Archive for the ‘Animals’ Category

The Sakai Project

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Well, today is the BIG day! Dark Horse Comics, in collaboration with the Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS), has released The Sakai Project, a beautiful 9×12″, 160 page hardcover book of artists’ interpretations of Stan Sakai’s Usagi Yojimbo comic book character that he has been writing and drawing for the past thirty years. Its big splash debut is at the San Diego Comic Con where it is likely to be THE book to take around to artists to get autographed.

 

Stan Sakai

The front cover features an illustration by Stan Sakai, the only spot where Stan's actual artwork appears in the book.

 

The book came about because CAPS (of which I am a member) started a fundraiser auction to help Stan Sakai with bills that exceeded his health insurance coverage in the care of his wife, Sharon, who has brain cancer. So many artists started sending in original creations of Usagi Yojimbo, that auction organizer Tone Rodriguez thought there ought to be a book! Mike Richardson, head honcho of Dark Horse Comics, generously offered to pay for the publication of the book with all sales going directly to Stan & Sharon.

 

The Sakai Project

This is a photo from CAPS' Facebook page. Click on it to see their album of art, both Usagi and non-Usagi, that they sold in their fundraiser for the Sakais.

 

Back in April I shared with you my piece, but I’ll share it again here. It appears on page 30 in the book, right next to my friend Michael Jantze who draws The Norm comic strip. Page 30 in a 30th anniversary book is not too shabby. The painting has found a good home somewhere when it was sold on eBay back in May to help the Sakais.

 

Usagi Yojimbo

Here is the full watercolor and colored pencil piece that occupies a corner of page 30 in "The Sakai Project."

Usagi Yojimbo

…and since it was reproduced small in the book, here is a close-up so you can see some of the detail.

 

So, go to your local comic book shop today and pick up this GREAT tome. You will get to see some amazing art by folks like Mike Mignola, William Stout, Sergio Aragonès, J. Scott Campbell, Bill Sienkiewicz, Tone Rodriguez, Geof Darrow, Tim Sale, Kazu Kibuishi, Adam Hughes, Art Adams, Neal Adams, Frank Cho, Jack Davis, Matt Wagner, and the list goes on and on!

You will also be helping out one of the sweetest couples I know, Sharon & Stan Sakai.

Dog Days of Summer

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

…well, dog, cat and mouse days of summer actually. It has been pretty hot here over the past few days – routinely in the 90s, but the other day I looked outside and saw 102 on my thermometer. Made me VERY glad to be inside!

Despite having the cool comfort of air conditioning at my beck and call, the outside heat still makes one feel sluggish which was translated vicariously through my arm to paper with these critters. They can do all my slugging for me.

 

Hot Pets

Before any of you e-mail me to tell me cats and dogs don't get sweaty brows, just remember this is a drawing. It isn't real life. Mice, however, always fan themselves in real life.

 

 

This drawing is for sale! 14×11″ colored pencil on Canson paper. $200 + $10 shipping in the U.S. (Despite them looking thirsty, do not pour water on this paper.)

IMF Birds

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

Last night I was watching the classic Mission: Impossible television show when I reached over for my sketchbook and started doodling…..birds. Yeah, I don’t know why either. Cold War dramas don’t usually bring birds out of me, even though the Impossible Mission Force does seem to keep the pecking order in check. Although, now that I look at the sketches the next day, that strong eagle on the right does bear a slight unconscious resemblance to Peter Graves. Hmmm.

 

Mission: Impossible

Birds of the Cold War. The biggest impossible mission is keeping them from soiling my car.

Violet Monkeys

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

Here in Los Angeles, it has become a thing for small art galleries to host group shows of art created to a common theme. Local artists have created art for displays themed to the work of Tim Burton, Hanna Barbera, The Wizard of Oz, How To Train Your Dragon, and even the collected works of J.J. Abrams’ films and television shows. This past Saturday I contributed a piece to the Planet of the Apes themed show hosted by the Creature Features gallery in Burbank, California.

 

Charlton Heston

Based on the original Charlton Heston movie from 1968, the 16x20" "Violet Monkeys" was created with watercolor and colored pencil.

 

Perhaps you would like to hear a little behind-the-scenes story about this particular piece? It wasn’t that I just decided to one day create a painting from a forty-six year old movie. There is a little more than that to tell…

When I first moved to California to work for Disney Feature Animation in 1997, it was right as Hercules was being released. Charlton Heston was the opening narrator for that film, and being a fan of his work, I struck up a correspondence friendship with him. I always loved that first Planet of the Apes film, so after a few years of writing back and forth with George Taylor (Heston’s character’s name), I created my first Planet of the Apes painting in his honor for a solo art show to be held at the studio. Mr. Heston was going to attend, but unfortunately didn’t make it.

This past February I was going through some boxes and found a letter from Mr. Heston he had sent after seeing a print of that original painting (which is currently on my website). He wrote such a complimentary letter that all these years later it touched me again. Almost immediately after finding that note, I was invited to participate in Creature Features’ Planet of the Apes themed art show. With the renewed encouragement from that old letter, it was time to reinvent that piece created eleven years ago that, quite frankly, could stand to have a make-over.

As the deadline for the show loomed, the realization set in that time was running out to create the new piece. I was about to take off on a lengthy river boat trip through Russia, and suddenly got the idea that a painting could be created during sailing days between ports. The initial drawing was created while at home in the States, then it was packed along with some watercolor paper, paints, brushes and colored pencils for travel to Russia.

 

 

Riverboat Stateroom

While it wasn't the best studio in which to work, it was the most adventurous. This was the set-up in my room on board the riverboat that took me across Russia

 

Setting up a make-shift studio in my riverboat stateroom proved challenging due to the small, tight quarters. It became an adventure. I would open up my curtains, and watch the Russian countryside float by while sitting there working on purple gorillas and an orange Charlton Heston.

One day Julia, one of the ladies who worked the front desk, said to me out of the blue, “I like your violet monkeys.” I scratched my head trying to figure out what she was talking about at first. It turned out that she had come around the day before to deliver magazines about St. Petersburg to all our rooms and had seen the work-in-progress sitting there. She didn’t know what Planet of the Apes was, so she referred to the painting as “violet monkeys”. I liked the reference so much that the painting is now officially named Violet Monkeys.

 

Violet Monkeys

Meet Julia, the Russian front desk worker who unknowingly named my "Violet Monkeys" painting.

 

So, there you have it. This is my first major piece to have been created abroad (while aboard no less), and it was done while traveling over 1000 miles across Russia’s rivers, lakes, and canals between Moscow and St. Petersburg! It had to get done, because the art show opening was the day after I returned to the United States!

 

Grand Circle

This is me in front of the Tikhi Don ship (part of Grand Circle Travel's fleet) docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. This was my home and studio for the past two weeks.

 

While fighting with jet lag back in beautiful downtown Burbank, CA, I managed to get the framed art to the Creature Features gallery in just enough time for them to hang it for the evening’s opening. And boy, what an opening! Several hundred people were in attendance including fellow contributors Shag, Patrick Owsley, Ben Von Strawn, William Stout, and many others! A few enthusiastic fans even came dressed as characters from the movie. Taylor White and his Creature Features team put on a good show of fantastic art, and even costumes and props used in the classic productions!

 

Creature Features

One of two gallery rooms at Creature Features in Burbank, CA during the opening of the "Art of the Apes" group show.

Planet of the Apes art

You can see that "Violet Monkeys" is right at home amongst some other spiffy art.

Planet of the Apes fans

Interspecie attendance to the show was welcomed.

 

If you would like to see all of the art, it will be on display through the month of July. All the art is for sale, and some are even available as prints. Visit Creature Features website for more info!

 

 

 

Rib Lickin’ Good!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

A few weeks ago some friends had me over for a dinner of ribs with good cartoonist company. I’m not sure exactly why this strange image came to mind, because there were actually no cows there eating themselves, and as far as I know, I was not inadvertently eating my own ribs. It just tickled my funny bone (and no, we didn’t eat any of those, either).

 

Baby Back Ribs

Personally, the ONLY time I'd want a rib taken from me is if it meant that when I woke up, a beautiful woman was made from it just for me.

The Preparation of a Samurai

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

I’ll bet you thought I was done talking about my painting that is on eBay this week being sold to raise money for some friends. Well, I’m not. Just as if it was your birthday, I have a bonus gift for you – a peek at the art that happens BEFORE the art!

When I create an illustration like the one I posted on Monday of Usagi Yojimbo attacking, I always do a preliminary drawing to plan my own attack for the final art. Working on a Cintiq (a special computer monitor that you can draw on), I sketch out my scene using Photoshop. First comes a really rough sketch to get the idea out on the page very quickly. Most folks would have a hard time understanding the image at this point, but it is just meant to give me an idea of the overall composition. The size and placement of characters and scenery are worked out in this stage.

 

Stan Sakai's Usagi Yojimbo

You can see the initial drawing is pretty rough. The birthing process is never pretty.

 

In the case of this Usagi Yojimbo piece, the tighter digital sketch that came next (seen below) clearly identified the details of the scene. Then, so as to prevent a lot of experimenting in the painting stage, I worked out all the color choices right onto the rough sketch which was then printed out and taped up next to the final paper on my very non-digital drafting table. This made it so much easier to follow when mixing paint and laying down the watercolors.

 

Stan Sakai Usagi Yojimbo

The image is all planned out now, and ready for paint! Just stay away from the business end of that blade!

 

If you compare this final color sketch to the final painted piece I posted on Monday, you can see that even more changes were made to the drawing when I transferred it to the watercolor paper. A sugegasa, a Japanese conical hat, was added, along with one of Stan Sakai’s little lizard creatures that often make an appearance in his comic book Usagi Yojimbo. Otherwise all the details are there ready for the traditional makeover as a watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil illustration!

If you are interested in owning the final piece that will be published in July by Dark Horse Comics in The Sakai Project book, it will remain on eBay until this coming Sunday, May 4. CLICK HERE if you’d like to bid on it!

If you would like to see other great items by fans and pros that have been sold and will be sold, CLICK HERE to visit the Facebook page of CAPS – Comic Art Professional Society. They are selling all this great Usagi art to help Stan & Sharon Sakai with medical bills (all was explained in my previous post)!

Thanks!

Usagi Yojimbo Tribute Illustration

Friday, April 25th, 2014

Yeah, yeah, I know. You are probably thinking “Easter was last weekend. Why did he save the bunny for this weekend?” Well, I’ll tell you…

 

Usagi Yojimbo tribute

This is my Usagi Yojimbo illustration that will appear in Dark Horse Comics' "The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo" being released in July, 2014.

 

My good friends Stan & Sharon Sakai have been going through a tough time over the past couple of years. Sharon has had an inoperable brain tumor for many years that slowly started altering her quality of life. While she was able to function normally for several years, in the past two years it really took hold and has made it so that she is completely dependent on 24/7 medical care with random emergency visits to the hospital (where she happened to go once again this week with pneumonia).

 

Taken in 2004 during healthier days, Stan & Sharon Sakai visiting the ancient aqueducts of Segovia, Spain.

 

Stan happens to be a fellow cartoonist having created the comic book Usagi Yojimbo (published by Dark Horse Comics) that is celebrating it’s 30th birthday this year. As a freelance artist, Stan has indeed had medical coverage for his family, but Sharon’s around-the-clock care has required more than what his insurance will cover.

The members of CAPS (the Comic Art Professional Society based in Burbank, CA), of which I am a member and a former president, got together and decided to put together a fundraiser for Stan & Sharon. Many fans and colleagues started sending in thousands of dollars for this dear couple, and original art also began pouring in.

Many artists were sending in original creations of Stan’s ronin rabbit, Usagi Yojimbo. It became evident that there was more that could be done than just sell the art. Why not a book? Dark Horse quickly gravitated to the idea and offered to pay for the publication and promotion of a book with all the proceeds from the sales going to the Sakais. The book was put together as CAPS’ first major publication under the guidance of CAPS member and professional editor Bill Morrison.

So, the bunny above is my contribution to the book The Sakai Project: Artists Celebrate Thirty Years of Usagi Yojimbo. Created with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencils, it is a large illustration (15.5 x 20.5″) of Stan’s character in a forest of bamboo lethally dealing with mysterious attackers.

The book will be released in July just in time for the San Diego Comic Con, and can be pre-ordered from your local comic book shop right now! It will include art by Jack Davis, Mike Mignola, Adam Hughes, Tim Sale, Frank Cho, Bill Morrison, Sergio Aragonès, Stephen Silver, Dean Yeagle, Kazu Kibuishi, Oscar Martin, Dan Brereton, Art Adams, Joyce Chin, Jeff Smith, Tom Richmond, Al Jaffee, Tom Richmond, Craig Thompson, Eric Powell, and hundreds more. Stan himself did the cover art which CAPS will be selling on eBay in the coming weeks.

 

Sakai Project book CAPS

Stan Sakai himself created the cover illustration of the forthcoming "The Sakai Project" book from CAPS and Dark Horse. Stan's piece will be sold on eBay in the coming weeks.

 

In fact, all the original art that was donated by the artists is being sold by CAPS on eBay right now! Since March 6, CAPS has been listing 35-40 items each Thursday evening with auctions ending ten days later on Sunday evening. While it would be swell of you to be bidding on lots of great items as I have been, it would be even sweller if you bid on MY piece. It just went live on eBay last night!

 

Usagi Yojimbo up close

Sure, bunnies can be cute, but you would be ill advised to taunt one that is holding a sword.

 

I very rarely part with my original art, especially fully painted illustrations like this one. If I did, I would be asking $1,500.00 for this one. CAPS started this piece at $9.99 and there is NO minimum. This is a chance to acquire one of my published pieces for a potentially VERY good deal. More than that, you would be helping a very sweet couple in need.

So, for the next 9 days, go nuts! (Click on this or any of the images above to go to the auctions!) Thanks in advance for your support!

 

Can you caribou?

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Have you ever had one of those weeks where all you can think about is caribou? Boy, I have! Caribou this, and caribou that. Naturally, I did a caribou sketch. How could I not?!

 

animated caribou

I like to draw from real life. This was about the silliest caribou I've ever come across in the wild.