Tag Archives: art director

A Funny Thing Happened…

Another fantastic and fun project for the Pittsburgh Public Theater—create an image for A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum! My talented pal Paul Schifino art directed. He asked for something with a cornucopia and spectacularly oomphy slave-girls. I generated a bunch of rough ideas—we lost the cornucopia along the way. Harem pants looked too ‘I Dream of Jeanie’, so they got replaced with skimpy versions of ancient Roman fashion. Not a job for the faint-hearted.

A side note: this 2017/2018 season will be the finale for Ted Pappas, the Public’s Producing Artistic Director. I’m grateful to have seen many of his fabulous productions over the years. Best wishes for a well-deserved retirement!

A Servant to Two Masters

A Servant to Two Masters opens at the O’Reilly Theater in Pittsburgh, PA this Thursday. It’s an old commedia dell’arte-style farce updated to modern-day Venice. “Our hilarious hero, Truffaldino, will stop at nothing to stuff his face, even if it means working for two bosses at the same time. Laughs pile on top of laughs as he tries to keep both masters happy, hook up with the delectable Smeraldina, and have his fill of fettuccini.”

To celebrate, here is the art I was commissioned to create for the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s promotional materials. The design is by my brilliant pal, Paul Schifino. We’re looking at the first rough ideas through tight sketches to final art.

Ahoy, ye sea dogs!

l_9781585368150_fcP is for Pirate is here!

As long-time readers know, the subject of pirates is a favorite of mine. You can imagine how happy I was when Sleeping Bear Press asked me to illustrate Eve Bunting’s latest, P is for Pirate. 

Here’s how the jacket art came together. Some rough sketches, a tight sketch based on the approved rough, the painting in progress. I lost something in the tight sketch—the pirate doesn’t have the same aggressiveness & oomph—so I went back to the rough sketch to paint from. That’s my dear old African Grey, Sherman, sitting on his shoulder. How I miss him! I like this low-key palette, mostly blacks, greys and red. The talented Felicia Macheske was my art director on this project. I will show more images throughout the month.

The Divine Sarah

This past January I had the pleasure of creating images for the Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure—this time for the world premiere of L’Hôtel, a new comedy by Ed Dixon. The cast of characters is 6 stars from the recent and distant past. Art Director Paul Schifino asked me to create stand-alone caricatures of 3 of them: Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt. Here are sketches, painting-in-progress and the finished art of the Divine Sarah.

By the way, this painting and two others will be on display at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni Show which opens this Friday evening.

More Mummy cover sketches

Back cover of Where’s My Mummy?—working out some sketch ideas, followed by the layout for the entire jacket.  When an art director sends me a layout (sketch & text together in one piece of art) she’s telling me to go ahead and start painting.

Cover ideas for Pete’s Disappearing Act

Back when Jenny Tripp’s fabulous sequel to Pete and Fremont was still in production, the story—in which Pete leaves the circus in search of a new life—didn’t yet have a title.  Things were becoming so desperate AD Samantha McFerrin was reduced to asking me for ideas.  Here are rough sketches for the cover with title possibilities scribbled in:

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Nothing very workable here.  What about something more show-bizzy?  At this point Pete’s Disappearing Act had become the working title, so I thought I’d do something that looked like a vanishing act. Here are some ideas as tight sketches:

Too Houdini.  Here’s a dramatic scene where Pete and his friends are almost run over by a riverboat:

Still not quite there.  But this one was the winner—Pete caught up in a twister:

Dear T Rex cover

My computer had a nervous breakdown in March and I thought I’d lost all my images from this title, Dear Tyrannosaurus Rex.  Here are some that follow the development of the cover art I found on a disk.

The story’s about a girl who sends a T Rex an invitation to  her sixth birthday party.  The first sketch is for front & back cover, showing T Rex opening the invite in his museum.  Next is the painting with more background on the left side, including the security guard.

The art director wasn’t happy with this image, and suggested something simpler.  Here’s the sketch and the painting.

Festival in Venice

There’s a scene in The Famous Nini when the king declares National Nini Day and everyone celebrates.

Kerry Martin, the senior design editor, wasn’t happy with the scene as I’d depicted it in the thumbnail sketch with crowds on a bridge over a canal (p 17).  I worked up 3 rough alternative sketches—where we see Nonna & Nini through the crowd, where the crowd is seen from inside the caffè, where Nonna & Nini are out among the crowd—and then did a tight version of the winner.

Jacket art for Famous Nini

Of all the images for a picture book, the jacket art gets the biggest going-over.  I sent 4 rough thumbnail ideas to Kerry Martin, the senior design editor (in the olden days there was an art director and an editor; Kerry’s title reflects the melding of those 2 positions over the years).  Number 2 was chosen—the silhouette of the gondola makes a nice graphic shape—and I worked up a tight sketch.  You can see the painting in progress.  I liked the idea of a nighttime scene, with Venice reflected in the canal.  Next, the comprehensive layout—or ‘comp’—with the sketch and the type combined.  Originally I was to hand-letter the title type, but the treatment Kerry came up with looks so good we all agreed not to mess with it.  Finally, the finished illustration.

L’Imperatore d’Etiopia

The Famous Nini is due out June 7, but Amazon.com already has copies available.

A scene I particularly like: the Emperor of Ethiopia arrives in Venice to visit Nini the famous cat. Here’s the thumbnail sketch—

Here is the sketch, built from the thumbnail.  I envisioned the Emperor and his daughter traveling from their ship up the canal via a royal gondola, like the one the Doge used. That’s Verdi top right, with some Carnivale party-goers (they look a little somber—the princess is tragically mute).  I tricked out the gondola with some African style pelts, but my art director felt a tiger-skin would be out-of-place in a cat-lover’s book.

The Doge's gondola

Emperor Menelik