Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Perfect Time for Virtual Conferences with Artists

At a time when every business on earth is facing challenges due to the Covid-19 quarantine, having a Virtual Conference is a great way to keep the ball rolling and keep your company in the competitive game.

If while reading this you’re thinking about another boring virtual staff meeting, think again. Participating in a Virtual Conference is exciting, productive and stimulating for all participants and delivers results that that may be iterative for years.

How does it work?

Conventional experience teaches us that by getting “off campus” employees can brainstorm unencumbered by office politics and workplace distractions.

However, instead of checking into a 4-star hotel and banquet room, all participants are in remote locations, i.e., their homes. The sponsor company saves on catering, airfare, lodgings and miscellaneous expenses. In-person discussions are supplanted via online video conferencing apps like Zoom, BlueJeans, Google Hangouts or Skype.

In many conferences, the idea is more important than the execution. Emphasis is placed on thinking outside the box and shooting for the moon. By contributing from home offices, kitchen tables or easy chairs, teams experience a sense of ease and informality. Sharing ideas feels safe.

Add an Artist Facilitator to your event and you’ve increased your brainstorming possibilities.

Why would an Artist add to my teams’ effectiveness? Simply put, the Artist is there to accelerate the brainstorming.

The Artist (in these cases also may be called a Graphic Facilitator, Illustrator, Info Graphics Artist, Storyboard Artist) provides visual representations of the major themes and discussions in ways that further stimulate team evaluation of the topics. Friendly drawings, illustrations, info graphics, storyboards and even rough sketches add an additional dimension to the main idea. Members contribute more rapidly to advance the idea and clarify their message.


Since the Artist is often an outside participant and may be working with the team for the first time, it’s normal that he should interject, interrupt or request clarification as needed, which demands team members to clarify their thoughts and direction.

All formats are up for grabs in the virtual conference. The fluidity of processes makes presentation formats fun and engaging for all. The contributing Artist brings an unexpected thrill to participants, who are excited to see their ideas visualized as illustrations, storyboards, info-graphics and cartoons. Presenters enjoy holding the drawings in front of them while they make an informal presentation. They may pin-up the work, make it available on a team site or in power point decks for additional talking points.

Side Effects

As an Artist who has joined many of these events – both on-site and virtually – I can honestly say I was doubtful the virtual conference would captivate me. I was pleasantly surprised. I was completely engaged and at ease with my team discussion and proud of how much we accomplished in a short time.

On one occasion I crafted a video using illustrations and motion graphics to present my team’s idea. The client was so pleased they asked if I would record the voice-over narration for the video so they might add a copy to their company library!

It’s not unusual for the artist to share quick “side drawings” with the team – usually caricaturized portraits. Team member have lively reactions, including “I can’t wait until you draw me” or “Draw me while we are at lunch?” One thing I personally enjoy is giving my team a souvenir illustration containing all the portraits. Assembling everything on my home workstation is a breeze to share immediately, which would be a different story in person.

You’ll find planning the event is easier and requires less manpower than an on-site conference. The money saved can easily be rerouted to contract an Artist for the event.

Plan It Now!

Don’t let the lockdown on businesses hold your company hostage. Consider the power of Virtual Conferencing for your next productivity event and brainstorm effort.

By including an Artist to facilitate your Virtual Conference, you can heighten participant engagement, get more for your money, and make a lasting impact on your company for years to come.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Scrooge Illustration Continues...or I'll be Buried in My Own Pudding!!

If you've visited my galleries in the past you may remember that each Christmas and Holiday Season I illustrate a passage from Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." Always behind schedule, immersed in the holiday family fanfare, I tear myself away from the festivities just long enough to finish for the dawn of the New Year.

I hope you return here regularly to see what new projects I am sharing in 2020.


"But what did Scrooge care? 
It was the very thing he liked. 
To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, 
warning all human sympathy to 
keep its distance, was what the 
knowing ones call "nuts" to Scrooge."

Monday, October 28, 2019

Vikings Inktober: I used Higgins India Ink for 31 Days and Here's what Happened

This October - or "Inktober," as the art community calls it  - I have had the pleasure of joining the Higgins Inktober Art Team.

As an Art Ambassador for Chartpak Artist Supplies, I often demonstrate and blog about the performance benefits of their art brands - brands such as Grumbacher, AD Marker, Schminke, Koh-i-Noor, Molotow and Higgins Ink.

Higgins Black Magic Ink has long been the preferred ink choice of many comic book inkers. In the  evolving marketplace of art tools, Higgins offers it's ink in the good old fashioned desktop bottles (you know, the ones you masking tape to your drawing board or nestle inside your makeshift cardboard cradle to reduce spills) and in Brush Pens, using a pump action primer to fill the tip with a fresh ink supply.

Personally, I love a bottle with brush and crow-quill pen, which allows me to indulge in my draftsmanship directly or over pencil, while giving me the freedom to make a mess if desired. I love to make something out of spilled ink, dripping puddles and random marks.

The Higgins Brush Pen is great in front of the television or on location when messy supplies aren't expedient. Although I may never prefer the nylon synthetic brush tips over sable hair, the nibs are flexible enough for varying line quality, and the ink reservoirs keep the ink moving.

Rather than confront a new concept each day of Inktober, I decided to spring inspiration from History Channel's "Vikings" show a show for which I designed commercial spots, trailers and teasers for Season 2 - 6. This show is captivating and binge worthy, and offers an insight into Viking culture and warfare, in addition to Norse customs and spirituality. Creator Michael Hirst does not ignore the historical references that Christianity and European civilization played in the evolution of the Vikings as explorers, warriors, agriculturalists, lawmakers and political strategists.

The cast is solid gold. Vikings shares a quality that my favorite shows demonstrate. Whichever character is on screen at any time graduates to my favorite character, until they complete their sequences and make room for the next arc.

I shared my Inktober Drawings on Facebook and Instagram, and have collected a selection here on my blog for a quick view. I hope you will visit and enjoy what you find.

Go to and and let me know what you think. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Evolution of Prime Time Dads: Ahead or Behind the Times?

Peter Griffin: "But where are those good old fashioned values...?" 

As Father's Day returns, it's a good time to acknowledge the archetypes that have been perpetuated over the years. The number one purveyor of the fatherhood archetype has been television. 

We know the traditional roles that father's have played - the breadwinner, wise man, the emotionally stable head of household. 

Shows that defined these types are Father Knows Best, Bonanza, My Three Sons and the Danny Thomas Show.

Fred MacMurray: the stable, pipe-smoking Dad of "My Three Sons."

Program's like The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Family Affair and even Lost in Space maintained the father as archetype of strength and wisdom despite standing outside the conventional arrangement. The Brady Bunch was quick to follow, as Mike Brady convinced me that my father, too, could invite celebrity guests to the house. Can you guess who I asked my Dad to have over?

It wasn't until Sanford and Son, Good Times, and All in the Family that another side of fatherhood was presented to viewers. John Amos regularly threatened physical harm to J.J., Fred Sanford was expected to insult Lamont and Aunt Esther, and Archie Bunker started his brand of bigotry from the comfort of his home easy chair.

Guy Williams protected his family from aliens, but his toughest job
was keeping Dr. Smith away from Billy Mumy. 

We could always find comfort in Mr. C. on Happy Days. He was not as authoritarian as the previous dads, nor valued for his sage-like advice as much as for his tolerance. As head of household, he was not as serious as the dads in real life seemed.

Jimmie Walker met his match in John Amos,
the world's most "Dyn-O-Mite" Pop. 

Fatherhood became a joke with the bad parenting of Homer Simpson, Family Guy's Peter Griffin, Home Improvement, Everybody Loves Raymond and others. Almost every contemporary sitcom over the last twenty years has portrayed Dad as an overgrown kid who reinforces bad behavior with his own. 

Modern Family: "Closet? You'll Love It!"

Today, the archetypes for fatherhood and even family structure are continually challenged. Modern Family is a perfect example, with 3 different types of family structures, including same sex fathers, a geeky professional dad and an emotionally challenged grandfather married to a young goddess.

I wear my share of hats and love every minute with these two beauties.
TV has shown us the gamut of hats worn by fathers. Yet nothing Hollywood presents compares with my own experience of fatherhood. The best role I have ever played is the one where I am called "Dad." 

Happy Father's Day. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

History's Vikings Still Exploring New Episodes

As season 5 of History Channel's Vikings comes to a close (the last episode is slated for January 16th broadcast), I consider myself fortunate to have worked on Vikings' since Season 2. It started with this memorable concept:

The most recent campaigns have been marked with high action and the culmination of long developing story arcs. I've illustrated many a concept for Vikings, some full of symbolism, others full of mystery. 

I'm sure we haven't seen the last of this talented cast. Katheryn Winnick is one of the most beautiful women on screen and Clive Standen, with his smoldering smirk would be my choice for the next James Bond.

Who are your favorite Vikings' characters?

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Happy Holidays from Tony Santo Creative

Each year I create an illustration based on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." In this sequence, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the joyous attitudes people embrace for the holiday.

"The sight of these poor revelers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him, in a baker's doorway, and, taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly."

I struggled with finding the area of focus in the image, showcasing the crowd first and Scrooge second. Still, I enjoy drawing so much that it's hard to resist detailing every nook and cranny at the expense of a central point of conversion.

What scenes would you like to see illustrated for next year?

Monday, September 17, 2018

Hell in a Cell with Samoa Joe, AJ and Santo!

I recently designed storybook illustrations for WWE's "Hell in a Cell" on SmackDown LIVE, Sept 11, 2018.

Samoa Joe brings ill will on his opponent AJ Styles, reading a disturbing children's book while AJ's wife and daughter are in the wings. The pages contain illustrated vignettes painted by me. 

Rarely do my actual illustrations appear on a televised broadcast. Here is one of those moments....and I emphasize the "moment" in momentary. See for yourself as the illustrations quickly cross dissolve into video footage.

It's a pleasure to work with such a great organization as WWE.  The assignments are a change of pace from storyboards, and they give me an opportunity to play around a little more than usual with the finished frames.