Friday, December 31, 2010

"Happy New Year, Pilgrim."

I did this caricature of John Wayne just recently so that I could give a print of it as a Christmas gift to my stepfather, as he's a huge fan of The Duke. Originally I was going to do it in my usual approach: inked line art, then coloured up in Photoshop. However, I was rather pleased with the way it looked in the pencil sketch (which I also rendered a bit more than usual), so I thought I'd treat the finished art as more painterly, still colouring it in Photoshop, yet with a looser treatment overall. Anyway, it was certainly a fun piece to work on. The film I viewed as reference to sketch from was Rio Bravo, in which John Wayne stars alongside Dean Martin and Angie Dickinson.

So, that's it for my posts of 2010 - See you all in the New Year!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

But Is It Art?

The above painting was just named 1st place winner in an art contest by The Toronto Star newspaper. When the image of this winning entry was published a couple days ago, the usual fawning accolades from the the ultraliberal* artsy fartsy community followed in the comments section. But then somebody rained on their parade by pointing out that this prize winner was clearly derived from a photo of Toronto streetcars in a winter storm that comes up near the top of a Google image search when you enter "Toronto-streetcar-snow".

(*For the record, I consider myself a liberal, but not an ultraliberal, which I think is just as wrongheaded as being an ultraconservative.)

And here is that very photo, taken by photographer Brian Labelle, which he'd had up on his Flickr site for some time. Yet, according to a follow-up article in The Star, the artiste will only admit to having been "inspired" by that photo, and only as one of dozens of others she was supposedly referencing in order to create her award winning painting.

Well, I'm just not buying her disclaimer. The "painting" is clearly a direct rip-off of Brian's photo and, in my opinion, hardly even qualifies as a painting either. For you see, I am able to get pretty much the same result by simply running Brian's photo through a Photoshop filter or two, which gives me the following image:

It seems to me that the artiste's painting is little more than a paint by numbers from a projected image (with a similar Photoshop filter) of the photo, with little square strokes of acrylic paint used in place of the pixillated squares. Voila - instant painting!

What personally irks me so much over this controversy is the fact that, not only is the artiste unwilling to admit to outright plagiarism, but the number of ultraliberal artsy fartsy types who have rushed to her defense, insisting that it's only "Similar, but not the same", and could have just been painted from the same location, that's all. Furthermore, they seem quite comfortable to accept it as original art, still worthy of winning the prize money of $2500.00.

As an instructor in a college animation program, one of my duties is to keep a wary eye out precisely for this sort of "inspiration". Unfortunately, there is a very fine line between a student being influenced by another character design that exists, and being guilty of outright plagiarism. I really hate having to make that kind of judgment call, but it's part of my job that I take very seriously. My advice to all students is to err on the side of caution. While it is considered okay to copy the art of others as part of the learning process, NEVER keep anything you like, nor any sketches you have directly copied from anything you like, within view when you are working on an actual Character Design assignment. Believe me, I have uncovered about a dozen or more situations over the last few years where I've had to have a tough talk with the students who, in my estimation, crossed the line. In many of those cases I have had to give a grade of zero for that particular assignment, especially when the same student has a reputation for being a repeat offender. Trust me, a grade of zero can seriously impede the chances of passing the class, when additional assignment grades may not be very high either.

Anyway, this situation with the streetcar painting has provided me with the ideal opportunity to address this sticky subject, as it also applies to the animation course at Sheridan. Frankly, I can't imagine how anybody who considers themselves an artist could be so blatantly derivative of work not their own, and not suffer from a guilty conscience. As far as I'm concerned, it shows a distinct lack of pride in one's own abilities.

Addendum: Here is a slideshow of the other winning entries. Personally, I think any one of entries #2, #3, or #4 would have been a more worthy 1st prize winner. I favour the cartoon depiction of Toronto's Distillery District, modeled in plasticene, but then again, artsy fartsy judges don't like cartoons.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Doodles

Looks like this blog is once again long overdue for an update. Unfortunately, what with grading student assignments as the fall semester ends, as well as getting stuff done for Christmas, I just haven't had much time to do much new art to post. I'm afraid that these latest doodles are the best I can offer at this time, sketched yesterday while having lunch out and reading my newspaper. Hopefully I can do some more finished art in the couple weeks I have off before school starts up again.

In the meantime, I'm going to just relax now on this Christmas Eve by sitting back and watching Bell, Book and Candle, which, while technically is not a Christmas movie per se, does take place over the Christmas season nevertheless. It stars Jimmy Stewart and the yummy Kim Novak, who plays a sexy witch as I've caricatured her below.

Merry Christmas, folks!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Christmas Party Caricatures

Here is another selection of my live event work featuring caricatures of the staff of Tetra Pak Canada, who held their Christmas party last evening up in Kleinburg. It was a fun event and I believe I sketched just over fifty caricatures over the space of about six hours or so. Many thanks to Catherine Klasios for hiring me for the evening!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fundraiser For Dexter

Last night there was a fundraiser held for Dexter, a sweet little tyke who has been battling cancer and other major health problems. No little two year old should have to go through what he has, yet through it all he is a happy baby who is adored by family and all who meet him. Dexter is the nephew of Derek Spencer, one of my former students, now in his graduating year at Sheridan College Animation. Derek should be commended for putting together this fundraiser for Dexter, and he's lucky to have such a lot of wonderful friends among his fellow students who were all there to lend a hand and support the cause through donations and volunteering. It was very touching for me to see just how much they all did to help out Derek's sister Lisa and her husband Dan, who have been facing mounting medical bills through this crisis.

Derek had asked if I'd be able to help out by doing some caricatures to help raise donations. I was honoured and happy to take part in the event, and here are the caricatures I drew during the evening:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Hallowe'en!!

Now, please go away while I'm having dinner...

Friday, October 29, 2010

James MacArthur

I was very sad to hear yesterday of the death of James MacArthur. He had appeared in Disney's Swiss Family Robinson, one of the loveliest of that studio's live-action films, but of course he will be best remembered as Detective Danny Williams on TV's long-running Hawaii Five-0. Coincidentally, I have been avidly watching the DVD boxed sets of that great series just recently over the last few months, and I truly believe it is one of the best of the crime dramas from that terrific era of television. The character of Danny Williams was always such a sturdy and reliable second-in-command to Detective Steve McGarrett, and James MacArthur played the role with such a quiet dignity that he imbued the character with real integrity.

It's hard for me to watch so many actors, singers, and various performers from my cherished entertainment of the past being lost each year. The 1960's and 1970's were a special time for me, and so many of my favourite performers were at the peak of their popularity in that era. In my opinion, television was at its absolute best back then - nothing today appeals to me, I'm afraid. Out of pure curiosity, I watched most of the pilot episode of that new updated Hawaii Five-0 series that just debuted a few weeks ago, and I thought it was typical contemporary crap. Yes, I know it's meant to appeal to the MTV generation as evidenced by its youthful cast with their casual attire and unshaven mugs, but it is hardly a worthy successor to the original series. I'm just starting into watching season two of the original Hawaii Five-0 and I long for when TV featured lavish colour, jazzy music scores, and admirable and appealing actors like Jack Lord and James MacArthur. We'll miss you, Danno...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Municipal Elections

Well, the various municipal elections took place here in Ontario yesterday. Mississauga re-elected Hazel McCallion once again by a landslide, making her one of the longest serving mayors (32 years!) in Canada now at age 89. I like and admire "Hurricane Hazel" very much, but I must confess that I voted for another candidate, Peter Orphanos, as I feel that Hazel has had a great run but should let somebody else take the reins. Still, Hazel won again with 76% of the vote, so Mississaugans obviously love her. The illustration pictured above shows a caricature of "Hurricane Hazel" alongside the mayors of Waterloo and London, Ontario, that I did for a magazine cover a couple years ago.

Things are somewhat less rosy in Toronto today (in my opinion) after voters elected Rob Ford as their new mayor. Having observed this guy in news reports during the campaign, I must admit that I think he's going to be trouble for the city. Rob's style is confrontational and very much "in-your-face", as is evidenced in the following two clips showing him in his former role as Toronto Councillor. Still, he'll be a political cartoonist's dream, so it isn't all bad!

Friday, October 22, 2010

More Character Types

Here are a bunch more sketches drawn from video, like the ones I showcased on my Oct. 4th entry. The ones pictured above are all of guests who have appeared on the Charlie Rose interview show seen on PBS. The show's website features numerous archived clips that are just great to sketch from, since the interviews allow you to study the subject in medium close-up, moving just enough that you can get a good feel for the design of the face and body, as well as their personality. I deliberately have drawn guests who I am not familiar with, as the point of the exercise is to take an honest approach to seeing the "design" of a face, in the size, shape and relative placement of the facial features on various head shapes, without getting hung up on whether or not a good likeness has been achieved. These sketches can then later be used as a starting point in developing "Character Types" for your cartoons and animation designs.

Here are direct links to all of the clips I used, so you can see how I interpreted the video reference:
Alison Gopnik
Klaus Schwab
Yang Lan
Jack Ma
Annie Cohen-Solal
Tung Chee-Hwa

The montage above is just of various people I have sketched recently from TV, so unfortunately I can't link to any clips for you. But I post them in the hope that it will encourage some of my readers to try this method of sketching people from video reference while taking a more caricatured approach. Specifically, I offer these up as examples to my Sheridan students as being representative of what I will be looking for in your ongoing assignment that I'll be assessing at the end of the fall semester.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dave Smith!

I just found out yesterday that today is the birthday of Dave Smith, the originator and longtime curator of the Disney Archives, who recently retired from that post after having been with Disney for 40 years. Before Dave came along, Disney did not have an archives to protect and record their studio history. But Dave, who had originally approached the company to compile a bibliography on Walt Disney, was pretty much able to write his own job ticket and proceeded to create The Disney Archives from the ground up, building it over the years into an integral part of The Disney Company.

I was lucky enough to meet Dave back in 1980, several years before I started my own Disney career in Disney's Canadian merchandising division. My friend, Russell Schroeder, whom I'd known for a number of years from when he worked as a character artist at Walt Disney World, had put me in touch with Dave when I had planned my first trip to L.A. so I could see the Disney studio. Dave was a gracious host, showing me and my buddy, Chris, around not only the Archives, but taking us on a tour of the studio backlot and the Animation Building, which was then still the REAL Animation Building before it got booted off the main lot. It was also on this first visit that I presented as a thank you gift to Dave, the painted caricature that you see at the top of this post. From what I gather, Dave has had it up on his office wall ever since then, so I am very honoured by that. I was also rather flattered that the image of just Dave with the Donald Duck doll was used to accompany a regular column called Ask Dave in the long-running Disney Magazine.

I'd visited a number of times with Dave over the years, but my favourite memory was when I went out to see him on a subsequent trip and he told me he'd phoned Ollie Johnston, whom I'd first met on my initial visit to the studio and had corresponded with since, to let him know I was in town. Well, Ollie said he'd be happy to drop by to see me, so I got a wonderful surprise when Ollie showed up and Dave was gracious enough to let us have his office for awhile so we could visit and chat for about a half hour or so. I always thought that was so kind of Dave to do that, and that visit remains my most cherished Disney memory.

Once I started working at Walt Disney World's Marketing Art department in 1990, I got to see Dave several more times in his visits out to Florida and my visits to L.A. Unfortunately, I haven't been out there in the 16 years that have passed since I left Disney, but I sure would enjoy seeing ol' Dave again. So, Happy Birthday, Dave - and I hope you're enjoying your well deserved retirement after serving Disney, its fans, and all who utilized the Disney Archives over those many years since you first established it!

Here's a great interview where Dave explains how the Archives first came about:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Krystal and Belle

Here's some caricatures I drew of a couple of nice girls, sisters Krystal and Belle, who were attending Visual Arts Brampton last week. Every Tuesday evening from 7:00 to 9:30 we have an open Life Drawing session. No requirement to sign up for anything, just pay as you go, any week you want to join us. For those in the Brampton area, just click on the above link to see more info. I hope to see you there!