Friday, March 27, 2009

Record Painting 01

This is a new piece I did based on the life drawing classes I have been going to again. This one was inspired by the Betty Page night at Dr Sketchy’s. It’s cut paper and paint on a record cover. I constantly collect images I find interesting, for what purpose I don’t usually know at the time, I just know I like something about a particular image and cut it out an put it in a scrapbook. More often than not I end up using them as a starting point for a background in one of my pieces. A few months ago I came home with a bag full of records I found while roaming thrift stores in the city. Again, not sure what I would use them for. When I started looking at my sketches the life drawing sessions, I remembered the old records and decided to put the two together. Rather than using the record image as reference for a BG, I decided to just paint on the found object itself. I have many more of these coming soon.

Bananaz review

Tuesday night I went to sneak preview of the documentary Bananaz, followed with a Q&A with the director Ceri Levy at the Apple store in SoHo. The documentary takes you behind the scenes of the Gorillaz, “the most successful animated band ever.” The Gorillaz as a band have always been surrounded in a bit of mystery. The band is composed of four animated band members: 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel. The band is actually a collaboration between various musicians, created by Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett back in 1998.

I love the entire idea of the band. The fact that the animated characters are the actually playing and creating the music, that they are marketed as real is fascinating to me. I was really looking forward to learning what went into creating the Gorillaz. Unfortunately the film falls short and is really nothing more than 90min of fly on the wall footage.

The film follows Damon and Jamie from the very beginnings of the band back in 2000 to the concerts in Harlem back in 2006. It starts out with some good footage of the two of them speaking about how they were watching MTV and commented “What’s all this manufactured rubbish…So we thought we could do it a little better.” Next they show a little footage of Jamie flipping through some of his early sketches and talking about how he refined the characters for a minute or two and then leaves it there. From that point on nothing else is said about the artwork. It just gets flashed up on the screen to keep the energy high to hide the fact that there is no real story. The film doesn’t go anywhere. You just go from recording session to back stage at one of their concerts watching the erratic behavior of the band members acting like big kids with out actually learning much about the band itself. The only real moment of drama in the film comes near the end when Damon is confronted by a teacher representing a Harlem children’s choir, questions him about the lyrics the children will be singing on stage. It the first and only time in the film anyone really speaks about what they are trying to accomplish.

The film does do a good job of showcasing the bands music however. You get to see some good footage of them collaborating with various artists to create their albums. The amount of effort Damon puts into his music, and just how talented he is, comes through loud and clear. If you are a big fan of the music, or always wanted to know what it would be like to hang out with the band, you’ll enjoy the film. For me though, I’m going to go back to pretending that 2D, Murdoc, Noodle and Russel are real, put on my headphones and enjoy their music.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Reel 13

I recently came across the submission details for PBS’ Saturday night program Reel 13. Reel 13 is a weekly showcase for classic, short and indie films. They have a rolling deadline for shorts and independent features. Each week they choose 3 short films to be posted on their website, where the online audience can vote for their favorite film. The film with the most votes is broadcast Reel 13 and wins a $500 prize.

Submit to Reel 13

Monday, March 23, 2009

ASIFA East Screening Recap

Over the last two weeks the selection process for the ASIFA East Festival took place. Here is my recap of it as if it were the last film of the independent evening, Don Hertzfeldt’s, I Am So Proud of you.

I woke up on Thursday morning to the sound of bagpipes playing. Don’t know why though, Tuesday was St. Patricks day.
My father played the accordion when I was a child. I would go into the basement and drag out a huge suitcase in which it lived. He would remove it from the suitcase and work the bellows in and out in order to make it sing. One summer day while playing the accordion in our back yard, my father was hit by a train.
I slipped in the shower and hit my head while singing the song my father used to play. I woke up again to the water hitting me in the face as I lay on the bottom of the tub. I got dressed and headed out to go about the rest of the day. On the way to the subway I stood on the corner waiting for the light when the woman next to me began speaking in French. I didn’t really understand anything she was saying. I had studied French in school but I didn’t really remember any of it.

She seemed to be pointing at something on the ground while asking me a question. The light changed and people crossed but I just stood there to find out what it was that she wanted. The longer I stood there the more she was saying began to make sense to me. She was saying something about a hat, and her daughter.I next noticed that she was wearing a giant Russian style fur hat which seemed to be made out of cat heads. She bent down and picked up the thing on the ground she was pointing at and picked it up. It turned out to be cat which had been hit by a car and apparently was taking it home to make a hat for her daughter and was making sure I didn’t want the cat as well. I told her “no.” She then put it in her bag and walked away.
My head began to start hurting again as I rode the train to a film screening. When I arrived the room was filled with people who seemed to know me, however I no longer recognized them.
I sat down and fell in and out of consciousness as images of cowboy chickens, animal crackers, fish croquettes, super rejects, love, a parasite's delight, knocking hipsters off bikes on a broccoli bridge, big babies, the numbers 7, 8, 9, women punching bags and jumping rope, time machines,
films on rooftops, Steven Colbert, my sisters butt, a rainforest, slapping cats, horny dogs, children being born, 85 year old children, bums running, square and round headed war, dish lovin’ spoons and cows jumping moons, puppets singing song, an owl and rabbit playing checkers, an evil Santa Claus, a mother talking with her son, dancing robots, people drinking coffee, spaghetti made out of pick-up-sticks, hands fighting, a Spanish raccoon, an invisible boy and a giant swirling mass flashed before my eyes.
After the film I went to a bar to see if a drink would help the pounding I my head. Everyone there was drinking beer, congratulating each other and saying “I am so proud of you.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Microsoft Spot

Here is the spot which I entered in the ASIFA festival this year. I try to enter something in the festival every year, if for no other reason than just to take part in the process. The spot was done for Microsoft to be shown as part of an internal presentation. I was contacted by Nth Degree/The Field, an agency I sometimes do work for here in the city, to design and animate the spot. It was one of those projects that they call you on a Thursday and say they need something by Wed Am to give to the client. The tight deadline demanded a simple style as well as the use of cycles through out the animation. I thought that the re-use added in tying the various concepts together in the end. Aside from the tight deadline, it was a great project and I was very happy with the outcome.

The music is by Jeremy Simonich.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ren, Stimpy and Howlin’ Wolf

Recently when I was working on musical tracks for a couple of Microsoft spots I created, my sound designer, (who happens to be my brother as well) came across an interesting piece of music. Whenever I start a project I begin by finding pieces of music to give to him for inspiration, much like when a client comes to me with an idea of what they are looking for. One thing I hear all the time is; “We want it to feel like the Esurance commercials.” In this case for the Microsoft spots I wanted them to have a 1950’s/early 60’s sound. Leave it to Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show, meets Ren and Stimpy is what I asked him for. A week or two later he got back to me with a song from Howlin’ Wolf, titled Killing Floor, which we both immediately realized had to be the inspiration for the Ren and Stimpy theme song. I then decided to try and find out who wrote the theme song. Finding the composer proved to be more difficult than I thought it would be. There seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the Dog Pound Hop theme used in the original Ren & Stimpy show. Some sources credit just Jim Smith with the theme while others quote Scott Huml, John Kricfalusi and Chris Reccardi as well.

While searching for answers I also came across the Unofficial Ren & Stimpy Production Music Collection on Kirk Demarais’ He designed an ‘album cover’ for the collection (as seen above) as well as tracked down and tagged the name of each artist for all the tracks in the collection. Both albums can be downloaded for hours of enjoyment at the links below:
Ren And Stimpy Production Music
Ren And Stimpy Production Music Vol 02, You Eediot!

All artists, whether an animator, fine artist or musician, draw from various inspirational sources to bring their ideas to life. All of the artists I know have large reference libraries containing books, magazines, comics, records, CDs and DVDs; wherever they find inspiration. Taking design cues from their source materials, and re-interpreting them in a new way is fine. However, the danger is that if you stick too closely to the inspirational material, you end up ripping them off, rather than paying homage to them. As far as I’m concerned, when it comes to the Ren and Stimpy theme they need to give credit where credit is due and acknowledge the fact that they based the entire theme on the opening of Killing Floor, by Howlin’ Wolf. His name should be at the top of the credits for that song.

Take a listen to the tracks above and decide for yourself.

Monday, March 09, 2009


It had been quite some time since I had been to a life drawing class, so I figured it was time for me to go back. Figure drawing classes are traditionally three hours long with one model, holding academic poses for 30 to 60 min at a time. Being an animator, I never spend 30 min on a single drawing, never mind 60, so I decided to look at some of the more alternative drawing classes out there.

I started out at Michael Alan’s Draw-a-thon which is held twice a month at various locations around the city. $20 got you into the 5000 sq ft room at the Gershwin Hotel in Midtown. The night was a mix of drawing class, performance theater, and poetry jam all mixed together. Models were “dressed” as hotel staff, butlers, drunk maids, a dead prostitute, a robot, Siamese twins, babies, creatures, puppets, and scenes from The Shining. Live music and poetry readings were also provided for your entertainment. I have to admit, the music and poetry was a bit much for me. In between the live acts they blasted Techno music at an annoying level. Many of the live acts seemed to have no idea they would be performing alongside naked men and women. A number of the models also got too into their roles, the best example of that being an older man wearing a soiled diaper which seemed to be authentic. There were over 20 models to pay attention to though, if one wasn’t to your liking. I think for my next outing I am going to look into some of the other venues around the city.

Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, in Williamsburg‘s Lucky Cat Bar on Sat afternoons is where I am headed next. I have been to their website and it seems more to my liking. This past February 14th was the first in their Art Star series with special guest Ron English. I have admired his paintings for some time and hanging out and drawing a model dressed as one of his characters (Cathy Cowgirl) sounds like a great time. For more info on that event, click on this link: . Each of their sessions also has a theme. Another one which I wish I had gone to was their tribute to Betty Page. Their next event is on March 14th, 4-7 pm at The Slipper Room, 167 Orchard St., for only $10.

ASIFA East also offers free drawing classes for its members and SVA students. For details email Art Sir at: Below I have listed a number of the other classes around the city I came across in my search.

Adult Drawing hosted by promoter Alex Zoppa. Two glasses of wine are provided with the $20 entrance fee with models from Burning (who happen to be XXX film stars) as well as some male models from Playgirl Magazine posing in the great salon tradition.

Drink-N-Draw is every 1st and 3rd Wednesday of the month hosted in the Gallery of 3rd Ward, in Bushwick. They provide the beer, snacks and multiple models- you bring your drawing tools of choice. Hosted in the Gallery of 3rd Ward- this is a fun creative environment to help one relax after a long day of work. From 8pm- 1030pm. $15 per person or $10 if you bring a friend.

Society of Illustrators; Tu-Th 6:30-9:30; $10 Regular Sessions, $15 Special Events.
Tompkins Square Branch Library; Sat 2:30-4:00; Free drawing sessions - ask the librarian.
Art Students League of New York; Daily; Monthly Basis, $55-$155.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Studio in a School

Living in NYC there are always a ton of opportunities to go to great events right on your doorstep. This past Thursday I had a chance to do just that. Studio in a School is a not-for-profit organization that brings professional artists into public schools in all five boroughs of NYC, using the visual arts to enrich the lives of children ages three to eighteen. I attended a gallery opening for a group of elementary students at The Gallery at 1 East 53rd St. Their work was fantastic and so much fun to look at. The room was filled with proud parents, grand parents, brothers and sisters all there to support the kids who took part in the program. I didn’t have my first gallery exhibit in NY until I was about 30.

I got involved in Studio in a School in a roundabout way. Each year in Central Park I play a game of softball for the Paul Beard Classic which donates the proceeds from the benefit to the Studio in a School Program.

Above are a number of my favorite pieces from the show, and I gave the respective artists credit for their work. Top Left: Sally Barrilla Grade 4, Center: Irene Deleon Grade 7, Bottom Left: Dinalee Polanco Grade 6, Bottom Center: Lizbeth Vazquez Grade 2 and Bottom Left: Justin Chan Grade 3.

If you are in the area, and want to walk away with a big smile on your face, stop in and check out the rotating works at the gallery.