Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Getting Frosty

Another annual favorite that my 4-year-old watches constantly is the 1969 "Frosty the Snowman" by Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin Jr. who did a bunch of my favorite classic holiday animations. From Wikipedia: "This special marked the first use of traditional cel animation (as opposed to stop-motion animation) for Rankin/Bass in a Christmas special. Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass wanted to give the show and its characters the look of a Christmas card, so Paul Coker, Jr., a greeting card and Mad magazine artist, was hired to do the character and background drawings. The animation was produced by Mushi Production in Japan, with then-Mushi staffer Osamu Dezaki among the animation staff." Read more about the artist Paul Coker, Jr. here and here. Now that I have seen other images by Mr. Coker, Jr. I am sure the title font is his hand-drawn creation. Definitely a '60s style and the ink blobs and sketchy line work belong to his other work for sure. It just looks like it was outlined on the back of a napkin. I love it! Merry Christmas!

I typically hate animated gifs on web sites, but I couldn't resist. (below)

Frosty the Snowman Graphics provided by

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas fonts

Every year, one of my Christmas traditions is to watch old TV specials. I now have several on DVD so I don't have to rely exclusively on TV programming. One of the things I love about the classics is that the ones who produced them were real artists. I recently took a closer look at the opening title sequences of some of my favorites and was amazed at the precision, beauty and artistry of the hand-lettered fonts. Below are samples from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Notice it aired in 1964... or did it? Anything else important happen that year for historical context? The Beatles were getting huge, I know that. Look closer at the Roman Numerals. "1164" Did anything cool happen that year? haha! I'll post more screen grabs from other favorites. I hope you enjoy this little nugget of nostalgia!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Studies in Expression

My wife has been trying to get me to do "pretty" paintings for decorating. I also promised a painting for the newly remodeled room where our Bible study group meets at church. In researching decorative art that my wife thought was nice, I came across a painting style at Springfield's First Friday Artwalk in November that reminded me of some I'd seen in art history classes.

The "Abstract Expressionist" style was what I would look at and Mark Rothko is the painter who I found most fascinating with his color studies and heavy shapes. It looks easy- like "my kindergartner could do that" kind of thing, so I decided to try to reproduce one of his works.

Once I got into it, I realized there is a lot going on and I found myself frustrated that I could not get the colors or shapes just right. First of all, I was using acrylic paints which is good for all the other stuff I do, but for the kind of soft blends and indistinct edges oils would have been better.

I was trying to reinterpret his painting using his shapes and basic color scheme, but shift the emphasis. There are many ways to do this in color theory and I ended up trying all I could think of. A sharp edge, white, hue, complementary colors, shape, etc. I was amazed at how much I had to mix colors and how much I had to care to make it work. You can't use just any green on just any orangey-red background. There were even reasons for certain outlines and highlights. Amazing. It was like having a Color Theory test all in one painting. Enlightening!

One reason I was drawn to his painter was his philosophy that Rothko saw art as a tool of emotional and religious expression. Since I was going to hang this in a church, I thought it fitting. Plus, it is not too distracting. Hopefully somebody finds it inspirational.
Thanks Mark Rothko for your inspiration to me!

Friday, July 2, 2010

My Favorites of the year vol. 2.2

These are my favorite movies from the past year: June 24-June 24. I don't get a chance to go to theaters much, so these are mostly rentals. I can get a wide variety from Netflix and the library so some are classics that I've discovered this year and some are recent blockbusters.

I finally sat down and spent some time with Charlie Chaplin and I was not disappointed. He was a creative genius in many ways. From character development to acting to dance to music composition to directing to writing and producing, he did it all and was the most important actor for the first half of the last century. I enjoyed learning about his life in the special features disks and the movie "Chaplin" with Robert Downey Jr.

If you see something missing from my list that you think I should see, comment and let me know. I'm always up for a new cinematic experience!


Modern Times – Charlie Chaplin
City Lights – Charlie Chaplin
Gold Rush – Charlie Chaplin
District 9
Gran Torino
(500) Days of Summer
Sherlock Holmes
Star Trek
The Blind Side
Year One
Iron Man
Eagle Eye
Yes Man
Ghost Town
Cinema Paradiso
Attack of the 50 foot woman
Plan 9 from Outer Space
On the Waterfront
Die Hard
Lucky Number Slevin
Annie Hall
La Femme Nikita
Birdman of Alcatraz
The Odd Couple

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Favorites of the year vol. 2.1

Yesterday was my birthday and last year at this time, I took stock of the year's preceding entertainment that I found amusing, inspiring, and all around great. So I decided I would make this an annual tradition and make a few lists of my favorite bits of whatever from the past year. I have broken these lists into three parts: music, movies, and artists.

So this week I've scoured my iTunes library to see what I've added in the past 12 months that have made me smile or inspired me while working. Maybe you'll find something new from my list to enjoy in the coming year. The other lists will be coming shortly AND I reserve the right to add to these lists as I remember items. Enjoy! R.I.P – I heard a lot of music through you this year, but Apple bought you and shut you down.  I hope iTunes learns something from them.
The Black Keys – Brothers

MuteMath – Armistice
Needtobreathe – The Outsiders. I love this guy’s voice. They rock AND have some mountain instruments for texture.

The Heavy – The House that Dirt Built. That song "How you Like Me now" from the Kia commercial is still cool to me.

Sufjan Stevens – all his stuff is amazing and will probably be on my list every year whether he has a new album or not.

Instrumental Movie soundtracks. It’s like modern classical music. Makes good background music to paint to.

Regina Spektor – Far. She is also a perennial favorite.

Owl City – Ocean Eyes. Kind of a guilty pleasure, but I just think it’s fun music.
Matt Kearney – City of Black & White

Sara Watkins from Nickel Creek finally came out with a solo album

Punch Brothers. I heard them in concert on NPR last week. They make “genius” fun. I plan to get their new album ASAP so they will be on my list next year for sure.

Imogen Heap – Ellipse
Ingrid Michaelson – Girls & Boys

Fiction Family – guitarist from Nickel Creek and singer from Switchfoot come together and got me through some tough times last year.

Switchfoot song “Always” came out just before my daughter was born and it helped me look forward to her first day of life

Wynton Marsalis – Christmas Jazz Jam. My favorite trumpeter made an incredible Holiday album
Wynton Marsalis – Mr. Jelly Lord. Old timey jazz and Dixieland
Harper Simon, son of Paul Simon. Enough said.

Broken Bells is a collaboration between Danger Mouse and James Mercer of The Shins
She & Him – Volume One & Volume Two
Brooke Waggoner – Go Easy is so beautiful, like a more serious Regina Spektor
Remedy Drive – song “Heartbeat” gets my blood flowing
Toby Mac – Tonight
The Classic Crime – The Silver Cord. Just plain rocks!

Monday, June 21, 2010


A branch of my wife's family in St. Louis ran as a team in a 5K race this summer. The race was to benefit the Saint Louis Science Center where my wife's cousin works as the PR & Marketing Manager. They asked me to design a T-shirt in the name of team unity based on the name they had come up with. The cousins are products of the '80s and way into music so I combined a spoof on RUN DMC's logo and the universal rep of science- Mr. Albert Einstein. The glasses and huge gold chain were added to make him fit into the rap group's persona. I could have added a fedora, but it would have covered up the crazy Einstein hair he is (partly) famous for – I mean he did other things besides have electric hair. I think.

We changed the theory of relativity! So sue them. It's ALL relative anyway. Did you even notice?

This was a very fast, fun, and free design that paid off big in comments like "that is hilarious!" by me mostly. I also got a first run printing of the T-shirt so now when I work out, I can feel smart AND hip!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. visit

Many of you who are my Facebook friends have heard me talk about the Public Affairs event at Missouri State University's JQH Arena last Friday. The keynote speaker was Robert F. Kennedy Jr. who is a lobbyist/lawyer/activist/a Time Magazine Hero for the Planet/falconer/son of Bobby. His speech was titled "Our Environmental Destiny" and he basically talked for an hour about the dangers and stupidity of coal and the need for an infrastructure to use other forms of energy.

Most importantly, since the Springfield-Greene County Parks Department had a big hand in bringing him here and I work as a designer for Parks and Springfield City Public Information, I got to create all kinds of graphics for the event. I designed access badges, parking passes, large signs, an e-vite, and an 8 ft x 17.5 ft stage banner.

Most of my work was done before the event even started, but I was there with my "All Access" badge watching everything go down and just admiring my banner. There were around 3,000 people there at the event to watch my beautiful banner that morning.

There was a little snaffoo with the printing of the banner earlier that week in which a letter "R" mysteriously was left off! Let me tell you my stomach hit the floor! Luckily the printer had a quick fix and my good friend Matt Stufflebeam printed out a new adhesive letter and got it placed on the banner. Thanks Stuffles! The TV crew in my office were taking bets as to when the letter would melt in the lights and float off the banner onto RFK's head or something. Luckily that did NOT happen.

The banner design is a modified version of the Park's logo which I did not create, but the logo has a ton of text and is strictly horizontal (landscape). My job was to make it work on a (very) vertical space.

As soon as he got on stage, RFK, Jr. moved the podium out of the way and then a security guy moved it to the back of the stage. The top photo looks like he is speaking backwards.

Security would not let me take a photo with RFK, Jr., but I was able to get my pal Chris to snap one of me with the GI-normous banner. I hope to see the banner again someday; we are friends for life.

After all the trouble I went to to make "ask Mr. Kennedy a question" signs, he went way over his allotted time and Dr. Nietzel (MSU President) only got to ask him 3 questions on the stage.

Since RFK Jr. is a falconer, we had a very dramatic moment in front of my banner in which a bald eagle and some kind of falcon and their handlers from the zoo walked up on stage and stayed during a great video introduction. Nice job CityView!

After the event I got the glamorous job of moving plants to the loading dock and cleaning up Mr. Kennedy's green room. I can tell you that he drank a diet Pepsi and opened a peanut granola bar, but I don't think he took a bite. I snagged a (different) granola bar and a Coke and a too ripe peach. It's OK- I had an All Access pass- to the refrigerator!

I can honestly say I love working for the City in Parks and Public Info because it is always a new experience every day! Keeps me hopping.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Rock 'n Map!

I recently finished creating a festival map for Springfield's Rock 'n Ribs BBQ Festival sponsored by the Rotary Club. The event features BBQ teams and restaurants at booths where you go down the line sampling TONS of delicious meatiness! They also have live local music playing at the big tent all day. All proceeds go to various children's charities so if you are in the Springfield area on April 17, come get your grub on. My maps will be blown up to 4'x5' and placed at various locations to help you keep your bearings.

I had a lot of fun with this project. I drew/wrote out every piece by hand then scanned it in and cleaned it up and aded some color in Adobe Illustrator. Bits of olde timey map work in the location banners and such. I can't wait to see my work put to use and eat my quota of BBQ in the same day! What could be better than that!?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Charley Harper: An Illustrated Life

I recently purchased a book for which I had read rave reviews. “Charley Harper, An Illustrated Life” is a coffee table-type book with LOTS of pictures – more than 700 paintings reprinted for my wide eyes to devour! I didn't really know who the artist was, but had seen a few images on Amazon when I was making my Christmas wish list last year.

The images of birds and bugs haunted me (in a good way) and when the opportunity arose for a trip to Barnes & Noble with a loaded gift card a few months later, there was no question which book I would return home with. That night, my wife went into labor and we spent the next few days in the hospital with my beautiful baby girl- but guess what I packed in the labor bag?

It is a large book and I have still not had a chance to get through it yet, but that is OK. I look at a few pages a sitting and that is all the genius my mind can handle. The paintings influence me more when I just study a few at a time, I think. As an artist, I have traditionally found it hard to get excited about patterns, but Charley Harper does some things with symmetry, pattern, angles and shapes that just blow my mind.

"Minimal realism", Harper (1922-2007) called it, a spare, geometrical style. One quote of Harper’s in the book that sticks with me is “I don’t count the feathers on (the bird’s) wings, I count the wings.” That philosophy to painting is one I hope use to focus my own artwork whether it be wild life or cars and trucks. As I’ve been out an about town since discovering this body artwork, I can see Mr. Harper’s influence everywhere– especially in textiles like clothing, handbags, prints, shoes, etc.

There is a wonderful interview in the first several pages between Harper and designer Todd Oldham in which Harper tells of his upbringing and inspiration for the paintings. His ladybug especially stands out to me, which is built of several perfect circles. Couldn’t be any simpler! One story Harper tells is his early fascination with "Jesus bugs." Harper explained that as a young boy on a farm in rural West Virginia, he would spend hours in the creek watching water striders: insects that seemed to walk on water.

I’m starting to ramble now, but I just wanted to share the latest thing to influence me as an artist. He is one artist whose portfolio, which was more than 60 years in the making, has remained so timeless and beautiful that I would love to hang them on my own walls! Please give Charley Harper’s artwork a chance to wash over you and you will be hooked just like me.

All images ©
Charley Harper