Sunday, December 11, 2005
Several years ago I found this great book on cartooning at a yard sale: Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Faces. Its been handy in so many ways... I've used it as a teaching aid when I volunteer to teach cartooning at my kids' school. I've used it myself as a source of inspiration when designing characters.
But best of all, Simon has spent hours pouring through it and filled pages with characters either taken from the book or created based on the principles Emberley describes.
Here are just a few done on two sides of a single sheet.
I can see why Si glommed onto this book. Emberley's style is immediately appealing and the process he developed to create hundreds of variations using basic shapes is incredibly clever - yet impossibly simple! Any kid can create tons of fun character faces in minutes and I realized from looking back on these drawings that Si still keeps the principles he learned from this book in the back of his mind when he does his crazy creatures and freaky friends. We could all learn a lot from good ol' Ed Emberley!
A conversation over at The Retro Kid reminded me of Ed Emberley and one of the contributors over there kindly included this link to Emberley's website.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
When I first started experimenting with the kawaii style this was one of the first paintings I did - and of course Wendy fell in love with it... and of course I sold it at my show.
I'm a cad.
But I tried to make it up to her - I did a recreation for her birthday at a larger size, and set it up on an easel at the foot of the bed so she's see it when she woke up that morning.
Of course, she loved it. But every once in a while she'll say, "and there's my bluegirl... Leif sold it on me!" with that accusing tone, like I sold her favourite childhood doll, or our firstborn child.
Ya can't win! ;-)
What did I tell you? Once Si starts drawing a new character he attacks it like he's a character designer exploring this new guy until he completely understands him. Here's a random page I found laying around the house. There's Joe in the middle again and some funny, freaky friends. I love how Si's jokes are based on the irony of each character's situation: "Where'd he go?" asks the guy with nine eyes. "He's over there," says the little guy with no eyes!
Monday, November 28, 2005
Here's a small painting of a small dog. This isn't what I intended to show for I-Fri this week. I did a rough for my actual piece but I'm just swamped with work, so I just don't know if I'll get to finishing it. But I love I-Fri and don't want to miss a week so this small dog will have to stand in for my other piece... who knows, I just might find the time later.
I did this piece as part of a large series last year when I first started experimenting with the kawaii form of cartooning. I think it works pretty well, and so did Simon, who immediately claimed it for his room. That's where it hangs when its not sitting face down on my scanner! And speaking of Si...
Wendy spent the weekend "decluttering" Simon's room. This was akin to those giant bulldozers you see pushing piles of trash around a landfill site while seagulls skreetch and wheel in giant circles overhead. I'm not kidding. The pets were getting lost in the debris.
Something else that almost got lost in the debris was this page, along with the rest of Si's art sketch book from school. I rescued it from the recycling bin so the world could enjoy Simon's take on what must be some rappers. I didn't get a chance to ask him (but I will) who these guys are. With older son Dunc's interest in turntabling we have a lot of related magazines like Scratch laying around and for all I know this might be somebody from an article in there.
I'll let you know when I find out!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
First I just want to mention, if you are a fan of illustration from the fifties, be sure to check out my other blog, Today's Inspiration, and please feel free to comment.
The piece I did here this week for I-Fri was very much inspired by the amazing work of Candy Killer artist, Brian Taylor. I just received the book version of his website and its fantastic! If you ever saw Art Spiegelman's "RAW" magazine, this guy would have fit in there like a dirty shirt.
I used to go crazy for this kind of faux-retro cartoon style back in art school when a guy named Lou Brooks was just making the scene. He was a huge inspiration to me. The first few years in the business, I used to snap up every promo piece Brooks put out. He proved to me that you could work in a cartoon and comic style in the "legitimate" illustration field.
Once again this week, I put Painter to the test, as I try to learn more about this program's capabilities. All the line art was done in Painter, first in pencil and then in ink - then coloured in Photoshop. I used Photoshop's halftone filter for the dot patterns, and the background texture is a scan of the inside cover of an old Dennis the menace Pocket Full O' Fun digest comic I bought at a used bookstore probably almost thirty years ago. For some reason they never printed anything on the inside of those digest covers...
Oh yeah! And just about all the fonts used are free downloads from FontDiner.com - with my thanks!
This is one of my all-time favourites by Si... its called "SMIL". He did it when he was about six and was enjoying drawing in Photoshop on dad's computer. Si used to draw a lot of pictures with my old Wacom tablet, and then title them with his six year old spelling - he meant to call this one "SMILE" - and that's just what it makes me do, even to this day!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
Si showed me his new character the other day. I think his name might be Joe - and he likes pie... but that could just be a specific reference to some private joke I'm not party to.
Si says that this new character was a hit at school with his friends, who immediately started copying Joe into their own school books. He has that effect on people.
Si will create a new character and start drawing him everywhere, refining and improving him. Pretty soon he's incorporating his latest guy in school assignments - as seen in this recent effort- a poster assignment in Health Class.
At this time of year, when the windows of parked cars we pass during our morning walk to school are coated with moisture, Simon will stop at every car and "tag" them with his latest character. I often wonder what people think when they come out to leave for work and discover "Joe" or some other wacky Simon creation on their windshield.
I hope it brings a smile to their day!
This week's topic was "Strength', which immediately got me thinking of doing a cheese-headed man in honour of Jon Scieszka's "The Stinky Cheese Man" - a perennial fav around our place at bedtime when our guys were growing up.
But thoughts of strong cheese lead me to think of mice - or "meeses", as in "I HATE MEESES TO PIECES!"
Meeses may be small, but they can be mighty. Remember "The Mouse that Roared"?
So I started a sketch in my new favourite program, Painter, of an army mouse with several "kills" marked on his helmet...
I even started to take it to colour.
But then it occured to me that I could do so much more with the concept. So I did a revised sketch...
In the back of my mind was the always excellent art of Jamie Hewlett, of Tank Girl fame ( and more recently and more famously, The Gorillaz ). I've always loved the grittiness and mischievous attitude Hewlett embues his work with, and tried to capture a bit of that quality. After much futzing and struggling ( because I really don't understand this program yet ) I got this little feller to emerge:
I gotta give a big shoutout to Penelope Dullaghan for starting the amazing and wonderful I-Fri. Much respect P!
Monday, November 07, 2005
Ever since doing this piece last year ( the original piece, that is ) I've been intrigued by the little guy peeking out from behind the tree. I really liked the looks of him, and always planned to do some character development on his silhoetted form...eventually.
After posting the digital recreation of the painting last weekend for Illustration Friday, I could resist no longer - I decided to see what he actually looks like when not lurking in the shadows. From the beginning I had always intended that he should be a werewolf - but a cute little werewolf. I've been playing with the kawaii form of cartooning over the last couple of years ( mostly unsuccessfully ) and I imagined wolfie in that style.
But the first sketch didn't look right...
And the second sketch didn't look right...
And the third sketch at least started to look "wolfish" - but it just wasn't "cute".
At this point I was feeling pretty depressed and in need of some kawaii inspiration. Whenever I need an injection of that kind of cute I head on over to the Pucca Club. The tiny little characters that inhabit Pucca's world are just the ticket to get my kawaii juices flowing.
I started working on a new sketch - direct to oils in Painter - and was feeling like this time I might just be on the right track when in walked my darling wife, Wendy, and commented enthusiastically, "Oh wow, I LOVE your angry chipmunk!"
So there you go.
Should you ever find yourself wandering through the woods of my paintings at night, under the full moon, and you hear the snap of a twig and spy a shadowy figure crouched by an old dead tree and are filled with dread - fear not - its just an angry chipmunk out for a midnight stroll.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
In shameless imitation of Mighty Ward Jenkins' "Ava Thursdays".
I have two sons, both are wonderful artists and creative in many ways. My older son, Duncan, draws for profit - like his old man... good marks in his case, moolah in mine. But my younger son, Simon, draws for pleasure. And draws and DRAWS. He's filled more sketchbooks in his eleven years than I have in my forty one!
And the thing is, he's a brilliant character designer. I often have to come up with wacky characters in the course of my day and I wish I had half the imagination Simon has. His creations blow my mind! I guess a lifetime of exposure to cartoons, video games, books, comics and movies hasn't hurt.
I'm proud to say my guys have been watching Tex Avery and Chuck Jones cartoons since they were wee tykes - and not those awful hacked and slashed, censored, fifth generation retreads that have all the "offensive" violence removed. These kids have been exposed to every shotgun blast to the duckbill and anvil drop to the noggin that their dad experienced as an impressionable youth.
We all get our inspiration conciously or unconsiously from something that came before. But I believe Si has a special spark, and I'll be sharing a glimpse into his sketchbooks ( with his permission, of course ) with you every Sunday. Enjoy!
Saturday, November 05, 2005
This week's topic is "Night". It got me thinking about a painting I did for my mom last year for her birthday. I just started using Painter and thought it might be fun to try recreating that piece, which I did in oils, in Painter - using virtual oils.
My wife and kids call my mom "Scary Omi", because of her love of all things creepy. Not slasher movie creepy, but "Nightmare Before Christmas" creepy. I think its a sensability that comes from her childhood growing up in war torn Germany. She's described to me what it was like to be a little girl living in bombed out cellars in ancient cities that had been completely flattened by Allied bombers. About waking up in the middle of the night with a rat on her chest. About her brother and his little friends using a skull from the ancient town cemetary as a soccer ball. The explosions had turned over all the hundereds-of-years-old graves. About digging in the rubble for "treasure" - other people's silverware and jewellery buried under their flattened homes.
Not to mention the Grimm's Fairy Tales - the unabridged Grimm's fairy tales - that were her bedtime stories. Macabre stuff.
Even back in the sixties, as a young child myself, I got to enjoy a taste of those scary stories. We had this children's book that was read to me over and over - "Der Struwwelpeter" - Bbrrr! - and I loved it!
Which is why no doubt one day my grandchildren will call me "Scary Opa"!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I've been doing all my work in Photoshop 4.0 on a first gen Wacom tablet, watching that little clock go round and round.
Now I've got a shiny new 20" G5 iMac with dual one Gig RAM chips and a 250 Gig hard drive and all the latest software and an Intuos 3 tablet.
I've never been so scared in my life!
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I don't have a whole bunch of blogs that I regularly check out - but no doubt that will change as I get more involved with the whole blogging thing. I was introduced to the blogosphere by Ward Jenkins who has a super cool blog called Ward-O-Matic. Then I started checking out Drazen Kozjan's always excellent Hypnotik Eye. And finally a bunch of my pals at the Royal Academy of Illustration & Design got me hooked on their blog.
So I thought, "Why not?"
So... here we go...