Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tim Bradstreet Sketchbook volume 1

Here's the cover to the new Tim Bradstreet sketchbook from IDW. This is the first book, in an on going series. This format is similar to the Kaluta sketchbooks. I don't really have a lot to say about this one. I tried to keep it simple with minimum colors, as to not overwhelm the cover art. Because of Tim's subject matter, I thought adding a reptilian texture to the cover made sense.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Shadow Box Art

Bazooka Joe

Orange Popsicle

Mid-Century Romance

Friend or Foe?

Television spokesmodel

Alright! I know this is a little different entry than what I usually do, but I thought these boxes were kinda fun. I had a hankering to do some 3 dimensional design work, and these boxes are the result of that. The problem with me and creating, is my lack of patience. I like to get things done quickly and then move on. I could never do oil painting, it would take too much time for me, and I would lose interest in the project before it was finished.

With these shadowboxes, I wanted to think up the idea, execute it and be done, in no more, than two days. I'm sure the craftsmanship and finish of these, could have been much more polished, but that would have meant spending more time on each box. I like to think there is kind of a crude charm to these. Really this was the result of having to purge. I sometimes get inklings and uneasiness where the only relief is to create something. A lot of times it's based on things, or materials I'm not familiar with. For these boxes, it was all based on a shopping trip to my local Michael's craft store. I used wooden balls, wooden dowels, a clear plastic christmas ornament, wire and sculpy. Oh, and everything is painted with those 69 cent bottles of craft paint.

I realize they aren't things of beauty, but when I finished them, I could sit back and go ahhhh! Sort of like after eating a very large meal,  sitting on the sofa and having that satisfying burp. Yeah, that's it!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jeff Smith's BONE "The Great Cow Race" Artist's Edition

 Jeff Smith's BONE Artist's Edition cover

 BONE title page

BONE dedication and table of contents pages

I was a late arriver to the world of BONE. I think at the time, there was limited exposure for the book. The story that first captured my attention, was "The Great Cow Race." After reading that and meeting the cast, I was hooked. It was a mix of Walt Kelly's POGO and "The Lord of the Rings." There was adventure, intrigue, humor, and great animated style character design. 

When looking at and reading the story, it's hard to really compare it to anything else out there. The style of the drawing is very charming, and looks like style guides for an animated feature. Based on the cartooniness, it might suggest that this is a humor/funny animal book. Although there are plenty of humorous situations and funny moments, the storytelling is much more layered and textured. Actually, there is a lot of very dark and foreboding sequences.

Jeff Smith's ability to create personalities out of white blobby creatures, is pretty jaw-dropping.  I never thought I would become so immersed into the journey of the Bone cousins. What a pleasure and delight to be able to get up close and personal with the creations of Jeff Smith and his BONE universe.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Joe Kubert's TOR Artist's Edition

 Joe Kubert's TOR Artist's Edition cover

 TOR Title Page

 TOR pages 2-3

 TOR pages 5-6

TOR page 57

Another Joe Kubert book, and another day in heaven! I don't know how he was able to maintain such a high level of artistry over such a prolonged period of time. What is your favorite decade of Kubert's work: 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s? It really is quite astounding to see the quality of art continue to be brilliant decade after decade.  

I continue to try and make each of these Artist's Editions unique onto itself. It's a challenge not to repeat myself. I'm sure there is a recognizable style in everything I do, but I do my best to mix things up. It's kind of like asking a cartoonist like Joe Kubert not to draw like Joe Kubert. Something will always show through that is a give-away. I'm not sure that is necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn't have wanted Kubert to suddenly start drawing like Charles Schulz, that would have just seemed odd. But certainly over the decades his art style changed and evolved. I hope I continue to be a work in progress. I don't ever want to get to a place of complete satisfaction. That's dangerous. The way I look at it I still have another four decades to try to get it right!

Nostalgia Zone

 First Logo attempt

 Second Logo attempt

 Third Logo attempt

Final Logo solution

This is a series and progression for a logo I designed for a comic-book, collectables store in MPLS. I first entered into a discussion with the owner/manager, to get his general thoughts on what he was looking for. We did a brainstorming session, and agreed on a general direction. The logo was going to be a 3 color design: blue, red, and yellow. Because of the name, it seemed like a no-brainer to make it look vintage, or...RETRO! I thought it should look like something that would appear on toy packaging, or a child's shoe box. Who could have guessed that I love retro design? 

After the first attempt, I was asked to change the look of the kid, and maybe add a couple different looks and some different type treatments. The second and third logos went the "googie" route. Googie design was popular from the early fifties through the mid-sixties. Bowling alley signage, Big Boy restaurants, Holiday Inn Hotels, Route 66 Motels, these all fell into that category. I liked the carefree fun approach, so I did my best to incorporate that style into my designs.

The final logo ended up being a combination of the previous designs. I really want to have a t-shirt with that new logo design on it!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Mark Schultz's Xenozoic Tales Artist's Edition

 Final cover for the regular edition

 Final cover for the variant edition

 Title page

 Contents page spread

 Chapter divider

 Chapter divider

 Chapter divider

Supplemental material index spread

It's not unusual to remember the details of very significant events in your life. For instance, what the weather was like the day you got married, or what song was popular when a child was born. Those important things seem to automatically be imbedded in your memory banks.  I don't know if this is good or bad, but I remember the details of that day in 1986, when I first saw Death Rattle #8 on the shelf of a local comic book shop. It was mid-afternoon and the sun was streaming through the windows, and as if it were a solar spotlight, it directed my eye to the front shelf where that comic sat. I saw the cover, and remember thinking, "I've never seen this Wally Wood illustration before." I also remember how my pulse quickened when inside the comic, it made reference to the story becoming an ongoing series.

That was my introduction to Mark Schultz and Xenozoic Tales. Later that year, I attended my very first comic convention at the Chicago comic con. To my great delight I discovered Mark Schultz would be in attendance. In a moment of sheer geekiness, I knew I had to go introduce myself to him, and tell him of my admiration for his work. As anyone who's ever met Mark knows, he is a very sincere and kind man. This actually, made me an even a bigger fan.

As a designer, I told Mark of my ambition to one day work with him. I ended up putting samples of my work together and mailed him a box full of goodies. Denis Kitchen, who was Mark's publisher at the time, got wind of the stuff I sent to Mark and asked for his own box of goodies. After that, we began a serious dialog about the possibilities of an actual project. Denis came up with the idea of doing a limited edition portfolio of Xenozoic prints. After several prototypes, I came up with the solution of putting the prints inside an e-flute folder that then was tucked into a silk screened wooden box. At the time, it was a pretty pricey item, but none-the-less it sold out immediately. That was my first collaboration with Mark. Over the next 20+ years I've worked on several book design projects with Mark, and have created some very unique San Diego Comic con exclusives with him. 

Because of my relationship with Mark, this particular artist's edition, felt very personal. Over time we've tried to establish a look and feel for Xenozoic Tales. We've experimented with the use of certain type fonts and styles of design. It's a formula that I think works and sets Xenozoic apart from other publications. It's no secret that I have a love for the design style of Russian Constructivism. I love the use of geometric shapes, and the airiness of white space. It feels formal and uniform with a sense of order. It makes sense in the context of the world of Xenozoic, which always seems to be searching for order out of the chaos. 

After all these years, I never get tired of admiring Mark's incredible abilities as an illustrator. I appreciate the fact that he trusted me with putting this book together. He allowed me to take bits and pieces of story panels and collage them together to create new pieces of art. This is a very special book that pays tribute to a very special artist. Thanks my friend! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Best of EC Artist's Edition Volume 1

 Final cover to book.

 Title page  

 Contents page for the Harvey Kurtzman section.

Contents page for the Al Williamson section.

EC comics were well before my time. I didn't really know much about them until later in life. They held a kind of mystical allure to me. I knew that the people who collected them were very loyal, and maybe a little protective. My first exposure to EC came through a reprint series called East Coast comics (EC...get it?). It didn't take long until I was totally sucked in. It seemed that EC had it's own little community of skillful artists, that were unique to the company. I wanted to join their club, and hang out and talk art with all of them. I become a little envious and jealous of the people who experienced EC through their initial printing. Did they see these comics for what they were? Did they realize at the time how unique and special EC was? Did they know they were seeing history being made? I'm still in awe of the company, for not only the quality of the art, but also for the quality of the writing.

When designing this book, I kept in mind that this was volume 1, in other words, there eventually was going to be a volume 2. I wanted to create a template that could be used for the second volume, that worked as a companion piece but also had it's own individual identity. I like the elegance and simplicity of the layouts. I think using seriffed fonts helped to give it a classic feel.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Curdtown Cheese Curds Glass Cling

 Pencil Rough

Final Art

Mall of America has a new tenant in the food court area. Flav-R-Fries opened a little over a month ago. Flav-R-Fries food items lean towards a state fair type of experience. Along with Nathan's famous hot dogs (deep-fried), they also have chirros, funnel cakes and of course several different flavors of french fries. Being that it was a start up operation, they wanted to make sure they served the best of the best. So, naturally they chose to add Curdtown cheese curds to their menu. Kevin the owner, wanted to help promote the product, so he asked if we could create a glass cling to go onto the glass on the front counter. 

Wanting to emphasize the state fair attitude, I chose a graphic style that to me, presented an era of advertising that fit well with that feeling. I thought in this case, simplifying the design was the best direction.  Returning to the days of Tony the tiger, the Frito Bandito, cocktail napkins, and novelty gag gifts seemed like a no-brainer. In the bigger picture, I'd like to re-brand Flav-R-Fries with this style of graphics throughout the concession front. I hope this happens, we can only wait and see...

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

John Byrne's Fantastic Four Artist's Edition

 Cover for John Byrne's Fantastic Four Artist's Edition

 Title Page

 Credits Spread

 Table of Contents Spread

First Story Spread

Shown above are the various spreads designed for John Byrne's Fantastic Four Artist's Edition. I remember a friend telling me, that the thing he enjoyed most about the earlier issues of the Fantastic Four, was the science angle. Reed Richards, was a scientist and the stories and adventures revolved around space exploration, and unexplained phenomenon. When designing the book, that was the direction I went in. I created flow charts and graphics that would look right-at-home in a science textbook. I also tried as much as possible, to incorporate the number 4, either using the number literally or breaking things into quadrants. Isn't that fantastic?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rebound Design

Cover art to Gil Kane volume 1

Cover art to Tony Salmons volume 2

Bound volumes

 Covers of other volumes

Bound in comics

Spines of books lined up

When I don't have real jobs, I look for projects to keep me creatively flexing. On line, I came across information, on a book bindery. They take comic books and transform them into hardcover books. The bonus is, you get to design your own covers, and add design pages to the contents. Perfect! I actually looked for comic books I could have bound, just for the sake of being able to design a series of books.

Instead of putting book collections together based on characters or story-lines, I put them together according to artists. That's really the only reason I would buy comics anyways, is for the art. I suppose some people would be horrified at the idea of taking decades old comics, and dismembering them. Not for me, that was actually the fun part. I could cut out and remove stuff I didn't want in my books, and then reassemble according to my taste. It's much more practical, and now, more user friendly.

But of course the real reason for doing all of this, was to give me more opportunity to design books based on my design preferences. I liked figuring out a template for the book design. Every book has a unifying design, and they look great on a shelf together. I also designed unique title pages for each book. Somehow, when you reinvent formats, the material becomes fresh and new. Going through these bound volumes, is almost like seeing the material for the first time.

I'm already working on seven more collections, and getting them ready for the bindery. I will have to delay sending them for a little while, because I actually have real work to do!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Denis Kitchen Identity

 Front and back side of Denis Kitchen Art Agency Business Card

 Letterhead for the Denis Kitchen Art Agency

 Mailing Envelope for the Denis Kitchen Art Agency

 Front and back side of the Denis Kitchen Publishing Company Business Card

Li'l Abner collectibles Inquiry Card

Nancy and Sluggo collectibles Inquiry Card

I've known Denis Kitchen, for about 20 years. Denis has had several very successful careers. But probably the thing he is best known for, is his publishing company, Kitchen Sink Press. The company produced high quality comic related material, along with great production values. I had been a fan for years, when I finally got the courage to contact him. I sent him a package with samples of my work, and told him I would love the opportunity to work with him. We communicated back and forth for about three years, before a project finally happened. We ended up putting together the "Scenes From the Xenozoic Age" wooden boxed portfolio. It was an immediate sell out. It was also nominated for an Eisner Award. Which unfortunately, I lost to Chris Ware. I hope it's not deja vu all over again this year!

Last year, Denis wanted to re-do his identity system. He asked me if I would be interested in doing a new business card, letterhead, and envelope for him. Actually designing those types of things are some  of my favorite things to do, so I eagerly said, "yes." Denis also is a collector of Li'l Abner and Nancy merchandise, so he wanted cards that he could hand out designed too. What you see above, is the results of those designs.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Jack Davis EC Stories Artist's Edition

 Regular Edition Cover

 Variant Edition Cover

 Title Page

 Credits Page

Contents Page

I would say that most people are familiar with the art of Jack Davis. They may not know him by name, but they certainly recognize his style. If you grew up reading MAD magazine, you would remember his movie parodies, and appreciate his ability to capture likenesses, which were always spot-on. Davis' work was also on display, as covers, to many nationally recognized magazines. Another thing he's  known for is his fabulous sports caricatures.

But Jack really first came to prominence, in the pages of EC comics. As one of the stable of outstanding artists for that publisher, he rose to fame with his ability to illustrate a diverse range of stories. He was able to accurately depict historical tales, and then without missing a beat, create something absolutely terrifying for the horror genre. His lush brushwork was beautiful to behold regardless of the story.

The design template for these books is based on the look of the actual comic. However, one of the things I wasn't happy with, was the proportions of the original comic. The masthead and title portion of the EC comics, took up almost half of the cover! I reduced that area down so that I could increase what I considered to be the most important element on the cover... the artwork! This rule also applied to the previous book based on an EC artist, the Wally Wood Artist's Edition. I plan on keeping this consistent with future volumes dedicated to that immensely talented crew of EC artists.  Did you get that subtle hint? There will be more books focusing on individual EC artists! Yeah!