.

2) I don’t want to get caught staring at them.

That’s why I love going to play readings.

If you aren’t familiar with the theatre world, a reading is part of a playwright’s development process. Once they have finished a draft of their play, they invite actors to come read the script aloud for a small audience of trusted friends and creatives, who then give feedback about their experience. The playwright uses that feedback to help inform their rewrites.

Play readings provide a great opportunity to draw people because the actors sit in relatively the same position for the duration of the play, and as an audience member I am supposed to look at them. So I get to hear a play for free, be part of a playwright’s creative process, AND get some good sketching in. Triple win!

Some time ago I attended a reading of a play called Ear*, written by my brilliant friend, Ashley Naftule. Ear is a f’cking great script, loosely inspired by my man Vincent Van Gogh.

Meet Steve and Marcella, two of the actors from the reading.



I was real happy with how these two drawings came out, and I kinda agonized over whether or not to color them.

This was right around the time I was first starting to become an alcoholic.

On the one hand, I knew that I needed to continue pushing myself out of my comfort zone of black and white, and into the wonderful world of color. On the other hand, I liked them in B&W and was afraid I’d eff ’em up!

Then I remembered that you can’t move forward without taking risks, and you sure as hell shouldn’t be precious about your stuff. So I dove in.

(BTW, I realize that using the word risk in reference to coloring a little 4×6 inch drawing might be a stretch, but I can’t afford to go skydiving.)

Before going to town with markers I laid down some undertones with red, blue and yellow colored pencil. I learned how to do this on a great You Tube channel called Kiara’s Studio. Kiara calls this “color zoning.”


The pencil undertones show through the marker layer and create a level of depth and richness that I think would be difficult to achieve with markers alone.

Since we were reading a play inspired by Van Gogh, I put a third grade quality version of Starry Night in Steve’s background.

(Third gradeness not intentional, just the best I could do.)


For Marcella’s background I wanted to do a simple design with colors that would compliment the one’s I used on her face.

I have a pocket color wheel that I use all the time when figuring out color stuff. It’s a great tool. For this picture I chose a split complementary color scheme.


The reddish orange area of Marcella’s cheek seemed to be the most eye catching area to me, so I used that as the base point. The complement of red-orange is blue-green. In a split complementary scheme you use the two colors one each side of the complement, hence the blue and green background.


In the end I was real happy with how these little portraits came out, and so so so glad I faced my fears and colored them.



I know that I still have a long ways to go when it comes to color and markers, and even when it comes to drawing. But I feel like I’ve made some big strides forward this past year or two — not just in art but in other areas as well — and that has everything to do with trying sh*t that feels kinda scary.

Pretty much 100% of what I know about using alcohol-based markers I learned on You Tube, mostly from Kiara’s studio. She specializes in portraits and is amazing with skin tones. She’s also on IG at kiarasstudio. Her work is lovely so go check it out.

*Happy side note: Ear went on to have a very successful production at Space 55, and was nominated for several awards! Way to go Ash!


Monsters are Real

September 18, 2016

I like monsters. Especially the old Universal Monsters. The Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney, Vincent Price stuff from the 30’s and 40’s. I particularly love the posters. Like this and this. Whenever I see one of those old sci fi horror posters my heart kinda skips a beat.

I wish I enjoyed actually watching the movies. They’re fun, but (IMHO) they never quite live up to the promise of the poster. And yes I do realize that any movie made almost 100 years ago is not going to have the pacing a 2016 audience is used to, but still… in the Bride of Frankenstein the Bride doesn’t even show up until the last five minutes of the movie! If you call the movie BRIDE of Frankenstein then I think you owe it to the audience to give the bride a little more screen time.

Anyhow, when I see those old posters they get my imagination going. Pretty much every play I have ever written has a monster in it somewhere. Sometimes other people will suggest that I do this as a metaphor for how people can be monsters, but if that’s true it’s a subconscious thing. Metaphors are for people smarter than me.

Okay enough with the random ramble about monsters. I’ve posted recently about how I’ve been doing these distorted pencil sketches of people wherever I can, and then after a little time and brainstorming, I will ink it and add some kind of background setting. Here’s my latest drawing like that.


I sketched this guy at Space 55 one night, and then a few days later when looking back at it I realized that the shadows under his eyes, the hollowed out cheeks, and the long neck made him look a little mad scientisty.

So I decided to put him in a Frankenstein-type laboratory. I google image searched “Frankenstein comic strips” or something like that, to generate some ideas for simple things I could put in the background that would suggest a lab. The background that I came up with is a mishmash of about 3 or 4 of those.

That’s right, I’m a thief.

By the way, if you haven’t read the book Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon run–don’t zombie walk–to your local library and get it.

Initially I wanted to do a really limited palette on this. I was planning to go monochromatic blue. But then for some reason I didn’t think that would work, so I expanded the palette to cool colors. I’m glad I did. I like how that blue works against the green.

When I look at this drawing I notice that my ellipses are off, the shadow under Frankie’s operating table is going the wrong way, the machine on the right could have been drawn a lot cleaner, and the window ledge is at totally the wrong angle. That’s annoying because when I was inking it I consciously tried NOT to do these very things.

But after all these years, it might be time to embrace the fact that mistakes, flaws and deformities are just a part of my style. My drawings are clunky and awkward, kinda like me. Maybe I should go with it.




Persistence of Pikachu

July 24, 2016

So I’ve been doing this new thing lately where I sketch some rando while I am out and about. I make their heads big and distort their features, so by the time I’m done, it doesn’t really look like them, but whatever.

Usually this happens at Space 55 (a totally cool little black box theatre in downtown Phoenix that I help operate) because it’s a good place to find someone who is sitting relatively still. Generally it’s an audience member or a performer. Lately they’ve all been guys, but that’s been situational, not intentional.

I just do the initial pencil sketch at first. I don’t spend time on inking or coloring because I want to sketch as many different people as I can while I am out in the world.

Then later, at home or wherever, I will go over it with pen and add more detail.

Then I leave it alone for a while and just let it roll around in my subconsciousness.

After a few days I will add a background and colors and try to turn it into what someone who doesn’t draw would call “finished”. The background may or may not have anything to do with the person. It might have more to do with stuff I’ve been thinking about, things I’ve been interested in or learned about recently.

Or I might start with something I know about the person, which is often very little because usually it’s a stranger, and then use that detail as a jumping off point to get the ideas going. I try not to be too deep about it. I’m not into putting hidden meanings into my stuff, I just try to hit upon an idea that is interesting to me that I would be excited to work on.

Here’s one that I did recently.


I did the original sketch a couple weeks ago. This fellow came to see a show at Space 55 and arrived early. After he bought his ticket I told him the house wasn’t open yet but that he was welcome to hang out in the lobby. He said that he would go outside and look for Pokemon until the show started. This was a day or two after PokemonGo came out and it was just starting to blow up.

Side note: I don’t play Pokemon, but I am totally PRO-kemon. As with anything that becomes super popular, there’s a mob of people jumping up to say that it’s nerdy, that it’s a waste of time, and to point out all the negative stories associated with it. And in the case of the negative stories, there are things we should definitely be aware of. Obviously you shouldn’t play it while driving, or go into dangerous places alone, or sacred spaces, or private property, and all that other stuff that should be common sense.

But I’ve also seen how it brings people together. People are going outside and getting exercise, and making new friends, and exploring their neighborhoods, and I think that’s great. I wish the positive stories were getting a little more attention.

One super cool thing that I have seen over and over is parents and kids playing it together and becoming closer because of it. When I was a kid my parents did not play video games with me. (My grandma did, but she is exceptionally cool.)

Okay, end of side note. Back to drawing. 

So later that night, during the show, I spotted the Pokemon guy in the audience. It was really hot that night, and the poor guy was clearly suffering. That’s when I did the sketch of him, complete with sweat drops.

Then I let a part of my brain chew on it for a while. I thought about Pokemon. I thought about how hot it was. I thought about how fucking hot it is in Phoenix and how the summer drags on and on and feels so goddamn endless and depressing. And then I thought about that painting Persistence of Memory by Dali, which always reminds me of the the Arizona desert, and the bleakness of Phoenix in the summer.


And that’s how I wound up with a Dali-inspired background, with melted Pokeballs instead of clocks, and a distorted Pikachu instead of whatever the hell that creature is in the Dali painting. I also went for a Monument Valley-esque landscape in the distance to make it more specifically AZ.


So there you have it: Persistence of Pikachu.

Wherever that guy is, I hope he’s recovered from that night, and reached at least level 20.




March 15, 2014

Here are a couple of sketches from a play reading that I recently attended…

reader w sandals

I love going to play readings, because even if I don’t care for the play, it’s an excellent opportunity to do some sketching. Not only do the readers stay in generally the same position, but you don’t have to worry about them getting paranoid about the fact that you are staring at them.




February 21, 2014

One of my favorite late night events at Space 55 is Storyline, which happens every third Saturday of the month  (that’s tonight!) at 10:30pm.

Different people get up and tell stories based on the monthly theme. It is always a great show, as well as a fantastic opportunity to do some sketching…



From Rough Sketch to Final Draft 3

February 7, 2013

Currently at Space 55 we are running a puppet show about recycling called Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings. I made the poster for the show. I started by reading the script and getting an idea of the main characters and their personalities and the setting of the story.

Then I sat down and made this rough sketch and sent it to the director, who sent me some notes on things to change and move around, etc.

orig sketch

Once I got the go ahead to move forward I drew a cleaned up version of the two characters, scanned them in, and worked with them in Illustrator. I also created the beach, background, fonts and sizes, and came up with this image.

PTposter early draft

From here I started showing the image to some friends, who gave a lot of great feedback on things to tweak. I got some really enlightening advice from my friend and children’s book illustrator Molly Idle.

I went back in and changed the title font to look more like it’s made of plastic, added in the butterfly, and also added the shadow of the birds over the pile of trash in the background to try to give a hint of something a bit sinister. I also roughed up the Space 55 logo and the tagline at the bottom so that they blended with the sandy beach a little more. Here is the final result.


When I initially started working on this project I was a little worried that I would not find as much motivation to make this postcard as I do when I make the ones for my own plays. But I actually got really into it and had a blast making it. Thanks to everyone who took the time to look at it and give me their thoughts. All the advice I got really helped.


Rough Sketch to Final Draft 2

December 30, 2012

A while ago I wrote about how I created the poster for Night of the Chicken 2. A few months after doing that play I was fortunate enough to see another play I wrote get produced. Actually it was a series of short plays, all of which had monsters in them. I also made the poster for this play. And once again, it was a sometimes fun, sometimes frustrating experience. But I learned a lot, and I am proud of the finished product.

Here is my initial concept sketch, which I did with markers. Very sloppy. Very messy. Very crowded.

I was trying to go for that old B-movie horror/sci fi poster look. Corny, but cool.


Originally I planned to feature all the monsters from each play, with a big robot/cyborg in front. But the robot I came up with was just too cute.

I had this other sketch of a zombie that was more gross, and therefore more appropriate for the poster. So I traded the robot for him and dropped the other characters.

big zombie in marker

Once I had my concept narrowed down to one giant zombie stomping around in a post-apocalyptic world, I began to create the image digitally. I decided to make this poster in Adobe Illustrator, which I did not know how to use. But my awesome and patient friends Brad and Sharon gave me some lessons.

First I made the zombie by scanning in my original drawing, and then tracing it in Illustrator using a Wacom tablet. This process took a really long time, because I didn’t know what the heck I was doing.

Then for the burned out city in the background I took inspiration from a computer game called Canabalt, which Sharon told me about. This sounds stupid, but my initial sketch had only one layer of city silhouette. When I saw the two layers in the background of this game it BLEW MY MIND. Of course! Two layers of city silhouettes. Only an idiot would put in one layer. Total lightbulb moment.


So I drew the city in Illustrator, slapped my zombie in front of it, added some text, and…

Well here is an early version of the poster. Not so hot, but at least I had something to work with.


From there I just kept tweaking the colors, the fonts, the wording, until I couldn’t tweak no more.

I got a TON of help from my friend Kim, who is really good at giving constructive criticism, whether it’s for writing plays or making posters. I also got a lot of help from my friend Brad, who is a bad ass graphic designer.

Here is the end product…

It’s no masterpiece. It doesn’t even resemble an old B-movie poster like I had originally planned. But if you had showed this image to me a year ago and told me I had made it – in Illustrator no less – I would have NEVER believed you.


From Rough Sketch to Final Draft

August 24, 2012

I write a live radio play series called Night of the Chicken. Last year I made a poster for the show that I was quite proud of. To be honest, I didn’t think I had the drawing ability, nor the graphic skills to make such an awesome poster. Luckily I got a TON of help from some of my friends and they helped me stumble through the process.

Anyway, I thought it might be interesting to see how it developed from the initial sketch to the final product.

I made this first sketch back when I was writing the first episode. I kind of did this drawing just for fun. Back then I never dreamed that Night of the Chicken would actually see an audience. Let alone have a sequel.

Sometime later my good friend, and kick-ass artist,  Jessica Hickman did this drawing for me as a gift. It’s pretty common for artists to draw pictures of their friends’ characters in their own style and give them as a present.

Sometime after that Night of the Chicken (ep. 1) found it’s way to Space 55 in Phoenix. And it was great. I didn’t make the poster for that show. They already had one made before I had a chance to take a crack at it, but I didn’t mind because the poster they made was actually pretty cool. Here it is.

Okay so fast forward some time after that. Night of the Chicken (ep. 2) was ready to take the stage and I was ready to take on the challenge of making the poster myself. Using the drawing that Jess did as inspiration, I came up with this line drawing of my character.

Then I scanned her into Photoshop and added some color, as well as a background and title.

Jess gave me a lot of guidance (via email) about how to use Photoshop to add shadow and color your characters. I also got a lot of technical advice from Brad, the graphic designer at work. I made several attempts to draw my own set of lockers, but was never happy with them. Then like a miracle I found some free clip art of this perfect locker, which I messed around with until it became a wall of receding lockers.

Once this initial post card image was done, I had to turn it into a poster with all the showtimes and stuff on it. That’s when my friend Kim came in. Kim has zero skill with photoshop, but tons of experience with telling her husband how to make the posters for her shows. So she came over one night and we worked on it together. Actually she did most of the creative thinking, while I sat in front of the computer and carried out her bidding in a somewhat Igor-like manner.

In the end, we came up with this little gem. I have no shame in bragging about it, because even though I technically performed all the physical actions to create this image–it was the advice I got from Jess, Brad, and Kim that made it so awesome.



November 16, 2011

A few weeks ago I saw a show called Munched at Space 55 theatre in Phoenix. Actually I saw it three times. It was that good. During one of the shows I did a few sketches.

The show is about a girl who’s mother gets convicted of munchausen by proxy and thrown in jail. The girl grows up hating her mother and believing she was crazy.

The story is told in alternate view points between the mother (played by Kim Porter) and the daughter (played by Michelle Kable).

There were two other actors in the show (David Weiss and Shawna Franks) who played all of the other characters. It was a pretty big job.

Usually by the end of the show a lot of people in the audience would be crying (and embarrassed about it). And they would all have different opinions as to what really happened and whether or not the mother was guilty.

If this show was still running I would probably see it a fourth time. Every time I’ve seen it I’ve gotten something else out of it.

Check out what’s up next for Space 55 at


Seven Minutes in Heaven

August 7, 2011

I did these three drawings at Space 55, an awesome little theatre in downtown Phoenix that puts on all kinds of fun shows. Every year they do a series of shows called “Seven Minutes in Heaven” where they let each performer go up on stage and do whatever they want for seven minutes. There are pretty much no rules, and the acts are not pre-screened, so you never know what you’re going to see. Music, improv, and puppetry are pretty common. But there have also been food eating contests, blind poets, and magicians (clothed and unclothed).

This show is a great place to practice quick sketches, because just like the performers, you only have seven minutes.

Check out Space 55 at