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Viewing Blog: A Sketchy Past, The Art of Peter de Sève, Most Recent at Top
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1. Icons of Animation!

Don't blame me for the title, it was Bill Plympton's idea! But then again, so was the show itself, which was a pretty good idea. Opening this week at the Society of Illustrators of New York, will be a four-man show called Icons of Animation which will feature the work of the indefatigable Bill Plympton, the dazzling Carlos Nine, the fantastical William Joyce and, um, me. I haven't seen it yet but I can't wait. On view will be over one hundred pieces of original works on paper for projects varying from the highly personal to the shamelessly commercial. Please join us (Bill and me at least; Joyce and Nine couldn't make the journey because of other commitments) for the opening reception this Friday evening.
Details here!
And if that's not enough for you, this Thursday night, Bill and I will sit on a panel together discussing our experiences in the field of animation which will be moderated by my old pal, J.J. Sedelmaier.
The event is sponsored by the Academy of Motion Pictures and will take place at The Academy Theater at Lighthouse Guild.
Details HERE!

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2. A New Leaf

 This week's cover is somewhat autobiographical.  I tried for seven years to be a vegetarian but just couldn't resist the call of the wild. I wish I could because I really love animals. Unfortunately, they're delicious.

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3. Subway Lines

I know I've said this before, but for inspiration one doesn't have to go very far, especially in New York City. One short hop on the Lexington Ave. line is a crash course in character and costume design. 

The last two sketches were made in a cafe during a recent trip to Paris. 
Ok, some times you do have to go far.

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4. "Just a Pinch"

This cover came out yesterday and my first reaction was embarrassment; it was unseasonably warm and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.  I'm delighted to report that as I write this, the snow is coming down by the pound.

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5. A one day workshop in Paris!

I'll be teaching a one day workshop in character design for anyone who might happen to be in Paris on November 12th. The class will be sponsored by France's most prominent movie magazine, Le Film Francais and will include a lecture and short assignment which we will review in class. You can find more details about the workshop here.
Believe it or not, aside from my class, there is another reason to go to Paris.  After long last, my dear friends Diane and Jean-Jacques Launier will finally celebrate the opening of their new museum, Art Ludik,  which will be dedicated to showcasing work done for the entertainment arts, especially in  animation. Amazingly, their very first exhibition will be The Art of Pixar which is an updated version of the colossal event that premiered at the Museum of Modern Art back in 2006. I can't wait to raise a glass to Diane and JJ and to their own colossal achievement.

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I began this picture thinking it would be such a breeze and yet somehow it still turned into a fight to the death. After four failed attempts, each one almost finished, I was in complete and utter despair and ready to give up. Luckily, Randall courageously dared to come down to the studio to see what all the wailing and smashing of furniture was about and calmly pulled this version out of the trash. "You can save this one. Really. I'm not just saying it." With no hope left and nothing to lose, I dove in again, oddly liberated by the thought that I would be no worse off than before she came downstairs.
I've been learning this lesson over and over again since the first time I picked up a pencil-- to throw caution to the wind and trust that it will work out. Easier said than done. But after all that struggle and some help from my lovely wife, I have to admit, I kind of like this piece.
It's not the one I pictured, but really, how often does that happen anyway?

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I've been trying to climb out of a little drawing rut I've been in lately and convinced myself to go to Sketch Night at the NY Society of Illustrators this evening. I was talking to a writer friend of mine afterwards and she commiserated with me on the need to shake things up a bit.  Drawing from the imagination is not the same as drawing from life and writing book reviews is not the same as writing a short story. But the critical thinking needed to write a book review can help inform a work of fiction, the same way drawing a real person can help you depict one who is wholly invented.
I am not saying that one night of drawing the figure repaired things for me entirely, but it was refreshing to use a different part of the brain again-- the one that observes rather than the one that imagines. Both are so crucial in this line of work, but it is easy to forgo one for the other, leaving that neglected part of the brain to dry up a little. So here is a single drawing out of only three or four I did tonight that may or may not represent a light at the end of the tunnel.

It's better than nothing.

9 Comments on , last added: 6/9/2013
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8. Peter Clarke

 My pal, Peter Clarke, is not one of the most talkative guys you’ll ever meet. In fact, when I first met him in the earliest days of the very first Ice Age movie, I got the distinct impression that he would much rather be left alone to do his work than stand around jawing with the likes of me. Well, it soon became clear to me and to everyone else at Blue Sky Studios, that there was a lot going on beneath those still waters. And now, with a massive show in Los Angeles, we can all get to see how very deep those waters run.
   Clarke is what is known in the industry as a “world-builder”; the person a director goes to when he/she wants to finally see the universe in which their story will take place. This happens soon after a script has begun taking shape and will often inform where the story and the “look” of the entire production will eventually go. With an astonishingly intuitive grasp of perspective Clarke can bend it to whatever suits his purpose. Whether depicting ancient undersea caverns or multi leveled futuristic societies, he makes them all utterly convincing and at the same time, impossible. His style is very much his own with one foot planted firmly in the real world and the other in a gnarled, cubist bizarroland. Both his environments and the characters that dwell in them for that matter, are made of simultaneously twisting and chiseled forms that despite their seeming elasticity, are still somehow totally plausible. If you were to look at any frame of the first Ice Age movie without the characters, you would know exactly who designed that world. Imagine being given the assignment to create a fascinating and varied landscape comprised of only ice and sky. Peter embraced the limitations and made a barren landscape his playground with the result being one of the most unique I’ve seen in an animated film. 
  But that was only the tip of the iceberg (ahem) and this sprawling retrospective covering his work in feature films, video games and personal work, will take you to many other worlds, including forgotten civilizations and ones that have yet to be built.
Peter Clarke's show, Past, Pencil and Future, is the inaugural exhibit of Center Stage Gallery in Burbank, California and is a joint effort by CTN (Creative Talent Network), Stuart Ng Books and Wacom.
The show opens on June 6th and will run until June 30th.
For more info, go here.

7 Comments on Peter Clarke, last added: 6/6/2013
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9. Randall's got a new book!

As you may recall, my wife, Randall de Sève, has written a few children's books, including our one collaboration, The Duchess of Whimsy. Above is an announcement for a pub party to celebrate her latest, Peanut and Fifi have a Ball,  to be held at the greatest children's books store on the planet, Books of Wonder. The book is charmingly illustrated by Paul Schmid who has quite a few books under his belt himself.
If you'd like a signed copy or just want to say hello, we'll see you this Thursday!

3 Comments on Randall's got a new book!, last added: 5/19/2013
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10. What, Me Hurry?

Yes, you should hurry and see the spectacular show of Harvey Kurtzman's work at the Society of Illustrators in NYC which opens tomorrow night!
I grew up surrounded by more of Kurtzman than I even realized; both in the pages of MAD, hidden beneath the draughtsmanship of other artists like Wally Wood and Jack Davis and emblazoned in his own hand on the covers of EC comics titles like Two Fisted Tales and Frontline Comics. He also had more to do with my pubescent development than I care to discuss given his work on Little Annie Fannie, a comic I secretly enjoyed in the purloined pages of my brother Nick's Playboy magazines. Growing up and reading comics in the early '70's, I was too enamored of the detailed, relatively realistic work of artists like Bernie Wrightson and Frank Frazetta, to appreciate the true genius of Harvey Kurtzman's undiluted storytelling.
If you have any interest in comics, graphic novels and especially storyboarding for animation, this exhibition is a master class in the art form which I cannot recommend strongly enough. What you will see in every panel of a Kurtzman strip, whether quickly jotted down in his own hand or rendered dutifully by another's, is the fine art of storytelling in it's purest form.
Kurtzman himself is long gone now, but his work remains to instruct and remind us that in the right hands, Less is Moronic.
In a good way.

1 Comments on What, Me Hurry?, last added: 3/11/2013
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11. The Delaware Art Museum

catalogue cover by Sterling Hundley

Crayon drawing of Scrat which appears in the exhibit.

I am taking part in what sounds like a terrific show at the Delaware Art Museum called State of the Art, Illustration 100 Years after Howard Pyle. I say it sounds terrific because I haven't actually seen it yet, due to the blizzard named Nemo (thank you, Pixar) which slammed the northeast on the night of the opening. The show is described below by, David Apatoff, the curator of the exhibit and a collector and connoisseur of Illustration, past and present.

In the century following Pyle’s 1911 death, American illustration has diversified into a creative empire that includes a wide range of exciting art forms. From animated feature movies and computer images to graphic novels and conceptual art, America’s storytelling artists use the latest technologies and the newest media to tell an ever-richer blend of stories to ever-broader audiences. 
For this exciting contemporary exhibition, Guest Curator David Apatoff, illustration scholar and author of biographies on Robert Fawcett and Albert Dorne, highlights the following eight artists: story illustrator Bernie Fuchs; graphic designer Milton Glaser; MADcaricaturist and comic artist Mort Drucker; The New Yorker cover artist and character designer for animated films, Peter de Sève; editorial artist John Cuneo; painter and book artist Phil Hale; painter and magazine illustrator Sterling Hundley; and Pixar production designer Ralph Eggleston.

3 Comments on The Delaware Art Museum, last added: 3/5/2013
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12. Spectrum Live!

Coming this May 17-19th in Kansas City, Missouri is the second annual Spectrum Live event which is a convention of sorts celebrating illustration done for the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres. I was very sorry to miss the inaugural event last year which I've heard was fantastic but am proud to say that I have been invited to attend this one as a special guest. Other guests include the great illustrators Tara McPherson, Charles Vess, Michael Whelan, Terryl Whitlatch and Jon Foster. I can't wait to hang out with Tara, Charles and Terryl again and really look forward to getting a chance to meet Michael and Jon for the first time. John Fleskes of Flesk Publications is producing Spectrum Live 2, a beautiful hardcover which will include a ten page portfolio of work by each of the special guests and I'm honored to have been asked to supply a cover for it. Above is one possibility which I just recently finished called, "The Harpy's Daughters".

I love conventions like this where people who are passionate about what they do have the chance to come together in one place and shamelessly geek out about it.
If you're interested in finding out more about Spectrum Live, go here.

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13. Blah! Blah! Blah! by Ward Kimball

  The image below was sent to me yesterday by an old high school pal of mine, Robert Arkus ,who found it on Facebook and thought I might find it interesting. Not only did I find it interesting but despite the fact that it was written years ago to someone else entirely, it spoke very directly to me and I suspect it will to many of you fellow visual artists as well.
  I hope it won't seem too egotistical to say that I get a fair amount of correspondence from artists, young and sometimes not so young, who struggle with their work and come to me for advice. The queries, while flattering can also be exhausting to answer. Questions like, "If you have a few minutes, could you give me some secrets on how to become a successful illustrator?"or "I really love character design, can you tell me the quickest way to do that?" are virtually impossible to answer. While I truly do understand the desire for tips and shortcuts and secret recipes, they simply don't exist. And though I have struggled to answer many a letter like this, there are many more that I simply didn't have the time for. Below is a typewritten note (written on a typewriter!)  by the great Ward Kimball, legendary Disney animator, to an aspiring young animator named Will Finn. It is the perfect, no-nonsense reply to anyone seeking advice,  inspiration and a well needed kick in the ass. The fact that it was written forty years ago does not diminish it's message to us in the least. Every line of it is the honest unvarnished truth about becoming an animator or illustrator and to some extent, a well rounded human being. For me it is a well needed splash in the face with a cold bucket of reality.  A reminder that success in what you do doesn't just happen to you.
You make it happen.

Incidentally, Will Finn, the recipient of this letter, went on to become a great Disney animator himself.

3 Comments on Blah! Blah! Blah! by Ward Kimball, last added: 2/24/2013
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A decade has now passed since I did my very first designs for the Ice Age franchise. And though the series is perhaps a little gray around the tusks, it shows no real signs of slowing down--at least according to the Almighty Box Office. Ice Age, Continental Drift is apparently breaking all kinds of records overseas and isn't exactly tanking at home either. And yes, I have my quibbles with the final result but I won't use my space here to delve into them. The little ones seem to be enjoying the film anyway, so who am I to argue?

Instead, now that the movie is finally released, I would like to share some of the drawings I did this time out. As usual, Blue Sky Studios has delivered a gorgeous movie, and I am once again honored to have worked alongside so many amazingly talented people in order to get these characters up on the screen. Consider my hat tipped.

The Sirens.
Silas, a salty petrel.

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15. Shameless Self Promotion, Part 73

The New Yorker has apparently sent out a little email blast with a link to a page spotlighting my work and  providing an opportunity to purchase prints of many ( but apparently not all) of my covers. So why not post it HERE, too?

4 Comments on Shameless Self Promotion, Part 73, last added: 5/11/2012
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16. Tag Sale

So, here's my latest cover, which I must confess, I have mixed feelings about. I wish I could say it was a victory, but I'm afraid the painting got away from me. I fussed with it longer than I should have and made the mistake of taking my reference too seriously. "Brownstone steps are red," I observed, "therefore I shall paint these brownstone steps red". I broke the cardinal rule, "Take what you need and throw out the rest." If I'd just placed the objects the dog is selling on a lighter, more neutral color, the result would not be the chaotic, hodge-podge you see before you. At my request, Françoise Mouly the art director at the New Yorker, did her best to finesse the color digitally, but alas, it couldn't change my feelings about the piece. I am looking forward to my next cover being my best cover.

All that said, it is still a nice way to introduce you to our newish dog, who, to my shame, has not appeared in a drawing or on this blog for the two years we have owned him. Meet, Henry Biscuit, a labrador mix who is a terrified neurotic outside on the streets of Brooklyn, but is a normal, happy puppy in the rolling hills of Connecticut.
Aren't we all, though?

24 Comments on Tag Sale, last added: 4/28/2012
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17. Microvisionaries

My pals Irene Gallo, the art director who has done more to support and publish the art of fantastic illustration in the last decade than anyone else I can think of and Greg Manchess, one of the most fantastic of those illustrators of the fantastic, invited me to participate in a small group show called Microvisions. When I say small, I refer not only to the number of artists invited, (there are only a dozen) but also to the size of the pieces submitted. Subject matter was completely unrestricted but the artwork must be done at only 5X7 inches.
When Greg called me to ask whether I'd be interested, I registered some wariness. "How involved do these things get?", I asked.  He laughed cheerfully and said "Oh, don't worry, Pete, it's tiny and all you have to do is a little, iddy-biddy sketch! Do one of your funny birds or something!" "Okay, Greg, I'll do it!"I said, like a lamb to slaughter.
What then followed was a steady and relentless pounding by my fellow Microvisionaries as one after another, they modestly submitted their masterpieces. I kid you not, almost every one of these things looks like it was painted at 5X7 feet, with stunning rendering and absurd detail. And those that were not painted, are still gorgeous, completely defying the size restriction. As you can see, I ended up doing a hairy little sketch after all, but I am still very happy to be included with this amazing bunch of artists.
Go HERE if you want to see a partial preview.
The goal of the show, by the way, is to have an Ebay auction to benefit the Society of Illustrator's Student Scholarship Fund.  Irene and Greg have yet to post the details of the auction but here is a link to the show which will be on view at the Society of Illustrators from April 17th to May 12th.
As a side note, I have to add what camaraderie each and every member of this group displayed during the course of submitting our work. The encouragement, humor and mutual respect was such a delightful and unexpected pleasure and I feel like we've begun a conversation that all of us are eager to continue.
Here's the complete list of the featured artists:

Scott Bakal
Julie Bell
Scott Brundage
Brian Despain
Nathan Fowkes
Rebecca Guay
Scott Gustafson
John Picacio
Dan Dos Santos
Chris Rahn
Terry Whitlach

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18. Soup to Nuts

The Art of Blue Sky show that was originally exhibited at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts is moving to Manhattan later this month. On April 24th I will have the pleasure of giving a talk on character design right here on my home turf. I have never done a lecture solely on character design and look forward to showing some of my own work, along with that of other designers who inspire me. If you care to join me for the event (and drinks afterward in the Society's swell bar!) then follow this link and buy a ticket!

5 Comments on Soup to Nuts, last added: 3/16/2012
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19. "Go Ahead, Open It!"

Once again, I have a rejected New Yorker cover on my hands. This time I had decided not to leave anything up to chance and submitted a finished piece, but to no avail. The New Yorker obviously doesn't appreciate the gift of a dead mouse.
But maybe you do.
While actually catching a mouse in your teeth and presenting at the feet of your loved one is not practical, perhaps giving this print would be the next best thing. If you know a cat owner with impeccable taste, just click the image to the right.

And by the way, Merry Chrismouse.

"Go Ahead, Open It!" is a signed, limited edition of 250.

• Printed on acid-free
Canson Infinity /
Arches Aquarelle
Rag Fine Art Paper

• Approximate size
13" x 15"

• Shipped in an
archival print

13 Comments on "Go Ahead, Open It!", last added: 11/26/2011
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20. Merry Christmas to Me

I just learned that I've been nominated for an Annie Award for my work on Arthur Christmas. It's very exciting indeed but I would be remiss if I didn't insert a reminder here about the process of bringing
these characters to the screen. Getting a workable design on paper is just the beginning. After all the off- the- cuff doodles are created and culled, the real work of sculpting, modeling, furring, surfacing, rigging, animating and lighting has yet to be done. Overseeing all of that on Arthur Christmas was a fellow named Tim Watts, who I'm been told is a great guy and who did a really wonderful job of translating my scribbles into something animatable. So win or lose, I have Tim and the rest of the crew at Sony/Aardman to thank in getting this far.

And as they say, even if I don't win,
it's an honor just to be animated.

13 Comments on Merry Christmas to Me, last added: 12/10/2011
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21. Lobster Tale

A picture is worth a thousand words,
which is fortunate, since I have nothing to add.

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22. And to all, a good night.

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23. Deep Reading

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24. Pachyderm's Progress

I love to sculpt and I never sculpt.
Every time I've taken the opportunity to explore a character in clay (or sculpy as the case may be) I've found it incredibly satisfying. For me, it is such a perfect extension of drawing and in some ways a fuller experience. Drawing a figure in a pose is one thing, but it is often a cheat. It's only when committing that drawing to 3D that you see how much you faked for the sake of that one angle. That's the challenge and the pleasure of it though. In clay, you have a chance to spin your drawing around, to add and subtract. And not just lines, but real volume. Real weight. 
As with almost everything I do, this piece is an assignment. Left to my own devices, I would probably noodle this to death or only get it half done. But fortunately my pal, Michael DeFeo, formerly head of the sculpting department at Blue Sky and now a formidable gun for hire, is also something of an entrepreneur. He's come up with a scheme to sell a line of small sculptures by prominent illustrators and character designers as limited editions. This may be one of them if we like the final result. The line is called Designer Rock Stars (his title, not mine) and is in it's still in it's early stages. By the way, check out the video about his L'Ecorche app. It looks like it will be an astonishingly good tool for understanding human anatomy in a really complete way. You can find it here.

So anyway, I am putting my little maquette out here not only to prove that I am still alive, but to force me to finish the thing.

Wish me luck.

16 Comments on Pachyderm's Progress, last added: 2/29/2012
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25. I'm off to the Spectrum Wars

I mean Spectrum Awards. 
After missing a few opportunities to sit on the jury for the Spectrum Awards I will finally get my chance this weekend. On Friday I fly off to Kansas City where my esteemed fellow jurors and I will spend the weekend looking at over 6000 entries. From among them we will choose what we feel is the very best illustration done during the past year for the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and the simply Fantastic.

Who am I kidding?
This was just an excuse to draw a dragon.

10 Comments on I'm off to the Spectrum Wars, last added: 3/1/2012
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