Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I won't bother trying to describe how hard it is to lose a dog like Darla. Let it suffice to say that she was one of those dogs that people loved, even people who think of themselves as not-the-dog-loving-type. The fact that she was a pit bull, that most maligned of breeds and could still enchant even the most dog phobic among our friends, speaks volumes about her charm and sweetness of character.
From the moment we spotted her twelve years ago on a cold and rainy night in Brooklyn, clicking down the middle of Court Street, she had us. Or perhaps I should say she had me. Randall and I were with four friends and had just left a movie theater where we saw Sheakespeare in Love. As we all climbed into our beat up station wagon we spotted her coming down the middle of the street, skeletal, soaked, without a collar and clearly lost; her enlarged teats told us she was also a mother separated from her pups. For some reason, I'll never know why, I immediately jumped out of the car and followed her, Randall calling after me. I trotted slowly down the street alongside her until gently cornering her in a doorway. In retrospect, cornering a starving pit bull was probably not the cleverest thing I could have done, but somehow I got her to trust me. She was shy and tentative but made no objection as I picked her up and carried her back to our wagon.
The plan, or so I convinced Randall, was to bring her home for JUST ONE NIGHT, until we could place her with a family who could actually take in a dog. We already had three cats, so it was OBVIOUS that it wouldn't be us. My friends were all sitting in the car when I closed the back hatch, and I must admit that I did picture for an instant the kind of scene you might see in a movie like Cujo- the car rocking back and forth with screams and windows splashed with blood. As it turned out,for all those years we had her in our family, she never once demonstrated anything approaching ferocity and was an eager friend to any child, man or cat that she met. She was armed to the teeth, so to speak, but just didn't know it.
Darla was a walking cartoon and my four legged muse. I have used her in many of my drawings and if I hadn't seen her with my own eyes, I would say that she was a cartoon cliche to be avoided. She had a black patch over one eye and looked for all the world like Petey from the Little Rascals serials of my childhood. Naturally, calling her Petey would have presented obvious difficulties so we went with the name of another character in the series, Alfalfa's object of desire, Darla.
I used Darla in as many pictures as I could, whenever a canine was needed (often even when one was not). I've included some photos here along with a few of the drawings she still inhabits.
She was the sweetest, gentlest, funniest dog I ever knew and an important member of our family. Randall, Paulina, Fia and I are are all heartbroken, but we know how lucky we were to have her in our lives.
She was, quite simply, the best.
Monday, March 22, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Who would have thought that there exists an actual conference devoted to the art of character design. Not me, but what do I know? I've recently been invited to attend the Pictoplasma weekend in Berlin to share my thoughts on character design, my influences and how I go about it. I am one of the more decidedly commercial artists to appear there judging from the gamut of bizarre and beautiful work represented on their website. I am very excited about the weekend and look forward to meeting character designers from all over the planet (and other planets, from the look of things).
My trip is sponsored by my friends at Hornet Inc. with whom I've collaborated on several television commercials.
The conference runs from April 9th to the 11th.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Over the years I have been repeatedly impressed and humbled by the spirit of generosity so many of my friends at Blue Sky have exhibited. Whether it involves charities for the disenfranchised or green initiatives for the sake of the environment, Blue Skyers always step up. Below is a dramatic demonstration of this spirit taken to an astonishing level. I've cut and pasted the information so as not to dilute or confuse it's content.
Two colleagues at Blue Sky Studios, David LaMattina and Chad Walker, have created a feature-length documentary about a pen pal program between a group of at-risk sixth graders living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn and orphans from the war living in Freetown, Sierra Leone. This Postcard Art project is an extension of the their film "Brownstones To Red Dirt" which features children from both schools. The kids in both places have inspired us all to want to do more and so we're putting together an art auction of original postcards based around the same central theme of the film in a fundraising effort to build a school for the orphans in Freetown, Sierra Leone and create a library for the youth at their school in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn.
I also want to mention Vicki Saulls, one of our great sculptors at Blue Sky, who has taken on the daunting task of launching and overseeing the auction.
It's taking place at this very moment, and not surprisingly, my entry above, is the very last to be submitted. If you want to help this very worthy cause and at the same time, jump start your art collection, go here.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
One of the most enjoyable (and yes, sometimes horrifying) things about working in animation is seeing my work in the hands of other artists. Top among these pleasures is seeing a drawing translated into sculpture. I've worked with some great modelers at Blue Sky Studios over the years and I can easily say that finding a character in clay is one of the most exciting parts of the process. It requires a respectful dialogue between the designer and sculptor and a lot of trust. I am the first to admit that my designs are often too loose to sculpt with any real accuracy. They are sometimes cavalier little doodles that look good on the page, but offer little in the way of solid information for the purposes of translating it to three dimensions. That's where the sculptor's skill comes in. He or she needs to be able to interpret the sketch and somehow wrestle it into our reality. Alena Wooten, one of Blue Sky's top sculptors, seems to be refining that skill every day. She came into the studio recently and unvieled this beautiful piece which I had been completely unaware of until that moment. She based it on a little drawing I published in a collection of sketches several years ago and I am truly impressed by the result. I am usually standing over the sculptor's shoulder niggling over every last detail, but this appeared fully realized, with nary a peep from me. The dog is not quite finished but after some convincing, Alena allowed me to share it with you.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
I've heard people say that it can be intimidating drawing someone on the subway. What if they look up and see you drawing them? These days, you need never fear. NOBODY LOOKS UP ANYMORE. Everyone's face is so deeply buried in his gadget, you can do a sculpture if you feel like it.
I'm not an expert at drawing from life, but here is a tidbit I am relearning. When you are drawing someone from life, don't look away from your figure for more than a dot or a dash. Don't look at the nose and say to yourself, "now I will spend some time drawing a nose, because I remember how to draw a nose." You have to study every curve and taper in it because each line will be unique to that nose, the way each person's nose is unique to his face. You have to draw it as if it's the very first nose you have ever seen.
This is what I keep telling myself, anyway.