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Archive for February 2008


Flower Girl


Done with clutch and woodless pencils, both with HB lead, then tweaked in Photoshop. Not a bad drawing, but a failure in that it doesn't really look like the subject. Oh, time! This could've been a good one for Valentine's Day last week, but Picklehead and Olive would've been jealous.


Grammy's Antique Tray

We've completed the latest installment of Tzivos Hashem Kids comics, which I wrote about last month. I'll blog a link when we've posted the finished pages after it's printed, but here's a little preview of one panel where our hero, Joey is searching for an important book in his grandparent's attic. joey_attic_layouts.jpg While laying out the pages, in this panel I just quickly added boxes and brick-a-brack to frame Joey with the book, and to establish an attic environment with the limited space I had. In the foreground I indicated an old lantern sitting on a box. By the pencil stage, it struck me to change that object to an old tray my grandmother had left me when she died. It means nothing to anyone else, but it's a plus whenever an artist can connect to material with references to personal emotional or nostalgic touchstones; it can bring the work further alive. At the very least it makes it more fun to draw and look at later. joey_attic_color.jpg It doesn't end up being much in the final art, and will be partially covered by a word balloon, but I know it's there. I was pleased when Mary said, "Hey, I know what that is!" as she started coloring the pages. There aren't many more on the planet who would recognize this obscure little object. grammy_antique.jpg I'm not sure why this is the single trinket Grammy chose to leave me in her will. Maybe when I was a kid it caught my eye sitting on her dresser, and I commented on it to her? It's not much to look at, as it's dirty and beat up, crinkly in the center and off-kilter. But it means a lot to me because she chose it for me. Over more than thirty years now, I've used it to hold pins and buttons other such stuff, usually on my dresser or nightstand. Every time I see it, I think of her. I just moved it to the studio, where it holds and displays marbles, as I've been collecting them since the summer. I don't know if you'd call it a tray, or a dish, or a dish-tray. Laura thinks it looks like a hat. lauratrayhat1.jpg Here's to the little knick-knack my Grammy wanted me to have, in all its glory, awesome power and might! lauratrayhat2.jpg  


Color Sketch: Thing


I still attend the occasional comic book convention, but usually only the local Minnesota cons twice a year, in the Spring and Fall. I take the opportunity to do a few convention sketches. The Thing from The Fantastic Four was heavy on my mind at this time, apparently, and this sketch now hangs on the wall of a fan. Twenty years ago in my early days of self publishing, I'd cart my brush and ink with me to all shows, and eventually found it cumbersome and messy. Within a few years I developed a process of doing color sketches on colored paper. Dark paper works best, at least a mid-tone. I begin with a thin black line drawing, beefing it up and adding shadows with a thicker black marker, then add the punch with color pencils and Bic Wite-out pen. The materials travel easy and are virtually no-mess. I can execute these quickly and still achieve a colorful image that pops.


Picklehead Valentine


Happy Valentine's Day from Picklehead and his li'l pal, Olive! You can read the one-page Picklehead comic strip from which this image is taken in our Toons section of the site. Or check out this Valentine's illustration or this one in our Gallery. And here's our musical playlist that's helping us get in the mood and celebrate today: • I've Got A Crush On You - Stacey Kent • Our Love Is Here to Stay - Blossom Dearie • God Only Knows - The Beach Boys Pet Sounds • Bleed To Love Her - Fleetwood Mac • Oh, It Is Love - Hellogoodbye • Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - The Police • Have You Ever Been In Love - Swan Dive • I'd Like That - XTC • I Can't Give you Anything But Love - Mel Torme • Let's Call The Whole Thing Off - Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong • Someone To Watch Over Me - Ella Fitzgerald • My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker • Gotta Have You - The Weepies • Come Away With Me - Norah Jones • Dance Me To The End Of Love - Madeleine Peyroux • Nobody Knows Me - Lyle Lovett • Then She Appeared - XTC • Like a Star - Corinne Bailey Rae
    XOXOXOX - The Blue Moon Crew


    Post-It Notes 25th Anniversary Illustrations

    3M celebrated the 25th anniversary of that simple and functional wonder, the Post-It Note with a contest and a series of illustrations highlighting a cultural watermark from every year since its inception. Friend and fellow illustrator, Charlie Griak, asked Mary and I to pitch in, given the tremendous workload and time frame. Charlie handled the product/prize illustrations, and the three of us tag-teamed on the rest. Some I inked over Charlie's pencils, some I drew myself. Mary got us started on some coloring, and sometimes Charlie and I finished off elements of each other's pieces. It was fun to collaborate on this, as on a few we weren't sure when the illustration was complete, and who was going to end up finishing it! A few of my favorites can be viewed in our Gallery, commemorating video games, the fanny pack and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. We present the remainder of our favorites here. Is it easy to figure the topic for each?

























    Jaws and Roy Scheider


    In the Summer of '75, I hopped on my bike and followed my big brother, Karl and his friend Barry to the Gateway theater to see my first movie for "grown-ups", Jaws. I was eleven, and couldn't have been more excited to be allowed to see the movie that was the event of that summer. It was all the talk, with were rumors of gruesome moments and scenes that would scare you out of your seat. I wondered how I would hold up, and did jump at the porthole scene (who didn't?), but loved the movie, and still do. Jaws was a transitional moment in American movies, the first new blockbuster which weaved in scenes till then seen only in independent flicks. There's so much to love in it, and at age eleven I was taken with the suspense, the shark (of course), and the antics of Shaw and Dreyfuss. But I've come to better appreciate the fine, everyman performance of Roy Scheider as Chief Brody, which holds the movie together and gives it its heart. That touching and funny scene where his kid mimics him is powerful because it pauses the spectacle for a moment to show the vulnerable side of the tough and craggy man when he says, "Give us a kiss." He was also great in a lesser known thriller with Ann Margaret, 52 Pick-up, based on an Elmore Leonard novel. And he displayed many more talents in the exuberant portrayal of dancer/choreographer, Bob Fosse (directing the semi-autobiographical film), All That Jazz, for which he earned an Oscar nomination. Both are worth checking out, as well as many other movies from his long and solid career. He ad libbed that great line from Jaws: "You're gonna need a bigger boat." Nice job, Roy.


    Comics For Kids' Health

    In the late '90s, BlueCross BlueShield tapped me to draw a strip called Healthy Street for their quarterly magazine/newsletter, the BCSB Health Journal. Distributed to hundreds of thousands of households in the Midwest, they found comics to be a clear, entertaining and effective method to carry their message to families about children's health and safety issues, such as diet, TV violence, second-hand smoke, fire safety, car seats, bike helmets and many others. hst_helmet_smalljpg.jpg Written by friend, Cindy Goff, it was originally conceived to feature baby Katie, who, not being able yet to speak, offered ironic, comedic or insightful commentary through thought balloons. That Katie is a sharp one! As the strip format expanded and contracted with space considerations, the character of Katie evolved and aged, growing a bit older to better deal with health concerns for toddlers and young children. It was fun to grow the strip along with Katie, to get the chance to apply the medium of comics to these important issues to a broad audience, in a light and entertaining manner. Comics, a hybrid of words and pictures, attracts people because of their visual nature, and therefore can also convey sometimes complex ideas in seconds. When married with the right words, even more supporting information can be gotten across. That particular combination or synergy is what really gets my juices flowing. A dozen or so Healthy Street comic strips are readable here on our web site in their entirety.


    Sam Revisited: Digital Drybrush


    Another stab at Mr. Clemens, this time with a rougher edge.




    Another stab at a quick sketch with the Cintiq, this time of Mark Twain. I'm certainly getting more comfortable drawing on the screen, but am still experimenting with file size, various brushes and effects. Not there yet, for my liking, better getting closer. I am continuing to use the Cintiq for coloring storyboard work, and am pleased I've already been able to get more of the look I achieve with markers. Plus, I've been doing layouts on screen for a variety of jobs and projects. I'm not sure it's saving me time yet, but I can see it will in a short time. I've got to read more Twain. I've really only read Huck and Tom Sawyer, but have always wanted to delve into his other novels and short stories. Dare I make the resolution to fit it in before the Winter is over here in Minnesota? I fear it would share the same fate as my goal to read Moby Dick last Winter. I got as far as "Call me Ishmael." Still, Twain's got to be easier reading than Melville, right?


    Four Songbirds (Part 2)

    I covered Blossom Dearie and Stacey Kent with my post yesterday. Today I'm featuring two chanteuses who bring to mind the two greatest female jazz vocalists of all time, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald. peyroux_sara-g.jpg A Georgia native, Madeleine Peyroux spent a decade living in France from ages 13-22, at which point she released the stunning Dreamland, then after a six-year hiatus, followed up with two even better albums, Careless Love and Half the Perfect World. At first listen one can't help but think of Billie Holiday, but it's instantly clear Peyroux is no mere mimic. Whether born with the touch or simply and old soul, she inhabits completely the songs she sings. Whether covering standards, blues, jazz or contemporary tunes, she weaves through understated arrangements that together create a mood and world all her own. Skipping just a couple tracks, I've found myself taking in all three of her albums randomly and straight through. Her style is so complete and fully realized, all the songs wash over you seamlessly, and one begins to think the world is wholly perfect. You can hear Sara Gazarek's smile when she sings. A student of music and fan of Ella Fitzgerald, she can swing, scat, then smoothly sing a ballad (as with Billy Joel's And So It Goes) that will just about bring you to tears. With perfect phrasing while loose and in the pocket, she covers classic tunes in her own style, then surprises you with a wonderful arrangement, merging in a medley Bye Bye Blackbird with McCartney's Blackbird. Though she and her superb twenty-something band have a healthy respect for the best of the best, half the songs on her albums are fine originals, most written and arranged by talented young pianist Josh Nelson. I had the pleasure of seeing the band here in Minneapolis in the Summer of '07, and both sets were impressive. See them live if you get the chance, or check out either of their studio albums, Yours and Return To You. With all the buzz over some new young female jazz singers the last few years, it sounds to me like Sara G. is the one to watch.