Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Many Gorey Deaths

JAMES-June's Bold Life cover was a real fun and different one. the lead story is on a play about Edward Gorey, so i was asked to do the cover and some inside content in the style of Edward Gorey. that in itself was cool, cuz i've always dug Gorey and was inspired heavily by one of his 'proteges' Tim Burton. so it was a great excuse to draw in such a style - tons of hatching, no varying line weight, exaggerated anatomy, a general eye-level perspective, and of course subtley creepy. but an added excursion was the request to incorporate photos of some actual actors in the play. oh yeah and it had to be done in 3 days. i was seriously psyched for it - no chance to second guess, just dig in.

the photo was taken at the theatre by Rimas Zailskas. great shots and they chose this as the 'one'. so i did a sketch, as usual, to flesh it out. i wanted the characters to interact and to take advantage of the expressions on the photographed actors. i also wanted to pay sincere homage to Gorey's style, but still add a little of my own flavor to it. and it was hard to make it not-too-creepy, since it's still gotta be an effective cover.

i printed out the photo and traced the characters onto the page where i thought they should go. i then started building around them, getting those pencils as tight as i can, since this is a departure style, i didn't want to mess up the next step. when done, i erased the traced photo lines and then drove thomas and darren to the airport to go back to brooklyn.
got home and started inking. this was another way different experience. ALL marker - Pigma Microns, sizes .02, .08, 1, and the big Perma-paque one. originally the plan was to use a nib all thru-out, but with the tight deadline, i didn't have the time to spare to really take my time with a nib and not smear something or mess it up. no kidding, after three hours or hatching really fine lines, i started cramping up big time. and after another few my knuckles were swollen. it was worth it tho. totally clean - not even any use for white out. sweet.

scanned her in and started adding color. this was tricky, cuz Gorey mostly worked in B&W. so the original plan was to go for a light 'wash' look to it. but again, that would have taken a long time to get just right. so i opted for flat colors, all on the duller side, with the exception of the gold necklace the 'Gorey' character is holding which is bright and shiny. no blending on anything, i just let the hatches create the depth and created a well-defined world for the photographed actors to sit in. cutting them out just so and placing them in was tricky - but it was like magic when it was done. thank god for the wacom tablet - whew! drew up some more flags and popped them on, and did all the lettering with the wacom,, and voila! the cover you see at the beginning of this post.
as there were also some photos for the inside, also taken by Rimas, i wanted to incorporate some minor illustrative elements to keep it consistent and really bring the issue together. Rimas had an idea to have a simple running story thru-out the pics, a-la Gorey's storybooks. so i expanded on the theme of the necklace and handkercheif, and Rimas & Mary came up with some some very appropriate lines. and left the portraits as normal name credits. time was running out, so i ran these off one morning - quick sketch, ink, scan, color, cut out, place on photo, submit. they came out great, and along with a title font that i drew and the Table Of Contents page that i hand lettered over yet another Rimas photo, the issue really has a very 'Gorey' vibe thru and thru.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sketchbook Part 2

TOM- Went to visit James in North Carolina this past week and did a few sketches in my book while i was there. Nothing really special, but often times i prefer quick sketches over photagraphs in terms of capturing a moment. Most of these are of my other brother darren who went down with me. Me and James finally got a chance to work on a jam drawing together, which we will post as soon a s I color it.

As for new finished work, it's going to start getting busy now preparing for MOCCA and updating my portfolio as much as possible. In the mean time, i'm keeping up with my sketchbook comics, just to get the juices flowing. Heres one that i did a couple of weeks ago, mostly on the train. Again, i try not to go into any of these with any expectations or set idea. I just draw a panel, then take it from there.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


TOM- So i've been done with school and my gallery job now for over a week and finally got a chance to relax, drink, and not have to worry about anything that has to be due for school. I'm allowing myself about a week or two more of this and then will sober up and face the fact that i'm an unemployed college grad and the hustle for work will begin! In the mean time, to keep on my toes artistically, i've been drawing as much as possible in my sketchbooks doing life drawings and sketchbook comics, just drawing whatever comes to my head. This is a quick one i did the other day.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


JAMES - Another Bold Life cover, this month, the lead story was a local improv comedy troupe. i actually went along to the photo shoot so i could meet everyone, get a sense of what they're about, and hopefully get some ideas. and in hindsight, i guess that was helpful in coming up with something. the biggest thing this month tho, was that i felt last month's cover was so strong, that i really had to beat it somehow. i don't necessarily feel that it did, and i was even pretty down about it when handing it in (again, i was under the gun - had only a few days for everything). everyone loved it tho, and once i saw it printed, i must admit it's a pretty strong cover.
again, i started with some thumbnails. given the subject matter, and the heavy deadline, there wasn't much room to take advantage of different styles. right away i figured it would have an 'archie comics' kind of vibe/composition with a 'james flames' illustration style. i offered to try different styles for thumnails if they (the publishers) wanted, but they were happy with these and ultimately chose the second one. personally, my choice would have been the first one - 'physical grafitti' - i thought that was the strongest and most original idea. but i can't disagree with the immediate impact of the chosen sketch.
so, on to pencils. i started sketching on usual 14x17 bristol, and ran out of room really quickly. so i did a quick ink-up with markers to feel out my darks and line-weights, then i traced it onto a 19x24 sheet and filled in the hands and everything else. at first, the pie 'splatt' was a part of the drawing, and there was no face in the middle, but i had a hard time conveying the fact that what was behind the muck of the pie was a head. so i decided to just draw the face (dean martin?) and add the pie splatt later - i drew that part on tracing paper and scanned it separately.
the inks were done straight on those pencils - no time for another lightbox job. all #3 brush with "black star" ink (maybe some marker for touchups, but i don't remember any). the inks were scanned as three separate pieces - the three comedians, the clapping hands, and the pie splatt. in the above mock-up, i wanted to test how the pie 'splatt' experiment was going to work, allowing enough of the face to show through the pie that you get the expression and impact.
then, onto some photoshop coloring. i keep referring to what you told me, tom, when those folks saw your color work and commented how the colors don't match the ink style. i wanted some effects, but i didn't want to go overboard. i finally decided on a color scheme (i had none all the way through to this stage) - greens and yellows on purple. i wound up putting a little transparency and blur on the guy in the back to set him further away, and i darkened the audience clapping hands, since there aren't usually lights on the audience, and also i knew the text would have to go there, and i didn't want the graphics to compete with the words. at the very last minute (literally 3am on the day we sent it in to press) they decided on the captions and i settled on a font and style. whew! talk about down to the wire. next month we're thinking of doing a little collaboration piece - incorporating photo and illustration into one (hopefully) seemless design. fun!

Friday, May 4, 2007


JAMES - Recently in April, i was very fortunate to be contacted by a gallery owner in the area. he saw my recent Bold Life cover and got my number from the office. he invited me to a shot at drawing the poster for his yearly art fair (it's 35th year). i didn't know since i'm new to the area, and that's outside my 'circle' anyway, but it was impressed upon me that this was an honor, and these posters were collector's items. our meeting was very friendly and the assignment was to design the 35th annual poster, which should somewhat follow the tradition of the past posters, and MUST include a black cat (for no reason at all, there's been a black cat in every poster, so it's a tradition).

This was a huge challenge. the audience i was trying to reach is an audience that i am completely out of touch with. so i tried to find a way in, while still maintaining some semblence of my style (tho it was important that i 'tone it down' from my usual work). i came up with 7 ideas. i decided to try and fall back on the one aspect of my skill that i thought would reach this audience - composition. so the illustrations became compositional studies in flow and color, of course very loose and simple since they were just conceptual sketches. i can't say i was super psyched about any one in particular, and i soon realized how hard it is to be so versitile right under the gun.

Anyway, i failed. he wasn't impressed with any of them, except maybe for two of them that he kept going back to. he graciously explained why they wouldn't work for the poster, and i began to understand how far i was from what he needed. he was kind enough to give me one more shot at it, but after a weekend of sketching, i had nothing that i thought was good, so i had to concede.

Good lesson. things have been going very well, and a little reality check can only make me better. i do like the idea of doing a series of 5.5" x 7" postcard type illos (these are all marker, brush and watercolorpencils on vellum bristol) with a loose theme. and some of these compositions are good starting points for future pieces