Sunday, October 18, 2009

Catalogues from Mary Blair Tokyo Exhibition

"The Colors of Mary Blair" was an exhibition at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art held this past Summer. The exhibition closed just this month and, for those who were not lucky enough to see it, the exhibition catalogue will be available (if it is not already available) through the bookstore at the Museum of Cartoon Art in San Francisco. Contact Heather Plunkett at the bookstore for more information.

The catalogue text is mostly in Japanese, but there are a few preface essays - by Pete Doctor, John Canemaker, Charles Solomon, and some family relations - that are presented in English. This catalogue presents more of Mary's work more accurately reproduced to show original color than any previous publication of her work.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michae Jackson's Life

A quote from an interview that Michael Jackson gave to
"I am going to say something I have never said before and this is the truth. I have no reason to lie to you and God knows I am telling the truth. I think all my success and fame, and I have wanted it, I have wanted it because I wanted to be loved. That's all. That's the real truth. I wanted people to love me, truly love me, because I never really felt loved. I said I know I have an ability. Maybe if I sharpened my craft, maybe people will love me more. I just wanted to be loved, because I think it is very important to be loved and to tell people that you love them and to look in their eyes and say it."

Go HERE for the whole article

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Digital Illustration for my new children's book

I've been working on illustrations for a book recently, using photoshop in a realist style that is very challenging, and something of a departure for me. The end result reminds me of Northern Renaissance paintings where every hairy imperfection is rendered faithfully. The composition and lighting both have to be strong to save the viewer from "texture overload". The end result is very engaging, though and invites scrutiny. That's why I've included a closeup version below.

Friday, May 8, 2009

CalArts in the News!

Here's a glowing article from The Huffington Post about CalArts for those of you interested in Arts education. I have to say that CalArts opens many doors for those who get their animation education there. Click HERE for the article. Although the school is famous for turning out great animators and film makers, it also has schools for music, theater, fine art, and dance. APPLY today!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mary Blair at Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art

The Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art will host "The Colors of Mary Blair", a retrospective exhibit which expands upon the popular "Art and Flair of Mary Blair", the Museum of Cartoon Art - San Francisco exhibit which was so popular in 2007-2008. The exhibit will run from mid-April through mid-July of 2009. This will be the largest collection of Mary Blair's original work ever shown. The exhibit will show work from her early days as a recent alumnus of Chouinard Art Institute and proceed through her career at Disney, her advertising art in New York, and her final psycho-surreal mixed media works completed during her retirement years in Central California.

If you are interested in joining a tour group in mid-June to see the exhibit in Tokyo, please let me know before the end of April. You can email me at:

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Art and Flair of Mary Blair Exhibit to Travel!

I have anxiously been awaiting the return of two watercolors that I had lent to the San Francisco Cartoon Art Museum's "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair" exhibit which ran from October 2007 until its extended closing in May of 2008. Word is out that the exhibit may be traveling overseas next year! I think I'll wait until things are more concrete before I divulge the exact location of the exhibition. I know that Mary has a lot of fans in the country that will possibly host the show, so they should be pleased to see her works up close.

I have three of these large watercolors that appear to be illustrations from period classics such as Dickens' "Great Expectations", Wilde's "Picture of Dorian Gray", and Dumas' "Count of Monte Cristo". Two of these were in the San Francisco exhibit and the third can be seen in John Canemaker's book, "The Art and Flair of Mary Blair". My guess is that they were done for Mary's Chouinard class in illustration taught by Pruett Carter, or they were done for her portfolio immediatedly after art school and just about the time of her wedding to Lee Blair - I say this because she signs her name, "Mary Robinson Blair" on all three pieces and she shortened her signature to "Mary Blair" not long after she was married. If you look at some of Pruett Carter's illustrations, such as the ones he did for stories in Ladies Home Companion and other magazines, there are some remarkable similarities in the compositions and mannerisms.
The image above is one of Carter's illustrations and a few similarities that struck me were:
1. The tipped lower floor plane showing pattern in both the floor and the striped chair. In Mary's vertical composition above, she shows pattern in the carpet to better advantage by tipping the ground plane down in an exaggerated manner similar to the Carter image.
2. The elongated figures - in an almost El Greco-like or Thomas Hart Benton-like manner, the figures in both Carter and Blair's work are impossibly thin and tall. This would have been standard in many illustrator's work at the time and I'm sure Carter would have brought this preference to his student's attention.
3. The halo of light around the figure's heads/faces. The values are carefully modulated so that the lightest light and the darkest dark in the composition are found at the main character's head; the focal point of each composition.

All three of these points would be common in Mary's work in the years to follow. I am really fascinated by how these pictures show the beginnings of Mary's personal style.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Vance Gerry pitching to Woolie Reitherman, Larry Clemmons,
Milt Kahl and Ken Anderson

Memories of Vance Gerry

Vance Gerry was a soft-spoken man. He had opinions, of course, but he never felt like it was his constant duty to express them (some of us, however, did feel that way). I never saw him angry or frustrated (others have, but they will acknowledge that it was on a rare and justifiable occasion). Here was the appearance of a man who had mastered life and had found contentment. He spent a lifetime drawing storyboards and personal illustrations, but he never lost his youthful enthusiasm for his own work and the good work of others. He did some of the best feature storyboard work I had ever seen.

I worked with Vance and Walt Disney Feature Animation during a time when many young artists were depressed with the quality of films that were in production – immediately prior to the success of The Little Mermaid. When artists much younger than he were complaining and expressing cynical opinions about the future of Disney Animation, Vance reminded the anxious young artists around him that there was never a time he remembered when everyone at the studio was happy and secure about the quality of films that were being made.

Vance, by example, showed those around him that there was never an excuse for doing less than your best work. He proved that good work can elevate average material and that this was the definition of a true story artist. While others would complain and stress about their work, Vance would quietly turn out sketch after amazing sketch that provided strong direction for the rest of the crew - for character acting and for the mood of the environments. I can’t say that it was the best drawing technique I had ever seen, his drawings were kind of simple with dough-y shapes but at the same time, terrifically charming – and the staging and lighting indications were always, ALWAYS wonderful.

He loved to dress up certain drawings with a simple color wash or some crayon – and he used the most humble, stupid “little kid” sets of watercolors and crayola crayons that you would find in any drugstore (shaming those who think they need the best materials in order to create their best work).

Vance was an inspiration to the younger artists around him. He was passionate about watercolor and loved the work of the California School of Watercolor. Many of those artists had worked at Disney or had some relationship to Walt and the studio; Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, Lee Blair, Art Riley, Ralph Hulett, Elmer Plummer, and many others had either worked at the studio or taught at Chouinard and then California Institute of the Arts. Vance would accompany some of the younger artists (including myself – a twenty-something neophyte at the time) to paint watercolors in the parks and other locations near the studio during lunch hours. I have one of his lunch hour watercolors - we traded one day after one of our painting trips.

Vance Gerry watercolor painted on his lunch
hour at Bette Davis park in Glendale, CA

He also was a fan of Jack Miller, an artist who worked in the Character Model department during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Vance had made a book from photocopies of Jack’s studio work – pirates from Peter Pan, caricatures of his co-workers, etc, and it was obvious that Vance’s drawing style owed much to that of Jack Miller.

Occasionally, I will look though my files and find copies of Vance’s wonderful work – and I still learn things from viewing his drawings. And then I miss him. So this blog entry is my tribute to the memory of Vance Gerry.