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Archive for July 2008

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FunRunts

From a postcard set I released years back, here's an image with the earliest appearance of my Bedbugs. A couple years later, I painted on the nursery wall a mural featuring the FunRunt pigs and many Bedbugs. At the time, I think I considered the other alien creatures also to be FunRunts, but that didn't last long before the pigs took over, and Bedbugs became an entirely separate thing.

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World Worn

I posted previously a couple sick & tired drawings, from quite a bit back, while I was experimenting more with the Hunt crow quill and various textures. Here are a few more I drew a few years later to expand the collection for a mini-comic I sold at comic shows. These guys are beaten down by life, and can't seem to escape even in their dreams. I used no thumbprints on these, but rather messed with textures achieved with grease pencil, dry brush,  sponge, and toothbrush spatter.

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Plymouth Magazine feature on Blue Moon Studios

Upon hearing Plymouth's strong showing this year with Money magazine's best city rankings, I was reminded of when Plymouth Magazine featured Blue Moon Studios a few years back. During the interview, I was called on to describe just what we loved so much about our chosen city. Read below the article in its entirety by Dan Emerson, with accompanying photos by Wayne Martin.

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The so-called "American Dream" represents many things to many people. For Paul and Mary Fricke, the dream was finding a place where they could raise a family and make a living doing what they love -- drawing and painting. With an art studio in the Plymouth home, the Frickes seem to have achieved their shared objective, and also handled the work-family balancing act that challenges most modern families. A freelance illustrator and cartoonist, Paul and his wife, Mary -- a painter of portraits and landscapes -- are Chicago-area natives who moved to Plymouth in 1993. Growing up there, Paul developed an interest in the fantasy world of comic books and harbored  the desire to create his own superheroes-on-paper. In 1986, the then 20-something Paul, and a friend, created a new comic series called "Trollords." which he describes as a "fantasy-slapstick-comedy-adventure about love, life and death." Paul and his partner went on to produce about thirty issues of the comic, which were distributed by the same wholesalers and distributors who serve "the major comic publishers and fans all over the world." At its peak, the self-published monthly book was selling 40,00-45,000 copies per issue. Several more years followed working for several major comic book publishers, including the industry leader, DC Comics. In the early '90s, ready for new ventures, Paul went to work as a freelance illustrator Around the same time, the high cost of living in Chicago led the Frickes to seek another place they could fulfill their shared vision. Minnesota, where they had made several trips to visit friends, provided the solution. Being self-employed, "we could have lived anywhere, but the (housing) prices and quality of life in Minnesota seemed to afford us that chance," Paul explains. "Here, we have been able to put together all the things we talked about on our honeymoon. Since we moved up here, it's not only met our expectations but exceeded them." When the couple planned their art studio, they considered whether to move to a larger home elsewhere, add on to the existing home or build a new one. "The longer we thought about it the more we realized we just wanted to stay here in Plymouth," he says. The Frickes founded Blue Moon Studios in 1996, shortly after the first daughter, Laura, was born under a blue moon -- a second full moon in the same month. The lower level of their four-year-old, custom-built home is dedicated to the studio, where Fricke and his wife each have their own work spaces. "It's important for us to be home with our kids, even though things may get chaotic at times, " Paul notes. Both daughters, 8-year old Laura and Emily, 5, are alos artistically inclined. "I don't know if it's a matter of exposure or a double dose of genetics, or both. Whether they'll want to go into it for a living is up to them, " he says. At times, all four family members may be working on their own drawing or painting projects.

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Since opening his studio, Paul has developed a client list that includes ad agencies and some of the Twin Cities best-known corporations, including Best Buy, BlueCross BlueShield of Minnesota, General Mills and Target. One of his 2004 projects was illustrating a Food Safety Kit for the federal government's Centers for Disease Control. When he needs a break from the drawing board, Fricke also has another creative outlet to provide respite from his illustration work -- music. He's been playing piano since he was nine and writing songs since 17. "If I get stuck at the drawing board, it's a great break to sit down at the piano and pound away," he says. Coming from one of the world's largest metro-plexes, the Frickes appreciate the blend of city and small-town living Plymouth affords. "We're tucked into a quiet area, but we're still only 20 minutes from downtown Minneapolis, so it's easy to take advantage of what the city has to offer. Plymouth is a really well-planned, well-designed community. Everything is very accessible, it's easy to get around, and the schools are great. It just feels good here," Paul says.

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The Best Place To Live: Plymouth, MN

So, we've managed to set up shop and our little corner of the universe in what Money magazine has chosen this year as the best place to live in America. That's cool; we sure like it and the recognition for our fair city. Glancing over the 2007 list, I see we didn't make the top 100, while a few other Minnesota suburbs did, so it looks like the magazine likes to spread around the kudos across states and the country. Good ol' Plymouth, MN probably won't be on the list next year, so we had better soak up the spotlight while we can. Mary and I moved from the Chicago area to Minnesota now fifteen years ago with the intention of eventually building a house, raising a family, all while continuing to work from home doing art and living in general a creative life.  While we knew we would miss family, and have, we thought we at least had a shot here of and achieving and balancing what we wanted of our lives. Pretty much on all fronts the decision and move has exceeded our expectations, and Plymouth has played no small part in that. Good thing we took the time to rent after having first moved here, to test the waters and get a feel for the area, where we wanted to settle. The more we looked, the more we liked Plymouth. And when we were ready to move from our first house in Plymouth, we decided to stay in town, lucky enough to find a lot on which to build only a block or two away. It's a great place.

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The Minnesota Orchestra plays at the Plymouth band shell for the annual Independence day bash, an event we've attended most years. Blue Moon Studios was featured in Plymouth Magazine a couple years back. I'll post that article soon, so you can hear me gush about the city and see my ugly mug.

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Radio Ad Campaign Illustrations: Share Us With a Friend

In the mid-'90s I was hired to do a series of illustrations for a radio ad campaign. REV 105 was an alternative station with an eclectic playlist, and this campaign was an effort to expand their base. For the first illustration, they purchased the rights to use a panel from a comic book story I'd done, "White Trash Romance," for a book conceived by my Chicago pal, Steve Darnall, "Empty Love Stories." (That issue and a few more are still available. Order now via the link for a great deal!) I had that first one colored up for a promo piece, which you can see here.

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All originally appearing in black and white, another 3-4 pieces followed, running in a local weekly paper, The City Pages, which is still around. That's more than I can say for REV 105. Though a better station than any around, the station lasted another year or two, after having been swallowed up, gutted and homogenized by the same company that owned their competition. All of this is a good example why I rarely listen to music on the radio.  Especially aided by digital music formats, it's so much easier to make my own playlists, be my own DJ. Anyway, this series of illustrations were meant to tap into retro comic book styles and genre, and they were a lot of fun to do, especially that zombie shot!

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More Color Storyboards

Following those storyboard pencils I posted yesterday, here are some color frames recently finished. As I've mentioned previously on this blog, I keep them looser by coloring over scanned pencils, then coloring digitally on-screen with my trusty Cintiq. The rough color effects are achieved simply with a "chalk" brush in Photoshop, at various degrees of opacity.

People with products.  Go figure, I enjoy drawing them, after all these years.

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Storyboard Pencils

From a recent storyboard job, these are a couple of my favorites.  Every so often, the client just wants penciled frames, and I need to do them even quicker than usual, down and dirty.

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Penciled frames like these don't take too long, maybe 10-30 minutes each, depending on the content and level of detail. Once I have a shot roughed in, I sometimes take reference photos to get a quick idea of a particular gesture, and other times I jump right in and draw without a guide or net. The best boards, I think keep things loose, while still readable and "all there." For this job, I did over thirty frames in just over a day.

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Beanworld on the Brain

The girls and I have been reading Beanworld comics together lately, looking forward to the new stories this Fall and Winter. Creator Larry Marder warns reading and thinking about Beanworld can be addictive, and he's right: Laura and Emily have been drawing their favorite characters and even creating new ones! Emily has been so jazzed about the Beans, she sent Larry a drawing and letter, which he's posted on his Beanworld blog.  She's so excited! This short animation will give you a tiny glimpse into the Beanworld process: a Chow Raid! Enjoy!

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Happy 4th!

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While celebrating Independence Day, let's be careful out there! This is an older piece, done for a cover of a small magazine.