April 12, 2014

MY NEW TRIBUTE TO NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION

 
When Gallery 1988 opened in LA in 2004 they popularized pop culture based art shows like nobody had before. The notion was eye opening to me and I managed to get involved with them in 2008, and it's remained a treasured creative outlet for me ever since.

Their format has been hugely successful, thus it's been imitated endlessly, and today pop culture art is ubiquitous. So for the gallery's 10th anniversary show they've opted for a different take on the trend with the theme "The Subtle Art of Pop Culture." The idea is to make the references less obvious even to the extent that the art could appeal to people who are entirely unfamiliar with the source of inspiration.

My contribution is this assembly of authentic vintage (and one not-so-vintage) postcards. The first eleven designs all appear in the opening credits of National Lampoon's Vacation...




 The series is punctuated with an original colored pencil creation of mine...


I owe my postcard getting ability to ebay.  I was thrilled to track down so many of them, and actually only about twenty of the postcards that appear in the credits really exist, the rest are fabricated specifically for the movie, made from photographs by author and photographer, John Margolies.

That combination of vintage graphics coupled with Lindsey Buckingham's song "Holiday Road" couldn't do a better job of capturing the spirit of the American road trip and priming me for the cinematic joyride that follows. This is my love letter— I mean postcard— to the film.

My piece is for sale here.

See all the artwork here!

December 13, 2013

PAINT BY NUMBER PEE-WEE

Gallery 1988's 7th annual Crazy 4 Cult art show is going on right now, and once again I had the honor of participating in it! This year I chose to celebrate one of my all-time favorite movies, Pee-wee's Big Adventure, with this paint-by-numbers style acrylic piece.
(It's for sale HERE.) UPDATE: SOLD!

Applying this look to Pee-wee's world made perfect sense to me. Not only does the fun, colorful, scenery translate to the format nicely, but both his movie home and his television playhouse are decorated with paint-by-number art.


I have a couple old paint-by-number pieces hanging in my bathroom too, which probably explains why this idea was inevitable.

This is actually the second artistic tribute I've made to the film. The first was my wallet-size portrait of the Buxtons which came with Pee-wee's wallet.


See below for more information about the show. You can view all the art HERE.




December 10, 2013

RETURN OF THE LEGENDARY BATTLE FIGURES


Once again, fresh, warm plastic has filled decades-old molds, giving rebirth to another Tim Mee Toy figure set, The Legendary Battle series. This edition follows the classic Army Men, Cave Men and the often-forgotten-then-fondly-re-remembered Galaxy Laser Team which have all been reissued in the past couple of years.

The collection was originally released in 1986, undoubtedly intended to coincide with the Masters of the Universe craze. The He-Man influence on these is certainly appealing, but what's even more thrilling is the fact that each design is (quite noticeably) a retooled sculpt from a 1970s line of Marvel super heroes by Processed Plastic (Tim Mee's parent company.) This approach actually makes a lot of sense considering the sorcery-meets-superhero nature of He-Man, as well as the Marvel-in-the-70s fascination with mysticism, i.e. Doctor Strange and Son of Satan. But these characters are so overloaded with Marvel Hero DNA that the result is like a glimpse into a "What If..." Stan Lee and J.R.R. Tolkein were roommates, or perhaps something generated by a Mighty Men and Monster Maker toy.

I photographed them on a D&D rule book because to me their styling brings to mind the (often goofy) fantasy art of the 70s and early 80s that decorated vans and album covers, and filled an entire corner of the mall B. Dalton book shop. My young self was both drawn to it and perplexed by it, and now just the sight of it warms me up inside.  The packaging actually suggests using them for Warhammer games. This alone could get me to play Warhammer.

Here's a look at each design, as well as its Marvel parent...
 

Note Doctor Doom's multinational accessories: Kabuki mask and Arabian sword
 (Sorry, this is the blurriest photo I could find of the Marvel version. 
If I locate a blurrier one I'll be sure to update...)




This former Human Torch seemed to receive some vampire Thundercat restyling.


  When Thor is denied his hammer he becomes a mere chipper viking.




This one went from Hulk to saber-toothed ogre, to caveman.


 


The super beard wizard (formerly (a mustached?) Falcon) is the most preposterous and my favorite of them all.




Someone (possibly Loki) got a Skeletor-esque facelift, er, face removal.




It's also worth noting that this line is more massive than the majority of the Tim Mee figures, which affords an extra level of hideous detail.


 

In many ways generic hordes of figures will always trump specific characters because they leave room for more imagination and big picture play. When placed in the hands of a kid, scenes like the one pictured below manifest quickly. Spider-Man or Darth Vader would never have reason to fight a giant wind-up chick, but for these little guys, it's just another Legendary Battle. (You can get them on Amazon)


October 31, 2013

BRITISH "GHOST TRAIN" FACADES FROM THE 1970s AND 80s


Dick Price photograph, Ramsgate Amusement Park, 1980

  Dick Scott-Stewart photograph, Ghost Train artwork, 1974

Thanks to my ongoing efforts to gain pleasure by looking at old dark ride facades, I recently discovered the National Fairground Archive of the University of Sheffield. Their collection of old carnival images is literally overwhelming. It's so overloaded with enjoyable images that I've actually found myself wishing that I could arrive at the end because it's just too much to take in. Though I have yet to explore the entirety of this mother lode of carnival eye candy, I'd like to go ahead and share some of my favorite dark ride photographs.  Please enjoy (in moderation)...


  Stephen Smith photograph, Kirkcaldy Links Market Fair, 1981

Jack Leeson photograph, Daventry Mop Fair, 1983

Jack Leeson photograph, Kettering Feast Fair, 1980

Jack Leeson photograph, Long Buckby Feast Fair, 1978

Jack Leeson photograph, Rugby Fair, 1986

Paul Angel photograph, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 1980

Paul Angel photograph, Brussels Meli Park, 1977

Paul Angel photograph, Hereford Fair, 1983

Paul Angel photograph, Clacton Pier Amusement Park, 1980

Paul Angel photograph, Hull Fair, 1978

 Paul Angel photograph, Hull Fair, 1979

Paul Angel photograph, Derby Fair, 1979

Paul Angel photograph, Morecambe Pleasure Beach, 1980

 Paul Angel photograph, Lincoln Fair, 1985

Paul Angel photograph, Nantwich Fair, 1980

 Paul Angel photograph, Newcastle Town Moor Fair, 1989

Paul Angel photograph, Wednesbury Fair, 1975

Paul Angel photograph, Worcester Fair, 1980
 
Stephen Smith photograph, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, 1984
 
 Stephen Smith photograph, Newcastle Exhibition Park Fair, 1981

 Stephen Smith photograph, Newcastle Exhibition Park Fair, 1981

Stephen Smith photograph, unidentified Ghost Train, 1981


May 03, 2013

BAD ROBOT HALLOWEEN DECOR


Yet again, rather than writing a real blog post I'm treating the site like a virtual refrigerator door and sticking up my latest piece of artwork. This time the occasion is The Official Bad Robot Art Experience at LA's Gallery 1988 (Bad Robot being J.J. Abrams' production company which is behind stuff like Lost, Alias, Fringe, Cloverfield, Super 8, and the new Star films, both Trek and Wars.) This one fits in better than usual because it's inspired by spooky fun from the past.

During my childhood nothing marked the Halloween season like die-cut, cardstock decorations. At school they constantly tempted my eyes towards the bulletin board, and back home they hung on my living room walls, re-reminding me that it was October during each commercial break. These two were among my favorites...



One of the joys of being a visual artist is wondering what some non-existent thing might look like and then discovering the answer through your work. So as I reflected on the fact that Bad Robot has been slowly building a new generation of movie monsters, I wanted to know what they might look like as classroom-friendly illustrations, hanging in the newly stocked Halloween aisle against a glorious pegboard backdrop.

It made even more sense when I realized that these three monsters echo certain spooky perennials. Clover the Cloverfield monster has bat-like characteristics, Super 8's Cooper borrows from the spider family, and Smokey the smoke monster from Lost has a lot in common with a good ol' ghost. (Aside from Smokey, these names weren't used onscreen, but they are known among film crew and fans alike.)

There's something to be said for creating a one-of-a-kind piece of art without the aid of a computer, specifically things like: "Man, this is hard." and "That's not the way I wanted that to look." and "I've ruined it, where's the undo button?!" That's what inspired my foray into the overcrowded world of digital prints, but boy, oh boy, was it nice to have such control, and yes, that sweet undo button.

I did make it a point to do much of the work away from the computer so I drew the decorations with pencil and ink and scanned them in. I wanted the line quality to have a human touch. When I closely inspected real vintage Halloween directions I was surprised to see how imperfect the line work is.

Anyway, should you wish to purchase one of these prints (it's a signed edition of 40) you can get it here on the gallery's web site.

And if you'd like to see all the art from the show then click on this.


Close inspection of my faux-packaging indicates they originated from The National Typewriter Company. That's the "secret" location of the Bad Robot headquarters seen here...


This is actually just a segue to make it known that my first book is displayed in their trophy room! Think of all the secret plot points it has heard.


J.J. Abrams is a huge fan of the beloved S.S. Adams Prank and Magic company as indicated in the photo below by the tower rack of products seen on the far right (featuring the packaging I designed!)

 

He even had the artwork from Adams' patented "Mystic Smoke" from fingertips trick enlarged and applied to this editing suite.


More photos of the place can be seen on this site.  It's all so cool and yet somehow agonizing. A tiny piece of me is there, and yet I am not.