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.