Dimensional illustration ( or sculptural work photographed and used as editorial illustration) was a fairly short-lived discipline in the commercial arts. Used occasionally more as novelty it came into its own in the “80s and ‘90s and even had its own annual awards competition1 but by the turn of the millennium it had been thoroughly supplanted by computer graphics.
It was during that brief period of popularity that My Beautiful Saxon Princess and I were invited to be the Artist Guest of Honor at LibertyCon X, a regional relaxacon chaired seemingly forever by the late SMOF2 Uncle Timmy Bolgeo; given my interests at the time it was a no-brainer that I’d come up with something sculptural for the program book cover. As a subtle tip-of-the-hat to Sir Gerry Anderson’s work it has always been one of my favorites but at the same time it has been the source of frustration to me over the last 22 years, mostly because I’ve never had a decent image for my portfolio.
It was used for the convention program book and T-shirt – and while the shirt turned out pretty good the book cover was terrible, being printed black line on a dark-colored background. The original sold in the art show and while I was happy to have at least one month of my mortgage paid as a result of the sale the purchaser soon moved far away and all I had was a fuzzy ink-jet print to show in my book.
…then my good friend and digital ace Kent Gardener stepped in and did his magic smoothing out backgrounds and generally making the image presentable.
Production notes: The original measured approximately 24”X12”X5” and was constructed from Super-Sculpey, styrene plastic, wood, illustration board and paint.
- Go ahead and ask me: “ David – did YOU ever win an award for your dimensional work?” to which I humbly answer : “Aw shucks folks I did win me a Bronze medal in 1993”
- SMOF: Secret Master of Fandom
As I’ve written before when I first started free-lancing I was just as interested in historical work as science fiction and fantasy, but you go to where the money goes…and as clients tend to order what they see in your portfolio I ended up specializing in genre work. I can’t complain – I could have ended up stranded in romance novels…
Most of my military work happened early on which made this project a real treat when it came about in 11986. It’s a good example of my work at the time, though it would have been nice had it not been so abruptly cropped – the original is almost twice the size and contains a Russian BT7 tank and the barrel to the Panzergrenadier’s submachine gun.
Airbrush, paint & colored pencil on 12″X16″ hot-press water-color board
“You made me laugh!”
In the latter half of my sixties I find that I reminisce much more than I plan ahead, and during one of those “glances back” with my Beautiful Saxon Princess I found the real reason she allowed me to chase her until she caught me. She started the game by asking me which her attributes first caught my attention and I promptly rolled out my stock response: “The gentle cascade of light brown hair caught my eye first, but the water-color blue eyes with the slightly sad tilt and a hint of a Southern accent sealed the deal…”
…but when the tables were turned her reply was quite different. It wasn’t a choice of:
- Broad shoulders
- Chiseled features
- Artistic talent
No, it was the way I could act the buffoon and get a giggle out of her. I felt a bit delated for all of fifteen seconds then called it a win, and it turns out that was the best strategy as:
- My shoulders are not so broad and joint inflammation has me slouching a lot.
- Age, the elements and a short visit with Mr. Basal Cell Carcinoma have modified my features into something no so chiseled as pushed into shape like so much Play-Doh.
- Stiffness and tremor has made expressing what talent I have left problematic at best.
The conversation slowly morphed into reminiscing about the Seventies and inevitably such discussions quickly devolve to subject of (then) comedian Steve Martin which in turn led to a discussion of the legendary comedy routine starring Martin and SNL regular Dan Ackroyd as Czechoslovakian brothers Georg and Yortuk Festrunk and their clueless search for “foxes”. I drew a slight chuckle when I went into the dialog (“ We are two wild and crazy guys!”) but when I launched into the walk it became obvious that I was laughing much louder than my Beautiful Saxon Princess who’d failed to realize that the joke was actually on her.
I wasn’t putting on an act. While it was true that in 1978 that Festrunk shake-and-wobble gait Festrunk gait took a little practice to get right, in 2020 that’s the way I walk all the time!
Well, my book is up on Amazon! Right now we have just the e-book (still tweaking the print version). If you are an Amazon Prime member you can read it for free as it has been designated as a Kindle Unlimited book for at least the next month, which is actually a good thing as it builds readership for first time authors. It also allows those of you who bought books via the Kickstarter to review the book as a verified Amazon reader, which insures that you can indeed review the book. Please share this information with family, friends, co-workers – anyone that would be interested and inclined to leave a positive review.
…and I have to confess that saying something like that is difficult for me to do, not that I don’t believe my book is good but I was raised with the idea that talking yourself up was in very bad taste, but modern commerce is all about the “likes”. There are some minor format issues brought about by the conversion to the Kindle format but the writing is the same solid stuff you’ve been reading here for the last seven years.
There’s been a bit of a slowdown – even a contraction – in my “production” and I wanted to let you all know what is going on. Most of the slowdown has been brought on by the physical issues I’ve often written about – I’ve experienced a marked decrease in mobility over the last six months brought on by both increased joint inflammation brought on by ankylosing spondylitis as well as damage to my right knee incurred by a fall last summer. I spent most of last fall flat on my back and getting through the Kickstarter campaign for my book Midnight Son was nothing of a miracle.
I’ve also been battling The System – I was scheduled to resume the use of Enbrel, an excellent medication that does a great job of fighting the ravages of autoimmune diseases but for some reason an approval & delivery process that should have taken no more that a week has stretched out to over a month
…and now that I’m shifting to another publication mode it’s become necessary to remove from this blog some of the posts I used in Midnight Son, though I’ve left some of the more popular writings such as 1966: Billy and the Bear. I’ll be adding more writing in the future but until I can get my medication straightened out production will continue to be slower than usual.
Thank you all for hanging on during this unsettled time…
This is one of the better “economical” promotional pieces I produced in between the labor-intensive color cards. Rendered on an 11″X17″ish piece of medium weight illustration board the figure depicts my version of a House Hostigos rifleman from H.Beam Piper’s classic alternate history novel Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen.
After shooting a stat for use with the card I added color with via watercolor, ink wash and airbrush and put it in the very same art show it advertised…and was promptly snapped for the immediate sale price early in the convention.
During the ten-year period following the Skye Boat Song promotion I sent out some sort of promotional piece every six months or so, the cards often performing double duty as convention flyers, bookmarks and on one occasion a change-of-address card. One fairly effective piece was a large color card displaying several color images produced by one of my major clients – they’d ganged the images on the end of a regular print run then used the bundle of finished cards barter in settling an old debt .
It seemed to be particularly effective as a hand-out at the dealers’ room tables we would often run at conventions….until I saw convention attendees sporting buttons displaying some of the same images from the card. At first I was pleased, assuming the buttons to be promotional items coincidentally sent in by the publisher in question but when I determined that the buttons had been purchased my sons and I did some investigating and found that a t-shirt vendor six tables down from us had walked off with half my cards and was using a hand-punch to make them into buttons then selling them for a couple of bucks apiece.
(It’s always amazed me that to the end he emphatically insisted he “didn’t do nothing wrong!”)
Entitled Queen and Escort this image was one of the multiple samples on that card but was well-received enough to serve as a promotional mailer on its own in the spring of 1986. It’s one the best examples of the composite technique I used at the time as well as one of my first large format female figures and was the basis for a third-person cosplay performance as well as the subject of two different small sculpts of mine later on. It was a point of pride that the concept, composition and use of color was strong enough to gloss over the fact that she wasn’t wearing very much. It even took my mom fifteen minutes of viewing before she tumbled to her state of relative undress.
Queen and Escort still hangs on my studio wall despite several lucrative offers, but then the highest bids invariably come from gentlemen ( and I use the term loosely) that I’d never want as owners of my work. This image is based on a Cibachrome print and the colors have shifter quite cool over the years. With the daughters and granddaughters I have now I don’t think this is something I’d do again but it remains one of my favorites
Other than knowing how to sling an airbrush and wield a marker I was totally clueless at the outset of my freelance career. As I’ve written earlier my parents were not overly enthusiastic about my career choices and until my second year of college the only bona-fide artist I knew was Peninsula pioneer and Renaissance man Cotton Moore…and it didn’t get much better when I finally started studying art in college as practicalities of an designer’s life were glossed over in favor of draftsmanship and technique.
Somewhere along the line I discovered CA (Communications Arts) magazine and learned about promotions and hustling up work…which immediately started the internal Stukas tearing up my innards. Along with all sorts of naturopathic remedies I had been spoon-fed in my youth with the idea that you “didn’t shoot off your mouth about yourself”, that hard-work and professional results were the best advertisement ever and in the initial stage of my illustration career that proved to be a sound plan.
…then came the evening in late 1984 when I looked at our snug little home, my sleeping children, the moths flying out of our checkbook and realized that at my current income we’d soon be getting our mail at nsmCardboard Box 5, Under The Overpass at Exit 272 , Utah 77340
My first step was to increase my efforts showing my portfolio locally, but I also went back to CA (then subsequently Step By Step and How-To magazines ) and started researching the idea of promotional mailers. As I was living in the creative wilderness of the Intermountain West a decade before computer aided design (with printers and scanners) the process of designing/printing/distributing promotional mailers was extremely labor-intensive but I managed to churn out some nice work which in turn brought in new clients and an increase in assignments. .
Skye Boat Song was the first promotional image I sent out – the image was inspired by Gordon Dickson’s classic military science fiction novel Tactics of Mistake while the title was a pun playing off the title of one of the first bagpipe tunes I ever learned. The type was all set by hand using Letraset press-type and pairing with the image involved more work with a PS 79 Proportional Scale than should be allowed by law. As photographic prints they were a little pricey to print up, but I sent 25 out in December of 1984 followed an equal amount a month later. As a promotional mailer it wasn’t too terribly successful, but it did startle an existing client into formalizing our relationship and feeding me a LOT more work, so it definitely was one for the win column.
It seemed only natural to have a Fireball XL5 re-design as my first finished project for 2020. While I continue to adapt classic uniform details and as was the case with LT Ninety I’m changing the Professor’s back story a bit, giving him a Welsh surname which enhances the “realness” while continuing the pun (“Matthew-Madoc” vs. “Matthew-Matic”.
I’ve also given him a specific rank, which brings up an interesting point: granted this is a kids show, and a kids show from wwaayy back but even at age ten it bothered me that naval ranks were interspersed with ranks used in the army/air force/marines. With the World Space Patrol part of an integrated service maybe the source of commission determines what type of title you are given: go to Annapolis and you become an ensign upon commissioning, go to West Point and you start out as a second lieutenant