Monday, February 28, 2011

Blast from the Past #353: Illustrations for "Dan Gabriel Real Estate" ads

(I apologize in advance for the "sketchy" quality of these images -- when I photographed this art last year, I didn't light some of it properly. I tried to tweak it in Photoshop to get it to look good, but realized pretty quickly that it would take hours to do that, so I just decided to use them as is. -- PL)

Back when we were living in Dover, and the TMNT comic had yet to bring in enough money to allow me to focus on that and not worry about getting other illustration jobs to help pay the bills, I got a number of gigs doing stuff for local businesses. The Dan Gabriel Real Estate company had offices on one of the main streets in Dover, and as I recall, they were going through some kind of big change in their business -- I think they were becoming associated with Coldwell Banker, or moving to a new location, or both, or something like that. Anyway, they wanted to do a series of ads which would announce this change in an eye-catching way, and for some reason, they hired me. (I cannot at this point remember HOW I got the job -- did I approach them? Did they approach me? If it was the former, how did I know they needed some illustrations? Who knows? I wish I did.)

Anyway, this turned out to me a lot of fun to do. And I am pretty sure it was my idea to do the ads this way. The basic concept was this fanciful notion of elves carving the new offices of Dan Gabriel Real Estate out of one huge solid block of wood, and I drew four stages of this activity, starting with the block just slightly carved, and ending up with a fairly accurate rendition of what the Dan Gabriel office's facade looked like. (Unfortunately, I have not been able to find that last drawing.)
Here's the first one…

… the second…

… and the third.

I also drew some small images which were to be used as "teasers" to get people to wonder what was going on with these wacky little elves showing up in various spots in local newspapers.

And I did keep one tearsheet from a local paper -- the Rochester Free Press, I believe it was called -- in which the ads were run.

In my experience, it was rare to get a chance to draw something for a client like a real estate agency which had any kind of whimsical elements, and this one was just about ALL whimsical. -- PL

[10-18-14: UPDATE -- I've been reading some old letters that I wrote to my parents during the period when Jeannine and I lived in Dover, NH, and I discovered the reason why I got the gig doing the artwork above. Apparently, I had made a contact with Terry Dunn, the editor of the "Rochester Courier", the local newspaper in Rochester, NH, two towns away from Dover. I had forgotten that he had helped me connect with various local business who needed artwork for ads and such, providing me with much-needed opportunities to make some money. Thanks, Terry! -- PL]

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Emily's twenty-second birthday card

Our daughter Emily had her twenty-second birthday this week, and unlike last year, when she turned twenty-one and we had the pleasure of her company here at home, this year she was celebrating with her friends and co-workers in California. I'm pretty sure she had a good time.

I have tried to make a birthday card for her every year, and I thought that this year I would continue the octopus theme which ran through our 2010 Christmas card and the Valentine's card I made for my wife this month. So I got out the sketchbook, and drew this:

It took a couple of days to finish -- I was at first not too certain that this was the way in which I wanted to go, so I left it lightly penciled and came back to it the following day, and decided that I liked it more. So I penciled some more on it, and decided that it was ready to ink.

Using my trusty number 06 Sakura Pgima Sensei marker pen, I got to work, and by the next day, had gotten it to this state:

I knew I wanted to watercolor it, so the next step was to make some copies to work on, which I did down at Mirage. The coloring went pretty quickly, and this was how it looked:

I wanted to put a background in -- something to do with the ocean -- and decided to use a similar technique as my last two cards, only this time I decided to use an actual photograph, albeit one lightly filtered in Photoshop. I went through some of my recent photos and picked out one from my trip with Jeannine to Cape Cod last year. I liked the light on the water and the clouds, and after running it through one of Photoshop's filters (I'm pretty sure it was "Rough Pastels"), this was the result:

I selected the background of the watercolored image, pasted the ocean scene into it, and voila! I had Em's card. -- PL

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Blast from the Past #352: John Morrison in a biplane

I can't remember exactly WHY I drew this, but I do seem to recall that it depicts -- in a somewhat unrealistic, cartoony way, of course -- an event in the life of local theater owner John Morrison. The details are, at this late date, pretty vague in my mind, but I think it had something to with his having to get on a small plane to bring a print of a certain movie to show in his independent movie house, the Pleasant Street Theater.

John actually gave me several of my best gigs as an illustrator back in the late 1970's and early 1980's. I got to do several posters for his theater, including my favorites, "They Came from the 50's!" and "Thrilling Hepburn Tales" (I'll have to dig that one out and post it sometime). The Pleasant Street Theater still exists in downtown Northampton, showing movies you usually can't get to see at the bigger cinemas. I am not sure if John is still associated with it.

One fun thing about this drawing that I realized as I was getting it ready to post here is that there are some Northampton-specific details in the background which are fairly close to reality. That's the Coolidge Bridge over the Connecticut River, and I even got Route 91 and the exit from it onto Route 9 in there, along with some of the buildings just over the bridge. (I somehow missed the railroad bridge -- which is now a key part of the bicycle path to Amherst -- that lies just north, almost within a stone's throw, of the Coolidge Bridge. D'oh!) -- PL

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Over the years, I have made a few hand-drawn Valentine's Day cards for my beloved wife, one of which I posted here some time back. This year I decided to continue the theme of our last Christmas card, and when I made that decision I almost instantly got the vision of what it should look like. So I got out my sketchbook and drew this:

I was originally planning to ink it, and then to watercolor the inked version, but for some reason I decided to try something a little different -- I would apply the watercolors over the pencils instead.

Or to be completely accurate, I would watercolor a COPY of the pencils. So down to Mirage Studios I went, to use the color copier there (it does pretty well with heavier paper stocks), and after some trial and error, had managed to get a pretty decent copy of the pencil drawing on a sheet of heavy card stock.

I got out my little watercolor set and after a few hours ended up with this:

I was pretty happy with the result, and -- because I am still not brave enough to try doing a background in watercolor -- I decided to go for a computer-aided background, like the Christmas card, with one difference. This time, I thought I would do a quick wash of some colors on a separate sheet, using the watercolors, and then scan that, and use it for the background that I would insert via Photoshop. This was the result, and it came out a little funky due to the way the paper buckled during the application of the watercolors. But it was okay.

While I like the result, I decided to mess around with it a little bit in Photoshop, adding a few different filter effects. This is the one I decided to use.

It was the work of a few more minutes to select the background areas of the octopus image and paste the filtered ocean background into it, and this was the result:

I am happy to report that Jeannine liked her card. -- PL

Friday, February 11, 2011

Blast from the Past #349: "Dear Mr. Laird..."

This is a nice editorial written by my editor at "Hampshire Life", Nancy Frazier, for the March 8, 1980 edition of the publication. (It was mentioned in the "Hampshire Life" TMNT cover story in the post I put up here last week.) I think Nancy got an even bigger kick out of that letter the computer club sent to "Hampshire Life" than I did.

Dig the groovy beret I'm wearing in the little self portrait in the lower right corner. I actually did wear one of those for a while -- not so much to look like an "artiste", but because these somewhat stretchy hats actually fit my over-sized noggin pretty comfortably. -- PL

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The geometry of nature, part 2

We got yet another snowstorm yesterday, which left us with several more inches of snow. It was pretty to look at, as you can see from this photo I took from the small deck outside our bedroom.

It wasn't as pretty to deal with, as I found out while spending several hours afterwards shoveling and snowplowing -- this snow was heavier and wetter than it looked.

Then later in the day, the wind kicked up quite fiercely, and by nighttime it was howling. When we went to bed last night, we could feel the house vibrating as the occasional huge gust of wind hit. It took a while to get to sleep with that noise.

This morning, I looked out of the bedroom window and saw another example of nature's geometry.

I think that branch may have been blown off one of the trees behind our house, and fell with enough force to get stuck in the deep, crusty snow in the backyard… and then got pushed around in last night's fierce wind, carving that perfect arc into yesterday's layer of snow. -- PL

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blast from the Past #348: Fanzine drawing -- "Four-armed assassins"

This is another drawing I did for a fanzine in 1984, and I think it may have been meant to go with the other one I just posted recently. I say this because there is a tiny thread of memory drifting around in my head that links them, and because the inking styles are so similar, and also because the thing that one of the assassins is sculpting -- a mask, perhaps? -- looks suspiciously like it might be intended to replicate the look of one of "Star Trek"'s well-known alien species.

And that would be a Tellarite, first seen, I believe, in the "Journey to Babel" episode of the original "Star Trek" series (one of my favorite episodes, by the way). I could be wrong about the provenance of this drawing, but it feels right to me. -- PL

STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Blast from the Past #346: "Dragon with mushrooms" (black and white version)

Back in November of 2008, I posted this "Blast from the Past", number 120... and today I just came across my original black and white inked version.

I like this dragon's expression and its body language -- I think this may be my favorite of all the dragons I've drawn. -- PL

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Blast from the Past #345: Fanzine drawing -- "Klingon shopping with Vulcan"

Just got in from about an hour and a half of snowblowing and shoveling (and a little bit of plowing) -- the big winter storm that was predicted DID in fact drop quite a bit of snow on us. Right now, it seems to have stopped, and I am hoping we don't get more today. I am definitely tired of New England winters.

Anyway, back to warmer pursuits -- like blogging.

This drawing is another one I did for some fanzine sometime in 1984, but that's about all I can remember. It is so specific in its details that I am almost certain it was drawn to accompany a piece of "Star Trek" fan fiction. -- PL

STAR TREK and related marks are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Apple omelet

As the initial blast of what is predicted to be a huge snowstorm fell outside this morning...

... I decided to try something I'd thought about the last couple of days -- I was going to make an omelet, but use fruit instead of vegetables. In this case, that meant a Granny Smith apple.

There may in fact be many recipes out there for omelets made with fruit, but (a) I've never heard of such an omelet and (b) I didn't look for a recipe. I decided to wing it.

And the approach was pretty basic -- I peeled and chopped up one apple into small chunks, then sauteed these bits in a frying pan with about one tablespoon of butter, allspice, cinnamon, and sugar (about half a teaspoon of each). As these ingredients were cooking, I decided to throw in a few dried cranberries (one of my favorite things, and they go very well with apples in other recipes).

Then I just had to follow the basic rules of omelet making, and about five minutes later I had this:

Jeannine was dubious, but to her credit she DID eat a bit of the finished product, and deemed it "not bad". But it was really not to her taste -- she prefers savory, not sweet, omelets. To be honest, even though I enjoyed this one and ate it all (except for the bite that Jeannine took), so do I. That's why next time I plan to go savory instead of sweet, but keep the apple and the dried cranberries, and see how that works. -- PL