Monday, November 15, 2010

The Adventures of Danny and the Dingo

® & ©2010 Fuel TV, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Eyerus + Visual Communication Studio (the agency)


With a tongue-in-cheek nod to Drew Struzan's Smokey and the Bandit II movie poster, create an illustration reflecting the chaos and craziness of the upcoming 4th season of the FUEL TV show, The Adventures of Danny and the Dingo.


Create something wild and wacky, with as many visual detours as possible, and a Burt Reynolds/Dom DeLuise-ish movie poster vibe. The 2 main characters would take center stage while the chaos and mini story lines that succumb to the gravitational pull of a Danny and the Dingo experience orbit about their feet.



I began by screening some episodes from the show, which stars Danny Kass, 2-time Olympic snowboarding medalist, and Australian snowboarding personality, The Dingo. This helped me get a feel for the show and its characters.

When taking on a job, I like to learn as much as possible about every component, so I feel confident speaking on its behalf -- which is what I'm entrusted to do, in a way.

This project took some initial sketching to find its concept. It started out with more of a Cannonball Run II nod, with the craziness bursting out at the viewer.

The client opted to go the Smokey and the Bandit II route, instead. They liked the storytelling potential of smaller elements swirling around large main characters.

This season takes place, largely, in the snowy climes of places like Alaska and Switzerland. So that sort of scenery needed to form the basis of the illustration's landscape -- setting the tone.

Snowboarders, snowmobilers, wakeboarders, heli-boarders, dogsledders, goat-milkers, fishing-boat-gun-shooters, trophy-truckers, RV-riders, Euro-sports-car-drivers, lederhosen-clad dudes, German-beer-maid gals, police and rescue vehicles, and any other crazy folks we could think of needed to feel welcome in this illustration.

Taking a respectful cue from Mr. Struzan's aforementioned poster, I set out to glean from its humor and general idea.

This type of assignment is a good exercise for illustration students to understand what makes an illustration work. There are a lot of decisions that went in to the making of Drew Struzan's poster, from the placement of the vehicles and the value composition within that swirl of vehicles, to the large figure poses, to the cloud composition, to the color of Bandit's jacket.


We tried a few options with the guys in center stage, but they didn't seem to quite cut it.

In what I'm claiming as about a 3rd degree of separation to extra-coolness, Danny and the Dingo were called to a house in Los Angeles for a quick photo shoot just for this project. I was poised at my computer, on-call for when the agency received the photos and sent them to me. I would plug them into the layout and shoot it back for final approval. Upon approval, I would immediately turn my attention to the final, as our deadline was rapidly approaching.

It happened, I did it, and we got it...approval, that is.

The Final

If you are an illustration student, you've probably heard over and over -- there's no substitute for good reference. It's true. Listen to your professor, especially, if you're trying to work realistically. Bad reference will sink your ship, and quickly.

With the help of my intern, Andrew, I tracked down reference for the background: clouds, Swiss Alps, Alaskan fishing boat, Brandenburg Gate/Berlin Wall, Swiss airport, Berlin Tower, wakeboarders, snowboarders, snowmobilers, and dogsledders. I also researched the snowy ground for something non-descript, yet definitely snowy.

Then, it was time for my camera to come out of its bag.

Since this is such an unusual giant's-view perspective, I wanted to make sure the vehicles and people looked correct. So, I shot 'em.

I scoured the toy shops for scale vehicles of all sorts and set them up at the perspective of the illustration, shooting them group-by-group, lit from upper left, on a sheet of white foam core until I had what I needed.

Then, I needed to contact some models to pose as the characters at the guys' feet.

It was a race against the clock, at this point, and Briana (a lovely Southwest Missouri model) and her husband, Daniel, came through for me on short notice and knocked it out of the park. They completely embraced the humor and tongue-in-cheek undertone. Their participation, in my view, solidified this illustration. Look closely to see all the terrific roles they played. My sincere thanks to them for their perfect participation in this project.


Cool blues would have to rule the landscape. But, then what?

Too much color amongst the cars, below, would be too chaotic and distracting. I kept it somewhat muted, with a few flashes of light on the U.S., Swiss, and German police cars.

Why is Bandit's jacket red?

The rest of the Smokey and the Bandit II poster has very muted tones and colors. The red jacket leads the viewer's eye toward the main character and creates, arguably, the primary area of visual interest. Cover up that jacket with brown and the color composition becomes very blah. The red makes it work. And, there's just enough of it below to harmonize it with the color palette.

So, that's what I needed to do, too.

Thank you Mr. Struzan for the lesson.

This was a very complex and involved project, but also very rewarding. The folks at Eyerus are an illustrator's dream with which to work. I'm very grateful to them for the opportunity to help with this very cool assignment.

This ad can be seen in the December 2010 issue of Transworld Snowboarding Magazine (on newsstands as I write). And, the 4th season of The Adventures of Danny and the Dingo debuts Tuesday November 16 on FUEL TV.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Howard Nusbaum for The University of Chicago Magazine

Howard C. Nusbaum, Ph.D. is Chair of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago. He's also a trained cognitive psychologist, whose research examines the area of speech research, and, most recently, the study of wisdom. Check out the Defining Wisdom Project for more information:

Mr. Nusbaum was also the subject of a charcoal portrait I completed for The University of Chicago Magazine, earlier this year.

For some reason, I always feel as if I'm in my groove whenever I'm fortunate to work with the folks at the U. of C., whether I am or am not. The charcoal marks feel just a little more vivacious and my confidence beams just a little brighter.

Charcoal portraits are a large bulk of my workload, and something I thoroughly enjoy doing. It's fun for me to explore mark-making as I sculpt a face.

I lay down large, vague areas of charcoal and, without committing until I have to, pull details out of the morass until my subject emerges, like a Smilodon out of the La Brea Tar Pits.

Maybe not exactly like that, but close. I'm sculpting, over here.

It's always a pleasure and an honor working with the U. of C. and contributing to their thoughtfully-designed publication.

Things have been ultra-busy for me over the past few months with commissioned illustrations and my newest hobby -- photography. Hence, my lack of posting. Thanks so much to everyone who has checked in, looking for a new post. I sincerely appreciate your loyalty!

I have some neat things coming your way, so stay tuned.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lady Gaga

Love or hate her, one can't deny the Gaga.

Wild, outlandish, and over the top help define Lady Gaga, pop music performer and current Twitter queen (more followers than anyone else). Her sunglasses and pyrotechnic bra turns her into Gaga and hides Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. I wanted to challenge myself and take a more intimate look at the the human being rather than the public persona.

When looking for reference, one problem I encountered was, she looks an awful lot like Madonna in many of them. At her essence, what makes Gaga, Gaga? For me, it's her facial features -- her nose and mouth, particularly. I needed to reveal her eyes, too. Her ever-present shades only serve to further hide, creating an unwanted obstruction between me and her.

The colors should be mostly muted and kind of un-pretty, speaking to the sometimes un-pretty vulnerable side of everyone. The artistic challenge came in creating something subtle and mostly devoid of color, but still giving the viewer a retinal stimulation and a reason to want to explore the image.

It's a relatively simple composition, so there needed to be complexity, somewhere, as a balance. The brush strokes are kind of interesting to look at, but color needs to play an important role. I decided to use the rouge in her cheek as a focal point and communication tool. Coupled with her subtle, but unusual head wear, the shock of red hints at the vibrant performer side of Gaga.

The cool balances the warmth and adds just enough depth, while keeping the composition almost abstract. A shift in the color palette to a yellow/green slant removes a level of predictability and adds a bit of complexity to not only the color itself, but also to its functionality as a communication tool and how it defines form.

This was also done as a demo with my 2010 intern, Andrew Towler. For the past 2-1/2 months, he's helped run my business and learn about both the art and profession of illustration. I sincerely thank him for his assistance and for being an important part of Allan Burch Illustration.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, July 11, 2010

ICON 6: News from LaLa Land

Long time, no blog. My apologies for the extended delay. I've been expanding my business in ways that have kept me struggling to maintain a regular posting schedule.

But, I'm here, today, to bring your attention to several things going on in the world of illustration that you should be aware of.

ICON 6, The Illustration Conference, will be held in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 14, through Saturday, July 17. I will be attending.

Several events will be occurring during the conference. If you are in the Los Angeles area, be sure to check them out!

What: a salon for illustrators and invited art buyers to meet, network, and maybe secure some projects
When: 4:30–7:00 pm
Where: the Viennese Ballroom at the Langham Hotel, 1401 South Knoll Avenue, Pasadena, CA
If you are an art director or art buyer in the L.A. area, and wish to attend, drop me a line and I'll get you on the guest list. If you're planning on attending, please look me up. I'd love to meet you!

What: a select exhibition of accepted work from the Illustration West 48 juried exhibition and annual, held by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles
When: Tuesday, July 13–Sunday, July 18
Where: the Wentworth Room at the Langham Hotel
Keep an eye out for Black Flowers (above), one of two pieces I was fortunate to have accepted to the annual. The other piece is Peak Oil, seen elsewhere on this blog. Black Flowers will be the only one exhibited.

What: a select group of work from this year's attendees, featuring 50 artists in all
When: July 16–August 9, 2010
Opening Reception: July 16, 7:00 pm–11:00 pm
Where: Gallery Nucleus, 210 East Main Street, Alhambra, CA
Keep an eye out for Bruce Springsteen, a piece I am fortunate to have shown at this exhibit.

Follow along with my Twitter feed (link to your right) for updates from the conference, and hopefully, a blog update or 2 from the show.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

I Want My Fuel TV!


Fuel TV
Eyerus + Visual Communication Studio (the agency)


In homage to early-80s montage-style TV Guide covers, this art is the cover for a faux TV Guide-style publication promoting network programing and personalities found on Fuel TV.


Create something wild and wacky, with as many visual detours as possible, and a kitschy 70s vibe. Include personalities of 3 of their main shows: Captain and Casey of The Captain and Casey Show, James "Bubba" Stewart of Bubba's World, and Laban Phiedas and Ted Newsome of American Misfits.

Also include the network's 6 core action sports: snowboarding, bmx, motocross, surfing, wakeboarding, and skateboarding.


Research I spent some time digging into, the client's website, learning what makes the network tick. I also went through each represented show's vast photo galleries to pluck potential reference.

Compositing Time to start laying things down and see what kind of grayscale compositions I could flesh out. Montage illustrations are a different breed of animal. Of course, basic principles of 2D black and white composition come into play -- value, weight, shape, movement, and space -- but other challenges, inherent to the montage, present themselves...

Space One can't simply slap figures and objects onto a montage illustration without forethought to their relationship to each other in space as well as their light source, otherwise one has a recipe for a disparate cut-out mess. The twist -- figures now become the landscape, and not only need to work together in space, but also define it.

There are 2 planes of reality, here. First, the large background figures. They provide weight and define overall movement, due to their large size, shape, and visual importance (both to the network and to the crux of this illustration's story).

The second plane of reality lies with the smaller figures, in front. Since they are of a relative size, they need to all work together, perspectively -- larger in front, smaller in back, and with a consistent vanishing point and light source. If they don't work together or relate to one another in some decipherable way, we'll have confusion.

In a montage, there are already lots of elements with which to cause potential confusion, if not planned carefully. Without a believable sense of space, the viewer is guaranteed to be confused. Unintended confusion equals an unsuccessful illustration.


My first sketches were sparse. I mistakenly thought the 6 core sports could be hinted at without including all.

The client liked the direction, but wanted to be sure to include all 6 sports.

A preferred composition was chosen and I added the missing sports.

This was a step forward, but I needed to up the humor and wackiness quotient to properly reflect the sensibility of the network as well as the concept of the cover. Think 70s kitsch -- Cannonball Run.

Real close, but lose Mr. Stewart's Rick James 'do and put the gals in "Token Hotties" shirts (integral to one of their shows).

Done and done. Here is the approved sketch.

Now, step-by-step through the final. But, first...


In addition to a 5 in. x 7.5 in. periodical cover, the art would be used as a 5 ft. tall poster for a client presentation. I produced the illustration with that large final output size in mind, creating the underpainting on a sheet of 30 in. x 40 in. gessoed illustration board, scanning at a high dpi, and finalizing the art at about 4 ft. W x 6 ft. H at the dpi required for the printing device.

The final "underpainting."

Scanned and tidied up with values complete.


Quality people make it easy to go the extra mile. My client is happy, which, in turn, makes me very happy. When coupled with the art's fun subject matter and uniqueness to much of my portfolio, this turned out to be one of my favorite illustrations I've done.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Pope John Paul II for the University of San Diego

On the fast track to sainthood, Pope John Paul II is not only one of Catholicism's more popular Popes, he is also one of 16 illustrations I was commissioned to create for the University of San Diego's President's Report.

The theme of 2009's report highlights people, places, and things that serve as influences to the school's mission and heritage. Reading the contextual clues, one can correctly deduce USD has a strong foundation in the Catholic church.

This president's report is a beautifully designed work of art in itself. Bound as a leather printed cover, many of the illustrations accompany their own month in an included calendar, and double as removable, collectible prayer cards.

The challenges

•Compose an illustration that not only fits the format of a 3.5 in. x 5.25 in. space, taking into consideration an elaborate border treatment which will cut into the art, but also produce an illustration that commands attention at a smaller size.

•Establish a color palette which complements warm tones of the document's layout, and brings depth and interest to the scene.

Light and depth through color

Where light hits an object most directly, color is most intense. As that object recedes in space, and falls into shadow, color cools and loses intensity. Color theory 101, to be sure, but these principles were key in helping me create a sense of depth. Without such depth, this scene would quickly turn uninteresting (not to mention flat).

To also keep interest up throughout the illustration, it was important to make sure shadows and highlights kept some color and didn't become too gray or white, respectively (After all, the thing needs to be pleasing to look at, right?). That sounds like a simple thing to do, but it takes planning. Notice how the white stripe on his robe is warmer at the shoulder where light hits and turns cooler as it moves away from the "hot spot." Squint your eyes and notice the value doesn't change too significantly. His position in space is largely aided through color.

Using color like this is helpful to add complexity to a small, seemingly non-complex, picture.

A strong picture starts with a strong composition

This is especially true for a smaller illustration. There's not as much real estate to grab viewers' attentions. Plus, being small, people don't have much patience to squint their way through a scene to pick out intricacies. Hence, the simply-composed but easily-recognizable posture of the 264th Pope.

Here is the illustration in its final layout.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Exhibit at the Park Central Branch Library and The Coffee Ethic

You're looking at a reduced-size color print proof for a few of the illustrations I will be fortunate to have on display during the month of March.

You see, the nice folks at both the Park Central Library and The Coffee Ethic, in Springfield, Missouri, have graciously allowed me to adorn their walls with my art for the next 4 weeks.

What: Illustrations by Allan Burch
Where: The Park Central Branch Library and The Coffee Ethic (128 Park Central Square, Downtown Springfield, Missouri)
When: Meet-and greet with the artist (that's me), from 7pm 'til 10pm, Friday March 5, 2010. The show runs through the month of March.

The Park Central Library has one of the cooler spaces you'll find in a library. It's thoughtfully decked out in color-coordinated modern stylings and located smack in the middle of Springfield's art scene. It's an establishment of inspired design, both in beautiful form and progressive function.

Insiders call The Coffee Ethic, located adjacent to the library, Springfield's best coffee shop. The crowd, amenities, atmosphere, its close proximity to the many downtown attractions, and, of course, the top-tier eats and drinks, makes it a must-visit during Springfield's First Friday Art Walks.

If you're not familiar, on the first Fridays of the month, Springfield's art galleries, as well as businesses that hold art shows, have openings that evening. People crowd the downtown area, mingle from door-to-door and take in the visual treats gracing the walls, enjoy the bustle of performers and entertainment on the streets, and generally have a lovely time of things.

I'll have 35 canvas prints on display, all for sale, ranging from celebrity portraits, to editorial concepts, to uncommissioned personal projects. As generous followers of this blog, I would encourage you to spread the word, especially if you reside in the Springfield area.

Thanks in advance to everyone for coming down and showing your support -- not only for my efforts, but also for the 2 generous businesses allowing me to display them!

Thanks also to my summer of 2009 intern, Becca Johnson, for doing the legwork in setting up this exhibit.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

"A Nurse's Shift" for The University of Chicago Magazine

Theresa Brown began her professional life as an educator, but made a change. She now belongs to the nursing profession, enjoying the new and personal fulfillment that comes from facing its uniquely intimate and deeply human challenges.

It's always a pleasure working with The University of Chicago Magazine, and this 2-illustration job was no exception.

One of the illustrations depicts the compassion shown between a health care worker (Ms. Brown) and one of her patients. Compassion, in my view, is a unique must-have skill set for a nurse. Individuals that possess it to a nurse's degree are saints, also in my opinion.

When one is in the vulnerable position of being sick and in a hospital, under someone else's care, there is no more important person in his or her life than a nurse. Their compassion means everything.

This illustration began with an ideation session -- coming up with all sorts of ideas that both tell the story of shifting careers from academic to nursing, as well as convey the human nature of the nursing profession.

Next step was a photo session. My enthusiastic model, Melodie, stepped into her scrubs and did an excellent job posing for those ideas.

On a side note, I'm stumbling upon some interesting lighting effects. I think it's adding a beautiful and extra-moody element to my work. I can't divulge what they are, or everyone would be doing it. (just kidding)

After approval of my sketch...

...I took it to the final.

Composition is always foremost in my mind. So, when shooting, I'm conscious of capturing the scene from different and unusual angles to make the scene fresh, and to reveal unexpected shapes and potential compositional elements.

Lighting is also important. It's a powerful tool for revealing those shapes and patterns that help define the composition. Color is obviously important, too. Warmth in this palette echoes warmth of the moment, and the blue provides just enough cool to balance the warms.

Check out the full story of Theresa Brown's career change, here.

Many thanks to Melodie for her assistance.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Letters to Angela

Picture-making is an ongoing learning experience.

This one started with a really cool photo of Christy adjusting her hair clip. Nothing out of the ordinary about that, right? True enough, but this particular photographic moment-in-time has some especially interesting things happening.

Compositionally, her arms and hands are positioned beautifully while not obstructing the face or creating visual confusion in any way. The shadow on her left arm connecting to the cast shadow on the wall connecting to the contour of her body at the bottom of the picture, leading the eye back upward, is quite an interesting and lovely shape, and a lucky catch by my 'lil Nikon.

I thought it a very "iconic" pose just ripe for a fine art creation.

Christy is one of my terrific models. Among the many emotive poses she struck, this is one of my favorites. It's a slightly unusual capture with the pose and shadow combination. It's also filled with excellent mood, contrast, form, and beauty.

For me, an illustration, speaking in terms of picture-making rather than concept, is usually about the image or the mark on the board. For a straightforward image, like a person seated in a chair, I like to pump up the mark-making to add visual interest and give the viewer a reason to investigate the picture. Conversely, for a very intricate and unusual image (like Manhattan, seen in an earlier post), I tend to tone down the wild marks and let the image take center stage. A fierce competition between marks and image can blow a perfectly good picture.

With this image, I set out to make the marks a predominant player. I had also intended something different for the background than what you see, here. As the piece progressed, though, I found myself tightening up the strokes to accommodate the originally intended intricate background which would become lost among painterly strokes.

Things were looking too tame with my original background. So, I worked up this graffiti and stone wall backdrop. It seemed to give the image a little more edge and is more complementary to the expressive strokes I wanted to keep.

I also like the resulting mood and mysterious story that doesn't reveal itself too soon.

My thanks to Christy for making this illustration possible.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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Monday, January 11, 2010


Have you ever felt like this?

One of the beautiful things about making art is its capacity for self-expression. Sometimes you win a few, sometimes you lose a few, when the work is done. But, if one is lucky, he has a chance to be expressive during the process, and leave a little of himself on the paper or board or canvas.

When I need to unleash a few demons, I like to do a charcoal drawing. In this case, I pulled from my cache of photo reference and found a moody shot of Tasha who happens to be eliciting just the mood in the photograph that I'm feeling.

It's a tension-filled, closed pose, with arms and legs crossing her body. She's looking away from you and not revealing her eyes through the shadow, so you are left with a bit of mystery.

There is an air of vulnerability. Why do all things lead to the mirror and why is it facing you, the viewer?

Tasha is one of my phenomenal models who turns every pose into a work of art.

Even after engaging my instincts and emotions to lay down the artistic marks, I still needed to tap the left side of my brain to go through my checklist of items that lead to good picture-making.

When I'm done, I'm hopefully left with a cool, deep, and emotional creation that no one can take away from me. And, after one of those days when I feel like the world has taken an extra large chunk from my person, to create something of my own and for myself is very satisfying.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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