detail from a poster for Krazy Kat cartoons by George Herriman
Bow your heads guys and gals and observe the day that George Herriman entered the world (August 22, 1880).
I have prepared a short testimonial:
Oh boy… George Herriman: the brilliant cartoonist responsible for Krazy Kat. I'm one of those people who totally love anything Herriman. He is the Shakespeare of comics. You have to read Krazy aloud (your less appreciative friends will eventually leave you) to capture the brilliance and wit of Herriman's poetic patois. There are a few good web sites with many strips reproduced and very good books so there really is no excuse not to do a survey.
Herriman was a humble, superb (and laid back) designer. His layouts and inventive typography and his sense of timing in the Krazy Kat strips is masterful. I think his artistic influence is obvious but even more so is his artistic persona: quiet, shy, deep and steady, full of sharp but gentle humor, perceptive and psychological, male (the loner and laconic cowboy who loved "Injun Country" (Kayenta, Arizona).
I've actually spent a lot of time in the Kayenta area (college summers working for Peabody Coal Company archaeologists on nearby Black Mesa) and it's easy to imagine Herriman and his pals rummaging around the Navaho Reservation trading posts and Monument Valley vistas acting silly and poetically inspired by turns. George Herriman was a brilliant original artist who's timeless insight celebrated the foibles of human behavior in a uniquely American vernacular space.
some items from my sketchbooks that the art director responded to.
Fellow Drawgerite, Edel Rodriguez, commissioned a spot illustration last week for the back page of TIME. He said he wanted it in my "sketchbook" style. But wait, doen't the concept of "sketchbook" transcend "style"? A sketchbook is all about concept, personal limitations, exploring, freedom and (Holy God smite me if I dare utter the term) Art.
Ooookey, whatever. Just please, make it be fun and pleasurable and we'll pick up the pieces later good sir. And it's just a spot; a bauble, a trifle. The mantra is: speedy, speedy, speedy, no parachute just go for it in the straightest line possible like Bode Miller.
The text (smells like an illustration assignment to me!) was a wide-ranging, sarcastic and humorous exploration of the recent deliberations to keep Pluto as part of the planetary club or ditch the little poseur. It also included "President "Whack-a-Mole" (Grover Cleveland), the vowel (?) "Y" and the aforementioned icy orb. Lots to work with here.
Like the good art director he is and the great one he will become (if his timid forays into illustration don't work out --cue the laugh track please; this is supposed to be an ironic reference to Edel's blisteringly beautiful illustrative trajectory), Edel had complete faith faith in me and probably, his ability to "pick 'em".
So here's Grover Cleveland 1 and 2 and Pluto all mixed up together with an easy to read bail-me-out-please graphic pose gesture. But what on earth does it mean? Okay, it's 6:00 in the morning, give me a break! :-p
I gave a myself a few hours to sketch first thing the following morning. The usual process: sleepwalk to studio, push button and wait for coffee aroma to clear cobwebs away. Sharpen ball point pen and draw on scraps of respectable paper. The sketch would be the final art as much as possible. I scanned the drawings and added color with watercolor, gouache, linocut ink and Photoshop.
President Cleveland altered (Liquify is so much fun!) and colored in this Photoshop comp.
Never hurts to rip off the masters: Hamlet and Rodin in this case.
I liked this one a bit better.
They're not wanted anymore: beat it guys!
another sketch showing how the other planets might feel about the ingratiating wimp.
Now they're getting violent! Color and texture added with Photoshop. This is the one they chose. No fuss, no muss.
All told, I generally like this image. Mostly because it was direct and fast and for a well-respected client. My sketchbook "Style" worked well.
Here is the final file I sent to Edel. Using the comp as a guide, I painted the sketch, scanned it again and started to punch up the color, increase contrast, darken lines, add a torn paper edge and drop shadow ---- PRETTY ARTIFICIAL STUFF FOLKS! (Smells like "style" to me).
So Rob, what did you learn from this little exercise?
Keep the drawing as economical as possible
it's okay to start drawing with a pretty blank mind
Leave the mistakes in as much as possible
Photoshop can be a great time-waster (BEWARE) and usually will dilute the "urgency" an image may have.
Illustration comes down to "Style" and that's alright. I can live with it because "style" helps solve a client's problem and that's of great value to me as a professional illutrator.