Mick Hucknall

Here's a new Virgin Media ad featuring the popular Simply Red frontman. I was fortunate enough to have done the character design, modeling, texturing and supervision. I am so proud of my studio-mates and the amazing animation, rendering, lighting, interior, compositing, editing, modeling and everything else they put into it. It turned out great, and there are more to come! These can be seen in the UK (nationwide) in Odeon and Cineworld theatres.


Kylie Minogue, CG Animation

Here are a couple sketches that were done for the current animation spots I'm working on (these specifically will not be used). They are for commercials to be aired in the UK, containing a celebrity and an original character or two.

The clients on this project are quite wonderful. They write a script loosely around a celebrity that they begin to woo, and if they get an agreement, they finalize it and we start. To keep it enticing, they've begun showing sketches to with whom they are negotiating, in efforts to both get a head start and better sell the idea. These are not the final designs, but a jumping-off point for critique. I've also learned to not get too polished or invested in any of these, because the clients and agency both hold different priorities at times. I've learned that it must be a malleable process, and would not be successful if it were not.

I was asked to do a few sketches of Kylie Minogue (digitally for speed) that were fairly rendered, and I had only a few hours. I'll share more details on this project when I can.


Working in New York

The city can get old... all the buildings, little 'nature', and the hustle-bustle of everyday traffic. But it can also be beautiful. At the animation studio we have a great deck observing midtown Manhattan from the 10th and 11th floor. When we get couped up, it's nice to see the city and sky. New York isn't all that bad.
(click image to see larger version)


Chinese Copyright Infringement: Published?

I've read something like this several times in the last few weeks, and I feel it's a great time to make use of our endless contact and information through the internet and work together:

I couldn't put it better, so the wording/links are taken from my friend Tom's blog - thanks, Tom.

Illustrator Luc Latulippe and the folks at the Little Chimp Society discovered a few weeks ago that a Chinese publisher stole content off the LCS website, namely interviews with artists including Latulippe and the artwork included, and published it translated in book format selling for $100. No kidding… a full book of “scraped” content complete with their illustrations. You can read the story about it here and here.

Of course there is little legal recourse here. I doubt China, that bastion of the upholding of human rights, is even part of the Berne convention of international copyright law… but even if they are this publisher used fake contact info and a fake ISBN, so finding them at all is going to be tough, let alone getting them into a court somewhere. Basically there are some places on the planet where you can do nothing about someone stealing your work… I’ve run across my artwork produced on postage stamps from South American and former USSR republics before and have basically no legal recourse.

Contacting the distributors and sellers of the book also yielded no results, as they refused to stop selling it.

Well, Latulippe decided not to take this lying down, so he called for a grass roots “spread the word” campaign to let people know what this was about and hopefully damage the reputations of the parties involved or at least cause a few less sales for them. The good news is that it has yielded some results. At least one of the resellers, Index Books, has agreed to stop selling it and has sent the remaining copies back to the distributor. Hopefully more of such action will follow.

So, here is [my] contribution to the cause in the form of links to increase their search engine ranking. Good luck guys, and keep fighting the good fight.

*Thanks to Cedric Honstadt and Tom Richmond.




This is a 5 minute digital cartoon caricature, sketched on the Wacom Cintiq last month. This is one of my friends, a great animator that I'm currently working with.


Kung Fu Panda!

I don't know why, but I was unsure of how I felt about this movie, simply based on the trailers and advertisements. I wasn't too excited, but was sure I wanted to see what it was all about, so a friend and myself caught a midnight show last night. All I can say is that this is giving (one of my all-time-favorites) Pixar's Ratatouille a run for its money in animation as well as beautiful colors, textures and surfaces.

Kung Fu Panda is one CG animated film that goes the extra mile with color design and the animation is top-notch. The animators really have outdone themselves. The character traits are very inventive, detailed, human, exaggerated, cartoony and active. The voices are fun and the script is very good.

I could go on and on in detail what I enjoyed and critique it in depth, but I'll keep it to this: Overall I give this film two thumbs up. From a creative standpoint, I couldn't enjoy it much more than I did. It is definitely worth checking out, so go see it this weekend - twice!

Simple Caricature

You may have noticed the small logo-like caricature on the top of my website, JoeBluhm.com - it is inspired by Al Hirschfeld and Stephen Silver's work, and used to accent the menu and header of the online portfolio. This style and the work of these two men is a heavy influence on a lot of my simple caricature and overall design sense while drawing. I love seeing this type of work and plan on doing more simple cartoon work in the future.

I've been asked about this style a few times, and it's been referenced as direction for commissions. Here is one example where an actor asked for me to basically replicate the look of my own caricature on my website. It was to be used in a similar fashion on his own promotional material. He provided nearly a dozen reference photos with specific preferences and direction.

From there, I did some sketching until I was happy, and inked over the pencil in my sketchbook with a Faeber-Castell PITT brush pen. The drawing was then scanned and cleaned up in Adobe Photoshop and put on a separate layer to allow for it to lay on any background, giving a similar effect to my own caricature on my website.

This is just one piece that I found while browsing my backup hard drive last week. I get sad when artwork is not shared with other artists. I feel like it's lost in a hidden catalog while it could be seen by others to spur discussion, inspiration or any other reaction. I'm a big fan of sketchbooks, doodles and process. I guess that's my only point with today's blog post.


Live Caricatures #4

Here's another edition to the theme park sketch catalog. If you don't own a copy of REJECTS, this is the sort of sugar-booger love you'll find in this one-of-a-kind book, so get your copy soon!

(psst! I'm peppering new links to great friends and great blogs every now and then, so take a look at these wonderful artists' work, over here to the right!) >>>

These were drawn in California in 2007 while training caricaturists on the West Coast of the US.

Here is a good-natured family with a great sense of humor. This was drawn at Legoland, if I remember correctly.

A colleague at Knott's Berry Farm western themed park in Anaheim, CA. He's got a mean (good) caricature sketch.

Here are two brothers wanting bodies that contained their excitement for the (then) recently released Spiderman movie. This was done while working with my buddy Gabe Hunt at Legoland. One wanted to be Spawn and one "black" Spiderman. They were beyond excited.

This just a kid. He was funny. It looked like he.


TI, The Game & Lil' Wayne

Seeing step-by-step processes from other artists always helps me gain an insight into the approach of a project or piece of art and offers something to learn, even if small. I like to offer my own process from time to time with an effort to give back to others the way my colleagues and friends have generously given to me.

Here I will show stages of an illustration job for VIBE magazine. I was called to do an spot featuring three rappers, poking fun of their run-ins with the law just after appearing on the cover of Vibe. It is a joke they were making about a 'Vibe Curse', of sorts. The art director wanted a painted and fairly rendered or 'realistic' look to the piece, and cited a couple pieces I'd done in the past as reference. I was given about 36 hours to work on this illustration and I put in almost 18 hours of work.

Starting with a thumbnail for approval, the idea was to show them with a sign board in a group mugshot with a tag line on the board. I sketched how I would exaggerate them, showed the art director and began sketching.

As you can see, my sketches (for the purpose of speed and ease, with such a short deadline) were done separately. This way I could focus on the structure, likenesses, pose and expression and digitally compose the image later.

Once I reached a point where there was enough information to start painting, I brought all the elements together and roughly sketched out the rest in Photoshop. Switching the drawing to a "multiply" layer, I could add color beneath it and give an overall base to start painting with. Once I got approval from the art director, it was a straight 12 or more hours of digital painting.

I knew that the photos had different lighting and color treatment, so to unify them I started with a monochromatic palette that I would use as a base, mostly to give the illusion of one consistent light warmth and environment. I shaped the lighting in the drawing a little differently than the separate reference photos to help convince the viewer that they are 'together'. You may ask why not just find reference of each with a similar light source? That is a great point, however the art director and I felt that a certain expression for each personality would sell the comedy of the piece more, and finding those expressions was not an easy task, limiting what photos I had to work with (two of the three rarely make these sorts of faces rather than their PR poses).

Here you can see the level of detail in the piece. Nothing too meticulous, but when printed at 4-5" wide it will look very detailed. This is before any color variation (except for the irises), using just the monochromatic palette as a start.

Once I reached a point where the heads were nearly finished, the details of tattoos, lips, eyes, shadows and other color variations were added to complete the heads. This was the focus of the piece, so I wanted to get it done to a certain level of detail before moving forward with the rest of the painting.

Here it is about 90% finished. The marks on the wall were added in a separate layer in Photoshop and punched back a bit later, and more details like jewelry, clothing and tattoos were added before finishing.

And here is the final illustration. To be honest, I'm not completely satisfied with it, but considering the tight deadline it worked out alright.