Thursday, March 26, 2015

Annual Report Illustrations

Sonoco is a global packaging manufacturer corporate headquartered in a small town outside of Columbia, SC. If you've ever eaten chips, bought ground coffee or mixed nuts, ridden in a car, bought gum, perfume in a gift package; (I could on and on,) your path has crossed that of a Sonoco product.
When I was approached by Carolyn D. Johnson from their Corporate Communications department, on referral from Brian Murrell at local agency, AdCo, I'm not sure I knew what to expect. The first job was to depict a car cross-sectioned to reveal the many products they manufacture from their Protective Solutions division, called Tegrant Corporation. Working with Lauren Myrent out of Chicago, the job went well, with only a few revisions, and they were happy with the final result. I do create vector, more technical illustrations on occasion, and I am known to be versatile, so, even though all of these products were new to me, I dove right in, and was ultimately happy with the final results. Lauren was also easy to work with and professional. Before that project was even completed, I was contacted by Carolyn again about another project. “Thirty plus illustrations of many products I am generally unfamiliar with....In two weeks time?.....for the annual report of a 5 billion dollar corporation?...GULP!,” I thought to myself. Not only that, I had to receive and shoot reference for all of them before I could even begin. Yikes! I was grateful for the business, no doubt. I had been suffering from a major case of the "Slows" for way too long, so, I was anxious to work on another, even bigger, project, with this newfound client. Once the initial look was settled on, after a bit of experimentation, I finally was able to dive into the nitty gritty. On a job this scale, three quarters of the time is spent on preparation and design, so, the actual illustration sits in the wings until everything is ironed out. Fortunately, everything went well. Carolyn was professional, detail oriented, organized, and a pleasure to work with. I just received the printed pieces today, and was happy to see all of the hard work In Print! Thats the ultimate satisfaction of print work, you get to hold a physical piece in your hands, whilst considering what it took to get to that point. (You can even smell, or taste, the “package” if you like! Yum!)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Goodbye Funky, Fantastic, Fascinating, Freaky(?) February!

Having a “This Date in History” Calendar can be interesting. I wasn’t sure I’d be into it this year because last year it was a “Quote a Day” calendar and, at most, a quote is no longer than a couple of sentences, and the “Historical” variety is a lot of tiny type crammed onto a little day calendar page. Not something I thought I’d always be into reading early in the morning while my eyes were still adjusting. However, I’ve ended up spending the little extra time, and squinting, to read them, and I’ve found that my birthday month is quite fascinating. Or should I say Funky?...or Fantastic, or even Freaky? This art started out as a quick sketch of Abe and George and evolved into a whole little, (if not busy,) spot illustration. Can you find 13 fun, February facts eluded to here? Hint: the baseball represents two birthdays (yes, of ├╝ber famous baseball players,) and the syringe represents two world changing medical discoveries. The others are pretty obvious. Except maybe that thing on Abe's head. It might remind you of a character from an old classic movie based on a book series. Hope you had as fun and interesting February as I had!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Hallelujah!


Or how to take a chance on creative spontaneity and trust, and reap the rewards.

I’ve had the privilege and honor
over the last many many years to have the opportunity to teach part time at the College level. Like anything in life, depending, sometimes it’s just a part time job. However, luckily for me, it’s been more of a pleasure than anything else.
This semester at The University of South Carolina is no exception. Thanks to professor Marius Valdes, who’s on sabbatical this Fall, I’ve gotten to teach an Illustration class at the School of Art.
(Thanks also to the Associate professor of Graphic Design, Stephanie Nace.)

I’ve felt really good about the students and class so far all semester, and their work and attitude has surprised me pleasantly. I have really looked forward to the class each week. Last night, on the eve of Halloween, my faith in Halloween, Teaching, and young creatives, and young people in general,
was not just polished and restored, but, given a much needed positive swift kick in the pants!

Hallelujah! I’ve wanted to do an “in class” assignment all semester and turns out,
this was the perfect opportunity. Between major projects, and before a class off for election day
on Tuesday; a great time to recharge and do something spontaneous and experimental.
It made sense to do a mask. Mind you, this was an in-class project to be completed
in the timeframe of one class period only, around 2 and a half hours time.
The students were given no advance knowledge of what the assignment would be,
just to bring various materials and supplies to class. Then, once class began, were told only
to create a mask of their choosing in the time allotted for class.
WOW! I was BLOWN AWAY by the creativity, variety, and personality of each and every mask!
(And believe me, from years of teaching and freelancing, I am known to measure my superlatives.)
The incredible thing was, that everyone, to a student, dove right in, unflinching, to complete the task.
They only stopped briefly for a slice of pizza halfway through. ; )

For me, lesson learned. TRUST is a key component in encouraging and lighting creativity.
Mutual trust. Too often, as professional creatives, we can be so focused on “project parameters,” that we lose the forest for the trees so to speak. Deadlines will always be deadlines, and difficult clients,
and more-than-challenging projects will always be a component of creative collaberation, which, in the end is a comprise. An honorable and necessary compromise. When the parameters are accepted and embraced, and the creative is set free to create, MAGIC happens!

Later that night, as I went through all the pictures I had taken from the class,
a tear in my eye, I welled with pride, joy, and just pure happiness from the results, top to bottom.
I also got a kick out of the uncanny synergism between the artists and their work!
And, there were no mirrors in the classroom! Way to go Garrison, Paige, Nicole, Rannah, Joseph, Kody,
Shawn, David, Matt, Erica, Vassil, Jennifer, Katherine, Karissa, Alex, and Jessica!!!
You’ve made me Proud!

Check out all of the rewarding results from my most excellent class here:

Friday, June 13, 2014

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

NEW e-book Birthday version of “Moms Are Great”

Thought it made sense to create a Birthday version of my Kindle E-Book “Moms Are Great.”
Also, I really wanted to update/improve/upgrade the illustrations, so, I did that as well. So, if you or anyone you know has a Mom with a Birthday coming up, send her a “Birthday E-Card!” Oh, and did I mention that it’s FREE today and tomorrow. (Tuesday 8.27, and Wednesday 8.28)
And, as always, if you like, please take a minute to review. Thanks!
• CLICK HERE • Moms Are Great, Birthday Edition •

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Robot Cowboys

 This week’s Illustration Friday topic is “Robot,” so, what better (easier) way for me to break my woeful drought of non-posting than post up a few Robot cowboy sketches I have going in my “Paper” app on my iPad. Like I am sure I have posted before, I love the intuitive and spontaneous way I can draw-- with color in Paper. I also love the loose, watercolor and ink style it provides. I always challenge myself to just go for it, work quickly and directly without thinking too too much. It’s fun to see what lurks in your surface- subconscious! It’s also easy to organize my sketches by subject in individual virtual sketchbooks, so I don’t have to think too long about how to file them. Also, it’s easy to move them around to different sketchbooks, or even duplicate drawings to work in a different or experimental direction. Looks like a new competitor is in town though,
(cue the woo woo wooooo) Western movie gunfight soundtrack. It’s called “flipink” and, even though at first sight it seems to be an unabashed ripoff of “Paper,” it does offer a few things Paper does not, like opacity sliders for most every tool, including the ink pen. I have not quite put it through the full ringer of tests yet, but, look forward to trying it out further.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Power of Introverts

While preparing for a sketch notes project at a recent conference, I did a few warm up/practice sketches from TED talks I found on YouTube. This is a particularly insightful talk from Susan Cain on the power of Introverts. She began the talk describing how she arrived at her first  summer camp carrying a suitcase full of books. Interesting statistical points as well.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Dad’s Turn! Happy Father’s Day, Dads!

Dads Are Great!

My 4th little Published EBook of this year! Once again, nothing like a built in deadline to get me motivated. This time, I've added a bit more developed color, and plan on re-visiting the “Mom's” book to update the same. The great thing about doing “seasonal” or “holiday” themed e-books is that the deadlines never change. So, I guess by the time I get all the Holidays covered, I will start on a new theme! In the meantime, I am having a blast creating original little stories that I get to see published pretty darn quick. When you get a few, check it out. (The Kindle EBook reader is FREE for most EVERY device including Mac and PC and Android. So, you don't even need a Kindle to read it! Looks great on my iPad and Mac.) I think you and your Dad will enjoy it! Happy Father's Day! BTW--it will be FREE on Amazon Sunday and Monday. (And remember, if you like it, feel free to write a nice little review...and share! Thanks Dads and all those who love them!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Moms ARE Great, Aren't they? “Moms Are Great,” my new EBook / Greeting Card

Click HERE to check it out on Amazon

Well, nothing like a built in deadline to get me motivated. The great thing about doing “seasonal” or “holiday” themed e-books is that the deadlines never change. So, I guess by the time I get all the Holidays covered, I will start on a new theme! In the meantime, I am having a blast creating original little stories that I get to see published pretty darn quick.
When you get a few, check it out.
(The Kindle EBook reader is FREE for most EVERY device including Mac and PC and Android. So, you don't even need a Kindle to read it! Looks great on my iPad and Mac.)
I think you and your Mom will enjoy it! Happy Mother's Day! BTW--it will be FREE on Amazon Saturday and Sunday. (And remember, if you like it, feel free to write a nice little review...and share! Thanks Moms and all those who love them!
Click HERE

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Contract “Graffiti” for Hubbell Power Systems
I’ve probably mentioned before that one of the things that I love about what I do is the variety. It seems like, although I do believe I need to be flexible these days, there’s strength in being flexible/versatile as well. Just last week I was asked by a client to contact one of their clients, Hubbell Power Systems, about christening, so to speak, a huge wall along the interior of a recently opened expanded office space. They had painted the entire wall with dry erase paint so that the employees could plan, strategize, (and maybe even vent) directly on the wall using dry erase markers, whenever they want.
As a way to encourage them to do so, as well as to just plain inspire them, Crystal Mistretta hired me to draw various employees as caricatures interacting in a water, aquarium, undersea type environment. With the accompanied fish, dolphins, whales, and aquatic birds. Even though the deadline was tight, (it had to be completed in one Saturday afternoon while the employees were away), I was up for the challenge. Fortunately, I was able to go in late the day before and take some quick pictures of the space (and see what I was up against!) This really helped me plan out what I envisioned. And to her credit, Crystal allowed me creative reign. I was able to quickly sketch out, on my iPad, in the app, Procreate, directly on top of the pics I took, which was a huge reference help when I went in Saturday morning. We decided it was best, and only doable and practical in the time allowed, to just keep everything line art. (There was no way to get the work done in line and color in one day.) It also would encourage the employees, once they settled in to their new space, to color where they wanted, and even add their own “fish” as well. I was relieved that it got such a positive reaction, especially in light of the fact that I had created caricatures of some of the key players. (Thanks Hubbell peeps for being fantastic sports!) I posted a slideshow here:

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My latest EBook, The Easter Egg Square

My latest EBook is finally finished.
Yes, I realize it’s only a week until Easter, but, hey, at least I finished it and published it.  =0) Check it out! This is a fun little story of hope about a little egg that doesn’t always fit in, and how, with a little belief, he reaches a dream come true.
Here it is live at
+++++CLICK HERE++++++

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Some Dr. Sketchy's Sketchy-ness

I look forward every month to a local branch of a drawing group called Dr. Sketchy's.

I realized quickly the first time I went a couple of years ago, that it's great to hone your skills in a live setting whenever possible. The feedback and simple energy from other artists and participants can be a godsend for someone who, generally, works alone. These are a few sketches from last night. (Can you tell which 2 were done quickly on my iPad?) It dawns on me, also, to be grateful for the many people in our lives who, although they may or may not be artists, spend generous time and effort in their support of the arts in general, and artists, specifically.

I value the friendships I have made over the last couple of years, knowing that they are most definitely, these kind of people.

Friday, February 22, 2013


“Thoughts“ logo for Rapidweaver theme design by Michael at Yuzool themes.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

“Valentine’s are NOT for Me,” now on Amazon!

Valentines are NOT for Me, by Charles Akins

Finally published my FIRST official e-book, written and illustrated by moi. “Valentines are NOT for Me.” I was inspired by a friend’s recent success of two of his Holiday books, so lit a fire under myself and jumped on something for the next "holiday:" St. Valentine’s. Since I tend to write naturally rhyming, it ended up being a rhyming, cartoon picture-poem. I wrote it one day and began sketching the next. All told, it took about two full weeks, including time to figure the best format and method of compilation for Kindle “.mobi” files. I learned a lot, and am proud that something I have wanted to do for quite a while is finally complete. I also loved the total creative freedom of the process. Thanks very much to Julie Olson, a.k.a "" Her simple, and straightforward tutorial on building a book for Kindle, e-bub, and PDF was a huge help! This is the direct link to the e-book on Amazon: Valentines are NOT for Me by Charles Akins. I just wish I could edit the “Look Inside” feature to add the other couple of images I want. Oh well, the best part is, that I am learning and earning. Oh yeh, it looks great on iPad or even a computer. Here are some links for downloading FREE Kindle reader apps for many platforms. iPad and iPhone Kindle Reader apps.
Other devices, including Mac, PC, Blackberry, etc.
Cheers! If you buy it, you will have warmed my Valentine heart! (P.S. guess who just happened to have been born Valentine’s Day?) If you liked it and made nice (constructive, informative, enlightening) comments, and then told many friends, and so on, and so on, and so on, even better! Spread the LOVE!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Totally Mad

Enjoyed receiving Mad’s latest collection entitled “Totally Mad, 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity.” Lucky enough to have received a credit (always nice to see my last name spelled correctly,) and the inclusion of my
“Angry Birds” cover from last Summer. An equal, if not greater thrill being placed right beneath the  art of one of my Mad fave’s-of-all- time, Sergio Aragones. Came with a nice letter from Editor, John Ficarra, with a footnote saying the title debuted on the NY Times bestseller list for graphic novels.
Graphic, Yes! Novel, Yes!