Live Caricatures #3

Here are a few photos from yet another caricature gig (thanks, Mike!) in December 2007 with the fun and inspiring Ed Steckley. We were sketching at an auto dealer's holiday party. You wouldn't believe the 'giveaways' at this event! Playstation 3s, Caribbean cruises, iPhones and more. Anyway, the guests were more than gracious and had a great sense of humor. Working with Ed always brings out the best in my sketches and my attitude, helping the guests by entertaining them far more and putting them in the right mindset to let loose and have fun.



Digital Art Podcast Blog

Yes, it's still alive... just in a mild coma.
I will be back to painting and practicing with my Wacom Cintiq in coming months, but right now the animation project I'm working on is taking up most of my time. For those that are loyal in checking in, I thank you so much. I've got more nearly ready and will create many new podcasts this year, but I'll just need a little more free time.

I appreciate the great responses and I'll keep everyone updated.


Jimmy Johnson for Frank Caliendo

This is a digital painting done in 2007. I recently painted the background for possible use in a friend's book, but we went with another piece. It was originally commissioned for FrankCaliendo.com and used on the website. It's a digital painting from a small pencil sketch.

I love his face, because it reminds me of the structure of Fred Flintstone.



Celebrity Warmups #2

Here are a couple more celebrity sketches done in a theme park to keep limber and attract guests to the retail location. These were completed in 2006 and 2007, both at Sea World... but on different coasts of the United States. These definitely took a bit longer to complete than the average theme park caricature - perhaps 30 minutes or more.

I forgot to mention that the materials used for this style of drawing are the Dixon Markette marker and Prismacolor Art Stixx for color. You can see more work like this, as well as the process, in the book Rejects.


Weezer #6

One of my all time favorite bands is about to come out with a new album, and I am finally excited. I noted that there is some great media out lately, and one of the pieces I am awaiting with anticipation is the 6th album from the quad from L.A., available June 3rd.

Weezer has had quite a past, and while I'll spare you the history lesson (15 years finicky nature, side projects, shifting bassists and musical styles all within one tight genre), I will give you my opinion on the progression of their music, album-by-album.

Blue album (self-titled debut, named 'weezer') - Immortal. This contains rock anthems like Say It 'Aint So, Only in Dreams, Buddy Holly, The Sweater Song, My Name is Jonas and more. One of the best rock albums ever recorded. You can hear the years of songwriting finely honed in a unique garage-rock style, mixed and produced wonderfully by the amazing Rick Ocasek [The Cars].

Pinkerton - recorded and mixed by the band members themselves, this took a departure from the high-school/college garage rock and turned up the fuzz / turned down the 'fi. The lyrics are more personal, songwriting more scattered, but still one of the all-time great albums. Not as many radio hits (none, to my knowledge) but a fan favorite that, for some reason, Rivers Cuomo [singer/songwriter/founder] dislikes and allegedly wanted or wants out of all stores and production. If you haven't heard it, get it now.

Green album (self-titled 3rd LP, 'weezer') - after nearly 10 years apart from working on personal projects, side bands, attending college, marriage and kids, etc - the band reunited with full force and plenty of fan support. Because of the rise of 'internet 2.0' Weezer had a very strong following even while there was no apparent activity. The green album is arguably good, holding much of the power pop sound in which they are often categorized. It has hits like Hash Pipe and Island in the Sun, among a terrain of similar-sounding chord progressions. Don't get me wrong, I hear this album criticized often, but it is catchy as hell and very easy to listen to... and short.

Maladroit - This is one of my favorites in a special way. In 2002-2005, Weezer offered many demos to fans online by way of their website, fan sites and 'leaks' all over. This was an effort to allow the fans to mold and shape what they wanted to hear, offering feedback on what songs they think should be on the upcoming albums. Green hosted some great work, but omitted some of the catchy demos. This approach was followed up by offering the fans what they wanted- the songs THEY liked. Maladroit has songs that sound like hard rock, metal, soft ballads, power pop, garage rock, classic retro guitar solos and much more. The great success of this album is often overshadowed by it's strange place with fans. I couldn't disagree more- I love this one. It is a diverse sampling of how much they rock. Plus, who doesn't love a video with The Muppets?!

Make Believe - While the record company really got behind their 5th LP and the fan-base became younger and stronger, I am not a fan of this album. While I love all band members' work and tastes, I feel that (despite the success of a few single tracks/videos, including the popular Beverly Hills) this is a total miss for the group. It sounds minimal, unresolved, overworked and weak. I've heard some people say that they really like this album, so I'll leave it up to you, but it was off my iPod pretty quickly.
...which left me skeptical about the 6th session for the group, shortly after a released collection of home recordings and early demos, called "Alone"...

Red album (self-titled... again... 'weezer') - I had heard from weezer.com that Rivers touts this as their best work yet. Still effected from the underwhelming Make Believe, I had my doubts. Then I heard from my brother that the first 8 (of 16, available with a 'deluxe edition' pre-order on iTunes) tracks were leaked, so I gave them a listen. My first impression was "Ooh... different." They combine some rap, metal, smooth acoustics, operatic harmonies and several key/tempo changes in multiple songs. Tracks come from all the band members, with each of them singing the lead at different times in different songs. A collaborative effort is apparently made with this one... and it works!

These songs (what I've heard so far) are VERY catchy, very well written, quite textured, not overdone or too hook-based and seem as though they will be long-lived. There is a fun spirit and confidence in them that was missing in the last album, and the song Thought I Knew sung by guitarist Brian Bell is superb. I can see many tastes of music satisfied by this fun album, with only the lyrics being fairly shallow at some points... but that does not bother me one bit, as they mesh with the sound quite well, and don't take themselves too seriously.

So check it out and get this album if you like '90s/current/classic/garage/punk/indie/alt rock... 'Cuz it rocks.


(live) Celebrity Warmups

When drawing in theme parks I would often warm up or practice by drawing from photos from magazines. A great way to attract customers is to draw a current celebrity. This also demonstrates an artist's ability to passers-by in a way that is not as aggressive as barking at a crowd or pointing to samples.

Below is one warm up sketch I did back in 2006 at Sea World and above are two Elvis drawings finished for my good friend Kevin, to be displayed at a Graceland caricature stand.

This type of sketch is not always the "best" an artist can do, but it is a special challenge to attempt a complete piece in 10-20 minutes. It also challenges you to make big, bold, fun decisions in a very short amount of time, helping the drawings for paying customers reach a new level of exaggeration, likeness and unique fun. You could loosely equate this to a good stretch before a 3 mile run.


Live Caricatures #2

Here are some more live caricature samples from the same graduation party in November, with Ed Steckley. I've had the pleasure of working next to Ed nearly a dozen times since we both (coincidentally) moved to the same neighborhood in Queens (NYC) nearly two years ago, and he always inspires me in one area or another.

I am fortunate to be currently working on a project that Ed is also involved in. I really enjoy collaborating with talented artists that I respect and admire... and tease.

For many of these sketches I was going for speed and simplicity, and a few were an exercise in fast pencil rendering and form. It was a fun group and they were really relaxed.



Ron Paul

He's called "Dr. No" for his vote against excess spending. He's called the "Tax Payer's Best Friend" for his solid stance against both raising taxes and the IRS. He's called "The Champion of the Constitution" for his fight to preserve the integrity of the founding fathers of America.

Ron Paul has not dropped out of the race for president and will be attending the Republican National Convention with plenty of support. If you are tired of the usual candidates, this is a man still worth learning from. If nothing else, his book "The Revolution: A Manifesto" is an amazing read with plenty of history and a refreshing take on our founding fathers and the current state of the United States, with a perspective of true 'change' worth pursuing.

I did this small marker sketch back when Dr. Ron Paul still had a chance to initially capture enough delegates for the Republican presidential nomination. Even if you don't agree with his rare (for today's standards) stances, it's easy to see that we need more sincere and consistent politicians like Ron Paul.


Live Caricatures

I was browsing through my backup hard drive the other day - it's full of files, images, photographs, artwork, etc - and I came across a folder full of live caricatures that I've never shown more than one or two people. Some were from theme parks and some were from gigs.

Live caricature is an amazing form of art and calculation, from an artist/problem solver's perspective. I have said before that I will never lose my enthusiasm and fascination for this form of art, and that still holds true. I'd hate to leave these images unseen, so I've decided to post them here.

In between "real time" posts on this blog, I'll be revisiting what I started - a live caricature blog. I don't intend to keep it exclusively to this topic, but I've been busy with a few big projects that are eating up my time, so until I get back to posting about illustration, character design, fine art, art-book publishing, and digital painting, I'll pepper in some old live caricature.

I'll start by giving you a high school graduation after-party that my friend Ed and I entertained back in November. I gave a crack at using a thick-leaded (clutch) pencil for some of these sketches because it is Ed's fancy.

Ed Steckley is one of the best live caricaturists I've ever seen (you can see him in the mirror on the right side of the first photo). He's also one of the best illustrators and story board artists around. His drawings are always exaggerated, stylized, funny, cute, clean and fast. There is a rare quality to his work and I feel the need to step up both my speed and quality when drawing next to him. Needless to say it's impossible to keep up with him in either category.

(If you like this style of art and haven't done so already, visit RejectsTheBook.com and order yourself a copy. I promise that you will enjoy it.)


ASIFA East animation festival

Last night my girlfriend and I had the pleasure of attending the ASIFA East animation awards screening with our good friends Brian Haimes and David Cowles. David won two awards for the design on his work with They Might Be Giants. The finish and clean design of David's work stood out above much of the award-winning animations.

Overall it was very fun and an interesting look at the New York independent animation scene, as well as spotting some commercial and advertising work. The event was fairly small and hosted what looked like 200+ individuals. All age ranges were present and all animation approaches were visible (with the exception of 3d animation a la Pixar), from light comedy to dark and sexual.

We had the chance to grab a drink and a bite to eat after the show, where mingling ensued. My friend Brian has worked for Bill Plympton, so he reintroduced us. Bill took a peek at Rejects and reminisced about his caricature days and why he moved to animation. Overall it was a fun night. Be sure to look in to the animation and art groups in your area or your professional field. There is much to be learned from each other.


Ironman & the Raconteurs: the GOOD media

The media is often called "sleazy" or "cheap", but this is referring to the news media. Another use of the term is that which refers to audio and video; music, television and movies. There is a great trend happening in many areas of that sort of media nowadays and we are seeing it peak in many ways. Here are a few examples:

I watched the new movie Ironman the other day, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey, Jr. This movie was funny, interesting, visually stunning, well-timed and exciting at every turn. Even sitting in the second row of the theater and getting a cramped neck didn't at all hinder my enjoyment of this film. This, and many other movies coming out this summer, are great examples of the heights that this media is reaching. Comic book movies are hitting a new level of quality and popularity in the last several years, and I don't see a weak preview yet. Also, with animation hitting a new high in both story and visuals (Horton Hears a Who, wall-e, Ratatouille, Persepolis) I am looking forward to a logging hours and hours in movie theaters this summer.

I have been watching the television shows LOST and 30 Rock and have not been disappointed one bit. LOST has been returning to the once-great show of season one and two and has levels of subtle clues that are difficult to find but rewarding when noticed. 30 Rock is setting a new standard for quick comedy, picking up where Arrested Development left off, yet with it's own brand of slapstick and verbal childishly-clever humor. I look forward to Thursdays quite a bit, and the only thing stopping me from saving that one night for television is the recent return of hilarity to Saturday Night Live. The cast has matured over the last two years and I predict that one day they will each be known as legendary, and as a group: classic. I may have to set aside Saturday Nights at home.

Music has also hit a near and dear rise to my ears, as new music has been available from bands like The Raconteurs, the Black Keys, Radiohead, White Rabbits, Blitzen Trapper, Queens of the Stone Age and many many more great new and established bands, not to mention some classic comebacks for those that share my tastes in rock and roll such as Superdrag and Weezer... this makes me (once again) excited for this summer's releases. Rock shows in New York are accessible and comfortably energetic with amazing headliners weekly, sharing in the raised level of quality in rock and roll and blues inspired music.

Lastly the term media can involve technology and software tools. With ipods, iphones, development of air, electric, water, and hydrogen powered cars, fiber-optics in homes and most importantly (for me) tools like the Wacom Cintiq (see my review) and other advances in technology, we are in an age of convenience that we have never seen before. I am learning to embrace this and get on-board with much of it, and it saves us all time and waste.

I hope this trend continues.