Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Merry Christmas from San Francisco!

Here is the first batch of drawings made around town since I moved to this great city.  I have lots more exploring to do over the holidays so more sketches to come in the New Year . . . Happy Holidays folks!

  • 1  The East Bay Bridge viewed from Emeryville (the 'Eye of Sauron visible in back)

  • 2 Coit Tower & telegraph Hill from Embarcadero

  • 3 Francis Ford Coppola's building at the lower end of Columbus Ave.

  • 4 Haight Ashbury where the pungent aroma of weed still hangs in the air!

  • 5 Lombard St.

  • 6 In the Mission District

  • 6 Sleepy Noe Valley-my neighbourhood!

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  • 8 Chinatown Gate

  • 9 Grant Ave.

  • 10 Intersection of Columbus & Broadway where the Beats meet the Red Light.  Apparently 'The Condor' is the site of America's first Topless Dance . . . a site of historical significance. I drew this from the top deck of 'Vesuvio' where Jack Kerouac used to drink.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010


More quick studies from Gesture Drawing Class at work.  Every week we get a great model-always someone different and they never fail to strike inspiring poses.

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  • 2 (2 minute poses)

  • 3 (2 minute poses)

  • 4 (30 seconds)

  • 5 (2 minute poses)

I've long wanted to attend a Dr. Sketchy's drawing session; a worldwide collective of burlesque drawing workshops where you can draw models in interesting attire, listen to great music and have a beer! Here are the results from Dr. Sketchy's San Francisco -

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At CTN-X last month John Tucker was on hand again modelling for quick poses in the lobby.  I caught a session where he was in his redneck outfit!

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Here's my contribution to the 'home' theme of the Art Blocks for Ghana project.  I found out Ghana means Warrior King & I wanted to incorporate forms found in African sculpture so I tried to incorporate all this & ended up with this Warrior King relaxing at home with his pregnant wife and first born son.

These exploratory thumbnails show my thought process-I started out with the image of a communal tree or village, playing around with sculptural iconography.  I guess it's all pretty cliched stuff, certainly not representative of modern Ghana. I was thinking of imagery from a more primitive time in the past.  The meaning of the word Ghana led me to the 'Warrior King' motif which I eventually combined with the 'home' theme for the final image.

(Thanks to Don Shank for the Gesso tip!)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Walt Disney Family Museum

 On a wet weekend in San Francisco recently I visited the Walt Disney Family Museum which opened in the Presidio last year.  It's a very impressive, state of the art installation with oodles of interesting artifacts to offer animation fans.

Walt's childhood and family history is chronicled in fascinating detail. The Disney clan started in France then settled in Ireland before America.   Letters, photos & artifacts such as Walt's Dad's fiddle really bring alive the period young Walt grew up in.  His tough upbringing on a Kansas farm seemed to forge the man he would become-he reminisced about rising at 3am to do a paper round giving a sense of a work ethic instilled by his stern but loving father.

 There are fascinating photos of Walt's early animation days with Hugh Harman & Rudi Ising and an account of the fateful meeting with Ub Iwerks & their subsequent partnership. Supporting the history are dozens of tastefully chosen pieces of art from the Disney films; from original art from the Skeleton Dance and Steam Boat Willie,  through animation drawings of all the films of the 'Golden Age'.  Even the very first design of Mickey is there.

There is an exquisite little maquette of Ferdinand the bull that I'd never seen previously.  Marc Davis' Bambi designs, Milt Kahl's Pinocchio rough sketches, Fred Moore centaurettes from Fantasia, mind-boggling Bill tytla drawings of Chernabog, Eyvind Earl background paintings from Sleeping Beauty, the multi-plane camera, tiny Kay Nielsen paintings . . . Probably the most interesting article for animation fans was a scrapbook put together by Disney Effects expert Herman Schultheis.  It's displayed open in a case but a nearby videoscreen flips through its pages.  It's a collection of behind the scenes photographs, notes & drawings detailing the production of Fantasia

Mary Blair  is well represented with many original paintings including gorgeous colour designs for  It's A Small World.
One of Mary's studio cabinets is on display along with a hard hat made for her by workers on the construction of It's A Small World.

Read more about Mary

 Disney's move into TV during the 50s throws up an amusing anecdote: during production of 'Man And The Moon' Ward Kimball consulted Werner von Braun who phoned him on the day of the first US space mission to tell him "You see, they're following our script!"

(You can read a good article on Man And The Moon here)

The exhibition culminates with a huge model of Disneyland

The Walt Disney Family Museum is heaven for Disney/animation fans.  The entrance fee is rather expensive ($20) but it's worth it -you could literally spend all day in there. . . and it's situated in a beautiful part of San Francisco in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge.

You can view a photo-tour of the museum  here

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Another skirmish in the gesture class

I struggled a lot in Gesture Class last week. Alex Woo was back leading the class & he encourages us to relate the pose to story.  Before putting pencil to paper think of a situation or character and let that inform the sketch.  It does affect the decisions you make while drawing and should make for more interesting poses.  However with 30secs-2mins I found it tricky to come up with a scenario AND get the pose down.  Everyone else made amazing sketches where the model was a ballerina or diving into a swimming pool.  I must work on this. I feel like I went backwards in my drawing but forwards in my thinking.

Towards the end of the session I started to get into the groove and work story ideas into the sketches rather than getting caught up in anatomy.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gesture Class

Since seeing the Disney Disney Sample Portfolio in 1996 & subsequently studying Glenn Vilppu's books & Walt Stanchfeld's notes I've wanted to take part in a 'gesture class'.  It seemed something that was the sole province of the American animation studios.  Regular life-drawing classes in the UK just never offered what I was looking for:-quick, dynamic poses from models who could act a little.  Sure there were times when we did short or even moving poses but never in costume or with relevant props.  Sensing my needs one time a life class tutor asked the model to make more dynamic, more animated poses.  The model scoffed "you mean like bugs bunny?" and promptly sat on a chair believing that to be dynamic!

Anyway, now I've found a regular gesture drawing class here are my first results. 

30 second warm-ups with the model in his karate outfit!

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    Here we moved into longer, 2 minute poses.  Still quite quick but the poses were great.

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    The next model started off in a bikini & a large, floppy sun-hat for the 30 second poses.

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    For the 2 minute poses she changed into an old time pioneer house-wife.

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    Monday, October 18, 2010

    Recent Activity

    Just before leaving the UK I visited my old art college back home in Bangor, North Wales.  I was asked to talk to the students about my career path since I studied there.  They had only just started their Art Foundation course so I tried to impress upon them the importance of carrying a sketchbook & let them look through the one I had with me.

    I looked in on the students in the life-drawing room, it felt strange to be back in the same room where I began my art education 15 years ago!  The model hasn't aged so well though!

    I also had the opportunity to visit Ronald Searle again with Uli Meyer.  Once more we were treated to old school, classy hospitality by the Searles who wined & dined us for another memorable afternoon in Provence.  We arrived well before lunch which enabled me to sketch the beautiful village square as we relaxed at the cafĂ© terrasse.
    In San Francisco last weekend I went along to APE to support some of my friends & colleagues who had booths.  The incredible artistry of their comics & sketchbooks makes me want to join in next year with an offering of my own.  Katy Wu's Tiger Bee was one of my favourite finds.

    She was also part of the 'Round Robin' book with Dani Strijleva and Jennifer Chang.  Their table was very popular at the expo.  They were flanked by messrs Josh Cooley, Bill Presing and speed painter extraordinaire Scott Morse.

    Across the hall my colleague Jamie Baker was on a table next to the Anthology 451 boys; Kris Pearn, John Hoffman and Craig Berry.  They were in the comic-con seasoned company of Ted Mathot and Derek 'Monster' Thompson.

    Photo by Elaine Wu