Saturday, March 9, 2013

Some Illustration Work and Inspiration

 "Four sacks of gold, no less!" exclaimed the old woman.
Illustration by Tom Sarmo from The Crimson Elf: Italian tales of Wisdom, by Michael Caduto. 1997. Original illustration is pen and ink, 5" x 7". Collection the artist.

Back in the day, when I supplemented my income with illustration work, I was very influenced by the strangely exaggerated figures of the great British illustrators of the golden age. Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac were two in particular, but there are so many fine illustrators from all over the world to learn from.

Magic. Unpublished illustration, pen and ink, 3" x 5". Collection the artist.
I was also terrifically fascinated and influenced by the work of Brian Froud. My ladle-hatted witch shows that influence, as well as the inspiration of the Northern Renaissance artists Breughel and Bosch.

Jack O'Lantern. Unpublished illustration, pen and ink, approx. 8" x 8". Collection the artist.
I find it odd to study these older works, because while my character styles haven't really changed, the obsession with detail and perfection has loosened immensely. The wonderful thing (for which I'll always be grateful) is that my then-tormented desire for precision honed a practice-ethic that stays with me today.

I pretty much sucked as a commercial illustrator; I hated the pressure, chafed at the lack of creativity in most of the assignments, and was blasted by the self-doubt that flared with each job. As a result, little of it pleased me. Still, I don't regret the training one bit, and it's a great feeling to have the skills in my tool box whenever I need them.

That's why I'm passionate about teaching the basics; not as iron-clad, inflexible rules, but as invaluable tools of the trade.

Thanks for reading!


  1. I too started out in pen & ink, ages ago! And I still prefer to write with a dip pen.

    But I fear I may never grow out of the obsessive detail phase. I've tried multiple times, but without success.

    We share many of the same heroes. In fact I have a Rackham calendar above my desk this year... will never tire of his genius!

    1. Oh I wouldn't fear that if I were you--your work is stunning just the way it is! Thanks for the visit :)

  2. Very nice work! Love your pen/ink drawings. Definitely worth clicking on "follow" :)

    1. Thanks for the compliment--I am glad you like these. I am happy you are following. Thanks for that, too!


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