Thursday, December 31, 2020

NEA TODAY

Another of my complex educational illustrations was the above piece which was featured in a spread in NEA Today, the magazine of The National Educational Association.  For this piece, I was contacted by Jay Groff of Groff Creative, a terrific design studio that produces the magazine.  Jay had seen an illustration I did years ago for a series of McGraw-Hill adult education books called "Short Cuts" on my page at the apparently now defunct TopIllustrations.com, and wanted something similar for an article on how the results of the mid-term elections could impact schools.  

This was once again an intricate illustration depicting all of the classes, departments, and issues that could be cut or diminished if the wrong candidates were elected. Funding for libraries, art classes, cafeterias, transportation, and much more was at stake. There were many details to include, from the school nurse's facilities to a transgender restroom. I managed to include some cameo appearances by family and friends, including my oft-depicted friend Dave Leblanc (seen here in a very old Niles Nemo adventure) and my wonderful High School art teacher Frank Petronzio. Once again, the results were a success. NEA Txxxxxoday Magazine can be accessed here: https://www.nea.or g/publications As always, click on the images to see the larger version.

DAVE GOES TO OXFORD!

Actually, it was more like Oxford came to me. On a few occasions over the years, I've had the pleasure of producing art for Oxford University Press. Sometimes, that has happened through the auspices of design studios. Last time around, I was  contacted by Blue Bamboo Studios, a London firm that was packaging an educational textbook for Oxford. The art was an approximately 2/3 page image featuring a whole lot of goings-on in a shopping mall. One of the major points of the lesson was demonstrating proximity. Stores and mallgoers needed to be shown directly across from, or next to, or above other shops, restaurants, etc., even including an ice skating rink full of skaters. So, to that end, I decided it would be necessary to eschew my usual oblique perspective approach, which I usually use when showing large complex scenes and use parallel pespective instead. That way there would be no confusion as to what was where in relationship to everything else. I plotted out the perspective in blue line before penciling the finished sketch, which is something I very rarely do. As you can see from the illustration above, there was a lot of detailed information to fit into the scene, and I spent a lot of time tightening up the signage to make it as legible as possible. Friends and family made their usual cameo appearances. I missed angling the vertices like I usually do, but everyone was quite pleased with the results. I was paid in Pounds, and once again fancied myself a Rhodes Scholar, having tended to, if not attended, Oxford University!

Monday, December 30, 2019

LOGOS, WE GOT LOGOS!

About half a lifetime ago, in addition to being a freelance illustrator, I "daylighted" as an art director for a couple of ad agencies and one TV station (Assistant A/D there, to be precise. I was right out of college.). As such, I often wore many hats. Among other things, I did layouts ("marker comps" in those days), art directed photo-shoots, sometimes did the photography myself, did type specs and paste-up (in the pre-digital days of galleys, Xacto-knives and rubber cement), was a sound engineer and occasional voice actor for radio spots and audio-visual productions, provided in-house illustrations, and once in a while designed logos for a host of clients. All that lasted about 10 years, and then I went strictly freelance and have remained as such ever since. The bulk of my work has consisted of illustrations in the ensuing decades, but there has occasionally been some graphic design to be done. See here for some examples of characters, cover design and logos for Nestle Corporation. I've also created several logos for my own projects such as The Nowhere-Men™, and these comic covers for Joe Comet™, and Hour Father™.

So, when nearly a decade ago, Comicopia, the local comic book store where I had shopped since it opened up (now over 30 years ago!), sponsored a contest for a new logo design for their store, I decided I was uniquely qualified to give it a go. My entry is posted above. I took a very ad agency approach to the project. The design is deceptively complex. The letter forms are all reminiscent of various comic book logos, some, like the two "C's," have roots in Artie Simek's Marvel Comics logos such as "Thor" and "The Fantastic Four." The "I" recalls horror comics of the 1950's. Others are more in the style of funny animal comics. The panels behind the lettering separate each syllable as each depicts a specific genre of comics, to wit: Humor, Superhero, Mystery, Science Fiction, and Manga. Comicopia specializes in Manga, so that was essential to the mix. I did my research and synthesized a couple of characters in a typical Manga style. You can see echoes (but not strict copies) of Disney, Archie, and even R Crumb in Panel 1. I downplayed the superheroes a bit, only showing a fist, a cape and a boot in Panel 2. The others are pretty much all from my imagination, though that fedora-sporting fellow might be related to The Phantom Stranger, The Spirit, The Shadow, or even Steve Ditko's The Mysterious Traveler!  And for the record, the lettering (and the rest of the line art) was all done the old-fashioned way, by hand with pens on paper.

Well, long story short, I was the front runner until the last day of the contest when a quirky little treatment caught the eyes of the staff, and I became the runner-up. Their current logo is far less specific and literal, and they've done well with it. Nevertheless, I am very proud of my design, and thought it was about time the general public had a chance to see it. And there you go!  Click on the image for the big picture.

CAMBODIAN YOUTH SELF-HELP BOOK

I've been meaning to post this image and story for some time. A few years back, I was contacted by John Pavese, an author and publisher for whom I had illustrated a couple of book covers in the past, to create an image for the cover of a new book he and his wife Sokhary Kong Pavese had produced for a young, native Cambodian audience. The book "Make Your Luck, A Cambodian Teenagers’ Guide to Success" is designed to help young, mostly teenage Cambodians achieve a better life for themselves through learning simple skills that will help them adapt from their predominantly rural upbringings to the changing, more industrialized country Cambodia is becoming. It also projects a philosophy that "success at any cost" will not produce a happy outcome. The book warns the readers to be careful of the corruption that infects much of modern Cambodian society on many levels. The author, Sokhary Kong Pavese grew up in rural Cambodia on a rice farm. She worked for four years in Cambodian factories after high school before attending university. As Chairman of John Givonetti Giving (JGG), a Cambodian based charity, she has personally helped thousands of Cambodian teenagers develop the skills needed to be successful. The text of "Make Your Luck" is written in both English and Khmer.

For more on John Givonetti Giving, a wonderful charitable organization, see here.  JGG founder John Pavese is the nephew of John Givonetti, for whom the JGG is named, and who spent his life quietly performing charitable acts benefiting people around the world. More on Mr. Givonetti can be found here, and a detailed and moving obituary is located here.

John Pavese and I worked closely on the cover illustration, which depicts two young Cambodians and their water buffalo against a rural native background. Despite its outwardly appearing simplicity, I carefully researched each element in order to distill the concept down to an accurate image. The illustration, for the record, is rendered in my Cartoon Style 2, which I have utilized for many educational projects.

The book is available for purchase here.

Friday, December 28, 2018

STAN LEE'S BIRTHDAY!

Today is Stan Lee's birthday. I can't add much to what I said in my previous post, but I wanted to do something to commemorate this day. I don't know if Stan was a drinking man or not, but here's a toast to his memory. The glass in the photo is a souvenir from Newbury Comics from Boston Comic Con 2015. That was when and where I finally was able to meet my life-long hero. Every time I've drunk from that glass, I've thought of Stan. I've surrounded the glass with a selection of Stan's books. Here's to you Stan! A toast with love and grateful appreciation. And one last "EXCELSIOR!"

Monday, December 24, 2018

STAN LEE - THE PASSING OF A HERO

There is a hole in the universe where a man once stood, or more accurately sat, behind a typewriter, tirelessly creating that very universe that he and countless millions of avid devotees inhabited for many decades. I, myself, inhabited that universe for more than fifty years before finally meeting my hero, Stan Lee, for a few brief but indelibly memorable and indubitably magical moments only three years ago. Our quick exchange (the line for the photo shoot snaked far out of sight) allowed me to thank him for that 50 years that so immeasurably influenced my life and career, and Stan (Mr. Lee, I called him) thanked me! Legends live forever in our hearts and memories, and no one could ever leave a greater and more lasting legacy than The Man without whom, the comics industry itself may have withered and died. Unfortunately, all men must depart our world, even the long-lived and and in-all-ways-but-one immortal Stan Lee. The news hit me like a blow from Thor's hammer when I heard of his passing, and I've been slow to adjust to a world without Stan Lee in it.

As for the above image, it's my guess that when the also recently and sadly departed Steve Ditko fashioned the hand gestures that were used by both Spider-Man to shoot his webs and Doctor Strange to conjure spells, he probably didn't know that it was also sign language for "I love you." In my illustration, some of Stan's most famous characters pay tribute to their creator. I included a certain shield-slinger because, though he was created by two other guys, Stan Lee's first published story at Timely Comics (seen here and here) was in Captain America #3, and also because Stan's 1960's revival of the character really brought him to life, in more ways than one.

One of the challenges in executing an illustration is knowing when to stop. I thought about including an image of Stan in the night sky above his creations, or perhaps his signature in the stars, but ultimately I decided he would be more conspicuous by his absence, which after all, is the sad point of this tribute.

To paraphrase one of Stan's most enduring proclamations, "With great responsibility comes great power!" Throughout his career, Stan gained the power to touch and influence the lives of countless millions of people world-wide. He did so with grace, humor, integrity, and vision. Never has there has been, nor ever again will there be another like him. Thank you Mr. Lee, and of course, "EXCELSIOR!"

Saturday, December 15, 2018

A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS FROM BOBBY KEYES!


Man, time sure flies, doesn't it?? It's been nearly two years since my last blog post, and a full eight years since I first posted my retro-cartoon style rendition of Bobby Keyes, which was designed to be the cover of his Christmas album, way back in 2010. At the time, Bobby had recorded several tracks, but needed a few more to flesh out the album. A few months back, he contacted me to see if I could send him the cover art again, as he had finally completed 10 tracks and was at long last ready to release the CD. I was delighted to do so, and added some tonalities and textures to the guitar and chair, which I thought added to the piece, and also removed the Santa hat, which Bobby didn't feel was quite his style. That was easy, as I'd had the foresight to render it on a separate layer in Photoshop just in case. Bobby's son Django did the graphic design for the CD, and it's now available for your listening pleasure. And what a pleasure it is! Perfect for playing while wrapping or unwrapping presents, enjoying a fine holiday feast or just unwinding after the big day. Bobby is as brilliant a guitarist as you'll hear anywhere, and his arrangements are beautiful, intriguing, and engaging. If you think you don't need to hear another Christmas album, I invite you to think again.

And Happy Holidays to all!