Thursday, April 17, 2014


I love modern art mobiles but you don't see many for sale these days. It looks like if you want that sort of thing you're stuck with making it yourself. My kid's birthday is coming up soon and I think and I'll take a stab at it. I'll come up with something original but I'll start by seeing what ideas are already out there.

The obvious first place to start is Calder but his ideas have been stolen so many times that the whole world has memorized them.

Then there's Miro (above). He had tons of useful ideas. Half his paintings seem like they were made with mobiles in mind. What appears above as lines in a 2D painting could be made of thin black wire in 3D.

What a guy!

Tim Biskup (above) should try his hand at mobiles. His style is perfect for them.

Ready-made ones are available for babies (above). I don't know...maybe they could be altered.

Mary Blair's shapes (above) and colors seem like a useful resource.

It's not too hard to imagine what a Blair mobile (above) might look like. Something more manly, of course.

I'll try to resist giving my kid the standard dorm room beer molecule (above) .

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I've been using my iPad mini a lot lately, more so than my desktop. I use it for cartooning (above) and animation. I work on several sketching apps but the one I always return to is "Paper" by a studio called 53. I thought I'd put up a few examples of how different artists use that program so you can get an idea of its range. 

Paper is especially good at watercolor-type sketches (above).  Unlike real watercolors you can dial up the color saturation where you need to and get rich darks that approximate gauche.

People even do acrylic-type pictures (above) on this app, but I'm not crazy about the way they look. In my opinion you're better off using a desktop program for something like that.

Paper seems to work best when it's used for light-hearted, watercolor styles like the one above.

It's amazing how quickly it lets you can draw scenes like this one (above).

You can teach yourself color with it.

Paper doesn't contain any fonts but it's friendly to funky hand-drawn lettering. In a meeting I'd rather have a real pencil and a real legal pad, but Paper's writing could still be useful for other purposes.

There's (above) that 90s light-hearted style again. If you use Paper you may find yourself drawing and painting in that style because the program strongly supports it. If that's not your thing I wouldn't worry about it. Believe it or not, the program's artistic bias actually helps you to define your own unique style. I guess having something to conceptually bounce off of is actually stimulating.

A caveat: Paper is a wonderful app but it has bugs and its stylus, called "Pencil," doesn't always work like you want it to. Face it, none of the drawing and animating apps are perfect. I still recommend it. The basic app is free and comes with their very best brush tool, so you can't complain about the price. If you don't have a stylus you can use your finger. About a third of everything I've done has been with my finger, even when I have a stylus in my hand.

Lots of people have said that this is the drawing app Steve Jobs would have created if he'd put his mind to it. That's high praise.

Sunday, April 13, 2014




EDDIE: "Glad to meetcha! They told me you'd be coming. Have a seat, have a seat!"

INTERVIEWER: "Thanks! It's an honor to meet you, sir. I do interviews for Animation Magazine and they tell me you have stories about every big shot in the animation business."

EDDIE: "Haw! Do I!? If I told you only half the stories I know, we'd be here all month. You name the show and I worked on it. I've worked with eeeeeeeeverybody."

INTERVIEWER: "Really!? Do you know John Kricfalusi?"

EDDIE: "John K? Um, well, not exactly." 

INTERVIEWER: "Mike Fontanelli?"

EDDIE: "Fonta...who?"

INTERVIEWER: "How about Eric Goldberg?"

EDDIE: "Gee, he never answers my..."

INTERVIEWER: "How about Brad Bird?"

EDDIE: "Brad Bird...hmmm, I think I parked in his space once."

INTERVIEWER: "Seth MacFarlane?"

EDDIE: "You don't have his number, do you?"

INTERVIEWER: "Matt Groening?"

EDDIE: "Um, no."

INTERVIEWER: "Pete Docter?"

EDDIE: "Nope."

INTERVIEWER: "Tim Burton?"

EDDIE: "Er...well, not really."


EDDIE: "Well, actually, I haven't...." 

INTERVIEWER: "How about John Lasseter?"

EDDIE: "John Lassater!? How the heck am I supposed to meet John Lassater? He lives in Cuppertino or Emeryville...some place like that." 

INTERVIEWER: "Well how about producers like...someone like Steven Spielberg?"

EDDIE: "Ahhhhh, stop right there. Steven. Now we're talkin'. Yes, yes, I've been over to his house several times. He just emailed me last week." 

INTERVIEWER: "Really? Can we see it?"

EDDIE: "No need. I memorized said, 'You missed the grass near the rose bushes and the front lawn could use a really robust watering this time.' He calls the watering 'robust.' Isn't that poetic? Only Steven would think of something like that."

EDDIE: "Hey, what's that on your lens?"

INTERVIEWER: "Oh, a pebble got under the lens cover."

EDDIE: "Hold still. I have my Swiss Army Knife. I'll dig it out!"

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Outcault was of course, the creator of Hogan's Alley and of the Yellow Kid, America's first regular comic strip character. Outcault was a terrific draughtsman, and a wonderful colorist.

I used to find his work off-putting and old-fashioned, maybe because the one panel, super-large format seemed like an inefficient way to tell a story. Somewhere along the line I came to accept the strip on its own terms, story be damned, and now I love it. In the day when newspapers seemed as big as bed sheets the effect of these poster-size pages must have been nothing less than glorious.

Bye the way, look at how saturated the color is here (above). Is that a result of computer enhancement or were the original newspaper pages like that? 

I'm guessing that this muted color (above) is what the public saw. Outcault distracts us from the dim color by reserving his brightest colors for the foreground and muting the backgrounds.

Haw! He didn't always get his perspective right, but it doesn't matter.  

This (above) looks like a page from a book, and maybe these were the bold colors that Outcault would have preferred to work with. The subject is unfortunately racist but I include it here because the execution is so beautiful.

  Boy, Outcault cartoons inspired toys (above) even in the late 1890s! I wonder if any toys were made of the Thomas Nast characters? Were there Boss Tweed dolls? There must have been lots of Nast Santa Clauses.

Near the end of the run Hogan's Alley Outcault began his popular Buster Brown strip and that spawned even more toys.

For comparison, here's (above) toys made from McKay's characters.

By the way, I'm sorry to run these toy pictures without attribution. I'll try to find out where they came from and put up a link to it. 

Monday, April 07, 2014


Above is Enceladus, a moon of Saturn. It's tiger stripe surface constantly changes due to water ice escaping from the interior and reshaping the surface. Recently discovered gravitational fluctuations indicate that a large liquid ocean may exist under the surface, making Enceladus a candidate for life.

Where the moon gets its warmth isn't understood. Another moon of more or less the same size and distance from Saturn is completely dead.

The inflation theory has come under attack recently by scientists who claim that it's not needed to explain why the universe is as uniform as it is. In March new data was recorded by a microwave observatory at the South Pole that seems to confirm the inflation theory. The findings are controversial and the facts are still being checked.

Here's (above) an odd one: a galaxy that's tearing itself apart from the inside. Not much star formation is visible in the pinwheel, but lots of recently created star clusters appear in the matter ejected from the galaxy.

Above, the Great Nebula in Orion, about 1500 light years away. It's in the same spiral arm that we inhabit. The colors are unfortunately false. They're added to code  temperature and composition.

Here (above) are new gamma ray photos of the center of our galaxy. They've caused quite a stir because they may be evidence that particles of dark matter (called "WIMPS) are colliding with each other there, and producing much more gamma rays than present theory allows for. This conclusion is so far hotly contested.

Sunday, April 06, 2014


I don't know why, but grotesque, even evil, puppet designs have been a staple of childrens media ever since Punch and Judy.

When I was a little kid I used to watch the Paul Winchell and Jerry Mahoney show (above) and at least once I got a terrible nightmare from thinking about the creepy way Jerry used to roll his eyes to the side.

A digression: Mike has a film showing Paul Winchell with a puppet version of himself. The body is one of the best I've ever seen on a ventriloquist's dummy.

Back on topic: one of the scariest kids show puppets of all time might have been Foodini from a kids show called (I'm guessing) "Pinhead and Foodini."

I've never seen the show...maybe it didn't play in my town. Was this character (above) a regular? He looks like a burn victim in the throws of great pain...something out of Dante's Inferno.

Above, another evil Foodini character.

Even the compositions in that show sometimes came off as evil...or am I imagining that?

Stories like the ones told by The Brothers Grimm are full of creepy ideas and yet my strong intuition is that these tales are good for kids. So where do you draw the line? I wish I knew.

Thursday, April 03, 2014


Wow! I LOVE this Nespresso commercial! This version seems a bit abrupt though. Maybe it's cut down.

I'm a big believer in using Magic Realism in commercials, like they did here. Short subjects should be the realm of impressions and fantasy, not of thought-out, logical premises.

Here's 'Another terrific commercial in a similar vein. It could use a little trimming.

Boy, there's a number of good, high-end, Italian theatrical commercials out there now. What do you think of this one?

On a different note, here's (above) my favorite TV pizza commercial. It's for Little Caesar's "Combo Mambo" pizza. It's funny, the pacing and staging are wonderful, and the melody is catchy in the extreme.

Okay, it starts slow, the film is washed out, and you have to see it several times in order to remember what company it's promoting. Maybe that's why it airs so much...with only one viewing you'd never associate it with Little Caesar's. Even so.......

Last, and very definitely least, is this ad (above) for which floods companies like Amazon with phony endorsements to counteract bad reviews. I can't believe that TV stations accept ads like this. It portrays ordinary people who write negative reviews as pigs and "internet trolls."

I couldn't get the ad to play here, but you can watch it on the site: