Friday, July 31, 2009

From The Vault: Neon Esther Williams - 1994

This is one of my earliest attempts at my cut-paper illustration style, done when I was trying all kinds of different things to see what worked and what didn't.

It was intended as a portrait of 40s/50s Hollywood star Esther Williams, but in the end that's not what is the "point" of this piece--no, it's the almost neon-bright color scheme that I unwittingly employed this time around. Detail is at a minimum, and the colors seem to scream out at you.

This isn't an approach you can use too many times--its just too garish--but it has a more Pop Art type feel to me than a lot of other stuff I've done, and its weird I never went back and tried at least a couple more in this style.

"Eat at Joe's!"

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Time Out New York: Rob Riggle

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York was is actor/comedian Rob Riggle, one of the correspondents on The Daily Show, and also appearing in the new film The Goods.

I'm a big fan of Mr. Riggle, first seeing him on Saturday Night Live, then later on TDS, where his faux-aggressive persona never ceases to make me laugh.

Riggle is also a veteran, a fact that comes up every so often during his Daily Show segments. So I wanted something straightforwardly patriotic and classic, and this all came together pretty quickly.

I hope that, when it runs in the magazine this week, people don't think the stars and stripes motif is meant to be sarcastic, or a Colbert Report-style parody; because it isn't--its meant as a tribute to Riggle's service, and also a symbolic take on his comedic persona.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Double Feature: Laura/Gilda

This is a custom-made poster for a double feature that never existed, but should have.

I was asked by my pal Eddie Muller, writer and film historian, to work up a poster for a Laura/Gilda double feature, to accompany an article currently appearing on his Film Noir Foundation website, called "Single Word Double Bills" by Don Malcolm, all about great, single-word-titled film noir movies paired together.

I got so excited about the prospect of putting this piece together that I literally couldn't wait to work on it, and ended up putting other work aside so I could get to this. I spent one wonderful, sunny Sunday putting most of this together, then finished it off the next day.

As soon as Eddie asked me about doing the piece, I came up with main visual motif in my mind--having both title women be (of course) the focus, and having their male co-stars match each other as monochromatic background elements.

From beginning to end, it was a pure joy to work on, and I'm proud that its up on the Film Noir Foundation site, and I'm so glad Eddie asked me to do it!

Friday, July 24, 2009

From The Vault: Teresa Wright - 2005

Having worked at a video store for a few years, I became much more appreciate of older movies than I ever had been to that point. Since rentals were free, I devoured as many films as I could watch before my eyes popped out of my head.

Watching a lot of those movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood, one of my favorite actresses was Teresa Wright, who starred in such classics as The Best Years of Our Lives, Pride of the Yankees, and Hitchock's Shadow of a Doubt. She tended to play characters that seemed sunny and simple on the outside, but had a steely determination and a fierce intelligence on the inside.

So when Ms. Wright passed away in 2005, I put together this portrait of her, as my "tribute" (for lack of a better word) to a great actress and a great star.

(Around the same time, I wrote a letter to Entertainment Weekly, taking them to task for the paucity of their obituary for her, in contrast the to space they gave for "news" surrounding various reality TV "stars." They actually printed my letter a few issues later, meaning I've had my words inside the magazine, but not any of my pictures.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Time Out New York: Zach Galifianakis

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York was actor/comedian Zach Galifianakis, currently starring in The Hangover, and the Disney Film G-Force. Busy summer for the guy!

This was one of those "experiments" where I wanted to try something a little different and...frankly, I don't think it quite came off. Galifianakis has this very mellow, slouchy-type demeanor, and I wanted to try and capture that with the colors, and by partly covering up his eyes with "Z" and "G" in a sort of psychedelic look.

I got this week's subject late in the week, very late, to the point where I didn't have a lot of time left after drawing all that damn hair to really sit back and see if it worked. I pretty much put it together, went "Yeah, that works!" and sent it off.

But as I look at it now, I'm not so sure. It's my own fault for not taking a look at it again the morning I sent it in, with fresh eyes, to see if I could improve it at all. But I had to (literally) catch a train, and I didn't make the time.

I'm never thrilled to have something I think is less than my best in print, with my name on it, but over the years I've had to learn to live with it. They don't teach you that in art school...

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Curse of the Cat People

While figuring out what movie I wanted to make one of my custom-made posters for, I had a couple of choices, ultimately going with The Third Man.

But Val Lewton's Curse of the Cat People was a close second, so I figured why not just jump right into this one the following Sunday, which seems to be becoming my most fertile day for producing these things?

Originally, I had wanted just to do a poster for the original film, the classic Cat People, but during my photo search for pics of both film's star, Simone Simon, I found an amazingly beautiful shot of her from some French fashion magazine in the 1940s.

I realized that I could use that to bathe her in shadows, and have her looking down upon the other characters, which meant that it would better as the poster for Cat People's sequel, The Curse of the Cat People, where her character, Irena, sort-of haunts the other characters from beyond the grave (Irena having died at the end of the original film).

RKO Films' publicity department slapped menacing pics of cats on both films' posters, even though its a highly misleading image, and I felt compelled to follow suit. Mrrrowwwrrr!

Friday, July 17, 2009

From The Vault: Seal - 2003

During the summer of 2003, right after I had met Darlin' Tracy but was still living in my apartment, I was inspired to work on a bunch of animal-related pieces, and during a 2-3 week period I was cranking them out at a furious pace.

Thinking I might be able to sell them as original pieces of art, I decided to do most of them "the old-fashioned way"; meaning with cut paper, glue, and paint, instead of digitally. It meant filling the air with that nasty spray glue smell, but what the hell--what's a few lost brain cells in the cause of art?

I ended up with a pretty solid good to bad ratio with them--many of them I was very happy with (some of which can still be seen on my Animal Art page), some very good but not great, and some would never be seen again.

This one of the seal seemed to be in that middle category--a solid piece, but not one of the best, so it went into the vault, pretty much never to be seen again. But looking over it again now, I think its looks pretty good!

One footnote: In 2006, I was invited to hang some of my work as part of a small gallery showing in Philadelphia. Since most of the originals I had on me were the animal pieces, I just brought them. By the end of the show, I had sold all but two or three pieces, including this one! So obviously they struck some sort of chord.

Maybe I should start doing these again!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Time Out New York: Adam Brody

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York was actor Adam Brody.

When the subject is someone I don't know much about, like in this case (I never watched The O.C.), I do a little research to find out what it is they're promoting, and try and key into that somehow.

Brody is in a movie called Death In Love, and I went and searched out the film's poster (which I thought was pretty cool). It had a rough look it that I liked, so I used some of its predominant colors (red and blue) and used some cheap construction paper as the background, instead of just dropping it in with Photoshop, which I thought would've been too smooth and perfect (although you can't tell the difference all that much from looking at it here).

I also wanted a lot of contrast, so I did the Brody portrait in black and white instead of color, which I thought worked out fairly well.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Third Man

For whatever reason, I've been in a mood to do nothing but poster work lately, even though they are 3-4x the amount of work that a simple portrait is.

I guess its partly because I've been watching a lot of film noir lately (The House on Telegraph Hill, Hangover Square), and that, more than anything else, I really enjoy working out the design of any given piece--figuring out where to place the text, the pictures, what colors to use, what graphic elements to put in--its a like a maddening puzzle I can't help but try and solve.

I had originally wanted to do a poster for a Paul Newman film, because I just finished a biography about him, but when I couldn't settle on which movie I wanted to do, I moved on and looked around for other classic films to, er, poster-ize.

Since I never get tired of doing Orson Welles portraits, I decided to have a go at The Third Man, arguably Orson's second-most famous movie (and my initial inspiration for this whole style of illustration), and full of great, captivating images.

Pretty quickly, I imagined representing Welles's character--the inscrutable Harry Lime--as just a shadow, looming over the film's two protagonists, played by Welles co-hort Joseph Cotten and Italian actress Valli.

After coming up with that, it was just a matter of building up all the elements around that central idea. And despite all the twists, turns, and blind alleys I went down while putting this piece together, it was that element that remained pretty much constant throughout the piece.

I worked on it all day, only adding the bright blue at the last minute, since it seemed a little drab to me (to that point, it had been mostly black and white, with just the two figures in color). Once I added the blue, though, the piece came alive to me and I called it a day!

Friday, July 10, 2009

From The Vault: Neil Diamond - 1994

Sometimes picking the week's "From The Vault" piece is a total stream of consciousness process.

I was in the middle of making a CD mix of songs for Darlin' Tracy, something I do fairly regularly that she enjoys. Its generally a mix of some new songs I've discovered, some older songs in my collection I think she'd like, and some random songs she'll mention that she likes. One song from the last category was Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline", so as soon as I could I downloaded it from iTunes.

Then, as I was deciding what piece to put up here, I remembered back in 1994, my formerly-Kubert School pals Sean Tiffany and Dan Eaker had some weird thing going where they fell in love with Neil Diamond's music. I remember not being able to tell whether it was all a joke, or serious, or some combo of the two.

Anyway, at the time I decided to get in on the joke by doing this cut-paper portrait of the man rocking out. I didn't think it came out too bad, but now I wish I had let the orange part creep a little further into the yellow part, and not stop at the black, dammit! What was I thinking?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Time Out New York: Rupert Grint

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York was Ron Weasley himself, Rupert Grint!

My first thought in terms of background was to reproduce a page from the Harry Potter books featuring Ron Weasley, but that quickly gave way to something I thought would work better visually--a piece of stock art of a castle that looked Potter-ish.

I faded it a bit, and then added the blue glow to give the whole thing a more hazy feel, which contrasted better with the portrait.

(Attention Ms. Rowling: If you would like to buy this piece from me, please send me a Paypal payment of $100,000 U.S. I know you can spare it. Thanks!)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Time Out New York: Bruno

This week's "Hot Seat" portrait for Time Out New York was Sascha Baron Cohen, aka Bruno!

For whatever reason, this subject was chosen very late in the week, so I ended up with less than 12 hours to turn this piece around and get it in to the magazine.

Once they had told me the interview was with the Bruno character, not Cohen himself, I knew I wanted to go with some crazy, collage-type background. So I grabbed some of the more discordant elements of Bruno's adventures, and slapped them together in a noisy, frenetic style. Umlaut's ahoy!