Monday, December 26, 2011

"Marley's Ghost" on cover of "Thalo Magazine"


I am very pleased to be the cover artist of this December's issue of "Thalo Magazine." In addition to publishing my first illustration from "A Christmas Carol," the magazine also conducted a short interview with me.

"Thalo Magazine" is a new on-line publication from Chartpak, those same nice folks who bring Grumbacher paint to an art supply store near you. Designed and written by a savvy staff, artists of all levels will find something to enjoy. Take a moment to visit Scrooge's old partner. The PDF is here: www.tonysanto.com/ThaloMagazineCover.pdf

"Marley's Ghost" happens to be the first illustration I created in my New York Studio a few years ago after moving from sunny Florida to cold and grey New York, so it has a special charm for me.

“Scrooge” is My Favorite Holiday Classic

Everyone has their must-view Holiday traditions, such as Rudolph, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, the Grinch or White Christmas. As much as I revere the classic Rankin/Bass studio, the animation of Chuck Jones, and the sweet vocals of Bing, there is one creation that holds a special place in my heart: Ronald Neame’s 1970 cinematic beauty, “Scrooge,” with virtuoso Albert Finney as Dickens’s notorious misanthrope.

Catchy songs, great art direction and production design, and Albert Finney’s performance as the old miser, pull on my emotional heartstrings time and again.
See the movie once and you will remember, “Thank You Very Much” by Leslie Bricusse (the same composer and songwriter who wrote songs like “Goldfinger”, “You Only Live Twice,” and Wille Wonka’s “The Candy Man”). The production design by Terry Marsh and the art direction by Bob Cartwright will transport you into environments that are simultaneously frosty and warm.

The story takes liberties, changing the Ghost of Christmas Past into an elderly woman instead of the old man/child, and adds Scrooge giving presents to Bob Cratchett’s family. If you don’t suppress a tear when Scrooge, dressed as Father Christmas, exclaims, “I almost forgot, this is for you Tiny Tim (Richard Beaumont),” presenting him with a beautiful toy carrousel that the boy dreamed about in the first act, then you need to peel a dozen Christmas onions.

With a cast including Alec Guinness (BEFORE he was Obi Wan Kenobi), Lawrence Naismith (“Diamond are Forever,” “Camelot”), Roy Kinnear (Veruca Salt’s father in “Willie Wonka,”), and English stage actress Edith Evans (check out her impressive bio on IMBD: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0262725/bio), “Scrooge” will take you away for two hours.

For fans of Ronald Searle’s illustrations, you will find a treat in the title cards, which the great British draftsman created in pen and ink with color.

Visit a tribute to this prolific artist’s Christmas Carol at http://ronaldsearle.blogspot.com/2008/01/more-dickens.html. If you happen to find a vintage copy of Searle’s illustrated “A Christmas Carol” that I can afford, please give me a shout.

Take a break this holiday with “Scrooge." Don’t forget to dine off a plate of Christmas cookies while you do. In the meantime, I will continue my tradition of painting one illustration per year from the Dickens’ classic. In ten years, I may have something worth shopping around.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Virtual Airline

video
Earlier this year I worked with a brilliant director on a commercial airline promo. The director wanted a virtual reality type of fly through of a certain luxury airline. He emphasized that he loved my loose drawings, and that I should think of when Picasso was captured "painting with light." He wanted me to keep it flowing and move as fast as I could without thinking too much. Directors like this are a joy to work with. I spent a few days with him on the project, which I designed digitally, on-site using my laptop and Wacom. The added bonus for me were the great conversations we had in the process, and feeling like I really connected with this creative talent. Here's a small clip from the project.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Pharma Frolics



Early this year I designed the boards for this Humira campaign. "The Lakehouse" is a place where you can get away from the hectic city life and be yourself. Click on the above shot comparisons for a better look. You can see the full-up at http://www.humira.com/psoriasis/tv-commercial.aspx

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fantastic Fifty Years



Fifty years ago this month saw the birth of the worlds greatest comic magazine. At least that ‘s what the sub title said. Writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby created the Marvel Comics super hero magazine “The Fantastic Four,” and comics were never the same. A test pilot, a brilliant scientist, his girlfriend and her kid brother, all exposed to Cosmic Rays from outer space, transformed into the most fantastic quartet of super heroes ever seen. They had no secret identities; they shared living quarters in the Baxter Building, argued frequently and wore simple, monochromatic costumes.

Yet the graphics, drama and tension jumped out of every page, increasing as the years wore on. Jack Kirby drew over 100 issues in a row, and drove the book to titanic heights with his outlandish designs of fantasy and science fiction.


Jack, also know to comic fans as Jack “KING” Kirby, because of his contribution to a significant portion of the Marvel Universe (Kirby was co-creator of Captain America, and created the Hulk, X-Men, Thor, Silver Surfer, Galactus and the Black Panther, among other heroes) set the benchmark for all comic artist to follow.


Kirby’s art was a driving inspiration to me when I was kid and teenager studying comic book art. Kirby’s characters leaped off the page. When they punched each other, the reader felt the impact. Particles seemed to fly from each pummeling blow. In addition, Kirby had a peculiar way of drawing anatomy that was in a class of its own. The form was there, but Jack made up muscles that didn’t exist - and got away with it! Somehow his anatomy looked great, even though it was embellished with tendons and muscles not found in science.


Kirby made you believe in his characters. They felt real, even though they looked like they were chiseled out of stone, with square jaws, wide set eyes and chunky forms. While making “Bambi,” Walt Disney once said that for the movie to succeed, the audience must quickly decide to care about Bambi. Kirby illustrated that tradition in every way. The monstrous Ben Grimm as the Thing became the most popular character of the group, not because of his grotesque appearance and herculean strength, but because of his endurable spirit and pathos as drawn by Kirby.


Then there was the Kirby tech. No one could draw machines as grand as Jack. His machines, gadgets, costumes and spacecraft evolved from realistic to supernatural in the course of the 100 plus issues he drew.


Kirby pioneered the use of the “Kirby Krackle,” which was his way of drawing cosmic energy effects using multiple black circles joined together and juxtaposed against wavy shapes and perspective lines. Anytime a new villain came from space or fired an energy blast, it was accompanied by the “Kirby Krackle,” which the reader could almost hear behind word balloons and captions. The “Krackle” became his signature look for years to come.


Jack was a master storyteller. Subsequent Marvel artists were trained to study his storytelling approach, as Marvel adopted a “Kirby Look” that became their house style. Marvel comics, or “the house that Jack built” became legendary, and Kirby’s work permeated into pop culture status.


In the early 70’s, Kirby moved to rival DC comics, and created the legendary New Gods, with favorites like Darkseid, Orion, Mr. Miracle and Big Barda.

Kirby’s work lives today - not only in comic inspirations but also in the animated world. Warner Brothers cartoons have included many of Kirby’s New Gods character in “Superman: The Animated Series,” and later in “Justice League.” Cartoon Networks “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” regularly take visual action cues from Kirby, as well as introducing young audiences to lesser-known characters like Kamandi and The Demon. Another Cartoon Network series, “Ben 10,” created by Man of Action, is heavily influenced by Kirby’s alien creations, with their flashy stripes, zigzags, broad shapes and bold contrast.


Kirby’s work is so sublime and influential, and his fans are so legion, that TwoMorrows Publishing even named a magazine after him – “The Jack Kirby Collector.” Every page is loaded with Kirby sketches, pin-ups, original pencils, and unpublished art. The interviews with Jacks peers, colleagues and fans are insightful, compelling and a testament to his craft. To further punctuate Jack’s titanic contribution, each issue is printed close to tabloid size.


I will always treasure Jack Kirby’s contribution to comics and my career. Without him I wouldn’t have spent summers locked in my room penciling super heroes and deciding in 6th grade that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. Thanks Jack, for everything. As I stare at your collected works like FF, Captain America, and Machine Man, I am still wondering how you did it.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Creepy Promo Memories


Some years ago when my wife and I owned our house in Florida, we threw a giant Halloween party. I dug up an old piece of personal promo art I had designed in 1992(!) to use for the invitation. Since then, my wife mentions it every Halloween. Because I have nothing new designed for this spooky holiday, I am sharing it here. If you can't tell, it was inspired partly by Bernie Wrightson's Frankenstein illustrations (mentioned in my previous "Frankenstein Month" post) and early New England gravestone rubbings. The entire piece was pen and ink, using probably a 102 and a 107 drawing nib, an A-5 lettering nib, and higgins black india ink on cheapo 2-ply bristol board. Original size is 13.5 w x 13 h inches. See the original thumbail below (about 2" square). I am also including a ghoulish Art-Nouveau zombie woman (appox. 4x4" ) that I made into a rubber stamp for decorating the envelopes of promo mailers.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Frankenstein Month



Every Halloween I remember my favorite Monster. The one, the only, the best of the best, the one that inspired countless others…the original Frankenstein from James Whale’s 1931 classic. With its black and white design and Boris Karloff in heavy makeup, I have adored this film since I was a boy. I can remember watching the monster on the Creature Feature theater, broadcast in NY on Saturday night, channel 5. (Fans of Creature Feature may remember a different time and channel?) Years later I realized “Frankenstein” was the proper name of the monsters creator, not the monster himself, but over the years has come to suffice for the monster’s moniker.

Karloff made three films in as the monster, then other actors stepped in. Bella Lugosi, Glenn Strange, and others perpetuated the grand character. Frankenstein the monster has become so exposed and embraced, one can easily look back to see its many inspirations in entertainment and pop culture.


In the late 60’s and mid 70’s there was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon “Frankenstein Jr.,” which paired “Franky” the robot with a boy scientist to fight super villains. A smile grows over my face as I remember Fred Gwynn as Herman Munster in the 60’s TV show “The Munsters.” My sister once said I hid behind the chair when Herman was on screen, but I don’t buy it. I was probably hiding my crush on Marilyn.


There were the Cooper Frankenstein costumes for kids. You remember them – a plastic mask with an elastic string, and a cheap, nylon jump suit with a picture of the character on the chest (the costume would never endure the whole length of trick or treating without tearing itself to shreds). The claymation classic “Mad Monster Party” by the genius Rankin-Bass studio included the monster and his mate - a claymation Phyllis Dyer (comics legend Harvey Kurtzman co-wrote the screenplay!).

The Brits had their own film version, with Christopher Lee in the Hammer horror films.

I remember my sister and I staying up late on New Years Eve (not a stretch in my house, where we held a family New Year’ Eve party in the basement each year) to watch the 1973 television version called “Frankenstein: the True Story.” IT starred Michael Sarazin, David McCallum, Sir Ralph Richardson, James Mason and Jane Seymour!) Years later I read Mary Shelley’s book, to find the “True Story” was drastically different.


Also splitting from the original story, was when “The 4:30 Movie” aired Japanese monster week, where in addition to Godzilla, they broadcast “Frankenstein Conquers the World” (Frankenstein grows into a giant caveman! Weird!)


After Sunday mass we scrambled for the 11:30 AM annual “Abbot and Costello meets Frankenstein,” which even my kids love. Mel Brooks reached new hysterics with “Young Frankenstein.”



Polar Lights made a model kit combining the Monster with a hot rod called Frankenstein’s Flivver. Aurora made “Glow in the Dark Monster Kits” with the greatest box illustrations! I had assembled many of them by covering everything in Duco cement glue lumps.

Perhaps my biggest anticipation was the seeing the comic book ad for a “7 Foot Frankenstein” that would reach out and grab my friends when they visit my room. Drooling, I cut out the coupon (painful for me, a comic book lover since birth) and gave it to my dad, who plunked down a few quarter to order it via mail.


I fantasized about how Frankenstein and “Boney The Skeleton” would come to life in my room every night, eschewing my mothers concern that I would have nightmares. When the day arrived, I was disappointed when the manufacturer sent me two Bony the Skeletons because the Frankenstein was no longer in stock. To make matters worse, the 7 foot “poster” was made of polyethylene – basically a plastic sheet. Not what I had in mind. I expected Karloff himself. That was one great ad!




Allen Ormsby, a filmmaker and special effects artist, taught me how to make a Brown Bag Frankenstein in his Scholastic Book classic. I know my mom has a picture of me in my paper mache Frankenstein headgear somewhere in her closet… I wore it to school with pride. What I would give to find that picture.


Comics master Bernie Wrightson’s scratchboard and pen illustrations for the Mary Shelley book to this day are unequaled in skill. They inspired me to illustrate countless pen and ink creations, as I toiled away for many hours into many nights illustrating classic tales for my portfolio. (I subsequently “discovered” other pen and ink masters like Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll.).





Frankenstein, wherever you are, this Halloween and every one hereafter, in your many incarnations and inspirations, I will always be astonished by your monstrous myth, empathy and enduring appeal.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Bellator Commercial


Director Chris Stifel has done it again! His "Bellator" spot for MTV2 redefines the visual signature of this popular sport. His subjects transcend the ordinary and become superhuman, gutsy, powerful demigods of sports and entertainment. Each shot is galvanized in astonishing detail and fused with textures, motion and punch. Above are a few boards I designed for the spot. I worked with a General's Draughting pencil No. G314 on animation paper, in addition to ink studies which I scanned and painted digitally for the final boards. The full Bellator spot can be viewed by visiting Chris's web site at http://stifelnyc.com/live/ and clicking on "Director Reel 2."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Toon Boom Pipeline Fun


I have recently added Toon Boom Storyboard Pro to my production pipeline. I took advantage of the sale over the summer, and now some new projects have miraculously appeared to make the purchase worthwhile. I like that I can work in layers, and love the export options for QuickTime and PDF. It ain’t Photoshop, but then again, it isn’t designed to be a painting or compositing software - instead it is a tool for productivity, sequence creation, and scene management.
The best thing that software developers have done is to offer free tutorials to accompany their products. The Toon Boom tutorials by Sherm Cohen have been instrumental in getting me off to a running start. If you’ve seen them, Sherm’s sessions are friendly and easy to absorb. After a few chapters, I felt comfortable poking around and getting my project started, compiling questions as I go. When I am ready for the next step or if I am stuck I seek the next tutorial. Check out the link: http://beta.toonboom.com/professionals/storyboarding/resources/video-tutorials

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tree House, Thank You Disney!


New pre-vis drawing for a story I am working on.....Inpired by the vis dev and background drawings of Snow White and Bambi. While researching this project I am reminded of the reason I own so many books on the art of Walt Disney. For so many years Disney has inspired me and time and again I return to the genious artists who made so many movies so interesting upon repeated viewings. Each time I view a Disney classic, I see something new, something that incites a new curiousity and a renewed sense of study. From my first viewing of Pinnochio to my 100th, I still love Disney.

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up."


Over the weekend I chilled out to watch the TCM broadcast of the 1950 Billy Wilder Classic “Sunset Boulevard.” The film noir classic is still immersive. With lighting and photography by John F. Seitz (who also shot Double Indemnity) and co-written by Wilder and Charles Brackett, the films’ most stunning contribution for me was the performance of Gloria Swanson. Her silent era theatrics were perfect for the film star Norma Desmond, who lives a reclusive life waiting to make her big Hollywood comeback. William Holden plays struggling writer Joe Gillis, who reluctantly becomes her live-in companion to help her write her comeback script.

In real life Gloria Swanson was a famous and luxurious silent move era star. As Norma, Swanson could play to the balcony, mesmerizing the viewer with her delusional rants. Although she received many accolades for her performance, Swanson could never really make the transition into talking films, with this exception. She largely retired from movies after this perfomance.

Anyone who grew up in the 70’s like me can’t help but chuckle at the Carol Burnett Show send up of Sunset Boulevard. Before I was old enough to appreciate or even become exposed to this classic of cinema, my only association with Norma Desmond was Brunett’s over the top parody, which made Harvey Korman break character and laugh on nationwide TV.

Norma Desmond is a perfect performance for animators everywhere to study. Broad gestures, dramatic theatrics and a sneering face loaded with subtext. No doubt her influence is seen in classic Disney characters like Cruella de Vil, Madame Medusa and Yzma.

If you catch this film on TCM, stick around for the short commentary by Robert Osborne and Alec Baldwin. It’s the icing on the cake after a great experience.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Art




We had cabin fever the past few days with the hurricane preparations. Here is one of the more creative ways we passed the time, a massive paper roll about 20 feet long which the whole family on hands and knees drew and colored on. Brings back memories of studying with the Dave Passalacqua School years ago.
My contribution to the group art was inspired by my daughters theatrical performance in the "Broadway on the Hudson" version of "Frog and Toad."

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Car Warriors



I boarded this commercial for the talented director Chris Stifel, and I am finally getting around to showing it.
The full-up is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsKwSYj7Q7g&feature=related