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On the Drawing Board- 12/9/14

December 9th, 2014

I am swamped right now to the point of near panic, thanks to a week out of the studio and multiple time consuming jobs now due, about due, and overdue:

  • Jeff Dunham Illustrations- Several down but one more to finish on a multiple illustration job for some products for Jeff’s new Las Vegas show
  • Z People Comic- Inking and coloring pages galore
  • Penthouse- Just finished three new Dave Navarro caricatures for his column in the magazine, with a set of three more to go
  • Marlin Co. Poster- My usual monthly assignment
  • NCS Reuben Awards Brochure- Will debut this next month when it’s in member’s mailboxes
  • Private commission- Long LONG overdue

Whew. Not sure if I’ll have time for Christmas.

Here’s last month’s Marlin poster illustration, rough sketch and final color:

valentines14_pencil

Valentines14

Monday MADness- More MAD 20!

December 8th, 2014

Here’s another sneak peek at one of “MAD‘s 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things of 2014″ coming in next week’s MAD #531!

#13- CNN’s Flight 370 Coverage (Courtesy JimRomenesko.com):

MAD_20-13

Sunday Mailbag- Caricaturing Lamps?

December 7th, 2014

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: I have a question which might be a little more atypical than what you usually get. I admire how a cartoonist can draw things like floor lamps, armchairs, automobiles, etc -and give them each their own personality or quirky fun shapes. Since this is something I struggle with, I wanted to ask how much of your rules for caricature can be applied to props, vehicles, plants, or other inanimate objects? How do you decide on which parts of a floor lamp (for example) to exaggerate, and which parts to de-emphasis?  Do you have a few rules I could follow, or advice on what to look for, when taking everyday objects and making them funny/quirky looking? I’d love to see some examples of things you’ve drawn and read your thinking process behind the choices you made in arriving at their shapes!

A: Regular readers of my blog will recognize this important piece of advice I was given by MAD editor Nick Meglin and art director Sam Viviano that I often bring up:

When I first started working for MAD, both Nick Meglin and Sam Viviano gave me advice about the nature of great cartooning, and it was no surprise that Jack Davis was the example they both cited. The essence of what they told me was that a great cartoonist creates a world populated by people, objects, places and things all seen through their eyes… and all drawn in a way that creates a believable and cohesive world to the viewer. You cannot draw a goofy, cartoony dog peeing on a realistically drawn fire hydrant and convince the viewer they are looking through a window into a cartoonist’s singular world… the juxtaposition of the different looks is confusing. The fire hydrant and the dog need to be drawn in a similar fashion, so they look like they belong together and are seen thorough one set of eyes that see the entire world in their own unique way. “Jack Davis’s drawings of a chair, a car, a person and a cat all look like they were drawn by Jack Davis, and they look like they belong in a Jack Davis world,” Sam told me once. “That is what makes Jack’s world so convincing.”

That is somewhat related to your question. In creating that cohesive world, a cartoonist does apply the same sort of sensibilities or “view of the world” to anything they draw. That means the inanimate objects in a scene get the same stamp of cartoonishness or exaggeration that the caricatures get, or should.

So, how do you apply the same sort of exaggeration you would apply to a person’s face to some inanimate object like a TV or a floor lamp? I really is not that much different than the caricature you draw. Similar to making observations of a face, you look at an object in terms of its shape and, especially, its weight. By weight I mean observing where the balance and mass of an object is centered, and using that as the central focus of the drawing. Other things that can be exaggerated are things like sharp angles, arcs, thickness, etc. Like a face or a figure, you look for where an object is fat and where it’s thin, where it is solid and where it is insubstantial, where it’s square and where it’s round, etc.

Finally, you can apply a personality to an inanimate object as well. Some objects have a menacing feel to them, while others may feel lighthearted or some other way. Some of that has to do with the design of the object, and some with its intended use or meaning. Cars are a great example of this. Some cars are designed to look powerful, fast and aggressive. Other cars look more fun and friendly. Others will scream “family” while another might imply wealth and high society. You can exaggerate these attributes visually.

As an example here’s a drawing a did several years ago for On Patrol Magazine of the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier:

CVN 65

CVN65

One of the things that struck me with this ship, and most aircraft carriers, is how thin narrow the hull is beneath the enormous width of the deck. It lends a very top-heavy feel to the ship, like it is precariously balanced on the edge of a knife. I would have exaggerated that aspect even more with a wider deck but for the requirements of the space in the magazine, which demanded a more vertical aspect to the image. Another attribute the ship has is the tremendously complicated nature of the surface… it is full of railings, objects, and stuff, all over.

To be honest I seldom put much thought into how to “exaggerate” objects when I am drawing. It just sort of happens. It’s harder to separate your style from something than it is to apply it.

Thanks to Nasan Hardcastle 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!

Cosplaying the Fool?

December 6th, 2014

bats1.jpgI’ve been known to Cosplay a bit…

Late this week a minor brouhaha ensued after comic book artist Pat Broderick posted a lot of negative comments about the rise of “cosplay” at conventions. Bleeding Cool covered the story and some of the arguments both in support and disagreement with Pat’s take. Pat was more than a little harsh, saying cosplayers bring “no value” to conventions and convention promoters that focus on cosplay as a draw for their shows are doing a disservice to the industry. To provide some context, Pat is just returning to comics after two decades of doing art in otehr media venues like animation and advertising, so likely his perspective is of the time-warp variety.

I’m hardly a household name in the comics industry, being most known for my work in a publication that is at best on the fringes of the mainstream comics world. That said, I have been dong a lot of conventions in the last couple of years, and have seen firsthand the rise of cosplay as a major part of many shows. I could not disagree with Pat Broderick more.

I do not see how anything can be bad about fans becoming so enthusiastic about the characters created by and worked on by artists like Pat that they spend countless hours putting together costumes like the ones you see on the floors of comic cons today. It’s a way for fans to connect to the stories and characters they love, gets A LOT of press and attention brought to comic cons )and as a result comics), and ultimately promotes the industry as a whole. If cosplay results in bringing tens of thousands more people into comic cons and, by extension, into comic book shops, then it’s a good thing for the industry.

Are all cosplayer’s doing it for the love of comics and the characters? No, of course not. There are some who probably don’t even know the slightest bit about whatever character they are dressed up as… other than they have the right sized boobs to be Powergirl. So what? You always have the gatecrashers, narcissists and “hey look at me” types in every group, and the fact that they are showing up at comic cons is actually another positive sign. Only the groups that are getting real attention get a fair share of the poseurs, which means that group is a relevant group. Besides, the poseurs are a small minority. Most cosplayers are of the real fan variety… they may not look like Captain America with their pot belly and spats, but they do it for the fun and love of the genre. Only a handful do it for the attention alone with no actual love of comics.

I have to admit I am a bit mystified by “professional” cosplayers. These are people who comic con promoters actually pay to bring in and appear at the show as a draw. I’d think their money was better served bringing in any of the actors from “Arrow”, “The Walking Dead” or other comic-book based TV shows or films, but whatever floats your boat. Cosplay pros probably cost a fraction for the money an actor would cost to bring in, and maybe the bang for the buck is greater there. Whatever you might think of these folks, their dedication to their craft is pretty awe inspiring.

I will say that I have had my fair share of annoying run ins with copslayers at conventions, but they mostly involve simple lack of courtesy or awareness that there are thousands of other people about other than you in your outfit. I’ve slammed into people who stop abruptly in the middle of a crowded walkway while some inconsiderate cosplayer stops to spread his/her cape/wings/cloak while a dozen equally inconsiderate people try and take pictures on their smartphones. I’ve had cosplayers stop right in front of my booth and block its view as they get pics snapped right and left. BREAKING NEWS: If you are surprised a crowd of any size has a fair share of totally oblivious assholes who range from inconsiderate to downright rude, then welcome to humanity… it’s been around for a while. That is not going to change. Much of the fault with these problems lies with the convention organizers, who don’t seem to make any efforts to ease these issues by perhaps providing cosplay areas for photos and interaction, or messages discouraging the inconsiderate stopping or loitering for such pictures.

There are some bad things that go along with the cosplay phenomenon, but in the end I think anything that gets people interested in comics as an art form and entertainment is a good thing.

The MAD 20- 2014 Edition

December 5th, 2014

MAD-531

Every year MAD Magazine does a feature called “MAD‘s 20 Dumbest People, Events and Things” of the year. The 2014 edition of the MAD 20 will appear in issue number 531 (cover above), which will be on newsstands on Dec. 16th and (supposedly, but not yet) on the iPad today.

The last few years MAD has been giving various website exclusive sneak peeks of various parts of the MAD 20. Some have begun to crop up already. Here’s two of them:

Courtesy of Brietbart.com:

2014-6

This one from Craveonline:

2014- 11

In case you are wondering I did one of the MAD 20 this year. Can’t share it yet until the online exclusives all run their course, however. :(

Drive for Show, Putt for Dough

December 4th, 2014

 

money

The other day writer extraordinaire Mark Evanier posted an interesting article on his must-read blog about making a living as a writer. Some of the post is about how people you might think are rolling in money are actually struggling to get by, but the gist of his message is that in order to make a living as a writer (or anyone in the creative field), you need to write (or do whatever your creative skill is). That sometimes means you take on jobs that others looking from the outside in might think to be “selling out” your artistic integrity. Mark tells a story about a well known “creative person” who is doing projects that others condemn him/her for as “selling out”. Mark points out that others should reserve judgement until they’ve walked a mile in the other person’s shoes. The creative person in question has some financial difficulties and needed the work. Jack Nicholson, when asked why he sometimes did lousy movies instead of waiting for nothing but Oscar bait roles, famously responded: “I’m an actor. Actor’s act.”

The world of illustration and comics is a little less high profile than say acting or writing for TV and film. Cartooning is cartooning and there are not many jobs I would equate as going from doing Oscar worthy films to direct-to-video B-movies. That said, when I tell people about freelance illustration as a living I always point out that basically no one makes a living doing Time Magazine covers or similar, even the people that do Time Magazine covers. There is just not enough of  that sort of thing out there. Virtually all illustrators make the bulk of their living doing work for clients few people have ever heard of, even the really famous illustrators. For every cover of Time they do, they probably do twenty illustrations for publications like Financial Planning Magazine, Snow Country Magazine or Basket Weaving Monthly. That’s certainly true for me… I’m still waiting for my first Time cover!

That’s not to say I’d take any job that comes my way. I do have standards… which is kind of funny coming from someone that draws for MAD Magazine. However my standards do not have anything to do with ego or the need to be sure my work is only done for “a certain level of client”. My taking on jobs or not is based on three criteria:

  • Time
  • Fee
  • Personal Code

The first is basic reality. I have to have the physical time to do a job. If I am backed up or the deadline is impossible with my current workload, I have to turn down the job. This is sometimes physically painful. If the other two criteria are in place I try and justify taking on another project by thinking I can just stop sleeping for a week or so. That’s something I am learning to not do anymore. I’m getting too old for that crap.

The fee is something that is a little bit based on what we in the mid-west call “being uppish”. I cannot take on jobs where the fee is not at a level I have set for my work. This is kind of related to the time criteria, because if I do jobs with lower fees, I might have a problem with the time thing when another project comes along that will pay a more reasonable fee. This is a bigger problem these days when anyone with a computer and a bit of software thinks they are a publisher, you are only a few keystrokes away from being accessible, and the internet has devalued creative work badly thanks to legions of amateurs doing tons of work for nothing or next to it. The bottom line is I have set a bottom line for what I am willing to accept as a fee for doing a job. It’s probably a lot lower than you think, and maybe lower than it should be, but I still turn down some jobs because they won’t pay enough.

The third criteria is “personal code”, meaning stuff I won’t do no matter if the other two criteria are met (even for ridiculous money). I won’t work for big tobacco. I won’t do pornography. I won’t do anything that glorifies drugs or that I feel encourages kids to use them. I won’t do any work that reinforces any kind of hate speech. There may be some other things I would turn down based on my personal beliefs, but I think that pretty much covers it. I don’t begrudge others for doing that kind of work, although I might not want to be your Facebook friend if you do any hate speech work, but I won’t do it. Personal choice.

One thing I do tell young illustrators asking for advice is to expect to need a day job for quite a while in order to make a living in the freelance world. Mark points out in his article that getting a job doing anything in your field, even if it’s not the most glamorous of work, is preferable to waiting tables but that can sometimes be impossible. Drawing live caricatures was what paid my bills for many years until I got my freelance legs under me. That was not only directly related to my goal of being a humorous illustrator, it allowed me to hone and practice my skills while I paid my bills. I encourage a lot of young cartoonists to give live caricatures a try as a potential financial stabilizer as they try to “break in” to the freelance business. Breaking in takes years, by the way… and that’s doing it at warp speed.

The Walking Sketches: Abraham Ford!

December 3rd, 2014

Michael Cudlitz © 2014 Tom Richmond

Our “Walking Dead” series concludes this week with Michael Cudlitz as Abraham Ford. I might pick these back up as the February second-half premiere approaches.

Tags: , , , ,

Happy Birthday Jack Davis!

December 2nd, 2014

The great Jack Davis is 90 years old today!

This from a post here in 2006:

Any conversation about the greatest and most influential cartoonists of the last half century must, at some point, include the name Jack Davis. From the notorious E.C. horror comics of the 1950?s to MAD Magazine to TIME and TV Guide covers, record covers, movie posters, advertising, animation design and even US postage stamps, Davis’s art has entertained, amazed and inspired generations.

John Burton “Jack” Davis Jr. was born in Atlanta, GA on December 2nd, 1924. An incurable doodler, the young Jack Davis drew on textbooks, writing tablets and anything else he could get his hands on. As a young man he did his share of cartoons for his high school newspaper and school annuals, having developed a love of cartooning and “funny drawin’”. He joined and served in the Navy during World War 2, and they promptly put his talents to work on Navy publications in the P.R. department out of Pensacola, FL. He was eventually shipped off to Guam, but his drawing talents could not be repressed. While there he developed a strip called “Boondocker“, which was published in the Navy News.

Jack returned to the states in 1946 and studied art at the University of Georgia under the G.I. bill. While at U of G he did cartoons and illustrations for the college paper and humor magazine, and spent his summers cartooning for the Atlanta Journal newspaper. He also assisted on the syndicated comic strip “Mark Trail” by Ed Dodd. Eventually a good paying job illustrating a training manual for the Coca-Cola company netted Jack enough money to buy a car and and finance a trip to New York City to pursue bigger and better assignments.

He arrived in New York City, portfolio in hand and confidence high. His car was promptly stolen and a con man swindled him out of his savings… welcome to New York, Jack! Undeterred, Jack spent six months scraping by working for small publishers and the New York Herald Tribune while pounding the pavement in search of more substantial work. Eventually his path led to the door of E.C. Comics. He had found a home, and his artwork had found the perfect creative outlet for it to flourish.

E.C. publisher Bill Gaines and editor Al Feldstein made Jack one of their cornerstone artists. According to Feldstein, Jack’s subtly humorous touch on the gruesome stories in comics like “Tales from the Crypt”, made them more palatable to readers (if not to congressmen). Jack’s natural speed with his art, and the versatility that allowed him to work with equal success on horror, war, crime and humor stories made him almost indispensable. Jack had so much work that he was known to ink pages on the train into Manhattan from his apartment in Westchester, and place them on Bill Gaine’s desk with the ink barely dry.

When Harvey Kurtzman was tapped by Gaines to create MAD, Davis was one of the first artists Kurtzman turned to. Jack did the lead story in MAD #1, a send-up of his own E.C. horror story comic work. Jack continued to work with E.C. until Kurtzman’s departure in 1957. Jack followed Kurtzman to “Trump” and other short lived humor publications. He returned to MAD in 1966, but by then he had become very successful in other venues of freelance. He contributed regularly to MAD doing TV and movie parodies and illustrations for other features, but he also did a great many other jobs for a variety of high profile, high paying clients incluing TIME, LIFE, Esquire, Playboy and TV Guide, movie posters like “The Bad News Bears”, record covers for the likes of Johnny Cash and Jerry Reed, countless advertising jobs and book illustrations, and even animation design for ABC’s “The Jackson 5? and various commercials. Jack was one of the most prolific and recognized illustrators of the 60?s, 70?s, 80?s and 90?s.

He is also easily one of the most imitated cartoonists in the history of the medium. Many lesser cartoonists made all or part of their living doing “Jack Davis art” on jobs where Jack was either unavailable or the client was unwilling to pay the rates his work and status deserved. Part of the reason there were so many Davis clones was that his artwork was incredibly unique and singularly recognizable, and it was difficult to be influenced by his work without directly aping his style. Jack Davis drawn hands only work in a Jack Davis world, and that means Jack Davis feet and Jack Davis lamp posts and Jack Davis arm chairs… you get the idea. Jack’s style in both pen and ink and his rich, earthy watercolors amazed even his contemporaries. One story goes like this: a fellow successful cartoonist asked Jack how he achieved such an interesting and unique color palette with his watercolors. The inquisitive artist could not seem to get similar colors no matter how he mixed them. Jack admitted that he used pond water when he painted with watercolors… he just trudged on down to the lake, filled up a jar and took it back to the studio.

When I first started working for MAD, both Nick Meglin and Sam Viviano gave me advice about the nature of great cartooning, and it was no surprise that Jack Davis was the example they both cited. The essence of what they told me was that a great cartoonist creates a world populated by people, objects, places and things all seen through their eyes… and all drawn in a way that creates a believable and cohesive world to the viewer. You cannot draw a goofy, cartoony dog peeing on a realistically drawn fire hydrant and convince the viewer they are looking through a window into a cartoonist’s singular world… the juxtaposition of the different looks is confusing. The fire hydrant and the dog need to be drawn in a similar fashion, so they look like they belong together and are seen thorough one set of eyes that see the entire world in their own unique way. “Jack Davis’s drawings of a chair, a car, a person and a cat all look like they were drawn by Jack Davis, and they look like they belong in a Jack Davis world,” Sam told me once. “That is what makes Jack’s world so convincing.”

Jack also taught me something about being a professional illustrator. He understands that, no matter how emotionally invested an artist might be in a particular piece he/she is working on, at the end of the day it’s just a job and that is just another drawing. That sounds cynical or defeatist perhaps, but I think it’s just realistic and putting things in perspective. If I feel myself getting bent out of shape when an art director wants me to change all the things in a piece I think are making it successful and turn in into a piece of crap, I just remember Jack saying how easy it is to let go and start again. “It’s just another drawin’”, he’d say. Great talent makes it seem so easy…

Happy 90th birthday, Jack. Thanks for the inspiration and awe-inducing work you’ve thrilled us with for seven decades.

Monday MADness- Caricature Deja Vu!

December 1st, 2014

Monday MADness

Totally Useless Fax Dept.

You would think it a fairly common occurrence that, in the process of doing movie and TV parodies for MAD, I would often end up drawing the same actors over and over in different shows or films. Actually outside of when an actor appears in the same role in sequels or movies series, that hasn’t happened all that much for me.

I remember drawing both Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson in the spoofs of “Behind Enemy Lines” and then “The Royal Tennenbaums” just a couple of issues later. I drew Hugh Jackman in “X-2″ and then “Van Helsing” less than a year later. Technically I did Heath Ledger in two different parodies, but I don’t think you can really count his appearance in “The Dark Knight” and “Brokeback Mountain” as being caricatures of the same guy… he was heavily made-up as the Joker. I’ve drawn Gwyneth Paltrow in two roles, both in the a fore mentioned “The Royal Tennenbaums” and as Pepper Pots in both the “Iron Man” and “The Avengers” parodies. I’ve also drawn Woody Harrelson in both “The Hunger Games” movie parodies and this year’s spoof of the TV show “True Detective”. There may be some other examples but I can’t come up with any. I definitely cannot think of a single instance where I drew an actor in three different roles in separate parodies.

I was trying to think who would have seen the longest stretch of time between my drawing them in a MAD parody, and this is not including my adding them as a cameo of some kind… only as a significant role or character in the actual show being spoofed.

My first thought was Claire Danes. I first drew her in the Dick DeBartolo scribed parody of “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (“Interminable 3: Rise of the Bad Scenes”) in MAD #432, Aug 2003:

c_danes1

c_danes2

c_danes3

Then I just drew her last year in the spoof of the Showtime series “Homeland” (“Ho-HumLand”) written by David Shayne in MAD #523, Oct 2013. That’s a span of 91 issues and 10 years, 2 months:

HoHum Land 1

HoHum Land 2

HoHum Land 3

Claire does not take home the so-called prize, however. That belongs to Bryan Cranston, who appeared in my very first parody I ever did for MAD, “Malcomn in the Middle” (“Malcontent in the Muddle) written by Desmond Devlin in MAD #403, March 2001 (this one is so old, I don’t even have the original digital files anymore… these are scans of printed pages):

malcolm 1

malcolm 2

malcolm 3

I drew him again in another Devlin authored parody, this time of “Breaking Bad” (“Fading Bad”) in MAD #516, August 2012. A span of 113 issues and 11 years, 5 months:

Fading Bad

Fading Bad 2

Fading Bad 3

None of that is of any particular interest except maybe to me and a few MAD fans. It is gratifying to see the improvement I’ve made in my skills when comparing two subjects caricatured over a decade apart. If I keep at this I might get the hang of it in about decade or so.

Sunday Mailbag: Practicing Caricatures?

November 30th, 2014

Sunday Mailbag!

Q: When teaching people to draw caricatures, do you have them draw a hundred variations of a nose, eyes, chin, etc., or do you have them jump right in and attempt to draw caricatures. In other words, what’s the best way to practice drawing caricatures?

A: While practicing individual features on their own is a useful exercise for learning to draw those features convincingly, it doesn’t really help you get any better at drawing caricatures. A good caricature is the sum of the parts, not the parts themselves. The exact same nose on one person might be exaggerated in a completely different way on another person because of how that nose relates to the rest of the face… it’s just one part of a greater whole.

The only way to get better at caricature is to draw caricatures of full subjects. You have to develop your eye for recognizing how all the features relate to one another, and exaggerating those relationships. You can’t do that by practicing drawing noses all day long. Yes, you need to have the kind of command of drawing individual features to be able to capture them well, but that’s just getting good at the building blocks, not learning how to assemble the blocks to make the building.

What I often do with new artists who might be struggling at drawing a specific feature (say “eyes” for example) is to have them spend extra time looking at and drawing the eyes in their caricatures for a day or two. I have them concentrate on capturing the shape, expression, subtleties, and the relationship to the rest of the face, of each subject’s eyes… but they still have to draw the rest of the caricature. That is something you can do with any feature. It’s just important to understand that it is all the features and their relationships to each other that creates a good caricature.

Thanks to Randy Miramontez 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!

 

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