OIL ON LINEN 26 x 30"

I spent a good part of my youth in smoke filled bars located in the South side of Chicago. My father shot pool most of the evening and I remember the faces of the customers coming and going as the hour grew late. To some it was a refuge from the hard realities of the outside world. Marriages gone sour. The daily grind of working tough jobs. The repetition of day to day life making ends meet feeding the family. The beer made some forget their labors and kick back for a while as others fell deeper into depression. I learned a lot about people there.

I most often sat near the pool table and drew on napkins. Lots and lots of napkins. I started sketching the posters on the wall featuring name brand beers with beautiful mountains and waterfalls in the background. They looked like great places to live as the images of far away locations stood out against the dark walls. Sometimes the customers would go outside to have a smoke and lean against the building to talk so I sketched them as well. So many faces and personalities. I learned no matter how a person smiled, talked, or walked, their eyes would reveal their inner soul—the gladness or the sadness.

There was one guy who came in regularly just to get into a fight. His life was on the down turn and the atmosphere around him was dark. He was doing a slow burn and waited for someone—anyone—to start something. He would come by from time to time with the same predictable outcome. I never knew his real name but when he entered the bar everyone knew there would be trouble. That was a long time ago when I was in grade school. I have no idea what happened to him but his lifestyle could only have gone on for so long.

This oil painting depicts the man as I remember him standing outside the tavern by the back door like a desperado. He seemed to own the wall alongside the gangway which led to the alley. He would stand there and wait. Burning. I heard he lost his woman but I don't know how. Fighting was the only way he could feel anything again and it seemed to be what he did best.


I suppose our past shapes us and drives us to succeed or fail depending on how we decide to face the challenges life throws at us. As it turned out, I would use my art to leave that world and live in a house surrounded by nature—wetlands with a beautiful lake teaming with wildlife—just like those posters promised me so many years ago.

I've included shots of this painting in progress. I usually start out with a thumbnail done in a sketchbook and then refine it for emotional impact. Once I find a model, I sketch it out all over again and then project that finished layout onto a large canvas for the final painting. The small sketch then becomes my base for a color key if I feel one is needed. If so, many keys are painted until I find the right color space and lighting scheme. Once the charcoal is sealed with a thin spray of fixative, I apply a color wash over the entire canvas to cover the white ground and work as a unifying color when the canvas shows through the brush strokes.



Every painting I do is drawn from my life experiences. There is a story woven within the image which, I hope, gives a deeper insight to the character's soul and personality. If I grew up in a different place and time I might be painting daises set against a beautiful sunset but I have to be true to what I know. What I have personally experienced. I think that's why artists get better with age—there is a deeper sense of life to draw from and an understanding that at certain times in our life there is a little bit of a desperado in all of us.

Old Hickory


Tony Salerno, a dear friend of mine, posed for this oil painting. He has battled several forms of cancer over the years while living an amazingly active life which includes a full time job, working in several ministries, and devoting himself to his adult children—two lovely daughters.

We have served together in prison ministry for years where I have seen his gentle heart touch so many people with love and hope. He's the type of guy who will always be there for you. No matter who you are. No matter where you end up. He'll be there with hat in hand wearing a gentle smile. You might give up on yourself but he won't give up on you.

Within the emotional tones of this painting, there is a visual thread that hints to his past life of living hard. He once told me he has a lot of grace to give to people because he has received so much of it himself. These days, few preach it and less give it, but when you see grace in action there is no greater force on earth. With this said, we are left with a simple statement of a man who has faced life head on and has not only survived but thrived.


I chose a warm color palette for this painting with a strong light source and defined shadow pattern. The light moves across the form of the figure creating a sense of movement which helps to frame the focal point of the image. He is posed in a way that speaks of his gentle manor with people. Holding his hat over his heart also added a visual cue to his respectful nature humbled by years of living life. Tony's smile is ever present as it contrasts his rugged features that remind me of old hickory.

Clone Wars


I really enjoyed working on this project because the content was so creative and the people on the design team were insanely talented. It's been an awesome time for me because I'm just blown away with being able to work with artists who are at the top of their game and yet about as humble as you can get.


Copyright @ 2009 Marvel Entertainment

This sketch was based off a sculpt which was amazing. This was just to get warmed up and then I went on to using the studio model sheets and reference materials for the rest of the project. Anyway, it was a way for me to get started thinking about Wolverine before concentrating on the live action reference materials. I was sketching various blue sky versions experimenting with how far to push the blades, muscle structure comparisons from live action to comic art, and also playing around with the costume detailing. The final ideation sketches are still being developed so this is the only one I can share.



Jack started out as a boxer and then moved on to ride the highways and byways as a long haul trucker. I don't know how many miles he racked up over the years but I do know he faced life like a champ and won more than he lost. He learned the hard way how to take a punch and get back up again to finish the fight. He's tough as nails but one of the most real and caring people I've ever met.

That's what makes the heartland of America such a special place to me. People like Jack are a joy to find and paint because they are a different kind of breed. Instead of pointing a finger they lend a helping hand. Instead of searching for faults they help you find strengths.


No matter how bad the storm may be or how tough the times seem to get people like Jack don't stay down very long. They refuse to lose. Tough as nails they don't surrender to the odds but hammer right back. Day by day and year by year they work the land, dream their dreams and put food on the table to feed their familes. I don't think I'll ever get tired of painting people like that.