Tag Archives: venice

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.

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.

Umberto & Margherita

The improbably mustachioed King Umberto and Queen Margherita come to visit Nini in his caffè—

(By the way—yes, this is the Queen Margherita for whom the pizza is named.)

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.

Giuseppe Verdi & Nonna

Giuseppe Verdi makes his entrance in The Famous Nini.

More research for Nonna’s costume can be found here.

Being John Singer Sargent

I’m working on paintings (finishing them up, actually) for a story about a cat who lives in Venice circa 1890.  Since the publisher refused to send me to la Serenissima to gather visual research (hey, you can’t blame a boy for asking!), I was forced to make do with the beautiful paintings of John Singer Sargent, who lived in Venice at the same time our cat did.

To help me get a feel for the color scheme, or palette, I did small color studies of some of Sargent’s Venetian paintings.  Here’s his painting of the Rialto:

2695965461_896120b747_o

…and my study of it.

rialtocolor396

I recommend this kind of exercise.  I learned so much about color from Sargent by mimicking his paintings.  Here are more:

beadstringercolor395

churchcolor397

watercarrierscolor394

A piu tardi—

Later—

La Serenissima

Today I’m working on a night-tme scene: a lady holding a cat in 1890s Venice.  Here are the thumbnail sketch and the comprehensive sketch.

Thumbnail sketch for pp 30/31.  The opera box scene was dropped.

Thumbnail sketch for pp 30/31. The opera box scene was dropped.

Comp sketch for page 30.

Comp sketch for page 30.

I’ll start by blocking in the dark areas in Burnt Sienna.