When someone is such an enormous positive influence in your life, it's natural to want to reach out and let them know. Say "Thank you." When that person is Robin Williams it means that as real as the personal connection feels, you are one person in a world of strangers who feel the same way. I know that he was a huge fan of art and loved animals. So six weeks ago I decided to paint a portrait of Robin Williams' dog, Leonard.
I first met Robin the same way most of America did, on Mork and Mindy. Was anyone else obsessed with finding out what Orson actually looked like? Growing up in the North Bay Area, I would hear that he did stand-up in San Francisco but I was just a kid. I never saw him perform live.
When I was 13 years old I bailed on popular music and focused on listening to stand-up comedy. I would tape every episode of Comedy Tonight and watch them until the colors got all weird. At night I would listen to comedy on cassettes until I fell asleep. My favorite tape was Comic Relief, the benefit for the homeless hosted by Robin Williams, Billy Crystal and Whoopi Goldberg. I didn't understand all the humor but that didn't stop me from committing the whole thing to memory.
I could go on about Robin Williams' career and accomplishments but we already know. There is one thing I've been feeling since he passed and I was surprised to hear the same thing from so many friends and through social media. We felt like we had a personal relationship with Robin. It makes me wonder what it was about him that's different from so many other talented comedians and actors. What is it about Robin Williams that makes us feel like we lost a friend or family member. I think it's because on top of all his comedic and acting genius, Robin Williams had a very fatherly quality. Of course he really was a father. But to me, it felt like I had this super-funny, giving, strong (second) father....who I had never met...because he's so busy making movies and stuff.
For me, this feeling points back to his 1980 film, Popeye. My dad had this one in his VHS collection so it brings back a lot of father-son memories for me. And when you put all the cartoon stuff aside, this was a movie about fathers and sons. Williams' Popeye is a father and a son to his father.
This father/ father figure theme runs through so many of Williams' roles from Mrs. Doubtfire to Good Will Hunting to the 2009 film, World's Greatest Dad. The latter, directed by Bobcat Goldthwait basically changed my life. At least, it made me think differently about the way people perceive one another. How someone perceives me has so much to do with what is going on their own mind, their desires and fears, and so little to do with who I actually am. And I do the same thing with my perceptions of them.
But I digress.
In July, I decided I needed to paint Robin Williams' dog. I had recently done something similar for a friend of his, so I sent her this one to give to Robin. I got word back that Robin loved the piece and said I captured "the Essence of Leonard."
The fact that two days of work on my part could make someone smile, someone who has made me laugh a thousand times, it really meant a lot. I only wish he could have enjoyed it longer.
Alright, that's all I had to say. Peace be with you, Robin.
I'm getting married in about a week. After that we are exploring the American West (Colorado and beyond) to track the mighty Jackalope.
If you would like to receive a Jackalope postcard (hand-drawn and personalized) while we are on the trail, just contribute any amount to our HoneyFund account. Be sure to let me know where to send your card! Don't worry, the postcard will be sent in an envelope to keep it from getting jacked up. Thank you in advance!
-Ben & Amanda
Weddings are a time of great joy, romance and spending large amounts of money. I am in the midst of all of that beauty and expense right now, with a wedding to the love of my life just around the corner.
From the start, my fiance and I have done our best to not get caught up in the "supposed tos" that come with a wedding: Supposed to have a cake, supposed to spend thousands of dollars of flowers, and supposed to spend a lot of money on elaborate invitations.
Let's face it, as exciting and romantic as a wedding is, most invitations get thrown out after it's all over. Couples spend $500 - $2000 for 100-150 wedding invitations. That's nuts. Most young couples don't have that kind of money (unless someone else is paying for it all) and even if you do have that kind of cash, wouldn't you rather put it towards something, anything else? The honeymoon, the booze, ....rent? Here is how I made our wedding invitation for about $85 plus postage.
1. Be an Illustrator or Designer
Not an Illustrator or Graphic Designer? Give it a shot anyway, or hire someone. At least that extra money will go toward a working artist instead of.....embossers.
2. Print Through a Service That Doesn't Do "Wedding Invitations"
If you have started talking to florists, caterers and venues I'm sure you have noticed when you utter the words "-for our wedding" service providers' eyes roll back and a single stream of saliva trickles down their chin. That's when they start adding 0's to all their prices. Don't call your reception a "wedding Reception" call it a "private party." And when printing your invitations, check the box for postcards, greeting cards, business cards, ANYTHING BUT "Wedding Invitation."
We printed our invitations as postcards through BandsonaBudget.com. This was my first time working with them and I am really impressed. They responded to my order with an email that day and they shipped in less than a week. The printing is crisp and the colors are exact. We got 250 postcards (invitations, shhh) for $56 including shipping. We will have to recycle about 100 of them but what can ya' do?
3. Forget about the extra stuff
Receiving a wedding invitation that includes a little self addressed stamped envelope and RSVP card asking you to check chicken or beef is cute but isn't it kind of antiquated? Everyone has access to the Internet, or at least access to a son who is "good with computers." We just included a link on the back of our invitation where guests can RSVP, see a map and get any additional info they may need. One postcard in one envelope. Bam.
Work with standard sizes
We walked into a local Paper Source and bought envelopes off the rack. They are 5.75" x 4.3." Just big enough to house our standard size 5.5" x 4.25" postcards, AND just squeaking under a large "specialty size" price jump at the post office. Check out standard sizes and maybe choose your printer before you get started designing.
That's my advice on creating wedding invitations that are easy and inexpensive. I'm sure everything will go just as smoothly.
Part 2. The Process
Both the front and back illustrations were created by hand and colored digitally. Here is the whole process, inspiration, roughs and all.
This illustration started with the things we both love. My fiance and I are very inspired by German art and crafts from the Black Forest, fancy old-timey parties, and our city, San Francisco. We settled on the idea of a hot-air balloon early-on. It's a great symbol of setting off to a world of adventures. Then I got into looking at some of my favorite illustrations from Grimm Fairy Tales and started playing with the idea of a magical forest scene.
I liked the idea of being surrounded by adoring woodland creatures. Having a huge bear officiate our wedding seemed weird and appropriate enough, but the scene ended up feeling too quiet and private.
I went ahead and drew the "border" trees and such, figuring I would decide what to add to the scene when I have to. The line work is done with brown acrylic paint on Claybord.
Using tracing paper, I roughed in my fiance and I riding away on a leaping narwhal. It was bizarre and more exciting than before, but still not right.
After sleeping on it I realized we should be riding a hot air balloon-carousel horse hybrid. I really tried to push for fun shapes that fill out the scene, leaving as little negative space as possible.
We took a lot of reference photos but I ended up making the poses up.
With the drawing scanned at hi resolution, it is ready to be colored in Photoshop. I had to check myself from going overboard with rendering at this stage. There is already so much going on with the line drawing, it can get confusing and weird looking fast. I made sure to stick to a color story that my bride had already put together for the wedding.
Don't forget the back! I already had this Bigfoot / unicorn wedding scene drawn, so I recolored it to be an ultra-subtle background image. The text was laid out in Illustrator. By having both of these images bleed off into flat color, it's easy to make sure the artwork fits within the "safe area" in the printer provided template.
Thanks for checking this out! If you would like to support our romantic life together, hire me to make your wedding invitation, or I can even paint live at your wedding, fundraiser or Bar Mitzvah. Bigfoot's Big Day is available as a T-shirt!
When Michael and Athena Butler wanted to expand their business, they came to me with three things:
1. High quality, home made, all natural, dog treats
2. A tongue-twister of a product name
3. Photos of their Saluki
The Butlers came to me for just a logo but for their business to be as successful as it should be, they needed a complete branding package. By re-branding the treats Butler Bites, I made sure their product is easy to remember and pronounce. The clean, iconic artwork and type treatment conveys high quality and whimsy.
Do good work and get it out there. That's what they say it takes to be successful as a creative, right? Being a self-employed illustrator takes more than the ability to draw awesome bears (The good work). It means spending 20-40% of your efforts on graphic design, blogging, photography, convention exhibit design, even guerilla marketing in order to promote yourself (get it out there). Over the next few days I will be posting some examples of design work I have done for self-promotional purposes. I hope you find it helpful in your own pursuits.
Part 1. Print-On-Demand services can help you be your own brand, regardless of you budget
In late 2008 I launched my own T-shirt brand, Snake Oil Clothing. I sold screen-printed Tees at conventions like Comic-con and through a web store. Three years ago I moved into a small San Francisco apartment with very little storage. I just can't print and store large amounts of shirts like I used to. But I still get emails from people who are bummed that their favorite Snake Oil shirt is now mostly dryer lint. I didn't feel good about telling my fans that they were plain out of luck, so I made designs available through Redbubble.com
It turns out, their quality is amazing! If you gave up on print-on-demand T-shirts five years ago when P.O.D could only be done on light colored shirts and had weird, off-white boxes around the image, it's time to try Redbubble.
I can put up new designs just see how they do. If I never sell one it doesn't hurt me. If 400 copies sell it's all up to those guys to print, package and ship the T-shirts out! All I have to do is wait for a Paypal payment of around $4.25, per shirt sold, $11 when someone buys a hoodie! That's pretty much the same profit margin as when I was having shirts made through a screen-printer.
How does this help with self promotion and branding?
- If you have a collection of solid work, you can make it all available as T-shirts, phone cases, pillows, prints etc. as P.O.D merchandise. Now you have a nice portfolio of work that shows a) what you are about (that's your brand) and b) that you can create finished work. Showing that you can start and finish a solid collection of artwork is huge on its own.
- Your T-shirts sell. Not only do you now get some sweet "mailbox money" coming your way, now someone is walking around with your artwork on their chest. That's free advertising, son! Maybe that person works at Marvel, Pixar or LucasArts (Jeez, I guess I should just say Disney), wherever you want to get work. If your designs are strong people will ask about that T-shirt. Now you have fans who work at Lucas or wherever and see your artwork every week or so. That's Huge! And it totally happens.
- Redbubble allows creators the option to upload artwork that is only available to the creator, private-style. So you can make one-off, high quality T-shirts that no one else could possibly have. For about 30 bucks! That was unheard of a few years ago. I took advantage of this by printing one T-shirt with my resume emblazoned on it (pic above). I am not above this sort of shameless, meta, self-promotion. And I'm chok-ful-o-more ideas for using this technology and service to do things people could have never done before.
Are you getting your artwork out there by using Print-on-Demand services? Let me know what kind of experiences you have had.
Follow Ben Walker on Instagram and Twitter: @ArtofBenWalker
Services Like Custom Pet Portraits That Are Good
I added a new menu item to this site, Services! The first item on the menu is Pet Portraits. But they aren't your usual pet portraits. These are good! Portraits are priced by size and start at just $200. Check out my Services page for more info.
"We are gathered here today, under the canopy of the Black Forest, to witness the joining in magical matrimony of Mr. Bigfoot and Princess Glengarry Glenn Rosa, of the Enchanted Grass Valleys…."
I made Bigfoot's Big Day in celebrate my upcoming nuptials. T-shirts are currently available through RedBubble.com. Choose between enchanted forest colors or the very masculine Groomsmen's Edition.
Both colorways will be printed on your choice of hand-picked complimentary colors. Girly tees and hoodies available too! (although the zip-up hoodie looks like some kind of bad omen. Oh wait you can print on the Back! Much better.)
Ten years ago, Toast Boy (also known as Butter Side Don) was born on a cockroach infested tour boat in Bangkok, Thailand. He became the first in a whole family of indie T-shirt designs. To celebrate, I am making this hand-painted Toast Boy available as a T-shirt the first time. Read on for the evolution of poor Toast Boy.
Awaiting my marginally appetizing lunch aboard a small, Thailand touring boat, I scratched at my sketchbook. I kept one eye on the clips from "America's Funniest Home Videos" the crew had put on to keep us Westerners occupied. I looked up and was struck by a quick shot of an upset boy (or girl?) dressed as bread. With a jarring "Ka-chunk!" an image popped up in my mind.
When I returned home, I scraped the lint off as best I could and Toast boy was ready debute as my first indie T-shirt design at my first convention table, Alternative Press Expo 2005.
I drew this Toast Boy on some old shelf paper around the same time. This version was eventually printed as a sticker and distributed around Sacramento's midtown. I like to think the image became the Obey Giant sticker of Sacramento but the truth is Obey Giant was still the Obey Giant sticker of Sacramento.
You can imagine my shock and pride when I saw that famed MAD magazine cartoonist, Sergio Aragonés had adorned his briefcase with one sticker, Toast Boy. I had given him that sticker a year prior! *starstruck*
In 2011 Toast Boy was painted in full color, renamed Butter Side Don and shown as part of Gallery 1988's Garbage Pail Kids show.
This hand-painted version of Toast Boy is available for the first time as a T-shirt on RedBubble. They are printed on American Apparel tees just like I have always done. The quality is superb and buyers can choose between a bunch of hand-picked, complimentary shirt colors! Oh, and if you live in Portland and only want hoodies, they are available too, along with girly fit, kids, baby onesies, and more.
Why is Toast Boy so iconic and beloved? I think he just sums up our lives sometimes. Whatever he was about to get up to is ruined and we can all relate to that.
Thanks for reading.
Sacramento! Who said I would never be back?
The Teen Self Portrait show opens at Sacramento's Crocker Art Museum, Thursday April 17th. In case these youngsters are not satisfied with just one 2D rendering of their glowing visage, I will be on hand, drawing live. I will be joined by one of my favorite San Francisco cartoonists, Donta Santistevan.
- Thursday, April 17, 2014
- 5:00pm – 7:00pm
- Crocker Art Museum (map)