Saturday, December 18, 2010

Boca Raton Library Poster

I just wrapped up a promotional package for the Boca Raton Public Library. The Friends of the Library are putting on their first of what is to become an annual Book Fair and they asked me to illustrate and design a poster that would be used as mailers, fliers and advertisements.
Some initial sketches
The only directions they gave me were to involve "books and Florida," the latter to include things like beaches, palm trees, etc. While my initial idea was more of a pulling behind or lifting up a library card to reveal the swirls/magic scene, the Friends asked that it be changed to an opening book. As with any print project, I'm looking forward to seeing all of the materials in print. If you live in the Boca Raton area, you can visit the book fair February 5th and 6th at the Spanish River library branch.
Early color comp with initial copy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Teddy Scares Holiday Card

Joe DiDomenico from Applehead Factory asked me to work with fellow Ape Entertainment artsist Lawrence Hugh Burns in creating this year's Teddy Scares holiday card. Lawrence and I have both worked together with the Teddy Scares characters before so it was easy to slip into that mode again. He has a great ability to not only animate his characters but to fill an image with lots of background elements. It's sometimes a challenge working colors with a dense image like this, but the unique look he brings to the setting is always a great payoff.

Copies of the holiday card will be going out to Applehead Factory's fan club and friends, and I'm excited to be a part of the circulation this year. If you want a copy of the card, I think you can find them on Facebook or join their memership club on their website.

Sketch by Lawrence & Approved color comp.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jay Z and the Illuminati

I got an email from Ioana Veleanu at the Philadelphia Weekly to do this week's cover image. The blurb for their main article was about how some hip hop fans believe that the success of artists like Jay Z and Kanye West is linked to their memberships in the Illuminati- a cabal of the wealthiest people in the world who, according to some, uses the force of their shadowy hand to steer the course of world events. This is actually a thing people believe? This was news to me so naturally I went to the internet for some info. My favorite refute to the theory is that, obviously, Kanye West has too big a mouth for the Illuminati and that if he was a member, the Illuminati-Freemasons-Satanists would have had him killed like Tupac and Michael Jackson. Seriously. Read it here, 9th comment.

I worked up the following sketches, trying to incorporate Masonic imagery and Renaissance mysticism.
Sketches done digitally from pencil thumbnails
We went with Sketch 3, but the article had grown to incorporate black politicians and celebrities, so the art director asked me to remove Kanye West and insert Barack Obama and Oprah.

I've mentioned before that I don't have much experience with celebrity likenesses, so this was kind of a struggle to get the faces to the magazine's approval. It's now available in Philadelphia until next Wednesday. Enjoy!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Meg Dunn

I'll be participating in the newest Philadelphia Cartoonist Anthology, and part of the process is a portrait exchange. Each artist doing a likeness of another for their bios. I was picked to do a portrait for Meg Dunn, an artist, creative director and owner of the creative agency Dunnnamic.

For my own portrait, I scored a piece by the amazing Christine Larsen. I have seen it. It is awesome. You'll see it soon.
Final Sketch
Sketchbook Studies

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Ship, Part 2

The Ship, Pt. 2
By Michael Taggart, Illustration by Tim Durning

Cynthia never wears shoes before the first frost.  On the walk from the cabin to the shore—surely one of the last barefoot this season—the dewed stones outside the door chill her awake. She gasps sharp air. Thick grass slides between her toes; the soil keeps its warmth better than the stones. She passes the first trees covering the cliff leading to the water, making sure to touch their trunks. The bark is smoother where her hands have often passed over it.

Moss lines the steep descent, coating Cynthia’s feet in slime. She holds on to chest-height limbs to keep her balance until the cliff eases to a gentle grade by the water. After she emerges from the trees, there is sand, stone, and sea—all gray beneath low morning clouds.

Stone to stone, Cynthia hops across the beach—no footprints—to the water, where the waves rush over her ankles. Her skirt clings to her shins. She focuses on the firmness pressing into her arches.

Where they go must have stone and trees, both old enough to be smooth.

With all the lumber he has accrued, and all the time he spends there, Harold has built a small shack by the jetty. November wind can be cruel, especially on the water. In the shed he keeps his tools, a small generator, a space heater, a chair, a blanket, and a map of the planet. The map is covered with pencil lines marking wishful destinations; the most exciting of them are circled again and again.

Harold’s hammer is nearly silent beside the din of crashing waves. The craft is nearly complete, but Cynthia has not seen it. Down the beach, when she wades into the water, she always looks away from the jetty. At first, Harold invited her every day, hoping she would join him at the gangplank. They could sit together in the shack and admire their vessel as it took shape.

I will see it when we sail, she said. Now he simply wakes before dawn and begins working; the sooner he finishes, the better—and winter’s on its way.

Only the final touches remain. He places another nail in the molding above the helm compass. A clip will go above the flat surface by the wheel to hold maps. Screws…he needs screws for the map clip. And the cleats for the lines. Wax—he needs wax for the lines.

Ten thousand little things, but still in all… He looks out over the twin hulls he has made by his hands alone. As the ship bobs up and down in the shallow sea, he feels trust in the deck. This can work; we can travel someplace fresh. Someplace brighter. Maybe someplace with fewer stones.

Harold looks up from the helm to see Cynthia turned toward him. His heart races, and he waves to her.

She does not wave back, only walks along the stones to the tree line. Harold shrugs, and turns to the shack to find some screws.

© 2010 Michael Taggart

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yet More Sketches

Here are some more sketches while I work on the next fiction installment. This one is from my Ink-Only sketchbook, with pieces done while watching Mad Men, thinking of cats and vikings.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


While I'm working on finishing up next month's short fiction piece, enjoy this elk drawn from the dioramas at the Academy of Natural Sciences.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Ship, Part 1

The Ship, Part 1
By Michael Taggart, Illustration by Tim Durning
Ribbons of August noon stripe Harold’s arms. They pull, heavy with their tool, and pause a moment between those light columns. Then in a blur, they arc the axe toward the trunk of an ancient pine tree. The wedged gash becomes a little deeper. Harold pants, readjusts his stance, and pulls back again.
“It’s still summer. We don’t need firewood.” His wife Cynthia has come quietly on the path from their cabin. Half of her glows in the full brunt of a sunbeam; the other half fades into penumbra.
Harold lands another blow, leaving the axe in the cut to wipe his brow. His frame is lean from a life lived by his hands. Cynthia, too—the both of them, pointedly separate from the comfortable world.
“This isn’t for firewood,” he says.
Cynthia simply waits.
“I’m starting a new project.”
Still she remains silent.
“I thought…I thought I’d build the boat.”
“The boat.”
He has talked of the boat before. She has little doubt his hands could craft it. And she has heard in detailed mattress fancies the vessel’s design. A catamaran—stable in shallow waters and in deep. She would be large enough for the open ocean, but not so great as to need more than two to sail.
They would close the cabin and launch from the stone jetty only yards from their door. Harold has a sextant he has labored long to understand, and an astrolabe that yet eludes him. By stars and compass alone, they would travel the oceans and find some other place untouched by comfortable things.
Oh, he has recited this endless times before drifting to sleep on her shoulder. Never before has he taken an axe to pine with intent to fashion a keel.
Cynthia crosses her arms. “Is this really what you want?”
Harold again takes up the axe. “It is.”
She walks up behind him. He pauses in his swings. In his ear, she whispers, “I love you, so we will do this. But I prefer the forest.”
He turns to her. “But I love you, and could not sail alone.”
“I know,” she says, taking hold of his arm. “But where we go is up to me.”
©2010 Michael Taggart

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Hallowed Halloween

I was lucky enough to be invited to another joint Philadelphia Cartoonists' Society & Autumn Society show, this one's theme is Hallowed Halloween. 32 artists giving their take on all things Halloween with a focus on the traditional roots of the holiday- i.e. no Monster Squad tribute pieces. The show is at Proximity Gallery, opening October 1st. Proximity is located at 2434 East Dauphin St., Philadelphia, PA.

I did a lot of research about Samhain and other harvest/seasonal celebrations, settling on the idea of dressing up to ward oneself from the spirits that walk the earth at this time of year. It was believed that because this time of year was the time when plants and animals began to die off as summer fades, the dead could reach into this world. Men and women would disguise themselves as spirits and carry carved turnips that were lit with a candle to ward off the more harmful ghosts. I took to opportunity to draw a bundle of spirits, some inspired by myth/folklore and others purely imagined.

Some other info below. Sketch done in Photoshop which is then printed on top of paper to do the final drawing. Colored lines, then the flats which help to keep selections easy and streamline the color.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Goin' Hollywood

I had a new experience a few weeks ago, being asked to work on concepting for a local film project in Philadelphia. The director had seen my work and thought I would be a good fit for the project in developing concept art for the funding stage of the project. The script was a subtle treatment for a story that dealt with grief, recovery and the spirits of lost love ones. It seemed to be a story that fit me. Included are the three rough sketches that we developed in a back and forth. The short film is called Finding Father and I wish the project luck as they move forward.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Lip of Everything

The Lip of Everything
By Michael Taggart, Illustration by Tim Durning

You brought me to the plateau’s edge with sure steps. I would have turned back if not for such a firm path to follow. Footprints only guide my own steps; I cannot bear the whipping sand and dust when I bring my head up from a groundward gaze.

The seasons will change in moments, and the canyon below will roar with red wind. You say we’re light enough—and the wind will be strong enough—to carry us aloft.
What comes next no one has said.

Maybe the gale will carry us off to some other canyon. We’ll spend the winter there, and return when the seasons turn again. Maybe we’ll be too heavy and fall below the streams of red dust rushing through the canyon—down below hope. And maybe the wind will have mercy and set us down gently at the foot of the steppe.

Have you ever been this high? I can breathe the air so easily, despite the wind and the dust. Here it moves past you; at the bottom it hangs all around. This is glory.

You step off before I can say another word—so fast I can’t see where you’ve gone. Stepping to the edge, I don’t see you falling, but you could already have fallen below the red windriver.

Here I am at the lip of everything. Everything I stand to gain, everything to lose.

I’ve heard no worthier gamble.

© 2010 by Michael Taggart

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sketching in Canada

Earlier last month I had the opportunity to go on a road trip up through Pennsylvania and into Canada with friends from high school. It was my first time exploring the North and the siren song of its autumn-like summer, but I hope to have the chance to visit again. Below are some sketches from the journey.

Clouds over the QEW
Toronto and the cloudy skies.
Campsite at Cherry Springs

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The River Wild

The River Wild, 13.5x5", graphite/digital

I got a call from the AD at GRID Magazine, a Philadelphia publication that focuses on sustainability and environmental concerns, to do a piece for their back page essay entitled The River Wild. The author advocates swimming in the local rivers of Philadelphia and the possibilities thereof.  The nature of the article made me cringe a bit, bringing to mind the idea of trash and debris (read, bodies) floating about you while you're out for a bit of swim, but there is a confidence and love of nature in the article that imbues the reader with the sense of curiosity. It made me want to experience the historic bodies of water in my backyard and embrace the river. That, and the article makes a point to mention how clean the rivers are these days.

UPDATE/ The AD was kind enough to send me a PDF of the article in its layout. So, enjoy the piece in its home. 


Sunday, August 1, 2010


By Michael Taggart, Illustration by Tim Durning
The sink turns on every time, so you and I are not thirsty. This I know; this I’ve seen.

Colorado left me cold, which I suppose is Colorado’s job. A childhood of white everything stoked a hunger for the deeper tones—brick and blood reds, desert yellows, rich blues of ancient dye. For this hunger, I chose to leave Boulder as a tumbleweed, which raised everyone’s eyebrows. Eagle would have made my parents proud, and mountain would have offered some financial stability, but the notion of life as tumbleweed appealed to me: to be the ultimate freewheeler, rolling the Four Corners, slave to nothing, driven only by prevailing winds.

I did not expect roots.

In Utah, I tumbleweeded over holy roots that pulled at my loose deadgrass sphere. But for a strong gulfstream draft pulling me away, the holy roots would have me now. They wanted me to put on a tie, and they sang so well I was almost sold. Angels, they said, came now and again to give them the sweetest water you ever tasted. Just wait a while, and you’ll taste it. Tumbleweeds don’t drink water, sweet or not. As a seed, as a coyote, as a cloud, I would have stayed.

In Arizona, I tried to tumbleweed into the oldest roots. I had heard airy stories, almost mystic stories, about the wisdom in the juices of these old roots. And they did go deep, or at least they claimed. Some could not remember their depths—perhaps yesterday, perhaps the first raindrop. Well I could not stay with the old roots, even if they wanted me to—and I’m not sure they did. The roots’ arms that touched me on the surface were starved and sick with bad water. They had forgotten how to reach deep for strength. The ones I saw anyway, but the stories came from somewhere I suppose.

Plague ran rampant in New Mexico. Roots crumbled in every neighborhood I rolled past, and all the oldest ones had the same explanation: the strange roots from elsewhere made us sick. Now these strange roots didn’t say much at all, and the only sickness I could see was thirst. They worked hard inching their tendrils deep into the soil, where water might rest. Most of the new, strange roots accused the old ones of hoarding all the water. Maybe they did. Old roots do. But old roots also don’t work as hard; they don’t see the point. So When the young and strange roots found some water, they weren’t about to share it. And they all yelled at each other and hated at each other for the hottest parts of the day. Thank goodness for the winds off the Pacific; I wanted out of there before the water ran out again.

Those Pacific winds blew me right back to Boulder. I shook off the shape of the deadgrass ball, fatigued of freewheeling. The rivers run rich from the mountains, and we all drink freely—I less so than others. I’ll ask for the smallest cups and sip gingerly as my family takes big gulps from jugs filled in springs and wells and glaciers. They tell me it’s a phase I’ll pass through, an artifact from the tumbleweeding. But I’ve seen thirsty; I am not thirsty. Small sips will do, from cups filled at the sink.

© 2010 Michael Taggart

Friday, July 30, 2010

Philadelphia Weekly

I was lucky enough to do the most recent cover of the Philadelphia Weekly. A lot of illustrators I admire like Edward Kinsella and Tim Gough have graced the covers and as such PW has been on my client wish-list for a while. The story itself is a sad one about a woman who kept almost 90 animals in her small row home. They were all uncared for, living is squalid conditions. The PSPCA raided the home after complaints from the neighbors. The neighborhood has been shaken up by the incident and the events leading up to the raid have caused strife on Earp St. that continues to this day. To read the full article on PW's website, read here.

Regarding the image, AD Robyn John wanted a cast of dogs spilling from all parts of this house, seemingly left to fend for themselves. I tried to make the place look cold and dingy – my experience with Philadelphia apartments informed that part quite a bit.

The chosen sketch

The image sans design. 10.13x10.875", graphite/ink/digital

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Recent Work

Thought I would share some of my recent work in this sort of shotgun, link-filled post. Hope you enjoy the pieces

PowerGons, 13.75x10", Graphite/ink/digital
Illustration for HDRI 3D Magazine about PowerGons, a rendering tools that transforms normal polygons into effect-producing elements.

Awakening, 6.625x10.25, Graphite/ink/digital
A pinup for Volume 2 of my friend Alex Eckman-Lawn's graphic novel Awakening, published by Archaia.

I recently took over doing colors for the comic Valentine with Alex de Campi and Christine Larsen. Monsters, swords and magic. These are all from Volume 5, available from iTunes/Android stores by Robot Comics.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

All Hands on Deck

The Drowned Man's Pageantry, 10x15", graphite/ink/digital

I will be participating in another show at Chapterhouse Gallery in Philadelphia. The show is title All Hands on Deck, a collaborative show with 30 artists from the area. In the words of the collaborator:

"In July 2010, in America's birthplace of Philadelphia, 30 emerging young artist of diverse skill sets have enlisted their services in riding the waves of discovery in effort to provide new additions of pictures to provide visual dialogs of mankind's fascination with the sea.
words. Matt Cavanaugh"

My piece, The Drowned Man's Pageantry, is on display. The show is opening on Friday July 9th, at Chapterhouse Gallery, 620 South 9th Street Philadelphia, PA. Hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Cloud Journal

The Cloud Journal
By Michael Taggart, Illustration by Tim Durning

The cirrus is the coming or going of stormclouds, their vanguard or their echo. If the ground is wet, the sky was violent yesterday; otherwise it will be tonight.

August, so the smell of rain on hot asphalt lingered. An evening thunderstorm blew out quick, and the sky bled orange and purple through every window. You would leave for the war in the morning. I was afraid but couldn’t say so. I slammed the house door and the porch door and got goosebumps from the air suddenly chilled. I wanted to walk to clear my head. I walked all night. By the time I returned, the moon had risen and set. I fell asleep on the couch. Your car was gone when I woke.
A note on the kitchen table:

Went early to spare you. We’ll talk soon.
We live under the takeoff path. I ran outside and tried to find your plane flying over our house. All I saw were cirrus clouds, marring an otherwise perfect sky. No trace of last night’s rain, no trace of your jet trails. I wondered if the cirrus were for last night’s storm, or one yet to come.

Cumulus humilis form in fair weather. They are light and fluffy, and abundant on idyllic spring days. Often found in the memories of young lovers and parents teaching their children to fly kites.

It was inevitable you would fall in love with airplanes. I don’t blame you, of course—we live by the airbase because I love them too.
Six years old, running in a dandelion-spotted field hidden in Virginia hills. Your mother and I felt young under the endless cumulus parade. We lied in the May grass and let our eyes hop from one cloud to the next, while you made jet noises and ran zigzags on the hill, your arms outstretched. You soared over and hovered above us, a sunlight corona around your head and shoulders.
              Daddy, you said, can you fly airplanes?
              I smiled. I used to, but not anymore.
              I wanted to be with you and Mommy.
              I want to fly airplanes too.
              Your mother rolled her eyes. I leapt up and flew you around in my arms, and we made jet noises together.

When it seems as though the sky simply wants to deny you sunlight—that is nimbostratus. It looks gray all day but never rains.

Annapolis, twenty-two. The pictures never show a gray commencement—God knows mine wasn’t. The hats went up anyway, as did the cheers.
I was proud, of course, but anxious. I knew what came next: Pensacola, then San Antonio or Corpus Christi, then maybe home to Virginia. Oceana is where they fly the fast jets.
I’m gonna get those gold wings like my old man, you said.
I told you I loved you no matter what you did, but I don’t think you believed me. Somehow in your four midshipman years—and maybe in the years of daydreaming before—you had made those wings the only way to make me proud.
I was proud when you acted in the school plays, too. Or when you wanted to learn the guitar.
Anything you did would have made me beam, but you couldn’t see.

Cumulonimbus—the granddaddy of clouds. Towering, dark, sinister beasts so full of power they humble a man just to look at one. Pilots know to avoid these as best they can. But sometimes they come too fast and grow too big. Then you just have to punch through and hope you stay in the air.

Tonight’s storm has hail to it; you would love it.
I forgive you for leaving how you did. I know why. I’m sorry I couldn’t say what needed saying better.
The first deployment is always the hardest, but easier these days. Your mother and I will write you every day, and send you videos if we can figure out how to work the camera. Don’t forget how many people care about you here. Keep safe for them as much as yourself.
I won’t say anything about the job. You have plenty to tell you about that where you are.
This is going to be a long summer without you around. I already miss naming clouds and airplanes on our morning run. It will be a long fall and winter too. We just have to push through, as always.
If I were a braver man, I could say some of these things to you. There are old pilots, bold pilots, but no old bold pilots. Having lived to see you become you, I am happy to not be bold. More honest, I wish, but there it is.
You will not read this soon. It doesn’t matter, though—the clouds won’t come in different shapes then.

© 2010 by Michael Taggart

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In the Southwest


I was fortunate enough to go on a trip through the Southwest recently, mainly in Utah and Arizona, hiking/camping in parks like Bryce Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, the Goosenecks, and the Grand Canyon. Though I've never been to the desert I have always loved the colors and feel that the rocky spires and open space elicits. The trip offered lots of up close and personal experiences while hiking down amongst the rocks, learning about the geology that is behind the landscape, and the occasional museum trip to learn about the tribes who have been living in the area for thousands of years.

The words here can only hint at the full experience, but suffice to say I really enjoyed exploring a landscape that is so unlike wooded Pennsylvania. As it goes, I had to bring work with me so I'll be posting new illustrations soon. Until then, pretty pictures of the desert.



Sunday, April 4, 2010

Kate Nash

Kate Nash, 8x6", graphite/ ink/ digital

In an exercise in likenesses, I've done a quick portrait of British musician Kate Nash. Inspired by her album Made of Bricks, which is bright, clever, and confrontational, I wanted something straight forward that was not directly musical and featured her trademark hair.

Hope you enjoy the piece. I don't often do portraits but I know I want to try my hand at more.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Girl & Her White Knight

A Girl & Her White Knight, 17.6x14", pencil/ink/digital
The above is a new image I'll be using in a mail promotion in the coming weeks. I wanted to try something more complicated in the use of the figure, so there's a bunch of them. The idea is one that's a bit old timey or romantic- a girl finding comfort from the throng with her own "white knight," a bit of hero imagery in there. I hope you enjoy it. PS- The landscape from the last post would have gone in place of the flower panel, but didn't work out.

White Knight details, Click to enlarge

I'm also posting some of my work outside of illustration. A good portion of my work is in design and, more and more lately, doing colors for comic books. The samples below are from Shrek for Dreamworks (pencils/inks provided by the wonderful Christine Larsen), a logo design for a cycling kit, and Teddy Scares for Applehead Factory (done with Chris Patchell and Lawrence Hugh Burns). The Shrek books will premier on Free Comic Book Day, May 2nd and Teddy Scares will premier the their 2nd season of graphic novels at San Diego Comic Con, July 22-25.

Click to enlarge

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Didn't Make the Cut

Landscape for White Knight, 4x17", pencil/digital

I'll be posting some new work soon, but while I get that together I wanted to share a piece that didn't make it. In my images, I've always enjoyed combining disparate ideas to try and reach a single impression- it also lets me work on several of my favorite subjects at once.

This landscape was going to go into a piece, but in the end it just made it too busy. Poor guy. I still like the piece for its simplicity, and I will always enjoy drawing grassy fields and clouds, so I thought I would share this image rather than just burying it. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Rust, 7.5x10", graphite/digital

Hi all. I've just completed an image for ArtOrder- a blog run by Jon Schindehette, senior art director for Dungeons & Dragons over at Wizard's of the Coast. Jon runs these great challenges for illustrators to create monsters, book covers, characters, maps and a myriad of other fantasy creations. I was really enticed when he announced the Rust challenge. This challenge was interpretive from the get go. Jon supplied us only with dimensions, color profile, and this quote:
"A sword, a spade, and a thought should never be allowed to rust"
~ James Stephens, Irish poet and storyteller, 1882-1950
Everything else was up to the artist, which is fantastic. I still wanted to operate within the DnD universe and thought to portray a rusted, old, forgotten warforged who is being revived or healed by a mysterious mage-kinda girl. I liked playing with the idea that the warforged is that type of creature who is all at once, sword, spade and thought. From there the quote took on an interesting concept- does this girl serve a guild of artificers seeking to restore these dormant creatures, what is her relation to the warforged, etc. I feel like I have a whole story around this picture, but it's more internalized and hard to write out.

Sketches, Finished drawing, Color study.
All of the entries should be up on the blog within days, but until then check out this in-progress drawing by art-friend Kristina Carroll. Looking forward to seeing that painting. Thanks and enjoy.