Sunday, January 27, 2008

nyc sketchbook pages...

Have you ever tried sketching or even writing on a moving subway train in NYC? It's not easy, nor is it very enjoyable. Lots of twists and turns through hundred-plus year old tunnel systems. Not to mention the uncomfortable looks on the faces of your subjects; as is evident in the gray haired gent above, on the lower right.

After switching trains I began drawing another sketch when suddenly the idiot across from me alerted the man I was sketching by screaming at the top of his wheezy lungs: "That guy is drawing you!!" At that point the man raised his newspaper to cover his face and then scurried off to an adjoining car as soon as the train doors opened.

Needless to say, after drawing a few of these strange creatures in the wild, I was happy to reach my destination: The New York Historical Society's exhibit "Life's Pleasures"-The Ashcan Artists' Brush with Leisure, 1895-1925. Finally I'd be able to pull out a sketchbook without fear of outbursts or suspicion. I made a few quick studies, and then spent a couple of hours absorbing some of my favorite painters' labors. I can never get enough of the Ashcan School of art, I go to every exhibit I can, and I've been lucky enough to get to see some of these paintings over and over, from coast to coast. Not to mention the collection of books I've amassed on the subject. Seeing some of them is like visiting old friends. I get older, but they stay the same, forever young and vibrant, with a vitality few living beings can rarely maintain.

After the exhibit the last thing I wanted to do was get on that god-forsaken subway again. So I walked from 81st Street and Central Park West over to Broadway and headed Downtown, passing my old art school that was located in the Ansonia Hotel, and was glad to see the scaffolds around the grand old lady, giving her a well-deserved facelift. After a quick couple of hot dogs and an orange drink at Gray's Papaya I was ready to continue on. The original plan was to sit and sketch at McSorley's Ale House, an ancient pub that the Ashcan Eight frequented and painted in the old days. But then I remembered P.J. Hanley's, a hundred and twenty five year old bar right in my old neighborhood and decided to visit there the next day or so, sketchbook in hand. So I walked as far as 42nd Street and caught the F train back to Brooklyn.
The following sketches were done while hoisting a pint and knocking back a few Jack Daniel's on a sunny, but cold Friday afternoon in Brooklyn...

The rest of these sketches were done at JFK International Airport while waiting to board the plane. There were a few other sketches made during the trip, but they were left at my Daughter's house in the old neighborhood, at the old homestead.

Thanks to the talented and generous Ron Velasco, who gave me this sketchbook at Christmas, it's one of the nicest gifts I've ever received.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"I Yam What I Yam!"--but it took a while.

It's story time...

At the time this drawing was made I was twenty-six years old and already a washed up has-been. After wasting my young adult life in pursuit of a musical career I'd finally given up on the idea of becoming "the next big thing" and fearfully looked into the future.

I was doing production work for a few local newspapers and creating billboards for the Seaboard Company, as well as designing packaging art for a few Brooklyn-based companies. Luckily, in the last half of '79 I scored a position in NYC at Gem Studio, producing art for ad agencies, but at the time I made this drawing things things looked bleak, to say the least. I'd gone on countless interviews to various ad agencies but never got my foot in the door. Whatever they were looking for I didn't have.

I'd always loved drawing, but never really thought I'd be able to make a go of it. I'd failed to gain acceptance to The High School of Art & Design due to an unremarkable grade average in spite of a strong portfolio, and that experience soured me on the pursuit of the graphic arts as a way to make a living. But I kept on drawing for my own enjoyment, and enrolled in the Albert Pels School of Art (after four lackluster years in a trade high school) to learn production art.

Once I was able to get my foot in the door at Gem I did everything I could to get ahead. I took a years' worth of night classes at the Art Students League, and I went from doing paste-ups and mechanicals to creating props and film sets, before being promoted to the position of the first on-staff Illustrator in Gem's history. Before that they only used freelancers for what little illustration work they would get. The illustration business grew to employ eight illustrators in the first year, and would flourish for the next twenty-plus. After nearly a decade at Gem I got the bug to create comic books, something I'd always longed to do. So I licensed The Honeymooners along with some business partners and produced two years worth of issues.

After that I was back at Gem for a year and then at Saatchi & Saatchi for two or three, working mostly on animatics for the General Mills account. When Saatchi started hitting the rails and losing accounts I moved over to the design studio of the Warner Brothers Studio Stores. I had finally found a place to apply my love and knowlege of animation and design in a consumer products-based division. I'd never known that Warners and Disney had studios in NYC! After a year in NY Warner moved their design studio to LA. I stayed behind as a contracted freelancer at first and moved west in '96. When WB closed their Studio Stores in 2000 I had the opportunity to fulfill another life-long dream and created children's books based on Scooby-Doo. And I continued producing gallery art based on Warners, MGM and Hanna-Barbera properties for the Clampett Studio.

In mid-December of 2003 I was offered a position at Disney Consumer Products and given the chance of fulfilling another life-long dream. I'm at the beginning of my fifth year at the big D and I look forward to arriving there every day. Sure, they've got some of the greatest properties in the entertainment world, but they've also got some of the nicest people working there as well. It's a blessing to be able to do something you really love for a living. A blessing and a privilege.

I keep this old weathered, poorly executed Popeye hanging in my studio to remind myself of where I came from.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


I love comics!
Books, strips, panels, any type of comics. I've been lucky enough to do a few of them... thirteen issues of "The Honeymooners", most of them with Golden Age artist Win Mortimer, pencils for the second half of the "Casper" movie adaptation with Harvey Comics' legendary Ernie Colon, and a handful of Silver Age-flavored comics with my friend, the titanically talented Juan "Johnny" Ortiz.

I met Juan when we worked together at the old Warner Brothers Studio Stores. Juan is a multi-faceted creator and he publishes "Silver Comics". I've helped him produce a few story arcs in some issues, an assignment I've always enjoyed because Juan works "Harvey Kurtzman" style and always supplies roughs and a story synopsis to work from.

Here are a couple of pages that will give you an idea of how we work together--

Check out Juan's blog:
for updates on current publications and links to order back issues.