I ignite clarity in all. A window to the Art of Chuck Todd

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Mark English studio pilgrimage with the Illustration Academy in 2017

We’ve lost a legend with the recent passing of illustrator and artist Mark English. In the summer of 2017, I spent a week at the Illustration Academy in Kansas City.  Getting instruction and inspiration from illustrators John English, George Pratt, Bill Carman and Bill Sienkiewicz, and Mark English, was a life changing experience. When I got back I made a blog post about the whole week. Here is an excerpt of the original post on the transformative visit to Mark English’s studio.

Mark English’s Studio: Kansas City, July 7, 2017

The visit to Mark English’s home studio was magical. When entering his studio we were encouraged to move things around and look behind paintings, in stacks and flat files. It reduces seasoned illustrators to kids in a candy shop.

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Mark English: The master artist in his element.

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Beautiful Mark English painting with collage

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detail

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Mark and John English (above),  

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Mark encourages students to dig through his artwork as Bill Carman watches.

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Work table full of supplies

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George Pratt, Bill Carman (with back to camera), Mark English and Bill Sienkiewicz.

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Selfie time: Bill Sienkiewicz, Chuck Todd and Bill Carman in Mark English’s studio.

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Yes, that is a Bison head and displays with Society of Illustrators medals.

 

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This is one of my favorite paintings from the visit to the Mark English studio.

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The best part was getting to talk with Mark and tell him about how inspired I was from seeing him do a demonstration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in 1997 or 1998. I spied a box of books and asked him if they were for sale, so I bought one and asked him to sign it. Timmy Trabon took the above picture of Mark English and I in his studio with a work in progress in the background.

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Seeing George Pratt and Bill Sienkiewicz go though flat files in Mark’s basement was like seeing young boys going through a newly discovered stack of old comics.

 

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Haunting, mysterious, violent and powerful Mark English illustration

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Two Bills, a George and a Bernie Fuchs

 

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Chuck Todd and a Bernie Fuchs magazine illustration. (George Pratt: ” Hey man, you want a picture with the Fuchs?”  Me: Yes, Please!”)

 

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Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders drawing by Mark English

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Detail of Teddy Roosevelt by Mark English

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Mark’s dogs were part of the experience as well.

 

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Found this John Collier gem hiding under some artwork.

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Detail from the Fuchs illustration

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Detail from the Fuchs illustration

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A ghost story illustration by Mark English (sharing space with Collier and Fuchs)

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Transfer drawing monotype using linseed oil. I think George said this one was for Sports Illustrated.

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Look! Bill Carman’s book on display in Mark English’s den!

 

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Bill Carman, Mark English, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt and furry friend.

We went out to lunch. I sat down at a small table and John English invited me to sit at their table, and I sat next to Mark. We had more conversations about where he shows in galleries, etc. And listened to him tell some great, hilarious stories. I had ordered a pizza and beer. I was sweating it, because for a dollar more I got the 22-ounce porter (instead of the polite 16-once size). I worried that Mark English is going to think I’m a lush! When it was delivered to the table, Mark asked me what it was. I said it was a crane brewery porter. I asked him if he would like to try it. So he took a sip of my beer. “That is a heavy beer.” And he returned to drinking his bottle water. So I can proudly say that Mark English sipped my beer!


August 13, 2019 note: The impact and legacy of Mark English from his decades of influential illustration, to his fine art paintings to his teaching and mentoring is immeasurable. My heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and the scores of artists inspired by the example he set for us.


For the full post on my week at the Illustration Academy go here.

https://chucktoddartist.wordpress.com/2017/07/19/my-week-the-illustration-academy-2017/


In Black and White: Family Immigration and Deportation Illustrations

For the Fall 2017 issue of VERDICT –a journal by the National Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals – I created these quick, visceral black and white illustrations on what desperate families crossing our borders face. I drew these images in August 2017, they sadly have even more resonance today. What do people in this situation feel? What does a child feel being separated from parents? How would I feel? These are the questions I ask when I created these drawings to help me capture an emotional truth in each piece.

Illustration by Chuck Todd for Verdictstory on Immigration and deportation

Child Internment Illustration by Chuck Todd, Verdict 2017. Pen and Ink/mixed media on board

Illustration by Chuck Todd for Verdict story on Immigration and deportation

DETAINED Illustration by Chuck Todd, Verdict 2017. Pen and Ink/mixed media on board

Illustration by Chuck Todd for Verdictstory on Immigration and deportation

Pen & Ink, mixed media Illustration by Chuck Todd for Verdict story on Immigration and Deportation

 

The image below shows a young girl being taken from her parents by U.S. officials. I created this drawing for the January 2015 issue of VERDICT, about laws that allow children of foreign nationals to be taken from their parents. The drawing now seems like a foreshadowing of what is happening in 2018 on a massive scale.

Chuck Todd

Deportation Officials take a little girl away from her parents who are seen crying in the background. Pencil drawing by Chuck Todd. Published by Verdict in Jan. 2015


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Going Global: Chuck Todd illustrations for Global Press Journal

Since 2016 I have had the pleasure of creating illustrations for Global Press Journal, and in recent months I’ve been creating illustrations for GPJ Passport Podcasts on a variety of topics. It has been a joy working with the talented folks at GPJ including Cristi Hegranes (CEO and Founder), Krista Kapralos (Enterprise Editor) and on the podcasts with Kyana Moghadam (Engagement Producer and Podcast Host).

The artwork:

Spirit Healer and Truth (Memory and Truth)

“Memory and Truth” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

Spirit Healer and Truth (Memory and Truth)

Detail of “Memory and Truth” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

Image Pereception

“Image Perception” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

GPJ Translation

“Translation” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

Desperate Journeys

“Desperate Journeys” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal

GPJ Food

“Food for Thought” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

News Transparency

“Transparency in the News” artwork by Chuck Todd for Global Press Journal Passport Podcast

 

For great journalism stories from around the world go to https://globalpressjournal.com/
and check out the Passport extra podcast content at: https://globalpressjournal.com/passport-podcasts/
More of my artwork can be seen at http://www.chucktodd.net


My week @ The Illustration Academy 2017

My wife and two daughters gave me the best 50th birthday present ever: A week at the Illustration Academy in Kansas City! Learning, growing and pushing as an illustrator never stops. Getting instruction and inspiration from illustrators John English, George Pratt, Bill Carman and Bill Sienkiewicz, and Mark English, is a life changing experience.

July 2, 2017:

I arrived on the Rockhurst campus in KC on Sunday and was greeted by George Pratt in the workshop. (It was a joy to catch up with George, I shared a room with George and illustrator Bill Koeb at Comic Con in 1998 or 1999.) I felt right at home, many students were in the workshop working away on the week 3 assignments due on Monday. (A very talented, and amazing group of students! So fortunate to get to spend the week with these artists. ) John English gave another week 4 student, Beth, and I a rundown of the program, and some handouts on approaches and philosophies. Timmy Trabon helped me get settled into my townhouse dorm room for the week.

I watched George and John work on oil paintings, and I did some work in my sketchbook. Leaned up against the walls and setting on tables were other works by George Pratt and John English, as well as some drawings and demo works by instructors from previous weeks. A C.F. Payne mixed media portrait was on the table. I worked in my sketchbook and reviewed the handouts to prep for the official start of the Week 4 program on Monday.

July 3:

Monday morning illustrators Bill Carman and Bill Sienkiewicz joined George Pratt and John English as instructors for the week. (Wow!) I got a good sense of how exciting and challenging the week was going to be as I listened to the critiques of the week 3 assignments.

Illustration Academy 2017 week 4

Monday critique session led by Bill Sienkiewicz, John English, Bill Carman and George Pratt

 

Bill Carman presents:

Late afternoon we were treated to a Bill Carman presentation on his artwork and life as an illustrator. (Pugs, Fly Fishing and beautiful drawings and paintings of imaginative creatures. )  Bill does such amazing and original work. Wow! An inspiring presentation! One of the best things about the week was meeting Bill and getting feedback from him. He gave me some helpful advice and directions to think about and challenged me to take my illustration work to the next level.

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Bill Carman discusses art and yes, narwhals! Meanwhile George Pratt and Bill Sienkiewicz work in their sketchbooks.

 

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Bill Carman presentation July 3, 2017 at The Illustration Academy.

For my week 4 assignment I had a choice between a book cover or comic book cover for an existing title.

July 4:

Thumbnail reviews and Bill Carman illustration demo.

I decide to jump in and do a comic book cover. Should I dare try to tackle a Batman Cover, especially with Batman artists George Pratt and Bill Sienkiewicz? I went for broke…if I was going to get my butt kicked doing a Batman cover…this is the best place to do it. I went with a Batman origin story concept…but wanted to illustrate the moment after the death of young Bruce Wayne’s parents, when the birth of the Batman occurs.

The talented artist, Jeremy Gordon, took this photo of me at the critique session.

Jeremy Gordon critque photo

More on the project later …

Bill Carman demo:

Bill works with golden liquid acrylics that are intense in color. He demonstrated a mixed media approach with matte medium, acrylics and ink on paper.

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Bill Sienkiewicz, Bill Carman and George Pratt prep for Carman’s demo on July 4, 2017 at the Illustration Academy

Here are a couple of photos that George Pratt posted of Bill Carman’s process:

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Bill Carman demo, photo by George Pratt

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Bill Carman demo, photo by George Pratt

Over the course of the week Bill continued working on the piece. It was amazing to see it come to life, change and transform into the final piece.

Here is the image Bill Carman posted of the final work:

Bill Carman demo finish

Art by Bill Carman

 

July 5th:

Bill Sienkiewicz presentation of his career in illustration and comics.

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Moon Night page that move clockwise through the panels.

 

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Bill Sienkiewicz discusses his approach to illustrating comics…and Batman.

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Batman’s cape is an expressive visual character

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Bill Sienkiewicz key art for the Clint Eastwood film, Unforgiven.

July 6:

Feedback and critiques on roughs in the morning. Bill Sienkiewicz demo in the afternoon and a 3 hour figure drawing session in the evening. Whew!

Over a couple of days I did more rough sketches, research and experimentation for the illustration. And lots of Bat drawings …

Over the next 2 days more thumbnail roughs and experimentation

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———

Here are some iphone shots of the Bill Sienkiewicz mixed media demo. Pencil, ink, crayon, watercolor, clear gesso, bleach….  on an animation layout bound that takes abuse.

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George Pratt takes a photo of the Bill Sienkiewicz piece at various stages.

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Show and Tell: The in progress demo art was passed around to students.

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Sienkiewicz demo at the 2017 Illustration Academy

Not sure how long this link will be available, but here a video of the Bill Sienkiewicz demo that the Illustration Academy posted:  https://www.facebook.com/visualartspassage/videos/1460484310664137/

The three hour figure drawing session was intense. I worked to try the Academy technique in pastel drawing. George Pratt gave me a demo….then he returned to his easel to create figure painting with a brayer and paint scraper.

Friday, July 7: Visit to Mark English’s studio!

The visit to Mark English’s home studio was magical. When entering his studio we were encouraged to move things around and look behind paintings, in stacks and flat files. It reduces seasoned illustrators to kids in a candy shop.

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Mark English: The master artist in his element.

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Beautiful Mark English painting with collage

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detail

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Mark and John English

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George Pratt, Bill Carman (with back to camera), Mark English and Bill Sienkiewicz.

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Selfie time: Bill Sienkiewicz, Chuck Todd and Bill Carman in Mark English’s studio.

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Yes, that is a Bison head and displays with Society of Illustrators medals.

 

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This is one of my favorite paintings from the visit to the Mark English studio.

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The best part was getting to talk with Mark and tell him about how inspired I was from seeing him do a demonstration at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in 1997 or 1998. I spied a box of books and asked him if they were for sale, so I bought one and asked him to sign it. Timmy Trabon took the above picture of Mark English and I in his studio with a work in progress in the background.

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Seeing George Pratt and Bill Sienkiewicz go though flat files in Mark’s basement was liking seeing young boys going through a newly discovered stack of old comics.

 

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Haunting, mysterious, violent and powerful Mark English illustration

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Two Bills, a George and a Bernie Fuchs

 

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Chuck Todd and a Bernie Fuchs magazine illustration. (George Pratt: ” Hey man, you want a picture with the Fuchs?”  Me: Yes, Please!”)

 

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Teddy Roosevelt and the Rough Riders drawing by Mark English

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Detail of Teddy Roosevelt by Mark English

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Mark’s dogs were part of the experience as well.

 

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Found this John Collier gem hiding under some artwork.

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Detail from the Fuchs illustration

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Detail from the Fuchs illustration

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A ghost story illustration by Mark English (sharing space with Collier and Fuchs)

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Transfer drawing monotype using linseed oil. I think George said this one was for Sports Illustrated.

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Look! Bill Carman’s book on display in Mark English’s den!

 

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Bill Carman, Mark English, Bill Sienkiewicz, George Pratt and furry friend.

We went out to lunch. I sat down at a small table and John English invited me to sit at their table, and I sat next to Mark. We had more conversations about where he shows in galleries, etc. And listened to him tell some great stories. I had ordered a pizza and beer. I was sweating it, because for a dollar more I got the 22-ounce porter (instead of the polite 16-once size). I worried that Mark English is going to think I’m a lush! When it was delivered to the table, Mark asked me what it was. I said it was a crane brewery porter. I asked him if he would like to try it. So he took a sip of my beer. “That is a heavy beer.” And he returned to drinking his bottle water. So I can proudly say that Mark English sipped my beer!

Back at the Illustration Academy workshop, I asked George if they would be able to look at my website/portfolio and give me some feedback and direction.

Saturday, July 9:

Critique, and figure drawings.

For the students that were attending only Week 4, project critique was on Saturday morning rather than Monday. I worked through Friday night into Saturday morning to get my project to a finish for review. Got a couple of hours of sleep and back to the workshop. George, Bill S. and Bill C. had some great insights into the piece. I got some great direction on the cover, in terms of color and pushing it farther from each. Here is where I ended up on Saturday.

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batman cover illustration NO LOGO Xsmall

Batman cover by Chuck Todd. Ink, pencil, nupastel and digital.

Before Bill Carman  and later Bill Sienkiewicz left, I got this photo of the group of phenomenal Week 4 illustrators and instructors. From left George Pratt, John English, Bill Sienkiewicz and Bill Carman.

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John English asked me to join in for a group photo:  George Pratt, Chuck Todd, John English, Bill Sienkiewicz and Bill Carman.

In the afternoon another figure drawing session. Here is a George Pratt drawing:

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George Pratt nupastel figure drawing

 

Sunday, July 9:

Great way to end the experience. Hanging out with John English and George Pratt waiting for my ride. Great conversation with John English comparing notes and observations about illustration and my week 4 experience. We discussed John’s series of clay court tennis paintings I’d seen him painting on during the week. I expressed to him how transformative my one week at the Illustration Academy had been. Then, chilling and talking art with George Pratt. Going through Pratt’s Morocco sketchbooks and  on his ipad the works he is assembling for an artbook. Oh…and he created an amazing watercolor illustration in my copy of Enemy Ace.

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A beautiful in progress oil painting by John English

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This John English oil painting gem leaned up in a corner of the Illustration Academy workshop.

 

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I think this is a George Pratt in progress oil painting.

 

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Worktable is more like a George Pratt shrine with demos and in progress pieces.

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Drawing from George Pratt’s Morocco Trip Sketchbooks

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Watercolor and ink from George Pratt’s Morocco Sketchbook

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Drawing George Pratt’s Morocco Sketchbook

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I asked George if he could sign my copy of his Enemy Ace graphic novel. He signed it…after he created this beautiful ink and watercolor illustration. We talked as he worked and he asked if I had seen his Morocco Sketchbooks. As I was transported to Morocco through his sketchbook and stories he was telling me…I had to remember to watch him work on the painting in the book.

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George Pratt’s finished illustration and note in my worn copy of Enemy Ace. An amazing illustration and visit with George was an inspirational way to end my week at the Illustration Academy.

How was my Illustration Academy 2017, Week 4 experience?: Amazing, transformative, exhausting, challenging, difficult and inspirational. I have a lot of great information and input to put to use… better get to work!

Thanks to Timmy Trabon for working with me on all of the logistics ( and taking the photo of me with Mark English). Thanks to the instructors: John English, George Pratt, Bill Carman and Bill Sienkiewicz. And also to Mark English, the trip to Mark’s studio and sitting next to him at lunch I’ll never forget.

The final of the Batman Cover Project:

After getting back home to California, I took the critiques and suggestions and pushed the cover much further. Everything has been reworked and refined, and a background color added. Some background textures peak through from the earlier state:

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Birth of Batman Cover Project by Chuck Todd

 


Eastern Fox Squirrel illustration for Los Angeles Magazine

For the September issue of Los Angeles Magazine my illustration of a fox squirrel accompanies a Know Your Neighbor column by Jason G. Goldman. I have turned in artwork for October’s column and am looking forward to more wildlife illustrations for the monthly column. As they publish I’ll share.

Here is the link to the column with some fun facts on how non-native fox squirrels found their way to Los Angeles and Southern California.

http://www.lamag.com/citythinkblog/know-your-neighbors-eastern-fox-squirrel/

Eastern Fox Squirrel illustration in Los Angeles Magazine

Eastern Fox Squirrel illustration in Los Angeles Magazine http://www.lamag.com


Injustice: When justice attacked and rendered powerless

It seems that too often in America justice fails us.

Yesterday’s grand jury announcement that there would be no criminal charges against the police officer who killed an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri sparked more rage, unrest, looting, riots and violence. Many more people were hurt and buildings destroyed in Ferguson. Unrest, protests and riots happened around the country last night and including close to home in Oakland.

Today, It seems fitting to post a b&w illustration I did last year for VERDICT on the theme of justice being cut down and rendered powerless.

We should not let injustice, racism and violence rule in any form. We have work to do as a nation and in our communities to mend justice and find true peace and equality.

Chuck Todd Illustration of Lady Justice being attacked and cutdown, rendered powerless. Created for VERDICT

Chuck Todd Illustration of Lady Justice being attacked and cutdown, rendered powerless. Created for VERDICT


Chuck Todd’s Smartphone Kill Switch artwork featured in newspapers; Huffington Post story

Artwork by Chuck Todd for Bay Area News Group; Illustration was also used by Huffington Post. "Kill Switch" technology locks down smartphones in an effort to keep phones and private information out of the hands of thieves.

Artwork by Chuck Todd for Bay Area News Group; Illustration was also used by Huffington Post. “Kill Switch” technology locks down smartphones in an effort to keep phones and private information out of the hands of thieves.


 

I created this illustration for Bay Area News Group to go with a Dana Hull story on lock down technology used by Apple and other smartphone makers to thwart thieves from stealing private information from a cell phone.  In print the illustration ran in the San Jose Mercury News and in the Contra Costa Times in the TechMonday business section. I few months later I was delighted to learn that my artwork was also picked up by The Huffington Post and ran with this story: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/16/smartphone-kill-switch_n_5158926.html

The illustration was created with pencil, photocopy and Photoshop. I wanted to really push the threatening feeling of the hands trying to snatch the iPhone. I did this as a separate drawing, xeroxed it to push the blacks and texture and then worked back into it some more. On another piece of bristol board I drew the hand and the lock with chains wrapping around the iPhone to keep it locked down. I scanned both in and accented the hand and phone with color in photoshop. Keeping the background black and white was more striking and sinister. This approach harkens back to my love for printmaking and etching.


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Who knew you could farm Abalone? Infographic explains sustainable farming of red abalone in Monterey Bay

Who knew you could farm Abalone? Infographic explains sustainable farming of red abalone in Monterey Bay

Here is a graphic I created for Bay Area News Group that ran in print and online last week in the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune and the Contra Costa Times. Hidden from the view of tourists the Monterey Abalone Company is busy farming abalone under a municipal pier in Monterey. The natural and sustainable way of farming foodie favorite red abalone utilizes the seawater habitat of Monterey Bay. The graphic went with a story by Nicholas St. Fleur. I enjoyed rolling up my sleeves and doing the graphics research, reporting, writing and Adobe Illustrator rendering for this one. It ran online as shown here. In print the top portion showing the growth of the abalone ran on the front page and the rest of the graphic ran on the jump. Here is the link to Nick’s story: http://goo.gl/10Jju8


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Devin Farney Poster and CD cover for Brilliant Ideas, Advertising

Devin Farney Poster and CD cover for Brilliant Ideas, Advertising

Chuck Todd Illustration for Brilliant Ideas advertising for promotional material and CD cover “Introducing the Music of Devin Farney” Pencil and Photoshop.
For this and more of my illustrations go to my Directory of Illustration portfolio:
http://goo.gl/oQZCQq
or visit my website: http://www.chucktodd.net
Art direction by Briliiant Ideas, Advertising (copyright)

For more on the music of Devin Farney and Brilliant Ideas go to:
http://biadverts.com/2013/07/july-22-2013-the-devin-farney-press-release-is-on/


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Street Smarts: New technology changing the way drivers interact with their cars

Street Smarts: New technology changing the way drivers interact with their cars

Street Smarts graphic and illustration by Chuck Todd created for the Monday, Dec. 2 TECHNOLOGY section in Bay Area News Group papers. Centerpiece design by Daymond Gascon (and the Street Smarts headline). Story by San Jose Mercury News writer Dan Nakaso.

Cars are getting smarter and safer: From Toyota’s fuel cell concept car expected to go 310 miles between fill ups to sensors that detect and warn of cars in a drivers blind spot to systems that maintain safe distances from cars in traffic, new car technology is changing how drivers interact with their vehicles.

For this illustration I played on the idea of cars making drivers smarter. I had fun using the car as the brains of a driver and used the vector car art to highlight new car model technology. The driver’s profile was drawn in pencil, xeroxed and drawn back into to increase contrast and then taken into photoshop. I decided to keep the driver drawing in light blue tones and pop the car out for emphasis by using oranges and black lines. The car and graphic elements were created in illustrator.

Here is a link to the story: http://goo.gl/6FoziB


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JFK: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963

JFK: The Assasination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963

JFK: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963 shocked the nation and forever changed the United States. I crafted this illustration on the 30-year anniversary of the assassination for The Springfield News-Leader. Although my illustration style has changed over the years, my feelings of sorrow and sense of loss I experienced as I researched, drew and painted the images have not changed. Included in the illustrated collage are JFK, Walter Cronkite making the announcement of JFK’s death, the swearing in of President Johnson, the assassin Lee Harvey Oswald being shot on live TV, the president’s limo with distraught Jackie and the secret service agent and John John saluting his fallen father.
Illustration by Chuck Todd


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The Great Facebook Escape

The Great Facebook Escape

A man tries to go cold turkey from Facebook for thirty days and and writes of his experience. Illustration by Chuck Todd for Bay Area News Group. For story by Sherman Turntine on his experience of trying to go 30 days without Facebook. I created this illustration using pencil, illustrator, and photoshop. The writer of the article was also the model for the illustration. The story and illustration will be in Monday, Nov. 18 print editions (with design by Daymond Gascon) and is online at mercurynews.com. http://bit.ly/17yL0us


Freud and Siri

Freud attempts to get inside the mind of Apple's enigmatic Siri.

Freud attempts to get inside the mind of Apple’s enigmatic Siri.

Recently I got this illustration assignment for a Pat May story published in the San Jose Mercury and Bay Area News Group papers. Pat was interested in finding out what made Apple’s enigmatic, helpful (sometimes) and mysterious female concierge tick. He wanted to get inside SIRI’s head. To do that he enlisted the help of a local psychologist to probe and ask SIRI questions to discover the mind behind the iPhone voice.

Trying to psychoanalyze SIRI was a fun assignment to get. When the story was pitched to me by the Business editors we hit the idea of putting SIRI on the psychiatrist’s couch. I took the idea and ran with it. And what more famous couch…or psychiatrist to dive into the mind of SIRI than Sigmund Freud himself. No kidding on running with this assignment….with other newspaper deadline work I had just a morning and part of the afternoon to go from thumbnail to finish.

You’ll find in the illustration a few apple and female related symbols.

You’ll find Pat May’s story at this link:

http://goo.gl/xhi27Z


A goodbye to James Gandolfini and Tony Soprano

James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano in boxing gear. Illustration by Chuck Todd

Detail of James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. Illustration by Chuck Todd

The funeral for actor James Gandolfini was held today in New York City. Gandolfini died last week of a heart attack in Italy at the age of 51. Gandolfini brought the character of mobster Tony Soprano to life in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He breathed into the character complexity, vulnerability and a violent power seething under the surface. So sad to lose such a great actor in the prime of his life.

As friends and family of the actor gathered to celebrate Gandolfini’s life I thought I would share this illustration I did of Tony Soprano for the Contra Costa Times when “The Soprano’s” ruled.

Pencil and watercolor illustration of Tony Soprano (James Gandolini)  for The Contra Costa Times

Pencil and watercolor illustration of Tony Soprano (James Gandolini) in boxing gear for The Contra Costa Times

Battle for the Emmy's A&E cover for the Contra Costa Times. Illustrations by Chuck Todd. background and design by Dave Johnson. Art direction by MaryAnne Talbott.

Battle for the Emmy’s A&E cover for the Contra Costa Times. Illustrations by Chuck Todd. background and design by Dave Johnson. Art direction by MaryAnne Talbott.

The A&E cover for the Contra Costa Times featured boxing poster take on “THE BATTLE FOR THE EMMYS” with James Gandolfini and Martin Sheen portrayed as boxers as “The Sopranos” and “The West Wing” fought for Emmy Awards supremacy. I created the characters of Tony Soprano and President Bartlet in pencil and watercolor adding in boxing gloves, shorts and some details that matched each character. Fellow artist Dave Johnson did the design, background photographer and combine them in photoshop…art direction by MaryAnne Talbott.

RIP James Gandolfini.


Priority Based Budgeting graphic and Budget Story project get national attention

An infographic created for the city of Walnut Creek to explain how the process works in their city. Part of a group presentation I gave at the "Transforming Local Government Conference"

An infographic created for the city of Walnut Creek to explain how the process works in their city. Part of a group presentation I gave at the “Transforming Local Government Conference”

I was honored to be part of a group asked to give a presentation at the Alliance for Innovation “Transforming Local Government Conference in Atlanta on April 10, 2013. Our presentation was entitled “Think Outside the Bar Chart! Creating Compelling Budget Communications for Public Engagement”  Walnut Creek Assistant City Manager Lorie Tinfow, , Multi-Media Producer Liz Payne and I were joined in spirit by Communications and Outreach Manager Gayle Vassar in spirit though she could not be at the presentation in person.

Last year I was asked to work on a project that grew into “A COMMUNITY CONNECTED: THE 2012-14 BUDGET STORY” for Walnut Creek, CA. The project grew out of a desire to create a more visual, informative and engaging publication than the typical large budget binder. To create something with more context and to also help the public understand the work the city is doing…and the tough challenges and choices ahead. Gayle and Lorie assembled a team that included Finance Manager Cindy Mosser, Liz Payne, Blue Ribbon Taskforce member Karen Majors and myself.

As a visual journalist on the project I was brought in to find visual ways to tell the story. And in the presentation I got to discuss what a visual journalist does and the process of working on the publication, cover and the Priority Based Budgeting infographic. A visual journalist takes complex information, data and ideas and turns it into a visual story….focusing on key messages and what is important to connect to the reader. Visual Journalism is visual reporting using illustration, infographics, design and/or sequential art.

Priority Based Budgeting is a process where a city establishes goals and with input from The City Council, city staff and citizens rank programs and spending in how well they met the goals. It is new, innovative way for cities to aproach budgets and the city of Walnut Creek is one of the first to embrace the process. 

The graphic and publication has been well received by the citizens in Walnut Creek and has garnered national attention. It was a great honor to be asked to give our “Think Outside the Bar Chart!” presentation at the TLG conference.  I’m including here the cover and a two-page spread from the Budget Story.

It was a great experience and I even got to meet the folks who came up with the idea of Priority Based Budgeting. Getting compliments from them on how well the graphic described the process was high praise indeed! For more about their work go to ( For more on Priority based Budgeting go to: http://www.pbbcenter.org)

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Chuck Todd Artist

With the recent Facebook IPO and a lot of venture capital spending going for the quick return of social media companies, there is a growing concern that the pursuit of the quick buck is killing real innovative technologies (in medical, robotics, clean energy, etc.) that take longer for a return on investment. This is my illustration for a Chris O’Brien column in the Sunday (May 27) San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group papers and websites. O’Brien quotes entepreneur Steve Blank as saying that it is “pushing real innovation outside of our country. And it might be the demise of what we do in Silicon Valley.” O’Brien explores the ideas on solutions to the problem that Blank and others have, including the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. program. You should pick up the paper or go to the story online to read the article…link is below:

http://goo.gl/8RoAb

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VISUAL TRIBUTE TO GARY BOGUE

After 42 years Gary Bogue’s final column published in Friday’s Contra Costa Times.

http://goo.gl/au1jt

Gary wrote his pets and wildlife column for the Times for 42 years. Amazing. More amazing is his wealth of knowledge, his empathy for wild critters and his connection to his readers. I have had the honor of working with Gary at the paper on graphics, wildlife posters….and on our three books for HeyDay Books. Gary is a great resource, a gracious and incredible collaborator and a dear friend. We have been on many adventures together to the Lindsay Wildlife Museum for research and events…and giving talks to schools and civic groups throughout the Bay Area. Gary is a pure storyteller, in his columns, in his books….and on our roadtrips to various events.

I’ll miss working with Gary at the Times…I don’t think the place will ever be the same. But, I better clear off my schedule. Now that he has more time…he’ll be hitting me up with many more book projects to illustrate. Bring it on Gary, let the adventures continue! And congratulations on 42 wonderful years of columns that connected, enlightened and raised millions in funds to help preserve open space and care for animals in the Bay Area.

Here is a link to a story on his amazing career in today’s CCT Times.

http://goo.gl/z7OjW


IDEA INVESTING

Illustration by Chuck Todd.  Story by Peter Delevett. Centerpiece design by Daymond Gascon. For the Monday TECHNOLOGY section in Bay Area News Group print and digital editions

How do you illustrate the concept of Investing in Ideas? One of the two startups highlighted in Peter Delevett’s story called MOTIF aggregates companies into motifs or ideas. Say an investor likes PETS. Yup you can invest in a grouping of PET companies.  Or GREEN companies, or FAST FOOD companies or MOBILE TECH companies, etc.

I thought of an idea taking off, earning money. The concept of turning light bulbs into a flock of ideas flying up and away popped into my head. After a couple of thumbnails the idea gelled. I used $100 bills to construct the wings, which created some fun, bird like patterns. I kept this one loose and fun, I painted up one light bulb and incorporated the finished wings all in photoshop. Then I duplicated the ‘light bulb with wings’ image on multiple layers and made the smaller ones more transparent. I used my artistic license to keep an old style of light bulb…allowing me to leave a subtle birdlike beak on the bulb.

This appeared in Monday print editions. To read Peter’s story online go here:

http://goo.gl/zRLCm


GUYPOCALYPSE NOW

Are Violent Video Games and Online Porn Leading to the Demise of Guys?

Illustration by Chuck Todd for story by Bruce Newman for Bay Area News Group

Don’t blame the end of the male species on sex, drugs and rock and roll. A new e-book claims that violent video games and online porn are leading to the “Demise of Guys.”

In today’s online and print editions of San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune Bruce Newman writes about the new book.

Newman writes: ” Lamentations over the fall of man reached a crescendo recently with the publication of a celebrated Stanford University psychologist’s e-book, which suggests that guys may be doomed by their addiction to Xbox video games and X-rated video dames. Among author Philip Zimbardo’s more startling conclusions in “The Demise of Guys,” co-authored by Nikita Duncan: “Video games and online pornography could kill you.”

To read the whole story click here:

http://goo.gl/7tdhM

For the illustration I wanted to highlight the violent video games and online porn that the authors claim are isolating and rewiring the brains of men. I contrasted the physical play of a video game with the internal impact and social isolation. I drew the teen head and shoulders in pencil and created a separate drawing of the hands and the controller.  Most of the line art to represent video games and porn was done in Photoshop. The zombies I sketched and scanned in. The rest was painted in Photoshop.


CLOUD CONFUSION

Here is my latest illustration for today’s (June 8) editions of the San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group papers for a column by Mike Cassidy. With all of the “cloud” storage out there for apps, photos, documents, videos and such it makes it virtually impossible to keep track of the virtual clutter. Cassidy says that the “beauty of the cloud” doesn’t help when ” I don’t even know what cloud I’ve seeded with what document.”  Here is a link to Cassidy’s column on http://www.mercurynews.com:

http://goo.gl/MwKJp

I explored the motif of having someone’s head in a cloud. Rather than it being a positive…the clutter of files swirl about…the cloud, like fog, makes it hard to see…or remember where things are. The cloud hides, twists and confuses around the head. I like the fog-like fingers of the cloud that start to wrap around the man’s head and in front of his vision. The final is painted in Photoshop on top of rough sketch. For speed, I sketched out the line art clutter in pencil on paper, scanned it in and layered it into the photoshop file.


THE INFLUENCE OF BARRON STOREY

I wanted to share an illustration project I did a few years ago for the Contra Costa Times that shows the influence on my work of master illustrator Barron Storey. Barron has done everything as an illustrator, book covers, Time magazine covers, National Geographic…he has a mural in the American Museum of Natural History and portraits hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.

If I have ever seen true genius at work it is looking at a Barron Storey original…once in illustrator Bill Koeb’s old apartment in San Francisco and I have had the luck of catching a couple of gallery shows in the city over the years.  His sketchbooks are legend: His personal visual journals and his graphic novel work have influenced and inspired many artists: Dave McKean, Bill Sienkiewicz, Greg Spalenka, Bill Koeb, George Pratt and Kent Williams among them.

As a teacher he may be without a peer…so I hear. Barron is the reason I moved to the Bay Area in 1996 to pursue a graduate degree in illustration at the Academy or Art in San Francisco. I researched the influences of artists that influenced me…many of them cited Barron as an important influence. That’s how I discovered the Academy of Art and how I ended up in the Bay Area. My timing was a bit late. By the time I started my graduate courses in the fall of 1996, Barron was no longer teaching at the school, but was teaching at California College of Arts and Crafts and at San Jose State. Although I didn’t take one of Barron’s classes I was taught by artists who studied with Barron (Carol Nunnelly and my graduate advisor Bill Koeb)…so I was able to absorb some of his wisdom though them.

I have had the privilege of meeting Barron a few times. The first was at a gathering at Bill Koeb’s pad in San Francisco probably in 2000. About 5 years ago I was attending the  Alternative Press Expo (APE) in San Francisco with Gary Amaro ( another of my graduate advisors. ) I had some samples with me including these Cancer Journey pieces.

About the Cancer Journey project. Contra Costa Times writer Dan Borenstein penned a five part series in 2007 on his harrowing experience with cancer and cancer treatments.  I was honored and humbled by the challenge of illustrating each installment of the series. ( And indebted to Dan for sharing his story and giving me such a poignant project to be a part of.)  I came up with the thought of a sequence of panels, interconnected that could each tell each part of the story individually. But when combined –on the final day of the series – made a sequence of panels telling the more complete narrative. The layering of elements, with drawings and line work is a direct influence of Barron. Not as much in the technique (who the hell can draw as well as Barron Storey?)…but in an approach to storytelling that I have soaked in from Barron’s journals.

Coming full circle: At the Alternative Press Expo, Gary and I found a table that Barron had been at to sign his journal book “LIFE AFTER BLACK.” I bought the book, word was that Barron was around and would be back. As we walked around the hall looking at the variety of local artists and creators we bumped into Barron. We talked for a bit and I asked if he wouldn’t mind taking a quick look at some of my work. He very graciously did…and when he saw the Cancer Journey images has asked me about them. I gave him a quick rundown of what it was about and said that I created them for the newspaper. He said something to the effect “Amazing work. So great that they published this in a newspaper.” I honestly died and went to heaven. I felt like I had come from the world of wanting to be…to being. That I had ascended the mountain top after toiling and struggling for years on the climb. From a dream of wanting to be better than I was as a visual journalist and illustrator in Missouri. From a dream of studying with the master in California and falling short. To finally, the master himself holding my work and finding value in it.

Barron continues to inspire me and give me something to aspire to. If you are not familiar with Barron’s work you should be. Here is a link

http://www.barronstorey.com/

Here is the note Barron scribed for me in his book “Life After Black.” Thanks Barron.


CONNECTION POINT

In Today’s TECHNOLOGY section in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times is my illustration for a Peter Delevett story on new startup services that allow users to stay connected to friends from multiple lists and networks from one central location. Many of the services use geo-location features that allows users to track friends, and their locations, in real time.  Here is a link to the story:

http://goo.gl/GjSFY

This was a super quick turnaround. Thursday I had a thumbnail sketch approved, but I wasn’t able to start illustrating on the finished piece until Friday morning. The concept I came up with conveys a connection to many contacts in multiple networks. Of course this meant on Friday morning I cranked out 28 different faces in my sketchbook. ( I felt like I was doing a homework assignment for the late, great Barbara Bradley at the Academy of Art in San Francisco!) About two thirds of the faces are from photo reference, about a third are invented. ( I snuck in a few friends, family and even jazz musician Joshua Redman.) The main figure holds up her cell phone into the singular connection point that all of the other networks of friends are joined to. The circles were created in illustrator, the faces and figure were sketches I scanned in and rest was painted and combined in Photoshop. Starting on the faces at 9 a.m. I turned in the finished illustration to the designer at 5:30 p.m. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day!

Here is how to looked on the page, design by the talented Daymond Gascon:


Bidding Wars in hot housing markets and Apps with the latest Rental vacancies

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A quick post with two housing themed illustrations for Bay Area News Group. The Bidding Wars illustration went with an A1 story on the San Jose Mercury News and other front pages on housing markets in parts of the Bay Area that are red hot.  In some South Bay areas, the demand is sparking multiple bids and bidding wars on high-priced homes. Hey those newly rich Facebook folks have to find a place to live.

The second illustration below went with a business and technology story in Bay Area News Group. This story dealt with apps and websites that allow users to get up to the minute updates on Rental properties in the Bay Area.

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IS INVESTMENT IN SOCIAL MEDIA KILLING REAL INNOVATION IN SILICON VALLEY?

With the recent Facebook IPO and a lot of venture capital spending going for the quick return of social media companies, there is a growing concern that the pursuit of the quick buck is killing real innovative technologies (in medical, robotics, clean energy, etc.) that take longer for a return on investment. This is my illustration for a Chris O’Brien column in the Sunday (May 27) San Jose Mercury News and Bay Area News Group papers and websites. O’Brien quotes entepreneur Steve Blank as saying that it is “pushing real innovation outside of our country. And it might be the demise of what we do in Silicon Valley.” O’Brien explores the ideas on solutions to the problem that Blank and others have, including the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps. program. You should pick up the paper or go to the story online to read the article…link is below:

http://goo.gl/8RoAb

For this illustration I used a landscape to depict innovation and contrast that with an opposite. The futuristic landscape is an abstraction of Silicon Valley. Innovation is like a bright light…so the sun represents the light of innovation and ideas. Massive clouds gather, casting a shadow over the valley and buildings and starts to block out the light source of innovation.  In the cloud I had fun layering in swirls of money, a few social media companies…and even an eye from the back of a dollar bill. The cloud is building energy and momentum as it pulls in more money.

Here is how the page turned out with a great design by Daymond Gascon.