Thursday, May 1, 2014

Celebrate the life, don't memorialize the death

Yesterday it was announced that actor Bob Hoskins had passed away, and on my Facebook account I had made the following comment "I wonder how long it will be til shitty fan art of Roger Rabbit or Mario looking sad floods my news feed". Some people thought this meant I didn't like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, or that I didn't care about Bob Hoskins. Now neither of those are true. Obviously Roger Rabbit was a tremendously influential movie for me and to this day remains one of my favorite films of all time. My problem was that this will be yet another situation where all of the dumb-dumbs of my generation will remember an actor for only one single role despite a lifetime of work and achievement. Also regardless of the fact that they never bothered to see his any of his other work, all day long they're gonna act like their freakin' dad died. The same thing happened last month with Harold Ramis ("Who? Oh, you mean Egon!") The man made a tremendous contribution to modern comedy cinema, and all anyone could talk about was Ghostbusters. There was no mention of SCTV, Caddyshack, National Lampoon's Vacation or Animal House! It was nothing but illustrations of Egon as a ghost with the rest of the Ghostbusters looking sad. Just wait til Christopher Lloyd dies and we're inundated with a flood of crappy drawings of Marty McFly in the passenger seat of the DeLorean looking sad at an empty driver seat. I guarantee it will happen and there will be no drawings of Danny DeVito and the rest of the cast of "Taxi" looking sad at a cab, or Jack Nicholson and the rest of the cast of "One Flew Over The CooCoo's Nest" looking sad at an empty straight jacket or something equally as dumb. 

But beyond the fact that such fan art focus exclusively on just one single aspect of an artist's lifetime of achievements, I want to point out how phenomenally boring, predicable, formulaic, and depressing these "tributes" are. It's not a new thing. Warner Brothers did a series of these when Mel Blanc and Chuck Jones (my hero) died

Look at how boring and depressing these are! Now to me, this isn't a tribute. This is a commemoration of death and doesn't do any kind of justice to the accomplishments they achieved in their lifetime or the joy they brought to their audiences. Also, these were for sale as high end (and expensive) cels. Would you really want to hang this on your wall? Why would you want a reminder that an artist whose work you've admired and has brought you so much happiness in your lifetime is now dead. Why not something that actually celebrates their life and their work. Take a look at these two tributes that were created when Friz Freleng died. 

To me, the second one seems to do a much better job at celebrating the artist's life rather than going down a tired, predictable route that says "he's dead and we're sad" 
I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being sad, but if you're an an artist, and another artist has really truly influenced you, and you want a way to express that creatively when they pass, then actually show that by doing something genuinely creative and not a tired old cliche.  Create something that celebrates their life and how it affected yours. Make something that that artist could look at and be proud to have had a hand in helping shape the person behind it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

"We toons may act idiotic, but we're not stupid!"

Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", so I decided to make a little fan art.
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I can't even begin to describe what an impact this movie had on my life. I was 8 years old when it came out, and that is the earliest specific date I can recall. It's like when you're a child, you don't have a real solid sense of time yet. All events over the span of years get lumped into this one big nebulous chunk of time, with no real dates or years attached to any specific moment to delineate one from the other. It all becomes "back when I was a kid". But "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" was such a momentous event in my life, I've always been able to remember it as the summer of '88. 
This movie was like a depiction of my dreams made manifest on celluloid. My parents tell me that when I was a toddler watching Looney Tunes, I had tried to crawl into the TV because I wanted to live with the cartoons. I wanted a world where cartoons were real. Roger Rabbit was the first time I actually got to see that idea of cartoons as being real and part of our world. Now I know that Who Framed Roger Rabbit is certainly not the first time cartoons have been integrated with live action film. But, back in '88, I had not yet seen the Porky/Daffy short "You Ought To Be In Pictures" or any of Disney's "Alice" comedies, or even Disney's "Mary Poppins" (I never really cared for many of the Disney live action films when I was a kid, and sadly, I still don't)
I still remember sitting in the theater when the big "Maroon Cartoon" title cards popped up and "Somethin's Cookin'" began and while watching it with wide eyes wondering how they were going to make the jump from this 100% animated cartoon into the real world. I was thinking "is the jump into the real world what changes Baby Herman into a cigar smoking tough guy, like he is in the commercials on TV? Are they gonna have to try to get back? Is that plot?" 5 minutes later when the camera pulls back to reveal its all a set, and they were just filming a cartoon on a soundstage in Hollywood the same way they would make any other movie, it completely blew my mind. That was the world I wanted to live in.
After that, I drew Roger Rabbit obsessively for the next 3 or 4 years on any paper I could get my hands on. I'll have to post some of those drawings later. Roger Rabbit was definitely a benchmark in my life and I really hope he makes a return to the screen someday, and I really hope that I may be lucky enough to get to work with him professionally one day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Joyriding with the cool cats

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Here's the final cover art for the debut EP from Hooray For Our Side. The band's vocalist, Evan, and I are both huge Back To The Future fans, so we thought to create the cover, it would be fun create the album art, from concept to final product, while watching the entire Back To The Future trilogy over pizza and beer. It ended up taking quite a bit longer than that. We met with various other members and friends of the band over the course of 4 nights and while working on this, we watched the entire BTTF trilogy, Brad Neely's Wizard People Dear Reader, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and several episodes from season 3 of The Simpsons. We also had about 6 pizzas, 40 chicken wings, 2 burritos, 1 bottle of cake flavored vodka, 2 cases of soda, and about 45 beers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Where did you get that red sharkskin suit? It is awesome!"

Here's an illustration did did for the new episode of Podhouse 90, a scripted anthology series of original radio plays by Frank Conniff (Mystery Science Theater 3000, Cinematic Titanic, Invader ZIM)

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I had done an illustration for an episode last year, The Wonderful Pundits of Oz. This episode is full length musical comedy called "South by South Satan", Starring Dana Gould, J. Elvis Weinstein, Emily Maya Mills, Laraine Newman, Emo Philips, David Higgins, Janie Haddad Tompkins, Joe Keyes, Ron Lynch, Jimmy Dore, Stef Zamorano, Mark Thompson, Kipleigh Brown and Frank Conniff. You can get for free here on iTunes!

Here's are some rough concepts I sent to Frank.
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#5 was in reference to one of my favorite episodes of MST3K. I didn't actually think Frank would go for it, I just threw it into the mix for the hell of it (pun very much intended) since he was a writer and actor on the show. We decided to go with #4. You can see that originally Satan had a bigger, much more pronounced goatee, but the script called for a soul patch. Here are some other development sketches and an alternate layout.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

78 RPMs of Fury!

Candy Coated Fury, the Reel Big Fish album that I created the artwork for last year, is now available on vinyl!

You can get your copy of just the record itself here or get a bundle that includes a rad pair of slipmats

You can also see an extensive blog post detail the step by step how I created all of the album artwork here.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bernie the Butter Sculpture

Last year I had started doing monthly illustrations for the now defunct Cartoon Dump, a live show created and written by Frank Conniff (Mystery Science Theater 3000) that parodies the children's shows of yesteryear, hosted by a cast of misfits that suffer from substance abuse and mental illness while the worst and crappiest vintage cartoons from Jerry Beck's extensive animation library are shown throughout the show.

Before I began doing the monthlies, I was asked to create a series of illustrations to accompany one of the musical numbers;"Bernie the Butter Sculpture". These were projected next to the actors while they sang the song. Moodsy the Clinically Depressed Owl seemed to take a certain delight in Compost Brite's look or horror and misery as the song progressed. Cartoon Dump hasn't run in 7 months and I'm not sure if its coming back or if these will be used again, so I think it's probably safe to share these now. If it does come back, I'd like to redraw them anyway, as I feel I could do much better now. I added Frank's original lyrics to the bottom of the pages for this post, but they didn't actually appear on the projections.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

All I wanted was a dodgeball! Just one dodgeball!

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This is a logo I designed for The Alcoballics, my good friend Jonny Riot's dodgeball team in Buffalo NY. Jonny and I played together in our first band, The Moneyshots, in 2001 and he was the one that gave me the name Thom Foolery.