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.  

Monday, June 25, 2018

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: Dinos Devour Box Office While Chewing Scenery


It's a perfect time to test the effectiveness of the Jurassic World franchise. After blockbuster Super hero movies like "Black Panther" and "Avengers: Infinity War," one thing is clear - people still love prehistoric thrills.

"Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" deliveries a full set of teeth to make your bones chill.  In fact, it may be the most thrilling and suspenseful of all the Jurassic sequels.

The screenwriting doesn't break any new ground. Although audiences have proven they enjoy thoughtful scripts, subtext, complex interweaving of character arcs and clever dialogue, the Jurassic writers give us only enough to get us from one scene to the next.

My T-Rex - Pen, ink and charcoal on 138lb Canson
The film uses the ticking clock device to ramp up the urgency. The remaining dinosaurs from the former Jurassic World chapter are running unchecked on the abandoned and decimated resort island, which suddenly has an active volcano as one of it’s prime inhabitants. Why an entertainment corporation would build a resort on an island with deadly volcanic activity is beyond me. Apparently it’s beyond the filmmakers too, as evidenced by their absence of an explanation, their limited vision, or their lack of integrity for story. (since this writing a friend has explained that many Pacific islands are built on or from volcanic history, and it's not unusual for one to suddenly split ground and go boom).

But wait – the red head played by Bryce Dallas Howard with the perpetual bangs somehow avoided culpability from the previous Jurassic massacre and now runs a “Save the Dinosaurs” club. Instead of making reparations to all the tourists who were killed or maimed by escaped dinos, she raises money to save the priceless dino creatures before the volcanic lava can make fossils of them. I’m sure her assistant who was dragged through the air by multiple pteranodons before being swallowed by a giant Jurassic Shark in the last film feels rejoiced by Red Head Bangs’ efforts.

Red Head gets her funding for the rescue mission from John Hammond's first and never before mentioned partner in research – who wakes up from his hospital bed nap in time to help Bangs preserve the sincerity of Hammond’s original vision.

Bangs enlists the help of her ex-boyfriend Chris Pratt “Starlord” from Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Infinity War, because he is the key to tracking the most important dino – the velociraptor named Blue, who is the only dino trained since birth to show obedience to man.

When their island expedition of militant sidekicks double crosses Bangs and Starlord (henceforth called “StarBangs”) they are left to die amidst encroaching lava so the dinos can be auctioned for millions each on the black market.
J.A. Bayona is pretty good directing action, and the peril proves threatening and entertaining simultaneously.
With the introduction of a new hybrid Frankenstein dinosaur that is trained to kill on command things quickly get out of hand.

One great feature the animators and modelers have given the new dinosaur is a touch of borrowed behavioral traits. The Indoraptor gallops through hallways like a horse in a steeplechase. It writhes its way through elevators and staircases like a modern day xenomorph from James Cameron’s “Aliens.” Not only does the Indoraptor tap his big toe in homage to Spielberg’s original velociraptor – it also smiles and plays dead before it kills ya.

Jeff Goldblum makes his reappearance as Dr. Ian Malcom, testifying that the dinos had their chance - they went extinct centuries earlier, and we need to correct the error of mad scientists who restored them to life. Unfortunately, the dinos flee en-masse to the city outskirts, where according the Dr. Malcom they will soon accelerate the extinction of mankind.

I’m not expecting the Jurassic franchise to become “Planet of the Dinosaurs”, but one can only hope for a sequel where thrills and suspense are accompanied by a metaphor, perhaps one which comments on the arrogance of mankind and his insistence upon continually trying to profit at the expense of a less developed or primitive species.

If you are aware of the inhumane treatment of animals in the meat and poultry industry, it stands to reason that the exploitation of any species - dinosaur or dog is wrong. It makes good sense – and good cinema - for future filmmakers to weave science, ambition, action and peril with a good dose of ethical subtext. The results will allow the audience to think as well as scream.