Greeting Cards

Quite awhile ago—the 1980’s in fact—my brother and I attempted to launch  a Greeting Card business with mixed success.  We called our naughty, romantic, animal character line “Paper Jungle”.

Alas, we knew little about that specialized genre of artwork, and by the time we’d achieved positive test marketing from Recycled Paper Products, we were pretty much out of money.  Yet, I’ve always been fascinated by the risque humor and calculated edginess of greeting cards.

 

Recently, I was thrilled to meet online an experienced writer and producer of greeting cards named Adrienne Gusoff (check out her website at www.adriennegusoff.com).

We are now combining our craniums to create some clever greeting cards–her witty captions and concepts with my twisted artwork–for, yes, Recycled Paper Products.  Life comes full circle.  Stay tuned for more on this venture!

In the upper right corner, I’ve included one of our new birthday card concepts (sorry, I can’t reveal the punchline here).  Yes, it’s great fun to draw “sexy” for a change.

 

We also have an older female character who will “star” in many of our upcoming concepts for those who are feeling the effects of multiple birthdays.  Again, here’s a little teaser.

Finally, below, I’ve included one of my favorites from the Paper Jungle card line of bygone days.  An elephant never forgets, regardless of multiple martinis.

I believe that hand-drawn artwork of any style feels more “personal” than photographs.  Especially with greeting cards.

Elephant2.psd

“Quickie” Concept Sketches

It’s tempting to display only my best, finished artwork on this website; however, the freelance illustration biz is teaching me that rough, loose sketches can often win a potential client.

I use “quickie” sketches to audition for a project.  I use “quickie” sketches to develop or clarify a character for a client.  I use “quickie” sketches to “storyboard” a book’s layout and find the rhythm of artwork with text.

The ability to sketch quickly yet engagingly may be as important to a freelancer’s career as the skill of refined illustration.

 

To the right is a page of “quickie” sketches for a client who advertised “fanciful B&W drawings to accompany short stories for young children…angry spider, sadly broken clock, dancing statue, mischievous elf, lazy horse, emperor with goat ears, smug hippo…”  The client loved the sketches.

Here’s another “quickie” requested by a client:  a boy riding a dinosaur.

Sometimes I wish that there was more time, and money, available for complex illustrations– I DO love detail–however, I’ve often discovered that my drawing style is actually improved by having to work quickly and loosely on many projects.

Sometimes the “quickies” have more expression than an illustration that is detailed and perhaps a bit “overworked”.  Sometimes a “quickie” hits the spot.

Children’s Book Illustration

This is perhaps my favorite category of illustration.  Cartoons become magical when they make a child laugh or transport that child’s imagination to worlds of wonder and adventure.

My parents read to my brothers and I when we were small and I, in turn, enjoyed reading to my two sons.

I played all the book’s characters with different voices; but it was the illustrations in each book that provided the visual “movie” for my kids to follow.  They would huddle close on either side of me to “see the pictures” and comment on the details.

From “Curious George” to “Jumanji”, from “The Cat In The Hat” to “Where The Wild Things Are” each artist brought their characters to animated life.  Like jumping into Bert’s sidewalk chalk drawings in “Mary Poppins”, we could actually enter the marvelous universes of these illustrations.  For us, they were real places.

 

I remember being scared to death as a youngster by Sir John Tenniel’s creepy illustrations for “Alice In Wonderland”.  Those HUGE heads!

My parents were teachers and we had a large collection of classic children’s literature.  I was swept away by King Arthur, Robin Hood, dragons, fairies, and pirates all masterfully illustrated by the classic artworks of Arthur Rackham, Warwick Goble, Kay Nielsen, Edmund Dulac, N.C. Wyeth and so many more.

I want to create that wonder and delight for the children who see my story illustrations.

 

Recently, I worked on a series of children’s stories that feature a young bear named Bobby.  The stories themselves are audio books; however, a “cover” illustration was needed for each adventure on the Website.

In my portfolio section you’ll find a couple of Bobby Bear covers.  I particularly like the Slumber Party that depicts all of Bobby Bear’s little animal friends.

 

In this entry, I’ve added a few more Bobby Bear cover illustrations.

The computer artwork is brighter and simpler than the pen-and-ink “Gershwood The Gargoyle” children’s book illustrations also in my portfolio.  But variety is good.

I’m currently working on more children’s book projects, some featuring human characters.  I’m also looking for an Art Rep.  Interested?

Bobby Bear New Game TEXT Merged    Bobby Bear Rides His Trike TEXT Merged

 

Political Caricatures

Okay, I promised to address presidential caricatures.  To the right is our current Commander-In-Chief.  Held hostage in the budget crisis at the precarious edge of the “fiscal cliff”.

Actually, you get three caricatures in one:  President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Political cartoons espouse a viewpoint; and, quite obviously, my political views are vigorously Progressive (formerly called Liberal).  Even if your politics are the opposite of mine, hopefully you can appreciate the technique of the drawing and the punch of the concept.

I think all of us are weary of the paralyzing stalemate in Congress.  Speaker Boehner is often depicted in political cartoons as either crying or smoking.  I went with the cigarette.  And I’m certainly not the first person to think that Mitch McConnell looks like a turtle.  The important thing with any caricature is the whether or not the likeness is immediately recognizable.

 

Of course there’s always a risk in including political or religious artwork on my site.  Some folks of differing views might be so offended that they cannot appreciate the technique or the wit of the drawing.  Politics and religion are subjects that are often very personally, passionately espoused.

Yet, I wanted to demonstrate something slightly “edgier” than my warm, cuddly children’s book illustrations.

 

Here are a couple of examples of the GOP elephant symbol used to pointed effect.  One political cartoon addresses the issue of Presidential Executive Orders.  In the other, the GOP elephants play a game of Obstructionist Scrabble despite their proclamation that 2014 would be a “year of action”.

 

Now let’s test your history recall.

Remember Bill Clinton and his love of cheeseburgers (and a few other tasty things)?  Remember the Gipper?  I left Ronald Reagan on my portfolio page (it’s a good likeness and he provides a little political balance to my Progressive agitating here).

Now, here’s the really Big Test.  Remember the Bi Centennial Peanut Farmer Prez?  It takes a Baby Boomer of my age or older to remember Jimmy Carter in office.

carter

Sports and Comics

As I mentioned in my previous post, I worked for many years in a high-performance automotive company specializing in race cars, muscle cars, dragsters, and tricked-out trucks.  My co-workers had a saying, “Racing is the only true sport; everything else is just games.”

Well, I confess I like games.  Particularly baseball.

I know, I know, some folks think that baseball is excruciatingly slow–like watching paint dry–but I believe there’s almost nothing better than sitting in an open-air baseball park on a sunny summer day with a hotdog in one hand and a scorecard in the other.

So, of course, I had to include this “classic” illustration from my colored pencil past:  Bat-man (get it?) and Robbin’ (“he was robbed…of a hit!”)  Never pass up a pun.

My inclusion of this drawing demonstrates another clear fact about me.  I am an unembarrassed “geek”.  Yep, I love superheroes, science fiction, medieval fantasy, comics and all manner of Geekdom.

Actually, I believe we are currently in a “Golden Age” of Geekdom, at least on TV and at the movies:  The Hobbit, Star Trek and Star Wars, The Avengers (and their individual film franchises) and much more.  Geeks are mainstream now.  Geeks are cool.  Aren’t we?

Of all the heroes to fight crime in a cape, Batman has always been my favorite, from the silly Adam West spoof of the 1960’s–which I took very seriously as a kid–to the recent brilliant Dark Knight trilogy with Christian Bale.

You gotta love the Bat.  Merging baseball and superheroes?  That’s what an illustrator can give you.  If you can imagine it, I can draw it.

So…what’s YOUR game?

 

Communicating Your Business

The MOST important element of any illustration is its ability to communicate effectively.  The idea may be complex, but the visual must say it all at one glance.

That’s why I included these covers for Jeg’s Automotive despite the old-fashioned colored pencil rendering.

The client wanted to show the tradition of rebuilding classic cars as a family project.  The brochure cover on the right shows the entire family participating in “shade tree” mechanics.  I suppose it’s a bit sexist to portray the boys working on their cars while the ladies bring the food; however, as I said, this was intentionally a “traditional” portrait.  Hopefully, you immediately feel the warmth and pride of this tradition in a memorable image.

 

At the other end of the emotional spectrum, below is a humorous Christmas cover for a Jeg’s product catalog.

A swirling roller conveyor delivers bin after bin of automotive goodies to Santa’s waiting Top Yule dragster sleigh; but the REAL fun of this illustration is in hunting for all the antics of the many scattered elves.

Warm or witty, there’s a wide range of possibilities to illustrate your brand.

 

It’s funny how quickly things change.  I mentioned in my previous post how the computer changed my drawing style.  Sometimes the things IN a drawing become rapidly outdated too.

The perfect example is the editorial illustration in my portfolio called “Art Director”.  Here she is again.  Who uses a T-square, VHS tapes, rolls of film, or hand-drawn leather portfolios anymore?

The Art Director lady should have a computer tablet and a smartphone at the very least.  I finally do.  But I couldn’t resist including the drawing for nostalgia’s sake, as well as for another example of workplace illustration.

 

Speaking of workplaces, if you’re wondering why my site has so many automotive examples, I worked for a decade (in the 1990’s) for a high performance automotive distributor in Michigan in their publications department.  I illustrated newsletters, brochures, print ads, and catalogs.

A former co-worker then moved into a creative position with Jegs Automotive in Ohio and, thankfully, continued to use my artwork.  I’m not even a “car guy”.  But I learned to appreciate vintage automobiles.  Proof, I guess, that I can learn to draw anything.

I’ll leave you with the B&W rendering of another Jeg’s Christmas catalog cover.  Same idea as before — conveyor belt, elves loading a dragster sleigh — but this one more close-up.  LOTS of detail!

Going Electric

After years of Old School drawing, I was introduced to the marvels of the Wacom Cintiq computer drawing tablet.  It was like Bob Dylan going electric!  It changed everything for me.

To my amazement, I could draw and ERASE directly on the computer screen in “ink”—no more Liquid Paper whiteout, Xerox copying, or scanning—perfection every time!  I could send and receive files instantly.  Best of all, I could color in bold, bright, brilliant electric hues.

The Father’s Day promotional banner for Jegs Automotive in the upper corner of this page is an example of that vivid computer coloring.  Compare this artwork to the pen & ink & colored pencil illustrations in my portfolio.  The colored pencil has a soft, warm, textured feel that’s nice; but this Monster Truck cartoon is so bright it leaps off the page!

 

You’ll notice that the drawing itself is simpler and cleaner too.  Less complex “crosshatching” and more pure color and tonal shading.

This huge change in my drawing style resulted, in part, from the Cintiq.  But probably moreso from my drawing jewelry and charms at Chamlia (see earlier blog post).

Charms are measured in millimeters; not much room for unnecessary details.  Worse still, the factory would interpret my “crosshatching” pen strokes as something to be actually etched into the silver.  I learned to shade with tones instead of ink marks.  I learned cleaner lines.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  I still love detail and intricate pen work.  I’m especially proud of the “Gershwood the Gargoyle” children’s book illustrations in my portfolio.

I’m pleased with the Father’s Day cards I drew for HartMarx in Chicago too (portfolio again).  I also designed the concept and the caption “Great Men Have Always Worn Great Clothes”.

Yep, I love detail.  But simple is good too.  So is bold and bright.  Below is another web banner for Jegs Automotive, advertising a sale on Hedman Hedders.  Ask Dylan.  Electric is good.

Hedman Hedders WEB Banner COLOR

Influences and Caricatures

As my portfolio verifies, my drawing style emphasizes humor–cartoons mostly–which has been applied to everything from kid’s books to greeting cards.

We learn from our heroes.  I’m a hybrid of my admiration for the illustration magic of Maurice Sendak and Arthur Rackham, the political crosshatching of Thomas Nast, Horsey, and MacNelly, and the insane humor and brilliant caricatures of Mad Magazine.

 

Caricatures are a specialized skill.  They’re like actors doing accents–some can, some can’t–despite their other thespian skills.

Caricatures are most often used for famous faces–poking fun at politicians and celebrities–but caricatures are useful in “everyday life” too.  I’ve drawn caricatures at corporate events, birthday parties, and, recently, at an outdoor festival for RAGOM (Retrieve A Golden Of Minnesota).  Yep, I drew caricatures of canines (and their owners).

Of course I’ve drawn presidential caricatures too; but that’s another blog entry.

 

Meanwhile, here is a caricature of my former co-worker at Chamilia, the very talented Rachel Schreiner.

If you want to see how she really looks, there’s a Halloween photo of Rachel as the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland (yes, she has a thing for bunnies) below this blog entry.

So, what do you think?  Not bad, eh?  I believe I captured her characteristics while maintaining her attractiveness.  More importantly, Rachel thought so.

In the corner is a caricature self-portrait.  Um, less attractive.  But just as accurate.

Lastly, here is a group caricature that I drew (and framed) for the Customer Service Team at Chamilia (the department grew much larger in later years).  As the gift was a surprise, I had to draw the ladies from photographs.  I’ve included those photos beneath the drawing so you can judge for yourself how accurately I captured their likenesses.

While working at Chamilia, I was introduced to the Cintiq electronic drawing tablet.  Wow!  That changed everything!  In the next blog entry, we’ll explore those changes, including the powerful effect on my drawing style.  And here’s the “real” Rachel.

Charms and Jewelry–The Chamilia Years

From 2007-2013, I’ve worked for an international corporation, Chamilia, designing charms and jewelry with a team of very creative ladies.  Though the company was then sold overseas, the experience was terrific and added these skills of team collaboration, product design and concept artist to my arsenal.

The factories loved my design drawings because they were accurate and easy to follow.  Disney loved my drawings because I could portray their characters accurately (and, believe me, Disney is VERY particular).  You can still see my work on the Chamilia website.

My portfolio page shows a technical drawing for a new style of Chamilia bracelet clasp.  This type of artwork is vastly different than whimsical charm designs.

On this page, I wanted to show you the BEFORE and AFTER aspect of charm making.  We’ll go with Disney.

Below, is my original sketch for a shell charm with a pearl inside, part of our Disney Princess series–this one for Princess Ariel (a.k.a. Little Mermaid)–and then, along side it, the final result in the Chamilia catalog.  Nice, eh?  As you can see, I initially drew the hinge much smaller than reality.  We also switched to a magnet clasp and dropped the flanges.  But the idea worked and the bead turned out beautifully!

I’ve added a pendant jewelry sketch in the corner too.  I really loved drawing this stuff with my Design Team for six years.  Indeed, charm design would be a part of my life for many more years!

Disney Ariel Hinged Shell  Ariel Pearl Shell

What I’ve Been Up To Lately

A new challenge begins.  I am now seeking clients as a self-employed freelance illustrator.

The drawing part is easy.  I’ve sketched since I could first hold a pencil. I drew monsters and alarmed my parents.  I drew caricatures of my teachers in school, and when my classmates giggled, I was scolded.  Later, those same teachers had me drawing posters and illustrating the school newsletter.  No matter what I did in life thereafter, I was always drawing on the side–for fun and profit.

But this is new.  A self-sustaining freelance business.  This requires new skills, including this blog.  This requires that I show you the range of skills you’ll get for your money when you hire me.  Such as…

The ability to THINK and create a new concept out of thin air (as well as illustrate a given idea).  The ability to “brainstorm” new ideas with you or a team.  The skill to create engaging product designs based upon those concepts.  And all of this expressed with visual wit, effectiveness, and a sense of fun (oh yes, and on deadline)!

This is EXPERIENCE acquired above and beyond simply drawing.

In the following entries to this blog, I will show you a variety of drawings, web designs, and applications–different than the portfolio examples–that I hope will delight you.  Enjoy!

–MB