Illustrators are always looking for ways to improve their workflows. Whether it's the latest update to their favorite application, a more comfortable chair, or hiding a secret stash of art tools that the kids won't find (done that), anything that streamlines the creative process will make for a more efficient and profitable business. One of the aspects of producing technical illustration that I always felt needed improvement was the sketching phase. Say a client needs to see your ideas for a complicated flow diagram. Nothing is faster than a pencil sketch, right? But when you're developing a complicated idea, it can become tedious to produce iterations of a drawing. Usually (for me) it involves tracing aspects of a sketch that I like and refining that draft, tracing, editing, tweaking some more, and finally scanning the final draft for presentation. The client inevitably wants certain elements moved around and changed and the whole process repeats itself. As fast and simple as the venerable pencil can be, sometimes the sketching phase of a project can feel inefficient to me. I'd owned a pressure-sensitive tablet for some years but never really felt comfortable drawing with it.

Recently I purchased a JaJa pressure-sensitive stylus from HEX3. This is a pen that lets you create natural looking brush strokes that vary in thickness and opacity on an iPad. There are quite a few sketching and painting apps available; I went with Procreate for it's positive reviews and simple, elegant interface.

Now the idea is to adopt a purely digital workflow, from draft to finished artwork. So far the pen has worked well, and the software has afforded me all of the advantages of digital drawing (layers, copy & paste, etc.) that makes it so powerful. Multi-touch gestures let me zoom and rotate the art instantly, and I can export finished pieces to Dropbox or send them directly to the client for review. I can even sit on the couch to work if that new comfortable chair isn't feeling quite so comfortable. And the art tools? Give 'em to the kids.



One of the nice aspects of being a technical illustrator is the constant variety of projects that I get to work on. Even if I'm rendering something relatively mundane like a radiator valve, I'm always learning new things about topics I might not have even considered. But it's especially fun when I get to create art for an industry that really excites me, like aviation. Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine recently had me create some illustrations to accompany some fascinating articles. This one was for a story explaining the secretive processes involved in stealth technologies; specifically the application of radar absorbent/deflective paint by robots onto the skin of modern fighter planes.



This is a recent illustration created for StreetWise Utlities of their "GateStrainer" product. This is a simple device that is inserted by hand into a gate box on a street, and protects against debris build-up on top of water, sewer, or gas gate valves. The challenge with this illustration was to provide a context for the device while communicating the technical aspects of the product with a simple and clean image.

GateStrainer technical illustration



It's December in Vermont and I'm staring up the side of a mountain that is shrouded in fog. Beads of water are collecting on my goggles. From my perch on the chairlift I straighten my legs and watch a few islands of slush run down my skis. Below me, a couple walk their dog in the barren grass bordering a swath of man-made snow that snakes upward into the gloom.

This is not an ideal day for skiing, though one that's likely to become more prevalent in the years to come if you're to believe all the talk of global warming. According to a recent article, winter temperatures are projected to increase 4 to 10 degrees by the end of the century, effectively halving the duration of the ski season in the Northeast. Of course, inconveniencing winter sports enthusiasts is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. In his sobering article for Rolling Stone Magazine, Bill McKibben simplifies the math involved with curtailing our planet's rising temperature. He explains that, according to scientists, humans will be able to emit roughly 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere by midcentury and still have a chance to avoid the most dire predictions for our planet. Unfortunately, there are approximately 2,795 gigatons of carbon in the untapped reserves of the major fossil fuel companies. These reserves of coal and oil and gas represent roughly $27 trillion, a major financial incentive for these companies. And if we burn all of that carbon, which represents five times the "safe" amount we can sustain, the planet will "crater", to use McKibben's words.

I'm hopeful we can avoid such a fate. Technical advances in the production of renewable energy sources could reduce costs and disincentivize the extraction of fossil fuels. Consumer habits can change. But the first step in attaining that goal is global awareness of the stakes involved. I welcome and look forward to any illustration opportunities that might communicate possible solutions to what is quickly becoming the most important issue we face.



Punkin Chunkin technical illustrationIt's playfully referred to as Punkin Chunkin, and it's an annual competition that sees an odd collection of contraptions and their passionate inventors convening in the Delaware farmlands to see who can toss a pumpkin the farthest. Machine names like Pumpkin Slayer and Roman Revenge are as interesting and quirky as their designs, but the technical expertise and physics involved in launching a pumpkin thousands of feet is
serious business.

Discovery Channel covers the competition each Fall, and I've enjoyed the opportunity to provide them with 3D models of the various contraptions over the last few years. These models get animated as line drawings to help explain how the machines work. Be sure to tune in on Thanksgiving to watch!

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