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Mary Christmas

Merry Christmas, on the glorious birth of Jesus of Nazareth! Hallelujah!

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." Luke 2:14

Have a wonderful holiday and a wonderful new year!


Topper posts some of my drawings...

Topper Helmers is a friend of mine, and we used to work together at WDI in the early 1990s. As customary for those days -- as the young man in the studio -- I was prone to doing joke drawings for my coworkers. What ever was happening that was current was usually fodder for me. I loved sending these via interoffice mail -- this made boring interoffice mail fun.

Some of the drawings are just roughs I would use to create some of my designs, and some are just doodles I would give Topper when he showed an interest in a particular sketch. And, some where just inside jokes. (Gosh, I had completely forgotten about most of them till I saw them again.)

My friend Topper has posted some of the drawings I gave him on a web site/auction site. And, if you twist his arm, I'll bet he'd even sell a few. He's a huge collector of art, and he's got some amazing artwork in his collection.

You might be wondering why all the red-head jokes, heh...well, he had a thing for red-heads. Topper also kept pressuring me to do a comic book, so I teased him with this sketch.

Go to Topper's Page to check out these sketches from nearly 20 years ago.


I've Posted on Sketchclub again...

This poor kid was working hard as a house painter, but who could resist such an opportunity to draw him? He was covered in white paint!


Sketchclub Posting...

Go to Sketchclub to check out my latest memory sketch. I've got the full image posted there.

Heh-heh, you know it's getting cold in California when the scarfs come out.


Look What I Found!

OK, maybe I didn't find this image in an old book, but it's fun to create images I'd like to find.

This is a rough sketch of a faerie that I superimposed over some textures. I imagined it was an old book plate.


A Sketchbook Peek

Here's a new sketch from my sketchbook. It's similar to the sketches I have on my Sketchclub app.

For those interested, I don't have a sketchbook for sale, but I do have my Sketchclub app, it's pretty affordable at $2.99

This particular sketch isn't on the Sketchclub app -- since it's new. But, it's similar to the ones in my app. Maybe it will make it into a Volume Two?


Captain N: Game Master - Wombat Man

I was talking to my daughter about marsupials and she mentioned wombats. I told her that in 1988 I designed a wombat character for an animated TV show for DIC Entertainment -- looked it up on Youtube...and there it was! I designed Wombat Man and the love interest in this clip.

I was the lead character designer for this show, having designed many of the main characters. Although, I only worked on it for the first season. As was customary back then they would lay everyone off after the productions ended their season, and in-between seasons I landed a job with Disney.

My friend Fil Barlow also did some of the main characters as well. He was instrumental in getting the contract from Nintendo with his humorous character designs, the difference being the show was going to be about a Paper Boy. Back then there was a video game that featured a paper boy delivering papers, and the Paper Boy was going to be the lead character for the show. Somewhere along the line the Paper Boy idea was dropped and Kevin, as Captain Nintendo, was born. Fil was living in Australia at the time and wasn't around during production as he was with Alf and Alf Tales.

Funny thing, I remember Mike Maliani, our executive producer, came by with photos of child actors to play the part of Kevin Keene. I shuffled around the pictures and settled on Dorian Barag. I don't know if I helped his career or sunk it!

Once the show went in production I worked with character designers Ed Lee and Mike Goguen.

Sadly, the character Wombat Man was only featured here as the character Simon Belmont was switching TV channels. One of the production coordinators named Kurt Weldon did the voice for Wombat Man.


Mean Sketches...

Yesterday I was having a conversation about caricatures with my friend Glenn Harmon , and I had mentioned to him that Marlo Meekins has some of the most vicious/hilarious caricatures out there right now.

Glenn suggested we give that a shot -- you know, meanness -- during our Friday Sketchclub get-together. Although no one comes close to Marlo's talent, it was fun to step on the gas pedal and see what viciousness we could come up with on our own.

I typically try to design my characters with appeal and an overall simple shape. I still kept my simple overall shape goal, but some of that meanness seeped into the drawing. This drawing was one among the drawings I did in my sketchbook.


Three Minute Figure Drawing

Here's a three minute figure drawing drawn on newsprint with a magic marker. It is untouched, just as I scanned it. The scanner copied the image really rich, and I liked the way it turned out.

Sorry for the watermark/huge signature, but with the recent copyright problems, I gotta paste these on the images to protect myself. Hopefully, you all can look past that legality.


Inspiration for Latest Post

On the last post there was some question to the inspiration to these sketches, I thought I would go ahead and clear things up a bit. The Muppets were the inspiration for these sketches, not Ronald Searle.

I love Searle’s work, but I believe Searle’s work relies heavily on the 2D medium. Nothing wrong with that if you are doing illustrations, but if you’re doing CG animation it can become a stumbling block into a 3D translation.

Having started my career in 2D animation, and now working in CG animation, I've witnessed a learning curve that is taking place with this industry -- and within my own commercial work. I’ve really been learning to appreciate the simplicity of the Muppets for that reason.

There’s another general question regarding “inspiration” versus “copying.” Although I think there is much value in copying when you’re starting out, at this point in my career I think it’s better to learn a lesson and apply the understanding, rather than copy a technique.


Olde Tyme

Blah blah blah, and then I blah blah blah, with graphite and blah blah blah.


Introducing Ted Blackman

My good friend Ted Blackman has finally created a blog.

Ted and I go waaay back. When I first started in animation he was already a star talent, but I quickly discovered that Ted was also easy to get along with, versatile, and funny.

Ted was a crack-up to have at the studio, he was always making caricatures of his fellow artists, and drawing funny studio situations -- like when the air conditioner was stuck on FREEZING. He did a cartoon of himself trying to warm himself by using several drawing lamps at his desk.

Ted really opened my eyes about how a cartoonist should see the world. Meeting him had a profound impact on me, thanks Ted!

Please welcome my friend by paying him a visit at Crotchety Comics and leave him a comment.


Open Season

We have to go back a few years for these. When I first came to Sony Pictures Animation, I started working on Open Season as a character designer. My job was to develop the Boog character's design -- before the script was set. I did a series of sketches trying to figure out who this nine foot, 1,100 pound grizzly bear was.

Boog was raised as a house pet, and he's sort of a naughty child. The idea here, as Boog attempts to raid the cookie jar, is that he is completely unaware of his size and power.

I did a lot of exploration with the designs and attempted to move him around to get a feel for the way the character would move.

Once I had gotten a good feel for the character, I did some turns. In the end, I gave him fur-like pants that gave him a britches-feel to his fur, and large forelimbs with tiny paws and delicate claws that act like fingers.

Ultimately, my friend Carter Goodrich came on as the character designer, and I took the position of art director on Surf's Up. Despite the changes in the style and design for Boog, I was glad to see the ideas remained the same and made it into the final version.


Jolly the Chimp

When I was a kid there was this toy called the Jolly Chimp. It was a frightening chimp doll that would bang its cymbals, then bare its teeth while, with eyes bulging out of his sockets. It didn't seem like a kid's toy, and I think that's what the allure was. I never owned one as a kid, but my cousin had one, and I was mesmerized.

This toy has now become sort of iconic in that it's been featured in various movies, Close Encounters, Monkey Shines, and now in Toy Story 3. Ironically I drew this before watching the movie.

(OK, a side note, I'm such a fan of this nightmarish toy, as an adult I've collected and refurbished several of them and have two, mint, still in the box. There, I've said too much already.)


Fourth of July Fireworks

On the Fourth, I was sitting out by the hotel pool while my kids were swimming. There were a lot of families, the pool was a full of screaming kids.

Then two young ladies, about 17-18 years old, came out to the pool. I over heard one say to the other, "This is boring, there's no one here!" That comment struck me so funny, I guess the mobs of families and screaming kids didn't count.

They only stayed a moment, but not before I blocked in this sketch. Obviously I had to finish it in their absence, but what a moment!


Stealthclub! By Moleskin

I just love those little paperback Moleskin sketchbooks. I was going to a fancy banquet and stuffed it into my blazer's inner pocket -- it's so small and flat, no one was the wiser. And, sure enough the moment presented itself and I bagged this beaut! Oh my gosh, I would have kicked myself if I didn't have anything to sketch him with.

The sketch is untouched, other than my added copyright.


Sketchclub Posting...

Go to Sketchclub to check out my latest memory sketch. I've got the full body posted there.


RIP Frank Frazetta (1928-2010)

This was the first image I ever saw by Frank Frazetta, only it was painted on the side of a van in the mid 1970s.

By 1978 I found out who had painted this image when I stumbled across a Betty Ballentine book that featured much of Frank's artwork. I was about 13 years old, and didn't have the eight dollars to buy the books, so I would memorize the subjects and attempt to draw them at home.

Years later I had the privilege of seeing Frank Frazetta at the San Diego Comic book convention, but he was swarmed with fans so I couldn't get close enough to thank him personally for his contribution to Sci Fi art and his influence on me. It was one of those pinch-me moments, and I said to myself, "There he is."

Not only was Frank an amazing storyteller, painter and designer, but he had a tremendous imagination that always provided a unique perspective about the worlds he was envisioning. Most of all I believe was his imagination that set him apart from his contemporaries.

RIP Frank Frazetta.


I found a great place to do figure drawing...

My buddy Israel Martinez has set up a drawing studio inside Graphaids in Westchester. It's uninstructed, so you just show up and draw.

Manchester Space
7280 Manchester Blvd
Westchester, CA 90045
Thursdays 7pm-10pm
Israel Martinez 310/702-7163

I drew this image in my usual magic marker, but then used photoshop to place it over this aged paper. I think this was a five minute sketch.




I've been invited to the Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo in Canada this weekend. So, if you're in the area, or are making the trip, please come by and say hello.

I'll be at the Expo talking about animation related topics, such as Creating a Portfolio, on Saturday April 24th. And then on Sunday, April 25th, I'll be talking about Character Design for Animation.

Most of all, I'll be walking around enjoying the Expo and meeting all of you.


The Amazing PAUL WEE

My longtime friend Paul Wee saw my drawing of Hellboy -- and was inspired enough to do an ink and color. I just had to post it.

Both Paul and I went to art school together, and it was he who turned me onto Mike Mignola. We started collecting a comic book title called Rocket Racoon waaay back in the day, and were impressed by Mignola's design sense -- even before Mignola discovered his distinctive graphic design look that he is now famous for.

Paul is an amazing talent, and he's teaching again after a four year hiatus. If you have a minute, go check out his blog.


Sketchclub at the DOG PARK

On special request I'm posting the sketches from last week's Sketchclub outing.

We went to the dog park in Culver City last week, where the Sketchclub crew laid down a flurry of dog sketches. Kendra really enjoyed my dog page and requested that I go ahead and post it. I hardly ever post my sketches, but on special request here it is in all its glory -- uncut and uncensored -- right out of my sketchbook.

I'm also adding a couple of the sketches blown up so you can see them in a little more detail. I really had fun drawing these little dogs more so than the big ones.

There was the little mean walleyed dog that wanted to pick a fight with all the dogs coming to the park.

And, a small skittish dog that looked like a Weasel.

If you are interested in seeing the "mark" for that day, go to Sketchclub.



OK, I feel terrible about this, but still trying to protect my images with a watermark. It probably won't make that much of a difference to someone with photoshop knowledge -- an easy fix -- but rather a nuisance to would-be bootleg printers.

OK, that disclaimer out of the way, here's an image of a figure done with marker on paper. I like it when the marker starts to dry out just a bit, because then it allows a little bit of modeling. I'm not as bold as Marcos Mateu! who can knock-out his beautiful sketches with a fully loaded marker. If Zorro had a drawing counterpart, it would be Marcos.


WARCRAFT packaging art

Over a year ago I did some packaging art for World of Warcraft. The package was released last summer, but I never got around to posting this. I was flattered that I was asked to do the cover illustration for the packaging art. It was very much like a jacket illustration. I had to accommodate the type, do a front and back cover, and added an image that would show up on the spine.

I ended up seeing the final printing of the package but wasn't that crazy about it, the knight's colors seemed blown out. Maybe it was just my print. That's the thing about printing, unless we're there to supervise it, we never really know how it's going to show up in print. Still, it was fun.

The characters are not my designs, but rather I was given game resolution-images of their existing designs to use as reference and embellished them in this illustration.


Hellboy Commission

I've never drawn Hellboy before, but have always been a big fan. I had a commission request -- and so I took a crack at it.

I didn't want to do go the Mignola approach, so I thought I would approach it from the aspect of, "What can I add to this character in order to make it recognizable as Hellboy, but my version of Hellboy?"


COLMAN on your iPod


My good friend David Colman has also put together an iPod App! If you are unfamiliar with Coh's work, you're in for a treat. Best known for his animal character design book, this exclusive App provides a drawing collection of both animals and people. The best thing about this new technology, if you have an iPhone or iTouch, it's all right there at your fingertips.

What's really cool is that David has included a step-by-step "how to" tutorial section where he shows how he does his watercolor field sketches.

Once again, thanks to Bobby Chiu, you can find this App book at:


SKETCHCLUB on your iPod!

The official Marcelo Vignali, SKETCHCLUB, sketchbook is now available as an iPhone/iTouch app. For those of you that have always wanted a peek at my sketchbook to see how I handle the subject of characters, here's your chance.

With this convenient format you can load it up and take it anywhere -- especially when you go sketching. For those that have always wanted to go sketching with our Sketchclub, but live too far away to join us, this is the next best thing because you can load up your iPod with this app and take me with you. These are not studio sketches, these are field sketches. The images in this app were originally drawn from life with a pen, a brush and marker.

Thanks to Bobby Chiu, you can find my book at: This is the first time my work has been available outside of Disney or Sony making-of books. For only $2.99, you get 30 images from my sketchbook -- that's less than .10¢ per page. I can't imagine a more affordable, or convenient, way to offer this book.

I hope you enjoy it.



As some of you may or may not know, but I had a serious spinal operation on December 11th of 2009. I'm recovering well now, and am looking forward to 2010. As it is I spent a month a way from work trying to build up my strength and heal, and am only now returning to the office.

I had quite a bit of hardware surgically implanted into my back. In total I have seven screws, one titanium plate, cadaver bone, and two titanium rods. Suffice it to say, I was laid out on my back during Christmas and New Year. I did some sketching, and I drew this chap on New Year, imagining those days of yesteryear when men would dress up in Tuxedos to welcome the new year with lots of pomp. Why? I have no idea, it was just fun. I almost filled an entire sketchbook with lots of doodles.

I also got to spend quite a bit of time with my family, which was a tremendous blessing.

Happy New Year everyone!!!