Sunday, December 20, 2009

HOLIDAY ART: Background drawings for STIMPY'S FIRST FART

I began my career on the REN AND STIMPY SHOW as a background designer, and one of the earliest episodes I worked on in that position was STIMPY'S FIRST FART (was it actually aired on Nickelodeon as SON OF STIMPY? I forget.) John K. had requested I do a whole slew of drawings that had an old fashioned holiday feeling, based on the storyboard. My attempts are shown above. John wasn't happy with them, and years later, I can understand why. While they're moderately competent cartoon drawings, they have no real direction, or feeling. I recall John, in his inimitably annoyed fashion, telling me, "Look at that tree. It's like you just had a pile of crap in your hands and chucked it at a Christmas tree. There's no design, there's just a load of crap.Whatever stuck to it you let stay that way. Is that how you decorate a tree?"

I'm embarrassed to say that I can't recall who drew this for me, Jim Smith or John K. himself. Either way, it's clearly superior (intended as a BG tutorial) to what I'd been drawing. All elements direct the eye towards the characters in the composition. Shapes are bold, and work (for the most part) according to the rules of perspective. There's a lush, organic feeling to it, indicating a very homey and traditional holiday. And note the pail of water towards the bottom. I do recall Jim Smith telling me to always skew shapes slightly, so that they were not functional, but appearing to be functional. This keeps your drawing interesting, without calling too much attention to your shapes. Although both John and Jim attempted to teach me with this and similar drawings, it took me quite a while to internalize the lesson. For years afterwards, I mainly drew pointy, whacky shapes and tried to pass them off as REN AND STIMPY art.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

LUCKY AT WAR: Reference

I'm still working on my novel, and I realize I haven't given much hint as to what it's about yet. It's pretty epic, I think, following a man's life from his teenage years in the early nineteen-forties, up through his old age in the present day. All of chapter 2 recounts Lucky's ( that's our hero, Lucky) time in the Pacific, during World War II, and drawing it was a daunting task. First off, writer GEORGE CHIEFFET is a huge WW 2 buff---George absolutely knows his beans about this era. If something looked phony to me he'd tell me it was the bunk, in no uncertain terms. I didn't want to get to that point anyhow. I knew if I was going to sell this chapter with the gravity and intensity that I'd wanted, I'd have to do some research.
Not HEAVY research. I'm not that industrious. But I did peruse Google's image search for several hours, looking for everything from B-29's to Hawaiian rugs.
Here are some images from my reference file, along with a few choice panels from Chapter two.

Monday, December 07, 2009

LUCKY DRAWING: Art that inspires me while drawing my graphic novel

I've been a professional cartoonist for a long time, about 25 years, and I've picked up a trick or two. When I began drawing LUCKY IN LOVE, I wanted to integrate all of my cartooning knowledge, but I also wanted to forget some of it. I wanted to pare down, and get to the very essence of cartooning. I wanted my work to be elegant, and simple, but very powerful. I wanted my storytelling to be as clear and precise as possible, and I didn't want to manipulate my audience in the least. I wanted to tell my story plainly and economically, to simply explain what was happening. I did not want to clutter up my pages or panels. I wanted breathing room, air---negative space, really, to help the reader along.
So much of what I see in modern comics is right in the readers face, as if characters were behind plate glass pushing their noses amid sweat and steam, trying to get their point across. Sometimes that can be effective, but I wanted to get away from that. I want my readers to feel, I don't want to tell them what to feel.
Towards that end, when drawing LUCKY, I'm most inspired by some of the early cartooning masters---folks who successfully and powerfully told their stories, before "in your face" became popular. Above are some of the strips from my reference files, which help keep me focused in reaching my cartooning goals!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Long Time No Post, OR, LUCKY IN LOVE Vol. 1

Hello, Blogosphere!

so, what's new?
Everybody good? You workin'?

I haven't been here in a long time, huh?
Sorry, I've been busy.

Actually, very busy. These days I'm designing on Genndy Tartakovsky's new Cartoon Network production, SYMBIONIC TITAN, which is a terrific job. And also, I've been drawing a graphic novel.
I'm pretty proud of the novel, really. I've been working on it for a while. My good friend, George Chieffet wrote the narrative, and I lettered and drew the whole thing. In fact, I'm still lettering and drawing the whole thing. But I need to get it done soon, as the good folks at FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS (h'lo, Kim!) have promised to publish it. It's due to hit bookstores in June of 2010, and in fact, can be pre-ordered right this minute on
Please to look at my drawings. They're all from chapter one, the first of three in volume one (volume two will be published sometime around 2013).
Enjoy, and please let me know what you think!

Also, my apologies to folks that have written interested in commissions and artwork---unfortunately, my schedule has been quite dense, and I no longer find the time to draw side projects. Of course, there's probably always time during the day to properly and politely respond to your requests, and if you had written and did not hear back from me, I regret any inconveniences I may have caused you.
Thanks for your patience, everyone!