Sunday In the Park With Me, 1886 (or thereabout)
Here I’ve included a handful of old and unusual pieces, many from pre-digital days. Some were created back when I was just learning my profession; and they contain flaws both major and minor. They are not for sale and are presented here purely as curiosities.
There are too many pictures on this page, which may take a while to load. Even so, I think you will have an easier time with this format than with another gallery that requires endless clicking.
NOTE: A few of these pieces depict characters owned by other entities and protected by copyright. All were produced under legitimate circumstances with no illegal or otherwise fraudulent intent. Any such piece will of course be removed at the request of the copyright holder. All other work is the property of the artist. Please ask before downloading this art for personal reasons (I'm a pushover and probably won't mind) and do not use this art for commercial purposes in any medium, physical or electronic.
Here's an old newspaper cartoon depicting a family on vacation in their oh-so-cute little Volkswagen. Did you know that the legality of depicting a real car in such a picture is related to the value of the car? If these people had been vacationing in a Bentley, they wouldn't have let me draw it.
They're not wearing seat belts, but cartoon characters are pretty indestructible.
This scene depicts two people in bed with a dust mite. To show detail, I have slightly enlarged the dust mite.
Two illustrations promoting online classified advertising services; and below them, the fates of two unwanted newspapers.
A long time ago, I made a brief excursion into 3D modeling. It was a frustrating time: Home computers weren't really up to the demands of such memory-intensive work, so often I would run out of RAM before finishing the simplest job. Today, my Macintosh is up to almost any challenge—but I have moved on to other things, so Pixar has nothing to worry about. This stuff is very crude by modern standards, but in its day it wasn't too bad.
These scenes were also created using 3D programs, though these were not of professional quality and some of the models (that metallic nude, for example) are pre-fabricated. I still use these programs, now and then, to create skies and other environmental elements for incorporation into my 2D illustrations; but from an artistic standpoint, they are hardly more than gimmicks. Not that I object to a good gimmick: Years of meeting deadlines taught me to embrace the "anything that works" philosophy.
A long time back, I prepared a portfolio presentation for Walt Disney Imagineering, the department that designs and builds the theme parks and other practical elements of the Disney empire. When the portfolio was almost done, somebody else made me an job offer—and I accepted, wisely or unwisely. So I never got to make the presentation.
The portfolio included all sorts of odd things, including this traditional hand-painted animation cell depicting Mickey as the Sorcerer's Apprentice in Disney's Fantasia. This image was drawn freehand and was not copied directly from any actual scene in the film—a decision made to avoid the slightest appearance of intended forgery. The Mouse is not amused by that sort of thing.
Also from the Disney portfolio—sculpture! Here's Mickey again, along with that pesky broom. This was my first attempt at sculpture, and my last.
The problem with sculpting Mickey is that he is a 2D character who can be adapted to 3D only with major changes—particularly to those famous ears, which have to work in real perspective. In this case, they also have to accommodate a large hat in the small space between them. It can't be done, but you have to pretend that it can. This piece is made of a plastic medium called Sculpey, which I have applied over a sturdy armature of wood and clothesline wire.
Here are a few unfinished children's book illustrations. My picture Patchwork Pete belongs to this series: It's the only one I got around to painting. I selected that one for the gallery primarily because it's the only one that makes sense without the accompanying text. As to what's going on in the scenes below—well, just trust me that it all makes sense. Mostly.
A long time ago, I decided to make an animated cartoon. I had no idea how to do it, so I learned as I worked. These are frames from the finished product, a 2 1/2 minute advertisement for The Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper. The soundtrack was Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag. The animation is limited and crude, but I'm still rather stunned that I managed it at all.
Here are two preliminary sketches for two children's classics, The Adventures of Brer Rabbit and The Wind In the Willows. The style of the former is a bit too goofy and Disneyesque for the material (look at those dreadful human hands on Brer Bear!) but the latter is a fair-enough evocation of the spirit of the great Edwardian book. Nowadays some socially responsible art editor would insist that I omit, from both pictures, all representations of alcohol and tobacco. My disrespect for such people is positively boundless.
Both would have been redrawn with finer lines and painted with soft watercolor washes.
The Sorcerer's Apprentice was my first and last permanent sculpture, but I did dabble in modeling clay from time to time when I needed inspiration. Here are a couple of shots of a crude clay sculpture I made in preparation for an illustration for Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. I wanted to see the characters from different angles, and to observe how the shadows would fall upon the various objects. Then I rolled the whole thing up into a ball.
In 1994, the publisher of the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper asked me to create a large outdoor display celebrating Christmas and the 100th anniversary of the Sunday color comics.
The finished display was 225 feet long and included wooden figures of dozens of famous comic strip characters (some of them eight feet high) interacting in a Christmas scene. An expert carpenter cut the figures out of ¾ inch plywood according to my designs, and I painted the cutouts using outdoor paints specially mixed to duplicate the pure, vivid colors of the funny papers. As I painted, I tried to accurately reproduce not only the design of the characters, but also the different brush and pen strokes characteristic of each artist.
We began this project without first obtaining permission from the various cartoon syndicates, knowing we wouldn’t get it. Midway through the project, the syndicates’ representatives were invited over; and all gave their blessing to the massive project, which I have described as my Sistine Ceiling.
Below is a rather poor, grainy photo of most of the display (unfortunately taken in daylight; at night the scene was enhanced with special lighting) and a couple of clearer photos of the figures prior to setup. To the right in photo 2 is yours truly, with less stomach and more hair than today.
A good look at my spacious, modern workroom will give you an indication of the respect I have always been accorded as an artist.
Here are two newspaper illustrations, both pre-digital. The former (of which only the line art remains) was drawn on a poster-sized board over many days; the latter was painstakingly painted on acetate in the style of an animation cell. In the former, the usual spring activities are translated into the pagan rites of ancient Greece. Note that the iconic discus thrower prepares to throw a Frisbee to his dog as the spear-wielding Trojans invade, their chariots pulled by riding lawnmowers.
In the latter, the spires of the Emerald City are seen to be the spines of schoolbooks, and the Scarecrow (because of his brain and diploma) is directing Dorothy and Toto toward them.
A friend of mine signed up with the Muppets and tried to bring me aboard as an illustrator. But Jim Henson died, and the friend moved on because it was "no fun" to be there without him. All that remains of that effort is a stack of practice sketches, two of which are posted below.
The drawings are accurate but uninspired. After a few more tries, I might have injected some life and personality into them, transforming them from puppets into "living" cartoon characters. But these things take time, and I didn't have it.
Here are some pirate sketches created as preliminary work for a children's book, written by me. I could tell you horror stories about attempting to publish a children's book in America's PC climate, in which all forms of genuine humor are regarded as hurtful and a literate style is condemned as a threat to the self-esteem of the lazy and ignorant. The NEA actually had a book of mine suppressed prior to publication because they were uncomfortable with its literary style, which featured too much "subtlety and sophistication." They moaned and complained and held their breath until the cowardly publisher changed his mind.
I am interested now only in art, which speaks only to the comprehending and is silent with the blind and clueless.
Finally, here are some simple cartoon illustrations intended for use as clip art—though please don't borrow them from this website: Each contains an invisible application which, when introduced into your computer, will cause your hard drive to be reformatted to that of a Commodore 64, circa 1983.
Why, you won't even be able to play Pac-Man.
There, now! Please go buy something.