Sunday, October 17, 2010

Halloween Zombie Subway Crawl

Happy Halloween 2010!

It's Halloween, and in honor of the upcoming "The Walking Dead" premier on AMC this month (, I designed a few zombie frames while on the subway. If you can't get to your nearest Zombie Crawl (, the next best thing is riding the subway during rush hour.

The dour faces, the distant expressions, the myriad range of countenances that speak a former lifetime's worth of experiences, can all be witnessed on any subway ride.

And if you haven't checked out Robert Kirkman's "The Walking Dead" comic book yet (, you may find yourself addicted to the dark reality of the human drama that unfolds each issue. Pace yourself, because you may find it too disturbing all at once. As in Danny Boyle's "28 Days Later" ( the real antagonists are not the zombies, but man and the test of his moral fiber, when faced with survival in a bleak landscape.

Captured here are freehand pen drawings designed with a 0.5mm fine tip Japanese pen, on Strathmore 500 Series Bristol. A perfect marriage, a bit expensive for everyday work, but the smooth surface won't kill the life out of your pen like cheap toothy paper does.

Drapery is another world for me. Drawing the wrinkles on fabric and clothes can take a lifetime to master. I love working from life in order to develop some kind of understanding of the different type of wrinkles and how they manifest themselves in various clothes, fabrics, and figures.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Russian Princess

This Cinematic was produced originally as a test piece, composited in After Effects. I am posting it here with music I swiped from "The Phantom" movie. I love the soundtrack and it works great for scratch track here....

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Cure For Artist's Block

Artist block is that frustrating, anxiety-laden malady that all artists encounter. It is that circumstance that prevents an artist writer, musician etc. from coming up with an idea worth embracing.

What happens when the phone stops ringing, or when we’ve exhausted all our promotion efforts, contacts, and bookkeeping? What do we do to recharge the creative batteries? Do we doodle in our sketchbook or hang out in coffee shops to draw people? Is that enough to remember why we got into this crazy business in the first place? Various studies can keep the pencil moving, but what really drives us to get out of bed, or stay up late? What makes “making art” more addicting than playing Bioshock until 3 in the morning?

If you are encountering artists block, there is a solution. If you make a habit to practice this approach, you can kiss artist's block goodbye.


The remedy for artist’s block starts here: Information.

Just like number 2 in “The Prisoner,” we want information. Information will give you the background to form opinions. Information will trigger inspiration. You will start to see your subject in a way not previously considered. Information will give you hours of work in your studio, so much that you will lose track of time and look forward to your next work session with zeal.

All artists need information. Picasso reacted to the bombing of a Spanish town by painting Guernica. Hollywood art directors use information to make decisions that make movies like Star Trek look different from Star Wars. Arthur Miller’s the Crucible spells out the real dangers of conformity and persecution that Americans felt during the McCarthy era. None of the above created art in a box, staring at a wall without information. The key to creativity, and for making artists block a stranger on your doorstep is the acquisition and use of information.


Disney painter Eyvind Earle looked at Northern Renaissance paintings when designing backgrounds for Sleeping Beauty. Yes, he was an experienced and outstanding painter, but he didn’t whip up the idea for these legendary backgrounds by staring at his canvas.

The flattened, forced perspective and sharp edges contributed to making Sleeping Beauty one of Disney’s most distinguished looking and notable animated films.

Feliks Topolski ( reportaged world events and published Topolski’s Chronicle every year. These over sized newspapers contained drawings in his sophisticated and pungent style, with equally scribed essays. The information was derived from life, from observation and from his immersion in news as it was happening.

His notoriety led him to design the Buckingham Palace murals. His work captures an immediacy that seems to unfold before the viewers eyes.

Jack Kirby, the comic book legend that created Thor, the Fantastic Four, X Men and the New Gods was no stranger to information as an inspiration. Characters like Galactus, Silver Surfer, the Eternals, Orion and Darksied grew from his Biblical knowledge, where characters and stories looked for redemption amidst messianic overtones.


What happens when an artist digests and evaluates information and research? The artist gets inspired. Not from the sky, like a bolt of lightning (although that happens, figuratively speaking), but from the acquisition and application of research knowledge.

Famed historical illustrator Mort Kunstler learned early in his career the value of information. His attention to accurate detail was so much that he earned his reputation as the premier historical artist in America. He illustrated books, magazines, movie posters and ads. To this day, Kunstler hasn’t run out of ideas. Because he knows how to use information, today he is continually illustrating the Civil War, an event that still resonates with us almost a hundred and fifty years from when it ended.

My teacher, the late David Passalaqua Sr., taught me to be curious. Curiosity leads to asking questions. Questions direct you to find and answer. Answers require collecting data, used for educated answers. Answers lead to conclusions. Conclusions form opinions. And therein comes inspiration.

When you are curious you open up many doors, giving yourself a wealth of material to explore.


So let’s say by now you’ve picked up a book. You decide you want to illustrate it. You take notes. You thumbnail as you read. You do character studies, wardrobe details. Maybe you grab a book on CD and listen to it while you work. You saturate yourself with information while playing with ink and making studies, sketches, and more notes.

Before you know it, you have designs and drawings you want to expand upon.


Now is the time, to get reference. The Internet is easy. What about going on site? Is there a museum where you can see a collection of artifacts up close to draw from the real McCoy? Are there antiques you can photograph or draw that would be useful as props? Is there an artist to influence you, or art form that is particularly useful for capturing the mood of your project?

Get in your studio, on location, or wherever you are comfortable and pick the media that helps best describe your subject - be it oil paint, acrylic, watercolor, pen and ink, digital or mixed media. Goodbye artist's block.


Information is everywhere. Look at the literature, religion, folk tales, mythology, the dictionary, and the web…and record it. I always keep a few projects going on the side. I routinely pick them up and review my notes along with my studies. I may never finish these pet projects, but they captivate me. I am eager to explore, and have a reason to work harder and grow as an artist.

The next time you as an artist are experiencing artist block, remember it is because you don’t have enough information to inspire your. Pick up some great literature, audio books, watch powerful emotional films, or just go out and collect notes on location.

This is my way, my approach for perpetual excitement as an artist. What is yours?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Five Comments Every Freelancer Needs to Prepare For

As a freelance professional storyboard artist, art director, illustrator and designer, at one time or another I have heard comments from potential employers that make me squirm.
Here are some of them, along with my professional responses.

1) "We have nothing at this time, but we'll keep you on file in case something comes up."

This may seem like a stock answer, an easy out for any art buyer, art director, or recruiter.

But is it?

Having spent a great deal of time as an art director at prominent publishing and entertainment companies, I've had to give this answer myself to prospective freelancers. I’ve picked up the phone, they caught me off guard, and Mr. Nice Guy Freelancer was there, asking for work. Unfortunately, no matter how much I may like an individual or their work and want to hire them, If I didn’t have jobs to hand out, then all I could do is be truthful.

If you get this response from a prospective employer, be polite. In this economic downturn, it isn’t easy to hear. Chances are they hate turning you away, so thank them for their time, and ask if you may keep in touch with a phone call now and then. Leave a good impression by saying a cheerful goodbye. They'll remember you were a good sport.

2) "Your work is nice."

Really? My mother is nice. So is my librarian.

We all remember the art teacher from college who would give this response when not committed enough to critique our work. What they really mean is "Your work is well designed, illustrated, and is accomplished (or something like that).”

Because a potential client doesn't have time or the luxury to sip tea while discussing your work, this is the shortest way to give you the thumbs up and move on with their busy day.

As artists, we all hope our work impresses our potential clients enough to get them to say:

“Your work is amazing! I must hire you." Until then, be happy with “nice.” It is a compliment.

3) "What are your rates?"

Uh-oh. What if I give them a rate and they don't call back? Was I too high? Did they get someone cheaper?”

Most clients who want rates are going to shop around. Some potential clients won't discuss their budget, possibly because they don't know it yet. They are trying to get their resources secured while checking your availability. They may sometimes come back with a price and ask if you can work within it.

I like to give clients an hourly rate, a day rate and a flat rate, so they have options. It shows I am flexible to help them achieve their targets.

Have the rates ready if asked - it shows you have standards.

4) Can you do some examples in this style?

Spec work. Plain and simple. If they like it, they will hire you. Maybe.

For storyboard artists like myself, story tests are common in the animation industry. Most of us have done them because all the studios call for them. The results may secure us months of work, or full time positions. For a working artist whose day is booked, these tests are unreasonable in their scope, never mind impossible to spend one or two weeks on. To add insult to injury we may never get a response regarding our submission.

Advertising is more urgent. Where a big animation studio has to schedule a director or the head of story to review your submission, an agency needs a candidate ASAP.

Making the call to crank out a quick submission (I’ve banged out samples in one hour that got me good paying assignments later that same day) can sometimes be worth it.

Beware of the inexperienced client! Or the crafty experienced one!

They are easy to spot.

They may be callous or uneducated in industry behavior, enough to ask you to create customized samples for them (so they don't have to pay for concept art.) They use your free samples and those of other artists to determine what works for their project. They lure you with promises of “lucrative steady work for the right artist once the project takes off.” Also known as “crowd sourcing,” you will never get a straight answer from them, or a paycheck.

I learned this the hard way when fresh out of art school. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… .

As unethical as it is, spec work is still a reality for some of us. As an artist, learn to make the call “to spec or not to spec.”

5) "Can you make this deadline?"

Be honest. If you can’t make a deadline but really would like to make the job happen somehow, It is better to qualify your answer than to say a flat out "no."

Before you decide to pull an “all-nighter” when you are running on fumes, tell your client what you CAN deliver by the deadline. Can you deliver low, medium, or high fidelity under his deadline?

I once delivered a job to a trusted client, which required me to seal myself up in my studio and pull an all-nighter, coming in dangerously close to the deadline. I felt overworked and underpaid, but I wanted to keep my client for his repeat business. He loved the finishes, which were highly refined storyboards, but I found out later that he would have been equally happy with medium or low fidelity boards delivered a half-day earlier. The lesson: give your client options to match your honesty. Good communication works better for the end results, for both you and your client.

Well, these are my top five comments. What are yours? Feel free to enter them in the comments section of my blog.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Fashion Show Spot

Here's the latest commercial for Optimum Triple Play... .
GlobalWorks consistently produces the greatest spots.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Optimum Fun House Shot by Shot

The look and feel of my storyboards translated well into the final spot. This is one of the best Optimum commercials I've had the pleasure of working on. The creativity and skill demonstrated in the stop motion make it unique as well as memorable.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Fan vs. Wild Spot for Discovery Channel

Another great commercial from director Chris Stifel. This spot with Bear Grylls from "Man Vs. Wild" on Discovery Channel, ties in with a cross-promo for the Degree for Men deodorant. I became a huge fan of Bear Grylls after watching these shows in prep for this job. The guy is a superhero in my book. Check out the final Spot here:

Monday, March 1, 2010

Optimum Performance

This frame from an Optimum Triple Play commercial concept was fun to design. Lots of dancing pedestrians flocking to the streets, with a projection of the Optimum logo on the building, make for a very urban dance party.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

CBS College Sports Network

If you see my post from a few weeks back, I did storyboards for Director Chris Stifel's CBS commercial. Here is the final spot from this great director.