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

Posts tagged “Sci Fi

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

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

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


 

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

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


IDEA INVESTING

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

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

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

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

http://goo.gl/zRLCm


GUYPOCALYPSE NOW

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

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

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

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

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

To read the whole story click here:

http://goo.gl/7tdhM

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


CLOUD CONFUSION

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

http://goo.gl/MwKJp

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


THE INFLUENCE OF BARRON STOREY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.barronstorey.com/

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


CONNECTION POINT

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

http://goo.gl/GjSFY

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

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


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.


THE VERDICT: IMPRISONMENT WITHOUT DUE PROCESS

Illustration for The Verdict by Chuck Todd

A couple of quick, direct black and white images for The Verdict – a quarterly journal published by the Coalition of Concerned Legal Professionals (CCLP). I created these a couple of months back, the magazine should be out soon.

The illustration is for an article on the National Defense Authorization Act and its lack of constitutionality and due process that allows for indefinite detention of individuals. Senator Dianne Feinstein has submitted to Congress the Due Process Guarantee Act that would prohibit the indefinite detention of American citizens or permanent residents.

The edgy, gritty images show individuals who have lost their freedom, they are prisoners who have no voice or rights. The illustrations I do for Verdict are always black and white…bring out my printmaking, pen and ink and sequential art skills and influences.

Prisoner spot illustration for The Verdict by Chuck Todd


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.


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.