Here's a Halloween item to get you in the mood for ghosts, witches, and black cats.... the Haunted House Shaped Scrapbook and the Pumpkin Patch Shaped Scrapbook from Wilton Industries, makers of baking and specialty party products.
Each book came with 20 patterned pages for kids to use as a scrapbook base (candy corn shapes, bats, etc...) and were roughly 6" x 8", although, I did see some smaller versions as well. The books were bound with heavy metal posts that could be unscrewed for more pages to be added. Originally intended to have low-tech battery light-up LEDs, that feature was dropped, but the die cuts and window openings remained.
I designed four concepts — a black cat, a witch, a skeleton graveyard, and a haunted house. Of these, only the haunted house was chosen to go into production. I was then asked to redesign the skeleton graveyard into a pumpkin patch, which became the second book in the series. There were also two Christmas themed scrapbooks I designed. I'll post those later.
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*Beechies Gum was originally made by the Beech-Nut Company and introduced in 1933.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!
A few years back, I designed some rough concepts for the Dixie Cup Corporation. Dixie is now one of the brands owned by Georgia-Pacific, makers of Brawny, Sparkle, and numerous janitorial supplies. This is the only example I have of the work I made for Dixie. About 13 years ago, a major computer crash caused the loss of quite a bit of my digital art, my Fisher-Price work was hit the hardest. The crash even wiped out my back-up drive!
I believe I did three or four designs, two with characters and two without, all meant to be produced in full color. Because the work was conceptual, I simply did pencil sketches and some quick inkings by hand to show the basic ideas. The inkings were scanned, colored, and then mocked-up to took like cups. I wanted to do something that looked like a MAD Magazine comic book from the 1950s or novelty candy packaging from the 1970s. It kind of got there. Dixie never took these concepts any further, but I wish they had. I wanted it to be a series of five-ten cups with different genres of movies or decades. A silent movie cup, the 1950s, science fiction, and a bigger tub for popcorn or maybe some plates. Probably too much of a targeted subject for home purchase, but it would have been cool!
Shiverin' Scoops Game Cards
"We all scream for ice cream, especially when it's this much fun!" And... when it's a really fun project to work on! I designed and illustrated four place cards for Fisher-Price Games Shiverin' Scoops. The game included a motorized cone that shakes when you pick it up. Each player tries to add a scoop, balance the cone while placing it on the game card of the next player. The player who adds the last scoop wins!
The cards were to be one design with the only change being the color of the floor, and that would be done with an overlay. But the art department wanted to see four concepts in order to pick from one. I submitted my designs using the two kids shown on the red card. They liked them all, and instead of illustrating one card, I got to illustrate four cards and add a few more kids to the scenes.
I don't recall any major problems working on these illustrations. For once, the airbrush didn't accidentally spatter paint all over the board and there were no re-dos. This is one of the last physical airbrush pieces illustrated prior to going all digital. There really isn't a major difference in the look of my later airbrush paintings and my early digital paintings.
The best advice I received concerning digital paintings came from an art director at Mattel. He said
"Avoid using Photoshop filters unless you have to. Make your art look hand painted."
It's advice I still use to this day. Despite the fact that I like seeing the original art and holding it in my hands, I'm really happy that today all my airbrushing is digital! Package designs, product art... it all changes so quickly. The ability to easily edit the artwork is something I've grown fondly accustomed to.
I've illustrated and worked on quite a few games from Fisher-Price, including: Spin-Yo, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Animal 2x2, Saucer Scramble, just to name a few. All of it now, of course, digital. Much of this work is in product development and interactive animations, which is why Fisher-Price seems a bit under represented in my portfolio. So many games and toys that never made it out into the world. But, I plan on posting a lot more of my work for Fisher-Price on this blog soon.
Whenever I work with a client, I like to pick up old product catalogs to see what they were making years ago. It's a nice way to make a connection to the past and see where my work fits into the company's history. These two books, Wilton Sugar Mold Ideas and Wilton's Wonderland of Cake Decorating Supplies were gifts I sent to the Creative Director at Wilton. I may have to get my own copies. What was I thinking?! There's so much fun art in these books! I could post every page, but here's a few of the ones that really impressed me.
My services with Wilton over the years have been in product development, creative exploration and production design. Much of my work has made it into production as single items or as major parts of full product lines. I'll be posting more of my work for Wilton at a later date, but in the meantime, here's a couple cupcake products that I designed.
To see more of my art, please visit my website.
Just Like Daddy & Mommy
The box sizes, shapes and general layouts were all pretty much determined prior to me working on the sketches. The project moved along smoothly and I did not have to do too many explorations for the look of the kids. The girl was by far the most challenging. She had to scrub her toes, wear a robe, be in the bath and still read very similar to the boy. I think the whole job was done in about two to three weeks.
Bath Time Fun! Hidden Picture Game
The boxes were a pretty good size, so I suggested that a picture game would work nicely on each box. The layout really lent itself to this. It also gave added play value to each kit. I designed a bathtub themed hidden picture game that would be appropriate for little kids. Each has the same game, but the games are color coordinated to match the boxes. And, whenever I get the chance, I like to put a dachshund or two into my illustrations!
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising. I'm also a writer and fine art painter.
• MFA, Syracuse University