Sunday, April 22, 2007

Deadline hell

There's just something slightly wrong about being on deadline and it's sunny and gorgeous outside.

The Importance of Ceremony

I just got back from my goddaughter's Comfirmation ceremony today and I couldn't be more proud of her. I've been grinning like a cheshire cat all day thinking about those many years ago that I held her fragile little self in the church as she got baptized. Being a godparent has been one of the highest honors I've ever been bestowed. To see her recognized in her church as a full member is gratifying. Her mother says that technically my duty to her (raising her Catholic in the event something should have happened to her parents) is now done that she's achieved her Confirmation. Fat chance; I'd like to think that my godfatherly duties will never end and she'd be an integral part of my life for as long as I shall live.

I've also been espousing to one of my classes about their impending graduation and how vital it is that they attend. They've earned every bit of pomp, cimcumstance and honor that a graduation ceremony provides. They need to sit through all of those various speakers, see all of the guests get their honorary degrees and ultimately hike across that stage to receive that diploma from our school. My students owe it to their friends, family and loved ones for all the years of support that they've received. Those scant seconds across that stage is one of the most gratifying things a proud parent can see their child do.

Did I need to attend my goddaughter's Confirmation? Did I need to attend my collegiate graduation 20 years ago? Do I really need to attend any event, function or ceremony? Technically no but how unfulfilling would that be? I wouldn't have felt this wave of pride if I didn't see my goddaughter confirmed. My parents would have been saddened to see my diploma arrive in the mail. And even the sad ceremonies- such as funerals... they give credence to our existence here on Earth. Ceremonies are a way to put a timestamp on our lifespan; it's a landmark to which we can all latch onto.

A very wise friend of mine once said that life is but a bunch of good memories. I agree. Why not stop and pay homage to our lives? Even in great sadness people can be proud of where they've come from. And more importantly in moments of great happiness like my goddaughter's ceremony and graduation, we really need to cherish our accomplishments and our very existence.

I've already got some great memories to cherish and plan on making plenty more good memories.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Current project

Here's a current project I'm working on now. Alas since it hasn't been totally approved, I really shouldn't say much about it other than I had a blast drawing goofy moments like this. Not to mention the creative team behind this TV commerical has really nice storytelling techniques to their presentations. I'm hoping to do much more fun stuff like this.

Gorgar pinball game

This was a classic pinball game I played when I was young. I remember the coolest thing about this machine was that not only did it play well (not too many straight drains), it was also the first talking pinball machine. It's primitive by today's standards but those sounds of "Gorgar EATS!" still resonate in my head. The artwork on the backglass was nothing special to write home about either, nor was the playing field a beauty- it was just a good solid game to plunk a few bucks worth of quarters into.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Another sad passing... Kitty Carlisle

She's the lady in the middle towards the lower portion of the picture.

Some of you guys are going "Who?", but she was a lady that was in my TV game show youth. Kitty Carlisle was a regular panelist on shows like "To Tell the Truth" and "What's My Line?". I never really knew of her background until a few years ago; she was always the very elegant lady who wore the pearls and asked the insightful questions on those shows. As quirky as some of those shows were, she always had a regal air about her, had a quiet dignity and exuded class to this young television viewer.

Years later I found out that she also starred in one of my favorite Marx Brothers' movies, "A Night at the Opera" and in several Woody Allen movies. Beyond her success with the movie roles she was also an accomplished singer, actress and active theater performer (she was still performing in 2006). More importantly she was an avid arts advocate (I found that fact out when she was awarded a National Medal of Arts from the White House) for many things in New York City and beyond. She campaigned tirelessly for funding of the arts. She also belonged to the board at the New York State Council on the Arts for 20 years and was a trustee at NYC's MoMA and Metropolitan Museum of Art.

She passed away April 17th, 2007 in the midst of her loved ones at the age of 96.

And to think I only knew her as the dignified lady on a few game shows in my youth. She will be missed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Don Ho passed away.

I'm so saddened to hear of Don Ho's passing earlier. Talk about a guy who practically embodies Hawaii and that culture to the rest of the world. Reading about how legendary this guy was as far as an entertainer's pretty amazing. The celebrity A-list that came out to Hawaii to see this man perform was something else.

And to think, just a few months back I bought a Tiki Farm commemorative Don Ho tiki mug as well.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sunrises and work

Don't get me wrong. I love sunrises. They're beautiful, magical and harken a fresh new day for all of us.

But there's just something bordering on painful when one's been up all night working on a project AND the sun's peeking through. As I look over my shoulder now, I can just see the faint glimmers of the morning sun about to burst through the venetian blinds. I'm about half way done with this job and the mojo faded a few hours ago; I'm just working on reflex right about now. I do need a few hours of shut-eye though. Long day ahead... taxes, more work, and then teaching tonight.

And in the immortal words of a great writer that just passed away today, Kurt Vonnegut... "So it goes".

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Another great influence

The great Will Elder.

Along with Harvey Kurtzman, this quiet unassuming guy drew some of the most lush, detailed and rip snorting funniest drawings for the ages. I adored his stuff in the early issues of MAD magazine, Goodman Beaver, and later the Little Annie Fanny series in the Playboy. One of the things that most impressed me about his work is his draftsmanship. His linework and cross hatching was god-like in precision. For those of you not familiar with his stuff I would highly encourage you to check out some of his stuff (Fantagraphics Books has a few of his books, see the link to the right)- see how he tells a story, look at the compositions, and how intelligent his stuff is. Will Elder is truly an under appreciated American Master.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Feather Bowling

I've been feather bowling for well over 20 years now. What is feather bowling you might ask? Well, it's an odd esoteric Belgian game that's played locally at the Cadieux Cafe ( on the east side of Detroit. This is one of my favorite local neighborhood haunts that I like dragging out-of-towners to experience something relatively unique to the area.

The two lanes there consist of dirt/ manure packed down into a long groove with a feather at each end. Each player/ team gets to roll six brick/ ball/ wooden wheels down the track and points are determined by who gets closest to the feather- sort of like Bocce. There does require some skill in this game since you can bank the shots by rolling them within the concave track. First team to 10 points wins. Simple in practice but tricky to master.

But what's really great about this place is that it is relatively unassuming. It's an old school neighborhood bar in an established post war Detroit community. The staff has always been top notch friendly. The food is pretty darn good (specializing in mussels, burgers and fish & chips) and the beer selection has always been great. One can go in and watch a ballgame on the big screen, have a family dinner, play some feather bowling, listen to some great live bands and be one with the neighborhood.

Congratulations to Amy Rauner

I've really been stoked for Amy Rauner, one of my students at CCS (not this semester, but still one of my mentoring kids nevertheless) this weekend. We entered her stuff along with a small contingent of some really strong artwork into the Communication Arts Illustration Annual competition this year and wouldn't you know it? She got a piece selected for the Annual! Quite the accomplishment considering some professionals never get chosen and she did it while still in school and in the ultra competitive Unpublished category. I couldn't be more proud of her (not that I'm not proud of ANY of my students when they do well- whether on a national stage or an individual accomplishment).

Five minutes of fun.

For the sheer stupidity of staying up late night and having fun drawing again, here's a quick five minute sketch: non-photo blue construction lines included.

Drawing cars in Detroit

From time to time people ask me how it is drawing cars in Detroit and I'm often puzzled by the fact that it seems to be labelled as drawing something horrific or mundane. I try to to make too much of a judgment on what it is I draw at times. When I do storyboards for a client, I'm helping them solve a problem- I don't consider that any more or less noble than any other form of illustration. What I also try to do is be in the mindset of "helping a friend" out of a jam. It makes it a lot easier working for someone. I got into this biz many years ago because of a passion for drawing, not the almighty dollar.

Seen here is a recent project I did for Organic for a great art director over there; super friendly dude. It was for a new Dodge vehicle. Is it groundbreaking artwork? Probably not, but I got a chance to do what I enjoy (and get paid for it under 30 days).

Sometimes there are times when I draw for a living and then there are times I draw for myself. Part of what this blog is to help me draw more for my own exploration and growth as an artist. Hopefully you'll get a chance to see a little of both in the following posts. I wouldn't trade what I do for living for anything in the world... it's THAT good.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Peter Cusack to appear at CCS

Famed illustrator and friend of Don Fitzpatrick's, Peter Cusack is going to do a presentation, a demo and speak in my class for a little bit today. I just scoped out his website and his stuff is amazing.

According to D-Money, Peter's the Czar of New York to my Mayor of Detroit (sorry Kwame).

I look forward to hanging out after our day on campus and causing some mayhem afterwards. I just hope that our Department Administrator, Terry has enough bail money for all of us.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Last Detroit radio rant... for awhile

Friday night/ early Saturday morning on WDET, Liz Copeland signed off. This morning Chuck Horne & his radio show, The Seventh Journey will sign off at 5:00 AM. As he said, "This is the final flight. There is no return flight".

I'm left to wonder where anyone in Detroit will get exposed to new electronica and techno on the airwaves now.

'tis another sad day for WDET and Detroit's cultural landscape as this show signs off.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Carnival barker III/ digital!

For whatever wacky reason, I've been doing this Carnival Barker series.

Well, here's my first digital painting. It's done in the same methodolgy that I use to do traditional markers but no fumes were sniffed during the entire process. I'm still getting slowly accustomed to the stylus' senstitivity and the layers but it's none too shabby of an attempt. I guess for certain areas I could've paint-bucketed it but I also wanted some more practice with using the Wacom.

Any thoughts?

Rest assured. More to come.

Got to hang with Jay Shuster +

The last few days were abuzz at CCS with the Entertainment Conference. Friday night after class was a dinner with the Entertainment Conference folks and the fun filled folks in the Career Services Office. We mowed down food at Atlas Global Bistro as we talked shop. In attendance were many of the great folks in the CCS Animation Department as well as our guests. The next day we heard them all do great presentations (despite some technical glitches in the auditorium).

•Shannon Gans from New Deal Studios; an amazing lady who is equally artistic as she is business savvy. Very inspirational to me in the sense that she blends the two polar opposite worlds together and makes it work so well. Her company's really really done well in this competitive field. I don't know how much she connected with students, but sooner or later the stuff she was talking about will resonate. It struck home with me though.

•Marty Stoltz from Midway Games; really funny and creative guy. His reel was full of the games that made Midway what it is today. Lots of blood, gore & guts! But that's the genre that's made big money for Midway. It was really interesting seeing the evolution of storytelling & games on his reel.

•Mike Wellins from Laika. He seemed much more the maverick garage film maker who's explored a little of everything. While the stuff he showed wasn't as impressive as the first two presenters, I couldn't help but admire his dedication to his craft. Unfortunately he sat at the opposite end of the table Friday night and I really didn't get much of a chance to talk to him.

•Linda Simensky from PBS also impressed me with her depth of knowledge and her career. This lady's literally been all over the animation map from Cartoon Network to Nickolodeon. The stuff that this lady's been pushing for will be the next generation's Sesame Street and beyond.

•And CCS' very own Jay Shuster. He's the Star Wars/ Pixar/ CCS rock idol. He's where a lot of my students want to be someday. Whether they have his dedication, drive and sheer talent is something else but he at least brings it closer to home for a lot of them. By far the funniest presentation of the day and kudos goes out to the guy for telling the audience how important storyboard work is. It sort of validates what I've been stumping within our curriculum.

Ever since last year in LA, I've been honed in on making our students and their work relevant to the job force. I hope these people at this conference brought some of that back sensibility to the campus.