Fundamentals of Math

April 25th, 2022

As the school year begins to wind down, perhaps now is a good time to mention my recent foray into the world of academia that will affect kids beginning in the 2022-23 school year.

Just as things were getting locked down back in 2020 due to coronavirus, I was in talks about a project with Del Thompson, the head of the art department at BJU Press, an educational publisher based in South Carolina that creates textbooks for all grades with a biblical worldview. They also create a lot of additional support materials for the homeschool market. They’ve been around a long time, because even I used some of their textbooks back in my elementary school days! It seems they were interested in having someone create cartoon illustrations for a 7th grade level math textbook that they were busy updating.

Cartoon illustrations? For a middle school math textbook? Unheard of. I remember seeing cartoon drawings in school books when I was in the third grade, but by the time I had arrived to the level of having a different teacher for each subject, school had gotten quite serious. In fact, anything math or science was like learning a foreign language to me. I hated those classes, as they consumed much of my brain’s capacity in a poor attempt to understand anything. It’s no wonder I chose a career path that thrived on poking fun at the world instead of trying to conquer it. To get to poke fun at math seemed like an intriguing prospect, and something that I more than likely would have responded very well to as a seventh grader myself.

The Fundamentals of Math project had already been started by another illustrator who was a good artist, but seemed to be struggling with trying to make the jokes funny. I thrive on funny, and have worked in the animation industry as a storyboard artist always looking for the whimsy in storytelling. When Del reached out, it was initially to ask if I might come up with some gags for the book, and possibly serve as a joke writer for the project. So, they hired me on a test run during which time I submitted a number of cartoon ideas which included drawings, after which the publishing house committee decided they wanted me to do the final art for the book as well. What started out as a dabble soon evolved into a full-time gig.

Since I was coming onto the project a little late, the editorial team had already devised a concept for the art in the book. The assignment was to create a full page title page and two smaller spot cartoons for each of the fourteen chapters in the book. The book would follow these two middle school students as they spent a day in an amusement park. The title pages were always going to be about the kids riding this one massive roller coaster that could go anywhere and do anything – no limits on what my imagination could come up with. The spot illustrations were about other aspects of a fun park. All cartoons would, of course, be instrumental in putting a fun face on whatever math issue needed to be talked about in those parts of the book.

This was a pretty big challenge. It had been over thirty years since I last had a math class, and as mentioned before, it was a topic that escaped my grasp. The math writers were giving me concepts both mathematically and humorously, after which I would have to plead with them to teach me the math in very simple “dumbed-down” terms, and only then I was able to make their concepts funny, or sometimes come up with even funnier concepts which often they would enthusiastically have me finalize.

So, if you have done the math (pun intended), this book required my attention on forty-two illustrations!!! Very daunting at the beginning of a project. I’m not going to show you all forty-two here today, but I will show you the very first one that will give you a taste of what was to come throughout the book.

To see all the adventure even larger, click on the image.

This first illustration needed to establish the idea that the cartoon kids were on this crazy roller coaster that can go anywhere and do anything. There are dinosaurs, wild animals, shark-infested waters, a raging volcano, deserts, mountains, and even space as the coaster twists and turns. As students read the word balloons, it will start to sink in what kind of ride this book is going to take them on just as the kids in the picture start to realize what they also are facing.

You know, it’s kind of funny. When I was a student, I used to get in trouble for doodling all the time in class. Now I can say that I’ve been paid to officially doodle directly in a textbook! I guess school really prepared me for life after all, even if not quite the way my teachers intended.

By the way, whether you are a parent, a student, a school textbook buyer, or just someone who loves my art, ANYONE can order this book directly from the publisher. It is available right NOW! If you are interested in checking it out, and interested in seeing another sample of one of my illustrations from the book, CLICK HERE!

History of EC Comics

April 20th, 2022

You know, I’ve gotten all caught up in sharing sketchbook drawings here, that I neglected to share with you some real work that I did that was published in 2020. Let’s remedy that, shall we?

So, here’s the set-up… my friend, Grant Geissman, wrote a terrific (and quite gigantic) book about the history of EC Comics that was published by Taschen. Not only is it 594 pages long, but the sucker weighs in at 13lbs, and measures a whopping 11.5×16″!! It’s so big, that this coffee table book could actually BE the coffee table!

All kidding aside, it really is a comprehensive look at the comic kingdom first created by M.C. Gaines, later headed up by his son Bill Gaines who, among his accomplishments, published MAD Magazine.

Grant popped over to my place last May to bring me a copy of his beautiful tome, and in return, I gave him this piece I did of William Gaines (who whould have been 100 last month) in all his EC Comics glory capturing the moment he was about to step into MAD. You get the idea.

Bill Gaines, second publisher of EC Comics just as he steps into publishing “MAD Magazine.”

Grant and I in my home where he helped me lift up his heavy book.

Part of my excitement for Grant’s work here is that he invited me to be a part of the imagery in the book. He had two vintage pieces of art that had originally been in color, but color reproductions of them had been lost to the ages. So Grant asked me to colorize the two pieces, one drawn by Irwin Hasen, and the other by Shelly Moldoff.

This great piece by Irwin Hasen was drawn as a gift for his boss, M.C. Gaines long ago. I was thrilled to color this because I had been acquainted with Irwin back when he was still with us, and had grown up reading his syndicated comic strip in newspapers called Dondi. I even have two originals I got from Irwin back when I first got into the cartooning business, and am humbled to be pictured in another book Irwin is also in called The Artist Within Book 2 by Greg Preston.

By Irwin Hasen, color by Chad Frye.

And here’s the second piece I colored that Sheldon Moldoff drew.

By Sheldon Moldoff, color by Chad Frye.

A hearty conGRANTulations go out to Grant for seeing the years of his research and writing come to fruition in such a beautiful tome!

By the way, Grant’s day job is as a musician and composer! He’s played with many great music folks over the years such as Chuck Mangione, Liza Minelli, Steve Tyrell, Josh Groban, etc, and he has written music for television shows such as Two and a Half Men, Mike and Molly, and more recently B Positive.

Sammy’s Angels

April 8th, 2022

In celebration of season 2 of Green Eggs and Ham being released on Netflix today, I created this new piece I call Sammy’s Angels featuring Sam I Am, his superspy mother Pam I Am, and Guy Am I.

The show is traditional (hand drawn) animation, so why not a hand drawn illustration? This was made with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil.

"Green Eggs and Ham" parody of Charlie's Angels silhouette.
Sammy’s Angels.

Has anyone started to watch the episodes yet? Since everything Guy seems to invent explodes, in the storyboards we made some of the explosions have a blast cloud that looked like Guy’s hat which is why I painted this explosion that way. Hopefully that detail made it into the final show.

Hope you all enjoy our hard work on the show! Soooo many people were involved to bring it to you.

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By the way, I realize something funky is going on with my blog. After a normal post I made last week, some of the look of the blog went haywire. In my attempt to fix it, I think I made it worse. So, for now, it looks strange. My profound apologies.

Sam I Am?

April 5th, 2022
Any of you Netflix subscribers out there excited about this Friday? According to Netflix’s website, Season 2 of Green Eggs and Ham is still supposed to be coming out on April 8! Since I don’t personally have Netflix, I’ll just have to wait to hear the sound of all the Whos down in Whoville singing and cheering – er, maybe that’s a different Dr. Seuss story.

 

“But Sammy, my, what big teeth you have!”

 
Don’t be disturbed by the above image. Sam I Am didn’t go through a re-design for the new season. I drew myself as ol’ Sam, and had this as my door sign at Warner Bros. where we designed the show! He was furry, my face is furry. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

 
Do me a favor. Since this season took a good four years or more to make, don’t binge it. Spread it out and absorb it in tasty bites!

Ten-Gallons

March 28th, 2022

They wore ten-gallon hats with ten gallons of attitude.

Inked in my sketchbook, toned in Photoshop, attitude from a life of hard-knocks.

I think the West was won with big mustaches.

Pretty In Pink

March 23rd, 2022

Hoo boy. I’ve been pretty busy of late finishing up a big book project I’ve been on for the past nine months. Happy to say that the final touches were completed yesterday! There’s always a huge sense of accomplishment when you do that final paint stroke on something you’ve put so much time into.

I know you are curious, but I’ll not get into the specifics about the book until the publishers finish their part and start to promote it, which could be as far away as sometime next year.

So, to celebrate TODAY, how about I post a completely unrelated new image of Minnie Mouse created for a friend late last month? It came to life by way of traditional colored pencil and watercolor on paper!

Now to figure out what big project should be my next endeavor!

 

A smile from Minnie washes all the stress away!

Grape Ape

March 10th, 2022

Ironically, my grape ape is eating a cherry lolly.

Ink on paper, color in Photoshop, attitude on display.

 

How many licks to the center of a Tootsie Pop?

The Batlight Saga

March 7th, 2022

I hear there’s a new Batman movie out now starring Robert Pattinson. I didn’t see it, but I figure this is probably what it was like.

 

Are you Team Batman or Team Robin?