Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Holidays 2008!

Season's Greetings, everyone!
Here is the 2008 version of my annual family Holiday Card..

This year, the Design was inspired by my cadre of l'il backyard critter "friends".. Done up in a very Frazetta-influenced "Funny Animal" style! The squirrel is pretty traditional-looking. But I was quite pleased at how the Blue Jay & Cardinal turned out.. I think it has to do with the more-realistic take on their coloring. Which I was able to accomplish, with the aid of one of Suzanne's helpful Bird reference books..
Most of the coloring is analog.. All of it hand done; except, for the Night Sky in the deepest part of the Background. Which involved a cascading series of Gradient Fills, applied with Photoshop. I also bought a few new juicy Prismacolor markers, which really helped things out.. Especially, with the large Foreground tree!

Getting this thing printed, was another story.. And, an adventure in itself!
I usually get 'em done at a Kinko's in downtown Toronto, in the wee overnight hours. When it's a lot less busy. And you can rely on the counter help to really focus on what you want done..
But when I dropped by with my burned CD.. I was shocked to find out that they'd turfed the few remaining Mac computers, that they had on-site. They've gone strictly PC. Which meant that my CD just wouldn't open. And hence, they wouldn't be able to print my Image File..
So, back to Scarborough I drove.. To burn a 2nd CD that would open on a PC platform. Back downtown to Kinko's.. Only to find, that the Christmas Card image STILL wouldn't open?! Grrrr....
Anyways, one helpful Kinko's gentleman (named "Bobby") suggested that I simply e-mail the File to them. As either a JPEG or PDF.. So, back to Scarborough, again!
This time, things worked out.. But of course, I still had to travel downtown for a 3rd time to approve the "proof" for the 100+ Cards which I needed. The yellows turned out slightly "green", I thought. But overall, I was pretty happy with the results.. And ecstatic, to finally have the Cards ready for mailing!

Today, is also my 46th Birthday.. And for whatever pathological reason, I always leave creating my Christmas Cards, to the 11th Hour. For me, any Christmas Card done BEFORE my Birthday, is a raving success story. So, if you're on my Card List.. Okay, it may not arrive before the 25th. But at least it'll be postmarked, before then! Which is why I refer often refer to them as "Seasonal Cards".. It covers my ass, if arrives before New Year's Eve!! har har

I hope everyone has a terrific Holiday Season.. Best Wishes to all of you, for 2009!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The "Queen Of Curves" is gone..

I read with a bit of sadness that Bettie Page died this morning, at the age of 85. She had been quite ill with pneumonia, for a number of weeks.. Before succumbing to a heart attack. I never met or knew this woman.. But enjoyed seeing her images, in many of the vintage Men's magazines I've collected over the years..
It seems (to me, anyways) a rather ironic coincidence, that she should pass away in the same year Dave Stevens has.. And during the very week that also saw the release of the much-anticipated Stevens coffee table book: 'Brush With Passion'.. An artist whose work in the early 1980's, was likely most responsible for her re-emergence as a Pop Culture icon?

While it's true that his 'ROCKETEER' comic-book, had a character modelled after Betty Page.. And re-popularized her, with a wider audience.. It wasn't the 1st time, that Stevens had featured her in his artwork. That distinction, is held by his spoof of Frank Frazetta's 'THUN'DA' comic-book cover. An illustration that Stevens drew on a lark, as a Portfolio piece!
How odd it must've been for him, to later meet & become friends with Ms. Page in real life? And to then use that Portfolio piece as the cover for a comic-book, featuring fictionalized stories of Bettie?! haha
While there were long lines of unscruplous ne'er-do-wells exploiting Bettie's newly-rediscovered popularity, for their own interests.. It was Dave Stevens that made a point of personally trying to "repay" Bettie, for his use of her image in his comic-book. And generally, because it was a decent thing to do!
So, besides the "Bettie Page Comics" project.. Dave also created (or served as Art Director on) a variety of Dark Horse merchandise.. Licensed items, designed to ensure that Bettie made a little bit of money on her own image, as well!
The Jim Silke books, come immediately to mind.. And Dave also designed a really nice Kitchen Magnet Set, featuring Ms. Page.. Which I think was the last "Bettie Page" merchandise he worked on, if memory serves..

In her most recent interviews, Bettie always referred to Dave as "my best friend.." And if you've seen any of the many Bettie images that Dave has created over his career.. Then you're probably already aware that he must've thought she was pretty special, too!
Here's one of my favorite images of Bettie.. A signed print that Dave gave me, many years ago..
That's all for now.. TTYLater!

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Furry L'il Critter Friends..

Hello all!

I know. A bit of a drought, between Postings?
My apologies. I've been trying to chase down some decent Art jobs..
I figured I'd compensate by sharing a few Quicktime Videos with you.. Featuring some of the exotic Wildlife that exists here in the otherwise staid suburbs of Toronto.. A veritable Scarberian "Wild Kingdom", as it were? Enjoy!

I'm not sure how I fell into this particular habit.. But I've begun feeding the many squirrels, that roam thru our backyards. It's an amusing pasttime. And their (the wee critters) antics can be highly entertaining.
Suzanne has become a bit concerned that my "hobby" is quickly getting outta hand. As some of the braver souls are now practically knocking on my sliding glass doors each day, demanding their daily allowance of peanuts, etc..
Suzanne took some Footage, to show a few of these visits..

First up, is a female I've named: "Squirrely".. See how "creative" I am? Can't you just TELL that I'm an artist? *groan*.. Squirrely loves her peanuts. But she's still pretty skittish around me. I've only got her to take a peanut from my hand, on one occasion. Her usual tact is to approach cautiously, 'til she's inches away.. And then to stop & look at me plaintively.. Scratching for mites with her hind leg, 'til I drop a peanut on the Terrace! heh
In fact, I think you can even hear Suzanne say something in the audio, like: "Just PUT the peanut on the Deck!".. Yes, darling.

The 2nd squirrel is an aggressive male, that I've named: "Blackie".. See how "creative" I am? See, he's a BLACK squirrel.. So, I thought to myself: "Say,-- Blackie would be the PERFECT-est name ever!!" *groan*..
Blackie is a real piggie-for-peanuts. Sometimes he'll see me from WAY across the backyard. Sprint over and snatch the peanut right out my hand.. And without breaking stride, sprint back out across the lawn, looking for a good place to stash it.. Almost like he's running a Relay Race, or something..
He's on you, as soon as you step out on the Deck. And I'll admit I've been concerned I'll lose a finger, on occasion. He also has been known to impatiently "tap" on the sliding doors with his little nails, when he sees me working inside at my Drawing Table..
It's amusing to take a short break to feed him. But like I say,-- he's a little piggie. So, sometimes you just have to draw the blinds and alert him to the fact: the Peanut Ristorante is now CLOSED, 'til further notice!

He seems a bit more skittish in the following video.. But I think that's only due to the fact that he was trying to figger out what Suzanne was up to..

Anyways, that's all I got to show for now..
My new favorite thing, is to feed shelled nuts to the many Blue Jays in the area. They love the unshelled peanuts, too. But it's a constant race between the Jays and the Squirrels, as to who will get to them first? I'll see if I can't get some Footage of that stuff, later..

See ya!

Saturday, September 27, 2008



A long time between Posts, I know. Been busy trying to track down some solid employment..
To keep my skills sharp, I jumped onto this month's JAM Thread in the 'Superheroes' section of 'The Drawing Board'.. This month's Theme is: "Weird Science".. In other words, any character that is featured as a Scientist. Or, the creation of a Scientist..

Well, being a HUGE fan of Golden-Age characters.. Particularly, anything that was done by Reed Crandall or Lou Fine.. I chose to add an illo of "The DOLLMAN" superhero; who happened to be both a Scientist, as well as his own creation!
Part of me thinks (also), that perhaps my choice may have been influenced by my fiancée's current obsession with Barbie Dolls? If you haven't checked it out, yet.. She started a new Blog that's JUST about that subject. Click HERE to give it a look-see!

Yup.. It was in 1939, that scientist Darrel Dane (working in the Lab of his mentor: Professor Roberts) developed a serum that was designed to shrink a man down to the size of Doll.. But rather than go thru a series of ultra-boring "testing",-- he decides instead to play the role of Guinea Pig, himself.
The serum works.. And he immediately shrinks down to approximately 6 inches in size! But his mind can't cope with the rapid change. And initially, he goes a little insane.. nearly killing his colleague/mentor: Professor Roberts..

Fortunately, he soon masters the ability to change size.. And can eventually do so, at will. But rather than gaining wealth & power as a criminal mastermind.. He decides that these amazing skills must be exploited, for the wider Good of the World. And commits himself to devote his newfound powers to "crusade against all Crime & Evil!" *yawn*
Just kidding..

On the upside for him, apparently his girlfriend Martha (the Professor Roberts' daughter, natch) has no real problem with the fact that he's now hung like a gerbil!! ha ha
Pretty understanding of her, don'tcha think?! *wink*

See y'all later!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Police and Thieves!

Okay, here's a couple of 'Noir'-esque doodle pages..
I do these when I'm bored. Or sometimes, when I'm trying to get out of a drawing funk. A bit of both, in this case..
Essentially what I do, is drag out a bunch of my favorite Golden-Age CRIME comics.. And start drawing the Faces & Figures that strike me as the most interesting/intriguing. Sometimes, I'll do a straight facsimile. But more often than not, I'll attempt to "push the pose" by distorting the proportions. Or even, change Heads & Costumes from one character to another..
It's fun exercise & a great way to build an understanding of another artist's process!

As usual, most of the Ne'er-Do-Wells on these sheets, were inspired by looking at a lot of early Will Eisner & Jack Cole artwork.. It's a mix of Cops & Robbers. But as you may have noticed,-- it's mainly the Gangsters that got the full "inked" treatment. I suppose I just find the Bad Guys more fun to finish.. Humble apologies, to John Law!

Most of the Gunsels on this 2nd Page, look like they're from an early installment of Eisner's 'The SPIRIT'.. Probably from the Jack Cole period of that comic-strip series. I can't get enough of his slick cartoony artwork. Fun poses, always. But also, always beautifully drawn!

I'm not entirely sure where I pulled the crazy walleyed Lummox on the Bottom Right from? He definitely looks like trouble with a capital "T", though!

Hope you likey.. Talk to y'all laterz!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

For Dave: IRMA The Body!

Time for another of my Stripper/Burlesque posts, methinks?
If you're a comic nerd like me.. Then you already know that the San Diego Comic-Con 2008, has just ended. I didn't get to go, this year.. And I'm not that sure that I'll ever go, again. I keep hearing how crowded it is. And how it's changed for the worst, lately..
To be honest, my main reason for attending the convention in 1999, 2001, and 2003.. was to meet my favorite artist: Dave Stevens!
I had been e-mailing with Tom Ranheim for many years.. He's the webmaster of the official Dave Stevens website.. And, also a good friend! We decided we'd go make the trip to San Diego together, in '99. And again, in 2001..
By the 2001 trip, we'd gotten to know Dave quite well.. Gone out to dinner with him. And we were invited to his home/studio, too. It was quite a revelation, seeing all of his Original Art up close.. Intimidating, too!
In any case, Dave & I shared a passionate interest in 50's-era Striptease/Burlesque. And as it happened,-- I'd just acquired a slew of great stuff off eBay: the personal photos & scrapbook clippings of "IRMA The Body"; one of Burlesk's top performers, back in the day!
I picked them up in California, during the trip.. Fortunate for me, the Seller lived just north of San Diego!
Well, Dave couldn't wait to dig thru my cache of goodies.. And decided then-and-there, that he would love to do a painting of "Irma" (her real name was: Mary Goodneighbor). For reference, he borrowed the 2 candid photos, shown below:
"Irma" was a real looker, don'tcha think?!!
The one on the Left, was taken during a photoshoot celebrating her engagement to a man attending a Naval Academy. The relationship didn't last, and they never ended up getting married..
I prefer the photo on the Right.. I think she really looks great, in that pose! Hard to believe the photo was taken in 1970.. She still looks so young. And I'm pretty sure she had "retired" from performing, by then.
Dave sent me back the photos thru the mail, once he'd made copies.. I honestly dunno if he ever got 'round to painting "Irma". I guess we'll find out when his big 'Art Of' book gets published, sometime next year..

Today, would've been Dave's 53rd birthday.. When he passed away from Leukemia earlier this year in March.. It didn't hit me quite as bad, as it does now. I guess I associate him so closely to the San Diego Comic-Con.. A convention that he volunteered at long ago, way before he ever became a professional artist..
Here's one of the last illustrations that Dave completed before he died.. It was a commission for fellow CFA-APA member: Wally Harrington. A great guy & a personal friend of Dave's, over many years..
I've been trying to find some online reports about the "Dave Stevens Memorial" panel at SDCC '2008, without much luck.. If anyone knows where I can read about how that event went.. Please post a weblink, in my Comments section.. I'd love to see some photos & read what was said!
It's sad for me to think that there won't be anymore "new" Dave Stevens artwork to anticipate.. Hopefully, there'll be a ton of unseen gems in the Arnie Fenner -produced hardcover, due in 2009!
I picked up the most recent issue of 'The Comics Journal'.. There's an excellent Dave Stevens memorial piece in there, written by his dear friend: Bill Stout.. I was surprised to learn that Dave had been diagnosed with his cancer, back in 1999. A terminal diagnosis, that generally means the patient has only months to live.. Dave hung on, for a full 8 years longer!

I'll cherish the memories of "hanging out" with Dave, the few times I did. I'll miss his e-mails especially.. He had a very witty writing style, even when he didn't write often..
I hope that he's up there somewhere, without pain.. Sitting in the Front Row of the best dang Girlie-Show that ever was!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Coupla HELLBOYs..

Last weekend, me & Suzanne caught a matinee of the HELLBOY sequel.. It wasn't as good as the IRON MAN movie, but a vast improvement on the first HELLBOY film. Which I only caught up with recently, on cable..
We both enjoyed Del Toro's PAN'S LABYRINTH quite a bit. So the Design work we saw in the Preview ads, really caught our eyes. You can read Suzanne's comments on the movie here, on her BLOG..

There was a time years ago, when I was quite the ravenous HELLBOY fan.. I read all the comic-books. Bought all the collected volumes, etc. Wore a HELLBOY baseball hat, everywhere I went.. A friend bought me the HELLBOY lighter, even though I don't smoke.. I even picked up one of the HELLBOY lunchboxes, 'cuz I thought it looked too cool..

While visiting the San Diego ComicCon a number of years back,-- I even bought a few pages of 'Original Art' from Mignola himself.. He was even kind enough to throw in a complimentary (and highly-collectible!) HELLBOY coffee cup, which I still drink from every morning!
I was so enamoured with the character, that I even tried "animating" a HELLBOY rotation! You can view some of my attempts at this, both here and here..
In short, I was once a total HELLBOY nerd!!!

But somewhere along the way, the character's mystique got a little flat & tired for me.. Maybe it's just that I found the stories becoming too familiar. I still enjoy Mignola's artwork.. But lately, he's got so many other artists doing the stories.. And that has zero appeal for me.

Even so, I noticed after going thru some of my own older artwork.. That I've drawn Mignola's character a remarkable number of times! Some were done to just satisfy my own curiousity. Others, were commissioned work, done at conventions, etc..
Here's one from 2004, that I did for a guy named "Otto" from Warren, Michigan.. I think I may have met him thru Jonell Napper's dandy HELLBOY messageboard..

And here's another (more elaborate) HELLBOY image, from around the same period. Maybe, a bit later? This illustration was done as an eBay Charity Auction item, that was won by a guy named "Poom" from Chicago..
The Auction was designed to help raise $ to help cover the medical costs for Rick Cortes, who had suffered a stroke, at that time.. He & I, both helped Jonell Napper early on, when she was putting together her '' website..

Rick Cortes, is also the main guy at 'The Drawing Board' messageboard, that invited me to become a fellow Moderator.. He's got a HELLBOY 'original art' collection that makes my meagre set, look like a mere pittance. But I don't hold that against him..
He's a helluva nice guy. Who not surprisingly, answers to the name of "HellboyOne" as his DB moniker!

Well, that's all for now.. See ya around!

Friday, June 6, 2008

3 Years Ago, Today..

I see on my calendar that it was 3 years ago today, that (Bryan) Rodney Dunn passed on from this Earthly plane.. He was definitely a one-of-a-kind character, a genius artist & quite a good friend of mine. An odd guy in many ways, to be sure. But that's not uncommon amongst schizophrenics, I'm told.
He suffered from bouts of depression & paranoia, towards the end. And despite heavy medication,-- I think it's why he ultimately chose to take his own life? It still saddens me.
To read more about him & view examples of his artwork, you can follow THIS link!

Every once in a while, I'll be digging thru an envelope filled with old artwork of mine.. And I'll be reminded how Rod had reacted to it, and/or what he'd said. Sometimes he absolutely LOVED it.. At other times, he had no shortage of advice on how it could've been improved. Oh well,-- I guess I probably offered the same service to him, come to think of it..

The other day, I found this old photocopy that Rod gave me.. To my knowledge, it was our sole collaboration together!
This "CatGirl" illo was something I'd done for Lisa Petrucci.. A West Coast artist, that managed a vintage collectibles catalog, called: 'The Pussycat Catalog'. It specialized (then) in back-issue Men's magazines & weird 50's/60's videos, etc.
I'd worked out a trade for some stuff with her.. In exchange, I agreed to create for her some artwork, that she could use inside her catalog.. Dave Stevens had worked out a similar arrangement with Mike Vraney & his "Something Weird" catalog. And if memory serves, Lisa Petrucci was married to Vraney? I'm not sure..

Anyways, as is usual with me.. Despite getting a good jump on the pencils, I unduly procrastinated on the inks.. When I mentioned to Rod that I was hoping to eventually re-use the illo in a Sketchbook I planned to publish.. He immediately offered to do the inks, himself. And within a week, it was complete!
I think I disappointed him a bit, with my cool reaction. Though I admired parts of it, it just wasn't what I'd had in mind. So I eventually finished my OWN inking on it.

In retrospect, I thought it'd be fun to post Rod's version here.. As a way of commemorating him, I guess? Hope you likey...

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Pajama Game!

Hello Folks!

Apologies for the long delay between posts.. But over the past couple weeks, I've been busy with a freelance illustration job, which fell fortuitously into my lap..
A friend of the family, has a wife that is a member of a theatre group that performs here in Scarborough. She'd recently won the lead role in their upcoming production of: 'THE PAJAMA GAME'. And he thought it'd be a nice gesture to commission a poster recreation, to celebrate the event..
He provided me some of the required Photo Reference. And a rather poor JPEG of the movie poster, which he found online. It was so gauzy, I couldn't see what was going on.. So I dug around downstairs & found (fortunately!) an old MOVIE LIFE mag from October 1957, that had not only a full-page ad for the Doris Day film.. But also some great color ref, for the actual pajamas..
Originally, the client had asked for an authentic Broadway poster recreation, based on the original play. But felt that a recreated movie poster ,would work better as a "gift". So, that's the direction we went..
Amongst the photos he lent me, I found a nice headshot of his wife, that was perfect for the Doris Day pose.. But he also wanted EIGHT other cast member profiles, featured off to one side?! Oi-Vey, that was gonna be a whole other conundrum!
Luckily, their theatre group: 'Spotlight Musical Productions' has an excellent website.. With a number of terrific 'Photo Gallery' pages from past shows.. I was able to dig thru those & find a few other suitable shots, to fill out the rest of the image..
The initial deadline was excruciatingly tight.. He wanted the finished poster completed & printed, so he could present it at the After Party (April 26th) of the closing show.. That only gave me about 5 full days, to get it done.
By Friday evening, I knew I'd never make the deadline.. I suggested working towards just getting the central figure of his wife (as "Babe") done. And then getting a single Poster composited & printed with all of the other elements blocked-in, so that he could show off what the final product would look like? It was the best compromise I could think of..
So at about 11pm, I drove like a madman to a downtown Kinko's -- got it printed at full size (14" x 22"!).. And raced back to the 'Fairvew Library Theatre' in Scarborough, where they'd just begun breaking down the sets backstage..
I think I impressed my client with my personal hand-delivered shipment, just past the Witching Hour! hah
To my great relief, he was very satisfied with the results.. And now that the show's deadline was past, I'd be able to finish the rest of the Poster, at a much more relaxed pace!
Initially, I thought I could save some time by using the scanned-in pajama top, for my final image. Which is why you see "Babe" (above) in 3 disjointed parts? I was gonna composite those onto the pajama top, thru Photoshop.. But the chunky halftones were simply too distracting & looked out-of-place with everything else. So I went back, and drew up a whole new tunic..

All of the color work was done, using a combination of Pantone markers and pencil crayons.. Mostly Col-Erase pencils, actually.. Which tend to go down on the page a bit smoother..
I had met the client's wife (Teresa) before.. So, I knew instinctively what she looked like. That makes drawing a person, so much easier!
I had no such help, with the other 8 character heads.. And they proved a much tougher challenge. Especially, with the limited number of good photos I was able to glean from the theatre group's webpages!
I'm sure a few of these folks, are gonna be appalled by their likenesses?.. Sorry, gang! I did the best I could, given the circumstances..
Here's a JPEG showing their progress..
I thought the final assembly of the image would be easy? Not so!
The text pieces were okay.. Most of it achieved, using Pagemaker and/or Photoshop. "The Pajama Game" masthead was hand-done & that took a wee bit longer.. The initial printout was also showing that my Yellows were all skewed too "Green". So for the Final Image, I went back & changed them to a richer hue..
In hindsight, it seems like I spent oodles of time simply "compositing" things to the BG.. I dropped in some small figures along the baseline, directly from the cleaned-up scans from my vintage poster ad. And then used Photoshop's cloning tool to create a nice "soft" edge transition, around all of the main character elements.. Hopefully these bits of extra attention will pay off, once the File is taken to the printers? We'll see..

Well, that's how the whole thing came together.. Hope I didn't bore you too much with all of my Process Talk? All in all, I really enjoyed working on this Job. And I hope that I get a few more like it, in the future..

TTY'all Laterz!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Andy Knight, R.I.P.

It was with genuine shock that I read of Andy Knight's recent passing (due to a fatal cerebral aneurysm), at the age of 46.. My first exposure to this news, came as a result of reading Paul Dutton's thread on the 'Animation Nation' messageboard. Frustrated that I couldn't find anything else about it, online.. I sent a quick e-mail to Amid Amidi at 'CartoonBrew' .. And he's kindly initiated a posting, that'll hopefully act as a kind of makeshift "Memorial" page..

I first heard Andy Knight's name mentioned, when I was working over at George Elliott's earlier studio: 'Pictor Entertainment'.. We'd been subcontracted by Nelvana to do Layout work on "Ned's Newt". Which was based on a terrific Animated Short, that was produced/directed by Andy.. A cartoon that was very simple in it's Design; but beautifully constructed/staged & animated.. Definitely one of the better series that Nelvana was involved with!
When my friend Jens Pindal was later hired at Andy's studio,-- I'd occasionally drop by. And would always be dazzled by the amazing artwork that they had posted in the hallways & walls, showcasing the different Animated Commercials they'd been (or were currently) working on..

In 2000, 'Cambium' chose Andy Knight's studio, to do work on episodes of "The RIPPING FRIENDS" cartoon series, that they were co-producing.. And I was hired on, as one of their Senior Layout artists. Essentially setting up Scenes, for the Posing artists I was paired with..
It was a Production that had a few bumps & bruises, along the way..
Outside of the main Pitch Pack, we had very few Design sheets to work with. And by the time Week 4 rolled along, we were still waiting on Model Sheets/Turnarounds for the 4 main characters.. So, Andy took it upon himself to create his own "Expressions" sheet.. Perhaps, only as an exercise. Or, to satisfy his own curiousity about how they might look like? I can't say.. But here's what the results looked like:
Even though it obviously wasn't Spümco, in it's "style".. I found it really interesting, nonetheless. Sadly, it's the only real example of Andy's artwork that I kept, during my stay at 'Red Rover'. I wish I'd grabbed more stuff out of their trash!
Even so, I think you can see how easily the act of "drawing" came to Andy. I watched him do a few of these.. And it just seemed so effortless to him. With a real economy to the amount of linework he needed to lay down for these!

Though the Production was a "bust" in some ways.. The joy of working at Andy's studio, prevails as a fond memory.. He was a class act, throughout. And a fun guy to be around.. I'll remember the Snooker Table lunches downstairs at 'The Charlotte Room'.. The "Beer Friday" afternoons, that turned his studio into a drunken frathouse.. The 'Bowlerama' Christmas Party, etc.. And especially all of the quality artists/friends that I worked with there, at the time.

I understand that Andy's stroke occurred, while pitching new Animated Projects in France. And that any pain he may have experienced, was (thankfully) short. My sincere condolences go out to his wife Linzi, his 3 children.. And all of the fine folks at the studio, who must now find a way to carry on at 'Red Rover' without him.. Rest in peace, Andy!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

What I Did Last Summer..

Hello again!

Well, seeing as the "Will & Dewitt" cartoon is now airing episodes regularly on both YTV (Canada) & Kid's WB (United States).. I thought it'd be safe for me to post some of the BG Design work that I'd done for them?
After a particularly distasteful experience, working at 'CORE Digital' on their "Iggy Arbuckle" series.. I started looking for new work at some of the other local Toronto animation studios.. Sending out a few Resumé/Portfolio samplers, here and there. As I happened to be in the area,-- I dropped one off personally, at 'Two Presidents Productions'..
I did not know Michael Carter, previously.. But was somewhat acquainted with Alan Kennedy, the other co-owner.. I knew Alan a bit, back when he ran his previous studio: "Canuck Creations"; which was located inside the 'A Space', at the corner of Spadina/Richmond.
Thankfully, he remembered me too.. And promised he'd keep me in mind, should any new Layout or Design work arise.. And in mid-July of last year, asked if I could do some BG Design work on their new "Will & Dewitt" cartoon, for 3-4 weeks..
Well, fortunately for me.. 3-4 weeks quickly turned into a much longer 6-month stint!
And I'm happy to say that it was a very satisfying show to work on.. Not only did they allow me to work remotely, from home. And upload the finished artwork to their FTP and CAS (Client Approval System) sites.. But they allowed me to work traditionally (pencil-on-paper), too.
To my knowledge, all of the other artists were working digitally, and in-house..

The show is a very simple Flash cartoon, aimed at a preschool audience.. They're half-show episodes (2 x 11 minutes/half-hour). Featuring a boy named "Will". And his magical morphing Frog friend (named "Dewitt")
; who acts as a kind of conscience/advisor/life coach, to young William..
It was directed by Paul Riley. With the Design Supervision, ably handled by Andrew Hickson..
My good buddy Dave Pietila, served as my main 'contact' during the production.. He engineered & managed the Layout/Paint/Setup system.. And kept me busy with Shot Lists to work on, for each episode..
For the most part, my role was to "fill rooms with stuff.." for the Layout crew. Who would take my drawings.. Vectorize & tweak them.. And send them over to the Painters. My layout drawings here, all feature hard pencil "holding" lines.. But if you've seen the show, then you already know that the "look" of the BG's is much softer, with a color-to-color finish on them.. Which makes the character poses stand out, a lot stronger.
The 4 layouts (above), were for an episode that took place in a Library.. As "Dewitt" morphs into a Cowboy, Spaceman, Pirate, and Dinosaur.. The bookshelves on the BG also transform into the appropriate Settings, around him.. All of these, needed to be designed upon the same Template, re: shelf positions..
More examples of "stuff" crammed into the BG drawing.. Toys, this time!
I know it looks quite crowded, as is. But much of it eventually gets changed by the Layout crew, working in-house.. Where they work their Photoshop "magic" on it.. Removing stuff they don't want. And/or shifting elements around.. My main responsibility, is to ensure that every part is drawn using the same Perspective scheme. Otherwise, things can really start to go awry!
Here's one of the last shots I did.. An episode about the importance of Ecology. And how polluting a community creek, really sucks!
If you've got small children in the house,-- I'm sure they'd find the cartoon appealing.. You can find the show's "Official Website", by clicking here! There's a Preview to watch. And (I think) a number of online Games to enjoy, too!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

WEHT Dave Stevens?

WEHT: "Whatever Happened To Dave Stevens?.."

That's a title for a Discussion Thread, that I've seen on a number of different Internet messageboards, over the past couple of years.. Frustrated 'comic art' fans & enthusiasts, wondering aloud where Dave Stevens has been? And what has he been up to?!
In hindsight, it turns out.. Dave spent most of his time, simply attempting to restore & retain his health, as best he could..
I was aware that he'd not been feeling well, of late.. But was surprised to hear of his personal battle with Leukemia. Sadly, it was a war that he lost, sometime on Monday, March 10...

Like most other fans, I first got to know Stevens' artwork, in the early 1980's.. In the wake of the rousing success of his 'The Rocketeer' comic-books. Even now, I still marvel at the excellent draughtsmanship & lush, slicker-than-slick inking! Amongst many favorites, Dave quickly became "the favorite comic artist.."
In 1985, while attending a comic-shop signing.. I even convinced another favorite: Mike Kaluta.. to draw me a sketch of Dave's famous creation, for me.. A chore he relished, he told me. As it was his favorite current comic character, as well..
If you're like me.. Once you've familiarized yourself with Dave's art.. Then you can't begin to imagine a reason why anyone would draw things, in any other style.. The slickness of his linework, initially sucks you in. Yet it's always solidly-drawn.. And radiates a slightly cartoony vibe, as well.
That "animated" quality, found in the movement in the Posing & Staging, may be due to Dave's pre-comic career, as an Animation storyboard/layout person. He worked for a number of years at Hanna-Barbera, before launching 'The Rocketeer'..
I think this 'Catwoman' illo for DC's Who's Who series, was one of his very best:

In 1988, I wrote Dave Stevens a gushy Fan Letter.. Along with a few of my Art Samples, for him to look at.. To my surprise, Dave took the time to send me back a lovely handwritten letter.. Turns out, he was looking for "extra hands" to help him pencil the 3rd installment of 'The Rocketeer'.. And was wondering if I'd like to take a crack at a page?!
Well, you could've knocked me over with a feather, at that prospect!..
Unfortunately, (for a number of reasons) it never came to pass.. Dave may have gotten cold feet on handing this kind of opportunity to a relative novice?.. Eventually, he gave the work to 2 more experienced hands: Art Adams and Sandy Plunkett..

In 1999, I attended my 1st-ever San Diego Comic-Con. I travelled there, with my buddy: Tom Ranheim.. A Norwegian fellow, who still runs the 'The Authorized Dave Stevens Website'. We both made a quick beeline for Dave's table. And he was very generous with both of us, despite our completely nerded-out behaviour..
When we both attended Comic-Con again, in 2001.. Dave allowed us to visit his studio in L.A., afterwards.. A cherished memory, to be sure!! Here's a photo of 'Yours Truly', nervously cradling one of the many pieces of 'Original Art' that Dave had lying around his studio space. You can see that I'm leaning back a bit, so as not to dribble any of my drool, on the Bristol Boards! ha ha
During that period, Dave had been busy working on an ambitious Illustrated Novel, featuring his latest creation: "Mimi Rodin"; a female heroine, designed after the likeness of fitness model: Marla Duncan.. The page on top, shows 'Mimi' in profile.. Underneath that, you can barely make out a half-finished watercolor illo, featuring 'Mimi' in the underground Catacombs of turn-of-the-century France..
Dave also gave us a quick tour of the Art College he was attending.. I forget the name of it now, unfortunately.. But Dave was quite enthusiastic about the place. He was studying 'Oil Painting', there. And occasionally, he would e-mail me JPEGs of his efforts, to show his progress.. Most of them, featured straight-ahead Portraiture.. Like this example:

In 2003, I managed to self-publish my own sketchbook: "WANG-DANG-DOODLE!".. (the namesake of this Blog!) The format for which, was largely based on the kind of sketchbooks that Dave had been publishing/selling, during this same period..
Thru e-mail, I tentatively inquired if Dave would perhaps allow me to try selling my book, from his own Comic-Con booth?
Though I had the money to make the trip down to San Diego. I really didn't have enough extra $ for my own table.. Dave graciously allowed me to sit with him. And the experience of sharing time with him during the 2003 show, was another truly amazing experience!

The last e-mail I received from Dave, was dated from March 23, 2007.. Almost a year ago.
He asked me how things were going.. And I wrote him back, to keep him appraised re: how my Life was going.. I wrote him back a couple of times, after that. But didn't get a response to either message..
Not unusual for Dave.. But given the circumstances now, I wish that I'd tried a bit harder to get in contact with him..

Dave had told me then, that he'd been hard at work, putting the finishing touches on his upcoming bigass hardcover/coffee table 'Art Of Dave Stevens' book. It was to be published in 2007, thru Arnie Fenner; the genius behind the recent Frank Frazetta art volumes..
Dave e-mailed me the following JPEG, to show some of the recent coloring work he'd done..
It's excruciating to me now, to imagine that Dave will be gone forever.. And that we'll see no more "new" artwork, for our eyeballs to lavish over.. But I'm hopeful that the book he'd been so diligently working on, will still someday (somehow) see the Light Of Day?.. It'd truly be a shame, if it didn't..
Last I'd heard,-- the title had been changed to: 'Dave Stevens: A Creative Life'.. An appropriate title, for a guy that's done everything from 'The Rocketeer'.. to storyboarding Spielberg's 'RAIDERS Of The LOST ARK'.. to working with Michael Jackson on his 'THRILLER' video?!.. I can't imagine a more diverse Resumé, to be honest..
The book was set to be released at the 2008 San Diego Comic-Con.. Let's keep our collective fingers crossed & hope that this happens.. I think it'd be a great legacy for him to leave behind, for all of us..

It was an honor to consider you a Friend.. Rest In Peace, Dave!!

Friday, February 29, 2008

Modern Masters 15: Mark Schultz

Hiya Folks!

Another LONG hiatus from the ole Bloggy-wog.. Apologies, once more.
If you've been following Suzanne's blog,-- then you have probably already surmised the reasons for not posting so much.. One big (tiring!) word: "Renovation".
I did manage to find some time to purchase this week's 'JUSTICE LEAGUE: The New Frontier' 2-disc DVD release.. Watched it, and enjoyed listening to Darwyn Cooke's commentary on how he felt the whole "adaptation" thing went over, too.. Suzanne suggested I should definitely "do a Blog post" on it.. But I'm really not sure what to say about it yet. So I thought I'd go in another direction..
Actually, a LOT of great books have been coming out, lately.. Including last week's beautiful 'Alex Raymond' hardcover.. But I wanted to highlight the most recent Volume (15) in TwoMorrow's MODERN MASTERS series of trade paperbacks, featuring: Mark Schultz. I'm not a huge fan of the way this series chooses to showcase artwork. But the interviews, are generally very well done. And this one, is no exception..
Back in early Nineties, I was out of the Animation business for a brief spell.. Having totally burnt-out on doing their Layout work.. I chose to go on a self-imposed hiatus from Nelvana, where I'd been working.
I can't remember what I was doing instead, now.. Probably a bit of comic-book retail work at either 'Dragon Lady' or 'The Beguiling'..
But when I heard thru the Grapevine that Mark Schultz' 'XENOZOIC TALES' comic-book had been optioned as an Action/Adventure cartoon thru Nelvana.. I got my Portfolio back together & made a trip down to the studio, to see if I could possibly get some work as a Designer on it..
Luckily, Ted Bastien thought I'd work out okay.. And for my first-ever "Design", Ted assigned me the (daunting!) task of drawing up an Establishing Shot, featuring the cartoon's Main Location: "The City In The Sea".. A kind of crumbling cityscape that'd been retro-fitted with hydraulic tubing/cables & stone bridges.. Slightly over-run with fast-growing vines/prehistoric plants.. And with Pterodactyls, nesting in the upper echelons, etc.
Not having ever "designed" anything for Animation before.. I simply followed the models/templates, already established in Schultz' comic-book.. There were literally TONs of Location Designs that needed to be completed. Here's another example, of a Reverse View:

It was a pleasant surprise to see that Mark Schultz was quite involved firsthand, with the cartoon's production.. He had partnered up with 'Galaxy Films', to ensure that as much of his comic-book's appeal, would translate into the cartoon episodes.. Understandably, he had final-say on all 'Character Design' details.. And would occasionally send along Notes, that he felt would be helpful or interesting to us..
Here's a series of Sketches he fax'd us, featuring a character named: "Lashard".. I think we'd originally Designed him with some kind of metal skull-plate, 'cuz he'd had some kind of horrible disfiguring accident? And Mark Schultz wanted something a little more natural & subtle-looking, that still retained his hawk-ish appearance..
Here's another unpublished Pic he faxed us, that doesn't appear in the MODERN MASTERS book.. I guess he imagined ALL Canucks were Hockey-obsessed? I'm a Baseball man, myself!
Schultz actually came thru the Design studio, about mid-production.. I can't recall the exact date. But I remember that he brought writer Marv Wolfman, with him. As Wolfman was responsible for some of the Episode scripts, I think..
The brief meeting we had with him, was pretty anti-climactic.. He was congenial & polite. But the Nelvana producers couldn't wisk him thru our workspace, quickly enough.. Heaven forbid, an Artist should take time to talk to other Artists?!!
They were probably fearful that we'd soon get around to complaining about Budgets & Schedules, like we always do?.. hah

Ted Bastien knew that I was a big fan of Mark's work. And he used to tease me incessantly about how "my Hero was coming!".. Oh, brother! After he finally showed up,-- I found this devastating cartoon hanging over my Drawing Table:
Ted was good about trying to feature all of the members of our Design crew, into some of the episodes themselves.. I think Ted drew himself, as a Truck Driver. I remember that Kurt Lehner was a kid hanging off the back of an old Fire Engine. And for whatever reason,-- Ted thought that I'd make a perfect generic "MoleMan".. Featured in an episode where a Mining crew had to excavate below the foundation of "The City In The Sea"..

As you can see,-- Ted's got me in what he called my Rich Dannys "uniform".. Baseball turf shoes & my traditional "soup hat" with the letter 'R' on it! haha The other big bruiser almost looks like it was supposed to be fellow Designer: Leif Norheim.. But I don't think so.

The "Cadillacs & Dinosaurs" cartoon, was a memorable Job for me.. A fun project. And essentially, Nelvana's first real attempt at a genuine Action/Adventure cartoon. I think it worked out well, for a variety of reasons.. Not the least of which, was working with a realistic Budget & Schedule..
A year later, most of us began working on Nelvana's "Jim Lee's WildC.A.T.S." series.. Cranking out an equal number of episodes. But, on half of the same production schedule. I think it fared badly, as a result.. Oh, well.

That's all for now.. See ya!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Sorceror Supreme!

'By the Hoary Hosts Of Hoggoth',-- it's been a LONG time between Blog Postings hasn't it?! Yipes!
Well, as it turns out.. My Freelance work for the '2 Presidents' animation studio has now ended.. So I've found some time to clean up my workspace floor.. Trying to decide what project I should start on, first?..
I sorted thru a number of half-finished pieces of artwork. And stuff, that I'd intended to revisit & spruce up.. Hoping to (maybe) make them into something workable, re: a future Sketchbook, or whatever.

I decided that this 'DOCTOR STRANGE' commission from 2004 would be a safe bet..

This was a slightly-rushed Job, that I did for an "Alex T" from Thornhill, Ontario..
And I never really liked how I'd handled either the Face or Legs. So I cleaned up some of the Linework, and made the necessary adjustments.. Then, zapped the whole dingus with an appropriate color scheme!
I've always liked this Marvel character. Beginning with the most-excellent original stories done by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko. And later, thru the Paul Smith's knockout run on the book.. This one here though, was probably MORE inspired by the beautiful Kevin Nowlan covers, of the recent past..

Anyways,-- with work done now.. I'm hoping to be more of a "regular" Blogger, for the foreseeable future. So don't be a Stranger & drop by, for more soon!
See ya..