Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The poses above are from "Sven Hoek," one of the highlights of the second season of "The Ren and Stimpy Show." Nice, huh? I love John K's work when it's all cleaned up as it is here, but this post is about his roughs, which the public never sees. Here's a few, below. See if you agree that they're infused with charm and skill and a love of cartooning. 

Here's (above) a scene from Adult Party Cartoons' "Firedogs II" where the Fire Chief asks Ren and Stimpy to light him up. I love the simple but effective way John composes his shots. The Chief's giant head and thick, meaty hand are hilarious.

CHIEF: (To Stimpy) "Hey Eddie, gimme a smoke." (Then to Ren) Light me, Tommy."

REN: "Sure thing!"

[The Fire Chief never gets names right].

I like the way The Chief (above) studies Ren as our hero lights the cigarette.

A beautiful pose on The chief (above) as he artfully sucks in the smoke...

...then blows it out again...right into Ren's face. How do you like that baguette-like smoke? Being a fan of the Chief, Ren feels honored to be smoked at, but his eyes water like crazy.

Haw! Boy, this one (above) is really rough. John could easily have finished it. Maybe he wanted to see what his board artist could do with it.

Ever the fireman, the Chief responsibly stomps out the flame. I like the charm and restraint in this pose.

I value my collection of John rough Xeroxes and, until now, you had to work for John to get them. I was amazed when I found out that he was giving them away as prizes on his Kickstarter site.


Geez, these aren't even Xeroxes. They're originals. Frankly I think John ought to keep them. The day will come when things like this'll be auctioned off at Southby's.

He's giving away originals of his phone doodles, too. One of these days I'll put up some of my collection. You've seen a few of them....that's where he did some of his funniest caricatures of me.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I almost called this post "Hilary Brace: Aviation Artist," but I don't think she thinks of herself that way. Brace claims that she's just drawing imaginary landscapes. Maybe, but what I'm seeing here (below) are cloud caves of the sort that my Dad said pilots used to see. 

My Dad said that he'd seen them, and I see no reason to disbelieve him. Flying as a passenger in commercial airlines I've seen bits and pieces of cloud caves, though they weren't as clear and romantic as Hillary makes them. Commercial jets travel too fast for cave exploration.

Nowadays it's against the law to fly through clouds if they can be avoided. All the traffic makes it too dangerous. My Dad didn't have to worry about that when he was young. There were no cloud laws then. He even flew in open-cockpit biplanes (which were old-fashioned even in his time). Imagine what he must have seen!

My Dad's long gone now. I wish I'd thought to ask him what the caves were like.

I'm guessing that they didn't last long...no more than ten minutes maybe.  After that they'd close up (above), trapping the poor pilot inside. Of course he could fly through the walls to escape.

I wonder what it would have been like to fly through the caves in a thunderstorm. It must have been cold and windy and wet. Maybe there were hailstones. Maybe flashes of lightning illuminated the walls.

Here's (below) a link to a great video of a sputtering lightning flash. Imagine being inside a darkish cloud cave when a bolt like this one appeared.


Caves like this (above) remind me of Jules Verne's story, "Robur the Conqueror." I wonder if he imagined his character's giant airship hiding in caverns like this one.

Remember those old film clips that showed barnstormers standing on the wings of planes? I assume they were braced somehow. Imagine what it must have been like to be one of those guys flying through the corridors of a cave in the sky!


Saturday, July 28, 2012


To prepare for this post I did a Google search for "The Scarlet Empress/set designer" and came up with nothing. I tried a bunch of variations and still came up with nothing, then it finally dawned on me (because I read it): there was no set designer. The director designed the sets. He also did the costumes, the props, the lighting, and the cinematography. I wouldn't be surprised if he collaborated without credit on the writing. Geez. Josef Von Sternberg...what a mench!

[Many thanks to Joel and Romed who found the proper designer credits and listed them in the comments. I still believe, though, that Von Sternberg played a big role in those areas].

Of course the film is remembered as a Marlena Dietrich vehicle, and it is...she's great in it...but this post is about the art direction. I like it, partly because I believe elements of it could easily be incorporated into present day American design. Well, maybe not the two-headed eagle throne (above)...that's here because it looks so cool.

I love traditional Russian architecture. The turrets look Islamic, the flamboyant towers seem to be influenced by India, Oriental Asia, and The Balkans. I even see a little gypsy in them. Of course lots of details are influenced by Western Europe, especially Germany and Scandinavia. What a delightful hodge-podge!

Like Sternberg I'm a big believer in the idea that the perfect interior for a large public building is...another building, like this gazebo (above).  It's a sort of a building within a building. I'll put up more examples below. 

Here's (above) the gazebo from another angle. Nice, huh? How do you like the lighting here? I wish current architects would plan the light fixtures in their houses so they're lit for drama, just like they are in Hollywood movies. Multiple pre-planned lighting possibilities should be hardwired into every new house. Shapes should be added to new buildings just because they cast great shadows.

Here's (above) a Russian cottage exterior influencing the design of a palace interior. This is actually a room inside the palace. It's the building within a building idea again.

Here's (above) a representation of the Devil. Compare it to the dramatic one of a knight below. I love the way the top of the Devil picture fades into the darkness of the ceiling.

This good vs. evil theme (above) and its stylized execution points to the greatness of the Russian soul. Russia suffered immensely in the conflict with Ghengis Kahn and the Mongolians and they believe that suffering gave them a depth that the rest of the world could benefit from.

Nice lighting! That dense, black cross is a powerful symbol. Look at the expressionist sculptures that hold up the candles.

The Czar is strangled to death behind the cross.

How do you like vertical struts (above) holding up the banisters? You can't see them very well here, but they're carved gnomes holding candles.

Here (above) Von Sternberg treats the wooden staircase as an actor and gives it the star treatment. That's what I'd do. Stairs aren't just a conveyance to another floor, they're a powerful romantic symbol which convey aspiration, mystery, and adventure. On the right kind of staircase you do some of your thinking, you propose marriage, you assimilate culture.  Stairs impress by their sheer volume and by their musical rhythms.

For me beautiful, prominent staircases are also a version of the house within a house idea. Von Sternberg's staircase really dominates, in fact it's probably more interesting than the rooms it leads to.

I'll wrap up with this fascinating interview (below) with Von Sternberg from the 60s. It's in two parts; this link only covers the first. They're both worth seeing.


Here's (below) the entire film! Be sure to watch it in full screen.


Thursday, July 26, 2012


I'm so excited to see that John K's Kickstarter numbers are right where they should be, and that the new George Liquor cartoon may actually get made. Even so I'll be biting my nails til the final results come in. 

All this thinking about John has prompted me to share some Xeroxes of John drawings I saved from Spumco. Unfortunately most of that stuff is boxed up in the garage, but I have a few things near my desk that I can whip on the scanner right now. See what you think.

Hmmm...most of the folder pictures are from an episode of Adult Party Cartoon called "Onward and Upward." That was the first show of the series, and I just loved it.

Here's (above) some photos of John and me acting out Ren and Stimpy sitting at a table, about to eat soup. John plays Ren, who's very snooty and concerned that the rules of etiquette be observed. I play Stimpy who just wants to wolf everything down. Aaargh! My Stimpy looks pretty stiff here, but the photos were still useful, if only to point out that my acting needed more ooomph.

Amid Amidi took the pictures with John directing.
John had lots of ideas for how Stimpy (above) might reach for his soup spoon.

Here's (above) John trying out some Ren snooty poses.  Geez, the man can draw! It's a combination of classic volume combined with flat, and of strong lines and shapes combined with thin, graceful ones.

 Now (above) John tries out a Ren reaction pose. Ren is completely grossed out by Stimpy's coarseness. The cat is so uncouth!

Here (above) John experiments with how Stimpy might sip the final pea in the spoon. In this version Stimpy has difficulty getting the pea past his teeth. I love the way Ren leans in and does a slow burn as he watches.  He just can't believe how stupid his friend is.

BTW, how do you like that one-of-a-kind face on Ren? John was constantly coming up with expressions nobody'd ever seen before.

Finally Stimpy sucks in the pea...or tries too. The schtick that follows is some of the most innovative in the cartoon. John wisely gave the gags time to play out, rather than race ahead to the next plot point. It took courage to do that because the accepted wisdom in the industry was to never linger on a gag. For John the gags were the reason we do the cartoons in the first place.

BTW, how do you like the way Stimpy's drawn here?  It's crude, even a bit amateurish. Why, you might wonder, would one of the most skilled draftsman in the industry insert such a pulpy drawing here? The answer, I believe, is that the crude drawing underlines Stimpy's dimwittedness, which is what'll cause Ren to explode later on. That, and it also happens to be the best way to focus our attention on the pea.

Geez, this film was innovative on so many levels.

Anyway, here's  the link to John's Kickstarter site:


He added a bunch more prizes. Aaaargh! I MUST have that cereal box!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


It all began with the death of the old hermit.  I was hiking off trail in a remote valley when I stumbled on what appeared to be a hermit's cave. After calling and getting no response I cautiously entered and soon discovered the skeletal remains of an old man underneath a ragged blanket.  Clutched in one hand was a hand-made map. The inscription read, "Follow these directions and discover The Most Precious Thing in the World."

I know what you're thinking, that what I held in my hand was just the raving of a crazy old man, but there was no mistaking what the map was wrapped around: a dazzling blue emerald the size of a quarter.

I used the emerald to finance a quest for the seven keys mentioned on the map. At the final location I'd need the keys to unlock something...I couldn't tell what. The quest took me to some of the most remote spots on Earth.

Some of the places I visited (above) weren't even on conventional maps.

For one of the keys I'd had to battle lions.

For another I was forced to run a gauntlet through screaming Maoris.

One thing all the key holders had in common.....

.....none of them wanted to give up their key without a fight.

One key was guarded by rabid bats (above).

Another by piranhas.

One I had to wrestle for.

Finally, weak and weary after years of questing,  I reached the hidden lake described on the map. According to that document I should find an island, and on that island I should find what I was looking for. I made a makeshift raft out of driftwood and set out.

On the island (above) I discovered magnificent gardens. They looked freshly tended, yet there wasn't a soul in sight.

The gardens led to a magnificent palace (above), and in that palace was a long, silent hall. Again....no people.

At the end of the hall was a dark, quiet garden with fragrant flowers and a reflecting pool. A door stood open.

Inside the dimly lit room was an ornately carved platform. On the platform was a box.

  The box (above) contained seven locks. I fumbled through my pocket for the keys.

One by one I inserted them.

My hands trembled...that malaria I'd had made the turning difficult.

At last, the final key!


TO BE CONTINUED on THEORY CORNER.....................