This is a self-portrait I drew for season two of my webcomic, Running on Empty, wherein my character is reflecting on his life. This quickly became my favorite self-portrait, and I used to use it in place of a photograph wherever I could. There’s a certain appeal in presenting myself as comic character rather than as a real person. Although, it’s a funny thing when people recognize me from a drawing, which has happened in the past.
"Mr. Popular" was a story arc that first appeared in the Running on Empty webserial, where the Dan character returns to high school to become the most popular kid in school. In the opening scene, Dan knocks out a nerd to start his climb up the social ladder. This is the image I created to capture that moment.
A previous version of my site featured a character section, which gave character stats and bios for the cast of my comics. The next few sketches were created especially for those pages, but they soon became model sheets that I use as reference whenever I use these characters. Here’s the cocky team leader of the Running on Empty trio, Dan (AKA me).
The Annihilator was a character I created back in college, where I drew man covered in guns and ammo. The idea was that he was a defected Marine who decided to accelerate Armageddon on his own. This sketch was a later rendition of the character, which I eventually used on a Dominion teaser poster.
Linda Danvers was the alter ego of Peter David’s Supergirl. This sketch was based on one of her profile pages, which I thought captured that cute, punk chick look perfectly. This essentially became the inspiration for the Jane Pincus character I would later create.
Dylan Thorne is the primary antagonist of my Dominion series, who is a severely misanthropic businessman who has secretly taken over the world and now has to decide what to do with it. I had such a clear mental image of what Dylan looks like, that it was challenging translating that to paper. I often think of him as an older Patrick Bateman or Gordon Gekko.
Here we have Jake Alberts, host of his own offensive talk show, giving the audience a sadistic smirk. The basic inspiration for Jake’s show, and the idea of him as a host, came from Batman: The Animated Series, where the Joker regularly took over TV shows to commit some public act of depravity. I later reappropriated this sketch for a very dramatic shot of Jake in season three of Running on Empty.
…And here we have a very ominous sketch of my Stalker character, protagonist of The Stalker Imperative webserial. I created the rough for this piece at 4AM after seeing the video for Aqualung’s “Brighter Than Sunshine.” I later blacked out his eyes in Photoshop so I could use the image for a specific chapter of his story. I like the result.
Eyes on the World
I drew this image of Dylan Thorne with the intent to finish it in Photoshop. As such, I sketched the frame of the room and the figure itself, and then dropped in the floor texture and cityscape in post. This piece really bridges the gap between my pencil sketches and my exclusively digital artwork.
This was a promotional piece I created for season two of Running on Empty, where the three main characters were driving recklessly through the streets of Milford. I got an old friend to model the different character poses before I went to work on the drawing. The mailbox was a nice last-minute addition.
Model Sheet: Jake
Season two of Running on Empty featured the addition of Jake and Devin (D-Man) to the regular cast. As such, I decided to create model sheets for each of the characters, which helped to identify their differences. Over time, the characters became more realistic than these model sheets, but the drawings really nailed down the core attributes of each cast member.
Here, we see Jake’s new design, with his trademark cigarette butt and bandages. His hairstyle further evolved after this drawing into the rhino look that he has today. The Wrist-Pain.com T-shirt is a reference to my dad’s carpal tunnel website, which he promoted by making my brothers wear homemade T-shirts with the URL on them. Years later, my brother learned that everyone at his school just assumed that the shirt was a masturbation joke.
Model Sheet: D-Man
Devin Manning, AKA D-Man, had the visual motif of an off-duty Air Force pilot. Just as Jake is never seen without a cigarette, Devin never takes off his sunglasses. This would become more important in season three, where Devin’s sunglasses are key to identifying him in silhouette.
Model Sheet: Dan
Even though the Dan character appeared in Running on Empty season one, he got a slight redesign to help differentiate him from Jake. Both characters have short, spiky hair, so the idea was to have Jake’s hair curve upward, and Dan’s hair to curl down. This difference became more exaggerated in season three.
I drew this shot at the beginning of 2006, when I was still reeling from the end of my summer romance. This was actually based on a piece by illustrator Brian Bolland. I added a few artifacts from my relationship, which included a plastic tulip and love note. This was such a great piece that I decided to use it in the season two opener of Running on Empty.
Under the Sun
I created this piece for a yearbook cover for CTY’s 2005 staff. For those of you who are unaware of the program, Johns Hopkins University created the Center for Talented Youth to basically provide a summer school/summer retreat for smart kids. There are satellite locations all over the country, and the staff consists of college students and professors who alternately teach and entertain the kids. I was part of the group that took care of the latter, by running sports and activities. It’s not easy to explain, but suffice it to say that it’s an incredibly rewarding experience.
A Soldier's Life for Me
In the summer of 2005, I drew a quick sketch of a very grim character in the rain. Years later, I dropped that sketch into Illustrator, and live traced it just to see what would happen. It turned out well, so took it to the next level and created white raindrops to isolate the character from a black background. Looks all right to me.
As I mentioned before, when people find out that I can draw, they always ask me to draw them. And if they happen to be banging anyone at the time, they ask if I can throw them into the shot too. This was one such sketch, which was a favor for the female on the left. Shortly after I handed this over to her, she and her boyfriend split up, and the picture quickly became obsolete.
Yet another in a long line of self-portraits. This piece would later serve as the inspiration for some comic art for Running on Empty.
Trust me, this isn’t an unfinished piece. The idea of kissing a phantom captures that sense of being in love with the idea of love, but not actually having anyone to love. Does that make any sense to you? I also tried to work with the concept that if this sketch had a female in his arms, the couple would form a heart shape.
I’m honestly not sure if this is a self-portrait, or a picture of Jake. Back in 2003, shortly after I created Jake, he was just an alternate version of me, so we basically looked the same. I drew this picture to capture the idea of being beaten to a pulp for hitting on some tough guy’s girlfriend. I later folded this basic concept into Jake’s personality, in that he loves fighting so much that he doesn’t care if he wins or loses.
We've Got One Hell of a Show
This picture is historically important because it was the first time that I drew Jake as a talk show host. The concept evolved into The Jake Alberts Show series of comics and serials, which serve as a spinoff/sequel to Running on Empty. In drawing this picture, I created the Jake Alberts logo, along with his trademark “Fuck Coffee” coffee mug.
This sketch was the last in a long line of character sketches beginning in 2002. It started with me drawing alternate version of myself, like me as a skater kid, or me as a cop, etc. As a result, I had ultimately created dozens of characters I would later use in my comics. Here, we see the Guardian, who would become Dylan Thorne’s primary antagonist in the Dominion serial. I used this sketch as the conceptual basis for a Running on Empty comic.
For my high school studio art class, each student had to create several pieces of artwork in a bound sketchbook each semester. I was always pushing it to the last minute, and would pull all-nighters to get the work done. The next few pieces are from that sketchbook.
Here’s an ink drawing I created, based on a panel by Graham Nolan.
Back at the turn of the century, I created an apocalyptic tale that told of a white-haired hero battling demonic forces in an effort to save humanity. Clichéd? Yer damn right it was. But there was the seed of a good idea that I later rolled in to Dominion. Pictured here is that initial story’s hero, who is currently known as Mr. Light.
As you can see, my illustrative style has varied wildly over the years, swinging between cartoony and realistic, and everything in between. Back in 2000, I attempted to nail down a specific artistic style. In order to do so, I began emulating the work of Humberto Ramos. You’ll notice his influence on several of the above pieces, but here’s where it all started.
Gordon of Gotham
And here’s a pencil sketch of Batman’s pal, Jim Gordon. This sketch gets a lot of hits on DeviantArt for some reason. Must be the title.
…And this was the debut of the hawk character. I later used this figure on a similar image of the Guardian making a dramatic descent of his own.