Wednesday, December 19, 2007

New links added...

Wander to the right and you'll find Chad Hardin, Jeff Hein, Stephen Silver, Patrick Morgan, Nathan Fowkes, Paul Hamblin, and Chris Wahl.

Chad and I were roommates for a short time in 1996. We were both recently missionaries for our church and studying with Glen Orbik at California Art Institute in Thousand Oaks. Years later, we were both at Saffire, a game developer, and now Chad's doing some beautiful comic work. Chad has a great storytelling sense and is a great illustrator. Good thing he's doing comics. He kicks butt.

Paul Hamblin is a good friend that I met at Southern Utah University. After 9/11, I decided to go back to school and get a teaching certificate. It didn't take very long for me to decide against the teaching certificate. Paul shared studio space with me for a few months. I hooked him up with his wife, they moved to CA, and now she's putting him through ArtCenter. Been doing some nice work.

I briefly met Jeff Hein at a lecture about a year ago. A couple of weeks later, I was in Salt Lake at a convention and decided to drop by his studio. He's got a few thousand square feet, maybe less, above a Benihana or something. Location, location! In between his broccoli with beef and wasabe, he paints and teaches upstairs. Jeff does some fun stuff.

I don't know the rest of those guys yet, but I certainly enjoy perusing their blogs and websites, and I suspect that you will, also.

I also added Adam Hughes and Glen Orbik to the website links. Adam is well-known, and does the comic convention circuit. Paul Hamblin and I drove to nearby Vegas a few years ago to attend what turned out to be a flop of a Las Vegas Comic-con. It was held on Halloween, was poorly advertised, poorly attended, and gave us a chance to meet a lot of great artists very quickly. Adam, who was uncharacteristically NOT being hounded by an ogling fanbase, was nice enough to answer some technical questions we had. He seemed like a pleasant and engaging fellow, even though he was drawing away on someone's requested sketch the whole time.

Glen Orbik is also well-known, as he is an accomplished and prolific illustrator, as well as one of the finest natural instructors I have ever met. I say that with authority, as he was plagued with me as a student for a couple of years. Some can teach, but suck at art. Others are great artists that are horrible teachers. Glen is the perfect amalgam of the artist/instructor. I may add more later, but for now, divert yourself for an hour or two as you meander the paths of this master craftsman's website. Beautiful work. He shares it with Laurel Blechman, his partner of who knows how many years. Both are very skilled. Have fun!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Well, as in the fable, the tortoise defeated the hare. I inked the figure and "shellmet", then I ran it through Streamline. Now Illustrator comes with a feature called Live Trace, which replaced Adobe's stand-alone app. known as Streamline.
I built the bike in Illustrator and left out a lot of details so that the eye would stay on that head after making the rounds.
The background is from a sandstone wall on Gooseberry Mesa, just East of my home in Southern Utah. I torqued the color in Photoshop.
The tortoise seemed to be the best choice since there is a regional tortoise preserve nearby that is well-known among outdoor enthusiasts and couch potatoes alike. It's beautiful country.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Character Sketch

This is a reject for an initial character-driven logo concept intended for a startup cyclery shop. We ended up going with something a little more aggressive and definitely more masculine. Not a bad initial design, just not as effective for the core demographic the store was/is targeting.

I like the S-rhythms I developed in the character. Had she made it into the final running, I would have developed some more dynamic costuming. You can't have Thumper's triathlete girlfriend competing in shabby spandex.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Alternate Aladdin promo

New Blog link - Otis Toy Design

Candy Lavin used to be my CM at Applause. Now she's cracking whips at Otis in L.A. I attended a summer program at Otis just after I graduated from high school. Back then, it was on Wilshire across from MacArthur Park. Originally, the area was very nice, as evidenced by local architecture. It was fun while I was there, but at that point the neighborhood had gone to hell. Several years ago, they made the upgrade and moved a little closer to the ocean.
They pioneered a toy design program, being the first on the West Coast to offer one, and after a cursory review of the student work just now, I have to say I'm very impressed. A couple of friends of mine have taught/are teaching there. They lucked out to land Candy. I'll let you go to the site to find out more.

More Theatre Work - Rub My Lamp, Baby.

My neighbor, Joe Webb, who is an amateur photographer and pyrotechnician, helped out immensely with the setup. He pulled a canvas backdrop out of his house and draped it between a willow tree and a red sandstone boulder in his front yard at sunset. We brought over a dual 500-watt halogen construction lamp on a tripod to help illuminate the shot of the lamp. Then the fun began!

We did this on the 4th of July. We set up and started snapping shots within about five minutes. I had smoke bombs that were supposed to be for the kids. I think Joe and I qualify well enough for that title...anyway, they were $0.30 off-the-shelf stinkers that served us well. Christy Webb wrote this theatrical adaptation of the tale and had a metal lamp on hand for prop use. We used modeling clay to seal the lamp lid on so the smoke would pour out of the lamp end. I burned my hand with the fuse once or twice - it's like a little flame-thrower, and I had to move quickly to get it in place and get the burn oriented toward the front of the lamp. Then the lid went on and I sprinted back to the camera. Joe manned his own camera and has some phenomenal shots which I intended to use, but didn't get around to putting them on my machine. It turned out that I had some decent shots of my own, anyway.

I also wanted to have a chance to use my tablet and graft a couple of shots together, so I set up a shoot with the actor playing Aladdin's genie. The rag on his head is a tablecloth that was laying around my garage. I put the dual halogens up again for lighting similarity and popped several good ones off. We were telling bad jokes and tried to get the genie to at least LOOK like he was laughing naturally. I found that the tablecloth matched the blueish smoke almost perfectly, and used that to tone the whole face.
In the end, it turned out allright, and the play was pretty good!

Friday, July 27, 2007

New website up - just a placeholder

My brother and I finally tossed a site together. It's a placeholder, but does the job well enough for now.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Phoenix Grill - No Spice Rack Here.

I recently did a photo shoot in a Scottsdale, AZ public park. This is not one of the final shots to graduate into the selection pool, but it is one of my favorites. The subject is the owner of a multi-million-dollar company and is a very high-energy "type A" personality. I've worked with him for a few years now, and it was nice to see him in a different light, kicking a ball around in a park with some friends. Photography isn't really as much of a creative end unto itself as drawing or painting is for me, but I do love the capability it affords me to spontaneously capture extremely fleeting moments.

New links in the Sidebar →

Blog links:
• I added Henry Bawden, who I met a few years ago in Southern Utah. He's very dedicated and "muy animado" when it comes to creativity - I suppose that's a good thing, since he's working on a Master's degree in animation. Animado = animation.
• I also added Timothy Barnes' blog link. Tim was my figure drawing and illustration instructor at ArtCenter almost...many years ago. I was attending their weekend program for high school students with a few other young artists from Simi Valley. Now that I think about it, that's where I almost met (we never really met, but we were in Tim's class together) a girl who became a great friend, Nancy Ramirez. I'll see if I can dig up a link to one of her sites in a minute. Tim was working at DIC Animation at the time, and he was an inspiration to learn from. He was nice (and cool) enough to invite some of us down to DIC, which was a thrill.
Another ArtCenter teacher, Michael Deiderich (sp?) was working there doing concept development, along with a crazy Argentine that I would meet years later in the red deserts of Southern Utah, which brings us to...
• Marcelo Vignali. Fascinating how it all comes together. Marcelo was freelancing from St. George, UT several years ago. I moved from So. Cal. to the same town when I accepted a position with Saffire, a game developer based in Northern Utah. They had a development team in Saint George that I heard about from a friend who was working there, Chad Hardin. A few of the artists wanted to get a figure drawing workshop going, and we contacted some ladies that ran a painting/sculpture studio downstairs about it, too. They were on board with the idea, and somehow Marcelo showed up, too. The space was cramped, but we had a model and three hours a week, which was better than a sharp Ritmo in the eye.

Web links:
• I fixed the Ryan Wurmser link. He dropped his URL and now has Morseburg Galleries' site paying for bandwidth. Ryan is a great friend, and I miss hanging out with him. (sniff) We would go over and B.S. with his dad, Terry, serving as the "father-figure/mediator/wiser-than-all-of-you-smart-ass-punk-art-students" sage of wisdom's distillation. What a blast. We'd discuss art, politics, boxing, religion, family concerns, and our hopes for the future. Terry died in his sleep a year ago. He was a great influence on me, a loving father, and caring husband. I'll have to write more about him later. Don't want to get choked up right now.
Ryan was (I'm sure he still is) a great illustrator, and transitioned into fine art several years ago. He's done well, and I really like his more recent work, both subject-wise and technically.
• Added Jeremy Lipking. Jeremy is a great friend, too, and there go two reasons I miss living in CA. It was nice to hang out with those guys. Jeremy's dad, Ron, is a tremendous talent who showed me the ropes as a toy designer/concept illustrator years ago at Applause, Inc. Jeremy hooked me up with the job, where I also worked with Ryan's father, Terry, and later, Josh Lipking, Jeremy's brother and a skilled designer.
• Tony Pro. I met Tony at Ryan's house one night, and then again at school. Tony was also a creative professional prior to launching his successful fine art career. He was a successful graphic designer, and I think his last stint before trading a mouse for brushes was designing DVD interfaces for MGM. Also, take a look at Morgan Weistling's Christ figures from about...oh, eight or nine years ago, and you'll see Tony, sporting a robe and beard in a representation of the Ultimate Creator. Tony, Ryan, Jeremy, and I all attended California Art Institute with Glen Orbik as our instructor.
• Glen Orbik. A great illustrator/draughtsman and a fine instructor. He's able to provide guidance and suggestion for students at every level of development. There are great artists that are lousy teachers, great teachers that are lousy artists, and then there are great artists that are also great teachers, and that's where Glen enters the picture.
• Terry Smith - I also worked with Terry Smith at Applause. Terry's credentials are long and varied, having worked as an illustrator all over the globe. I have one of his figure sketches, done in oil pastel, that I rescued from his trash bin. I thought it was nicely done, and he evidently didn't need it. He's prolific and a great designer with his paintings these days. I learned a lot from him, not from so much verbal explanation on his part, rather by watching him work. He's totally open to experimentation with new materials and has a hard time not cracking jokes and chuckling with a quiet, yet infectious laughter.
• Robert Ennis. This punk is my brother. He's very imaginative and picked up Illustrator in about an afternoon. Two weeks later, he was showing me some features I had never used, that I actually found to be useful. We're putting a couple of websites together right now that should be exciting.
Ignat Ignatov. Iggy, too, worked at, you guessed it, the corner gas station with me. No, it was Applause. He was a sculptor when I arrived, and was eager to get involved in other areas of toy development. He would pinch-hit for the paint master finishing stage of a product whenever needed and got into product design as well. Like Ryan, Tony, and Terry, he has foregone the rigors of product/illustration/graphic work in favor of the challenges of gallery work. He just had a show Meyer-Rive Gauche in Scottsdale. I was able to make it down for reception night and whisper sweet Bulgarian nothings in his ear for a moment..."give me the keys to the car". Very tender.
Very nice show. I always enjoy colorful figures, and Iggy's are just that.

Now that I think of it, Jeremy did a few projects as a freelancer, here and there, but never jumped in with both feet. Sometimes I feel like I'm the last kid in the pool, swimming in everybody else's urinarily enhanced water. I can't really complain. I get to design and illustrate all day long. It's a dream come true, honestly. Yet it's an old and broad dream, replaced by more recent and refined visions.
More on that later.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Theater, or is it "Theatre"?

I was recently asked to create a promotional poster for a local theater group's take on the fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea. It's community theater, which means it has a very low budget. It's also run by my talented neighbor (who does a great barbecue chicken), whose husband is my sporadically called-upon computer tech, and whose kids babysit mine so my wife and I can get out of Dodge for a few hours, and sometimes days. It's hard to say,"No", when good people like that have an art request. I actually did have to refuse an opportunity to play the beleaguered king, due to some calendar conflicts. Sorry, Christy.

I would have preferred to illustrate the thing, but I was pretty limited on time. I figured my Canon Rebel and a wide-angle lens would do the trick. I went over to the theater on Friday night, toward the tail end of rehearsal, and when they were on a short break, I asked the "Princess", who was in costume, to have a seat at the edge of the stage. Somebody unexpectedly pulled the red velvet curtains shut behind her, and I started snapping.

One challenge was to get the model to stop staring at the lens. She warmed up fairly quickly, and I popped off about a hundred shots. I chose this one because I liked the offset-triangle composition, as well as the foreshortening of the hand. I added the pea after the fact, and painted it up a little. The photo was blurred except for the hand and face, and I screwed around with levels, curves, and some different color layers before landing on this blue. The shot was in full stage light, and I like the dramatic shadows and attenuation across her face. Altering the original color to the blue simplified the scheme, and it reminds me of moonlight, which lends itself to the fairy component of the tale. The title font is a little art-nouveau. I think it contributes to the feeling I wanted. It needs some kerning love, but if I made those adjustments, I wouldn't have time to type a few hundred words for your lovely eyes to gaze upon, would I? Peg leg!

Anyhow, it's fun to work with these guys. We spend billions, collectively, in our country on big-screen films and then buy the DVDs a few months later. Believe me, I'm a contributor.
I love witnessing a well-crafted story unfold. I also don't mind throwing $20 to take my wife out for a night of Ghost Rider, because even a lousy script and non-compelling characters can't detract from the raw awesomeness of a skeletal blowtorch on a Harley. Hearing the graveled bass of Sam Elliott explain to Nick Cage, "You're the Ghostrider", is worth the atrocity that the screenplay was...Like I was saying, we throw money at Hollywood, but I feel more connected to the thousands of years of theatrical storytelling when I see people that I know and interact with, on at least a weekly basis, working through their lines, and laughing, and genuinely enjoying themselves, not for their contract wages or for the self-promotional butt kissing I used to see in L.A., rather they are performing for the pleasure of the performance.

Maybe that's why I don't mind putting these posters together. Remuneration isn't the issue, and although I don't have the luxury of spending three days on the artwork, I do have the chance to do a job for the mere pleasure of it. It's kind of nice. I should probably hook them up with a better website this year, now that I think about it.

Back to work!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Trent Johnson, now running the Angels' Marathon

It's been too long since I sat in front of a model.
This character reminded me of a buddy I had when I was in high school. Usually, I draw on newsprint, but I was out and dug up this heavy stock from a shelf in the studio. I picked it up years ago from somebody who was unloading it, but never used it due to its "chunky" tooth. You can see the large, unrefined, massed dark area that the paper is dominating the graphite. The model's name was Trent, and I like to jot down the model name and date on sketches. If there's anything peculiar to the stories they share between poses, I may note that as well. The bottom of the drawing reads, "Trent the Runner", due to his marathon participation.

About a year or so later, I read in the local paper about some guy that had fallen to his death at a waterfall/swimming hole area. I couldn't figure out why his name seemed familiar until a woman called about this drawing. Annette Everett, a sculptor whose studio was in use for this drawing, wanted to buy it. I thought that seemed crazy, since she had plenty of drawings of her own, but then she asked if I had read the news about the guy who slipped from the edge of a waterfall... holy cow. It was THE MODEL.

I had framed the piece for hanging in a library area of a model home, so it was framed, matted, behind glass, and ready to go. She wanted to give it to the family as a gift. Wow. I had her pay for the cost of framing. The family was very appreciative, and I reflected on how the little things we do can affect others in profound ways.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Sketch - child #4

My wife fell asleep on the couch one night, exactly two months prior to our fourth child's birth. He was pretty large and active, so she was hammered. I thought about pulling out my camera, but recalled a statement from Tom Lovell about artists relying too much on photography versus pulling their sketchbooks out. The guilt was too much for me to bear, so I succumbed.

I knocked this out in a couple of minutes. It's not phenomenal, but I find that I remember the moment clearly - the lighting in the room, the temperature, my own increasing sense of fatigue, the awareness of sleeping kids upstairs who might awaken to use the bathroom or get a drink of water. I love how sketching cements memory into the mind. I find the same thing occurs with journal writing; I can return to journal entries from twenty years ago and experience a high degree of recall.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

CES Convention in Vegas

My wife and I just returned from a two-day jaunt around CES, which is an enormous show. The acronym stands for " Consumer Electronics Showcase." Since I've been designing iPod accessories, laptop cases, media storage, automotive media storage, etc. for the last couple of years, I find it helpful to go to the show and see what the new bells and whistles are. It lets me get an industry pulse, so to speak, and gives me a chance to see what cool gizmos and upgrades are coming onto the market.

I enjoy product design. It's fun. It taxes a different skillset than drawing or painting does, and therefore, does not satisfy in the same manner, yet it is satisfying in its own right and puts bread on my table. I can't complain about that aspect of it. There came a point in my life when I decided that I really didn't give a rat's rump about what it was I was being asked to design, as long as I was getting paid. Of course, there are some things, categorically, that I won't do. Porn websites fall into the realm of "never", for example, but that opened some unexpected doors.

Bob Gurr, - google the guy, he's amazing - spoke at the toy company I was working for in 1998 or 1999. He mentioned that he attended and graduated from Art Center with a degree in Automotive Design and basically got into some shop in Detroit for one of the "Big Three" automakers. Within a week, he realized he'd go absolutely nuts if he had to sit there and design dashboards all day for the rest of his career (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the general idea). A buddy invited him to try on Disney Imagineering for size, and the rest is history. Trial and error, along with a good reference manual and a lot of desire, continued to provide the education that has served him well for some 50 years. The man has a vast and varied project and client history and was responsible for much of the groundbreaking design seen at Disneyland. He went on to say that, if he had been glued to that original goal of automotive design and stuck it out, he would have lost out on a host of creative opportunities.

I'm sure the man doesn't remember me from Adam, but I internalized what he was saying. I had really wanted to get into animation, and had just picked up my first rejection - from Disney Feature (I figured I'd go for the big one first) - when an opportunity to get into the toy industry came up. I was young (still am), hungry in more than one sense, and had a wife and newborn to care for. I took the toy job and learned as much as I could. I figured I'd get into an animation studio within six months or so. When Bob Gurr showed up with a nice slideshow and a bunch of cool design stories, I paid attention. Six months had gone by and many of my friends and school acquaintances were getting canned and not re-hired. The face of the industry was changing rapidly. I found myself in a decent spot, being paid to do character design, product brainstorms, and illustrate all day long. It wasn't my original intention, but there I was, getting a paycheck and benefits while many skilled artists were looking for work. Since then, I've been involved with video game development, advertising, copywriting, branding, packaging, book illustration, and restaurant design. I even went down to see Bob's handywork in Vegas at Treasure Island for reference to help out with the restaurant.

I found that living in the small market of Southern Utah has given me the opportunity to stretch professionally and get into a variety of creative opportunities that I would have ignored in L.A.
I might get into furniture next, or maybe I'll finally get into fine art this year on a regular basis.
Whatever path I take at this point, I'm grateful that I'm able to walk the professional creative path at all.

The image I posted with this entry is of a carabiner-type clip LED flashlight. I created the final vector art in Illustrator, after a few marker sketches, and was thinking of the robot design in the feature film, Lost in Space (1998). It was designed for Plasticolor Molded Products of Fullerton, CA.

Happy New Year, and God bless.

p.s. go to www. and search for "Bob Gurr". Some great articles that he wrote are on the site.