Monday, October 13, 2014

Miracle in Bedford Falls

I recently had the chance to create a new poster for Miracle In Bedford Falls For Footlight Players in Charleston South Carolina. This play is a musical stage version of my all time favorite Christmas film It's A Wonderful Life. In case you somehow live in a cave and have missed the 1946 Frank Capra classic starring Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, you can watch it on Christmas Eve this year, like I do practically every year, much to my family's chagrin. I have somehow not instilled a love for the film in my children, but there is still hope. Anyway, back to the project at hand.

Creating new art for a story that is so iconic is a bit daunting and I didn't want to copy the familiar climactic family embrace that features prominently on most of the video versions of the film, so that was automatically out. Also, since this is a musical version, I wanted to somehow imply this aspect in the art. Other iconic symbols that I considered in the sketch phase were snow, Christmas bells, George Bailey, fir trees, holly, angel wings and more snow. I came up with four possible options to show the client of which, they chose the snow globe idea. We decided to add George to the snow globe from sketch one and add some musical notations to the swirls of snow.

Once again I created the hand lettering for this poster and incorporated it into the illustration. The client is thrilled with the result and I hope that it adds to the popularity of the production.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Life Runs Uphill...Both Ways

I finished this little piece for the Friend magazine last week. The article recounts the author's trip to Africa where he noticed the giraffes avoiding a muddy waterhole. The guide said it was because of the crocodiles. He looked but could not see any. Later from a higher vantage point, the mud covered crocodiles could clearly be seen as they laid in wait for an unsuspecting victim. Life has a lot of snares, some we cannot predict and some of our own making. That was the thought in my head as I laced up my running shoes this morning.

So, I was thinking, which tends to happen a lot when I am too tired to talk with my wife as we battle the miles and fatigue. In this contemplative state, or possibly just a state of exhaustion, we passed another jogger running the other direction just as we rounded a corner and started up a mild hill. She called out a "good job for running the hills!" I jokingly responded that it was uphill both ways. As I worked my way to the top of the rise, I got to thinking how true that statement really is. 

Life runs uphill both ways. The trick is learning to run the hills. 

We often times lament life's challenges, wishing that somehow life were easier or that if only such and such would happen, things would be better. Well, news flash, everyone has challenges. I just think that some people are better at taking the obstacle in front of them and overcoming it. People I admire seem to somehow transform tough things it into a positive. Just because I am not where I want to be in this regard, doesn't keep me from trying though. I have come a long way from where I was, but it's still an uphill battle. For example, I don't get as upset or stressed as I once did when stuff happens, because I have realized that stuff happens to everyone. I don't get as jealous of other's success as I once did, I try to be genuinely happy for them because celebrating another's success doesn't diminish my own success or my self worth. I try not to compare my work or situation to someone else's because they deserved whatever they have worked for. Good for them. My work is mine. If I want it to be better, I need to keep working. I try not to be disappointed when something doesn't go my way or slide my way in to wallow in the mire of self pity (at least not for long). It can be hard sometimes, but I think all of the above are things that trap us. In a sense, they are like the crocodiles in the mud. They wait for you to wander too close. You can't get eaten by a crocodile if you don't wallow in the mud.

I'm still learning to run those hills. They still feel uphill both ways, but I'm getting better at staying on the path rather than in the mud. And running those hills.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge - 16" x 12" - Oil on board by Greg Newbold
I just finished up this private commission of Rainbow Bridge. Speaking of private commissions, anyone interested in a painting for Christmas, get your orders in now! If I know in advance, I will have a better chance of getting yours done in time for the festivities. Contact me through Facebook or my website.

The natural wonder that is Rainbow Bridge is located in a finger of Glen Canyon that is now only accessible from Lake Powell in Southern Utah (true, you could hike in, but I really don't think many people take the arduous overland route). The first time I visited it in the mid 1980's it looked pretty much like I have depicted in the painting. Record runoff two years in a row had filled Lake Powell to capacity and the water had backed up all the way under the natural sandstone formation. Climbing on or under the bridge is restricted today out of respect to the Native American tribes who deem it sacred, but the time I visited with my Boy Scout troop, we took the opportunity to cliff jump directly underneath the bridge. I can't remember if it was discouraged then , but we did it anyway (oh the shame of youth). After a short swim to the other side, my fellow intrepid teenage adventurers and I scaled the slope under the bridge to take the plunge. I estimate that the drop was between thirty-five and forty-five feet, but after I launched myself off, I swear it felt like a hundred. After slamming into the water and then fighting back to the surface for a welcome gulp of air, I decided once was enough.

Lake Powell is currently more than one hundred feet below capacity which now makes the hike from the water to the Rainbow Bridge more than a mile. When I first went there, the boat docks were maybe a hundred yards from the bridge and that was only to keep boat traffic a reasonable distance away. It would take several years of above average snowfall to fill the lake again. I am not sure I will ever see Rainbow Bridge like that again. My friend who commissioned the piece said that her family went to Lake Powell many times while they were growing up and this is the way she wanted to remember it. I guess this view is just water under the bridge, so to speak.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wait Until Dark Poster

Wait Until Dark- by Greg Newbold 13" x 18"- Digital
I have been lucky enough to do a number of theater posters recently. The latest is for the stage version of Wait Until Dark by Frederick Knott which was adapted into the classic 1967 film starring Audrey Hepburn as the blind lead character terrorized in her own apartment by a group of thugs looking for a drug stuffed doll. Having only seen the film, I was not aware that it was a play first, but I revisited the film to get a fresh feel for what the play is all about. After seeing it again, I knew I wanted to focus on the lead character of Susy in a close up with dramatic lighting. The match plays a key part in the action when Susy douses the killer with gasoline and then threatens to light him on fire.

I set up a photo shoot with my wonderful model Betsy and photographed a couple of different options. I wanted to invoke the feel of old film noir movie posters in the color palette and also by adding the distressed  edges and scratches. I created and scanned my own hand made distressed folds to make it look like the poster was worn along the folds as well.

I also took the opportunity to handle the title design. I found a very retro feeling font that was appropriate for the overall feel of the poster. I also distressed the type layer to match the rest of the image. I'm thrilled with how it turned out and the client, Footlight Players Theater in Charleston, South Carolina, was as well.

Monday, September 8, 2014

New York Times Jack Ma Art

The Jack Ma Way- Greg Newbold Digital 9" x 10.3"
A couple of weeks ago I got a call from Minh Uong, art director for the New York Times. I had worked with him a long time ago when he was with the Village Voice, but somehow we had not had another opportunity to work together for the past several years. As we caught up on things he offered me a project that I could not pass up. I mean, can you really pass on a front page business section feature illustration in the New York Times? I certainly couldn't. The article was to be an in depth look at Chinese internet tycoon Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba Group. I have to admit, I knew absolutely nothing about Jack Ma before taking on this project, but a little time on the internet solved that problem. Ma's network of online businesses include China's version of Ebay, Amazon, and PayPal among other offerings. Since Alibaba's founding in 1999, Ma has become a billionaire and one of China's most powerful businessmen. He turned out to be a very interesting character with a unique face and personality that I was determined to capture. I watched several interviews with him as well as looked at countless photos to analyze his features.

The concept that Minh and I discussed for the art was to show Ma as the leader of this new global marketplace but with a lighthearted nod to the Mao era Chinese propaganda posters. I loved the imagery in some of those old posters depicting the heroic worker. I decided to use the color and feel of those old posters but avoid having things feel overbearing and communist. Since I had a relatively square format to work within and I knew I wanted Jack Ma to be front and center, I designed two options to present and then gave those two options a different treatment visually.

One version would be painted in my usual full color style and the other would be a more graphic version similar in feel to some of the old propaganda posters I had seen that were more like ink drawings with blocks of color. Minh told me that it was a tough choice between the two different aesthetic options but they ultimately wanted to go with the full color painted option. In a final touch, the flags in the background would bear the logos of the various Alibaba group companies as well.

Original drawing submitted
Revised drawing with jacket and tie
One of the editors also felt that he needed to look less like a worker and more like a businessman, so I added the suit jacket and tie. I was also asked to smooth out the jacket a little by making it a more tailored and less rumpled. I smoothed out a few of the wrinkles in the sleeves and jumped in to the finish rendering.
Jack Ma final drawing version
I really wanted to give this one the aged feel of an old poster that had been folded and worn, so the last step was to add some distressing and folds that I created on a separate piece of paper and added over the top of the finished piece.

That last bit of grunge and folded paper I think pushed it from good to really good. I am thrilled with how it turned out and the good reactions I have received since it hit the newsstands yesterday. I'm excited to add this one to my portfolio and see what it does in competitions. Hopefully it will lead to some more good work for me.

Read the New York Times Article here

Friday, September 5, 2014

New Swim T-Shirt

This year is the seventh year in a row that we have had a swimmer on the Skyline High School varsity swim. Needless to say, parents always have the opportunity to be "involved" with the booster club in providing support to the team. This year I volunteered to create the design for the team shirt.

I consulted with the team captains regarding what they had in mind for the shirt and I was off. They wanted a variation on the eagle mascot, this time swooping in over the water. I sketched up a rough and went to it.
I digitally inked the drawing and then added the typography as well as some splashes on the front and back. I warped the type into a simple wave to help with the whole water feel. the final touch was to add a distressed crackle pattern to give it a well worn look. The back features the team slogan chosen by this years captains. Both the boy's and girl's teams are defending 4A state champs, so I guess "Here We Come!" will juice up the team as well as instill a little fear in the opponents. The captains are thrilled with the result and I am looking forward to seeing seventy odd kids wearing the shirt each meet.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Murder on the Bucket List

Murder On The Bucket List- Digital by Greg Newbold
I just finished this piece for a mystery novel cover. It's a bit it's a mystery novel with a bit of a light hearted twist in that the team of protagonists are all older ladies. The publisher wanted a less serious tone to the cover, so I went for a little stylization in the characters without falling too far into caricature. The opening scenes happen at night as the group gets together at a member's backyard pool to scratch another item off their bucket lists, namely to go skinny dipping. That would be why they are all clad in bathrobes, but it all turns south when someone notices a smell and they subsequently find the body.

I wanted to capture a mood of mystery by using the glow of the pool to silhouette the women. Also created a warm under light with the citronella candle. It's tricky to create these types of lighting situations and I took some small liberties but overall, it fits in with the stylized nature of the piece.
I think it's pretty successful and the client was thrilled with the result. This book is earmarked to become an ongoing series if the first volume pans out. That would be fun since it has been a bit since I got the chance to do a series of covers.