Sunday, December 9, 2012

MAD Artist's Edition

This is the cover to the MAD Artist's Edition from IDW. This book contains original art from the first few issues of the MAD comic. The artwork in the book is over 50 years old! This is a special and unique presentation showcasing some of the most revered artists ever. MAD was Harvey Kurtzman's pride and joy. The stories showed Kurtzman's skill in parody and satire. Illustrating the stories were legends in the industry: Jack Davis, Bill Elder, Basil Wolverton and Wally Wood.

Adding to the specialness of this book, is an introduction by filmmaker, Terry Gilliam. Gilliam writes about how both, Harvey Kurtzman and MAD, corrupted him and a group of englishmen, to later go on and create the madness that became Monty Python.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rocketeer Adventures volume 2

Cover for Rocketeer Adventures volume 2

Credits Spread

Chapter Divider

Design Spread

Dave Stevens Bio Page

Once again, I was honored to be asked to design the collected version of the Rocketeer Adventures volume 2. It's hard to believe this is the sixth collection of Dave Stevens material I've been involved with. This collection of stories, originally started out as a four issue series, devoted to the continuing adventures of the Rocketeer. The stories and art were put together by plenty of "A" list creators. Adding their unique talents and abilities were: Darwyn Cooke, Sandy Plunkett, Walter and Louise Simonson, John Paul Leon, Chris Sprouse, John Byrne, Colin Wilson, along with several others.  It's fun to hang out with such a talented group of creators (even if it's only in designing a book involving all of those individuals).

The covers to the individual issues were designed by Darwyn Cooke. His approach was to "posterize" the covers, taking some tips from both the WPA and WWII victory posters. Based on his design direction, I tried to carry that thematic idea from the back cover and throughout the interior of the book.
Another design influence was the movie serials. This made sense since, each of the stories was like an individual chapter in the Rocketeer history. I designed the chapter dividers like movie lobby cards, I used the same color palette on my designs, as the facing story page. I wanted the 2 pages to be viewed as a spread as opposed to 2 separate pages.

Throughout the book I also did my illustrated version of the Rocketeer. I kept it to 3 colors and wanted it to be simple yet dynamic. I felt this was keeping with the WPA silkscreened look. Sometimes it's hard to take so many different artistic styles, and put them together and make them feel like they go together. As a package, I think this is very cohesive.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gil Kane's Spider-Man Artist's Edition

Cover for the variant version

Cover for the regular edition

Contents spread

Chapter divider

Bio page

I remember the first time I saw the Spider-Man stories where he grew extra arms...I thought, "brilliant" why hadn't anyone thought of that idea before. Of course, a character named Spider-Man should have eight legs (appendages)! There was something disturbing and creepy about Spider-Man with 4 extra arms, but, it still was cool! I liked how Gil Kane was able to make each arm look like it had a purpose, instead of just dangling off of his body. The imagery haunted me for decades. 

Then I got a chance to re-visit the stories through the artist's edition book. It still creeps me out, but I'm somehow attracted to it. I know that Gil Kane studied the movements and positions of dancers and applied it to his visual language  of Spider-Man. The character does seem to be dancing from panel to panel. It's avery graceful and fluid interpretation. Almost like a built-in soundtrack.

My approach to the design of this book, was to again, be influenced by the time period that the stories originally appeared. It's kind of a balancing act when designing, I want to pay homage, but also give it a contemporary twist. I used red and blue in the design, based on the colors of Spider-Man's costume. But, I tweaked the colors, and made them neutral value to give the appearance of being more sophisticated. I also added a cream color, which mimics the art-board color and adds a melding presence to the other two colors. I hope there is a richness that enhances the whole book through these colors.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Joe Kubert's Tarzan Artist's Edition

Cover for the regular edition

Cover for the variant version of the book

Contents page spread

I know a lot of people have eulogized Joe Kubert so much more eloquently than I could ever do. I never met the man, but I certainly respected and appreciated his art. I admit when I was much younger, his art didn't really appeal to me. I always thought his lines were too "hairy." That is the ignorance of youth. Actually, his work on Enemy Ace, is some of my favorite stuff of all time.

When I got the opportunity to work on the Tarzan book, I was thrilled. When I first receive the pages to the book, it gives me the chance to indulge and immerse myself in the art. It feels kind of like discovering something for the first time. There is a certain smugness that goes along with being one of the privileged few to see this art before it gets published in book form. I admit that is one of the perks of the job. Joe draws well. That is really an understatement. When I started looking at the way he could render animals I was intrigued. There is a real naturalistic approach to what he does. Check out his apes and then look at his lions, then see how he portrays elephants. It's really wonderful stuff. Living and breathing illustrations really apply to Joe's ability. I wish there were more "illustrators" working in the comic book industry. We have plenty of talented cartoonists, but illustration is a different thing. Joe had a talent that was instinctual, he just knew how to draw, it never looked laborious.

The other thing I appreciated about Joe, was even in his later years, his talent didn't seem to drop off. Most artists peak at a certain age and then there is a time of decline. I never felt that about Joe's stuff.

I feel a sense of pride and gratitude to have been able to work on a book, that Joe had at one time, said was his favorite stuff. He paid me a huge compliment when he said of this book..."You make me look good." No Joe, it's the other way around, your great art makes my design look good!

Curdtown Cowballs Cheese Curds

Original logo

Rough concept sketch

Refined option #1

Refined option #2

Final logo

In late March, of this year, I got involved with a start-up company. 2 businessmen had formed a partnership and a company. Their goal was to conquer the world in the name of deep-fried cheese curds. Wow, what could be more fun than that? Originally they had contacted me to do a T-shirt design for them. When I met them and listened to their vision for the future, I wanted to be more involved with the company. At the time, they were just getting started, they were working on a visual identity for the company and hadn't made any definitive decisions at that point. When I saw the logo they had been working on, I asked if I could give it it a shot. One of the owners told me of the things he would like to see incorporated in the logo, but a lot of those things seemed to be have left out of their first draft.

I rather hastily but together a rough version of a logo for them. After sitting down again and talking about it, it was further refined. I added colors at this point, to help them visualize better what I was thinking. The decision on the final logo was unanimous. Since doing the logo, I have continued as their promo/advertising/graphics guy. I'm writing copy, creating in-store promo pieces. doing t-shirts, designing sellsheets, doing artwork for banners, doing all of the packaging, dealing with vendors, and brainstorming and designing their booth for trade-shows. It's a blast! Look for Curdtown Cowballs in your hometown...they are more than just a pretty name!

Dead Dog Party

Art work for the top of the box

Finished wooden box

T-shirt design

Every year at the San Diego Comic-Con, the owner of Graphitti T-shirt designs, Bob Chapman, hosts a convention wrap-up party. He puts a lot of money and energy into the party. It's a way of kicking back after the convention has ended, and spending some time relaxing with your friends. I'm not sure how many people are allowed into his exclusive party, but I'd guess somewhere over 100. Bob pays for the rental of the space, which is usually a very nice bar, and the appetizers.

This past year was the 30th year that Bob has been hosting this event. To show their appreciation, Denis Kitchen and a small group of friends decided to give Bob a gift. Denis had contacted 30 artists in the industry, and asked each of them to create an original piece of art to present to Bob at the party. The list was a virtual who's who, some of the people involved were, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Terry Moore, Mike Kaluta, Sergio Aragones, Steve Rude, Neal Adams, Art Adams, Jim Lee, Jill Thompson, Paul Pope, Eric Shanower, Jeff Smith, Walt Simonson, and Mark Schultz. Denis then contacted me, because he wanted a special "container" to hold all of the artwork. We decided a wooden box would be a good solution.

After the box was made, I added graphics to the top and sides. I wanted a fun/retro packaging look. I also wanted it to look like it was an old heirloom. I sanded the graphics after they were applied and added a shellac to seal it. I painted the inside of the box, the reddish/orange color from the top and then sanded that. I took brass corners that were attached to the bottom of the box and soaked them in vinegar to give them an aged appearance. The final thing, was to create some way of lifting the art from inside the box. I attached a leather cord to the bottom of the box, and drilled a hole through the back about 2" higher. On the end of the cord I glued a wooden bead. When you pulled the cord, it would become tight inside the box, and raise up the artwork.

After the box was complete, I liked the design so much, I thought it would look good on T-shirts. Denis agreed and I had 55 T-shirts silk-screened and sent to San Diego for the party. I hope the irony translated. Of course, the T-shirt was printed off register, which would normally make a silk-screener pull his hair out. I thought it was the perfect touch!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Groo Artist's Edition

Cover to Sergio Aragone's Groo Artist's Edition

Title page

Credits page

The great thing about doing book design, is getting to work with such a variety of different artistic styles. When I think of Sergio and his art style, the word that pops into my head, is fun. It's hard not to look at his stuff and smile. There is so much detail, that this larger format, really helps show how much effort is put into each panel. Maybe effort isn't he right word, because I get the feeling that this stuff just flows out of Sergio's brush. I've been a fan of Sergio's work for a long time, so this was a real treat for me to work on. Amongst all of the chaos and mayhem, there is control and order. Everything is placed with precision and accuracy into the panels, nothing is left to chance. Check it for yourself, when inspecting a scene of action with lots and lots of characters, see where your eye naturally goes...right to the main character. Sergio leaves nothing to chance, he knows his stuff.

This book gave me permission to explore a more humorous approach to design. Of course, the table was already set, based on the subject matter. It's always fun, and a little daunting, to try to get inside the head of the artist. How is my design paying homage to his vision, without stepping on his toes? I would hate to come across, as if I hadn't done my homework, and had no idea what this artist was trying to convey. I think part of being a good designer, is to also be a chameleon. You have to disappear into the book, and take on the characteristics of the book's artist.

Sergio is certainly unique in his abilities and vision. He is also well deserving of a book in this oversized format.

Daredevil Artist's Edition

Cover to Mazzucchelli's Daredevil Artist's Edition

Title page

Chapter divider

Every-time I design an Artist's Edition book, it becomes a new challenge to me. I never want to get into a rut and design in a way that becomes too comfortable or inappropriate for the material. Part of the challenge of this book was to not repeat myself with using the same design approach from another book. Even though Spider-Man and Daredevil share a lot of similarities, (urban setting, rooftop swinging, gymnastic fighting techniques, angst ), I had to figure out a way to make Daredevil unique from the Spider-Man book.

Believe or not, part of the fun for me, is the research. I looked up Hell's Kitchen, and tried to get a feel for that, and compared it to how Mazzucchelli portrayed it in the book. I wanted to maintain the dirt and grime of the city, along with familiar architecture. When designing the books, I want to enhance the featured artist's work, without overwhelming it with my own personal vision. I think it's important to keep your ego in check. One of the most fulfilling aspects of these books, is the participation of the artist. They always have final say on the approval process. When you get the pat on the back, that says you did a good job, that is true satisfaction.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Kaluta Sketchbook Cover 2

Original Concept

Approved Cover

I received a Kaluta illustration intended for the cover of the Kaluta Sketchbook series #2. When I saw it, I went, "Wow!" I've always admired Kaluta's ability to capture different eras in history. It's all in the details; the style of the clothing, the telephone, the lamp, the blinds, and the great coloring. So, when I looked at this, I too wanted to support and enhance the illustration, by dressing it out in period appropriate design. It looked very "Detective Pulpy" to me. I pulled out some reference from the 40s, and wanted it to mimic the pulp magazines appearance. If you know the history of pulps, you know that red and yellow were prerequisite colors for use on the covers. I did my best to keep it exciting and eye catching. I thought I was being clever by adding the bullet holes to the masthead, as if someone was shooting back at the main character. I felt pretty happy with the results, but the response I got from Kaluta, was "Nahh." He actually wanted to keep it consistent with the first volume and use the same type treatment and layout. I guess I got too excited and decided to make it about me, instead of pulling back and allowing the illustration to speak for itself. I think those are good lessons to learn, sometimes subtlety is the best solution.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Doug Wildey's Rio

Rio cover
Rio Title Page
Sample art from the book
Sample art from the book
Sample art from the book

This book and design came as a complete surprise to me. I think based on previous posts and my Cowboy Culture Gallery Show, it's obvious I have a sentimental place in my heart for the old west. When Scott Dunbier asked me if I'd be interested in designing this book, I almost fell off my saddle!

I had been familiar with Doug Wildey's work on Rio, but it becomes a whole new experience when you see his original art. IDW made a great decision when they decided to publish this book. Not only were all of Wildey's stories collected in one place but they turned this into an art book. This was going to be presented in a similar format as their Artist's Edition books. Although the art wasn't going to be printed at original size, the boards were going to be scanned and printed to look as close to how the original artwork looks as possible. When I look at this stuff, I think it's easy to see Wildey really had a passion for this subject matter. Not only is there a cinematic approach in his presentation, but it feels authentic. There is a grittiness and flair that en-captures the flavor of the old west.

The artwork itself looks very americana and immediate in it's execution. Wildey would color and create his artwork, with pretty much whatever he had on hand. There isn't a fussiness or pretentiousness to it. You can see the use of magic markers, acrylic paints, colored pencils and even crayon. In fact, if you look at some of the artwork close enough, you can see tumbleweed and dried clay imbedded in the art. It reminds me of some of the paintings of Charles M. Russell. I love the sincerity in the work. He wasn't faking it, these are things he knew. I had a new found appreciation for his artwork, he's walking a fine line between commercial and fine art. Either way, it's definitely art with a heart!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Rock Camp For Dads

Rock Camp For Dads, offers opportunity for all musicians of various abilities, to come together and form a band. The camps run 4 weeks at a time and have all different musical themes. Themes have included, the music of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and the Eagles, or music representing different eras from, the new wave 80s or the swinging 60s. After rehearsing 8-12 songs over the month, Rock Camp For Dads sets up a venue and the band gets to play their first gig together. After that, the tough decisions happen, do they sign a record deal, or break-up over creative differences? RCFD is a great chance for frustrated rockers to have an outlet to their musical passions.

As part of my participation, in one of the camps, I was given the task of designing the 2nd annual benefit poster. I love the look and feel of the old time Rock and Roll revues that happened during the 50s. I used that, along with the Hatch Show prints, as my influence for the poster. I think the most important thing when doing posters, is to get people to read them. I thought who better to get people's attention then the King of Rock and Roll.

I know you are dying to know, which camp I'm participating's Van Halen. I don't play an instrument, although I wish I could. So believe it or not, I actually am going to attempt to sing, which means I have to do my best effort at channeling David Lee Roth. Good luck, right? I'm about to find out how much I can actually embarrass myself. Oh well, it's all for fun........yikes!