10 July 2021

Codex Sonora on the press.


Codex Sonora on the press.
2020 was a considerable delay in life for most of us. My book project was one of the casualties. Books take financing, and although print sales were building a substantial nest egg for the book, this depleted during the Covid pandemic. I took advantage of the time to do the months of inking required for the book's text and the careful setup of the files in printable form. In all, the project had about a year delay.
I work for AlphaGraphics Commercial Printing Services in Tucson and am pleased to get one of my projects on the big press. Ours is a beauty. Walking by, I'll sometimes hear German accents through the computer interface troubleshooting an issue live with the pressman. I asked if it was like the BMW of printers, the answer was, "It's like the Bugatti of printers." It's a Heidelberg CD102, 6-color perfecting press with closed-loop color control and inline aqueous coater. Color balancing is controlled through what looks like a soundboard for ink, scanning each piece and adjusting for corrections. I was called from my office for each press check to approve the color and quality. I wanted the cover to have a special coating called "Soft-touch," and the printer did that final coat just like one of the ink coats. Anyway, I get excited about the offset printing process and love the perfect fine line you get with it. This is something you never see on a monitor screen. The book is 9x12, so my artwork is reduced, and the lines are extra crispy!

I'm delighted with this and can't wait till I get the final product bound and in my hands. I'll have this for sale by the end of July or August.

17 May 2020

Codex Sonora Volume 1 - Book Cover

It's been a childhood dream of mine to make an illustrated book. Pouring over Richard Scarry, Rien Poortvliet's gnomes, Moebius, and the older books; the ones that had talented illustrators doing etched plates, I thought to myself, "Drawing is a job, these people do this as a job, I want to be one of those people."

I've been producing prints for the last 5yrs, selling online and locally in tourist stores and galleries. It's an experiment that pays for itself. I make $20 a piece on them. I've sold nearly a thousand and I've made second editions of the earlier ones that have sold out. My art biz has it's own bank account. I've used this money to travel to the Getty Museum in L.A. for a 3 day workshop and to Colfax Washington for a week to attend a book making seminar, both put on by my artist hero Timothy Ely. Ink on paper sent me to learn, hang, and drink beers with him! I also put the money into printing new pieces. Now I will put the money into producing a book.

Since the illustrations for the inside are done, I thought I'd set the tone with the cover. There is only one of my prints that has a tiny sliver of the Gulf of California in it, so I pictured that on the back cover. The seaside desert landscape is pretty surreal. Cactus in the sand leading down to beaches with tidal pools and dolphin pods riding by every 30 minutes. I'll never forget the image of a bleached out whale skull sitting on the beach.

The book will contain writing in my custom font "Quotasoon". Most spreads will have a page of illustration and a page of descriptive writing. I'm trying to psyche myself for that writing. I think this last step might take me through the summer to complete.

See Tom's work at patterntology.com

Sonoran Deserex

I am no expert on the Sonoran Desert; although I live here, and considering a majority of it exists inside of Mexico, which I have camped in about ten times, I'm familiar with the terrain. A few years ago, I did this 3d map of the PineleƱo Mountains. Then there was the paleogeographic project I teamed up with a geologist to render the creation of the Gulf of California back to 10 million years. This time, I revisit the map as an art print and an essential part of my upcoming book.

There were a lot of decisions to make during this piece. How much texture, color, include roads, walls, cities, vegetation. Maps aren't maps without bathymetry, which tells the whole story IMO, especially in the gulf where the peninsula has peeled away from the mainland and is on it's way to Alaska. My spacecraft crashed here, and my information screen was on the fritz, and the power supply was waning, so I made some paper and ink and started tracing the screen to save the information.

03 January 2020


Like the otherworldly biom of the Sky Islands in Southern Arizona, there is another world underground. Thinking about the natural world under our feet, I was inspired by Kartchner Carverns. By happenstance, I was hired to my year-old creative director job by Gary Tenen, co-discoverer and protector of the caverns that eventually became a state park.

The bat seemed a natural fit for this piece. Nesting below ground and hunting outside, no one is more aware of the advantages of cave life in the desert than the bat. Listening to recordings of it's high frequency echo locations, I felt some grunge. Flying through the choppy sound waves to navigate its way through cave chambers and out into the open air, the bat not only helps control insect populations but is integral in the pollination of desert plants.

My aim with these prints are to collect them into a book, "Codex Sonora." My next print will be a map of the Sonoran Desert and then I'll spend the next year working on the cover, text and layout of the book. I'm excited to finally make a book since starting this series in 2015, then it will be onto Volume 2!

13 July 2019

Published in Adventure Journal

Earlier this year I was contacted by Adventure Journal to license a few of my pieces for an article about Baboquivari written by Alaskan writer and mountaineer David Stevenson. I was honored. This quality publication has a good subscription base, is printed and bound with good paper and has lovely layout. The whole process was a breeze and I would hope to work with these professionals again some day.


The last ice age pushed into the Sonoran desert and pushed out the Saguaro cactus and the Ironwood trees down to the middle of Mexico and replaced by Juniper forests and giant sloths. When the cold receded, the Saguaro came back to Arizona thousands of years faster than the Ironwood. Why? Birds. Birds can migrate hundreds or thousands of miles pooping seeds from the Saguaro fruit along the way. Ironwood seeds are eaten and pooped out by pack rats. Pack rats have small domains of a mile or more.

But first, plants need pollinators. In the desert these are bats, insects, and bees. They are genetic networkers for the plants they forage. They will forage up to 4 miles away and periodically, the whole hive will strike out and find a new place to resettle. Which makes me think of computer networks and networking software, site visits (like to a blog), and social media.

Insects with a queen are really one organism. Grouped together, I image a hive to be the size of a small dog. A small dog with 10,000 stingers. I've encountered a hive on the move while on the trail. I heard them before I saw them. I always give them space and respect because they can be aggressive. Our bees down here are Africanized, Africanized hybrids, aggressive, but are immune to the fungus that's killing bees elsewhere.