From time to time a project comes along that is just plain fun to work on. Back in 2007, this was such a project. I was approached to create an illustration of actor Fred Willard (Best In Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, Anchorman, WALL-E) for the charity group Actors and Others for Animals. Fred was going to be their guest of honor at their annual banquet held in November that year. The piece I created was used on their “save the date” cards, their invitations, and on the cover of the banquet program.
The request for this job came right from Mary Willard, Fred’s wife, who is very involved in this animal charity. I had gotten to know the Willards a bit, and the previous year drew their personal ad that they took out in the program book that was honoring Dick Van Dyke (we’ll save that piece for another post some day). This time, when the committee was tossing around ideas for the cover, they asked Mary if she thought the fella who did her ad could do the program cover for Fred’s banquet.
Most jobs I get asked to do, the client really knows what they want, so I draw one pencil rough, make any adjustments, then go to the final. This time the client left it kind of open-ended. They wanted Fred with some animals, though weren’t sure how that should be.
Thumbnails: Often I’ll do them for myself, but this time they had to be a little more detailed because the client was going to have to pick and choose from among them. As you can see, none of the thumbnails as drawn were taken to the final stage, though #5 became the template (#4 was my favorite). The client picked elements from several. One thing that became clear – they only wanted animals that are relatively common house pets (though the committee chairwoman really liked the squirrel, so that stayed). They didn’t like the outstreched arms pointing towards Fred, but rather wanted the animals applauding him.
Tight Pencil: Once they figured out what they wanted from the thumbnail stage, I worked on a tight pencil drawing and then showed it to them again. Usually a client wants to make changes at this stage, too, but apparently this one hit all the right buttons and they said “go for it!”
Final Piece: There were two stages to the final piece. The first was inking the drawing, which I do with a nice Winsor-Newton brush and a bottle of black FW acrylic ink. Rapidograph pens are used for some of the small stuff, but the brush is primary. The client needed the piece to be flexible for multi-purpose use, so Fred (with the squirrel) was one layer, and all the other animals were other layers.
The second stage was with the computer. All the drawings were scanned, then composited in Photoshop. Speed was of the essence for this piece, so I took all my traditional airbrushing knowledge into the computer and came out with this final illustration.
They loved the piece, and even used it the next year for the event honoring Broadway legend Carol Channing. The animals appeared on the cover and interior of the program.
The 2007 program book cover featuring Fred Willard, and the 2008 cover with Carol Channing.
To add icing to the cake, I was invited to attend both banquets, too. It was fun to sit there seeing these actors roasted by their famous friends and sitting shoulder to shoulder with them myself. Folks like Dick Van Patten, Ed Asner, Loretta Swit, Jo Anne Worley, Henry Gibson, Norm MacDonald, Martin Mull, Tippi Hedren, Ted Lange, Lily Tomlin, Florence Henderson, Catherine O’Hara, Jack Riley, Gary Owens, Peter Marshall, Gary Collins, Doris Roberts, David Lander and so on. It was as if I had fallen into the television set of my youth.
So, there you have it. Perhaps a lengthy explanation of everything, but hopefully a fun insight into what took place to make Fred Willard look like the Best in Show!