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Blue Moon Crew

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

We've been displaying this homemade Wolfman poster every Halloween for the last deacde. Done with colored pencils on black board, with a splash of white-out to make it pop. It's measures about 4' tall.

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Decorated Halloween Gourds

Our nice neighbor, Deb took our girls to the pumpkin patch on a day off school Friday. Once home, the girls were busy decorating their gourds in plenty of time for the holiday. Laura's Friendly Gourds: security gourd Mr. Cheddar; groupie Noodle; Li'l Fro Dude; Googly; Red Stem; and the totally pimped-out Smiley.

Emily's Gourdy Band: (left to right) Cheddar and his son; Cooper on keyboard; Lead singer Fluff Guitar Man; on drums, Dino-Dude; and Booger-Man sings back-up.

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Backyard in the Fall

We're lucky to have built our house several years ago on a nice lot, half-wooded, half-open. Up here in Minnesota, one had better pay attention as the temps begin to drop: blink and you'll miss Fall. The trees go from green to fall colors to off the tree in about a week. Peak time for Fall colors is about three days. I've learned to take it all in given the short time allowed. It's a little chilly, but it looks awful nice in our backyard this time of year. This is pretty much the view from my studio window.

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Batman On My Face

It was such a gorgeous day out Saturday, the Blue Moon Crew stopped by the local Plymouth Autumn Art Fair. Lotsa folks were displaying their wares: paintings, hand-made jewelry, woodwork, etc. With fun food, live music on a nice little lake, it was a pleasant time. We're thinking we might try and get a spot next year to display and sell paintings, books, figurines and cookies. Our girls and their friend had their faces painted:

Friend Ashley, and our daughters, Laura and Emily

Oh, yeah, and Emily got a balloon hat, too. Laura's butterfly was really beautifully done:

If you want to jazz up an event you're planning near the Twin Cities, give the nice ladies at Fantastic Faces a call at 952-368-4488. They'll even paint on grizzled, unshaven adult faces:

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Everybody's Got Something to Hide....

I've been making good progress when time allows the last few weeks on a seven-page story to appear in the Image comic, Proof. Here's the first panel of the story, featuring an old man and his monkey, in glorious color:

For the past several years, I've been coloring most of my illustrations and comics in Adobe Illustrator, but on this story I'm trying a different look and method using Photoshop. Still employing a simple, mostly flat-color look, I'm also using a chalk Photoshop brush for backgrounds to add texture and depth, separating the characters from their environment a bit, similar to the approach used in much animation. This is the last preview of any art for the story that I'll post before it appears, which may be sooner than later since I may finish it earlier than I expected. I'll keep you posted here.

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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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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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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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Bookmark as Business Card

I don't like business cards much. During nearly twenty-five years of freelancing as an artist, I've found I rarely need or use them. But a few times each year, I'd get caught empty-handed when someone would ask me for one, and I knew I needed something to hand out in those situations. So instead I had printed up a bunch of bookmarks. bms_bookmark.jpg I figure people may just keep a bookmark around for a while longer than any old business card as it actually has a use beyond itself. And one can never have too many bookmarks. The illustration on one side of the mark depicts a couple children reading at night under a blue moon, so people may also use it while reading to their kids, or give it to their kids to use. The idea is to provide a built-in reason for people to keep it around and out, so they'll see it more often and be reminded of our little company and what we do. And if it encourages anyone to read a bit more, all the better. They're a little bigger to carry than business cards, but I keep them in my car or carry bag whenever I go out. It usually gets folks' attention just because it's different -- it stands out. On the back of the bookmark, I simply list the web site address and few things one can find at our site. For more thoughts on trying something new with business cards or the like, my pal and fellow artist, Cedric Hohnstadt has designed a set of new cards for himself, prompted by a helpful article on the subject at the Pro Freelancing site.