When I was a kid we used to go to New Jersey to visit my grandmother for the holidays. This usually took place in November for Thanksgiving but to me it felt more like a Christmas. It was a very long drive to Toms River New Jersey followed by a lot of adults sitting around talking. Us kids would eventually head down to the basement to try and find something to watch on grandpa’s old 3 channel- no remote TV. For a kid there was a lot of boredom at that time of year but that all changed when we would load up the station wagon and head over to Macy’s. As we arrived the parking lot would be full of families all looking up at the sky. They were waiting to hear the old familiar buzz of that single engine Cessna as it sputtered through the cold gray November sky.
It seemed to take forever but eventually it would appear and the crowd would suddenly come to life. As the tiny plane drew closer the anticipation grew until finally it bagan circling the parking lot. Kids and parents would shout and cheer as they pointing toward the sky. Then in a brief moment a tiny red shape would separate from the fuselage plummeting toward the ground. A hush would fill the chilly air as a trail of billowing marker smoke bloomed from behind the shape. IT’S SANTA!!!, the crowd would erupt into cheers.
Soon a parachute would appear and Santa would glide slowly toward earth slowly zigzagging lazy circles across the cold gray New Jersey sky. The crowd would hush again for a brief moment as Santa aimed for his mark. Eventually he would make his landing hitting his mark as always. The crowd would go crazy as tiny candy canes and peppermint swirls flew into the air, quickly snatched up by the lucky few close enough to reach them. Santa would run through the parking lot shouting his Ho, Ho, Ho’s and Merry Christmas’s then quickly duck into to an old nearby beat up van that sped off, rushing him to the North Pole so he could get ready for Christmas.
Our family would eventually pile back into the old Ford Country Squire wagon, kids all pumped up on parachuting Santa and the promise of Christmas right around the corner. Eventually we’d wind up back in the basement watching the three channel TV waiting for the magical night Santa would slide down the chimney to deliver his toys to good girls and boys.
Children’s book illustration – Working with Licensed Art
A few years ago I teamed up with a good friend of mine to work on some children’s book illustration for Random House and Nickelodeon. We were hired to create two different Umizoomi books, one for Christmas and one about a lost kitten. Umizoomi was completely new to me and when the request came in I actually had to look the characters up on line. When I was younger my children used to watch all the kid shows so it was easy to get familiar with them. Now that my kids are older I have to watch them all on my own. I must admit it’s not nearly as fun but I do still enjoy working on the books.
Putting together illustrations like these was a bit of a challenge because they were originally created in 3D animated and I work mainly in 2D. Even though we had to imitate a 3D look the creation process is basically the same no matter what kind of book it is, starts with sketches, ends with finished art. To build each illustration requires me to become familiar with the characters, the sets, their personalities, how they move, the mannerisms they use and all the other little things the animators masterfully build into the property to bring it to life. That means reviewing each episode over and over again until I’m sure I’ve got it right. By the time the project is complete I’ve probably watched each video 50 times or more but it all pays off when I get to see the printed book sitting on a shelf in the book store. I love working on licensed properties and am always looking for something new. Each one holds a separate challenge and requires a different skill set. My ultimate goal is for my work to match the original so closely no one can even tell it was illustrated by me. Unlike my other books the best compliment I can receive when I working with a licensed property is when someone looks at it and says, “You did that? That doesn’t look anything like your work.”
Wow, time flies. We’re already into our second week of #Inktober and I’ve seen some really amazing art out there. I’ve been a little bummed that my deadlines have kept me from fully diving into the fray. I figured I’d try and post at least a couple of drawings for the #Inktobers so I don’t feel like a total spectator. It’s looking like I’ll probably have to go the 5k route with the nondigital stuff this year. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about here’s a link that will tell you ever thing you need to know about #INKTOBER. Oh and by the way, make sure you check out the galleries from previous years on Mr. Jake Parker’s site. You’ll be glad you did, his work is amazing.
If on the other hand if you’re into Illustrator and digital inking I’ve got some fun stuff to show you. I’ve been working on putting together some new classes for the BobTeachesArt.com site and the first one is going to focus on how to create great line art using Photoshop and Illustrator, the main focus being on illustrator of course. This will be a soup to nuts course starting right from the beginning and working our way through all the tools you’ll need to know to make things happen. This is one I’ve been planning to get out there for some time now and have had many requests for it. If you think you might be interested or know someone else who is here’s your link!
Deep in the archives of my computer there is a small beacon of light that shines brightly through the darkness. It’s called the Blue Sky Folder. Inside is a collection of sketches, experiments, new styles, new techniques, story concepts and a bunch of projects in various stages of completion. This folder is basically a resting place for all the ideas that rattle around inside my head long enough for me to get them down on paper or into various stages of digital completion. Like many other artists I’m always restless to try new things and this is my outlet.
This is a Blue Sky piece I began almost 3 years ago. I wasn’t quite sure where I was headed with it at the time so I put it in hold to work on other things. I had totally forgotten about it until I was leafing through the the folder recently when it caught my eye. One of the main reasons I had put this one on hold was that the techniques I’d used to create it were very time consuming and a bit unrefined. Looking at the piece again I realized that the solution was sitting right in front of me. I didn’t have my Cintiq tablet when I started so any digital freehand drawing was pretty much out of the question? As I popped the file up on my screen I realized that was no longer an obstacle. It only took me a few hours to finish the piece and I’m psyched because now I finally have a great way to save time and paint right on the computer.
Below you’ll find a few more images from the Blue Sky Folder. Each started out as just an idea, some were developed further and others are still waiting for the magic touch. Occasionally I will show images from this folder to publishers or clients when we are looking for new ideas. Sometimes they become the catalyst for something new other times they are just a launching point to help spawn new ideas. having a Blue Sky folder is something I would recommend to all artists and writers alike. Never stop creating, never stop inventing because you never know….
Click on any of the images below to start slide show.
This is my latest piece. A new style I’m trying out with a slightly softer look.
Having a little fun with Adobe Illustrator.
May try adding a little texture next time.
Used for a series of Adobe Illustrator classes.
I used these images to teach linework and color in Illustrator.
To see how these were used head over to BobTeachesArt .com.
Sometimes you just have to have a little fun.
Drawing bad guys always makes me laugh.
Toyed with a comic strip for a while. I may take another look at this when I have more time.
Hollween fun on Facebook and Twitter.
My very first Illustrator demo video was recorded creating this image.
I wanted to try something a little outside what I normally do adding fabric like textures.
I love working with this style and hope to find a book where I can use it soon.
More of the fabric style with a photo for the background.
A hybrid of the fabic style along with something a little closer to home.
This one was from a recent series of books I worked on last year. I’ve tried this look before once or twice using traditional art and a scanner but it was always a tedious process to get the lines bold enough. The Cintiq has helped make creating bold pencil lines very easy. My next goal is to start working on a more natural watercolor look.