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Archive for October, 2010

I mentioned a Lynd Ward book I have a copy of back in 2008 here.

I see that the Library of America has just released a new set of his stories in two hard back editions. Of course, once again, I’m like 6 months behind with this news. But the books are still available.

I believe the claim is he is the first American graphic novelist. Or at least the first American artist to release a ‘novel’ with no words in it. His woodcuts are wonderful and he explores dark themes. The books are not all-ages friendly. These are not kids books. But if you are an illustrator or cartoonist interested in using pictures to tell stories Ward’s work is definitely worth checking out.

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Continuing with the Halloween theme and the topic of my last post, here’s some more material related to one of those ideas that don’t go away.

I received some really fun emails from people who shared tales of their own passion projects. It would be fun to see samples from a bunch of artists gathered together of the things they do when they aren’t doing things for checks. I’ve seen a few shows of paintings by animation artists, but nothing that encompasses the stories narrative illustrators tell themselves in their ‘off’ time.

Below is one of the first drawings of The Thing. There wasn’t much character design time when I made the animated short. The entire film was made in like 3 months. Below that are some of the 5 statues I created to help me with the characters while I was drawing them for animation (simple shapes…simple shapes!). They were done in sculpy and painted with acrylics. This version of The Thing features the slightly more ghoulish looking torso, where you can see something like a vertebrate in its body.

Next up I will post yet another version of this tale. With the redesigned Thing that I stuck with for all the recent versions.

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I get obsessed with some projects. I guess I’d call them personal projects as I usually don’t envision them as being a ‘product’ put out for purchase. They are usually a little dark in tone, and the same themes keep reappearing in the projects. And they all relate to the fascinations of my childhood. Namely monsters and living on a farm. Cheaper than going to a psychiatrist I guess. I suspect most writers/illustrators have projects like these. The things we do to avoid doing the things with real deadlines perhaps…

The Thing With No Head started as a short sing-song illustrated rhyme. I developed it into an animated short in 2004 while I was at UCLA. Here’s the trailer for it. I shot it on 16mm after hand drawing and painting almost 1,000 cells. That’s the kind of thing you do in Grad school. Keep the inmates busy and all that…

Anyway, not a year goes by when I don’t dig it out and rework it. I decided I will post a few of the versions of the project as it has percolated about. I find it interesting to see how an idea develops and changes. Even the main character’s design, The Thing (with no head) has changed in each version. It’s been a 32 page picture book, a 22 page black and white, line art poem, an 11 page illustrated short story/poem and a short story with 4 illustrations.

I’m never quite done working on it and I find myself taking it out this time of year, every year. I’ll try and post the entire animated short as well, but I have to find the file first.

The top of this post is the cover from the 22 page book version. I actually printed up a few using Blurb, just to see what it looks like as a complete project. The hardcover feels great in hand (it’s 7×7, square format) and overall, I think it’s my favorite version.

Below are the first 4 pages from the 7×7 version. Click on them to see them larger.

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I’m always about 6 months behind whatever is happening in the world around me, I’m on some sort of delayed timer now. The best stuff on TV, the best new movie – I finally find it 6 months later. Sometimes a year. This has something to do with being busy with real life, and by that I mean a young daughter. Time I used to spend keeping up with popular culture goes to different tasks these days. At least much more enjoyable. BTW, I play a killer game of CandyLand. But really, that Princess Frostine card puts you TOO far ahead. They need to change that (Hasbro, I’m talking to you!)

I finally tracked down a nice series that’s been running in the NY Times online thingy. (I can’t deduce the exact name of the section/blog/online content/thingy)

It’s a series of short drawing lessons by author/artist James McMullan. They are wonderful, short lessons and well worth the time for students and anyone who wants to get a little more drawing education.

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I was forwarded a cool post where illustrator Erik Johnson takes us through a step-by-step for his The New Republic cover.

Erik and I have worked on a lot of projects through the years. Comics, kids books, animated shows. I really enjoy his highly graphic style. You might not guess it when you look at our work side-by-side but we are intrigued by many of the same issues. Keeping work loose. Sort of wrestling the piece into final shape. We both enjoy the process of creating the final work not based on a tight sketch but a guiding sketch. He still works with actual brushes and ink and paint. And tracing paper. (Actually I scan in a LOT of hand drawn art. I would put my work at 60-40 digital vs. traditional materials). And the materials play a big part in letting the piece shine.

I like seeing how an illustrator develops a piece, what unexpected problems they hit, what goes better than expected. It’s like watching that guy ski down Mt. Everest. Fun to watch. Look at that. He just fell and slid for 116 miles. Was that his arm?

Erik didn’t fall on this one. A very cool piece.

A step-by-step as Erik creates the cover for The New Republic.

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The Monsters from Stevens Elementary Kids Club monster drawings were amazing. I put a few of them together to share on the art above.

It was fun to see the creativity and cool drawings. I had a lot of favorites. Trying to pick a single favorite is nearly impossible because each creation had a bit of the kid who created it. And that’s what is so wonderful and fascinating about the illustrations done by children. They perfectly capture the enthusiasm of the moment. Of the interests the child has and how much they want to share the unique things they have learned and observed and thought about.

I sent a bunch of bookmarks and postcards and one original drawing as awards. My painting is the typical giant green monster attacking a house (the scan is below). You know, standard stuff in the monster world. But I have to say, after seeing all the creativity on display in the kids work – what I do pales by comparison.

I love that, at least some of those kids, obviously love drawing too.

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First off, I know I’ve been quiet on this blog for quite some time. And I hate to use the ‘I’m Just Too Busy’ excuse. I mean, we are ALL busy. I’m the one with the blog and if I have it I should be making time to maintain it. Cut the grass, pick up the doggy-doo. Paint it.

So I won’t say it. I won’t say I’ve Been Too Busy. And I won’t blame the stomach flu. But I can tell you, after going many, many years without it, it was no more fun than I remembered.

Earthling! my graphic novel is moving along. I’ll have a pub date soonish to release. And I will have some samples from a few of my next picture books at some point as well.

But as the title of this posting makes clear, I’m judging a Monster Drawing contest for a class up Seattle way. I love me the monsters. And the final drawings I received look really cool. It’s going to be tough to judge. I decided to give the student behind the winning entry a painting of a monster. And it’s going to be a traditional mixed media (acrylic/water color/pencil) painting on illustration board.

I work on the computer, but all my work starts with a pencil and paper. And often I paint things traditionally to play with the different art materials. I also worry that when I talk to kids in school and show them my work, it’s all prints of my digital work. I don’t want them thinking you have to have a computer to draw and paint. In fact, it’s best to draw and paint as much as possible outside the computer. It helps inform what you do digitally. So I will be sending up an original 9 x 12 painting of an alien monster as a prize. I’ll see if I can post the winning drawings as well as my painting here.

The painting in this post is a spot from the picture book, I’m working on. I’ll have more on it when I can!

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