Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Visit to the J. Paul Getty Museum

During my vacation a few weeks ago, I went down to southern California to attend the John Williams concert at the Hollywood Bowl. The next day, we topped off our trip with a visit to the J. Paul Getty Museum, home to paintings by Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh,and a whole busload of other great talents. Sculpture, old furniture, illuminated manuscripts-- you name it, and it was pretty much represented at the Getty. Anyways, here's a silent video of just about all of the major works in the museum. Now for a little bit of high culture!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Batman Exercise Draw-a-long

So I decided to try something a little fun yesterday. I was snooping around Youtube and began watching an over-the-shoulder video shot of Neal Adams as he drew and inked a sketch on the front end paper of one of his hardbound collections, for a fan. I thought it would be interesting to do a "draw-a-long" with the video, and see what happened.
It's a weird sensation to be not necessarily drawing something from life, but drawing a cartoon as it is being drawn by someone else. His brain (and tremendous talent) is in a different place than mine, of course. It was interesting how he worked around the drawing, touching the ears, then going back to the cape, then the eyes, and onward. He was doing feathering that I was attempting to keep up with, and he knew exactly what he was going to do next, and I had no idea! The end results are just okay. I'm sure that if I now redrew it and re-inked it, it would be better. As it is, it's just okay, with the only truly nasty part being the shading on the neck, in the center of the drawing (of course). Oh well, now for the most obvious statement made in a long while: we can't all be Neal Adams.
Check out the video of the man himself, and marvel at how confident his strokes are.  He is inking with no hesitation or fear:
Neal Adams drawing Batman

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Another Quick One


A little something I did while watching football.  The madness of the sport fits well with the Clown Prince of Crime.  It turned out okay, but I can't help but feel that I'm seeing Dick Van Dyke.

It could use some darker values, or just maybe some color.  But I don't think I have it in me to go any further.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Warner Bros. Studio VIP Tour Part 2! Video!

Well, after a week's delay in following up with my Warner Bros. story, we finally have the Bat-portion of the tour.  For now, here is a slideshow of everything (including the regular tour images featured in the previous entry).  Around 2:50 or so, the Batman Exhibit begins.

Sorry about the "silent treatment."  I didn't bother putting music to it, since lately Youtube has been getting maniacal about finding music in our humble videos and then altering them or even removing them.  It's too bad, since this presentation would've been WICKED with some Danny Elfman pounding away, center stage.

Enjoy! And I'll be posting some of the pics for still viewing soon!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Rose Queen Competition: The Backdrop's Final Destination


A few weeks ago, I posted about a freestanding wood backdrop that I made for my niece's performance in the talent portion of the Rose Queen competition. Here's a look at a.) my niece giving a performance that won the talent protion, and b.) my backdrop/painting, doing it's job for a few minutes before probably being introduced to total oblivion.
 I had been concerned about making the image too distracting, too detailed, or too loud. I didn't want it to distract the audience from her. Well, she did such a good job that I probably could've completely rendered the two seated people on the back bench, as well as painted a skyline behind them and nobody would've even noticed.
But let me gloat a moment.  Just look how perfectly that painted park bench lines up with the real bench.  It turned out good.

Warner Bros. Studio VIP Tour! (Part 1)

So it goes without saying that I am a fan of comics, along with sci-fi and just about anything else that allows mankind to sidestep  this stifling, mundane world and dive into another realm, one where often we end up coming to terms with the same stuff we're having to conquer in the real world.  I guess we're not supposed to realize that's what's happening when we're enjoying all of this stuff.

Anyways,  a few months ago I'd heard about this amazing exhibit, something I didn't think would ever be possible.  To celebrate the 75th birthday of Batman, Warner Bros decided to gather together some of the key props and costumes and put them on display.  Oh, and there were also going to be some Batmobiles.  Yes, Batmobiles.

After checking the madness known as the Warner Bros website, one of the most vague and goofy studio sights ever-- I almost thought they didn't want me to go to the tour, I learned that it was $54 to do the Batman tour.  Some folks out there would say, "But Jeff you could go to Universal and for $92 have a pass for the whole next year, and there's rides and tons of merchandise and blah blah.  Warner Bros is just a studio; it's not really for tourists!"

That's absolutely right.  There were no rides at Warner Bros.  There were no restaurants within the gates.  There was no shark that shot out at us.  And you know what? It turned out to be stinking AWESOME.

The "Mystery Cowl."
My friend Ricardo and I arrived exactly 20 minutes before our scheduled tour time was to start, which is exactly when they want you to get there, since you have to check in.  The tours are reservation only, and there's 8 people to a tour group (compare that to the cattle trams at Universal).  There was just one small gift shop in the front room, with a small amount of  "Friends," "Harry Potter," and "Ellen" stuff.  The staff and even security there were really nice; it wasn't at all what I was expecting.  The atmosphere was very comfortable.

As we waited, we checked out some Bat-creations on display in the windows, including an amazing  Lego construction that recreated the cover of Batman's first appearance in Detective Comics.


 Finally, it was time for our tour.  After a watching a short presentation on the history of the studio, we were all separated into our tour groups, in groups of 8, with a tour guide for each group.  We then went outside and boarded a golf cart, with the tour guide taking the wheel, and we were on our way.

Due to the vagueness of the Warners tour website, we had been under the impression that we were paying to go to an exclusively Batman tour.  In the days leading up to Friday, we had contemplated doing the Batman tour and then paying to go on the regular tour.  Well, it turned out that the Batman exhibit was included WITHIN the regular Warners tour, so we were going to BEHOLD IT ALL!

As we rode in our golf cart into the lot, the tour guide suddenly parked and had us all hop out.  This was the part that I really, really liked.  Unlike Universal, where you will NEVER step off of the tram, there at Warners we often were on foot with the tour guide, actually walking down exterior city sets, getting very up close (I even touched the fake brick walls).  We could look inside the windows of the facades and see all of the infrastructure (and how most of the facades were storage areas inside).


Our tour guide knew his stuff, and because the group the was only 8 of us, he would take questions from us, which was COOL.  It was very casual, and the pacing was nice and slow.  There was no, "If you look to your right you'll see where this was filmed, and oh to the left that was where this famous scene happened but moving along..." You actually had a chance to stop and look at something and think about those films you'd seen.

Exterior used for many movies, including the 1981 "Annie." The fire escapes were salvaged from New York scrap yards.
Here's the entrance to the orphanage from "Annie."




This was the entrance to the curio shop where Gizmo was purchased in the original "Gremlins."

This blew us away.  Right in the middle of the city set was this narrow vertical section that didn't fit in.  We were told that this was "Arkham Asylum" from "Batman Forever"!  I thought it was amazing that they could build such a tiny portion of what was made up to be a massive structure, and then make it work on film.

You can really see what a skinny section of the building was reserved for filming!

All of the "brickwork" was actually rubbery molds of actual bricks, glued onto foam backing.  We touched it, and it felt like a loose membrane, like you could probably punch a big dent into the walls. (Check out the golf cart)
In the khakis and blue striped shirt is our Richard Dreyfuss-esque tour guide.  The guy knew what he was talking about.

This exterior was used for the big scene in "The Music Man," as was the circular grass area in the next pic.

This small area with three trees was used to depict a large park in an episode of "Pretty Little Liars."

I wish I could recall all of the shows and movies that he mentioned were shot at these exteriors.


The entrance to the studio where "Friends" was shot.

Sadly, a quick blurry pic of the entrance to the Conaco offices, headquarters of The Conan Show.

Inside the shop, where they were building prop pieces not only for Warner Bros productions but also for other studios as well.


The transplanted Central Perk set from "Friends."  The set was much smaller than it ever appeared on the show.

There I am, looking like a sweaty fool, sitting on the real couch from "Friends."


Where The Conan Show is taped.


I am sorry for the finger in the lens.  This was used in the 1960s Adam West Batman series as the exterior of Gotham City hall.  Remember the reused shot of them pulling up in the Batmobile, and then hopping out to hurry within?

This exterior was used in "Casablanca."  How cool is that?


This small little section of grass, which ends immediately to the right of the pic's frame, was used whenever they needed to depict Central Park in "Friends."  Again, it was amazing how such a tiny area could be made to appear so large within the framework of presentation.  I love this kind of stuff.

After walking around for a while, we then hopped aboard our golf cart and headed over to a few studio buildings, where we got to actually go inside (something that I always was annoyed with Universal for not doing).  We walked into the sets for "Pretty Little Liars" and "The Mentalist."  It stunned me how small their overall dimensions were, and and how really the shows didn't consume much space with their sets.  They could've fit onto any high school theatre stage.  I went down a hallway and looked into a bedroom set form "Pretty Little Liars," and then the moment I was out of the doorway I was looking at a hall that obviously was meant to be somewhere else entirely.  Then, we turned another corner, and voila! we are now somewhere else entirely.  The FBI set from "The Mentalist" was also very small, as was the high school set for "Glee."  The ceilings were very low, and again, you wouldn't believe how condensed everything was.  The large fabric cityscape paintings that hung outside the large office window looked totally fake.  But what they do is black out on the backside all of the areas that aren't to be lit in the image, and then shine powerful lamps through the fabric painting, so that all of the windows and sky blast up with light and it suddenly looks real.

We also strolled into the audience area to check out the sets for "Mike and Molly."  The sets were very cramped, and the walls were simply plywood on 2 by 4s.  There were about 5 or 6 sets, jammed side by side within an audience viewing section of about 60 feet or so.  The guide explained how it often takes between 3 to 5 HOURS to completely shoot a 30 show.  There actually weren't that many rows of chairs in there, and there were a bunch of dangling microphones above, so they could augment good "laughers" and diminish the crummy ones.  This explains why "The Big Bang Theory" often sounds like it has canned laughter.  It has been "customized."

In our next installment, I will be presenting all of the "Bat-pics" for all of you who won't be able to make it to the tour before it wraps.  My pics aren't that great, but Ric took a ton with his Galaxy phone which was far superior to by iPhone.  I'll be posting those pics in the next few days.

Monday, September 1, 2014

My Home Studio Sign

So, as many of you do not know, and there's no reason why you would know,I am in a transitory state right now. No, I'm not in the process of spiritual or physical metamorphosis. But my working environment is.

I live in a 4-bedroom house.  For most regular folks, this will be more than enough room.  But I just happen to have this alter-ego that's creative in many odd ways.  I like to build models, paint, draw, and other fun practices.  Up until recently, one of the bedrooms was reserved as the "office," where my computer was, along with all of my models, books, posters, etc.  I called it "The Fortress of Solitude: West Coast."  That name was used for my first blog, the one that people used to visit a whole lot.

Anyways, with my 3rd child getting a little older, it's time to surrender this room over to my oldest son.  But that doesn't mean that I have to now stop all projects, all creative endeavors, all the things that maintain my sanity.

The solution?  Maybe build a separate structure in my backyard, sort of like what my friend Loyd had, once he came into a similar situation years ago?  He would send me home videos he shot from within his converted shed, which he called "The Batcave: Midwest."  He lived in Oklahoma, and I lived in California, so our trading videotapes was a means to keep in touch and show off what cool things we were getting into.

Eventually though, his Batcave succumbed to the bitter elements of the Midwest.  He sent me a video that revealed how the shed had begun to basically decompose, and he had to pack away all of his figures, models, posters, you get the idea-- and he lost his Batcave.  He has since moved, and now has a lair above the separate garage building next to his house.  It's a really nice setup.  I'll ask if I can have permission to show pics of his current realm.

Now, for me, the situaion is a bit different.  Yes, I'm being bullied out of my Fortress, but I'm crazy.  BUT, I'm not a crazy man who's rich.  Therefore, I won't be building an entire new structure outside.  But I will be utilizing part of my garage....

I propose to build a couple of walls that will box in about a space measuring 8 feet by 16 feet.  It will be temporary walls, with the ability to be removed and put back up in a new garage when/if I move.  It will have a door, plus the other mandoor that's built into the garage right now.  It will have air conditioning, insulation, and will house my drafting table, cabinet, homemade easel, and anything else I can cram in there.

This week I am renting a dumpster in order to thin out anything in my garage that I don't need, and then I'll repair all of the dings and marks on the sheetrock walls of my garage.  Once all is really clean and straight, I'll start framing the walls.  Thank God we're coming to the latter part of the brutal summer heat.  Once fall starts, I'll actually enjoy going out there and getting to work!  But for now, the mess has got to get out first.

And once my walls go up, there's going to need to be a studio sign.  It doesn't matter if I'm never going to be famous or achieve anything big.  I want a sign for my studio!  And so I've completed it.
 
It measures 12 by 24, and is acrylic over MDF.  The Superman winking at you is courtesy of an old expression sheet drawn by Curt Swan, the Superman artist of my generation.  I guess I could've painted Supes looking all lantern jawed and determined, but it's ME... I have a sense of humor.  Oddly, the "s" in "Jeff's" doesn't look right in the pic, but in person it's good.  As I worked on "Superizing" by letters, I had flashbacks to so many times as a kid when I would attempt to drawn the Superman title logo.  The perspective is very tricky.  You can certainly use Adobe Illustrator to create it relatively quickly, but I chose to go with hand-drawn.  I think it turned out okay.

So now, with the sign complete, I guess I'll have to build that studio! Crap!