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Monday MADness- Jack Black!

July 21st, 2014

In honor of the National Cartoonists Society having Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D (along with illustrator Luke McGarry) signing autographs at the NCS booth on Thursday at the San Diego Comic-Con, here’s a look at all my art for the parody of “School of Rock” from MAD #438, Feb. 2004:

FoolsofRock_big

Clicky any to embiggen…

FoolsofRock3

FoolsofRock4

FoolsofRock5

FoolsofRock6

Sunday Mailbag- Creating Crowd Scenes?

July 20th, 2014

Q: When you are tasked to draw a front cover with dozens of faces on it (like the Obama inauguration number) WHERE do you start? I avoid such jobs like the plague because I find it too intimidating – trying to get everyone in is a nightmare!

A: As it happens, I did a short tutorial on constructing crowd scenes a few years ago using that same “Obama Inauguration” image as the basis. Here it is:

Constructing a Crowd Scene Tutorial

I’m still not exactly sure how it happened, but somewhere along the line I ended up establishing the reputation of being able to “do a crowd scene”. I am sure my art director at MAD Magazine, Sam Viviano, can sympathize. He is well known for his work with crowd scenes, and all that implies. Simply put, it means you end up getting a lot of jobs doing complicated crowd scenes because… well…. you CAN. In the world of freelancing there is never anything wrong with getting jobs. However when a lot of jobs end up being time consuming crowd scenes, you sometimes just wish for a nice, simple single figure illustration job to cross your path. MAD has utilized me on many crowd scene projects, in particular their “A MAD Look Behind the Scenes of…” features that they have occasionally done. I’ve done a lot of them for other clients as well.

It’s not that I hate crowd scenes. In fact, I like them. They are a LOT of work but when you are done with them they are always something you can sit back, look at and say “whew! That one was tough” but be pleased with the effort. In fact I’ve been known to do much more complicated scenes than the job might necessarily call for just because a really detailed crowd scene is always visually intense and affords the opportunity to make it dense with visual gags, cameos and other fun stuff that makes the viewer really look it over thoroughly. The dense, “chicken fat” technique of filling space with a lot of gags has always been one of my favorite parts of MAD, and is something I’ve always enjoyed incorporating into my work when I get the chance… MAD or otherwise. I’ve also always subscribed to the philosophy inherent in the famous quote by Wally Wood about doing very detailed and busy art: “If you can’t draw well, draw A LOT”.

I’ve been meaning to do a tutorial on how to do a crowd scene illustration, and in late November (2008) I was assigned a tough one for MAD that I thought afforded the opportunity to demonstrate how to approach and execute a crowd scene. In consideration of that thought, I saved conceptual sketches and stages of this particular job for MAD so I could use them to illustrate how I go about constructing a crowd scene.

Design and Layout

Crowd scene or no, the first step is the same as it is for any job… identify the object or end result desired and consider the most effective way to visually accomplish that result. If that means a crowd scene, then in most cases the scene itself is a means to that end. What I mean is that the crowd scene is merely the vehicle to deliver the message and/or the main focus of the illustration. There are key areas of the scene, those that deliver the main purpose of the illustration, which need to be incorporated into the greater whole in such a way that they act like individual spot illustrations throughout the busy main scene. Effectively they act like panels of a comic book page, drawing the reader’s eye across the image. The trick is to blend these areas into the larger illustration but still make them “stick out” is some fashion so they are understood to be more important that the surrounding imagery. I call these elements “principals”. You design your entire image around these principals, setting them up in the layout first and then adding the “secondaries” or “filler” in around them. This simplifies your layout because at first you just ignore the rest of the scene and concentrate on placing the principals.

The most important part of setting up a crowd scene is establishing the point of view (POV). You need to define this and keep it in mind as you set up the scene, and the POV must serve the goals of the project. In this job for MAD, the two page spread called for a massive crowd scene at Barack Obama‘s inauguration, made up of multiple principals in the form of written gags/word balloons that would span the crowd. MAD‘s original concept was for a POV from the back facing the stage, looking down slightly on the crowd.

inauguration1

The problem with that POV illustrates an important point about doing crowd scenes… “Crowd Mentality”. Crowds have two important elements to their makeup. The second one I will get into later. “Crowd Mentality” means that in a general sense most crowds follow a pattern where are all doing the same thing. Even truly random scenes like the floor of a large cocktail party will result in distinct clusters of people doing the same thing… in that case conversing. In the case of this scene, where Obama is giving his inauguration address, the crowd will all be facing the podium and listening to the speech. Considering that, a scene set up from behind the crowd would mean the viewer would be looking at the backs of everyone’s heads. That wasn’t going to work, so I switched to a POV from the stage, looking out over the crowd.

inauguration2

In general a crowd scene is going to call for a POV that is elevated above eye level. Anything too close to eye level will result it the obscuring of the people in the crowd more than about two people deep. This particular job needs a big crowd with lots of faces, so I will have to use a fairly high POV, looking down on the crowd and not necessitating too much in the way of receding or far distance figures. In fact I ended up going with an even higher POV in the final illustration than the one in the rough above.

One side note: there are many different types of crowd scenes. The crowd in the stands of a sporting event will not be the same as one in the a fore mentioned cocktail party. When laying out a crowd scene you must take into account the environment and purpose of the gathering. To that end the most effective means to do this is to actually imagine yourself in that environment, and take a “mental” look around to see what it’s all about. In the stands of a baseball game or other sport, for example, you are crowded shoulder to shoulder with the surrounding crowd. The stands/seats of the stadium restrict the crowds to rigid spacing and straight rows. Only elements like the height of the person, their posture and how they lean will dictate their relationship to their neighbors. In a more varied environment like a dance floor, the spacing and organization of the crowd is much less rigid, and there can be gaps at random all around. Likewise at that cocktail party, there will be clusters of people of various numbers interacting. What the crowd is there for also makes a difference. Who are they paying attention to? What is the reason for the gathering? Put yourself “in the scene” and try and understand what you are trying to visually describe. Read the rest of this entry >

Tenacious D and the NCS at Comic-Con!

July 19th, 2014

FoolsofRock_Richmond

The National Cartoonists Society just released thier full signing schedule for San Diego Comic Con, which includes an appearance by Tenacious D aka Jack Black and Kyle Gass, with illustrator Luke McGarry, who will be there promoting their Festival Supreme show and signing limited edition posters of the event with art done by Luke! Here’s the full schedule:

Wednesday, July 23 (Preview Night)

6 PM – 9 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)

Thursday, July 24

10 AM – 12 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Lex Fajardo (Kid Beowulf)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)

1 PM – 4 PM

  • Jeff Keane (Family Circus)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • RC Harvey (Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Keith Robinson (Intellivision, Making It)

4 PM – 6 PM

  • Jack Black (Tenacious D)
  • Kyle Gass (Tenacious D)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)

6 PM – 7 PM

  • Brian Crane (Pickles)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)

Friday, July 25

10 AM – 12 PM

  • Tom Bancroft (Animator)
  • Tony Bancroft (Animator)
  • Brian Crane (Pickles)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)

1 PM -3 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Jay Fossgit (Bodie Troll)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)

3PM – 5 PM

  • Rich Arons (Turbie the Turtle)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)
  • Jack Mendelson (Jacky’s Diary)

5PM -7 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luanne)
  • RC Harvey (Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)

Saturday, July 26

10 AM – 12 PM

  • Jim Bennet (Dog Butts and Love)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Jay Fossgit (Bodie Troll)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)

1 PM – 3 PM

  • Tom Bancroft (Animator)
  • Tony Bancroft (Animator)
  • Brian Crane (Pickles)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)

3PM – 5 PM

  • Rich Arons (Turbie the Turtle)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)
  • Jeff Keane (Family Circus)

5PM -7 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luanne)
  • RC Harvey (Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff)
  • Jason Walz (HOMESICK)
  • Luke McGarry (Illustrator)
  • Steve McGarry (Biographic, Kid City)

Sunday, July 27

10 AM – 12 PM
  • Rich Arons (Turbie the Turtle)
  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • RC Harvey (Meanwhile… A Biography of Milton Caniff)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)

1 PM -3 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luann)
  • Tom Richmond (MAD Magazine)
  • Jeff Keane (Family Circus)

3PM – 5 PM

  • Greg Evans (Luann)

I’m in there a bit. Check back at the NCS website soon for more details about how to get a ticket to meet Tenacious D!

Want It!

July 18th, 2014

Bat van

The Folding Man

July 18th, 2014

Paste Magazine has a terrific article on the incomparable Al Jaffee and the MAD feature he created and made famous… the “Fold-In”. Al talks about the thinking behind his favorite Fold-Ins from the last five decades. Go check it out.

Incidentally, Al still does the Fold-In every issue. He still hand delivers the art to the MAD offices. He’s 93.

Illustration Throwback Thursday #4

July 17th, 2014

Rolaids1

In 1994 I got a job through a design firm to do a cover illustration for the “Rolaids Relief Man Award Media Guide“, a 4 “x 9″ booklet with the current year’s Major League Baseball relief pitchers statistics, put out by Rolaids in conjunction with their sponsorship of the MLB “Relief Man Award”. The cover usually featured caricatures of prominent relief pitchers and/or past award winners. The design firm angle was typical of smaller specialty publications, especially for sports teams or sponsors. They often hired a design firm to do the design and layout of the publication, and then the client would provide the content and a printing house would publish the results.

In this particular case I ended up doing two covers. Originally they had me do the above illustration of three pitchers “knocking on the door” of the “300 Saves Clubhouse”. They liked the final results but we ran into trouble when it was discovered that MLB had to give the approval for any image that included more than two professional players together at once, which was a new legal requirement. Rolaids did not want to go through that process, so we did this second cover with only two pitchers:

Rolaids2

I believe that is Lee Smith and Goose Gossage. They liked this one also, and we agreed on a kill fee for the first one that was only a little less than my full fee. Both of these were done using the traditional comic book line and color method (pre-computers) of a film pos overlay and blue line board which is then hand water-colored.

Unfortunately the people that printed the guide didn’t know what to do with the overlay/board combo and just drum scanned them both together at once. That resulted in misaligned lines and horrible color. Even though it as not my fault, the design firm blamed me and I never did another job for Rolaids. They stopped giving out the award in 2012.

Sketch o’the Week- Mads Mikkelsen!

July 16th, 2014

madsThis week’s SotW subject is Hannibal Lecter himself, Mads Mikkelsen. Digital study.

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San Diego Comic-Con 2014

July 15th, 2014

cci2014

Hard to believe but Comic-Con 2014 is only a week away! I don’t have as hectic a signing schedule as I have had in the past, so I’ll be spending a lot more time at the National Cartoonists Society booth this year… which is good since this is my last year as President of the NCS. Here’s my complete appearance schedule (so far):

Wednesday 7/23 (Preview Night)

  • 6 pm-9 pm- NCS Booth #1307

Thursday 7/24

  • 10 am-12pm- NCS Booth #1307
  • 1 pm-4pm- NCS Booth #1307
  • MAD about MAD Panel- 5:30 pm-6:30 pm- Room 4

Friday  7/25

  • 11 am- 12 pm- Cartoon Art Museum Sketch-A-Thon Booth #1930
  • 1 pm-4pm- NCS Booth #1307

Saturday 7/26

  • 10 am-12pm- NCS Booth #1307
  • 1 pm-3pm- NCS Booth #1307

Sunday 7/27

  • 10 am-12pm- NCS Booth #1307
  • 1 pm-3pm- NCS Booth #1307

As always I will be doing sketches, drawing caricatures, and selling original MAD artwork, copies of my book and my prints.

In the next couple of days the NCS website will announce their whole appearance schedule, which includes a big celebrity signing on Thursday and the debut of the 2014 NCS Comic-Con T-shirt which I think will be a big hit.

Hope to see some of you there!

Monday MADness- Al Feldstein

July 14th, 2014

I’m going to do something different today for Monday MADness and send you all via this magic link to the blog of Mark Evanier, to read a terrific piece about the late MAD editor Al Feldstein he wrote this past weekend. Feldstein was the editor of MAD for about 29 years, and Mark’s post really lends some insights into Al’s career and why it was very unique. He talks a lot about some of the things that made Al Feldstein a polarizing figure in MAD history. Some people will tell you Al had nothing to do with the things that made MAD great, that we was nothing but a manager and organizer and did almost nothing creative, that he made a disproportionate amount of money compared to the writers and artists that were the heart of the publication. Others might say he didn’t get enough credit for the magazine’s success.

I never met Al Feldstein, and I certainly never worked with him. He left MAD in 1984 or 1985 (depending on who you talk to) and I was busy graduation high school about then. I have gotten to know many of the people who did work with Feldstein, and the feeling I get is that Al was a hard-nosed editor that demanded respect of deadlines, didn’t tolerate sloppy work, was not very friendly, and ran an ultra-tight ship. One can argue that the creative people that made the funny content of the magazine needed someone like that or the magazine would never have gotten published some months, and I cannot disagree. As a creative type, deadlines are the only thing that keep me on task.  Some of the animosity Mark mentions over the money I have seen some hints of from long-time MAD guys, and I would be hard pressed to blame anyone for that. Let’s face it, getting a magazine out like clockwork every issue doesn’t meant a thing if what’s inside that magazine is not something anyone wants to read, and MAD hasn’t been around for 60 years because it came out on time and with all the pages nicely keylined. Some of the other long-time editors, particularly Nick Meglin, had a lot more to do with the content that ultimately made MAD MAD than Feldstein, and Mark seems to agree in his article.

I do think Feldstein deserves a lot of credit for the success of MAD for several reasons. First, he did corral a whole cast of creative geniuses who probably desperately needed corralling, and got a magazine full of brilliant cartooning and writing out regularly… no mean feat. Anyone who thinks brilliant content is all that’s required for success need only look at what happened to Harvey Kurtzman after he left MAD. Second, as I understand it Al was instrumental in finding and contracting most of those creative geniuses who made that great content. Kurtzman took most of the contributors to his MAD with him to Hugh Hefner‘s camp and Trump, and when Bill Gaines hired Al to take over as editor he advertised and found the creative people who became the Usual Gang of Idiots like Mort Drucker, Frank Jacobs, Bob Clarke, Dave Berg, Don Martin and many others. Maybe finding one or two of those would be dumb luck, but the all-star cast he assembled speaks of shrewd judgement of talent and a vision of what he wanted for the magazine. That alone is reason for major credit for the success of MAD, even if Al didn’t provide any of the humor himself.

Anyway go read Mark’s post if you are interested. It’s well worth the time.

Sunday Mailbag- How long per page?

July 13th, 2014

Q: The pages you do for your MAD parodies are very detailed and full of a lot of little gags and touches, especially the opening pages. How long to you spend on each page?

A: I get this question a lot when people look at my originals. The only accurate answer is that it takes as long as they give me.

Doing the physical artwork is only part of the work and time I put into a movie or TV parody for MAD. I spend quite a bit of time doing research and getting familiar with the show or film as well as looking for reference photos or stills before I even pick up the pencil. Doing TV show parodies are harder in terms of research, because I need to watch a number of episodes to get the feel of the show and search for “inside” gags I can incorporate into the art. When we do serial shows like the recent “True Detective”, I really have to watch the whole run to completely get it. I know what you are thinking… “Poor baby, you have to watch TV for your job!” Yes, but it’s a two way sword. First, if I hate the show I still have to watch it, and that gets pretty tedious. I’ll never get back the hours of my life I spent watching “Samantha Who?”, “Glee” or “Pimp my Ride”. Second, it’s a lot of hours spent. One season of a typical serial show is 13 hours. If we are talking multiple seasons that’s some major binge watching. Of course, if I love the show like I did “Breaking Bad”, “Mad Men” or the previously mentioned “True Detective”, that’s not very arduous… just very time consuming.

Movies are easier from a research perspective as they are usually less than 3 hours long, and if I see it twice that’s plenty. I usually watch a movie I’m doing the parody art for once when I get the assignment, then again after I’ve read the script and know what scenes we are doing, so I can pay close attention to the visuals during those scenes. Then I download trailers and search the internet for stills or promotional photos to use as reference.

Once I start the actual artwork I do a page in about 2 to 3 days. It takes about a day per page to pencil it out, including roughs and final pencils, 1/2 a day to ink it and 1/2 a day to color it. That’s 2 days per page, but If I take my time it stretches out to 3 days per page. 2 days per page is pretty much my top speed. Any faster and the work suffers. By a “day” I mean about 12-15 hours. I have been known to color and entire 6 page parody in under 48 hours, but that is a function of endurance rather than speed. I simply stop sleeping or doing anything but work, eat and use the restroom  (and it’s not out of the question to do all three at the same time) until the job is done. Not healthy but deadlines wait for no man.

Thanks to Steve Barber 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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