Thursday, December 31, 2009

Monster PSA: Colin Clive

Because of the holiday, Time Out New York produced two double issues in mid-December, giving everyone--including me--the rest of the month off. Consequently, I didn't have a new "Hot Seat" portrait to show off this week, so I thought I'd post another Monster PSA poster!

This one doesn't require a lot of explanation, Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein is one of the most recognized characters from 30s horror. The tag line is my version of the cheeky, ever-so-slightly naughty humor seen in British films like the Carry On series, the kind of humor I think James Whale and Colin Clive might have appreciated.

Have a Happy New Year everybody!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monster PSA: Caroll Borland

One of the most striking icons from the world of 30s horror is actress Caroll Borland, as she appeared in MGM's 1935 film Mark of the Vampire, co-starring Bela Lugosi.

I was working on this piece, trying to come up with a tag line that somehow matched the picture, when Darlin' Tracy walked behind, looked at the piece, and said, "You feel your best when you look your best", which seemed just perfect to me!

Caroll Borland T-Shirt
Caroll Borland Mug

Friday, December 25, 2009

From The Vault: Dove - 2003

During 2002-2004 I did a lot portrait illustrations for a corporation called Hewitt for various trade publications they produced, and in 2003 they asked me to produce this illustration for the company Christmas card.

If I remember correctly, I initially had some details on the dove but decided to make it just a flat, abstract shape, which I thought looked a lot better. Looking back over it, there's a couple changes I would make but overall I think it holds up pretty well!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Time Out New York: Mariah Carey

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is superstar Mariah Carey!

Instead of an album, Ms. Carey was promoting her supporting role as a social worker in
the movie Precious. Since she's very plain and dressed down in the movie (far from her normal ultra-glamorous look), I went for a more low-key portrait--with just a touch of sparkle. It is Mariah Carey, after all.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monster PSA: Max Schreck

It was only a matter of time, really, until I got around to Max Schreck for one of my "Monster PSA" posters.

Part of the legend of Mr. Schreck
is how completely disappeared into his rat-like role in Nosferatu (heck, there was even a whole movie--Shadow of the Vampire--supposing Schreck was really a vampire playing a vampire in the movie), so I ran with that for the tag line.

And given Nosferatu's German impressionistic roots, I went a little rougher on the portrait, and decided to go with a drab gray as a highlight instead of another bright color.

Max Schreck T-Shirt
Max Schreck Mug

Friday, December 18, 2009

From The Vault: Lou Reed - 2005

This was an odd portrait I did of Lou Reed. Obviously, it being Lou Reed was less important to me in this piece than the overall weirdo design. Its a strange piece, pretty atypical of the other stuff I've done.

I tried a portrait of Lou Reed a few years earlier, which was kind of blah. This one doesn't really capture him, either--I think I need to do a proper portrait sometime. Lou Reed deserves it!

(Side note: I have to thank my pal, fellow artist, and former roommate Sean Tiffany for introducing me to Reed's work. Back during our first year at the Kubert School, he would play Reed's New York album on my cassette player all the time, and fairly quickly I really began to like it. Thanks Sean!)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Time Out New York: Terry Gilliam

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is director Terry Gilliam!

This one was a lot of fun, mainly because I'm a big fan of Mr. Gilliam, and I enjoyed having a shot at doing a portrait of him. Unfortunately, for whatever reason the deadline on this one was extremely compressed, meaning I basically had less than a day to get this done, so I didn't have a whole lot of time to experiment.

It was tempting to do some sort of crazy background, since Gilliam's reputation (as a director, at least) is one made of arguments with studios, unforseen difficulties in filming, budget overruns, and other chaotic elements.

But I decided to downplay that and go with something more fanciful and dreamlike, since Gilliam's films frequently have that feeling. The guy is so visionary in so many ways I think it leaves many viewers (including me, at times) sort of bewildered. So I liked this background, it felt we were peering into Gilliam's imagination in some way.

This is the third member of Monty Python I've had the good fortune to do a portrait of for TONY, after John Cleese and Michael Palin:
...three down, two to go!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monster PSA: Myrna Loy

This week's "Monster PSA" poster is one of my personal favorites, because it combines of my favorite actors, Myrna Loy, and one of my favorite horror movies, the completely insane (read: awesome) 1932 movie The Mask of Fu Manchu.

Loy (
who I fell in love with via her many pictures with William Powell) plays the evil and horny Fah Lo See, daughter of Boris Karloff's Fu Manchu. This was just before Loy exploded into fame as Nora Charles in The Thin Man movies, so this was the last of this type of movie she would appear in (unless you count the 1979 TV movie, Ants--the less said about that the better).

Loy had such an angelic face, but takes to the role of Fah with relish, ogling one of her father's foes with barely concealed lust. She's a classic movie Bad Girl, and so in this poster she cops to having a lot of fun with it.

Myrna Loy T-Shirt
Myrna Loy Mug

Friday, December 11, 2009

From The Vault: Katharine Hepburn - 2004

This was a "tribute" piece to the legendary Katharine Hepburn, who had died earlier that year.

Working at a video store for a few years after art school, I gained a real appreciation for many of the stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and I remember working my way through our Katharine Hepburn section. My favorite films of hers were the ones she did with Spencer Tracy, but of course she did many, many classic films all on her own.

Looking back over this piece, I'm sort of stunned that I didn't keep it in my permanent rotation, since I think it came out really well--its undeniably Katharine Hepburn, but it has a slightly-cartoony fluidness that really appeals to me.

I guess I didn't realize what I had at the time...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Time Out New York: Emily Blunt

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is actress Emily Blunt!

This portrait was a first for me, in that it was the first time a subject was repeated--TONY interviewed Emily Blunt back in 2008:
At the time, I went for an Golden Age of Hollywood Glamour-type shot, which I thought came off well.

This time, Ms. Blunt was promoting the film Young Victoria, so I used the color of royalty--purple--and added in a regal-y(?) looking texture. And since the first portrait was in black and white, I thought it was only appropriate to do a full-color shot this time around.

I hope TONY interviews Ms. Blunt again next February, when The Wolf Man remake she co-stars in comes out!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monster PSA: Rondo Hatton

It was only a matter of time until I got around to featuring the late, great Rondo Hatton on one of my Monster PSA posters!

I don't think there's any one actor from the Golden Age of horror movies that has gone as far as Hatton, in terms of how obscure he was then to how famous he is now.

I hope the tag line--just too obvious not to do--doesn't seem like I'm goofing on Mr. Hatton's famous, tragic condition; I'm not.

From what I've read, Rondo Hatton was a very nice man, friendly to his co-workers and an all-around agreeable sort; he also served his country in WWI, where he was gassed on the battlefield, leading to his Acromeglia.

Yet he was cast in movies where his real-life looks were used cruelly remarked upon, as if the guy standing right there didn't understand what was being said (maybe Mr. Hatton, probably close to unemployable, simply figured it was worth it to put food on the table). So, to me, that's why the tag line is so appropriate--he may have looked like a monster, but he was probably an okay fella.

Rondo Hatton T-Shirt
Rondo Hatton Mug

Friday, December 4, 2009

From The Vault: Kitchen Couple - 2007

This was a sample piece I did for a client that was putting together some sort of massive manual-type book, one that would feature hundreds of illustrations from dozens of artists.

I don't remember much else about it from that, but during the course of working on this piece and sending it in, a lot of the important details about the project changed and I ended up not working on it at all.

Too bad, I guess, since I like this piece a lot--it has a very different look than a lot of my stuff, yet its still recognizably my style.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Time Out New York: Malcolm Gladwell

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is author Malcolm Gladwell, who was promoting his newest book, What The Dog Saw.

I've read all of Gladwell's previous books, and I thoroughly enjoy the way he presents what could be dry data interwoven with personal, compelling stories.

I originally was going to have a background composed of random data, facts and figures, but decided to go more organic and use this stock background, messing around with the colors until I got the look I wanted.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Namtab on the Web

The Trip To Mars poster I did last week for the Boris Karloff Blogathon was the subject of a post over at the blog Marooned, which is all about sci-fi, fantasy, and horror books on Mars.

It's a really cool blog, you should check it out!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

11 Acorn Lane

This is the front sleeve and disc art for the CD Everybody's Here, the newest release from the band 11 Acorn Lane.

I was asked to do a portrait of the band for the front sleeve, and while I was working on the piece I came up with the two distinct versions you see above. I sent both versions along, and the band liked them so much they decided to use both!

The guys of 11 Acorn Lane were very nice to work with and very enthusiastic about my work, and I'm very happy with how everything came out. You can find out more about the band and the CD on their official site.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Monster PSA: Rod Taylor

This week's Monster PSA poster of The Time Machine's Rod Taylor was done as a sort of companion piece to the Morlocks one (seen exclusively for the TCM Movie Morlocks interview I did back in September with Richard Harlan Smith), since I'm such a big fan of that movie.

I've been using all different color combinations for these PSA posters, but I've tended to stay away from red and green because, to almost everyone, it immediately screams Christmas. But I thought I'd give it a try here, and I don't think it came out too badly.

This is one of the few posters where the subject isn't offering you, the reader, advice; rather he's pointing out the differences between you and he. I'd say anyone who built themselves a time machine would probably feel the need to distance himself from everyone else.

Rod Taylor T-Shirt
Rod Taylor Mug

Friday, November 27, 2009

From The Vault: Frankentat! - 2006

We end Boris Karloff Week where we began (almost), with a piece inspired by a blog about Frankenstein.

Back in 2005, there was a blog called Frankentat!, featuring nothing but Frankenstein-related merchandise. I don't remember how I came across it, but I remember loving its singular focus, and it was probably an influence for me starting up The Aquaman Shrine.

Anyway, the guy that ran Frankentat! saw my work, and asked if I would come up with a blog header, which sounded like a lot of fun. So I re-used the Boris Karloff as Frankenstein shot from my Universal Monster poster, and then did up a brand-new portrait of Christopher Lee as the Monster.

I put it all together, adding the blog's clever tagline, and I thought it was a nifty little piece. Frankentat! liked it too, and it sat atop the blog after that. Not too much later, the posts became increasingly sparse--sometimes a month would go by without anything new--and eventually I forgot all about it.

When searching through my vaults for a Karloff-related piece, I found this, having pretty much forgotten I ever did it. I just checked, and the Frankentat! blog is gone--as if it was never there!

Thankfully, we all have a great Frankenstein blog to follow, Frankensteinia, which inspired me to do this theme week in the first place. Thanks Pierre, it was fun!

To learn more about the Boris Karloff Blogathon, click the graphic below to see how other blogs are celebrating the man!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Time Out New York: Matisyahu

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is musician Matisyahu!

Living a somewhat sheltered, hermit-like existence, I had never heard of Matisyahu before, so I did some research on him--he's got quite a fanbase!

Obviously, the biggest challenge here was drawing out his beard without going insane. To get some of the really scraggly hair right, I drew a bunch of it with the pencil tool, which gave it the proper look.

All in all, I thought it came out fairly well!

This has been Boris Karloff Week here at the blog, so some of you are probably assuming I had to skip it for today. Au contraire! Boris is in that picture, I promise.

To learn more about the Boris Karloff Blogathon, click the graphic below to see how other blogs are celebrating the man!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Body Snatcher

After Karloff-centric Monster PSA and Universal posters, I had to come up with something else for today. Since I previously I had done custom posters for two of Val Lewton's films (Curse of the Cat People and I Walked With A Zombie) I thought why not tackle one of the films he did with Boris?

By most people's reckoning, The Body Snatcher is the best of the Karloff/Lewton collaborations. Directed by Robert Wise, it feels like a hybrid between Lewton's more intellectual approach to horror, but with a little more of the gothic touches you'd see in the Universal films of the time (undoubtedly helped by the appearance of Bela Lugosi, the last time he and Karloff would appear in a film together).

Once I had finished the portrait of Boris carting off yet another victim, it was just a matter of finding the right design to put in around it. I originally had a more design-y white box cutting across the bottom, but when I dropped in the grass effect, I liked how that worked a lot better. I added some text from the original posters and voila!

To learn more about the Boris Karloff Blogathon, click the graphic below to see how other blogs are celebrating the man!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Universal Monsters: A Trip To Mars

"The Most Fantastic Trip Two Worlds Have Ever Seen!"

Today's entry for Boris Karloff Week is this, the newest of my Universal Monsters poster series. This particular one is my greatest flight of fancy, since A Trip To Mars does not exist.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, A Trip to Mars was announced as James Whale's next film after the triumph of Frankenstein. Not much information about it is known (dozens of movies--some little more than one-sentence ideas--were announced by studios, never to get any further than a press release), but I did read in author John Soister's Of Gods and Monsters book that it was to feature Boris Karloff as a martian, leading some sort of mass revolution on the red planet.

The movie was abandoned, probably mostly because of the enormous cost involved in such a venture. Soon after, Whale and Karloff moved on to The Old Dark House.

So I imagined, what might a Trip to Mars poster look like? Who else might have starred in it, what would the plot have been?

I decided that the film would feature actors that Whale had worked with before (Dwight Frye) and two that we would work with in films soon (Ernest Thesiger and Claude Rains). Rains would be the guy who wants to explore Mars, Thesiger the evil guy who wants to plunder the planet's riches, and Frye would be the weird guy who stows away on the rocket to Mars and basically mucks everything up.

As for Karloff, of course, there are no pics of him in Martian make-up, because the film never got that far. So I had to make up my own...make up, which means I'd have to come up with something as good as Jack Pierce, which of course wasn't going to happen.

So I found a pic of Boris from the 1939 film Tower of London, and went to town on it, adding a goofy Martian third eye, adding and subtracting some facial features, and putting him in a giant, ostentatious, Ming The Merciless-ish outfit.

I decided to add a 1930s-ish rocket, breaking with my normal tradition of not having any other graphics on these posters, because I thought it was too neat not to have on there--plus, since we're talking about a movie that doesn't exist, I thought the poster needed some more iconography to make it as effective as possible.

To learn more about the Boris Karloff Blogathon, click the graphic below to see how other blogs are celebrating the man!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monster PSA: Boris Karloff

This week is the Boris Karloff Blogathon, a week-long celebration of All Things Karloff taking place all over the web. All this week, I will be featuring pieces centered around Mr. Karloff (those of you who follow my work closely are probably wondering how I'm going to pull this off on Thursday--well, be here then and find out!).

Starting off, I thought I'd have my first repeat performance for a "Monster PSA" poster, this time featuring Boris as he appeared in the 1935 Universal film The Raven, an unusual film in that it features Bela Lugosi in the starring role, and Boris as a supporting character (though, this being Boris Karloff, he still gets some cool, creepy stuff to do).

As to the tag line...I don't know, for some reason the opening line from Bob Dylan's song "If You Ever Go To Houston" (from this year's 2009 Together Through Life album) kept reverberating in my head. What it has to do with Boris Karloff, or Boris Karloff as The Raven's Edmund Bateman, I have no idea.

At first I rejected it, thinking it was just too odd, but over time it grew on me. Maybe Boris' Edmund Bateman--looking clearly the worse for wear--had been to Houston, gotten in some real trouble, and was now attempting to pass a bit of wisdom to the rest of us. Perhaps I'm overthinking it.

In any case, I like how it came out, so I decided it was going to kick off Boris Karloff Week!

To learn more about the Boris Karloff Blogathon, click the graphic below to see how other blogs are celebrating the man!

Friday, November 20, 2009

From The Vault: Kirk Alyn as Superman - 2006

This is a portrait of the very first live action Superman, Kirk Alyn, who played the Man of Steel in the two Superman movie serials.

In 2006, I was (ahem)super-excited about the upcoming Superman Returns movie, so I did a bunch of portraits of the live action Supermen (Alyn, Reeves, Reeve), this was the one I thought came out the best.

I did a couple of custom-made posters for the Batman and Blackhawk movie serials, I keep meaning to getting around to doing one for one of the Superman serials. Yet another poster on my "to-do" list!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Time Out New York: Kristen Bell

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is Kristen Bell!

Ms. Bell was promoting her new movie, Serious Moonlight, but since I didn't know much about it I decided to do a portrait more reflective of her bubbly, sunny personality (in movies, at least, like Forgetting Sarah Marshall).

As you can see, I went for very cheery colors and overall upbeat look. The faded "leaf" effect doesn't mean anything in particular, other than it helped with the feel I wanted--and it accidentally sort of goes along with her hair, making it look like there's a slight breeze!

I have to thank Time Out New York for allowing me the opportunity to search the web for pictures of Kristen Bell and getting to call it work.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Green Goddess

Sometimes you just want to make something.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monster PSA: Forest Ackerman

This week's "Monster PSA" poster is not a monster at all, but uber-fan Forrest J. Ackerman!

I figured Forry Ackerman, above anyone else, would probably really appreciate these PSA posters I've been doing, since it was he who pioneered the goofy, jokey tone towards the monsters in the pages of Famous Monsters of Filmland.

The tag line is maybe a little schmaltzy, but I can't imagine a better life than Forry's--getting to be, essentially, a professional horror/sci-fi fan, and living long enough to see first hand how much your work meant to several generations of other horror/sci-fi fans.

I'm very sorry I never got the chance to meet him, he seemed like a really fun guy.

Forry Ackerman T-shirt
Forry Ackerman Mug

Friday, November 13, 2009

From The Vault: Pumpkins - 2004

During the brief time I had an agent, I was working on all kinds of material that was more advertising-centric. Upon their suggestion, they wanted some new material to show around, so I was pretty busy cranking out new stuff.

One idea I had were a series of illustrations of fruits and vegetables, done up as little stickers maybe, very simple monochromatic images. I ended up doing about dozen of these, and I thought they looked pretty good overall.

I picked this one to highlight because, well, I love pumpkin!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time Out New York: Wes Anderson

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is writer/director Wes Anderson!

This one was a lot of fun, partly because I'm a fan of Anderson's work (I count Rushmore as one of my all-time favorite films), and it gave me the opportunity to try something a little different.

Anderson's films are stuffed to the rafters with meticulous art direction; his movie's characters live in worlds that look like they've been lived in for many decades. And the style of the films themselves match the art direction, frequently utilizing title cards, still photos, or (in the case of Rushmore) curtains that part to show the action.

So I decided to draw Anderson's body in a scratchy, cartoony, kid-like way, giving it a look that I thought matched what you might see in one of his films. It took a few tries to get it exactly right (trying out different colors and line weights), to give it enough visual heft so that the full-color head portrait didn't overwhelm it.

I can see a few small things I'd change, but, overall, I really like how it came out--its always rewarding when I try something new and it works. Chalk one up for experimentation!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Exhibition at the Miami Beach Cinematheque Part 3

This is the outside of the beautiful Miami Beach Cinematheque, which started its exhibition of some of my Universal Monster posters on Halloween.

MBC also had a live webchat with me before a screening of Frankenstein, where I talked about the posters and answered a few questions, waves of sound emitting from my giant head:
...who dares disturb the great and powerful Rob?!?

Here are some shots of the posters on display. I've never seen them at this large a size (22x30") and framed and lit in such a beautiful manner:
I was really impressed with MBC's presentation and effort they put towards my work, and while I was a bit nervous while doing the webchat, I enjoyed it. Thanks to MBC's Dana Keith for putting it all together!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monster PSA: Peter Lorre

This week's "Monster PSA" poster is Peter Lorre, as he appeared in the uber-creepy, uber-weird 1935 horror movie Mad Love.

Mad Love (directed by Karl Freund, who also did The Mummy) is so strange, such a perverse little movie that it seems amazing it got produced at all. Strangely, it doesn't seem to rank up there with the great 1930s horror films, and outside of film fans its generally not that well known.

I wonder what might have happened if it had been produced by Universal anbd had been part of their stable of films, instead of MGM, which didn't seem into making horror movies at all? I think its possible that if Lorre's Dr. Gogol had been a Universal character, he would've fit in right alongside Dracula, Frankenstein, and the rest.

When coming up with the poster, the tag line seemed obvious. When you look like that, you're sure to feel like you stand out a bit...

Peter Lorre t-shirt
Peter Lorre mug

Friday, November 6, 2009

From The Vault: The Batman Family - 1997

Deciding to post this odd little strip for this week's "From The Vault" installment was partly inspired by my pal Sean Tiffany, who frequently posts really vintage pieces of his work on his art blog.

When I got out of art school, I was doing a lot of collage work and even managed to get a few freelance jobs with that style. Of course, collage as an illustration method can be rather limiting, so I was searching for ways to expand what I could do with it.

One of the ways was this weird comic book/collage hybrid, which Sean once described as "South Park before there was South Park."

At the time, news of the fourth Batman movie was starting to leak out (in those pre-internet days, when great beasts roamed the Earth) and I took that as a springboard for this idea, where Bats takes you on a tour of all his supporting characters and makes a few comments about each.

Looking back over this, some of the jokes fall flat, but there are some I think are still pretty funny. Also, the juxtaposition of the collage elements behind each character also still work for me--my favorite being a little chunk of text behind Catwoman that says "Caution: Filling Is Hot!" that I cut off a McDonald's apple pie package.

With each panel filled with little bits and pieces and squiggly lines, these two pages took me a long while to put together. The upside to that is, twelve years later, these originals are still a lot of fun to look at and hold in my hands. Every so often I think about doing another two-pager like this, but I've yet to come up with a compelling idea that inspires me enough to devote all the time and effort. But who knows what the future holds?

I have other examples of this kind of work, so if you'd like to see more, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Time Out New York: Penelope Cruz

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York is actress Penelope Cruz!

Having to look at pictures of Penelope Cruz is not a bad way to spend some time (especially when its officially "work"!), and I knew I wanted something very bright and striking.

I decided to extend her hair well past where she actually has it, and turn it into some sort of graphic-y shape. Having a black and white portrait with a light magenta background made the whole thing seem to really pop, and its one of my recent favorites.