Bears. Certainly ever since the days of Teddy Roosevelt when he refused to shoot a captive bear cub while on a hunting trip, (stuffed toy bears have since been called “teddy bears”), bears have held a fascination for cartoonists. Clifford K. Berryman famously represented that Roosevelt incident in one of his cartoons. I have my own fascination with them as an art subject, even to the point of once developing a newspaper comic strip about a bear – but that’s for another article at another time.
When fictionalized, bears are often big, fluffy, huggable, loveable, silly old bears. There’s a certain warmth and comfort that can be achieved with a bear. They look like gentle giants in real life, so when drawing them, many artists tend to give them a sympathetic and friendly look. Yogi Bear was constantly working it to get the pic-a-nic basket. The Jim Henson Co. creation Bear in the Big Blue House was a big, soft, friendly bear that the pre-school set really fell in love with. Even the kung fu wielding Kung Fu Panda was big, soft and loveable despite the fact that he could reign down some mighty painful kung fu awesomeness.
This past week I set about to do a series of bear character studies. I took about eighteen pages of my sketchbook to draw bears of various shapes, sizes, and styles. The goal was to explore multiple ways of creating a bear and still retain it’s friendly loveable beariness. I was pleased with the results, and plan to try it some more in the future. It was clear that there is an inexhaustible amount of ways to imagining this creature as an appealing cartoon character design.
As some of you know, I worked on the entire two season run of The Disney Channel’s pre-school show My Friends Tigger & Pooh that continues to air. I’ve even posted four pieces I did for that series on my website that you can see here:
The art I created for that show was certainly more in line stylistically with that of a comic book. I’d pencil and ink my pages by hand, then scan and color them in Photoshop. This method was suited for speed since I had to crank out about 17-20 drawings per week.
I like sketching the characters from time to time, and still get asked to do so by children (and sometimes their parents). However, I like the more classic look of a colored pencil line with a dash of watercolor paint, not that unlike the original Disney Pooh cartoons done back in the 1960s.
The following pieces are a few Pooh sketches I’ve done for friends and family that have never seen the light of day other than by whom they were intended. Tigger on top of Pooh is fresh off the drafting table this week! Enjoy.
Just a short post today honoring a very tall man – Abraham Lincoln: sixteenth President of the United States, born today in 1809. For those of you astute in the mathematical sciences, good ol’ honest Abe just hit the bicentennial mark! This month he is appearing on new postage stamps, new coins, new books, documentaries, and apparently even in my sketchbook.
I recently attended a performance of the play Arsenic and Old Lace which brought back memories from when I had acted in it myself when I attended college. This specific performance was particularly special as it was directed by and starred my friend Daniel Roebuck who is a ginormous fan of the late great Boris Karloff. Danny’s role was, of course, the part originated by Karloff on Broadway many years ago.
If you are not up on your classic movie trivia, Karloff is forever etched in the memory of horror buffs as playing the Mummy and Frankenstein’s monster in the early 1930s. In Arsenic, there was the running gag that Karloff’s character (Jonathan Brewster) looks as scary as Boris Karloff – a joke made funnier with Karloff actually in the role. So Danny had make-up that transformed his face to resemble Frankenstein/Karloff. What made the evening even a little more special was that Karloff’s daughter, Sarah, was in the audience.
Anyway, I tell you that only because that experience put my mind on a Frankenstein kick for the past few weeks. I’m toying with the idea of doing a couple of final pieces featuring the monster. For now, though, I wanted to explore how my monster might look.
Often when I begin a project, I have an image in my head that cascades forth onto the paper. Sometimes it doesn’t elegantly cascade so much as blort out, but after one or two attempts, I run with it. In approaching a character as famous as Frankenstein’s monster, a broader visual exploration seemed more tantalizing. Everyone has an idea of what this character looks like because of Karloff’s flat headed, bolts-in-the-neck, heavy lidded creepy monster. What can I bring to it?
So, the following head studies represent my own Frankenstein experiments to see what will come ALIVE! I’ve been playing around with size of nose, forehead, jaw, etc. Some are mean, some scary, some even smiling. It’s amazing that no matter what part of the face changes from sketch to sketch, each one is recognizable as Frankenstein’s monster. Goes to show there are always more solutions to a problem than the original thought in the artist’s head.
I have two great loves in life. The first – I love to draw. The second – I love to listen to music from film scores. The best is when I get to combine the two. Often, this only means that as I sit down to my drafting table, I load up the CD player and listen to the sounds of galaxies far, far away, or those of dusty sepia streets where two squinting gunmen are about to “discuss” the finer points of a disagreement, or the sounds of missions too impossible to complete. One day this past fall, these two loves collided in a big way.
I first moved to the Los Angeles area of California in 1997 to come work in the movie business. Granted, my area of expertise has always been in the world of cartooning, so who would have thought that my love of film score music would yield in anything more than a better selection in the used bins of LA’s music stores? I first began to work for Disney Feature Animation on the film Mulan. The legendary Jerry Goldsmith was writing the music for this movie, and I had the great and unexpected pleasure of meeting him a few times. And so the fever began.
In those early years with Disney, I was fortunate enough to attend scoring sessions with Mark Mancina during the making of Tarzan, and I was in the studio with Randy Newman when he recorded the opening sequence to Toy Story 2. All wonderful privileges I truly cherish. I attended music seminars, chats and concerts with Elmer Bernstein, Christopher Young, Thomas Newman and many others. Somewhere in there, I realized that while I enjoyed drawing at home listening to the work of these wonderful artists, I should sketch while actually in their presence.
Michael Giacchino is quickly becoming one of the go to guys for some really terrific film music. He got his start composing for video games like Medal of Honor and The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and moved on to television shows like Alias and LOST. His film work is as diversified as The Incredibles to Ratatouille (for which he received an Oscar nomination), to Mission Impossible III. He is really amazing. (Check out his website http://www.MichaelGiacchino.com)
I first met Michael at a concert at UCLA where he conducted a piece from his then new score to The Incredibles. It wasn’t long afterwards that I was able to attend a recording session for LOST at the famous Capitol Records building in Hollywood. It was in these very rooms that artists like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and many others had recorded their hits (a fact they don’t let you forget with all the photos on the walls). The air there was electrifying! I brought along my sketchbook, and really immersed myself in recording with a pencil those that sat before me who were recording audio digitally.
Over the years, I have been to a few sessions with Michael, and each time I take my sketchbook. This past October, an interesting opportunity arose when I attended a scoring session for the new Star Trek movie that Michael was working on for his friend and director J.J. Abrams. My friend Dan Goldwasser, from the terrific film score news website http://www.ScoringSessions.com, wanted to post some photos of the day’s events on his site. Since this new movie is not due out until May of 2009, Paramount didn’t want any photographic promos of anything related to the movie to get out too early. Michael Giacchino looked over at me and suggested that since it’s all hush-hush, maybe I could do some courtroom style drawings of the session that they could post instead.
So, that day I sketched like a madman. I sketched Tim Simonec (the orchestrator/conductor), J.J. Abrams (director), Dan Wallin (scoring mixer), Andrea Datzman and Chad Seiter (orchestrators), and Giacchino, of course. Together with the aid of Goldwasser’s terrific photos (that will probably be on his site closer to the release of the movie), I completed my “courtroom” sketches later in my studio.
Drawn with brown Prismacolor pencils, the illustrations were colored in Photoshop and made their appearance on ScoringSessions.com right before Christmas. You can see them here, but you should also see them where they were first intended at http://scoringsessions.com/news/169/
Hope you enjoy these pieces. I look forward to the next opportunity to sketch live like this!
UPDATE: APRIL 21, 2009 – As of today, photos of the actual Star Trek scoring sessions have been made public. Click HERE to see my post about the photos that includes a link to see all of them.
Welcome to this new fun-filled website I like to call a “blog”.
“Blog’?” you say? Why yes, a BLOG. It’s just a fun little term I worked up to help give a name to this type of a web diary site. Catchy, isn’t it? Use it, love it, tell your friends about it. I predict the use of the word “blog” will grow like the wild grass of the hills. Not the foothills of the Pennsylvania Poconos – no, friend – more like the wind-blown Alpian hills truly alive with the sound of music. Only time will tell.
So what, pray tell, will this blog be about? Well, to be honest, it will be all about me. That’s right, me. It’s already got my name on it, so why not keep the selfish theme going? Perhaps from time to time I’ll post some sketches, mention new projects I’ve got going, and maybe show some works in progress now and then. I hope to keep it light and airy, and make you feel good for having dropped by for a spell.
So, pull up a chair, wiggle a mouse, and enjoy the show – er, blog.