Friday, September 6, 2013

Play Ball!

         I'm always amazed by ballplayers who can play multiple positions - and it seems they always play them well. You never see a defensive lineman stepping in for a quarterback or a point guard taking over for the center. But in baseball, the shortstop playing 3rd or the first baseman backing out to right field is not uncommon. Buster Posey plays a mean first base for a catcher! I find this skilled versatility downright fascinating. One would think that to be even a decent first baseman, you'd have to field the ball a million times in a million different scenarios to and from and involving first base. This often takes years to master, so to do that with multiple positions - there just aren't enough years! I can only figure that a ballplayer who is good at fielding multiple positions has not mastered his position so much as he has mastered his game. He is an athlete through and through, imagining and visualizing the millions of play scenarios to and from and involving every blade of grass or cloud of chalk dust. I imagine a visual diagram of his brain looks something like the Delta Airlines global route map. It's exhausting, really.
         I love baseball, but I don't play. I play art. So to relate this concept to the arts at times simply makes me want to throw my arms in the air and exclaim "ARE you KIDDING me?!?!" (Oh, you can play Rhapsody in Blue on the piano and the flute? How nice.) Particularly as I delve further into the animation arts, I am blown away at the ability of some of these artists who can bust out a phenomenal plein air painting of a hillside at sunset, design a hilariously slobbery monster, then knock out a fantastic sequence of storyboards while doodling the most realistic watercolor of a blueberry anyone's ever seen on the side for fun. This sort of nonsense borders on Bo Jackson-ness and I won't have it!
          Among the many gems of advice offered to me by Daniela and Jen of Pixar, one was agreed on by both - that if I want to get in the P-gate some day, I should choose one aspect of animation art and get really really good at it, gearing my portfolio toward that one thing - become a good first baseman. But then Jen piped in and mentioned working with strengths. I have a great deal of graphic design experience. She pointed out that I could potentially have an edge if I were to apply as a graphic designer in that I understand story and have drawing skills. So, wait. This means I'm a decent catcher already. So do I become a GREAT catcher? Do I become a better catcher and a good 1st baseman? Do I have it in me to pull a Posey and become a GREAT 1st baseman and catcher? Does the fact that my great grandfather was a heavy hitter in the Pacific Coast minors known as "Buster Orrock" improve my chances? Oy.
         Needless to say, when I'm not working one of my three jobs, I am somehow attempting to draw every single day AND design every single day. For the sake of my sanity, I have surrendered to the self-made rule that it can be anything. I should just draw anything in whatever medium is at hand. If anyone out there knows someone with tons of money who'd like to pay me to improve my skills with acrylic on Mondays, pastels on Tuesdays, color on Wednesdays, light on Thursdays and so on, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll have to settle for my dinky watercolors and the apple tree in my backyard.
Luckily, I live in a beautiful place with plenty to sketch!
         How I'll find time to design amazing things WHILE drawing amazing things becomes overwhelming - until I remember the ballplayer who has mastered his game. I'm not a great artist, but I'm an artist through and through. I knew the Nine Old Men roster before I ever knew a team roster or the names of the newest boy band (please keep in mind I am in no form attempting to brag here. How I wasn't bullied or totally outcast for my dorkiness in school, I'll never know). My favorite painting as a kid was a background painting of a pool table corner pocket from Pinocchio. Many artists learn by copying the masters - DaVinci, Michelangelo. I copied the drawings and cel layouts of Milt Kahl, Ollie Johnston, Ward Kimball, Marc Davis. I sat at the kitchen table and drew with a 91-year-old Arthur Davis for an entire day when I was twelve - it was the most starstruck I've ever been (and I've partied with Matt Damon & Ben Affleck and sat next to Mos Def on the plane, so I've had opportunities, people!).
         I've studied this game my whole life. Now I just have to get good at playing it.
So, to visually aide our metaphorical journey, I am providing you with some recent sketches!
A little illustration I did for my friends, Peter and Jenny, who just had a baby boy, Milo. The pencilled lines you see at the top eventually held text (as though this were a page from a children's book - and it kind of is. I have sketched out the dummy for a bird/ballpark book...). The text reads "'My, oh my!', said Milo Moody to his mommy, 'the mound!'. His papa, Peter, was positively perplexed...'Penguins?! Penguins on the pitcher's plate?!'". Ta Da!

Playing around and sketching out a few ideas for items
in my story that would require designing. Pop played
for the Vallejos, just playing with logo ideas. Threw some
of my ballplayer character sketches on the program sketch.
LOVING looking at old 1940s baseball programs.
Such classic design.

Again, playing with design. Started sketching out ideas for
an old Napa County Fair poster but they all looked
too generic. This quick sketch happened when the idea sprung
 - put the family on the poster! I'm imagining a war-era aesthetic
with grainy saturated colors. Can't wait.

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