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
Here is the note Barron scribed for me in his book “Life After Black.” Thanks Barron.
I created this graphic for Bay Area News Group back in March for a Mike Swift story on the ShoeBox app for iPhones that allows you to make a digital archive of old family photos . Here is a link to the story on the ContraCostaTimes.com website http://tiny.cc/iln8dw
In creating this graphic and in helping come up with visuals for the print presentation, I dug out a tattered shoe box full of old family photos. The main photo I used in the graphic to show how the app works is a photo of my Mom, Carlita Carolyn Todd. I hadn’t planned on using this image for the graphic, but it really seemed to be the best portrait I had in the old shoebox to use to tell the story. The portrait is a school portrait from her early years as a teacher in Fordland, Missouri. I would guess the photo is from 1960 or 1961 or thereabouts.
I researched how to use the app, and took photos with my iPhone for the graphic. I used a ink marker to draw the hands and phone and opted to keep them simple and graphic with no color to keep the emphasis on the photos and the process of upload images in the ShoeBox App. I combined all of the elements using photoshop and illustrator.
I haven’t posted many infographics on this blog. But for Mothers Day it seemed appropriate to share this graphic and the photo of my Mom. Although Mom passed away in 1991, she got to see my illustrations and graphics work published in the Springfield News-Leader. One Sunday when she was in the hospital before she passed, I had an illustration on the front of the paper and a TV book cover illustration of Twin Peaks (yes…that long ago) in the paper. The nurses told me how proud she was to see my work and how she glowed when showing them. As my teacher, my mother and as an incredible influence, she still inspires me.
To all Mothers past and present…Happy Mothers Day.
And if you haven’t checked out the ShoeBox app…it is a very handy way to archive and share those old family photos.
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.
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.
One of the great pleasures I have in painting and illustrating stories is connecting with people. The last few months with the publication of our new children’s book, “There’s a Hummingbird in My Backyard” author Gary Bogue and I have had a lot of fun chatting with fans of the book at various events and signings around the Bay Area. I particularly enjoy talking with kids about the artwork and being an illustrator. I can often see a little spark in the eye as a kid talks to me. Suddenly illustrating for a book goes from being an abstraction to something that is tangible and possible. Hopefully I am igniting that spark in some of these young minds. It would be rewarding to meet a kid someday that started illustrating in part from meeting me and seeing my work.
I am excited about sharing my artwork and musings about illustrating for books and newspapers. Thanks for joining me in this new adventure.