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The Many Faces of Glenn P.

Last August, Justin Young of Profis Communications, a close friend of George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, founders of the very chic international interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg, wanted to know if I’d be interested in creating some sort of unique gift for Glenn on his approaching significant birthday. I’d been aware of and fans of the team’s work since the late 80s, when I was a regular at Stilife, a club on Adelaide Street in Toronto they designed. ‘Til now, I had no idea the guys are romantic as well as business partners. After a round of discussion over drinks at the brand new Four Seasons Hotel (another YP project), we decided an affectionately satiric ABC book on Glenn’s personality would be just right. Here are a few pictures of the final product.

The amazing Don Taylor, a Toronto book binder, created a plate using my hand drawn typography for the embossed cover.

I came up with sketches based on text that George supplied. An unusually relaxed, easy approval stage followed with a few minor changes. As I moved on to final art, I left an inch of extra paper on the left hand side of each page so Don could sew and bind the original watercolour-on-paper pieces into this one-of-a-kind book.

After all these years, I’m still a wee bit uncomfortable with caricature, especially if I don’t know the person – and this book contained 26 of them! So it was with some mild trepidation I dropped off the art at Don Taylor’s studio (a day before deadline, thank you very much!). Anyhow, George presented the book to Glenn at a small party in Shanghai in late October (those boys get around) and  Glenn was reportedly very pleased and touched by the result. Hooray!

Thanks again to Justin Young and George Yabu for thinking of me for this delightful project. A very happy, belated birthday to the funny, exasperating, tender-hearted, multi-talented Glenn P., whom I now feel as though I know rather intimately, having worked on this extended love letter. You have a wonderfully sly, smart, adoring partner in George. Continued success and happiness to you both!

Anxiety of Influence

Good old Vincent Price has been featured all this month on Turner Classic Movies, bringing back fond memories. The Roger Corman/Edgar Allan Poe movies were a staple of my childhood TV viewing. I remember with a particular thrill a full week of these on WGRZ Buffalo’s 4:00 p.m. “Money Movie”, hosted by Barry Lillis. “The Masque of the Red Death”, from 1964, was my favourite, with its moody, psychedelic colour-coded sets. Jump to the early 80s. I’m in art school and Slava Tsukerman’s “Liquid Sky” is having an extended run at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto. (My friends who work there refer to it as “Liquid Shit”). Despite this, the film has made a deep impression on me, especially the New Wave-esque makeup design. I have decided that Mr. Tsukerman should remake “The Masque of the Red Death” with costumes designed by me!

I was deeply influenced by a host of things here: i-D Magazine, Boy George, Kansai Yamamoto’s costumes for David Bowie…

… Mel Odom, Antonio Lopez, Aubrey Beardsley and Fiorucci.

This last image shows the lead character, Prince Prospero, who throws a big party at his palace as plague ravages the country. I really thought Pete Burns of Dead or Alive was the ideal actor for the role! Unfortunately I mounted this onto a piece of board for display at OCA Open House, circa 1984 and the rubber cement has seeped through and stained the paper.

Here are a few more pictures in this style (almost 30 years old, ack!!)

Most of these pictures were done in spare time after I completed my OCA assignments. This one I handed in as a project for Mary Corelli’s Fashion Illustration course. “Vanity” was an amazing Italian fashion magazine that was chock full of illustration.

Happy Halloween!

The Criterion Collection : La Cage Aux Folles

Well I nearly fell off my chair when I received an email from art director Eric Skillman from The Criterion Collection, asking if I’d be interested in creating artwork for their release of  Edouard Molinaro’s 1978 film, “La Cage Aux Folles”!

I’d never actually seen the film. As a young, queer, rep cinema-obsessed film snob, I was suspicious on 2 counts – first, that the film was surely a straight person’s idea of ‘gayness’, second, that anything so popular must be bad or wrong in some fundamental way.

Upon viewing the film in preparation for the job, I was delighted to be proven so wrong! “La Cage” is a very funny, sweet-natured, old-fashioned farce, whose lovably limp-wristed  leads remind me of many characters I’ve known in real life.

When I first started exploring the world of The Criterion Collection, I must admit I was a little unconvinced about the idea of getting present day illustrators to illuminate these venerable classics. After all, there is so much great, great artwork from the past that’s already out there. The more I looked at what Eric was doing though, I began to get it. These are beautiful packages for DVD and Blu-ray, dusted off and re-thought specifically for a modern audience.

Having said that, I still felt I wanted to allude to the iconic 1978 poster art. So I mimicked the lightbulb typeface from the original along with the white background of Lou Myers’ cartoon.

This was such great fun to work on! Thanks so much to Eric and all the folks at Criterion for thinking of me for this delicious project!

York University Pride 2013

My friend Suzanne Carte of the York University Gallery commissioned this image for Toronto Pride 2013, this year’s theme being Super Queer.

It was applied to various swag, like this fan for example.

The central figures were blown up and used as cutouts on the float and at the York U booth on Church Street.

I also included this spot illustration that was used on stickers. It was such a thrill to see all this realized on such a scale, and so cool to see the York kids wearing the black and white version t-shirts. Thanks, Suzanne, for such a fun assignment. Can’t wait to get my hands on some o’ that merch!

My Three Parents

I had a great time at TCAF this year! When it was all over at 5:00 Sunday afternoon, a big round of applause went up on our floor. This is the first time I can remember that this happened, and for some reason I got a little verklempt. I guess the magnitude of the event really hit me. Scores of people have spent months of mostly donated time organizing this incredibly massive celebration of art and writing. Many more flew in from all over the world to attend an increasingly beloved Festival. Hooray for comics! And warmest thanks to Peter and Chris, all the folks from The Beguiling, and the dozens of crazed and obsessed volunteers who make everything run so smoothly.

One of the highlights of the Festival for me was the presentation I did with the smart-as-a-pin, very funny designer-writer-editor Chip Kidd. We had the pleasure of announcing a book we’ll be working on  together:

The deal with Pantheon is pretty exciting, thanks in part to my faboo new agent Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory. I also got the fantastic news last March that the grant I applied for from The Creative Writing program of the Canada Council was successful. I’m really and truly grateful to the Council for this; being an illustrator is not easy these days. Times have been pretty upsy downsy the last few years – part of the reason I’ve had the time to think about and develop this project.

Anyhow, I’ve certainly got my work cut out for me – better get to it!

Building a Poster: TCAF 2013

I was so incredibly honoured to be asked by Chris and Peter from The Beguiling to create a poster for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival’s 10th anniversary year! (I lobbied pretty hard too, I should add.) I certainly festered and obsessed myself into a tizzy over this baby. This, the final version, was scanned and assembled by the ever-patient Landon Whittaker of Reactor from three separate pieces of art. I wanted it crammed with detail and our scanner can only fit one 11 x 17 piece of art at a time.

This earlier version was done in a bit of a hurry for a booklet produced for The Beguiling’s trip to Japan last November. Because of the time constraint I couldn’t quite get it as stylized as what I saw in my head. This one’s made up of six different pieces and I think the joins ended up being a little too obvious. Eventually I decided I wanted to try a slightly less literal iteration in a more limited palette and started over in January of this year.

Here is the original sketch,

and here is a selection of the dozens of sketches and colour trials I went through to put all this together, laid out on my living room floor.

I’ll have a table at TCAF this year, as in the past. Also, I’ll be signing posters and doing a presentation with the marvelous Chip Kidd on Saturday afternoon.  Also, I’m part of a show with the amazing Gengoroh Tagame that evening and on Sunday I’ll be part of a panel looking at fashion in comics. For more information and schedule, go to:

So excited for the Festival this year, hope to see you there!!!

11th Anniversary

Last week me and my fella celebrated 11 years of martial, I mean marital bliss! (“Martial bliss” was a joke of my old friend Paul’s father George Baker. Oh, and we’re not married) So-so dinner at Gabardine on Bay Street mitigated by great martinis and plenty of wine.

Here are the reference pictures I used. Gordon says this must be junior high for him, I am in Grade 12 by this time. Late bloomer – in grade 8 I looked like I was around 9 years old. For years I tried to in vain get my hair to go into that casually tossed center part every other guy in high school achieved so effortlessly.

Thanks, honey, for amazing ride, let’s grow young together!

The Walrus, April 2013

Paul Kim, Senior Designer at The Walrus asked me to create this image for a review of Anne Carson’s book “Red Doc” by Sarah Liss. The book is a poetic take on the relationship between Hercules and the mythological monster Geryon, updated  to the present day and re-imagined as a torturous gay love story. Paul asked if I would use the gouache-on-coloured-paper style of some Christmas cards I made last December, which I was excited to do with the aim of getting more samples of this style out into the world.

The art director also asked me to come up with more than one sketch for consideration and here is another approach we eventually discarded. In her piece, Sarah Liss talks about her personal associations with the story of Hercules, specifically the 1960s animated Saturday morning cartoon series she grew up with called “The Mighty Hercules”. Of course, being a certain age, (ahem) I knew this cartoon very well from my childhood. Looking at it again on Youtube, I felt it’s cheapness opening up a weird realm where, because of its almost transcendent awfulness, it becomes almost abstractly open for interpretation. I thought an illustration in this style might work for the piece and sketched characters based on designs from the series. The ad preferred my more original sketch and the colour piece up top was the final result. (I liked this one best too.) Thanks, Paul, for thinking of me for this challenging assignment!

World Pride Mascots

Last autumn, the Toronto Pride Committee asked me to come up with costume designs for some mascots they were considering creating for the World Pride festivities coming to town in 2014.

There were to be 4 designs for typically Canuck animals representing various types in the LGBT community. I offered variations on a couple of them.

The Committee eventually decided to use another artist’s designs. Thanks anyhow to Pride Toronto for a very fun, challenging assignment!

In Toronto February 2013 Cover.

Here is the new cover of In Toronto Magazine celebrating, of course, Valentine’s Day and Black History Month. I made this with Doctor Martin’s dyes and Pentel’s ink brush pen on blue paper. The clouds are paper cutouts. (Full disclosure: my partner, Gordon Bowness, is the editor – thanks for the fun assignment, darlin’!)