An Indirect Route to Cartoons-ville

Conventions were never a big money-maker for us. When we’d go to cons as a family ini the 1990s we’d run a table in the dealers room in addition to hanging work in the art show – and between the two we would normally cover at least our expenses – and sometimes more. One notable exception was DRAGONCON 1993 when we went $500 in the hole even though I swept the art show in three-dimensional work.  However in spite that loss I was glad we went to the con because it was there I got to meet Duck Edwing.

Edwing worked for MAD magazine for 49 years, contributing his own cartoons as well as writing for Don Martin and Paul J. Coker. I loved his work and was fortunate enough to spend thirty minutes talking to him in the dealer’s room, but when we traded portfolios he got a little edgy when I started gushing over his work – I suspect that after seeing my polished cover illustrations Duck may have thought I was being condescending and it took most of that half-hour to convince him that I was sincere – I loved his cartoons because it was something I could not do.

Yes, you read correctly – I am not very good at cartoons. While it is true that the graphic nature of my work can often resemble a cartoonists’ style there is something about the economy of line and conceptual precision that I’ve never been able to master and I usually end up overworking any such attempt, but last week I decided to try again – not with cartoons per se, but with a cartoon style I’ve found in a line of toys.

In the mid 00’s superhero merchandizing was overcome with an epidemic of cuteness. Marvel came out with a line of whimsical versions of their heroes called Superhero Squad while DC came out with a similar line of figures in a tie-in with the animated series Batman: The Brave and The Bold. That connection along with a more stylized look had me favoring the DC figures over Marvel line and I was quite pleased when Mattel continued the line under the Action League banner.

A non-functioning knee has in effect exiled from my second-story studio for almost a month now so my creative work has been limited to drawing tools and designer’s markers. I was putting the finishing touches on a postcard for my granddaughter Heron when I happened to glance at one of the aforementioned DC figures sitting on a shelf next to my Big Papa Chair.

BINGO!

I ended up drawing three figures – and while I used existing figures for reference I drew characters that have NOT been manufactured as part of the toy line:

  • Adam Strange
  • Blackhawk
  • Blue Beetle

In each case I went “retro”: Adam Strange is wearing his original Murphy Anderson designed rocket suit, Blackhawk is wear the short-lived mid-60s red-jacketed uniform and Blue Beetle is my favorite Ted Kord incarnation…which I’ve subsequently discovered had actually been created but never actually released as a part of the Action League series. I don’t know if anything will ever come of these drawings, but it was a good exercise in developing a more stylized “cartoony” look without getting too cutesy.

2019-09-02 DC Action League 1

2010: Aces High

2010-02-01a Aces High 2010-02-01b Aces High 3D

This is starting to take on psychoanalytic significance. Three of my best cut-paper sculpts involve a platinum-tressed beauty rejecting/striking/spurning/ignoring a male. It’s a mystery – I grew up as the only son in a family of seven and I’ve been happily married for over forty-two years so as a rule I’m comfortable around the double X component of the human race. I am baffled to think that some unresolved gender-related issue is chipping away at my subconscious mind.

This composition dates back ten years ago when I was teaching at Nossi College of Art when it started out as a demonstration for an alternative mediums class. I really didn’t set out with a set composition or theme other than poking fun at the whole 1960’s macho secret agent motif.

( …mostly I just wanted to make something that looked cool!)

 Technical notes: cut-paper sculpture measuring 14”X20” (my favorite format/size for CPS). The red bustier is made from paper I’d marbleized during a previous class demonstration. The image on the left has been shot in the anaglyphic process so if you have a pair of those red/blue glasses the image will appear dimensional .This work also has the dubious distinction of being the last CPS I was able to make without worrying overmuch about paper stock. While the Nashville metro area is much larger than Knoxville the smaller city has better sources for paper – it was only after we’d lived her for three years that I started running low on my favorite materials.

 

1972:Vintage Bat-Vehicles

1970sBatStuff0003

I read once that time is something God created to keep everything from happening at once but right now that invention doesn’t seem to be working. Everything IS happening at once, at least several items of great impact on my life. Right as we’re trying to get the Midnight Son Kickstarter campaign set up my knee has gone out – and not in a minor manner. Lori thinks I have a torn meniscus but all I know is that even the most minor movement to my knee brings on excruciating pain.

…which means I haven’t been able to finish the tongue-in-cheek write-up meant to accompany this “vintage” drawing that  incidentally documents two important discoveries/purchases  I made in 1972:

  1. A hard-bound reprint collection of Batman stories from debut in 1939 to 1971
  2. A set of Higgins ink comprised of ten colors and opaque white

I’d just finished my first year of college and while I was intent on changing my major to art I had yet to take a college art class – or any other kind of art class for that matter. I was just having the time of my life drawing  my favorite images, which in this case included 1940’s era Bat Vehicles

…counting down the days…

Midnight Son Draft Cover v4-2 Front 6x9 72dpi

…as my former brother-in-law Bobby used to say “It’s like being nibbled to death by a duck”

I am referring of course to the protracted production process involved in getting Midnight Son into print. Subtitled “Growing up in 1960’s Alaska” the book will include edited/expanded posts from this blog along with new material such as maps, illustrations and bonus text that will see print for the first time in this volume.

At this point I find it had to keep from hopping up and down on one foot or rubbing my hands together in glee – It’s taken more time and a LOT more work than I had anticipated (hence the opening quote) but the initial print run through Kickstarter will go live by September 1st so keep an eye out for the official announcements.

You also need to know if you want an autographed print copy of the book you’ll need to jump on the initial Kickstarter campaign. I hate those “limited time only // not sold in stores” advertising slams as much as you do but unfortunately I’m working against some very real physical limitations.

Midnnight Son Cover Art

More Workshop Stuff!

timeline photo extract

If truth-in-advertising laws applied to higher education only twelve of the thirty-six months I spent earning my Master of Fine Arts degree would judged as being worth the tuition I paid –  oh, I was busy all the time and made great strides in my work but that success was due primarily to faculty members from other departments, visiting professors and my own hustle. The regular tenured faculty members I had to interact with on a regular basis were less than effective – one professor in particular took great pride in scheduling office hours for the most inconvenient times possible in order to  (and I quote) ” avoid being bothered with those pesky students!”

….however there was one time when she actually did come up with a decent idea when she tasked the members of the graduate seminar to create a autobiographical allegory of our lives in a design motif. I came up with a pretty nifty solution to the assignment and while I don’t have an image immediately available I have a copy of one of the components on hand.

Make that “partial image”.

I’m still trying to get used to this new printer/scanner and I was able to get only a portion of self-portrait time-line from that 1991 project. Hopefully I will quickly get that issue resolved and find a place that still can make a print from a 35mm slide.

…so why am I going to all this trouble? A couple of months ago I wrote that in the wake of not having my contract renewed at the college I was considering conducting workshops just as I did after leaving Nossi College of Art in 2010. I am considering a year-long series of on-line sessions documenting the creation of another allegorical artist autobiography, starting with the initial research and ideation through the construction and display of the final project. As I know just a smidgeon about the way media works on WordPress and even less about Patreon the project won’t be starting for a while yet  – but I think it’s going to be fun.

I look forward to your comments and concepts!

BEYOND INFINITY: sketch/final comparision

sketch final comparison Beyond EternityThis cut-paper sculpture figures prominently in a post I wrote a couple of years that was entitled 2003: Have You Ever Heard of an Artist Named David Deitrick. 

(You’ll find information about the BEYOND INFINITY – the book it illustrated)

While rooting through old files today I found the preliminary sketch and I thought it would be kind of cool to show the two versions side-by-side. For both personal and professional reasons I’ve always put a lot of effort into my sketches- creating the final art is made much easier and it’s harder for clients to complain if the sketch they approved beforehand is meticulously followed.

Fantasy Games Unlimited Sketch

historical combat sequence

One of the first publishers I encountered when stumbling into gaming in 1977 was Fantasy Games Unlimited. As an ardent H.Beam Piper // Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen fan I was delighted to score a copy of ‘Down Styphon!” in a Seattle bookstore and proceeded to read the covers off the book as we alternately drove up then down the Alaskan Highway that summer…so when I started freelancing full-time FGU was one of the first clients I pursued, even when publisher Scott Bizar apologized about the low rates he had to pay.

I ended up doing two jobs for him in 1986, the titles of which I have completely forgotten. The first was a book full of man-to-man combat rules that could be adjusted for various time periods and tech levels and this drawing was a preliminary sketch for a group of secondary characters that would end up about 1/3 the way up from the bottom of the cover. Unfortunately the original is long-gone as is the right half of this pencil drawing, which included a mail-clad Norman knight swinging in the same arc as the others.

I’ve loved the idea of sequential photos/images showing closely spaces stages of action. I first encountered the concept in the opening credits for the fourth series of The Avengers, also known as the first season featuring Dame Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel and the last season to be shot in black & white.

( A clip of those credits is at   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2V–6WPKFtk )

 

Captain Sulu & Outmoded Art Mediums

WOKSulu

In the rush to embrace digital rendering techniques the illustration industry discarded some pretty cool methods and mediums.  This portrait of a Wrath of Khan/Undiscovered Country era Captain Sulu was made using Radiograph pens and Kraft-tint paper, both of which have fallen into disuse. You might find the pens but the paper hasn’t been sold or even manufactured for about ten years.

Kraft-tint was the favorite of editorial cartoonists the world over for its ability to capture subtle half-tone shades. The paper was actually printed with two sets of  invisible half-tone lines and was sold with two types of developer:

  • Brush on developer “A” and one set of half-tone lines would appear, giving you about a 20% shade
  • Brush on developer “B” and the other set of lines would appear giving you a 40-50% half-tone shade

The only draw-back was price – which I don’t remember other than it was steep for a freelancer just starting out. Looking back I would have pawned something to lay in a supply but the adage “Hindsight is 20/20 vision” is as true with illustrators as anyone else.

…and yes, this image is not “square” to the format. The original disappeared long ago and I suspect this copy wasn’t cropped correctly.

Nova Corps Uniforms

2019-07-01 Nova Corp Taylor

I first met Lance Nelson – albeit in passing  – at an LDS youth conference held in 1968 in Anchorage Alaska. Three years later we were classmates at the University of Alaska (Fairbanks);  six years  after that we were classmates at BYU with wives bearing similar names (Laura/Lori) and soon after children of very similar ages. Lance is one of the few people that can call me Dave with any authority and has proven to be a solid friend in every way.

…which means his kids are like niece/nephew to me.  Recently his son Taylor found a wife of his own and I drew this picture of the Marvel hero NOVA for them as a wedding present. I’m not completely up to speed on either current Marvel comics or the Marvel Cinematic Universe so I worked up a version of the Nova Corps uniform from a dozen years ago.

Technical notes: Designer’s markers, colored pencils and gouache on paper mounted on presentation board. The inset graphic design motif was cut from a piece of marbleized paper I made and attached with Series 77 spray adhesive.

Northway Mall Office “Plug”

NorthwayMallChugach

This illustration may have been the first assignment I received from the Anchorage advertising firm Murray, Bradley and Rocky. After I ran the ARCO illustration on the 22nd I got to thinking, which got me to rooting around what tear-sheets and records I still have from that time – and this is what I came up with. I know that I did it in late 1980 but so much was going at the time I can’t be sure which one happened first

…and my records are so spotty. For years I kept meticulous records, hauling at least two (and sometimes more) full file cabinets everywhere we went but after thirty-nine years and seven moves I’ve lost a lot of stuff. It’s the kind of illustration you’d see now only in a specialty publication or used to establish a nostalgic theme and would now be done in Photoshop or purchased from one of the numerous photo houses that flood the Internet.

It’s also of a time before internet commerce lead to the proliferation of ‘dead malls”. While Northway Mall was headed in that direction long before the rise of the Internet, when this advertisement first ran it was the one nicest shopping centers in Anchorage, anchored at each end and the middle with major retailers like Safeway and Pay-n-Save.

…though we were more interested in the Waldenbooks, gaming arcade and Art’s Video Mart stores where a good portion of my lieutenant’s pay was squandered on the 1st and 15th of every month….