This And That

More misc. links and news of interest from around the web:

Mort Drucker Interview – Stephen Silver has posted his video interview with famed caricaturist Mort Drucker over at Schoolism.com. The video, part of his new “Maters Series” is over two hours long. For $39.95 you can have unlimited access to the video online for 30 days. (Sorry, due to piracy concerns its not available for download or to buy on DVD).

Pricing and Contracts Tutorials – If you are new to freelancing, illustrator/designer Mark Monlux has created two short slideshow presentations you should check out. One explains how to price your work, the other walks you through the basics of a good freelance contract.

Call For Entries – The National Cartoonists Society is now accepting submissions for their annual division awards. You don’t need to be a member to apply. Deadline is Feb. 6.

Who’s Who of Animation Studios – All animated films do not come from Disney. Here’s a quick run down on the top animation studios.

Free Graphic Novel – My friend Sherwin Schwartzrock is an amazing designer/illustrator. A few years ago he illustrated a graphic novel called ArmorQuest. He’s now giving them away for free.

“Help The Hodges” Art Auction – The first third of the “Help The Hodges” cartooning and animation art auction is in full swing over on ebay. If the auction is too rich for your blood but you want to help out, you can donate through Paypal at HelpTheHodges.com.

“VeggieTales” Creator To Launch New Series

VeggieTales is the best selling direct-to-video series of all time. Phil Vischer, the guy who created VeggieTales, has partnered with Focus on the Family to create a new DVD project rolling out in March called What’s In The Bible? The official website has just launched, including a video teaser.

What’s In The Bible? is a multi-part series that will walk through the Bible from cover to cover using a combination of puppets, animation, and live action to answer such questions as “Who wrote this book?”, “How did we get it?”, “Why do we think we can trust it?”, and “What difference does it make in my life?”   The first two volumes, “In the Beginning” and “Let My People Go”, will be available March 1. Look for them in your local Christian bookstore. I imagine you’ll also be able to order them online.

I had the privilege of doing a bit of animation for the series. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of that work here in the future. I can’t reveal much about it yet but the segments I worked on were very entertaining and smartly written, presenting substantive content in amusing ways. It was a lot of fun to work on and I’m really excited about the potential of this project.

For the latest info visit the official website. You can also follow What’s In The Bible? on Twitter and Facebook.

EDIT: Here’s a short video introducing the series…

“Help The Hodges” Art Auction Starts Today

Today at 10:00am Pacific time is the start of the “Help The Hodges” art auction (ebay link). It’s not only a chance to bid on some *fantastic* cartoon and animation art but you’ll also be helping a good cause.

The drummer pictured above is Matt Hodge, teenage son of animation writer/producer Tim Hodge (Mulan, VeggieTales). Back in August Matt was in a car that was struck by a train. He survived but remains in a coma. When it was time for the Hodge’s health insurance to be renewed the insurance company decided they would no longer cover Matt since he now had a “pre-existing condition”. So the Hodge’s are on their own to cover all future medical bills.

I once went to the emergency room after gashing my finger with a knife. They sent me home with a band-aid and charged me $300. I can’t imagine what it costs to care for someone who is 100% dependent on others day in and day out.

I don’t know Tim well but I did some character design work on the 3-2-1 Penguins! TV series for which he was the producer. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. It’s so sad to watch this black storm cloud continue to hover over his family. Fortunately Tim seems to be holding up well and facing everything with grace and even a little humor.

To help out, animation artist Chad Frye, with the help of the National Cartoonists Society Foundation, has been working hard to put together the coolest ebay auction ever. Artists from all corners of the animation and cartooning industries have donated original artwork to help raise money for the Hodge’s. Approximately 150 items have been donated including work by some top-drawer artists, as well as maquettes, posters, and signed DVDs. There’s so much cool stuff I don’t even know where to begin!

You could own an original sketch from “Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends” creator Craig McCracken…

…or an original Mickey Mouse animation drawing by Frank Thomas from “The Brave Little Tailor”….

…or an original drawing by “Kung Fu Panda” character designer Nicolas Marlet!

The auction is so large that it will be spread out over three weeks. To browse the entire collection visit HelpTheHodges.com. You can also get the latest on the auction on Facebook. [EDIT: The auction is being split into three groups of 50 items. The first group (listed here) goes up for sale throughout the day today, approximately one every seven minutes. Then next 50 items will go live on January 28 and the final 50 or so items will go live on Feb. 4.  CLICK HERE to view all the items that are currently available on ebay.]

If you aren’t the bidding type, or if the auction gets too rich for your blood, you can always give a tax-deductable donation by clicking on the “Paypal” link at the “Help the Hodges” website.

Finally, for the latest on Matt’s condition you can also follow Tim’s journal on the family’s CaringBridge page.

Most of all, please remember the Hodge’s in your prayers.

Marker Comp for a Target Pitch

Several times a year I am called on by local ad agencies to do marker comps. “Marker comp” is an industry term leftover from the days before computers. Back then if an agency wanted to pitch an idea to a client they would sometimes bring in an illustrator, plop him in front of a drawing board stacked with paper and markers, describe what they had in mind, and then ask him to quickly do some color sketches of their ideas to show the client. A picture is indeed worth a thousand words. It’s much more effective to sell an expensive idea to a client by showing them what you have in mind rather than by trying to describe it in words alone.

Today most of the artwork is done digitally.  I usually do comps in my studio on the Cintiq and then deliver them via email (although I do own a portable Cintiq that allows me to work on-site if needed). Everything is colored in Photoshop rather than with markers on paper. But the term “marker comp” seems to have stuck.

Since everything in the world of advertising has to get done yesterday marker comps are often very rough and done under very tight deadlines. I recently did some black-and-white comps for a client where I only had three hours to sketch eight concepts! That’s a very extreme example but it does happen. If an illustrator can draw fast, draw well, and be creative all at the same time, he or she will be very valuable to an agency.

Usually I am asked to keep my marker comps confidential. There are various reasons for this. Sometimes a client will want to protect their ideas from being stolen by a competitor. Often the agency simply gives all rights to the comps to the end client which leaves me with no control over the art. Other times an agency might not want it to be known that they brought in outside help to work on a project. Whatever the reason, most of the marker comps I do are kept under wraps which makes it a bit of a challenge for me to advertise that service.

Every once in a while a client gives me the “thumbs up” to publicly display something that I’ve done. A few months ago I was hired by a freelance designer who was, in turn, working on a project for a local agency. The idea was to pitch a specific retail display to Target in the hopes that Target would allow them to set it up in their stores. Unfortunately I don’t remember who the end client was or what the product was they wanted to display. I was simply asked to sketch up an area of open shelves in a typical Target store (specifically the “camping/lawn-and-garden” area of the store), and then the designer would fill in the shelves and end cap with some of his display ideas using Photoshop.

The designer gave me a few reference photos and then I drove down to my local target to snap a few more. This was the end result that I submitted to the client. It’s one of the more “neat and tidy” comps I’ve ever done so I’m glad I’m able to add it to my portfolio.

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:

From The Archives: Aliens!

I was digging through some old artwork and found some alien concept sketches I did way back in 2006. These were some “villain” designs from an educational project for kids that was to take place in outer space. As far as I know things never went much further than this before the project came to a stand still, for reasons I’m not privy too. (I did get paid for my work.) The client has asked that I not reveal any specific info about what they had in the works, so here you go….some silly aliens from the studio archives.

Any time I look back at old sketches like these I notice things I’d like to improve or do differently to make the designs stronger. That just means that with each passing year my skills are improving and I’m developing a keener eye. At least, that’s what I like to think.