On the Drawing Board

March 30th, 2007 | Posted in On the Drawing Board

I’ve spent the last several days working on a TV parody for MAD. I did the tutorial mostly late last week and over the weekend while I was traveling in Massachusetts for prep work on our theme park operation at Six Flags New England. Since I have gotten back it’s been all MAD as it’s a short deadline.

TV parodies are easier in some ways than movies and harder in others. They are easier in that there is usually a lot of reference available for TV shows, with previous seasons (if any) sometimes on DVD, fan sites on the web with screen captures and, if nothing else, TIVO and pausing the screen for a quick study. Also, TV shows tend to occur in set places and the same environments every episode, so that part is easier. TV shows are harder than movies in the research end of it. I will see a movie at least twice prior to doing the art for the parody, at least in the case of movies that have been released before the parody is done, and that’s about it. It’s a short, self contained story and collection of imagery. With a TV show, I have to watch a lot of episodes to “get” the show, see things they do a lot, understand the little details and in general get a handle on it so I can add something to the mix in doing an effective parody. An example would be when I did “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” I noticed that Vincent D’Onfrio‘s “Det. Goren” is constantly leaning over into people’s personal space with weird head tilts, so I had some fun with that. It’s those little things that can make a difference in the overall feel.

Making fun of D’Onofrio’s mannerisms

As usual I’d never seen this show I’m working on, so I watched about a dozen episodes and did some further research, plus did some screen captures for reference and surfed for further reference on cameos and other things I would be drawing. Then I started the layouts and worked on the storytelling, etc. Almost done with that stage but I spend almost as much or more time on the prep part than the drawing part! MAD helps a lot with a pile of reference as well, but doing the prep gets me “into” the show and then I can come up with gags that make sense.

Readers will notice I am not mentioning the name of the show, and I will not be posting any pencils or sneak peeks until the issue is out and the art is officially published. I went over the reasons for that in a previous post. Upon further reflection and advice from greatly respected peers and mentors, I’ve concluded that it’s wrong to post ANY client artwork prior to publication. I can’t think of a scenario where the client would appreciate something they intend to publish, either in a publication or via advertising, released on the internet prior to it’s intended publication. Maybe most would not technically be hurt by posting it on the internet in any real way, but I think it’s a matter of professional courtesy whether they know about it or are likely to see it or not.

So, that means these “On the Drawing Board” posts will not be very visually exciting, and I might stop them altogether. On the plus side, once an image is in print I can post the art and if I saved some of the pencils everyone can get a glimpse of the process a little bit.

Back to work on the MAD job, and it looks like ‘Blackout’ time. That means I am behind and the only way to catch up is to turn off all distractions including my computer, let the voicemail pick up the phone, etc. On “Blackout Days” I log in first thing in the morning, get my e-mail and then power down the Mac and basically ignore the rest of the world. There will doubtless be appearances by the Dreaded Deadline Demon a few times in the next week.


  1. SteveH says:

    Tom, the posts are still very interesting with the descriptions you share about how you go about the whole process so even though we can’t see any sketches, its still cool to know whats going on in your studio! Now get back to the drawing board! Hehehe..

  2. One benefit of showing us the in-process work, though, is the critique, like with that one picture with the lady with two left(or was it right? or was it reversed?) feet. Suggestions and mistake-catching can help.
    However, giving respect to your clients is even more important. I agree that clients would generally not prefer the art to be made public before they make it public themselves. It is, after all, their property.
    This could also lead to having one entry per project, keeping things neater.


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