Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Revenants Poster

I just completed the graphic for our upcoming zombie play, The Revenants, by Scott T. Barsotti. The show opens April 20th, 2009 at the Angel Island Theater in Chicago. This intimate, dare I say, claustrophobic production will be directed by WildClaw company member, Anne Adams.

Poster by Charlie Athanas

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Massive Black Concept Art book

Massive Black is releasing a 700-page concept art book to be published by Ballistic Publishing. There are various editions, so get yours now.

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Massive Black Concept Art book

Massive Black is releasing a 700-page concept art book to be published by Ballistic Publishing. There are various editions, so get yours now.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

L. A. Banks Madame Isis Sword Contest

Damali Richard's Madame Isis Vampire-Killing Sword

You can own Damali Richard’s Madame Isis shero sword. The Devil’s Candy Store is holding an essay contest that will be judged by L. A. Banks. The winner will receive the Madame Isis sword created by Hollywood armourer, Tony Swatton (a $6,000 value).

Originally to be offered at auction, this gold-plated, gem-encrusted, one-of-a-kind vampire-killing sword will end up in the hands of the Vampire Huntress Legend most deserving fan. The winner will be presented with the Madame Isis sword on Saturday, February 14, 2009 during the Twelve Tribes Convergence Summit in Philadelphia, PA.

Here is the contest:
1. Write a one page essay that answers these questions:
a. Which major themes in the Vampire Huntress Legend series resonated with you?
b. Why will you make the best "Keeper of the Sword"?
2. The font size must be no smaller than 12 point.
3. No more than 600 words.
4. Any entry not meeting the criteria will be disqualified.
5. Entries must be by e-mailed to by midnight, January 31, 2009.

Contest Small Print (Please read):
- Applicants must be age 21 or over, as this sword can be considered a weapon.
- All essays will be passed on to L. A. Banks without names attached to allow the best essay to win on it’s own merits.
- Armourer Tony Swatton, The Devil's Candy Store, L.A. Banks are not responsible in any way for any injury sustained in the future by the sword.
- Armourer Tony Swatton, The Devil's Candy Store, L.A. Banks are not responsible for any future repairs of the Madame Isis Sword and/or its case.
- The deadline for receipt of your essay is midnight on January 31, 2009.
- This contest is sponsored by The Devil's Candy Store and in accordance with the wishes of author and creator L.A. Banks.
- Only one entry per person is accepted. - The winner need not be present.
- The prize is as stated and there will be no exchanges of prizes given.
- The Devil's Candy Store, L.A. Banks, and the L.A. Banks Street Team all have the right to post the winning entry and winner's image on any promotional materials, printed material, YouTube, and on all L.A. Banks and The Devil’s Candy Store related forums, blogs and online social networks.
- The winner must sign an image release permitting use of their image on any promotional materials to qualify for receipt of the Madame Isis sword.

Madame Isis Vampire-Killing Sword (detail)

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Making the Dorian Gray Paintings

I was commissioned to create the infamous changing painting for the Lifeline stage adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. It was directed by my pal, Kevin Theis, adapted by Rob Kauzlaric, had scenic design by Tim Burch, and lighting design by Kevin D. Gawley. All of them played a role in making the paintings transform onstage. The play was a raving, critical success and I was very proud to be part of the production. As noted in an earlier blog entry, the paintings themselves (which didn't have an off night or a great night, they were the same thing every night) got reviews that ranged from "a sensational canvas" to "the worst thing in the play".

Regardless, folks seem to like the "How Did They Do That?" stuff I put up here and now that the play is over, I thought I would let folks who didn't see the play, see the paintings. I have decided not to show how we made the paintings change in real time. As fun as it would be, it would also ruin the magic AND we're using the same technique in WildClaw Theatre's "The Dreams in the Witch House" to great effect (people have no idea how we're are doing this). That show is still running until December 21st (Go see it!)

So, for those of you who slept through high school English, the painting in this story magically transforms to show the effects of age and life while Dorian Gray remains forever youthful in person. The director wanted the painting to show a more violent vehemence than just decay and age. Now - here are the paintings (Dorian was portrayed by actor, Nick Vidal):

Nick Vidal as Dorian Gray (Photo © 08 Suzanne Plunkett)

First I laid out a grid and sketched in Nick's image on three canvases. After getting a sketch I liked on one canvas, I transferred the image to the other two canvases with tracing paper. There needed to be an initial painting, then a trick one that transforms in real time, and a final painting showing the ultimate effects of Dorian's actions at the climax of the play. The first painting is revealed upstage, very close to the audience. It was then moved up to a second stage platform downstage away from the audience. A curtain was placed over the framed painting as it was placed on the wall. Later in the play, a second transitional painting replaced the first.

Paintings 1 and 2

I worked in parallel on paintings one and two since they needed to look very similar when the second on is revealed from behind the curtain. These were done in acrylics since time was of the essence. I had planned on doing the final painting in oil, but time didn't let that happen. In fact, I delivered the last two paintings in their final form about 15 minutes (maybe 10) before the start of the first preview performance. I'm sure I added way too much undue stress on Cortney and Kim.

Background Test

The image above is actually a photo of the painting with a Photoshop background test to see how to put the darker shades into the background. One of the decisions that had to be made was how much detail to put in the painting. I opted to leave the background clean of imagery to allow the audience to only focus on Dorian's image. It fit with the style of the time period, so I got away with it. One of the issues with theater work is making sure the folks in the back row can see what you are trying to achieve. This can lead to a simpler, sometimes "cartoony" image, but if half the theater can't see your clever painting techniques, then it's not doing it's job.

Final Version of 1st Dorian Painting

The image above is the final version of the first painting the audience sees in the play. While I love the reference photo, reality is that the character is wearing a pin-striped suit and a detailed vest. These added time to the painting, to put it mildly. Below is a detail from this painting.

Transition Painting

This is the transition painting. You can see the areas that get ripped out to reveal a glowing, raw interior to the painting, much brighter than what you see here. Amazingly enough, under the stage lights, prior to the intended reveals these areas didn't show up at all.

Final Painting

And this is the painting that ultimately shows the violence inflicted on Dorian and his victims. Ripping away at the painting by the ghosts of Dorian's victims was the director's choice to show the ravaging effects on the painting. So this one had to reflect the tears in the transition painting before it.

And that is almost the whole story.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bettie Page Is Gone At 85

Bettie Page held a special place in my life, as I am sure she did for most of my friends. She was beautiful, cool, a Muse that inspired, a Pin-Up Queen from an other-worldly place and time.

Detail from a multimedia Bettie Page piece for World Tattoo Gallery

The first piece of gallery art I ever sold was a Bettie Page piece. It was at Tony Fitzpatrick's World Tattoo Gallery on the southside of Chicago in 1993. The show was called "The B-Girl Show" and images of Bettie were everywhere. Mine was the first piece in the show to sell. I had priced it at $1,000.00, because I actually didn't want to sell it and in the days before digital cameras, I hadn't taken the time to document it. It is only a good memory now.

I remember being in Barcelona in 1990 and marveling at my good fortune in finding some photo collections of Bettie I hadn't found anywhere else. Collecting Bettie Page photos pre-internet was akin to hunting down rare overseas 45's of an obscure STIFF Records artist. A peek into another world that certainly wasn't outside my front door and a knowing look into a timeless era that you knew would be remembered forever. You just knew that if your drawings had that energy and verve that projected from Bettie's photos you were onto something.

We'll miss you, Bettie Page. Rest in peace.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Battlestar Galactica Auction

Frak Me! They are auctioning off EVERYTHING from BSG. Production art. Models. Props. Costumes. Set pieces! The Resurrection Tub, fer Frak's sake.

One the many dresses worn by Six (Tricia Helfer)

Tricia Helfer in said dress

The Cylon Resurrection Tub!

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Our Thoughts Go Out to Bettie Page

Bettie Page

Our thoughts go out to Bettie Page who suffered from a heart attack Tuesday. She is listed in critical condition in a coma.

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Making of The Dreams in the Witch House Poster

When I started this blog, it's intent was to expose my creative process as I wrote my vampire story/play, The First Fear. (More on that in upcoming posts.)

During the making of the play The Great God Pan earlier this year, I documented that play's poster design process pretty thoroughly. Now that The Dreams in the Witch House is up and running and getting good reviews, I thought I would expose the guts of that poster. (Go see the play!)

The play's director and adaptor, Charley Sherman, wanted the poster to feel dark with blues and grays and the feeling of metal to express the city of Arkham. Arkham is H. P. Lovecraft's infamous city of nightmares where the play takes place. I had done a teaser graphic that was photo manipulating via Photoshop filters, but it was a rush job and not what I wanted ultimately.

The Dreams in the Witch House teaser graphic

So when it came time to produce the final graphic, I pulled several photos I had taken at various places and chose three to work with. I often pull from my random photo files to either place them into designs completely unrelated to the topic or to use as reference for a drawing. I learned from Sparth (one of my favorite concept art artists) at the Massive Black Revelations Symposium this past January in Seattle, that he does this all the time in his concept art designs. He will even take old finished concept art pieces and use them for textures and design elements in newer pieces.

Here are the three photos I choose to work with:

A cool dilapidated iron fence in my neighborhood

A view from inside Northwestern Evanston hospital

A church steeple down the block from my house

I combined the three of them in Photoshop layers and composed and cropped to get this:

I used the Plastic Wrap filter on the two non-steeple photos and adjusted Levels on all of them to get the contrasts I wanted and the textures suitably creepy.

From there I started playing with some type ideas for the title -

In the end, I realized that something needed to be in this landscape and I initially had a hooded, vague shape with a rat's tail sticking out from the cloak to hint at the character, Brown Jenkins. After showing it to the director, we realized that it wasn't strong enough and I went to a clearer rat image. This turned out to be for the best, because rats play a large role in the play and Arkham. After hours of trying to find the right way to fit in Lovecraft's name and his very long story title, this is the final image for the poster:

The Dreams in the Witch House poster graphic

Poster detail

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