State of the Dread: So Ends January, 2018


Well, that’s 1/12th of the year down. My only 2018 resolution was to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Really I have enough tasks on my plate to focus on that I don’t have to worry about “resolutions,” I just have to get stuff done.

On the List Of One Million Things To Tackle is the image above. I’ve been meaning to do a better logo for DreadPennies, and I think I’m finally carving it out. The “Dreads” are going to be grumpy little robots that I draw every now and then. I’m trying to decide between a Buzzsaw Mohawk or Cable Dreadlocks and to be honest I think I’m just going to say “Screw it” and do both. The logo can be a Dread without any metallic hair, and I’ll draw Buzzsaw or Cables when I frigging feel like it.

Speaking of drawing, if you’ve seen my Instagram, I did a lot of these Colts/Avengers mashups during January, but I kind of ran out of steam on it. Still plenty of ideas for it, but it’s not a priority, there is other stuff I can draw that will help me practice speed and coloring. But here are some of the better ones:



So far I’ve read like eight or ten books this month but only a few of them have been good. Notable entries are CALVIN by Martine Leavitt, and IRON GOLD by Pierce Brown (which I expected to like anyway.)

It’s been a few months since I did a TMRGB post, probably because it’s been a few months since I read a good Girly Book. I’ll get around to it soon. I’m trying to find new authors to read, most of the Girly Books I pick up are by friends of mine, so it’s a good idea to cast a wider net.

Also I haven’t really been working on a writing project because I’m trying to focus on studying for a test I have in three weeks. Job-related. Pain in the butt, but there’s a hefty pay raise tied to it. Priorities.

That said, I took a breather this weekend to outline a series I’ve had in my head for about 5 years now. Tons of fun, it’s equal parts superhero/G.I. Joe, but I’m trying to take a direction that’s different from DC or Marvel, only because we’re a bit saturated by both (and only one of them is any good right now.)

My next published book is called HOMEWORLD, about an alien invasion of Earth. It’ll be art-heavy, and reads like a series of deep Web blog posts. I’m excited about this one, it’s another idea I’ve had for years. Release date pending.

Last of all, you probably heard that my “Blast Crew goes to Mordor” story got rejected by my publisher of choice, which really sucks, but it’s under review with an agent right now and I expect I’ll hear back about it in another few months. Iron is in the fire.

Thanks for reading, you guys. Sound off in the comments.

Patreon Project: An Art Book of Fully-Dressed Fictional Femmes

Hi gang,

For a while I’ve wanted to do a Patreon, but had no idea what to pitch to you. I don’t run a webcomic, I do book reviews on YouTube maybe once a week, and my books don’t come out often enough to reward people for subscribing.

However, I think I’ve figured it out. After some conversations with my friends, I’m going to start doing regular artwork, with the intention of assembling a book to publish later on. It’s too early to say when or how on the book, but I want to start drawing the content pretty soon.

The theme is simple: well-developed female characters, in practical roles and with practical accessories.

This came to me when one of my friends mentioned that her teenage daughter had a hard time finding fantasy art or superhero art with female characters that weren’t flagrantly sexualized. I agree that this is a problem, but it’s one of those social powder kegs these days, the kind you can’t talk about without one side screaming “CHAUVINIST!” and the other screaming “FEMINIST!” and the whole thing goes up in smoke.

Well, I decided I don’t care about any of that. The simplest way for me to do anything about it is to just draw cool characters doing cool things in a respectable way. There isn’t enough of it out there, so I’m going to contribute.

Who will I draw? In order to avoid copyright infringement, I’m going to use my own characters, both from my published and unpublished works. That means the entire lineup of femmes fatales from the Engines of Liberty series, Danielle from KILL THE BEAST (pictured above), and the Amazons from THE HERO NEXT DOOR.

But wait, there’s more! I don’t think you guys realize the number of projects that I have brainstormed or world-built, but haven’t yet outlined. I have a ton of characters on deck. From mechanics to jockeys, steampunk machine operators, hellhounds, magicians, military leaders, farmers, rebels, gunslingers, warriors, alien invaders, small-town ghost hunters, fantasy folks of all colors and sizes, superheroines, starfighter pilots, and mech captains…and that’s just so far.

By my current count, I have a list of 52 of them to do, and some of them merit more than one drawing. Even if I did one per week (which I probably won’t…life just happens) it would take me all year to finish it.

THUS, here is my pitch: I’m going to start these drawings, and though I will post progress shots along the way, I will only list the final versions on the Patreon for the backers to access. That way you can get them as they become available, and don’t have to wait until 2019 for the publication.

The monthly subscriptions will be very cheap, too. I might have three levels of support, with the highest one coming in at $5 a month.

Whatever money I’m able to raise for it will go toward supplies and materials, and will help me render high-quality digital versions of these characters for the eventual book. I will figure out other perks along the way, based on what I can manage.

I’m excited to undertake this, and to put these characters out there. Hopefully you’ll want to be a part of it!

Feel free to weigh in via the comments box, or drop me an email: dreadpennies [at] gmail.

Thanks everyone!

Annotated Artwork for “Engines of Liberty: SUICIDE RUN.”

This is part two of a series. The rundown of the REBEL HEART illustrations can be found here. Should help you get an idea of how much I improved between books 1 and 2.



This is when I started inking (I did it to the RH artwork long after the fact.) It helped everything stand out in a starker contrast, which was good, but the weakspots were still obvious. Kalfu’s dreadlocks, for example. I don’t think outlining each one was the right move. The lighting on the folds of his cloak wasn’t perfect, and neither were his boots (a weakness of mine.)


Another piece where I didn’t immediately grasp the right use of the ink, namely with the smoke and dust surrounding Kalfu. Godfrey’s robes are too straight and lack detail as well.



Boots, mostly. Also I focused too much on the individual folds and wrinkles in Calvin’s coat, instead of shading it on a large scale.


Perspective was tricky here. There eyes aren’t all aimed right. I still think I made the right call with the folks in the background, though. I didn’t want their details to overwhelm the foreground.


Pretty pleased with this one, just shading and stuff.


Changing the reference model for Amelia made drawing her a lot easier. Still, I should have shaded the front of her shirt a little more, but I was still using graphite to shade this stuff.


I think the shape of the boots could have better complimented her legs from the knees down. Skirt shading was relegated to the edges, instead of working into the folds.


I picked the right places to shade on the gryphon mimic, but not the right range of value. The wings are too dark and the neck and landing gear are too light. They would all be the same color, for camo. Also, graphite was less effective for rendering the complexions of the black characters, in this picture, Adam and Hank. (I switched to charcoal for book 3.)


Could have taken more time on the shading and the folds of their coats. With the shading I didn’t focus enough on the angle of the light.


Too dark in the back and bright up front. I might have re-done this one, too.


Boot laces are my only complaint.


Shading, light angles, the usual.


Shading on his robes, especially near the hem.


I re-did this one, the original version was really, really terrible. I’m immensely pleased with this.


Light angle, shading, and I would detail the rocks and ground more, instead of using broad strokes to fill them in. Not enough going on in the sky, either.


Body proportions are off. Upper chest too broad, arms too small.


Shading for the base of the chair, and Hamilton’s clothes. I would probably detail Hamilton’s face better, too.


I wouldn’t render all of the text digitally, just some of it. It was important that a lot of it look handwritten, but some of it could have been done in a program.


Shading on the boots, put a shadow under him. And I would re do his face. It doesn’t look like Hank.


Shading on their coveralls.


Shading, and the angle of Avery’s face (right.)


Shading, boots too big, and Lyla’s poise seems awkward next to Edsel’s.


Face too dark, among other usual stuff.


This was when I started to realize I needed models for poses.


I would crisp up the details on the tail feathers.


Detail the trees better in the background, they detract from the details I like in the foreground.


The shading is way off, the position of his legs is super weird, and he doesn’t look like J. Scott Savage, as he should.


Again, posing, this time for the arms. I needed a model. Also his mouth is weird.


Pretty pleased with Edith.


Right hand position, too much face shade.


I wouldn’t have used the ink for the tattoos, it makes them too stark, they should blend better with the color of Thierry’s flesh.


Sufficient for the purpose it served.


Yeah, I would re-do this entirely.




Not enough detail on the ground, and I shaded the three recruiters as if they were closer to the screen, i.e., I should have used broader strokes to give the “suggestion” that they were there.


Leg armor, robes from the waist down, and the scales on the reptiles. All need improvement.


Same as before with Kalfu: gotta figure out how to detail smoke and dust better.


I would have changed the angle of Yahola’s prosthetic.


Blah. Godfrey looks like a bad Super Mario cartoon. I could have done a much better pose with a model (which I now have, forgot to mention that.)


Hard to draw this in the dark. Too much to list, but it mostly boils down to light values, textures, and angles.


Proud of this one.


The post of her boots coupled with the messiness of her hair makes her look a little too “come hither” and that’s not in keeping with her character. So I’d change that, mostly.


Not how this one looked in my head, but I wasn’t drawing it big enough. I would re-do it now.


Calvin’s face looks weird but he did just get in a huge fight. I’d focus more on correcting his arm angle.


Mostly Godfrey’s face, and the map behind him. I’d probably put more debris on the floor and so forth.


So that’s it. I got better at some things but was still weak in others. Next week I’ll post the PATRIOT’S GAME art and you’ll see a lot of things that got better once I changed materials.

Annotated Artwork for “Engines of Liberty: REBEL HEART”

For a while now it’s been necessary for me to put my illustrations online so it’s easier for me to share drawings from past books. Recently I had a chance to share all of my published art with some old friends from Spain and they commented on how much it had changed in just a few short years.

Many artists and writers–especially younger ones than I–can benefit from things I learned throughout the illustration process for the Engines of Liberty novels. I’m sharing this in the hopes that they’ll get farther ahead than I did, and in less time.

For reference, I was illustrating this book from January of 2014 through March of 2014, generally after work, or if I had time off. For this first book I used mechanical pencils with .07 and .05 lead, then shaded with a standard no.2. This was not a great way of doing it, and that’s something that became very obvious when it came time to digitize the art. I eventually switched to ink and charcoal, which will be more noticeable once the art for PATRIOT’S GAME rolls around.

Until then, here is the entire slate of art for REBEL HEART, with some notes after each piece. Please note that they are not displayed here in the order in which they appeared in the book. Enjoy!


The eponymous “mimic brigade” needed a flag, and since the crossed stars and bars of the Battle Flag of Northern Virginia (ahem) was readily recognizable, I repurposed elements of it for the brigade flag. Things being what they are these days, I would likely not go this route again. The origins of the design are never discussed in the story, as it never becomes relevant. The Rebel Hearts themselves are a pretty diverse group, comprising brigade leader Hank Duncan, a black American; brigade mechanic Adam Paige, also a black American; tail gunner Ingvar Prebensen, a Dane; pilot Emma Crosby, an Anglo girl from the Carolinas; and of course, Calvin Adler, of Anglo-German descent.



She’s the officer in command at Camp Liberty in Ohio. I wanted her physicality to come in direct contrast with her personal demeanor. She’s stone cold and rock hard, and while these qualities can be virtues in a military leader, they have their own built-in flaws.



One of my favorite elements of this world is the machines that the rebels build to “mimic” magical creatures. A unique challenge of this one was the fact that it takes place at night, there are headlights cutting through the dark, and the engines from the machines kick up a lot of dust. Were I to draw it again, I spend more time on the lighting and the dust. Those were the hardest parts.


You’re really not supposed to like Captain Hamilton, so making him ugly was an obvious move.



Surprisingly enough, some Brits have read these books and given me feedback! As much as I avoid profanity in English, apparently I don’t do such a good job of it in…other English. 🙂 If I changed anything on this drawing, I would work on getting the angles of Godfrey’s face right.



Godfrey was as fun to write as Calvin was (villain and hero, respectively.) I used my brother-in-law Joseph as a model for Godfrey. I don’t think I got the light angles right for the shading.


Biggest issue on this one: Winston Fitznottingham (the mage) has an awkward stance, and his robes flutter in an unconvincing manner. I got better at this later on.


I’m still pretty proud of this one. I’d spend more time on the grass and leaves on the forest floor, annoying as they were. I’d also use models for the mages as they get blown off their brooms by the grenade blast; they look unrealistic in their poses.



I’d shade the wings on the dragonling mimic a little better, detail the grass island in front of Mount Vernon, try to sharpen up the details on the tree leaves, and re-shadow the mountains (and the reflection) with ink instead of so many pencil strokes.



Calvin’s proportions are a little off, even for an awkward teenager. One problem I struggled with consistently was drawing the boots too big.



The angles on Edsel’s face and hands look weird to me.



I’d pay closer attention to the lighting direction on the peripheral machinery. Other than that I was really proud of how I came up with this, and how it ended up.



Another one where boot size wasn’t done right. Other than that, I’m pleased. My friend Zach, a lawyer, volunteered to be the model for Edsel.


Eh…I’m not thrilled with the shading. I could have made the inside darker, and the light direction clearer from the outside.



Okay, here’s a good one: I didn’t zoom in enough on the action (Calvin wrestling the panther, Edsel coming to the rescue.) As a result, the most exciting part of the drawing was too small, and I spent the rest of the time drawing fricking foliage.


Another instance of bad zoom control. The barn looks HUGE and empty, even though in this scene there are more than four people. Still the important part is that Calvin and Edsel are fighting.



In future, I would just add this text digitally instead of trying to draw the font by hand.



Given how this was a small piece, I don’t mind the pencil strokes for the ground, but Jack’s left hand looks puffy, and the “stench lines” from his curse look…low-energy?  Cartoonish? It brings down the rest of it.



This came together well, even the boots. I think Brian’s face looks a little too flat, too. Angles got tricky with fight scenes.


Another tricky face angle, this time for Calvin. I should have practiced a few light pencil lines on a separate sheet of paper.


Biggest issue here is character proportions, and shading/light direction. A recurring problem.



I started each chapter with a drawing of a character, but this one got three of them. I needed to control the sharpness and detail, as well as light values/direction. Normal stuff. The crispness wouldn’t change until I changed my materials.



Most of my time here went into the background, what was on the pantry shelves and all that. Also I think I was inconsistent with Calvin’s height here, but then I don’t really do another drawing of him next to Commodore McCracken. Calvin’s left arm seems a touch too long, and the typical light values are an issue.



Crispness and light value. Other than that, this came out well. Brian’s supposed to be a tough-guy type.



Needed to detail the grass more, or cover it up with more relevant stuff. Also, trying to draw muzzle flare in the dark plays haywire with the light values. This was an early attempt, and not my best one.


Originally, my friend Megan Hibbert was the model for Amelia, but she always had the same expression in every one of her pictures (a very bright smile.) I eventually swapped her out for a celebrity whose Google Images yielded a higher variety. Also, crispness and body proportions.



I retconned this later to make her a little taller. Crispness, etc.



I spent all of my time drawing Mount Vernon in the background, and not enough time on the people in the pigpen. Also needed more boars from more angles. Calvin’s eyes look weird too.



Boots and light values, normal stuff.



Now, obviously I play with the architecture at Mount Vernon, but there’s no way it’s large enough for all of the stuff in this story, and that includes this gigantic theater inside. That said, the reader will generally not be aware of this, and any number of behind-the-scenes explanations could give it credence. I’m pleased with it otherwise. I think I’d use better light values, and try to curve the projected image on the screen below. Also…the podium has no shadow on the screen.


This one worked as-is because it’s meant to be hyperbolic propaganda. King Charles is not actually an ogre in these stories.



Proportions and poses. I didn’t get their feet lined up right. This was the first drawing I tried like this, with them all lined up horizontally, and the only one I did like this.


Psh. This one’s perfect, fight me.


More propaganda-style art. I’d only do the text digitally, like with Jack Badgett’s saddle above.


Shading and light values. This was only the second or third piece I did overall, so I will cut myself slightly more slack.



Proportions, light angles, and I think I smashed Calvin’s mom’s face a little.


Calvin was modeled after my other brother-in-law, Patrick, who’s mildly autistic. I don’t think I did justice to Patrick’s/Calvin’s facial expression here. This piece was the very first one I did for REBEL HEART, or the Engines series at large. It took 3 days, and generally I’m still pleased with it. Outside of Calvin, the only thing that really bugs me is the roof tiles on the Tanners’ place. Grass, lighting, the ground, normal stuff after that.


A better version of Calvin, but again, disproportionate legs and feet and so forth.



This was one of four drawings that had to be re-shot before I could include it in the book, as they’d been scanned poorly. Leg proportions and the shading on the clothes are off.



Legs, shading.



Just a little touch-up work on the shading, the rest of him is fine, I think.



After illustrating this book, I specifically  bought a book on how to draw and shade folds in clothing, because this one was pretty glaring. Also, fun fact, I modeled these guys after James A. Owen and J. Scott Savage.


Whew. That was a lot. I’ll post the SUICIDE RUN art next week, and you can see how that improved over this book, and what still needed work even after all that art. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments. Thanks, all.