Happy Birthday Charlie Dickens

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Happy 200th Birthday Charlie Dickens!  He is probably my favorite “classic” author.  The imagery and moods he builds are so robust, not to mention the themes and brilliant characters he designed are right up my alley.  London, smokestacks, chimneys, murders, dry humor, smart humor, dark humor, despair, hope, fear, shadows, chases, rooftops, thievery, spying, seedy underworlds, gangs, wars, and ghosts, all in tailed coats and top hats; what’s not to love?

The Angler Boys

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Lament the story of the Angler Boys.  Surprise and joy befell the Angles household when Mabelle and Hank Angles announced she was expecting.  The excitement grew further when Mabelle learned it would be twin boys.  But, at birth, something was revealed as strange.  The doctors called it “Acute Lophii-deformes” and it would seem the bouncing baby boys shared undisputed features of the Anglerfish.  The Angles were advised to shut them away, home school them, and to investigate special therapies and operations to remove them of these “features.”  Mabelle and Hank didn’t feel right about shutting them off from the world, so they decided to go on as if nothing was the matter.

Things were rocky, here and there, but the two boys lived together in a happy, loving home.  It then came time to enroll them in school.  Little Luke Angles did quite well; the other children thought his “lightning ball” was cool.  He was the best to have sleepovers with because he could keep the blanket fort lit nicely.  The girls thought it was cute too and they would sigh and dreamily stare, saying, “To be with Little Luke Angles was like being under the twinkling stars.”

All was not so well for Young Leopold Angles, who inherited the unfortunate features of an anglerfish teeth and tail.  The girls were all scared of him, and the boys called him snaggletooth, jaws, and walrus.  He was a favorite target for the bullies and often found himself escaping to the far end of the playground to be alone.  Luke would try to stick up for him and include him in their games, but no matter his efforts, the other children would shove him away.

One day, Mabelle Angles came to wake them for school, but Young Leopold was gone.  Hank, Mabelle and Luke looked all over town and asked everyone around, most of whom just laughed.  Days passed, weeks passed.  Leopold was nowhere to be found.  Luke would search through the night with the help of his lightning ball.  And thus, began “The Riveting Adventures of Angler Boy.”  (A follow up to “Flashback: Angler Boy“)

Gypsy Jazz

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I have long been inspired by the “Gypsy Jazz” musicians of the twenties and thirties, specifically Jean “Django” Reinhardt.  One might say he invented the Gypsy Jazz style (sometimes called “Hot Jazz” stemming from his home venue, “The Hot Club” in France) and it could very well be all because of his handicap, which I think is quite incredible.  As a young man, he was in a fire which literally seared the last two fingers of his left hand together, fingers that are obviously very important to a guitarist.  Being greatly inspired by Spanish Folk, Gypsy music from eastern Europe, and American Jazz which was in full swing at the time seemed to have helped lead way to his two finger quick style; it is unmistakable and often replicated.  The fact that he worked with his handicap rather than letting it overcome him, much like Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder, is simply astounding.  If you have yet to hear any of his music, you simply must.  Below I have included some of his songs as well as other artists like him including the new wave of more eclectic gypsy jazz revivalists such as Caravan Palace and even DeVotchKa.

 

Django Reinhardt: “Belleville”:

Django Reinhardt: “Minor Swing”:

Opa Tsupa: “Les Deux Guitares”

And something a little more contemporary:

Caravan Palace: “Jolie Coquine”

Caravan Palace: “Suzy”

¡Lucha!

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Lucha Libre character designs

 

Who doesn’t like Luchadores? The always look so schnazzy in their pressed suits and fancy masks. I had started a series of Lucha Libre wrestlers a while back that took it one step further and got some goofy characters and costumes out of it. I started to make retro style advertisement posters for each character. I found the few that I did and decided I could come up with a few more, so here is the series as it stands now. I am not exactly sure what I might do with these, but I think retro/circus/advertisement style posters might be kind of fun to do, each with its own theme.  From top-left on: “El Dios”, “Gaucho Marx”, “El Cactus”, “Chupacabra”, “Oso”, “El Rey”, “Toro Toro”, “Mini Mono”, “El Capitan”, “Sr. Muerto” and “El Bandito.”

Bah Humbug

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The cantankerous old grump hobbled his way home through the blustering snow and dangerous ice, completely unaware his life was following in his wake.  A young weak flame, his past, hovered right behind him.  A giant lumbering man, his present, walks careful aside him as not to fall out of step.  Ahead of him, creeps the shadows of his future and into them he ventures.   A lingering cry haunts the alleys and the streets, chains clank and rattle of warnings to a ruined man as he bitterly  scoffs off the world, heading home to sulk.

    Here is this year’s rendition of Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge along with all four ghosts.  I stayed with the traditional flame character for the Ghost of Christmas Past.  I had to do three or four thumbnails, and a nearly full render of another drawing to get a composition that I liked since I wanted them stacked, using the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come as the backdrop.   I haven’t really seen Scrooge done with a beard, sometimes Victorian chops, but usually clean shaven.  I thought it might be fun to give him a cranky old beard and make him stout rather than long and lanky.  I had a lot of fun doing this one, hope you enjoy.

“Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it.” – A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens.

The Miraculous Marvelous Marvin


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Come witness, the amazing, brilliant, shocking, stunning Miraculous Marvelous Marvin!  For one night only watch this one man show; no assistants needed!  You won’t believe your eyes and you won’t believe the astounding, wonderful, thrilling, mind bending, brain boggling tricks, illusions and feats of disaster!  Watch a single man appear, disappear, eat fire, blow fire, jump through fire, juggle knives, dazzle with costume changes, practical illusions and perform his most incredible illusion of sawing himself apart!

(For Illustration Friday : “Separated” )

A Word of the Wolf

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    Say it a villain, but I like the wolf; I think he is rather dapper.  Fables, rhymes and fairy tales unanimously agree that the wolf (or fox) is a mean, shrewd, cunning, coy, heartless villain, a thief, a robber, and a murderer.  There, of course, are a few humorous attempts in looking at the wolf’s side of the story such as “The True Story of The Three Little Pigs,” but I declare justice is not served.  I do applaud Roald Dahl for allowing us into the life of Mr. Fox; however, he is still hunted and villainized by the farmers of the land despite being the hero of the story.  Certainly stories of the natives include heroic, god like wolves but American culture would much rather idolize the lion over the wolf.

    We have a lot to learn from the wolf, and not just about how to dress.  We see ourselves in him which perhaps gives reason to villainize him.  By some social mythology structure, the goat, or the pig has inherently done no wrong and even in mistake can be forgiven, actually idolized for learning a profound lesson.  The wolf, however, gains no such glory.  His very presence is greeted by hiss and boo.  Perhaps the sharp teeth, or sleek eyes have gained him no ground.  The story could equally be rewritten to warn of tattle tale little girls, men with guns, forgetting to look in the clock, and snarky construction working pigs.  Just look how regal, how clean and cunning, dapper and dashing, steady and stark, alert and acute is the wolf.  If he were human, he would be a knight, or a Robin Hood at least.

    Certainly there is an elephant in the room.  I may be carefully avoiding the fact that the wolf is, indeed, a predator and the goats and pigs certainly should be afraid of him.  He is their villain, I cannot argue that.  Yet, the wolf has a villain as well, as do we all, and despite the long held cultural structure of an innocent goat, perhaps we should write a story about The Three Grass Brothers, or The Daisy and the Tulip.  We will see how cute and innocent that goat remains.

Flashback : Jacob Marley

Now that it is officially December, I thought I would post a flashback illustration in a Christmas theme.  This is one I did several years back of Jacob Marley appearing before Ebenezer Scrooge to warn him of his impending future.  Although, in life, Marley was probably a normal sized person, I felt he should probably be larger than life in his ghostly form.  Instead of wailing from afar, he certainly would be in Scrooge’s face, shaking him up as to make sure he gets the message.  I sold several prints of it at a Silver Lake, California show last year and is available on Etsy around Christmas time.

Sketchbookjack Jacob Marley Appears Before Scrooge

Jacob Marley Appears Before Scrooge

Halloween Goodness

As jackandtill, we haven’t been able to post anything for sale in an awfully long time, but we do have some of my SketchbookJack Victorian style, illustrated Halloween greeting cards for sale. You can check them and purchase a pack our on sketchbookjack & jackandtill etsy site.

sketchbookjack etsy halloween card

SketchbookJack "Ghastly Gallivanting" Pumpkin Head Card

SketchbookJack "Happy Haunting" Skeleton Card

SketchbookJack "Happy Haunting" Skeleton Card

SketchbookJack "Spooky Serenading" Card

SketchbookJack "Spooky Serenading" Card

 checkout the jackandtill & sketchbookjack etsy shop here

The Island and the Plough : Hard at Work

My inkings in progress.  I have a fire under me this weekend for some reason; I hope to accomplish a large majority of the illustrations for “The Island and the Plough” (or “The Island and the Plow”) so I can get into the computer at do the typography.  I specifically designed this project to have a lot of negative space, which plays into the story, to keep the project manageable since so many of my past projects quickly become overwhelming.

SketchbookJack The Island and the Plow Workspace

"The Island and the Plough" inkings in progress

Character design

Here is the more or less final character design for the protagonist in “The Island and the Plough.”  He is a father, but I want him to have a weathered and wise look, so the thick beard adds that I think; however, it is integral to the story that he learns and is not too wise, so I still want to maintain an innocence which I think can been achieved through the large simple eyes.

SketchbookJack The Island and the Plow Fiep Design

Character design for Fiep from “The Island and the Plough”