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

Posts tagged “comics

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/

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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 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

 


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


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


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.


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.