Archive for March, 2009
Tuesday, March 31st, 2009
I thought this a clever way to decorate your Apple MacBook. Both a great play on the classic Snow White image using the embossed apple logo, and a play on the “white” color of the MacBook. I also like the subtle (and maybe unintentional) dig at technology considering what that apple actually did to Snow White.
Doubtless the clever artist who did this paintjob will be getting a call from one of Disney’s mountain of lawyers.
Monday, March 30th, 2009
Slow going with only one arm… I am surprised to discover how much I actually use my left hand when working. Pencilling and inking become harder when I cannot support nor turn my board with my left hand. Inking is especially difficult and time consuming.
Just a few jobs going right now, and a few “in the can” as they say that I will be able to share in the next week or two. Here is the latest “workplace poster” illustration, the inking and coloring was done post surgery:
Sunday, March 29th, 2009
Mort Drucker and Me, NYC 2000
No “Sunday Mailbag” this week, as these birthday wishes are much more important.
Today is supposedly MAD Magazine legend Mort Drucker‘s 80th birthday. I say “supposedly” because although Mort’s Wikipedia entry and other sources list March 29th, 1929 as his birth date, the book “Familiar Faces: The Art of Mort Drucker” claims it is March 22nd, 1929. I don’t know which to believe, but considering the relative ease at which an error in the date could be corrected in an on-line biography and that one in a book printed in 1988 is incorrectable, I have to conclude the internet sources to be accurate, as inconceivable as it is they would get the date wrong in a book he co-authored. It never occurred to me to ask Mort about it.
So, Happy Birthday, Mort!
It is no exaggeration to say that Mort Drucker is the reason I do work for MAD today. Not just his influence artistically (in fact, Mort’s influences on my art prevented me from working for MAD for a while), but very directly by sponsoring me for membership in the National Cartoonists Society. That is another story well worth reading if you haven’t already done so. Through the NCS I met and showed my work to MAD Editor Nick Meglin and MAD book editor Charlie Kochman. Eventually newly appointed MAD Art Director Sam Viviano entered the mix. In was at the NCS Reuben weekend in May of 2000, held that year in New York City, that Sam and Nick finally broke and told me they’d like to use me as an artist. Mort was at the Reubens that year, and I finally got to meet him (picture above is from that event). That was quite a weekend for me.
I did a caricature of Mort when I got home, and before I could mail it to him I got that first call from MAD with a job. I send him the caricature along with the news about my MAD job, a copy of the job’s art and my sincere gratitude. I received this note back:
Mort Drucker might be one of the most influential and best loved cartoonists of the last half century. It would be difficult to calculate how many cartoonists and illustrators his work has inspired in over 50 years as a professional.
What sums it up best for me was a brief conversation I had at my very first Reuben Awards in 1999 in San Antonio, Texas. Mort had sponsored me as a member, as I said, and I was to meet him in San Antonio for that event. I got a call from him a few days before the awards telling me his mother had fallen gravely ill, and he would not be attending the Ruebens. He was very apologetic, although that was hardly necessary as I understood completely, and he gave me the names of several people he wanted me to introduce myself to. One was then NCS president, George Breisacher, who is now sadly passed on. I went up to George during a rare moment when he was alone and introduced myself. I explained Mort had sponsored me and told me to do this.
“Mort is a hero of mine”, I said to George.
He grinned as he shook my hand and he said:
“Mort is everybody’s hero”.
Happy Birthday, Mort. The Lovely Anna and I wish you many more in health and happinesss.
Saturday, March 28th, 2009
First off, many thanks to all those who have contacted me with well wishes regarding my rotator cuff / shoulder surgery on the 19th. I thought I’d take a moment to give everyone an update.
Yesterday I had my first post-op examination by my surgeon, followed by a physical therapy appointment. I had the sutures removed from the five incisions made to conduct the procedure.
My doctor is very pleased with the results. He told me after looking over the condition of my biceps tendon, something that occasionally gets damaged due to the inflammation from the rotator cuff injury, he decided it was fine and did not need surgical repair. That was good as it would have added more time to the recovery process. He used a titanium screw in the top of my humerus to secure the rotator cuff tendons back in place. Due to my being what he termed an “athlete” (i.e. knowing I intended to return eventually to weightlifting) he reinforced the bond with a secondary plastic connector of some kind.
Both he and my physical therapist were surprised and pleased to see the range of motion I already had with the shoulder. My therapy at this point consists of nothing but small, stretching/motion exercises that mostly target healthy joints and tissues to keep them from getting stiff and contracting. It will be weeks before I do any direct therapy that places any stress on the repaired area itself, and months before I can even think about the slow climb back to full strength weightlifting.
My left arm will be in a sling for another 5 weeks. Right now it is a bit sore, especially after any therapy exercises, but the pain is very manageable. In fact I take nothing but the occasional Tylenol dose during the day, and leave the prescription pain killers for nights to help me sleep. Sleeping is the most difficult part of recovery. I cannot lay down for more than a short time, because gravity inevitably pull the shoulder back and even that small stress on the repaired tendon begins to throb. Therefore I have to sleep in my sling, in a reclined sitting position. After a week of this You can imagine how badly I’d like to lay down on my side and sleep. It will be at least another two weeks before I can start attempting that, however.
So, things are going well and I am right on schedule or even a bit ahead in my recovery. Thanks again for the well wishes.
Friday, March 27th, 2009
I’m extremely busy still trying to get caught up after my shoulder surgery… I didn’t realize how much I actually used my left hand when drawing or inking until I was deprived of it.
Here is a clip of the SC movie credits using my illustration work. I am pretty sure it would be considered “fair use” to post this short clip for the purpose of demonstrating my work in a final form. I thought they did some very clever things to make the largely static images have some animation to them. Don’t forget to pay attention at 1:31 on the clip. Sorry the video quality is poor:
Edit 8/1/09- Unfortunately it seems that Lionsgate, the company that is distributing the film, cited my little video and had it shut down on YouTube for violating their copyright. Technically they are probably in the right, although I probably have a “fair use” case considering I did the artwork for the credits and should have the right to show that work to potential clients. However considering I have worked hard to promote this film you would think Lionsgate would be more interested in my continuing to do that rather than not. So, sorry, the credits are no longer viewable and I am no longer recommended anyone see or buy this movie. You win Lionsgate! Congratulations.
I did separate layers for various elements for the title designers to use for motion effects, and in a few cases did multiple images for the same reason. It was an interesting project… I was told my some friends who had seen it in theaters that the images held up pretty well enlarged on the big screen. Sorry I didn’t get a chance to see that.
The movie was badly roasted by critics, but it screened well for kids ages 6-12 and even won an award for best feature length film at the Cairo International Film Festival. It’s still playing in some theaters, so if you missed it last weekend there’s still a chance to catch it on the big screen here:
Theaters showing Super Capers starting 3/27
Co-operative Theatres of Ohio, Hickory Ridge Cinema, Brunswick, OH
Co-operative Theatres of Ohio, Midway Mall 8, Elyria, OH
Grand Rapids, MI
Loeks Theatres, Inc., Celebration North 17, Grand Rapids, MI
Loeks Theatres, Inc., Carousel Cinema 16, Muskegon, MI
Goodrich Quality Theatres, Eastside 10, Lafayette, IN
Goodrich Quality Theatres, Hamilton 16 IMAX, Noblesville, IN
Loeks Theatres, Inc., Celebration Cinema Crossroads 16, Portage, MI
Los Angeles, CA
AMC, Broadway Cinemas, Santa Monica, CA
Vonderhaar Cinemas, Towne, Watertown, WI
Victory Theatre, Safford, AZ
San Antonio, TX
Regal Entertainment Group, Fiesta 16 Theatres, San Antonio, TX
Thursday, March 26th, 2009
It seems like every time I open the newspaper, there is more bad news about the economy. Apparently we are in a recession… The beauty of it is that the “experts” figure it started about December of 2007. I’m still not entirely clear on how we can be in a recession and not realize it for an entire year, but that’s how these things work.
Whatever label you want to put on it, the economy is in rough shape. The real indicator, to me at least, of that is the unemployment rate. At over 8%, it’s pretty bad. Since our economy is essentially built on the buying and consumption of goods, less people with jobs means less people buying stuff meaning less stuff being made meaning less jobs for people who make the stuff. A vicious cycle.
So, what does that mean for freelancers? We can’t be fired, so we can’t lose our jobs, right? We can lose WORK, however, and with dwindling budgets many clients have cut back on buying illustration in order to save money. The publication business was in trouble long before our economy started to spiral, that’s a double whammy for those who depend on magazine or newspaper work for a lot of their jobs.
So what’s a freelancer to do? There are a few things that you can do to help bring in jobs during these tough times:
Step up your Marketing- It is a natural reaction to cut back on expenses like advertising to try and save money when things get tight, but that is the opposite of what you should be doing. One thing that is absolutely guaranteed to happen if you cut back on your marketing budget: you will get less work. There are two reasons to not just continue but to increase your marketing if you can: First, more marketing might or might not lead to more work, but less will DEFINITELY decrease your visibility to potential clients and will lead to less work at a time you can least afford to have that happen. Secondly, many of your competitors will foolishly choose to cut back on their marketing, leaving you with a wider window to get work they might have been called for had their work been marketed properly. Their mistake can be your gain.
Smarter Marketing- The previous point doesn’t mean you should start spending money on ineffective marketing. If you haven’t had past success with a given marketing effort like a source book ad or an online portfolio service, it is not likely that venue will suddenly prove effective now. Concentrate on direct, personal marketing with postcard or mini-poster mailings directed straight to the art buyers of your target clients. Time spent researching and preparing mailings and personal notes is only a waste if you are putting off actual jobs to do it… and if you are honestly too busy to do that research and effort then you don’t have a problem in the first place, do you? A few evenings spent compiling a list of current publication art directors, their addresses and hand addressing current work mailings can pay off big later. Trying other avenues is risky but might also pay off.
Cultivate Past Relationships- You already have one excellent source of proven potential clients… your freelance records. Go back through your last few years of invoices put together mailings to those clients you’ve done work for in the past and reconnect with them. Show them what you are up to and remind them you’d love to work with them again if something comes along they think you are right for. You may find some art directors have moved on… often you can get their current contact info and reconnect with them at their new publication (if any). Out of sight is out of mind, and a reminder of your past work with a client will often lead to them remembering your work when something comes up that you might work well on. Past clients should be on a permanent mailing list anyway, but if you’ve been remiss on this then now’s the time to reconnect.
Seek New Opportunities- Have you been relying on a few key clients or work from a certain section of the industry for most of your jobs? It’s easy to get comfortable with too many eggs in one basket. Now might be the time to explorer other places your work would be of value. Product packaging, website graphics, character design and/or branding, advertising… there are lots of venues out there needing good quality illustration work. Spend some time thinking about other possible avenues your work might apply to. Maybe some of your marketing budget can go to advertising your skills to an entire new potential client industry.
Stay Positive- Things will turn around and get better. Good things happen to good people, even if it takes time. Treat your clients with professionalism, respect and appreciation, and they will reciprocate.
Wednesday, March 25th, 2009
This week’s sketch is of another old musical favorite of mine from my high school days… former “Black Sabbath” frontman Ozzy Osbourne.
Tuesday, March 24th, 2009
For some inexplicable reason 2009 is shaping up to be The Year of Speaking Engagements for me. Here’s a list of the events I am scheduled to attend/speak/be at at so far:
- 2009 Reuben Awards, Los Angeles- Swearing in as 2nd Vice President of NCS… there may be a lot of swearing, actually.
- Calicomix Cartoon Festival, Cali, Colombia. South America- Guest of honor at this event celebrating illustration, comics and caricature. Dates details not officially set.
- San Diego Comic Con- Appearing at NCS and “Super Capers” table as well as Artist’s Alley
- Toonseum, Pittsburgh PA- Exhibit, speaking, workshops. More details after official announcement
- Cartooning Exhibit, Aikin, MN- Guest speaker at “What’s So Funny? a Celebration of Cartooning” exhibition of cartoon art from Minnesota artists.
- National Cartoonists Society USO trip- Another trot overseas to draw for the troops
- International Society of Caricature Artists, Sandusky, OH- One of a group of MAD artists speaking at this event.
Whew. Didn’t really realize how much that all was until I listed it out. I hope I’ll see a few readers at one of these events!
Monday, March 23rd, 2009
Like an idiot I forgot to post a big Happy 88th Birthday to MAD‘s Al Jaffee on the 13th of this month (incidentally, another long time MAD artist shares that same birthday, but Sam Viviano is a relative spring chicken at a mere 56 years old). Well, Al never blogs about my birthday, so maybe I don’t feel that bad about it.
For those who, like myself, are in awe not only of Al’s lifetime of fantastic work but that he’s still at the top of his game at 88, here’s some links to a great three part interview with Al by The Daily Crosshatch:
If you print out the interviews and then fold part three so it meets part one, the secrets of the universe are revealed… or maybe it’s a recipe for chili.
Sunday, March 22nd, 2009
Q: It’s obvious that networking is a very valuable practice in the cartooning and illustration world, but are situations such as a comic-con or other gatherings of that nature an appropriate venue to try and foster such contacts? Those with booths and tables are likely there primarily to sell their own work, so would they view that sort of thing as an annoyance or an opportunity?
A: Comic cons are weird animals, to be certain. I actually haven’t been to that many cons, but I think I know what you are driving at. You want to know if it’s worth attending a comic con as a way to network in the pursuit of bigger and better things.
The short answer is that it depends what you want to get out of it. If your goal is to directly find and pursue work, then you will likely be disappointed. If your goal is to get people in the industry to know who you are and to in turn get to know people, then comic cons are a great place to be.
Like any large gathering of people from a single industry, there are a wide variety of types of individual in attendance at a comic con. As you observe, a lot of artists are at these conventions to make a buck selling their latest self published comic or book or what have you. In fact, the majority of those in attendance are selling something. A few are there to promote their latest project they have produced themselves or for a publisher. Some just go to meet their fans and to socialize. A small few are editors or art directors and of them almost none are interested in seriously considering an artist’s portfolio, although some may look to be polite. There is almost zero direct contact for work going on at a comic con.
That’s not to say it’s not worth attending one. As you observe, networking itself is valuable. It’s smart to get out of your cave and meet other people in the industry. Not everything has to be about getting jobs… just getting to know people and have them know of you and your work is a good thing. In that context, comic cons are great. They are highly social, and you can burn through a good stack of business cards over a weekend.
Comic cons used to be places where aspiring artists brought their porfolios to show editors of comic book publishers. There would be set times for portfolio reviews, and long lines of eager artists with bad Batman drawings under their arms. Not so anymore. While people do bring their portfolios around to cons it is more about asking for opinions on the work than the pursuit of work. Editors don’t go there looking for talent.
If you are looking to do some networking, go to one of the smaller cons as opposed to the big one in San Diego. It’s easier to meet people at the smaller shows. Have a promo piece/postcard made up to give away. Introduce yourself about. If you keep your eyes and ears open you can learn a lot about the type of projects and work going on, and that might apply to some ideas of your own.
Thanks to Patrick LaMontagne for the question. If you have a question you want answered for the mailbag about cartooning, illustration, MAD Magazine, caricature or similar, e-mail me and I’ll try and answer it here!