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

Posts tagged “painting

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/


Image

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 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

 


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.


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


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:


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.


Sinister Malvertisements: Even when you don’t click sneaky cybercrooks use these ads to attack

This is a very disturbing trend. Disturbing and scary make for some great visuals. So…OK, I admit it. I had a lot of fun with this illustration for the TECHNOLOGY section published May 14 in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times. According to the story by the Merc’s Steve Johnson, cybercrooks are using “malvertisements” to steal data, infect computers and wreak havoc. Codes are hidden in these malicious ads…and the ads can show up on legitimate sites that screen for ads gone wrong. Not only are the malware codes hidden, a user does not even have to click on the ad to become a victim. Experts say this trend is only going to get worse. This story is worth a read to understand the problem and to get a few tips on how to protect yourself. Here is a link to Steve’s story

http://goo.gl/2mc5A

When I came up with the motif of the sinister shadow of a clawed hand and arm coming out of a computer everything else fell into place. The trick was to show someone getting attacked, but being unaware. I had the woman looking at a website with ads on the side. Out of one of the ads the shadow, filled with malware code, shoots out and wraps around. The hand is just about to get the woman. I hit on the idea of binary code interspersed with the word “MALVERTISEMENT” to layer into the shadow. I would have to say this one is one of my favorites so far this year for Bay Area News Group.

Here is how it looked in print across the Bay Area News Group papers, with a great page design by business design chief, Jennifer Morris.


iPhone Freedom…or Life After Your iPhone

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A quick post on a recent illustration for a Jessica Yadegaran column for the Contra Costa Times and San Jose Mercury News. The column was about her newfound freedom from the trappings of her iPhone. Jessica left it in the back seat of a plane after letting her kid play with the phone during the flight. She was unable to get the phone back and was forced to revert back to her old phone. At first she missed her iPhone and felt lost without it. But she soon realized she was spending more time enjoying life in the moment, rather than respond to each text, tweet or status update. Here is a link to Jessica’s story:

http://tiny.cc/mxofew

I played with the concepts of being trapped, shackled or imprisoned to contrast the idea of freedom. Also I tried to factor in how to depict the lost iPhone. I started playing with the idea of flight to symbolize freedom. The birdcage seemed like a great way to express being trapped. For the final solution I created the iPhone in illustrator and used the old cartooning trick of using dashed lines to indicate something that is a ghost or invisible. The rest was created in photoshop. The line art of style of the birdcage further contrasts the swirls and looser more painterly approach to the background and the woman with wings flying out of the cage.


‘IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN’ EARTH DAY ILLUSTRATION

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Angela Hill’s story, published Sunday in Bay Area News Group papers, explores why it isn’t easy being green…in fact it can be downright confusing. What may claimed to be green, when looking at the carbon imprint and the amount of energy used in manufacturing a “green” product may net an adverse impact on Mother Earth.  So sometimes when we are trying to be green we may not be…thankfully sometimes we are. The story offers tips and sites where you can go to help make good green decisions.

For the illustration I wanted to evoke a sense of Earth Day and of the dichotomy of making green choices…and choices that end up not being green. I wanted to avoid using a big earth for Earth Day…been there, done that. Instead I wanted to focus on the personal side of someone making green decisions. I came up with the concept of the Earth being used as the lens in a pair of sunglasses. One side the earth is green with blue ocean in the lens. The other has the continents in red and water is gray. On that side of the figure the color scheme is gray on the figure with red in the lens and background.

On the green side…color is vibrant..using a green, blue color scheme with warm flesh tones in the figure to give that side more life. We positioned the headline in the head scarf and the story in the dress of the figure. An extra embellishment was picking up the continents as a pattern in the scarf and dress.

Of late…all of the illustrations at the news job have been quick turnarounds…but challenging and fun. I working up a rough sketch, scanned it in and did more drawing and painting in Photoshop. I rendered the continents first in Illustrator and then imported to photoshop. Features Design Chief Jennifer Schaefer pulled it all together on the page and made it all work. For the page we used a tight, more dynamic crop.

I’ve been slamming out so much illustration work for Bay Area News Group recently I have had little chance to update my blog…I’ll start catching up this week.


THE AURATOR: DEADLY SECRETS by M.A. KROPF

Illustration and logo design by Chuck Todd for "The Aurator: Deadly Secrets." "The Aurator" is a sci fi / fantasy, medical thriller by M.A. Kropf. The first of a trilogy of book covers I'll be illustrating. The first book is NOW AVAILABLE as an ebook, in hardcover and softcover from Xlibris.

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IT WAS A REAL JOY AND FUN CHALLENGE TO WORK ON THIS SCI FI / FANTASY BOOK COVER. This artwork has the kind of visual storytelling I love the most. Mystery and drama..think Sci Fi and Film Noir..that really gets the creative juices flowing. A lot of fun elements to play with for an artist: fog, threatening shadows, a San Francisco landmark….and The Aurator, Megan, entering the scene with her glowing red aura. The book written by M.A. Kropf has just published and is the first of a trilogy. I better get busy on the next two cover illustrations.

You can find the book here: http://bookstore.xlibris.com/Products/SKU-0111572049/The-Aurator.aspx

UPDATE: Now available as an ebook as of Friday, March 9.

Here is a description of the book:

THE AURATOR: Deadly Secrets by M.A. KROPF

First book of a Trilogy. Genre: Fantasy/Sci Fi

Illustration and logo design by Chuck Todd

“Megan is a nurse, wife and a mother who learns that her lifelong heightened sensory perception puts her among an ancient elite group known as Aurators—those who can read people’s auras. Mentored by Max, leader of the Aurators, she is swiftly thrust into membership within a secret historical medical society originating back to ancient Greece and her world quickly wobbles between reality and the supernatural driving her to the brink of insanity. In discovering her powerful bloodline, she also learns the prophecy marking her to protect the world from the Caduceus, an equally ancient society intent on world destruction. Conflicted between her professional oath to do no harm, and her prophesied calling to protect the innocent, Megan cannot deny an inherent and swiftly growing urge to do the unimaginable. Barely juggling her new Aurator life, work and family, Megan tries to confide in her rock solid husband only to discover that he too has secrets of his own—leaving Megan to question if her marriage and family will ever be the same.”

For more information on the book, an excerpt from the story and on author M.A. Kropf go to: http://www.theaurator.com

You can also visit the Facebook page for more updates: www.facebook-the aurator.com.

The Aurator: Deadly Secrets by M.A. Kropf Detail of artwork by Chuck Todd


INTROVERTS UNITE

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My INTROVERTS illustration for a Bay Area News Group story by writer Angela Hill. Although extroverts get all of the attention, several new books highlight the advantages for those who prefer solitude. Some famous examples of successful and influential people with a more introspective approach to life include: Author J.K. Rowlings, Director Steven Spielberg, Albert Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt. I can relate, particularly when I’m working on artwork…solitude and quiet…help me on the path to finding my muse and to be creative and productive.

For this piece I thought it would be fun to illustrate some famous introverts. However, when I read the finished story, the focus was more on the individual who identifies with the traits of an introvert….and that they are not alone. In the original concept I wanted the famous introverts coming out of a shadow, or from behind a door or curtain. I liked the concept of pulling back the darkness to be enlightened. I shifted the dominant part of the image to be a woman in deep thought and used the portraits of Rowling, Spielberg, Einstein and Eleanor Roosevelt as background elements…perhaps they are thoughts or inspirations. I used a warm/cool color scheme….and kept the famous portraits in deep blue tones.

Technique? All painted in Photoshop CS5…this is my third recent illustration done predominately in Photoshop. Rather than scan in drawings and coloring them in photoshop, I used my wacom pen and drew and painted digitally.  Years ago I used Painter, I’m being inspired by my friend Jeff Durham who does spectacular illustrations in Photoshop.

Here is a link to Angela’s story on Introverts: http://www.contracostatimes.com/ci_20072237

An update: It was CRAZY busy in the month of February and so far the month of March is keeping the trend going. I will be catching up on my posts in the next few days with a recent book cover and other illustration work.


FACEBOOK FIGHTING: Social networking for FISTICUFFS?

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OK. I had too much fun on this one. This image was created for a story a couple of months ago in the Contra Costa Times on teenagers using Facebook to setup fights on high school campuses. This has been a recent problem at several local high schools. Of course boys full of testosterone have been prone to fight in high school since before high schools were invented. However, with social media on iPads and smartphones on campus…setting up a battle royale in the quad has never been easier!

I came up with the solution of utilizing the tools technology as the portraits of the boys who were fighting. I used a laptop as the head of one student and an iPad as the head of the other and had fun drawing their profile pages. Pencil, pastel, watercolor and a pinch of comic book drama finished the image.


Why does REVENGE taste so sweet? Or a Happy New Year blog post best served cold

Revenge? Shouldn’t I be wishing everyone Happy New Year? Perhaps this isn’t the most optimistic note to close out 2011 on, but this was one of the edgier illustrations I did in 2011.

This image was for a story on revenge by Bay Area News Group writer Jessica Yadegaran from early December (2011). Viewers revel in watching shows like ABC’s REVENGE where a young woman named Emily Thorne gets even with those who destroyed her family. We dream about getting even with a bad boss or teaching back-stabbing friend a lesson. According to experts in Jessica’s story revenge can even be healthy…so long as it does not go over the line and stays safe and legal. According to the story, we often work out our injustices in our dreams, and quench our desire to get even without actually having to act them out.

I suspect this is one reason why Revenge tales are so popular in movies, books and comics. They are a harmless way of fantasizing about righting wrongs without actually doing the dirty work or facing the consequences.

The woman in the illustration is based on REVENGE’s heroine played by actress Emily VanCamp. I did a bunch of thumbnail sketches and came up with this solution replete with religious symbols. Of course the Eye for and Eye motif is a biblical reference to revenge. I like the idea of exchanging one card of an eye for another with flames trailing behind and the light trails covering her eyes. I worked to depict the tension between right and wrong. The femme fatale figure is powerful and in control, she has angel wings…but perhaps she is more an angel of death. The deep reds and shadows create a dark mood. I did an unusual technique, using a woodless pencil, brush pen and pen and ink on paper. The color was done in photoshop.

I get to work out all of my revenge fantasies with my artwork. How fun is that? I think I’ll do more in 2012. May your New Year be full of fun, fantasy and righting wrongs! Actually, that does sound optimistic.


Wildlife artwork for the new exhibits at Lindsay Wildlife Museum. One of the coolest projects I’ve ever been a part of.

Red-tailed Hawk Wings by Chuck Todd for Flight Simulator display at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum

The Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA is part wildlife hospital and part wildlife museum where kids and adults can see animals native to Contra Costa County and the Mount Diablo area. The wildlife on display at the Lindsay are those that cannot be returned to the wild due to injuries or that they have become habituated to humans. You can see up close a mountain lion, golden eagle, hawks, snakes and many other birds and mammals.

Illustrations for the Lindsay Museum: I recently was asked to create illustrations for a new interactive flight simulator exhibit and for a field guide display. For the flight simulator I painted the wings, back and tail of a red-tailed hawk.

In the display the wings are life-size and constructed into a bench with controls and a monitor at the front. A kid (or adult) can lay down on the display, face forward to the monitor and can experience a hawk’s eye view of flying over Mount Diablo. The illustration for the simulator is at the top of the post and was created in pencil, acrylic and watercolor on bristol board. I was able to examine and study specimans and had two red-tailed hawk wings as reference. What fun!

You can see what it looks like in action on the front of today’s Contra Costa Times.

The Lindsay Museum "New Heights" front page of the Contra Costa Times

Story by Elisabeth Nardi with photos by Jose Carlos Fajardo and design by Chris Gotsill. Very cool. (Full disclosure: Although I work at the Times I was not involved with or mentioned in the story, nor did I design or art direct the package. Elisabeth wasn’t even aware that I had done illustrations for the project until after she had worked on the story and I mentioned it to her.)

Here is a link to the Contra Costa Times story on the new Lindsay exhibits including a video and slideshow.

http://www.contracostatimes.com/bay-area-news/ci_18991270?nclick_check=1

I’m also including a few other wildlife illustrations for the new Raptors Exhibit and for the new field guide display.  The grand opening is next week, I have not seen them myself yet, really looking forward to taking one of my drawings for a ride. Thanks to Loren Behr, Michele Setter and Marty Buxton at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum and to designer Lisa Park-Steskal and James Freed on allowing me to be a part of something so special.

Red-tailed Hawk in Flight by Chuck Todd for Lindsay Wildlife raptors exhibit

Red-tailed Hawk detail

Red-tailed Hawk detail

Gopher Snake illustration for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum

Fox Squirrel illustration for the Lindsay Wildlife Museum


Illustrations related to 9/11

On the somber 10-year anniversary of 9/11 I thought I should post a couple of 9/11 related images I have done.  The first illustration went with a story published in the Contra Costa Times a month or so after the horrific terrorist attacks. It went with a story about how we are coming to terms and coping with the terrible events and images of that day.  I contrasted a linear portrait of a woman, head bowed, with an abstraction of the twin towers.

The second illustration went with an A&E cover for the Contra Costa Times on how the Arts have been impacted by 9/11. I painted a stage with Hamlet raising a sword, twin lights beaming down from above against a backdrop of the ruins of the twin towers. This published a year or so after 9/11.

Hamlet on stage with ruins of the twin towers in the background...and two lights from above shining down.

The third illustration I painted to go with a story on athletes that have a fear of flying…even though they have to fly on planes to competitive events.  9/11 made this fear more daunting to overcome. After 9/11 I think all of us had to deal with a fear of flying in one way or another. In this painting I tried to portray the emotional conflict and fear the person had to confront. Lines connect different cities he has to travel to. Dramatic lighting, a shadow of a plane and hand lettering for the headline echoed those feelings.

Looking back on these images now, I see that I was also coping with the 9/11 events in my artwork.

Illustration for story about athletes who have to confront a fear of flying, as many of us did after 9/11.


Steve Jobs ascending on the Golden Apple

Steve Jobs ascending on a golden apple.

Here is an illustration I did of Steve Jobs for the Contra Costa Times a number of years ago.  Apple announced today that Jobs is stepping down as CEO. Jobs is a great pitchman, visionary and guru.  This illustration was for a story about Apple’s rising success under Jobs’ guidance.


A tribute to Kazu Sano

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of illustrator, teacher and mentor Kazu Sano earlier this summer (May 31).  Kazu was a master illustrator who was prolific, creating artwork for book covers, for National Geographic and painting a famous Return of the Jedi poster. Kazu was the epitome of what an illustrator should be. His ability to research, and know his subject matter and his masterful techniques as a painter created a lifetime of work that was revered by other illustrators and honored by the Society of Illustrators.

I took Kazu’s Acrylic Figure Painting class at the Academy of Art in San Francisco in the Spring of 1997 – my second semester in the graduate program in illustration. The class and Kazu’s demonstrations and insights were transformative for me as an artist. Beyond techniques Kazu imparted a passion and love for discovery.

You always went early to Kazu’s class. Without fanfare he we would bring in a painting or two of his and lean it up against the critique board.  Seeing these works, leaning up close to them, soaking them in hopes of gleaning from them their magic. Kazu rarely said anything about those paintings. They were there to speak for themselves…and for me they spoke volumes. He would start off the class with a demonstration of one of his acrylic techniques, and then send us off to paint from models. Intense, inspiring, joyful and life changing for me…all in just one semester.

One assignment was a self portrait project and along with that a personal review of my paintings, studies and projects created during the semester. I remember the critique as if it happened yesterday. Inexplicably Kazu did not see just my color, or my brushstrokes or my design and painting skills. He saw what was behind them. He peered beyond the artwork to find the artist. He saw exactly where I was coming from and what I was exploring. He was absolutely in tune with what I was doing in my paintings, and what I was getting at. For me this was an exhilirating and spiritual experience. An incredible validation from a master. I have never had an experience as a student or as an artist that has come close to Kazu’s insight and inspiration that morning in Bradley Hall.

This was only one class with Kazu. Kazu’s wisdom, advice and artwork have made an indelible, lasting impact that continues to inform and influence my journey as an artist.  I saw Kazu a few years ago at Barbara Bradley’s memorial celebration. I had a good conversation with him and was able to thank him for his class and insight. Thank You Kazu.

Below is the self-portrait project for Kazu’s class.

For more on Kazu go to his website: http://www.kazusano.com/sano_website.html

The Academy of Art director of the department illustration, Chuck Pyle posted a great tribute to Kazu on his blog:

http://chuckpyleart.blogspot.com/


Osama Bin Laden DEAD

Chuck Todd illustration: "Osama Bin Laden is DEAD"

We heard the news as a family midway through President Obama’s speech. In shock I couldn’t believe it was actually true that the the architect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States had been killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan. Bin Laden was not hiding in a cave in a remote area of Afghanistan or Pakistan but in a mansion / compound in the city of Abbottabad. As we watched we told my two girls ages 9 and 12 to watch history in the making. My girls tried to soak it in and make sense of it, comparing our reactions to what Obama was saying. Both girls wrote eloquently in their notebooks to record their thoughts. My youngest wrote this: “…when we start(sp) to watch Obama say that Osama Bin Laden is dead at first I thought it was bad. My dad cried and my mom shouted, “What!!!” I asked my Mom is this good? “Yes, listen to Obama speak. I cried…”

As an artist I created this graphite, watercolor and pastel sketch to mark the moment visually. The idea popped into my head almost immediately.  I thought playing with a quick line drawing and X-ing out the eyes…an old cartooning symbol to show death… could be powerful contrast.  I painted the background with a watercolor brush and added some pastel texture all in blood red.  The Xs on the eyes I made by using my index finger…the act was intense and emotional. Of course I’m probably channeling somewhat the famous Hitler X-ed out Time magazine cover from 1945 or the more recent Parada illustration for Time of Saddam. Those paintings X-ed out the whole face.

Rather macabre to create an illustration to note of the killing of someone. I have to say when President Obama said that “justice has been done” I cried, thinking of all of the lives lost on 9/11 and since. I usually work on Sunday nights….it was a tough day for a journalist to be off on furlough from my news job for the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune newspapers. I felt compelled to make the artwork and post it. I have to say that the world is much better place without the evil of Bin Laden in it. Interesting note I heard on MSNBC, the killing of Hitler was also announced on May 1.


Jazz Greats: Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus and Chick Webb

Jazz Greats: Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Charles Mingus, Chick Webb created as an illustration for LeapFrog by Chuck Todd. (Pencil, Watercolor and Acrylic.)

In honor of Smithsonian’s Jazz Appreciation Month in April my friend Ed Peaco just posted on his blog about one of Duke Ellington’s works. “Harlem Air Shaft.” It inspired me to share this fun piece I did a few years back for LeapFrog.

You should check out Ed’s post: http://edpeaco.blogspot.com/2011/04/can-you-hear-smell-of-dried-fish.html

I created this several years back for a Chicago design firm for their client LeapFrog. LeapFrog does interactive, fun and educational products for kids. This was for an interactive kids magazine. Using the LeapFrog reader kids could use a stylus and click on different images on the pages and hear information on each musician. They could click on each piano key and play music.  In the yellow area of the mural the music and lyrics of “When the Saints Go Marching In”  it would enable the kids to select the music and hear it…or play the notes, etc.

In my rough sketch all of the jazz musicians in the composition were completely different characters and fictitious…with a variety of instruments. The mural idea was part of the assignment with the family dancing in the foreground. I added the concept of the mural itself being in the process of being painted.

After submitting my composition, the design firm responded that the client loves it…but wants to change this character to Duke Ellington, this one to Benny Goodman…etc. Glad they loved it. I got busy with research and turned in a real dandy on time. I got paid, but unfortunately the piece never got published by LeapFrog. They stopped publication of the magazine it was for. Too bad. But I loved how this one turned out and am really appreciative that I got to illustrate all of these jazz icons.