the blur between


Tag: illustration

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


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


The problem with getting prepared for my solo show so far in advance – december 5th here in monroe, plug, plug – is that it leaves me with too much time… idle hands and all that. My brain doesn’t turn off it’s creative impulses. I have several ideas at the moment that may in fact make it into the show – a show i was planning on hanging this weekend… might have to put that off a week… i digress.

In the past, i’ve done work for bands or artists that i like, non-commissioned stuff, just in the hopes that the work could lead to real work. This is actually successful more often than you would think. Maybe because of mutual respect. Maybe because the bands i like are usually independent with small budgets and therefore love doing business with other independents (myself) that don’t charge an arm and a leg. Maybe it’s just serendipity. So, i’ll design a piece, send it to them and wait… like a vulture… and more often than not, i’ll get an email and we’ll end up collaborating somehow. And if not, i still got to exercise the creative demon that was chewing on me and now the artist in question knows they have a fan and that can’t be bad thing, right?  So I’ve been wanting to do something for rap collective, Doomtree, or more specifically P.O.S., for some time now. I’ve been a fan of his for years and frequently listen to his music when i paint. Recently he’s released a couple new joints so i thought the time was right to do something.

So, one night when i didn’t have any freelance to work on (a rare and glorious thing), i spent a couple of hours and put this together:


I think it came out pretty good. The words in the foreground say, ” Bolt cutter, box cutter, brick,” a verse from one of his songs that always gets stuck in my head. I wasn’t worried so much about it being legible – those with any interest will know.

Most of this was done in illustrator. Finished it out in photoshop because i thought i would put some photo-style flourishes in it but i really didn’t . There’s some photography in the background and some rastered images but nothing i couldn’t have just placed in illustrator. This entire paragraph is only for the graphic nerds. Here’s a detail:


That photo of the girl in the background looks way more explicit than it actually is. So Mom, if you’re reading, she’s actually licking her own knee – still, it’s provocative and that’s the point. There’s a photo of some riot cops in there too but it’s cropped out.

So that’s that. Maybe the P.O.S. camp will give me a shout. If not, it was a fun piece to do and gave me something new to post.  I have one final painting (probably) thats included in my show that i’ve yet to post, so i’ll be doing that soon … then hopefully I’ll get started on that other project i eluded to some weeks ago. I think i gotta get this show done and out of my system before i can move on to something big. Stay tuned. And thanks for reading. – jbn

UPDATE – I typed all of the above last week but never posted it because when i write these posts, it’s like a stream of consciousness sorta thing and i like to go back and edit – which i never got around to doing – so it sat in limbo… but in the meantime i got an email from P.O.S., the man himself. He was complimentary and thanked me for the design. So that was very cool.


So i found the following image online and really liked it. The mask, the running, the reality, all so urgent, dangerous and visceral. Plus, rebellion is a great thing to capture in art i think.

rioterLet me digress for a second. I found this science-project-style, wooden, display board in a dumpster at a school about a year ago, maybe longer. It was fairly large, three panels, complete with hinges. I dug it out of the dumpster and it’s been sitting in my studio ever since. For my upcoming show, i couldn’t justify spending any more money on canvases – for all intensive purposes, art has yet to pay so i cut corners where i can… so i decided to take off the hinges and try to use the pieces of board as canvases once an idea struck. Took a long time for an idea to strike that worked within the shape of the boards. And in that time, one of the boards got damaged, i used another one to test colors on, but luckily the third survived and now we have this…

filigree_riotIt’s pretty long, maybe 5 feet… 4 at least. I should measure these things before i do these posts.

I went through a spell where i was using a filigree pattern all the time. It reminds me of fancy wallpaper that you would find in a luxurious hotel or something, so I liked the imbalance of using it within my crude and sometimes ghetto-influenced paintings. Juxtaposition, that’s the word. Anyway, filigree in full force in the background. Originally i was going to put them in the “smoke” too, using a different color combination but I got to a point where that felt like a design decision and not an artistic one. People that live in both worlds as i do probably struggle with the difference. The blur between.

filigree_riot_detailAnother design change that happened sort of on the fly was the color i used for the rioter. I had always intended to use the unpainted wood as his “fill” but i was going to do the detail work in black. However, once i finished the background, it seemed like black would be too much. I didn’t want to draw the eye to the figure any more than his position on the canvas and his difference in color already would. I didn’t want the background to be just a background.

filigree_riot_detail2That shot is a bit blurry, sorry. But you can see the wood grain and some small nails that go up the middle. It’s not a thick piece of wood. The whole thing is fairly light actually. The edges are rough. I’ve already gotten a couple splinters handling it. Maybe i’ll knock the price down for any potential buyer to help pay for bandaids.

Only a couple more paintings to go before i jump on another project that’s very dear to me. I’ll keep you posted. Thanks for reading. – jbn


I’ve attempted a series once or twice with little luck. The most i can seem to milk out of a single idea or theme is about 3 paintings… hardly a series. Nowadays, I choose to use the term “body of work.” It’s looser. It doesn’t imply a theme so much as it hints at a common thread. This thread could simply be the artist in question. For my upcoming show, the thread is more about technique and a certain approach and color palette. I bring this up because my latest piece was deliberately designed to accompany another painting. You can find that one here. And as complimentary pieces go, i’m really digging the set. I would probably do more if i could think of more. Time will tell. For now, I’m happy with the bookends that are Liar and Addict. Here’s how Addict started…


Of course, it started with an idea… but it’s easier to document the execution process than the incubation process (no pun intended). The top image shows the girl stencil already done in a pale blue over acid green – the bottom shows the caterpillar washed in yellow (which should have been done first but it worked out) and some of “addict.” I didn’t have the “Liar” painting handy as i was doing this one so some of the similarities were done by memory… The background could use a little more distress.

So as the Liar piece was an ode to Pinnochio – this one is Alice In Wonderland. The connection may not be completely obvious… although enough that i don’t feel the need to explain. Think mushrooms, pipes and talking, many-legged critters. And of course, our protagonist.  Here it is, finished:


I may go back and thicken the black lines a bit. She may need a little more detail in the hair too. There’s a faint hint of white along the back of the bug, my attempt to create the curvature and slickness of caterpillar skin; not sure you can see it in these photos. Here’s a close shot:


Thanks for reading. Next week, no bugs.

Moira Red

So… this may be the longest i’ve ever worked on a single project. Not that the project itself was all that time-consuming – there were just several delays, additions and unforeseeable issues that would sometimes bring everything to a halt… or at least a lengthy pause. Which is fine; check cleared and all is well… (thanks Greg), but as an artist who normally works within a certain self-imposed momentum, I found myself losing optimism. I felt like this thing was never going to live. The thing in question is a package design for a Shreveport, LA band that goes by the name, Moira Red. I believe they made some shirts and other swag with my work on it too, i’ve yet to see… but i digress. Point is, the design is alive and well… in fact, the band is having their release party this weekend i think.  Doubtful I’ll be making that, fellas – wife and kiddies need me around more than you do. I’ll be there in spirit.

The design itself is intricate in a way that i’ve never worked before, at least not for somebody else. A common thread runs between all the illustrations and (i assume) the songs; a story of which the lyricist has a much better understanding than I, still I tried to take this abstract plot and give it a visual. I won’t go into detail about the story, i would just mess it up, but it seems to be about the duality of man. It has a dark, supernatural vibe, that matches the music (which has a metal, Faith No More style vibe). Here’s the cover (sans the band logo which I removed for this post, in fact, i removed all the text as well as cropped some of the images for the purpose of this post).


I’m not terribly sure what the female figure represents. Pretty sure she’s the victim. I need to stop speculating. I did the whole thing in illustrator. The detailed and distressed background made the file quite large and laborious to work with – every time i would save it, i could go make a sandwich or something. Here’s another panel:


I like the wolf. If you follow this blog, you know i have a slight interest in Red Riding Hood lore – so I’ve done my fair share of wolf illustrations, this one came out better than i expected after first reading what the band wanted (we mostly exchanged ideas via email). I was worried that drawing an actual heart wouldn’t work in only a single color in my stencil style – but i think it came out well… effective.

And here is my favorite illustration from the design. No real reason for it being my favorite other than i enjoy illustrating faces and i think it came out well. I like the red eye and how it ties together with the wolf. This illustration is cropped and is actually much wider on the actual piece, taking 2 panels. The fold is in the middle where the color divides.


That’s it I guess. I designed a couple more panels as well as the CD face but I guess i should leave some mystery for those that buy the music.

Thanks to my cousin Whitney for the hook-up with the band, hope you guys have a great cd release and huge success (think of me in the future). I’ll be back with a new painting next week. Thanks for reading. – jbn


I’ve liked the image of a girl in a simple black mask for a long time now. I bought a catwoman bank years ago for this reason. Well, that and she’s very curvy in a way most banks are not. Enid from Ghost Wold holds a special place in my part if only for this…

gwAnd have you seen Harmony Korine’s Springbreakers? Because i don’t think i’m alone in enjoying this image. Point is, I’ve wanted to do something with the cute-girl-in-mask imagery for some time. I like that it’s a little bit kooky, a little bit sexy, and a little bit dangerous all at the same time. You know Robin can’t take himself too seriously, no matter what a badass he may be – I like that. A sense of humor is important, even for vigilantes. Plus, it’s like a trap… the bad guys lower their guard because they’re all like, “who’s this nut think he is??” Then BLAM, WHAM, POW! – done. Robin stands victorious. Underoos and all.

I bring up Robin because he’s a minor catalyst in my newest work, which i’m calling “Girl Wonder.” And it goes a little something like this…


The birds are done using a method of acrylic transfer that i’ve been toying with lately. If i were more patient, it’s possible that i could have transferred the image without all rough edges and holes – but i like the rough edges and holes… that’s what i tell myself anyway. The fighting figures at the top were done in this method too but i didn’t like it so i removed it (which left a nice texture) and drew it by hand. Finally, i put a bit of watercolor in the eye, lips and teeth.


I like the colors in this one. Very pale and muted. I did a giant version of this design recently (’bout 5 feet tall i think) where i used Flex Seal for the mask. I can’t say enough good things about Flex Seal. Unfortunately it’s not cheap. I plan on experimenting with it, mixing it with other paints and such. Wish it came in white but i have a feeling the makers aren’t exactly marketing the stuff to artist-types. As seen on TV…

flexThis piece, along with about 15 others, will be on display at my solo show come December. Thanks for reading.



So this piece… I don’t know… I was optimistic… I had plans, big plans and in the end, it didn’t quite come together. I’m actually happy with it, but happy and satisfied don’t always share the same headspace. The moment the pieces started coming together as I laid it out in the computer, I felt like I was onto something. I liked the idea of these different vibes occupying the same world, juxtaposed interests with my own taste as the only common thread. I thought that once finished, I would have an image that captured that rare thing… whatever that is… for me, a stylized glimpse of my personal creative process in the form of a sexualized, rockabilly princess, anti-misogynistic, old-school, dookie-chain hip-hop mixed with the lonely-by-choice energy of a good road trip story. See how good that should’ve come together. Yea well…

forgetoreosAgain, I don’t dislike it but it didn’t come together as well in reality as it did in my head. My 2 biggest complaints are both very subjective things, this is art after all. But the woman, she’s my first issue – she’s a little too blue and I wish i would have taken a different approach to the line work. Something about my technique with her specific look doesn’t do it for me, though I really don’t know what I would do differently. My other issue is space. As in, once i was “finished,” there was too much of it wasted. So as an afterthought, I added the pieces in white. And actually, I like how that came out. I just wish my original design hadn’t needed the balance. But what’s done is done.

forgetoreos_detail1On a positive note, I enjoyed the process of this particular piece more than just about anything I’ve ever done. Twas fun. I’m also very happy with the floral wallpaper I picked out. Went through about 50 or so patterns on ebay before landing on the one you see before you. Also, I’m aware that my issues with the painting are my own, and as the final piece is not intended for my eyes but everyone else’s, I’m hopeful that someone out there will love it, want it, and shell out ridiculous amounts of coin for it.

Here’s the always essential, side view:

forgetoreos_detail2By the way, the person who can tell me the reason behind the title (without googling it) wins my affection. Facebook me.

Next week, an experiment in color and chemical reaction that I’m very pleased with followed by my Hitchcock tribute. Thanks for reading.


My latest.

And no, it’s not really titled “pants on fire,” … well, probably not. I have to wonder if my international-readers will even understand that. Is “liar, liar, pants on fire” a global expression? Is that something i should google? I’m getting off topic. I do that. Here it is. Bask.


I know what you’re thinking. Something like… “What?”

I get that a lot.

So, like most of my paintings, this began as a photo composite in the computer. Not sure when, how or why the idea came to me about a giant grasshopper clinging onto a little girl, but it did… the hurdle was trying to figure out the meaning behind the idea. Or at least a way to GIVE the idea meaning. So after a few days, with the image lodged in my head, and perhaps after watching some Disney movies with my boy… it dawned on me… that’s not a grasshopper, it’s a cricket, as in Jiminy. The girl wasn’t frightened, she was ashamed… and perhaps she had only been a “real” girl for a short time. You see where i’m going with all this?

Normally, if there’s a cryptic message within my paintings, i’d rather not explain them – but this one is somewhat humorous to me so I thought i would just lay it out there. Besides, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. We could analyze this one all day – women are liars, your conscience is a huge weight on your back, bugs are creepy, all that.

Here’s a close shot from the side.


The background is predominantly turquoise as you can see but there are bits of blue and metallic copper in there. When i placed the stencil of the girl on there, or maybe it was the critter, i had neglected to let my paint dry (i shouldn’t use the word “neglect” – i’m just impatient – i knew what i was doing) so when i removed it, paint came off with it – this was good – gave it a distressed vibe that i liked and continued to do elsewhere on the piece. Happy semi-accidents.

Like all the pieces I’ll be posting in the coming months, this will be on display at my solo show this December at UPSTAIRS in Monroe, LA. I’m hoping to get some fine artists reps to the show… if anyone’s connected…

So that’s that. Next week, rockabilly chick drinking coffee with LL Cool J.


Thanks for reading. – j