Issue NUMBER 1
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William Reynold Brown (1917–1991) was a prolific American artist whose career embraced virtually every facet of the illustration field. During his life he produced work for the newspaper comics (Tailspin Tommy), North American Aviation, painted covers for some of the first paperback books ever published, illustrated scores of magazines and magazine covers, and most notably produced over 300 movie posters for the motion picture industry. After his retirement, Reynold found success as a fine artist, producing hundreds of oil paintings and drawings for the Western art market. This book presents a rich overview of Reynold Brown’s entire career, and showcases hundreds of original paintings, drawings, photographs, and printed illustrations—often in glorious full-page reproductions.
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1991) was a ld Brown (1917– embraced William Reyno career can artist whose tion field. During prolific Ameri facet of the illustra the newspaper virtually every ed work for t d the concep his life he produc in Tommy), invente can comics (Tailsp drawing for North Ameri ay” “cutaw of the first of the covers for some ted scores illustra Aviation, painted ever published, paperback books magazine covers, and most and for the posters of magazines ed over 300 movieretirement from notably produc his as industry. After found success motion picture tion, Reynold gs commercial illustra ing hundreds of oil paintin a fine artist, produc Western art market. for the and drawings w of Reynold ts a rich overvie of presen ds book hundre This ses career, and showca and Brown’s entire photographs, gs, drawin gs, ge glorious full-pa original paintin tions, often in movie printed illustra most iconic Many of his 50 Foot reproductions. as Attack of the such d, the feature Creature from posters are a Hot Tin Roof, , I was Woman, Cat on Deadly Mantis Spartacus, The Black Lagoon, more. olf, and many Werew e a Teenag COVER: Attack
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Standard Edition (224-page hardcover with dust jacket) — $44.95 (Postage Paid) d Press, Inc.
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illo. CONTENTS: 2 A Letter from the Editor
4 The “Art” of Mitch O’Connell by Dan Zimmer 24
The Various Sides of Mark Schultz
Adventures in Toyland with Nathan Jurevicius
by John Fleskes
by Dan Zimmer
60 Art Talks—Nancy Stahl by Zina Saunders
62 The Confessions of a Candykiller by Dan Zimmer
78 New and Notable 80 Exhibitions and Events
ON THE COVER: “Clown Girl” by Mitch O’Connell, © 2007
illo. A New Hope When I first started producing this magazine I had the brilliant idea of calling it Illustration’05. The next year was to be Illustration’06, and so on. I “borrowed” this concept from a great magazine published in the ’80s called Science. It was called Science’83, Science’84, and so on. I thought the name would be a perfect compliment to my original magazine, Illustration, (see the ad on the opposite page) which features the work of the “classic” illustrators. Each magazine would book-end the other. I thought it made perfect sense. Well, the idea wasn’t so great. Not only were my distributors confused, but it seems like everyone else was confused too. Some people thought I had stopped publishing Illustration. Some people thought I had renamed Illustration. Some people thought it was an annual issue of Illustration. It really became a headache explaining this simple title over and over again. So, to make a long story short, here is the first issue of ILLO, a new magazine dedicated to the field of contemporary illustration. It is my hope that with a new name and a new image, we can start over from scratch to build an exciting new magazine unencumbered by needless confusion. As I stated in the very first issue, I myself am a former illustrator. As such, I understand the unique challenges and rewards offered by this profession. To be successful in our current climate requires dedication and perseverance, a talent for self-promotion, technical skill, and a unique voice. There are many opportunities, but there are many hurdles to overcome, and more competition than ever. Each of the artists featured in this magazine has distinguished him or herself in today’s crowded marketplace, and each has managed to excel in the face of adversity. In our discussions with these illustrators, you will gain valuable insights into how they think, how they work, and how they deal with their daily challenges. I hope that this will be both educational and inspiring. Every quarterly issue of ILLO will showcase a diverse mix of some of the best illustrators working today. New faces will stand side-by-side with established talents. As well, we will work to explore areas of the illustration field that are often ignored by the mainstream design magazines and awards annuals. My hope is that we will present an unbiased view of the many exciting facets of this extraordinary profession. My thanks go out to the many contributors to this premiere issue, the advertisers who have placed their faith in me, and to all of those who have subscribed or ordered copies and have been waiting for months on end for this to finally arrive. I hope all of you are as excited about this new issue as I am! Sincerely,
Daniel Zimmer, Publisher
ILLO Issue One, Spring 2007. © 2007 by ILLO (ISSN 1555-9866) All text and artwork is © the respective artists or writers. None of the material in this publication may be reproduced in any form without the written permission of ILLO, or the respective copyright holders. All of the images utilized herein are reproduced for historical and scholarly purposes only. Every effort has been made to provide factually accurate information. ILLO is published four times per year. Single copies may be purchased for $10.00 postage paid in the U.S. Four-issue subscriptions are available for $40.00 postage paid in the U.S. Make checks or money orders payable to ILLO MAGAZINE. For advertising information and rates please contact Daniel Zimmer at 314-577-6768, or email Dan@illo.us. Our address is: ILLO MAGAZINE, 3640 Russell Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63110. We cannot accept orders over the telephone.
Have You Heard of Illustration Magazine? FRONT COVER
ILLUSTRATION is a beautiful, educational, and scholarly journal devoted to the study of American illustration art. Published quarterly and printed in full color, each 80-page issue features the highest quality printing, photography and color reproductions available. For those with an interest in popular culture, commercial art and design, publishing history, or the collecting of original art, ILLUSTRATION is an indispensable resource—and the best source for new information on the illustrators of the past. Issues shown below may be sold out. Check online to be sure! ❑ YES, SEND ME ISSUES 19 – 22 for $40.00 postpaid. MAIL TO:
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O R D E R ONL I NE a t W W W . I LLUST R AT I ON – M AGAZ I NE . C O M
The “ART” of Mitch o’Connell Interview by dan zimmer My first exposure to Mitch O’Connell’s work was in the pages of a Dynamic Graphics clip-art book, some time in the early ’90s. In the course of “designing” flyers and low-rent newspaper ads, I had the opportunity to squeeze many of Mitch’s drawings into my layouts. Compared to most of the other anonymous clips, Mitch’s drawings were sexy, with a style somewhere between pop art and surrealism. His razor sharp linework oozed with a kind of perverse sensibility you don’t usually expect to find in a clip art book. I was hooked. Who WAS this “M.O’C” guy, anyway? Fast forward a year or two, and eventually I met Mitch himself at the Chicago ComicCon. He was set up in the “Artist’s Alley,” and he was hawking his self-published book Good Taste Gone Bad—The “Art” of Mitch O’Connell. The book knocked me out. It was stuffed with drawings, and each one was somehow slicker and more insane than the next. I was just beginning to collect old paperbacks and kitch Americana graphics myself, so what he was doing was right up my alley. I snatched one of the books while his back was turned, and on my drive back to St. Louis I studied every page of lush ink-work and dreamt about buying an original. I never scraped together enough cash for that, but I did manage to collect every other Mitch item I could get my hands on. Today, Mitch is still doing clip-art, but now it’s called “flash” and his market is the thousands of tattoo parlors that have sprung up across the country in the last few years. His fans collect his art by having his drawings permanently engraved on their skin. It’s a new twist in a diverse career, but it is one that has been paying off handsomely as Mitch has found new legions of fans in this niche of the art world. He has been featured on the covers of some of the world’s leading
“Clown Girl” artwork produced for the Less Than Jake album Anthem, 2003
tattoo art magazines, and his flash designs have been embraced by tattooists (and their customers) everywhere. His latest book, published by legendary underground publishing company Last Gasp, is a gorgeous fullcolor compilation of 256 of his surreal tattoo designs. The front of the book features a gallery of 77 photos showing Mitch’s work tattooed on actual boys and girls. As many other illustrators, Mitch has made the transition from freelance illustrator to entrepeneur. By creating his own products, and finding his own unique markets, he has forged his own destiny in the field. By self-publishing a diverse line of products—from books, postcards, and magnets to limited edition bobble-head figures and tattoo flash clip-art—he has been able to find consistent success in his career. Mitch and I traded emails recently, and this is what he had to say: ILLO: I know that you attended the Art Institute of Chicago before switching over to the American Academy of Art, and that you left school altogether to begin illustrating professionally. Was the art school experience valuable to you? M.O’C: The Art Institute seemed like a great place to be arty and hang out. Maybe it would be perfect for folks that knew, or at least thought they knew, what they were doing. I was ready to have some information beaten into my head, but the Art Institute seemed to only offer a light tapping of knowledge (at least to me). Since 4th year students had the first pick of classes (then 3rd year and so on) the first year students couldn’t even get into life drawing! I remember a whole three-hour class where the assignment was to draw 3 circles on a 4 x 6” card, but give them the most depth possible. And that
Advertising art for men’s clothier I.K. Don, circa 1987
non brain teaser included the whole week of homework ’til the next class. I did something in about 10 minutes and then went out to the movies. I went to the movies a lot! I’ve said this before, but I wanted to learn the rules before I broke them. After three semesters I packed up and moved down the street to the American Academy of Art. They stuck you in fundamentals in the morning (perspective, colors, shadows, lettering etc.) and then life drawing in the afternoon. Now I was learning stuff! My art quadrupled in quality in only a few months. ILLO: Tell me about some of your earliest assignments, and how you got started in the industry. M.O’C: All I wanted to do as a kid was draw comics. I’d devour anything Berni Wrightson, Barry Smith (and dozens more) did. I’d sketch away eye-balling their stuff, making sure I got the spit strands in a gaping mouth and shadowy eye sockets just right like Wrightson, or work in ornate details and perfect blood splatters like Smith. For barbarian or superhero muscles I’d whip open Burne Hogarth’s Dynamic Anatomy and check for poses similar to what I had so I could copy ’em down (I just did the same thing last week for the Chicago Tribune for an illo of the Bears as superheros.) I still have the rejec-
tion letters from DC and Marvel for samples I sent in from the ages of 16 to 20 (I don’t blame them!) My earliest published work was in The Comic Buyers Guide (’77? I would have been 16) and soon after, scores of other comic fanzines. While I was at the Academy, Charlton Comics was looking for artists to do free covers for their comics, so I submitted around 5 that all ended up seeing print. Also during this time period I made a couple of trips to New York to hit the major magazine publishers. It seems so antiquated looking back (it’s great living in the future where anyone and everyone has a website and anyone and everyone can instantly see what you’re up to), but I would just cold-call the art director (Rolling Stone, Esquire, etc.) and plead to come on over and show my work. Sometimes I got right in, other times I was stuck with their drop-off policy, and would leave my one portfolio at the office in the morning and pick it up in the afternoon. I didn’t even think to make extra portfolios! My first big sale was at Heavy Metal. I saw Julie Simmons Lynch who liked a painting I had in my portfolio of an angel gal on a cloud with a leering Devil sitting on the moon. She held up the art and said, “If I flip it I think it would work as a cover. I’ll pay you $500!” I said, “Great!” Then she put down the art and shook her head, “Don’t you know how this works?
Advertising art for men’s clothier I.K. Don, circa 1987
I say $500 and you say $1000, then we settle on $750. I’ll pay you $750.” I responded with the same “Great!” Right around the same time back in Chicago, Skip Williamson, one of the art directors at Playboy, gave me a spot illustration assignment depicting a Conan-type character shredding out on the guitar. The work started flowing in, so I left the Academy after three semesters and went freelance. The only real regular job I had was working for a role-playing gaming company called FASA for a year and a half, laying out and illustrating their books. After that, besides dabbling here and there in comics (like a Ginger Fox graphic novel for Comico) and doing crazy hyper-surreal personal work that hung in occasional gallery shows, I went with the flow on what was being offered me and concentrated on commercial/editorial art assignments. The lure of doing one drawing for $500 instead of earning the same amount for drawing five comic pages (early ’80s pay rate)—or not selling something in a gallery—was the path of least resistance. ILLO: My first exposure to your work was in the Dynamic Graphics clip-art catalogs. Your drawings fascinated me, and worked their way into many of the newspaper ads I was creating at the time. Tell me when and how you got started with Dynamic Graphics, and if you still work with them today. M.O’C: I think I must have seen a “We’re looking for artists” type of ad from them way back in the early ’80s and submitted samples. They liked ’em, and I ended up doing good Lord knows how many illustrations for DG (500, 600, more?) up until about 2004 when they were sold to a different company and downsized. They were all great, easy going folks to work with. The time from assignment to due-date was generous, and the checks came promptly. On top of that you got to be surAn example of Mitch’s clip-art work for Dynamic Graphics, circa 1992
Cover design for an internatinoal single by the band Less Than Jake
Johnny Dynamite #1, September, 1994
Johnny Dynamite #2, October, 1994
prised by seeing your art pop up anywhere and everywhere! Also, one of my favorite artists and biggest influences was creating clip-art for DG too, Frank Fruzyna. At that time I was line crazy, feathering and noodling all over the place. His stuff was so streamlined and sophisticatedly stylized that it made me realize, hey, I don’t need to draw every line. I started veering in a more designy direction. For a few months there I went overboard and started swiping his style directly. I was excited to see what Dynamic Graphics would think when they got the assignments back in my “new style” (this really went through my head). They nicely told me to knock it off. To sidetrack—it would have faded away all by itself. I (and I’m sure most beginning artists) was always worried about a “style”. What’s it going to be? When am I going to get one? It seems you end up picking up the glossy aspects of artists you admire (I made sure my paintings had the Lyendecker “stripes,” I swiped David Cisko’s geometric dingbats, copied the Petty girl’s features, pretty much traced anything John Romita Sr. ever did, and so on), and after awhile what doesn’t go by the wayside kinda all forms together with whatever you’re born with into something that’s distinctively you. Back then I was more enamored of the shine and only appropriated that. What I really admire now, and what I
Cover design for an internatinoal single by the band Less Than Jake
Johnny Dynamite #3, November, 1994
Johnny Dynamite #4, December, 1994
aspire to, are the artists who so obviously have the basics down, and with that solid knowledge take it off into their own direction. I’m reminded of that level of skill when I go through my old ’50s binders from The Famous Artists correspondence school. Those guys really knew how to work at getting the tools in order to do great art. ILLO: Considering how prolific you are, and also the fact that you are a very clever writer, I’m surprised that you have not produced a regular comic book such as Daniel Clowes’ Eightball or Charles Burns’ Black Hole. Any reasons why you haven’t gotten into comics on that level? M.O’C: That would have been great. I’m sure if I set my mind to it, it could have happened (I’m not saying it would have been any good). To have done that full time like Dan I would have had to have tackled it in my 20s, because I’m sure there was no money to be made. I was busy being spoiled by commercial art. I’m weak when it comes down to turning away paying work (I don’t) though in the long run, concentrating on “personal” projects might have paid off more financially (as well as obviously creatively). I’ve been re-reading Dan’s old stuff recently, and still find it really funny, clever, and well drawn (he
Newsweek, July 5, 1999
Newsweek, July 28, 2003
Newsweek international edition, February 13, 2006
Newsweek international edition, September 18, 2006
Don’t Be A Hater!, blacklight poster design, 2003
might look back on it and grimace). I doubt I could have hit that level of quality, but it would have been fun to try. Some folks seemingly hit the ground running with fully formed visions and style. My stuff was fine in my early 20s, but I sure wasn’t going to set the world on fire (Hell, I’m now in my 40s and still looking to light up something!) I really do like drawing comics, especially the enjoyable (usually) effort of designing the panels and storytelling that I don’t get to do to the same degree anywhere else. I’m stunned by artists like Alex Toth who are such masters of the form. He could just have a thumbnail in a panel and with those few perfectly placed lines you’d be able to figure out the guy’s posture, attitude, suit he was wearing, and what he had for breakfast. There are many different directions I would have loved to have taken my career. It seems I never really settled on anything. I still have a style that’s all over the place (depending on the assignment or my mood) and my work appears on, in, or for anything. My likes in art also seem scattershot—self taught artists, thrift store finds, folk art, velvet paintings, kid’s drawings, novelty catalog illustrations, tijuana bibles—to Chagal, Dali, all the Surrealists, Rivera, Ernst, Kandinsky, Gris, Klee, pop artists like Lichtenstein, Warhol, Linder, Hamilton, Rosenquist, and contemporary folks including Biskup, Clayton Brothers, Kostabi, Fitzpatrick and, of course, all my artist friends, and any artist I’ve met or corresponded with, or will meet or correspond with in the future! ILLO: I’ve noticed that you, like many other contemporary illustrators, have begun creating more “products” based around your artwork: books, posters, prints, etc. I imagine that this has been a natural evolution of your career, but I’m wondering if the illustration field
Take a Trip on the Bong Express, blacklight poster design, 2003
has been waning to the point where you HAVE to come up with other ways of generating revenue from your art. What is your experience with the illustration field today, and do you feel as though things are picking up or slowing down? M.O’C: I love merchandising and commercial art. I wish I had (well, I’m still kicking, so maybe I will) done some type of iconic image that had worked it’s way into the culture, like the first black light poster of a winged unicorn flying over a rainbow, the big-eyed puppies by Gig, Crumb’s “Keep on Truckin’,” Walter Sallman’s painting of Jesus, or the art advertising Sea Monkeys. It’s a mystery on being popular. I’d love to reach the level of a Shag or Ryden and have everything I do sell (duh). There seem to be two ways to make that money. Sell one painting for a lot, or sell that image a lot (of course the Shags and Rydens do both. Bastards!) I have so many images (over 250 tattoo designs for example) that I’ll always send out samples to merchandisers to see if they might be able to market my doodles on something or another. I’m thrilled to sell the same image available as a sticker, magnet, coaster, wallpaper, or greeting card. Those little checks add up. I just like having my work out there! As for making a living in the illustration field, I’m still sending out mailings every once in awhile. I have a rep, Tom Maloney, who tries to bring me the better paying jobs in advertising, while I handle everything else myself. I try to be a little more clever than the next guy in order to get my foot in the door. To get a job at Entertainment Weekly I sent a photo of my pregnant wife Ilsabe to the art director attached to a pleading tongue-in-cheek letter explaining how I needed the income (I got an assignment in case you wondered how it turned out.)
M’Lady is…YOU!, blacklight poster design, 2003
Good Taste Gone Bad, the “Art” of Mitch O’Connell, 1993
Big Bad Wolf nodder, sculpted by Mitch for DSK Designs, 2003
Part of the reason for self-publishing two books of my art, Good Taste Gone Bad and Pwease Wuv Me (besides being full of myself) was to send it out to art directors. I thought it might have a better chance of making its way onto a bookshelf and referred to in years to come when looking to assign work as opposed to a flyer that could easily be tossed in the trash. I also did big mailings of ’em both to magazines and newspapers in hopes of getting articles written about how wonderful I am (it worked, though I would have preferred that the description “genius” was used more often.) A book seems to makes you legitimate. ILLO: Everyone seems to be getting in on the “designer toy” movement, and you’ve mentioned creating a few sketches for a toy company on your website. I own a limited edition bobble-head sculpture you designed, and I love it... I thought it would make a great design for a vinyl toy. Are you considering doing any more projects like that in the future, or creating any designer toys in vinyl or plastic? M.O’C: It would be great to do more of it (it would be hard to do less, since you mentioned my one product so far!) If any toy companies want to work with me I’m only an email away—firstname.lastname@example.org! The bobble head figure you mentioned was a limited edition (only 50 pieces) which I sculpted. It was produced by David Krys of DSK Designs. David and I personally handpainted them. For Flapjacks “Symptoms” line of toys, it wasn’t a case of “Mitch, we love what you do, make us some distinctively ‘M.O’C’ toys!” They already had something in mind, so I was trying to figure out what they wanted and give it to ’em. Way into the project I found out that another artist, Erik Davison, who’s done this stuff before, was also hard at work on the same job. He emailed me his pencils and Pwease Wuv Me!, 1998
Hippie Hippo, unpublished. Copyright ÂŠ Warner Bros., 2003
Tattoo flash design
Tattoo flash design
you could have heard me slap my forehead with a “duh!” when I saw his fantastic art. He had the concept down pat and understood the requirements of making designs that could correctly fit the molds. Needless to say, I wish I had seen his stuff first so that lightblub would’ve gone off before I did anything. Flapjack eased off talking to me and went (wisely) with all of Erik’s stuff. Now I’d have a better idea of what I’m doing!
and often stuck ’em in illustrations. Then, coming at me from a different angle, tattooists started sending me photos of tattoos they had done based on my illustrations. The gears loudly creaked as they slowly turned, “Why not move it up to the next step and come up with real tattoo flash!” Tattoos are one of the many projects I love doing that I squeeze in between paying jobs. OK, sometimes there’s a lot of room between paying jobs, so it’s not always quite a “squeeze.” And, I have no tattoos and have no idea how to tattoo. I’m a poser!
ILLO: Your latest book of tattoo flash designs is coming out soon from Last Gasp. I wanted to know more about the project, such as why you did not self-publish this book as you have done with your other books in the past. Did they approach you about doing the book, or did you pitch it to them? Also, I’m curious to know when you first became interested in tattoo flash, and began creating your own designs. Do you have any tattoos yourself, or what sparked the initial interest? M.O’C: I got tired of storing all my self-published books in the garage. I needed to put the car somewhere. Now I’ve moved up the ladder of professionalism and a real publisher will be putting out a M.O’C book. Now I can let Last Gasp deal with no place for parking. It’s a thrill to have someone that knows what they’re doing handle getting the book out there instead of just lil ole me fumbling around with distribution. I spent a year and a half pitching the idea. Taschen wanted to make it part of their Icon series but we couldn’t agree on a price, then Chronicle Books was interested but it didn’t pan out. Last Gasp (I thought) passed on it along with Dark Horse, but about a year after I sent the proposal to LG they emailed me that they were ready to go. A week later Dark Horse told me they wanted to do it too. As for the tattoos themselves, I’m a big fan of old school designs,
A tattoo by Turk of Guru Tottoos, based upon Mitch’s flash designs
The cover for his lastest book: Mitch Oâ€™Connell Tattoos, published by Last Gasp, 2007
Above and on the next page: Tattoo flash designs featured in Mitch Oâ€™Connell Tattoos, published by Last Gasp, 2007
While…, an example of Mitch’s fine art, circa 2004
ILLO: Do you have any plans for a hard-cover “Art of Mitch O’Connell” book anytime in the near future? M.O’C: I have plans. The trick is getting a publisher to get the same plans. I’m doing all I can to help sell the tattoo book. I hope it does well enough to grease the way for big collection of my other stuff. ILLO: You’ve produced a number of “fine art” paintings that seem to fit in quite well with the “Juxtapose” art scene that’s been going on for some time. (The Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and Robert Williams school, for lack of a better term.) Your work is equally imaginative and brilliantly executed, but as far as I know you don’t seem to be a part of that scene. Do you still produce those elaborate fine art paintings, and do you have shows of your fine art work? M.O’C: So far I’ve signed up for 4 gallery shows this year. If I were only to concentrate on one aspect of art, it would be these more personal ‘fine art’ paintings. They’re the most rewarding things I come up with, mainly ’cause I do whatever I want. I don’t crank out near as much as I’d like. I want to do everything, but occasionally I might take a break to remind my kids who I am and to see if I can interest the Mrs. into trying for more. ILLO: Every illustrator I know has dabbled in “digital art” by this point. How does the computer factor into your work these days?
Marilyn Monroe, an example of Mitch’s fine art, circa 2000
M.O’C: It’s a wonderful time saver. Most of my color illustration assignments are done by scanning in the b&w art (done the old-fashioned way) and coloring it in Photoshop. The client wants a color change? One click and 5 seconds later I email it off. Even when I do a real painting I still tweak it in Photoshop. What a pleasure it is to not have to deal with that airbrush! No muss, no fuss. It’s much more relaxing than a table full of paint that I’m constantly sticking my hand in, cat hairs I’m pulling off the painting, frisket paper that’s ripping the paper, or water glasses I’m knocking over. I can work on the computer while I’m eating lunch, reading the paper, watching TV, and juggling. Well, maybe not while watching TV. ILLO: You are frighteningly prolific. What is your average day like? Do you work 18 hours a day, or are you just incredibly fast? Do you have a clone? M.O’C: Maybe it seems that way to you, but it seems painfully slow to me! Of course, that’s all I do, there’s no day job I’m working around, so it adds up! Some artists work looks like it flows right from their hand effortlessly. I see doodles from Steve Rude, William Stout, Bruce Timm, Mike Mignola (and of course any of the masters that have been in Illustration magazine, all of whom you can include in my list of artists I admire), and am reminded (not that I need reminding) that there are folks out there with a ton more natural ability than I’ve got. When someone hands me a sketchbook to do a doodle in, I stare at it like I’ve never seen one before. I need my camera, two cabinets full of reference, sheets of tracing paper, five big pink erasers, and my Art-O-Graph before I even think about starting something. My sketchbook contains more written descriptions of ideas than roughly drawn scrawls. With me, when working on a piece of art, the concept might seem great, and my first sketch might be good, but it just gets worse from there. I’m always stuck with trying to wrestle that drawing back up to mediocre. Occasionally I somehow end up with something pretty good (occasionally I end up with something not so good.) I wish I had it down to some type of formula. I’m confident enough in my ability to deliver a piece that works for the client as fast as they want it, but I’d like to be able to hit that “Damn that’s good! Get me a frame!” level at will. ■
Mamie Van Doren, an example of Mitch’s fine art, circa 2000
— © 2007 by Dan Zimmer All of the artwork in this article is © copyright by Mitch O’Connell, 2007 To find out more, or to view more examples of Mitch O’Connell’s work, please visit his website at: www.mitchoconnell.com. Mitch’s affordably priced new book, Mitch O’Connell Tattoos, is available through Last Gasp Publishing in California. Please visit www.lastgasp.com. Jayne Mansfield, an example of Mitch’s fine art, circa 2000
Here I am Honey, an example of Mitchâ€™s fine art, circa 2004
Yes!, an example of Mitchâ€™s fine art, circa 2004
Yogi Bear, unpublished. Copyright ÂŠ Warner Bros., 2003
Penelope Pitstop, unpublished. Copyright ÂŠ Warner Bros., 2003
Cover painting for Conan of Cimmeria, 2002. This was inspired by Frank E. Schoonoverâ€™s illustration of Blackbeard the Pirate
the various sides of
MARK SCHULTZ INTERVIEW BY JOHN FLESKES
he fluidity and grace of Mark Schultz’s brush and pencil work has brought him increasing recognition over the last 20 years. Schultz’s initial acclaim was achieved through his award-winning Xenozoic Tales creation, running 14 issues over the course of 10 years. Schultz’s evolution as both artist and writer with each succeeding issue of Xenozoic Tales has been phenomenal. This series represents comics at its best—an engaging and dynamic story, visually expressed through Mark’s beautiful brush work. Xenozoic Tales’ popularity transcended the comics genre, adapting to television as the animated series Cadillacs and Dinosaurs. Schultz is the recipient of the Eisner and Harvey awards for his efforts on the series. Acknowledging his early influences, most notably Wallace Wood and Al Williamson, Schultz took inspiring elements of their work and creatively wove them together into a personal and distinctive style. In quick order he went from a budding artist emulating the great masters to a mature and established illustrator. Schultz’s humble and introspective approach, however, impels his craft toward new levels of artistry; considering himself a student, Schultz’s work continues to evolve, leading to an even greater understanding of the form. In addition to his own works, Schultz has scripted or illustrated many popular 20th century icons, including Superman, Aliens, Flash Gordon, Tarzan, Star Wars, and the characters of Robert E. Howard. Not limiting himself to illustration, he has also penned a novel, The Flash: Stop Motion, published by Pocket Books. Today, Schultz is illustrating comic covers and working on private commissions. He is the current writer for the Prince Valiant Sunday strip for King Features Syndicate. He is also producing new content for upcoming volumes of the Various Drawings series released by Flesk Publications, as well as working on his new storybook, Storms at Sea, as both writer and illustrator. The focus of this interview is on Schultz’s more recent illustrated projects, beginning with the 70 drawings and paintings for Wandering Star’s Conan of Cimmeria, Volume 1. Included within, Schultz shares his thoughts on personal technique, his struggles to finish a piece of artwork, in-depth details on assignments, and the future of Mark Schultz.
JF: How did you get involved with illustrating Conan for Wandering Star? MS: I got a cold call. Actually, Gary Gianni had been working on the first book in the Wandering Star series, the Solomon Kane book, and he mentioned to me that he had brought my name up to the Wandering Star people. Or, I think what he had told me was that the editor at Wandering Star, Marcelo Anciano, had brought me up as a possibility for future books, and Gary recommended that Marcelo get in touch with me. So I got a call from Marcelo out of the blue. I had never met or talked to Marcelo, but he gave me a call, and they were hoping to publish Robert E. Howard’s Conan stories in a year or two, and he wanted to know if I would be interested in illustrating them. JF: Is it true they wanted you to illustrate all three Conan books at first? MS: Yes, and there was no way I could do that, because the original conception was that each volume, the three volumes, would come out yearly, consecutively one year after the other. From the beginning I suspected that I couldn’t handle that schedule, and halfway through working on the first book I fell behind and it became obvious that I wouldn’t be able to do all three. JF: So, at first, did you try to convince yourself that you could handle all three? MS: I had serious doubts that I’d be able to, knowing the speed at which I work. But, you know, I was holding out hope that I would find a way of speeding up the process. JF: How did you come up with your version of Conan? There are many artists who worked on the character before you—was it hard to dismiss other interpretations of Conan? MS: Yes, it was. Conan is probably the last Robert E. Howard character I would have chosen to illustrate, if I had my druthers, because he is so synonymous with guys like Frank Frazetta and John Buscema. I admire their versions very much, and I think it’s very difficult to avoid their influence. There are very few, if any, fantasy illustrators who have come along in the wake of Frazetta who aren’t influenced to some degree by him—myself obviously included. He’s such an overwhelming presence in fantasy illustration in general and with Conan in particular, so I knew I was up against a lot of expectations from
ALL ARTWORK IN THIS ARTICLE IS © 2007 BY MARK SCHULTZ
fans to try and fit into that Frazetta look. But I love with his stuff immediately, and I dreamed knew I was going to have to somehow get around about illustrating him ever since I first read him, Frazetta and avoid the preconceived notion of so this was a dream come true, getting to illusConan in my own mind from having looked at trate Conan. I discovered Conan in the Lancer his work so much. paperbacks, with the covers painted by Frazetta, One way I did that was to go back to Robert and they undeniably went into making up the viE. Howard’s writing itself. Frazetta did a great sualization of Conan in my head. But I discovered Conan that distills and epitomizes the essence of Howard and Conan well before Marvel started violence in Howard’s writing—the intensity and doing the comic book and before there were any atmosphere of violence, but his illustrations of other artists involved with illustrating him; any Conan certainly don’t follow the letter of what of the artists that followed Frazetta, I should say. Howard was writing. His version of Conan sports I came into Conan with a relatively clean visual fantasy armor and has a very Mongolian cast slate, I think, as opposed to a lot of people who to him; a very central Asian look to him, and a first discovered him through the Conan comics consistently sinister, glowering expression, too. and all the comics artists involved with them. All of these things have come to be identified JF: When you started working on Conan, wasn’t with Conan because Frazetta’s vision is so powthis when you began getting back to illustration, erful, so persuasive. But that’s not what Howard because you had been focusing on your writing wrote Conan to be, and I went back and I tried for a number of years prior? Was it a struggle to to interpret Conan purely through what How- Conan of Cimmeria, 2002 get back into illustration again? ard had written, sticking more to Howard’s sense MS: Yes—I hadn’t done much drawing for a couof historical context and interpreting Conan’s ple of years, much to my shame. I had not stuck look through how Howard described him in his with drawing while I was primarily writing, and it books. took me a while to shake off the rust, to really start JF: Was it difficult for you to come up with an to feel somewhat of a flow in my drawing. I didn’t interesting array of different situations, since you feel like I got into sync again and really start turnhad over 70 illustrations to produce? ing out illustrations that I was happy with until I MS: Well, Howard is… you know Gary said this, was pretty close to done with the book. It took me and it’s really true, illustrating Howard is almost a while to get back into that. It’s just unfortunate redundant. Howard was such a descriptive writer. that I let my skills slip that far. I mean, you read Howard and it’s all so perfectly JF: Well, it wasn’t obvious to us that your skills visualized through his prose that illustrating him had slipped. is kind of beside the point. So, believe me, there MS: I think they still hold together; overall it’s a were more than enough exciting scenes to draw good package I put together, but man, there are and I had to make some hard choices. What was some illustrations I look at now that make me the toughest part was editing out all the many wince. I wish I had them back again to take ancool things one could depict. other crack at them. The layout of the book was, JF: Going back to your interpretation of Conan— by choice, very formal—I was following the same how long did it take you to come up with a visual horizontal format for every chapter header, and that you were happy with, and what was your every story had a little tag at the end as well as one technique to develop his look? full-page plate, so it was very regimented. GenerThe Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, 2002 MS: I’ll tell you, for a while I was kind of flailing ally I didn’t have a lot of trouble with that, but I about trying to come up with something that I did find that it was sometimes difficult to come felt was a unique version of Conan; something that adhered to How- up with a comp that looked good in that horizontal chapter header ard’s descriptions but was still unique. And what finally clicked and format. There were times that I wish I had a little more flexibility— made this fall in place for me was when I saw the movie Gladiator. that we’d allowed for the possibility of doing some vertical pieces if Russell Crowe, I thought, was just absolutely fantastic in that movie; the subject matter warranted it. But we’d agreed that we’d keep to a in that he plays a professional warrior who commands respect. And, very regimented, formulized format, and while I think there’s a lot of I don’t care if you like this guy or not, but the general he is playing, virtue in that, it got difficult at times. Maximus, if you look at him, you would do exactly what he told you JF: Do you think the horizontal pieces gave you trouble because you to do with complete trust, confident that he was going to take care of are so adjusted to working in a vertical format in comics? the situation. He didn’t scowl, he didn’t yell, he didn’t have to brow- MS: That could be. It’s just that some subject matter lends itself to beat his troops. He just had a very commanding, charismatic pres- being treated horizontally, and some vertically. For instance, if you’re ence to him. And, to me, that sums up Conan. Conan rises from being depicting a skyscraper, generally speaking, you’re going to want to a nobody, from being a barbarian, to kingship of the greatest nation take advantage of a vertical format. And if you are drawing someone of its time. Not just because he’s the best warrior, but also because lying on a bed, that kind of lends itself to a horizontal format. But he’s the best leader. He’s got charisma; he’s got that intangible some- if you’re limited to one set format, sometimes you’re kind of stuck thing that makes people want to follow him. I tried to show that by trying to shoehorn a size nine into a size seven. Then again, if you’re incorporating something of the look in Russell Crowe’s eyes into the creative enough, anything can be made to work. character—into at least some of the more reflective illustrations. JF: Before you worked on the finished brush and ink pieces for the JF: Have you always been a Howard fan? book, did you have to submit design ideas or sketches to Marcelo for MS: I discovered Howard when I was 13 or 14 years old. I fell in approval?
Cover painting for The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, 2002
Bud Plant Comic Art bookplate illustration, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
MS: Yes. What I did was, I went through all of the stories I’d be illustrating, I re-read them, and I jotted notes through them all, noting the various scenes that I might want to illustrate. Then Marcelo and I discussed which of those particular scenes would probably make the best illustrations for the story. From there, I sketched out roughs, and he’d approve them or offer comments. There was very little dissention between us, as we were both on the same wavelength. There were only a few instances where Marcelo thought that something should be revised. Once he’d approved the roughs I would just go right into the finishes. JF: Did you create many more roughs than were required, or focus on the number needed? MS: Oh, I don’t know. Not an awful lot more. I’m not one of those people who will come up with three comps for everything. Of course, there were some pieces where I had to do multiple comps before I was satisfied that I had something that worked. For instance, the “Frost Giant’s Daughter” black-and-white plate—I just could not make that comp work. I wanted to do that scene where the daughter is hauled off into the ether by her father, but I just couldn’t make the comp work for the life of me. I probably did six or so different comps before I figured out what I needed to do to make it work. In most cases, the first time, the first comp, that’s it—it works, it’s what it needs to be. I struggle if I’m forced to come up with compositional variations when they’re not needed. I’d say that probably—beyond the actual comps that were used to do the completed work—I probably did maybe 30 percent more roughs that were never used. JF: Did the project allow you to experiment with any different styles, or different types of paper, or brush styles that you had not used before? MS: I really wanted the black-and-white illustrations to have a pe-
riod, pulpy feel to them—something reflective of Conan’s 1930s pulp magazine origins. There was an illustrator back then named Hugh Rankin who did work for Weird Tales. As far as I know, he’s virtually forgotten today. I don’t know if there has ever been any recognition of his work. I’ve only seen relatively poor reproductions of his work, but it looks to me like he is working with ink and then a grease pencil over that to create a tonal affect, a grainy tonal affect, and I really like that. He did a number of Conan illustrations—in fact, he’s one of the artists most identified with Conan in Weird Tales. I really like the atmosphere you can create by using the grain of the paper. So, in the black-and-white illustrations, I used a paper with a rougher tooth than I usually use, which allowed the dry brush ink to catch and break up, and would create tonal effects. I kept my brush relatively dry to keep from getting a clean, smooth line. I wanted a broken, rough line through a lot of the work; again, just going back to that period of pulp illustration where it was very common. The guy who I think handled this type of illustration in a superior way was Herbert Morton Stoops—he did just fantastic stuff with dry brush. JF: Is there a Conan piece that really sticks in your mind that was very successful for you? MS: When I finally got that comp worked out, the “Frost Giant’s Daughter” full-page plate became one with which I’m happy. I really like the way the “Queen of the Black Coast” full page worked out, and “The Tower of the Elephant.” “Rogues in the House,” and the “Vale of Lost Women”—all of those plates are favorites. They all worked out pretty well, I think. There are a few others that I wish I had to do over again. But, by and large, I’m mostly satisfied with the full pagers. JF: One that’s always jumped out in my mind is the one with the intricate basket, “The God in the Bowl.” MS: Oh, yeah, that one, too. Actually, I forgot that one—it worked out well. JF: It’s an amazing design. MS: That’s another one that went through several changes—it morphed quite a bit from its original conception. I wasn’t happy with my first comps. It took me a while to figure out. I knew that was the scene I wanted to do, but just to get the right angle, the right lighting, the elements all in place, it took a while. JF: I look at a piece like that and I cannot comprehend how anyone can put those designs into the basket and background. How do you work these designs into the final piece? MS: It’s a lot of preparation: First of all, in this case, looking at Egyptian motifs; then trying to filter them through the fact that this isn’t supposed to actually be Egypt, but it’s supposed to be the relics of a kingdom that predates Egypt and eventually evolved into Egypt. So, I wanted it to look Egyptian, but not exactly Egyptian, so there would be some other influences in there. And again, that all comes out of reading Howard and trying to adhere to Howard’s vision, and doing lots of little preliminary sketches. Then, when I’m inking stuff like that, thank God for the electric eraser, because that corrects, you know, any goof you can make in ink, and I’m forever making mistakes. JF: When I look at your originals, I don’t see signs of wear from an eraser, so it has the appearance that you never made a mistake—that each brush stroke was done perfectly. MS: Well, I could show you—if you hold one of my finishes up to the light, the thing with the electric eraser is it eats into the paper a little bit—if you hold the paper at an angle to the light you can see these little valleys and gutters in the paper. I can pick out exactly where I had to make corrections. You know, what’s terrifying is looking at illustrators and cartoonists from the earlier part of the 20th century, guys like Franklin Booth, Joseph Clement Coll, or Dan Smith—the dry brush illustrator who really influenced me so much—or Alex
Color plate for Queen of the Black Coast, 2002
The Frost Giantâ€™s Daughter, 2002
Queen of the Black Coast, 2002
The Tower of the Elephant, 2002
Rogues in the House, 2002
Middle Eastern Fantasy, WonderFest convention t-shirt design
Cover for Worms of the Earth, 2000. Schultz’s first work for publisher Wandering Star
Raymond or Hal Foster. You look at those guys and, I swear, you can not find any evidence of corrections. They really did seem to get it right the first time. JF: That’s amazing. MS: It’s beyond me. JF: The Conan project featured seven paintings for the book. Had you painted before? MS: I graduated from college with a BFA in painting, and that’s pretty much all I did in college—paint. I was really a weak draftsman until I started doing comics. I really didn’t learn to draw well, I believe, until I started learning on the job doing comic books. But, when I started doing that I dispensed with painting altogether, I just concentrated on drawing. It had been 17 years in between my last painting with oils and picking them up again for the Conan book. The portrait of Conan opposite the title page in the Wandering Star edition was literally the first painting I’d done in 17 years. I screwed around with that painting a lot before I got something I wanted, but I don’t feel like any of the paintings in the Conan book are mature works. They’re all kind of tentative—I was drawing with paint, I was not painting with paint. Drawing and painting are two separate skills—you’re flexing two different mental muscles. It’s all relative, of course, but when you draw, you’re working with line and value, and when you paint, you’re working in terms of color, form, and texture. So there are different properties that come into play and they almost, I think, require different parts of your brain to use properly. For me, it’s hard—I haven’t quite been able to make the jump from one to the other. I want to work at that because I enjoy both painting and drawing. I want to be able to switch from one master control to the other, depending on what I’m doing. JF: Were your preliminaries done in pencil, or with brush, or were they color comps? MS: My painting preliminaries were all done in pencil. It’s important for me, doing my kind of naturalistic painting, to work out my drawings problems in advance, so when it comes to the painting I can just
paint. I paint in steps, and that includes getting my drawing problems out of the way first. So I did my preliminary sketches in pencil and then, with the first couple of paintings, I did color sketches in oil. But, I kind of dispensed with the color sketches as I went along and just laid down my color schemes in swatches. JF: What are the sizes of the originals? MS: Well, the smallest one is only 9” x 12” and the biggest is 18” x 24”. JF: Was the large one for the endpapers? MS: Nope, the endpapers were somewhere in between. They were 14” x 18” or something like that. The three interior plates that accompanied the stories were the biggest ones at 18” x 24”. JF: By painting standards are those small sizes? MS: Those are all small sizes. One thing I learned from the Conan paintings is that I need to work bigger. I’m restricted by my current working space as to how big I can work—I need to find some larger studio space, because the bigger you work, the freer you get with the brush, the less restricted. If you work smaller you tend to work with a smaller brush and everything becomes more linear and there’s less freedom of movement. When you can paint big it becomes more of a physical exercise, where you can slash away with paint, not getting overly obsessed with details. JF: Were the paintings the last part of the Conan book that you did? MS: Yes, they were. I started the paintings concurrent with the drawings––the black-and-white work––but at a certain point I realized I had to concentrate on the drawings and get them done. And then, when they were out of the way, I finished up the paintings. JF: Are you still working on any projects for Wandering Star? MS: Right now nothing’s in the works. I’d hoped to be working this year on an illustrated Almuric, which was Howard’s interplanetary novel; sort of his attempt to do a John Carter of Mars, but it’s more like Conan on another planet. I actually had started to do some preliminary work on that, but apparently that’s on hold because it looks like Del-Rey, the paperback publisher of the Robert E. Howard Library, passed on that book for the time being.
JF: You did one Almuric painting, as well, didn’t you? MS: Yup. I did one Almuric painting, which I’m still not happy with. I’ve got to go back and work into it some more. JF: Were you able to get a little looser with that painting compared to the Conan work? MS: Mmm, not really! (laughs) Not like I’d like. There was a great show here recently at our little local art museum presenting American impressionists from the latter part of the 19th century and early 20th century. Man, was it great! There were landscapes and, boy, they were so loose. They just flung the paint around and you could see that this was the work of the American illustrators of the early 20th century. I could see this clear line from the European impressionists, to the American impressionists, to guys like Schoonover, Cornwell, and Rueterdahl. These are the painters whose work I admire and want to emulate. I want to incorporate more of that looseness and energy, that feeling of paint being splashed around. JF: Do you see yourself working on any more paintings for your own sake? MS: That’s the ideal, I just need to find the time. Right now, there’s a portrait of a friend’s daughter that I have to get to. In fact, that’s what I am going to be working on as soon as I’m done prepping volume two of Various Drawings, which is good because that will get me back to painting again. It’s been a couple years now since I last painted. JF: Will you be using a larger canvas? MS: Probably 18” x 24” again. Again, because of space restrictions. But that’s big enough though for a portrait. That’s fine for a portrait. JF: I think we can move on to your next project following Conan, which was the Charles R. Knight autobiography. You produced 15 illustrations. There were 14 in the book, and then a 15th for the limited edition? MS: Oh, that’s right, the signing plate. Yes, I guess it was 15. JF: This book offered you an opportunity to work in a different style. Can you talk about the project? MS: I’d done a cover for the publisher, Jim Ottaviani, for another book, a graphic novel he’d written, being illustrated by a group of artists called Big Time Attic. It was a dinosaur-oriented cover incorporating an image of Charles R. Knight. I guess Jim liked the way I’d handled all that so he told me about this project to publish excerpts of the autobiography of Knight. Knight’s granddaughter, Rhoda,
had discovered this unfinished autobiography that mostly addressed Knight’s younger years. It was just a first draft, and it wasn’t yet in form for publication. Jim, working with Rhoda’s approval, excerpted the more interesting parts and polished them up a bit and asked me to do illustrations for the breaks. They’re full-plate, Wolff pencil drawings, Wolff being the brand name for a carbon pencil. I’d been a big fan, for a long time, of Frederic R. Gruger’s work, the early 20th century illustrator who worked almost exclusively in Wolff pencil. He was able to get fantastically atmospheric, moody tones out of the pencil. I’d long wanted to start playing around with that myself. My primary interest is in working in brush-and-ink. But brush-and-ink, even when you handle it as painterly as I try to handle it, is still a very graphic medium with limits as to what you can achieve with tonal affects and atmosphere. Wolff pencil offered me a chance to work in a black-and-white medium and create a much greater variety of tonal effects, so I had a great time working up those illustrations. JF: Did you try to keep the illustrations reflective of the time period when Charles R. Knight was still alive? MS: Right, these were illustrations of various incidents and situa-
Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards, 2005
Original illustration for Bone Sharps, Cowboys, and Thunder Lizards, 2005
tions in Knight’s life. So, I really tried to do the research. And I was lucky because Jim Ottaviani actually works in the library of the University of Michigan, so he was able to help me an awful lot by finding visual reference material that was appropriate to the subject and the dates. It was a great project for me because I got to work on material that was not fantasy material, but was historical, or at least my best attempt to keep things historically correct. Here’s something that I found inspirational—Charles Knight’s last commissioned work, his last professional work, is at the Everhart Museum in Scranton, Pennsylvania, very near to where I live. It’s a mural he did of the prehistoric coal fields, the prehistoric swamps that became the coal fields, which of course is what Scranton is known for and what brought the town its wealth when coal was the industrialized world’s primary source of fuel. That was Knight’s final work, done in the early 1950s, right in my neck of the woods. JF: Cool. MS: It’s just kind of neat that it’s here. JF: Let’s switch gears and talk about your involvement with Flesk Publications. Now, you were working on a collection of your work titled Mark Schultz Various Drawings before Flesk Publications got involved as publisher? MS: Right. JF: And that was something that you and Randy Dahlk were putting together. What prompted you to work on a collection of your drawings? MS: I’d been considering putting together a collection of my drawings for years, but there were several factors that prevented me from doing so. One was not having the technical ability and the equipment in place to be able to control the process. I knew I wanted to control the project myself and not hand off the work to someone else to scan and produce. I wanted to do it my way, and I didn’t want to put out a collection of my drawings—unfinished preliminary works and sketches as well as finished pieces—until I felt I could do it in such a way that was unique and not imitating someone else’s book. We’ve both seen far too many “sketchbooks” being cranked out for the comic and fantasy marketplace that are just wretchedly bad or, at the very least, wretchedly unimaginative. Too many people are copying other peoples’ formats. So, until I learned how to control the process, get the quality I wanted, and come up with a format that was my own, I wasn’t going to put out anything. It took me several years to figure out what I wanted to do and to get the skill and equipment to do that; and beyond that, in that same period of time I was working on upgrading my drawing ability. I don’t know if I had a lot of work in years past that I would have wanted to put out in a collection. JF: That reminds me. Before the Various Drawings collections, and even the Conan book, you were not too fond of publishing your penciled work? MS: That’s true. The graphite pencil was something that never came easily to me. It’s taken me a long time, but now I feel very comfortable with it. I feel I have a degree of skill with the pencil now. Those drawings can stand on their own. I just used the pencil up to then as a tool to work out drawing problems before I did the finishes. It’s just taken me that long to get comfortable with showing my preliminary work, my non-inked work. JF: Are you spending more time with your pencils now? Are you actually finishing the pencil drawings, rather than just using them as a basic design for a finished brush-and-ink work? MS: Yes. Again, my comfort with pencils is such now that I see the worth in putting a little more time and care into the pencil drawings to bring them to a higher degree of finish than I would
Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volume One, 2005
Mark Schultz: Various Drawings Volume Two, 2006
Xenozoic Tales Number 14, 1996. Colors by Denise Prowell
Xenozoic Tales Volume One: After the End, 2003
Xenozoic Tales Volume Two: The New World, 2003
have left them at in the past. And it’s not only just because I feel more confident and more satisfied with my ability to render in pencil, but it’s also because I see that there’s a good economic reason to do that. People will buy nicely done pencil work. JF: What type of artwork can people expect to see in Mark Schultz: Various Drawings, Volume One? MS: In Volume One it’s a kind of a smorgasbord. Again, it’s both finished works and preliminary works. Some are just sketch pages working out very rough ideas for pieces that were later realized. Some of the works are the completed studies that were later evolved into inked finishes. And some of the pieces are just, as we were talking about, just stand-alone penciled pieces. There are preliminary inked pieces, too, and the finished completed jobs, which are rendered in ink. It’s a wide variety of techniques and finishes. The subject matter spans my Xenozoic Tales work as well as Conan material and other Howard material I worked on, and various other projects that I’ve either initiated or was commissioned to do. So there’s kind of an overview of my career up to the point at which the book was assembled. JF: When you say overview, though, weren’t most of the pieces more from the last five years, so they are more recent works? MS: That’s true. I should say it’s an overview of the various visual projects I’ve been involved with recently. The first half of my career in comics was devoted almost solely to working on Xenozoic Tales, and there’s nothing from that era in Various Drawings Volume One.
My early preliminaries are nothing I particularly would care to see in print. But, as I continue working on Xenozoic Tales as well as becoming involved with a lot of other projects in more recent years, most of the diversity of what I’ve done has come within the last eight years or so. JF: For the design of Various Drawings you handpicked Randy Dahlk to design the book. What is it about Randy’s skills that you felt were a good fit for this book? MS: Randy is someone I’ve known since, gosh, the late ’80s, early ’90s. He approached me at a convention as someone who liked what I was doing, and he showed me what he was doing. I could tell immediately that the type of art that we care about, the kind of look we’re after, is very similar. We’re both on the same page. I got a chance to work with Randy some years later through Kitchen Sink. He designed Scenes from the Xenozoic Age, the portfolio of cover illustrations that Kitchen Sink published; I think it was ’94 or ’95. I feel very comfortable with Randy as one of those people who creates a very defined, very definite look that I love. There’s a definite Randy Dahlk look and it’s exactly the type of look that I want for Xenozoic Tales and for displaying my work. It’s very influenced by the design of the 1930s and ’40s and even into the ’50s a bit, but mostly I’d say the ’30s and ’40s. His work is influenced by those periods, but it’s not a nostalgia-oriented design sense. It’s very contemporary, I think. It’s just incorporates these elements. It’s always been important
Original cover art for Xenozoic Tales Volume Two: The New World, 2003
for me, in doing my work, to show a clear continuity with tradition, and the art and design of the past that I love—but at the same time, not be beholden to the past. You use the past to inform your work. And I think that sums up what Randy does with it, too. So, whenever I get a chance to do a project where I think Randy will be appropriate, I always cross my fingers that he’ll be available and be able to work with me. It’s just a combination of being very comfortable with someone and loving what they do. JF: In Various Drawings Volume One there are a few private commissions. How many private commissions do you take on a year? MS: I didn’t do commissions for a long time; through most of my career I stayed away from commission work. But, now that I have the Various Drawings series, that’s given me a venue to display work that I’ve done for commission. I don’t have any set amount I’ll do a year; I’ve never really taken stock of that. It depends on the size of the job, how long each job takes. I’ve done a couple jobs for people that were really intensive long-term projects that, you know, took a couple months to do. Most of my commission work takes a lot less time than that. It varies, but I’m certainly—as long as the person is willing to work within the context of the type of subject I do, the kind of illustrations I do—I’m interested in considering the job and seeing if we can work out a mutually satisfactory working arrangement. When I work with someone on a project, when I do take a commission, I expect the client to be involved in the process. I’m going to be showing them preliminary work and I want their feedback. I just don’t drop the finished project in their lap and say “take it or leave it.” I want the result to be worth my time, and I want it to satisfy both myself and the client. JF: Knowing that the commissions will be reproduced in Various Drawings, is it more encouraging for you to do than if it was something that was not going to be published? MS: Absolutely. One of the reasons I have not taken on commission work in the past is I just didn’t feel that the bang for the buck was all that great. I would be paid for doing something that would have, essentially, no worth to me after delivery to the client. It wasn’t going to be seen by anyone else. It wasn’t going to be something that would help promote my career. But now, with the Various Drawings books, I’ve got a venue. It’s perfect, you know; I can have my cake and eat it, too. I can take on commissioned work with the type of subject matter I’m enthusiastic about and put it to later use. JF: And from what I’ve seen at shows, the fans are extremely excited to see the work that they commissioned from you appear in the book. MS: I have yet to work with someone who didn’t want the work they’ve paid for to be seen and appreciated by others. So, yes, I think generally speaking it’s a thrill for the client to see his work in print; something where he can point to it and say, “Yep, that’s in my collection.” (Note: if you are interested in contacting Mark for a private commission, you can reach him by sending an email to email@example.com.) JF: Let’s move on to Various Drawings Volume Two, which became available in 2006 from Flesk Publications. MS: What was that name again? (laughs) Flesk Publications—you’re guarantee for superior reading enjoyment! JF: What type of material did you pull together for this book? MS: Oh, boy. Well, by and large, it’s a variety of different projects. But, except for a few pieces from previous years, most of the work in there was done within the last couple of years, a good 70 percent, maybe more. And, some of those are preliminaries for another book that I’ll be working on for Flesk Publications, a book that won’t be a collection of unrelated sketches and preliminaries and finishes, but a book with an actual theme to it—for lack of a better term, a storybook.
Portrait of Jack and Hannah, 2002
JF: And this book is Storms at Sea, which you will be both illustrating and writing. MS: Storms at Sea is the working title. JF: What type of theme or story will you focus on for this book? MS: Oh, that’s to be determined later. (laughs) It’s going to be a mystery that will incorporate various images that may seem disconnected at first, but there is continuity to the thing. There’s a story behind it all. JF: This book is a good thing for you because you’ve been writing for periods of time and then you’ve been illustrating, but you haven’t done much of both at the same time. MS: That’s true. JF: Since Xenozoic Tales, this might be one of the first times you’ve really gotten back to both writing and illustrating your own work. MS: Actually writing and drawing—I guess you’re right, I haven’t done both in a long time. I’ve done a few pieces of continuity, but they haven’t been written by me. So you’re absolutely right. JF: Will these be finished brush-and-ink pieces? MS: It’ll feature a variety of media. Some will be brush-and-ink, some
Poster design for the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, 2003
Frontispiece for Time in Overdrive, 1993
will be done with the Wolff pencil, some may be done with graphite. We’ve discussed, and if it’s still a viable possibility, I want to be able to reproduce these in color, so there may be some that are actually color pieces. However, I think I’ll stick with a very limited palette. JF: So this will be a high quality book, with the best reproduction possible to showcase your artwork in more of a museum-style or fine art book? MS: Right. Which is exactly how I feel about what we’ve done with the Various Drawings books. Regardless of the worth or lack of worth of my drawings, you know, that’s not for me to judge. But, the books’ production values, the format, the reproduction, and mounting of the drawings, I want to keep those elements on an exhibition catalog level of quality. JF: We can’t really make up people’s minds in how they are going to define the book, but we want them to pick it up, and realize this is more than just a sketchbook. Because a lot of people want to define it as a sketchbook. But we hope once people take it home it’s going to be more than that to them. MS: Right. I don’t know what else to add to that, but that’s exactly the way I feel. You just hope that people will recognize the difference, and it’s a difference they’re getting without having to pay a higher price. JF: Exactly. It comes at the same price as any of the sketchbooks out there. I think that both of us have been a little—there’s basically just been a lot of poor quality sketchbooks at the shows that are becoming more and more popular each year.
MS: Well, unfortunately, in general, in the fantasy and the comic book venue, there’s always been a low standard of quality, which has been the accepted standard. Low quality in design and production is accepted as perfectly appropriate for this market, and there’s no reason for it to be that way. If we want to develop a broader market for ourselves, we need to start taking what we do, what we produce, more seriously. JF: You do appreciate your artwork in a certain way, and you want to see it represented properly. I don’t see the problem with that. MS: Maybe that’s pure egotism. But I like to think that, again, regardless of the merits or lack thereof in my particular drawings, we’re working in a corner of publishing that needs to respect itself more than it does. JF: What is the status of Xenozoic Tales? MS: Xenozoic Tales is never far from my mind. My goal, and pretty much everything I do professionally goes to this, is to find a way to get back to producing new issues. It’s an expensive proposition because I work so slowly. Until I can come up with a financial cushion that gives me the time to produce at least a couple new issues of Xenozoic Tales to get the ball rolling again, until I can figure out how to do that, I can’t afford to get back into the story. I’ve got financial responsibilities that wouldn’t be taken care of if I just sat down and devoted my time to new issues of Xenozoic. But, like I say, it’s never far from my mind, and, in fact, in the upcoming Various Drawings Volume Two there are a couple of Xenozoic-related pieces. One in particular, a
SubHuman #1, 1998
Original cover art for SubHuman #1, 1998
Cover for cancelled SubHuman collection; begun 1998, and completed in 2006
sketchbook page, features some panels and cover breakdown material for a future issue. It’s a sort of “coming attractions” to show people that I certainly haven’t abandoned the book. It’s what I want to do more than anything else. I just need to find a way to make it happen. JF: I’d like to ask you about your larger projects and how they have helped, or hurt, your career. Do you feel that the long projects, such as Conan or the Flash novel you wrote, hurt your career in any way, by creating larger gaps between your published work? In a sense, you disappeared to the public for a few years, even though you were hard at work the whole time. Will it change your approach in handling larger projects in the future? MS: No, I don’t think so. My major problem is I haven’t been consistent in my career. I’ve jumped around and worn any number of different hats. I’ve been an independent creator who concentrated on my own book for years. I worked doing covers for hire for a good number of years—I still do that on occasion. I write scripts for comic books and comic strips. I wrote a novel. And then I did book illustrations for the Conan book and the Knight project. It’s important to have diversity in your career; you need to be diverse to be able to stay alive in the changing marketplace. And, diversity also keeps me personally interested in my work. At the same time, it goes to what I think you were saying—when you’re not consistent with one role, people tend to lose track of you. I don’t know what the answer to that is. It’s a great advantage for me to be working with a publisher like Flesk Publications, who is interested in doing a variety of books with me. Instead of me doing work with any number of different publishers, I’m hoping that my relationship
with Flesk Publications will be one where I’ll be able to do any number of different projects under the banner of a single publisher. It will be a great asset if people who are interested in following my work know where to find it. JF: In the past, you’ve worked for the large publishers such as D.C. and Marvel, and smaller ones such as Dark Horse and Kitchen Sink. Which type of publishing environment do you prefer to work in? MS: I work well with small organizations that can give lots of attention to my projects. That is not to say anything against the larger publishers—it’s just a matter of personal comfort. I feel that if I have any kind of personal strategy for publishing, it’s that I’d rather work with a small publisher who may not have the big promotion budget and resources of a big publisher, but does have a personal interest in what I am doing. And, because they’re small and doesn’t have a huge stable, they can give the extra personal attention to my projects. I see it as a trade-off that balances much more in favor of what I see as a good long-range plan for my career, to be working with at a small publisher. Flesk Publications is the first publisher that I’ve worked with since Kitchen Sink where I really feel comfortable. It has what I was looking for in the way of investment in and attention to my projects, but also an understanding and appreciation of the quality that I’m after. The quality of reproduction, the quality of design, the quality of materials used. We share an aesthetic sense. It’s not necessarily that Flesk Publications’ aesthetic sense is superior to another publisher’s, it’s just that it jives with what I want to see, what I value, and what makes for a good relationship. I think that any illustrator, anybody who has material for publication, is best served by not just looking at the immediate dollars and cents, but by looking at the whole picture. I’ve always had a very long-term mentality about business relationships and where I see my career going. I’m not counting on any particular project being a home run. I’m looking at how things are going to build five, 10 years from now. ■ — © 2007 by John Fleskes John Fleskes is the publisher of Mark Schulz—Various Drawings, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, as well as Franklin Booth:Painter with a Pen, Joseph Clement Coll: A Legacy in Line, and James Bama: American Realist. Forthcoming volumes include a monograph on the legendary illustrator Bob Peak, and comic book artist Steve Rude. Visit www.fleskpublications.com for more.
Mark Schultz sizes up a shot in the field
MARK SCHULTZ VARIOUS DRAWINGS SERIES | FLESK PUBLICATIONS
The Various Drawings series continues to present Schultz’s otherwise unseen privately commissioned works. Volume three available in July 2007. $19.95 SB. $29.95 HB Signed Limited. 48 pages, 8.5”x 11” Flesk Publications LLC P.O. Box 3174 Santa Cruz, CA 95063 www.fleskpublications.com firstname.lastname@example.org To order by phone: Flesk illo. 47 Publications (408)206-2346 TM
SB ISBN 978-0-9723758-6-3 Distributed by SCB Distributors
SB ISBN 978-1-933865-00-3 HB ISBN 978-1-933865-01-0
SB ISBN 978-1-933865-02-7 HB ISBN 978-1-933865-03-4
City Vision, digital illustration
NIGHTMARES & THE ART OF 48
JUREVICIUS INTERVIEW BY DAN ZIMMER
Nathan Jurevicius signs one of his Minitreehouse “Heenie” vinyl figures
oung Australian-born illustrator and designer Nathan Jurevicius has achieved global success and cult status in the worlds of editorial illustration, animation, and vinyl toy design. His highly distinctive visions—such as his iconic Scarygirl comic character—have made him a hot property throughout the creative world, and he is currently involved in dozens of different projects ranging from animation, to film development, to toy figure design—namely his Scarygirl line of characters. In this exclusive ILLO interview, Nathan—who in 2004 moved from Australia to Toronto, Canada with his wife Lizzy and their three children, Milo, Arkie, and Sass Gypsy—was kind enough to talk with us about his early years, what he’s working on these days, and where he thinks this field and his creations will take him into the future.
ILLO: Nathan, tell us a bit about your early years. Nathan Jurevicius: Well, I was born in 1973 in the town of Bordertown, Australia, and I was fortunate to have been raised in an artistic family. My father and brother, as well as three cousins, are all artists, and I knew from an early age that I wanted to pursue this profession. However, I’d say that this really started to come together in my mind around the age of 14. The bottom line, though, is that the act of creating art has always been a huge part of my life. ILLO: How would you describe your artistic training? NJ: I received a degree in Design and Illustration from the University of South Australia. A large part of my “training,” however, came as the result of self-education, particularly in regards to my computer art. From my formal school experience, though, I’d say the most important thing I learned was the value of blending the teachers’ advice with my own approach. It seems that many artists are hesitant to experiment with their own tastes during their learning years—which is not a good thing. ILLO: When and how did your professional career get underway? NJ: I started off as an editorial illustrator in 1994. Since that time some of my clients have included Coke, The Financial Review, Penguin Chihoohoo Lair, digital illustration
Dr. Maybeeâ€™s Lab, digital illustration
The Onion Band, digital illustration
Special edition version of Scarygirl vinyl figure
Books, Subaru, Comedy Central, Scholastic Inc., Fuji, The Wall Street Journal, ABC, Nickelodeon, Warner Bros., MTV Asia, and a major commission to design the Australian mascot (Kamone) for the World Expo in Aichi, Japan. ILLO: Tell us about Scarygirlâ€”what she is and how it got started. NJ: Scarygirl was originally an online comic strip. The Scarygirl story involves a young girl who is abandoned late at night but is soon discovered by an octopus named Blister. As the story progresses, Scarygirl discovers clues about her mysterious past, which are further revealed when a travelling oracle known as Bunniguru arrives on the scene. Eventually the main characters journey to a large and dangerous city in search of answers. As the popularity of the character grew, Scarygirl caught the eye of Flying Cat, which is a toy manufacturer based in Hong Kong. In 2002 they helped me to develop a line of limited vinyl toys based around the character. Today, the brand that is Scarygirl now includes a whole line of unique characters. ILLO: Are you planning on expanding the line even further? NJ: Actually, at this point the Scarygirl brand has been optioned for a feature length film as well as a video game. The woman behind this is producer Sophie Byre of Passion Pictures, the company famous for its Coldplay, R.E.M., and Gorillaz animated music videos. We are in the writing stage at the moment and we have recently signed a book deal that will be my parallel take on the film story. I should also note that Scarygirl has also resulted in a few spin-off projects, such as the Minitreehouse line of toys, and we are pushing to expand the Scarygirl brand into other areas of publishing. ILLO: How important are toys to your art? NJ: Well, with three children of my own, Iâ€™m basically a toy collector himself by default (I really find Legos appealing). As for the the designer toys in my collection, most of these pieces were given to me by artists or other toy companies, including works by James Jarvis, Pete Fowler, Tim Biskup, and others. City Park Walk, digital illustration
Above: The first six installments of the Scarygirl comic strip
Above: Five figures from the Scarygirl mini-figure line: Blister, T-Bear, Bunniguru, Dr. Maybee, and Chihoohoo
The Scarygirl City Folk series
City Folk series: The Beggar, with preliminary sketch
City Folk series: The Poet, with preliminary sketch
City Folk series: The Glassblower, with preliminary sketch
ILLO: You have produced quite a few “designer toys” yourself for the collector’s market. It seems that there would be a considerably larger demand for your toys than the limited quantity production runs I see mentioned on the various sites (500 pieces, etc.). Do you like the idea of maintaining the “collector” value by limiting production? Do you have any plans for wider distribution into mainstream toy stores?
The Scarygirl City Folk series blind box
NJ: We have created all types of runs on Scarygirl and Minitreehouse lines. The super-limited figures range from 300 to 3,000, but for blind-box mini-figures we have done runs in the tens of thousands. There is a project I’m in early discussions on that could possibly turn into a more mainstream junior line. In the market in general, I think there are some lines of toys that will have enough momentum to go mainstream. I think there will eventually be some crossover where toys that are already at small retail stores to wind up in the big chain locations. For the most part, though, the one-off pieces will continue to make up a large segment of the designer vinyl market. ILLO: When designing your toy lines, do you ever sculpt any of the figures yourself, either for final production or for the design and visualization phase? Do you work directly with the sculptors, or do you select which sculptors you will work with to create a toy? NJ: During high school and university I worked with clay sculpting occasionally, but for my toy projects I always have others model for me. Sometimes I don’t know who the person is, and other times well-known people make them (depends on the production company). In all cases I work closely and offer comments and add drawings over the top of photos of the sculpt to get it right.
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F o r 37 y e a r s L a s t Ga s p h a s p ro d u c ed and di s t r i but ed t he ar t , wr i t i ng, and phot ogr aphy of th e u n d e r gro un d . Th o u s a n d s o f b o ok s , c om i x, zi nes , and ot her goodi es ar e wai t i ng for you at www . la s t g a s p .c o m . U s e p r o m o c ode I L L O19 for f r ee s hi ppi ng (Domestic UPS shipments only, expires August 31, 2007) o r vi s i t your l ocal book s t or e and as k for our t i t l es .
War Machine, digital illustration
Minitreehouse series vinyl figure: Bennzi in blue
Minitreehouse series vinyl figure: Naal in red
Lately, manufacturers have been using 3D computer models and going straight to production from them. ILLO: So how many weeks or months does it take to produce one typical toy project? NJ: It ranges. For the Scarygirl City Folk series with Kidrobot I began designing in March 2006 and we launched in March 2007. Other times it can take four months. It depends a lot on how busy manufacturers are, how many changes are needed, shipping, and other factors. ILLO: Is it hard to maintain control over all of your various projects when you’re working with so many collaborators in different countries? Has everything been consistent with your original vision so far? Has anything disappointed you? NJ: I’ve had about an 80 percent success rate on my original vision. Some of my figures have translated really well from drawings/discussions such as Bunniguru, Dr. Maybee, Treedweller, Minitreehouse with Strangeco, and City Folk with Kidrobot. Other times I’ve seen a project slip away or have had less involvement. I’ve still never seen a fantastic version of Scarygirl yet; hopefully the next one I do will get it right. ILLO: An another note, who would you list as your most prominent artistic influences? Minitreehouse series vinyl figure: Seoop
Above: City Folk conceptual sketches
Above: City Folk conceptual sketches
NJ: I’d say it would include a diverse list of artists—Miro, Gaudi, Picasso, Jim Flora, Bosch, Dr. Seuss, and many others. ILLO: Do you consider yourself to be a “fine artist” or an “illustrator,” and is this distinction relevant for you?
NJ: Yes, we have plans to tie in a lot of game play with the film. In the meantime, we will be totally redesigning the Scarygirl website to become fully immersive and playable. ILLO: Are there any plans for a large scale art book on your work?
NJ: The diversity in what I do makes it hard to define any particular role. Again, I’d probably say I’m an artist with a very illustrative, story-telling approach to my work.
NJ: I’m still looking for the right publisher to do this—maybe later this year. A Scarygirl kids book/graphic novel with Allen and Unwin will actually be coming out next year.
ILLO: In the animation work that you do, are you a “hands-on” animator, creating the animation yourself, or is your work primarily in the design of the characters, backgrounds, etc.?
ILLO: Tell us a bit about your working habits, schedule, etc.
NJ: In the early days I messed around with Flash and created a lot of online animation. Now I hire others to do this and generally work as the artistic director/character designer as well as background concept artist. ILLO: In the same vein, have you ever worked with any 3D programs to create your characters? I think you would have fun painting textures and what not in 3D. NJ: I’m working with a lot of 3D animators and modelers at the moment using Maya. One job in particular with MTV Canada is looking so amazing, and the textures are really wonderful. My skills on the actual technical side of computer 3D modeling are limited—I’d prefer to use talented people specific to that line of work. ILLO: You’ve mentioned elsewhere of being a fan of video games, and I have seen and played “Kelman to the Rescue” online. Are there any plans in the works for a more elaborate console game, such as a Playstation title, perhaps to coincide with your Scarygirl film?
NJ: I generally wake up mid-morning—around 10 a.m.—and work through until about six in the evening. I’ll start in again around 10 p.m. and keep working until two in the morning. I always make a point of starting my work day by drinking green tea while I sort through my e-mail. Once that’s done with, I go right to my sketching, which is done on pieces of typing paper. Even though I do most of my work digitally, I always start out by putting pencil or pen to paper, fleshing out ideas in a traditional manner. From there I’ll scan those sketches into my Macintosh computer for final development in Photoshop and Illustrator. Overall I’d say that I try to avoid trends in illustration, choosing instead to focus on classical, story-driven concepts. ILLO: How do you go about developing an animated piece? NJ: As always, lots of brainstorming and pencil sketches, oftentimes accompanied by storyboard thumbnails. The most important part— character design—is the most fun and what really gets me going. Once I have those basics down everything is worked up in Illustrator and later imported into Flash to be broken up into the various
Old Toy Seller, original illustration
Owl Globe, original illustration
body parts. Backgrounds usually come last, and audio sort of develops on its own during the entire process. That said, sound is something I always get other people to do. I may have a sense of what I want to have included, but that sort of thing is best left to professionals. The only thing I’m really particular about is the look and feel—which is why I do all of the illustration side myself.
Folk” and combined the launch of the latest Scarygirl mini-figures with two solo shows in Australia at the Outre Gallery. The exhibition looked deeper into the world of Scarygirl and examined side characters and back-stories only briefly touched upon in years past. ■
ILLO: You’ve recently been preparing a new gallery show of your work. Please tell us a little bit about the exhibition.
To find out more about Nathan Jurevicius and Scarygirl, please visit his websites at www.nathanj.com.au and www.scarygirl.com. His toys are available through dealers such as www.strangeco.com, among others.
NJ: The new body of sketches, prints, and paintings was entitled “City
—© 2007 by Dan Zimmer
by Zina Saunders
*From the forthcoming book, Art Talks, written and illustrated by Zina Saunders; designed and edited by Monte Beauchamp.
I trekked uptown a few weeks ago to meet with Nancy Stahl, where we sat in her living room overlooking the Upper West Side and she talked about the early days of digital art and what makes her tick (besides the artificial valve implanted during her open heart surgery nearly 10 years ago.) Illustr ation of Nancy Stahl by Zina Saunders
“I don’t remember ever not drawing. One day I came home from kindergarten at lunchtime—we’d come home for lunch as it was only a block to walk—and I came home with a picture of ‘my house’—you know, the usual ‘my house’ kind of picture, with the smoke coming out of the chimney. I remember showing it to my father over our tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and him saying, ‘Our house has a double car garage! That’s not our house.’ And he dragged me out front and showed me all the things that I hadn’t included that he’d paid extra money for: the brick along the bottom, and shingles at the top… he was so literal! I realized I was going to have to draw things more literally for my parents to understand. And that’s really had an effect my work: I thought it had to be realistic or it wasn’t worth anything. It’s been a curse—I’d much rather draw something more personal. “In high school I was known as the go-to person if you needed a poster for running for student office and that sort of stuff. I also realized that these people wouldn’t invite me to a party normally but they would invite me to these ‘poster parties’ and then they would leave me in the living room, working away, and they’d go off and have a party. I started realizing I wasn’t really that sociable and I really couldn’t care less. “I went to the Art Center in L.A., and after graduating I came back to New York. I needed a job and I went to work for this company that made fabric for men’s pants. I did color combinations, mostly plaids, in gouache, for almost two years, but I freelanced on the side and I was going around on my lunch hour with my portfolio. I finally got it built up to where my freelance was interfering with my work; or really, my work was interfering with my freelance! So I quit and started freelancing full-time. “I wound up painting in a very 1940s type of travel poster style, in gouache. A friend gave me a book of Ludwig Hohlwein’s commercial work and I already had a love of gouache, so it influenced me big time. J.C. Suares (then AD at New York magazine) was the first person I showed my new flat painting style to, and he made a quick remark about Hohlwein’s association with the Nazi party. I wish I could say I had become disenchanted with it then, but I couldn’t believe that such beautiful work could come from an advocate of an extremely evil system. I simply sought out other examples of the look, like the English railway and underground posters by E. McKnight Kauffer. “That’s when I really began to catch on, as far as having a look, but after about 10 years I started getting really sick of my style. I’d put down a layer of gouache and wait for it to dry, and it was all I could do to not have tears drip on it, because I was so, ‘I can’t stand to paint another one of these. Really, really.’ “I began telling my agent about how sick I was of doing my style, and she said there was this company, Charlex, that wanted to take on some illustrators to learn the computer. These were big mainframe computers, and you were supposed to put your tape in the machine, and you’d go back to this hazmat type of room—you know, those computer rooms where the guys would wear white and it was freezing cold—that was full of tapes, and you’d load your tape. “They weren’t paying me, but they’d let me go in at 7 o’clock at night, and I could work till 7 in the morning. The first time I was there, I worked until daylight, because I was just immediately IN LOVE—I couldn’t believe that you could cut something out and then move it and stretch it; it was like discovering a whole other magical way of working. It wasn’t work, it was play! And when I came home after that first night, I fell asleep and I was having dreams where I was replacing friends’ faces. And the next day, I called up and I said, ‘I GOTTA come back! Can I come back TONIGHT?’ There was no manual, no help, no nothing. So I learned by trial and error. “And when I got back home, I really wanted a computer, but I
couldn’t afford it right away. And when I got my first Mac, it was $20,000 with the scanner and the tablet. And that wasn’t even including my printer, which was another $4,000. “From then on, I just loved working digitally. It took me about two months to really learn the programs, and it was so painful for me to do assignments traditionally while I was learning. And after I figured it out, I told my agent, ‘OK, that’s it. Tell all my clients I’m just doing computer; I’m not going to do the other stuff anymore.’ “And most of them didn’t want digital art. People were afraid. They thought, ‘Oh no, it’s going to be computer-looking,’ either very pixellated or very airbrushy. And I really started promoting the heck out of myself, in annuals and all, and it worked. “I didn’t know it, but I had a congenital heart defect that was attacked by a simple virus, and something that would have been a nasty cold for anyone else turned into heart failure for me because of that weakness. So I had open heart surgery in ’98, and my aortic valve is now a metal disc that swings back and forth from a center pivot point. You can sometimes hear it like the ticking of a watch. “After the surgery, I didn’t want to work at all. I’d worked so hard my whole life, in this apartment, alone, working all the time, into the wee hours. But I just didn’t want to work again. So I thought, I’ve got to do something. And I went to MacWorld, out in San Francisco, and saw that you could knit using the computer. That really sparked me: I wanted to knit garments with my graphics as the motifs. The trouble is, along with constraints of machine knitting that I was yet to learn, I don’t like strong images on clothing. So, I went a bit off course from my first imaginings and learned to knit plain garments because I love the shaping and three-dimensional working out of a jacket or hat. I then saved the imagery for scarfs. “But the knitting was separate from my work. That was very frightening, because I’ve always been so passionate about my work, and to have that kind of passion for something else—it suddenly split me. It was very frightening at first. But now I’m trying to find a way to merge both, the knitting and the illustration. “When you’re working, it’s just your brain and that thing you’re making, and to actually have a tangible outcome is really exciting. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and I think, ‘I just want to see it,’ and I’ll flip on the light and go look at it. I think that’s why some people have to give birth, because that’s when they get that feeling, but we can also get that from our work. There’s some attachment, there’s something about it that makes you want to go check on it, to see if it’s the way you remembered, to see if you have the same feeling about it. It’s very much like looking in on your child in the middle of the night! “I’d like to trust myself more: to trust my ideas, to trust my voice more, so it’s less about fulfilling the assignment and more about me having an end result that I like. I don’t want to be grandiose about ‘assignments,’ because they are assignments and you have to fulfill the assignment, but I think I’ve shied away from trusting my sensibilities by working so hard to accommodate the parameters that they’ve given me. I just wish I would try more; I think I’ve given up on trying to have it be mine. I don’t even sign things anymore; I haven’t signed anything in a long time. “I do try to loosen up, but I don’t think I’m ever going to do it. I think it’s yet another curse: I think I’ll always be tight, and I just have to find a way for that to be OK. “Sometimes I think I identify myself too much as an illustrator. If you asked me to list what I am, it would be first as an illustrator, and then as a human being.” ■ —© 2007 by Zina Saunders To see Nancy Stahl’s work online, please visit www.nancystahl.com. Zina Saunders’ work may been seen online at www.zinasaunders.com.
INTERVIEW BY DAN ZIMMER
rian Taylor, also known as “Candykiller,” has mastered the fine art of internet marketing. When I first discovered his website I was instantly captivated by his style, his eye for detail, and his relentless perfectionism. Every element of his work is highly polished and thoroughly refined, and his website design is no less rigorous. His Candykiller.com site is an elaborate stage for his fanciful designs of real and imaginary products. Full of highly convincing illustrations of objects that don’t really exist…vinyl toys, plush dolls, and more sprung from his wild imagination, his site is a launching pad for his endless stream of ideas and brainstorms. It’s a brilliant approach, and it’s working—clients and toy manufacturers have come calling. Toy design company Wheaty Wheat Studios is working with Brian as we speak to bring a number of his projects into the real world. Though his work is decidedly “American” in style, and his work is so young, hip, and “in the moment,” I was quite surprised to discover that Brian Taylor was born in Scotland in 1960. His style is a combination of old and new, referencing 1920s Disney animation, tin toys, urban vinyl figures, 3D animation, and “ondemand” printing technology. We exchanged emails recently, and this is what the Candykiller had to confess…
ILLO: Tell me a little bit about yourself. BRIAN TAYLOR: I was born in 1960 in Scotland, where I still live and work. I didn’t go to art school, I just did a very basic college graphic design course, (that didn’t teach me very much to be honest), and was lucky enough to get a job in a small graphic design studio as soon as I left. I would say that I learned more in two weeks in “the real world” than I did in two years at college. Once I had my “foot in the door” it was relatively easy to move to various other design and ad agencies around Scotland over the next few years. ILLO: What is your opinion of art schools in general? BT: Like I said, I didn’t go to art school. However, I did do some part-time lecturing at art school in later years. I think art school is good for certain people, but if you are a selfmotivated and naturally talented person, it certainly isn’t a necessity. Especially nowadays with the internet, it is perfectly possible to make a name for yourself through online exposure if you know how to go about it. ILLO: How did you start your career? What were some of your earliest jobs? BT: I started in a small (4 people) graphic design studio. My earliest jobs involved designing packaging for children’s candy. I worked on things like “Skull Crushers” (white chocolate skulls with red squishy filling) and various sweets based on licenses such as “Masters of the Universe” and “Terrahawks.” It was good fun at the time. Most of the other junior designers I knew were working on boring things like used car ads for newspapers. ILLO: I was surprised to discover that you were located in the U.K., as your work seems very “American” to me for some rea66
son. Is your work inspired more by American comics or culture, or is this question completely irrelevant? BT: Yes, I get that all the time. People generally think I am American and in my late twenties or early thirties for some reason. I was definitely inspired by American pop culture from a very early age. I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it but I guess my work does have an American feel to it. ILLO: What or who inspires your work? (Other artists, films, etc. that my readers may wish to seek out and discover for themselves.) BT: So many things inspire me, I don’t know where to start, but here are just a few that spring to mind, past and present: Krazy Kat, Popeye, vintage animation, early Mad comic books, ’70s underground comix, ’50s sci-fi movies, French comic artists such as Moebius and Bilal, Eraserhead, Blade Runner, pulp novel covers, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Ashley Wood, tin toys, pop art, ’50s packaging design, japanese pop culture, cheap novelties, Mark Ryden, Vaughan Oliver, and many, many more. ILLO: When did you begin making designer toys, and how did you get started? Did you submit ideas to a toy company, or did they approach you to work with them to develop toys based upon your designs? BT: I’ve been interested in the designer toy scene for a few years now. I included some toy designs in my first Candykiller book just for fun, and the guys at Wheaty Wheat Studios approached me to develop them. We now have several products in the pipeline, some of which have yet to be announced. My latest toy design project is based on the company logo I produced for Letterpressed.com. Mark at Letterpressed plans to produce the figure alone, dealing directly with the toy factory. Due to popular demand it looks as if the previously shown orange version of Presston will be replaced with a “Night Vision” colourway. DogGone is the latest Candykiller figure in development with Wheaty Wheat Studios. The figure is scheduled for release in Spring 2007. In the run up to the full size Jackrabbit figures, Wheaty Wheat Studios will first release a cool little Jackrabbit keychain. These will be available in the same 3 colours as the large figures and will retail for around $5.99. The keychains will be available in April or at the latest, May.
ILLO: Has self-publishing your books with Lulu been a rewarding experience? Have you been approached by any “traditional publishers” to release a book of your work, or have you thought of printing your own books conventionally? BT: Lulu has been a great first step in getting my books published with no risk or cost involved. However, I would prefer my Candykiller work to be published as a “real” book. I haven’t been approached by any traditional publishers so far, but I’m open to offers. With the Lulu books I’m very limited by the format. Ideally I would like a Candykiller book to be printed using various paper stocks, fold-out pages, stickers, embossed hard cover, that sort of thing. I did self-publish my Rustboy book. I designed it, dealt with the printer, handled the book orders etc, and while it was very successful, and is now sold out, it isn’t something I would do again. The biggest problem with doing it alone is the distribution side of things. Besides, I would rather spend my time creatively rather than selling books. ILLO: Here’s a very stupid question that you’ve heard a million times already... What is the meaning of “Candykiller” and how did you come up with that brand/name? BT: It really doesn’t mean anything. I just scribbled out a page of words I liked and played around with combining them until I came up with something that had the right ring to it. It was also important that the name was available as a .com domain. ILLO: At first I couldn’t tell whether the Glow Monster Keychain was a real product, or a very convincing computer rendering. (I know now that it is a real object.) You have many other seemingly real products in your Candykiller book, such as the Monster Gum or the buttons. Have you manufactured all of these items, or are there plans to make them in the future?
BT: Some of the designs are real products and others are just concepts. Most of them are just a bit of fun, and will remain as concepts with no real plans to produce actual products. ILLO: Tell me a little bit about your working methods. How much do you rely on the computer? BT: A lot of my Candykiller work is ultimately produced on the computer. However, pretty much everything I do starts out as a sketch. These are the steps I generally follow to produce a finished piece of work. I first work out my ideas in pencil in a Moleskine sketchbook. I then work over them in pen, refining the drawing as I go, then I erase the original pencil work. If I feel that an idea is worth following through to a finished piece, I scan the sketchbook drawing and use it as a guide to work over on the computer. ILLO: What 3D software do you use to develop both your toy concepts, and your Rustboy project. BT: It’s a bit embarrassing to admit it, but I use an ancient defunct piece of software called Infini-D. I’m not much of a 3D person to be honest and I just haven’t got around to learning how to use anything else. The software is just a means to an end and it does the job. That’s all that matters. ILLO: Do you sculpt your own toy prototypes, or do you work with a sculptor to create the final models? Have you ever worked with 3D rapid prototyping technology to create a prototype from a computer model?
BT: I hand-sculpted a reference model of the Jackrabbit figure, but it was ultimately produced on the computer by the guys at Wheaty Wheat. The DogGone figure was hand-sculpted at Wheaty Wheat Studios based on my turn-around drawings. They sent photographs of the prototype at various stages and I would make alterations, usually by drawing over the photographs in Photoshop. The whole process worked out well, and I was very happy with the finished result. I have had rapid prototype figures produced from the Rustboy 3D computer model. ILLO: You seem to be incredibly prolific. What is an average day like for Brian Taylor? BT: Today was a fairly average day. I got up at six am, tended to a few emails, worked on some mask cutting and spray painting on a custom toy for the â€œAttack of the Zliksâ€? show in New York. I then had to package a couple of print orders that had come in during the night and take them to the Post Office. Later I scanned some pages from my sketchbook and posted them on my blog. Then I did a little work on my next Candykiller book, and made a start to this interview. I think that was about it. ILLO: I see on your blog that you are now creating more traditional paintings and have been selling them regularly. Have you had a show of these works yet? Are you represented by any galleries? The linework seems as precise and tight as your computer work... do these works incorporate silk screening, or are they all handpainted conventionally? (They look amazing.)
BT: No, I haven’t had a show yet. It is only recently that I got back into traditional painting. I have been approached by a couple of galleries, but it doesn’t make much sense for me at the moment. I have a growing waiting list of people who want to buy work from me directly. There’s no silk-screen printing involved, the line work is all hand painted. The thing is, I worked for years doing everything by hand, long before I ever touched a computer. This is just a case of going back to old familiar territory. ILLO: Tell me as much as you can about the Rustboy project. I was immediately intrigued by the notion that you were creat-
ing this entire project by yourself on home-based computers, and was blown away by all of the preliminary work you show online. (www.Rustboy.com) Obviously you must be happy to be developing the project on a much larger scale, but does part of you worry about losing any control of your overall vision? How closely will you be able to work with the developers of the project, and will you be very “hands on” in terms of creating models, animation, or backgrounds, or will you be more the director and overseer of the production? (or both.) BT: The way things stand at the moment, I can have as much or as little input as I like. My preference is to oversee the project in general, but have very little hands-on input. I spent a lot of time working on the look and feel of Rustboy and now I feel that I have moved on to other things, therefore I’m quite happy to let an experienced team work on the film based on my concepts. For example, we have a writer in LA working on the screenplay, and I was very pleased with the first treatment. I just made a couple of small suggestions, otherwise I’m happy for him to go ahead with the full story. ■ —© 2007 by Daniel Zimmer All of the artwork in this article is © copyright 2007 by Brian Taylor To see Brian Taylor’s work online, please visit his various webites at: www.xl5design.com—to find an overview of Brian’s work and links to sites www.candykiller.com—to view the Candykiller books available through Lulu. and www.rustboy.com—to see Brian’s Rustboy concept drawings, animations, storyboards, toy concepts, books, and much more.
NEW & NOTABLE mitch o’connell: Tattoos by mitch o’connell 264 pages, fc $14.95 SOFTCOVER last gasp, 2007
The book contains 250 tattoo designs by Mitch O’Connell, beautifully reproduced in full and glorious color. They’re the best of his three sets of tattoo flash: Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed (2001), Done While Drunk (2002), and From the Bottom of the Barrel (2006). Each limited edition set of flash sold for $100, and are now out of print, so this book is an essential archive of those original designs and collects the images in one easy-to-flipthrough volume. O’Connell’s art is reminiscent of the classic tattoo designs from masters such as Sailor Jerry Collins and Don Ed Hardy, but features O’Connell’s distinctive surrealistic style and profoundly warped sense of humor. Whether you are a tattoo aficianado or not is irrelevant, as this collection of drawings should appeal to anyone interested in contemporary comics, hot chicks, surrealism, or the just-plain-strange. And it is bargain-priced, to boot!
r/evolution: the art of jon foster edited by cathy and arnie fenner 128 pages, FC $50.00 hardcover underwood books, 2007
Artist and illustrator Jon Foster has received numerous honors from Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators, and has taught illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design. The best of Foster’s SF and Fantasy book cover illustrations for Michael Moorcock, Paul Collins, Liz Williams, etc., are included in this volume, as well as selections of his work for Wizards of the Coast’s MAGIC: THE GATHERING game cards, his covers for DC Comics (including Neil Gaiman’s Books of Magic), and his work for National Geographic (for whom he has also drawn in the field on archeological assignments). Also included are a selection from his work as conceptual artist for an animated film (forthcoming) based on The Diary of Anne Frank.
SI ANNUAL: 48 BY the society of illustrators 508 pages, fc $45.00 SOFTcover harper collins, 2007
The latest edition of the Society of Illustrators’ Annual presents not only the best illustrations of the past year, but presents the artists’ ideas behind
the art. Continuing with the format established with the 46th SI Annual, the emphasis in this edition is on the creative process, as well as what it means to be an illustrator in today’s market. Each illustration appears on a single page (or spread) and, in most cases, is accompanied by comments by each artist. The jurors also weigh in with their thoughts on the selection process, how they came to their decisions, and the overall feel of the show. The inclusion of thumbnail images in the index, which provides the credits, dimensions, and media of each piece, is a valuable addition. Founded in 1901, The Society of Illustrators is the only national institution devoted solely to the art of illustration. Its over-900 members include professional artists in the fields of illustration, cartooning, animation, and graphic design as well as associated fields such as Art Directors, artist representatives, publishers, and designers. In this massive volume, the artists discuss the “how to” and “why” of their art, making this annual not only a showcase of impressive art, but also an intensely-readable look into the creative process of today’s top working illustrators.
aphrodisia: the art of the female form edited by craig elliot 180 pages, FC $34.99 softcover aristata, 2007
Aphrodisia is a full color art book showcasing over 200 artists celebration of the female form. The artwork of Aphrodisia comes from professional artists, students, and art directors from around the globe, all of whom have entered Aphrodisia’s competition for a place in the book. The artwork of Aphrodisia depicts the female form in all of her facets, from charming to haunting, silly to sensual. Artwork in the book falls under the categories of fine art, fine art nude, pinup, sculpture, and 3D computer generated art. Many artists featured in this year’s book are world renowned, and have worked for such prestigious companies as Lucasfilm, Dreamworks, Dark Horse, Marvel, DC Comics, Dungeons and Dragons, Time, and the New York Times. Among them are Dave Dorman. Stephen Hickman, Don Maitz, Mark A. Nelson, Mark Rogers and many more. Along with the artwork of the entrants, Aphrodisia showcases the work of the judges and gives a rare insight into their working methods and studio life. The 2007 Aphrodisia judges include artist Julie Bell, Iain McCaig, Robh Ruppel, and Danielle Bedics. ■
Books for review should be sent to: ILLO: REVIEWS 3640 RUSSELL BLVD. ST. LOUIS, MO 63110
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EXHIBITIONS & EVENTS The Art of the Stamp January 25, 2007—April 22, 2007 Plains Art Musuem, ND
HOW Design Conference June 10—June 13, 2007 Hyatt Regency, Atlanta, GA
One hundred works from the 1960s to the present show how stamp designs evolve from pencil sketches to final artwork. Highlights include original art for the Elvis Presley stamp—the most popular stamp of all time, with sales of 500 million—and two original Norman Rockwell pieces. Developed by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, the exhibit illustrates what President Franklin D. Roosevelt said about stamp art: It “dispels boredom, enlarges our vision, broadens out knowledge, makes us better citizens, and in innumerable ways enriches our lives.” For more information, call: 701-232-3821
HOW magazine’s annual business, creativity, and technology conference for graphic designers.
Design Life Now: National Triennial Through July 29, 2007 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, NY
The National Design Triennial is an ongoing exhibition series at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. Inaugurated in 2000, the Triennial seeks out innovative work from across the fields of product design, architecture, furniture, film, graphics, new technologies, animation, science, medicine and fashion. Called Design Life Now, the 2006 Triennial presents experimental projects, emerging ideas, major buildings, and new products and media created by 87 designers and firms from 2003 to 2006. The exhibition features work by designers of any nationality who are producing work in the U.S. as well as American-born designers who are working abroad. For more information, visit: http://ndm.si.edu Deeply Personal: R. Crumb’s Underground March 17, 2007—July 8, 2007 Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, CA
YBCA salutes local treasure R. Crumb with an eclectic exhibit of early work, collaborations old and new, and the world premiere of his “spool” drawings. Universally acknowledged as the founder of the underground comic scene, Crumb gained cult popularity for his pioneering Zap Comix and stardom with the Terry Zwigoff documentary Crumb. Extending far beyond comics, the YBCA exhibit shows how his work has grown in philosophical complexity, and highlights his collaborative work, including intimate confessions produced with wife Aline Kominsky-Crumb. For more information, visit: http://www.ybca.org
For more information, visit: www.howconference.com The Create Awards Final Deadline June 1, 2007
The Create Awards is open to all creative professionals and students. All work accepted into The Create Awards must have first appeared in the marketplace between April 1, 2006, and June 1, 2007. All work must have been produced for commercial purposes and be the result of paid creative services. For more information, visit: www.thecreateawards.com
S I T E S , B L O G S & E TC . ILLUSTRATION CLASS http://www.illustrationclass.com 2D Artist http://www.2DArtistMag.com DRAWGER http://www.drawger.com ILLOZ http://www.illoz.com COCONINO WORLD http://www.coconino-world.com
Please send me notification of any illustration shows or exhibitions, interesting links, blogs, etc., and I will attempt to post them in this section. Send your e-mails to: Dan@illo.us
IN THE NEXT ISSUE…
Michael Cho by Daniel Zimmer The Imaginative Realism of James Gurney by Daniel Zimmer The Art of Zina Saunders by Daniel Zimmer The Art of Nancy Stahl by Daniel Zimmer …and much more!
Norman Saunders $44.95
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ILLO #1 - The magazine for contemporary illustrators. This issue features the work of Mitch O'Connell, Mark Shultz, Nathan Jurevicius, and B...