Bonifer Squoon and the Cat Hair of Doom


This past February, the Wolf King team hit crunch time. I was in full swing, inking one illustration per evening after work and two per day on the weekends. I was also in the throes of finalizing art for an early readers picture book. I was on the home stretch and had reached a scene with the brothers and good old Bonifer Squoon, which I was anticipating with excitement.

I began cranking away at inking the “Spidifer” scene and was about 75% finished when it happened. After one of my frequent dips into the inkwell I realized there was a small cat hair resting on my nib. Without a second thought, I blew a quick puff at the hair to toss it off. And then my eyes focused on the illustration below and the spray of black acrylic ink that freckled its once-pristine surface. My heart cramped. My instinct was to somehow brush this dust off of my drawing. But it wasn’t dust, and I knew it. It was there to stay. I could barely believe it had happened.

I pride myself on not making errors when I ink, and even if I do, I work it into the art. Some illustrators splatter ink all over their art because it suits their style, but I was going for a classic ink style that needed to look sharp and clean. I realized that I didn’t have time at this point to worry about fixing it with white paint and re-inking, so I trudged on. Making matters worse, when I showed my wife the final illustration she pointed at Kal’s silhouette and asked, “Why did you give him black eyes?” I hadn’t, but ironically the spray had fallen into the spots where his eye sockets would have been. I had to laugh at that point.

Thankfully, Photoshop is awesome. I scanned the image in, optimized it, and then precision-erased spots and clone-stamped lines until only I knew it had ever happened. But now, I really enjoy sharing the original piece, with its flaws, and telling the untold tale of Bonifer Squoon and the Cat Hair of Doom!

Ink Splatter


  1. Aden S

    As a perfectionist myself, I can sympathize with messing up a picture. I’ve drawn a few things that I thought were near perfect until I took a closer look. That examination revealed a whole host of errors and flaws, and as usual, I became frustrated with myself and exposed my pride for the foolish thing it is. It’s a great reminder that we’re human and imperfect. It also makes me thankful that The perfect Creator saw His creation on the first week and saw that what He made was good, and the hope that it’ll be that way again one day. Ironically enough, it was we who messed it up in the first place anyhow!

    Thanks for being humble enough to share this story. It was encouragement! Thank you also for your work with the Wolf King, your illustrations were like the book, phenomenal!

  2. Brandon

    This makes me think of how mistakes can drive a good story, when you allow a character to do something that just doesn’t go according to plan. There’s an authenticity to the whole thing, a reality to the human presence. In some ways, your illustration with its ink spots is the more real one – it reflects the process of the artwork. Not that the precision is bad, but it’s neat to see that messy version. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Joe Sutphin

    Thank you Brandon, Loren and Laura! There are so many other stories to tell, namely the constant back and forth between AP and I concerning details. Those have created some really fun variables that exist in sketch form but never made it to the book. Things that could have totally changed the book if we had followed through with them, and several that were just shots in the dark for me that AP loved so much, that he altered the story to involve my crazy ideas.

  4. LauraP

    I’ve spent some painstaking time with Photoshop’s eraser and clone stamp tools myself, and MY heart cramped in sympathy when I read this! Thanks for the good work you do to add a visual element to imaginative storytelling. I love how you collaborate with other artists to bring life to creative characters.

  5. Loren Warnemuende

    Definitely share more of the behind-the-scenes stories and sketches, Joe. It’s so fun.

    I was thankful you were able to fix it with Photoshop–it’s amazing what can be done today. All I could think at first was, “Oh no! Did he have to redraw the whole thing?”

  6. lyndsay

    When a performer of any kind “messes up” in any way, I always breathe a sigh of relief. Thank you for all your amazing hard work!

  7. Joni

    Sounds like you’ve been busy!

    Probably more than half of my drawing is done digitally, so when I do work traditionally- when I mess up- I get this silly gut-reaction to press ctl+z… 😛 Yeah… Doesn’t work that way…
    ug- My insides clench unpleasantly while reading this. Yes, I am all to familiar with making a mistake that is permanent to a piece. Thank goodness for PS!

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