Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Creating Positive Images

Country People (top) and City People by Eric Basir

Ever since I was a child, I was sensitive to the deficit in positive images of Black people. I think it was the television series based on Alex Haley's Roots. I was only 4 years old at the time. However, I connected with the character of Kunta Kinte (played by the most excellent Thespian and Educator, LaVar Burton).

He stood his ground and made sure no one would make him—nor his descendants—forget his African heritage. He was a moral and strong man.

An Ikere door made by Olowe of Ise
Recently, while browsing a book called African Art: The Barbier-Mueller Collection, I was inspired by the Osi-Ilorin style carvings from the Yoruba people in Nigeria. The photo at left from, shows a good example of the reliefs describing the life and activities of various people. They also resemble reliefs I've seen from Aztec, Mayan and Egyptian art.

So I embarked on creating Country People and City People vector carvings (which happen to be available as Royalty-Free through Fotolia and other stock sites). I intentionally illustrated the people with distinctly aboriginal features, accentuating the beauty of their broad noses and large lips. They are happy, dignified, hard-working and not all too different than any other folk around the world. I apologetically drew them fully clothed and modest. This too, was intentional.

I also purposely included African Islamic elements to counter the stereotypes regarding Muslims. Although the clothing worn by the characters I made are seen in non-Muslim cultures of Africa, I believe it is subtle enough to influence the viewer toward a pluralistic attitude regarding Muslims.

Country People is my favorite of the two. Simply put, I'm an organic gardener who strives to incorporate "green" or sustainable practices in my everyday affairs. I also have been reading about owls with my children. The giraffe is distinctly African and I wanted him/her to be close to the farmers.

Everything in these drawings has a meaning. Some of it is personal, with very little to do with preaching a message. For example, the train in City People: Specifically, the same red No. 2 train, which used to stop a few blocks away from my apartment when we lived in the Bronx (New York City). The portrait hanging on the wall in the house of Country People resembles a certain American president whose father was born in Africa.

All too often, we are pummeled with images and video of people with dark skin, broad noses and large lips as savage, comical and cowardly—even in this so-called post-racial American society with a handsome president of mixed African and white American ancestry.

One example is in the sequel to the Transformers motion picture. The Black-skinned people portrayed in the opening scenes were clearly utter savages. The co-star to the hero, a young Latino male, was a sex-crazed coward.

Col. Tigh played by Terry Carter
Also, in the highly successful re-imagined Battlestar Galactica, Colonel Tigh was changed from a brave, serious and father-like Black man played by Terry Carter—as seen in the original 1978-79 show—into a grimy, alcoholic secret Cylon played by Michael Hogan for the 2003-2009 show. Although Herb Jefferson Jr.'s character Boomer was at least re-imagined as an Asian woman, there were absolutely no Black male lead actors in the 2003-2009 show.

On an international level, a famous Mexican television program called La India Maria fostered buffoonery and stereotypes about the indigenous culture of Mexico, while subtly elevating the superiority of white, Spanish identity among the viewers.

The examples are endless. However, I believe it is better to deliver a message instead of a complaint. Clearly, Country People and City People are a dignified counter-measure to the trend I described. Even if one disagrees that such a trend exists—or has an real impact on the minds of consumers—images which portray any human beings engaged in productive activities is welcome. I hope to continue creating more such illustrations—especially of Latino people.


Sunday, November 28, 2010


I've been experimenting with background concepts for stationery, wallpaper and wrapping paper. They start on paper and I scan them. Trace in Illustrator and start experimenting. It seems some of them are quite popular.

Seamless Cool Curls
© Photographer: Theblackrhino | Agency:
Seamless Spiral Pattern
© Photographer: Theblackrhino | Agency:

Real Leaf Animation Video

There is art in nature. There's also great ideas right inside the things of nature. Birth, life, death and all the things in between are all explained if we are listening and watching.

This video is available for purchase at Shutterstock.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Rocky Road to First Place

When I made this drawing, I never imagined it would take first place on Shutterstock for a search on "boulders." Not only is it first place for illustrations, it's first place for photos.

It is a strangely humbling and exciting feeling that people all over the world are buying my rocks! I hope to find out where they are being used.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Black Rhino Animation!

It all starts with one step at a time. In an attempt to give movement to some of my illustrations, I decided to branch off into animation. I hope it works out. Tell me what you think.

Everyone has had a leaky faucet (purchase this in high quality royalty-free formats at Stockfuel):

A sunset has always been something I wanted to embellish (purchase this in high quality royalty-free formats at Stockfuel)!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

100 Sales in One Month!

Sunset City
© Illustrator: Theblackrhino | Agency:

It seems more and more people are finding Black Rhino Illustration clip art useful! In September alone, we sold over 100 various images. We greatly appreciate your support! Moreover, we thank you for buying our pictures. It's so easy to download samples and work to delete watermarks (theft).

We hope you will share your ideas of concepts we can illustrate. Look for even more useful and interesting illustrations in the future. This includes clip/stock animation and cartoons.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Stamps - Pine Forest Collection

Buy these beautiful stamps made from hand drawn illustrations of a forest. I made them with Speedball ink pens and black India ink. Traced and colored within Adobe Illustrator.

Autumn Pine stamp
Autumn Pine by theblackrhino
Browse other custom postage at zazzle

Friday, September 10, 2010

More supplies

The experimental illustration days of yore are resurfacing to my consciousness almost daily. The call of pencil, ink and paper is louder and almost impossible to ignore. My wife bought me a new large sketch pad. I have just about used up all of the pages in my original one from 1985, making more drawings in 90 days than I have in almost 25 years.

She also bought new drawing ink and box to keep my new "tools" in one place. Within the next few days I'll be dipping my old Speedball Artist Pens into new bottle of Higgins ink. It's a shame the new bottles are plastic. Back in the day, they were glass! I still have one, but it's white.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Stuck in Jail

Sometimes I feel trapped. Like a bird in a cage, I am made to depend on the benevolence of my keeper. Other times I'm like a bird in an open cage, refusing to leave the safety of a familiar space. Fear, frustration and loneliness are never far from the mind.

I have also been aware of the ugly statistics regarding the prison industrial complex. This is an important part of the economy for many communities around the world. It is often a merciless machine in which the innocent can get caught in the blink of an eye. Jail is for the bad guy—whether guilty or not.

These three illustrations capture the essence of these ideas. I would appreciate your feedback. You can download watermark-free versions from Stockfuel.

Behind Bars

Solitary Confinement

Depressed Prisoner

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Challenge Yourself!

Four Fun Space Mazes
© Photographer: Theblackrhino | Agency:

Challenge yourself! Challenge others! This set of mazes are very affordable and can be colored in with crayon, colored pencil or paint! It's a great puzzle for ages 5 to 505.

Download it (please don't steal my work), print it, cut out the solution, color in the cool outer space objects and see if you can make it to the exit.

Click on the image to download from Dreamstime at any size at good prices.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Messy Maze

I'm no plumber. When I try, it turns out quite messy! However, in my day job as a photo retoucher, I've had to fix plenty of messes regarding photos. I've always wondered if a plumber ever found a mess of pipes. So I could only imagine this might illustrate such a dilemma.

Click on the image to purchase it for yourself or your organization.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan is an important Islamic holiday that is about reviving a Muslim's spirit, self-discipline and fortification of ties between family and friends. This illustration is about a mother and daughter walking to a masjid (Muslim house of congregational prayer) to pray.

Historically, women have been a critical part of the masjid and Islam. Publications such as Azizah Magazine demonstrate the necessity of women in the forefront of Islamic thought and the cultures inspired by it.

This image is available for sale at many stock agencies such as Graphic Leftovers and Stockfuel.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Mad Man

This image started out as a doodle of a humanoid science fiction character: Thick black eyes, strange folds in the skin, etc. Trying to think "like a buyer" I had a suspicion that it might sell better if it was more human- and business-related.

So I erased some parts and added others—especially his suit and tie! I then started to morph him into an angry "boss man" character inspired by the many prototypes in cartoons, comics and sitcoms I watched over the years.

I added some uncut hairs on his scalp to accentuate the chaos of his personality. The halo is probably over the top. It almost reminds me of a portrait of a passionate Hindu diety. I'm not too happy with the colors of his suit and tie. Nevertheless, I think it makes the point.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A New Sea Creature

Even though the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico well has been capped, the consequences of the world's demand for cheap oil and petroleum products hasn't been capped. In fact it appears that we aren't in the least bit aware of how accidents like these will only continue unabated if conservation and long-term sustainable planning are not made a priority over consumption and economic growth.

So I was inspired to create this illustration. It seems we have created a new sea creature: The oil barrel. We mine oil. We package it. We abuse it. Whether in its crude form, refined as fuel or as a plastic bottle, we have littered the oceans with it. The creatures who make the ocean their home must now live with it.

Can we sympathize with them and reconsider the oil culture? Can we see deeply enough into their plight and see the effects it has on our health and societies? I will do all in my power to put this belief into practice. What about you?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Big Mouth

Loud Mouth Man on Phone
© Illustrator: Theblackrhino | Agency:

This topic has been on my mind for a long time. Maybe you too.

It never ceases to amaze me how so many people don't realize that the microphone on their phones is so sensitive that they could whisper in the midst of roaring jet engines or clanking trains, and the other party will hear them clearly.

While sitting in my children's Karate class I started sketching an obnoxious man blabbing on his phone. I tried to keep his expression passionless, as if he was having an unemotional conversion. That would keep the emphasis on his loudness. Most people who I see like this are discussing mundane things anyway. I gave him a red shirt because that color tends to invoke negative passions. The bowl haircut is based on the Three Stooges.

Actually, the mouth was much smaller. After inking and scanning it, I selected the mouth in Photoshop and used Edit=Transform to scale it 30% larger. As usual, I brought it in Illustrator, traced it and that's when the fun began with colors and shading.

I've seen lots of "text bubble" images and I thought this would be a perfect candidate. Of course, someone could delete or replace it. I just hope it makes it more marketable.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

First sale on BigStock!

Just had our first sale on Bigstock. The strangest illustration I've made so far—Organic Housefly Design—was quite desirable to someone!  It was quite fun to experiment with the label concept.

Like many things I draw, this was based off of the experience we've been having with the poor houseflies who keep getting stuck in our house!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Our First Sale on Dreamstime

Oil Oil Everywhere
© Photographer: Theblackrhino | Agency:

I'm very grateful to the first person to purchase one of my illustrations through Dreamstime.

This particular image was inspired by the poisoning of the oceans through our demands for fossil fuels. I am so passionate about this subject that I sold my car a few years ago. My family and I rely on bikes, public transit and feet.

Like most of my illustrations, it started as a sketch, inked, scanned and traced in Illustrator. From there I colored it in. The drilling platform was added from scratch upon recommendation of my daughter.

Hoping I can keep those kinds of sales going  up to a few times per day!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Illness Can Inspire Illustrations

My children came down with some nasty fevers this weekend. Not sure why. But I got the inspiration to sketch this one based on my daughter's misery! I hate to take advantage of them, but this one I could not resist!

Phasing out bad words

I find it interesting that when I used the keyword "negro" for this illustration of some African-American Nationalist flags, one stock site flagged it as a disallowed keyword.

I thought that might be overkill. However, being that the word—along with another word that is more offensive—are truly lousy words to use at present, I was glad to see such a restriction.

To purchase this image, search "NOI Flag" at Stockfuel.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

So Many Ideas

I have been burning through quite a few pages of my sketchbooks, working on ideas, inking others. However, when trying to guess what others might want to purchase, I've been learning it's easier said than done. I'm trying some small projects with others while venturing into stock images. The journey has begun.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It All Started with A Water Main Break

Our first sale since starting Black Rhino Illustration was the Water Main Break night scene. This was also our first sale on the Shutterstock portfolio. Thanks for giving us a chance, Shutterstock! It was quite a surprise because this was one of our rejected files during the istock application process.

One lucky customer purchased the vector version of this for a bargain at 123RF.

Someone likes the drawings!

Some persons or person seem to like our drawings on our Shutterstock portfolio. Specifically, Muslim Teacher, Water-Main Break, Poisonous Mushrooms and Muslim Woman Praying. It is a giant catalog. So it is possible that these are all different subscribers. Regardless, it's very encouraging to witness.

Staring at Death

Our first sale for Staring at Death was on Fotolia, just a few days after submitting it. Trying my best to clearly illustrate the consequences of the recent BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, I hope this image can help prompt a global reexamination of our oil-based civilization.