Sharing what I've I've learned about lettering and illustration.

Review: Uni Kuru Toga Mechanical Pencil

kuru toga pencils


Up until about a few years ago, I always used a roller-ball pen in my sketchbooks. That worked fine as it was mostly note-taking and thumbnails when I was doing graphic design. When I made the switch to lettering and illustration, I missed the ability to do light shading.

For awhile, I used an old Staedtler 0.5mm mechanical pencil. As I’m using my sketchbook all over the place, I find a wooden pencil just isn’t practical for me. While I could carry a sharpener, it gets messy and inconvenient.

The drawing tool geek in me started researching other mechanical pencils, and that’s when I came across the Uni Kuru Toga.

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Are you an amateur or a professional?



My high school art teacher, Mr. Medford, had a unique approach. He split his class into two groups. The first group may have enjoyed art, but really wanted an easy credit. They weren’t interested in pursuing art as a career. The second group did have plans to make art their career.

The first group had a much easier learning path. Their workload and expectations were lower, but they still had a minimum bar to set. The second group had a high workload and much higher expectations.

Mr. Medford was separating the amateurs from the professionals. And while none of us were making money from our art, it was the mindset he wanted to cultivate.

I was in that second group.

Ask yourself—what group do you want to be in?

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Case Study: Rusty Staub

rusty staub illustration


My childhood hero, baseball player Rusty Staub, passed away in March 2018.

I knew right away I wanted to create a piece in honour of him. I like to work on pieces that are personally moving, and that draw upon my personal experiences. I think it makes for a more impactful piece.

By the time I got to my sketchbook, I had a few ideas rattling around in my head, so I wasn’t sitting down cold. Like any new concept, they’re pretty rough to start. At this point I’m dumping the images I have in my head onto paper. At this early stage, I’m simply getting them out of the way, as I know my first ideas are not usually my best.

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When things seem tough, be nicer to yourself

driving lessons


For the past few months, my girlfriend has been taking driving lessons (that’s her, above). This was a big step for her, as I know she’s a perfectionist at heart. She admittedly takes mistakes rather hard, but only because she wants to do well. If she had a button to put all the driving skills she needed into her head, she would push it. She also doesn’t want to let me down, which is sweet.

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Size matters when solving design issues



We took life drawing classes in college. Aside from the somewhat uncomfortable aspect of having a (mostly) naked person posing in front of you, it was a great way to move outside our comfort zones. Our instructor, Jan (that’s pronounced “Yawn”) had a particular critiquing style that was a cross between facetious and sarcastic. As he walked around the room, he would comment on our work. “Good heavens, the fingers look like little sausages!” or “Good heavens, the folds of the dress look like a radiator!” It was because of this particular wit that we all loved Jan.

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Review: Bienfang Gridded Paper

bienfang gridded paper


In my roster of tools, I have things that I simply love to use, like my Leuchtturm sketchbook. I also have tools that just make things easier. Anything that helps me get my work done more efficiently gets top marks.

While on vacation in the summer of 2016, I dropped into a Blick art store in Boston. I always love cruising the art store, and usually buy way more stuff than I need. It was here I came across Bienfang Gridded Paper.

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Whimsical Roadmaps Pt. 2

retro road map


Here’s another recent flea market find.

I’m always on the lookout for maps with illustrations. Most times, I’m lucky to find one with an illustration on the cover, or perhaps one or two on the inside. With this one, I hit the jackpot. There are even different styles for the cover (gouache) and the inside (ink).

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Don’t gamble with all your hard work

backup drive


I once got a call from a buddy of mine.  In a panicky voice he said, “My computer crashed and it won’t reboot! What do I do?” I replied, “Boot from your backup.” His answer: “I don’t have a backup.”


What we can do with computers is pretty amazing. But your work is being saved on aluminum and metal coated glass discs that are whirling at thousands of times per minute. Not much room for error. And with all that stuff spinning away, stuff can, and will, go wrong.

All your work exists as ones and zeros. What are you doing to protect it?

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Flea Market Finds

boac tin box


This is an unabashedly lazy blog post.

For the past week my GF and I have been motoring around Southern Ontario. With the last wisps of summer coming to a close, my mind has been more occupied with mini-golf, a good burger, and finding weird highway attractions.

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REVIEW: Huion A3 Light Pad

huion a3


Back in college, light tables were as high tech as we got. They were big, metal beasts, filled with fluorescent tubes. Over time, as tubes want to do, they would start to flicker and fluctuate. Our classroom only had one, so there was always a line-up for it.

When I started getting into lettering, I knew I would have to get a light “table” at some point. Tracing paper works fine, but a light table is a huge step up.

I knew the technology had advanced. Tubes were out and LED was in. At first, I checked out my local art supply store. After hyperventilating over their prices, I checked out reviews on Amazon and came across the Huion A3.

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My (Brief) Experience With Fan Art

ray and irwin's garage


A few months ago, I received an email via my website asking about purchasing a digital copy of my Ray & Irwin’s Garage artwork. They also loved the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and wanted it to use on a t-shirt.

As I mulled over how to price it, I had to stop myself. This wasn’t an “original” piece of art, and I clearly stated that in the description. After doing some research, I responded to the potential purchaser and said I first had to get permission.

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How to Work Laziness Into Your Day and Not Feel Guilty




When I worked at an agency, working long hours, nights and weekends was like a badge of honour. There was that terrible game of chicken at the end of the day: Which one of your co-workers would leave first? Those that did—often well after business hours—were “not team players”.

Um. Yeah.

“Productivity isn’t about doing more, faster—it’s about doing the right things, deliberately and with attention.”
Chris Bailey, A life of Productivity

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Printing Your Lettering And Illustrations Part 2: ICC Profiles

icc profile


In my previous post, I talked about creating an accurate display profile. If you’re still using a generic profile, then all the lettering and illustration artwork you see on your monitor will just be an approximation.

Your monitor will have one ICC profile. Printers, however, can have many different profiles, depending on the printer manufacturer, and the type of ink and paper used. Reputable paper manufacturers (Ilford, Hahnemühle, Red River, Canson, etc …) create custom profiles for each of their papers matched to a specific printer model. “Generic” papers from the office supply store typically don’t have custom ICC profiles.

This isn’t meant to be an in-depth, technical guide to ICC profiles. There are tons of resources on the interweb that go into far greater detail on how they’re designed. My goal here is to get you up and running quickly.

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