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A couple of months ago I discovered a page on Facebook called Humans of New York (also known as HONY). The page features multiple portraits of New Yorkers as seen through the keen eye of photographer Brandon Stanton. With over 300,000 followers, I was a little late to the party.
Brandon does what I like to do – he people watches. I tend to sit in public places and covertly try to capture someone in a sketch. He takes a much bolder approach by asking his subjects to quickly pose for a photo wherever he happens to see them. The result is a fascinating cross-section of humanity sharing the streets of the Big Apple.
One of Brandon’s shots a few weeks ago really snagged the attention of the character designer in me. He got this shot of an old weathered Greek man who, despite having been in this new country he now loves for fifty-two years, still looked as though he was from his homeland.
The whole Old Country immigrant in America thing really struck me when I saw the photo. Not only did this gentleman have a great look, but it triggered the personal remembrance that I am only a few generations away from immigrants in my own family. My great grandparents came here from Europe for a new life, and I have a relative that passed through Ellis Island. Like this gentleman, they held a soft spot for home, but were intensely proud to become Americans.
Each year I like to get away from it all to a place where I can just put my responsibilities behind me and relax. I just returned from my happy place in the Outer Banks (OBX) of North Carolina where I go during hurricane season. Mind you, I don’t go with the hopes of experiencing a hurricane – it’s just that I usually go there during that time. If a hurricane should actually blow into town, relaxation requires a bit more concentration.
Of course, many hours are spent on the beach taking in the breeze, the surf, and the wide array of interesting people who under other circumstances would never be seen in public the way they freely saunter along the sand. This is why I bring a sketchbook to the beach.
This first drawing is of two beach-walkin’ fellas who did not look like they had any earthly connection to each other. You can see that the fella in the foreground was hanging onto his days when he was in an 80′s hair band despite the fact that his former 80′s physique has gone the way of 8-track tapes. The other guy hit his middle age in stride with a laid back attitude and a lanky walk. Both had kids accompanying them running around looking for shells and playing in the surf. I like to think that they were probably brothers-in-law taking the kids on a walk to give their wives a break.
Whether you're a mother or whether you're a brother-in-law, you're stayin' alive....
There is something about going to the beach so late in the summer season. With many schools in session, the beaches are quieter than during the prime summer months, the heat is no longer debilitating, and all the mature and <ahem> well-rounded adults venture out into the light for their daily dose of vitamin D. Such was the case with this next gentleman.
Now, when the kiddies come to the beach with kites, they don’t care if there is wind or not. They gleefully run up and down the beach to launch their technicolor plastic playthings. When adults get that same gleam in their eye, they have the good sense to come on a day sponsored by a strong wind. On this particularly windy day, four adults wandered over the dunes where two of them immediately dropped their chairs to the sand and launched their kites with nary a trot between them necessary to generate any wind speed. Although I imagine trotting was not a common activity for either of them.
Beach kites bring out the kid in all of us even when the kid in all of us was long ago absorbed by life.
Well, now you know about my happy place. Where is your happy place? On second thought, don’t tell me if you really don’t want me to show up with my sketchbook.
I wanted to say a few words about the great Stan Freberg today. Do you know who he is? He has been a gold record selling comedian, cartoon voice actor, movie and television actor, radio show host, a puppeteer, an author and a pioneer of using humor in advertising. He even came up with the name “Grammy” for the recording industry’s highest award. And if you are in the Los Angeles area this weekend (August 4-5, 2012), you have a chance to shake his hand and get an autograph. (DETAILS HERE!)
Stan Freberg as he looked in the 1950s during his Capitol Records comedy days.
Stan Freberg got his start in the entertainment business as a teenager. He literally got off the bus in Hollywood and immediately landed a job doing voices for the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. That’s right, despite all the title cards saying Mel Blanc did all the voices, Stan was right there doing many voices as well along with folks like June Foray, Arthur Q. Bryan and others.
Perhaps Stan’s most iconic Warner Bros. character was Pete Puma, the mountain lion who Bugs Bunny tricked into getting many lumps pounded into his head in several cartoons. Stan also did the hilarious Junyer Bear who was far too big for his diaper. He was also one half (the other half being Mel Blanc) of the mice Hubie & Bertie and half of the Goofy Gophers. The list of other characters is quite long including being the voice of a cat in the first Speedy Gonzales cartoon.
Pete Puma after asking Bugs Bunny for "A lotta lumps".
Junyer Bear who always loves his paw.
The one time Stan got screen credit was when he was the ONLY voice in an entire Warner Bros. cartoon. Friz Freleng directed Stan in The Three Little Bops that was a zoot suited version of the story of the Three Little Pigs. Stan sang the song and voiced every character.
The Three Little Bops
Stan did cartoon vocal work for other studios, too. Disney was one. He sang a song about the Jabberwocky for Alice In Wonderland that Walt ultimately cut from the movie, but he also memorably did the voice of the beaver in Lady and the Tramp. As you recall, the beaver helps get the muzzle off of Lady when she and Tramp come to see him at the zoo. Walt Disney himself directed Stan in that performance.
This beautiful pencil drawing of Stan Freberg's character of the beaver from Disney's "Lady and the Tramp" is on an 8x10 that Stan has available at public appearances.
Out of a pure indulgence of mine, I also want to mention Stan’s role as the Yawning Man in the 1958 movie Tom Thumb. Tom Thumb was a wonderful fantasy movie directed by the great George Pal who loved incorporating stop-motion animation into his movies. He did it the hard way, too. The characters faces would all be sculpted in wood. George had Stan play a small but memorable role of a toy that helps put Tom Thumb (played by Russ Tamblyn from West Side Story) to sleep. Here’s the scene for you to see. I dare you to not yawn during this wonderful vocal performance by Freberg:
I first learned of Stan’s name when I was in high school. I was working at a summer camp on an island in the Delaware River sharing a cabin with several other staff guys. My friend Kevin Wertz had a copy of Freberg’s The United States of America album on a cassette tape that we listened to over and over after our long day’s work. That just might be the funniest album by any comedian I have ever heard, and am thrilled to have my own signed copy on LP framed on the wall in my studio. Later I discovered that Stan had made MANY records, most of which were song parodies of the day. His cover of Harry Bellefonte’s Banana Boat Song put me in stitches. It is no surprise that “Weird” Al Yankovic counts Stan as one of his inspirations.
This is perhaps the best of Stan's hilarious records with Capitol Records.
Another guy inspired by Stan was the late Jim Henson. Stan, along with Daws Butler, were the guys who brought Bob Clampett’s creations of Beany & Cecil to life as a live television puppet show called Time For Beany. Stan was the original Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent as well as Dishonest John. Stan once told me how he showed a young Jim Henson how to make Kermit the Frog seem as though he was smiling.
Stan Freberg with puppets of Dishonest John and Cecil from "Time For Beany."
Freberg’s later career as an advertising man broke new ground for that industry. He broke away from the fake testimonial ads common in the day, and from the ads that made all kinds of promises to make ads that made people laugh. He was wildly successful and we have had funny ads ever since. One of the big accounts Stan had was doing all the TV and radio ads for the movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World in which he also had a silent cameo (he’s the sheriff’s deputy sitting in the background of Andy Divine’s scenes), but he also did funny ads for Sunsweet Prunes, Geno’s Pizza and many others.
As you can tell, I love the guy. I could go on and on about his career, but you would be better served if you could find a copy of his out-of-print autobiography titled It Only Hurts When I Laugh so that you can read his funny tales about all of the above and more in his own words. If you come see Stan this weekend at The Hollywood Show in Burbank, you might be lucky enough to score one of the few copies he has left.
That’s right, so if you would like to come see Stan, shake his hand, and get an autograph he is appearing at the Burbank Marriott by the airport along with many other Hollywood celebrities. To see more details about The Hollywood Show and who will be there, CLICK HERE! Stan will have photos of Pete Puma, the beaver and other shots of himself for sale. He has a couple of books, and some record albums and CDs from his own collection that he will be selling, along with a few copies of Warner Bros. Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 2 that has cartoons of Junyer Bear, Pete Puma and The Three Little Bops on it (Stan even provides voice commentary on that set)!
Oh, and if you drop by, be sure to wish Stan a Happy Birthday! He will be 86 years old on August 7!
This is a great casual shot of Capitol Records stars all together. You might recognize Frank Sinatra, Danny Kaye, Nat "King" Cole, Dean Martin and Stan Freberg.
Today on the Chad Frye • Illustration Guyfan page on Facebook I launched a new special feature for those who “LIKE” the page – EXCLUSIVE ART!
That’s right! Beginning today, my public Facebook fan page has a photo album that will be the exclusive home of some of my drawings. They won’t be posted here on the blog or on my regular website. It’s a little “thank you” to those of you who come spend a little time on my Facebook page.
If you haven’t “liked” my Facebook page yet, come join the fun! I post weird random thoughts that pop into my head during the day while I’m drawing, I post links to all my blog posts, sometimes I hold contests where you can win art and books, and now exclusive drawings!
So, to come see what all the fuss is about, click on the mysterious eyes above and you’ll be whisked away to the Chad Frye • Illustration Guyfan page!
I was out the other night at a restaurant, and while sitting in the waiting area, this tall lanky fella with a humongous puffy jacket walked by on his way out. All I saw was short hair on an interesting face, a mountain range of puffy jacket, and two long skinny legs sticking’ out the bottom. I wasn’t sure if he had on cowboy boots or loafers with a heel, but it was a sight to behold.
Now, keep in mind that I live in the Los Angeles area. I know some folks think it can be chilly here at times, but I walked into the place in short sleeves and was more than comfortable. Then again, 15 years out here and I’ve never needed more than a sweater in the dead of winter. Maybe I’m just unnaturally warm with all my natural insulation.
Well, I did this sketch later at home. He had made a visual impression on me and I just had to get it out…
Maybe he wasn't actually cold. Instead, maybe he was hiding leftovers under that thing.
Back in December I had to go to the post office during Christmas week. Oog, what a nightmare. I was there at 8:30am when they opened, and got in line behind about 25 people as only two postal employees worked the counter. So, this gave me time to watch the people around me.
This one guy standing about 8 people in front of me was the most peculiar. He wore a full length black trench coat, had kind of his own version of a porkpie hat, round so-dark-I-couldn’t-see-his-eyes sunglasses, hair that just spilled out from under the hat, a very unkempt mustache with a beard to match that had a couple of braided strands, and a black dapper cane with an ornate silver handle. He made such an impression, that I did this drawing of him not back in December, but only just this past weekend.
And yes, I was too afraid to ask what he was there to pick up. Some answers are better left unsaid.
Looking kind of like he was into goth and the wild west, this fellow postal patron was certainly very mysterious.
Welcome to the new year! It has been almost a month since I last posted anything. Since then, I did a little traveling for the holidays, and upon my return to Los Angeles, reacclimated myself to the daily responsibilities of drawing at my job.
I assume that many of you also travelled for the holidays. Perhaps you traveled by plane, train, or automobile? I generally go by plane when it is across the country, which always means sitting in airports. I like to find a seat that faces the main walkway where I peoplewatch. Airports are the great cross-section of society. Once in awhile, someone finds their way into my sketchbook. Here are just a few…
A few days ago I shared with you a few sketches I did last weekend of several composers I had the privilege of seeing at a panel discussion about their line of work. Their line of work helps put me in the frame of mind to do MY line of work (which is drawing if you didn’t already know), so why not do some doodles of these musical artists the only way I know how – in CARICATURE!
I stress the word “caricature” because with my last posting, there seemed to be some who missed the fact that I’m a CARTOONIST when responding to my art. I don’t do flattering portraits. My hand can only draw how I really see the world, so be afraid – be very afraid.
Seriously though, I have the utmost respect for my subjects. I LOVE their music, and really appreciated their insights brought forth by moderator Daniel Schweiger last Sunday afternoon.
So, I present to you today images from my sketchbook of David Newman (Hoffa, The Affair of the Necklace, The Spirit), Nicholas Pike (Parasomnia, Return To Me, Star Kid), Lee Holdridge (The Tuskegee Airmen, Splash, Secret of Nimh 2), and Ken Thorne (Superman II & III, Lassiter, Help!). Enjoy!
David Newman composes wonderful music for many comedies including quite a few of Eddie Murphy's movies, but some of my favorites have been for dramas like "Hoffa" or the Oscar nominated "Anastasia" or for action-adventure like "The Phantom" or "The Spirit".
The first CD I ever picked up by Nicholas Pike was his score to "Return to Me", a movie starring Minnie Driver. That great CD also introduced me to the musical stylings of funnyman Jackie Gleason who conducted really great (forgive the term) "elevator music" that I just love.
While Lee Holdridge has composed many great scores for movies and television, he also was good friends with John Denver and had arranged many songs for the Country Boy.
At 87, Ken Thorne was the eldest of the composers on the panel, and also was the only one with an Oscar which he won in 1967 for his work on the movie "A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum."
Thanks again to the great Peter Hackman for getting film music fans together for such a great event! Looking forward to next year’s!!