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Chaos in Market Square

From Peter Spit A Seed At Sue, a painting in progress:

I’ve set the scene in Pittsburgh’s Market Square.  If you look closely you’ll see the location photos I shot.  I used them to help me design a setting that would be recognizable from a variety of different vantage points.  The pie-wielding mayor is a caricature of Mrs Dittman, the principal of Allen Road Elementary School while I attended.

Steampunk character design

Rhonda Libbey is a talented friend of mine—she’s pulled my carcass out of more than one scrape by helping me paint illustrations.  Please swing by her blog to see her lovely character sketches for the Doctor Ferretstein Project.

Crabby Santa character design

Bring me the head of Johann Sebastian Bach

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Awhile back, Ann Mason—then-exec-director of the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh—and I thought it would be screamingly funny to create a promotional bobblehead of the august Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  And, by George, we were right—it is funny!

Here’s what I envisioned:

bach

One of the rbsp board members, Joy Troetschel, has some expertise in getting merchandise manufactured, and knew of a bobblehead factory in China who could produce our little statuette.  What follows are some images from the correspondence I shared with the talented sculptors who created a brilliant little 3D clay caricature of Bach from the sketches I sent.

Bach Head Clay 1

Bach Head Clay 2

Bach Head Clay 3

Bach Head Clay 4

Bach Body Clay 6

And here’s the prototype.  They even airbrushed a nice 5 o’clock shadow onto JSB’s cheeks!

Bach Colour Revision 3

If you’d like one of these timeless treasures, visit the rbsp website—they’re modestly priced and benefit the Society.

Samoset

The costume color indication for Samoset, for Two Bad Pilgrims.  Not that there’s much costume.  Samoset walked into Plymouth Plantation in the middle of March wearing hardly anything at all.  He was showing the pilgrims he had no concealed weapons.  He was being theatrical and used symbolism to communicate: as ambassador from Chief Massasoit, he wanted to express goodwill to the pilgrims and he mustn’t have trusted his broken English.  The Wampanoags wanted to know whether the pilgrims were peaceful, so Samoset carried two arrows, one with an arrowhead and the other blunt.

samoset.color

How would you walk into a potential enemy’s camp and ask about their intentions—while not knowing their language?

 

Master of the Mayflower

Here’s my costume color indication for Master Jones for Two Bad Pilgrims.  ‘Master’ was what they called the ship’s captain back in the 1600s. I couldn’t find a contemporary picture of him, like an engraving—so I made him up.  I tried to give him a salty swashbuckling air with the plumed hat, sash and of course, earring.

masterjones.color

Circus posters

Pete & Fremont and Pete’s Disappearing Act are circus yarns spun by the incomparable Jenny Tripp.  Both stories are narrated by Pete the poodle and seen from the point of view of the animals in Circus Martinez.

To promote these two titles, Jenny and I thought it would be fun to produce a few circus posters on a small scale—circus stickers.   I love old circus posters—who doesn’t?—and kids love stickers. Here’s a sample of some vintage circus posters:

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tiger

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You get the idea.  Since the focus of the stories is on the animals, each poster would feature one of the animal acts.  I worked up some rough thumbnail sketches.

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lip

lip.tig

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Jenny wrote some better copy to replace the dummy copy shown in the rough sketches.

We were bankrolling the production of these stickers ourselves, so I needed to come up with an inexpensive way to print them.  You can get self-adhesive label stock in 8 1/2 x 11″ sheets.  I fit all the sticker designs into an 8 1/2 x 11″ format, so the printer could print 10 stickers as one piece of art—then guillotine them as individual stickers.  Here’s the layout with tight sketches:

sticker layout_Page 1

I painted all the stickers as one piece of art (one scan instead of 10 saves bucks) around 125% of the printed size.  I wanted to work a little bit bigger so my lettering would tighten up when it got reduced.  I’m showing you 2 different pieces of the finished art here, because I can’t fit the whole thing onto my Playskool scanner:

stickers.fremont

stickers.zamba

From the archives—Señor Don Gato

Here’s a book I did a while ago—Señor Don Gato. Due to a copyright dispute, it’s no longer in print.  This project was a turning-point in my style.  I closely studied the work of Diego Velasquez: his palette, composition and lighting.  By limiting my range of color and paying attention to how a subject is lighted, my illustrations became less cartoony and more painterly.

Here’s a sketch.  Don Gato receives a letter from his lady-love and reads it on a high red roof:

9.sketch

And the final painting:

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This painting below was never part of the book. I did it to get a feel for Velasquez’ painting technique.

Gato.study

Here is the portrait by Velasquez that inspired my painting of el Don.

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If you’d like a copy of Señor Don Gato, shoot me an e-mail at Jmanders@aol.com.  I have a small stash of mint-condition copies and I’ll be happy to autograph them for you.  I’m charging $40 per copy.  Half of that will go to the Venango County Humane Society.  I promise to do some kind of big cardboard check photo op so you know I didn’t keep all the cash for myself.  The offer’s good til I run out of books.

Asterix le Gaulois is 50 years old!

Nous sommes en 50 avant Jèsus-Christ.  Toute la Gaule est occupèe par les Romains…Toute?  Non!  Un village peuple d’irrèductibles Gaulois rèsiste encore et toujours à l’envahisseur.  Et la vie n’est pas facile pour les garnisons de lègionnaires romains des camps retranchès de Babaorum, Aquarium, Laudanum et Petitbonum…

50 B.C.  All Gaul is occupied by the Romans.  All?  No!…One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders.  And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium…

AsterixObelix

Asterix, a Gaulish warrior and his pal, Obelix are the two main characters in this little village.  Written by the late Rene Goscinny and drawn by Albert Uderzo, Asterix and Obelix’ adventures take them all over the Classical world—and even into the New one.  I discovered these French comic books in the 70’s when Asterix was already 15 years old.  In a used bookstore I found a catalogue from an exhibit of comic strip art shown in the Louvre.  In it were a few of Uderzo’s drawings—and I knew I had to see more.  With lots of help from my high school French teacher, I wrote a letter to Asterix’ publisher, Dargaud, asking how I could get my hands on those comic books.  Before long, I owned the first in the series ($2.95, not bad) and would accumulate more.

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Looking at Albert Uderzo’s style it’s immediately obvious what an influence his drawings had on me—let’s face it, they still do.  As a kid wanting to be a comic artist I consciously mimicked his style. Uderzo is a master of perspective and camera angles and sight gags.

asterix

The stories are ostensibly for kids, but full of puns and current event gags and spoofs of Latin.  French celebrities made cameo appearances (not that I’d know who they were).  But here’s what’s important: Goscinny and Uderzo paid their audience the compliment of assuming we had enough knowledge of Classical history to get the jokes.

Asterix captured a sense of French national pride and cultural identity.  But not only for the French; as Asterix and Obelix traveled the Classiical world, the authors poked gentle fun at the peoples who would one day be Brits, Germans, Spaniards, Danes, &c., &c.  Apparently everybody likes getting the Gosciny/Uderzo treatment—Asterix is the most translated of French literature.

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Alas, the world has changed in 50 years.  Europe is become the European Union, and national pride—French or otherwise—is not to be encouraged.  A couple of years back according to Charles Bremner of the Times, Albert Uderzo was asked by Dominique Versini, the EU Children’s Defender to let Asterix and Obelix be the official ambassadors to the United Nations convention on the Rights of Children.  Not so fast, said the higher-ups at Defence for Children International:

‘… Astérix conveys an “archaic…hierarchical” world at odds with the revolutionary” values of the 1989 convention…said Jean-Pierre Rosenczveig, a senior juvenile judge who heads the French DCI.

Astérix also projects “a Gaulish vision which ignores the intercultural reality of French society,” they say. His constant resistance against the Romans and other foreign invaders sends altogether the wrong message in the peace-loving European Union.’

Vercingetorix may be laying down his arms at Caesar’s feet once again.  Asterix is “a eulogy to tribal, hierarchical, society with frequent references to a chief.”  And that’s no good, mes enfants.

Alors.  Once upon a time, with the help of their druid’s magic potion, a tiny village of plucky Gauls could snap their fingers at the mighty Roman Empire.  And the Romans never were able to discover the potion’s recipe.

Asterix’ website http://gb.asterix.com/indexmus.html

Model sheets

Before I start a new project, I read through the manuscript a few times.  My first step is to doodle some aimless drawings—to warm up, I guess—then I begin the serious business of drawing thumbnail sketches in the form of a storyboard.  As I’m doing that, I stop every so often to work on model sheets of the characters.  The first ones are just like this sketch of Barnacle Bleackear, from Henry and the Buccaneer Bunnies and Henry & the Crazed Chicken Pirates.

blackear.sketch

To really get into a character, though, you need to draw the heck out of it.  Here is a model sheet of the duck from The Perfect Nest.  Drawing the character in a bunch of poses helps me to understand how it looks from different angles.  After drawing the same character many times, it’s a whole lot easier to incorporate into a page sketch.

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Here are the goose and hen from The Perfect Nest.

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goose.modelB

hen.modelB

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And here’s Jack the cat from the same book.  I design each character before I begin the tight page sketches.  It’s crucial that these characters look consistent throughout the book.  My audience is 5-8 years old, and many of them are just learning to read.  They need to be able to identify a character every time it appears.  You can see that these sheets help me work out and understand each character’s proportions—and also allow me to develop the expressions, gestures and poses that establish its personality.

jack.model