the blur between








Suicide Squad

It’s been a long time since i’ve last posted and a lot has changed regarding my creative pursuits since then. Some ideas i’ve scrapped due to lack of sustaining interest or time – others i’m still toying with. Freelance pays the bills but sure does eat into studio time. Speaking of, I’ve been working steady on some beer packaging that i’ll be posting in the coming months. But in the meantime… I wanted to share this:


I’m excited about this film and was looking for an opportunity to do an illustration without any limitations or compromise – meaning i was my own boss on this one. Something just to show off my particular skill set.  So I went through the trailers, frame by frame, and pulled images that i laid out in photoshop before taking it into illustrator.  The only prerequisite was that i wanted it to be a spot color job that could be easily screen printed (y’never know).

And just in case i’m getting ahead of myself and there are some readers who have no idea what they’re looking at  – It’s from an upcoming movie entitled Suicide Squad – A super hero flick with less emphasis on “hero.”

Here’s a detail:


Thanks for reading. – jbn


Say I Won’t

Hey kids. My studio life is not a constant thing. Due to my schedule, my life, my varied interests, i’m not always painting. In fact, sometimes i don’t even have a studio. When i’m not painting, i don’t rent the space. If I’m going to spend a year working on a book, as i did last year – then i don’t spend the money renting a space i know i won’t be using. Anyway, my point is, since getting back into the studio around April of this year, I haven’t really felt that thing. That thing that normally fuels my need for a creative outlet in the first place. Whatever that thing is. I’ve done 4 paintings since April and while i’ve liked them all, some more than others, i’ve yet to get into a groove this time. Each painting i’ve done looks nothing like the one that came before it. And while i’ve long accepted that i’m not a “series” artist, I’d still like it if my style would find some consistency. This new painting, which i think i finished last night, feels right. It was very experimental in how it came to be; while i had an endgame in mind, it took a lot of playing with controlled (happy) accidents to get me there. I enjoy painting the most when i’m not sure how to get to point B and i’m just throwing paint at the canvas… sometimes quite literally. I also like using a variety of mediums. If you’ve read this blog before, you may already know that i use wood stain a lot, mixed with my acrylics and spray paint. But lately, I’ve been using chalk, charcoal and pastels for my line work on top of the paint – which has been a success… i think. This painting has it all. And I’ve also been working bigger than i ever have before. This painting and my last one are both 4 feet, square. A fun size, although more fitting for museums than someone’s living room – which poses a problem when trying to sell the work… oh well. So here it is. It’s called “The ‘Say I Won’t’ Mask.”


Interestingly enough, while i finally feel like i may be hitting my stride – i’m about to attempt a series (I know) on local fire escapes. Don’t ask. Hopefully i’ll be posting those soon enough and you can see what i’m talking about. It will be a completely different direction. Because that’s what i do – i hit my stride only to change direction for no apparent reason. Artists. Am i right?

Anyhoo, about the painting. I hope you dig it. I dig it. I can see a lot of my influences in it from other artists like David Choe & Bask (2 artists worth looking up if you’re not familiar) as well as an overdue union of things i’ve been doing separately – like the use of text with a less controlled method of color application. There was a time when i hardly ever used brushes, everything was spray paint, while lately i rarely touch a can other than the stenciled letters and a few experiments under the surface. Here’s a detail:


A little blurry. Sorry. But gives you an idea of some of the little details within the piece. The above detail shot is probably around 80% from actual size. That’s Hot Stuff on her shoulder there. There’s also a Tex Avery inspired wolf in the upper left that you might could make out on the first photo. And there are a couple other things scattered about.

So that’s that. Not sure when i’ll post again. Starting on this fire escape thing next. I’ll hopefully be showing this painting at a gallery soon. Per usual, everything is for sale – if anyone’s interested, shouldn’t be that hard to track me down. Thanks for reading. – jbn


New painting. It’s big. 48 inches, square – that’s 4 feet – or 1.2’ish meters for my overseas peeps.

Normally, i type all this exposition before getting to the work. But you know what, for those that just want to see the painting without all my indecipherable ramblings – this is for you:


Now feel free to stop reading anytime. I waste my own time with this blog, it would be selfish to waste yours. Moving on…

I’ve explained before why i often use text in my paintings and i’m not going to get into it now – suffice it to say that i am a child of the ad age and i expect artwork to sell me on something, even if it’s an abstract idea open to my own interpretation. And what better way to do this than language? But another reason i use text and numbers in my paintings is due to the influence of graffiti. Not so much in style but the medium itself. I really like it when you can see the nomenclature from a train car, the numbers and such that signify which train car it is (i assume) peeking out from behind the bold colors of someone’s tag.

So after nearly finishing the piece above, which i call BRAWLERS because of the ruff and tumble appearance of our featured players, i still felt like it was missing something. Plus, and this is the real reason, the guy’s hand just looked like a muddled mess and i needed to find a way to hide it. So the whole thing had a vintage, romanticized gangster feel about it. I thought maybe i would retrofit it with some ideas about the Kray twins but that seemed a bit trendy. So i started looking up criminal slang from the 30’s to the 50’s. One thing led to another and i ended up on a short story about 2 criminals called “the killers” written by Hemingway. In it was the line i used on the painting, which if you can’t read it off the less than spectacular photo above, it reads “We’re killing him for a friend. Just to oblige a friend, bright boy.” I thought it fit. And there you have it.

Too much information? Here’s some more…

This painting, as you can see, involves a bit of realism, which is something i normally stay away from. i most always compile my work in a computer before i ever get to the canvas. And in doing so, i always tweak colors or turn photos into simple stencils, etc – various things that go the other direction, away from realism. This is going to read like a very limited perspective, so understand that i will deny  it if you ever call me on it, but i’ve always been like, “if you want realism, take a photo.” But really, that more applies to photo-realism and what we have here is me simply using the natural color palette from the original photo and nothing more. I mean, brush strokes and juvenile technical ability still firmly in check. The reason is that when i did my initial photo composite, using the original photo (which i stole from the world wide web – come and get me), i liked it as is. And that rarely happens so i went with it. I mean, i made it my own. I cut another figure out. I changed the background entirely. But the muted color palette along with the lime circle 5 just worked for me. And why a 5? Because my last painting (see below) had a 4 in it. Duh.

Speaking of that previous painting. I’ve decided i don’t much care for it. Or rather, i like it, but i don’t think it reflects my sensibilities enough. This might be artsy ego stuff, but i need the work i put into the world to project enough of myself that the signature doesn’t feel like a forgery. So i’ve decided that if it doesn’t sell at the next showing (this thursday here in beautiful monroe), i’m painting over it. So basically, i’m painting over it.

This painting and the soon-to-be-destroyed STRUGGLE will be on display at the next crawl this thursday where i’ll also be selling my smash-hit, soon to be a major motion picture, book – ROBERT. Hope to see you there. And take it from me, don’t believe everything you read, kids.

Stay in school?


Alrighty, new piece. A true mixed bag of ideas and mediums, which honestly is something i was trying to get away from as my ideas tend to go in a direction away from those with disposable incomes… alas, it’s hard to get away from who you are. Let’s take a moment and reflect on the wisdom of my words.

So as i mentioned on the last post, i’ve been trying to pursue my fine art in much the way i pursue my commercial work. Which is, i want to create pieces that people actually want to purchase without sacrificing my own style to get there. Am i selling out? Hell yes. Through my own observations, this meant creating pieces where the meaning was not quite so abstract, something more broad. Or even without meaning, something just pretty. Pretty is good right? What could be wrong with pretty? Point is, i find that most art buyers aren’t so interested in big ideas as much as they are work that just looks dope in their living rooms or kitchens. And i’m okay with that as long as i can inject the work with something that makes it uniquely mine. And it should be noted that i’m not knocking this art-buying mindset. I have a similar mindset when it comes to music – i just want something i can get down to, i don’t want to decipher the lyrics or learn about the bass player’s political interests.

However… that approach to making art… well, turns out it’s not easy.

So this piece, it’s not that. This piece is for those that want to ponder my choices for all eternity. For those that need to see something new every time they look at it. For those that want a conversation starter as much as they want to tie the room together. My people. Bask:


There are ideas in this thing that go from nautical to criminal, i’d rather not go into the specifics. Why spoil it? Here are some detail shots that are closer to actual size, ’round 80%. The painting is 48 X36 inches. Enjoy:

struggle_detail3 struggle_detail1 struggle_detail2So this badboy will be on display at the next gallery crawl, still a month away, where i’ll also be selling copies of my book.

Hopefully i’ll see some of you fine folks there. Until then… thanks for reading.


Okay, new painting. Yay that. I’m back in the studio for a bit, not sure how long this time though. Making art, as crucial as it is for my sanity, is a money and time eater. Two things i don’t have. Alas, since i’ve been painting again, i’ve completed two and sold one so not too shabby i guess. As i get older, my ceiling for the perception of success gets increasingly lower. Anyway, the one you’re about to see is the one I sold; I’ll post the other one in a few days.

My cycle of creative pursuits is nearly always the same. I work in the studio for a few months, creating a solid body of work with a similar theme. Then I have a show and try to sell the work before leaving the studio to pursue something else – for example, last time, that “something else,” was my book which you can purchase or read about in the posts below this one. Working this way allows me to reset my brain, creating chapter breaks within my fine-art production – these breaks allow for me to come back to the studio with a new set of ideas so my work stays fresh and i don’t get bored. I mention this because for the first time in several years, this break method didn’t work. I came back to the studio with several ideas but no real direction. I wanted to try to create a body of work that would appeal to the art-buyers of the world without compromising my own style and interests. Finding that blurry line has been easier said than done. The first piece I did, the one you’re about to see, was a success. The imagery had enough of me in it that i was happy to sign my name to it while the subject was broad enough that i felt it would sell easily. However, i’ve found that line is not an easy one to walk while simultaneously keeping my interest.

Yesterday was an event here in my hometown called Blend of the Bayou – a nice little gig with food and drink and general merriment where local artists try to sell their digs to a crowd of mostly well-to-do types. Fine by me. In fact, this event is what sparked me to get back in the studio and what put me on the path to try to create some crowd-pleasers that still maintained my personal style. I intended to have more than one finished for the event, but as i mentioned above, walking that line wasn’t easy. The second piece i finished has a lot more of me in it – not entirely on purpose – which took it out of the running for Blend of the Bayou. And i don’t mean to segregate or stereotype, this is simply a case of knowing your audience. I’ll show the other piece at a gallery soon where a more diverse crowd will have a chance to see it. Moving on…

So, as usual – my backgrounds are semi-controlled, educated-accidents of chemical reactions and gravity. I work on the floor, not on an easel. I use my hands as much as i do brushes. And i use spray paint and wood stain in ways the manufacturers never intended. Also, i like using words in my paintings – always have, probably always will. Choosing the right word(s) isn’t always easy. But for this one, I was working with the idea of idle hands so the word “restless” just seemed like a natural fit. Plus it’s a word i just like – it defines me more than it should. Okay, before i turn this into a counseling session – here’s the background.


“REST” was done by scraping the wet yellows off, to show the dry oranges underneath, using stencils i cut out of old art-prints of mine that never sold. Was that the saddest thing you ever read? Two tears in a bucket. “Less” is straight-up orange spray paint (i know it doesn’t look orange in the photo but trust me). The top area, the blue, is made up of several things including chrome spray paint and even some oil paint. The darker spots are done by mixing in some wood stain. I’ve always liked the look of weathered textures – i’ve been perfecting this vibe for years – so background done. Time for the foreground, an illustration of hands that i originally planned to do in chalk but ended up doing in oil pastels. I’ve always loved drawing hands, mainly because it’s always been such a challenge. I did the following piece a few years ago:


You can get that badboy off society 6.

So, the hands – and the finished piece:


I’m happy with it. Hopefully the nice couple that bought it will find a good spot for it. It’s 36 X 48 inches for those interested. And speaking of society 6, if i can get a good quality photo of it, i may put it on there. I originally planned on doing several pieces with hands or other various body parts but i really only have one more planned to do, making it the shortest run of any themed work i’ve ever done. What can i say, i get… restless.

Until next time true-believers.

Getting it done without money and models

That could be a rap song.

I don’t show much of the commercial work i do on this site anymore. I don’t know, for a while i think i felt that it somehow compromised the integrity of the fine art that i do. I prefer fine-art. There’s no compromise in it and it’s an expression of me and not a paying client. But considering i haven’t done any fine-art in over a year, i look at that perspective now with some distance and it feels somewhat pretentious and silly. Anything i create is a reflection of me, if not in concept, in style – and more often than not, even with freelance, commercial gigs, I give my 2 cents worth. Anyway, all that is just a lead up to something i thought i would show you fine people. It’s a book jacket I designed a few months back. I’m proud of it but that’s not really why i want to show it here. Instead i thought i would use this as a tutorial in how to design when the concept requires location scouting, models, photographers, props, all that, but when there’s no budget (or time) for any of it.

So with this job, the client had very specific suggestions and ideas for what he wanted. Too specific. I run into this a lot in advertising (my day job). Clients know the ingredients they want but don’t have the knowledge, experience or foresight to envision whether these ingredients can or should work together in the end. So after whittling down the grand scheme to focus more on the central tone that the client wished to project – things got easier – but not much. He wanted to show a 50’s era diner, with 50’s era cars and kids, including a fighter jet flying over – all this in addition to the book’s title, which is quite a mouthful: “Real American French Fries in Dickesview, TX or How To Kill A Pumpkin.” See?

No problem. Only it’s not the 1950’s and I have no budget to find models or cars or the location itself. Enter google images. But wait… it’s not that easy. As an artist, I don’t want to steal photographs and repurpose them for my own work. So the trick is to just take a piece here, and a piece there and to stylize to a degree that it’s unrecognizable from the original. But that’s no easy trick. First, angles and perspectives have to match. This is where i’m going to start peppering this post with images that I pulled off the web that would make the final composite. First I needed the diner.


But the author of this book, my client, had invented this diner within his narrative – it wasn’t an actual place. So with that in mind, i didn’t want to use an actual diner, i wanted to construct one myself. But i’m no architect. The above diner worked well because it’s obviously not in use anymore.  It’s like how i feel better about putting “public art” on an abandoned building versus somebody’s storefront. Whatever. In the end, i connected the side of a completely different diner to it to create my own original structure.

Next, cars. This got tricky because, as i mentioned above, now that i had a diner with a specific perspective, the cars had to match or things would look wonky. Also, adding to the difficulty, the client asked for certain models. Here we go:


By now, i began to cut out the pieces i wanted and compile everything into a photoshop composite. Let me back up for one second – normally when someone comes to me for work, whether it’s fine-art or commercial, they are familiar with my work or familiar with something i’ve done, hence the reason they looked me up in the first place. I use this to my advantage by working in the style that got them to contact me. For example, if someone is a fan of my stencil work – that’s the angle i use; if someone likes my more conceptual work and style isn’t a factor, then i start by using my time to come up with an idea and that idea will usually dictate the style; and so on. But this client got my name from a relative of mine (what up, Jeff) and i’m fairly certain he was unaware of my work before contacting me. So while this is freeing from a creative perspective, it also ramps up the difficulty level because it gives me too many tools to choose from. But if i can work strictly within the computer from beginning to end, that’s what i’m going to do because the level of control and ease of which i can make revisions trumps any organic methodology that may be limited. So that’s what i did.

Now i needed my cool, 50’s teenagers.



By the way, if by some miracle of chance, the owner of one of these photographs is reading this blog – i hope your’e okay with me using it here. And if not, let me know and i’ll take it down. End disclaimer.

I can’t find the final composite that i used after the client made revisions. But this composite shows how i used all the above photos (and more) to create a unique image that i then redrew, getting even further away from the original photos.


As you can see, the diner is called Frosty’s Burger Heaven. The client wanted an American Flag in the background (or either i put it there because of the book’s title – i can’t remember). After using the above as the foundation to my illustration, the client requested that i add more kids and lose the guy in the suit. Oh, and the jet:

Lockheed F-104G

That exact jet was another specific request from the client. Happy to oblige.

So after toying with various color combinations and font treatments and various other design options – the final result goes a little something like this:


DFW is the author in case you couldn’t figure that out.

Before, i said that this is a book jacket. That’s actually not true. It’s just the cover, designed strictly for the digital market – think Kindle. However, when i started the design, i laid it out as a true, paper book, complete with front and back… cause i knew it would be easier to crop the cover now than try to redesign it with a back in case the need ever arose one day. Did that make sense? Anyway, here’s how i intend the design to work if it’s ever published as an actual book. The space on the back is for a possible photo and blurb about the author and/or a synopsis of the story. I’ll have to increase the width to include a spine (a big one considering the book is over 500 pages) if that day ever comes.


That’s it. Thanks for taking the time. – jbn

… And Here We Are (or “BUY MY BOOK!”)

So… It’s been awhile.

Let’s just get to it, shall we?  – I finished the book.  A couple months ago, in fact – It took me 9 months to complete it. Apparently that’s a common gestation time. Towards the end of that 9 months, I did some research and sent out some letters to potential publishing agents. Alas, that effort bore no fruit. Out of my 4 queries, I got one rejection and box of squat from the other three. A shame because that means i have to go after publishers the ol’ fashion way – myself – something i’ve done before with my previous book – it’s tedious and time-consuming and i’m not looking forward to it. However, due to my own impatience, i decided to self-published on Amazon (again) as a way to reach those that follow my exploits (if you’re reading this, you probably fall into that category – thanks) while I attempt to find a publisher to reach the masses.

Those of you that have no idea what i’m talking about – let me take a quick moment to catch you up – super quick, I promise. Big breath and… this is a blog that features my artwork, paintings, commercial work, etc. I post new work relatively often – but about a year ago i disappeared, only popping up once to explain that the disappearance was due to the time spent working on this new book. The citizens of Earth have been trying to hide their excitement and collective anxiousness ever since. There – see, quick. I’m nothing if not a master of brevity. Moving on…

So about this book. It was designed to be relatively large, or your normal sized book that features full color illustrations – And hopefully it will see the light of day as it was intended… but for now, due to Amazon’s own limitations, i’ve scaled the book down significantly. Initially, I thought this would not be a good thing and my apprehension is one of the reasons it’s taken me 2 months to do it. I just wasn’t jazzed about the idea of a micro-version of my work, belittling my efforts – mocking me with it’s tiny pages. But then i got the proof and you know what? I liked it. The small size somehow made it more intimate and made it feel like some of the art zines i used to collect. So I approved it and here we are.

Now, as this entire post is a thinly veiled marketing ploy – this is where i take a moment to tell you what the book is about in hopes that, if the artwork alone doesn’t do it for you, maybe the story will.

It’s about a robot that finds a human soul. Not a human, mind you – just the soul. And this soul does wonders for our young, naive robot. It gives him a purpose and all is well in the world. Until he stumbles upon a sickly young girl who, as luck would have it, is missing her soul. The turn of events that follow are a little tragic. It’s about love and lies and what to do with eternity.

Up until fairly recently, i considered it a children’s book. And I still think it’s appropriate for those 9 and up. But due to the heavy themes, and a less than tidy ending, I now consider it more of a graphic novel… albeit written in rhyme. So if you enjoy art books, stories about love and loss, stories that don’t patronize,… and robots… buy my book. It’s cheap. Less than $10 usd. Here’s the LINK. And here’s an illustration from the book that I haven’t shown yet. You can see a couple more if you peruse down to my previous post.


And to those more interested in the fine art side of my creative exploits – I hope to get back in the studio soon. But let it be known, painting is expensive – buying a book could really speed up that process. Buy a dozen and i’ll come personally read it to you at bedtime.

Thanks for the support. – jbn