Wednesday, January 30, 2008


I've got an illustration featured in a show this coming weekend in Portland. It's a film festival called Supertrash, with a connected art show sponsored by Fantagraphics books which asked cartoonists, illustrators, designers, etc to contribute "re-imagined" film posters for their favorite B-movies. Which, admittedly, is kinda what I do all day long, but y'know, I have a fun job. There's more info on the show here. I've seen some other posters showing up around the internets—I particularly like Jim Rugg's.

I chose Sam Fuller's The Steel Helmet—I don't know if it really counts as a "B-movie," exactly, but I'm a big Fuller fan, and I'd been kinda bummed that we didn't get to do any new design for the Sam Fuller Eclipse box (because of the Eclipse template), so this seemed like a fun opportunity. Here's the illustration, done in my new favorite style:

I'm not going to be able to make it out, but if anyone's anywhere near the Portland area, it sounds like a really fun show! Let me know how my drawing looks on the wall!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Hey, look what I got in the mail today! A package of stickers from Fat Punk Studio, who I know from the comments is (are?) (a) sometime reader(s?) of this blog. And since I want to encourage the practice of sending me cool free stuff, I thought I'd mention it here. I really like the Peony stickers:

Those and other stickers seem to be available for purchase on Fat Punk's website, along with samples of their excellent illustration work. Thanks, Fat Punk!

While I'm plugging stuff, I'll also mention that Jason Polan, who Criterion fans might know as the artist behind our "wacky animals" but who is so much more, has a show opening this Friday at the Lump gallery in Raleigh, NC, and running through March 1. Stop by if you're in the area. Details on the show here, and Jason's own site is here. Here's a scan of a piece of Jason's that he generously gave me:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Remembering, out of the black silence..."

It's been officially announced, so the cat's out of the bag on my favorite project so far this year (Berlin was last november): Blast of Silence. Not only is the film now on my personal top ten within the collection, not only is Allen Baron (the director) one of the nicest, most interesting people I've met in a while, but it's got my single favorite supplement on any DVD ever: a four-page comic book adaptation of the beginning of the film, drawn by the inimitable Sean Phillips. The text of the comic is taken straight from the narration written by Waldo Salt, and it is uncanny how well it works as a comic. Sean's got some sketches and samples up on his own blog, which you should absolutely check out. Here's the cover, also by Sean:

(And while I'm on the subject, if you have any affinity at all for noir or "hard-boiled"-type stories, and you're not reading Criminal, Sean's book with writer Ed Brubaker, you're missing out on some of the best crime fiction in any medium—film, prose, comics, whatever—in quite some time. There are two volumes available now, Coward and Lawless, and I can't recommend either highly enough. Just great, great stuff.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Silkscreening 5: SOAO

I could've sworn I posted this already, but it looks like I forgot: here's the last of the posters I made in that silkscreening class I took a few months back. It's for another friend, who performs solo under the name Son of an Oracle, or SOAO (so-ow) for short. From his website:

"Son of an Oracle was born and raised in Guyana and currently resides in Brooklyn. His name is in homage to his father, leader of one of Guyana's most famous vocal groups, The Oracles. Whether with his band, Kaliband, or solo, his music is an energizing fusion of funk, soul, rock, and world beat, with a host of influences from Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and the United States."

(His band Kaliband is well worth checking out, too.)

Since SOAO was the only one of my initial round of posters to request something for his solo act, rather than a band, I thought a portrait might be appropriate, and it was a good opportunity to do something else in the style I'd been using for Berlin, which I was really enjoying. I think it achieves a different effect here, though, which I like. I was pleasantly surprised to find that this style has at least a little versatility to it.

So here's the original design, done in much the same method as the Berlin drawings: Sharpie, then computer.

And here's the final print. As this was the last thing I worked on as part of this class, I was kinda up against the wall, time-wise, which meant when I didn't quite have the right inks to mix the colors I wanted, I had to improvise a bit. So, the colors are a bit different than I originally intended, but I think it still looks pretty good!

Wisdom from the comments...

"Design is not art. What's the difference? In design, you don't always get to do whatever the hell you want."
—India (of India, Ink)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Berlin Alexanderplatz, Part II

Sorry all, for the long delay between posts here—the holidays (and pre-holiday deadlines) just caught up with me... But, perversely, I'm back with the biggest blog yet—a topic so big it takes two blogs to contain it! So, if you haven't yet, check out Part I over the Criterion Current.

(I'll probably get around to cross-posting it here so, just to have it in the archives, but at the moment I don't feel like uploading all those images over again...)

So... a little backstory on the drawing style used on the Berlin Alexanderplatz cover: this was a style a started drawing in back in college, and haven't really used much since. The idea, originally, was that I would draw just the highlights of a face, then fill in the blacks around that. Here's a couple examples of the earlier incarnation, from my college literary magazine, The Minetta Review:

Listen, there's a reason they call it juvenilia, all right?

But that was a very fun, free form way to draw (or, paint, actually—those are watercolors), mostly initiated by just drawing a shape at random and then deciding if it was a nose or eyebrow or whatever and building a face around it. I'd been thinking about that style around the time I was working on Berlin, because I knew I wanted to try to start hand-drawing some things for the silkscreening class I'd started. Something about the heavy lines and vaguely woodcut-y feel felt like it could work for Berlin, but obviously drawing shapes at random wasn't going to give me any recognizable likenesses, which I knew I would need.

So I cheated a little. I found an image of Franz that I thought might work (a framegrab from episode 1):

Then I adjusted the levels in photoshop and printed it out as a very light yellow, and drew over the top of that in pencil, which helped assure that I got the proportions of Franz's face correct, then filled it in with Sharpie:

There was a lot I didn't like about that drawing, (the hat, the right cheek, the eyes, etc, etc), so after I scanned it in I messed around with it quite a bit. Then I incorporated it into the existing title treatment, like so:

Next came the colors, which were achieved by doing a layer of flat color, then adding a couple layers of watercolor texture and schmutz overtop. Here's what the layers of color look like without the lines:

And then the whole thing came together:

(The weird little gap above the "F" is to accommodate the branding tab, if you were wondering.)

Once that was approved, I wanted to flesh out the rest of the package with drawings in the same style. Since this style is best suited to portraiture, I figured the best way to do that was to focus on other members of the cast. First up was Reinhold, who came very easily and is definitely my favorite of the bunch:

I knew I needed Meize and Eva, two of the most important characters in the film, but it quickly became apparent that this style wasn't as well suited to attractive women—too many thick lines made their faces look misshapen, too few and they didn't match the rest of the drawings. I got away with Meize by showing her in profile and putting the emphasis on her hat, which I think worked, even if many of the stylistic quirks that define the Franz and Reinhold drawings aren't exactly present here:

Eva turned out to be a bigger problem. I tried a few variations before hitting on a pose I liked:

But y'know, "all women wear hats" is a pretty lame cheat. And even once I found that I couldn't quite nail it down—this first take had too much detail in the hair and not enough in the face:

But after much photoshop work I got it to a place that I liked:

I did a drawing I quite liked of L├╝ders, but grudingly had to admit that he wasn't an important enough character to merit a spot in the packaging:

Poor Mekt, on the other hand, is a very prominent character in the film, but almost everyone who saw the final packaging layout asked me who he was, and when I said "Mekt," the response was almost invariably, "who?" Maybe that's more a reflection on my likeness of him, but I think it works alright...

One of the angels from the epilogue, Franz's canary, and Fassbinder himself rounded out the portraits, and we had ourselves a finished package, and one that I'm really quite proud of.