Thursday, April 23, 2009

It's Gettin' Kinda Hectic...

I have so many irons in the fire lately that my head is swimming. I don't know where to focus my attention and that always drives me crazy because I end up shutting down and doing nothing. And that's not good.

There's my full-time job. That's a given but fortunately, I've lately only been working regular hours. (Knock on wood.) Suzanne's been working late a lot and since I'm doing the driving, that means I'm working late. But at least I can get some stuff done here while I wait.

I'm also gearing up to finish the patio project I started last fall. I've had a 9-inch deep, 15-foot wide crater in my back yard for six months and Suzanne and I are anxious to get that wrapped up.

I got the script to the second half of Christian and my PERHAPANAUTS back-up from Todd and I've been pulling together reference for that but it's high time I started drawing. (Boy, am I rusty.)

I've been getting offers for freelance work based on the cannonball I won earlier this month. I don't know how I'll fit anything in to my schedule but I'm loathe to turn down paying work.

A few months ago, I purchased the domain name for Mike's scholarship fund website and have an "under construction" page up. But there it sits and I need to get crackin'. I wanted to do a nice Flash site but my Flash skills are limited and I'm starting to think less is more. With Heroes coming up, I also need to start pulling together some fund-raising materials I have planned along with auctioning off some great stuff that some fine folks have given me in good faith. Aargh! I suck!

That brings me to my two labors of love. The things that occupy my every waking thought but I simply have no time for. First is a video project that I've been toying with for a while. I've been learning some new 3D software at work (We're slowly phasing out Lightwave and switching to Cinema 4D.) and doing some training on After Effects and Final Cut Express. This has me very excited (It's closer to what I always wanted to do.) but unfortunately, there isn't much use for these packages in my department yet and I tend to learn better by doing. So I've come up with something cool to work on with some friends that has me so excited I'm doing the "pee dance." It's fairly ambitious and may be a little expensive but I'm hoping to get some assistance from some talented and resourceful people. If I can pull it off (and I'm still in the planning/pre-pro stage), I think it will be a lot of fun and pretty cool. (Todd, Craig and Christian know what it is but they've been sworn to secrecy.) Wish me luck.

Second is the story I've been blathering on about. Mike used to joke with me because I always spent so long thinking about a project that someone else would beat me to it. And it's happened again. Not quite 2 years ago, I was working on the roof of my gazebo and I realized that I hadn't "written" anything in a long time and that most of my ideas had already shown up in other stories. So for fun, I started toying with ideas for a horror story. Within the hour, I had the skeleton of an idea for a story involving Dracula in a small town that actually had me excited. True to form, I've spent an overly long time letting the idea percolate and I finally have the makings of a complete tale. There were many reasons I chose Dracula but the most important was that, at the time, vampires were...if you'll pardon the pun...dead. People were tired of vampire stories because folks like Anne Rice had taken all the fun out of them. They'd (here I go again) lost their teeth. Then, along comes 30 DAYS OF NIGHT and suddenly everybody's doing damned vampire comics. They're de rigueur again. Damn you to hell, Steve Niles!

The first one to kick-start my panic mode was IMPALER. I saw a cover focusing on the "Order of the Dragon" medallion the real Vlad Dracula was given and which features prominently in my story. My heart sank like a stone. So I picked up the trade that just came out and I'm about halfway through it. So far so good. If the story continues the way it's going, I don't have anything to worry about. The second book coming out (HARKER) wasn't as bad a jolt but I'm noticing an annoying trend of comics featuring Stoker's most famous character. I understand the ridiculousness in being disturbed by other people's use of a character I didn't create. It's a silly problem endemic in using public domain creations for your own work and don't think I haven't had a twinge of guilt about it. But Dracula as a fictional character carries with him a load of baggage and a history that is a requirement for the story I've written to work. Not to mention that medallion. I could have created my own "King of the Vampires" and it would have worked fine but anyone reading it would have just been thinking "Why not just use Dracula?"

Fortunately, my story is nowhere near what these other fine folk are doing. I'm off in a completely different zone. My story is a coming of age tale, more focused on a group of kids dealing with their own problems when things start going crazy around them. Dracula and his medallion are just, for want of a better word, my "macguffin." And, with my history, by the time I get around to actually writing it all out, vampires will hopefully be passé again.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Northern Tour

Last week, Suzanne and I took a trip up North to see our friends Rich Faber and Todd Dezago.

We spent Monday night with the Fabers where they graciously put us up in their lovely home. We got to hang out with Rich, Traci and their adorable son Jason. It was a little rainy so we hung out at the house and stayed up late talking about this and that.

The next day we continued north to see Todd and Sharon. Again, we were graciously allowed to stay with Todd which saved us a lot of dough we otherwise would have spent on hotel rooms. We stayed for about 2-and-a-half days and saw the sights in rural New York. I'll be honest, I thought Todd lived in the middle of nowhere. But after our visit, I was surprised at how wonderful Todd's home is. He's surrounded by incredible views and lives within short driving distance of several great small towns. It was great to see where he rests his head and hang out for a while. Unlike Mike, I absolutely hate talking on the phone and it was nice to have a chance to talk with both Todd and Sharon (and the Fabers) without having a box stuck to the side of my head.

I don't want to bore you with every detail of the trip so I'll let the photos below do most of my talking for me. Starting in Pennsylvania, we saw veritable herds of deer along the side of the road. They were a breath-taking sight.

When we got to NY, Todd and Sharon took us on a tour of the Biltmore house (smaller than the one in NC, but very cool, nonetheless).

And finally, we fell in love with Todd and Sharon's local diner. It had the best diner food I've ever eaten and, best of all, incredibly good coffee. And the service was top-notch.

Obviously, Toonces and Charlie were thrilled to have us back home. See for yourself:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cannonball Run. (Updated)

There's an organization in Richmond called the Ad Club. It promotes cooperation among the advertising community in Richmond. Though the agency I work for is considered a national agency, it's also an integral part of the local advertising scene. So, each year, when the Ad Club's "Richmond Show" awards are handed out, it's a fairly big deal for the agency. Before last night, I'd only gone to one of the presentation ceremonies and that was because the host was Mike Henry, a former copywriter at our agency and currently co-producer of FAMILY GUY. (He voices Cleveland and my personal favorite character Herbert.)

I work in the agency's Studio department, which is kind of like being in engine room of a cruise ship. We make the boat go vroom but nobody ever sees our faces and if things run smoothly, nobody's even sure we exist. So there's no real stake in the awards for me beyond company pride. Last night, however, Suzanne and I went to the ceremony on a whim. We got tickets through the agency and I had to be reminded several times during the week that we were going. There's another fellow in my department named Mark Brye who mentioned during the last hours of the work day that a pro bono poster project we did together (He as art director, me as illustrator.) for a local non-profit group (Homeward Bound) was in the running and that he'd see me there. I didn't think too much of it but said, "See ya."

Mark is a very talented guy and though we're in the same department, his job leans more toward Design and mine is more in the way of Production. But we're still in the engine room together, you know? Sometimes they throw us a bone and let us work on something fun. But mostly it's the big boys that get to play. So imagine everyone's surprise when Mark took home about twenty Cannonballs (awards) over the course of the night. I'm exaggerating but he really cleaned up and we were very proud of Mark and our department. This was kind of a big deal. Another happy surprise occurred when one of my best and longtime friends Paul Seward took home the Interactive Best in Show for a website he Art Directed. (I say surprise not because he didn't deserve it but because he's not usually an art director and did it on a lark.) But the big surprise came later.

The award show had run it's course (a round of bronze awards first, followed by silver and then gold) and our category had come and gone without our posters being mentioned and I was looking down to make sure I wasn't going to leave anything behind under my chair or something when Suzanne started clapping and squealing with delight beside me. I looked up and on the screen were our posters for Homeward Bound. We'd won the Best in Show in the Advertising category. BEST. IN. SHOW.

I couldn't believe it. I was so excited for Mark and then Paul grabbed my shoulder and said, "Dude, don't just sit there. Go up and get your Cannonball." Which freaked me out because I didn't think I they would have one for me and I didn't want to walk back to my seat empty handed. But Paul practically dragged me up there by my shirt and, well, see for yourself:

So. Anyway. That was pretty cool.

Have a great weekend. Later.


I forgot! Here are the posters we did. For a couple of them, Mark asked me to draw in an "old timey" comic style. Drawing in different styles usually drives me crazy because I'm worrying about matching a style and I'm not at ease but I think they came out okay. Hope you like them.