Cast ye minds back to the Septembré of 2006. What were you doing? Working? Studying? Perhaps enjoying a selection of fine cheeses amongst good friends and great crackers?
Here’s what I was doing:
This is Count Sockula. A puppet I made out of an old sock, some paper, a torn up t-shirt and a couple of buttons. It was hastily put together after recieving some good feedback from this drawing I’d done not too long before:
Little did I realise that four years down the track, Count Sockula would be rubbing shoulders with the elite:
I was pretty stoked when this picture got sent my way (it appeared in this Age article promoting the 2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival). It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to ruling the world. Well, at least the closest I’ve gotten so far.
It was a bit of a process getting Count Sockula ready for screen-printing on a t-shirt. I won’t bore you with the details here, suffice to say that this tutorial offered quite a bit of help on the matter.
Here’s what he looks like in his new form on a mock-up t-shirt:
It’d be totally rad to have a run of these printed and for sale. I’d buy one. Would you?
As of yesterday, my gorgeous lady and I have been together for 4 years. I drew this picture for her as a gift:
We saw James Cameron’s Avatar at IMAX and both loved it. I’ve noticed some very vocal backlash against the film amidst all the accolades and applause. On some points I tend to agree, but I don’t think the negatives (the story’s lack of originality, cheesy dialogue, etc.) come close to outweighing the positives of the “experience” of Avatar. Avatar is a fine piece of entertainment, and offers a visceral thrill ride that I’ve never before experienced in a movie theatre.
Avatar is a movie made for the mainstream, not the discerning intellectual film goer. Although that doesn’t stop every armchair critic from tearing it apart. I understand where those people are coming from, I really do. I was like them once: haughty, elitist, unable to let myself go and just enjoy the ride. So what if Avatar adheres to tried and true story-telling conventions? Not every film needs to be Pulp Fiction or Run Lola Run. There is a place for classical storytelling in cinema, and that place is in the big-budget high-grossing films of Hollywood. Movies like Spider-Man, Titanic, Lord of the Rings and Avatar all share a naiveté and sentimentality that appeals to the masses, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Storytelling like this works, and has done for thousands of years. I wrote an essay five years ago called “Smart Film vs. Dumb Film” which you can read by clicking here.
In it I wrote:
The real reason some people abhor mainstream cinema is because of their need to rebel and feel part of a select few. So-called “smart” cinema is just the elite group they’re looking for. “Smart” cinema really isn’t all that smart; it just makes the viewer feel smart. To a “smart” movie-goer, becoming lost in the myth, fantasy, drama, romance or action of a film seems dumb because it appears to require less brain-power. “Smart” movie-goers want a film that makes them think, thus making them feel smart. But what “smart” movie-goers don’t realise, is that it takes more intelligence on the film-maker’s behalf to have an audience become “lost” in the movie, than to have them constantly question everything they see on screen. “Smart” film wants to be overtly smart. It wants to show off its intelligence to the world. Mainstream cinema is content doing what it’s always been doing – entertaining.
Story aside, I simply don’t understand people who didn’t enjoy Avatar on a visual, visceral, sensory level. I guess the aesthetics might have turned some people off, but to me they were absolutely stunning. It’s on this level that Avatar rivals and arguably even surpasses it’s predecessors (Star Wars, Lord of the Rings), and I’m inclined to think that people who disagree with that are stuck in a reactionary point-of-view based on the massive success of the film.
I’m siding firmly with the mainstream here, and recommending Avatar to everyone I know. I’d be more than happy to debate my point of view in the comments section.
Oh yeah, and Happy Anniversary Lucy!
For the latest project I’m working on, my client is asking for more realism than I usually deal with (which seems to be a trend of late). While I’d much rather push the grotesque, cutesy or stylised angles than the purely representative, I’m taking the challenge in my stride and forging ahead.
Whenever I’m having trouble getting a drawing right, I always remember an important tip I read in one of my all-time favourite books about drawing, Roland Harvey’s Drawing Book:
When in doubt, observe, observe, observe.
Nothing beats drawing from a reference, at least when it comes to representative drawing. And the more tangible the reference, the better. Drawing from a photo is good. From the actual live subject, better. Fine artists like Stan Prokopenko stress the importance of “being there”:
You might get tired and hungry, but you have to push through and finish that painting. “I’ll take a picture and finish it at home” usually doesn’t work.
In “The Art of Seeing”, writer Aldous Huxley also gives credence to drawing from life, but in a much broader sense of developing one’s appreciation of nature, citing vision as our strongest and most personally affecting sense (although this may be a wistful bias of Huxley, who had severely scratched corneas since the age of 16, and hence, horrible vision.)
With all this in mind, I hired the cheapest model I know: me. I probably would have been able to use myself as a “live” reference with the aid of a mirror, but I opted for an impromptu photo shoot instead:
Part of the brief for this project was a character that looked “obsessed”. I guess I really took that note on board, as evident in the amount of reference photos I took before I was happy.
Here’s the rough that came out of the observation:
I wish I’d saved the rough I did prior to using a reference, so you could see how much having a reference improves the drawing.
Here’s another round of reference photos, and the subsequent rough:
When you get a little confidence in your drawing ability, it can be easy to think that you don’t need a reference. Using one may even feel a little like cheating. But don’t underestimate the power of observation. Drawing from life forces you to really examine something, be it a landscape, still life or human figure.
Pay attention to what your eyes are telling you.
A while ago I got given a job to illustrate a poster for friends/professional humour-edians Sammy J and Heath McIvor. I’ve done design/illustration work for these dudes before, both individually (this and this) and collectively (this), and they’ve always been really fun jobs, mainly because they give me a lot of freedom and trust me to deliver the goods. Plus they’re also amazing collaborators, and true aficionados of the creative process.
Anyway, they’re currently developing a new stage show together called “Ricketts Lane”. The pitch given to me was basically thus: “Sammy J (a tax lawyer) and Randy (a purple puppet) live together in a house. Sitcom-style shenanigans ensue.” It was described to me as a show containing all the familiar sitcom tropes, but with a darker edge. Actually, here’s a direct quote from an e-mail:
It’s kind of a melting pot of 90′s sitcoms with a HBO twist. Darker than your average sitcom… Tony Danza meets Tony Soprano… Jerry Seinfeld doing time in OZ… Basil Fawlty running the Gem Saloon in Deadwood… Blossom smoking crack in the high rises of Baltimore and then getting fisted by officer McNolte…
The reference to The Wire hooked me and I got to work conceptualising. At first, the job was going to be mainly design-based. There would be little illustration, if any. The guys were going to get a photo-shoot done based on my concept, and I’d put the poster together.
Here are a few of the concepts I sketched up:
The “couch” concept proved a favourite, so I refined it a little and gave Randy a drinking problem:
The next step was to wait for the photo-shoot and then play with the results, but an unexpected deadline arose, and a poster needed to be completed within a couple of days. With a photo-shoot out of the question (Randy the purple puppet was in a crate being shipped from the UK to Australia), the guys decided to go for a fully illustrated poster. The couch concept was still a go, but now there was a matter of determining the style of illustration.
After a few spotty chats over Skype, Sammy pointed to the drawing I’d done of Christopher Walken not long ago as the best direction to head. I decided to sketch up a few different versions of Sammy’s face, to see which way to push it.
There was the more serious, “realistic” direction:
And the more “cartoony” direction:
I was personally pushing for the “cartoony” version, probably because it was the safer, more familiar option to me. Doing a finished illustration in the “realistic” style was a little daunting to me, especially with such a tight deadline.
I decided to rough up the couch concept in the more cartoony style in a hope to win them over to it:
But the realistic direction won them over and so I got to work putting it together.
Here’s the rough I used to base the final illustration on:
I got Sammy’s likeness down pretty well, but Randy was still a little wonky. I refined him in the linework:
Went for a some hatched shading before adding colour:
Here’s what it looked like after some colour:
After finishing the illustration, it was time to put together the poster proper. There were a few options for the title text:
And finally, here’s the finished poster. The wallpaper pattern was designed by me and based on some cool vintage patterns I found online. The carpet was made from a photograph I took of the curtains in my room. Click for a larger version:
The space down the bottom is for show/venue details. The guys are doing a the first run of Ricketts Lane at the Adelaide Fringe Festival, followed by the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Tickets aren’t on sale yet, but I’ll be sure to post links when they are. I highly recommend seeing these guys live. They’ve got an amazing chemistry on stage which is backed up by really clever writing. In short, funny.
That’s it! Was a great pleasure to work on this job. It pushed my skills further than they’d been before, which I’m very grateful for. Thanks to Sammy and Heath for trusting me to do my best!
Got me a new set of coloured pencils (Faber Castell 24′s) for my birthday (thanks, girlf), so I don’t need to scab them off my housemate any more. Been keeping up with the drawing, which is great.
Here are my new pencils in a recycled pasta-sauce jar:
Here’s a zombie I drew and coloured in at the behest of my girlf, who was tired of me using one colour for each drawing:
Here’s a detail so you can take in all the good pencil-on-paperiness:
And here’s Christopher Walken:
At the behest of my girlfriend, I’ve drawn a picture of Michael Jackson. I was in the middle of drawing pictures of NBA stars Magic Johnson and Scottie Pippin when she suggested I draw something more “controversial”.
It’s not perfect, but if we’ve learnt anything from Michael Jackson over the past couple of decades, it’s that nobody’s perfect. Not even an alien.