Thursday, December 20, 2007

Joyeux Noel!

Happy holidays everyone, see you in 2008.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Hairy Norse Noses

While in Paris last wekend I saw 'BEOWULF' projected in 3-D IMAX. The film left me pondering many questions, the most profound of which was- what is with those hairy noses! The 3-D effect is dazzling & had us seduced by a golden she-demon & attacked by a golden dragon but I was distracted by the beautifully back-lit golden nasal fuzz that Beowulf & his cohorts sport (the Queen character has it too!)
Maybe it was the large screen format that emphasised these details & not so noticeable on regular cinema screens?

What's worse than the nose hair are the EYES. Most of the time the characters look drunk, blind or boss-eyed. They seem to have no focus, like they're always looking in the wrong direction or staring blankly into space. The expressionless faces don't help either. There are strong vocal performances that just aren't reflected in the faces of the characters. This is the root of the much derided 'zombie' look of these mo-cap films. There are occasions where the expressions are pushed & the eyes are focused & it works much better. Perhaps Zemeckis & his 'ImageMovers' have realised this at last, employing Jim Carrey on his next mo-cap picture 'A Christmas Carol'.

Hopefully they'll get some Dickensian caricature into the design & go broader with the acting & expressions? The most convincing character for me was Grendel's mother, but perhaps that was because I wasn't looking at the eyes?

The design of Beowulf could have been more stylish-maybe more like Frank Frazetta than Boris Vallejo. The design of Grendel is just plain ugly-but I suppose that's the point! The detailing on his skin is technically impressive but when it's right in your face in 3-D is just repellant. Crispin Glover's tortured performance makes this character.

The 3-D effect is compelling but still used as a gimmick-lots of spear pointing & things falling towards camera. I've seen the film criticized for its hugely unrealistic camera moves-mile long pull-backs, vertiginous dives & swoops aping Peter Jackson's style somewhat. But why not? Why be restricted to the limits of a physical camera? This technology seems to have allowed Zemeckis to be free & really have fun. Maybe it's a new cinematic language that we must get used to?

It got me thinking how great other films would look in this format-George Lucas is already working on a new 3-D incarnation of the Star Wars movies-the Lord of the Rings trilogy would benefit too. In the future it will be interesting to see how other film-makers deal with it-Tim Burton's 'Alice In Wonderland', James Cameron's 'Avatar' & Spielberg & Jackson's 'Tintin'.
Also, CG films with classic character animation will look terrific-Dreamworks have a 3-D 'Monsters vs. Aliens' lined up & I hope Pixar follow suit.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

From Superman to Chat du Rabbin

Earlier in the week I saw this exhibition at the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaïsme in Paris. It traces the history of the comic book medium through the influence & experience of Jewish culture during the last century. From Milt Gross & Al Capp to Joann Sfarr via Kirby, Eisner, Kurtzman & of course Art Speigelman's 'MAUS'.

The exhibition is thoughtfully laid out with countless fascinating examples on show; vintage Kirby Fantastic 4 comics, original Eisner pencil roughs, early Milt Gross funnies, Joe Kubert rough sketches, Kurtzman's MAD covers, Pratt colour sketches of Corto Maltese. Of particular interest was a series of roughs by Joann Sfarr demonstrating how he lays out a page.

I had no idea of the extent of the influence of Jewish experience on the comic book medium. In the early 20th century the cartoon 'funny pages' reflected the day to day struggle of Jewish immigrants adapting to life in America. Then came WW11 and the second half of the century gave rise to much more serious comic books tackling the holocaust & anti-semitism.

I learnt a lot from this show; it portrays the comic medium as a profound means of expression where Jewish comic creators such as Will Eisner could not only flourish professionally but also find an outlet to create a new identity for their uprooted & abused culture.

The exhibition runs through the end of January.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Recent sketchbook drawings

The studio is situated right above the main pedestrianised shopping street of Nice. This means that our ears are assaulted daily by buskers singing the same song every day. It's like Groundhog Day!

Rapid sketches made around town.

Street performer tap-dancing in Nice.

Views of Bastille & Notre Dame from a couple of recent trips to Paris.

Vanessa Paradis & Matthieu 'M' Chedid will be responsible for the music & songs in 'Un Monstre a Paris'. They recently performed in Nice as part of the tour to promote Paradis' latest album so we went along to see them in action.

Seeing them together on stage proved helpful reference for similar scenes in the film where their characters duet together.

A regular night out with the Nice Ukelele Club!

Got caught short without my sketchbook at a café recently so resorted to sketching on the back of a receipt.

On a drive through Provence earlier in the year my camera batteries died so I made some thumbnail sketches back at home to help me remember some of the interesting views we saw along the way.


Last week my girlfriend & I took a drive across the border into Northern Italy. We visited Milan & the region around Lake Como.

These are sketches made around the magnificent Duomo & the piazza.

Here are a few shots I took around central Milan. I liked the vibrancy of the city mixed with old world elegance. Impressive architecture & as a capital of fashion there were many well dressed, chic looking Italians walking around.

Caught the David Lachapelle retrospective at the Palazzo Reale.

I've been a fan of Lachapelle's work since the mid-nineties when I first saw his incredible surreal pop-kitsch fashion photography. I love the garish colours & plastic textures in his shots & the bizarre compositions he sets up.

His latest work re-inteprets the Biblical deluge as a critique of the decline of values in modern consumer culture & our increasing dependance on material goods.

A couple years ago he designed eye-catching window displays for Selfridges deptartment store in London (above) & was of course responsible for the astonishing documentary film 'RIZE' about LA dance craze-krumping.

At Lake Como we visited the idyllic Villa Balbianello on the Western side of the lake opposite Bellagio.

It has been used as a location in films such as Ocean's 12, Casino Royale & Star Wars: Episode 2.

This image I found online shows how ILM artists digitally extended the villa for Star Wars.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Here's my image for the latest 'Gum or Mints' art challenge-FRANKENSTEIN'S MONSTER. I had fun with this one & the painting above was the culmination of all the following sketches.

I started just scrawling head shapes & variations on the typical dumb/agonised expressions.

I kept pushing the cranium size bigger & BIGGER. . .

I thought it helpful to not just DESIGN a character but to put it in a situation too. Initially I considered ripping off Mel Brooks' 'Young Frankenstein'-the scene where the old blind man pours soup in the monster's lap. However I figured that would be TWO characters to design & switched to the scene with the little girl & the flower, figuring the girl would be much simpler to design than the old hermit.

I thought the contrast between the two figures would work well & the situation is more subtle than the 'hot-water' gag; it can be perceived as entirely innocent with the monster simply delighted by the flower or perhaps his intentions are more menacing, implied by the well behind him.

I played around with various fun approaches to the girl character-some quite abstract but ultimately settled on more conventional shapes as I wanted her to look normal compared to the monster's distorted shapes.

Small, rapid thumbnails searching for some kind of background to lend atmosphere. I was looking for elements that wouldn't be too distracting from the characters & would evoke the atmosphere of the 1933 'Frankenstein' film sets.

This next one just happened after I spilt water on a pen drawing & the bleeding ink effect appealed to me so I splashed water all over it! Then I couldn't resist taking it into Photoshop to 'finish'. Putting him on a black background & adding some negative fx helped give that electric jolt to the original drawing!

This was another aberrant drawing that came out of the doodling process. It developed from Shelley's original description of the monster but my drawing ended up looking like some kind of New York disco junkie Freak!

Check out for the ultimate collection of 'Frankenphilia'.

Saturday, October 20, 2007


I moved to Nice one year ago TODAY! To celebrate here are a few more beach sketches from the summer-