TV SKETCHING: 2013/2014

 Posted by on March 15, 2015  Film/TV, Lefties, TV sketching
Mar 152015

Here’s a roundup of TV sketching done in 2013/2014 that I’ve not yet posted here in this blog.


These sketches of PRIS from BLADE RUNNER, were among the earliest drawings I ever did with my left hand that I actually began to like. I’d avoided drawing for the better part of 2013, because my crude left-handed efforts would rock my already pounded optimism, and remind me of a cherished ability that I’d just lost. Then, in August/September 2013, I finally sucked it up, and began to draw with my left hand in earnest when Julia and I began sketching from the TV, starting our drawing sessions with paused images from old faves like BLADE RUNNER. I revisited these early lefties in late 2014, adding a watercolour wash which clarified my hesitant and spidery line. In hindsight, choosing frames from BLADE RUNNER to relearn to draw had a double personal significance, because this film was originally released in another threshold year for me; 1982. I’d just moved to the Big City from the country to start work as an inbetweener, and while it was immensely exciting to enter the industry I’d aspired to since childhood, triumph was infused with tragedy as I went back to my hometown each weekend to be with my terminally ill mother.


Although BLADE RUNNER is now considered a science fiction movie classic and influenced decades of movie production design, my memory is that it wasn't popular when it was released, though adored by we sci-fi types. Perhaps the reason for BLADE RUNNER’s underwhelming performance that year is simply that in 1982 so many films competed for the box office dollar: TOOTSIE, BEASTMASTER, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, DARK CRYSTAL, E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, FIRST BLOOD, POLTERGEIST, THE WRATH OF KHAN, TRON, WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, THE THING, SOPHIE’S CHOICE, DINER, DEAD MEN DON’T WEAR PLAID and GHANDI to name a few. If you wanted to take your mind off your troubles, 1982 was a great year to use movies as the distraction, and I spent many week nights at the cinema to escape. Ironically, all these many years later, rewatching those escapist movies from 1982 brings vividly back to life that complicated mix real-world feelings I sought to hide from that year. BLADE RUNNER has trapped in amber that mix of contradictory emotions, not just because it reminds me of my own triumph and tragedy of 1982, but because of its plotline of hidden emotion and imminent death in a fantastic city.


This is supposed to be Sean Connery from the 1964 film GOLDFINGER (although I’ve accidentally drawn him wearing David Byrne’s too-big 1980s suit). The line-drawing was started back in September 2013, and since then I've reworked the drawing a few times, adding detail, and finally watercolouring it just this month. It was while drawing this sketch that I began thinking about watching the JAMES BOND movies when I was a child, leading to a blog post in October 2013. A tuxedoed Sean Connery smoking a ciggie in a night club is one of those iconic 1960s images, like Marlon Brando astride a motorbike was to the 1950s, or a rifle-toting cowboy John Wayne was to the 1940s. When the BOND movies hit in the early 1960s, Britain had only just recovered from its postwar rationing and life among bombed-out WW2 ruins. Though a victor in WW2, Britain was left essentially bankrupt, and learned that it was not the power it once was. The 1960s BOND films (and the 1950s BOND books before them) took place in exotic locales that the average Briton wouldn’t afford to visit till the 1970s, and reassured them that although British influence appeared to have gone, secretly Britain still pulled the strings that made the world operate (and  secretly its cars were still cool, and secretly its gadgets actually worked).


Just as we now, with the advantage of hindsight, see 1950s Hollywood monster/alien invasion films as America processing its Cold War fears, the 1960s Bond films seem now to represent Britain grappling with diminished global political relevance and the sting of Empire gone forever. The suave, elegant, and deadly BOND spanked a variety of anxiety-inducing types (conniving lefties, oily continentals, scary ladies, cat lovers, and judo dudes) while offering condescending help to the current world policeman, the USA. BOND’s relationship to Felix Leiter and the CIA is a variation on Sherlock Holmes’ relationship with Lestrade and Scotland Yard; the USA gets the credit but we know that Britain has really solved the case behind the scenes. (“Couldn’t have done it without ya, James”). The British power fantasy in the BOND films caught on globally and played a part in the 1960s “British Invasion” of popular culture, ironically making Britain internationally relevant again via its own fantasies, compensations and yearnings. Though the political clout of Britain was reduced, its cultural clout was perhaps even stronger than before.


We watched a lot of DOWNTON ABBEY last year (when I posted a sketch of Maggie Smith) and here are a few more sketches. This soap opera about the two communities living side by side in an early 20th century British mansion– upper class aristocrats and their working class servants– may be an obvious choice for a country with a history of an ingrained class structure, such as England, but I think it’s interesting that American shows don’t do this more often. In an American TV show about a legal firm we only follow the lawyers and never meet the people in the mailroom. If a show is set on a Starship, we will meet only the bridge officers and not the tech support dweebs on lower decks. If it is set in a hospital we only care about the Doctors, and not the orderlies or the folks processing the stool samples in the lab. Come on America, where’s your sense of upstairs/downstairs 1%/99% camaraderie? The fantasy here in the USA is that it is a completely egalitarian society, but the not-so-simple reality is rarely examined on TV.


As much as I enjoy the milieu of DOWNTON ABBEY, after several seasons the show is not as interesting to me as it once was, simply because a status quo is maintained episode to episode and season to season. There’s always something just about to happen; someone is about be accused of murder, someone is about to be disgraced by scandal, and someone is about to leave the family, but inevitably most of these things work out and are back to approximately where we’d started. The series’ first season, set in 1912, started off strong, with boyfriends dying during covert sex, their corpses secretly carried through the mansion by candlelight in dead of night. There were revelations about this servant or the next, and mini scandals always a-brewing with the aristocrats upstairs, and we were constantly warned that the modern world was about to change everything. Then of course there was WW1 to deal with. But in hindsight, the only true drama in the entire series happened when a couple of the real life actors tired of the corsets they had to wear and the scripts they had to read and decided to leave the show, which forced the writers’ dramatic hand, and some characters had to actually die to be written out of the series. DOWNTON ABBEY promised to be a chronicle of a time of great societal change in Britain, strange then that so little of that real-life drama is in the show. The most recent season, set in 1924, the only dramatic change in circumstances was the death of the dog in the title sequence (the pooch-thespian wanted to move on to a more challenging career in Purina dog chow commercials). I could hold on a few more seasons till WW2, just because I know that eventually Hitler can be relied upon to force some drama, the bloody trouble maker, but any time that you see Fascism as a solution to your problems, it’s time to re-examine your priorities.

February Sketches

 Posted by on February 28, 2015  Drawings, Lefties, Location Sketching
Feb 282015
February Sketches

+-*Here are some watercolor sketches done on location around San Francisco in this past month. The first was done in Union Square while Julia and I sat prior to our dinner reservation on Valentines day. It was gloriously warm and sunny, with many people out enjoying themselves, and I managed to get a scribbly sketch down, before the [..READ MORE..]

Teenage Camelot

 Posted by on February 22, 2015  Lefties
Feb 222015
Teenage Camelot

+-*At around the age of 15, I met a group of older teenagers who’d already finished with high school, shared a house and lived on the dole. I thought they were the height of teen cool because they could do whatever they wanted; woah. I was still obliged to wear my school uniform and kow-tow to ‘the man’ [..READ MORE..]

Phil Robinson

 Posted by on January 28, 2015  Colleagues, Friends
Jan 282015
Phil Robinson

+-*A beloved longtime member of the Bay Area animation community, has finally succumbed to pancreatic cancer after battling it bravely for over 3 years. Phil Robinson will be greatly missed by his loving wife Jennifer, and his many friends from around the world, me amongst them. Phil came to the Bay Area in the early 1980s but I [..READ MORE..]

Jan 022015

+-*As a follow up to some Star Trek TV sketching we did months ago, Julia and I did more sketch nights of Star Trek: The Next Generation, a favourite of Julia’s that I wasn’t so familiar with. When Star Trek: TNG was first broadcast, in the late 1980s, I was working in Asia and Europe; countries where I couldn't understand television anyway and [..READ MORE..]

Happy CHRISTMAS 2014!

 Posted by on December 25, 2014  Pencil-Jockey, Updates
Dec 252014
Happy CHRISTMAS 2014!

+-*Happy Christmas to you all (please insert whatever holiday you prefer, religious, or secular) and I hope you gather with your loved ones today. Speaking of good company; two years ago, before I got sick, I was surrounded by dear friends as we worked together on a TV Christmas special; "The Toy Story that Time forgot." It's most [..READ MORE..]

Space FLiK

 Posted by on December 5, 2014  Childhood art, Drawings, Thoughts
Dec 052014
Space FLiK

+-*Recently, I found a small cardboard box that contains all the artwork, and the super-8 film spool of a movie I made when I was 15/16, for my final high school HSC art exam. This celluloid masterpiece was called SPACE FLiK, and was a hopelessly crude parody of Star Wars in the style of Mad magazine (two things [..READ MORE..]

Kid Kalimari

 Posted by on November 27, 2014  Comics, Drawings, Updates
Nov 272014
Kid Kalimari

+-*This guy here is called KID KALIMARI, a comics character that I never did much with. He is related to another one of my characters that I have actually followed through on publishing; SEPHILINA.  He lives in the city of SAN FIASCO, and ends up becoming a pal of ROCKET & the PROFESSOR. In the back of my [..READ MORE..]

Here Be Monsters

 Posted by on October 10, 2014  Drawings, VisDev
Oct 102014
Here Be Monsters

+-*Here Be Monsters is a book illustrated and written by Alan Snow that inspired the animated film, The Boxtrolls. The book is a rambling grab-bag of fun ideas, seemingly every idea that Alan Snow ever had up till that point. It is a very enjoyable read, but presented a problem to adapt into a 90 minute movie. There [..READ MORE..]