Monday, July 21, 2008

Jim McMahon

Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears. This image is part of a series of "NFL Heroes" I painted for Upper Deck. They are on some trading cards that you should be able to find on the shelves.

I really enjoyed this project on a number of levels. I quite enjoy doing portraits, for one, so this project was right up my alley. Plus, it was a thrill for me to be able to illustrate many of the football players I watched as a youngster, and some of the players of today. Two of my favorite drawing subjects, as a wee one, were cars and football players. Drawing is a great way to really understand something. Since drawing involves intricate observation, one is basically constructing something on paper. Subsequently, at a very early age, I knew every nuance of many team emblems, the ins and outs of helmet structure, and the parts of a uniform. How cool, I thought, for things to come full-circle like this.

When Jim McMahon showed up on my roster, I was particularly pleased. You see, the reference was provided, and it was my job to basically follow that reference. I thought McMahon's was especially interesting -- the colors were great, he had some sunlight creating nice shadows on the uniform, and he was one of my favorite players. Who didn't follow the Bears with McMahon, the Fridge, Payton, Singletary, Ditka, and the Superbowl Shuffle team?

By now, it was obvious this illustration was one I would connect with, beyond the norm. It's also an image where I felt like I was starting to hit my stride with the series. I believe the finished painting reflects my enthusiasm.

This illustration is 8" x 10" acrylic on canvas. No digital work.

Lastly, and on another note, you might notice a redesign to my website. From its inception through the last version, my website was done by me. It was interesting teaching myself all the html things I never thought I would know, but, it was time to kick it up a notch. I was very fortunate for the opportunity to have TBH Creative do just that. Tatum Hindman and her team can be found here: They took excellent care of both my website and my print branding.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Illustration Conference v4

Day 2 and 3 of the Illustration Conference...

Kevin O'Callaghan is a 3D designer/illustrator, principal of O’Callaghan & Company - Art for the Film Industry, and curator and Chair of the 3-D design program in the Advertising and Graphic Design department at New York's School of Visual Arts. He gave the closing keynote speach at ICON 5.

What you see above is a shot from my Palm Treo of the Grand Ballroom just prior to his speech. On either side of the stage are large monitors where inspired 3-D work will soon be shown. The large figures are his creations for the MTV Video Awards a few years ago. You can see, from left-to-right, Britney Spears, Marilyn Manson, Chuck Berry (doing the duck walk), and Gwen Stefani. Behind them is a life-sized sidewalk newsstand kiosk replica, also built by Mr. O'Callaghan and created specifically for this conference. It features illustrated magazine covers surrounding a video screen with looping footage of a proprietor interacting with us, as outsiders looking in...perhaps picking up the latest New Yorker.

By the way, I don't think the New Yorker or cover-illustrator Barry Blitt could ask for better publicity with this week's "Politics of Fear" cover. The mainstream media has run with it, expressing some people's hesitancy in jumping on-board with its intent. It depicts, with satire, Mr. and Mrs. Obama manifesting all the false rumors about them.

Back on the stage, between Britney and Marilyn is Whitney Sherman, ICON 5's president, preparing to introduce the final speaker.

To open the first full day of sessions, New Yorker cartoonist Victoria Roberts read announcements in the persona of her alter ego and one of her cartoon characters, Nona. Nona is a small, colorful, eccentric British woman. I wasn't familiar with her, so I wasn't sure what to make of this oddly charming woman reading in the Queen's English. She was kind of Yoda-ish with her petite stature and Jedi-like command of the audience.

The breakout sessions commenced, and I chose to learn about the "Endless Possibilities" with regards to the ancillary markets, like animation and toys, in which artists can apply their work. I then gained insight on life from an artist rep's viewpoint, and wrapped up the day listening to Brad Holland (always an inspiration) talk about the Orphan Works legislation from the perspective of the Illustrators Partnership of America. Aside from being one of the pioneers of modern-day illustration, and perhaps the most often-copied artist of this generation, Brad Holland is an insanely brilliant individual who was rattling Washington legislators' names and meeting dates off the top of his head as if he were plucking them from his Rolodex, and dispensed the information with ease and just the right digestibility for hungry illustrators, like me.

If you are an artist, designer, photographer, musician, or one who makes their living from the products of your creativity, or derive benefit from your freelancer's creative contributions, or just care about either, I would politely ask you to take two minutes and follow either link below to voice your concern about the proposed Orphan Works bill. As currently written, it short-changes artists by removing some of their rights in protecting their work, and places them in a position of weakness when it comes to pursuing infringements. The letter-writing process is done for you, but customizable, and takes 2 minutes to send.

click here

click here

I wrapped up the evening by walking down to the East River to watch the Macy's fireworks display in a light rain, sans umbrella. Obviously, I could have found a street vendor had I really wanted one, but even in the rain, the experience was amazing.

Saturday kicked off with more of Nona and her wisdom, which segued to Gary Panter. Mr. Panter was an art director for Pee Wee's Playhouse. He entertained us with his art and regaled us with stream-of-conscious conversations and stories about Paul Rubens and his time at the Playhouse.

Gallery 101 was next for me as I gained some insight toward breaking into the gallery scene -- something which is on my radar.

Contract self-defense came next, and its information about smartly negotiating and wading through contracts. Finally the keynote and Carnival Carioca -- a fitting Brazilian-themed party to end the conference.

I'm pretty up on registering my copyright, regularly, so the benefit of these conferences, for me, is two-fold (not counting the obvious networking potential): the calls-to-action, like with the Orphan Works legislation, and the pearls of inspiration that squeeze through, like when Steven Heller (former art director for the New York Times Book Review, and prolific author and educator of all things art and design) or Brad Holland speak. Their success and wisdom oozes through in the things they say and don't say. This dialogue alone is invaluable to me as an opportunity to hear some of the most important voices and creative minds in our industry lending their time and expertise to those who will listen.

If you missed the conference, Steven Heller was conducting podcasts, which will be posted to the Illustration Conference's website in the near future. I plan on checking them out, just to hear his angle.

ICON 5 website

If you are so inclined, I've included a bonus post below, detailing some of my non-conference excursions.

Fool for the City

I spent the rest of my stay in New York City working on a rather large illustration assignment, exploring the city, and enjoying the overall experience. One of the coolest things I've ever done came on the Tuesday following the conference.

The Society of Illustrators, located on 63rd street, holds a jazz and sketch night every Tuesday. I had read about it some time ago, and lamented that I was unable to participate in such a wonderful event, until now. I hopped the train to 59th and Lexington, hiked my way 4 blocks north to 63rd, hung a left and a few doors west, walked right in -- sweaty from the short but sweltering walk. I got there at 6:30pm, just as it was starting. Big mistake. The room, adjacent to the bar, located up the stairs of the older house-like building, with an open gallery space at ground level, and various secretive, roped-off rooms up several flights of stairs, was packed with about 30-40 people. One of the non-roped-off rooms had a young woman at a circular white table taking my $15 for the privilege of drawing 2 outstanding models while gentle jazz played from live musicians, and a bartender served drinks to those who wished for one (or two). Several 2 minute poses followed with 5-minute poses, followed by 10's, and finally 20 minute poses. I gladly made due with either my lap or the back of a chair as an easel to hold my drawing pad, and my free hand to hold vine charcoal twigs and a kneaded eraser.

The room was packed with artists of all ages with all matter of medium, wet and dry, drawing and painting...perhaps with charcoal, like me, or with brilliant indigo ink washes, or pencil, or conte crayon, or you name it.

The final 20-minute pose ended at 9:30pm, which came too soon. I walked the 18 blocks south, back to my hotel in the sticky evening air. The unmissable art-deco Chrysler building, illuminated in white, stayed in front of me as the steam forcefully rose from the orange and white barber shop-striped exhausts on the street, as well as the ever-present steam streaming from the manholes and captured in the white, yellow-orange, and red taxicab lights. Totally beautiful.

My birthday happened to be the next day, Wednesday, the 9th, so how cool to spend it in the the city at the Museum of Modern Art, marveling at the special Dali exhibit on the 6th floor. Aside from the walls and walls of originals, always smaller that you think they'll be, were his film projects. The exhibit included his artistic-inspired scene from the Twilight Zone-flavored Hitchcock film, Spellbound (with his 20 ft. x 40 ft. black and white background mural to the dream scene on display), to his 7-minute Fantasia-inspired Disney-animated collaboration, Destino. Amazing, I thought. Check out the on-line exhibit for a taste.


I grabbed the express train downtown to hit one more restaurant recommendation before I left. Teany's is the name: tea + ny = Teany. It's a vegetarian restaurant built by Moby, the techno artist and music licensing afficianado. I took the stairs down from the sidewalk and grabbed a seat on the couch, at a round, silver table. The space was small with about 12-15 two-seat tables packed together in three rows of four or five, and Moby music softly wafting in the air. I had a faux turkey club with a red cooler (raspberry and mint tea with a splash of cranberry juice). I'm not yet a vegetarian, but I love trying new things, and I loved trying this eatery. If you are vegetarian, and you like tea, and you like Moby, you should certainly place Teany on your must-visit list. I have some other vegetarian recommendations that deserve places on that same list. Let me know if you are interested, and I'll gladly share (thanks so much to the individual who shared with me).

Before the day started, though, I did the mandatory standing outside at the Today show -- oohing and ahhing when Matt Lauer, Merideth Vierra, Al Roker, and Natalie Morales came out. Tiki Barber rode in on a Harley. On the vegetarian theme, I also watched Martha Stewart and Matt cook meatless burgers. There was a lot of cooking going on out there, and it sure did smell good. There are plenty of people doing prep work and moving lights and cameras in advance of the segments shot outside. If you happened to watch that day, you did see me on-camera. As Al Roker was coming back from what it's going to be like in my neck of the woods, at about 9am, he stood in front of a group of people, myself being one. I was toward the back, allowing the kids, families, and folks who really, really wanted to be on T.V. to be up front. I kept an eye on the monitor to see if I could spot me. Waving my arms would do no good as that was the position of everyone directly behind Al. So, I suavely shifted my body from left to right. On the monitor, behind Al's right shoulder, I spied a dark-haired fellow, in a red shirt, carrying a black shoulder strap bag, suavely shifting himself from left to right.

Check "appear on the Today show" off my life's list of things to accomplish.

It's back to the art next week. I have a newsletter starting up very soon and a revamped website set to launch even sooner -- so keep your eyes open for some new and exciting stuff just around the bend.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Illustration Conference v3

The Conference eased into being on Wednesday as I attended a New York studio tour. Of the several choices, I picked Pentagram -- a design firm, started by five partners (hence, the name), and with offices in London, San Francisco, Austin, Berlin, and New York. Their work spans the gamut of graphic design, packaging, products, architecture, and many other things that can bear the fruits of visual thinking.

Our small group was led to Grand Central Station for the train ride to the south side of town -- interesting in itself as that was my foray into the subway ride. We were met by the Communications Director who showed and explained their portfolio of work, then toured us around the former nightclub that is now their 5th Avenue office building.

Paula Scher is one of Pentagram's partners and designer of the identity for the 2008 Shakespeare in the Park productions. Throughout Central Park, one can see her wonderful constructionist-inspired posters for Hamlet and Hair -- one of which I've snapped above.

Stanley Hainsworth gave the opening keynote. His soothing voice led us through his travels from acting to creative director positions at Nike, Lego, Starbucks, and his current position at Tether, his own company devoted to all things hand-crafted.

I'm always fascinated by people and what makes them tick. One can read so much into folks if one looks at the details. Mr. Hainsworth was standing at the front of the ballroom, before 400-500 other creative beings, waiting to be introduced. He was hard to miss. The hair along his receding hairline was shaped like what occurs after throwing a large rock into a body of water. Around the edge where the hair met his head, it stood up at a 60-degree angle -- unusual, but totally appropriate. His personal style reflected a sense of ownership of his individuality, reflected in his visual identity -- one which was crafted through curiosity and self-teaching, which is always inspiring to me. He shared his philosophy through an engaging talk -- one in which I took away a renewed sense of ownership to the potential of my career.

The evening then turned to The Palms room where a reception commenced, featuring the all-illustrator band, The Halftones. It co-featured an open bar and lots of mingling.

I was recently watching an HBO documentary on Chuck Connelly, titled, The Art of Failure: Chuck Connelly Not For Sale. Mr. Connelly is an artist whose career arc peaked (so far) in the 80s. This film takes a snapshot of him today, referencing the unlimited potential of his past (he came on the art scene with Julian Schnabel and his hands were doing the painting in the Nick Nolte flick, New York Stories), and paints a character study of a man who seems to have sabotaged his opportunities through an overbearing ego. As a result, he has alienated many of his relationships -- professional or otherwise -- leaving him challenged to make a living as an artist.

Two things I take away from this conference are -- it's about professional tenacity and building relationships. These were two things I knew to be true before I arrived in New York, but one of the virtues of these conferences is they tend to positively confirm, in practice, what I have come to discover on my own, sometimes only in theory. Why is that important if I already knew it? In my opinion, it is always beneficial to physically see the positive results of practice in addition to the theory. I think it tends to give me the push I need to propel my work to another level.

Day 2 coming soon.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Illustration Conference v2

(Empire State Building with unidentified woman flipping me the peace sign)

Ah, the start of the conference. Here goes.

The Roadshow was the big happening and one for which I was gearing up. The Roadshow is an event where art directors and art buyers from the New York area are invited to meet artists who have set up space to show their work and promote their services. It's like a mini-trade show.

Setup was at 4pm and the show began at 5pm, with art directors walking in around 5:30pm. I took my material to the Grand Ballroom from my 4th floor room and set up my half of a black-shrouded 2-person table. I met my "neighbors" -- three very nice guys. Then, dressed to kill, behind freshly-pressed brochures, tearsheets, knock-out business cards, and a portfolio consisting of 16 of my latest and greatest, I waited for the action to begin.

Mark Heflin, the man behind the American Illustration-American Photography annuals, and organizer of the Roadshow, welcomed everyone and made a few announcements. In the Ballroom, music played over the sound system and 2 open bars were strategically placed in the far corners of the room, one very close to my table. Banners of the sponsoring organizations -- Adobe, theispot, PRATT, and others hung along the banister of the second floor. The artists, art buyers, and people involved with the illustration industry began to walk the aisles. The goal for us illustrators was to form as many new relationships as possible, preferably with live art buyers. My result -- I made some new connections, said hello to some of my existing connections, and had an overall good response. There was a last push of people as the gates were closing, and folks were attempting to hit any table they may have missed before last-call. I already have ideas for the next Roadshow.

The opening ceremonies were July 3, and I will post about that very soon.

Tuesday, I did some more sightseeing. I hung out at St. Patrick's Cathedral for a bit, got some religion, and then made my way to Rockefeller Center. There is an observatory at the top of the building called the Top of the Rock. In Branson, where I live dangerously close, that is the name of a Jack Nicklaus-designed restaurant/golf course that sits atop a picturesque bluff. In New York, it's the top of Rockefeller Center. I purchased a Rock/MOMA combo ticket, which allowed me to make my way to the observatory and get into the Museum of Modern Art, which I will do next week.

The waiting process was interesting as the history and historical significance of the building was explained in videos. Coincidentally, after the last one, it was my line's turn to board the elevator which would take us up 67 floors in less than 1 minute. In we go. Lights go down. Through the glass ceiling, we see the shaft is lined with blue lights that converge into the distance and fly by as we ascend. Projected on this ceiling are snippets of shows relevant to the building, like Bonanza and Chevy Chase opening Saturday Night Live.

Floors 67-70 are the observation decks, fenced in with 8-10 ft-tall plexiglass barriers to keep us from stumbling over the edge. The view is predictably amazing. A 360-degree view of Manhattan -- curvature of the earth and all.

If I'm away from my studio for more than a few days, I have learned to bring a few art supplies with me. It's better to have some on-hand if a client calls than having to scramble obtaining supplies. I know this is probably a rare practice among illustrators, but I make it a point to be both accessible and available as much as humanly possible. I love what I do and want to be able to help out whenever I can. Even at the Top of the Rock, where I tested the cell-phone signal by checking my voicemail.

As it turns out, an assignment was waiting for me on the other end. A large enough one to necessitate my finding the nearest Best Buy to purchase an inexpensive Epson all-in-one printer/scanner/copier. Coupled with my laptop and Wacom tablet -- which I also thought to bring along for just such an occasion -- half of my hotel room has been now transformed to an office/studio. I wouldn't have it any other way.

The people I talked to got a kick out of it.

More to come.