What the hell is a Krushervision??

No really. What the F kind of a name is “Krushervision?” And what does it have to do with pin-up cartoons?

I admit that it doesn’t make a ton of sense at first glance. Or maybe second or third, either. But here’s how it came about:

It started when I was a graphic designer from the late ’90s to early 20-aughts. “Krushervision” was just the title of my website, which itself was mostly a design portfolio. The name is actually a combination of a few things:

1) When I had a radio show in college, my air-name was “The Krusher.” I played metal and everybody hated my show. I stayed on for five semesters. It was fun.

2) One of my favorite hobbies is playing and collecting classic videogames. I had the names “Intellivision” and “Colecovision” in mind, and I thought of my website as a game system with interchangeable cartridges that represented pieces in my portfolio.

3) I’m also a huge fan of classic movies, and thought of the names the studios created for their widescreen photography and projection systems: Cinemascope, Cinerama, VistaVision, Panavision, etc.

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…So it was kind of a no-brainer to mash together “Krushervision” and use it to name my website.

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At first it was all designy-pants and shit. I wanted to be another David Carson or something. Unfortunately, I was spinning my wheels because there was no market for that type of work locally, and after applying for a few higher-profile design positions (that I totally coulda rocked) and not getting them (*cough*TheOnion*cough*), I dropped the design gig and started tattooing.

After the career change, I refocused on my drawing, painting, and digital art, and so did my website. I redesigned the site to reflect the new direction my work was taking. At this time, I was doing a lot more monster art along with my pin-up girls. In fact, the first art show I participated in in 2005 did not have a single one of my pinups in it: I showed three pieces, and they involved King Kong, Nosferatu, and the Bride of Frankenstein (but only her head!). Krushervision was still a perfect name for what I was doing — it sounded like a late-night monster movie show hosted by a mad scientist and his ghoulish sidekick (which, by the way, has always been a secret fantasy career of mine). My website was designed to look like an old movie lobby card, and I had a logo proudly stating that it was “Presented in the Miracle of KRUSH-O-SCOPE” (more classic movie-style hype!).

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I started an online shop where I sold t-shirts and mugs and crap with my art on it, and “Krushervision” started to become a brand name, rather than just the title of my site. I was also designing and selling a line of videogame-themed merch, so the classic gaming connection still worked as well.

As I continued to find my niche, though, the pin-ups started to overtake the monsters; I was having more fun with them, and I realized they appealed to a wider audience. But I was rolling with the Krushervision name now, and people started to recognize it and associate my work with it. Besides, my website was settled nicely into the domain name of krushervision.com, and it wasn’t like anybody was gonna steal it.

So in 2009, when I decided to establish an LLC to protect my business, the obvious choice for a name was Krushervision. But the full name, Krushervision Art Industries, has yet another story behind it. I needed something that would represent all of my creative pursuits, which included tattoos, art commissions, merchandise production and sales, and future ambitions not directly related to drawing and painting, such as publishing, filmmaking, etc. I was inspired by my favorite anime, Mobile Police Patlabor (I’m not going to explain what it’s about here, just look it up), in which there is a mecha manufacturer called Shinohara Heavy Industries. Boom.

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When you look at it that way, hopefully it’s clear why my business is called what it is. But if you weren’t there for the first 10 years, “Krushervision Art Industries” doesn’t exactly evoke images of cute, busty, leggy cartoon pin-ups, which has become my main output, aside from tattooing. I’ve considered changing the name, but…nah.

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What do YOU think? Do you like the name? Do you associate it with quality creative products? Is it weird? Weird is okay with me, but is it TOO weird? Do you think it’s hurting my ability to get noticed? Is it cool now that you’ve read how it came about, or is it dumb?

…is anybody even reading this far? Well then for you, I’m just gonna put this here. It’s the last piece of the puzzle.

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Why artists are crazy.

Okay, so that’s kind of a harsh generalization. But I’ve been thinking a lot about how artists see the world and why it makes us different. Bear with me, this one is a little heavy on the philosophy and light on cartoon boobies.

My fellow artists and I have often been accused of being moody, sensitive, reclusive, and weird. I’m not denying that those things can be (and are) true. But it usually comes as an accusation, because we can be difficult to deal with. Maybe I can shed some light as to what’s going on upstairs (at least in my upstairs) so that others can understand why we are the way we are.

• It could be theorized that artists are unhappy with reality as it is, and therefore seek to reinterpret it into a form that satisfies them, and share that with the world in the hopes that others might understand them better. I don’t necessarily believe this to be true for all artists, but I think it’s a distinct possibility for many. Personally, I’m not unhappy with reality, but from a cartoonist’s perspective, I do think it’s more fun to explore the possibilities of reworking it to show how much funnier it could be!

• Artists are blessed with a talent (or work their butt off to acquire it) that not everybody possesses, and therefore feel a responsibility to utilize that talent to its fullest extent. This can feel like a burden. By the same token, artists may feel like their only possible career choice is to be an artist. When you have no other skills to fall back on, this can be frightening, and can be the cause of a ton of pressure to do exceptional work all the time or risk being left behind in the field, or worse — unemployed. In other words, I can’t fix cars or build houses, so I better draw good all the time.

• An idea is like a bodily function to a creative. Hear me out on this. Whether you’re a visual artist, a musician, or a performer, ideas may strike at any time. If this inspiration is not acted upon, it festers and percolates in the mind. It becomes a distraction, or even an obsession. You gotta get it outta you or it will drive you crazy, make you irritable, or even physically sick. I’m not kidding. A great new idea needs to come out in the form of some new work, after which point the artist feels relief as he/she then has the freedom to move on to the next new idea. And chances are, there are more ideas up there than there is time to make them all reality, which means those ideas get backed up. That can cause anxiety or depression, because we don’t want any of those ideas to be forgotten by not bringing them to fruition (inspiration is most powerful when it’s acted upon ASAFP), and we also just have the sheer burning desire to make them happen because we love what we do and that’s what keeps an artist going.

• We don’t see the world like non-artists do. Here’s one that may really make you think. If you’re not an artist, and you look at a tree, you see a tree. There it is. It’s a tree, in all its natural treeness. Do you know what I see when I see a tree? I see colors, shadows, highlights, and interacting shapes, and I think about how I would draw them versus how I would paint them versus how I would tattoo them. And it’s not just trees. It’s clouds. Buildings. Dogs and cats. People. Flowers. Water. I observe the way cloth drapes and folds and try to understand why it behaves the way it does so that I can accurately render it with a pencil without referring to a photo. I observe the way light hits an object and what kind of highlights and shadows it creates, and think about how I would capture that look with paint. I am constantly processing this influx of visual information in the hopes that I can either A) accurately regurgitate it when I need to, or 2) reinterpret it into cartoon form. All the time. When I drive. When I walk around. When I watch TV or a movie. I’m examining everything. Would that drive you batshit crazy? Actually, I usually find it to be a fun mental exercise. But there are certainly times I wish I could just turn my brain off and just see the clouds in the sky, rather than making mental notes of where the sun is in relation to them and why one part is lavender and another is orange and another is white. Which brings me to the next point…

• An artist needs to understand how things work and are built in order to reproduce them. In my own case, as a pin-up artist, I need to understand a fair amount about women’s hairstyles, makeup, and clothing in order to draw my girls well. I tattoo enough flowers that I can whip up a lily or a rose on a moment’s notice. But by contrast, I don’t draw a lot of vehicles. So if you ask me to draw a motorcycle off the top of my head, it’s gonna have a gas tank, a seat, some handlebars, and two wheels with a jumble of shit in between them because I don’t know what an engine looks like or where the exhaust pipes attach or where the oil filter goes. Even if I have a couple reference photos, the best I can do is copy what I see because I don’t know how any of that stuff actually works. So the more we can understand, the better we can draw something when we’re asked to. And that is a LOT of knowledge to for an artist to acquire and maintain!!

• We want to do better. I don’t know about you, but I can always start picking out the problems with my work within hours of completing it. So I’m constantly striving to improve, which is a good thing. It’s a great thing, actually. But it’s a lot of hard work. And when all you do is work, it’s constant pressure.

I don’t mean to sound like it’s miserable being an artist. On the contrary, I love it and I wouldn’t want to be anything else! But I don’t think a lot of people really understand how much is going on in an artist’s head when they jump to the conclusion that we’re just mood-swingin’ weirdos.

Anybody agree? Disagree? Have anything to add?

Hey, here’s a NEW blog.

Okay, so if you’re new to Krushervision (as I’m guessing a lot of WordPress users are), you stumbled across this new blog with like a dozen entries right away. I know what you’re thinkin: “What in tarnation is a-goin’ on here?” (Well, that’s what you’re thinking if you’re Yosemite Sam. I do kinda hope you’re Yosemite Sam, actually. That would be rad. But if you’re not Yosemite Sam, we’re still cool.)

I’m TJ Rappel, an artist/tattooist/illustrator/cartoonist in Wisconsin, and owner of Krushervision Art Industries, LLC. I’ve been tattooing for nearly 10 years, and I do a lot of artwork and cartoons for the pinup and burlesque scenes. This blog is really just an extension of my website at http://www.krushervision.com. You can see the rest of my attempts to validate my existence there.

My blog also exists, at least for the next week or so, at a blog site called Posterous. Problem is, Posterous is going tits-up after April 30, so I had to find a new home for my blog. I chose WordPress, so here I am. The first thing I wanted to do was to transfer my existing blog over, so that’s why there were a ton of posts last night. This layout here is not final; it’ll get changed when I have time to figure out how to customize it. Also, I think all my images actually still link back to the old blog. So there is some fixing to be done.

Thanks, though, for finding me. I already got a lot of feedback and followers just in the last 12 hours, which makes me think WordPress was a good idea and I probably should have gone with it in the first place two years ago. You can find Krushervision on facebook too, at http://www.facebook.com/krushervision, so go “like” that thing too if you wanna. Seeya around!

The Uncut CKD Interview

(Original blog post July 13, 2012 – 160 views)

I was recently honored with a 5-page spread in Car Kulture Deluxe magazine (issue 53, August 2012)!

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They got the info and quotes via an interview, which they sent to me and I answered. But they only used a small fraction of what I said! I talked about struggling through my early days tattooing, my opinions on lowbrow art and art education, and even my record collection.

So, as far as I know, this won’t get me in any trouble, but I thought it’d be fun to share the whole interview, as it was presented to me and I answered it. Enjoy!

Car Kulture Deluxe Magazine-Q&A-ARTISTS PROFILE

Name TJ Rappel
Date  6/21/11
Contact Info: trappel@new.rr.com

CKD: Tell us where you’re from and how you got started?
I’ve lived in Appleton, Wisconsin my entire life, and have been drawing the whole time. There’s definitely an artist gene that runs in my family. I liked coloring books until I realized I could draw my own stuff, and never stopped.

CKD: What images did you draw as a child?
Superheroes, movie monsters, and KISS. There was a lot of Superman, Spider-Man, Frankenstein, King Kong, and Gene Simmons being drawn on any blank paper I could find.

CKD: What influences/inspires your work?
Everything — classic animation, comics and cartoons, old movies, album covers, vintage graphic design, and of course, other artists throughout history. Although my work is ostensibly just about leggy busty cartoon girls and the occasional monster, I do try to pull inspiration and techniques from anywhere and anything. Oh, and pretty girls like my wife, too. She’s my main muse.

CKD: What made you decide to become an artist/ make art your career?
Art is the only thing I’ve ever been any good at. I was an average student, but I knew I wasn’t going to work with math or science or be an engineer. I kind of had to be an artist because the idea of doing anything else for the rest of my life was pretty depressing.

CKD: what do you consider your technique?
I usually have a pretty clear idea in my head, then I wrestle with my drawing and painting utensils until it looks like what I was thinking of.

CKD: What equipment do you use?
For drawing, I like hard to medium-soft pencil (6H to HB), Zig ink pens (I know everybody likes the Microns, but I prefer Zigs) and Faber-Castell brush pens, and Bristol board. For painting, pre-stretched canvases or Arches illustration board. For tattooing, I’ve been using an Eikon Green Monster liner and a custom built shader, Kurosumi black lining ink and Eternal colors.

CKD: Did you have  a mentor?
 or did you apprentice?
Who?
How did they influence you?
I really never had anyone I’d consider a mentor in art, although it would‘ve been nice. It was hard figuring it all out myself. I’m still doing it, always studying and analyzing things I like. With the exception of one or two, my art teachers and professors throughout school were not really supportive types. Most of them were either just doing their job, or were too self-absorbed. When I started tattooing, of course I went through an apprenticeship, but I still ended up figuring most of it out myself. I was given the ball, but I realized pretty quickly that it was up to me to run with it.

CKD:  Which mediums do you use (oil, acrylic, oneshot, photography,etc)?
I paint primarily with gouache and acrylic. Occasionally I’ll use black Kurosumi tattoo ink in my paintings as well. Some smaller work is done in watercolor, too. I draw with regular graphite pencils and ink pens. I also do some digital work in Photoshop.

CKD: How did you become interested in this material?
Girls? Geez, I’ve been interested in them since I was 10 years old.

I always liked classic pinup girl art, and even though I can draw in various styles, I always favored cartoons. I’d absorbed comic and cartoon drawings since I was little. When I was working for a local alternative paper, I used to do illustrations and cartoons to accompany some of the more humorous content, and for one issue I did a drawing of a busty girl with that Tex Avery/Red Hot Riding Hood look to her, and I really liked the way it came out. You can probably trace my whole pinup cartoon thing back to that one drawing. So I continued playing around with that style, using pinup models and lingerie catalog models for reference, and turning them into cartoons. Looking back, they were kind of  wonky in that prototypical way, but it allowed me to work out the kinks and get the style dialed in. Eventually I just started doing cartoon pinup and monster drawings one after another and putting them on my website, and making t-shirts and stuff for my online shop.

CKD: Which piece of your work if any, is your personal favorite & Why?
Some of my favorites would include “Teeth,” “In Control,” and the Halloween-themed piece I did for Naked Girls Reading. I felt those all had some strong inspiration behind them and lately I’ve been using those pieces to represent my work overall.

CKD: What obstacles have you overcome, or not, in pursuit of your passion?
My art professors in college flat-out told us, in no uncertain terms, that doing popular/comic/fantasy art was not going to get us anywhere in the art world and that wasn’t the type of stuff we should be doing. Apparently we were supposed to spend our lives painting fruit. It was very discouraging. I’m happy I didn’t listen.

The first tattoo shop I worked at was not very busy, and I was making barely enough to live — especially while I was apprenticing. I had just left my graphic design job, and I wasn’t tattooing full-time yet, so I depleted my savings just paying my rent and eating. For a few years after that, I scraped by and would often take home as little as 25 bucks a day. Or nothing. It wasn’t until I got up the nerve to talk to the folks at a new shop with some well-known talent — which I didn’t think I was good enough for, but they proved me wrong by hiring me on the spot! — that I moved to a better, busier environment, which allowed me to grow as an artist and live comfortably and happily.

The only other obstacle I’ve really struggled with is my own self-confidence. I’m pretty hard on myself and hold myself to a high standard, and rarely meet it. I pick apart everything I do and see all the flaws, but I consider that discipline, and I try to learn from it and constantly improve.

Nowadays, my only other obstacle is the fact that there aren’t more hours in a day and I don’t have the time to do everything I want!

CKD: Did you ever have any formal schooling in art? Where? When? Degree?
Of course I took all the art classes I could throughout school until I graduated high school in 1992. I majored in art in the University system for a while, and somehow jumped through enough hoops to end up with a general associate of arts and sciences degree in 1995. Then I attended a technical college and got a degree in printing and publishing in early 1998. I kind of  combined those two into a graphic design career for six years until I started tattooing and got my focus back on making actual art.

CKD: what’s your opinion of the lowbrow art movement?
I’ve been a big fan of it for a lot of years, and there are a lot of artists in that scene that I really admire, but it seems to be getting to the point where the lowbrow movement is becoming pretty highbrow. Now it’s just modern art. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, because on one hand it’s great that these artists and their work are getting higher-profile exposure, but on the other hand, it sort of loses its identity as an underground art movement. It feels less accessible to me.

CKD: would you ever teach art?
I don’t think I’d teach art itself, but I’ve never understood why there wasn’t a course that taught students how to make a career out of their art. They’ll teach you to draw and paint and sculpt, but they don’t teach you how to make money with those skills. At least in my experience, they’d turn their noses up at commercial artists and illustrators, as if what they do somehow isn’t real art, or “fine“ art; but then, nobody gives you tips on putting together a portfolio, or teaches you how the gallery system works. I’d teach something like that, and tell my students that it’s okay to use your skills to make money. Artistic integrity is great and all, but it doesn’t pay the mortgage.

CKD: Tell us a career high point:
My “Knockout!” solo show in 2008 was pretty memorable, as was selling work at the Dirty Show; but honestly, I’m just getting started and the best is yet to come. I have much higher high points planned!

CKD: any art awards or gallery exhibits, shows etc?
I’ve been very fortunate to take part in a number of group exhibits over the years, including four times in the Dirty Show in Detroit. I had a solo show back in 2008, and I’m hoping to put together another one in the next few years. I somehow manage to sneak my stuff into 2-3 shows a year. Of course I’m always looking for more opportunities.

CKD tell us a quick funny story related to your career:
One Saturday morning, I was up early, working on a painting of a particularly sexy pinup girl who was wearing a corset and stockings. I had not based this particular pinup’s design on anyone in particular, it was just a character off the top of my head. Our little girl, who was 7 years old at the time, had woken up for the morning and came downstairs in her jammies, and came up to me and asked “whatcha doing?” I answered, “painting a picture.” She said “cool,” and watched me for about a minute. Then she said “Looks like Mom,” and walked out.

CKD: What subject matter do your fans desire the most from you?
People seem to react best to my pieces that incorporate elements of fantasy: girls with robots, girls with monsters, girls with ridiculous costumes in impossible situations. I guess that’s the kind of stuff cartoons are made for!

CKD: What special projects, vendors, or celebrities have you worked with?
Mostly in the burlesque scene. You can find my cartoons in every issue of Bachelor Pad Magazine. I do a lot of artwork for the original, Chicago-based Naked Girls Reading, run by burlesque superstar and Miss Exotic World 2005, Michelle L’amour. One of the pieces I did recently for them was for their annual “Naked Girls Rock” event, when I totally re-created the cover of the KISS album “Destroyer,” but with naked girls. I even made a pop-up cake topper for their second birthday bash earlier this year. And I just helped out with the new logo for the New Orleans Burlesque Festival. I’m always up for a fun project.

CKD:  Any t-shirts, fine art, covers, music, film or merchandise? What?
Art prints, sketchbooks, pins, and tattoo flash are available on my website. I have a few limited-edition t-shirts on there too. I did have a ton of different t-shirts available on my site for a long time, but have since retired the line because it was just getting old. I’m hoping to do a new line someday soon. I actually just did  my first album cover right now for a friend’s record label, and it’ll be pressed on vinyl, so I’m pretty excited about that.

CKD: Where can readers get your work or merch?
There’s lots of stuff available to order right on my website at http://www.krushervision.com. I usually set up shop at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend every June in Las Vegas too, and I’d like to do more burlesque, comic or tattoo conventions too.

CKD: What do you feel sets your work apart from other artists/peers in your field?
I guess I try to have a style that looks classic, but is somehow something you haven‘t seen before. People have told me that my stuff is unique because it’s cute and cartoony, but still sexy and sensual at the same time, and that it could have come out of a ’50s men’s magazine. Which is great, because that’s what I’m going for.

CKD: Favorite bands? What’s in your stereo?
I seriously have the most eclectic musical tastes ever. My record collection has everything from Dean Martin to Devo to Dimmu Borgir. I’m primarily a metalhead, but I like old blues like Big Bill Broonzy and Leadbelly, swing/lounge stuff like Frank and Dean and Sammy, old jazz like Charlie Parker and Sidney Bechet, classic rock and metal like KISS, Black Sabbath, and Queen, Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, rockabilly, ‘80s metal, death and black metal. I never really know what I’ll be in the mood for at any given moment so I’ve got a little of almost everything.

CKD: What do you do for fun?
Watch old movies and cartoons, collect and play videogames (everything from Pong to PS3, consoles and full-size arcade machines), and I love to travel with my wife. We visit New Orleans 2-3 times a year, and try to get to someplace new every year too.

CKD whose art do you collect?
I like to collect my friends’ art, actually, but I really want to get more into buying original art. I’d love an original Shag, and something from tattoo artist Jeff Gogue, just off the top of my head. It’d be cool to get some original Jack Kirby comic art, or something drawn by Chuck Jones or Tex Avery or John Kricfalusi, and I think I’d drop dead where I stand for an original C.C. Beck drawing of Captain Marvel from the ‘40s. I also love vintage movie posters, and have a few of them on the walls at home.

CKD: what’s your favorite color? Why?
Black, of course — it goes with everything, right?

Optional: (Remember we are a retro car culture magazine too)
CKD: Favorite old skool car or motorcycle?
Do you have one?
My wife and I would love to get a classic car or two, but we don’t have one yet. She really wants a Nash Metropolitan, and a Bel Air — especially since our street address is 59 Bellaire, so we need a ‘59 Bel Air to go with the house!

CKD: Words of Wisdom or inspiration for upcoming/young artists or art students?
Just stick with what you love and eventually you’ll get what you’re looking for out of it. And never, ever stop studying and learning.

CKD: Your motto or philosophy?
See directly above!

CKD: What’s the secret to your happiness?
I’m just happy when I can lose myself in my work, and I’m really firing on all cylinders, and the end result makes other people happy. Also, bacon cheeseburgers.

CKD Future plans?
I have a ridiculous amount of things I want to do in addition to making art: I’d love to do films, animation, book and magazine publishing, a new line of t-shirts, vinyl figures, live events, festivals, all of it. I love the idea of expanding my company, Krushervision Art Industries, into other areas. I wanna be the Richard Branson of girlie cartoons.

Unrelated to pinups, I’ve also been working on a kids’ book on and off for about six years, and have ideas for one or two more. I should probably get around to finishing that.

CKD: Famous Last Words in one sentence:
I will, in all likelihood, die by getting stepped on by Godzilla, so my last words will probably be “YEEAAARRRGGHH!!”

CKD your website info:
www.krushervision.com

CKD Any special thanks to be listed?
My wife Christina for keeping me in line and being not only my inspiration but also my biggest fan, everyone who I’ve worked with on projects, my coworkers at Oshkosh Tattoo, everyone who likes my stuff, and obviously you guys at Ol’ Skool Rodz/Car Kulture Deluxe magazine for giving me some space!

What Moebius taught me.

(Original blog post March 10, 2012 – 227 views)

So it’s 1990, I’m 15 or 16. I’ve decided that I wanna be a comic book artist someday. I’m pretty good at drawing superheroes, I’ve learned a lot from the classic tome How To Draw Comics the Marvel Way. I’m getting the hang of anatomy, pencilling and inking, line weight, composition, stuff like that. By this age, I’ve gotten a taste of some of some of the more bold and stylish artists like Frank Miller and Bill Sienkiewicz, and my mind is open to new things. I just got the latest issue of a magazine about comics, I think it was called Comics Scene or something like that. Then I open it up, and the first thing I see, printed full-page, is this:

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And then my head exploded.

What the hell IS this, I thought? Who drew it? Why is Iron Man so…organic? Asymmetrical? Why is his costume not quite right, kind of ugly, and yet I can’t stop looking at it?

The magazine quickly told me that the French artist Moebius was about to release a new series of posters of Marvel superheroes. Up until then, I was only vaguely aware of the name. I knew he had a series of large-format graphic novel collections put out by Epic/Marvel. But, considering that I couldn’t stop studying and staring at that image of Iron Man, Moebius was immediately and permanently stamped on my radar.

At the next opportunity, I picked up the first collection, Upon A Star. It was amazing.

The first thing that struck me was that his comic art, though stylistically similar to his paintings of the Marvel heroes, was much simpler. His linework was simple, but he could tell you so much with a minimum number of lines. There was detail, but not too much; you could fill in the blanks effortlessly yourself just based on what little information he gave you. If he drew a scene of a vast planetscape or an alien metropolis packed with organically-shaped skyscrapers, his line weight was almost uniform throughout, yet there was no question how near or far each object was to your eye.

The revelation: I finally understood what “less is more” meant, and realized that you don’t need to draw a lot of lines as long as you make each line mean something.

Of course, over time I learned more about his past work with Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal magazine, his work on films such as Tron, and when the two-issue Silver Surfer miniseries (drawn by Moebius and written by Stan Lee) came out, I was on top of it. Regrettably, I never got the rest of those now-long-out-of-print collections in the Epic series (jeebus, look at those used prices on Amazon), so I have not absorbed anywhere near as much of his work as I should have.

This morning, Moebius passed away in Paris. This is the second posthumous tribute to beloved artists I’ve made in a week. I should really make it a point to talk about my favorites more often, while they’re still with us.

Ralph McQuarrie, 1929-2012

(Original blog post March 4, 2012 – 234 views)

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Ralph McQuarrie was not really an influence on my art.

A master of his craft? You bet. A visionary? Hell yes. A favorite artist of mine? Absolutely.

But I cannot say that his work was an artistic influence. I’ve studied it, definitely learned a thing or two about composition and light from it. But it didn’t make me want to do what he did.

I can’t.

Ralph McQuarrie had a command of the technical aspects of art that I could never grasp. His work has a precision that I wouldn’t even begin to attempt. I once saw footage of him at work — it might have been on one of those old “Making of Star Wars” VHS tapes from the early ’80s — as he whipped off panel lines on an X-wing fighter by running his paintbrush along a ruler held above his illustration board, and it was clean and perfect in a way I didn’t even know was possible.

That, coupled with the confidence with which he worked — which shows through in each piece of Star Wars concept art we’ve ever seen published, and there are hundreds — made Ralph McQuarrie practically untouchable for me as an artist, ever since I first became aware of him at the early age of 6-ish. Around 1980, when Empire Strikes Back came out, my Mom bought me the official behind-the-scenes magazine of the movie. It showed lots of candid shots of the actors, the model builders creating miniatures, and of course, preliminary concept art by McQuarrie and Joe Johnston, whose names I learned and remembered. It was then that I began to understand the creative process, the way things are first conceived and then move through an evolution, before they become a finished product. Some of McQuarrie’s paintings looked somewhat different from the final images we saw in the films, but of course, what he’s known for is actually how closely his concepts were stuck to in the actual production.

So, until I can pull off an illustration of an epic scene of a stunt fighter blasting its way through a phantasmagorical alien world and make you believe it’s real, I can’t really say that Ralph McQuarrie influenced my art too much (at least, my style). But he was one of the first teachers I ever had, and there aren’t too many artists I respect more than him. Thank you, Ralph.