Somedays a walk to the river is a remedy. Amid the ruckus of urban construction projects, the drone of downtown automobile traffic, and the labor of knowledge work, small urban spaces provide much needed havens. I grab a sketchbook, a cup of coffee and 30-minutes beside the river after an afternoon walk.
 The first time I read the term knowledge worker was in a book by Tom Peters. He may have acquired the term from Peter Drucker.
 There is a great coffeeshop, Colectivo, in the Third Ward near the Public Market that I like to visit.
When night winds leaves subzero signatures on the Saturday morning window, it is time for coffee and jazz and few lines of poetry… 
Try to count the colors
In a frosted window at sunrise
try to imagine the hues and shades
Of a Wisconsin winter morning…
 With apologies to Three Crosses, inspired by song “Michelangelo”
Yesterday’s afternoon walk was a bit chilly. Air temperature was around 10°F with wind chill of -7°F. Especially at the corner of Broadway and East Wisconsin. It was practically a wind tunnel. Crossing Water Street was not much better. But I finally made it across the bridge and to the River Walk.
The river was not quite frozen. And for the most part, very few people are out for a wintery stroll. One woman pulled her faux fur lined hood over her head and quickly shuffled out of the Wells Fargo building to a waiting SUV. A couple guys, both dressed in thick dark coats, waited for a bus. There was a man waiting at the street corner smoking a cigarette. He wore a red flannel jacket and no gloves.
Funny how cigarette smoke is so distinct in the frigid air. The subtle distinctions between Camel Turkish Gold 100’s, Marlboro Red, Newport Menthol Blue and Chesterfield Bronze is almost as unmistakable as the scent of a fajita or a falafel. Wondered why he had no gloves.
There was a Tranströmer poem I tried to recall as I walked along the River Walk. My breath, thick clouds, attempted to signal a line of the poem. What was it about? A train? A couple in a hotel? Something about night? Or was it a horizon? The frozen river surface does not help. And forty minutes in the cold temperature sent me back to the warm harbor of the office building.
It is difficult to believe that it is winter in Wisconsin. The weather reports offer that snowfall is in the forecast for this weekend and sub zero temperatures. But for now, a lunch time walk along Milwaukee’s River Walk is a damp pleasure.
Even though it is 30°F outside, it is still nice to take a walk break. Walked to the Third Ward and all the way to Milwaukee’s orange spiky thing by the art museum before heading back to the office.
Sometimes you have to share a moment with a stranger.
The wind chilled my hands as I walked. Needed to stretch my legs after a long commute. I had watched the sky from the green space west of Oak Leaf Trail. Had not planned to compose a photo of the scene. Only enjoy it.
But the desire to compose a photograph won over and I moved closer to the walking bridge over Lincoln Memorial Drive. I stood for awhile watching the beauty of the morning unfold. There will never be another morning like this. Not in thousand years. Once a morning is spent, it can never be duplicated. I have read how the great masters of haiku captured moments in a few lines. Saved them for centuries. Could I do the same? With a photograph?
I do not know how long I stood there. But after I composed a few shots, I placed my camera back in my bag. I noticed an older man to the north. He stood near the walking bridge. I had seen him while walking, but did not notice him while photographing the scene.
We stood there for a moment together watching the sun rise, the clouds, the lake, the lights, the darks. Amid the roar of construction behind us and the wind, it was a quiet moment. My hands grew cold. I saw the stranger pull a mobile device from his pocket. He held it to the sky. Tried to capture the same thing I did. We tried to haiku a morning in a thousand pixels.
He still stood there when I departed and walked north on Prospect Drive.
Fear motivates. The paralyzing fear that if I mess up the coloring of this book cover art, I will have to start the whole process over again. And the completion date is fast approaching. But the task needs to be done. So, onward.
Watercolor washes begin the color process for the book cover illustration.
Paint to the edges and then let the colors bleed. The basic color palette had already been determined weeks prior to the final execution of the cover art. But once the water and pigment are activated on the surface of the paper, the color palette organically builds to its own organized spontaneity.
Details. There are always small details that many casual observers may not detect at first glance. For example, the color for the shotgun shell includes multiple wash layers of different pigments — each layer pulling or pushing color from previous layer.
Once the final art is approved, I finished the design with title bar and a map overlay to texture the collage art.
Nearly done with the back cover illustration. A brush is often forgotten in the process of keeping a clean drawing surface.
Detail of the back cover illustration — a catfish. I have to admit — besides the firewheel flower blossom on the front cover — drawing the catfish was a pleasure.
Front and back cover pen and ink collage drawing completed. Ready for the next phase — watercolor.
The foundation of a great painting is a solid drawing. At least that was my goal when I worked on this book cover illustration for Orison Books. The collage features a firewheel — sometimes called Indian blanket — blossom, shotgun shell and expansive Texas landscape.
Nearly completed pen and ink work on the cover.
Detail of the firewheel flower blossom.
The purpose of thumbnail sketches is to advance the concept of artist, art director and editor to a final product. It seems like a lot of busy work, but three elements are essential: brainstorming, mind-mapping and closing the gap. The following images illustrate the process of thumbnail sketches as it relates to a book cover illustration. Three thumbnail cover comps presented to the publisher a couple months back. Full-size book cover sketch to gauge color temperature and composition of elements.