Starting February 2014 this blog will be out of action.

But DO NOT DESPAIR. We've just moved, and you can still find the same riveting and informative posts that you have come to expect on our new blog:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Every now and then I get asked what I do for inspiration. Some mistakenly believe that I torment my sister's cat for inspiration. Others believe that I methodically hunt down and destroy endangered species. And still others suspect that I build giant robots and plan an invasion of Mars.

I assure you this is not true. I like good music and fine literature.
But even more than music and literature, I find that camping trips provide some of the best inspiration.

Some might say; yes, but don't you spend most of a camping trip fighting mosquitos, rain, fires that won't start, and equipment failure all while being completely lost? And don't you spend most of your mental energy panicking about wether you will even survive this day because you have not exercised in a month and have been living on chic-fil-a?
And well yes, this is all true. But there are brief moments on these trips that make the whole experience worth the overall misery of it. When it is all said and done, I tend to forget how terrible it was, and how we almost killed each other that time the campstove broke, and I am left only with the impression of the spectacular views and the warmth of sun after being freezing and the taste of food after being starving.

Apart from being inspired by the raw beauty of the planet, hiking gives a person a chance to be alone with their thoughts in a place where they cannot help but feel small and cannot help but appreciate what they have. There is something about being freezing, and having to wrestle with building a fire and putting up a tent in the snow that suddenly turns a simple, everyday thing like a warm shower into one of the greatest technological wonders of all time.

I always bring a hardback sketchbook with me on these trips, and try to have easy access to it. Every time I come back from one of these trips I have hundreds of new thumbnails a ideas for new projects I want to undertake. The odd scribbles and tiny thumbnails made on the trail may get turned into something larger and they may not, but the impression of it all never quite leaves me. It will always be somewhere in the back of my head, waiting for a chance to find its way onto paper.

Friday, December 03, 2010


Today's Muddy Colors Post is on Drawing and why it is important. (Especially if aliens come to visit earth.)

Also, I recently did an interview for the Innsmouth Free Press. You can read it here.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Most Mind-Blowing Images I Have Seen in My Life: Part I

What you see before you is the cover of Petar Meseldzija's Book, The Legend of Steel Bashaw. It is one of the most exceptional paintings I have seen in my lifetime. Like many of you, I first saw this image in Spectrum 9 where it dropped a nuclear bomb on my brain. Never before had I seen an image that so clearly articulated every feeling that I had ever hoped to communicate in art. And never had I seen one executed with such earth-shattering beauty. It was flawless, riveting, and the more I looked at it, the more I was drawn into it.

Now you will say, "Justin, calm down, it's just a picture. Its a dude, and he's on a horse. You're getting carried away." But this is more than a dude on a horse. It is a diatribe against mediocrity and an air raid call to the pursuit of excellence in art. When I saw this painting it gave me the same desire it has given many other artists who see Petar's work, it made me want to change everything. Not only did it instill in me a fervent desire to learn how to paint, but to make images that were worth meditating on, and not disposable imagery destined to be lost in the vast sea of imagery we exist in.

For a long time I had believed that it was essentially hopeless. The attention span for visuals shrinks as digital photography and digital displays increase and lead to a greater proliferation of imagery. In this new digital world the best images are those that are the most clear and the most brief. People are conditioned away from lingering for very long on a single image in the marketplace. There are so many other ideas out there, so many other things to see that it becomes almost morally wrong to create something that demands a person dwell on it in instead of moving directly on to the next idea. Meditating on a single idea becomes an anathema. Even movies find that in order to keep up with the shrinking attention span, they must make scene changes faster and faster to keep audience interest. But in the pursuit of communicating a quantity of ideas we seem to lose the ability to meditate on the quality of a single idea. This image was one I got lost in and never quite made it back out of. It defied the technology-perscribed cultural direction that I sensed was to be the inevitable demise of narrative illustration. After seeing this image I knew that I wanted to make images that were mediations on ideas, and not just flashcards of them.

On top of being a artistic philosophical turning point for me, it was also a technical one. If you haven't already noticed, this painting is a city-crushing, Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla of technical achievement. It is at once extremely precise, with profoundest care taken in the focal points, such as the horses thrusting hoof, which focuses the action there for a brief moment as the eye moves through the composition. And then in the areas that are not meant to fight with the focal points, such as the body of the tree and the rocks beneath, there is an elegance and economy of brushstrokes that show a care in execution that borders on perfection. These subtleties are gorgeous upon examination but slip passively into the background when any of the focal points are examined.

One might perhaps think that the success of this painting is the result of chance, that these are not mortar bombardments of awesome-ness but are rather just a few lucky strokes or the result of some secret medium that he mixes on the panel before applying the paint. The truth is more devastating.

I had a chance to visit Petar in 2009, and while there he took the time to show me some of his drawings. I had always considered myself to have a passable drawing ability and felt that I knew a thing or two about the craft. I was a professional after all. When he pulled out his preliminary drawings that he did for his paintings, I saw the greatest drawings I had ever seen in my life and I blacked out. And while I was blacked out, I had a vision. It was judgement day, and I was giving an accounting of myself before the angels and saints. My art was being brought out and passed around. I learned that it was to be compared against Petar's art, which someone had decided was to be the standard by which all drawings from the era were to be judged. The saints and angels wore grim, unimpressed expressions as they shuffled through my pages of scribblings. Then they started watching the recordings of me playing video games instead of working on my drawings and I woke in a panic. I smelled coffee. (Petar makes a turkish coffee so strong that the mere smell of it would wake a hibernating bear who was frozen in a block of ice under 40 feet of snow and had just taken 12 Ambiens and was listening to Blue Danube by Strauss.) He handed me a cup and asked if I was OK.

As we looked through the rest of his drawings I realized that his paintings are not just the result of an excellence in the ability to apply paint, but that they are also the result of rigorous practice in drawing and extremely meticulous planning in the draft stages where he seeks to resolve the visual problems in his image. I realized that Petar is a genius. I felt like I was looking at the blueprints for the invasion of Normandy. While I could not expect to ever be so flawless in my approach I realized that if I was serious about this I would have to take drawing to an entirely new level that I had never even considered before.

If you have not already, check out his book, The Legend of Steel Bashaw from Flesk. In the back are included some of the drawings for the project. If they don't nuke your brain, they will at least knock your socks off. It is one of the most valuable books for the practicing artist to come out in years. Check out the rest of his work on his website here and his new blog here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Muddy Colors

I was recently invited by Dan Dos Santos to be a contributer to Muddy Colors, an illustration blog featuring articles by many of today's most influential illustrators. Many of these illustrators have impacted my own work a great deal, (Manchess, Donato and Jon Foster among them) and I look forward to their posts tremendously.
My own posts will focus on some of the topics and discussions that have gone on previously at Quickhidehere, such as the digital vs. traditional articles, as well as some new topics, which I lay out in the first post. If you have any special requests for articles or demos that you think might be interesting, let me know in the comments. I'm still coming up with my list of posts for the next few months, and I'd love to hear what you think.

Today marks my first contribution to the blog.
Check it out at MuddyColors.blogspot.com

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Lovecraft Show: Oil

Lovecraft in Innsmouth
9 x 12
Oil on Panel

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lovecraft Show: Oil Underpainting

This is still wet (hence the pencils protecting the scanner glass). The underpainting was done in Holbien Duo water miscible oils with Raw Umber and Ceramic White on panel.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Lovecraft Show

I was recently asked by Gallery Nucleus to contribute to a show based on the writings of H.P. Lovecraft called At the Mountains of Madness.

Lovecraft's writing is generally themed around a character's mind slowly descending into madness as they learns too much about the truth of existence. This usually involves sleeping, malevolent, primordeal terrors who dwell forgotten in the depths of the sea, but who will one day rise again to destroy their planet. Lovecraft is wonderful for his use of this imagery in these stories. He has a nack for catching the horror of the deeps and the darkness and the unknown.
There was a wealth of really great, dark and horrific visuals to pull from for this project, so it is perhaps odd that I chose to go with the image that I did for this, which isn't really all that dark or horrific on the surface.

As always, I began with a dozen or so thumbnails of various ideas. Primordeal terrors, leviathans, dead fish walking the streets, giant-tentacled-schoolbusses-of-doom, that sort of thing.

But in the end, I found the thumbnail above to have the most personality.

From this crude thumbnail I went straight on to the digital comp below.

I work on comps like this one as fast as possible in Photoshop. The above image took about an hour or so and I worked from the tiny obscure thumbnail at the top. The point is to get down the basic composition and mood that is in my head as fast as possible. I want to catch the image in my head before its gone, or before some new disaster strikes and I am pulled from the studio by air raid sirens. I also don't want to get caught up in the details here. I hate to retread the same ground twice and would rather save those details for the final execution of the image.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sketchbook 2010: On Sale Now

I am very pleased to announce that my Sketchbook 2010 is finally on sale.

The art inside the sketchbook, some of which has been appearing recently here on the blog, is all developmental drawings related to a larger story that I wrote a while back but have never been able to fully finish as a full narrative.

The Sketchbook is being sold by Gallery Nucleus. I love these guys. Along with selling great sketchbooks, they put together what are for me some of the most interesting shows and panels going on right now. They make me wish I lived closer to the California. The Sketchbook is 32 pages, each is signed and is priced at $14.95. Check them out here.

I recently contributed to their Terrible Yellow Eyes show at their gallery, which was curated from Cory Godbey's project of the same name. I will be contributing to a few other shows in the future, the first based on Lovecraft and his writing, and the second based on the Harry Potter novels. I am really excited to have a chance to contribute to these as both of these writer's highly imaginative works have been very inspiring for me. So unless I am eaten by a giant sea monster or undead frog-men I plan to start posting some work-in-progress shots of the Lovecraft inspired images in September.

Check out the Gallery's full list of upcoming shows here.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Sketchbook 2010

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sketchbook 2010

St marc evangile justin gerard illustration drawing

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sketchbook 2010 and the San Diego Comic-con

justin gerard illustration drawing joust knights chivalry duel

The San Diego Comic-con is slowly creeping up again this year, and in observance of long-standing tradition, I am completely unprepared for it.
So for the next month, while I am busy panicking about getting myself together over here, I will be posting up some of the developmental images from some of the stuff I'll be bringing.

The first few posts will be from Sketchbook 2010 with the later posts focusing on developmental work for the prints I will be bringing.
As with last year I will be sharing a booth with Cory Godbey, who is bringing an entire monster truck full of new work. Along with all new stuff to show, we are excited to be up in the Fantasy Illustrators section this year, and not off in the demilitarized no-man's land from the previous 2 years. I love this new section, both because now it won't require a gps, a troop of monkeys and a local interpreter for you to find us, but also because it is in the very heart of the action. Around Donato's and the Spectrum booths you can see amazing demos and check out what the best artists in the world have been up to during the year.

Orcs, elves, Boba Fett and armies of the undead, I am really excited to be in the thick of it this time around. Come visit us at booth #4616!

justin gerard illustration drawing joust knights chivalry duel
justin gerard illustration drawing joust knights chivalry duel

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Tor.com LoTR vs The Hobbit Post

justin gerard drawing tolkien orc gorbag

Gorbag of Mordor

I recently contributed to an article on Tor.com written by Irene Gallo on which of Tolkien's stories illustrators found most interesting for subjects to illustrate.
This is of course, a little like asking if one prefers chocolate chip cookie dough, or baked chocolate chip cookies. But there is an interesting difference in the two that begins to rise to the surface when you begin to discuss it.

The Hobbit is told from the viewpoint of a charming and not altogether reliable narrator in Bilbo, and the Lord of the Rings feels like it is told from the viewpoint of several different poet-historians who are not as given to the same vagaries of imagination as Bilbo. Because of this I find that the Hobbit allows a little more creative expression, especially in regards to the monsters. (And I love monsters who are just a little human.)
But The Lord of the Rings changes that, and the monsters there, are indeed monsters with only rare instances of humanity. But the humans there are deeper, and there we find the issue flipped, where now we find humans, who are just a little bit monster. Especially as they deal with matters of sons dying, or addiction. This too makes for an interesting vantage point to work from. Donato in particular writes that he finds that there are more opportunities that reveal the compassion and humanity of the characters in the Lord of the Rings, and so it presents a greater source of inspiration for his work.

Its an interesting article with contributions from Howe, Nasmith, Donato, Bosma, Adolfsson, Hickman, Kaluta and Miller.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Minotaur

Justin Gerard Illustration oil digital theseus battle fight the minotaur
"Know thee well, that thou shalt never leave this place alive."

Study no. 2 from Theseus and the Minotaur
8 x 10
Oil on Panel

Monday, April 12, 2010

ImagineFX #56

ImagineFX recently asked me to do a painting of a faun for the cover of Issue #56.
It is out now in Europe and will hit Canada and the USA in about 3 weeks. Along with a short demo on how I did the cover piece above, there are a some great articles by Brian Froud, John Howe and Julie Bell. All of whom are AWESOME. I am really looking forward to getting my own copy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Portrait of a Monster: Avarice Milpond

Justin Gerard Oil Painting Portrait of a monster avarice milpond
11 x 14
Oil on Panel

Milpond Detail

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Oil: 26

Watercolor: 5

Digital: 37

Digital wins and retains the title belt for another season.

Or does it?

It appears that there were a number of issues and "voting irregularities" at the ballot box. An angry mob has been at my door for days and the press is calling for a recount.

The grievances are as follows:

First, some clever lawyers have counted up the votes independently, and have noticed certain "discrepancies" in the final tallies.
The reason for this is perfectly explainable. While the votes were being cast on the blog I also was receiving several votes through emails. Now, I realize that admitting phantom ballots which only I have access to could be considered sketchy but this is why I am in the visual arts and not in politics.

Secondly, many of you pointed out that the sparks and hot spots in the watercolor and digital piece were what pulled you over to digital, and that these effects could have been easily added to the oil piece. This is an excellent point, and I was remiss not to have included them in the oil.

Finally, a number of you wished to invent a 4rth category for digitally affected oils. (These digitally affect oils actually received 5 direct votes, and many more implied votes.) Many people suggested that if this category had existed it would have won out over its watercolor and digital counterpart.

Digitally affected oils is a very interesting idea to me. It seems like an excellent way of utilizing the best of both mediums while at the same time minimizing their respective weaknesses.

I will talk more about this later.

Back to the polls. The general consensus appears to be that

Oils seems to have the benefit of superior texture, beauty and as LuisNCT said, "oils supports a longer observation."

Digital for color, clarity and contrast.

Watercolor for the grit and the mood.

While these each have their merits, I would love to find a synthesis of all of these. And an airship full of all the treasures of ancient egypt. But a method that allows for a synthesis of all of these will do for now.

This brings me back to a digitally modified oil. I like the idea because I am still in love with blending classical methods and with modern technology. And one thing that has afflicted me as I experiment with oils is that people no longer see art in the way that they saw it 300 years ago. We no longer have to travel all the way to Paris to see the Musee D'orsay (which everyone should), or even across town to see fine art, but instead we now generally take in art through the glowing squares of digital media.

So if any of us decides to execute a painting and show it to the world, it is probable that 4 out of the 5 people who see that painting will view it through a monitor. The world is fast becoming predominantly digital.

So does this necessarily mean that images created digitally will have certain advantages over their traditional counterparts as it is disseminated to the culture at large?

Consider this example:

You may recognize it from a previous post.
This is an oil painting of the acrylic and digital painting from December. This time I did not paint directly over a watercolor as in the Doomhammer posts, but rather started on a new masonite panel and copied a new drawing over, and then executed the piece in oil over the course of a few days. It took longer, but I enjoyed the actual creation of it more.

What is frustrating however, is that the original piece has a luster that cannot be communicated by the digital copy here. The charm of the original is that when you look at it and see it from different angles, the various pits and nicks in the paint catch the light and give it a sense of depth. This is because it literally is made up of layers in space, which light passes through and before then bouncing back to your eyes, creating an effect that you cannot get any other way. The glazes give the shadows true depth and the highlights are actually closer to you in space and so appear even brighter. It is a dimensional object with a life to it that cannot be communicated through a digital image. I love this about oil and it seems tragic to lose it through digital copies. Yet, almost everyone who sees it will see it digitally.

But on the other side, the mere ability to display an image digitally is 100% certified actual magic. The technology that allows you to see this on your monitor is light literally being projected into your brain through your eyes. It is the coolest thing since the invention of fire.

This is a debate that has plagued me for some time, but I am certain that there is a synthesis of all of these out there that is worth pursuing. I also think that we are only just now beginning to really explore the possibilities in digital art for merging the classical with the contemporary with technology.

So that said, my next few personal projects that I hope to post up here will be experiments in the digitally affected oils.

Note: The best exploration and debate on the traditional vs. digital art topic that I have come across on the web can be found on David Apatoff's blog, Illustration Art in his January and February 2007 posts. It's worth a read.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

FFA DEATHMATCH: Digital vs Watercolor vs Oil

Its Battle Royal and the rules are anything goes. You are the judge.

Which of these do you like the most?




Note: Both the traditional pieces are being displayed as they were scanned in, with no digital effects, magic filters, or cheat codes in.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Digital Final and Problems with Labels

12 x 18
Watercolor & Digital

I label this Watercolor & Digital, but as was mentioned before, the watercolor label is a bit misleading, as I am actually using acrylic inks. Likewise, I feel like labeling this "digital" is also a bit misleading because I have not done any digital painting here.

Adobe Photoshop was originally conceived to be a photo-adjustment tool and not primarily as a digital painting tool. While Photoshop does digital painting very well, (and this years Spectrum Fantastic Arts will show that quite clearly) I find that Painter X feels more suited to digital painting. And over the years it has embraced this difference from Photoshop and developed its software into a quite exceptional tool for building compelling, traditional-looking images digitally. Meanwhile, Adobe adamantly refuses to really invest itself into the digital painting aspects of its software, focusing instead to continue to further develop its photo-adjustment and web-related aspects.
That said, I have begun to prefer playing to Photoshop's strengths as opposed to wrestling against its shortcomings. (For instance, why oh why Adobe do you have such drastically inferior color mixing and blending to Corel?) But what Photoshop does phenomenally well, is what it was originally intended for; and that is photo-manipulation. That said, I no longer feel like I am painting in the brush and canvas sense when I work in Photoshop. If I need to do that Painter X is the tool. But for adjusting a traditional painting to pull up the colors, adjust the contrast and to refine the lights and shadows, nothing out there can beat Photoshop and I love using it for this.
So this is probably about 5 hours of "digital-adjusting" over acrylic inks. But that seems like a far too complicated label for how it was done.

I say all this because I have received some flak from students at a few conventions recently saying that they thought it was watercolor this whole time because of what I was labeling it here on the blog, and that they have been trying to recreate the effects in watercolor and having a terrible time with it. I was accused of running a scam and spearheading an effort to undermine art education world-wide.

So I'd like to be able to be less misleading in my labeling if possible here.
Anyone know a better label for this type of painting that is correct and at the same time not confusing to people unfamiliar with the tools used?

And now, labeling aside, on to the next step:

I will be posting the oil version of this and a comparison of the 3 methods this on thursday. I will be sealing this acrylic and then working oil directly over it. I'm curious which of the three images you think works out the best, and looks the most visually interesting.
"Watercolor", oil or digital?

I look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Watercolor

Man vs. Machine
12 x 18
Acrylic Ink on Bristol

So by watercolor, I actually mean to say Acrylic Ink. I have started using FW Inks for the last few paintings. And if you dilute them, they feel just like watercolor, except that once they are down you can't pry them up. No, not with a thousand golden crow bars. Their only down side that I can discover is that if you apply them straight, with no dilution, they will begin to take on the plastic feel of acrylic after several heavy layers. Other than this I really love them. Perhaps most of all because they preserve the underlaying drawing perfectly.

I am finished with the Acrylic phase, but I am not planning on stopping just yet. I am going to do an experiment:

I am going to do render a digital version of this watercolor, in the same manner as the Hobbit pieces. And then I am also going to take the original watercolor, and after sealing it in a few layers of acrylic polymer, I am going to finish it in oil.
Afterwards I am going to compare the 2 to see which looks superior and post the results here.

I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on these and which you find more attractive. (or less hideous, as the case may be)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Drawing

Man vs. Machine.

I initially drew this image to be about the guy. Specifically about his left foot. The entire composition and action of the image was actually meant to revolve around that foot. But it was fundamentally about this guy leaping down at this assault mech. It was a cry against the tools that have turned into systems too vast to affect any longer and that slowly dehumanize us and demand that we become more and more dependent upon them.

But as I continued to sketch I got drawn in by the machine.

I began by thinking:

Idiot-machine computers... Absurd, plastic-jurassics built by sea monkeys out of bailing wire and kitty litter to be soma for the masses and flimsy replacement-brains... We must rise up, we must smash our television sets, hurl our phones into the sea and scream, "I'm a human being! Not some plastic toy, not just some number. MY LIFE HAS MEANING!"

But soon it changed to:

Hmm... If I was piloting a 15-foot mech, I would want a 30mm chaingun. And all kinds of communications equipment. Lights, computers, fiber-optics. And it would need to have smoke screen launchers, otherwise it would get chewed up by the air support. Yeah, ... and it would need to have a missle launcher. Laser guided... Something manageable though, maybe a javelein launcher to counter armor... And then it would need....Wow, I love the modern era...

And so on. Soon I forgot about the guy, who was the whole reason I started this piece. The audacity of some guy with nothing more than a pair of handguns, leaping out at a giant machine, at THE machine. I really liked that.

But now I began to see the image from the Machine's perspective:

Who is this anarchist leaping down at me?
I defend society.
I hold the line here.
I keep the torch of civilization lit.
I keep the forces of nature at bay,
and this bomb-throwing anarchist is attacking me.

I will crush him.

So now I identify with both of my characters, and it has seemingly become a matter of perspective on who exactly the protagonist is and who exactly the antagonist is.

In the end I found that anarchy was easier to draw. The guy was finished quickly with no problems. I felt like it just worked. Getting the forces of civilization together on the other hand, took a bit more.
I wanted to really make sure that this machine was convincing. That it looked usable, that it had been battle-tested. That it could survive full-scale war in densely urban environments.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Comp

I hate technology.
But not as much as I love it.

I've gotten away from doing action perspectives in recent years, having been so taken by the formal compositional arrangements of the Romantic and Victorian painters. But every now and again I like to go back to my comic book roots and do something really outlandish.

I liked the perspective in my original thumbnail, but something about the arrangement of the bridge pylons kept bothering me. So I decided to try to lay out my scene in Google's free 3d program, Sketchup to try and solve the problem. It only took about an hour to figure out, and after that it was pretty easy to work the scene out and solve the perspective issues.

It seems fitting that I would end up using technology to help me work on my piece about how much I sometimes hate technology.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Doomhammer 2010: Conceptual

Sometimes a person paints to communicate to other people a specific feeling or emotion they have experienced in their lives.

And other times, a person may paint for themselves, to make sense of all the fire in their head. To turn the static upstairs into something they can better understand.

Last week the Mac Pro, the Xbox and the cell phone all died on the same day. I found myself terribly frustrated at my circumstances. Why can't things just work? What idiot monkeys even made these things? Oh! Miserable life- it is better for me to die than to live.


Then I remember that people all over the world have lived happy and full lives without the benefit of this exotic technology for a long time and I should do some yoga, calm down and find inner peace.

But I drew this instead: