Thursday, July 30, 2009

Ten Years After

I just realized something-- May 19, 2009 was the TENTH anniversary of the premiere of "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace."

It's hard to believe it's been TEN years since George Lucas foisted this horse-faced, lop-eared frog onto an unsuspecting public. It just doesn't seem possible that we've been living in this Post-Jar Jar World for an entire decade. How quickly the years roll by.

My theory is that it hasn't really been ten years since the movie came out. What's actually happening is that the world wants to distance itself from the movie so badly that it's begun to spin faster in order to send it into the past quicker.

As you may have gathered, ten years hasn't mellowed my opinion of "The Phantom Menace." As far as I'm concerned, it still stinks.

The Butler Did It!

I suppose somewhere in the mists of time there once was a really popular murder mystery in which the butler actually DID commit the crime. Then, as happens in all forms of media, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and started copying the idea until it became the cliche it is today. Now no self-respecting author would get within ten feet of such a plot.

This drawing started out as a simple sketchbook doodle of a snooty butler. Then while I was drawing him, the title phrase popped into my head. I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out how to draw him with a gun or some sort of weapon behind his back (but still be visible). I wasn't having much luck, and then I got one of those "Aha!" moments and added the sinister shadow.

At first I was going to use all the weapons in the "Clue" board game (gun, noose, lead pipe, knife, candlestick and monkey wrench), but there just wasn't room. If I tried to add two more items to the shadow I'd have had to make the whole thing taller and then the butler would have ended up too small. Plus the shadow of a lead pipe isn't very interesting, so I changed it to a crowbar.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch. Much less elaborate than the final drawing. His guilt is a bit more obvious here as well! The figure didn't change a lot from the sketch, other than his outfit (I googled "butler" to see what kind of suits they really wear). I'm glad I ditched the text for the shadow.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Just a monster taking his son out for ice cream.

I drew the dad first, then tried to figure out what a cute little version of him would look like for the son. Note to budding artists: big eyes & pupils are essential ingredients in cuteness.

The fish head & worms in the cone were a last second addition, believe it or not. Originally the monster boy was holding a plain old every day vanilla cone. I was staring at the drawing, thinking there was something missing, but couldn't figure out what. It finally dawned on me that plain ice cream wasn't very monstery, so I added some gross stuff to it to make it seem more appropriate for a monster boy.

I've always been terrible at picking colors, so I've been concentrating on improving that as much as I can. I've used Kuler a lot lately to come up with good color combos, but this time I just eyeballed it. I knew I wanted the monsters to be green, so for the background I just played around with the hue slider until I found a color combo that looked good to me (the background was originally red, but that was a little too eye-searing, so I changed it to a cooler blue).

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch. It was really tiny, so I had to clean up the lumpy lines a lot for the final drawing. The dad didn't change a lot, but the kid got quite an overhaul. He didn't look all that appealing in the sketch, so I needed to "cuten" him up a lot.

Hillbilly Headlight

I saw this car in a parking lot a few weeks ago. If you look closely (sorry it's not clearer, it was a hastily snapped cell phone photo), you'll see that the owner ingeniously fixed his damaged headlight by duct-taping two flashlights to the bumper of his car. There, now it's all better!

I'll give him points for resourcefulness and sheer chutzpah, but unfortunately its not quite street legal.

I know what you're thinking. "But Bob, you're being too harsh! Give this poor guy a break! These are tough economic times and the owner of this car no doubt can't afford a costly auto repair!" Retract those claws, kitten! I spotted this car parked in front of the local comic shop. That tells me that the owner's got the money; he just decided to channel the funds into more high priority items like comic books, action figures or gaming miniatures. Who needs to see where they're going at night when there are Warhammer minatures to buy?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Jasper The Surly Ghost

Jasper started out his life (or would that be death?) as another doodle in my sketchbook.

I was trying to make him transparent and look like he's glowing as well. Note that you can kind of see through his folded arms.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.
Here's the original sketch of Jasper. Yep, I drew him on lined paper. Nothing much changed, the final is pretty much line for line the same as the sketch, which doesn't happen often.

It Came From The Cineplex: Orphan

Well, we're in the home stretch of Summer Movie Season 2009, and so far it's been pretty much a bust. There've been a few standouts like "Star Trek" and "Drag Me To Hell," but for the most part we're still seeing the unfortunate fallout from the last year's writer's strike, as the multiplexes are littered with big budget, yet poorly written dreck.

That's why it's such a refreshing surprise when a decent movie comes along.

I heard absolutely no pre-release buzz for this movie, and in fact had never even heard of it until I saw the trailer a couple of weeks ago. It seems to have slipped into the theaters almost undetected. I had extremely low expectations for it, figuring it to be yet another dismal and lackluster entry into the "Innocent Family Takes In Sinister Orphan" genre. But I was very pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be pretty darn good.

The story concerns the Coleman family: parents John and Kate (heyyyy... was that intentional or just a coincidence?), their son Daniel and deaf daughter Max. The story opens just after Kate, who is a recovering alcoholic, has just had a miscarriage. Depressed over the loss of her unborn child, she and John decide to adopt a child to help fill the void.

They visit the local orphanage and meet Esther, a Russian-born 9 year old who is polite, articulate and artistically talented seemingly beyond her years. Taken with the little girl, they decide to adopt her.

They bring Esther home and things go smoothly for a few days, but soon Esther is the target of schoolyard bullies who make fun of her out-of-style clothing and Old-World manner. Back home, Kate begins to notice some peculiarities about Esther as well. She keeps the bathroom door locked at all times, refuses to visit the dentist, won't wear more modern clothing, and can play Tchiachovsky like a concert pianist. Most puzzling of all, she never removes the decorative ribbons from around her neck or wrists.

Things go from weird to worse as those who dare to cross Esther end up injured or even dead. Esther pushes a stuck-up class mate off a playground slide, breaking her ankle. She sets a treehouse on fire with her new brother Daniel trapped inside. And she shockingly and brutally kills Sister Abagail (the head of her old orphanage) after she begins deducing that Esther may not be what she appears.

Gradually Kate begins to distrust Esther and begins investigating her past. She finds out that the previous family she lived with all died in a horrible house fire. Sister Abagail's orphanage claimed that Esther came from a Russian institution, but after contacting them Kate finds out they have no record of her.

Kate makes her suspicions known to her husband and psychiatrist, but of course no one will believe her outrageous claims against poor sweet little Esther.

Eventually, events transpire that finally convince the rest of the family that Esther is just no damn good, but by then it's far too late for them, as Esther goes on another bloody rampage.

I won't spoil the ending here, but I will say it was a twist on the usual "evil orphan" trope that I've never seen before. Best of all, all of Esther's little quirks, like the constant wearing of neck and wrist ribbons, her refusal to visit the dentist, and her artistic and musical talents all add up at the end; there's a satisfying and logical reason for all of them.

I was glad to finally see an R-rated horror movie in the theater again, after far too-many watered down PG-13 outings. There are a couple of glitches, like the grandmother who smiles blissfully while letting her 5 year old deaf granddaughter wander away unsupervised in a busy hospital, or the fact that Kate was able to so easily waltz out of the hospital after being admitted, but I'm willing to cut the movie a little bit of slack.

Bloody, violent and brutal, "Orphan" far exceeded my expectations and ended up being one of the better films I've seen all summer (of course, in a summer filled with "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" and "Land of the Lost," how hard could that be?). It's smartly written and directed, and doesn't offend the audience's intelligence. The little girl who plays Esther is perfectly cast and quite creepy, even when she's just standing there.

Final Verdict: B. Much better than I expected, and definitely worth a look. Go see it instead of giving more money to "Transformers."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Search Of: A Signature

I've been struggling for a lonnnng time to come up with a suitable cool looking signature logo that I could use on my illustrations and design work.

It seems like it's always easier to come up with a logo for other people than to design one for yourself.

For a long time I had it in my head to make a logo that looked like one of those square red symbols on Chinese prints, called a "chop." Chinese artists carve small wooden stamps of their name and stamp the bottom corners of their paintings. Don't ask me why I went in that direction. I suppose because I've always been interested in Asian culture and thought it would look kewl (note: the image above is not the one I tried to make for myself, but just a generic example of a chop).

I went through probably a hundred sketches over a period of months in an attempt to make my name resemble Chinese characters and yet still look like English letters. Needless to say, this was easier said than done. I was going absolutely nowhere with this concept, and then one day it dawned on me-- I'm not Chinese. So why was it I trying to make an Asian looking signature?

So I scrapped that plan and started over. After more sketching and dead ends I finally decided to go with my interest in all things retro. I looked at logos of various toy & game companies from the 1960s and designed a logo based on them.

I finally have a signature logo I can live with, but this it's by no means set in stone. For one thing the text under the main logo is almost unreadable when the logo is printed small. I need to figure out a solution for that. I'll probably keep tweaking it from time to time until I think it's perfect (which, if things go the way they usually do, will be a couple decades from now).

Designed in Illustrator.

Computer Art From The Bronze Age

I was looking through some old CDRMs recently, and came across this image of a robot floating down a smoky high-tech corridor. It was created in a 3D program called Swivel 3D, circa 1995.

I worked at a CD manufacturing plant back then, and for some reason they had a copy of Swivel 3D lying around. I started messing around with it and eventually learned it. It was pretty easy to use, and you could get some decent results, although nothing that would keep Pixar up at night.

The CD company had an in-house TV network that would display news and goings on from around the plant on monitors in the lunch room. My goal was to create some short 3D animated "bumpers" to play between news items.

I learned how to model figures and sets, how to use texture and bump maps, how to light a scene and to generate atmospheric effects to give a scene some depth. Swivel 3D also had some basic animation functions that were fairly easy to use.

Unfortunately, 3D animation is very memory intensive, and the computers we had back then just couldn't handle the kinds of animations I had in mind. I could generate small 3" square Quicktime animations, but they were far too low res to display on a large screen. We just didn't have the memory or disk capacity to create full screen high resolution movie clips. Oh well. It was a good idea even if it didn't work out, and I learned the basics of 3D modeling and animation.

I don't think they even make Swivel 3D anymore. The company that made it probably got bought out or swallowed up in a merger sometime in the past 15 years.

The image above is just a static frame. If I remember right I did make a crude low-res animation of this scene, but it's lost in the mists of time. The plan was for this to be like a countdown to a news item. Three robots would glide into frame one at a time and float past the camera. Each robot would have the number 3, then 2, then 1 on its chest to count down to the news story. Here's a tip for any would-be animators out there-- if you make your a floating anti-gravity robot, then you don't have to model or animate legs!

In case you missed it the first time, you can see some even more ancient computer art from me here.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Coconut Monkey

I've got plans for more Coconut Monkey if I ever get the time.

He turned out OK, but boy did he fight me. He was another one of those character designs that works great as a rough sketch, but is tough to draw for real. I had a lot of trouble drawing his face and figuring out how to show a raised edge around it without it becoming too complicated.

I'm not sure about the blue color of his straw. I tried making it red, but then it looked like his brains were getting sucked out. Maybe the blue will grow on me. Or white! Most straws are white, right?

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Off Target

I'm usually a big fan of Target's in-store branding and marketing. All the signage and decorations in their store are very well designed as well as fun and appealing. I especially like their gift card designs.

But, you can't hit one out of the park every time at bat.

Take a look at this bottle of Target brand mouthwash I bought recently. It features their new "On-Target" rounded arrow motif. Frankly I'm not a fan of the arrow; I thought the old circular "target" logo was fine. Maybe in time this new logo will grow on me.

But what really caught my eye one morning as I stood over the sink trying to focus on the bottle of mouthwash was this:I even did a double take the first time I glanced at it. Call me crazy, but that refreshing splash of amber-colored mouthwash looks disturbingly like a dead cockroach lying on its back.

Now every time I look at it that's all I see; I can't not see a dead cockroach. Not really the image you want in your mind's eye when you're using mouthwash.

It's OK, Target. I still love you. You're one hundred times better than Walmart. But lose the roach, huh?

A Brief Look Into The State Of Newspaper Comic Strips Today: Beetle Bailey

There was a time when readers considered comic strips one of the most important parts of the newspaper. People would actually choose one paper over another based on the comics they published.

Those days are gone forever.

This is possibly the most disturbing, uncomfortable and off-putting comic strip I've ever seen.

I really don't need to see General Halftrack's dessicated, nude body lying prone on a cold, metallic examination table. And I really don't need to see his burly doctor warning him before he performs an unpleasant and invasive procedure on what I must assume will be his rectum.

The second panel is even worse. The General's surprised yelp and the Doctor's hidden right arm point to only one painful, probing and shocking conclusion. But on closer inspection we can see a tiny glimpse of the Doctor's hand, lovingly rubbing skin cream on the General's withered buttock. I honestly don't know which scenario is worse.

How I miss Calvin & Hobbes and The Far Side.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sketchbook Pages Part II: The Sketchening

Here are some more pages from my sketchbook. Some of these will eventually become full color illustrations. Others will go into the garbage where they belong. I'll let you decide which is which.

Note that some of my sketches are actively critiquing my work. That's normal, right? Not a sign of schizophrenia or anything?

Hey Kids, It's Bimbo!

I saw this truck going down the highway this evening and risked life and limb to catch up to it so I could get a photo.

I'd never in my life heard of Bimbo or their products, and couldn't imagine why anyone would ever give their company such a name. Were Floozy & Hooker already taken? Why give the cute little bear an unfortunate name like that?

I checked out their website when I got home, and it all became clear-- Bimbo's a Mexican bakery, similar to Hostess or Dolly Madison here in the States. I'm assuming Bimbo probably means something different south of the border (if it means anything at all-- it may just be a cutesy nonsensical name there).

I also learned through their website that it's pronounced "Beem-bow," so again, it's not as unfortunate as it looks to our eyes. Still, it's pretty funny to see a Bimbo truck rolling down the highway.

An aside: I'm continually fascinated with the way website URLs tend to combine words and spell out things the owners never intended. For instance, the URL for "Bimbo USA" comes out as "bimbousa," which looks like it should be pronounced "Bim Bow Sa." Sounds like a new tropical drink. "Yes, dahling, I'll have a Scotch on the rocks and the lady will have a Bimbousa."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Herkimer McSlouchalot

Another wimpy little guy I drew. He was pretty straightforward, I drew the figure, then colored him and finally added an old paper texture on the top layer to give it an aged look.

I need to quit drawing these meek little mousy guys. I'm running out of weak and feeble sounding names.

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.

Here's the original sketch. Nothing really changed in the final drawing; it's pretty much identical.

Tonight On Siffy!

On July 7, the SciFi Channel officially changed its name to "Syfy."

Much has already been written about the change. It was first announced back in April of this year, and many people thought (and hoped) it was an April Fool's joke. Sadly, it was all too real.

The reason behind the change is allegedly a matter of trademarking. The SciFi Channel naturally wanted to trademark their name (um... shouldn't they have done that maybe... fifteen years or so ago, when they first started broadcasting?), but was informed by the courts that because "sci-fi" is a word in the English language, it can't be trademarked. So they decided to get around the ruling by changing the spelling of their name so that it would be uniquely their own.

I have no idea how many variations and versions the network brass went through, but however many it was, it wasn't enough. Somehow, someone of high rank at the network settled on the new spelling "Syfy."

I defy any English speaking person to look at their new logo and NOT pronounce it as "Siffy."

I was going to say that surely there were better spelling variations than this one, but after thinking about it for a minute or two I can't think of any. "SyeFye" doesn't leave any doubt as to the pronunciation, but it doesn't look any better than what they came up with.

I think if they were dead set on changing the spelling to something they could trademark, they should have gone with a new name altogether. Something like, "Imagine!" or "Brainstorm." OK, those aren't much better, but I didn't have 75 meetings with my staff to discuss it.

They might just as well change their name. The network hasn't had much to do with science fiction for years now. Personally I've had no use for them since 1999, when they canceled Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was the best show they had, and one that could have gone on forever.

That was just the beginning of their long, slow decline. Not long after that they started airing wrestling (!). OK, I get the "fiction" part where wrestling is concerned, but I'm not seeing the science. Then they started producing a series of reality TV shows, one in which unsuspecting people are deliberately scared poopless, and another where two grown men pretend to see ghosts. Again, I see the fiction, but not so much the science.

Also, what's up with the tagline there in the new logo? "Imagine Greater?" What the hell does that mean? It's not even a sentence. Apparently there was a huge miscommunication between the network and the ad agency, causing them to drop a few words from the slogan.

Mom and Thumper always told me if I can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all. Honestly if I adhered to that rule I'd never say anything. But I like to give credit where credit is due: despite the ridiculousness of the new spelling and the bizarre sentence fragment of a slogan, it is a nice layout. Stark, clean and elegant. The letterforms are masterfully combined as well. Makes me wish I'd designed it.

But it still spells "Siffy."

Snip Update

Well, it's been over two weeks since I cut the cable, and I'm happy to say I'm still here. Life goes on without television.

So far it hasn't been much of a hardship. I realize now that I didn't actually watch much of what was on TV; most of the hours it was on I was just using it as background noise. It's quieter in my house now, but that's about the only difference.

I'm getting a lot more done. I'm tackling some landscaping in my front yard that I've been putting off for years, and I'm drawing more too. And I've finally going through my "to watch" DVD pile when I have the urge to watch TV.

There was a time in my life when the thought of living without television would have been inconceivable to me. It's amazing how little I miss it.

A week or so ago I tried to see if I could get any over the air broadcasts, but all I got was static. I bought my TV around 1995, so I'm pretty sure that was before they built them with digital tuners. So I sent for a coupon to get a digital-to-analog converter box. I got the $40 coupon last week. I went to Target to pick one up, and they were on sale for $40! So I got the box for free. Can't beat a deal like that.

I brought the box home, plugged it in, it began scanning for channels and found... nothing. Apparently I live in some sort of TV No-Man's Land where reception is non-existent. I guess that means I need an antennae. That's not in the budget right now, so it looks like I will continue to be TV-less. Honestly, I don't mind a bit.

If you've been on the fence about cutting your cable cord, I wholeheartedly recommend it. You won't be missing anything you can't live without.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hottest Things In Town Auto Ad

I used to work as a graphic designer at a newspaper in the automotive department. For seven long years, I churned out automotive ads five days a week.

Most of the ads were variations on the same theme day in and day out; headline at the top, a grid of car photos with pricing and info, and then the dealership's name at the bottom. It would have been dreary if it weren't so monotonous.

Occasionally I would try to spice the ads up a bit. Not just for the sake of my sanity, but to make the auto dealer's ad stand out a bit in a sea of uniformity.

To that end, this was an ad I proposed to a local auto dealer. It wasn't as complicated as it probably looks. Contrary to what it looks like, I didn't sit down and draw 500 different buildings.

The city and buildings were drawn in Illustrator. First I laid out a city block, complete with sidewalks, then cloned it until I had a whole grid of them. Then I distorted the grid of blocks until it was at a 45 degree angle.

Next I drew 4 or 5 different buildings (at a 45 degree angle). I drew the buildings so that they were modular; I could delete stories from them to vary the height. That made each building look completely different, even though they were all built from the same parts. I then cloned the buildings endlessly and arranged them on the various blocks until I had a city. See, not as complicated as you thought.

I added some streetlights and numerous cars to populate the streets. Again, these were all drawn once in Illustrator, then cloned.

Next I drew word balloons, then placed clip art of autos inside them. The red text at the top was made with the 3D filter in Illustrator. Lastly I added the text and dealership info.

We showed it to the dealer and he said it was unusual and that he liked it, but ultimately he passed on the design. Never one to throw in the towel, I changed the logo at the bottom and we presented it to a different dealer. Surprisingly this one loved it, and ended up running it in the newspaper. Finally!

Comic Book Auto Ad

I used to work as a graphic designer at a newspaper in the automotive department. For seven long years, I churned out automotive ads five days a week.

Most of the ads were variations on the same theme day in and day out; headline at the top, a grid of car photos with pricing and info, and then the dealership's name at the bottom. It would have been dreary if it weren't so monotonous.

Occasionally I would try to spice the ads up a bit. Not just for the sake of my sanity, but to make the auto dealer's ad stand out a bit in a sea of uniformity.

To that end, this was an ad I proposed to a local auto dealer.

It was fairly complicated, and required the use of both Photoshop and InDesign. I found stock art photos of the autos, then used Photoshop to add a heavy outline around them, as if they'd been drawn and inked. Then I used a filter to add halftone effects to the background.

Next I used InDesign to lay out a grid of comic book panels. I imported the auto images and placed them into the panels, and then added the comic book style text over them.

Then it was back to Photoshop where I added the shading and staples in the middle of the page.

The empty top box was where I would have added the headline, and the bottom two panels were for the dealership's logo and contact info.

Ultimately the dealer didn't buy it– he said he liked it, and agreed it would stand out, but he was concerned that it only featured three cars, and as his ads normally contained 30 or more vehicles, he didn't feel he would be getting his money's worth. So in the end he ran the same grid full of cars like he'd ran in the newspaper every day for decades. Story of my life!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Marketing 101

Here's a little marketing quiz for you.

Question: Let's say you run a movie studio that owns an obscure little vampire film from the 1980s. Your movie has quite a cult following, but is largely unknown to the general populace. You feel the time is right to re-release your cult film on DVD, but how can you ensure that it sells as many units as possible?

Answer: Have your design department whip up a cover that's reminiscent of another popular little vampire movie that recently came out. Wait, did I say "reminiscent?" Sorry, I meant "blatant ripoff."

Yep, this is the brand new DVD cover for the 1987 vampire movie "Near Dark." If you've not seen it, it's definitely worth checking out. It's well written and has an awesome cast, but it's absolutely nothing like "Twilight." "Near Dark" is a violent and brutal tale of a kid who gets caught up with a gang of vampiric psycho killers, falls in love with one of their members and eventually becomes one of them. It's a love story too, of sorts, but it's nothing whatsoever like the "Twilight" mope-fest.*

Oh, and the vampires in "Near Dark" don't get all sparkly in the sunlight. They burn.

Let's compare the new "Near Dark" DVD cover with that other cover, shall we, and see if we might find any similarities. Let's see, stormy background? Check. Star-crossed lovers looming large over the title? Check. Scruffy vampire gang at the bottom? Check, check, and check. Brooding hero with golden vampiric eyes? Check. I think that pretty much covers it.

Let it be known that at absolutely no time in "Near Dark" do the hero's eyes ever appear golden, as they do on this cover.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is marketing at its most brazen. Seriously, they might as well have just taken the "Twilight" cover, crossed out the title and scrawled "Near Dark" on it with a silver Sharpie. There's absolutely no way these similarities are coincidental; it was deliberate with a capital "Del." Every aspect of this cover was designed with only one thing in mind: to dupe the hordes of fervent "Twilight" fans into buying it, thinking it similar to their beloved movie. They'll be in for quite a shock when they actually watch it.

They even manipulated the cover so that Caleb (our hero) looks pale and vampiric while Mae (his true love) looks human. This is exactly the opposite of the events in the actual movie. In "Near Dark" the girl is the vampire, and ends up turning the guy into one as well. Talk about misleading!

Also, by aping the "Twilight" cover so precisely, the designers have managed the difficult task of making a 1987 movie look like a pale imitation of a 2008 film! Well done, design team! It's pretty tough to make a 20+ year old movie seem like the copycat, but you pulled it off brilliantly!

What's especially frustrating about this is that in my opinion, "Near Dark" is the superior film. It can easily stand on its own against "Twilight." It doesn't need to leech off its success. "Near Dark" deserves better treatment from its parent studio.

With all that said, I hereby nominate the new "Near Dark" DVD cover for a new award I just made up: The Brayzee! It's the award that honors the most brazen example of shameless marketing in all of advertising. Congratulations, guys! With any luck, you'll take home the trophy at the end of the year!

Just for fun, here' the original DVD cover for "Near Dark," which was released 3 or 4 years ago. It's exactly the same as the theatrical poster. A bit dated, perhaps, but there's nothing wrong with it. Certainly nothing that called for it to be replaced by a clone of the "Twilight" cover.

* Interestingly enough, both movies were directed by a woman. A female director in Hollywood is a pretty rare thing these days, but for two of them to have both directed vampire movies is quite the coincidence!

Another coincidence: "Near Dark" features three actors from "ALIENS": Bill Paxton, Lance Henrikson and Jenette Goldstein (Hudson, Bishop and Vasquez).

One last thing-- at no time in "Near Dark" is the word "vampire" ever uttered. The creatures in the film clearly are vampires, but for some reason no one ever comes out and says it. Kind of like how zombie movies (usually) never contain the "zed" word.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Christmas In July

Last December I decided to make my own Christmas card to send out to everyone, because buying cards from the store is for suckers!

I figured that while my card was wishing everyone a happy yuletide, it might as well pull double duty and promote me and my little freelance business while it was at it. What better way to celebrate the birth of our Savior than by blatant and shameless self-promotion? So I plastered it with my logo, email and Flickr page info in an attempt to drum up some business. Too bad it didn't work. Now that I think about it, I mainly sent it to my friends and family, who don't generally need a lot of freelance work. Oh well, there's always next year...

The idea of the card was to make it look like an old-time boxing poster from the 1920s, starring Santa Claus and his made-up rival, Anti Claus. Nothing says Christmas like a card promoting two characters beating the tar out of one another!

I laid out the card and all the copy in InDesign, because I don't like working with large amounts of text in Photoshop. It's much easier to typeset and adjust text in InDesign. Writing the old timey text was fun; trying to match the archaic hyphenation and phrasing.

I then imported everything into Photoshop, where I drew and colored the characters on the graphic tablet, and added some aging effects.

I guess the aging effects were successful-- I sent a card to my boss and when he saw it he thought his wife had bent the top right corner of the card when taking it out of the envelope!

Here's the full outside and inside of the card. Note the very subtle self promotional text. You have to look carefully or you'll miss it.

Here's the original sketch of Anti Claus and Santa. The final versions are pretty much identical, other than Santa getting flopped (ouch!) so that he'd face the opposite way. I'm still not happy with the fact that Anti Claus is brandishing a crowbar. Originally I was going to have him holding a large candy cane as a weapon. That was definitely Christmassy, but it didn't seem very dangerous (unless maybe Santa is a diabetic-- a real possibility considering he's overweight). In the end the only other thing I could think of was a crowbar, so I had to go with that.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Birthday Card

I made this card for my sister's birthday. She was quite touched by it.

Buying greeting cards is for suckers! It's much more economical, not to mention simpler, to brainstorm a concept, write and edit the copy, design the layout, produce the illustrations and print out your own cards. Easy as pie!

The front of the card was drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet. Then I imported it into InDesign, where the card was laid out and inner text was added.

Kentucky Frak Chicken

This item actually came out a few months ago, but I didn't have a blog back then and it's worth dredging up again.

When the SciFi Channel finally got around to airing the final 10 episodes of the re-imagined "Battlestar Galactica" series earlier this year, KFC decided the time was ripe for a promotional tie-in. It was high time too, because as we all know, when you think grim & gritty outer space drama, you think fried chicken, am I right?

So in an extremely transparent attempt to appeal to the geek crowd, KFC tried to get cutesy and use some of the space-y terminology from BSG, specifically the word "frak." The KFC Marketing Team christened their brilliant promotion the "Frak Pak."

What the marketers and the suits at KFC apparently didn't know is that in the BSG universe, "frak" is the ubiquitous curse word that in no uncertain terms means, well, "f*ck." Every character on the show has said "frak," frakkin'," "fracked up," and the ever popular "frak you" at least 75 times, often in a single sentence.

Obviously no one at the Colonel's headquarters ever bothered to watch even a single episode of the show, or they would have known what they were really saying and this promotion would have never got off the ground.

So congratulations, KFC; you officially endorsed a "F*ck Pak" as a promotional tie-in. If you look closely, the banner even boldly proclaims, "KFC Proudly Salutes BSG And It's Frakkin' Awesome Fans!" Thank you, KFC Marketing Team, for making my day. Well done, sirs, well done. The Colonel would be proud. Frakkin' proud.

What made it even more hilarious is that about a week after the Frak Pak debuted, someone in the KFC marketing department opened their office window and heard the entire country snickering behind their back. Cringing in horror, they apparently called an emergency meeting to discuss damage control. How I wish I could have sat in on that pow-wow. The result? They hurriedly changed the promotion to the KFC "Cant-Say-That-Word-On-TV-Sweepstakes." Brilliant!

Sadly, the "Frakkin' Awesome Fans" were now downgraded to merely "Awesome Fans."

This hastily revamped promotion didn't fix things at all, as obviously you can say "frak" on TV, since as mentioned earlier it was uttered on the show dozens of times every week. This made it appear that they were no longer talking about the made up "frak," but the very real "f*ck," or something even worse. Their so-called "fix" was actually worse than the mistake!

So congratulations, KFC Marketing Team. The next time you do a tie in, it might be a good idea to actually familiarize yourself a bit with the show you're promoting. Better yet, just hand out some coupons.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cha-Ka Has A Sna-Ka

A really quick little illustration (about an hour). I'm definitely in "Land of the Lost" mode this week-- the TV show, not the movie. I wanted one more shot at Cha-Ka before Will Ferrell sullies his name forever.

For years I've wished someone would do a big screen version of LOTL with a proper budget. I was excited when I first heard the news that they were finally making a movie, but then cringed when I read that it was going to be a WIll Farrell vehicle. Why couldn't they have made it a straight action-adventure? Why did they have to turn it into another fart comedy? And why did they have to change Cha-Ka from an innocent little ape boy to a horny breast-groping adult?

Oh well. I can still watch my DVDs of the old series.

Speaking of the old TV series, as I mentioned a few posts ago, when Cha-Ka and his family spoke, they weren't just saying "Ooga booga." The producers hired a linguist to come up with a simple language for the Pakuni. You can see some of it here. My favorite Pakuni phrase was "Uganza besasa," which means "big magic." I loved the way Cha-Ka would say it; "Oooo-GAN-zaaa bee-SAH-saaaaa!"

By the way, you may wonder why I drew Cha-Ka's ear way up on the side of his head like that. Believe it or not, that's the way his ears were on the TV show!

Drawn in Photoshop on the graphic tablet.
Here's the original sketch for Cha-Ka. The final drawing changed quite a bit, most likely because I drew the sketch from memory, and then did a little bit of research for the final drawing. His hair got poofed up a lot more, I moved his ear up higher to be TV accurate, and I took the bamboo shoot out of his mouth.

Holy Pole-y!

Who says insurance has to be a boring topic?

I honestly don't know what to say here. I saw this sign here in town and had to turn around and go back to take a photo. It was on both sides, so I don't think it was sign vandalism.

Maybe the insurance company wants you to learn the proper way to pole dance so you don't throw your back out and cost them a sizable settlement? Or perhaps business is slow during the Econolypse, and they're branching out to make ends meet?
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