Spaceship Pin-Up

I had some extra time this week, due to the 4th of July break, and I had the urge to draw something that wasn’t for a t-shirt or a freelance client. So, naturally, I turned to‘s Character of the Week activity. The prompt was a pin-up girl for the side of a space fighter. I went for sort of a Fifth Element-meets-Starcraft vibe.

Mockup of the graphic on the side of a ship

They ask for character sheets with turnarounds and design sketches now:

Character turnaround, design silhouettes, and logo designs

Here’s the final illustration by itself:

The final graphic

Card Game Character Design Part II

As we saw last time, I usually start a character design with some silhouettes, laying out big shapes and trying different ideas in broad strokes. I like to design characters who aren’t tied to the same outfit all the time – a character’s clothing should probably have a core set of shapes, color palette, and visual cues, but I like flexibility. That means that body type and facial features are the most consistent elements in a design. I already figured out the body in my silhouettes, so now its time to move onto the head.

After some exploratory sketches, I came up with 6 potential faces. For this character, the client was trying to nail down a particular look, so I decided to separate out the face and the hair. You’ll notice a kind of grid going on here – each face gets its own row, then there’s a column for loose, braided, and pinned-up hair.

We narrowed the field down to three faces, but the hairstyle was still totally up in the air. I put together a more detailed hair sheet for each face – you can see the one for the final face above.

At this point, the client knew he wanted that face with some sort of braided hair, so I did one last sheet with a bunch of braided hair variations. As you can see in Part I, we ended up going with #6.

Card Game Character Design Part I


Earlier this year, I got an email from a gentleman out in California who’s developing a steampunk card game and needed some character designs. As it turned out, I only ended up doing one character. But both the client and I were happy with the final design, so I thought I’d share my sketches here as sort of breakdown of (one way) I design characters. The game is still in development and the final art will likely be based on these drawings, so the client has asked me not to mention the name of the project or the character. Feel free to speculate based on earlier work.

The character is a 16-20 year old Edwardian farmgirl turned steampunk inventor. All my visual cues came from trying to stick those ideas together. For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to divide the design process into 3 linear stages – silhouettes, heads, and costumes. In reality, the design process bounced back and forth between these areas.

After a rough brainstorming phase, where I scribble things and collect visual research, I like to start a character design with a silhouette. Working in silhouette lets you lay down a lot of information about a design quickly, and allows you the freedom to easily add/drop/remix elements and poses. Animators, cartoonists, and game designers will tell you that a character’s silhouette is the most important part of their design. The viewer sees the whole shape first. Depending on the context, they may only see the shape. And the silhouetted shape can tell the viewer a ton of information about the character’s personality, attitude, and background. See Aaron Diaz and Rad Sechrist‘s blogs for more info.

In this case, the character’s body type and level of stylization were more or less locked in with the brief, so I settled into a core silhouette after only a few sketches. From there, I started playing around with costume elements like clothing and hair. This is where I try to break up the big shape with smaller shapes that provide texture and additional character details without ruining the read of that main silhouette, while simultaneously trying to fold in my visual research and get as many design options as possible on the table.

Sometimes, as with this project, I need to pull back to a simpler set before going forward into more detailed design work.

Next time! Where did all the hairstyles from the first set of silhouettes go? And why doesn’t this poor girl have a face?

Hester Street Fair

The Hunt for the Seven Gentlemen

I’m going to be at the Hester Street Fair this Saturday, peddling prints and handing out business cards and charm. The Fair goes down every Saturday from 10-6 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side at the corner of Hester St. and Essex St. They’ve got all manner of local vendors, including food stands, other artists, vintage/antiques/homemade goods shopping, and a bunch of quirky businesses. Check their website for a full list!

I’ll have a table set up with my work, so if you’re in NYC on May 28th, come by to say hi and maybe purchase a print. If you want, I’ll even sketch something for you. As long as it’s a dinosaur with a jetpack.

If you can’t make it but you’d still like to buy a print, take a look at my Etsy shop. It’s pretty okay!

Etsy Shop & Sketches

Watch out, The Internet – I’ve moved my print store over to Etsy, the handmade/arts & crafts marketplace. Clicking the ‘Store’ link on my site will now take you over to You can still buy the same shiny illustration prints as before, but now you can do it through Etsy’s attractive digital storefront. Why not test it out and purchase a print right this very instant?

Now, I’ve had a lot of news-type posts lately, which has led to a lack of new work posted on the blog. I’m going to try and fix this by posting regular excerpts from my sketchbook. Here’s some stuff from this weekend, for example:

And a side note – my show is still up at the Mendham Borough Library. Be sure to swing by before it goes down at the end of the month, if you’re able.

Library Update 2 – Press Roundup

A number of local papers here in northern NJ have been nice enough to publish articles or blurbs about my show at the Morris County Library. Sue Clarke over at the Daily Record and Phil Garber at the Observer-Tribune both did cool write-ups, and the Star Ledger put a notice in their Morris County Digest section. The Daily Record also ran a Q and A column for a feature called ‘Hidden Talent’, though I can’t seem to find a link to that online. If anyone’s interested in reading it, let me know and I’ll post the text.

Also – the show is now going to be up for another month! At the end of March I’ll be moving everything over to the Mendham Borough Library, where it will be on display through April 30th. I’ll also be giving my talk a second time at the Borough Library on April 7th at 7:00 PM. So if you didn’t make it out last Saturday, you’ll have a second chance to hear all about my Princess of Mars illustrations.

Library Update

My show at the Morris County Library is now up! We’re calling it “Visual Storytelling”. Here are a few photos I took:

And here’s the press release:

Visual Storytelling – Author/Illustrator David Brunell-Brtuman – Solo Art Show at the Morris County Library

Mendham resident David Brunell-Brutman has always been a storyteller. He scribbled his way through school – penning short stories, typing out plays, even writing a novel before the age of 15. He doodled incessantly as well, but it wasn’t until late high school that David realized he could tell a story not just with words, but through drawing and design. Inspired by the powerful visual storytelling he saw in videogame and film pre-production art, David enrolled in the illustration program at Washington University in St. Louis, graduating in 2010 with a BFA in both English (Writing) and Communication Design (Illustration).

Brunell-Brutman’s art will be on display at a solo show at the Morris County Library at 30 East Hanover Avenue in Whippany during the month of March during Library hours (Monday-Thursday, 9AM-9PM; Friday-Saturday, 9AM-5PM; and Sunday, 1PM-5PM). On Saturday, March 19 at 1 PM David will give a “Meet the Artist” talk about his work and his original illustrations for A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic 1912 pulp science fiction novel, a precursor of such modern sci-fi adventures as Star Wars, The Matrix, and Avatar. The Library show will feature all twelve Princess of Mars illustrations along with David’s concept art exploring the alien cultures of Mars, and David’s cover designs for a handmade paperback edition of the novel.

The many illustrations on exhibit highlight a diverse set of influences. David’s pop culture inspirations cover comic book artists like Mike Mignola, animated films like The Secret of Kells, and videogames from studios like Blizzard Entertainment. His work frequently sports a historical bent, drawing visual cues from Victorian English fashion and design, Japanese ukiyo-e prints, and the ancient Mediterranean world. His style of illustration, with its bold ink lines and strong geometric shapes, also speaks to his love of the 20th century Art Nouveau and Art Deco movements.

David currently works as a freelance illustrator, putting his visual storytelling skills to use in music videos, games, and comics. His work has been shown at the Anachronism NYC and the Cinemazero Film Festival in Italy, and won him a spot in the Society of Illustrators’ 2010 Student Showcase.

When he’s not telling stories with pictures, he tells them with audio – writing, directing, and editing original radio plays for the KWUR Theater of the Air, a weekly radio show on KWUR 90.3 FM in St. Louis. David is also the author of an online illustrated novella, The Aethereal Adventures of Emma Verne, which follows the life and times of a spunky girl aboard a steampunk airship-city.

Brunell-Brutman can be found on the web at

A bit self-congratulatory for my tastes, but there you have it. The important bit is, if you’re interested in seeing my talk about the Princess of Mars drawings on display at the Library, come by at 1 PM on the 19th.

Finally – special thanks to the Morris County Library for the awesome exhibition space, Lisa Pantel for organizing the show and working publicity, and to Mary Lou Sparano for curating and hanging the work. You’ve all been great!