We just got two gorgeous Cats Don’t Dance original backgrounds. I knew John Alvin did Cats Don’t Dance production art. He created the movie poster, so I started researching about the history of the flick when we found the backgrounds. I watched the movie, and read up on this poor under-appreciated cat-centric cartoon.
This overlooked animated feature from 1997 is so much fun! I decided to write about this week on the Artinsights blog. By the end, you’ll want to watch Cats Don’t Dance, whether you’re already a huge fan, or you’ll be seeing it for the first time…
The coolest thing about Cats Don’t Dance is the original idea for the film came out of the semi-feral cats that have roamed around the Warner Brothers lot since the beginning of the studio.
Scott Bakula as a singing cartoon cat in 30s Hollywood is something that sounds best to his obsessive fans, most of whom know that he started as a performer on stage in New York, and has quite the singing chops. So it should come as no surprise that he starred in the oddly under-the-radar cartoon geek cult favorite Cats Don’t Dance.
Need confirmation that Scott Bakula can sing? He was chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center Honors for Stephen Sondheim in 1993:
Cats Don’t Dance is a highly entertaining animated feature from 1997 that should have been a hit, but was released at the worst possible time, when Turner Feature Animation merged with Time Warner. During the last gasps of Turner Feature Animation, head management kept rotating in and out, and every transition meant drastic changes in the movie. Ultimately, it just got lost in all the upheaval and studio noise.
The story is of optimistic, fresh faced (or whiskered) cat named Danny (Bakula), who dreams of fame in Hollywood, and arrives from his hometown in Indiana with stars in his eyes. He lands a small role in a movie called Li’l Ark Angel, that stars Darla Dimple, a super creepy animated parody of Shirley Temple, which sort of morphs Temple with Tiffany, the bride of Chucky. He plays against love interest Sawyer (voiced by Jasmine Guy, sung by Natalie Cole), a white cat that could be the feline version of any number of human actresses like Judy Garland or Ginger Rogers. Darla is determined to keep Danny, Sawyer and their animal actor colleagues in the shadows and away from her spotlight, so trouble ensues.
Here is a trailer for the movie:
The list of performers cast as the animals is impressive. It includes Kathy Najimy, Betty Lou Gerson, voice of Cruella de Vil in 1960’s 101 Dalmatians in her last role, Hal Holbrook, Don Knotts, and René Auberjonois, who won a Tony Award for the musical Coco in 1970, way before voicing the chef in The Little Mermaid. Director Mark Dindal did voice duty with Max, Darla’s muscle-bound valet and enforcer.
Fans of Emperor’s New Groove should know Cats Don’t Dance’s director Dindal also helmed the new Disney classic, and is currently working on an animated feature about Garfield. Clearly cats are a thing! (Maybe you recall that Yzma turns into a cat. Not only did he animated that, he was the cat’s voice for about a split second..)
Also notable is that the film was originally meant to be a Michael Jackson vehicle, who was going to star, produce, and help with the choreography. At that point, it was going to be a live action and animation hybrid. All the musical numbers were written by Randy Newman, who was hot off of 1995’s Toy Story and 1996’s James and the Giant Peach. Song and dance legend Gene Kelly acted as choreography consultant. The movie was his last project and was dedicated to his memory.
Our pal, cinema artist John Alvin did the movie poster for Cats Don’t Dance, and he was with the project from the very beginning. Alvin and Associates, which included both John and his wife Andrea Alvin, created some wonderful concepts along the way. Says Andrea of the experience, “It’s basically a Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney movie. I really liked it, and had a great time designing one sheets that looked like those old movie musicals from the 30’s and 40’s. It was one of those that I had a lot of design influence, and John refined and painted.”
Here are some images of John Alvin Cats Don’t Dance concept art, many of which are being shown to the public for the first time:
I had known the art from Cats Don’t Dance was in the Warner Brothers archives for a while, since I’d seen some of it when I visited the studio years ago. At that time, the art hadn’t been available. When someone inside WB offered me two Cats Don’t Dance original production backgrounds of iconic Hollywood landmarks, I leapt at it.
Who doesn’t want their own Hollywood sign? Click for more info or to buy!
This great piece is from the opening sequence of the movie, and is shown at 1:18 in Danny’s Arrival Song:
We also got a Cats Don’t Dance production background that captures those famed iconic movie openings at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre:
So much of Hollywood history happened there. Here are a few premiere videos:
And one more, because any excuse to post a video of Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell…this is the two gorgeous bombshells putting their hands in cement…
Isn’t it time you checked out this charming little film about optimism and working together that deserves more than being forgotten?
You can watch it here for $1.99, and probably on lots of other of your favorite streaming services:
There are few artists I’ve enjoyed working with more than Disney interpretive artist Tim Rogerson. He is not only one of the most successful artists in the Disney Art Program, selling out his editions and originals at the Disney parks and around the world, he’s one of the most joyful, optimistic people I’ve ever met, and he’s been a friend for over 15 years. We’ve worked together on dozens of commissions over the years, including pieces that wound up becoming his most popular sellers as limited editions, like one of his earliest piece, ‘L’Amour‘ from Lady and the Tramp, the Alice in Wonderland art ‘Dreaming in Color’, ‘Fantasia’, and ‘All Their Wicked Ways’, which had so many villains, it took almost 2 years to get approval from Disney!
A few Tim Rogerson limited editions based on ArtInsights commissions:
As to commissions, here we are 7 years ago, as he is painting Dreaming in Color with Alice in Wonderland, talking about his ideas and inspiration:
There are so many more I sold but didn’t commission. I feel like I sold ‘Micasso’, but I can’t remember who wound up with it!
In any case, it’s one of the favorite paintings he ever did, and altered the trajectory of his career and cemented his aesthetic. I love all his edgier Disney art, as do many of his avid collectors. Disney fans know Tim Rogerson. For those of you who don’t, you can read his bio HERE.
For those who already know and appreciate him, as much of a fan as you might be of the artist, there are probably some things you don’t know about Tim Rogerson. You also might be wondering what he’s been doing during the pandemic, and what some of his favorite Disney art pieces he has done recently. We’ve got you covered there! We spoke to Tim about all that, and more.
First, some basics: How did you get your start at Disney?
TR: “While I was attending Ringling College of Art & Design, I would drive up to Disney World on the weekends, to work in the main street gallery of the Magic Kingdom behind the register. It was a sweet part-time job that allowed me to be surrounded by art, with front row seats to the light parade and fireworks every night. I would stare at paintings by Peter Ellenshaw and James Coleman all day. Funnily enough, they would become great friends 4 years later. At the end of my first year at Ringling, we had a signing event in the gallery, with Disney Legend, Ralph Kent. He worked with Walt back in the day, and was the official, “Keeper of the Mouse”, which meant every piece of art with Mickey had to go through him for approval. You could draw the perfect Mickey, and he still would draw over it to make it better. At the signing, I told him I was going to school at Ringling, and wanted to work for him one day. He put me on the spot right there, and asked me to draw Mickey for him. He told me he can read everything about an artist by the way they draw Mickey. The pressure was on, my hand was shaking, and there I was, about to draw Mickey for a Disney Legend. As soon as my hand touched the paper, it was muscle memory, the drawing I’ve been practicing since I was 4 years old. Still to this day, it’s one of the best Mickeys I’ve ever drawn, and it was perfect timing to do it for Ralph.”
So that’s how you first got hired?
“Yes! He hired me right there, I trained with him the whole summer, and it was an experience I’ll cherish forever. Ralph was like Mr Miyagi, but instead of ‘wax on, wax off’, he made me draw 10,000 circles on my first day. His office was on the 2nd floor of the animation building, and I would always take the long way around to peak into production of Lilo & Stitch. I was the last artist Ralph hired and trained before retiring. After training, I went back to the gallery, but now as a character artist behind the animation desk, drawing characters for guests to purchase. I did that and designed close to 1000 t-shirts for the parks before graduating from art school in 2004.”
“Upon graduation, it was devastating when 2D animation closed it’s doors before I could start my internship, but another opportunity walked through the front door of the Magic Kingdom gallery. It was Michael Young, with Disney Fine art. We hit it off right away, and I sent him some paintings as a tryout. Most of the other Disney fine artists were landscape painters, with tiny characters off in the distance. I was the complete opposite, painting the characters larger than life, filling all four corners of the canvas with bright bold colors. That was 16 years ago, and it’s been an amazing journey ever since, painting for Disney Fine Art!”
How did you get the D23 official artist gig?
“It still amazes me to this day that I had the honor of painting the official art for the first ever D23 Expo in 2009. I was just starting to create really complex cubist pieces, combining lots of characters together in interesting compositions. I had completed ‘The Enchantment of Snow White’, ‘Of Mice and Music’, and ‘Strings of Temptation’, which had caught Disney’s eye, thinking I would be able to combine all these elements of D23 Expo into one painting. I’ll never forget the infamous conference call, with 18 executives, that spanned the whole Disney company from Feature Animation, ABC, Radio Disney, and ESPN, to Disney Channel. They all wanted their own thing in this epic painting, and at the end of the call, I had a huge list that took up multiple pages.”
Did you feel pressure or start freaking out at that point?
“The crazy thing is that I was never nervous about it. If I had known how big D23 Expo would become, and that this painting would hang in the Disney Archives forever, then I would have been a nervous wreck. Instead, I figured out early on that the concept behind the painting would be the simple idea, that it all started with a mouse. Everything at D23 Expo exists because of the success of Mickey Mouse, back in 1928. So I drew a big classic Mickey to fill the composition, and then intertwined with Mickey, were all the elements of D23 Expo. It was like putting a puzzle together, and everything clicked into place. That painting and that event changed my life. Seeing 100,000 Disney fans wearing my shirt and buying my art, while fans put together a 15 foot tall mural of my painting out of legos, was surreal! I was the official artist again for D23 Expo in 2013, and have been the official artist for the Winter Olympics, Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival, Disneyland 60th, and Mickey’s 90th.”
How does music play a role in your creative experience?
“I can’t paint without music, and you can easily tell how a painting is going by the music I’m listening to. If you hear classical music, that means I’m struggling, and trying to summon the renaissance masters to show me the way. If you hear Red Hot Chili Peppers, that means all is good, and I’m having a blast painting. I can’t wait to hear their next album with John Frusciante’s return. My favorite music to listen to are film scores, especially Thomas Newman, who has a rhythm and mood that’s perfect to paint to. If it’s raining outside, it’s gotta be Miles Davis or Norah Jones. But honestly, I listen to all good music, it doesn’t matter what genre, just as long as it has soul. Just discovered Jacob Collier the other day, and I truly think he’s Mozart reincarnated.”
What are your favorite recent paintings that have been released as limited editions?
90 YEARS OF MICKEY MOUSE
“This was an official piece celebrating Mickey’s 90th Birthday since his debut as Steamboat Willie. I choose 9 different Mickeys, with each representing a different decade and era of the mouse, from sketch to paint. Mickey has always been a big part of my life, from the first drawing I did at 4 years old while watching my father draw Mickey, to drawing Mickey at 18 years old for Disney Legend, Ralph Kent, who hired and trained me as a character artist for Disney. My first painting for Disney Fine Art 15 years ago was of Mickey, and even my good friend from art school is now the official voice of Mickey! Walt once said, “It all started with a mouse”, and it’s so true for me, too. It was an honor to be able to paint a piece for Mickey’s 90th, and give a gift back to the mouse.”
CAST OF TOYS
“Toy Story was released almost 25 years ago, and changed animation forever. As I was drawing this piece, and figuring out how to compose all the main characters, I found an interesting layout showcasing the old into the new. On the left side, you find all the old vintage toys, from Woody’s round up and the Potato heads, that generations have played with. On the right side, you find all the future galactic toys from outer space. And in the middle is Andy’s room, where both worlds collide. In a way, it’s also the story of animation. Woody represents the old school 2D, vintage, hand made way of animation, and Buzz is the shiny new 3D way of animation.”
MOANA KNOWS THE WAY
“I find I always paint my best work when I make it personal. To most people, this looks like a painting of Moana and Maui, but for me, this is a painting of my daughter growing up and becoming a strong leader, as I help steer the way as a father. If only I was as cool as Dwayne “The ROCK” Johnson! When people ask me who’s the hardest character to paint, I now answer Maui, because of the tattoos. Each tattoo has a meaning, and you can’t mess those details up.”
What have you been up to since the pandemic hit? How has it impacted your creativity or painting?
“I’ve been joking with my wife for years that I wish I had a pause button, where I could stop time, and finally catch up with commissions and projects. I’m always struggling to keep up. It’s a good thing for an artist to be busy, but you also don’t want collectors waiting two years for commissions. This pandemic is not what I had in mind, but it has given me the opportunity to finally catch up. I had close to 30 commissions in March, and now I’m down to 8. I’ve also had the time to experiment, and try new techniques that I’m really excited about implementing in my next works. For my fans, I hope it’s something to look forward to in the next releases!”
TEN THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT DISNEY ARTIST TIM ROGERSON:
1. He loves wine.
He doesn’t drink it to excess, but as a celebration. We used to come visit a friend that lived only a few doors down from his house who had an insane wine cellar. He could literally pick dozens of bottles of wine for any year of the 20th century, and would open them in honor of a birthday, a special event, or just to mark a gathering of friends. Tim would walk down to our friend’s house, and we’d sit by the pool and drink champagne or wine so expensive that most of us would never even dream of buying it, and talk about movies, music, and art.
2. He loves movies.
Of course he does! Several times he’s been at ArtInsights for events or shows and we’ve had an evening of movie watching. He and my husband Michael and I have seen lots of movies for the first time together. If you are a film lover, he’s one of those guys that will be a kindred spirit. It’s rare when he can’t find something to love about a movie, and he loves all genres. I remember telling him about the movie “Tigers Are Not Afraid”, by Issa Lopez, knowing he would love it. It’s a terrifying, moving, gorgeous film, and I just knew he’d dig it. That’s the thing about him, and lots of artists that paint Disney. They see the whole picture: the good, the dark, the sad, the joyful…and it all goes into their work, no matter what they are painting. His favorite movie-watching experience was in Rome.
Tim relates, “Sitting in the coliseum in Rome with my iPad watching Gladiator was an absolutely EPIC experience! It was like being surrounded by genius filmmaking and the ghosts of the past at the same time.”
When I asked him to name 5 of his favorite movies, he said:
“Oh boy, that’s impossible! I’ll just tell you what they are as of today:
Indiana and The Last Crusade (Greatest film ever made)
A New Hope,
Road to Perdition,
Superman the movie,
The John Woo masterpiece, Face Off!”
Of course I had to make him explain why The Last Crusade is his favorite.
“I love Raiders, but Last Crusade humanized Indy. Plus: The River Phoenix intro! Never being able to impress his father Sean-freaking-Connery! The epic tank battle! And the powerful ending to save his father, who finally calls him by his name Indiana! Literally as I was typing Last Crusade, I heard “You have chosen…………….wisely!”…so it must be true.”
3. He is obsessed with Nicolas Cage.
He explains, “I was a nick cage junky as a 13 yr old. I was obsessed with The Rock, then Con Air. Had to sneak into Face Off, which was R-rated, not knowing anything except John Woo and Nick Cage. It blew my brain!!”
He also loves television shows, especially those with complicated stories and anti-heroes. He took inspiration from one such show for a piece of art:
4. Peter Pan is his favorite Disney animated feature film.
“Peter Pan always fully captured my imagination as a kid, and it’s still my favorite Disney animated film. To fly, never grow up, and spend your day fighting pirates…Sign me up!”
5. It all started with a mouse. Again.
It might be that Disney said, “It all started with a mouse.”, but that is literally true for Tim Rogerson. His dad Danny was a director at Disney and worked closely with Don “Ducky” Williams, who taught his dad to draw Mickey. He would watch his father draw Mickey all the time. When Tim was 4 years old, Danny went to Tim’s class for a parent day, and he taught the whole class how to draw Mickey Mouse. He followed his dad’s directions and drew his first very own Mickey Mouse, and from that day on, he was hooked. Tim knew his calling was to become a Disney artist.
6. His sketchbook is his diary.
Tim Rogerson never goes a day without drawing sketches in his notebook. He takes it everywhere, including Paris, Riyadh, and everywhere else he has traveled. Entire series have been created out of his daily drawings, like his Food and Wine fine art images. It goes all the way back to when he was a kid. Some people have diaries, Tim documents his experiences and speaks his own truth through art, and he does it with pen and pencil on paper. He has lots of filled notebooks all lined up in chronological order in his studio.
7. Lately, he’s been inspired by Pixar concept artists.
At Pixar, the concept artists are free to create in any medium. Whether they are moved to do watercolors, or use cut paper, or paint in oils, inside Pixar, the folks in charge believe that kind of unique, personal exploration will be invaluable to story, and the finished film. Many of them have looked back at the Disney artists of the 50s, like Claude Coats and Mary Blair. It’s all about shape and color. Tim has found inspiration for his art from both those old Disney artists, and the new artists creating designs inside Pixar.
8. He’s a night owl.
Not least because Tim Rogerson always has at least a dozen commissions lined up, he’s always very busy. Still, he finds he does his best work at night, especially when just everyone else is asleep. He is also a dad to a little girl, and he wants to enjoy her childhood, so he spends lots of his daylight hours with her. Night is for art. Around 11pm, he cranks up the music and gets to work. Many is the time I’ve gone over to his house at 11am and he’s still working. Usually he’s discovered some new music at some point during the night, and added some inspired element to the art that wasn’t there the night before.
9. He loves all genres of music, but in his soul, he’s a jazz cat.
When I asked him his favorite music, he immediately had an answer. His favorite album is Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. It’s a go-to when he truly wants to look inward for inspiration while creating. A Love Supreme by John Coltrane is a close second. As to his favorite song, it’s been the same a long time: Crash by Dave Matthews.
10. Don’t ask him what his favorite color is. (Tim explains why:)
“I get asked all the time what my favorite color is. It has become a hilarious mind trip that I can never answer. It’s like asking a writer, ‘what is your favorite letter?’ or a musician, ‘what is your favorite note?’ You have to combine letters to make a word. A musician has to combine notes to make music. That’s how I see color, so to pic out one as a favorite is impossible.”
*Tim Rogerson also does commissions, although he is always working down a 20-30 commission requests, so it does take some time between when you order a piece and completion. If interested, contact the gallery via email at email@example.com.
We were thrilled when, this week, we happened upon a gorgeous little collection of Batman original production backgrounds. These are from The New Adventures of Batman and Batman Beyond, and they are exquisite. One of them is over 28 inches long…
Holy Priceless Collection of Etruscan Snoods!
We’ve been working to find key set-ups and original backgrounds from the Batman tv series since starting our gallery nearly 30 years ago. We found very few from the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, which is what started it all, but we have had some from the second season, and been on the lookout for backgrounds from The New Batman Adventures and Batman Beyond. While the look of the characters changes, the style and design of the backgrounds remained much the same, and is one of the ways the various shows have some continuity.
Before Batman: The Animated Series was suggested, created, and introduced, there weren’t cartoon series that looked like them. You’d have to go back to one of the inspirations for Warner Brothers cartoon, the 40s Superman cartoons from Fleischer Studio to find animation that looked remotely like the new show.
The critically acclaimed 85 episodes of Batman: The Animated Series (or BTAS as the cool kids call it) prepared the way for The New Batman Adventures (often shortened as TNBA), which allowed the existence of Batman Beyond, and then Justice League and a host of direct to video releases. Each series has its diehard fans and its great qualities, but it is BTAS that created the hardcore following that continued to watch continuations and other incarnations of the caped crusader’s story. It also created Harley Quinn, which has launched a thousand comic books and even her own feature film.
Thought this collection of backgrounds is from TNBA and Batman Beyond, their aesthetic is anchored in the original 1992-1995 series. Batman: The Animated Series was created by Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski, and won several daytime Emmys and one Nighttime Emmy (for Robin’s Reckoning, Part 1). Timm and Radomski did an early, minute and a half animation test to show what they had in mind for a Batman show, and the producers loved it.
Here is a great primer about BTAS, TNBA and Batman Beyond, from Comics Explained:
You can also find out a lot more, if you haven’t already seen it, from the video released with the BTAS home edition, which has all the major creative players interviewed.
Interview with Background Designer Don Cameron:
I spoke to background designer and layout artist Don Cameron, who worked on the first season of Batman: The Animated Series, and asked a few questions about his experience and the aesthetic of the show.
Working for WB and especially on Batman is a really big deal. How did you wind up there?
“I was aware of it because I knew someone at Warner Brothers who had gotten a tape of the test that Bruce Timm did. I saw that tape and was just blown away by it. I thought it looked amazing, and I immediately thought of the Fleischer Superman cartoons. The guy mentioned to me that they were looking for background people and he could get me a test. I took the test and got a call from Bruce Timm later that day asking if I was available for work. I got hired, and I was one of the first people, but there were a bunch of us hired on the same day.”
Other than the Fleischer Superman and the pulp magazines and book covers of the 30s and 40s that Bruce Timm had pasted up all over, what additional inspiration do you remember was part of building the look of the show, and since you worked on the backgrounds, that specifically?
“As to the backgrounds mostly we were told to look at the work of architect Hugh Ferris. There was also a comic book out at the time called Mr. X. Those were the two main sources to look at, as well as the Superman cartoons, obviously. Ferris was huge, especially with the early versions of Gotham, they were taken straight from his work.”
Hugh Ferriss was an architect from the early part of the 20th century who considered the psychological conditions of urban life and was a huge influence on other architects of his generation. He architectural drawings are famously dark and moody, often presented at night, light by spotlights, or surrounded by a mysterious fog. He is so famous as his craft, that every year the American Society of American Illustrators gives out an award in his name for architectural rendering excellence.
Mr X was created by Dean Motter. Mr X is an architect of a dystopian place called Radiant City. He believes he must fix errors in its construction, so he rarely sleeps and stays awake thanks to a drug he engineered. His design theory is called “psychetecture”, which leads its citizenry to go mad. It is influenced by Bauhaus and Friz Lang’s Metropolis.
Mr. X, in turn, influenced Tim Burton’s Batman, which was also an inspiration to Bruce Timm in creating the look and feel of Batman: The Animated Series.
How many designers were there? How many folks working on your part of the project?
“I think as far as background designers, there were 5 or 6, and then background layout was probably another 4 people, then maybe 4 more people working to turn them into production backgrounds. It’s so different now, but we were drawing on the old animation wheels and we would draw on animation paper, and then they would take those drawings and transfer them onto black board, and then they would airbrush the final image onto the black board. To have 4 people making all those backgrounds, that impressive. Batman backgrounds, when you see them in person, are pretty spectacular.”
how you were directed in terms of creating? What kinds of guidelines were you required to stick to?
“One time in particular I did was a warehouse, and Bruce really liked the design that I did. Basically, we were told to look at the inspiration, and then you had a lot of freedom. ’We need a warehouse, it’s gotta have a skylight and a door right here.’ That was about it. You were left to just take off and do whatever you wanted, as long as it fit within the style. I never remember feeling really confined with anything.”
How did you learn what you wanted to do, since architecture requires a very specific type of drawing?
“I actually wanted to be an architect when I was younger. I tried it, and then soon discovered the artistic aspect was sometimes secondary to regulations and rules that you’re required to follow when you’re designing. I had done some study of it, though. I also worked as a machinist for 8 years so I was very 3D oriented, having worked on blueprints and that sort of thing. The Batman stuff came very naturally to me, because it was very geometric.”
“I did a pan on the very first episode, that was the “On Leather Wings”, the scene with a couple of policeman in a blimp, and they’re drifting over the city, and you cut to a shot from their POV of the buildings passing by as they drift over. I actually did the layout for that scene, and it was 3 fields wide. The field would basically be the image that’s on your tv when you look at it, so 3 fields is 3 tv widths across. I drew the city from the angle that they would see it, which was a 45% angle. I remember it took me a week to do that one shot.”
“We had a lot of freedom as long as it looked like it belonged in the city. I was taking components and maybe flipping them around or turning them on the side. You do whatever tricks you can to create entirely different buildings. You’re basically working with shapes and how you arrange them, and the rest is up to you, and your ideas.”
You just worked on a feature film for Bob’s Burgers. How was that different than your experience on Batman?
“I was a background designer on that, too. It was far more difficult. I thought it would be easier. The thing with Bob’s Burgers, you have to draw everything from real world and you have to draw it to scale. Since they’ve had a show that’s lasted 10 seasons, it’s important when you design a room, that it’s perfectly to scale, so that it can be used somewhere down the line. You can’t change the scale of doorways from one scene to the next, because over time that problem will compound and become more obvious. There has to be cohesiveness to everything. These are very very detailed backgrounds. It was difficult but it was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it.”
At least it’s digital, though, so if you make a mistake, it’s a lot easier.
“Yes, it’s all digital. I got into 3D as well about 10 years ago, and I did a little clip on YouTube. It’s just a few seconds. I actually built a 3D version of Gotham and I did a little scene and I was able to draw it, animate it, and color it all within a few days. That was just my little test to compare the old ways with the new ways. It’s pretty amazing what can be done with the technology.”
You said you have a cool and special story for my readers, that few know about on Batman. Do tell!
“On one of the episodes, a character layout artist on the crew, his name was Charlie Bean and he came to me and said he was leaving the show. I thought he was crazy, because he was on one of the biggest shows around. He said he was leaving to do a show about a cat and a chihuahua. I thought, ‘You’re leaving Batman to do a show about a cat and a chihuahua?” He thought it looked cool and he wanted to try it, and of course it was Ren and Stimpy. His final episode is one with the Scarecrow called Nothing to Fear. There’s a scene in which Batman gets one of Scarecrow’s grenades thrown at him, and Batman starts to hallucinate, and he sees a bat appear in front of him. That was the final scene that Charlie worked on before he left for Ren and Stimpy. If you look at it very carefully, for a few seconds the bat looks like Ren from Ren and Stimpy!”
What are you left with in terms of your memories of the show in retrospect?
“The thing that was cool about Warner Brothers is you’d get off the elevator every morning and there was the shield. I got to meet Stephen Spielberg because he was around the studio a lot, working with Tiny Toons. That was so great. I was really young when I worked on BTAS, and I got to be really free in creating and I loved that, but I think it was only later that I realized just how lucky I was to have been on the show. It’s got a huge following, and people just continue to love it. I am so glad to have been able to be part of that, and even now I’m really glad I get to do this, do art, for a living. There are thousands of people lined up who would love to do this job, and I still get to do it every day. I know I am very lucky.”
In terms of Batman original production backgrounds, we have one key-set up with Joker and Harley from Joker’s Millions (which, by the way, Don Cameron actually worked on) which is gorgeous:
“The Joker’s Millions” is both a comic book story and an animated TV series episode where the Joker suddenly inherits a massive fortune, only to find out too late that he has fallen victim to an elaborate scheme to humiliate him.
We also have several hand-painted production backgrounds from Batman Beyond.
The first is from Rebirth, which is episode 2 of Batman Beyond.
“Rebirth” is the two-part premiere of the show. It depicts Batman‘s retirement when Bruce Wayne steps down, and later rebirth as Terry McGinnis years afterward. After Bruce becomes aware of his declining health and lays down his mantle, Gotham City is without its protector for twenty years until Terry discovers the secret then takes the batsuit to avenge his father’s murder, which revives Batman in Gotham City.
From episode 6 Heroes, This background is around 20 x 10 inches. Doesn’t this remind you of Blade Runner? That film was also inspired in part by the designs of Hugh Ferriss.
“Heroes” is about The Terrific Trio, a group of scientists who became superheroes after gaining powers in an experiment gone awry, who make their way into Gotham and become media sensations. But Magma, Freon, and the 2-D Man soon learn that the accident that gave them their powers was not really an accident. The Terrific Trio were based upon the Fantastic Four, a superhero group created by Marvel.
“Dead Man’s Hand” is the eighth episode of Batman Beyond. It depicts the first time that the Royal Flush Gang fights the new Batman. After learning that Batman is back in Gotham, the Royal Flush Gang returns to take revenge. Meanwhile, Dana breaks up with Terry but he finds a new girlfriend: Melanie Walker. Unbeknownst to Terry, Melanie is actually the Gang’s “Ten”. Now, both of them must deal with their dual lives while trying to be with each other.
“A Touch of Curaré” is the twelfth episode of the show. It depicts the first appearance of the assassin Curaré. Gotham City District Attorney Sam Young has been marked for death by the Society of Assassins, who have sent their best member: Curaré. Now Batman must face off against one of the world’s deadliest fighters. Making things worse, is the fact that Commissioner Barbara Gordon, Young’s wife, isn’t as liberal as her father was when it comes to costumed vigilantes, despite having been one herself.
“Mind Games” is the tenth episode of the second season of Batman Beyond. It depicts Terry‘s first encounter with people wielding psychic capabilities. After saving a supposed family from a car accident, Terry starts receiving strange messages from the family’s daughter. He soon learns that she’s contacting him telepathically and that she’s been kidnapped by a group called “The Brain Trust”. Now Terry must fight to save the child from super-powered individuals.
I love getting pieces I wasn’t expecting. This is the most fun part of owning an art gallery that specializes in film and animation art. I can’t wait to see who winds up with these beauties!
I’ll leave you with the opening sequence from Batman Beyond, which I love:
Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny are forever entwined. His 80th birthday is coming up, and we must start celebrating early! But once again this week, I am unexpectedly and accidentally timely with my subject matter. The premiere of HBO Max on May 27th means the release of their new show Looney Tunes Cartoons coincides with my release of exclusive original Looney Tunes production art. I had no idea!
I had in mind Bugs Bunny’s 80th anniversary, which would be officially o July 27th, since it was back in 1940 in July that the rascally rabbit first made his appearance in Tex Avery’s A Wild Hare.
Always wanting to get a jump on all things birthday, I had planned the animation collection release of more recent Looney Tunes original cels a few weeks ago, for this week, with an accompanying blog. My pals who officially wholesale the Warner Brothers cels and I came up with a cool thing where we’d get Eric Bauza to give a signature with the art we sell. Eric is a Canadian voice actor extraordinaire and, as of 2011, he has been a member of the Looney Tunes family, voicing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Pepé Le Pew, and many others. His former work includes shows like Ren and Stimpy, Adventure Time, Rick and Morty, Lego Star Wars, Steven Universe, SpongeBob Squarepants, and The Loud House, and, as it turns out, he is now voicing Bugs and other classic characters on Looney Tunes Cartoons! According to Warner Brothers,Eric is actually their official voice of Bugs, Daffy and Tweety.
Oddly, I hadn’t been on the marketing radar for the folks promoting their new animated series, I mean, at least sometimes my two lives of film journalist, and animation historian and art gallery owner converge, and you’d think this would be one of them. Then my editor at the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, Jennifer Merin, asked me to review Looney Tunes Cartoons for that site (which you can find HERE.) Conflict of interest alert, I thought! Upon reconsideration, I figured if the show was no good, since the cels in this collection are from earlier shows, it wouldn’t really matter, and if the show was great, all the better. Then I watched the new series and not only breathed a sigh of relief, I was thrilled for all involved, especially the fans of these classic characters. Looney Tunes Cartoons is, in a word, spectacular. (Here is a link to my review on the Alliance of Women Film Journalists)
You, however, may groan at the idea of once again bringing Looney Tunes characters to life, thinking the WB folks (who, by the way, own HBO) are going to try to “update” and “reboot” the classic characters and cartoons that you love.
As we all know, they don’t need updating, they’re perfect.
Gratefully, the producers and creators involved with this new iteration clearly love the 40s and 50s originals, and they bring that love to every moment of these new shorts. Geniuses like Bob Clampett, Bob McKimson, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, and Tex Avery may no longer be with us, but their influence is in evidence. Classic Looney Tunes music, like Carl Stalling’s ‘What’s Up Doc”, gets a modern adaptation by composers Joshua Moshier and Carl Johnson, which just adds to the immersive feeling fans will get as they watch.
Take a look at this short example of Wile E Coyote and Roadrunner. Notice the animators of Looney Tunes Cartoons keep Chuck Jones’s traditional look for the characters, while giving them little touches, like his protruding fang:
Just for fun, here’s a vintage clip from Chuck Jones for comparison. When you watch them side by side, you can see the loving attention to detail for each character and the loyal throwbacks to the original the team for this new show considered. Here’s a teeny bit of Chuck’s first Wile E and Roadrunner cartoon, 1949’s The Fast and the Furry-ous.
Says creator Peter Browngardt of the Looney Tunes Cartoons designs, “Our characters are more rounded, more squat. We gave Bugs yellow gloves, and Daffy has the longer, thinner bill. Porky is Clampett’s version, with the bigger eyes and head. We definitely did a lot of homework!”
“The people who made the original shorts invented this art form. They took the baton and ran with it.”
Here’s another Looney Tunes Cartoons short called Pest Coaster, featuring 80th birthday boy, Bugs Bunny, and Yosemite Sam. Eric Bauza’s voice gets some getting used to, but only because he stands on the shoulders of Mel Blanc, a giant. The inklines are designed to be very thin, which is a callback to the way they were inked in the very early days. There are a few subtle differences like the gloves, but Bugs’s head is exactly the way it was drawn in the early 40s at the beginning of his ‘career’.
You also may have noticed influences from the design aesthetic of iconic Warner Brothers cartoon background artist Maurice Noble. That just adds to the nostalgic quality of the show.
About stepping into the role of Bugs, Eric Bauza rightfully says, “It’s one of those characters that’s like the holy grail of cartoon voices.” He has some pretty impressive tools in his arsenal of vocal tricks, and I think we’ll all get used to his style, especially since he’s also contributing his talents to Tweety and Daffy cartoons. Eric actually started out in the animation industry as a layout artist. He explains. “I came to the US to study animation. I worked at a couple of studios, not the big ones, but some of the smaller animation houses around town. One of them was 6-point harness, and they actually allowed me to leave in the middle of the day to audition for voice work and then come back and finish what I was doing. I wouldn’t be where I am today without their help. All the artists and creators that I met, knew that I wanted to do voices, and offered me to do voices for their pilots, and I took those opportunities.”
He has great appreciation for the man he calls the ‘Looney Tunes godfather’, and knows his great fortune in picking up the mantle. Eric explains, “When you do a voice-match of a classic character there’s definitely an essence to the character that has to be there for the audience to latch onto. As far as the character, maybe you want to bring them into modern day, if it was from the 30s or 40s. There’s some room to make it your own. In fact, you have to make it your own, because in the originals, the Looney Tunes godfather, Mel Blanc, set the bar so high. I don’t even think anyone was expecting those characters to carry on, but companies like WB have these amazing characters that deserve new audiences. I think the WB cartoons are the best, and I grew up on watching the reruns. I grew up watching the cartoons of the 90s, too, and everybody jokes about them, but I adore them. I grew up watching classics, and remakes, and now in the present day, I get to be a part of that. I think it’s awesome.”
Here he is, talking about voicing characters:
With all that in mind, it’s pretty cool that we just scored some gorgeous original production cels of everyone’s favorite Looney Tunes characters, like Bugs, Elmer, Daffy, Yosemite Sam, Foghorn Leghorn, and Tweety and Sylvester.
Cooler still is the fact that for every piece sold, we’re getting a signature from vocal artist Eric Bauza! Some of the pieces in the collection are from before his time as an official Warner Brothers voice, but we figured that fans who love Looney Tunes would like having his signature anyway, so we’re putting them on cards instead of him signing the art. Frame the art with it or without, as you see fit.
I did a lot of research into the shows these Looney Tunes production cels come from, and it was all fascinating work, but my favorite part was learning new things about my favorite Looney Tunes characters. For example, Carrotblanca is one of the only times Tweety plays a villain, or is the character that appears in the end sequence. I also knew nothing about The Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries, which are actually quite good! I have already had two tuxedo kitties, and both were scaredy cats like Sylvester, so I’m a fan of Sylvester for sure. Here’s a great Sylvester production cel on a pan background from the cartoon:
I’d never seen a lot of the corresponding cartoons, like Box Office Bunny, Blooper Bunny, Quackbusters, and Carrotblanca, which I especially loved. Way to cross pollinate the film and animation properties at Warner Brothers! If you love both Looney Tunes and Casablanca, you’ll find this spoof particularly funny. I loved Tweety taking on the signature qualities of Peter Lorre!
I guess it’s not best to consider the cross-species relationship between Bugs Bunny and Penelope Pussycat. It’s funny, regardless. All’s fair in love and cartoons!
I hope you find something great for your animation art collection with these new images. My favorites, probably because images of these characters are so hard to find, are the Tasmanian Devil, the Tweety cel, the Tweety, Granny, and Sylvester cel, the Foghorn Leghorn cel, and the Daffy Duck drawing and cel of him trapped by hunters. There is also some great Looney Tunes Bugs Bunny art. All classic images!
So let’s end this blog, as I’ve been doing lately, with a COVID Comfort Cartoon. This week, it’s a full episode from the new Looney Tunes Cartoons, which includes a new Bugs Bunny cartoon, so we can properly start celebrating the Bugs Bunny 80th annivesary! Hopefully it will give you and your kids something fresh and new to do together, solidifying their membership in the Looney Tunes and Merry Melodies fandom.
After all is said and done, Harry Potter is about love. It’s about tolerance and hope and acceptance and teamwork.
One of the things that has struck me in the last few days, with HARRY POTTER DAY (the anniversary of The Battle of Hogwarts), is how inspiring the stories of Harry Potter are right now, as it relates to how we deal with and get through this horrible, challenging time of the pandemic.
I thought of how we can approach it all, and how can can help each other heal…Many have heard about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s success at “doing what few countries have been able to do”, and contained the spread of COVID-19. The country has had far less than 100 deaths from the virus, due to a number of measures, ones that the entire country committed to and supported, as well as the clarity of the message coming from the government. Unlike other countries that declared “war on COVID-19”, the message was about coming together, and “unite against COVID-19”. The prime minister called the country “our team of five million.” When speaking to the country, she almost always ended her appearances with “Be strong. Be kind.”
That reminds me so much of the way Dumbledore spoke to Harry. In remembering and looking at some of the brilliant wizard’s quotes, he has so much to teach us about how to approach, survive, and maybe even thrive during this pandemic.
The headmaster knew that how a leader speaks to his or her followers can make all the difference:
“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic, capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.”
Dumbledore knew the importance and power of kindness.
“Just like your mother you’re unfailingly kind … a trait people never fail to undervalue, I’m afraid.”
On patience and compassion for those who are vulnerable as we move forward in the coming months:
“Dark and difficult times lie ahead, Harry. Soon we must all face the choice between what is right and what is easy.”
On the universality of the whole world dealing with this pandemic and the profound losses it has created:
“While we may come from different places and speak in different tongues, our hearts beat as one.”
“… we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided … Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”
On the challenges we are all facing, and staying positive:
“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
On the issue of disagreements about testing, mortality rate, and how the president is doing:
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but a great deal more to stand up to your friends”
There are so many other quotes from the books that resonate right now, but perhaps it’s Sirius Black who captures how we must all proceed, both in terms of how we treat others around us, and how we find a way beyond our own despair:
We’ve all got both light and dark inside of us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
Sure, there’s an actual battle, which is part of a war against the forces of darkness, that leads to the climax of the series. I would argue the fight, or the war, is not on the virus itself. It’s on the apathy, despair, and hopelessness the pandemic has caused. People showing compassion and concern for those on the front lines, for the most vulnerable among us, the poor who are more at risk: that’s the new Dumbledore’s Army. It is based in kindness and love, just the kind the Jacinda Ardern has shown in her leadership as New Zealand’s Prime Minister.
With all that in mind, we decided to offer, as we so love to do and are inspired to do right now, a charity donation for all sales of Harry Potter art to the HOUSE OF RUTH, a charity that empowers women, children and families to rebuild their lives and heal from trauma, abuse and homelessness.
As you may have heard, domestic abuse during the pandemic and in quarantine has been on the rise, and we want to help those who are put at risk. The spirit of Harry Potter and Dumbledore’s Army, seems perfectly suited to that challenge.
For every sale, we will donate to HOUSE OF RUTH, through July 31st, Harry’s (and J.K. Rowling’s) own birthday. Harry had to deal with domestic abuse. Let’s help some people get past it in the real world.
Artinsights continues to celebrate the art of Harry Potter, with Mary GrandPré book cover art, Jim Salvati Harry Potter concept art, and Stuart Craig art of the Harry Potter production design, all official Harry Potter art. (Harry Potter art is the only art program that has steadfastly required art that is sold be only by artists who actually worked on the film or illustrated the books. Fan art is another matter, but you all know that!)
We’ve spoken about Harry Potter book cover art with Mary GrandPré on a number of occasions. When we first focused on it and released the first official images, only a few books had been released. It was great fun going through the next 4 books or so, and then the movies, talking to her from time to time. She had a few favorite images, and they changed, of course, as the story of Harry Potter expanded and the boy grew older and, sometimes, sadder. When you look at the collection of deluxe book covers, (and it’s not as easy to do when you just have the books) you can see how she worked with JK Rowling to go from bright colors of The Sorcerer’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, to a more and more monochromatic palette in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire to Order of the Pheonix and Half Blood Prince and finally to a very adult-looking cover for The Deathly Hallows.
Mary GrandPré told me the last cover was her favorite, although she told me she loved the special images released as Escape From Gringotts and Number 12 Grimmauld Place so much that she wished those two images had been used as Harry Potter book covers.
As for the smaller images which were the first released as official art, she also said she had particular favorites.
Counting the Days, with Harry and Hedwig, Diagon Alley, which captures Hagrid and Harry’s found-family friendship, The Enchanted Car, and Battle with the Dragon, and Mirror of Erised were all images she mentioned to me by name. We also talked about A World of Infinite Magic, which she did early on and had chatted with Rowling about. GrandPré wanted to create an image where you could stare at it for a long time, and still see new things.
Notice a lot of elements are in different locations in this art. Rowling changed some of the places things were as the books went along, something that concerned Stuart Craig as he was designing the environments in the later movies. Rowling said that as the world of Harry Potter is magical, it would make sense for things to change! Magic is your continuity friend!
Speaking of Stuart Craig, when I spoke to him about his career and his work on the Harry Potter film series, I got the sense of his pride in his work for the movies. He knew, rightly, that his impact on the consistency, his ability to weave a visual magic through all of the films, made them something fans could return to and celebrate again and again. It wasn’t easy getting Stuart Craig Harry Potter art added to the official roster of images available to collectors. Doubt of the story with the boy that lived, and its longevity, once again reared its ugly head. He’s someone who just thought Harry Potter film art wouldn’t sell, especially his. We are so grateful he was able to be persuaded to the contrary!
Here is the interview I did when with him when the film series was coming to a close:
The Stuart Craig art released based on his work on the films were created from his original drawings and the full-color images created by architectural artist Andrew Williamson, showing once again that the finished product we see as fans is built from many artists’ hands. What we see in the theaters is the result of an impressive creative community made up of hundreds of talented people working together..but beyond the director, someone, an artistic leader with a singular vision, has to lead, and that someone is two-time Oscar winning production designer Stuart Craig.
Jim Salvati worked on the the first few films, when Rowling wanted to have some concept art that felt painterly.
Jim was and still is one of the last concept artists working in the industry who works that way, and often worked on Warner Bros. projects, he was the go-to for Harry Potter concept art.
Interestingly enough, he was recently contracted again by Warner Bros., to create an entirely new style guide for Harry Potter, and worked on over 80 new digitally painted pieces for them, to be used as art, reference, and in any other way that they needed specific art-based images. They hadn’t kept good reference materials on a lot of characters and environments from the movies, so they had him do just about anything and everything you can think of. Jim Salvati is still in high demand as a movie concept artist, but the Harry Potter art project took over a year to complete, so that kept his hands full!
To me, the art of Harry Potter really does celebrate in visual art, the spirit of tolerance, hope, acceptance, and teamwork. Despite John Krasinsky, we don’t have enough good news right now. If all this blog does is remind you of the power and magic of positive thinking, I’ve done at least part of my job.
So. Let’s pivot to Darren Criss, which seems like a turn into left field, but it isn’t. Why? Well, first off, as many fans of both Harry Potter and Darren Criss know, without Harry Potter (and StarKid) he would not be famous. Darren got his start with a little thing called “A Very Potter Musical” (or AVPM) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Very_Potter_Musical Along with his pal A.J. Holmes, he wrote the music and lyrics to the parody, and it made him Harry Potter-famous. How famous is that? Famous enough to get hired on Glee, which made him a huge star. Just listen to all the squees on the “Future of Harry Potter” panel from 2010…(Yup. That’s me, right next to him..)
Darren has a new miniseries from Ryan Murphy called Hollywood! Here’s the trailer:
It connects well with Harry Potter, because, let’s be honest. Harry Potter, regardless of what has happened since the release of the series, is about inclusivity, and that’s the subject of the new show. There’s also a connection between Darren Criss and animation (apart from his famous love of Disney songs).
He’s just been announced as the new voice of Superman, in Superman: Voice of Tomorrow coming this summer, with Zachary Quinto as Lex Luthor! It follows Clark Kent working as an intern at The Daily Planet, and features villain and anti-hero fan favorites, Parasite (Brett Dalton of Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.) and Lobo (Ryan Hurst, who plays Beta on The Walking Dead).
For all those reasons, and because there are lots of kids all over the country and the world who didn’t get to celebrate their graduation and haven’t seen their friends in way too long, and, of course, to celebrate Darren Criss’s continued success, this week’s COVID Cartoon Comfort is being replaced with COVID Criss Comfort, through two videos, that go together wonderfully!
The first is his opening song in A Very Potter Musical in 2009. The musical, all told, has over 100 million views on YouTube.
The second is his performance of the same song at a concert in 2018. OK FANS, SING ALONG! (everyone else is!)
We hope you have found this little blog about hope inspiring. If you’re looking to find some artistic joy, maybe you’ll be inspired to add to your Harry Potter art collection. Either way, stay safe, be good, and remember,
“It is our choices … that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” <3
What do Vin Diesel, Sylvia Plath, Gun Control, Pete Townsend, John Alvin, and The Sixth Sense have in common?
They are all connected in some way to cult classic and critical darling The Iron Giant, which was famously successful Pixar exec Brad Bird’s directorial debut, back in 1999. At the time, it was a flop. In fact, after sitting through the film on opening day surrounded by only 6 other people, producer John Walker stood outside an LA theater and offered to buy people tickets to see the film.
While wading through all the wonderful art in the John Alvin art collection, we found original art he created for The Iron Giant movie campaign. Ever since I saw the giant make a dramatic cameo in Ready Player One, the big sweet robot has been more in my thoughts, so it was doubly exciting to find work by John representing the movie, especially since art from the film is so hard to come by. As with some of the best film flops like The Princess Bride, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Blade Runner, and Fight Club, The Iron Giant has grown in popularity and appreciation year after year, as more generations and savvy movie lovers get to see it and fall head over heels with it.
However, as I discovered researching The Iron Giant for this blog, there is much sadness surrounding both the original story and the film. I guess somewhere in the deepest recesses of my collective unconscious mind, I must have sensed it was the perfect film to highlight while our global family is struggling with the sadness and shock of a sweeping pandemic.
The story is based on a book called The Iron Man: A Children’s Story in Five Nights, by poet Ted Hughes, who wrote it to cheer his children through the loss of their mother Sylvia Plath, who killed herself by sticking her head in an oven, having sealed the room between herself and her children with tape, towels, and cloths. That’s a rather dire start, I’ll admit, but it came from a place of a parent’s desire to comfort, which resonates right now. The book was published in 1968, though for US publication, the name was changed to The Iron Giant so as not to confuse it with the Marvel character.
Vin Diesel was the voice of the title character, and he was hired for the role very early in his acting career, having only been really landed on Hollywood’s radar through playing Private Caparzo in Saving Private Ryan. The Iron Giant also featured the voices of Jennifer Aniston as Hogart Hughes’s mom Annie, Harry Connick Jr. as beatnik Dean McCoppin, and Cloris Leachman as Hogarth’s schoolteacher Mrs. Tensedge.
Pete Townsend took the book and turned it into a musical. This is where it gets awesome. It STARRED NINA SIMONE! (and John Lee Hooker, and Roger Daltrey..) On the strength of stage version mounted in 1993 at The Old Vic, Warner Brothers bought the rights to the story, and that’s how the making of the movie got its beginnings.
Here she is, singing “Fast Food”, one of the songs from the musical:
Here’s a music video with Pete Townshend made for the breakout hit from the musical, A Friend is a Friend:
Since John Alvin had done work for the previous animated film by Warner Brothers, Quest for Camelot, Alvin Studios was brought in early on, to work on logo designs. They are some of the only images from the film out in the world. We are thrilled to have the only John Alvin art from The Iron Giant, all of which, if purchased, comes with an official certificate of authenticity from the estate of John Alvin.
Most of the production art resides, bizarrely, 650 feet under the ground in a salt mine that’s been in existence since the 20s, where Warner Brothers archives many of their films. The art is beautiful. (and you can buy a book on The Art of The Iron Giant HERE.)
One of the many reasons why the film didn’t do well in initial release, is the fact that other surprising films came out at the same time. Both The Sixth Sense and The Blair Witch Project came out at the same time. Still, those films certainly don’t have the obsessive fanbase The Iron Giant has built since 1999.
As to gun violence? When Brad Bird pitched the idea after reading the original book, he said he wanted to make it a bit different, and offered, “What if a gun had a soul?” This came out of mourning. Brad Bird’s sister Susan was shot to death by her estranged husband.
“Maybe because I was still trying to draw together my own pieces after the death of my sister,” he said, “I had an epiphany: What if a thing developed a soul and what if that thing found out that it was designed to kill, but didn’t want to kill? What if a gun had a soul and didn’t want to be a gun?”
About his loss, he said, “When you shoot somebody, you’re not just killing that person. You’re killing a part of all the people that love that person.”
There’s a quote in the movie by Hogarth to his gigantic friend, “It’s bad to kill. Guns kill. And you don’t have to be a gun. You are what you choose to be. You choose.”
Brad Bird dedicated The Iron Giant to her.
The message of the film is about sacrifice, and, as the quote “You are who you choose to be” says, it’s about embracing who you are, not who others wish you to be, or what a hard life, or challenges, (like the ones we are experiencing now!) have allowed you to become. These are all so powerful, given the current state of the world. For most of us, nothing we are doing right now is easy. There are many sacrifices. However, we can go beyond the idea that we are just about money, and power. The world community can show right now that it is more than that. We can show love and compassion to each other.
When the weirdest, and I’d even say craziest thing that’s happened in our lifetime happened, and a disease started sweeping the world, as an art gallery and small business owner I started thinking about how we’d weather the storm, yes, but I also considered all the artists that we work with who also survive and even thrive on selling their art to fans around the world. I also considered the wholesale companies and representatives I love, (and I don’t love them all. I love several, because they are awesome human beings). How could we help not only ourselves, but the friends and collaborators we’ve known for dozens of years?
First up, I thought of Bob Singer. An old, brilliant, and I’d say formidable 92-year-old codger who has been part of the history of animation since the 50s. I’ve known him for over 10 years, and have had him on several of the ASIFA: Hollywood panels I’ve produced for San Diego Comic-Con. Luckily for me, for ArtInsights, and potentially for fans, we were able to get an exclusive collection of original art by this very important artist.
Bob Singer is an animation artist, character designer, layout and background artist and storyboard director for a wide variety of shows and studios. He wound of choosing art in a sort of random way. He says, “When I was in high school, I loved art and I also loved music. When I found out I had to buy my own instrument and we couldn’t afford it, I said, ‘all right, I’ll become an artist’.”
He graduated in 1955 from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in LA, started working in the television animation industry after spending a few years in the advertising industry. Yes, he was briefly one of those “Mad Men”.
Starting in 1956, he worked for Marvel, U.P.A, Shamus Culhane, and Warner Brothers, and continued to take projects from nearly every studio through his career.
It was at Hanna Barbera at which he spent the better part of 27 years of his animation career. He has worked on most of Hanna Barbera’s best shows, and you’ll see his indelible mark on The Flintstones, Scooby Doo, Hong Kong Phooey, Jabberjaw and so many more cartoons that continue to be loved around the world.
He has said that his favorite tv show he has worked on is Scooby Doo. From Bob Singer himself:
“My favorite was far and away Scooby Doo. Those were some great shows that were designed in 68 and released in 69. And after so many years, it’s still running all over the world. I was part of the presentation crew that put it all together, although the characters were designed by the great Iwao Takamoto. My part was running the layouts on the show. I laid out the first Scooby.”
He was responsible for a lot of characters at Hanna Barbera, in part because he was tasked early on to start and run the character animation department. He explains:
“In the early days of animation in the 20s and 30s, most of the animators designed their own characters. At Hanna Barbera, the layout artists would be asked to create the incidental characters, like the cop, or housewife, and props like cars but they got so busy that it became a burden to the layout men, so that’s when we started the character design department. It was started with just two, and soon had 15 artists, doing all the characters for 7 different shows, making model sheets and it helped the studio run more efficiently.
everything was compressed as far as production, so sometimes we would work from a script, and other times from storyboards, but then the storyboard artists wouldn’t know what to use for incidental characters, so we’d do a quick sketch and give it to the artists to create the storyboard. Then we also had to get approval from the producer, so I’d design 3 to 5 different versions of the same character, and they’d pick one for us to draw and do turn-arounds on.”
Bob Singer also has a major soft spot for Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, and the whole Flintstones gang, in part because Wilma reminds him of his wife Harriet, and the babies remind him of his grandchildren.
Singer says he loves drawing them, and it gives him a feeling of connection to his fans who also have families they love, and kids who are either babies now or are all grown up but parents and grandparents remember as little kids.
Many of the original cels we have gotten for this cyber show, which are from the later Flintstones cartoons, (as well as those from Scooby-Doo and The Jetsons), are signed by both Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. We have a lot of pieces that come with original backgrounds. When you purchase any of them, we’ll send the art to Bob Singer, and he’ll be hand-drawing a little image of Fred Flinstone, George Jetson, or Scooby-Doo. For fans and collectors, that’s a lot of cool in one place!
There are so many more images available than what i’ve included in this blog. I’m sure you’d enjoy checking them out!
Basically, Bob Singer has done just about every job that relates to design, character, and background in cartoons.
Here’s a short list of the many times shows on which he’s been a layout artist:
Johnny Bravo (1997-2001)
The New Scooby-Doo Movies (1972)
Scooby-Doo Where Are You? (1969-1970)
Space Ghost (1966)
The Man Called Flintstone (1966)
The Secret Squirrel Show (1965)
Mister Magoo (1960)
A Storyboard artist/director or story director:
Droopy: Master Detective (1993-1994)
My Little Pony ’n Friends (1986-1987)
Pink Panther and Sons (1984-1985)
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? (1970)
A design supervisor:
The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (1984)
The Smurfs (1981-1984)
SuperFriends (1984) and Super Friends (1981-1983) World’s Greatest SuperFriends (1979)
The New Scooby and Scrappy-Doo Show (1983)
The Fonz and the Happy Days Gang (1980-1981)
Laverne and Shirley in the Army (1981) **(also character designer)
Scooby-Doo and Scrappy Doo (1979-1980)
a character designer:
Captain Caveman and the Teen Angels (1977-1980)
Laverne and Shirley in the Army (1981)
Scooby’s Laff-A-Lymics (1977)
The All New Super Friends Hour (1977)
A production designer:
The Scooby-Doo / Dynomutt Hour (1976)-1978
The New Tom and Jerry Show (1975)
The Great Grape Ape Show (1975)
Hong Kong Phooey (1974)
Partridge Family 2200 AD (1974)
Inch High Private Eye (1973)
The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo (1964)
Gay Purr-ee (1962)
a background artist:
The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (1978)
Mad as a Mars Hare (1963)
Mice Follies (WB Honeymooners Bob McKimson spoof in 1960)
Crocket Doodle Doo (WB Foghorn Leghorn/Eggbert Bob McKimson cartoon in 1960)
A Witch’s Tangled Hair (1959)
The Mouse That Jack Built (1959)
So basically he’s done work on many of your favorite Hanna Barbera shows, (and a number that seem the result of protracted drug trips), and some very classic Warner Brothers cartoons!
It’s a great time to get an original by the historic artist, and the original graphites come directly from him and the cels are signed are remarqued by him with characters that are some of his favorites from his career, means you can be assured he is benefitting from the sale, and you are having an interaction with someone responsible for some of the greatest cartoons ever made. (Scooby-Doo, I’m looking at you!)
We hope you’ll take advantage of this great collection of art, and the exclusive signatures and remarques by this animation legend. If not, we hope you enjoyed learning a bit about animator Bob Singer and the crazy cartoons he had a hand in!
Andrea Alvin, is known for capturing a moment, a piece of nostalgia, or a remembrance. Her work evokes the feelings that “I remember having that,” or “that was my favorite”…Now she is blending her love of nostalgia and her passion for tolerance with a new series called “Hearts With No H8”.
Her recent designs based on candy hearts, which are now (sadly) nearly impossible to get, have been a great success. Not only do they capture the romance of February’s romantic season, but they capture the sweetness of the first time a childhood crush reciprocated by handing you a candy heart or a paper valentine. Who can forget Sally reciting Elizabeth Barrett Browning from her candy heart in 1975’s “Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown”?
Exclusively at ArtInsights, we have Alvin’s Hearts With No H8 images, both the originals and limited editions, just in time to give to your favorite pal or loved one, whether they are an ally or a member of the LGBTQ community, and for every purchase, 20% goes to The Trevor Project, which is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning (LGBTQ) young people under 25. It’s also
Now more than ever, it’s important to support and celebrate our LGBTQ youth, and help them feel safe, seen, and celebrated. Because:
We have limited editions at $65 each, signed and numbered by Andrea Alvin herself, in an edition of 195. We also have the originals, which are $500, tastefully framed and ready to gift to the most openhearted of your tribe, chosen family, or cherished loved one, (even if that loved one is you!)
We have some other heart candy original paintings, and for any that are sold during the month of February, we will donate a portion of the proceeds to The Trevor Project.
Check out The Trevor Project and see all the amazing work this nonprofit, which is rated 4-stars on Charity Navigator, does!
AND HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY TO ALL, whether you have a sweetie, are your own sweetie, or both! It’s high time for a little TASTY TOLERANCE!
And just for fun, here’s the cartoon that everyone should see in February:
I have enormous respect for contemporary artist and former partner in Alvin and Associates with famed cinema artist John Alvin, Andrea Alvin, and so I spoke to her about her great new piece, Samuel’s Candy Canes.
She has been actively working as both a commercial and contemporary artist since the 70s. With her partner John, she was part of creating iconic movie posters like the ones for Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein and more recently, the advance for Tim Burton’s Batman.All the while, she was honing her style and aesthetic as a contemporary artist focusing on nostalgic imagery.After losing John suddenly to a heart attack in 2008, she wrote a successful book about his career, The Art of John Alvin, and is now slowly getting back to her own work. Andrea Alvin is creating intensely evocative paintings of objects that bring us back to our childhood memories, through visually considering and sharing memories of her own.
Her new image called “Samuel’s Candy Canes”, inspired by candy in Samuel’s Sweet Shop, in Rhinebeck, New York, is both a celebration of the season, and a choice to lean into joy, regardless of the time of year or the darkness of our current circumstances.I spoke to Andrea about this new piece, her career, working with her famous husband John Alvin, and her perspective still creating, 40 years later, while continuing to change as a person and an artist:
LC: You went to school with John, right?
Andrea Alvin: Yes, I went to Art Center College of Design, and actually I was a few years ahead of him.
LC: How did your aesthetic develop for nostalgic realism? Or is that how you’d describe your art?
AA: When I first started coming back to painting, I was stuck.I didn’t know what to paint.A friend of mine said, “Oh my god, your house is so full of stuff! Collectibles, and all kinds of things everywhere…why don’t you just paint your stuff?” That’s how I started just going around with my camera and editing through the camera and taking pictures and painting those scenes.In a lot of them it just was a view of homey-ness and somebody’s things. We had a lot of collectibles and toys around the house, so it started that way. As I started to refine it, I started thinking about what made me happy to look at, and what I wanted to say, I realized having my major in school in advertising design, I’ve always been focused on popular culture as it relates to advertising, and growing up as a kid in the 50s it made a real mark on me.One of the things I realized is there are a lot of iconic things inour everyday lives that were iconic then and are iconic even now. That’s where I started trying to focus on Americana and what was very American.What makes us who we are. What was interesting to me and special to me as a kid and what is also special to my daughter, or a younger generation.Or my grandson.
LC: When you say you were returning to painting, what do you mean?
AA: I graduated from school, and worked in animation up until John’s career started taking off, and then I had my daughter Farah.When she was able to go to school for a couple of hours a day, is when I started painting again.So that was in the late 70s.
LC: What did you see as nostalgic then?
AA: I don’t know about nostalgia then, because the things that were nostalgic to me where going back to the 50s. What happened inadvertently was some of the paintings I painted then are still or maybe even more evocative now. Like “Wow! I remember Peanut Butter Boppers!” Those are gone now.Or “That wallpaper sure is ugly but boy, do I remember it being popular in the 70s”…those things are very nostalgic now.
LC: How did or does being a women in art influence your style or perspective, would you say, or does it?
AA: I never thought about it that there was a limitation for me. The only limitation that I thought of was I didn’t want to be a teacher. That’s what I was told repeatedly as a woman in art. I had to be a teacher. When I was a teenager, and came to New York on a visit, pretty much one of the only artists I remember seeing was Marisol, who you barely hear about any more.There just were very few woman artists around. I still never thought I couldn’t do it because I was a woman.
LC: What about working with or at the same time as John. He was such a well-known artist in his industry.That had to be interesting, or a challenge. There are a lot of elements in the finished posters of his or of Alvin and Associates that are your work.
AA: Right.I’m the “Associates”…It was very difficult.John was the kind of artist as an illustrator, that if you asked him to paint a train in perspective coming over a hill with a haunted house, he’d just sit down and sketch it, and it looked pretty good! I can’t do that, or maybe I could if I concentrated really, really hard, but that’s not how I worked.
I’m have to be more deliberate and know how I’ll proceed. It made me nervous about painting because if I was going to paint, what was it going to be, and if I paint realism with John around, how is that going to work? Am I going to be compared to him? I just had to put blinders on and paint.We had different approaches. He would say to me, “Why don’t you do several sketches and then do them in color and go from there?” and I’d just think I would never get anywhere that way! I’d never get the painting done.So I’d say “Good idea” to him and “No.” to myself and keep my blinders on and go on to how I wanted to do it.Where being around him was super helpful and what I miss horribly every day is having that other set of eyes when I could say “I’m stuck. I know I need something. Something’s wrong and I can’t figure out what it is.” or the other thing was asking “Is this painting finished?” It’s always a tough call for artists and it’s so important to have someone you respect you can ask about that.
LC: I do remember John speaking of your talent often with respect and appreciation.He was, as many artists are, a bundle of neuroses, but always very clear about his belief in you.
AA:I think the big difference in our approaches is that John always wanted to be an illustrator.He wanted to tell stories.That’s why he was so well-suited for the movies. I don’t have a problem coming up with and painting things I wanted to paint, whereas when he was left completely open like that, I think he struggled.
LC: You’ve had some success creating official images for Disney and Warner Brothers, but you have found so much more freedom in creating your own work with imagery that sings to you and speaks to your own memories.Can you talk a bit about the new painting “Samuel’s Candy Canes” and how that came together?
AA: What’s so interesting is that is was just last night that there was a festival in Rhinebeck called Sinterklaas where there are thousands of people coming into our little town and there are activities for children and carolers and it turns the town into a Norman Rockwell Christmas and it’s really beautiful and then there’s a parade.It’s like a Mardi Gras parade, with giant puppets done by Sinterklaas creator Jeanne Fleming, the same woman that does them for the Greenwich Village Halloween parade. One of the first years I went to Sinterklaas was shortly after John had died.I brought my 35mm camera and I was taking a lot of pictures. It was just kind of a magical night.One friend I went with earlier in the evening and then she had to go, and I found other friends who walked with me for a while, and just when I was about to go home, another friend asked me to go to dinner. It was one of those incredible nights where I was worried about being alone and people just showed up for me.I took some great pictures that night. I dug them back up.I was trying to figure out where to go next in terms of subject, because I was tired of coming in really close like the cupcake or the cookie, so I went back to those old photos. There was this great quality of light in them.The candy canes were inside a store called Samuel’s, which was owned by a guy names Ira.We were just visiting with Ira and went in and took pictures in the candy store and Ira then passed away a few years ago in a very similar way that John had. He was close to the same age, had a heart attack, he was getting his life together…so it was a perfect thing to create art from being with him that night and those beautiful candies.
The store was bought by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Paul Rudd.They own the candy store now.They wanted to keep the store as Samuels, keep it the same and they figured if they didn’t buy it, someone else would buy it and turn it into something else and it would be gone forever.So I think that, by them, was motivated by nostalgia and just loving what the store stood for and what it meant to the town. That’s kind of the story.I went in there last night, and the bucket that they were in was still there. It’s different, but it’s still there.
LC: One of the great aspects of the art is it doesn’t just speak of the holidays.There’s an element of speaking to holding on to joy and of optimism.I also see an interesting connection to the time you were still in the midst of grief and found kindness.
AA: I realize inadvertently looking back at my work that lighting, especially since I moved to New York, lighting is very important in the paintings.Most of the photo-realism, and it’s difficult to call my work photo-realism, but most of the realists I know aren’t concerned with that, they’re concerned with the surface quality. I always have some background light that’s enveloping the subject.Yes, it’s happy, because you see that it’s candy canes and holiday, but the lighting is warm.It’s like fireside lighting.There’s a warmth to the lighting that’s different than if I were saying, “Look!This is a happy, happy candy cane painting.”It’s warm.Most things I see around the holidays with that subject matter would be in bright light, very Christmas-y kind of colors.This is darker than that.It’s almost like we’re sitting by the fireside, not at Christmas, but rather, reminiscing about holidays gone by, and holding on to those memories.
LC: Was that a conscious thing, to create an image that is about moving forward in the face of loss?
AA: Honestly, I don’t know.
LC: I think as artists, you guys sometimes get to a place with a piece, not knowing when you start, where you meant to go, but having gotten there, you realize that was the intention all along.Like the idea of knowing when it’s done, somewhat comes from having gotten the message into the art, and seeing it fully formed. I know you have a deluxe giclee that is hand-embellished, and you’re doing it, when often artists farm out embellishments.Why is it important to you to do it yourself? I know John was the same way about doing his own.
AA: It’s my work and I really wouldn’t want someone else going in and doing some kind of odd interpretation on it.John and I were both very hands-on. It’s why we wanted to be the people who created the art instead of the art director who guided someone else doing the art. We’ve both been art directors. I think that I look at it from the beginning from that point of view.On compositions, I have a tendency to push the boundaries of the canvas. There’s almost a tangency to the sides. I think my compositions can be unusual.It comes from my design background.
LC: In “Samuel’s Candy Canes”, you get two different feelings visually, one up close and one a bit further away.That’s cool, and that’s part of your style.
AA: Right. Great! I want people to see the brushstrokes.I don’t want to have it look like a photograph when you see the art in person.It looks like a photograph online. It looks very photographic, and they resolve photographically when you stand back from my work.When you go up close, you see all the brushwork, I’m not trying to hide it, I want it to be part of the image.
These images are giclees on canvas, and each, as with all the Art Outsiders, tells the story of the artist from all walks of life and how they changed the world, despite the struggles they endured as part of their work.
Come see these great new images this weekend and meet Tennessee Loveless, who will also be signing his new book “The Art of Tennessee Loveless: Ten x Ten x Ten Mickey Mouse Contemporary Pop Art Series”.
ABOUT THE ART OUTSIDERS
In this project, I will be creating portraits of people who were outsiders of their own field of work. From science, music, art, writing, fashion, and beyond, I will be writing the stories of each outsider’s life, and imbedding it into the structure of their portrait. Here the piece acts dually as a portrait AND a story, and all of them combined will talk about persevering through the darkest of times to create a different kind of beauty that changed the world.
Tennessee and I seem to mesh really well with the essential elements for inclusion in Art Outsiders. Some names came very easily, some led to a bit of arguing, and some we both knew instantly just wouldn’t be acceptable for either of us. In Tennessee’s research, he has sometimes encounted information that made continuing difficult. But history is fickle. Artists have sometimes had to be opportunistic, bendable, or have had questionable decisions. It becomes about a balancing act. When the destructive nature of their choices overrides how much they have inspired the world to expansion, we have to let them go. There are certainly some names that are very personal to us, and since it’s our project, we’re ok with that. We are also learning about people about whose influence we were entirely ignorant. That’s what makes Art Outsiders so beautiful.
The creation of the Art Outsiders project in Tennessee Loveless’s own words:
During the winter out in a warehouse space in Athens, GA I decided to paint something different. I was coming to an end with my project with Disney in where I was painting 100 different things revolving around the same silhouette of the classic Mickey Mouse face. From the beginning of this project, I started with the classic geometric shapes and lines that I was used to, but over the course of five years my aesthetic slowly started to change, . .and this was primarily forced into the project as .. how can one NOT change when trying to paint 100 of the same silhouettes and not be boring? I became less interested in communicating in color, and more interested in creating different and more complex content for the viewer. As I progressed past each one, my pieces became more saturated and more chocked full of emotional structures. The story became more in-depth, and by the last piece everything became so complex that it was impossible to just start over with anything being ‘simple’.
It was a perfect segway into this new project, entitled “Art Outsiders”, which was created by Leslie Combemale (Cinema Siren and head honcho over at ArtInsights Gallery) out in the Washington D.C. Metro area. Since I was riding on the waves of telling someone’s story and creating dialogues in my last project, we decided to extend this idea into telling the story inside the portraits of people. More specifically, all of these people have something in common, as they were ‘outsiders’ in their own element.
It was something that I could not only physically DO, but it was something that I could relate to. In every bit of the sense I relate to the outsider story. I was born colorblind, and yet continued to pursue my life as a painter. I failed out of art school, and my aesthetic was labeled as ‘nauseating’ by my teachers. I got a 2 bit degree from a no name college in apparel design and couldn’t land a fashion job to save my life.
I still worked.
I STILL worked, and gained recognition for my portraits of drag queens. I mostly showed in bars and coffee houses because no gallery would have me. I had no degree in painting, and no formal training, and wasn’t accepted as an artist in the fine art world.
I still painted.
I STILL painted, often working in the corporate world to pay the bills.. and it would be MANY MANY years until I’d have the chance to show in gallery spaces. I was insidious and relentless with my work. If a city wouldn’t accept my work as serious, I would often move to another place and start over there. I’d walk with my portfolio in the random cities I lived in, often to be turned away because my work was uninteresting and rudimentary.
I kept going.
I kept trying.
I kept doing.
I kept walking into galleries even though I knew I’d be rejected, and eventually people started taking me in. I ended up at the World of Wonder Gallery for Season 1 of RuPaul’s Drag Race in where I showed my work of San Francisco drag queens.
Things began to happen.
Eventually, and by complete accident, I ended up working for Disney in licensing and product development through a temp job that became permanent and expanded into something else, something more. It was here where my work was discovered, and I was given multiple attempts to prove myself as an artist. I was untrained as a painter and sketch artist, and I would fail MANY MANY times before I was pitched to Disney Fine Art.
And even now in my career with Disney that’s done quite well, magazine and television interviews, and multiple product lines developed with my drawings on housewares and clothing, I still am considered an outsider of the fine art world because I was not classically trained, and I have made a living as a commercial artist.
I am an outsider. My work does not neatly fit into any division of a current art movement. My work does not compliment others in group shows…. and I am often the neon sore thumb in a sea of classically trained works.
I am an outsider. I am story teller. I am a painter, and I will never stop working.
In this project, I will be creating portraits of people who were outsiders of their own field of work. From science, music, art, writing, fashion, and beyond, I will be writing the stories of each outsider’s life, and imbedding it into the structure of their portrait. Here the piece acts dually as a portrait AND a story, and all of them combined will talk about persevering through the darkest of times to create a different kind of beauty that changed the world.
We are thrilled there is a new retrospective about Tennessee Loveless and his 10x10x10 series, The Art of Tennessee Loveless, releasing on October 31st. It’s the first ever Disney publishing release featuring an out LGBTQ artist! Edited, with some notes by, and with the book authorship credited Disney insider Dave Bossard, it shows all 100 images from the collection. the 10x10x10 project lifted the iconic imagery of Mickey Mouse into the realm of contemporary art in new and vibrant ways, using the same silhouette but incorporating various world cultural and artistic references.
We’ll have Tennessee here to sign and talk about the project, with limited editions and originals from both the 10x10x10 series and the Art Outsiders. Stay tuned for the date! Meanwhile, you can pre-order it on Amazon HERE.
From the Amazon write-up:
“Tennessee Loveless-a Los Angeles-based contemporary pop artist-used bold colors and patterns to create a series of a hundred detailed Mickey Mouse paintings on 10 x 10 canvas. This deluxe art book showcases the beautiful art as well as explores the fascinating world of the artist behind it. Tennessee creates a poetic irony when one considers the fact that he is almost completely colorblind. Despite many obstacles throughout his life and career, he has persevered in pursuing his art. He is driven by his passion for painting people and iconic fictional characters in a way that strikes an emotional and nostalgic connection through the power of color.”
Jim Salvati, who i’ve known for over 20 years, is without question one of the most talented artists I’ve ever met. While he’s aware he has a unique eye, and is often very proud about and happy with his work, he’s also very humble about just how rare a talent he is. In fact, he told me when his wife asks him what he’s working on next, he always says “Just making another pizza”.
He has now turned his focus and considerable artistic insight towards our new partnership called “The Image Projects”, starting with “The Musician’s Image”.
So far, all the art he has created has been commissioned, because we want a limited number of images of the same person or group, and lots of collectors are excited about it and want to “adopt” their favorites. Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Queen, Green Day, and Morrissey are just a few either finished or in his queue.
Jimi Hendrix “Bold as Love”
We just got two images he created of Morrissey in the gallery. Sometimes when Jim gets started, he gets so excited about his work after the research and study of a subject, he can’t choose between his many ideas, and that’s when he creates two paintings. Such is the case for his works of the famed Smiths front man and historic Britpop figure.
Morrissey “Meat is Murder” detail
Morrissey “Meat is Murder”
Morrissey “Let Me Kiss You” detail
Morrissey “Let Me Kiss You”
I love how these two images capture different times in Morrissey’s career and shifting world view, one is pure musician, in the other, a deeper aspect of him, ever conflicted, is captured.
I’m constantly floored by Jim Salvati’s work. I sold some of his originals from Harry Potter years ago, and occasionally he has some personal paintings I am able to offer to my clients. It’s all great, but always shocks me is, even given my high level of expectation, how impressed I am with the finished commissions when they arrive. He has this way of not showing me any images beyond the concept stage so I become as excited and curious as my clients are. He never disappoints! I’m going to steal a word Jim uses when he’s talking about great images. His art is always “juicy”.
I love that after knowing Jim for over 15 years, he finally mentioned he had worked with the west coast studio Andy Warhol opened in Los Angeles. He worked there early in his career, the year before Andy’s passing. That’s the way Jim’s life has been.He’s always got some really cool project, so he rarely looks to the past behind him. He once did a collaboration piece with Herb Ritts for a book and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibition.He has created album and CD cover art for Radiohead, Ella Fitzgerald, Jackson Brown, Peter Tosh, Curtis Mayfield, The Hollies, and most recently, Frankie Valli. Jim became a licensed official Disney and Warner Bros. interpretive artist, worked on concept art for Harry Potter, Happy Feet, and a bunch of other movies. He still surfs most days (even though he’s not an unbreakable twenty-something) and teaches at the prestigious Art Center College of Design, which he has done since 1985 when he was hired by the legendary artist Phil Hays, who also introduced him to Andy Warhol.
No doubt i’ll find out some other fascinating tidbits as I continue working and spending time with him, but really how much more would anyone to read about him to be very impressed, and not a little exhausted by proxy?
I remember when I was just starting to consider doing proprietary partnerships with artists I love and trust. I had begun getting really excited about what Tennessee Loveless was doing with The Art Outsiders, and how well it was being received by collectors and contemporary art experts. One day I was sitting in my gallery, and Jim, who lives in LA, just walked through the door. For a few seconds I thought I was hallucinating, but then I realized it was indeed Jim standing there with a big smile on his face. He was exhibiting across the street at an international portraiture competition, (where he would win a place in the top 5, above thousands of other fine artists) had looked up my gallery’s proximity, (literally about 100 yards away) and stopped by. It was that day we came up with The Image Projects.
I’m really excited where it’s headed. If you’re a fan of Jim’s and/or love music, consider adding your name to the commissions list. You can contact me at the gallery about pricing and payments (firstname.lastname@example.org), but I assure you, whatever he does with your beloved favorite bands or musicians will be even better than you can imagine. I have the art to prove it.
When Tennessee Loveless and I started working together on his project Art Outsiders, we were moved and overjoyed at the reception and reaction it got from collectors and fans around the world. Since the start, he has built a solid foundation for the collection, having created images of “Art Outsiders” in a wide variety of important fields, including Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Alan Turing, Billie Holiday, Amelia Earhart, and Divine.It’s been quite a ride so far, and this very exciting rollercoaster doesn’t seem to be slowing down.Tennessee is also going full throttle with his own project, Drag Landscapes, and still making great DJ sets through his Beautiful Noise Broadcast, and I’m working to build several other collections with artists, as well as writing interviews and film reviews on Cinema Siren. Enter Vox Populi and PoMo Patriots…
We apparently didn’t have enough to do, so of course we decide to do another project together.
It started during the election.No matter your political affiliation, there’s no denying this country has been pulled apart and an ugly underbelly has been exposed.People’s rights are being taken away, the integrity of mainstream journalism is being brought into question, there are alarming ethics issues rearing their heads, and that’s just for starters.Yes, those on the side of the new administration will say all sorts of other things.The point is, our country is going to hell in a handbasket faster than anyone thought possible, and that’s saying something.
The forefathers and mothers of our country did not fight for our freedom and create a new country so we could light a match and put it to flames. Those same fathers and mothers stood up when they saw injustice, and over hundreds of years, they and countless critics of those in power have spoken out, risen up, and used democracy to keep America the inclusive, welcoming, melting pot it was born to be. As has been said many times, freedom isn’t free. We have to fight for it. We also have to fight to bring this country back together again.
Patriotism isn’t just a word for conservatives.All kinds of people, whether they’ve been in America for one day, or their family stepped off the Mayflower, love this country.It’s with this in mind we have started a new American flag project called “Vox Populi”. We are both incredibly passionate about it, and have been talking about it a lot: why we both feel we have to speak through art right now, why we want to call upon the many different voices of dissent in our country’s history, and why we are uniquely placed to do so, since ArtInsights is within easy driving distance of DC and the belly of the political beast. We both might be very busy, but together we decided we couldn’t NOT do it.
This President’s Day, many of us are reflecting on our current state of affairs and how we can make a difference to inspire change.We thought it would be the perfect time to release the first piece, “PoMo Patriots”, (or an abbreviated version of Postmodern Patriots).
The Sunday before Presidents Day, we went all over Washington D.C. taking pictures of Tennessee holding the original art in front of the monuments to the various people quoted. Below are some of the pictures of our adventure introducing the art to Washington and its important historical landmarks:
We saw license plates from more states than ever before as we drove around trying to find parking on an extremely crowded 70 degree day in the Nation’s Capital.Surprisingly, we encountered mostly positive responses, ranging from polite curiosity to awestruck enthusiasm. A few people were truly moved, which I hope meant they got the intense, emotional aspect of how Vox Populi came to be, the passion with which we are approaching every aspect of its release, and what it the project means to Tennessee and I as an artist and an art gallery owner.
To be fair, we did also get a fair amount of shade and side-eye, which would have been more helpful if they could have actually created cover for our exposed ginger skin. What, though, could they possibly have against two redheads carrying an interpreted symbol of our country? I’d say we all have a lot of work to do.
Any people anywhere, being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up, and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better…..This is a most valuable – a most sacred right – a right, which we hope and believe, is to liberate the world. Abraham Lincoln
Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression…..because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.Malcolm X
Salvation for a race, nation or class must come from within. Freedom is never given.It is won. A. Philip Randolph
There is in this world no such force as the force of a person determined to rise. The human soul cannot be permanently chained.W.E.B. Du Bois
We need in every bay and community a group of angelic troublemakers.Bayard Rustin
Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down. Eleanor Roosevelt
Finally, let us understand that when we stand together, we will always win. When men and women stand together for justice, we win. When black, white and Hispanic people stand together for justice, we win.Bernie Sanders
So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we’ll be called a democracy.Roger Nash Baldwin
A truly American sentiment recognizes the dignity of labor and the fact that honor lies in honest toil.Grover Cleveland
If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.Barack Obama
Hope will never be silent. Harvey Milk
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.Martin Luther King, Jr.
America was not built on fear. America was built on courage…. on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.Harry S Truman
If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.George Washington
I wanted to include Tennessee’s perspective on this new project , and his impetus for bringing Vox Populi to life:
“I love America.
I love my fellow Americans.
I love my fellow Americans even if they hate me because I’m queer.
I still love them.
I love America so much I am willing to use whatever ability I have, to fight for people to be here.
I love America so much that I am willing to create art as a mirror to show people, even though we were founded on a poisonous colonialist and ongoing imperialistic structure (which I dislike greatly and will continually fight against) that this ‘MELTING POT’ exists because of activism for ALL EQUAL RIGHTS.
I love America so much, that I have used my blood, sweat, and tears to create a piece about a pattern I am ironically terrified of because of people confusing “patriotism” with “nationalism”.
I love America so much that I used quotes of people who fought for inclusivity and equality like Malcolm X, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin and more…
I love America so much that I turned their quotes upside down on the flag so that my fellow Americans had to contort themselves beyond the pattern to read what America was about.
I love America so much that I flew to DC with this portrait and stood in front of every monument, INCLUDING THE WHITE HOUSE to talk about the state of our administration.
I love America so much that I fought through my fellow American’s jeers, shade, and disdain for what I was doing.. and yet I was overwhelming met with hugs and tears.
I love this country enough to know when its absolutely backwards and fighting itself… because EVERYONE BELONGS HERE.
I love America.
and yet I am afraid of the thing I love.
Regardless I will fight as an advocate with my cis white privilege ..
because my weapon and shield is a brush and my voice.”
We also displayed the art in ArtInsights, and PoMo Patriots got exactly the kind of reaction Tennessee was looking for, over and over and over. And…in fact, we could have sold the original four times the day it was seen for the first time, and all to collectors far more conservative than we would have expected!
Everyone contorts themselves and changes their perspective to read the many important messages of those who have loved and worked for the freedom of our country:
We have limited editions of this piece, (which was sold immediately upon displaying it) and you can find information on it HERE. If you love what you see, stay tuned for more from this project.We are so excited for you to see it come together! (ps. a percentage of proceeds from the sale of limited editions goes to the ACLU)
Famed Contemporary Artist TENNESSEE LOVELESS Appearing on “DRAG FRIDAY”, the alternate to Black Friday, at ArtInsights Gallery for THE ART OF TENNESSEE LOVELESS one man show, featuring the release of new images from “THE ART OUTSIDERS SERIES” and art from the 10x10x10 series
November 25th, from 4 – 7pm
Reston, VA – World renowned artist Tennessee Loveless will be appearing in person for the opening of the Art Outsiders Borderline Series show at ArtInsights in Reston Town Center, Virginia, on what the gallery is calling Drag Friday.From 4 to 7 pm, ArtInsights will offer an alternative, a welcome respite, or a unique addition to Reston Town Center’s Black Friday event, “Holidays are Here”.Outside in Reston Town Center, holiday revelers will be enjoying the tree lighting ceremony, singing Christmas songs, and meeting Santa. Inside ArtInsights, they’ll be celebrating the day with a DJ spinning non-seasonal electronica, cold-weather libations, and an appearance of one of the fastest rising art stars in the LGBTQ community. Collectors and fans can meet Tennessee Loveless, and he’ll be dedicating all limited edition and original art sold from both the Art Outsiders and 10x10x10 series. A part of the profits from all sales that weekend will be donated to SMYAL.org, which supports and empowers lesbian, gay, transgender, and questioning youth in the Washington, DC metropolitan region.He will be appearing both for “Drag Friday”, November 25th, from 4-7pm, and Saturday, November 26th, 3 to 6pm at ArtInsights Gallery, 11921 Freedom Drive, Reston, VA.The gallery will be giving away an original piece of art by 10SC to someone attending the weekend gallery events. New images from the Art Outsiders Borderline Series and original art that will be in the 10x10x10 art book will be on exhibit and for sale through January 8th. We will also be unveiling the newest original in the Art Outsiders Series, featuring Kate Bush. As always, admission to the gallery is free. For more information, contact ArtInsights at 703-478-0778 and visit HYPERLINK “http://www.artoutsiders.net” www.artoutsiders.net.
The Art Outsiders Borderline Series includes portraits of people who were outsiders of their own various fields of work. From science, music, art, writing, fashion, and beyond, Tennessee writes the stories of each outsider’s life, and imbeds it into the structure of their portrait. In this series, he adds the dimension of his experience of each artist and their influence on him as a contemporary artist and how they inspire him to persevere with his work and life. Says Loveless, “With Borderline, I reflect on the powerful influence the artists have on me as an artist, but also their influence on this moment in history, and how I see them reflected in today’s society. Sometimes what I paint surprises me, sometimes it saddens me.” Adds ArtInsights owner Leslie Combemale, “If there was ever a time to embrace the power of art to express change, this is it. I love the Borderline Series because it shows how Tennessee, as a painter becoming known around the world, interprets the artists who have already changed the world.”
ABOUT TENNESSEE LOVELESS
Tennessee Loveless has taken the art world by storm in a number of different ways.After his start painting queens in the drag bars of San Francisco, he worked as an artist in their fine art division.It was during that time he created the 10x10x10 collection, which involved painting 100 Mickey Mouse heads infused with the details of geography, cultural discussions, emotional landscapes, and abstractions.An art book, The Art of Tennessee Loveless: 10 X 10 X 10—The Mickey Mouse Contemporary Pop Art Series, will be released in Fall of 2017 through Disney Publishing. His current project The Art Outsiders is represented and premiered exclusively through ArtInsights Gallery in Reston.New art from that project is the subject of their new show, and includes portraits of Van Gogh, Judy Garland, David Bowie, Divine, Kate Bush, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Marlene Dietrich. You can see all his projects and read his blog at HYPERLINK “http://tennesseeloveless.com/” www.tennesseeloveless.com
Open and representing a wide range of film, animation, and contemporary art at their gallery in Reston Town Center since 1994, ArtInsights focuses on proprietary projects and artist representation relating to the history of animation and film, and the celebration and examination of popular culture. With artists like John Alvin, Alex Ross, Jim Salvati, and Tennessee Loveless, the gallery builds collections of original and limited edition art for their growing worldwide collector base. See their work and read their blog on HYPERLINK “https://www.artinsights.com/” www.artinsights.com. For more information about The Art Outsiders project and Tennessee Loveless, visit HYPERLINK “http://artoutsiders.net/” artoutsiders.net.
Famed Drag & Contemporary Artist TENNESSEE LOVELESS Releases First Images of His New Project “THE ART OUTSIDERS” at ArtInsights Gallery. Meet ‘10SC’ on May 21 & 22 from 2 – 4 pm
Reston, VA – In conjunction with the Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival on May 21 and 22 at Reston Town Center, ArtInsights has the worldwide exclusive premiere of images from The Art Outsiders by Tennessee Loveless. The Art Outsiders is a portrait collection of important and influential creators who, through their struggle and determination have changed the world with their unique genius. The Chicago-based, internationally known artist will be making a personal appearance, 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22 at ArtInsights Gallery, 11921 Freedom Drive, Reston, VA. The display of his original and limited edition art will continue as the collection expands, and as sales allow. As always, gallery admission is free. For more information, contact ArtInsights at 703-478-0778 and visit HYPERLINK “http://www.artoutsiders.net” www.artoutsiders.net.
The first seven images of the series, which are part of a growing list of over 40 names, include Divine, Van Gogh, Coco Chanel, Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, David Bowie, and Judy Garland. The Art Outsiders Project is a collection of portraits of people who were outsiders of their own field of work. From science, music, art, writing, fashion, and beyond, Loveless is writing the stories of each outsider’s life, and imbedding it into the structure of their portrait. The pieces act dually as portraits and stories, and all of them combined will talk about persevering through the darkest times to create a different kind of beauty that changed and continues changing the world.
Although he only began working on the project in November, the originals have been commissioned so quickly he already has a backlog from longtime collectors who had pre-announcement access to the list. Art collectors interested in the project can go to the Web page of all current Art Outsiders available for purchase, or can nominate someone not currently on the list for consideration, as names are being added all the time. Loveless decides, from his own perspective, if they fit with his vision of the project. Says Loveless, “I know what it’s like being an outsider. Creating these images, being inside these creators’ lives as I paint them, moves me far beyond what I was expecting. Seeing the collectors connecting so viscerally, being moved too, is the most rewarding experience of my career.”
His fine art representative and partner in The Art Outsiders project is ArtInsights owner Leslie Combemale. From her perspective, the fact that Loveless is colorblind and limited in his ability to see color, is a fascinating after-thought in considering Loveless’ unique talent and artistic voice. “Tennessee’s art comes from his entire being, and his life experience. It’s true he has had to choose colors based on psychology rather than a personal visual understanding, but that is only one aspect creating the unique depth of his images. For The Art Outsiders project, for example, he is entirely immersing himself in the lives of the artists he is painting. He is speaking to their struggle, importance, and relevance. I’m thrilled it’s being so well received. People either love or hate his art, and I think that’s a great sign! It’s true for all iconoclastic contemporary artists”.
ABOUT TENNESSEE LOVELESS
Tennessee is inspired by his fascination with pop art, flamboyant fashion and film icons, and the underground drag culture. Although he attended the Savannah College of Art and Design, he began his career in earnest by painting drag queens in San Francisco. Simultaneously, while gaining recognition for that work, he became an product developer and artist at Disney, where he ultimately came to prominence with the 10x10x10 series, one hundred iconic silhouettes of Mickey Mouse’s face expressing a pop journey, exploring the history of the icon, while bringing global, societal, and personal context to the imagery. He has created art for an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, was honored with a Smithsonian Artist Residency Fellowship, has been the featured artist in Anthology Magazine, and made one of the “People of the Year” in Instinct Magazine. The darling of contemporary art collectors around the world, he has been an artist in residence in Berlin, Paris, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Chicago. He’s the 2016 official Summer Olympics artist with designs created for Speedo representing Brazil and USA. More information is available at HYPERLINK “http://tennesseeloveless.com/” www.tennesseeloveless.com
Loveless comes by his love of drag through his own experience as an accomplished drag performer both in San Francisco and Seattle with Trannyshack, the drag performance group founded by Hecklina at the Stud bar in San Francisco in 1996. He is also the founder and programmer of the Internet music show Beautiful Noise Broadcast, which has since morphed into Gorgeous Sound Underground.
ABOUT ARTINSIGHTS GALLERY
ArtInsights is a privately owned gallery located just outside Washington DC at 11921 Freedom Drive, Reston, Virginia, in Reston Town Center. In addition to their focus on the art of film, the gallery is displaying the work of The Art Outsiders project, which is a partnership between Tennessee Loveless and Leslie Combemale. Open since 1994, and co-owned by Combemale, ArtInsights is expanding to allow the display of the contemporary work of artists and art projects represented by Combemale Creative, her company for international art consulting and artistic representation. The gallery has Loveless’ Art Outsiders art as well as representative art from his entire career, including drag queens and 10x10x10. Visit ArtInsights at HYPERLINK “https://www.artinsights.com/” www.artinsights.com. For more information about The Art Outsiders project and Tennessee Loveless, visit HYPERLINK “http://artoutsiders.net/” artoutsiders.net.
USED FOR THE BOOK “HEROES OF THE NEGRO LEAGUES”, AND FOR
THE FIRST COLOR BASEBALL CARDS OF THE NEGRO LEAGUE
April 3, 2008
Reston, VA- ArtInsights Gallery in Reston Town Center has secured exclusive rights to exhibit and sell the original watercolor art used for the bestselling book “Heroes of the Negro Leagues” by illustrator and DC Comics Art Editor Mark Chiarello. Many of these illustrations were used for the first color baseball cards for the Negro Leagues. The exhibit will include images of famed Negro Leaguers Satchel Paige, Rube Foster, Josh Gibson, Buck O’Neil, and many others. Mr. Chiarello will be appearing in person in the gallery opening weekend of Major League Baseball, opening day of the new exhibit, Saturday, March 29th, from 2 to 5 pm. The show will run through May 30th, or as sales allow.
The publication of the original baseball cards that inspired the “Heroes of the Negro Leagues” book marked the first time most of the players ever appeared on a baseball card. Mark Chiarello says he and writer Jack Morelli were inspired to create the cards when they visited the National Baseball Museum in Cooperstown, New York where they saw a plaque for a player they’d never heard of, Judy Johnson. After some research, they resolved to correct the fact that they and other hardcore baseball fans knew so little of these great athletes. The cards were expanded into a book that was rated 2nd of all sports books on Amazon.com in 2007, with watercolors the New York Times called “evocative”. Los Angeles magazine said of the book, “Mark Chiarello’s dreamy watercolor portraits transport us back to a league that time (and most everyone else) has conveniently forgotten”.
Mark Chiarello is an award winning artist and the art editor of DC Comics, and has done illustration for LucasFIlm, Disney, Universal Pictures, Topps, and Universal Pictures, to name a few. He has won the comic book industry’s Eisner, Harvey, and Reuben awards. He is also creating art for instillation in the new Gaylord National Resort in Maryland’s “National Pastime.”
Says ArtInsights co-owner Michael Barry, “We’ve carried illustration art for quite some time, but never anything sports related. Mark’s Negro League watercolors are so beautifully executed, it was a perfect fit. He is more than just a skilled watercolorist, with these pieces he’s captured so much more”. A great deal of research was required for these portraits, and artist Chiarello says he often looked at more than 200 pictures of a player to find the perfect reference to use. Barry’s partner, Leslie Combemale, adds, “Of course they are historically important, but they definitely stand alone as great art. Many know the more famous Negro Leaguers, but these illustrations allow collectors to connect with some of the many unsung heroes who deserve more recognition. These watercolors offer an opportunity for baseball fans, art collectors, and history buffs to expand how they see the world, as the best art always does, and Mark has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject. We’re proud to have his art in the gallery.”
ArtInsights, established in 1994, is a privately owned business located in Reston Town Center, Virginia. In addition to specializing in creating and developing collections of animation art from Disney, Warner Brothers, Hanna Barbera, and all other major studios, The gallery is constantly looking for new and important artist of illustrative, animation, and film art to add to those they currently represent. Their roster includes Chuck Jones, John Alvin, Toby Bluth, Tim Rogerson, Mary GrandPre, and Jim Salvati. They recently had the international exclusive first release of limited editions of the Harry Potter book covers by Mary GrandPre.
With more than 30 combined years of experience in these art genres, owners Michael Barry and Leslie Combemale work closely with individuals and corporations to ensure the integrity of their clients’ collections. ArtInsights is the only art gallery in the Washington Metropolitan area authorized to represent Warner Bros., Hanna Barbera, and Disney interpretive art to the public.