Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to me!

Yes folks, years ago, on this day in history, I was born somewhere in the great states of New England. It's been a wild ride ever since.

For some reason, about every ten years or so, I seem to find myself with some kind of odd birthday head gear to wear. Ten years ago (Robbo, you remember this) it was balloon hats shared with friends at an Old Chicago restaurant.

This year is is a Sonic the Hedgehog stuffed hat.

Nothing says you're getting one year older and one year wiser than wearing something on your head that makes you look like a complete idiot!

As Robbo said years ago, while wearing a Batman style balloon hat on his head, I may be growing older but I'm not growing up.

Have a great day everyone!

Friday, February 25, 2011

From The Vault - Werewolf Assignment 1995

Back in 1995 I was still living in New Jersey and was doing pretty well for myself doing a lot of color work for Marvel Comics. During this time, and because I still lived near, I was asked to do some substitute teaching at my old school, The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Arts. I did this for a few months and, when fall arrived, I was actually asked to teach two classes during the week, Color Theory and Story Adaptation.

One of the assignments I had the students do for the Story Adaptation class was to illustrate two scenes from one chapter of a book I loved called "The Hyde Effect." The book was about a werewolf and the chapter I gave to them was all about a girl who went looking for the werewolf one full moon night and really got more than she bargained for.

One of the students, I can't remember his name now, turned in these two images. I really really loved the style and because he was so hesitant to try out the airbrush I took copies of the images home, had them shot onto photostat paper, and painted them up to show him how they could look.

I used airbrush, some sponge technique, a bit of toothbrush splatter and, for some reason, even tried to get some effects with a white pencil on the close up of the werewolf (it didn't work too well as the photostat paper is super glossy...almost like using a wax pencil on a photograph.)

But, it did the trick and not soon after the student was using the airbrush.

I still really love these pieces even though it looks like the close up piece of the werewolf got a little damaged over the years. The sky background seems to have run a bit and I'm betting some moisture must have gotten to it after fifteen years of sitting in my portfolio.

Ah well, you get the idea. And they're still great pieces that I had a lot of fun painting.

I really loved teaching and it's one of the things I wish I could really try again someday.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sample Book

Amidst working on a few new projects I got a chance to print out a sample book of all the scanning I've been doing the last few weeks.

So, for you, my few blog readers, here is a glimpse at what I've been scanning.

Honestly, I'm amazed how many pages there are already and I have yet to write, draw, or produce anything new for it yet. Two hundred pages and counting! The secret project is doing well so far.

I should have really done this years ago. Ah well, better late than never.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Airborne Toxic Event Acoustic

When The Airborne Toxic Event released their first album they promoted it by doing one song acoustically each week until they had performed every song on the album. It was such a simple concept and, I felt, a really great way to get their music out there into the world. Each week they would set up their gear, position the microphones, and perform in such locations like a tour boat, an old railway yard, and the back of a car.

So, for their new album they are doing more of the same.

As you can see from this video that debuted last week not only have they kept the simple idea of setting up acoustically and performing the song live and in one take but things seem to have gotten a

From the starting simple guitar and vocals the song really builds. The rest of the band comes in and then are joined by even more musicians as the song peaks. Then it all comes back down and we are left with the singer and guitar to lead us out of the song. The energy of this song is amazing and the lyrics are really moving. Much like the song's music that starts slowly, builds, peaks, and then settles back down, the lyrics follow us through a lifetime, starting at birth and ending in death.

It's a really beautiful and amazing song and I can't believe that, only a few short weeks ago, that I was in the same room as these people.

Enjoy the fun. I'm sure they'll do it again this week.

Friday, February 18, 2011

From The Vault - Scott Kolins Doctor Doom 1993

Here is another piece of art I painted as a sample when I was putting together a package to send to Marvel to try and get some coloring and air brushing work.

At the time, just after school, when most of my classmates left and went back home, one of the few guys who stayed in New Jersey that I could still hang out with was Scott Kolins. Yes, that Scott Kolins, the guy who's worked all over the comic book industry and has made a pretty decent name for himself. We used to hang out, go to movies, and talk a lot of art.

He was living with an inker, John Holdredge, and the three of us did a few pieces of art to sell at conventions. Scott would pencil, John would ink, and I would color.

Doctor Doom here was one of about five or six pieces we did together.

And yes, I think it was pieces like this that helped me land a bunch of regular gigs at Marvel over the years. So, thank you, Scott. I've lost touch with him over the years but I'll always have great memories of hanging out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Sketches

I've been spending the majority of my time working on scanning and cleaning up a bunch of pages for this new personal project and the new client work I am doing is still in the early stages so there isn't much new art work to show off.

But, I did scan in a page from my sketchbook showing a few ideas I have for the new project I am working on.

If I had known three weeks ago that I would still be scanning in pages for this thing I don't know if I would have been as excited as I was when I started. I mean, I still would have done it but I don't think I would have been as excited.

But, it's getting there. It's not there yet...but it's getting there.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


Since I finished up the client work a week and a half ago I've been doing nothing but scanning, scanning, and scanning some more. I've gone through a lot of old work and have turned my attention to getting it all into the computer, pieced together, and cleaned up.

I honestly didn't think it would take this long. But I think another day or two and I should be able to get back to the creative part of my job and away from all this technical computer stuff I've been doing lately. Hopefully it will all be worth while.

I'm not sure I'm ready to tell you what I am working on because I want to get a bit more of it done before I break the news.

What I can tell you is that when I had the idea to do this a week and a half ago I got really excited about this new project.

So much so that I started sketching in my notebook during lunch when I was thinking about doing this project. For those of you who know some of my old work, seeing a few sketches from that day should give you a clue to what I am working on.

I had to see if I could still draw the two main characters after all these years.

What they're doing with Spider-Man, though, I have no idea.

Friday, February 11, 2011

From The Vault - Marvel Trading Cards 1993

Long before I actually worked for Marvel Comics directly I worked in an art studio as an assistant artist during my last year of art school and for a few years after that. We did a lot of production artwork and licensed trading card series from comic book companies but we never did anything directly for Marvel Comics.

Until one Thursday afternoon when my boss got a call from Marvel directly saying that they needed some trading cards painted quickly and wondered if he could do a few. He said yes and the blue line boards of the cards showed up via FedEx on Friday morning.

During this time in the studio the other assistant artist and I would usually take home work from our job over the weekends, do some coloring and airbrushing on cards, and make a little extra money. The funny thing about this was that we were still paid by the hour for our work. So, even though I was faster and got the cards done quicker than my studio mate, I was paid less because he took longer to paint his set of cards than I did. Makes sense, yes?

So, anyway, because there were so many of these Marvel cards needing to be painted by Monday, I was given six of them to take home over the weekend and work on. It was the first time I had painted on the blue line boards (we usually painted right on photostats of the art, kind of like a really nice photocopy on a photo type paper), so I was looking forward to it.

As you can see by the cards, I really tried to do my best on them. It was my first time working for an actual comic book company and I really wanted these pieces to shine. Even if my name wasn't associated with any of the work I wanted to do my best. I put a lot of extra detail into each card and really took my time.

Too much time, I realized, when I spent all night Sunday before work still painting them. I didn't get any sleep that night before work because I just kept painting these cards.

But, I got to work, finished cards in hand, really sleepy with a nine hour day ahead of me.

I gave the finished cards to my boss who really liked them until he asked me how many hours I had taken to paint them. When I told him the amount of hours I spent he got really pissed (you remember, he was paying us hourly) and really freaked out.

So, I spent the day after I painted my first actual Marvel Comics work tired, working a nine hour day, with a boss who was angry with me. And, I wouldn't even get any credit for painting the cards.

But, in the end, I'm sure I used these cards as samples when I did approach Marvel Comics myself and started receiving work from them directly. In fact, I got so much work from them that I ended up quitting the assistant artist job and went out on my own.

So, taking my time, losing sleep, and having a boss angry with me seemed like a small price to pay in hindsight for starting a career with Marvel and always doing my best.

When I was painting stuff for Marvel directly, and even now with projects I do, some people in the industry look at my work and what I do and tell me I work too hard. But I figure it's a small price to pay for doing something I genuinely enjoy and love.

But, that day I did these cards, I just felt tired, beaten, and had a boos who was angry with me. An interesting way to start off my, what turned out to be years long, career with Marvel Comics.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Adding The Gray

As promised, here are a few screen shots of the grays I applied to the recent kids books.

On the BMX story I also had to do a lot of the bike's wheels in the computer to make it easier on myself. It always seems like a good idea to leave the wheels until I get to the scanned images but then I find myself spending a day doing nothing but building wheels and putting spokes on them. I guess it's easier but it doesn't make for a fun work day.

Ah well, at least it comes out looking good.

I've also been playing a lot more with graying in some of the background lines to give each piece the feeling of a bit more atmospheric perspective. I've seen other people try to do the same thing by blurring in the backgrounds, mimicking the look of a camera being out of focus and, while this works well on a TV or computer screen, I've always felt when I've seen this technique used in print it just looks weird.

But, I really like the way the gray lines look and helps the eye focus on the foreground figures that much more.

I hope you like the new pieces. It's always such a race to get them all done that it's nice to sit back now and admire each finished piece. I think I did a good job on these.

Have a good one!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

From The Floor - Bull Riding

I'm still working on getting you a few screen shots of the graying process going on for the last two kids books but I figured why wait for that when I can show you the last book from the floor right now!

The last kids book was all about bull riding, a sport I really had no idea about, but I think I pulled it off pretty well. Who knew when I signed onto these books that someday I'd be asked to draw bulls?

Since I finished these books the last few days have been filled with scanning tons of pages for a new project I am working on. I've been working so much at simply scanning that I think I am suffering from eye fatigue after looking at a computer screen for too long. But, after days of scanning and pasting together illustrations I have scanned over two hundred pages and am now almost ready for the next phase of the project.

Once I get a little closer to having it done I'll let you all know what I'm working on.

Have a great day!

Monday, February 7, 2011

From The Floor - BMX Biking

Here are some more of the pages I've been inking for the latest kids book.

This last week has been good but I finally hit the wall on Saturday and just became utterly exhausted. I guess after working for two months straight something had to finally give.

But, I am resting up and getting ready for the next adventure.

For now, though, enjoy some of the new illustrations. I'll try and get some shots of the gray process up tomorrow.

Friday, February 4, 2011

From The Vault - Marvel Generation X 1995

Here is another piece I painted while working for Marvel Comics in the mid nineties.

It's a Chris Bachalo piece out of Comics Scene Magazine promoting the newest X-Men book, Generation X.

The piece looks a bit blurry because, I think, the black plate shifted while they took the shot of it for the film. Ah well, there were only so many things I could do on those old blue line paintings to make them work.

One of the most frustrating things was that, while painting the blue line piece on the illustration board, once I put the black line work on the acetate back on the art, it sometimes didn't line up quite right anymore. Maybe the acetate shrank a little bit. I don't know. But I always did my best to put it back on right.

It looks like, on this piece, it didn't go quite right.

But, I love Chris Bachalo's work and I was happy to paint over any of his work while he was at Marvel.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Happy February!

February is here and it looks like the groundhog has predicted an early spring. With the way things have been across the country I'll believe it when I'm back out riding my bicycle to see it.

This last week was particularly stressful as I was trying to get the last of the kids books in this current contract done and out the door. Everything was due on Monday so I spent a lot of last week trying to get the inks and grays done in time.

One problem that arose last Wednesday was when I was going out for lunch I hopped in my jeep, turned the key, and....nothing. Not even a struggle to start. Just nothing. I might as well have stuck the key in the glove box to try and make the engine start. I sat for a second, tried to figure out what to do, opened the door to get out, and decided to give it one more try.

And the jeep started.

I was so tired and exhausted that I decided not to question it. I closed the door and drove off to lunch. After lunch, the jeep started up again with no problems and I got back home and went back to work on the books.

On Thursday, while going out to dinner, the jeep didn't start again. We ended up taking Monika's car and I stopped off at the auto parts store and bought a new battery for the jeep. This kind of thing has happened before so I figured (or hoped) it was just a matter of getting a new battery and all would be well.

So, Thursday night, after dinner and after a few hours of working, I went down to the garage and changed the battery out in my jeep at midnight. The positive lead to the battery was covered with acidic foam. I wiped it off and pulled the old battery out and put in the new one. While reconnecting the leads the positive lead came off the wires in my hand. I cleaned it off as best I could, got it back on the wires, and put the whole thing back together.

And the jeep started up just fine. I took the old battery back to the auto parts shop and bought a new lead for the positive wire. I figured when I had time I'd replace the one that was all corroded by the acidic foam.

But, for now, all was well, the jeep worked, and I still had a few days to get all the work on the kids books done.

On Sunday night, the last day I had to work on the books, I had to go to an evening meeting for a few hours. Fine. I wasn't happy about it but it gave me a little break from graying in pages all day. I figured I'd sit in the meeting, recharge, then get some dinner afterwards and work the night away.

I drove to the local Safeway to pick up some dinner. After getting all my groceries I got back in the jeep, turned the key, and....nothing.


It just wasn't working this time.

Pissed, I grabbed the groceries I had, a gallon of milk and a case of Diet Coke included, and walked home. I was so angry I didn't care about the pain in my shoulders and arms from lugging all the groceries or that it was so cold that my hands were numb. I just wanted to get home and finish my work.

I got home, shaking from anger, fixed my dinner, and went back to work on the books.

I finished the books about eleven that night. As soon as the books were done and sent off to the client I took my bicycle out and rode back to Safeway and my waiting jeep.

There I was, eleven at night, the hood popped, a flashlight out, putting the new lead on the wires and hoping that was the only problem. I got everything put on and screwed in right and was happy to see the dome light come on when I opened the driver's side door.

I turned the key and...success!

I celebrated the night of finishing my work and fixing my car by doing a few laps around the Safeway parking lot on my bike. And, then, to celebrate further, I threw my bike in the back of the jeep and took it for a ride while I listened to some music.

I was so happy at getting everything done and not losing my mind. It seems like this time around with the kids books that a lot of obstacles were thrown in my way. I was sick with a cold or flu twice, I had food poisoning, my TV broke, my heat broke and I had to spend a grand to have it fixed, and my jeep broke.

But, despite all those things I took care of everything and still got four books done in about eight weeks time.

I didn't have any days off but I got the work done.

And now, other than a few tweaks here and there on the illustrations, I am done and back to thinking about a few of my own projects.

But first, a nap, a shower, and a movie.

Happy February!