Friday, December 31, 2010

From The Vault - Spider-Man Ornament 1997

While digging around in the vault last week to try and find the first Christmas Card I ever did I came across a manilla envelope filled with some of my old work. It was fun to seeing the old work and even some of the printed pieces I did back in the day for Marvel Comics.

And there, at the bottom of the envelope, were two blurry Polaroid photos.

In 1997 I was all but done working for Marvel Comics. I had worked for them for years doing airbrush painting but, around the start of 1996, everything seemed to be switching to computer coloring and I was getting lost in the shuffle. I simply didn't know how to color on the computer yet and, at the time, I had no real desire to even try and learn how.

I would still do little jobs for them here and there and even ended up doing some inking for them later but, when I took these photos, I was pretty sure my work with Marvel was at an end.

Fortunately, there are still a lot of things in the world you can't color on a computer. So actually knowing how to paint with my hands came in pretty handy when Marvel was scrambling to find someone to paint a Spider-Man Christmas ornament for them.

The story I was told is that they needed the ornament painted and it would then be signed by Stan Lee (yes, that Stan Lee) to either be auctioned off for some charity or hung on some tree or something. Of course, they now had to figure out how to paint Spider-Man on this thing.

So, they gave me a call.

I told them I'd love to do it and took the job even though I had no idea how I was going to pull it off at the time. I was FedExed out this simple plaster ball and told to paint Spidey's head on it. No problem. Airbrush the ball red, mask out his black and white eyes, spray some more paint down, and you had a basic Spidey face.

The problem I ran into was trying to figure out how to make the webbing really nice and even looking on something as perfect as a ball. I thought I might be able to do it with brush work but I didn't trust myself to make the long lines exactly perfect on the ball. So, I turned to a friend who did a lot of acrylic painting and asked her advice. She came up with an idea so simple that I still love her to this day for making it so easy. She said the easiest way to make lines that would be straight and perfect would be to take a piece of string, dip it in black paint, and lie the string over the ball. Perfect lines!

It worked out great and then I painted the webbed lines in between by hand with a brush.

I then sprayed the whole piece with a clear coat fixative and sent it back to Marvel. Another job well done.

Sorry the photos are so blurry but you can see how I hung the ornament off of my stand-up easel and over the box of padding they had sent the ball in. My biggest fear is that I'd drop this thing, break it, and really screw the job up. So I was taking every precaution I could think of.

In the end it was really a fun and unique job to do. And I think it's funny to picture someone of Stan Lee's stature, a character as big as Spider-Man, and an event as big as Christmas, all being helped along by a guy sitting on his small porch in Colorado, painting away, trying to figure out how to make straight lines.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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