I read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" several years ago and it left an indelible impression on me. It is the story of a man and his young son following the road south in the aftermath of a devastating nuclear attack. They are ill prepared to face the ravages of hunger and nuclear winter. Men have turned to violence and cannibalism out of necessity and in order to survive. Paranoia, fear, loneliness, illness and hunger cast a long and dark shadow every move the man and the boy ( both remain unnamed throughout the novel) make. The distant sounds of humanity send them into a scurrying panic to get out of sight and hide the shopping cart in which everything they own is contained.
Immediately after finishing the novel I began sketching, trying to capture what my mind's eye saw in McCarthy's artful descriptions of the bitter landscape. I imagined trees burnt to sticks; a watery sunlight casting no shadow upon the cold,frozen and stony ground. Bones and carrion were common sights along the cold grey expanse of empty roadway.
The original composition.
My first attempt was unsuccessful on a couple of points- the road itself was too narrow; it favored a country road more than a two-lane highway. Furthermore there was no evidence of humanity in the landscape; as such it became little more than a winter scene. Other projects came along and forced me to abandon this pursuit, but it stuck with me and as time allowed I revisited it. The addition of the guardrail along the roadside and the widening of the road made for a satisfactory composition and I finished it one evening in between projects.
Neo-Cubism and An Incident At The Secret Illustrator's Ball
I got into a groove a while back that was a sorta 'neo-Cubist' thing. It wasn't really premeditated and it's a fairly obvious riff on the work of Picasso, the ever-rich minefield of Jim Flora, and Gene Deitch's work of the middle 1940's. Some of it was kinda sinister. That's not altogether rare for me - I grew up on a fairly rich diet of sinister imagery and it's deeply-rooted. Blame Edward Gorey, for whose works my Mother had a curious fondness. "The Gashlycrumb Tinies" followed hot on the heels of Dr Suess in my childhood library.
I recently saw Mr Steven Guarnaccia at an illustrator's shindig and we got to talking. Catching up, really- I hadn't seen him in years. Unfortunately, I was drunk. Not filthy drunk, but at the point where drunkenness had rather rudely and abruptly elbowed sobriety out of the driver's seat and was starting to swerve erratically. He asked me what I'd been up to and I proudly boasted that I was raising my son and doing some 'really interesting work'. Sober me would have never said that, as the work I was doing at the time was pretty far south of interesting and was in fact boring the pants right off of me. But I started in on these 'neo-cubist' scribblings I'd been filling my sketchbooks with to keep me amused. He looked intrigued and asked how I'd come about them.
At this point the margaritas had a rather firm hold on me and I started blathering on about Ben Shahn and David Stone Martin ( neither of which were technically relevant anyhow). David Foster Wallace had recently died and I guess was on my mind and I inadvertently substituted his name for David Stone Martin's. Guarnaccia, ever the gentleman countered with something along the lines of "I'd be interested to see how DAVID STONE MARTIN's work translates to cubism". The slender sliver of sobriety I retained recoiled in horror. My face turned beet red and I dashed from the ballroom in shame. As I passed the buffet my heel broke and I careened recklessly into the table, spilling confectionery and candleabras everywhere. I upset the crystal punchbowl which loudly shattered into a million glistening pieces. The band stopped playing, startled by the din. I looked down at my feet as a cold wave of shame immobilized me. It was then I realized that the bottom half of my taffeta ballgown had ripped away in the melee and I was wearing nothing but my control-top undergarments.
Do you remember 'Wheel Of Fortune' host Pat Sajack's short-lived talk show? I vividly recall one of Pat's opening monologues in which he quipped (and I paraphrase):Valentine's Day and Lincoln's Birthday are just a few days apart. This year I opted to celebrate them as one holiday and I freed my love slaves.
Cindy McEderry of Northland Bordeaux with Finn and Molly.
Yesterday I enjoyed what's become an annual tradition for me: an afternoon spent amongst the dogs competing in the Westminster Kennel Club's Dog Show. As many of you know, I am a dog person - more specifically a big dog person. While I love all breeds, I am especially fond of the quiet majesty, calm, and self-assuredness of the Molossers. This year's WKC show was special in that it was the first year the Dogue De Bordeaux, or French Mastiff was eligible top compete in an AKC event. As a proud owner of a Dogue it was especially gratifying to be amongst like-minded people and to meet many of the heavy-hitters of the breed. To see the revered Brando (best of breed at Westminster this year) in the flesh was quite an experience.
Best in show ....according to me.
My absolute favorite dog at the show this year, however, was this Bullmastiff. He had a gorgeous brindle coat and a sweet, playful and easygoing temperament which immediately endeared me to him. He didn't fare too well in the ring, but in my eyes was a real standout. I'm afraid I forgot his call name, but his owner/breeder/handler was Mr Rick Blanchard of Nix Bullmastiffs. I rather strongly disagreed with the judges dismissal of him, as he was the sole brindle entry. And this is one of my grievances with the AKC: they judge working dogs on type and beauty. Bulmastiffs were developed to guard estates from poachers. They were meant to silently prowl the grounds and , upon encountering an intruder, pin him and alert the night watchman. The brindle coat made the dog almost invisible at night and thus was preferred. At Westminster there were 25 Bullmastiffs -24 were red or fawn. These colors are seemingly the preferred colors today; brindles rarely do well with today's judges. It seems counterintuitive to me, especially as the sport of purebred dogs is ostensibly to preserve history.
To every parent who assured his child monsters don't really exist, I present to you the Neapolitan Mastiff
Also memorable was the Mastino, or Neapolitan Mastiff. This dog is thought to be a descendant of the fabled Roman war dogs, and it is truly breathtaking. It is a living gargoyle and would certainly give any intruder pause. To see one of these massive, lumbering, wrinkled dogs in motion is a sight unlike any other.
After an early morning judging, a Dogue likes to kick back with a large latte and a pack of Strawberry Newtons.
Ch Highpoint's Four On The Floor taking Best Of Breed in the Bullmastiff judging.
Lastly, congratulations to 'Stump'. the Sussex Spaniel who took home the cup
I'm not one to make a promise I don't intend to keep. I often make promises I don't keep, but my intentions are always good and that's what makes me a sweet, shining golden star.
I promised you more tigers were on the way and you, faithful reader, believed in me. As long as you slavishly stick with me and hang on my every word and never ever question or doubt me you have my solemn word that I will never abuse that trust.
If you'll glance back at your notes you'll recall our discussion of my past album covers for multi-platinum recording artists Sour Jazz here. Unlike most aging family men, these stalwarts have not faltered in their devotion to Rock'N'Roll (despite scientific researchers claims that the artform breathed it's final shallow breath in October of 1982) and are prepared to loosen another lava-hot slab of greasy meat-rock upon us. Lord have mercy! This one is entitled "American Seizure", a cheeky nod to Iggy Pop's 1993 album "American Caesar"
Being connoisseurs of the visual arts (and - full disclosure - friends with a limited art budget) they contacted me to provide the visuals. And being a man of good cheer and level humors, I naturally obliged. There was, however, a caveat provided this time around- past covers have referenced 'jazz era' and Blue Note design conventions. This was thought, in hindsight, to be somewhat alienating to the Rock fan that would ostensibly make up Sour Jazz's audience. Rick at Acetate records had an idea: let's do a more traditional 'rock' image.
I got to it right away, fueled by bourbon and microwave popcorn. I worked late into the night breaking only for the 6PM airing of "Wheel Of Fortune" ( Hi Vanna if you're reading this!!!) and to pay nightly homage to Khonsu, the cannibalistic Lunar God. Here's a look at some of the scratchy quasi-Cubist output from those sessions
A southpaw! Man, the puns are really flowing today!
It was only a matter of time before the tigers crept in. As I mentioned before, they've been quite insistent of late. The minute this one appeared before me I knew he would be hard to subdue. After reversing, revising, revisiting, and picking away at him we finally reached the promised land. Here is the final artwork for the outside cover, a paper gatefold in the grand tradition of the 12" LP's that you used to use to roll joints on when you sat in your parents wood-paneled basement "rumpus room" ruminating on the awesome depth of "Brain Salad Surgery".
As an illustrator who's not commonly called on for portraiture or weighty topics, i rarely have pieces to share when other Drawgers are showcasing their 'bear market' / economic catastrophe pieces or reverent portraits of President Obama. My time is more often used churning out eye candy to accompany hard-hitting exposes like "Butt Exercises You Can Do Lying On Your Back" and "How To Save Money On Your Family's Grocery Bill".
This time I'm locked and loaded. This portrait of 44 was comissioned by the Brennan Center For Justice, a nonpartisan think tank at NYU. While it might lack the subtlety and detail of some of the other portraits hanging here in the Drawger galeries, it has the unique distinction of being a 'web-use only' work that will be seen no larger than 300 pixels wide. So..y'know. It's small.
The inauguration is on the TV in the other room; Arethra's belting it out. What a crowd. As much as I generally dislike pomp and circumstance, this one gets a pass. This is huge.
L'arteest and his hirsute progeny share a rare quiet moment. Photo by Mr Otto Berchem.
I've been a bit lax on the entries lately, mostly because I've been saddled with large and protracted jobs that can't be revealed until they're published. These are nearing completion and I'll be back to posting regularly. Assuming I have anything interesting to say/show. Until then, gentle readers, I bid you a most joyous and prosperous New Year.
Here's hoping 2009 is memorable for all the right reasons.
The Washington Times contacted me last week looking for a portrait of Nationals manager Manny Acta. The article focused on Mr Acta's many professional stops along the way and the AD hoped that my portrait could somehow reflect that .
On The Inevitable Extinction Of The Human Race or What, Me Worry?
Last week I was contacted by the great Greg Klee, he of the Boston Globe and a client with which I've been fortunate to have a long and fruitful relationship. And though I've never met the man in the flesh, I imagine him to be a dashing gentleman who dresses to the nines, has impeccable manners and can crush walnuts with his bare hands. In short, a man for the ages.
He briefed me like so ( and I paraphrase, but just barely):
" Some scientist or another claims that if we found fossils on Mars it'd mean that intelligent life is more common throughout the universe that we think and since we're a neighboring planet it would mean that we're next in line for extinction"
Or something like that. The details, as presented. were fuzzy. Never deterred by lack of understanding, Greg and I carved out a two part solution:
A) Mars Rover discovering fossils on Mars
B) Alien Probe discovering fossilized human remains on a barren Earth.
I've always enjoyed drawing machinery (excepting bicycles which, like cattle, are hard to draw). In this particular instance I turned in a finish with which I was pleased, only to have an editor feel that it needed revisiting. Such are the pitfalls of collaborative efforts.
Having not read the scientist's argument, i might have misunderstood, but I assumed that human extinction would not have been brought about by our own hand. I drew an intact city in the background, implying that humankind perished due to plague. I like to think Monkeypox, but only because I think it's a funny name for a disease. The editor, on the other hand, imagined it would be due to warfare and requested that I demolish the city. He furthermore opined that the alien rover looked too familiar and asked that I strip it of its treads and make it a hovercraft.
Armed with the knowledge of our imminent demise, I threw caution to the wind and polished off an entire case of Genesee Cream Ale this weekend.
I did my "Zombot" pencils for Pentech in 1992 I think- as I'd done almost nothing of note at that point, I haven't any idea how the Art Director found me, but find me she did and she was incredibly gracious and a joy to work for. After we'd discussed the project over the phone she sent out a large padded envelope full of samples. Artists that contributed to the aptly-named "Cool Art" series included Peter Bagge, Drew Friedmen, Gary Panter, Mitch O'Connell, and Drawger's own Elwood Smith and Lou Brooks.
I was deeply and inexorably under the spell of Charles Burns at the time and was drawing decayed flesh and robots on everything. Thus the Zombot pencil was born, although to a deafening roar of indifference from the pencil-buying community who evidently preferred their school and office supplies less...cool. I received a fairly handsome compensation from Pentch as I recall and two large cases of the product. As I lived in a cramped Manhattan rabbit hutch with no storage space whatsoever, I gave away as many of the pencils as I could, consolidated the remaining pencils into one box and eventually 'stored' them at my friends' families beach house on long Island. Where they are now is anyone's guess, but I'd be willing to bet an outer-borough landfill became their final resting place.
The only time I actually came across them in a retail environment was when I was browsing the aisles at a Big Lots store in Northern Kentucky (don't ask).
Regardless of whether these set the world on fire they were great fun to do and an interesting and creative use of some great artwork by some of the days best artists. And no, I'm not including myself in that bunch- like I said, I'm mystified by how I came to be amongst the chosen few. But I was a snotty kid back then and reveled in my status as a 'young gun' and probably didn't give it a second thought. In hindsight it was quite an honor.
Technical note: The artwork was inked at 250%, photostatted onto acetate and painted with Cel-Vinyl animation paints. The copy was written by the inestimable David Burd, who is as good a human being as he is a copywriter. And that's saying something, bub.
PS: The pencils, of which I have no photographic record, were indeed cool; a melange of decayed flesh and veins overlaying a background of bolted together metal plates. Trust me, they ruled.
Okie and Champ make themselves comfortable on the kitchen floor.
Pets are the greatest people I know. We love 'em so much around here that one wasn't enough. Last Sunday we adopted Champ aka Tiny Tiger through Adopt-A-Boxer Rescue and we couldn't be happier about it. Okie and Champ are settling in nicely as these photos would suggest.
Champ was given up by his previous owners because he 'barked, chewed, dug the houseplants, attacked the vacuum cleaner and soiled the house.' After 5 short days here he's exhibited none of those behaviors; he needed nothing more than consistency, guidance and (most of all, I suspect) exercise. 45 mins in the park every morning and he's a prince all day long.
And I vacuumed today, too. Welcome home, Champ. we're glad you're here.
This gentleman received a hefty settlement after a melee with a security guard left him bruised and toothless
A short while ago I was contacted (via Illoz- vive le Illoz!) by a Mr Randall Watson on behalf of Vancouver Magazine. He had a handful of spots to accompany an article spotlighting the Worst of Vancouver in the year of 2007.
Being a fairly crabby man who finds great solace in complaining I felt confident that Mr Watson had reached out to the right man for the job. It was great fun and Randall was a joy to work with; he let me do what I do and made a few suggestions all of which were helpful. A rare job in which I felt neither shorted for time or money- both were ample.
I've found a friend in our neighbors to the North. In fact, most of my best gigs in recent years have swept down on the icy arctic Canadian breeze. Thank you, gentle friends. Labatt's and back bacon for the house! I'm buying!
A patient whisked off to the ER found to bleed green blood. Evidently this is common amongst Vulcans.
A young woman was apprehended in a supermarket after complaints that she was stabbing the produce and menacing the customers with large knives.
Within a month police discovered two left feet floating in the river.
Plans to populate Stanley Park with life-size mechanical dinosaurs provoke outrage
A family calls police to surrender a human skull found in their linen closet. Apparently it had been in the family for years although no one knew to whom it belonged.
I was powerless against them. Those scents inflamed my curiosity; aroused my blackest passions. The breeze would swell, carrying with it gentle hints of duct tape, sweat on leather, tobacco, whiskey and cotton candy.
Time stopped then; the currents carried me and I was reduced to a simple vessel of simple desire. My legs propelled me forth in time to the rhythmic beating of her cashmere wings. Drinking deeply, surrendering my will, diving into the monsters maw.
After a time the darkness parted. The bruises bloomed, the fireworks fizzled, the credits rolled and there was naught but me.
Me, alone with the lingering smell of wormwood and hellfire teasing my sinuses. Me, alone with the diamonds and broken glass crunching under my heavy boots.
Me, lost once again in the long shadows of Hamsteak Acres' less savory parcels.
Heya! Huh? Yeah, it's been a while. I been busier than a one-eyed cat watchin' five rat-holes lately. Sure, I been cuttin' the hay as always ( like this here picture above what I done fer the Boston Globe). But to ice the cake, the missus and I went and had us a young'un. Dashiell, we're callin' him, and he's a cute as a mongoose though he don't seem too keen on sleepin' much. Reckon he'll figger it out in time.
OK, the hayseed gag's run it's course. The above illo was done for the mighty Greg Klee of the Boston Globe. Self, wife and offspring are doing fine, thanks.
Here's the house as it looked when we first occupied.
Greetings from everybody's second favorite Jewish carpenter. I've been busy as a one-legged tapdancer over here trying to get our humble home all buttoned up before our progeny arrives in all it's hungry and demanding glory.
Here's a look at the progress so far. I hope to be caulking and painting by late tomorrow.
Exterior siding and brick fill removed. Dust swept, vacuumed and swept again. Framing out new windows where drafty door once was.
Plywood sheathing on the exterior. You're seeing my studio (partially clad) and the kid's room (full dollhouse mode).
Fully framed and clad in 3/4 ply. Starting to look like a house.
Here's where I'm starting today. Ply, housewrap, fanfold insulation are all done. Window frames and clapboard are going up.
As it stands, my 'illustration career' has taken a bit of a backseat. I did accept a couple of jobs during this stretch just to take the edge off the supply bills. I'll post one of them in the near future.
Say what you will, Canadian government: an apple will NEVER satisfy the way a personal size 'meat lover's' pizza will. NEVER.
Thought I'd take a break from the home renovation postings and focus on something a little more relevant to the Drawger realm. This being an illustration blog and all. Thanks for asking, though- the renovation work is going swimmingly. Almost ready to enter 'phase 3': the exterior.
Anyhow, what I was getting at is this: I AM an illustrator (according to my tax returns) and as such I'm occasionally called upon to produce icons. Actually, I'd go so far as to say 'frequently'. Sure, magazine covers and national ad campaigns and toy designs and the like are swell and have their supporters and acolytes, but who'll stick up for the modest icon?
I happen to love doing these things. These were done for our neighbors to the North; evidently the Canadian government seems to think that refined sugars and preservatives aren't healthy alternatives to fresh fruits and vegetables. As an American raised on Tang and Pixie Stix, I find this an alarming bit of juju science, but Canadian dollars are as green as anybodies and who am I to get in the way of their dietary experimentation?
Actually, they paid me by check- are Canadian dollars green? I know they have beavers on their nickels.
First the plaster and lathe came off the ceiling - 36 bags worth. Mmmm- gritty dusty!
When we last met I was in the midst of a major renovation job, building a new half bath, storage closet, and adding some other much-needed improvements to my studio. Remember?
These things take time, friends. Time and money. And sweat and, if I'm honest, a little blood. But look, if I don't do it, who will?
Things are starting to shape up. The fun doesn't end here, though; the upstairs bedroom gets it next.
The bathroom is pretty well completed; the fixtures need to be installed and a few minor finishing touches. I've back-burnered this job; I'm waiting for a sink that's backordered.
Leveled ceiling with recessed lighting. C'est bon, no? Thanks to Claude and Sara.
I leveled the joists by screwing steel studs to them; they were almost 4 inches out of level over a 12 foot span. My brother-in-law Claude ran the electrical ( because he's an electrician) then he and my sister Sara helped sheetrock the ceiling. This house is more crooked than the White House.
The bathroom and closet are rocked and ready for taping.
Anyone need some bricks? Going cheap.
Still, there's heaps of unfinished business. Here's the back (outside) wall. As you can see, there's a door to nowhere. A crappy, ill-fitting door that lets a bracing stream of cold air in in the Winter. I'm replacing the door with 2 large double-hung windows. The bricks inside the walls are all this wall had for insulation. I'll be replacing them using r-19 denim insulation.
Here's the exterior shot. This is under the door - I removed the exterior sheathing to see what awaits me. Assy aluminum siding ( faded mint green - that's class!), asphalt shingle with the look and feel of real brick (gag), some fibrous, spongy strand board, and, at last, the original clapboards. Seems our house was once painted a dark charcoal grey. I kinda dig the Chas Addams vibe.
Where am I going? to the top!
I'll be replacing all this with plywood, housewrap, rigid foam insulation and lastly, new cedar clapboards. Tight and toasty.
It's a dirty job, but ultimately satisfying as all hell. I love going to bed sore and exhausted. Looking forward to having it all finished and polished up by the time the kid is hatched.
It's not all rosy around here. though. After a long and courageous battle with Cancer, the Veal finally passed away last Thursday. Yesterday, June 6th would have been her 11th birthday. We miss her something awful.
On to Valhalla, sweet pet! There was no finer friend than you.
Storage Closet for filing cabinets, art supplies and tools. This abuts the powder room.
Been a little low-profile on the Drawger circuit lately, and I wanted to dispel the rumor that I'd married a Bolivian prostitute and was overseeing a Canadian muskrat farm. Simply not true ( she's from Uraguay ).
Actually, Mrs W and I are expecting a baby in October and, upon learning the news, I did what any other expectant father would do: I went into a blind panic and started swinging a hammer with reckless abandon.
framing out the powder room/closet.
When we bought this house, the hippie that owned it previously had dome some interesting 'renovations' of her own, one of which was adding a tub, sink and toilet to the back bedroom. This room was to be my studio. I removed the filthy claw-foot tub and sold it via Craig's List to a zaftig goth girl and her diminutive boyfriend. The sink was worthless- I tossed it. I opened the walls and capped the plumbing. But the toilet remained in the corner, hidden behind a bookcase.
Grouting commences tomorrow.
One thing I've been meaning to do was build a 1/2 bathroom in this corner. Junior's impending arrival lit a fire under my ass; this was the first order of business. Against the side wall of the bathroom will be a large storage closet.
Now THAT's a messy studio.
I'll be ripping down the ceiling, shoring up the sagging subfloor and sistering a sagging joist, insulating and running all new electrical, including a dedicated AC line. Directly above my office will be junior's room - it'll be getting the same treatment.
Lastly, I'll be breaking out the back wall, framing it out for 2 new large double hung, low-e windows and adding R19 denim insulation.
Next winter we'll all be warm and snug- the past 2 years the studio was actually windy.
I've never claimed to be a financial wizard. I can add and subtract, multiply single digit numbers, and calculate a 20% tip. That's gotten me this far. Recently I got a gig from a financial mag. The AD gave me a pithy account of the article's content and suggested an image that she'd like to see sketched out. She also requested that I sketch out 3 or 4 ideas of my own. I read the article and, for what I believe is the first time in my professional life, could make ABSOLUTELY no sense of the content. I thought about the AD' s suggestion for an image and couldn't for the life of me understand excatly how it fit in with the article. A thin layer of perspiration settled on my brow. My knees went weak and rubbery. I ate an entire bag of Doritos. Then I started highlighting key phrases. One of them was 'recapture' - I used that as my springboard and came up with several images of 'assets' being 'recaptured'.
This is the one that was chosen. I owe it all to the Doritos.
Throughout my 'career', postcards have been the most effective means of advertising. I've tried websites and sourcebooks, skywriting and cold-calling. I hired a gentleman outside my local methadone clinic to wear a sandwich board and hand out free kittens. Still, I've found nothing that equals the postcard for sheer simplicity and effectiveness.
WIth that, I give you a peep at my latest entry; an image I call "Hoedown". They're my first I've done with Vistaprint and I'm pleased to pronounce their quality 'satisfactory', if not awe-inspiring. You get, as the saying goes, what you pay for.
All Hail Kroninger, A Beacon Of Unparalleled Generosity!
What a bounty! What a fella!
Guess what I got in the mail today, people? A handbill from the Clash's legendary 1981 Bond's Casino shows and a veritable fistful of Clash rarities recorded on the convenient Compact Disc format.
What did I do to deserve this bounty? Absolutely nothing, really. It's just that Stephen Kroninger and I had a brief discussion ( in the secret clubhouse - shhh...)regarding my regret at having missed those shows- a landmark in both NYC and Rock'N'Roll history. And Kroninger being a man of staggering munificence responds with the above pictured bounty.
As I am in the process of updating my mailing list, an onerous task in the best of circumstances, the tunes couldn't have come at a better time.
Thanks again, Stephen - you're a mensch! The rest of you could learn a thing or two from this guy - hint, hint...
A tribute to Scott Bondy ( ex Verbena) and his new album 'American Hearts.' Verbena was a favorite band of mine, a Stones-y outfit with punk roots and Southern swagger. Unfortunately, myopic critics dismissed them as Nirvana clones and, after 3 albums and an EP,they disbanded without much fanfare. A bit of digging revealed that Scott Bondy, Verbena's singer and guitarist, has resurfaced as AA Bondy and has a new album of acoustic songs.
I only wish I could tell you more. An e-mail to his publicist went unanswered, his record label hasn't updated their website, and tour dates are only available via his label's MySpace page.
To hear the music that inspired this piece, go to AA Bondy's Myspace page. He'll be playing at Brooklyn's Southpaw on March 17.
Maybe I should be getting his publicist's paycheck!
UPDATE: I just received this response from his label, Superphonic records:
We're still not exactly sure when AA's record will be released but it will probably be early June.
Seems that the young people of today are less likely to go to the theatre and take in a moton picture- they're accustomed to a more 'on-demand' lifestlye as a result of downloadable content. Well, duh.
I put this little number together for friend and fellow Drawger Dave Bamundo at the Wall Street Journal. I'm still a poking around with the new 'no outline' style. Slowed me down a bit, but made me think and be a little more engaged, which is always welcome.
And while we're on the subject of movies, we went to see David Fincher's latest, "Zodiac" this weekend and I'm sorry to say I can't recommend it. Without getting too deep into it, I'l simply say it would benefit greatly from a "45 minute-ectomy'.
The other night the missus and I settled in with a digital video disc entitled "The Illusionist". The entire affair was filmed in Prague and was visually quite a stunner. This is in no way meant to discount the story or acting, both of which were immensely satisfying, but I couldn't seem to shake the vision of the ornate Victorian theater.
And so the next day found me producing this image of famed escape artist ( and NOT illusionist, yes I am aware of the difference) Harry Houdini. After I completed it I pulled a shiny nickel out of my ear! It's magic!
The Illusionist, starring the incomprable Ed Norton, fellow Brooklynite Paul Giamatti, and the truly, truly lovely Jesssica Biel. Maybe not a 'must-see", but more of a "more enjoyable alternative to two hours of Alf reruns".
I've developed a recent obsession with the late Aurelius Battaglia. He was enormously prolific and equally talented yet little information is available regarding the man behind the magic.
A quick googling led me to the door of one Leif Peng and his blog, the aptly titled "Today's Inspiration". Leif is an Ontario based illustrator who, like me , reveres some of the greats of yesteryear and is loathe to see them vanish into obscurity.
Leif's pithy and informative articles are always accompanied by scans of some jaw-droppingly beautiful artworks from his own collection. His enthusiastic tributes to yesterday's art-stars are truly inspiring.
Late-Onset Sentimentality is an inherited disorder; my father became quite a mush in his later years and it seems that I'm genetically predestined to follow in his footsteps.
This portait of Minneapolis rock outfit The Replacements is a good example on several levels.
First the band:
This is them in 1985. I was a Junior in High School and going through what I imagine every boy my age goes through; a maelstrom of emotional turmoil, a combustible mxture of arrogance and self-doubt, drunk on possibility. The Replacements had just made their masterpiece- a poignant album called Tim, that spoke volumes to me. It was a raucous affair, dirty and full of boozy bravado, but at it's center it was fragile and, at times, downright mournful. It was a band on the verge- they imploded after this record with a bid for commercial acceptance that didn't suit them and they collapsed under their own uncertainty. These days I listen to "Tim" and I can still smell the moldy floormats and sun-baked naugahyde upholstery of my old VW. It's atill a perfect album.
The brilliant Aurelius Battaglia
As time's gone by I find I've developed an anachronistic streak a mile wide. This is especially true in matters of aestetics, and doubly so where design and illustration for the juvenile market is concerned. I did a job last year- a rather massive job, in fact, over 30 full color illos - for a children's almanac. Somehow, I allowed myself to call to mind my Childcraft Encyclopedias from the late 1960's and I used these as a touchstone for all my work. I honestly don't know WHAT I was thinking here, but the designer didn't stop me... When I received the finished product in the mail I was appalled. Not at the garish, saturated, drop-shadowed, hysterical mishmash that I held in my hand but at my foolishness. How could I have believed the end result would have been anything else, let alone the simple and understated beauty of my beloved Childcrafts?
These drawings by Aurelius Battaglia ca 1952 say it all for me. My Replacements portrait was inspired by these; their simplicity and lyricism is at the zenith of 'children's book art' in my eyes.
I've got a big deadline breathing down my neck, so no time for any experimenting, sketching or painting - I've had my ass pretty firmly planted in front of the old computer for the past week or so.
Still, I know how you all eagerly check my blog every morning with the hopes that I'll impart some of my hard-earned wisdom, get-rich-quick schemes , or real-life tales of coming up in the 'hood, gangsta-style.
As I find myself in a bit of a crunch, that will all have to wait for later. What I offer you here is a few raves. They are as follows:
#I) Children Of Men - a motion picture that Mrs W and I saw this weekend. As realistic a piece of science fiction as I've ever seen; a believable dystopia, a plausible storyline and at it's core an amazingly touching drama. Pitch perfect acting, jaw-dropping action. A 'must-see' and I would think MUCH better on the big screen.
#2) Walton Ford at the Brooklyn Museum - see it now; it's over at the end of the month.
#3) Scott Walker performing 'Jackie' on TV - a Jacques Brel song as performed by Scott Walker.
I did this little number for tne esteemed Dave Bamundo at the WSJ this week. Dave Bamundo is good people in general ( despite supporting a losing team ) but as an Art Director, he's tops!
He gave me an overview of the article, a thumbnail for layout and dimensions and gave me an indication of which of my pieces he liked most stylistically. Sketches were promptly approved. e-mails promptly returned - it was downright heavenly.
I had a blast doing this piece! I decided to forego the Streamline/ Illustrator technique and do it all in Photoshop. Which was a bit of a revelation for me - I think my old technique might be obsolete. Somehow the Photoshop finish just looks more natural.
Anyhow- hats off to you, DaveB! Thanks for the gig!
People in Sweden travel primarily by hot-air baloon.
I'm just back at the helm after a few days in Stockholm. And there's a ton of stupid crap nipping at my ankles; the monthly job that I'm too lame to hit up for more money, the sketch that's due TWO WEEKS before the finish, the ongoing book project that's been hanging around my neck like a goddamn ten-pound goiter. And jetlag. So I nip on over here to see what you scalawags are getting up to while I'm not around to check up on you and I find that so much has happened that I'm damn near out of the loop. A peek into the speakeasy finds it's nearly doubled in content in the last week! Illustration Mundo? RSS feeds? Annuals? Look here, people: When I'm away I expect you spend your 'free time' weeping and composing poems and prose celebrating me. WTF?
Seriously, though; thanks to the people of Stockholm, Sweden for being so cool and good-looking. What a town!
Murph, J, and Lou- Dinosaur, Jr.
August 29th at Warsaw in Brooklyn. See ya there- maybe.
Just got an e-mail the the reformed Dinosaur, Jr will be playing late this month here in Brooklyn. I saw them at one of their first 'big' shows at the Ritz in Manhattan back in 1987 and it was one of the loudest, most anarchic, most exhilirating shows I've ever seen. I saw them early this year at Summerstage and somehow it just wsn't the same. Maybe because 20 years have gone by; that'll dull the edge somewhat no matter WHO you are. Maybe it was just the open air venue wasn't the proper location. Don't know, but I'm a little reluctant to go to this upcoming show; there's something depressing about them. Not depressing to see a band reforming, so much. More that I'm old enough that the bands I loved in college are going out on 'reunion' tours, like they're Jan and Dean or something. Friday night the New York Dolls are playing downtown- a free show. I wanted to go- they're on the top of the Rock N Roll pyramid- but thinking about it gave me pause. Most of the original members are dead, and some of natural causes! I guess it's best to let the memories remain golden- there's no way to recapture the awe and glory of rock-n-roll when it matters to you most- in your youth. Anyhow, I was inspired to do this portrait of Dinosaur, Jr. while waiting for a client to respond to sketches. Again trying to Photoshop instead of teh usual methods. I was thinking of the great 'rock art' of the English artist Savage Pencil, a favorite of mine back in the day. OK - Memory Lane tour is over; Please exit the bus in an orderly fashion.
At seven months old, Okie now towers over The Veal.
Okie is seven months old. He has been banished from the bedroom at night as his snoring is now so purcussive it rattles the windows and makes restful sleep nearly impossible.Other than that ( and his occasional housebreaking mistake), he is a joy. There really is no companion like a dog.
Our friend Gregg is a crack photog and our 'go to' guy when we need the dogs looked after. While we were in Florida recently, Gregg took the dogs for the week. He spent the weekend upstate ;the resulting photographs were beautiful and I couldn't help but share a couple.
The esteemed Mr McCauley's post about Wacky Plaques and their brethren Wacky Packages had me scrambling to dust off and shutterbug some of the prizes here in the House O' Wax Museum of Space-Hogging and Ultimately Worthless Collectibles (henceforth referred to as the HOWMOSHAUWC). As a tot I was cursed with an overactive collectors gland and Wacky Packages were one of the foremost objects of desire. I horded my collection and have retained it to this day in an archival box in the "Trading Card" wing of the HOWMOSHAUWC.
In the late nineties I came across a rare opportunity to purchase uncut "one sheets" of Wacky Packages from 1975. These were of dubious origins and I asked only one question- "How much?" I procured 3 of them in near mint condition.
We're currently housing over 300 of these cards, yet we know next to nothing about them.
Another popular exhibit in the Trading Card wing are these "Wolvertoons-style" baseball card parodies. I know almost nothing about them except that they were issued by the Leaf Gum Co. I remember buying them at Obert's Drug in Cincinnati after family meals at Ponderosa Steakhouse. I was besotted with them despite my unshakable indifference to the sport of baseball. Monsters were and remain my one true love. Excepting, of course, the delightful Mrs Wacksman for whom there is no equal.
Here's what happens when you tangle with dinosaurs. Don't say the people at Topps didn't try to warn you.
I remember in the early nineties Topps began a new series of Wacky Packages. Legend had it that the nation's intolerant and litigious nature made it unprofitable and they were soon after discontinued. I see that a new series, Series 3, is on the shelves currently ( according to the Topps website) but I haven't seen them for sale at my local newsstand. Another series that I found irresistable was the "Dinosaurs Attack" set from 1988. It told the tale of a time travel experiment gone wrong- a portal was opened and bloodthirsty dinosaurs were loosed to prey on the inhabitants of the modern world. It was as gratuitous in it's depictions of violent death and dismemberment as anything I'd come across in the bubblegum aisle. Apparently parents and legal guardians were unamused.
Many Thanks to the great Lou Darvas, whose cartooning school has catapulted my career into the stratosphere. No more selling seeds for fun and profit for me- from here on out, i am a bona-fide chuckle merchant. See Mssr Elwood Smith's Drawger page for more information on how you too can avail yourself of Mr. Darvas' instruction.
Disclaimer- it would appear that I only own one shirt. This is untrue- it's just that my other one was in the wash that day.
In January Mrs Wacksman and I aquired a new family member- Okie, a Dogue De Bordeaux or Fench Mastiff. He's been with us a couple of weeks now and is finally getting in tune with the rhythm of our day-to-day. He's also growing like a weed, as is a puppy's wont. Have a look here at the before and after
Here's Okie with our (almost) ten year old Boxer, the Veal.
Since I met Junior, our Rottweiler who died this past November, I've been a 'big dog' afficianado. I started researching the large and giant breeds in a none-too-becoming full-on geek fashion and set my sights on one day owning either a Dogue De Bordeaux ( or DDB, as they're more efficiently known) or a Bullmastiff. Thanks to the kindness and understanding of my beautiful wife ( whom I'm certain would have preferred something along the lines of a pug or maybe another Boxer), the dream became reality.
Despite the glut of precision engineered chew toys, the plastic 2 liter bottle holds sway
Okie is currently around 43 lbs at 17 weeks old. He should probably grow to about 130 lbs. We have high hopes for this li'l fella - following Junior he's got some big shoes to fill. Luckily, he's got some enormous feet.
Brix of Charles River Dogue de Bordeaux seemingly has no misgivings about letting this man raise his son. Draw your own conclusions.
Here is a picture of Okie's sire- Brix de Legeane at 3 years old - he's the one on all fours. That's me with the 10 pounds of winter fat on my freakish, pale grinning mug.
I've always had a thing for animation - I'd go so far as to say that it is one of my primary influences and inspirations. I swear. if I could only capture one tenth of the magic that was "Fractured Fairy Tales" I'd spend the rest of my days building monuments to myself. Some of my most vivid memories are of waking up with the sun on Saturday mornings and planting myself in front of the tube for a cavalcade of cartoons. i lived through the mid seventies, arguably animation's darkest hour. The era of looping backgrounds, minimal motion and a near criminal lack of attention to craft. As I got older my interest waned .The Anime boom that started in this country with the cult hit Akira rekindled my interest. I started collecting 'japanimation" cassettes, but soon burned out on it. Later, as DVD reissues became more readily available, I started adding to my stash. Some notables include the Rankin-Bass "Mad Monster Party" and the Fleischer Bros "Superman" series. A few years back i was laying on the floor in a state of post meal torpor and came across the Samurai Jack premiere movie. The six-year-old in me immediately came to life, which for me is really what it's all about. I watched every frame in rapt bliss - I was immediately hooked. Director Genndy Tartakovsky is a visionary. Not only has he revived the artistry of animation, he's elevated it. George Lucas managed to effectively strangle the gloden goose that was Star Wars with one exception. As a fan of the Samurai Jack series, he had the sense to hire Tartakovsky and Co to produce a series of animated 'prequel' pieces to air before the release of the movies. These episodes manage to eclipse Lucas' movies tenfold. The action is more exciting, the artistry is breathtaking, and the cheesy humor and hamfisted direction are mercifully absent. They, along with Samurai Jack seasons 1 and 2 are available on DVD. Buy them, watch them - every frame a work of art. No need to thank me- it's just what I do.
Since I can't 'screen grab', I had to steal an image from the www. Sorry, whomever I stole it from - send me a bill. Lookit this, though. Look at the painted background - nobody does that anymore. Beautifully stylized character design and mind-blowing color. I stand in awe because it's awesome. End of fan rant. Thank you.
Licensed...to Rock! A rare peek at Joe Strummer's driver's license.
I read somewhere that at some point in everyone's life, they give up on music- they just figure that what they listened to in college or high school was the last great music ever produced and they settle in and grow a moustache and a paunch and work for a vinyl replacement window company and drive a leased Nissan to and from the package store. Well, that might be partially true. If you, like me, live in one of the largest and most culturally diverse cites in the entire world, then you can count on one thing: godawful radio programming. It's a fact - top 40 ( A misnomer- in reality, it seems there's only about 16 songs on the playlist at any given time), frantic salsa-merengue, "urban" . It's enough to make a man stay in bed all day eating Pop-Tarts and drinking Fresca and watching Golden Girls reruns. OK, maybe that's not why I did that. Whatever- let's move on. I found this thing called LastFM on the world-wide internet. I'm sure there's millions of streaming music sites and all; maybe this one's no different. But it's awful swell and pretty intuitive. Give it a try here- it don't cost ya nothin': www.lastfm.com Or spend another week listening to Toto - it's your call. I'm just sayin'.
We lost our pal ( and company mascot) Junior in December. And by "lost" I mean he died. Junior would have been near impossible to physically lose; he was 110 lbs and stuck to my side like glue. So when he died his absence was keenly felt. Mostly by me- he was always my dog. The Veal, our Boxer, was pleased as punch to be queen bitch for a while. Enter Okie aka 'Good Times". He's our newest family member, a Dogue de Bordeaux or French Mastiff. So far he's been a dream; easy going, confident, smart and friendly. He's twelve weeks old and has been with us for almost a month. Yeah, he's the same dog as was in the Tom Hanks classic " Turner and Hooch", and yeah, he's likely to grow to somewhere in the 130 lb range. No sign of any real taste for crime fighting, yet, but he's still young.