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If you are the kind of person who likes to see how things get made, this blog is for you. I’m going to share some of the work behind the Chili-Making letterpress print project that’s currently running on Kickstarter.

Here’s the very first sketch of the idea.


Just a quick drawing to capture the notion of some witchy-looking, early-Renaissance gals stirring a big batch of chili with demons hovering. Many of the main ideas are there--caldron, smoke, demons, cooks.


Then I spent time wallowing in early Renaissance woodcuts and sketching my impressions in my notebook. I think of this phase as auditioning elements that might be useful in the final composition. For example, here the demons, pepper, ribbon, and fire-breather stayed and the spoon-carrying griffin, bear, monster-face, and flying saucer were dismissed.



I wasn’t sure at first what I wanted my cooks to be like. Initially, I thought they’d be witches. But while sketching, it became clear they should just be  women from the era. No pointy hats needed. The line between a witch and a cook who makes liberal use of peppers should be subtle.

That guy is in lower right is the Witch-Finder General. I thought he might have a role to play, but he didn’t.


I sketched several views for background that found their way into the final design.



On the left is lovely smoke cloud that I rejected. It should be more sinuous and less plump. I drew the smoke cloud several times before I landed on the one at right with a quasi-wood-cut feeling and plenty of darkness. 


My wife, The Amazing Karen, was critical of my flames. I probably drew 50 different flames before I got one that we both liked.



If I have a point in sharing these sketches, rejects, and failures with you, it’s probably this. Don’t expect any creative process to roll forward smoothly. In my experience, it is far more reasonable to expect mistakes, disappointments, and the steady pressure of resistance. Making something is a little like swimming in gravy. Pleasant enough, but seldom much rapid forward motion.


If you enjoy seeing sketches like these, you might like to visit my Flickr page. I post sketches there of whatever I am working on and try to add something fresh once a day. The time line of silly images goes back for years.


Don, Pittsburgh, March 21, 2018

4 Responses


April 05, 2018

Hey!! Love your works; inspired some of my own works as well :)


March 27, 2018

I wish I were tech savvy enough to wake each morning to one of your drawings/sketches/doodles…
Though your world has lots of insects and larger scarier things, I don’t believe any of them are really dangerous, and they make me smile.
Thanks for sharing them.


March 25, 2018

I love your methods and how you develop your iconic images. I am a fan. I am buying your plates as I can to decorate the kitchen. I got the first set for my birthday and they are fine art.

Donavan Bill

March 22, 2018

great stuff! Nice work man!

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