Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Fezziwig's Ballroom, from "A Christmas Carol"

"In they all came, one after another - some shyly, some boldly;
some gracefully, some awkwardly; some pushing, some pulling
- in they all came, anyhow and everyhow."
It's that time of the year. With my latest "A Christmas Carol" illustration, I emphasize the joy of Christmas through Fezziwig's Christmas Ball.  Dickens wrote his tale about a man who hated Christmas, but what we really see is a lesson in compassion and redemption.

The brilliant writer Charles Dickens published "A Christmas Carol" in December 1843. It was a critical success, gaining acclaim and praise in literary circles. It did not, however make the profit Dickens was hoping for, primarily because of his decision to self-publish amidst rising printing costs. Over time, the book's moral lesson of love, generosity and compassion has helped redefine the spirit and importance of Christmas.

You don't have to be a non-Christian to realize that the world's most popular holiday is based on tradition. The Catholic Church adopted the holiday as a way to compete with the ancient Roman Saturnalia festival. Originally called the Feast of the Nativity, by the end of the eighth century,  Christmas spread all the way to Scandinavia. Many of the old pagan customs were resurrected as Christmas became more popular. Hence the gift giving, tree trimming, and sending holiday cards.

Not everyone believes in God, Christ, Jesus, or even a Higher Power.  Our nation (I'm speaking as an American, mind you) was founded on principles of faith under "God," the prevailing dogma of the colonists and mother-England of the time.  For traditions sake, can't the sticklers afford to interpret our historical anthems and slogans so that we honor the tradition from which they were born? If so, I hope we can mention a "Merry Christmas" now and then without offending anyone. 

Regardless of what religion, faith or nationality we are, let's "lighten up" a bunch. Forgive me and other Christmas-philes for not wishing you "Happy Holidays" Season's Greetings, or "Happy Hanukkah." If we know each other, chances are I know which holiday you celebrate, and I greet you appropriately. If I am not aware that you are celebrating the "Festival of Lights", "Ramadan," "Kwanza," or "Boxing Day," know that I am wishing you the best of the season, glad tidings and Happy New Year.  I'm not mistakenly assuming you celebrate Christmas or believe in Baby Jesus by saying "Merry Christmas." It's my way of saying "I'm celebrating" Christmas. If you can enjoy the lights and carols on the way, then that's enough for me. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"The Red Tent" Pitch Art

I recently created the pitch art for the A&E adaptation of "The Red Tent" novel by Anita Diamant. With a period story like this, I used costume reference that the AD shared with me. I gained some design inspiration from movies like Lawrence of Arabia and used specific colors to indicate the emotional content of each sequence. 

For example, I wanted the tent interiors to be dominated by warm earth tones to represent the safety of the women's gathering place. I painted over a red backdrop for the violent shots, and contrasted the colorful costume of the queen against the drab robe of the subjected heroine.

Unlike visual development and concept art created for a green-lit production, most "pitch art" I've developed has a relatively fast turnaround time. In this instance, I work as quickly as possible on the roughs, submitting them for sign off, and producing the finished art immediately upon approval. It was more than a solid week's worth, as opposed to months of work producing images for bigger productions.

My entire process for The Red Tent generated many more images than shown here, but these frames were some of my favorites.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adrien Brody Breaks Loose on History Channel's "Houdini" Spot

Recently, I caught the promotional spot for History Channel's "Houdini" starring Adrien Brody. The original idea for the spot used storyline montages to emphasize Houdini's greatest fears. As is common in this industry, the plans were changed to accommodate a revised schedule, resulting in the stylish spot shown in the above stills. 

Filmed in an abandoned power plant in Hungary (where the series was filmed, though don't quote me on this), the mysterious lighting from the fragmented window-ceiling panels adds to the alluring nature of Houdini's persona.
Erik Blair is one of my favorite writer/directors to collaborate with. He provides me with a script, and together we rough out a shot list and camera angles. We discuss my thumbnail scribbles, and work up the frames.  My storyboards for the full-up were loose and designed quickly with minimal detail.  What results is a psychological portrait of a man obsessed with his craft, whose fame is burdened with loneliness and his own mortality.

Some of the story moments from the original concepts are shown below. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Planet of the Apes" Tee-Shirt Winners!

Thanks to the peeps who entered the POTA tee-shirt giveaway.
Congratulations to Candace Baker Leit and Ed Brickler who will be recieving their new shirts soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer on the Planet of the Apes

Apedoms favorite likeness of Cornelius (Roddy McDowell)
as painted by Ken Barr. Love the color choices in the face.

As the month of July blockbuster movies approach, the new entry in the "Planet of the Apes"} franchise opens July 11 with "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes." Now is perfect timing for me to share my favorite POTA comic book art, published by Marvel Comics in the mid 1970's when Ape fever was enjoying a resurrection with comics, a prime-time TV series and a Saturday morning cartoon.

I picked up this issue of POTA magazine #12 for a whopping dollar bill, when that was a lot of money for a kid. Anything printed in black and white in those days struck me as sophisticated. One chance to flip through the pages showed me I was right. 

Stellar pencil work by Tom Sutton. Ballsy  then and still ballsy today.
In contrast to many of today's comic book artists,
it's obvious that Sutton was not a slave to photo reference. 

Writers like Doug Moenich and artist like Tom Sutton were ahead of their time. With innovative ideas for environments and settings, the story titled "City of Nomads"  takes an unusual POV, a far cry from the 1968 classic motion picture (starring my then-favorite thespian, Charlton Heston).

Top: (left to right) Maurice Evans, Heston, and the
strikingly sexy Linda Harrison in the 1968 POTA.
Bottom: If this is a spoiler, you need help.

On a huge ship akin to Noah's Ark, the city of Hydromeda is divided into two districts and beset by a class struggle. Orangutans rule, Chimpanzees work, and Gorillas revolt. Humans row the giant ship in an aimless struggle to navigate the seas. A masked assassin eliminates the ruling class, the Chimps wage war against the gorrilla uprising, and the human slaves break free to add to the chaos.

A monstrous fish makes a monkey out of the orangatan king
in Tom Sutton's simian fish fry.

Tom Sutton's pages boast black and white pencil art, a rarity for any comic magazine. His designs, characters and embellishments are complimented by the expert moody pencil rendering, making the story a tour-de-force of skill. Just look at the giant fish served at the Ape feast. After the assassin strikes his victim and the table is overturned, the jaws of the devoured carcass are big enough for the king to hide inside. Perhaps a comment that the gluttonous ruling class are about to be devoured by their own greed? 

Rennaisance apes and pirate gorillas.
I am guessing Sutton used the heavy lead of a
graphite or draghting pencil to punch up his darks and contours.

Tim Roth as Thade
in Burton's 2001 remake
In this dark vision of the Apes saga, the artist could easily have utilized the wardrobe and production design of any of the 5 original Ape films. Instead, Tom Sutton creates a look that any Hollywood production designer would be grateful to invent. It suggests endless interpretations of the myriad societies that may exist in an post-atom bomb century or centuries as portrayed in the POTA film franchise.  Sutton blends Northern Renaissance costume design, Robin Hood, Spartacus-style battles, pirate cutlasses and primitive constructs to make his pages a prolific entry into comic book history. The POTA films and TV series that followed merely reiterated the art and design of the original film, diluting its originality with each entry. The TV series in 1974 followed the same premise as the films, but with a fraction of the budget - astronauts fly into the future and land on an earth ruled by apes. The humans there are not as primitive as the humans in the first film. It could be argued that they are descendants of the negative zone humans from the last and worst Ape film, "Battle of the Planet of the Apes," which supposedly takes the POTA story arc full circle. Tim Burton's 2001 POTA remake explored something of a promising reinvention in costume and design, but nowhere near as unusual as Suttons pencils.

(L. to r.):Roddy McDowell, James Naughton and Ron Harper
in the short-lived weekly TV show which debuted in September 1974.

Today, audiences demand a reinvention, not just a remake. Why deal with astronauts at all when storytellers can choose to tell stories that take place anywhere at anytime on the POTA's. One can envision Apes in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Mexico, Russia, or the Congo. The visual styles can draw inspiration from Aboriginal art, Futurism, African Art, Art Deco, Islamic motifs, Japanese patterns, etc. Imagine a weekly cable TVseries with the budget of today's top-of-the-line shows like "Game of Thrones" or "Vikings," each week a different story somewhere on The Planet of the Apes. With this concept approach and various untested schools of visual vocabulary, the possibilities for production design are endless. 

"The first one to bring me a banana gets
two extra tickets to next weeks Simian Dance Recital!"
Above: Still from the upcoming "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes."

Enjoy the premiere of the July 11th film. I'm sure it will be an ambitious entry that will validate a retelling of the Ape saga and satisfy audiences. It will prove that we love our Apes any way we can get them...even if the approach isn't as original as the one dreamed up by Tom Sutton and Doug Moenich. The magic of the printed story is that one artist and one writer can create a universe unto itself in a matter of weeks or months. The resulting treasure is timeless. 


Leave a comment on this post to enter the "Summer on the Planet of the Apes" tee shirt giveaway. Winner will be chosen at random and will be announced on July 16, 2014. Winners must have a valid mailing address and will be contacted via email for shipping.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Gang of Storyboards

Here's one of my several promo sheets from a variety of storyboard gigs. I love the way I am sometimes required to quickly switch gears between assignments. One day color, one day BW, one day loose, one day refined, one day celebrity likenesses, one day character types. It makes for an interesting week, never a dull moment. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

"Devious Maids" and Jason Derulo Promo Appears in AMC Theaters Nationwide

This promo spot for the second season of Lifetime's "Devious Maids" has recently been broadcast on television and the web. 

Directed by the talented Joe Nichols, the promo integrates a cool cross- promotion with singer/songwriter Jason Derulo. The party setting is a smart way to revisit these lovely Latinas of Beverly Hills and ponder what secrets they and their rich employers will reveal in the coming season.

In addition to seeing the spot on television and on the web, it was a treat seeing it in the AMC movie theater on 68th and Broadway. My daughter and I were waiting for the movie to begin and we watched it twice within ten minutes. For once I was delighted (and surprised) to see a spot that had meaning for me instead of another mind-numbing commercial for Coke or shutting off your cell-phones. The spot is playing in all AMC theaters across the country. 

I prepped myself for this storyboard assignment by watching as many episodes as I could in the timeframe I was given. It's definitely an entertaining, well told and humorous soap opera with as many twists and turns that one can expect expect to keep the audience interested. Structurally, it turns each beat in all the right places, and seems to build one event over another to impact all the characters. In most cases, the "Maids" aren't quite as devious as their employers, whose shallow short-sightedness is matched only by their narcissistic tendencies. This spot captures all the glamour, luxury, and secrecy of the show, with a little bit of taboo added for fun. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


In case you haven't noticed over the past few years, History Channel has been producing not just documentaries, but also dramatic series and reality shows. "Vikings" has much more than meets the eye. Well researched and written, this spot for Season 2 depicts 9 of the main characters revealing their true nature.
The full-up spot is here: http://www.history.com/shows/vikings/videos/vikings-season-2-teaser?m=51896f6e2acad


Don't be fooled by this woman. When she says finish your peas, you'd better finish them.


Not sure I remember what the rooster symbolized in this sequence with Horick, but I'm sure it's a foreshadowing of creepy things to come.