Stronghold Art

This last week while I sat in my chair having coffee, on one of the few sunny days we have had in awhile, I struggled over how much I would like to share the entirety of the Garrison book with others. Not at the end of this year, or early next year, but now. Sometimes the earnestness to share the story tears me up inside, because it is after all, part of what the great commission means to me – to “go tell” others about Jesus and how he’s changed my life. It just happens to be that my way of telling others seems to be really time consuming because it takes awhile to write and illustrate a graphic novel! After which, I felt a familiar nudge saying that, just because the release of the Garrison book is a ways away, it doesn’t mean I can’t share words and pictures that put a smile on my face, comfort in my heart, and could hopefully do the same for others.

When I picture myself beyond the Garrison book, I often imagine these one-off illustrations, paired with verses or kind words that bring that kind of joy and honor to Him at the same time. With sketches, verses, illustrations, cards, and stories, I hope to share this Stronghold Art with you as I work on the book, here and on social channels like Instagram and Facebook. Also I’m making the prints and cards available through the Stronghold Art Shop on Etsy. All proceeds help me to continue my work on the book which I appreciate very much!

Woodland Creatures with Baby
This Woodland Creatures with Baby illustration was created for a special family member with the new baby boy on the way with a forest themed nursery in mind. “In HIS HAND is the life of EVERY CREATURE and the breath of all mankind.” – Job 12:10. How wonderful to think how God has created and has given life to all His creatures, all those of the oceans, jungles, forests, and the cities, towns and homes where we all live. I like to think in Heaven all God’s creations will be in this much harmony.


Let the Children Come Unto Me – Matthew 19:14
And Jesus said “Let the Children Come Unto Me” – Can you imagine what it was like to hear the God of all creation say these words? – so powerful. When Jesus walked on this earth, he demonstrated a special love for the children. These words are meaningful, in that it shows that nobody should come between and hinder the relationship that a child has with his or her creator. In Leah and I’s journey, God has shown us a passion for kids, even though we don’t have one of our own yet here on Earth, we understand how important it is for all children to have a chance to know who Jesus is.

Garrison and the Snow (Man)

It’s snowing today in Tacoma, it’s snowing today in the Pacific Northwest. What is it about the snow that brings out our nostalgia and childlike wonderment? The way it blankets the earth and makes all things new to a child’s eyes, the world they once knew, is now something entirely new, magic even, a break from our daily lives with new fun and games to be had. But things becoming new once again isn’t just something we long for when we’re young, it’s something, with the increasing troubles of the world, we long for once again as adults – it’s something I long for. The good news is things can become new again, looking at them through new eyes through a relationship with Jesus.

Garrison and the Yeti
The snow is something very close to the Garrison storyline, I knew that I wanted to have at least once chapter in the book feature a snow environment. Garrison finds it in Chapter Four when he must travel from the seaside city of Florence up the lonely mountain and confront the monster (SNOW MAN) of the mountain, the yeti.

Get a signed print of “Garrison and the Yeti” available now in the StrongholdArt Etsy Shop!

Stronghold Art Shop OPEN

Hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving and holiday weekend spent with family and friends. You may have noticed I missed posting last week, with the holidays and client work, I was busy but making an effort to get back on track and make a big post this week with the announcement of the Stronghold Art Shop on Etsy!

Over the next year I will be pressing into the book and my hope is to gradually take on less freelance work and focus more on the book and getting the good word out. By sharing the concept art and selling art prints my hope is that it will allow me to work on the book much faster. If the idea of the book encourages you, if you like the message, have enjoyed seeing my art progress over my career, or just love the art, please see if there’s something you would like to pick up, it would be greatly appreciated.

Garrison the Stronghold Hero Key Art – 8x10 Art Print
Garrison the Stronghold Hero Key Art – 8×10 Art Print

I have uploaded four pieces of key concept art for the story so far, pieces created to inspire the book and depict key moments of the story. Art prints will come in two sizes 8×10 and the impressive 13×19. Prints are printed on a large format Giclée Printer using Epson Archival inks on Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper which makes for a rich color dense print with tons of contrast and texture perfect for framing or displaying.

Let the Children Come Unto Me – 8x10 Art Print
Let the Children Come Unto Me – 10×8 Art Print

In addition to concept art, something that has been on my heart is to begin a series of illustrations and scriptures which focus on family values, finding strength through faith, and enjoying and having fun in life. Under the title of Stronghold Art I hope to pursue this passion, and my hope is that it will find an audience in which it can touch and inspire.

Trouble the Cat Christmas Card Bundle 3-Pack
Trouble the Cat Christmas Card Bundle 3-Pack

Cards have always been something I have loved to create. I’ve created custom Christmas cards to give to family, friends and colleagues since 2001 and I want to it to be a part of what I will be doing going forward, for many occasions. What I love about cards is it’s a way to give art, share art, keep art, that’s at a level that’s easy to store and appreciate without the need to take up too much real estate. They make great decorations and are an affordable keepsake, with the cost of cards in stores today, why not get something unique and of good quality? All my cards will be made with the same Giclée archival printing as the Art Prints with Paper Source envelopes, which I love because the color is rich and coverage is inside and out (not just printed color). All cards are blank inside to let you write anything you like, something I always appreciate.

Dee Dee Birthday Card and Many More
Dee Dee Birthday Card and Many More

Please check out the Stronghold Art Shop on Etsy and support the Garrison the Stronghold book. Thanks so much, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Garrison and Michael

Garrison and Michael
Garrison and Michael

Chapter 1 of Garrison the Stronghold, after a long day of hard work on the boat, Garrison and Michael sit in the firelight and talk over a well earned supper.

This is the first piece of color concept art I worked on for the book where I explored color and painting techniques. I wanted the art to have an animated quality, with colored lines, solid flat painted characters and more painterly backgrounds to help the characters jump off the art similar to background painter work in animation. Using textured brushes; tighter colored pencil brushes for the linework and dry brush with wider bristles for the background, my goal was to also incorporate an imaginative storybook feel.

The following quick-paint thumbnails were created as I was challenging myself to come up with various dramatic compositions using only a few base colors. I used key story points in Garrison the Stronghold prior to going into the sequential art. You can see how the Garrison and Michael piece started with an emphasis on the warm glow highlighting the characters against the cool sea at night.

Story Keys Concept Art Thumbnails
“Story Keys” Thumbnails

Chapter 1 Character Designs and Process

This past year I have been working on tightening my character design skills while working on the Garrison the Stronghold book. I wanted to give the look of my characters a more animated children’s book quality with simple shapes and lines, deriving inspiration from “The Art of…” Disney books such as Zootopia and Big Hero 6. while looking to Stephen Silver and his work for guidance on character design processes. I have also drawn inspiration from my own works including Gadget Boy, another faith-based story I created based on a boy and his family in 2005-2006, and The Billy Black and Trouble Show, a comic strip I worked on in 2009-2011 with similar characters, Billy, Beah and Trouble the Cat, but drawn in a more rough, loose style. Here are some of of the older works, see if you can spot some of the similarities.

There are four chapters in the book, the first chapter line-up includes our main characters; Garrison (The Stronghold) Strong, and his parents Billy and Beah Strong, his sidekick Trouble the Cat, and Michael the Archangel, a friend and guide in the first chapters of the book.

Garrison the Stronghold Chapter 1 Line-up
Garrison the Stronghold Chapter 1 Line-up

In character design, I’ve learned how important it is to put characters in a line-up relationship to one-another assure correct scale as well as having consistency in style. Doing this early, even if it’s loose, will keep me from having to go back and revise the characters again and again. Keeping them at a resting position at a three quarters turn, or straight on, allows me to best describe the character so that I can see the full form of them for reference, without any distortion from body movement or facial expression, later on.

Garrison "The Stronghold" Strong – Character Design
Garrison “The Stronghold” Strong – Character Design

Our hero of the story, Garrison is deeply loving, loves to laugh, and is unusually strong physically. A middle-grade kid, not-quite 10, but old enough to get out and adventure and begin understanding his feelings more, Garrison must learn to become stronger on the inside to match his outer strength. His lionheart t-shirt is symbolic of the story’s key message.

Beah Strong – Character Design
Beah Strong – Character Design

Beah is loving, caring, servant heart, good, a busy body who just loves doing things for her family and to make their home more beautiful. Beah loves cooking and coming up with wonderful things to eat, planting and curating the garden and watching it grow.

Billy Strong – Character Design
Billy Strong – Character Design

Billy is loving, caring, strong but gentle, silly at times. Billy loves God and taking care of his family and doing what he can to watch out for them. He loves creating things, laughing, and spending time with those he loves.

Michael – Character Design
Michael – Character Design

Loving, caring, strong but gentle, one for few words, Michael deeply loves and appreciates the Lord and everything that He has created. Now that he no longer has to lead God’s army he is retired in a sense, enjoying all the things that the Lord has created, loving the Lord and enjoying his boat the Lord has given him. Michael is massively tall and wide in stature, his robes and ribbons drape on him and flow off to give a sense of airiness almost like wings. His ribbons have hints of middle eastern/asian decoration for additional embellishment.

Trouble the Cat – Character Design
Trouble the Cat – Character Design

Trouble is deeply affectionate of everyone but especially the Strong family, Garrison and Billy. He is motivated by warmth, cheezy-itz crackers, being near the people he loves and being close to them. He also loves clawing, kneading, basking in the sun, and wiping his nose wherever he can. His angel wings keep him lazily afloat while his halo changes shape to reflect his mood.

Hope you enjoyed these character designs, I will have more chapter line-ups and character designs to come!

The Journey So Far…

Garrison the Stronghold is a story inspired by life events my wife Leah and I went through in late 2013 – early 2014. Up until that point, I’ve always had a passion for illustration, ever since I came to God it’s been on my heart that I wanted to do a children’s book, when these life events occurred it was like the pieces came together for the story that needed to be told. Through our experience Leah and I found new meaning in relying on God for his strength, fear comes in many different ways and can be at the root of the hinderances that might hold us back in life. The Garrison book will be, at it’s core, about overcoming fear and becoming “Strong and Courageous” as it states in Joshua 1:9.

Every couple years I feel like God is challenging me to take another leap of faith on the journey towards what I believe he has in store for us. This year with freelance work shutting doors in every direction and having built-up a cushion in my freelance work to float us for a small time, I felt the book was what God was telling me is next. So began 2016, the year of Garrison the Stronghold.

In late January, Leah and I, took a trip to beautiful Lake Chelan, WA where we stayed for an extended weekend to devote our time and begin the writing process of the story of Garrison. We were surrounded by snow-covered hills and peaceful winter sunshine, which was all very inspiring and comforting. The time there provided much needed rest, reflection, and a great kick-off to writing the story.

Lake Chelan Late January 2016
Lake Chelan Late January
As I continued to work on the script throughout the spring, I also began sketches for the characters and environment design of the story.

In July I decided to go on an unplanned road trip headed south along Highway 101 in hopes to get some quality time to finish writing the story. I discovered beautiful beach side cliffs in Oregon which inspired the maritime themes in the first and second chapters of the Garrison book, dreaming of fantastic port towns, wooden ships and sea creatures.

Writing Along the 101 Oregon Coast
Further south, I was able to experience camping in the Redwood Forest in northern California which inspired Garrison’s adventures in the Isle of Twistaway in the third chapter of the book. Mammoth trees along the cliffs and caverns with mysteries abound, it seemed like the perfect place to draw inspiration.

The trip proved to be a very eye-opening adventure and I was able to complete more than half of the script during the time. As I wound my way down the west coast, I found a “luxury” affordable writing environment at UCSB, just before heading south to LA where I would soon meet Leah, flying down to keep me company on the way home.

Efforts were ongoing throughout the year to redefine my art style in a way that could be more children’s book friendly, but could still be considered “cool” to younger audiences. I drew inspiration from animation and children’s books, as well taking classes through Schoolism to grow as an artist from acclaimed artists and mentors like Bobby Chiu and Steven Silver. In my early sketches, I found an affinity for Col-Erase red pencils, which when it came time to go digital, I translated the natural look and feel of the pencils into digital brushes to continue the style while working on my amazing new Cintiq “easel”.

In October I had the opportunity to have my own table at the Bellingham Comicon which provided me a goal to begin revealing Garrison the Stronghold to the public. We were happy to share an assortment of concept art, stickers, prints, and occasion cards at our booth, it was all a very big production, but with the help of my wife, we were able to finish it all in time and it was very rewarding. We received very positive feedback from the guests which was very encouraging after all our hard work. Even though the book published till late 2017, this gave me the chance to share the art and characters to the public and begin gaining support and interest in the process.

Sharing the Story for the First Time
Sharing the Story for the First Time

Over the next year I hope you will join us on journey as I develop the first Garrison the Stronghold book. The book will be a 100+ page graphic novel children’s book for middle-grade children and above. I also feel it will have a special place for parents and hopefully lovers of art and storytelling. We will be updating the blog every Monday and offer an email sign-up to follow along for updates. In the coming weeks I will be sharing more about the process, story, and lots of concept art goodness. Thanks so much for you continued love and support! – Be Strong and Courageous!