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Blue Moon Crew

Concerning the doings of Blue Moon Studios and the Fricke Family: The Blue Moon Crew

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  


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!


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.


Dipping Toe In Paint

A short while back, the Blue Moon Crew set up a still life for each member the family to paint, with the intention of decorating our kitchen/dining area. We chose fruit for the subjects, to be painted on a set of 10 x 10 pre-stretched canvases. Each of us picked what we wanted to paint and made our own arrangements. Mary and Laura were working in oils, Emily and I with gouache. None of us completely finished, but it was a rewarding afternoon.


The session was fun, especially because we were all four in one room together, painting away. That sense of activity and shared goals is exciting in a studio, each working at their own piece, but checking out each other's progress. It reminded me of life drawing classes, except at home, and with my kids! It also offered Mary and I teaching opportunities, which may not have come our way at all or as naturally in other situations. We were on hand while working to answer questions about composition, contrast, color, lighting, and more.


I hadn't done any painting in years, having had some experience with acrylics, watercolors and oils. It turned out many of my acrylics were dry, so I just used the gouache I had on hand. I've always liked using gouache as it can be used to achieve both transparent and opaque effects, but I found it a little dicey handling it on canvas. Next time, I'd either use gouache on illustration board, or try oils or acrylics if I stuck with canvas.


I sure enjoyed the day, and thought I got a good start. I wouldn't mind finishing off this one, but we'll see. If not, I'm looking forward to the next time we'll all jump into the paint again and start fresh.


Our Li'l Em'n'em

Our daughter Emily turned eight last week, and we had a blast celebrating her special day as a family. Then last night she had over a half dozen friends for a sleep over. Mary and I were surrounded by giggling and screaming girls as they bounced through the house, playing Twister and marbles and Pin-the-Hat-On-Harry, finally settling into their sleeping bags to watch a Harry Potter movie and chatter 'til sleep overtook them. They had a great time, and Mary and I seem to have recovered. I can barely believe it's been this long since she was born. Emily's a great kid. She's smart and funny, and seems to do everything with style and panache. Many of the qualities she displays now seem to have already been present when I did these drawings for her birth and baptism announcements.



She also has an artistic flair. You can see some of her drawings and sculpture here, and keep an eye out for some of her comics, which she's working away at diligently. Happy Birthday, Emily!





Emily Walking


I try with sketches like this one (and yesterday's) to capture not only gesture, but movement and character. This is achieved best by keeping it simple and moving fast. But obviously, with a pose like this, it wouldn't be possible to draw quickly enough. So, it must be completed by memory. No doubt yesterday's sketch was finished in similar fashion.




Maybe this is the baby with the right attitude for this new year? I figure this sketch took less than 60 seconds. Had to work fast before anybody moved. For a subject like this, where gesture is so crucial, I find a quick sketch captures the moment and memory better than would a photo.


It's On!

newyear08.jpg I couldn't do it. I couldn't let yesterday's rough and tumble pessimism set the wrong tone for the new year now upon us. I'm generally an optimistic sort, so this little cheerful retro baby is more my style. 2007 got a bad rap, I think. For all the sturm und drang, things were not as bad as they may have seemed. There's a general unease in the zeitgeist (what's with all the German references today? -- 100% German Boy, that's why!), and no doubt for good reason, but if we can manage to step out of the eye of the hurricane and get a little perspective, maybe we can appreciate better how blessed we are. Here's hoping! And so a splendid New Year to you.


Buckle Up, It's Going to be a Bumpy Year

I've got a feeling it just might be an even rougher ride for the world in '08. We're going to need a tuff little New Year's Baby who'll be ready to throw down and get his freak on. Think he looks up to the task? Let's hope....


Howl at the moon tonight, take a good whack at a SpongeBob piñata and let the silly string fly. Blow it all out then steel yourself for what's to come. Happy New Year from the Blue Moon Crew!