Updated PDF Portfolios Available For Download

I’ve gone through the PDF versions of all my portfolios, weeded out some old work and put in some fresh. I’ve also updated the “About me” page. You can download them at my website or with these links:

Character Design Portfolio 2011
Toy Design Portfolio 2011
Illustration Portfolio 2011
Comp Art Portfolio 2011

Enjoy!

I’m Now An Award-Winning Toy Designer

Play Illustration, a portfolio website for artists in the toy and game industries, recently held their 2011 International Art Competition which I entered. I’m pleased to announce that they’ve given me a Silver Award (second place) in the category of Concept Art for Toy or Children’s Product.

I found out on my birthday, which makes it extra-nice news. It’s definitely more exciting than the time my high school voted me “Most Likely To Attend Comic-Book Conventions Well Into His Thirties”.

The piece I entered (shown above) was some concepts and the final design for a plush teddy bear created for DecoPac, Inc. You can see how the final toy turned out on the DecoPac website or on my earlier blog post about the project.

I want to congratulate the first place winner, Timothy Banks, as well as all the other winners in the other categories. I also want to thank the nice folks at Play Illustration for the award. You’ve given me the excuse I needed to start doubling my rates. (I kid, I kid!)

Who Really Created He-Man?

As a freelance toy designer this looks fascinating to me. It’s a trailer for Toy Masters, an upcoming documentary about a long-running dispute over who should get the credit for creating He-Man and the whole Masters Of The Universe juggernaut. It’s clearly a low-budget effort but judging from the trailer there will be a good mixture of conflict, nostalgia, and insights about the toy biz. More than enough to hold my interest.

Toy Design: Plush Teddy Bears

One of my regular clients is DecoPac, Inc., a local company that designs and manufactures many of the toys you find adorning the birthday cakes at your local grocery store bakery. Most of my work for them involves licensed properties (Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, etc.) but every once in a while I get to create something completely from scratch.

Last year they asked me to design a small plush teddy bear about six inches high, something cute and cuddly that could be decorated with various clothing and props to suit a number of themes (i.e. graduation, birth of a baby, etc.). The real challenge was to create something cute and appealing that was still a little different from the hundreds of teddy bear designs that already exist.

I started by doodling and brainstorming using small thumbnail sketches. Here’s a few of the initial ideas I submitted:

After some discussion and a few more sketches we finally settled on this design:

I also created versions based on four themes: Baby boy, baby girl, fairy bear, and graduation. Recently DecoPac sent me copies of the finished bears. Here’s how they turned out:

My daughters keep asking to play with them so I guess that means they were a success.

Toy Design: Minnie Mouse Picture Frame

Last year I was hired by one of my regular clients, DecoPac Inc., to help with a Minnie Mouse toy concept for Disney. It takes a long time for a toy to do from original concept to final product so I’m just now able to reveal it.

The client showed me some misc. graphics provided by Disney including some “Dress Shop” clip art and a black silhouette of Minne Mouse walking a poodle and carrying a purse. The idea was to combine them into a pair of toys with a “shopping” theme: a curved picture frame with removable paper insert , and a matching figurine of Minnie based on the pose in the silhouette.

Because of the practical realities of the toy business sometimes something beautifully drawn in 2D may not perfectly translate into a child-friendly 3D sculpt. That was the case with the original Minnie silhouette (not shown). In it Minnie’s purse was hanging loosely off of her wrist which was a safety concern. If we sculpted the toy that way the purse could snap off and become a choking hazard. So I tweaked it to have her gripping it firmly in her hand instead. Likewise we changed the dog leash to a shopping bag but again it couldn’t have strap handles, it had to be gripped firmly in her hand.

Even Minnie’s arms had to be brought in tight to her sides to prevent them from snapping off. However, I didn’t want to also bring her arms in on the silhouette because it would lose a lot of clarity. Her torso and arms would morph into one ambiguous black blob. As a result the final figurine doesn’t perfectly match the silhouette, but hopefully it was close enough that the two pieces still felt like part of a set.

Here’s What I came up with:

Here’s how the final toy came out:

Toy Story 3: Woody Figurine

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they design many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in grocery store bakeries. They also create various toys and novelties to put on top of the cakes, often tying in with licensed characters and brands.

Last year they commissioned me to develop some concepts for a “Toy Story” cake to correspond with the upcoming push to promote Toy Story 3. I was asked to come up with some cake designs highlighting Woody and Buzz, and also to brainstorm a few ideas for small “Woody” toys or mini-figurines that could be placed on top of the cake for extra appeal. I don’t yet have permission from the client to show you the various concept sketches I developed for the cake itself. I can show you some of the rough ideas I came up with for the Woody toy:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

Here’s how the final three-inch figurine turned out:

Woody and Toy Story are copyright © Disney.

And here’s a cake design DecoPac ultimately developed for the bakeries to use:

A few days ago I was in my local Wal-Mart and saw this exact toy decorating one of the cakes in the bakery display cooler. Of course I had to buy it. My little girls had an extra-special treat for desert that night:

Toy Design: Disney’s “Princess and the Frog” Rough Concepts

Here’s another concept I worked up for DecoPac, a local company that manufactures licensed toys for specialty birthday cakes.

They told me they were working on a cake design for Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog” and asked me to work up a couple of rough concept sketches to help them sell it to the folks at Disney. They wanted one version of princess Tiana blowing a kiss in the frog’s direction, and another version with her holding the frog in her hands and looking at it skeptically. This was back in 2008 when very little information about the movie was available to the public, so there wasn’t much else for us to go on concept-wise.

Artwork copyright © Disney via DecoPac, Inc. All rights reserved.

You couldn’t see much of what was going on under the dress, so I tried to show alternating leg positions that might influence the structure of the fabric depending on if one arm was up or down.

Artwork copyright © Disney via DecoPac, Inc. All rights reserved.

At this point we were just trying to sell the idea, so I didn’t agonize too much over making sure the characters were exactly on model. Disney approved the concept and then handed it off to their in-house artists to further refine the design.

Here’s how the final cake turned out:

And here’s a close-up photo of the toy figurine:

If you’ve got a little princess in your life with a birthday coming up, there’s a good chance this cake will be available for order at your local bakery.

Incidentally, I still haven’t seen the movie. I’m hoping to finally get out to it soon before it leaves theaters.

Toy Design: Disney-Pixar “Cars”

One of my regular clients is a toy company called DecoPac. Among other things they create many of the fancy birthday cakes you see in the grocery store bakeries. They often develop fun themes using licensed characters to tie in with movie and TV franchises. On occasion they will hire me to develop toy concepts for some of the cakes. They are a terrific client and its a ton of fun.

Artwork copyright © Disney. All rights reserved.

Back in 2008 they hired me to sketch up a “pit stop” idea they had for Disney/Pixar’s Cars franchise. Once this concept sketch was approved it left my hands and went to the Disney to be further developed in-house. Because of the realities of overseas manufacturing it can take a year or more from initial concept to final delivery. This project is now completed so I’m able to show you what I did.

Here’s how the final design turned out. There were a few minor adjustments but overall it stayed pretty close to the concept. If you’ve got a young boy in the house with a birthday coming up there’s a good chance you can order this exact cake from your local grocery store bakery.

[EDIT: I just received my copy of the actual toy. It’s pretty clever how it was built. You wind up Guido, then as he drives around the track a little curved stem protruding his side strikes against strategically placed pegs. This causes Guido to briefly turn and face the car before the curved stem slides off the peg and he moves on. It gives the illusion that Guido is stopping to fix each tire (or do whatever it is they do at a pit stop). Pretty neat!

I made a little a YouTube video showing the toy in action:

Download My Updated PDF Portfolios

Along with posting new work on my website and on this here blog, I also make samples of my work available as a free PDF download for clients to print and keep on file. The last time I updated the PDF was in January 2008. A lot has changed since then and an update was long overdue.

Instead of one portfolio there are now three portfolios to choose from: Character Design, Illustration, and Toy Design. Collect all three!

Toy Design: Jungle Animals

jungle-lionturnsv1

jungle-elephantturns

Here’s one more project I did for DecoPac. It’s part of a series of jungle animal cake toys that were ultimately never produced.

The lion’s tail was meant to act like a lever which, when pushed, would cause his mouth to open and emit a “roar” noise from a tiny speaker.

I was asked to make the elephant sit on the cake as if he were giving himself a bath in some water, so we only needed to see the upper half of his body.

Ultimately the client went another route but it was still great fun to work on!