The internet face space of designer, illustrator, type designer, writer, and humorist Terry Biddle.

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In the first installment of the “Process” section of my new site, I’ll document a current project that I’m working on. To be honest, this is uncharted territory for me as I don’t normally “give away my secrets.” But seriously, it’s not like I’m revealing the secret recipe for Popeye’s Fried Chicken or anything. If you happen to know it, though…hook a brova up… nomsane?… (Pst!) CALL ME. 😉

Back to the task at hand… I am currently designing a book. Much to my surprise, the client was interested in using illustration for the cover. The design work I’m normally tasked with is very conservative in nature, hence my surprise. So in addition to the task of the actual book design and text layout, I would be doing a cover illustration.

I don’t normally do both illustration and design at the same time…at least not on this level, so I found myself in the “harder to do than you think” position of having to “Art Direct” myself.

I discussed the concepts with the client and came up with two “tight” sketches (for me that is). The client wanted to convey a person in their office being interrupted. So I worked up two sketches for him with which to build the final.

The first…

From the “interruptee’s” perspective. The second…

The “interrupter’s” perspective. The client chose this particular option. Again with the honesty, this was not my favorite choice. 🙂

And here’s where I dive in depth into the actual failed experiment. Since I actually use a lot of illustration where I work as a designer, I was wondering if my style is being seen as “too cartoony” and not “artistic” enough. Meaning, more texture, more painterly. That tends to be what most decision makers gravitate towards. So, I have admittedly been feeling a little self-conscious about my illustration style.

I actually do paint, mainly in oil, but I’ve since developed a particular illustration style which is structurally at odds with how I paint. I have a painterly, realistic style of oil painting, my illustration style…not so much. Now, I can paint with acrylics, but I don’t use them as often as I’ve used oil paint.

I recently bought a new acrylic paint set to try to bridge the gap between my two ways of working. The problem I run into with acrylic paints is that the translucency of the paint varies greatly and I never know how the paint will react to the paper once I start using it. On this particular occasion it wasn’t working the way I wanted it to. I like my paint to be as opaque as possible.

To add the texture and the artistic element I was looking for I decided to paint the image.

Um, yeah…I was not feeling this. It didn’t feel like me. Taking a step back (and playing Art Director) it didn’t feel like a Terry Biddle illustration. The colors weren’t there, it just didn’t feel right. I also felt much of my inking was clumsy. I wonder also deep down, since this wasn’t my first choice, whether that might have been sitting in my subconscious. Yeah, I don’t really need to go here

So, what to do? This illustration could not be used as is. It just wasn’t up to snuff. So…I decided to use it as an underpainting, like I normally do with oil painting. But this time the canvas would be Photoshop.

Luckily, I was able to salvage my original ink lines (since they were dark enough). I isolated that on it’s on individual layer.

I did end up using the “imperfect” nature of the paint shadow outlines from the original painting in the final. What we ended up with is this…

I am happy with this version. I still have to crop the cover and add the typography, but this is pretty much the finished illustration. A far cry from where we started. This feels like I did it. At a later date I’ll show the cover and full book after it’s published (at this time sometime in August.)

This is my style, this is what I do, so cartoony, or comic booky…I should just embrace it! Do any other illustrators struggle with this I wonder?

Thanks for letting me share my personal screw up! See you again soon! 🙂


I know some of you are like, WTF? That’s right, both of you. 🙂

But seriously. It was time. I built my original website in Dreamweaver. It was fine for the first two iterations, but I needed a better way to manage content. It started becoming a chore to update the website. It essentially meant rebuilding EACH and every page.

A lot of things have changed since the last full version of my site (version 2.0). The iPhone came out (yes, the original). I got married to her. The iPad came out. And this guy became the president of these United States.

I eventually got one a’ them there EYE-Phone thingees. This happened. That happened. And this got real popular.

All this to say, I decided to join the 21st century.

I also added a blog component to the site. My blog will be a lot more chaotic than you’re used to seeing from an illustrator/designer.

I like a lot of stuff. So in addition to showing you my design/illustration processes and projects, I’ll show a cross section of creative stuff that will vary from fashion, tech, music, and even science and politics.

Inspiration can come from anywhere. I think to be a good designer or illustrator you have to pay attention to the world around you.

I’m hoping you’ll enjoy the journey. (Mobile version of the site coming soon.)


T. Biddy