2017 Carolina Hurricanes Homegrown Series

2016-2017 was a crazy time. I was glad to be a part of the first Homegrown Series put on by the Carolina Hurricanes. The fact that I was offered an opportunity to assist on more than one occasion had me above the clouds. The Homegrown Series is an idea that started last year that introduces fans to enjoy local food, beer, As their 20th year anniversary as a hockey club was approaching, I wondered if they were going keep it going for this anniversary year. I wondered how much it'd change based on last years reception. I was reached out to by Kyle Fowlkes (Carolina Hurricanes Graphic Designer) and was asked if I'd be able to return and contribute a poster design alongside this year's new lineup of amazing artists.

This years design is quite similar to direction as last year's PNC Arena poster. The concept this time around was to bring more of a personal approach to the design. The idea was to bring in the teams Captains and leading goalie into the eye of a storm. I wanted it to be intense, powerful and convey the team and fans unwavering spirit. I used a few symmetrical composition tricks to help set up the poster for the most impact.

Below is a timeline on how this poster came to fruition. I want to thank Kyle, the Carolina Hurricanes and everyone who had helped with personal critique of this poster. As one of my close friends said recently: "We operate in a profession that contains constant critique. Our world is much different than a traditional artist who sells their skills and particular image. Sometimes we need to step back and realize not all people want to be critiqued." 

I gladly took it and tried to better this design. What do you all think? Does it succeed? Does it improve upon the work from last year's Homegrown Series?  I'd love to hear your thoughts! Come out and see the poster with your own eyes on March 31st, 2018 when the Hurricanes play the NY Rangers at PNC Arena! You can check out the Homegrown Series page here

MVP 2017 Christmas Stamp

I look at Christmas more so for copious amounts of sweets, great food, games and just hanging out with people you haven't seen in awhile. It's always been like that for me. Coming into the holiday season, MVP Disc Sports allowed me to explore a few options and what struck home was tradition and roots. To move away from presents and typical "ho ho's". The main objective was to use MVP's triple foil stamping technology to get creative. 

This idea was one of a few that stuck out to the team. It allows this design to be used two fold. One for the main stamp but then the bulb element to be used as a mini disc that people can use as an actual Nano Christmas tree ornament!  Dealing with certain design requirements, the classic vintage Christmas bulb allowed me to free up the center sprue area and still allow for a centered design. The radial burst helps me convey the message of spreading joy, and the outburst of happiness and love during the holiday season

(Especially to all the MVP/Axiom/Streamline Disc fans out there). We're a tight knit family and I wanted to create something that wasn't disingenuous in any way. Some tricky areas during the design process was foil coverage area, I had to create vents to allow heat to escape during hot stamping. This technique was used in the lettering "Joy" and also in the Christmas bulb filigree to break up the bulb color.

I want to thank my friends for all the feedback and honest assessment while working through this design. These will be available at most disc golf retailers that sell MVP discs. Happy Holidays! 

USDGC Hole 5 Collector Roc

Continuing from last years United States Disc Golf Championship (USDGC) run, I was offered the chance to design a stamp to help fund-raise for the 2017 USDGC in Rock Hill, SC. The event is one of disc golf's best displays of competitive play in the world. The first objective in mind from Adrian Southern of Disc Golf United/ Innova East was to create a design for the Thrower Roc release. The goal was to create a flying Roc bird in a yin yang shape. Both flying dynamically and in harmony with each other. As you see from the thumbnails, I couldn't quite get something that felt right. Most ideas were either too cropped or too busy.  After the thumbnails were drawn and ideas started manifesting, these ideas expanded into a USDGC collector Roc piece. 

Ideas come from everywhere. At this point, I've already spent some hours combing over what I could do with a yin yang shape and wasn't too fond of the results. I stumbled across a vulture tattoo design from Mike Moses of Spiritus Tattoo in Columbus, Ohio. This piece really got me fired up. The stance, proportions and overall shape really filled in the pieces perfectly.  It was my job to use that inspiration and get this stamp back on track. As you can see from the start and then more toward the end, I experimented with that outward protruding chest, neck rotation and feathers. I wanted movement on each side of the design. So I directed the movement with the S shape of the yin yang. Adrian and I both talked about doing a showcase hole design last year during this time. This was the opportunity to do that. So the left side displays the monstrous Hole 5. This hole sits at 1083ft and is a par 5. 

I want to thank Adrian and crew for being patient while this idea sort of manifested itself along the way. The end result was able to capture the USDGC hole tradition with a twist. What do you all think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

2017 Solitude Open Presented by MVP Disc Sports

The 2016 Solitude Open stamp is arguably (in my mind) one of the better stamp designs I've done over the course of these few years. I was able to get a return client this year and that means a great deal to me. Going into 2017's design process, I knew topping last years was not going to be easy.

Just before being able to get to this stamp, the TD of the event got into a workplace accident. When we finally got to talk about this year's ideas, he already had something in mind. It came from a vision he had. Whether it be the medication he was under or the amount of creative energy this guy has, I'm not sure. We hit the ground running with the idea of a hybrid animal of sorts rocketing out of a tree canopy clutching a disc golf disc. The process moved and transitioned from a rocketing bird to more of a look of Notre Dame gargoyles. The idea was this hybrid animal is overlooking one of many signature Solitude holes, Hole 18. We most importantly, wanted the beast to be locked onto the viewer. I've never been to Solitude, but i'm pretty sure you can't replicate the feeling of first seeing this enormous hole. 

The beast development changed a bit from each draft. I felt that the lurking creature that was created before the final was too shy, and not imposing enough. I took a hard look at some of the more dynamic gargoyles at Notre Dame. I felt like reducing the musculature and having the beast cresting the mountain helped create that uneasy feeling. 

In the end, it was great to really dig into a different sketch style and really play around with more of a traditional approach. If you're interested in purchasing one of these fundraising discs, please contact Brian T. Usher at brian@brianusher.com

Special Edition MVP Limit

"Push it to the limit"

The MVP Limit is a 24.5mm High Speed Driver designed to be the fastest, most overstable disc in MVP's entire line up. My Art Director, Zachary Kelbaugh laid out a pretty good description to start planning behind:

"We talked about the conceptual intersection for the name... being the fastest, most overstable disc -- and the class as a whole refers to space travel, with the speed of light being the theoretical limit for speed in the universe. "

I had an opportunity to bust out my love for everything 80's. I changed into my jammer shorts and pulled out the 80's action playlist on Spotify! Getting started on this didn't take me much time at all. The initial idea was to mimic the typical action movie posters of the time (Rambo, Over the Top, Big Trouble Little China). Heroic character posed in the center with explosions, and commotion happening behind him/her. I even went so far down the rabbit hole and stumbled onto some retro-futurism which was really neat. None the less, for the scope of the project and how the release was playing out, We went with a retro-wave direction into the rough and final stages. As a team, we felt like keeping the design clean and tech felt more MVP without crossing into the Axiom Discs branding. 

In the end, there are some things that you all aren't getting a chance to see. There were some really solid ideas in the thumbnail stage that just might poke their head up when a new project comes a long. A little bit out of my comfort zone but it takes experimentation like that to really grow as an artist. I hope you all enjoy. You can pick up this special edition and a bunch of online disc golf retailers. 

Warrior Transition Battalion-Stamp

Christopher Altman, a fellow Cary Area Disc League member, approached me to offer him some help. He wanted to host a tournament to get soldiers involved with disc golf. To do that, he was going to organize a tournament for the Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) down at Ft. Bragg, NC. The overall goal of the WTB is to provide the commensurate quality of life, quality of healthcare services and quality of leadership which matches the quality of service and sacrifice made by our sick, injured and wounded warriors in transition and their families. 

The goal of the stamp was to include a mixture of 4 different elements. The WTB logo, St. Michael, and a soldier helping a wounded warrior off of the battlefield. Lastly, the words "Find New Strength". The only image supplied to me was the soldier helping another soldier. The Airborne's St. Michael artwork someone had previously done. The styling of St. Michael was inspired by religious iconography from both Google searching and my wife and I's trip to Rome and Greece a few years back. With the combination of 4 elements, It was my job to do the best I could to incorporate them into one design. 

In the end, it took a little bit to finish up. I was working on this design during my off time while working a full schedule. I'm very happy to support a great program and a great cause. I hope the tournament go'ers enjoyed this event and continue playing disc golf. 

Central Coast Disc Golf Collaboration

Central Coast Disc Golf has been putting out some wicked nice video footage and covering some great events. I was lucky enough to be a part of an MVP Disc Sports and Central Coast Disc Golf collaboration. It was my job to create a custom stamp for Ian and crew for specific use on MVP discs. Ian is a fan of the MVP Ion so it's only fitting that there will be a few of those ran.

I think the major hurdle with this design was to do something that was going to look good in 3 foil stamping. We tried a few ideas but what stuck was a thumbnail I did of the central coast. When deciding the use of a specific foil, I really try to keep in mind the original intent of the design. Promoting CCDG was in the forefront so I tastefully split up the horizontal logo into the 3rd foil choice and the accent foil.

I hope CCDG and the rest of you all dig it. Please let me know your opinions and thoughts in the comments. Please share this post if you feel so inclined! 

30th Anniversary of the Roc

Excited is an understatement. Jeff Panis (Marketing Director of Innova Champion Discs) reached out quite a while ago when he assumed his new role. A lot of things were on his plate at the time, so we talked briefly and got back in touch a few months down the road. An opportunity was in place to design a commemorative stamp honoring 30 years of the Roc's existence. The Roc has been one of Innova's most popular molds without question. This was a huge opportunity that came with a lot of weight.

In the initial sketches I proposed, there were some good things to build off of. I had awesome friends who helped me out in critique. One of the main things I overlooked that they quickly pointed out was the silhouette strength of the head. My goal was to have this Roc reach a point of near weightlessness. For example, If you stretch your back out in your chair (I do this from time to time) , you arch the back, the chest protrudes out and your chin tips up. This pose is something I tried to capture. As Innova and I progress through the development of the stamp, The head tips back down a bit to give the bird more shape. The wings extend out to give some symmetry to the stamp. The body develops all the way to it's last and final version and the final is the result of of multiple revisions for the better.

If it wasn't for my friends and their fresh eyes to give me critique, the direction of Jeff Panis, Levi Wilcox and the crew to keep pushing this stamp, it would've honestly turned out to be less than what it should've been. What do you all think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Thanks for reading.

19th Annual Great 8

The Great 8 tournament is in its 19th year. It's a one day, 8 courses, from sun up to sun down event that only the crazy dare to do. I had the honor of doing this year's stamp and was really excited, even though it was down to the wire (totally on me). We've returned to the nautical themed roots to have something pair up well with the dual octopus stamp that was done a few years ago. 

The major hurdle with this stamp is what you can see in the early stages. I wanted the huge whale to be coming out of the water and landing on top of the ship. To make that read clearly was definitely a challenge. After much debate and great advice from my friends, the whale was flipped the other way. I couldn't agree more with the move. 

I want to thank Jay Pontier for always giving me an artistic freedom when it comes to doing these stamps. It makes it so enjoyable. 

MVP "Limited Edition" Teleport

The MVP Teleport is the first one out of the gates for MVP Disc Sports 24.5mm class of high-speed drivers. To commemorate the release of this disc, MVP came to me wanted a limited edition stamp.  My job was to portray teleportation while sticking with what MVP's brand identity is and to create this design using their three foil stamping abilities. 

Mathematics, science, and technology take the forefront of what MVP's graphics have always been about, My mind started there. How would I depict teleportation in a way that worked well? That was tough. If you take a look at my thumbnail process in the very first gallery image, you see the spectrum was pretty wide. Anything from math grids and charts to space pilots entering a warp tunnel. My main hurdles with this design were turnaround times and getting the funnel graphic and perspective to give off a disorienting point A and B. Hot stamping has a limit to line width that will be transferred to the disc successfully. What I wanted to do is convey these two portal entry's that disappeared to the disc color while keeping the main and important element (the Teleport name and MVP logo) bold and black. 

All in all, I'm super grateful for the opportunity and learn the most when I step outside my comfort zone. The Limited Edition stamp will be available through most major retailers that carry MVP Disc Sports merchandise. What do you all think? Does it keep with the brand? Leave me a note in the comment section. Thanks for stopping by. 

Out of Bounds Series #1

The Out Of Bounds Series was an idea drawn up by a fellow MVP Gyronaut by the name of Brian Sweet. He came to me with an interesting take that I've never thought about before. Tight fairways, landing areas and almost impossible pin placements exist somewhere in the disc golf world. His idea is to shed light on these situations. 

This idea stems from fantastical ideas about what lurks hidden, as your disc takes a plunge into the unknown. Out Of Bounds Series #1 explores the depths of an impossible landing area. The disc is now belonging the keeper. A mix of Cthulu/Kraken/Squid vibes. I wanted the eyes of the creature fixated to the onlooker. The eyes had to adjust from the sides of the beast to more in front to convey the idea. The introduction of the second foil to bring the viewers attention from the bottom of the stamp up toward the poor fellow on the cliff side. 

I want to thank Brian Sweet for having the faith to let me run with his napkin sketch and go for it. These are available in a dual foil set up exclusively on MVP/Axiom/Streamline Discs plastic.

Please let me know what you think in the comments and share with your friends! 

Carolina Hurricanes-Homegrown Poster #2

I can't say enough about the first poster experience . The Hurricanes were super accommodating and a absolute joy to work with. It was such an honor to be a part of the Homegrown Series not once but twice this year. As an artist, I really appreciate the concept that The Hurricanes have incorporated into their games. Reaching out into the public and calling on local musicians and artists to be a part of the games really showcases North Carolina's diverse talent and creates a sense of community, that is something that I love being a part of.

Kyle Fowlkes gave me another ring and invited myself and another artist by the name of George Hage to have the opportunity to do one more poster for this year. I wanted to stick to something I've really enjoyed over the years and that's more of a scenic landscape type of painting.

My goal was to create a calm yet uneasy feeling as you're looking toward the iconic PNC Arena. I wanted to convey the energy of the storm brewing. For me, this also translates into the energy of the players and the fans, those pregame jitters. I also wanted the opponents to look at the poster and feel that same energy, that determination that our players will exude once they step onto the ice.

What do you all think? Please leave a comment and feel free to share!

Exeter "Non Sequitur" Album Art

The last opportunity I had to design an album cover was from Exeter's "Prolepsis" album in 2007. I was still in art school, still learning the many things about digital painting and one of my side kicks since, Adobe Photoshop. My friend came to me this past spring and wanted to know if I'd love to design their album cover for their upcoming album "Non Sequitur". 

Non Sequitur: a conclusion or statement that does not logically follow from the previous argument or statement.

I learned quickly that the general sentiment of this album, vastly different from their first effort (hence the album title), was to express the band's strong libertarian leanings, and in particular showed an anti-authoritarian bent.  The cover itself was intended to critique what the band sees as an overt and perhaps overly aggressive and reactionary militarization of American police forces.  These are, according to the band, POLICY issues, not intrinsically policing issues.  The first thing he asked was if I was going to be comfortable doing album art with such strong political meaning. My job as an artist is to give the client what they want. I wanted to push the bar a bit more than they were expecting. The design process took a little bit to finish but I'm glad they were patient and let me finish this for them. 

I experienced some challenges during this illustration. The direction was to show the protagonist/antagonist (depending on one's view) center screen with his class peers in uniform garb, looking on from a distance. It had to be clearly read that the kid only had a super soaker-like squirt gun. The victim, in this case a faceless administrator, had to be shown that he was dowsed in water and have them surrounded by a police presence.  That's a lot to fit into one image. I focused on the kid first and came up with a composition that would work to facilitate everything they wanted in the main image. The background reference I gathered came straight from a school I attended from 4th to 10th grade. It's not meant to be a message to my hometown but the band wanted a rural, low key type of school yard setting. These older school that were built in the 40's-60's had a certain type of charm and aesthetic that I wanted to portray in the background imagery. 

Working through a thumbnail to rough pass, I was able to show different angles and quick lighting scenarios to the band. The reference helped show the real world influence. It truly helps bring in a more accurate human element that would not of been achieved by purely relying on memory. Your memory can only remember so much and I urge other artists to always have reference. I can't stress that enough. 

Halen, Luke & Dave, thank you very much for the opportunity to design this cover. You can purchase the album through these venues: 

Mercury Lounge

The beginning of the year has started off strong and I apologize for the lack of updates. Here is one of the many projects I can share from January.

I've been working with the band Mighty Kind for the past year. I've helped them through their logo design and various show posters. Starting 2017 right, I was offered the chance to created their first show venue poster of 2017. The common theme up to this point has been the "MK" logo smashing into either the venue or something that relates to the showplace. Mike Murray (drummer for the band) states that "the band always jokes about how our sets are going to destroy the venue, because we feel that we pack a whollop of rock n' roll punch into each set and performance."  He goes onto state that the smashing theme helps to convey the power that they bring to each show. 

As soon as I got the go on a space theme and Mercury. I couldn't wait to jump in and paint some destruction. Illustrating an impact of this magnitude took a lot of reference gathering and it's something I don't paint often. I wanted the viewer to be drawn to the arrow tip impacting the top of Mercury. I wanted the lighting of the earth's core and spray to feel real and contain the energy the band thrives on. I am super stoked on how this came out and again, can't thank Mighty Kind for trusting in me to do this work for them. 

I am always willing to grow as an artist. I'd love to see your comments and hear your thoughs on what you like or dislike about this poster!

Carolina Hurricanes-Homegrown Poster

It's crazy how brief conversations turn into potential gigs down the road. To be able to be among other elite Raleigh artists and contribute to the new Homegrown Series, feels pretty freaking cool. It's Carolina's way of bringing together different local artisans, beer, design, music and food to each of their 8 Homegrown Series games. I think it's a great idea. 

Here's the process on developing a poster for the Hurricanes vs Blackhawks matchup on December 30th. From the get go, I wanted to do Stormy the Ice Hog (Carolina's mascot). I've seen pictures but knew if I wanted to make this poster appealing, I'd have to change up the design and approach a bit differently. I started out a character design that I thought I was going to take to the end. Late one night, I pulled a 180 and designed the Ice Hog rendition that seems more up my alley. 

The "REDVOLUTION" is their motto this year. I wanted to illustrate Stormy out front, leading the charge. Hurricane winds brewing in the background. I knew I wanted to get some dynamic lighting as well. 

All in all, I'm pleased with what I was able to brew up. I hope I get another chance to do this series for them. I want to thank Kyle Fowlkes and the Carolina Hurricanes for giving me this opportunity and complimentary game tickets.

2017 Fantasy Disc Golf Calendar

After seeing the 2016 Fantasy Disc Golf calendar with work of disc golf artists, John Dorn and Manuel Trujillo; I knew I had to inquire to see what it'd take to get on the 2017 team. the 2017 team of artists included John Dorn, Manuel Trujillo, Benjamin Hopwood, Duncan "Skulboy" Crawford, Steven Colatriano, Cooper Harkins and myself. 

I was assigned the months of August and November. I've always wanted to do more themed disc golf illustrations. I appreciate John giving me the chance. August (Summer) got me interested in revisiting some Tiki artists I found while I was researching for a mural project years ago.  Brad "Tiki Shark" Parker and Tom Thordarson really inspired this tiki piece. November early sessions had cornucopia themes in mind but as soon as I saw great fall reference, I switched to a forest scene with stirring foliage. I found these neat fire tornadoes while searching as well. One thing led to another. Really pleased with how both pieces turned out.

This is exciting and new for me. My prints are available here!!:
High Quality Archival Prints
More affordable option

3rd Red & White Showdown

Every year, the Disc Golf Club at NC State hosts fundraiser tournaments to gain funds to go to the Collegiate Championships. I was called up this year to do the stamp again and wanted to best my attempt from last year.  Nash Stalling reached out to me and let me know that this year they had an exciting plan to host the tournament at Knight Play Golf Center in Apex, NC. It's in the top 100 practice facilities in the nation. This is a supreme spot with beautiful grounds for disc golf. The whole course is lit so hopefully disc golf can facilitate during the winter months. 

Since Knights Play is a first, we wanted to play off the combination of a knight and wolf. My direction from the club was to combine the two. Right away my mind went to one of the most influential fantasy painters; Frank Frazetta and his piece called "Death Dealer". The painting frames the horses strong silhouette. He looks sinister with his eyes beaming out the shadows. It's personally one of the most iconic Frazetta images so I knew I couldn't reference it directly.  My initial two sketches were enough to get me rolling. I wanted the Knight mounted upon his horse with the wolves flanking to his side. 

In the end, we chose option 1. It doesn't capture the movement like the second option but I love that the leader of the pack is out in front. Which brings the importance of the Wolf pack and the whole reason I'm able to do this stamp for them. I hope the tournament is a hit and will definitely be out playing the temp course if it's available again. Here's where you can sign up and you only have till the end of the 28th to do so!

Axiom "Black Widow" Vanish

I've had the honor of working with MVP Disc Sports and Axiom Discs a lot this past year. They needed some reinforcements for this years Halloween themed stamp. Spider 2.0. Very first question I asked myself is how I'm going to stack up to the original design by hot stamp legend, ZAM.  

Expanding on the iconic black widow that was on the first release was the focus. I had a lot of fun and it was a definitely a stamp I learned from. With the core being lighter in color than expected, I had to shift focus off of just lighting hints from the initial plan and add black contrast to the spider. The stippling technique and use of the natural disc color, played a huge roll at the end. 

I want to thank Axiom Discs and MVP HQ this opportunity. During the rough phase, all the staff really helped to dial this in. Definitely was a group effort. It's a big release trying to follow up to their first Spider stamp. 

2016 MVP Fan Page Stamp

A collaborative stamp between Skulboy, ZAM and I, that started brewing in a facebook chat with Brad and Chad Richardson from MVP & the MVP Fan Page Facebook group leaders. Initial conversations stared around November 11th 2014. 

The initial idea I pitched when ZAM and I were brought on to the special project was to immediately ask Skulboy if he wanted in. ZAM has played a huge roll in MVP Disc Sports and Axiom Discs. He's created most of the artwork, website and creative work coming out of Marlette, Michigan. To bring in Skulboy would create a 3 piece. So right off the bat we came up with the pyramidal design. Fans of the page have been also combining the MVP and Axiom vinyl on their vehicle to create a pyramidal theme too. This HAD to be it. 

We all decided we wanted to place things within the stamp that only die hard MVP fans would get. These are the kind of people around the world that make up the fan page. Displaying the sense of community within the design, essentially. Doc Volt, Aliens, Tesla, Einstein and other tie ins made the cut. ZAM said this about the stamp:

"Tesla brought his mother-ship to lift the pyramid and the brother saucers are delivering a 9-hole course of Portals.  Einstein sinks a huge birdie while Madame Wrath and Doc Volt are like ".......this guy with his science"."  

 I'm really happy all 3 of us came together, found time and finished this. 

In the end, While none of us could make the event, the live stream MVP posted on Facebook got us close enough. Definitely glad the stamp was a hit within the MVP Fan Page community. 

2016 Innova Pumpkin Design

Every year since 1996, Innova Champion has put out an annual "Pumpkin" edition stamp for the Halloween season. Every year.. until this year, they've kept the theme consistent with the standard jack o' latern. After doing a first set of sketches and teasing a few skull designs toward the end of the thumbnails, Adrian Southern over at Innova mentioned the de los muertos theme and sugar skulls. So many possibilities and to give it a chance and see what comes out of the experiment.

I worked closely with Zeb Campbell and Adrian over the course of multiple revisions and options. The general consensus was the love of the bat wing basket. The challenge with this design was to incorporate the detail you see with common sugar skulls but keeping it simple enough where carving it could be believable. 

Over the course of a few weeks, It led us down a few rough passes and we ended up Frankensteining parts of the final 4 to create one design.  Here is 2016's Pumpkin Design. Thanks to Innova, Adrian and Zeb for having confidence in me to put something out against the grain. Hope you all like. 

You can purchase them here: http://dgustore.com/index.php/specialty/holiday-discs.html