Hermione Granger, of the Harry Potter book series. By J.K. Rowling

I've found that a lot of people dislike Hermione. I, on the other hand, figured that if I could be equated to one of the HP characters, it'd be Hermione. Probably because she is very studious and loves books. And has wild hair. And used to have bad teeth until they were magically fixed (by orthidontics, in my case).

You have to sympathize with her because she's a "Mudblood," and the bullies always give her crap for it. I mean, shouldn't she get a medal for becoming a wizard with no wizarding blood in her? That's pretty out-there. You'd think everyone would be a fan of Hermione just for that reason. It gives them hope that even they can someday learn magic. Because, as we all know, magic is real. The Force, anyway.

Pictured is Hermione and her moody cat, Crookshanks.

We Have A Visitor

Solaris by Stanislaw Lem

Imagine that you are a psychologist who just arrived on a space station. You are going to rendezvous with the rest of the crew, which only consists of two others. Immediately upon setting foot on the station, however, things take a strange turn. For example, there are others wandering around. They are referred to as "visitors" by the two other crewmen.

I love when sci-fi novels have a creepy, what-the-heck-is-going-on vibe. There were several parts in this story that utterly clenched my attention and will be burnt into my mind. One such moment is what happens in the scene I've illustrated.

Throughout the book, bits and pieces of the mystery are fed to you while the relationship between the surviving crew members becomes very strained. At a point late in the story, Kelvin our main character and psychologist, confronts Snow, the less-reclusive of the other two crewmen, in an attempt to rationalize some of what's going on. At the end of the conversation, Kelvin realizes that Snow has been reaching inside of a cabinet. My eyes widened as Kelvin guessed that Snow was possibly holding the hand of a visitor that he was hiding in the cabinet.


The whole book revolves around this giant planet, Solaris, that is covered in a living, thinking plasma-like ocean. Scientists have been studying the planet via the station that is suspended in the planet's atmosphere. Earth has been studying the mysterious planet for years and years, to no avail. Much debate and theories have arisen and been cast down concerning the intelligence of Solaris, and its intentions.

I don't want to give away any more. I just wanted to tell you enough about it to maybe provoke some goosebumps. I recommend it to all sci-fi fans!

Haha, I guess I should mention that Snow was described as thin, sharp-nosed, and having a sunburnt face. In case you were wondering about his red complexion!

WANDering Minds

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

This series is one where the author made pretty much every character have some sort of stand-out feature. Now, you're probably thinking "Well, that's what all good authors should do to help you with remembering the characters." Yes, well, fantasy series go a little overboard in that they all feature fantastic things and out-of-this-world business. The focus isn't on an accountant who likes soccer, or a paperboy who has acne. The books are about a wizard boy who was almost murdered in infancy by a deadly curse.

Once an author commits to that starting point, things can only get crazier from there.

So you'd imagine it would be hard to single out any characters as noteworthy if they are all noteworthy, right? It's interesting how some characters' personalities still filter through to you. One such personality is that of Luna Lovegood.

Luna is at-once likable, very aloof and adorable. Contemplative, but rather spacey. Always full of surprises, but you can always bet on her saying something wonky. Which is good. The last thing we needed was a pair of Hermiones, am I right?

Anyway, she was a good friend to ol' HP, and he was always grateful for that. A friend that could be counted on. And when an evil wizard is trying to murder you and all sorts of crazy is wreaking havoc upon the school you love, reliable friends are a must.

Book O' Gold

Rainbows End by Vernor Vinge
Illustration by Ed Moody III

Rainbows End is the winner of both the Hugo and Locus Awards for 2007. Although a great book, I read it with skepticism. Vinge expects us to believe that in year 2025 most of the world's population will be "wearing". Smart clothing and contact lenses capable of overlaying computer generated images onto reality allow wearers their choice of many augmented realities. AND... a major character in the book is a rabbit.

I definitely found this vision of 2025 hard to swallow, but as soon as I finished reading the book I noticed the release of several alternate reality apps for the iPhone. Although these apps are in their infancy, it is easy to see the attraction of viewing the world with the addition of layers of info and enhanced visuals. Vinge may be onto something after all.

A pencil sketch, photographed, photo shopped, and topped off with a layer of contact lens scifi. Layers. It is all about the layers. Oh, and let's not forget Rabbit.

Speak Up!

Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card

Speaker is the sequel to the book Ender's Game, which features a young kid owning other kids, adults and even an aggressive alien race. Space, intergalactic war, mind-games and strategy abound throughout Ender's Game. If you haven't guessed, these books are science fiction!

Speaker takes place quite a few years after the events of the first book. It takes a more anthropology-oriented angle of storytelling, as a remote planet's colony has to study a new race of aliens without contaminating the aliens with human culture. All sorts of problems arise, and stuff goes down. And it's up to Ender and his wizardy mind to sort everything out. Culture vs. government vs. science vs. emotion!

I can't really explain much more without giving away either of the books, but I'll just say that they are great. And I love them. Oh, sci-fi.

Well I guess I can explain the title: A "Speaker for the Dead" is a person whose vocation is to learn everything he or she can about a deceased person or group of persons and tell a completely true account of the subject. This could involve revealing once-private secrets to making the audience realize things about their own lives, in relation to the deceased person or group. Ender Wiggin, the main character from the first book, is now a Speaker. And a darned good one!

The illustration is of a Pequeninos (one of the aliens that the colony on Lusitania is trying to study). They are nicknamed "piggies" because they remind the humans of, well, pigs. Throughout the course of the book, much of the piggy culture and their connection to the ecosystem is revealed. It's really interesting!

I should also explain why he's holding a tree branch. The piggie culture is very, very closely tied to the forests in which they live. The trees are held sacred and the piggies communicate with them by means of a percussive language. Lucky for the colonists, no human has ever cut down a tree in fears that they would give the piggies any ideas about saws or technology. That would have been the end of the colony! The piggies love battle.

Bad Hare Days

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I believe it was Advanced Math class, back in high school, that I was made to read Alice in Wonderland. On a related note, our Geometry class class had to read Flatland by A. Square (Edwin Abbott Abbott). Both of which are awesome books. I've since read Flatland over again!

Now, however, my memories of Alice in Wonderland's story have been a little twisted by movie adaptations and comics and video games and the like. Especially Jan ҆vankmajer's Alice, a stop-animation movie involving a super-creepy stuffed scissor-wielding White Rabbit.

You know, I always thought the White Rabbit seemed a little cracked out. Always rushing around; worrying about this & that; trying desperately not to be late for something. You could totally pull a druggy motif out of that story.

So, I drew a tweaking rabbit. You've got to ask yourself, "What's in his pockets?" Snacks? Money? Poker chips? Marbles? Sand? Shotgun shells? Half-eaten candles? Sawdust? Chess pieces? Shrimp? Carrots? Lent? More pocket watches?

I'm not telling. And he's too far gone to reveal the secret. So it looks like your imagination will just have to keep!

Hella Tricks

Continuing the HP illustration series, I present to you the crazy, dirty-hot Bellatrix Lestrange, best known for being dark-haired and nuts. You could often find her leading a few Deatheaters around, spouting threats and being especially wicked towards our young lead characters. Well, what can you expect after being thrown into Azkaban for a while? Best to exercise caution when she's around. Wands at the ready, etc.

It looks like I'm going to draw all the characters that had wild and interesting hair, doesn't it? Hmmm.

This drawing is dedicated to my friend Alexis, who is quite obsessed with Ms. Lestrange.

My friend Matt is also drawing a series of Dobby (the house-elf) doing menial chores. It is quite amusing! I'll post a link after he puts them up on his illo blog.

Dirty Hagrid

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Everyone loves Hagrid. Maybe you empathize because some look down on him (not literally because he is usually the tallest figure around). Maybe you admire his courage in caring for the Hogwarts students. Or maybe you like him because he gives great hugs?

This illustration shows Hagrid trying to hide his hippogriff, Buckbeak, from prying eyes. Well, I wouldn't say you or I are exactly "prying," but I'm sure he wants to keep BB hidden, just in case. You never know WHO might be checking out Booksketch.

I posted Snape over at Draw, Burt Draw! for some reason. I should have posted it here, eh? Here's a link: Quite A Severe Fellow

I'll probably draw some more HP characters soon!

Jibber Jabber(wocky)

The Jabberwocky (from Through the Looking-Glass) by Lewis Carroll
Illustration by Brian Jocks

Callooh! Callay!

"The Jabberwocky" is a poem full of nonsense-words about a boy who goes on a quest to slay a monster. It's short and sweet. Here's a play by play:

Our hero is a boy with a vorpal sword. He's out for blood, but so his manxsome foe: The Jabberwock! As our hero tires from his search, he takes a rest by the Tumtum tree. Then here comes the Jabberwocky, with eyes of flame, whiffling and burbling through the forest.

How will it end? Will the beamish boy go galumphing back home with the head of the Jabberwock? Or will the monster grab that vorpal blade and show the kid who the real king of the forest is?

You'll have to read to find out.

My illustration is an imagining of the Jabberwocky as the victor.

Shake, Rattle & Toll

The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

Ivan, a middle-aged, upper-class, high-stature Russian judge, lives a straightforward posh lifestyle. He doesn't really like his wife, but hey, who's perfect? He is very content to climb on his social ladder.

Well, one day, while on an actual ladder, Ivan slips while trying to hang some fancy new curtains. He injures his side, but brushes away the immediate pain. After suffering in non-silence for a few days, Ivan is forced to have a physician check on the symptoms.

Cause - :shrug:
Prognosis - Certain death.

Distraught that this is his fate after having lived such a "good" life, Ivan starts to loath his family and friends, who don't seem to acknowledge that the death bell is tolling. The impending doom shakes apart how Ivan defined his life. The book continues on in an intense and insightful study of what could go through a person's mind as he or she is reasoning and struggling with the concept of approaching death.

Reading a Tolstoy book is like peering directly into the human mind. You get to feel and experience what Ivan is going through, whether you are OK with that or not. I can only begin to imagine what would go through my head if a doctor told me I'd be on the outs in a couple of months. I've never really been a "self-searching" kind of guy, but I supposed I'd start looking for something, if that were the case.

Pigs Are Texting!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

I'm sure if Animal Farm were re-written tomorrow, or made into some hammy Hollywood production, this illustration might become reality. Well, movie reality.

If you aren't familiar with this classic story, here is a very succinct summary:

Some farm animals get fed up and overthrow some farm humans.

I don't really think that's a spoiler, but I won't go any further. It's a short book, OK?

I should probably also explain the text. "Pigs are walking," is a great quote from the novel. Applied to society (and not in the farm animal context of the book), it is used to describe people or things that are trying to be something that they are not. So, a "hipper" version would involve some hip activity, such as hula-hooping or candy-striping. Or texting.


A sister and brother who love each other dearly are turned into a lamb and a little fish, respectively, by their very jealous witch-stepmother in order to keep them apart.
The lamb is saved from the cook's knife by her brother's song...

"Ah, little sister, up on high,
How sad is my poor heart
While in this pond I lie."

Who doesn't love a fairy tale now and then?

No Boats About It

The Underground Man by Mick Jackson

The ending of The Underground Man left me thoroughly saddened. In addition to that, I am also reading Chris Ware's Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth, which brilliant but also mega-depressing. So, to combat this overall wamp-wamp mood, I decided to draw one of the lighter moments in The Underground Man.

The Duke is coerced to participate with all the townsfolk that has congregated to play on the manor's frozen lake. To prevent the townsfolk from knowing The Duke's identity, his manservant, Clement, bundled The Duke with so many layers that he could barely move his limbs or head. With ancient skates in hand, he set off to the frozen lake shore.

There he found a very small child sitting in a boat that was stuck halfway in the frozen lake. They were both equally equipped against the cold weather. Mobility sacrificed for the sake of warmth. The child took notice of him and offered him and apple. "Ap-ple?"

"Good boy," the Duke said, and patted the child on his well-insulated noggin.

About the illustration:
Watercolor with ink overlay. I also changed the black ink on the snow to gray ink in Photoshop.

After I decided to draw this scene, I realized that the other Booksketch I did for The Underground Man (The Apple Tree) also focused on apples. While "apple" can't really be a theme, there were several times where apples where mentioned and discussed. The Duke did have an apple orchid on his property, so they were probably on his mind a lot, haha.

Making a Mockery

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Illustrations by Brian Jocks

Ever since reading this story I have been trying to illustrate the Mock Turtle. I've painted him, and drawn him over and over. So, obviously I've got finished pieces in a variety of media. Hope you guys like them.

In the book,
Alice and the Gryphon run into him on the beach and he's weeping. He tells them he used to be a real turtle and talks about his school in the ocean. He goes on to teach Alice a dance called the Lobster Quadrille. In this dance, sea creatures dance with lobsters and hurl them into the ocean. I really liked the imagery, so I drew the Mock Turtle with a reluctant dance partner. It looks a little more like a crawfish than a lobster, but I figured that Crawfish Quadrille has a nice ring to it.

At the end of the book, Alice wakes up to the sounds of Cows 'moo'ing and this kinda explains the Mock Turtle's strange cries and his cowishness.

More sketches to come from Wonderland


Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
Illustrations by Brian Jocks

I really loved working on these illustrations. I've always had a strange fascination with insects, especially beetles. When I read this story, I pictured Gregor Samsa (who wakes up one day transformed into a huge 'vermin') as an awkwardly large beetle stumbling around on twiggy legs.

Unbeknownst to me, he is traditionally assumed to be a cockroach (I still don't buy it). His condition greatly affects his family who were completely financially dependent on him. Oh, and at some point his dad throws an apple at him and it wedges in his back.

A good read for all, especially if you like bug related family tragedies.

Mental Images

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

It's hard not to picture Jack Nicolson when thinking about this story, right? Good thing I didn't booksketch McMurphy close-up!

Picture above is our not-so-beloved Nurse Ratched (aka Big Nurse) about to go nuts because McMurphy has yet again gotten under her rock-hard skin. The narrator does mention how Big Nurse seems to transform and grow larger when she gets unsettled/furious. I thought that'd make a great illustration! I also drew a single strand of hair gone awry because our narrator (if I remember correctly) mentioned how her hair was rigid and immovable, fixed in place for all time, much like her hold over the ward.

An especially powerful novel about institutions, causes, and bucking the system, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest has a lot to offer. There is quite a bit of comedy, provided by McMurphy's rebellious attempts to pull the rug out from under the psychiatric institution. There are darker themes, relating to the patients who don't really need to be in the institution, and those that really do need help.

One major point that the book makes is that the system which was created specifically to treat serious mental conditions aren't necessarily the most effective means of treatment, and could be second to a strong character who could motivate the patients. McMurphy helped everyone in the ward out, while Nurse Ratched kept them rooted in their problems with threats and an icy grip of control.

Of course, a raunchy night with alcohol and poker isn't going to cure the sick, eh?

To sum up the plot: A man (McMurphy) fakes insanity to avoid a prison sentence. When he gets put in an institution, he makes it his goal to upset the system. From what I remember, there are two main struggles: McMurphy vs. The Ward and the Patients vs. Themselves.

Really strong novel. Should be on everyone's reading list!

The Beginning of The Ender

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

In the future, mankind faces threat of attack from a bug-like alien race. To prepare for war, the government has started recruiting children to train to become war tacticians. At age six, children take an aptitude test in which passing means a ten-year training program on a space station.

In a society that only strongly disapproves of parents having more than two children, Ender Wiggin is born as a Third child, which causes him and his family a good deal of discomfort. It just so happens that Ender, even from the age of six, is an extremely bad-ass strategist.

The illustration above portrays a very young Ender. Every aspect of his education has been a trial since the government is always closely monitoring his abilities. His final "test" to be accepted into the academy was to be confronted by several older children who taunt Ender for being a Third and for "failing" his aptitude test. An educated shrouded in violence and war.

To assure that these children are removed as threats, six-year old Ender effectively neutralizes the leader of this pack to ensure that he would not be confronted again. This act gains him a pass into the next stage of his training.

The book is sometimes surprisingly violent, which is heightened by the fact that most of the characters are children. The book shows us a society that forces war upon children and really takes away their childhood and replaces it with tactics and service to "a greater cause."

Ender is constantly tested, harassed, and isolated from his peers, in hopes of "making him the perfect weapon" against the alien threat. Personal conflict, moral issues, war on all fronts.

It's a great book. I love it.

Underground Man

The Underground Man by Mick Jackson
Illustration by Blake Lagneaux

I finally started a Book Club (in January) and this quirky novel was our first pick. Great book - the main character was lots of fun. A child-like, geriatric aristocrat, "The Duke" is bewildered and fascinated by the workings of the world around him (which consists mostly of his home and a system of elaborate underground tunnels), and especially by the deterioration of his own body. The book chronicles his quest to get inside his own head ;)

The Duke's intricate comparisons between (and obsession with) maps and medical texts inspired my sketch.

More sketches to come as our Book Club progresses...

An Apple A Sketch

The Underground Man by Mick Jackson

The first page of the book started with the main character wondering what goes on inside an apple tree to make apples bloom. What sorts of intricate machinery sucks up ingredients from the soil and manufactures such a delightful little treat?

Well, I thought that was just perfect for a booksketch. Such an interesting idea for an illustration, and on the first page! I have a very good feeling about this book.

I kind of got carried away with this illustration. I'd say it took about eight hours to complete, colors and all.

Yes, I drew all of those leaves. I hope you appreciate them, Mick!

'Tis the Seasoning

The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck

I remember picking this book up at a local bookstore. It was a wonderful old copy. You know, the kind that has a cover retail of 25¢? I love those.

I felt like reading a short war-related book, so this fit the bill perfectly. I read this book, All Is Quiet on the Western Front and Storm of Steel in short succession. Nothing like bleak war novels to scare/depress the heck out of you.

Anyway, The Moon Is Down is about a small coal-mining town that gets overrun and conquered by an invading force. As with all military-occupied areas, there can be no true peace where freedom is taken away. The army that has invaded the town knows it but still tries to keep order. Things come to a slow boil: soldiers go missing, equipment keeps "breaking," some townsfolk are executed.

The novel does an excellent job of showing us characters on both sides of the conflict. They are all people, after all.

About the illustration:
I like how this composition turned out. Steinbeck made certain to not point out any specific groups of people, though he was most certainly targeting the Nazis as the invaders. The book was published and snuck into Nazi-controlled areas.

I kept the faces out of sight, instead focusing on the character's intent. You can see a soldier kicking back and expecting some food. He's not really expecting a dose of poison, however. In my head, the lady making/bringing the food to the soldier (who has taken residency in her inn) just found out that her husband was taken by the invaders and executed for being a "conspirator." So she's taking a little revenge. Maybe she won't give a lethal dose. Maybe she'll just add in enough to make the man sick, and then she'll have some friends "take care of him" when he is incapacitated.