Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Rocketeer Deluxe Slipcase Designs

The original design for the slipcase of the deluxe edition of "The Rocketeer," had die-cuts in the case, so you could see part of the image of the actual book inside (see earlier entry). I was trying to be clever and use some of the same design elements, except flop the colors. I wanted the slipcase to feel like an extension of the cover. After it was designed and approved, the vendor suddenly decided they could no longer do die-cuts. Huh???

Well, it was back to the beginning. Since the slipcase no longer had the die-cuts, I felt it wasn't as necessary to create a design that repeated the book cover aesthetic. This was an opportunity to create a whole new design. I headed into two different directions, one was to maintain some of the elements of the book cover (color palette, lightning bolts, and type treatment), the other was to try a new approach but continue to stay true to Deco/Streamline influence.

The designs have to go through an approval process, and by showing several different versions, it helps everyone to narrow things down to their first and second choices. The danger is, sometimes other people pick something different from your own personal favorite. Design is such a personal taste issue, that it's good to get specific feed back. What do you like, and what don't you like, and why? It's also good not to have a big ego.

In this particular case, I had no problem accepting the choice that was made. I think it works well with the book cover, it's consistent with the design vision, and it's a logical extension. It's the last image posted that was decided upon (the Rocketeer flying at an angle to the corner).

To make the slipcase feel a little more "special," the lightning bolts will be de-bossed and the title, lightning bolts and image of the Rocketeer will have a spot varnish applied.

Both versions of the book should be available in early December.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Cowboy Culture Paintings

Cowboy Green

Cowboy Red

Cowboy Blue

Pulp Cowboy 1

Pulp Cowboy 2

Here's five painting that I did for my Cowboy Culture show in April. Please forgive me for the crudeness in the execution, I don't really consider myself a painter. When I got the opportunity to have a gallery show, I felt like I had to add some paintings to fill up the wall space. These canvases are actually pretty large, I think the smallest dimension is around 36". It was a great exercise to force me to put out some artwork in a very short amount of time. I did these five, and an additional painting, in three weeks time. These were all done with that cheap craft paint that comes in the cylindrical bottles, that cost about 97 cents a bottle. Believe me, I don't know any better.

The top three paintings, so cleverly titled as "Green," "Red," and "Blue" were meant to be very graphic and contemporary, as if they were silk-screened. I liked the idea of creating a series, and working relatively fast. These are meant to look like "real" working cowboys.

The bottom two paintings, equally cleverly titled, as "Pulp Cowboy 1," and "Pulp Cowboy 2," (maybe I should work harder on those titles!!??), were basically me copying pulp magazine covers from the '40s. I did want to make them more dynamic and artsy by cropping them dynamically. I like that, part of the titles from the magazines, are still in the painting. I always believe that type is really an added design element. These two paintings are a contrast to the other three, in that these are a perceived idea of the old west. The colors aren't flat, they are modeled, to give the illusion of depth. This was a great learning tool for me, to paint by looking at a painting. These paints really don't blend very well, so I had to paint wet. With this kind of water based paint, it usually lends itself to looking very flat as it is applied. It worked well in the top three paintings, but not so great with the bottom two.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with the results, but then again, I'm not a painter. I really have a new found respect for those artists that can paint well. I tried something that I had previously been afraid to do, because of the fear of failure, and found out that I not only learned something but enjoyed the process immensely. Giddy-yup! Oh yeah... the paintings are for sale.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Scion XA

I've always wanted to take my car and paint it in a unique way. It's such a temptation to look at it as a blank canvas. Why aren't there more interesting paint jobs on cars, why aren't people personalizing them more? Cars and houses and furniture have become so "safe" and bland, what happened to style and creativity? Look in neighborhoods and count how many houses are painted gray, brown, beige, or combinations of those colors. Everything looks the same, doesn't it? It seems nobody is willing to do anything that their neighbor isn't doing. What's the fear? The same applies to colors on cars. Open up a car sales catalog from the '50s and check out the great colors and color combinations. Have you seen any turquoise or salmon or peach colored cars lately? How about two-toned? What is the most popular color of cars these days, silver or blah? Of course, my car is silver, but I wish it wasn't. I took a photo of my car, and applied a color combination and style from a '50s era car, and created my "what if." Maybe someday I'll have the opportunity to paint something fun on my car. But, then again, what would the neighbors think?

Dinosaur Discoveries

Cover to Dinosaur Discoveries

Spread from Dinosaur Discoveries

Cover to New Dinosaur Discoveries A-Z

Spread from New Dinosaur Discoveries A-Z

Spread from New Dinosaur Discoveries A-Z

After completing the William Stout Prehistoric Life Murals book, Bill immediately had ideas to put together another book. He had approximately fifty paintings he had done of newly discovered dinosaurs, and he thought it would make a great follow up book. John Fleskes of Flesk Publications agreed. After a discussion, it was decided to take the information along with the paintings and create two books. One would be aimed at a juvenile audience, and A-Z was added to the title. The book would approximate the size and feel of a Little Golden Book. The design, bright colors, and writing are all more playful. This is a new direction that Flesk Publications has never gone before. It seems to make perfect sense, dinosaurs, education, and entertainment, what a perfect combination to attract the attention of young readers (and their parents).

The second book is aimed more at an adult audience. The approach to this is, to create a timeless look, to base the design on the style of the old Scribner books, to turn it into a contemporary classic. I wanted the cover to feel old, as if this was a lost document from an unidentifiable period of time. This is a book you might find in the basement or attic of your grandparent's home. It's a very formal design, using classic Garamond type fonts.

The design styles of both books go in complete opposite directions, one is formal and rigid, while the other is playful and loose. After it was decided what direction these books would take, Bill also decided he should complete approximately sixty more paintings, to really make these books complete! He actually re-did several earlier images, to relay new information that had been discovered since he had executed his initial designs.

The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures

Spread for The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures

Spread from the deluxe version of The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures

Slipcase for the deluxe version of The Rocketeer

Cover for the deluxe version of The Rocketeer

Dust jacket to The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures

It's been a while since I posted, so I thought I should take some time to update things. I've been extremely busy putting all the contents and design work into four new books. Two of them were for Flesk Publications. They are two new dinosaur books based on William Stout's artwork. The titles are, Dinosaur Discoveries and The New Dinosaurs A-Z. For these books, Bill has created well over one hundred new paintings of new species of dinosaurs which have been discovered in the last decade. John Fleskes writes about the process of development of these two books, on the blog portion of the Flesk Publications website.

The other two books were done for IDW publishing. The first is, the complete collection of the Rocketeer stories. These have never before been published as one collection. The Rocketeer was first published in 1982 as a back up feature in Starslayer #2, it became an immediate hit. Taking the time period of 1938, and adding elements of Saturday Matinee Serials, Dave Stevens created adventure stories inspired by the streamline era and the golden age of aviation. The publication of the stories was an adventure in itself, going through four publishers, it took nearly thirteen years to finally complete the story of the Rocketeer. So attractive was this property, that Walt Disney Studios created a film based on the Rocketeer which was released in the summer of 1991.

When designing this book, I wanted to approach it the same way that Dave approached creating his stories. I wanted to incorporate design elements that were reflective of that particular period of time. I love the Deco/Streamline era of design, and I wanted this book to feel as if the stories, characters, set designs, fonts, color palettes, and book design all came from the same source. I certainly wanted to do justice to what Dave had created and I tried my best to channel his thought process. I want the end result to be elegant, sophisticated, and tastefully executed.

The second book I designed was a real "behind the scenes" look into the creation of the Rocketeer. This is a limited edition over-sized slipcased book. Not only does it contain the original story, but also Dave's notes, sketches, layouts, preliminary designs and an explanation of his design process. This book is 274 pages with two gatefolds and plenty of never before seen material. The attempt was to create the definitive Rocketeer art book. I'm very excited at the results.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Cowboy Culture Art Show

Here's the announcement and some of the art pieces that will be at my first ever gallery art show. I've been working day and night trying to get as much done as possible before the opening. Right now I have close to 50(!) individual pieces. The work consists of paintings, collage, sculptures, furniture, journals, magnets, wooden boxes and tank tops. It's a real mish mash of items. This is not a vision of the true "old west," but my vision based on sugary coated cereal and Saturday morning cartoons. It's kind of a cross between Roy Rogers and Quick Draw McGraw. This show is meant to be fun and entertaining. After all, what's better than running around not taking a bath, wearing a cowboy hat, brightly colored cowboy boots and firing off a six-shooter? Please come and participate in the opening night celebration, at 7:00 pm Friday, April 17th. Everyone who comes on the first evening, receives a free limited edition Cowboy Culture play set (no kidding!).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

GameWorks, what it should have been...

One of ten logo designs I presented to DreamWorks SKG.

This was one of my designs, that the design team took, and had embroidered on the back of jackets and gave out to everyone involved in the project.

In 1997? I got a call from Bill Stout, asking me if I would be interested in doing some design work for DreamWorks SKG. He was part of the concept and design group creating video arcades for the team of Universal Studio, Sega and DreamWorks SKG. The original idea was to create a game arcade that had a futuristic retro feel, along with the idea that children had taken over a giant warehouse and created this play space. It was, in a sense, an indoor amusement park, with a Disney inspired feel, for creating artificial imaginative environments. 

The lead designer was John Snoddy, who was one of the imagineers for the Disney theme parks. John wanted me to design some retro styled logos that would give the arcade an identity. I also worked on some graphic images that were to be scattered around the inside of  the building. I got a chance to visit stage #35 at Universal Studio, and to see some of the concepts, artwork and scale models of the plans they had. It was pretty exciting. They had actually created miniature poster versions of some of my artwork, and included them on the inside walls of the model of the arcade. It was truly humbling to be amongst these incredibly talented designers, and to have them accept me as one of the team.

Bill was so generous with his time with me that day, he had stacks and stacks of watercolored illustration boards showing designs for kiosks and proposed interactive themed games. One of the ideas he had, was to create a kiosk called "the filling station," this is where you could get your favorite beverage. The great thing about this was, the servers were all dressed in vintage style gas station attire, including hats and bowties, and would dispense your drinks via a gas pump. It was very clever and witty. This was just the beginning of the all the incredible ideas he had. 

Unfortunately, GameWorks in reality, became just a shell of what the original proposal was. DreamWorks SKG actually pulled out, and GameWorks ended up pretty much like any run-of-the-mill arcade. They kept none of the unique feel or the atmosphere that would have made this stand out amongst all of the other cookie cutter ideas. It's a shame, it was such a waste of all those brilliant ideas and incredible talent.

One other story of note during that day. When I was hanging out at Bill's desk eagerly going through all his stacks and stacks of fantastic ideas, he received a phone call. After he hung up, he told me that on the phone, were people representing "Steve," they had asked Bill to do some design work of a bug creature, that would "scare the heck out of Steve." This was for a movie that was in the works, based on a comic book property, that I had never heard of. At dinner that night, I got to watch Bill sketch out his ideas with a Sharpie on some napkins. It was fun to see his wheels turn as he drew some nasty looking insects. It was several months later, when I actually got to see the movie that Bill had created that creepy bug for, it was called "Men in Black." There up on the screen, at the end of the film, was that big bug creature, that I'm pretty sure did, scare the heck out of Steve. Oh by the way, the reference to Steve in the story, was actually Steven Spielberg. I wish I had those napkins...

Friday, February 6, 2009

Scenes from the Xenozoic Age portfolio

Outside of portfolio box, with silk screened image
Corrugate folder that held the prints
Vellum envelope and chapbook found inside of folder

When I first became familiar with Mark Schultz's artwork, I knew that I would some day have to do a project with him. In 1997 I got my chance. After five years of begging, pestering, and presenting concepts and mock-ups, Mark's publisher at the time, Denis Kitchen finally gave in. After discussions with Mark and Denis, it was decided to create a portfolio of prints of Mark's cover art. Now Denis, who is a true visionary, wanted to create the most lavish portfolio ever produced for the comics market. He basically told me to pull out all the stops. That really is a dream come true to any designer. 

It took a lot of research and networking to pull together all of the different vendors to make this portfolio happen. I knew I wanted the basis of the design to be a wooden box, where the top would slide off to reveal the contents. I wanted to create a portfolio that was built in layers, each thing that you opened, would in turn, unveil a new thing to explore. I also wanted to create an aesthetic similar to Mark's approach to storytelling, where nature and machines work together in harmony. The graphics on the top of the box are a combination of schematic plans along with organic imagery. The folder and band wrap on the inside of the box is a natural e-flute corrugate with metal grommets and corners. The two envelopes inside the folders are a translucent vellum, with a one color image printed on the outside. Each of the ten 11" x 17" prints is embossed with the gear/trilobite logo. The portfolio was created in an edition of 99 and retailed for $299.00. I think they all disappeared pretty fast. Which, I believe, was a great relief to Mr. Kitchen.

It was quite a project. I was happy with the results, it was a good start to my collaborations with Mark. Denis was a fantastic publisher to work with, he greenlit the project and let me run with it. As an artist himself, he knows what it takes to get the best work out of creative people.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Ladislav Sutnar

One of my absolute favorite designers is Ladislav Sutnar. Born in Czechoslovakia, he was the pioneer of information design. Overshadowed by his contemporaries, the Constructivist and Bauhaus typemasters El Lissitsky and Moholy-Nagy respectively, Sutnar is a relatively unsung leader of Modern objective typography. He worked in America in the years after the war and made Constructivism both functional and playful in it's application to catalog design. In the early 1960s he was hired by Bell systems to develop a variety of design programs. One of the things he was responsible for creating was the area code parentheses.

The thing that has always impressed me the most, was how he was able to take what appeared to be very uninteresting, mundane items and create interesting organized catalogs. Sutnar was the art director for the F. W. Dodge's Sweet's Catalog Service from 1941 to 1960. This was America's leading producer and distributor of trade and manufacturing catalogs. I can't imagine what a daunting task that would have been, to take all of that uninspired product and form some user friendly, graphically pleasing informational pamphlets. The images above are some samples I have of Sutnar's skill at doing what he did best. I think his use of typography, his creative way of getting the best use out of a limited palette, and his way of organizing his information are all very inspirational. As far as I'm concerned, nobody does it better.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poster Designs

These are a couple of poster designs I did a few years ago. I had always wanted to do posters for myself, creating the subject matter, doing the illustrations, and writing the copy. Both posters are done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. The idea of the first one was, what if they had created a monorail system that crossed through the entire United States. Instead of flying or taking a train or bus, the family would climb on the Flying Tortise monorail, and relax and enjoy a luxurious sightseeing adventure across this great country of ours. It looks like it would be perfectly safe and very comfortable. I know for a couple of years between 1953 and 1955, they ran this monorail very successfully from St. Paul to Milwaukee. The only problem was, it took longer, and was more expensive than if you just drove your car. Of course, it's totally ridiculous, but it's still fun to imagine what the advertisement might look like.

The second poster, was meant to promote a non existent school. The school was to help young men develop careers in aviation design. It was a non traditional school, in the sense that, the boys were encouraged to "think outside the box". Unfortunately most of the designs that came out of the school were totally impractical and never had any commercial application. The only student to ever actually achieve employment, within the aviation industry, was Chubby McNeal. He went on to be successfully employed with TWA, he stayed with the company for three years as a baggage handler. It was never made clear what Mrs. Sinclair's exact role in the school was. 

I ran an ad in Juxtapoz magazine in an effort to sell my large inventory of posters. Much to my delight, the response was great, and I actually sold five posters. I never came close to making my money back on the posters, or even the cost of running the ad, for that matter. If anyone is interested, I think I have a very limited supply of around 200 for each of those posters. The size is 18" x 24" and they are printed on high quality (expensive) paper. In case you haven't figured it out, I'm not a very good businessman.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Xenozoic Tales Playset

I've been lucky enough, over the last several years, to work on several projects with an artist, whose work I really admire. Mark Schultz brings such a quality and craftsmanship to everything he does. By working with Mark, it challenges me to  raise the level of my game. Using sports as an analogy, the best way to get better at your position, is by playing against people who are better than you. I like to think that Mark makes me better at what I do. 

Each year for the San Diego Comic-con, with Mark's blessing, I've tried to create special limited edition products related to Xenozoic Tales. Each item is created in extremely small quantities, and is signed and numbered by Mark. Two years ago we presented this Xenozoic Tales Playset.
Marx toy company created fabulous playsets from the 1950's through the 1960's. They usually contained hundreds of figures, along with buildings, vehicles, terrain, and creatures. They were quite likely to be the highlight of any Christmas during that period of time. Even though, Xenozoic Tales didn't exist then, it seemed like if it did, it would have been a good prospect to become a playset. So instead of a Marx Playset, we created a Mark's Playset. This was a tribute to that era, and an attempt to recapture the excitement of Christmas morning. This was fun to try to approximate the feel and style of the packaging of those Marx Playsets. This was designed in an edition of ten, it came with 4 people, 4 dinosaurs, a palm tree, and a rocky wall. I know, that I can speak for myself when I say, that this has given me hours and hours of quality play time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cowboy Pull Toy

Here's something a little different. This is a wooden pull toy that I made. For a real long time I've been interested in the Fisher Price pull toys from the 1940's through the 1960's. In fact, I kind of collected them. The paintings of the characters always reminded me of the artwork from children's books of that same era. It seemed like there was a lot of pride taken in the art that was executed. Unfortunately, most of those artists were never given the recognition that they deserved. Those toys were a great combination of motion, sound and illustration. Because of their construction they would hold up to most anything that the youngsters could dish out. The idea that they can still be found pretty easily, suggests that, people had a fondness for them beyond their childhood uses. This is my attempt to capture the feeling and motion of those toys. As you pull this across the floor, the two cowboys arms go up and down, as if they are shooting at each other. Of course, to make it seem like it had just been pulled out of the toy box, it has to look like it has had years and years of playtime. Adding the aging, with staining and sanding felt like the right finishing touch. I think it would be fun to take some contemporary cartoonists and turn their characters into pull toys, it could become the newest designer toy collectible. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Zero Man

These are a couple of pages out of a recently acquired book on Zero Man. The art was done by Osamu Tezuka, who is known as the Japanese equivalent, of Walt Disney. He is probably better known for his work on Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Phoenix. I'm not a real big fan of manga, but I find this stuff very charming and stylistically appealing. Even though this was created from 1959-1960, it has the feel of classic Disney animation from the 1930's. What I really like, aside from the style of the characters, is the coloring. In the first page, the color is so warm and sophisticated feeling. It's amazing to me, with all of the modern technology that we have today, that the comic book coloring I usually see, is overly rendered Photoshop effects. Here's something that was done 45 years ago, and it is so attractive and appealing. The matte paper stock also works well to allow the colors to blend in with the paper, as opposed to the color sitting on top. The second page was colored with only two colors, red and black, and again the technique makes it look almost like full color. It's interesting how with a limited palette, that the colors make that page feel so organic. There isn't a sense that the colors overpower the line art, they seem to work together in harmony to create some really beautiful artwork. Maybe, in this case, less is more.

Flash Gordon Poster Rough

Here's an incomplete poster illustration from the Flash Gordon book. I enjoy seeing both the pencils and inking that go into a finished illustration. Al has such a gift for figure work and composition. There is so much detail in this piece. I find it curious, Al's approach to inking, each of the figures is only partially inked. He seemed to just jump from one part to another rather randomly. I wonder why this was never finished, and what it's original intent was. Did Al just abandon this at some point and start completely over on something else?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Al Williamson's Flash Gordon

Here's a book I'm currently working on. This project has been in the works for several years. After Alex Raymond, the artist most associated with Flash Gordon would be Al Williamson. This book collects all of the artwork Al did related to that character. When possible all of the art was shot from the originals. This book is an overview of how the character impacted Al's life from the time of being a very young child up until he drew his last newspaper strip of him a few years ago. This book includes all of the stories, from the early King Comics through the mini-series done for Marvel. It's an insightful and personal journey of a man and his passion. It's been a thrill for me to be able to visit with the Williamson family and to be able to hear the stories first hand. There is nothing like seeing the original art, and realizing that this is a man of unique and rare skill. It's not far fetched to suggest, that the quality of the work, certainly deserves a place in our modern art museums.

William Stout Prehistoric Life Murals

Here's another book I designed for my good friends at Flesk Publications. This book details the creation of the murals by William Stout, that appear at the San Diego Natural History Museum. Bill gives a first hand account from creating the sketches, to the color studies, and finally to the finished paintings. I always wished that I could have seen preliminary sketches and heard the thoughts that Charles R. Knight had gone through, when he created his dinosaur paintings. Bill certainly is carrying on the tradition of Mr. Knights, and it is very exciting to be able to read what he went through to execute his timeless masterpieces. This book is currently at the printer and should be available from the publisher within the next 30 days. 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Cover for Various Drawings #4

Here's the recently completed cover for Various Drawings Volume 4. This is an ongoing series of sketchbooks by Mark Schultz. This cover design, is a real collaborative effort between Mark and myself. We've made a real effort to give a design consistency to all the covers of the sketchbook series. Being influenced by the design style of Russian Constructivism, we want the covers to portray both fluid illustration, along with dynamic presentation.  Mark's illustration work is breathtaking, and it's important to keep that, the focal point of the cover. His style and technique are nothing short of spectacular. Any student, or lover of the golden age of illustration, would do themselves a great service by picking up all 4 volumes of this series. Various Drawings Volume 4 is expected to be available in time for the 2009 Comic-Con International in San Diego. Check out this book and other great art books from Flesk Publications.

Here's the Deal

I've been in the design industry for over 20 years, it's my passion. The goal with this Blog, is to show my design and illustration work along with things that inspire me. I hope I can educate, and entertain at the same time. I look forward to going on this journey with you. Let's get started...