Monday, August 25, 2008

Cartoonifying Tom Cruise + R. Crumb Interview

Cartoonifying Tom Cruise

I just wrapped up this comic spread for New York Magazine last week.

I was commissioned to draw up a fictitious story about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes moving to Manhattan. The biggest challenge of the assignment was making Tom Cruise and Katie into recognizable cartoon characters.

The difference between a "normal" likeness and this sort of thing is that I need more freedom to change facial expressions and let them "mesh" with the cartoon world that the story takes place in.

(By the way, I should mention that there are some great illustrators who are able to do close likenesses and still tell stories, such as the greats Mort Drucker and Jack Davis)

Basically I wind up giving up on some degree of likeness in order to have something I can tell a story with.

I spent a lot of time doodling from pictures of Tom and Katie, trying to get a simple version of them that I felt still looked a bit like them. (I'm focusing here on Tom because I think my drawings of him were more successful.)

The hardest thing about doing likenesses, to me, is looking at the person through fresh eyes. Too often I think illustrators hear things like "Tom Cruise has a big nose." And while there's truth in it, I find that it taints any drawing I come up with and actually hurts my chance at getting a good likeness. I'm much more successful when I'm able to chip away at it with a clear mind and see for myself what stands out about the subject.

As you can see I had many, many more failures at this than successes, but the three circled in red were close enough in my opinion to move forward to inking the rest of the piece.

This issue is currently on stands, through September 7, 2008.

R. Crumb Interview

Also, this weekend I received an email from George Kennedy, who recently interviewed the legendary Robert Crumb and released a podcast. Robert Crumb is one of my all-time favorite artists, though his cynicism can be hard to swallow sometimes.

Regardless, click HERE to visit George's blog and listen to the audio!

Thanks for reading,


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Texas Monthly - Katrina

Recently I finished up this "comic" feature for Texas Monthly.

Here are the two versions. The first is my original take, the 2nd is a brighter version a the request of the Art Director, who wanted it more colorful.

Original Version:

Revised Version:

Though I think both versions look good, I'm partial to the first, which has a more serious tone about it.

I'm proud of both versions but I felt like the desaturated version challenged me more as an artist; I was working with a different color scheme than I've ever tried, and much less saturation.

One of my favorite parts of these pieces was the interior shot of the airplane. I have never really felt comfortable doing large environments (though I don't shy away from them), but on this one it really seemed to come together.

The challenging part was working with value patterns to lead the eye to the focal point. You can see from the example above I tried to put the main figures near the areas of most contrast in the chairs, as well as giving their faces more readable silhouettes than other figures in the piece.

When I went in to color it, I pushed the most saturated parts to the edges of the panel to get the viewer to look at those other parts of the panel, and to balance out the colors for both the page on its own and the spread as a whole.

Thanks for reading,

p.s. on a side note, some people left comments on the previous week's entry that were never published, or were delayed by several days. I don't know what the issue is, but they appear to be working normally this week.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Playboy spots, DPI Interview, Dark Knight wallpaper

Finally a "normal" week to post. Well, actually a bit more special than normal because I have a few things to report -- new illustrations, an interview I did for a Taiwanese magazine, and a desktop wallpaper of the Dark Knight piece I posted a couple of weeks ago--it sure beats waiting in the airport for hours on end.


These first two pieces were part of a series of 5 that I did for Playboy Magazine a little while. It was an interesting how-to article for guys about handling some tough obstacles that come up sometimes in life.

This first one is about getting your special lady to pose nude for the camera, and the second one is about how to talk to the cops when they're knocking on the door of your party.

For the sketches I actually went a little looser than usual. I've been playing with different ways of doing sketches for the last few weeks--different materials, approaches, etc.-- to try and see if I come up with any really different ideas. So far Things have been pretty much the same, but it makes the job more interesting.

In the inked versions you can see how slick I made the line. I've been progressing this way for a while now but feel the need to bust out some looser stuff soon. By the way, the lightened lines are something I started doing several months ago. I'm still not sure whether I like it that much or not. Honestly I think I prefer to leave the lines black but I don't always like how that looks.


A few weeks ago, DPI Magazine from Taiwan interviewed me for their current issue. I've only been formally interviewed about my art a small handful of times, and I'm always surprised by the questions people ask.

With these guys, it was also interesting to see what pieces they took a liking to; for example the spread I have posted here is of an image that I was never particularly struck by, but I think actually looks pretty cool the way they've layed it out. The spreads here are used by their permission and are what the feature in the magazine will look like.

Here is the the interview:

1. The angle of vision in your drawing is usually dramatic. It makes your works unique and full of tension; why do you prefer to set the view from looking down or looking up? Any purpose behind this way?

People have asked me this before and I think it’s interesting because I never consciously decide ahead of time to do that. I think the reason I tend to go for the extreme angles is just that it gives me more options compositionally; often if I’m drawing a straight-on view, I can’t get much of an environment into the image, or I’ll have to decide what to do with too much of an environment.

2. How have you developed your current style? Have your style influenced by any movie?

I try not to worry too much about “style” because I think that means death to creativity. There is definitely a process I do consistently but I try to keep it open with lots of room for experimentation.

The inspiration for working with flat colors and black line comes from my childhood obsession with comics. Right now I work that way because I like the look, it’s fast, and I can make changes quickly. There’s also some inspiration from old Disney movies and anything else I grew up with.

3. What materials or tools you usually use for creating?

I draw with a Hunt 101 quill pen and in India ink on Bristol paper and then take it into Photoshop for coloring.

4. What’s your first concern when you start out to an illustration case? What do you think it’s the most for an illustration? (Technique, color, story…etc)

The story, storytelling, and mood are my primary concerns. I love telling stories and expressing emotion on paper.

5. It seems you like to use color scheme of yellow red, it sometimes brings vintage feeling to your works. How do you decide the color for a work usually?

Sometimes I get frustrated with my color because I wish it was more “crazy,” The main reason I wind up with the colors I do is that those are what look good to me right now. One time my girlfriend asked “why don’t you use any green?” and the next piece I did was very green, but I wasn’t excited about it.

6. Your works included comic, ad and illustration; what’s the different for you to create them? Is there any particular kind or subject that you always enjoy doing?

I love making comics, but they take up far more time than regular illustration jobs. I love the work of guys like Chris Ware, Dan Clowes, Seth, and R. Crumb—so I’m always comparing what I’m doing to what they’ve done. It keeps me trying to make things better.

I really do love all kinds of subject matter with a few exceptions. When an art director wants me to do something very explicitly sexual or violent I am inclined to turn it down unless I think I can accomplish it in a classy way.

7. Please talk about the story and your creating concept of "Science" (half page for Plan Advisor, December 2007

I don’t remember what this assignment was about. Plan Advisor is an interesting magazine where the subject matter is so boring that almost anything goes, creatively. I remember that at the time I did the piece I was looking a lot at the work of the late, great Jack Kirby and was thinking of creating something with a retro sci-fi feel.

8. Recently, which work (or series of your work) is your favorite or is the one you most satisfied with? Could you share your reason with us

The job I’m most proud of is the six page comic story I did with writer Zev Borow for ESPN The Magazine’s 10th Anniversary issue. It took me a month to complete from start to finish and I had to hire an assistant to help me get it done on time. I had to condense a 12-page story of written prose into 6 comic pages, which is very difficult to do. It’s also the only job I’ve done where I got an official author credit in a major magazine.

Another job I’m proud of is the spread I did for Intelligence Report Magazine back in December, which was my first spread. It’s been selected into Communication Arts’ Illustration Annual and American Illustration and was nominated for a Society of Publication Designers award.

There’s also the three “erotic” pieces I did for Penthouse, which was the first time I got to explore that side of my art (I’d like to do it more often), and a spread that was commissioned by Playboy Magazine that wound up getting canned before it was even finished.

9. What’s your ongoing plan? What do you want to try next in the future?

I’m still very focused on my illustration career, but in the near future I want to focus more on developing some of my own comics.


Lastly, I've decided to post a link to a desktop wallpaper-size version of the Dark Knight image I did for the New Yorker a couple of weeks ago. Feel free to take it... if you still have Batman Fever.

thanks for reading,