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Archive for January 2008


Cintiq Sketch


I've had my Wacom Cintiq screen for a couple weeks, and am still getting used to it. I did this sketch on screen using some new free Photoshop brushes I was finally able to install, after reading about them on my buddy, Cedric's blog. This quick sketch is from a photo of a young singer, Missy Higgins, whom I hadn't heard before today. I've got the Cintiq semi-configured with my Apple Cinema Display, so I'm using a multi-screen set-up for the first time. I had a large Wacom Graphic Tablet for several years, but it is another thing to be able to draw directly on the screen. I've spent so many years at the drawing table, I know I'll never give that up. But today colored my first storyboard job on the Cintiq. I still started with scanned pencils, but instead using my typical process of printing those on marker paper and coloring with markers and colored pencils, I went to town on them on screen. This method saves a couple steps without losing the rough, loose look I like for my boards. I'm sure I'll be able to attain a less digital look the more I work with it. I'll post a couple choice frames if and when I get the go-ahead from the client.


Myrna Loy Sketches


Watching some Thin Man movies recently, I was taken again with actress Myrna Loy. What classic features! She's sophisticated and mature, but still has a little girl, china doll quality. Fun to draw!

Early in her career she was typecast in exotic roles, but broke out with The Thin Man (1934), where she had a chance to display her sharp comedic skills. The Thin Man series, inspired by the book by mystery writer, Dashiell Hammett, is worth watching mostly to see the snappy repartee and chemistry between Loy and leading man William Powell. In each movie, I can do without the gathered-group-whodunnit climax, but these movies are fun and light.

I came upon a small, strange coincidence in reading about Loy while researching for this post. Her mother, Della studied at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago, where I took piano lessons, which I mentioned in a post just a few days ago!


Web Comics


That opening line is still true, after all these years. The first panel from a one-page comic strip called Smoke Story, drawn in 1992. It's one of a handful of comic stories appearing here in the TOONS section of the Blue Moon site. If you haven't before, take a few minutes to read the short tales of comedy and drama, chaos and corruption, guilt and heartache, love and friendship. All this for less than two bits. A lot less. Enjoy!


Superman vs. Hollywood Book Released


I drew the cover art for Superman vs. Hollywood, a trade paperback with a sub-title that explains more: "How Fiendish Producers, Devious Directors, and Warring Writers Grounded and American Icon." Written by Jake Rossen, with a forward by Mark Millar, the book explores Superman's adventures with movies and television: the successes, disasters, and those that never made it to the screen due to behind-the-scenes hi-jinx. Just released by Chicago's Cappella Press, it's getting positive reviews. If you're interested in Supes or the fantasy and/or foibles of movie-making, pick it up through the Blue Moon Amazon Boutique. Update (3/18/08) There's an initially skeptical and ultimately positive review of the book, Superman vs. Hollywood for which I provided the cover. Check it out. The review links to this post. Further Update: I just received an email from the writer of the book, Jake Rossen, who's provided a link to a web site he's put up to keep tabs on all reviews and info. Read more at


Miss Potter

We planned a family night to watch the biopic, Miss Potter, starring Renee Zellweger, and our two girls were worried it would be either an old black-and-white movie or a boring, monotone thing, like the ones Mom watches on the Biography channel. Fortunately for all concerned, what we got instead was a charming, lively and inspiring entertainment, the story of a creative woman's life, Beatrix Potter. miss-potter01.jpg Her work on Peter Rabbit and other stories is widely known and read, but I for one didn't know anything at all about her story, which turned out to be an asset as the movie unfolded her life to us. It's a revealing portrait of an an artist making her way, first as a young girl sketching in the garden, then as a young woman struggling to get her work published, finally as an accomplished author and conservationist settling in the rolling majesty of her Hill Top Farm. Through it all, she's at home and one with nature, intimate with the creatures she draws and the characters that populate her stories. This is illustrated through brief and tasteful animated sequences of Beatrix interacting with her characters, as they come to life on the page. Her father is almost always supportive throughout, but I cringed for Beatrix at every disparaging comment and belittling remark from Beatrix's mother about to her daughter's talent. How fortunate we all are she pressed on anyway and persevered, regardless of the obstacles. But how much easier it is when artists are given a positive helping hand, as I wrote yesterday. Zellweger is rosey and plucky in an honest portrayal of Potter, especially sparkling when reunited on screen with Ewan McGregor (their first paring was a the fun satire, Down With Love), positively bursting with joy in their joint creative venture and as they develop feelings for each other. miss-potter02.jpg What a pleasure it was to watch this movie in particular with our girls, artists and lovers of nature themselves. Once the movie ended, our daughter, Emily immediately pulled the Peter Rabbit books from our shelves, requesting we get more, and asking questions about Potter's life. One can learn more about Beatrix Potter and see her observant and subtle drawings at some great resources on line, but you may want to watch the movie first, to go on a splendid ride, and save the further details for afterwards. But you can't pass up the virtual experience of reading the first Peter Rabbit book, apparently originally published in black-and-white.


Thanks, Mom & Dad


I was probably born with the artistic gene. But if that spark was ignited at conception, was indeed ingrown and imprinted in my DNA, surely it was nurtured and encouraged by the two who brought me into this world in the first place and raised me: Mom & Dad. My siblings and I all benefited from this impulse in them, to instill in us and pass on an appreciation for the arts as well as to create. Music was playing in the house all the time. My mom, Janet, was a fan of a singer of standards, tenor John Gary. She also loved musicals, and we watched plenty growing up. My Dad, Richard, has eclectic tastes. I recall my parents dancing in our conservative household to the soundtrack from Hair! We heard classical (Schubert and more), country (Roger Miller, Marty Robbins and more), jazz (Dave Brubeck and more), and many other artists from many genres: Harry Belafonte, Joe Cocker, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson, Tina Turner, and the list goes on. Any time any one of us showed an interest in art or music, they not only encouraged us, they went above and beyond the call. All the kids in my family drew or sculpted, played an instrument and/or sang. When I asked them if I could get organ lessons, they decided to buy a piano. My Mom and I would take the train to downtown Chicago for weekly lessons at the American Conservatory of Music, where my sister also later studied. So I began writing songs at age nine or ten, and seriously at seventeen, and still write, play and sing to this day, a valuable creative and emotional outlet. My three siblings attended classes Saturday mornings across the street at The Art Institute of Chicago. Ironically, I was the only who didn't like it there, and lasted only one class, if that. We were all encouraged to participate in citywide art fairs and competitions, leading to the Buckingham Art Fair, again in downtown Chicago every Summer. (Each of my siblings won ribbons and awards for their work. Me? Not so much.) When I became crazy about comic books, my Dad took me on my first trip to a comic book shop (Joe Sarno's Comic Kingdom). And when a simple enthusiasm and hobby evolved quickly into a downright obsession, my folks made sure I was able to visit my first comic book convention, which I attended for years, eventually appearing behind the table as a professional. When I self published my own comic book, I couldn't have had bigger boosters, my Mom while at work proudly displaying her Trollords button on her lapel. Because of their tremendous support, especially during the crucial early and formative years of childhood, I was able to develop skills that paved the way for my creative life and career. We try to do the same for our kids, not only with art and music, but for whatever in which they show an interest or passion. If we do half as good a job as my folks, we'll be all right. Thanks, Mom and Dad.


Pentel Pocket Brush drawing

I finally picked up the Pentel Pocket Brush so many have recommended. I just tried it out for the first time with this drawing, a preliminary study for a graphic novel, "Spirits and A Higher Power." Poor Willie Morgan looks like he's having a bad night.


The brush isn't as juicy as I'd like, but maybe it isn't flowing properly yet. So I ended up using more of a dry brush effect than I'd intended, but that worked to my advantage, I think, serving the material better. This kind of quick exercise helps form the look and tone of a larger work, sometimes  leading places not exactly expected. For the next sketch, I think I'll simplify even more and go darker, working more shadows on his face and clothing. Next time.


Great Romances: Frank'n'Cyd

In writing yesterday's post about It's Always Fair Weather and Cyd Charisse, I stumbled upon this funny and improbable image:


Like Fred & Ginger! It's one of a bunch of disconcerting and/or humorous digital mash-ups. View more unlikely and strange couplings at this page.


It's Always Fair Weather

Being a long-time Gene Kelly fan, I was pleased to discover recently one of his movies I'd not seen before. Belying it's title, the last collaboration for Kelly and his co-director, Stanley Donen (the team that gave us the greatest movie musical of all-time, Singin' in the Rain) and the end of an era for MGM musicals, this 1955 production doesn't completely gel, but is still well worth a viewing. There are a number of clever and entertaining sequences, including one featuring a drunken trio at 4 AM clanging through the streets with garbage lids on their feet. I'd previously seen brief clips of this sequence and another, but it's another thing to see them in their entirety.


That isn't the only alcohol-induced number, as a bitter and spastic Dan Dailey later lampshades his way through a business party, complete with a Jerry Lewis parody. These three guys are not in a happy place. Ten years after they agree to meet after coming home from the war, they find they aren't where they thought they'd be in life, and hate each other's guts. It's somewhat dissonant fare for a Hollywood musical, but is leavened by the funny and satirical jabs at television, the then-rising threat to movies.


Also pepping up the sometimes gloomy proceedings is the gorgeous, lithe and leggy Cyd Charisse. You'll recall her as the gun moll in the middle of Singin' in the Rain, but she's more attractive than ever in this movie, especially in the dynamic and burly number "Baby, You Knock Me Out," which she performs with a team of brawny characters in a gym. Excellent stuff.


Topping off the story, which of course ends well is Gene Kelly in skates, gliding down the streets in a scene that doesn't quite reach but evokes the centerpiece of Singin' in the Rain. Watching him tap dance on roller skates, you try to figure how they cheated it, when he suddenly takes off without a cut. Astonishing and graceful, it's a brilliant capper to a less known musical.



Sharky's Big Bites Logo

A huge new resort and water park is opening up February 29th just north of where I grew up. The brainchild of Dave Anderson (of Famous Dave's Barbecue restaurants), KeyLime Cove is located in Gurnee, Illinois, between Chicago and Milwaukee. Dave's created a few new restaurants that make their debut within the sprawling complex. He's had me work on a few characters and logos, the latest for Sharky's Big Bites, which I helped develop over the holidays.


Sometimes Dave turns me loose to see what I can come up with if he doesn't have anything specific in mind. Other times he knows exactly what he's after, as was the case with Sharky, and I delivered the art pictured above. He's since made some clever changes and additions to the overall sign. View the completed Sharky's logo here at the Key Lime Cove web site, where you can learn more and make your reservations.