Thursday, December 20, 2007

New Name, New Website

As I've mentioned here in an earlier blog, I've been making some changes with my company. January 1st my company name will officially change from BlackRock Graphics to Schwartzrock Graphic Arts.

My new stationery came in last week and my new website went live this week. There are still some glitches that need to be ironed out but it's functioning. If you have a moment, click on over to

Many have asked why I made the change. I've sent out letters with an explanation to many of my clients but I'll post an answer here as well for those who didn't get one.

Earlier this year I was invited to join two other professional friends in the creation of a new branding company. This venture allowed me the freedom to continue my illustration business and keep my hand in corporate branding. As a graphic designer, I was familiar with the term “branding” but soon realized I didn’t know its full meaning. Throughout 2007, I was given an education by my new partners coupled with research of my own. Subsequently, I can now see all of the mistakes I made with my own company, BlackRock Graphics.

The most important part of the branding process required me to define myself in as few words as possible. After some wrestling, I settled on “valuable” and “professional”. I learned that everything I do including how I answer the phone, what clothes I wear, the quality of my work I produce and how I treat my customers, all need to reinforce those words. I soon found that making business decisions was easier when I had those two words clearly in mind.

I started to make some changes and the first thing to go was the name. After an audit of some of my clients, I realized “BlackRock” wasn’t a good name... black rocks have nothing to do with the services I provide. I decided upon Schwartzrock Graphic Arts.

The next step was finding some focused direction. “Am I an illustrator or graphic designer?” Though I like the variety of my business, I realized I couldn’t excel in both directions. So, I stopped promoting graphic design and focused on what I do better than most, logos and illustration.

There have been other changes such as long term goals and strategies for reaching those goals but I won’t bore you with those details. It is sufficient to say that this restructuring has really rejuvenated me.

New Launch

Over this past year, two professional friends and I have been setting the ground work for a new branding company. It's called 3.2.1 and our focus is on launching new products, services and company iniatives. We've been getting more and more excited as the momentum has been building for the last couple of months. And now it looks like we have our first official client. Even so, we still have a lot of work to do before we look official. I'll alert you when we get our website up and running. Until then, here's what the new company's logo looks like.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Comic Book Masthead

Since I'm a partner in Community Comics, a Christian comic book studio/publisher, I still am involved in various projects. Ben Avery has written a great story about Jesus' crucifixion through the eyes of the two thieves hanging next to him. The art is beautifully rendered by Noel Paolo Libunao, an artist from the Philippines. I was asked to create a masthead design for the story which I'm showing below as well as in context of the cover design. This book is available from WOWIO and later in print form through the website.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Bad but Free

Amazingly enough, the first comic book I've drawn (as an adult) is up at the WOWIO site for free downloads. The main story is a black and white, 16-page story about Korah from the Old Testament. To bring this book up to 24 pages, we added a full color short story about the shepherds take on the birth of Christ, written by Ben Avery.

These are bad in so many ways so don't laugh. Keep in mind this was some very early work for me as I was learning how to draw comic books. Even so, I thought some of you would like to see it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A funny Process

Al Hovland was my first professional employer. He was a partner in an advertising agency in Fargo, ND. Recently, he asked me to create a new mark for his company. What's interesting about this isn't so much the logo, but rather the process.

When we discussed the look and feel of the logo, he said he wanted something classy and respectful. His tagline was "Creative Marketing Solutions". Using my recent exposure to branding, I probed further. I asked what three words would describe himself. He mentioned, "humorous, creative, unique". I then suggested we should look at some ideas that reinforce those words. He agreed.

While I worked I realized the answer was to simply recreate our conversation visually... start with a respectful logo and "edit" it into a creative one. I'm amazed at how much this mark reflects Al's personality.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Old Fashioned Calling Card

My friend and former employer asked me to design a calling card for him and his wife. I'm posting it here but don't get any ideas... I've changed their personal information.

Pleased with the design, I showed it to my wife. Now she wants me to design a personal calling card for her. She rattled off all of the times she could have used one when meeting new people at church and around town this past year. I guess this old idea is new again.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Back to Square One

I have been creating logos for a long time, but never understood the full concept of branding... until now. Recently, I've been getting an education in the subject and now see all of the mistakes I've made with my own company.

Since returning from Russia, I've been redesigning my company name, logo, stationery and website. Here is a sneak peek. When my new site is live, I'll post a full explanation and rational for the major shift. In the meantime, let me know what you think of the look.

More Comics

Please forgive me for not posting in some time. Life has been chaotic for the last few weeks. Who ever said two children are easier than one never had two children. Even though I seem to complain, it's Leah who does all of the heavy lifting. She has been amazing. I am humbled by her and all of the mothers out there who constantly give of themselves.

Business life has been busy as well. I just came off a hectic week-long project for Target and a complete redesign of my own business... more on that later.

And for those who thought I may never draw another comic book page again (including myself), here's a recent page. This image will be used for a campaign pitch that will draw upon the "24" TV show theme.

On a personal level, I'm working on another story with writer Ben Avery called "Thrall". Hopefully when this first chapter is finished, it will be posted on Zondervan's Z Graphic Novels website.

Monday, October 8, 2007

From Russia with Love

We did it! We've finally made it home with our new son, Ivan Konstantin Schwartzrock.

Nothing has been easy about this adoption but thank God above, we're home safe and sound in this beautiful country we Americans can so easily take for granted. When the plane touched ground in New York on Saturday, October 6th, Ivan officially became a U.S. citizen. We still have more paperwork to fill out, but the first big hurdle has been crossed. The rest is easy... like love and nurture him so that he can grow up into a healthy, mentally-stable adult who adds value to the world and not become the next roof-top killer. Like I said, the rest is easy. (:

Below are some pictures from our second trip. This one is the outside of his orphange. If you click on the picture to see a larger version, you'll notice it looks pretty bad from the outside. Inside, the rooms are clean and the orphanage is well managed. More importantly, the ladies who care for these children do so with love.

Here's a picture of Leah holding Ivan as we "escape"! The day before we sat in court and received the right to take custody. Here we're on our way to the airport.

After leaving Murmansk, we needed to spend a few days in Moscow where we had to get paperwork from the American embassy. Here's a picture of Ivan's first bath as a member of our family.

Moscow has some very beautiful buildings and architecture. It's not cheap, however. This is a picture of Ivan and I going for a strole after dropping $150 on a breakfast for 4 adults and 2 children at a coffee shop. Yikes!

Many, many thanks to all of you who have prayed and supported us over the last several weeks. Thank you very much.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007


I advertised heavily the first few years after starting BlackRock Graphics... with absolutely no tangible success. But recently I've decided to give it another chance with posting my portfolio on It's basically the same images from my site. The difference this time is I'm only paying for digital access (no print). I believe very strongly that the internet is the best way to be found and to find others. It's a powerful tool.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Video Games

This is something new for me. I've been illustrating new themes for basic game engines like Frogger, Tetris and card games. These small jobs fit nicely in between larger projects and they are a lot of fun to create.

Friday, August 24, 2007

First Trip

We have just come back from our first trip to Russia in our quest to adopt our second child. We were fortunate enough to spend about 10 hours with him and simply fell in love. He's very shy which makes him very different from Yuri so it'll be interesting to see how they get along.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Great Client

Below are a couple of projects I recently finished, all for the same client, although different art directors. This series of whimsical icons was very refreshing to work on. I love this style of work because it's stylish, elegant and so different from what most clients request from me.

As simple as these images look, they are far from easy to do. With very clean images like this (the same can be said for logo work), everything has to be perfect. Every line and shape will be noticed so it must be just right.

Monday, August 6, 2007

New Content!

I have finally updated my portfolio on my website. I squeezed in many more images to the point where I'm now concerned I have too much junk on there. Take a look and let me know what you think.

You'll notice I've removed the "Graphic Design" section and replaced it with the new "Comics" category. Even though I do a fair amount of design still, this reflects a change in my workload. Unlike my first two years as a freelancer, 80% or more of my work today is illustration.

Thursday, August 2, 2007 now live!

The new Z Graphic Novels website is live with some cool trailer videos:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Z Graphic Novels

The largest Christian book publisher, Zondervan has just published a new line of graphic novels. My Community Comics buddy, Bud Rogers and I have acted as the managing editors for the whole line up (okay, Bud does all of the hard work but I try to help)... with another Community Comics partner, Ben Avery writing two of the six titles.

Later this month, Zondervan will have a new website built to promote their graphic novels: Community Comics will be providing comic content for this site that will be updated weekly. I'll have an announcement here when it goes live. In the meantime, go out an buy these books!!!!

Thursday, June 28, 2007


It appears Leah and I have found our second child. His name is Konstantin (Kostya for short) and he's 13 months old. I doubt we'll keep his name the same... it's so hard to find first names that work with Schwartzrock.

If everything goes well, we'll be traveling to Russia in August. As many of you know, we adopted our first son, Yuri, from Russia three years ago. Here's an early photo of him fascinated with the flames in the stove, wearing his favorite boots. To prove we don't let him run around the house naked all of the time, I've attached a proper photo of the whole family.

Friday, June 8, 2007


I was commissioned to create these images for three large banners for a friend's church. Apparently not everyone was excited about these huge banners at first, but in the end, the congregation didn't want them taken down. I can't tell you how nice that is to hear.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ArmorQuest in full color

Even though the art for ArmorQuest has been done for quite some time, the publisher is finally taking volumes 2 and 3 to press. These books should be in stores this fall. It is so nice to see the complete work as it was intended to be. Thanks, Brett.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Bible story series

Here's a series of posters I illustrated over the winter. Hi-Fi Colour Design colored these images and they are available at: