Sick and Tired

Sorry for the lag in blog posts. Besides a busy freelance schedule I took a four-day trip to Missouri for “Toonfest”, and now I’m on my fourth straight day of being knocked flat by a bad flu bug.

I can’t remember being this sick in quite a while. Yesterday my temp boiled up to 103 at which point I started having hallucinations about a crisis on Wall Street and a massive government bailout. At least I hope I was hallucinating.

Went to the doctor yesterday and the nurse told me no official cases of the flu have been reported in Minnesota yet this season. So I might be the first. Yay.

In any case, I’m getting sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Between traveling and sick days I’ve got a mountain of work to catch up on. I plan to get back to my regular blog schedule as soon as I can, but it may take a while. In the mean time, I beg your indulgence. And don’t forget to check out some of the cool “Art Blogs” listed over to the left.

This And That

Thanks to everyone who posted comments about Twitter. They were very helpful. I’ve been playing around with Twitter a bit more and I’m really starting to like it. If you use Twitter you can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/cedricstudio.

I want to give a hearty “Congrats!” to two friends of mine, both fellow Minneapolis artists. Sherwin Schwartzrock recently submitted several of samples of his logo work to the publishers of Logo Lounge 5. Not only did he get in, but 38 of his logos were selected for publication! Another friend, Kelly McNutt, has been doing animation work for Jantze studios. Two of their animated shorts recently snagged four silver awards from the 2008 Create Awards. Way to go guys!

In other local news, Animated! is an Animation Film Festival featuring short films by Minneapolis animators (both student and professional). If you live near the Twin Cities mark your calendars for November 15. The event is sponsored by the Minnesota Museum of American Art. More info here.

Need a good laugh? Dave Barry is a Pulitzer-prize winning humor columnist for the Miami Herald and the author of several very funny books. I recently discovered that you can subscribe to his newspaper columns via RSS. Be prepared to chuckle and guffaw out loud.

(Groucho Marx with Dick Cavett)

I’m always looking for new and interesting stuff to listen to on my computer while I’m working on client projects. I recently picked up some DVD collections from The Dick Cavett Show, a late-night TV series from the 1970’s. I wasn’t even born yet when some of these episodes originally aired so I’m new to the Dick Cavett fan club. Sadly there’s nothing like it on TV anymore. Unlike modern talk shows there are no skits, stunts, or musical performances. Dick would just do a short monologue and then simply talk with his guests for ninety minutes—often just one guest for the entire time. And in most cases the guests were not there to plug a product, crack jokes, or shamelessly self-promote, they were there to carry on thoughtful and entertaining conversations. The guests are classy and the discussions are often fascinating. Dick Cavett Comic Legends (Amazon.com link) and Dick Cavett Hollywood Greats (Amazon.com link) features lengthy interviews with great celebrities such as Bill Cosby, Bob Hope, Groucho Marx, Orson Welles, George Burns, Alfred Hitchcock, Marlon Brando, Katherine Hepburn, and several others. Terrific stuff to play in the background while working.

Finally, I’ll be leaving town Thursday for the annual Toonfest event in Marceline, MO (Walt Disney’s hometown), where I’ll be hanging out with several members of the North Central Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society. So I may not be able to post much until next week.

To Tweet Or Not To Tweet?

Lately I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about Twitter, the popular “social networking” tool that allows you to write brief one- or two-sentence updates about your life (called “tweets”) and then instantly broadcast them to your friends and colleagues. Some praise Twitter as a cutting-edge networking and marketing tool, while critics brush it off as a narcissistic time-waster. This article from BusinessWeek.com sums up both perspectives. Like most things, I suppose it all depends on how you use it.

One thing is for sure: Lots of people are growing addicted to Twitter.

I consider myself pretty tech-saavy and I don’t like the feeling that I’m missing out. So I decided to do a little research into Twitter. I downloaded a Twitter app for my iPhone and I was surprised to discover that I’ve been tweeting for months without even realizing it. Apparantly I somehow set up my blog to automatically “tweet” each new blog post, and then I completely forgot about it. (Here’s my Twitter page.)

I confess I’m unclear as to what makes Twitter so great and why I should use it. I find it hard to believe that most people would have that much interest in my day-to-day activities. To me Twitter seems like just an interesting novelty, but I don’t want to shrug it off prematurely. Maybe I’m missing something. So I’m appealing to you, my readers, to help me broaden my understanding.

Do you tweet? Why or why not? If so, do you use it primarily for business or to connect with friends? How has it helped you? Are there any rules for using (or abusing) Twitter? Please post a comment and share your thoughts. You can even post a link to your Twitter page if you’d like.

Indiana Jones and the Sketchbook of Doom

Lately I’ve been blessed with gobs of freelance work, but one of the downsides is that I’m so busy cranking out work for clients that my sketchbook has been gathering dust.

Not a good thing.

A sketchbook is an important part of any artist’s development, no matter how busy or successful he/she gets. The sketchbook is the one place where you can really let loose, try new things, experiment, and (most importantly) make lots and lots of bad drawings.

When I say “bad drawings” I don’t mean getting lazy or not caring about your work. I mean bad in a good way. For most artists the temptation is to try and fill your sketchbook with beautiful artwork, but that can be a mistake. If your drawings are all wonderful, it means you are only drawing things you’ve already mastered. And that means you aren’t improving, growing, and pushing yourself to get better. It just means you are going back and forth along a well-worn rut. The day you stop doing bad drawings is the day you stop challenging yourself, and as a result you stop growing and improving.

And if you aren’t growing, you start sliding backwards. There is no middle ground.

Most of the work I do for clients is very cartoony, which is loose and fun and has no rules. Some people think that cartooning is really just sophisticated doodling, and I suppose for some artists it is. The way my brain works, I have to first study something and understand how it works in the real world before I can effectively simplify it into an appealing cartoon design. So I don’t use my sketchbook much to practice cartooning. I try to fill the pages with realistic and semi-realistic subject matter (portraits, caricatures, life drawing, clothing studies, etc.) The better I get at drawing realistically, the better I get at cartooning. As the old saying goes, you have to understand the rules before you can break them.

Recently I took my sketchbook with me on a vacation to a lake cabin in Wisconsin. I also brought along a fun book called The Complete Making of Indiana Jones (Amazon.com link). It’s a thick paperback full of behind-the-scenes photos and stories from all four Indiana Jones films. These sketches were done from that book. These are clearly not my best sketches, but I learned a lot doing them so they have value. I experimented a bit with different mediums, brushed up on some anatomy and cloth, and was once again reminded that Harrison Ford has a really hard face to draw (especially the young Harrison). There’s a reason there aren’t too many caricatures of him floating around out there.

Someday, if I get the courage, I’ll post some of my really bad sketchbook drawings. But you get the idea.

Now get out there and fill up that sketchbook!

Peter Krause Has A New Website

I wanted to take a minute to plug a fellow Twin Cities illustrator, Pete Krause. He’s been doing concept art, storyboards, and comic books for years and his work is excellent. His website just got a face lift, and it looks very nice. Take a peek:

www.peterkrauseillustration.com [EDIT: Broken link has been fixed.]

My own website is badly in need of a facelift. I mean badly. Seeing Pete’s new look has lit a fire under me to stop waiting for “free time” to magically appear and instead to make time to develop a new design. My new goal: To have a spanky new website up and running by the end of the year.

“3-2-1 Penguins!” TV Series Now On DVD

Last year I had the privilege of working as a character designer for 3-2-1 Penguins!, a Saturday morning animated series currently airing on NBC. Penguins began it’s life on VHS back in the 1990’s with several episodes being produced by Big Idea (the company that gave us VeggieTales). Last year NBC warmed up to the property and ordered an entire season of brand-new episodes for their Saturday morning TV block.

3-2-1 Penguins! could best be described as Star Trek meets Looney Tunes. Four zany penguins (Zidgel, Fidgel, Midgel, and Kevin) travel the universe in their space ship, taking along two kids (Jason and Michelle) to help them on their missions. Their main enemy is Cavitus, a melodramatic villain who is really just a hamster parading around inside of a giant robot suit. Each episode involves a run-in of some sort with aliens, robots, and other wacky interplanetary creatures (one episode takes place on a planet inhabited by lawn flamingos and garden gnomes). In the course of each episode Jason and Michelle learn a biblical lesson from the book of Proverbs.

This week the series began its rollout onto DVD. “Save the Planets!” (Amazon.com link) is a one-disc DVD containing three episodes from the TV version of the series:

  • The Green-Eyed Monster
  • More is More
  • Give and Let Give

Special features include:

  • Audio Commentary on all three episodes
  • How to Draw Kevin and Chancellor Gutt (one of the character’s I designed)
  • Animation Progression Reel
  • Pearls of Wisdom
  • Make Your Own Planet
  • Video Trivia
  • Discussion Guide
  • DVD-Rom Fun!

As I mentioned above, I designed misc. characters (and a few props) for about half of the episodes in the series. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that all three episodes chosen for this DVD were episodes I worked on. Hopefully more episodes will make it onto DVD in the near future.

3-2-1 Penguins!: Save The Planets! is available at your local Wal-Mart, in Christian bookstores, or on Amazon.com.

EDIT: Here’s a review of the DVD from Past The Popcorn.

More From The Creative Freelancer Conference

My head is still swimming with all the information I tried to soak in last week at the 2008 Creative Freelancer Conference in Chicago. Fortunately it has been officially announced that MP3 audio recordings of all of the seminars will be available for purchase soon, likely sometime in the next few weeks. I’ll post a link as soon as they are available.

One of the books I picked up at the conference is The Designer’s Guide to Marketing And Pricing: How to Win Clients and What to Charge Them (Amazon.com link) co-authored by two of the key presenters, Ilise Benun and Peleg Top from Marketing Mentor. I’ve only read portions of the book, but so far I can say this is one of the best books on self-promotion and pricing that I’ve seen in a while. It’s a detailed primer covering the nuts-and-bolts of finding the right clients, networking, pricing your work, and lots of advice on what to say (and what not to say) when negotiating a project so that you appear as professional as possible. The chapter on how to talk to clients about money is well worth the price of the book. While primarily targeted at graphic designers, there is a wealth of helpful information most of which could easily apply to illustrators, photographers, web designers, etc.

Another book I picked up at the conference is Identity Crisis! (Amazon.com link) by Jeff Fisher. Fisher is a graphic designer specializing in logos, and his new book details the process he went through on 50 different client projects transforming old logos and identities into new and successful brands. Each chapter shows the client’s old logo, the new logo (and other collateral material), and discusses the process Fisher went through with each client. Fun stuff for anyone interested in logos and identity work.

Finally, designer Ian Arsenault has posted a bunch of photos from the conference on his Facebook page. Give them a looksee to see how much fun everyone had. Ya should’a been there!