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

Posts tagged “watercolor

Eastern Fox Squirrel illustration for Los Angeles Magazine

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

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

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

Eastern Fox Squirrel illustration in Los Angeles Magazine

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

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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.


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.


FACEBOOK FIGHTING: Social networking for FISTICUFFS?

Image

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.


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.


EAST BAY PRESS CLUB AWARDS: The Contra Costa Times News Art and Design teams win 8 out of 9 possible awards; sweep illustration and infographics categories

At the East Bay Press Club 2010 awards banquet on June 10 in Oakland my graphics and design teams at the Contra Costa Times swept 2 out of 3 categories and grabbed 8 out of a possible 9 awards. Outstanding recognition for a hard working and talented group of artists and designers.

THE SWEEPS:

In Infographics: Dave Johnson grabbed First Place with his graphic “Oakland Museum of California 2.0.” I won Second Place and James Gayles took Third Place honors.

In Illustration: James Gayles took home First Place, I scored a Second Place award with an illustration for the series finales of Lost and 24 and Jeff Durham took the Third Place prize.

THE TWO OUT OF THREE:

We just missed the sweep in Page Design…I’ll take two out of three. News Design Chief Chris Gotsill got Second Place on a front page design with the headline “Eating away at education” and I took home a Third Place on a front page on the proposed Point Molate casino project.

I’m very proud to work with and art direct such talented visual journalists. I’m honored that I received three individual
awards. But, I’m extremely proud of my folks. Great job Chris, Dave, Jeff and James.

Here is the A&E illustration for Lost and 24 that was honored with a second place in illustration by the East Bay Press Club. To see the other winning Contra Costa Times pages go to: http://tinyurl.com/EB-Awards

Lost and 24 series finales illustration by Chuck Todd for the Contra Costa Times


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.


Connecting and igniting clarity

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.

www.chucktodd.net