Saturday, January 31, 2015

On Robert Fawcett Part 2

My whimsical portrait of Robert Fawcett with his pet cats.

One glance at a Robert Fawcett drawing and it becomes apparent that you're looking at the work of a remarkable draftsman and storyteller. But look closer. Mixed in with realism at every opportunity are incredible miniature abstracts of shape and pattern which translate as the realistic detail.

Born in England, but raised in Canada and then New York, Bob studied two years at the famous Slade School of London. He returned to NYC and began working commercial jobs (which he signed with his signature R.F.) to support a fine arts career. Fawcett's experiences with the "selling" of fine art disillusioned him and he turned all his energy to his commercial work. He was immediately successful.

During this time Fawcett remained aloof from his fellow illustrators. He became an accomplished musician, turning to this artform to deal with his inner emotional turmoil. However, as he discovered himself as an artist and a person, Fawcett also came to the realization that "everything I do is fine art."

Slightly colorblind, he was never a painter of the stature of Wyeth, Rockwell, or Parker; as a draftsman he was their peer, and as a designer he was on a level of his own. His uncompromising eye kept him from becoming a leading "romance" artist, one of the mainstays of illustration at the time. But that same quality made him a superior storyteller, with his attention to detail and his sense of mood drawing the viewer into the picture.

By the mid-forties Fawcett's work could be found every week in stories and full page ads in the Post, Colliers, Holiday, Cosmopolitan and a number of other magazines. The subject matter may vary from the Alamo to Sherlock Holmes, but the execution was always the same. Dynamic compositions with characters that breathed life and minute detail that made you believe you WERE there. Fawcett's last assignments were doing documentary type illustrations for LOOK, a magazine that relied almost exclusively on photographs!

Fawcett, along with Albert Dorne and Fred Ludekens, instituted the Famous Illustrators school, where they produced what is still the best set of how-to books available for learning the craft. He also wrote On the Art of Drawing, and On Drawing the Nude, by Howard Munce, is based on his notes and drawing. Both are excellent texts on understanding his sense of draftsmanship and his approach to the craft.

While I was sharing studio space with Howard Chaykin he introduced me to Fawcett's work. It was immediately evident the influence this artist had made on my favorite cartoonists-Toth, Kubert, Wood, and an entire generation of cartoonists of the 40's. 50's, and 60's. Much to the dismay of my editors, Fawcett has had the same effect on me.

Friday, January 23, 2015

UPDATE 1/23/15

When I was first breaking into comics, everyone I knew was pretty much fixated on Jack Kirby. I always have loved the energy in Jack’s work, and he’s still a big influence on me. But there were so many other really great folks that were under the radar of my generation. One of them was the Spanish artist Carlos Gimenez, who’s work both Walter Simonson and Howard Chaykin introduced me to. 

What struck me was the relatively clean style reminiscent of Wally Wood ( certainly someone Gimenez was looking at), but a sense of fun and whimsy unlike anything I saw in American comics. He also had a wide range, as his stories often centered on the horror of the Spanish Civil War; in fact Guillermo del Toro used him to storyboard what I think is his best film, The Devil’s Backbone. 

Most of the work I saw of Gimenez was in Delta 99 and in Dani Futuro. The latter was certainly my inspiration (the artist word for plagiarism) for a lot of the costumes and characters I used in the Starfire strip I did for DC, as well as some of my independent Linda Lovecraft tales for Star*Reach. I don’t know how many of you comic book fans are aware of the work of Carlos Gimenez, but he is certainly someone to check out.

Mad Mummy #5 finally went off to iVerse this week. It should be up for sale in another few weeks. I was quite proud of the work on this  one…and it was a lot of fun to do.

For years I’ve been using my neighbor Bob Edward’s incredible garden as subjects for my sketchbook, taking the figure studies done in class and adding in cacti and flowers and shrubs at a later date. Lately I’ve been using the growth my lovely wife Annie has planted in our own yard  for models. Nature is certainly the best teacher for discovering form and pattern. (Bob’s partner, by the way, is John Claude Gummoe, who wrote and sang the pop song “Rhythm of the Rain.” They have been good neighbors and better friends for years.)

I have a young assistant, Leyanna Hartonian, who’s been helping me on the Mad Mummy book, doing a lot of the tedious work of setting in blocks on coloring in Photoshop, and typing in and positioning the lettering balloons. Last year I did a seminar at nearby Crescenta Valley HS and Leyanna was one of students. Now she has graduated and is going to Glendale Community College…and has the dubious honor of working with me part time. She brings her enthusiasm to the job and puts up with my constant choice of music. She has also been putting together these blogs for me. Wait till she sees just how much she to scan in for this weeks Update.

Here are some examples of Leyanna's well as some pics
of us hard at work.



Saturday, January 17, 2015

UPDATE 1/17/15

The Annie movie that I worked on has been out for a few weeks. Haven’t seen it. When I was working on this feature I watched the other two versions and was underwhelmed. The John Huston film was just creepy…some really off-putting images for a “kids” movie. The TV version with Kathie Bates was much better, but not something I’d watch if I wasn’t working on a remake. The worst of it was that in neither version is Harold Grey, the creator of the strip , ever mentioned in the credits…only the syndicate that “owned” the strip.

The character was from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley. My mother used to read it me as a kid…with special emphasis on the refrain: And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out. Is it any wonder I grew up with a lot of anxieties? It certainly explains my morbid tastes in literature and movies and comics. 

Little Orphan Annie came to our house to stay,
And wash the cups and saucers up, and brush the crumbs away,
And shoo the chickens off the porch, and dust the hearth, and sweep,
And make the fire, and bake the bread, and earn her board and keep;
And all us other children, when the supper things are done,
We sit around the kitchen fire and have the best of fun
Listening to the scary tales that Annie tells about,
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

Once there was a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers
And when he went to bed at night, all the way upstairs,
His Mommy heard him holler, and his daddy heard him bawl,
And when they turned the covers down, he wasn’t there at all!
And they searched for him in the attic, and the cubby-hole, and press,
And they searched up the chimney, and everywhere, I guess;
But all they ever found was his pants and round about
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

Once there was a little girl who liked to laugh and grin,

And make fun of everyone, her family and kin
Whenever there was company, and guests were sitting there,
She mocked them and she shocked them, and said she didn’t care!
Suddenly she kicked her heels, and turned to run and hide,
There were two great big Black Things standing by her side,
They snatched her through the ceiling before she knew they were about!
And the Goblins will get you, if you don’t watch out.

And Little Orphan Annie says, when the blaze is blue,

And the lamp-wick sputters, and the wind goes woo-oo!
And you hear the crickets quit, and the moon is gray,
And the lightning bugs in dew are all squenched away
Listen to your parents and your teachers fond and dear,
And cherish those who love you, and dry the orphan’s tear,
And help the poor and needy ones that cluster all about,
Or the Goblins will get you, so you better watch out.

A side note to all of this is that one of the folks I truly admire is Leonard Starr, who after starting out working in comics, went on to a tremendously successful career as an artist and writer, and eventually ended his professional run  working on the Annie comic strip. And while I started out working in comics, I certainly never quite achieved Leonard’s brilliance as a creator, but I did get to finish up my career in films working on Annie. I always tell Leonard that I’d be happy to achieve on my best days what achieved on his ordinary ones.

 (And you might notice I cast myself as the cab driver in this sequence. As with most of these folks, don't look for me in the final film.)

Above are a few frames from one of the sequences I boarded. At the time, Will Smith’s daughter was slated for the film, and Alec Baldwin was to play Daddy Warbucks. It was a fun job for the most part; I had little supervision and was just expected to turn out a few frames a day and was well paid. The best part was that I was working for Aaron Sowd, who is a prince of a fellow. It reiterated one of my cardinal rules: Who you work with is far more important than what your working on or how much you make. 

 That rule also applied whenever I worked with Pete Ventrella.  Pete and I go back a long ways. I first met him when I was working on Tales From the Crypt. Later we worked on a number of Lori Lovecraft stories together. These days he is producing DVD packages and developing a number of documentaries. The Planet of the Apes drawings I did for him when he was working at Deluxe. They were used in one of the box sets of the Ape films. 

 Another good friend, Anthony Diecedue helped with the computer coloring and designs on some of the backgrounds. Here's one of his finishes.

See you next week,