Hardware Hank Redux


(Click for a larger image.)

Recently I was contacted by a local ad agency looking to update the logo for Hardware Hank, a chain of small-town hardware stores sprinkled throughout the upper midwest. When I was a kid it seemed like every town had a Hardware Hank store, but in recent years they’ve been eclipsed by the “big box stores” (Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc.) and the remaining stores are pretty much mom-and-pop establishments. Anyway, I was told Hardware Hank was looking to update their “Hank” character and that several local ad agencies were competing for the job. I was hired by one agency to do a few sketches in the hopes that we would get the bid.

I have fond childhood memories of shopping at Hardware Hank with my dad, and their “Hank” character is looking rather dated, so I jumped at the chance. Besides, there is still a Hardware Hank in the town where I grew up, and I thought it would be neat for my parents to tell their friends that their son designed the new store logo.

The original Hank character is in the upper left. I was asked to do one version that stayed close to the original design (upper right), and then do 2-3 additional concepts (I did a few extra for good measure). Ironically, the current trend in cartoon art is to go for a 1950’s “retro” look, so I had that in mind with a couple of the designs.

I waited several weeks without hearing anything. Finally I was told that the Hardware Hank people had changed their minds and were going to stay with their original character. Oh well, that’s the freelance biz. At least I’ve got a few more pieces for my portfolio.

Long Overdue Art Update

I’ve been super-duper-crazy busy lately with freelance work. I’ve had several large projects on my plate for a while now, and the deadlines are all converging within the next two weeks. With freelancing everything seems to happen at once. Illustrator Tom Richmond put it well on his blog:

“Part of the problem with freelancing is that you never know when the next phone call will be your last for a while. As a result, you tend to take on more work than is good for you, for fear of a possible dry spell just around the corner.”

I’m getting better at dealing with it though. In the last couple of weeks I’ve actually turned down a couple of projects, something I very rarely do.

Here’s a few of the many balls I have in the air…

First, some spot illustrations for a children’s book I am doing for Living Waters Publications:



Some character design concepts for a bumbling pig character:

Turn-around drawings for a rubber pig promotional toy:

Some character design concepts of a smart cow for a dairy company:

And finally, some character designs for the re-design of a hardware store mascot:

In addition, I’ve got three other projects in the works. Two are still in the very early stages and the third has a Non-Disclosure Agreement attached, so I can’t show you anything….yet.

Character Design Sketches

I’ve been pretty swamped with freelance work, but here’s a peek into one of my current projects. It’s a children’s book for Scholastic. I was asked to totally re-design an existing character, a young boy shark. Here are a few of the exploratory sketches I did that led up to the final design on the right. This one is a bit of a challenge because the shark has to be able to stand upright like a person, but also swim horizontally like a real shark. Also, since the shark is a lemon shark, I thought it might be fun to give him lemon-ish colors. But ultimately the client asked me to use the same colors from the previous artist’s design.

I’ll be finishing up the book in a couple of weeks and will let you know when it is available for sale.

Illustration Friday: Under the Sea

This week’s topic for Illustration Friday is “Under the Sea”. I created this illustration last year for Standard Publishing as a poster to be used in Sunday School classrooms (text was later added by the client).