Monday, December 26, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Lobster Tale

A picture is worth a thousand words,
which is fortunate, since I have nothing to add.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Merry Christmas to Me

I just learned that I've been nominated for an Annie Award for my work on Arthur Christmas. It's very exciting indeed but I would be remiss if I didn't insert a reminder here about the process of bringing
these characters to the screen. Getting a workable design on paper is just the beginning. After all the off- the- cuff doodles are created and culled, the real work of sculpting, modeling, furring, surfacing, rigging, animating and lighting has yet to be done. Overseeing all of that on Arthur Christmas was a fellow named Tim Watts, who I'm been told is a great guy and who did a really wonderful job of translating my scribbles into something animatable. So win or lose, I have Tim and the rest of the crew at Sony/Aardman to thank in getting this far.
And as they say, even if I don't win,
it's an honor just to be animated.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

HUGO (Cabret)

We just went to see the NY premiere of Martin Scorcese's HUGO (Academy member perk!) and I have to say, it's a beautiful film. Watching it was a little bittersweet for me though, having been briefly involved with another film version of the same story a couple of years ago. That one was to be directed by a good friend of mine but for reasons I may never know, it was not to be. And while I am certain his Hugo have been absolutely wonderful, I have to hope the very best for Scorcese's. It's a children's film that doesn't pander to current trends in this genre. No sidekicks, wisecracks or fart jokes. Magic and Wonder serve just fine here.
HUGO is also a love letter to cinema and it's easy to see why Scorcese was drawn to it. At the story's center, is the early twentieth century film pioneer, George Melies, who is credited with being the first director to recognize the inherent power of film to create truly fantastic imagery. The image of a rocket crashing into the eye of the man in the moon from his "A Trip to the Moon" is one of the most famous icons in cinema history.
My job on the unfilmed version version of Hugo Cabret was to design the automaton in the story; a nineteenth century mechanical man made of metal and clockwork and magic.

By the way, before running out to see the film, first do yourself a favor and get the original story written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. It's a gorgeous and unique hybrid of text and illustration which in itself is a very cinematic experience. Not a novel or a graphic novel-- but something in between.

And finally, if you want to learn more about George Melies and the restoration of a recently rediscovered color print of Melie's "A Trip to the Moon" take a look at Serge Bromberg's fascinating documentary, The Extraordinary Voyage.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Arthur Christmas

Arthur Christmas is a combined effort from Sony and Aardman Animation. I haven't seen it yet, but enjoyed shifting gears and drawing characters without fur for a change.
Or at least, not a lot of fur.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Not so intelligent design

Apparently, scientists have unearthed fossils of what CNN has rather dubiously described as a saber-toothed squirrel.
If they can use it for their blog, I'm damn well using it for mine!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Edward Sorel, a Retrospective at the School of Visual Arts

I've been meaning to tell you about a retrospective of one of my true heroes, Edward Sorel, that is now hanging at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

As an art student fresh out of high school in the late '70's, I was slowly becoming more and more aware of artwork outside of comic books and paperback covers. Before too long, I found myself introduced to the work of Ed Sorel and began a long and successful campaign of studying and stealing from him. There was an energy and fearlessness in his line work that was irresistible to me. How could anyone draw so loosely and yet so sculpturally at the same time? His pictures looked as if Giacometti had discovered spectacles and a sense of humor.

In so many ways, Sorel's work has been a kind of life raft for me. As I groped to find my own style and fought the temptation to render things to a rigor mortis finish, his illustrations were always a reminder to me of the beauty in errant lines; the ones you have to put down on the page while you search for your subject. I have always loved drawings that reveal that process. You can see it in Kley and Rowlandson in their finished work and of course in Daumier's ,but you will find it in just about everyone's preliminary drawings. The difference is that too often, those beautiful mistakes are sandblasted away in the final product. I always took the presence of those lines in Sorel's work as an act of bravery and it took me a long time to forgive myself and embrace the imperfections of my own drawings. In truth, I am rarely satisfied with my finished pieces but if any of them do actually retain a heartbeat, there is a good chance that I had pulled a book of Sorel drawings off the shelf to help me find my way.

If you are in New York City before November 5th you have a unique opportunity to see a huge retrospective of Sorel's work. I think you will be dazzled by it and hopefully emboldened, too. You may discover that there is a lot to be said about working with real pen and real ink without the dangerous luxury of "command z". Working on the computer has its endless advantages, of course, but it can sometimes make things just a little too easy to fix.

As a wonderful extra to the show, Leo Sorel, Ed's son and a great photographer in his own right, has created a short film about his father's life and work. Apart from interviewing a handful of artists who both know Ed and admire his work- Milton Glaser, Jim McMullan, Jules Feiffer and myself (I was honored to be asked) we also get to see Sorel actually composing a piece from start to finish. Even for such a longtime fan as myself, it was astonishing to see him working up there without a net and without so much as a preliminary pencil sketch to guide him.
Just the pen, the ink and the paper and whatever came next.

For more info, go here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

John Kascht

I've always had some difficulty with the term, "master class", as it is often a little too liberally applied to instructors who might not be quite so masterful. Well, for once, I can use the appellation with utter conviction when I talk about John Kascht and his film,"Funny Bones". It's a short, incredibly incisive deconstruction on the art of caricature. In it, Kascht diligently analyzes every peak and valley of the topography that makes up the face of comedian, Conan O'Brien. And while it has plenty of delightful time lapse sequences of John sketching, painting and even sculpting, the piece is not about technique per se. It's really a rumination on the art of capturing a likeness and more importantly, the essence of a subject. He reminds us that caricature is not distortion for distortion's sake, but rather an amplification of those features that reveal what is unique about that particular person. There is plenty to marvel at in Funny Bones and if you are trying to learn something about capturing a personality on paper, go here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Old Photos

As I thumb through books of old photos, I can hardly resist a quick drawing of some of the long-gone faces I see in them. This time I didn't resist at all. The sketch is based on a fragment of a larger scene depicting Londoners enjoying an afternoon on a merry-go-round, sometime during the 1920's. She's having the time of her life.
I wonder how the rest of it went.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


Here's another peek at the Dickens series. It's not much, but it does mean I don't have to post anything for another week, and that's good enough for me!

Friday, September 9, 2011


Two smart guys, Gerald Guerlais and Dice Tsutsumi are chatting one day and think: Hey, let's have a beautiful blank sketchbook made and then send it out, artist to artist, country to country until the whole damned thing is filled with beautiful drawings! We'll call it Sketchtravel and go to a top flight publisher and have them publish a limited facsimile of the book! Oh, Oh! Then let's auction the original sketchbook at some high dollar auction house in Brussels and GIVE ALL THE MONEY AWAY TO CHARITY!!!
They're very excitable guys, but when they have an idea, they get it done.
Check out their website here and take a look at the fabulous roster of artists they wrangled to appear in the book. Here's a sampling off the top of my head:
Carlos Nine
Carter Goodrich
Ronnie Del Carmen
Rebecca Dautremer
Hayao Miyazaki
Follow this link to a snappy little video about the adventures of the book itself!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Not so Hard Times

Here's one of eight pieces I am working on, showcasing the main characters from some of Charles Dicken's most famous works. They will appear on new paperback editions being published by Random House sometime next year. It wouldn't be quite truthful to call this work, given how much I am enjoying doing them. And although the drawings will be used rather small in the context of the cover design, I think the whole package will make a handsome series.
Above is Josiah Bounderby from Hard Times.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


So sue me. I was on vacation!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

That Nasty Baggins

I had forgotten how much I loved The Hobbit. This weekend I picked it up again and was transported back to the very first time I read it as a teenager. My sister, Paula, had loved Tolkien's books ferociously and from time to time would try to get me to draw an accurate hobbit. She would give me a detailed description which was deeply engraved in her memory after multiple readings and I would set to the task, determined to dazzle her with my genius. She loved me very much and was a staunch supporter of my work even back then, but I never could draw a hobbit that she liked. I'm certain if she were to see this drawing, it would be no exception. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago but I think of her as I read every page and it's made this visit to Middle Earth that much richer for me.
That's the beauty of this book and all books, I suppose. When we read them we paint our own landscapes and cast our own characters and woe to any fool who thinks he can just whip out a sketch and say "here's your hero!"
It's doomed to failure, really.

On the other hand, I did promise a sketch a week.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I began this sketch as I often do, with the eyes, and it led me here.
Where exactly "here" is, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Jabba the Husband

As I've said before, I am not a Star Wars geek.
But this just came to me and I thought it was funny.
I could be wrong.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Ugly Fisherman

I wrote a tiny little fable called The Ugly Fisherman, and someday I may just illustrate it. In the meantime, here is the drawing that inspired it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Once a week. There, I said it.

I've been pretty lazy about posting in the last several months, so in an attempt to keep me honest, I am going to try and post something at least once a week. For the most part, I'm sure they will just be sketches, but even that will be a vast improvement over my track record of late. So here's a sketch, "Brought Low" because to quote Dylan, "the first one now will later be last".
Always a good thing to keep in mind.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Despite my best efforts to push through the limited edition of "Easy Being Green it is Not" it looks as though the print may never see the light of day. According to my contact at Acme Archives (the folks who would handle production and distribution), LucasFilm is reluctant to grant permission for it's release. It might have something to do with the fact that Kermit is in the scene and he is not part of the Lucas Empire, which I suppose could be a copyright issue. It makes no sense to me, since THEY HAVE ALREADY PUBLISHED IT, but there you are.
So please accept my apologies for letting this drag on so long and if there are any positive developments, I will surely let you know.


The second edition of A Sketchy Past is now available from Stuart Ng books or directly from the North American distributor, SCB. Apparently any number of copies can be ordered, from a single book to a thousand.
Buy a thousand.


I will be speaking at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Thursday, July 7th at 5:30pm about my experiences working with Blue Sky Studio and about my work in animation in general. This is part of a series of talks that will be given as part of the ongoing Art of Blue Sky Exhibit.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Art of Blue Sky Studios at the Norman Rockwell Museum

Despite the fact that it has produced some of the most successful animated films of all time (the Ice Age franchise, Robots, Horton Hears a Who and Rio), Blue Sky Studios has toiled in relative anonymity compared to it's giant cousins, Pixar, Dreamworks and Disney. For whatever reason, 20th Century Fox, Blue Sky's mothership, has chosen not to showcase the Blue Sky "brand". But maybe with the advent of a well deserved retrospective at the Norman Rockwell Museum, they are finally changing their minds.
The show will include samples of work from every step of the process that goes into making a digitally animated feature, from the early sketchy stages of development to the highly burnished, finished animation that appears on screen. On the walls and on monitors throughout the exhibition will be examples of early character designs, sculptures and watercolor studies many of which were created using traditional materials. And of course, the technical wizardry will be on full display as well, deconstructed for the viewer to help convey both the imagination and complexity that goes into the epic undertaking that is an animated feature film.
For me though, the main purpose of a show like this is to finally reveal to the public the individual geniuses that contribute to make these films what they are. For instance, by the time the film appeared on the screen, the gorgeous watercolor story-moments created for Robotsby Greg Couch (see above) three years before, were only a fleeting memory and only to those who were directly involved in the production. But anyway, it's a slippery slope for me to try and list the individual talents because virtually everyone who works on a Blue Sky film is indispensable. And though they may be lost in the all too brisk credit scroll, at least now there will be a chance to freeze the frame and savor their work at your leisure. Bewildering as it is, there has only been one Art of book dedicated to a Blue Sky film and that was for Robots. Short of that, this will be the very best way to get a true overview of what makes Blue Sky the great animation studio that it is.
Incidentally, the Norman Rockwell Museum is well worth the visit even without the lure of a Blue Sky show. It is situated just outside the town of Stockbridge, Mass., an absurdly picturesque hamlet that Rockwell made his home and which was the subject of many of his paintings. The museum is a world class venue and has a constantly revolving display of many of the finest paintings and drawings Rockwell ever created. And though not in it's original location, Rockwell's original studio/barn has been transplanted to one of the rolling hills that make up the estate upon which the museum sits.
From the Ice Age to the Digital Age-The Art of Blue Sky Studios opens on June 11th. For more info, go here.