Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thank you.

And by the way, thank you very much, all of you who have written in, for your very kind words and encouragement.  I really didn't know what to expect from this blogging thing and it's a huge relief to know I'm not just talking to myself.

A Blue Sky Evening

I'm honored to have been invited by Blue Sky Studios and the Society of Illustrators of New York to host a presentation on Thursday, September 24th at the Society, describing Blue Sky's process of animating Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs . With the help of my four supremely talented Blue Sky pals-

Mr. Michael Defeo -Sculpting Supervisor

Mr. Michael Knapp -Art Director

Mr.Tony Maki - Story Artist

Mr. Galen Chu - Supervising Animator

we'll take you step by step in the development of a single character- Buck, the slightly unhinged weasel, and the sequence "Campfire", one of the most dramatic and hilarious of the film. We'll show you Buck's development from my designs on paper, to modeling him in clay and computer, to storyboards and finally, to the fully animated sequence. The evening will end with a Q&A followed by drinks at the Society's bar where you'll also have the pleasure of being surrounded with work by some of the masters of illustration like Norman Rockwell (his stagecoach mural hangs over the bar!), Winsor McCay and Harvey Dunn among others.

I hope some of you can make it.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, pt.1

As you may have noticed, a movie called Ice Age, Dawn of the Dinosaurs came out this summer and seems to still be doing very well at the box office. It's animated by the truly incredible Blue Sky Studios and typical of them, they have raised the bar once again. They simply get better and better with every film.
This is now the third in the Ice Age series for which I designed all of the characters and I can honestly say, I never get tired of the process. The thrill of creating these characters begins at the very beginning of pre-production when I am handed a rough outline of the story. I begin thinking about how I might portray the new characters being introduced. This really is the most exciting time in the production for me. Basically, I'm given a blank page and am let loose. So little has been decided upon at this point that there is plenty of room to suggest whatever comes to mind. I spend a few weeks just spitballing. I pore over my books and go to the American Museum of Natural History here in New York and look for inspiration. In the case of the dinosaurs for instance, I simply used the fossil record as a menu and chose my favorite saurians, a la carte. For a character designer, this is pure joy. Essentially my assignment is to have fun and doodle. And that's exactly what I did. At this stage, a character might be chosen by the director (in this case, the great Carlos Saldhana) to develop further and things will begin to move more slowly. Much time will be spent trying to bring that little offhand doodle to life in three dimensions, but more about that in a later post.

Below are some exploratory sketches you may not have seen before , some of which will be included in A Sketchy Past.
I hope you like them.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Sketchy Past, The Art of Peter de Sève

I'm glad I waited so long to start a blog. Listing all of these things that took so many years to come to fruition might actually make me appear prolific.

Sadly, this is far from the truth.

A Sketchy Past, The Art of Peter de Sève will also be published this October, by Edition Akileos, a French publisher best known for their hardcover collections of bande dessinees (comics, in europeanese) in partnership with Galerie Arludik, a gallery in Paris which specialize in artwork created for animation, film and books (more on all of these wonderful people later).

The book will be a hardcover of about 240 pages, full color finishes and offhand doodles and preliminary sketches throughout. Amid Amidi, an accomplished author with many fine books to his credit and a very popular blog called cartoonbrew provided a great introduction. Chris Wedge, the director of the original Ice Age film, was kind enough to write a very flattering foreword for which I am very grateful. For a preview of the book, please go here:

Copies should be available sometime in October through Stuart Ng books and Bud Plant Illustrated Books among others.

Like the children's book, this is another project I put off for several years, but I'm very glad I did. If I had succeeded in putting together a similar book all those years ago, it would have been premature and showed it. This is not to say that I really have done enough work to warrant anything that resembles a retrospective, but at least there is enough material now and enough variety in the work to make it seem worthwhile to some degree. With Ice Age, The Dawn of the Dinosaurs completing the trio of those films, The Duchess of Whimsy and a book of sketches under my belt, at least I won't feel there are any gaping holes in the book. And if it does fall short in some way for its audience (whomever that might be), it at least accomplishes something important for me personally. I've come to think of A Sketchy Past, only half jokingly, as the "End of Part One" of my artistic life. Fifty years is a long time for one chapter, but perhaps, if I can put all of this work behind me, I'll be more open to bigger and more challenging artistic opportunities in the next fifty years. On the other hand, I might just curl up in a ball with a bottle in my fist and pore over the book every night, wondering whether I'll ever be able to draw again.

It's a disquieting thing to see so much of one's work collected in one place; trapped in amber for all to examine. No longer is there an impression of a career, flattered by the viewer's unreliable memory. It's just there, trapped between the covers.
Despite all of this handwringing though, I am delighted with the finished result (at least in it's present pre-printed state) mostly due to the superbly elegant job done by Lori Barra, the book's designer and one of my dearest friends on the planet. A collection like this, a retrospective (unintended as it was), is not something that should be dashed off by an acquaintance. The entire undertaking is heavily weighted with emotion. From self doubt to nostalgia to the stark realization that so much of your life can fit in so few pages; this kind of project should only be done with the help of a very close friend and an expert off-the-ledge-talker. I can't imagine having done it with any one who didn't know me as well as Lori. And anyone who knows Lori, knows that her patience is legendary. She will be mortified to read this but she is known by some as St. Barra. But even someone like her, so Zen and soaked in green tea, would find herself with an uzi in a shopping mall after the punishing months of flipflopping, second guessing and self flagellation that I put her through-on literally, a daily basis.

All of this is secondary however to what makes Lori the excellent designer she is. The book is my dream of the book. It breathes and flows so well because of every minute choice she so carefully and lovingly made; from the fonts, to the witty and playful combination of images- both literal and subliminal. Her personal investment is evident on every page-in the care she put in choosing the paper stock and color of ink, to her agonizing over a 2% difference in opacity of a color, undetectable by a mere mortal's eye. It is a very pleasant book to dip in to and honestly, when it comes to art books, aren't we all just dipping in, hoping for some kind of inspiration, or at the very least, a distraction?

Or is that an awkward confession I just made?
Anyway, thank you again, Lori. As I wrote to you in my acknowledgement, the book is more than a book to me, because of you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The First Post

Well, here it is. My first blog. My first post on my first blog. I feel like I'm addressing an empty room.

Luckily, I do have a few things to mention, otherwise, why would I bother to build this digital soapbox? First and foremost, I am very happy to announce that I've finally gotten around to illustrating a children's book after many years of putting it off with the same perennial excuse: "I can't find the right story." All of that ended when my lovely wife, Randall, came up with a very charming tale she called, The Duchess of Whimsy. It had all the ingredients I was looking for in a story: absurd characters, playful language that doesn't condescend to the child, plenty of opportunities to draw animals (I'll use any excuse), and above all, a warm heart at it's core. It's a quirky love story about the Earl of Norm, a very plain and simple man who adores the Duchess of Whimsy, a beautiful and eccentric royal who has no patience for the ordinary. The book will be published by Penguin/Philomel in October 2009. Somewhere down the line, I may post some sketches and talk about developing the book and collaborating with Randall.
And yes, we're still married.
By the way, Randall has written two other books- Toy Boat, also by Penguin/Philomel and a New York Times Bestseller! Plus, another due out in January 2010, Mathilda, the Orange Ballon from Harper Collins.