20 Years ago...TODAY!

It was on this day in 1987 I graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design. I took a few minutes with a calculator to put some numbers together from the past 20 years since getting my degree...

9 illustrated children's books.
16 individual illustrations for magazines and newspapers.
11 television specials and misc. series that I did "on camera" illustration for.
22 television show set designs that "aired".
6 television show set designs that never "aired".
1 theater production design.
14 custom made "hero" props.
8 personal commissions.
2 interviews about me and my work.
9 newspaper/magazine articles that happened to have a picture of my work in it.
5 missed incredible opportunities I regret.
1367 (rough est.) overall total episodes of various television series/specials that I have prop'ed, decorated, styled or used some artistic skill for.

Not a bad score card so far, could be a lot better and certainly a lot worse. Here are some random figures I came up with from the past 20 years...

5 cordless screw/drill guns owned (DeWalt and Makida).
2 art stores that most of my illustration materials were purchased from (Aaron Bros & Carter Sexton).
12 different apts./homes I lived in and often created from.
4 cars I've owned and served me well.
4 states outside of California I worked in at some point.
24 movie sequels I saw based on films released prior to 1987.
4 TV shows or Movies I've heard RISD mentioned by name (Wedding Crashers, One Crazy Summer, The OC and Providence). There may be more.

The saddest number of all...

zero times anyone has actually asked to see my diploma to prove I graduated college...

UPDATE: for more on graduation day and a picture from the day's program that if you look close you can see I graduated for sure along with friends like Megan Jeffery, go to her blog by clicking on her name I highlighted 15 words back.

Time for a Haircut.

It's been over a year since my last haircut. No real reason except months flew by and my work this year required few meetings to look slick and professional for. As I grow older my physical appearance has become less a priority to me. This is no big deal to me but is an embarrassment sometimes to the Fiancee.

I think I only own 2 shirts right now that are not covered in paint.

Standing in line for a movie, she once asked if I was going to wear my "hobo shoes" till they just fell off pointing to my well worn and hole filled Chuck Taylors. I bought a new pair the next day.

I feel no need to impress others but once my lax of appearance comes to a point that she (the most tolerant of all) has to point out...I know I gotta fix.

A week or so back, with family on Mother's day, the topic of how long my hair has gotten came up.

The Fiancee told my niece that she should style my hair...knowing full well she was waking a sleeping giant. Devin (my niece) took to the task with blinding speed. Hair clips and bands soon encrusted my scalp.

She would even take a step back to look at her work and see what more was needed, much to the delight of all (and the Fiancee, who became co-owner of the salon, suggesting new styles and ideas that would heap humiliation upon me)...

As the video below will show, I soon became a human art installation with Devin adding all she could find to her creation. All this was a spontaneous (yet clever) ploy by my brilliant and beautiful Fiancee to let me know it was time for a hair cut. Ok, I'll get one...I don't want to be known as Aunt David.

It took longer to take apart Devin's art than create...

"SITH" happens

Friday was the official 30th birthday for STAR WARS which opened on May 25th 1977. I celebrated yesterday by attending one of the five day long Star Wars convention in town this weekend with my brother Ted and friend Andrew. All are actual photos taken on the day, moments described might be...embellished. Click on photos to make sort of bigger.

We decided to take the metro train from the valley to downtown. Ted lead the way.
"We have to maneuver straight down this escalator!" he said and mumbled something about secret plans provided by his girlfriend Leia.

Andrew met us there. He was really excited to use his official Lucasfilm approved camera.

"...and my sunglasses make me look like a real X-Wing fighter pilot, right?" he asked.

We had a bad feeling while riding the train. A few rows behind we believed was a sinister "sith" spy following us. He said his name was Mark and was just commuting to work at his accounting office like any other day.

Hmmm, I don't know... that did not look like a calculator hanging from his belt.

We managed to loose the spy by hiding in a janitor's closet at the next stop. Later, outside the convention center, Ted and Andrew seemed bored already.

Ted went to buy our tickets while Andrew picked his up at the "will call"...

Excited to have our tickets, Ted called our Mom to tell her and let know we were OK. She told us she would pick us up at 5 pm sharp!

Once inside Ted said

"Everyone's headed toward that small balloon."

"That's no balloon... " I answered, "it's a space station!"

We decided to play it cool and grab a cup of coffee first at a Starbucks stand. It was a wretched hive of fans and costumed villainy. Andrew was happy because imported "jabba java vanilla hutt" was the coffee bean of the day. Ted was a little miffed because "Starbuck" was a character in Battlestar Galactica and this was a Star Wars convention.

As they got the coffee, I thought about what we were going to do that day.

I met Yarnbacca.

He had ideas of scheduled events that may suit us.

Then this really tall guy named Peter Mayhew walked by and said..

"That's not a real wookiee."

Whatever, what did he know?

Andrew had already hooked us up with "VIP" seats for the Star Wars in 30 minutes show knowing some cast members. We saw it and it was hysterical. We then went down to the main floor and walked around, Andrew got separated from us.

Looking for him. We got lost in a far, far away hallway and met a local tribe. I was glad to be fluent in 10,000 forms of communication. The locals had a primitive dialect but I was able to translate directions to our way back.

About an hour later, we found him at the Lego booth.

"Hey, lookit what I made?" he said

Although his work was impressive, most impressive. Ted and I decided Andrew might be a little too dorky as company. We needed to ditch him.

I talked to local security.

"This guy can help us!" I exclaimed to Ted and also asked if Stormtrooper uniforms were available in XXL, because I want one.

They referred us to an experienced underworld figure.

He thought Andrew might be "worth a lot to him" and
took the job.

We never saw Andrew again.

Now free of Andrew's nerdiness, we decided to have real fun. Ted took out extra "mad spending" cash from the nearest ATM.

We bought stuff for us...

and of course something for our girlfriends at home...

It was soon 5pm and Mom called saying she was waiting out front to pick us up just as I was looking at the original art by the first Star Wars concept illustrator, Ralph McQuarrie.

Even though I had better ideas for a ride home, we had to go.

Man oh man. It so sucked to leave.

Star Wars for my generation is one of those movies everyone remembers the first time they saw it. For Ted and I... our Mom took us to the 2:45 pm show at the (then) General Cinema theater on Central Ave. in Yonkers. My parents had to put up with us wrecking the house during lightsaber duels in the hallway and defending the basement from stormtroppers for years after.

My Aunt Joan and Uncle Joe had their hands full as well because everytime we got together with our cousins Christine and Mary Alice the entire Star Wars cast was assembled... I was Chewbacca, Christine was Han, Mary Alice was Leia and Ted was Luke. My little sisters although too young to play with us often were made C3Po and R2D2.

Uncle Joe worked at 20th Century Fox and made Ted and I 2 of the coolest kids in Grade school by giving us promotional posters, t- shirts and stuff no one else had (expect for my cousins). The best was years later he made us the coolest kids in High School getting us press screening invitations to see "Return of the Jedi" a few days before it opened everywhere.

Mom went with us to the Ziegfeld Theater in NYC. We embarrassed her because the only two people in the older more reserved audience yelling and cheering on the heros were her sons.

Top 5 Places to Dine out

My friend Valley Grrl just "tagged" me to list the top five places to dine out. Here they are...


It's a bit out of the way in Nepal (on the corner of K2 and Maple St.) but if you really want true Himalayan cuisine it's the place to go! Chef Nicka Tee Dob Non makes the best buffalo "yak finger" appetizers on earth.


This "no frills" greasy spoon joint offers a variety of dishes that is never the same day to day. It's open everyday 24 hours except Thursdays between 10 & 11am as that's disposal p/u time. It's located in an alley downtown somewhere between the Biltmore Hotel and Burger King.


This is a new place I've become a regular at. They offer good burgers to eat and good beer to water down. It's so casual, that your welcome to go shirtless and eat lying on the floor.


This little cafe in West Hollywood has the best German, Mexican, organic food in the world. The soy kielbasa taco is my favorite!


Everything is on the menu here. What makes this place my favorite is it's comfort food. The kind you can sit back on the couch and eat watching late night TV staining the new shirt you just bought.

I now tag Megan and Mighty McPilgrim

Latest Project

Recently completed a 5' wide custom "broken" tile mosaic table top for a homeowner to replace the glass top it's base once had.


Drawn by me at age 14...

I loved Pirates long before Johnny Depp made them cool. Here's a long story about how long they have been a part of my life...

In the spring of 198O, my family took a big vacation to Los Angeles (a few years before we actually moved here) We did all the usual tourist things the first couple of days then we went to Disneyland. For a person like me with a big imagination and used to typical "roller coaster" ride amusement parks like Rye Playland, the detail and showmanship of it blew me away! It was everything I heard it was, saw on The Wonderfull World of Disney and more.

It was a great morning spent walking around and going on many rides. I was already euphoric as we climbed into the boats on "Pirates of the Caribbean". Just riding through the swamp and going down the waterfalls into the cave I thought was one of the coolest things ever. I was ready to ride it over and over again just seeing the skeleton pirate vingettes. As we moved into the last dark tunnel I assumed the ride was over. Then... as we came into the open, hearing cannon fire and seeing the full scale ship, I literally got goosebumps and for the first time knew what "stunned amazement" felt like. I remember my Dad giggling out loud at my reaction. I was 14 and felt 5 years old.

I walked out of that ride and sensed a profound change in me. It was one of the major influences that put me on a course to do what I do today. It was being in life sized dioramas I made as a kid, it was experiencing a living children's book illustration. All of Disneyland infected me...I wanted to draw, make and create stuff like it! I rode "pirates" 2 times that day and again 2 or 3 times when the family went back to Disneyland the last day of our vacation.

My 2 Disneyland souvenirs were a thin, soft covered book (click to see) about the ride and a brass pirate flag belt buckle. I could not put the book down for months. It was illustrated with great early conceptual sketches by Marc Davis. I could not stop drawing pirates after.

Seeing my new love of buccaneers, my Mom (who had introduced me to pirate movies via Errol Flynn as a kid) told me about the great american illustrators Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. These 2 artists created the iconic, visual myths and worlds we know as pirates today. I found out they were also beloved illustrators of my great uncle Tom Dunn (a talented artist and first mentor). Mom dug out 2 old edition books she was raised on and ones she said she read to me as a little kid - Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates and the N.C. Wyeth illustrated Treasure Island. I too fell in love with their work and my thoughts of illustration as a career began (thanks, Mom!).

I went to art school and found more opportunities to draw them. An illustration I did as some homework in 1985...

Today, I have the old edition of Book of Pirates (Mom and Dad have the Treasure Island) and keep a framed N.C. Wyeth illustration poster in my studio as inspiration. My Disneyland souvenir book is long lost but have many new books with Marc Davis's work.

In the dining room hangs (with a Haunted Mansion ride poster) a re-print of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride poster at Disneyland you see walking into the park under the train tracks I bought in 1999 and since had framed. When "the fiancee" and I first moved in together she did not quickly agree as "great" art to be hung in common rooms. She was there the day I bought the prints and knew my love of pirates and a nice memory of our trips to Disneyland, but...was it art?...I presented my case. After much deliberation (with her sister, who shares the house with us) It was OK to hang and considered "retro" cool and better than the "Star Wars" toys I also presented as an option to display.

A small closing story. Remember the pirate flag belt buckle I mentioned getting from Disneyland? I wore it so often in the months later it broke! My Dad working in LA at the time drove to Anaheim, paid admission into Disneyland, bought me a new one and left. I never asked for a new one, he just did it.

So, no matter how good or bad the new Johnny Depp movie will be this weekend, I'll enjoy it...Pirates of the Caribbean, my art, my Mom and my Dad are forever connected in some surreal way.

A Fair(y) Use Tale.

I've seen this clever video by folks at the Stanford Law School about copyright and fair use laws on a few other "creative" type's websites. I thought I'd jump on the bandwagon and post here for any "creative" types who read my blog and have not seen yet. It's perfect for me who still needs complicated things explained with pictures.

Monday Morning Monster.

Gave myself a small "artistic" workout this morning. I took an old sketch (below) and colored a little in Photoshop. Printed out on card stock and then added some colored pencil and black ink. I rescanned and played with in photoshop again. A fun exercise. Feels good. Practice, practice, practice.

Saturday Morning Videos - kid inspirations

Back when I was a kid around 10 or 12 the internet, I pods and dvds was stuff in Sci Fi movies. VHS recorders and cable tv were on the horizon but still a few years away. Regular old television was it. I grew up in New York and 2 of my favorite shows were on the local channels, WABC's 4:30 Movie and WPIX's Chiller Theater.

The 4:30 movie was on every weekday. They would have theme weeks like Gidget, John Wayne, Elvis, War or Western. But my Mom never had to fear were I was when it was Ray Harryhausen, Vincent Price and Monster week....

The greatest of all was Planet of the Apes week! The entire ape saga from Monday to Friday. No matter how much homework I had or how perfect a summer day to play outside it was, everything stopped to watch.Here was the opening...

Chiller Theater was the Saturday night horror movie show. It did not have a crazy host like Elvira or Ghoulardi in my day, but it did have one of the creepiest opening titles and bumpers ever. Even though dated it still gives me a shiver...

Watching movies on these shows inspired much of what I create today. I found the 4:30 movie ad images at www.dvddrive-in.com

RISD 20 Years ago - Time after Time

Posting these memories of RISD has made me really 80's nostalgic and filled my head with a 1001 tales yet to tell as I find old photos and memorabilia.

This week I thought about how going to college was like living a dual life for me... one on campus and one with family when home. In the past 20 years since RISD, my brother Ted and sisters, Megan and Monica have become my best friends. I spend more free time with them than anyone else. We were always close but in my 4 years at art school, they lived their lives and I'd play catch up on vacations.

I missed out on a few things, like the day they met Cyndi Lauper. How awesomely 80's is this picture?...

What I love most about the above picture is knowing my siblings so well, I know they each have their "really awkward" smiles on.

In those years, Ted decided acting was for him and got his first "head shot" done...

He also went through a James Dean/Steve McQueen "cooler than cool" phase in High School. Thanks in part to his no good, bad influence, screw da man, rebellious friend - Rene Reed...

One summer night, hanging out with Ted and friends, Rene showed me pictures of his family in his wallet. In the mix was a picture of "b" horror movie icon, Michael Berryman...I loved Rene from that moment on.

Even my innocent little sisters got "too cool for school". In these pictures, Megan channels her inner " breakfast club" Molly Ringwald...

while Monica went all Judd Nelson...

but they were big haired 80's chic when it came to prom night. Face blurred to keep my a** from being kicked...

To balance the embarrassment my brother and sisters will feel seeing the above photos, I add these my old RISD friend/classmate Mary e-mailed this week of me from '84...

Here was Mary in those days (other faces are blurred to protect the innocent)...

Mary is a welcome friend of my family...because of one moment...that is still a story often told to this day by my Dad. My folks came to visit RISD on a parent's weekend. I had cleaned my room to impress, stuffing it all into the closet. While touring my room Mary stopped by and I introduced them. My Dad remarked how clean the room was and she mentioned how rare it was.

"But I know Dave..." she said.

Mary opening my closet revealing my secret.

My Mom and Dad had a good laugh seeing my crap stacked to the top.

Saturday Morning Video

Does anyone remember this video? I do. It was often shown on USA Network's Night Flight way long ago in the early days of cable tv. It's a Micheal Nesmith song and video...the guy in the Monkees who wore the knit cap.

Flashback Friday #7 -The Catcher in the Rye

Here is the latest in my Rhode Island School of Design class of '87 , 20 year anniversary posts. At RISD, in your final semester as an illustration student you were required to do a senior degree project. A project that shows all you learned and ready to venture into the real world.

I decided to illustrate J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. It raised eyebrows as a choice from friends, peers and professors. I was commended for picking a unique challenge with obvious skepticism as to it's success.

My hope was to create 10 -12 full page color illustrations capturing important story moments and numerous small "spot" illustrations almost like doodles that would illustrate Holden's random thoughts, as in... what happens to the ducks in Central Park in winter.

I never created any finished illustrations. The final project I presented was a portfolio of thumbnails and sketches. I got swept up in a side project painting a mural in the freshman dorm lounge giving Holden Caulfield very little attention (click here to read about that).

I tried to change my bright children's book cartoon style too quickly. This was part of the project being unfinished regardless of the time I spent on the mural. I wanted to create images that were gritty and real but still captured the sarcasim in Holden's words in an exaggerated cartoon way. I sketched and sketched and sketched. I never got close to what was in my head. It was too ambitious a project for my skill level at the time.

Below are a few more sketches from the project...