Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Self-portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog.  In need of an image for my illustration work, I spoofed the time-honored RCA Victor logo, "His Master's Voice" (also known in French as La Voix de Son Maître, in German as Die Stimme seines Herrn, in Italian as La voce del padrone, and in Spanish as La voz de su amo). Always alert to new tricks, this old dog is listening carefully to a Grammophone cylinder phonograph.  The original painting, used by RCA since 1899, was by Francis Barraud. 

Friday, March 15, 2013


An "painterly" illustration for the PCC Natural Markets. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013


The Kensho Tramps by Bob Rini

The Kensho Tramps have settled in for the night on the edge of nowhere. You may recognize some of these enlightened hobos from your travels, but the dog in the foreground is the late Lily. The snake is unknown, but it might be the proverbial Kundalini serpent, with each coil signifying something, gunas I think, or it might be just a garden variety snake, or even a highly deadly coral snake.  Whatever the case, Lily seems to have it under control.  In Zen, "Kensho" refers to an awakening--a glimpse--seeing through illusion into the true nature of things.

Monday, April 23, 2012


The old chestnut may be true: Every picture tells a story, or maybe it's worth a thousand words.  Regarding art, abstractions might be cool as an ice cold martini but art that tells a story--figurative, representational or narrative art--is often looked down upon by purists as mere illustration.  Too bad.  In a way, all art is narrative to a degree, and even the most abstract painting communicates something in the same way that music, without words, communicates mood, emotion, rhythm, timbre, beat, melody.  Something comes across.  Making art is a balance between daydreaming and problem-solving, and the same is true in telling a story.  In both cases there is a brainstorming session, penciling an outline, scumbling the surface to see what might emerge, constructing an underlying skeleton, and finally standing back and seeing what happened. Creative works are coaxed into the light.  After a while one begins to recognize the "process," patterns and milestones.  You wave at the guardians at the gate.  I finished a short story this morning and sent it on its way.  If you'd like to see a story I published a while back in the Seattle Weekly, that they still have online and to read it, follow this LINK.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I read the news today, oh boy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


In this still from an imaginary film noir, doomed heavy Robert Mitchum and fallen angel Ingrid Bergman share a blue moment that combines aching lyricism with dispassionate precision. Not to mention lemons.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


click to enlarge

Come see my artwork at the Gage Academy of Art
. I'm delighted to be part of a group show with Jim Woodring, David Chelsea and several others whose work "displays exceptional technical skill and creative narrative story lines." Sounds good to me.

The Gage Academy of Art is an independent art school in the tradition of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Art Students League in New York. It offers the technical foundations of an artist's training, as well as programs that nature's vision and creative potential.
"Our goal is simple," they say in their literature, "to engage you." Opening Friday, August 5th. Up for a month.

Steele Gallery at Gage
Daily 10:00am to 6:00pm

Gage Academy of Art
1501 10th Ave. East, #101
Seattle, WA 98102
Tel: 206 323-GAGE

Saturday, July 16, 2011


A couple pages from my Moleskine sketchbook. These nifty little sketchbooks fit into your backpocket. By the way, that's Nina Simone and Django Reinhardt.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


A loosey-goosey cartoon rodent loosely inspired by everyone's favorite billion dollar mouse franchise. This mouse, however, has escaped the maze completely!

Saturday, December 4, 2010


"Existential Peanuts" by Bob Rini

The Friends of the Nib and Fantagraphics are proud to present "Medieval Thinkers," an eye-popping exhibition of comix art at the Fantagraphics Bookstore--part of the holiday festivities celebrating its 4th year anniversary in Georgetown. Live music and art! Opening Saturday, December 11, 6:00 to 9:00PM.

This will be an amazing show and I'll be attending as a fan as well as a participant. If you're interested in seeing a showcase of some of the best comic artists out there--masters of the form as well as talented emerging artists--drop by and see original work by Peter Bagge, Bruce Bickford, D.J. Bryant, Chris Cilla, Max Clotfelter, Eleanor Davis, Kim Deitch, Heidi Estey, Kelly Froh, Justin Green, Gerland Jablonski, Megan Kelso, Jason T. Miles, Nate Neal, Bob Rini, Zak Sally, Dash Shaw, Matt Tamaru, Frew Weing, Jim Woodring, Mary Woodring, Max Woodring, Martine Workman and Chris Wright. Curated by Jason T. Miles and Max Clotfelter for Friends of the Nib. Yup, this will be a killer show.

Fantagraphics Bookstore & Gallery
1201 S. Vale Street, Seattle, WA 98108

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Here are a couple of pieces influenced by Mexican art. A a painting of a masked Mexican wrestler mariachi encircled by Day of the Dead spirits and imagery. Part of the fun of painting "Enmascarado," aside from working with such a lurid palette, was toying with attitudes and stereotypes about Mexico in the United States--from the Chihuahuas from TV commercials to the wrestling mask of La Lucha Libre, to the Disney-fied cacti--this piece is a bright and bracing shot of tequila with a sangrita back! Mexico is a land of contrasts, with itself and its neighbor to the north--a situation that explains the Mexican lament "¡Pobre Mexico! ¡Tan lejos de Dios y tan cerca de los Estados Unidos!"

And a tiny portrait of Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez, otherwise know as Diego Rivera, playing the role of Arlequin from a series of Commedia del'Arte playing cards. (Shown actual size)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The Friends of the Nib will be appearing at Bumbershoot in Seattle, September 4, 5, and 6 from 2:30 to 4pm in the Olympic Room. The Friends will be appearing as part of a wonderful survey of Northwest cartooning, "COUNTERCULTURE COMIX: A 30-Year Survey of Seattle Alternative Cartoonists," curated by Larry Reid in association with Fantagraphics Books. The Friends will be drawing cartoons live for your pleasure and enjoyment. Stop by and say hello.

Who are the Friends of the Nib? There are many misconceptions, some fueled by jealous pantaloons, but this is the truth: The Friends are a mysterious guild of cartoonists practiced in the arcane arts of dip pens, crow-quills and black pots of India Ink. They are practically medieval in their methods and exhibit a virtuosity rarely found in this modern age of computer-corrected artwork. Like the Magnificent Seven or the Seven Samurai, each of the Friends has a unique specialty. Collectively, they are fingers that form a powerful fist. Come see them work their magic.

Come and meet us all, and try your luck with the quills.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


"Borges by Bushmiller" by Bob Rini  

The Friends of the Nib show opened December 3 at Howard House, and will be up for the rest of the month. We opened on First Thursday, when art lovers stroll between galleries examining paintings and drawings and scupltures--his time they got an eyeful, crowding around our strange, eye-popping artwork. The place was buzzing as soon as they opened the doors. We were there, drawing live. Above it all, like a nightmare angel, the FOTN mascot flew, a stylized squid holding two dip pens (a "nib" is the metal point of such a pen) designed by Nibster Jim Woodring. The banner flew proudly this evening!

First Thursday at Howard House

Who--or what--is the Friends of the Nib? We're a weird crew. Our work isn't traditional mainstream art by any means--our various backgrounds include cartooning and illustration as well as fine art, so the work isn't tepid wallflower material but more sanguine, offbeat, punk, underground, hard to pin down. Here we are, hung salon style on the pristine white walls of a prestigious downtown gallery.

Jen Graves, art critic for the Stranger, gave us the coveted "Stranger Suggests" pick. She pitched the show this way:

"This recessionary year, almost nobody is going to Art Basel Miami, meaning December's First Thursday should be at full strength all over Pioneer Square. Howard House hosts furious live cartooning by Friends of the Nib, the Seattle cartooning cabal founded by Bob Rini and Jim Woodring, along with a three-day-only show of their work, paired with a regular-fancy-art show—The Figure—full of bodies of all kinds made by other bodies, from the late Philip Guston to contemporary L.A. artist Ruby Osorio. (Howard House, 604 Second Ave, 256-6399. 6–8 pm, free.)"


The show also includes dazzling new work by Ellen Forney, Max Clotfelter, David Lasky, Tom Dougherty, Scott Faulkner, Heidi Estey, Calamity Jon, the amazing animator Bruce Bickford, and more.

"Cu cu, Cu cu, Cantaba la Ranita," by Bob Rini. A stuffed Mexican frog sings a corrida

Stop by and see the show, mingle with the artists, eat some cheese, buy some art. This is a chance to beat the curve and get something from Edge City before the world catches up. We'll be there, drawing live most of the time. Come by Saturday, December 5th at noon for our cartoon workshop.

The Friends of the Nib, circa 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009


"Step right up!" This snake-charming siren is my contribution to a show of carnival banner-inspired art. I'm interested in exploring vernacular American art outside traditional highbrow vehicles. Imagine this lurid banner on a sideshow tent, luring farmboys in from the midway and promising lurid mysteries within. One thin dime, one tenth of a dollar!

I've been busy sifting through artwork for a group show by our troupe of ne'er do wells, the Friends of the Nib. The four-eyed gunsel at left is mine, and the Frank cartoon at right is by Jim Woodring. Coming soon: First Thursday at Howard House.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Who's been talking? Telling everything I know? Blue Man contemplates beauty in a smoky joint on the edge of town. The music jumps, jives and wails. There's a grill in the back, and a rack of ribs in a steel drum barbecue. Maybe you know the gal with the flower. She's as hot as a red pepper, and sweet as cherry wine.

This is what I call serpent surrealism.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


"Trio" by Robert Rini

This was part of a public mural commissioned by the City of Seattle that triggered a heated debate about public art. Watch the news story about the vandalism of this piece and the rest of the "Friends of the Nib" mural commissioned by the City of Seattle:

If you know who vandalized the mural, or where the artwork is, please call the KOMO News Problem Solvers at (206) 404-4402.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


These slinky denizens drift through a dark world of intrigue, romance, deception, and double-cross, where disenchanted idealists knock back shots and hustlers offer anything -- for a price! Through swirling cigarette smoke, you catch a glimpse of an extremely rare, black market egg. Welcome to the occupation.

For a list of my favorite films noir, click here.

Friday, September 7, 2007


Never eat in a place called "Mom's," and never play poker with the gods, or even demigods -- regardless of their religion. This piece is an obvious riff on the old "Dogs Playing Poker" calender illustrations. I painted it for the "Gods and Monsters" show at Roq la Rue, a hipster gallery and the flagship of the pop surrealism movement in Seattle.

The best way to leave a casino with a million bucks is to start with two million.

Sunday, September 2, 2007


This Fall, David Miller and Derick Avitt commence production of an indie film, "Love in the Year 2000." According to David Miller, this is "a visionary science fiction film set in the future. The ambitious production will create a work of bold post-modernity, entirely relevant to the present in which we live."

The goal of concept drawing for film is to help visualize the script and "concretize" this world about to be created. The trick is keeping it fresh and not relying too heavily on the conventions of the genre. As you can see, the final painting never strayed far from the original concept, though more details were added from the script by screenwriter Miller, who was available to help me flesh out his written words.

This illustration, and other examples of my concept art, were used in the film as well as the trailer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


With the success of the film "Pirates of the Caribbean" it seems that pirates are everywhere. I did this piece for a pirate art show in Vancouver, BC, and now it belongs to the young buccaneer Skyler Abahazy. Here I was trying more for N.C. Wyeth than Walt Disney.

If you haven't heard the great album of pirate ballads and sea chanteys, "Rogue's Gallery," you're missing out on something special. The music never fails to put me in the mood to plunder the high seas.


click to enlarge comic

"A coke is a coke and no amount of money can get you a better coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the cokes are the same and all the cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it." – The Philosophy of Andy Warhol

Monday, August 13, 2007


This was done with a nib pen and bottle of black ink, for a show with my fellow "Friends of the Nib," a present-day medieval art guild that believes in using traditional tools and materials to make art.


This illustration was NOT used as part of the promotion for "Chihuly Over Venice." With all due respect, I hold Mr. Dale Chihuly and his legal team in the highest regard. Some call him "the Picasso of glass," and a glassmaster, and others call him a charlatan, a pantaloon, and a hedge-born bladder. Whatever you may think, he sure makes big chandeliers.


"Fear of Art" is a hard-boiled film-noir, a meta-art about art, in which a big lug of a detective--formerly an artist sent up for art crimes--scours the seamy underworld of art galleries and museums with his sidekick, a work-study gallery attendant fresh out of art school and bursting with wall-text explanations for every occasion. Together, they run a dangerous gauntlet of art directors and curators, hammer-swinging prep crews and two-fisted painters, savvy patrons and axe-wielding budgetcutioners, big time collectors and small time crooks. Gentle as roses, tough as blackjacks, these mugs prowl the periphery in search of truth and beauty.

FEAR OF ART (detail)


Smell the peanuts and sawdust? This is the dog circus. This was commissioned by artist Jim Rittimann, who makes wonderful imaginary creatures from actual bones and leaves. A former rodeo rider, Rittimann also trains dogs for agility trials. They proved to be great models, especially the Boston Terriers. I hired a bug wrangler for the insect models. Oh, and no animals were harmed in the making of this painting.


Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was a flat-out genius, no question about it. A brilliant painter, scientist, mathematician, inventor, anatomist, architect, sculptor and musician -- he was the archetypal Renaissance Man who could do everything but cure the common cold.


This is what happens when you mix Albrecht Durer with Ernie Bushmiller. Originally inspired by Masaccio's fresco in the Brancacci Chapel, "The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden," this painting now resides in the Wendy Cox collection.

The question remains, is the Red Angel a guardian protecting Nancy and Sluggo, or a heavenly bouncer seeing them to the door?