It’s always slightly uncomfortable talking about oneself in this context. I love what I do for a living, and look forward to each new opportunity that comes my way to dissect the visual need, and come up with ideas and art to make those needs just right for clients. But to talk about oneself? You have to apply the brakes to sit here and contemplate who you are as an artist and put that into words.
Still, it is fun to show some art, and to reminisce about moments like the one below from my childhood.
Yesterday was an exciting day. The short animated film Dear Basketball won an Oscar. That means the short’s two creators got to go home with the very limited edition gold statue that the Motion Picture Academy bestows upon those deemed the best in their category. That means Kobe Bryant and Glen Keane have something new and shiny.
This was very exciting because animators don’t often get this kind of an achievement. Animation directors get them, and while Glen directed this film, he also animated it. Those are his hand-drawn pencil drawings on the screen. They weren’t animated in the computer. Pencil. Paper. That means all those camera moves whirling around a set had to be figured out with a pencil. There were no models with a computer camera spinning around. There weren’t computer models making sure the renderings of Kobe Bryant were “on model”. A man with a pencil was doing that, and filling every frame with powerful emotion through moving illustrations.
Kobe’s poem, so eloquently narrated by the author himself, was also part of that powerful emotion. It is one man’s feelings being expressed about a lifelong pursuit – a real passion. Rounding out the power was the music by none other than the great John Williams, who himself was at the ceremony last night with his 51st Oscar nomination for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Maestro Williams’ poignant music was the cherry on the top of what was a beautiful five minute experience for the audience.
Grateful to have worked with Glen in the past during my days at Disney, I’m particularly pleased to see him receive this. Hopefully you are, too. This man was behind characters you love such as Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Beast in Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin in Aladdin, Tarzan in Tarzan, Pocahontas in Pocahontas, John Silver in Treasure Planet, and he conceived, developed, and produced Tangled. Now he has made a film through his own studio, and was rewarded in this way for his efforts. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Over the past year, Bongo Comics’ Bill Morrison and I have been working on putting together a fundraiser for the National Cartoonists Society Foundation. This week we launched the auction on Ebay.
We have 85 items featuring the work of over 70 of the nation’s top cartoonists, illustrators, and animators, most of whom donated their own work to our efforts for which we thank them!
All the money raised goes to the NCS Foundation, a fully licensed 501(c)(3) charity, to help them continue their work in assisting cartoonists in need, providing scholarships to students, and further promoting the cartoon arts which has been the hallmark of the National Cartoonists Society since its inception in 1946.
To see the art and to place bids, CLICK HERE to go directly to the NCS Foundation seller page on Ebay!
Yesterday I wrote about an issue close to my heart, artists’ rights. Copyright for creative content is a vitally important thing for an artist. It is the only legal thing in place that is supposed to protect our creativity from being taken away by others which subverts the artist’s ability to make a living. If an artist cannot make a living with their art, then they lose the time to bring more creative joy and innovation to the world. Thanks to your actions yesterday, one more artist can continue to create.
Yesterday, many of you came here to read about my friend Dave Bowman’s (Design Turnpike) struggle with trying to get Hobby Lobby to recognize that they were wrongfully selling a reproduction of his handmade artwork, and you were not just content to read about it – you continued to make some noise about the issue by sharing it on social media. Well, it worked.
After countless blog hits, comments and shares about this issue, Hobby Lobby has reached out in a very different tone and begun the process of arranging a settlement with Design Turnpike to resolve the matter. I’m sure that they get many frivolous complaints as any large corporation would, but due in part to the noise we made, they realized that this was a legitimate issue that needed to be rectified.
Hobby Lobby has made a nice financial offer to Design Turnpike, and is refraining from ordering more stock. They believe the two blocks of product they did order have already sold out. They maintain it was an innocent oversight, and after some investigating, it does seem the majority of the wrongdoing was by a Chinese vendor.
Thank you Hobby Lobby for stepping up to do what is right!
Also, thanks to everyone for standing up for artists’ interests and keeping big corporations honest!
…and I mean that literally! Yes folks, unless this is some kind of an elaborate April Fool’s joke being played on me, the monsters that have lived in the apartment above me for the past three years, four months, five days and 18 hours have finally up and vanished into the misty night air from whence they came.
You may recall these folks. I have mentioned them several times here on my blog, along with the random comment on Facebook and Twitter. Here is a photo I secretly took of them after the first year of sleep deprived nights.
Here’s to all the foot stomping, toilet seat slamming, hammering after 10pm, hour and a half to two hour long showers, two flooding mishaps, music loud enough to understand the lyrics, listening to their movies while trying to watch mine, slumber parties, chalk drawings on my doorstep, bed jumping, Olympic gymnastics practice, track meets in the living room, door slamming, shot-put throwing, bowling, peasant whippings, chains scraping, and I’m pretty sure dragon feeding.
May the new tenants be kind and gentle souls sensitive to those around them.
A little joy left the world last week. My dear friend Stan Freberg passed away one week ago on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
Stan made his creative mark on the world first as a cartoon voice actor, then a puppeteer, a radio man, a comedian, a movie actor, a television actor, and an ad man pioneering the use of humor in commercials. I have written about Stan’s career before, and I highly encourage you to CLICK HERE to read more about the creative impact he had on society. Chances are that you will remember something of his work even if you didn’t realize he was the guy behind it.
The private Stan was my friend. My pal. We first met just after his first wife passed away. I was privileged to have spent many hours with Stan and his second bride, Hunter. We talked about all kinds of things. He loved to tell his stories of working with Walt Disney, spending time with the Beatles, opening for Frank Sinatra, aspects of his boyhood growing up with a Baptist pastor for a dad, and just talking about normal everyday things. He was charming, witty, and embarrassingly kind – proof of which was his common opening comment to me whenever we met, “You know, you draw Mickey Mouse better than Walt Disney, and I knew Walt!”
Last November, many people gathered at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood where famous friends fêted Stan with praise upon praise for his marvelous career while a packed audience soaked up this treasure. Speakers in person and on video included Leonard Maltin, Al Yankovic, Eric Goldberg, Micky Dolenz, Harry Shearer, Matthew Weiner, Penn Jillette, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. In hindsight, in a strange way, Stan was able to attend his own eulogy. He sat there beaming from ear to ear at all the kind words and memories. (Photos can be seen here from that event.)
A few months back I had a special day with Stan. It was fitting that we spent some of that time together just drawing. He loved his old Beany & Cecil puppet television show, and enjoyed sketching Cecil for fans. His hands may have lost some of their dexterity, but the creative spark still twinkled in his eye. And the conversation, as always, was lively with much laughter filling the room. Stan always could dish out the funny, but he was also quick to appreciate a zinger when tossed right back to him like a comedy hot potato. Stan may have been 88, but humor kept him young.
Stan made the world laugh. What a pleasure it was to be able to make Stan laugh in return.
In hearing of the passing of the great Stan Beck last week, my heart was heavy, but a smile crossed my face with the memories. Stan Beck’s Florham Park Pharmacy was THE genuine neighborhood pharmacy in my childhood town of Florham Park, New Jersey. Run by Stan with his wife Jean, and son and fellow pharmacist Jim, the pharmacy was much more than crutches and pills. It was a toy store with a play area in the back, it was a gift shop, a card shop, gag gifts, comic books, a seller of collectible figurines like Precious Moments & Hummels, and almost anything unexpected.
As a pharmacy, though, no one cared for the community like Stan. There were times even in my own family where there would be late night medical emergencies requiring medicine, and Stan or Jim would come open the store at any time to provide the necessary emergency meds. This was standard policy at the store, and as I read tributes online for Stan, many others had grateful hearts for this service. However, I have a much more personal tale to tell of the great Stan Beck.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, I was ambitious. I wanted to find a way to supplement my fifty cent a week allowance with real money that would allow me to buy comic books and Star Wars figures. With the help of my mother, we baked cookies, and I would go door to door with my little red wagon filled to the brim with confectionary goodness selling them to the neighbors. Occasionally you had to be wary of an excited dog, or the random sprinkler system that would turn on at a most inopportune moment. And I did this alone – in those days, no one thought to be afraid of allowing little kids to knock on the door of strangers to sell them cookies.
One day I realized that all that walking, and the dogs, and the sprinklers were tiresome. People by the hundreds went to stores to buy their food, the stores didn’t bring it to them! How could I get customers to come to me? So I began the search for a merchant in Florham Park to allow me to set up shop in front of their store. At first my ambitions were big by going to the one large grocery store in town. They said “no.” I tried the post office, they said “no.” I asked a host of places, even calling owners of shopping centers on the phone, they all said “NO!” The harsh, cold reality of business was served full force to this kid.
One day I walked into Stan Beck’s pharmacy. His was a large private business, a pillar of the community even. He didn’t already sell cookies, so I had something new to offer. It was worth a shot. Stan raised an eyebrow, asked me a few questions, and with a smile he said “yes” to this earnest kid. That began a friendship and business association that lasted for about ten years.
Each summer I baked my cookies every Thursday and Friday, and Stan allowed me to sell my wares on his sidewalk. While he never asked for it, I paid him rent. Each day I was there, Stan received a dozen chocolate chip cookies. My family got into it with me. My little brother would walk up and down the sidewalk shouting out “Chad’s homemade chocolate chip cookies!!” at the top of his lungs while wearing a sandwich board sign I had made (which he may not have forgiven me for to this day), and eventually my sisters helped me sell them. Even after I graduated from high school, my sisters took over selling the cookies, but I was still the cook in the kitchen during my college years. Stan always got his dozen.
We fell out of touch over the years. I moved away after college, my siblings all scattered to their respective states, and about six years ago my parents sold the place we all called home for thirty-five years and moved to the countryside in another state. By that time I understand Stan had been long retired. I read in his obituary that he had been part of the Livingston Volunteer Fire Department for 59 of his 89 years, which didn’t surprise me. He seemed to just enjoy helping people.
So, it saddens me to hear of Stan Beck’s passing from my home here in California surrounded by all my Star Wars figures and comic books (some of which I bought from him), but I am forever happy and grateful for the generous act of kindness of that man willing to give this kid a chance.
Today is the 90th birthday of American treasure Jack Davis. One of the founding artists of MAD Magazine illustrator of countless movie posters, magazine covers, advertising illustration, books, trading cards, and yes, even designs for animation, Jack Davis has been a part of the American pop culture scene for many, many decades. What makes it even sweeter is that he is so modest about his work, and such a gentleman.
Back in 2006, I was part of a team that put together a banquet for Jack as the first recipient of the Comic Art Professional Society’s (CAPS) Sergio Award, named after his former MAD colleague Sergio Aragonès. Jack was such a gracious guest, and never tooted his own horn. He didn’t have to – his work does all the tooting for him, not to mention that night there were tributes from artists all over the country, a commendation from the mayor of Los Angeles, and letters of congratulations from past United States Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter, both of whom Jack playfully skewered on TIME Magazine covers.
I have known Jack and his sweet wife Dena for almost twenty years, and only regret that I haven’t known them longer. His work has meant a lot to me personally, having been an inspiration to always try to draw better – something I expounded upon in a Monster Month post this past October. Not only that, they are also lovely, genuine people.
So, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the greatest southern gentleman I know! Thanks for all the years of showing us how it is done, but most of all, thanks for your friendship.