Saturday, June 29, 2013


 One of my all time favorite jobs was working on the Chronicles of Narnia movies. The material was first rate, the people I worked with were wonderful, I made a lot of money, and they sent me to New Zealand, Prague and Century City in the process.
(Sometimes if something doesn't work, you just scrap it.)

Here are a few images I pulled out to post today from that series. I always worked on typewriter bond paper and I think by the time I was done with the films I had a stack of drawings almost as high as I am. The black and white images are from a section I was very proud of.

Working in color was something I rarely did when storyboarding, but in this case I had plenty of time on my hands and thought I'd show off a bit. Mostly I was probably just trying to annoy my "aviary" partner,  Rico. (In the Aukland studio we were working at, our space was a loft area with open beams and chicken wire for walls). Rico liked to tell people I did boards the "old-fashioned" way; I had to remind him that I was using photoshop when he was in middle school. The watercolor boards were an example of our friendly competition: Hey! Look at this, kid!

Next time a look at the three covers for the new Retrowood graphic novel: All Roads Lead to Rome.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

JACK KIRBY - The Irony of ARGO

The other night I finally had a chance to watch the movie Argo. While most of the films I see on the Middle East are so biased as to make them laughable, Argo was actually an engrossing watch. What was particularly impressive was the opening historical exposition explaining the American and British coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Mosaddegh and replaced him with Shah Pavlavi's authoritative regime. And Ben Afleck, once the whipping boy of Hollywood, has emerged as not only a talented actor, but an excellent director.

One of the incidental characters mentioned in the cast list is Jack Kirby (played by Michael Parks of Then Came Bronson fame) as the artist who creates all the storyboards and production art for the ersatz film that is going to be shot in Iran. Don't blink or you'll miss both Parks and his credit line.

Of course, all of us who know and love comics realize that Jack Kirby was arguably the greatest talent that the medium has ever seen. He wasn't the best in the business at drawing exotic women, so  as a kid I was much more a fan of Kubert and Williamson and Wood and Leonard Starr. Jack still influenced me as much as anyone over the course of my career. His frames were always alive with energy, the storytelling impeccable, and like Eisner and Jack Davis, the work was just FUN. His comics were always entertaining.

At Marvel/Atlas Kirby wound up doing all the science fiction/outer space stories which usually featured any assortment of creatures. I was always more a fan of mood and mystery, so Steve Ditko was the grabber for me. But while I never really tried to emulator Ditko, I was always looking at KIrby's work for new solutions in both the art and storytelling. Unfortunately one of the realities at the comic companies, was that if a penciller was paid a high rate, he was then assigned an inker with a low rate. And the economics of the business often lead to pencillers asking for less qualified inkers to increase their own page rate. Consequently, we didn't always see the best in the business finishing Jack's work, often by his own choice.

Oddly enough, I was never much attracted to the Marvel superhero work that Jack did. The long lean athletic look of the action characters that he did for both National Periodicals (Sandman and the Guardian) in the forties, and the satirical Stuntman and Fighting American features were much more to my liking. The epic stories of the New Gods, particularly Mr. Miracle,  were also what I considered some of his best work. And Mike Royer did a great job inking the pages of the latter.

Of course, my favorite Kirby inker was Wally Wood, who teamed with Jack to do the art chores on the syndicated strip, Sky Masters which ran for a short time in the late 50's. And my personal favorite Kirby/Wood project was Challengers of the Unknown. While I will admit that Wood's style stiffened up Jack's action-oriented figures, he brought a wonderful sensitivity and artistic verisimilitude to the faces. And the women suddenly were knockouts.

At the end of Argo, when the explanation is given how this story was classified for a number of years, we learn what  happened to the characters over time and how they were eventually given credit for their parts in this incredible event. But one is missing:

Jack Kirby: Creator of Captain America and the majority of characters in the Marvel Universe, for which he has never been acknowledged. While most of the artists working in the industry had there artwork returned to them starting the the l970's, Jack work, now worth millions, was never returned because he refused to sign off on his part in creating the material.  Here's a man who has had as much impact on American culture as Walt Disney, and virtually no one outside of comics knows his name. Meanwhile, the other half of the creative team has made millions and has his name plastered virtually everywhere.

At the academy awards there was even a chorus line of the actors who played many of the characters created by Jack. Kafka would have loved this. The KGB would have been jealous of the thoroughness of our ability to rewrite history. For me, that was the irony of Argo. There still is a great American hero who has yet to receive the honors due him and to take his place in the history of entertainment.
(While the version of New Gods that I did was never well received, it still was a lot of fun to do. But then Jack Kirby is a tough act to follow.)

On a pleasant note, yesterday afternoon I had lunch with two good friends, Steve Rude and Tim Burgard, and afterwards they came by and we spent the afternoon doodling, looking at art and talking. Tim, one of the best and most prolific storyboard artists in the business (his latest is White House Down), was at Ruby-Spears Animation while both Jack Kirby and Gil Kane worked there; he had great stories to tell. Steve was in town for the opening of a film on Bruce Lee. He is also legendary for his admiration for Mr. Kirby. It was great seeing these guys, both of whom I have great admiration for, and a lot of fun getting together and being art geeks.

('s Steve, Tim and myself in my studio. )

(As soon as I mange to figure out how to download the photos I took of them from my Furshlugginer Samsung tablet I'll post them here.)

Monday, June 17, 2013


This blog is actually a continuation of the Egyptian Larva blog I posted previously. (You can click here if you want to refer back to that blog and the the working process I use:
.  )
With this painting I tried using my normal techniques, but switching the order just slightly to eliminate a bit of the the opacity the final color is creating on the tonal underpainting.

As I usually do, I gathered what reference I need and created a rough of my planned illustration and then took that to a tight pencil drawing.
After this I added on a quick wash of watercolor so that I'd have something to work against while applying a line drawing of acrylic paint.

Normally I would do a completely finished tonal drawing and apply color over the top of that. But I find that depending on how much color is being used the underpainting loses a good bit of its impact. To avoid that I didn't try and take the tonal painting any further than this, but added in the tone where it was needed when I added the acrylic colors to the painting. The final effect then tends avoid the muddiness than can happen with overworking.

(The original photo of Modigliani. Below right is a publicity still of Andy Garcia for the film. Below left is the Modigliani painting Woman in a Brown Dress.

Copying the works of less representative artists I've found is an excellent exercise. In the process you begin to understand that what they are doing is much more complicated that it looks at first glance. And it's a nice counterpoint to the realism I'm usually attempting in the work.

The Andy Garcia portrait, from the biopic he did on Modigliani,  was done as a thank you gift for the sweet woman Helen who runs the lab where I get bloodwork done. Mr. Garcia is her favorite actor and Helen reminded me a bit of the woman in the Brown Dress. As some of you might well have discovered over the years, there is no such thing as a hard and fast price for any health services. Helen has always made sure that I get the maximum discounts. I often refer to my illustrations as my health care plan. I don't think that there is a doctor that I see (and as you get a bit older you see more and more) that hasn't had one of my paintings presented to them. They seem to remember me and make sure I'm well taken care of.

The above were for my cardiologist, dermatologist and back specialist.
Here's a quick preview of the re-issue of the Off-Castes series I did back in the 90's. It will be one of the digital books that Asylum Press will have online sometime in the next few months.This was one of the few times I got to do a finished coloring job over my work, and I was pretty disappointed in the result. Part of it was my own ignorance and ineptness handling the color; another problem was the method Epic asked me to use. I was applying watercolor on what were basically xeroxes of the artwork. Since I was doing the work on Craftint boards (which creates a dark and light line pattern for tone) the linework turned out very spotty with the xeroxes and the watercolor muddied them even further. I rescanned the originals and have been coloring them digitally with much better results.