August 22, 2008


(Click any image to enlarge it)

Alas, here are my contributions to this year's Crazy 4 Cult art show. I'll be blabbing about them soon. at the bottom of this post.

UPDATE: Hey, these were chosen to be made into a set of prints! I'll announce it here when they're ready to order, or you can keep your eye on or for details.

UPDATE #2: Rather than tastefully allowing this art to speak for itself I've opted to prattle on about the creative process behind these,

My wife was my muse for the concept. As I pondered aloud potential Crazy 4 Cult ideas she reminded me of an awesome old family portrait we'd recently seen for sale and I immediately connected the dots between cult films and the family portrait format. I'd already been thinking in terms of Fargo since I love the flick and it seemed underrepresented in last year's show, so I first envisioned William H. Macey's dopey grin in front of a Sears-style backdrop, and the thought delighted me. Moments later when the mental image of The Shining's Torrance family hit my brain, I grew extremely excited and knew I had to try to bring it to life.

The family portrait format felt perfect since this type of photography is basically a study in pure affectation. And what's great about them is that the veneer of smiles is always too transparent to disguise the strain, the physical discomfort, the uneasiness, and often the volatile emotions bubbling beneath. Amazing how we don our most painful clothes and stand under all-illuminating heat lamps in a vain attempt to appear natural, happy, and "at our best." Then we send this piece of fiction to everyone we know. I vividly recall the agony of being forced to rest my hand on my sister's shoulder for literally minutes at a time!

So when you drop these familiar movie families into the equation you've got a double layer of irony. Anyone who's seen these films gets flashes of the horrors each tribe is destined for. I also liked the idea of creating would-be movie props that could be at home in the families' respective fictional dwellings.

Visual reference was the first order of business. I grabbed The Shining off my DVD shelf and headed for my computer. This part was more tricky than I expected. I needed to grab images of each of the three stars that met the following criteria...
1. They need to be smiling (or something close)
2. They need to be smiling while facing the general direction of the camera
3. They need to be in decent light (finding images with matching light sources would have been impossible)
4. They need to be wearing something they might wear to a family photo shoot

I took dozens of different screen grabs from scenes throughout the film. I soon realized that I'd need to create head/body composites in some cases since the right head and the right body didn't usually share the screen.
In the case of the Freelings (Poltergeist) the process was extremely difficult. The family only appears normal during a small sliver of time at the beginning before the ghosts kidnap Carol Anne and the reign of terror ensues. I also noticed that in both Fargo and The Shining, the boys practically never smile (which stands to reason considering the heads of those households.)

So I took my best screen captures and digitally cut them up and pasted them into family portrait-ish compositions (following examples of vintage Olan Mills photos via flickr.) I printed these out and using an old grade school grid technique (you draw a grid on the source material and another on the blank paper and use it as a general placement guide) I transferred and scaled my printout onto the larger 10 x 14 page.

My first thought was to try to create these with acrylic paint, but at some point I remembered a colored pencil piece I did in college of Jeffrey Katzenberg, and I liked the effect.

I used a regular pencil to draw a base layer of details before coming in with the Prismacolor pencils. The process was a long one since I did a lot of layering so as not to let any of the paper show through. The biggest challenges were...
1. Trying to recreate recognizable faces based on low resolution screen grabs
2. Trying to somewhat match the lighting even though the subjects were lit by a wide variety of sources, from sunlight to office fluorescents
3. Surviving the sleep deprivation (I have a career and a family life too.)

I could have made it easier on myself by tracing, but I chose not to; I wanted to allow more of myself to show through, for better or for worse, and I actually like the semi-primitive look and cartoonishness that naturally emerged. The final outcome is a nice mixture of artistic choices and pure inexperience.

I tried to vary the styles somewhat from piece to piece based on each film and family. For instance, I figured the Torrances' photo would come from a K-Mart type store so it's slightly misframed and the lighting is severe in an attempt to match Kubrick's. In contrast, National Lampoon's Vacation was shot using very direct and saturated lighting, so when it translated into my colored pencils it made the piece feel flat and really cartoony from the very beginning. Since this look seemed to match the characters I decided not to fight it and I let the kitsch flow.

I also carefully considered the frames for each, trying to match the eras and families' income. For example, the Freelings from Poltergeist seemed like they might have a more glamorous silver frame in their large suburban Californian home of the '80s, while the Lundegaards seemed a good fit with the dark wood.

So why these families? Well, they all have the following in common...
1. The films they come from are all among my favorites.
2. They're all-American and "traditional" in that both parents are together (Well, at the time of the photo).
3. They all go though purely hellish experiences.

The Griswolds seemed out of place to me until I realized that I'd rather survive a vicious haunting with Steve Freeling (Craig T. Nelson) than travel cross country to Wally World under Clark W. Griswold's supervision.

All in all, it's been great to take a break from the mouse pad to illustrate traditionally again. And being a part of Crazy 4 Cult was a purely wonderful experience. (I'll post my recap of the show soon.) Anyway, I hope you got a kick, a laugh, or a nightmare out of my art.

August 18, 2008


Hey folks! It is with a gleeful heart that I tell you that I'm a contributing artist in this year's Crazy 4 Cult show at the wonderful Gallery 1988 in glamorous Los Angeles, USA. For those unfamiliar, it's an amazing art show where artists reinterpret classic cult films. I'll be there this Friday for the opening reception (hosted by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier). Last year thousands of people came through, but if you can spot me among the other thirty-something, black-rimmed-glasses-wearing, hairless men, then by all means say hello. I will reward you with a hearty handshake and some painful smalltalk.

I've got a series of four pieces in the show which I'll post here later this week. But if you care enough to want a sneak peek then I invite you over to Kevin Smith's blog to see one of them! (Hint: it's a family portrait of sorts, and you'll have to scroll down a bit.) And yes, that was just an excuse to point out that a well known filmmaker posted my work. Thankfully, he's keeping me humble by leaving it uncredited.

Anyway, here's the info...
Opening Reception: FREE ADMISSION
Hosted again by Kevin Smith and Scott Mosier
Friday, August 22nd, 7-11PM
7020 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90038
(South East corner of Melrose & LaBrea)

August 06, 2008


Hey there retro-fun loving literates, start preparing your minds for the upcoming Wham-O Super-Book: Celebrating 60 Years Inside the Fun Factory by Tim Walsh of the popular Timeless Toys book. It will be out on October 1st, but it's up for pre-order now. I'm predicting greatness. This is the formerly secret WHAM-O project that I mentioned last year. So some of the items in the book are there entirely due to the existence of secret fun blog readers! I realize I just gave you the brain boggling of a lifetime there, but you simply must accept this fact, and alter your life accordingly.

Well, if you can't wait until October for some bookish pleasure then I recommend the incredible Wacky Packages book that came out a few months ago...

The book itself is a work of art. The wax paper dust jacket triggers the same joys as holding an unopened pack of Wacky cards. The design and layout are practically perfect, (Ok, except that I wish the horizontal Wacky Packs weren't scaled down to fit on the pages.) and this volume (as well as the WHAM-O book) costs less than 14 bucks! I'm ever grateful to Matthew Guest for making it known to me.

August 04, 2008


For those of you who couldn't make it to the Tulsa premiere of Foot: Phantom of the Forest at Defcon '08 here's a quick look at what you missed! If you study the audience closely, you can see my friends Stephen and Jon, who gave me a ride to the convention center. Thanks again guys!