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Up And Away! A Collaborative Art Project

It’s the 1930s. Big City has become a place where greed trumps goodness, a city in desperate need of a hero. A hero like no other. The very first superhero.

Planning The Caper

This year, The Pittsburgh CLO invited members of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators to attend rehearsals of the CLO musical Up And Away, as a collaborative effort to produce artwork inspired by the show.

In this post, I’m going to break down my basic illustration process and ramble on a little about the show (because it’s really fun and you should go see it if you can).


Assembling The Team

I think there were six of us invited to attend early rehearsals for the show. We were there to get a feel for the show, and then create anything we wanted. Some of us illustrated scenes, some of us did renderings of the rehearsals, some did portraits of the cast. But from the very start, I knew I wanted to create a fictional comic book cover that featured the characters from the superhero-themed musical. Here’s the thumbnail I sketched out during that first rehearsal:


Clip Studio Paint To The Rescue

I used Clip Studio Paint to set up my image. As usual, the perspective rulers were invaluable in helping me redraw the background architecture over my sketch (the show is set in “Big City”). I used the blue drafting pencil to sketch in characters based on reference sketches I did at rehearsal, and a G-Pen to ink them in. These aren’t caricatures of the cast as much as representations of the archetypes the actors portray in the show.


About The Show

Up And Away is jam-packed with references to comic book culture. The two brothers (who leave their farm to find adventure in Big City) are Jerry and Joe Jessup (a nod to Superman creators, Siegel and Shuster). There’s a fast-talking lady-reporter, a mysterious billionaire, a tough but doting mother, and a host of costumed kooks running rampant in the city.


One of the most interesting things about this project was seeing director Marlo Hunter, creators Kevin Hammonds and Kristin Bair, and the cast members hammer the show into shape during rehearsals; changing blocking and choreography, editing scenes, working out the props and stagecraft. Process. It’s fun to watch things unfold, piece by piece, whether it’s an illustration or a comedy-musical.


Kevin Hammonds (Book and Lyrics) and Kristin Bair (Music) put together a catchy bunch of tunes. I must have heard “New Kind Of Hero” two dozen times that first day. Anyone who’s ever rehearsed a live musical performance knows you’re going to go over and over and over the songs. But that was fine, because when I saw the show opening week, I could practically sing along.


The performers are fantastic too.  It’s one of those shows that employs a small cast (just five) who have to race through backstage quick-changes to play a series of alternate roles (with those roles sometimes possessing alter-egos themselves).


And, in keeping with the stripped-down feel of a small cast, Up And Away employs classic, lo-fi stagecraft to achieve its own brand of special effects. Think “standing on one leg and bending at the waist with your arms forward to simulate flying over a collapsible MDF cityscape.” I don’t know how you’re picturing that, but trust me, it works.


As the little corner box intimates, Up And Away made it’s premiere here in Pittsburgh in January. But it’ll be running at the CLO Cabaret at Theater Square through Sunday, April 22nd. If you’re in Pittsburgh during that time, and you want to spend a fun couple of hours at a musical comedy made for comic fans, try to get tickets.

Art Show And Sale

And, as of this Wednesday, March 14, the Cabaret Gallery will have the Pittsburgh Illustrators’ Up And Away art on display and for sale, with 20% going to the Pittsburgh CLO. I’ll have two pieces there — the comic book cover (signed & numbered prints) and an ink and marker rendering of the villains in the show (based on brief descriptions in an early draft of the script). This was a fun project, a nice way to spend a few weeks with some talented creators and performers, and I got to see a superhero musical for free! Whooooosh! (that was me, flying away, in case you didn’t catch it) -v


And here, just for fun, the fictional comic book cover:





Chutz-Pow, The Art of Resistance Opening

I will be at the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh this Sunday, February 11th, to celebrate the opening of The Art of Resistance — original comic pages from the first two volumes of Chutz-Pow, as well as the release of the all-new Chutz-Pow Volume 3, which I worked on.


Chutz-Pow: Superheroes of the Holocaust is a comic book series produced right here in Pittsburgh, in conjunction with the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh. These books tell the stories of survivors of the Holocaust. The third and latest volume focuses on survivors who were just children when World War 2 changed their lives.

A bunch of my cartoonist friends have work in this volume (Mark Zingarelli, Howard Bender, Marcel Walker, Wayne Wise, Loran Skinkis) and most of them will be there at the opening. Tickets at the door are a very reasonable $5. Here’s the rest of the details on the event. Stop by to see the artwork from the first two volumes, pick up copies of all three books, and talk to some of the writers and illustrators who worked on all three books.

Local Authors Forum, Mt. Lebanon Library

Sometimes you doodle a webcomic, you Kickstart it into a book, and suddenly you’re a “local author.” Better than “person of interest” or “suspect at large” I suppose.

I’m joining a handful of local authors at Mt. Lebanon Public Library this Tuesday, May 16, at 7pm for the library’s Spring Local Author Forum.


Not sure what the moderator will ask us, but I’ve attended these things before and usually there’s some interesting chit-chat from a varied group of people. If your car happens to break down near the library tomorrow night, hoof it on over and take a load off in Meeting Room A. I’ll have some Bigfoot & Halloween Moon books with me, and my doodling pens (in case you’d like a book signed). -v

Untold Tales of Bigfoot Wins Medal


Just a quick note to let you know that Untold Tales of Bigfoot : Crossing Paths has been honored with another award! This time we earned a Bronze Medal in the category of Graphic Novel, Humor in the 2017 Independent Publisher Book Awards.

There’s a ceremony in New York that I may be too swamped with work to attend, but I hear they’re going to send me my medal. An actual medal. That oughta be fun. Congratulations to all the other medalists.

In other news, I’m working on a few projects right now so I hope to have some “process” to post on this news & process blog soon. -v

Pittsburgh Indie Comics Expo

It’s been a while since I posted, so let’s catch up. Last weekend I brought some books and prints to PIX, Pittsburgh’s Indie Comics Expo, held at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. A nice venue and a great collection of small press/indie comics.


I sat in with the guys in the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society and had a blast. As you can see, one of us didn’t get the memo about wearing black. : )


I was there to promote the NCS (a great organization that does charity work, hands out an annual scholarship to a budding cartoonist, and supports the art of cartooning ) and to premiere my newest project, Wish On A Halloween Moon, a spooky, all-ages storybook/artbook/coloring book. I hope to put up a process post on that book soon.


It was a nice afternoon, talking cartooning, meeting people from all over who came to exhibit and attend PIX and, of course, signing books. I managed to take a few photos of some of the doodles I’ve done in the books. I know I drew a happy jack-o’-lantern for a younger fan, but I guess I didn’t snap that pic.



It’s always fun to visit the August Wilson Center, not only for the fantastic exhibits celebrating African-American culture, but also because their restroom doors are inordinately tall and make you feel like you’ve been hit with a shrink ray.


I’ll be using this news/process blog to post about any upcoming con/expo visits. So stop back to see if I’ll end up in your neck of the woods this year. -v