Jan 16 2010

Horses

Published by under animals,horses,sketchbook

I’m trying to work on some of my weaknesses, one of which is drawing horses. I can draw them fine from reference, but it’s not always easy to find the correct pose and angle, and the mental model I have of their anatomical structure isn’t very good. Here are a few practice studies, and I’ll probably be doing more in the coming weeks.

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Jan 15 2010

Ghostopolis, by Doug Tannapel

Published by under reviews

One of the perks of living with Alison is that not only does she bring home a lot of books, she brings home books that aren’t out yet. These are called “advance reader copies”, or ARCs. Sometimes they are things I’ve asked her for, but more often they’re things I didn’t even know about.

Ghostopolis ARC cover (not final)

This week she handed me an uncorrected proof of Doug Tennapel‘s new book with Scholastic, Ghostopolis. I would give you a link, but it’s not up on Scholastic’s website yet.

Now, I’m mostly familiar with Doug’s video game work, as Earthworm Jim came out during MY first year working in video games, and caused quite a stir. But I also know that he has a following for his comics, and I recently watched a nice video of him inking. So I started reading Ghostopolis right away instead of throwing it on the “to read eventually” pile. Here, then, is my review/preview. You will only have to wait until July to read the book yourself (sorry).

Ghostopolis is the story of two unlikely heroes: a young boy named Garth (it’s hard for me not to type Gareth) who lives with his single Mom and has an unspecified terminal illness, and a slightly over-the-hill ghost hunter named Frank. Frank works for the Supernatural Immigration Task Force, and his job is to banish ghosts back to the afterlife where they belong. (He’s more like a kid-friendly version of Harrison Ford in Blade Runner than Bill Murry in Ghostbusters.) Frank is trying to banish a particularly pesky skeletal horse when the unthinkable happens — he accidentally sends Garth, a living boy, into the afterlife. Rescuing Garth will require herculean efforts and lots of help from his ghostly ex-girlfriend Claire Voyant.

It’s a very involving story, pretty fast-paced with lots of humor but also a slight undercurrent of “hey we’re talking about death here”. I read it in two sittings. There are a few plot points I found hard to swallow, such as how ghosts and people can touch each other, and how you can ride a skeleton horse at high speed without the spiky vertebrae ripping your groin to shreds. And the ending has a huge, double deus ex machina. But hey, the story makes no pretense of being realistic, so I still enjoyed it quite well. The characters are fun and convincing, and almost all of them get their own story arc resolutions by the end of the book.

The artwork is excellent. Tennapel has lovely fluid brushwork, and the characters are well designed and always recognizable. Backgrounds occasionally get shortchanged, but not enough to be a problem. Only the first 16 pages of the ARC are in color, but I believe the final book will be full-color throughout, and the coloring is very well done.

The book is aimed at grades 5-7, which seems about right. Adults will probably enjoy it too, but find it a bit light and fluffy. By the way, that cover above may not be the one on the final book, as ARCs often don’t have final covers.

Supposedly Ghostopolis is also being made into a movie with Hugh Jackman. No idea what age range that will be aimed at, but clearly Tennapel is popular in Hollywood. I’m sure my review will now push him into superstardom.

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Jan 13 2010

Invisible changes

Published by under Uncategorized

If you’re reading this, then my website and blog have successfully moved to a new domain hosting service. Please let me know if you see anything broken or missing. Thanks!

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Jan 05 2010

JCVD

Published by under reviews,sketchbook,tools & tech

The story is a bit unsatisfying (some might say very unsatisfying, but I’m okay with ambiguous endings) — but JCVD, the film about an aging Jean-Claude Van Damme (or Van Varenberg, his real name) getting mixed up in a desperate hostage situation in a “real life” post office, sort of does for Van Damme what The Wrestler did for Mickey Rourke, i.e. makes his aging face the star of a raw, honest performance that shows he can act in a grown-up film. It is beautifully directed, and the story is twisty and subtle and nonlinear. There is a scene near the end where Van Damme spills his guts about what his life is like, and it hits home.

I painted this from a still frame, using Sketchbook Pro and ArtRage. I love ArtRage for its oil-painty-ness, but still find it a bit hard to control. The likeness is only so-so. It never ceases to astonish me how hard it is to get a likeness (especially when not working from life).

JCVD 1

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Jan 03 2010

The Donkey Show, plus Sleep No More revisited

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

On Wednesday I went to see Sleep No More for the second time. Still great. Still confusing, still almost no narrative, but still spooky as hell, with dancing that still blows my mind. I’ve done aikido for 10 years, and if I tried some of the stuff these folks are doing, I would break numerous bones.

I mentioned previously that this show is (sort of) Macbeth mashed up with Hitchcock’s Rebecca. You can watch Rebecca on YouTube, which I did. It’s pretty good — the story is just a watered-down version of Jane Eyre, but it’s Hitchcock, so it plays out well. Here are a few sketches I did while I was watching.

Hitchcock’s Rebecca, sketch 1

Hitchcock’s Rebecca, sketch 2Hitchcock’s Rebecca, sketch 3

Hitchcock’s Rebecca, sketch 4 Hitchcock’s Rebecca, sketch 5

Then on Saturday we went to see The Donkey Show, completing our experience of the ART’s Shakespeare Exploded festival. We’d heard great things about this show. It was a TON of fun. Basically the equation is Dance Club + attractive half-naked dancers + a very rough approximation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The last part of the equation was probably the weakest. The rendition of Midsummer as simplistic enough that I think we would have had about as much fun with just the dancing and the eye candy. Certainly there were none of Shakespeare’s words in evidence. It was really just a highbrow excuse to ogle shapely torsos and dance for a few hours. Which is important, because that’s the kind of excuse I need sometimes! In summary, Art: B-, Entertainment: A+ (if you like dancing).

I only did a few quick sketches at the beginning. Because, really, it’s more fun to watch people dance than to try to draw them.

The Donkey Show, sketch 1

The Donkey Show, sketch 2The Donkey Show, sketch 3

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Dec 31 2009

ASP’s Midsummer Night’s Dream

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

I went to the dress rehearsal of ASP’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and did lots of sketches. I’ve seen this play so many times,  that I found myself focusing less on the story and more on the differences and surprises in this production. The main plot is solid and moves along well, with good performances and some very nice blocking in the “forest” scenes (read: urban jungle), but what really stand out are the scenes with the players. John Kuntz and Robert Walsh are two of my favorite ASP actors, and they are hilarious as Peter Quince and Nick Bottom, along with their troupe of misfit tradesmen-actors. The end of the play is a masterpiece of comic staging. I also liked Marianna Bassham as a punked-out Titania.

I’m trying to do less sketches per page, so that each piece stands on its own a bit more. Consequently I filled a prodigious number of pages. I’ll put a few highlights above the cut, and the rest below, for those who are interested.

Bottom sits perilously near Titania’s resting place - ASP Midsummer sketches 17

Lysander’s love misdirected - ASP Midsummer sketches 22Hermia tries in vain to hold Lysander - ASP Midsummer sketches 24

Thisbe mourns Pyramus - ASP Midsummer sketches 40

The king and queen of cool - ASP Midsummer sketches 44

more below the cut:

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Dec 22 2009

Mongol

Published by under reviews,sketchbook,tools & tech

I saw Mongol recently on DVD. This movie is absolutely gorgeous. I just wish the story was as good as the direction, cinematography, costumes, etc, etc. They whitewash Genghis Khan, and they completely skip over the most interesting part: how did this guy rise to be leader of the most feared army in the world? However, like I said, it’s gorgeous, and I had a great time drawing from it. These sketches are all digital.

sketch by Gareth Hinds from the film “Mongol”

sketch by Gareth Hinds from the film “Mongol”

sketch by Gareth Hinds from the film “Mongol”

sketch by Gareth Hinds from the film “Mongol”

sketch by Gareth Hinds from the film “Mongol”

Anyone want to recommend a good book on Genghis Khan?

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Dec 20 2009

Job that got away

Published by under sketchbook,Uncategorized

I got a call out of the blue, from an art director, about illustrating a series of middle-grade novels by a famous author. It would have been a super-tight turnaround time, but man, that would have been a nice recurring gig! Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one they called, and in the end they decided on one of the other illustrators. For posterity, here are my initial character sketches and a sample finish.

Character sketches for middle grade novel, by Gareth Hinds

Sample finish for middle grade novel, by Gareth Hinds

I’m not totally happy with the linework on the figures, but I like the seagull. By the way, I was specifically told they wanted ink with a spot color.

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Dec 18 2009

The Incredible Ashley Bryan

Published by under sketchbook,travel,Uncategorized

Alison has blogged previously about our (first) visit to the FANTASTIC toy & art museum that is the house of Ashley Bryan, famous children’s book illustrator and saint. Okay, he’s not literally a saint, but he should be. Recently we heard that Ashley was in town for a visit to the Cambridge Library, so we went out to say ‘hi’ and see him do his thing. Alison has already written expressively and at length about what an amazing man he is, so check out her original post here. I will merely add that he does a great presentation, and makes the whole audience feel like kids even though half of them are adults.

Here are my drawings from the event.

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Dec 17 2009

Shakespeare Exploded – the good, the bad, and the creepy

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

For those who aren’t aware, the American Repertory Theater is in the midst (or really toward the end) of a program they call “Shakespeare Exploded.” I previously blogged about the reading of Robert Brustein’s play Mortal Terror, but that reading series is the sideline to the three main shows, which are: The Donkey Show, a dance club musical remix of Midsummer Night’s Dream; Best of Both Worlds, a gospel / R&B musical version of Winter’s Tale, and Sleep No More, a sort of… well, not a play, and not Macbeth, but… more on that in a moment.

I bought tickets to all three shows, and I’ve now seen Sleep No More and Best of Both Worlds. Below the cut is my full review, with some mild spoilers and more detailed advice. Here is the summary: unless you are easily freaked out AND really don’t like art that freaks you out, DROP WHAT YOU ARE DOING AND GO SEE SLEEP NO MORE. Bring someone with you, but be aware that you may be separated in the course of the evening. Also you will be walking around, not sitting in a theater. DO NOT waste your time on Best of Both Worlds (unless you like really cheesy imitation Broadway stuff —  and don’t say I didn’t warn you).

Sleep No More blind contour sketch

Unfortunately it’s too dark to draw in Sleep No More, but these blind contours came out okay. More drawings below the cut.

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