Friday, April 29, 2011

Adam Hughes

Another recent addition to the Inkwell Studios library- Cover Run: The DC Comics Art of Adam Hughes (DC). In the comics world, they're called Good Girl Artists- the illustrators who specialize in drawing fetching young women, often wearing tights and capes (the characters, not the artists). The late Dave Stevens revived interest in Good Girl Art with the Rocketeer, but Adam Hughes is its best-known practitioner. Unlike so many comics artists who fall into a cookie-cutter sameness that passes for style, Hughes has kept pushing his technique in new directions. Lately he's been creating his covers as grayscale marker drawings and then coloring them in Photoshop. He's also incredibly well-versed in illustration history: look at the nod to Maxfield Parrish in the Supergirl cover above, and to Norman Rockwell in the Wonder Woman "Girl Scouts" cover. And he has a great sense of humor- I love that image of Superman cooling his heels while Diana and Lois engage in a little late-night girl talk. AND, if that weren't enough, he and his wife Allison are two of the coolest people in the comics world.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Another recent illustration- this was created as a demonstration piece for a digital illustration class I'm teaching.


Yet another recent addition to the Studio library: Overspray: Riding High With the Kings of California Airbrush Art (Picturebox). The airbrush-as-illustration-tool enjoyed a brief heyday in the 1930s, thanks in part to Wrigley's artist Otis Shepard and pinup masters George Petty and Alberto Vargas. In the 1970s, a group of California artists, beginning with Dave Willardson and Charles White III, revived interest in the airbrush with their glorious pop-surrealist illustrations for magazines like West, Playboy, Rolling Stone and Oui (yes, Oui), movie posters and hundreds of album covers. The California airbrushers embraced pop culture iconography with a rare enthusiasm, and their work is saturated with so much chrome, neon, glossy lipstick and carnal sweat it leaves a not-altogether-unpleasant buzzing sensation in the skull. Norman Hathaway writes, "The carhop in Dave Willardson's poster for American Grafitti is so intensely American it's nearly painful."

Monday, April 18, 2011

Irish Classical Theatre Company

For the past ten years or so we've been creating posters for the Irish Classical Theatre Company. Here are a few selections from the 2011-2012 Season.

Blue Monk

Design mavens Greg Meadows and Pete Reiling created the identity for Blue Monk, a bustling gastropub on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. We created this little Cartoon Modern drawing based on one of Pete's sketches.

Hula Girl

Contrary to popular belief, winters in Buffalo aren't bad- but they are unreasonably long. The snowstorm outside my window on this April 18th afternoon inspired me to post this restorative pinup.

Cat's Meow

While skiing at Kissing Bridge, we noticed an old wooden sign hanging over an abandoned ski trail: "Cat's Meow." We were strangely charmed by this weatherbeaten relic- partly because of the jazzy name, and partly because the carefully hand-painted sign stood in sharp contrast to today's white vinyl slabs, with their randomly compressed and expanded Helvetica. We coveted that sign. But hiking into the woods at night and stealing it would've been wrong. And difficult. So we did the next best thing: we recreated it. It hangs in the studio now, a testament to our entry-level woodworking skills and our long-standing commitment to spending way too much time on non-paying projects.


If there's one thing we like, it's Mike Mignola's Hellboy, and if there's another thing we like, it's Douglas Fraser's neo-heroic illustration, and if there's a third thing we like, it's drawing a favorite character in the style of a favorite artist.

Time Travel...

While redesigning the Inkwell Studios website, we thought we'd have some fun with the "About Us" section- rather than talk about our work (which is awesome) or our clients (huge names- you'd be totally impressed) or the awards we've won (tons), we decided to create a fictional photographic autobiography, with our picture stripped in, Zelig-like, next to cultural luminaries from the past century. We thought the idea was hilarious, but it quickly took on a life of its own and became too unwieldy for the website; we decided to go with something a little more straightforward. However, given that we're ecologically-minded sorts who hate to let anything, even pixels, go to waste, we're reproducing the "Brush With Greatness" series here.
Newport Folk Festival, 1965. Foreground: Michael Gelen. Background, second from right: Bob Dylan.

Memphis, 1956. Left to right: Michael Gelen, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash.

Pamplona, 1925. Seated, left to right: Ernest Hemingway, Lady Duff Twysden, Hadley Hemingway, Harold Loeb. Standing: Michael Gelen

New York, 1959. Left to right: John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderly, Miles Davis, Michael Gelen

Location Unknown, 1951. Left to right: Michael Gelen, Neal Cassady, Jack Kerouac

Stockbridge , Massachusettes, 1959. Left to right: Norman Rockwell, Michael Gelen

Montparnasse, 1916. Left to right, Amadeo Modigliani, Michael Gelen, Picasso, Andre Salmon

"Termite Terrace," Hollywood, California, 1935. Clockwise from front, center: Michael Gelen, Virgil Ross, Sid Sutherland, Tex Avery, Chuck Jones, Bob Clampett.

Amsterdam, 1969. Left to Right: John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Michael Gelen

New York City, 1933. Left to right: Michael Gelen, Margaret Bourke-White

Long Island, 1955. Left to right: Michael Gelen, Jackson Pollack.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Movie Posters of Drew Struzan

Another recent acquisition: The Movie Posters of Drew Struzan (Running Press). Even if you don't know his name, you know his work- Drew Struzan's rise to prominence as a movie poster artist coincided with the late 1970s "B-Movie-as-Blockbuster" phenomenon. It's hard to imagine E.T., Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker without picturing Struzan's warm-butterscotch illustrations. There's so much accessibility to Struzan's work: even though his portraits are very carefully observed and rendered, you can really see the hand at work- the bleeding water colors, the Prismacolor scribbles, the water spatters and that sketchy, lower-case "drew" in the corner.

J. C. Leyendecker

Another recent acquisition: J. C. Leyendecker (Abrams). Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell were the two giants of the Golden Age of Illustration, although Leyendecker has never matched Rockwell's enduring ubiquity. Both were technical masters, both composed their paintings brilliantly, but Rockwell's small-town subjects were embraced in a way that Leyendecker's swells never were. Regardless of the subject matter, it's hard not to be moved by the lush sensuality of Leyendecker's world, where everything glistens like Bakelite, and the paint goes down in bold staccato strokes, as thick as cake frosting.

The Art of Jaime Hernandez

Around here, there are few things more exciting than a new addition to the Inkwell Studios library, and the past few weeks have seen some very cool acquisitions. First up: The Art of Jaime Hernandez (Abrams ComicArts). Jaime and brother Gilbert (Los Bros Hernandez) brought punk rock's do-it-yourself ethos to the independent comics movement of the early eighties with Love and Rockets, a careening blend of superheroics, magic realism, sci-fi and soap opera. Each brother had a distinct style; I was particularly drawn to Jaime's linear minimalism. I always admire the guys who do a lot with a little, and Jaime conveys so much energy and emotion, so precisely, with just a few single-weight lines and areas of black.