Monster Mix-Ups was the second of two rubbing plate creativity kits I worked on for Crayola. It's identical to another kit of theirs that I designed two years earlier – Create-A-Critter, but this time with monster-themed plates and new toy colors.
The design of product components (stickers, stamps, rubbing plates,) and packaging for the Crayola Creative Development kits was the responsibility of Crayola Art Director Kathy Buckley. Kathy and I had known each other from college and working with her on these types of projects was always fun.
I submitted twelve different characters knowing that ten would be chosen. I kind of think of it like The Gong Show. I send my wacky characters out to be judged and someone's gonna get "gonged!". This time, the cheerleader and the gravedigger got the mallet. I wanted this Halloween theme to be done with a lot of humor. Kathy recalls, "I didn't have to tell Joe that Frankenstein should be holding a skateboard (and honestly it wouldn't have occurred to me to do so), but Frankenstein showed up holding a skateboard. A mummy tied up with a gift tag warning not to open before Christmas? Yes, please. Joe delivered so much more than what we asked and that is why we kept asking him to deliver more.”
It's pretty impressive that a kid could actually make 1,000 "scary ghouls." I haven't done the math, but I'll take Crayola's word for it.
I no longer have the original line art used to make the plastic rubbing plates. If they weren't returned to me, they have most likely been destroyed. Luckily, the side panels of the box have small, but very crisp, reproductions of each character. This was back when I would do the final inkings on graphics paper and markers. Later, I typically used a brush and ink on this type of project to get crisper lines. Today it's almost always computerized vector art. They both have their pros and cons.
I get a kick of seeing these drawings molded on to plastic plates. I often illustrated stickers that would be applied to a toy, but when the illustrations are the toys – well, that's even cooler! The combination of bright lime green, orange, and purple was a popular color scheme of the early 90s.
The illustration for the back of the box turned into a fun and creative way to show the step-by-step instructions. Kathy Buckley drew a very precise layout for me to follow. This was all pre-computer, so precision was important, and this illustration was going to get a lot of text wrapped around it.
Following her design I drew a tight pencil version at 100% size. I used photocopies of the three characters shown as "works of art." I lightly transferred the sketch to a piece of bristol board using graphite paper. The drawing was covered with a plastic film which was cut with an X-Atco knife, revealing only the background. I airbrushed the background purple and sprayed black for the drop shadows, both with acrylic paint. I then cut new film to cover everything except the red boxes, which were also sprayed with acrylic paint. The rest of the painting was completed with gouache. I used colored pencils to give a crayon look to the three finished pictures in the lower right corner.
I primarily worked on content and less on packaging. This always frustrated me, but it does make sense from a product line point of view. Typically, the same artist will work on the same parts of a product line. I got to design and illustrate the toy's art, while another artist illustrated the box covers. I was often given the job of illustrating the backs of the boxes, but I always approached them with the same enthusiasm as if they were the covers.
The sides of the box featured six crayon-colored "mixed-up" monsters as well as the B&W line art.
Bubble Gum Tattoos With a Bite!
I've been on a bit of a nostalgia kick the past few months. Probably from watching old episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. You see, Brandon just broke up with Kelly, Donna is still with Ray and Dylan is...oh sorry! Back to the point of this article --
Ultra Tattoo Champ was another one of my very early commercial projects from the 90s for Richardson Brands, best known for Beechies Gum*, Richardson Mints and rock candy. During this time, they manufactured a sizable series of these temporary tattoo packs. Sold in foil packs and in large 180 piece tubs for individual purchase at 5¢ each, the tattoos were wrapped around a piece of gum inside a wax wrapper. The gum had another selling point for kids beyond the tattoos — purple gum turned the mouth purple, green gum turned the mouth green, and... you get the idea. I illustrated two lines for this series, Vicious Animals and Sports. For this article, I'm showing my favorite of the two, Vicious Animals!
*Beechies Gum was originally made by the Beech-Nut Company and introduced in 1933. Richardson Mints have been made sine 1893. They also make a product called Gravy Master which has nothing to do with bubble gum or candy, although, a gravy flavored gum would probably be a big seller! There's my free million dollar idea.
This is the complete set of Vicious Animals tattoos. Each tattoo is roughly 2.5 inches tall and 1 inch wide. I don't recall exactly how Richardson Brands had contacted me, but I do remember driving to their office in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania twice, once to show my portfolio and once to deliver the art. I met with the art director, was given samples of previous tattoos, and some gum that I chewed on my drive back home.
Over 25 years later, these tattoos still work and still look pretty cool! No, I did not eat the gum.
The original art was painted with gouache on bristol board at 300% reproduction size. They worked really well at the tiny 1 inch tattoo size and were remarkably bright and colorful! The original art is owned by Richardson Brands and all I have are 35mm slides. I had enough sense to have taken shots of most of my work back then as I never liked sending the art away, never to see it again. It was a lot tougher to keep good records of my artwork prior to digital scans and photos. It took A LOT MORE TIME but it was well worth it!
I did quite a few sketches for project. They were done pretty quickly as I remember in order to meet the deadline. The art director sent a good amount of them back asking for "more blood" and everything that went along with it, which made me really happy!
I look at these today and only wish I could do them all again! I'd add EVEN MORE GORE! C'mon Topp's, give me a call! I can do this!
Here he is — the Tattoo Champ! ready to chew gum and kick butt! Kinda looks like Steve Sanders!
The foil packs came with an XL big tattoo 3.5 inches by 2.5 inches. I bought about five or six packs to get one of my illustrations. Glad it was the piranha, they're cute!
Just in time for Halloween! The Crayola BOOklet was the first time my digital artwork started to look the way I saw it in my head. Before this, I was doing mostly vector art and traditional painting - primarily airbrush. BOOklet was a crash course in digital art and an incredible rush to finish. I started on the 5th of March and finished on the 25th of March, 2002. That's twenty days to write all the activities, design the pages, and finish the art.
BOOklet was a free in-store giveaway with the purchase of two Crayola products. Fourteen pages of craft projects and five pages of activities I wrote and illustrated, plus the cover, and a store riser display.
My favorite page is "It's Alive!", a cut-out mobile dangler of Frankenstein coming to life on a laboratory table. I can't say it was my idea, however. In grade school, one of our class projects at Thanksgiving was to make a scarecrow dangler out of construction paper and yarn. I loved it then, so why wouldn't kids love it today! I still have my scarecrow dangler. He makes me happy.
So, here's the art, the sketches and some stuff that never made it in the book. Happy Halloween!
In-Store Riser Display
The riser was placed above a display of selected Crayola products, Model Magic, Gel Clings, crayons, and markers. I never saw this in the store and I don't have a printed copy of it. Always wanted one. The moon was left blank for the art department to fill with text, probably something like this — FREE BOOklet! While Supplies Last! The book had instructions on how to make the "Bouncing Eyeball" that Dracula is holding and Frankenstein's "Paper Bag Pumpkin Patch". There were also "Ghostly Goodie Bags", "Creepy Spider Web Doorways", and "Jolly Jack-O'-Lantern" craft ideas.
Alternate Unused Sketches
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising.
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ADULT COLORING BOOKS by Joe Lacey
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