"I don't know what it is that I like about you, but I like it a lot.", goes part of the opening lyrics to Led Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown. A lyric on the tongues of boys and men throughout the ages.
I'll readily admit, I'm not the biggest Led Zeppelin fan, but a handful of their songs, Black Dog, Rock and Roll, and of course, Communication Breakdown really cook... I mean "roll down the car window and crank it" cook. (Sorry Stairway to Heaven, but radio killed you in my heart and mind).
Released in 1969 (we're talking 47 plus freakin' years ago people), on their debut album, Communication Breakdown is pretty basic lyric wise... a tribute to un-verbalized love. Unfortunately, in our singer's case, this seems to be the norm, per the lyrics "...It's always the same I'm having a nervous breakdown..."
Various sources on the web (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_Breakdown & http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=301) attribute Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown" as an influence. I never thought of that before, but after repeated listens of each song, it makes sense. Someone had to be a guitar idol for Jimmy Page, right ? Another interesting side note is that this is one of the few Zeppelin songs in which Jimmy Page is credited with a backing vocal.
And yes, I know the quote in the design is from Zeppelin's other song "Houses of the Holy"... but it fit what I was trying to convey.... it could have been worse, I could have used a quote from a Justin Bieber song.
I'm continuing my reborn love affair with Photoshop, and exploring water color brushes. Hopefully it's not too small to see, but I did use some "halftone" brushes from my recent purchase from Kyle Webster (https://gumroad.com/kyletwebster). Please note... that is not a "paid for" sales pitch. I just like to share good resources with my fellow artists. While I admire the numerous water color inspired designs I find by other artists, I'm trying to develop my own style and look as well. I don't know if this is how other artists work, but I started applying different brush effects on separate layers, playing with the brush settings, etc. One thing I did here that I really like for now, is applying a "splatter" brush on top of the water color brush (again on a separate layer).
That's it for this installment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Thanks for being here, I truly appreciate it.
Released in 1978, on The Kink's album Misfits, "A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" is the culmination of several events happening at the time, both inside and outside The Kink's universe. Two of the band members, bassist Andy Pyle and pianist John Gosling quit the band during the recording of Misfits. Drummer Mick Avory was also considering leaving. This most likely contributed to the lyric "...you say you want out, want to start anew, throw in your hand, break up the band, start a new life, be a new man"
The second event that effected the writing was the death of Elvis Presely in 1977, just prior to "A Rock n Roll Fantasy" 's release. "You say we've got nothing left to prove. The King is dead, rock is done..."
The song peaked at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.m the band's best charting American single since 1970's "Lola." - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Rock_'n'_Roll_Fantasy
I'm continuing my exploration and learning curve of Photoshop with this series. The addition of a new, faster, Mac with a lot more storage, makes this much easier, as well as enjoyable. I had avoided working in Photoshop for a long time due to my older Mac's limitations working with newer versions of software (it was 9 years old.... ancient in Mac graphics terms). I'm also still fascinated by a lot of water color simulated artwork I'm seeing on the web, and trying to adapt that look into my work. I'm striving for a more mature look, and I think I'm getting there. Two tool sets that I'm currently enjoying working with that help with that process are sets of Photoshop brushes.. https://www.kylebrush.com which I cannot recommend highly enough. The owner, Kyle Webster is a class act, and his products are incredibly affordable in addition to being addictive and useful . The other is Grutbrushes.com . Another fun and very versatile set of brushes.
With that said, I hope you enjoy this installment of the MartyToons newsletter. If so, do me a favor, if you'd be so kind... know a music junkie who'd appreciate this ? Turn them onto it... I'd really appreciate it. AND.... if you have a favorite song with some really great lyrics that you'd like to see me tackle... pass 'em my way for some consideration for future installments. Until then...as Ray suggests, if you ever feel the world is closing in, turn your stereo way up high. - till next time, keep on rockin' - Marty
Okay, to call I Can See Clearly Now a classic rock is a bit of a stretch, I'll admit, but it is a classic Pop
Rock song. Since this is the start of a new year, the song's message of hope and perseverance, makes it an appropriate selection for the first edition of 2017.
Released in 1972, Johnny Nash's I Can See Clearly Now reached number one on the billboard charts and stayed there for four weeks. The lyrics relate the singer's elation after overcoming "obstacles" that have hindered his path to happiness. It's never stated, but I like to imagine that, like a lot of us, the singer was seeking his purpose in life, some answers to why he's here and what he's supposed to be doing. The song isn't about the journey itself, it's about seeing the answer(s) on the not to distant horizon, within grasp.
The song is also credited by some as giving the US population it's first general exposure to reggae music. (http://www.allmusic.com/song/i-can-see-clearly-now-mt0034212200). I never noticed before researching this, but the song does have more than a touch of reggae influence. Numerous references on the internet report Johnny Nash spending an extensive period of time prior to recording I Can See Clearly Now, in Jamaica, where he recorded and wrote songs with a still yet to be famous Bob Marley. He had originally travelled to Jamaica to work in the movie, Take A Giant Step with Burt Lancaster.
Perhaps almost as famous, is the Jimmy Cliff cover version, released 1993 for the John Candy movie, Cool Running, about the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. Others who covered the song include, Anne Murray, Bobby Goldsboro, Dobie Gray of Drift Away fame (who for some reason, I often confuse with Johnny Nash), Ray Charles, and Richie Havens. Various versions of the song also appear in such films as Grosse Pointe Blank, The Break-up, Thelma & Louise, Antz, and Deep Blue Sea.
So as this first month of the new year starts to disappear, I hope the answers you may be seeking are within your horizon. If they're not, I hope you're on the path to finding them soon. Until next time, I leave you with a link to Johnny Nash singing his hit song. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pSsqWHtg7Ig
Smooth sailing, and keep on rocking' - Marty
"Snoopy's Christmas" is one of my favorite guilty pleasures (a close second to the Monkees, but that's a post for another day). The first time I remember hearing it was way back in the mid 60's when I was in elementary school... somewhere between first and fourth grade. It's message of peace is shared by so many other Christmas songs, but it's jangly Rickenbacker-ish (for all you guitar nerds out there) 60's garage rock vibe is what makes it so enjoyable.
Performed by The Royal Guardsmen in 1967, a six-piece from Ocala,Florida, and signed to Laurie Records. Almost 50 years later, "Snoopy's Christmas" enjoys oldies Christmas Rock status. A followup to the Royal Guardsmen's earlier "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron", the song is about how Snoopy had fought the Red Baron in an ariel battle on Christmas Eve during World War 1, and is forced to land behind enemy lines. Instead of disposing of our hero, the Red Baron offers Snoopy a holiday toast instead, and salutes Snoopy with a "Merry Christmas my friend !"
The song is based on a legitimate historical event. In 1914, "The Christmas Truce" was initiated by German soldiers as a good will gesture to the English troops that they were fighting with in opposing trenches. the truce varied in length in close by different locations, some as brief as Christmas Day and some as long as the week between Christmas and New Year's Day. Small accessable gifts were exchanged across the lines, between the opposing sides. " - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snoopy's_Christmas & http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4085
I'm digging into my archive of designs for this edition. The rapidly approaching Christmas season is having me scramble on many fronts, as I'm sure it is for all of you, so I'll keep this edition brief. I'm posting one of my personal favorite original designs, which was actually inspired by a classic rock song. This particular holiday season, the song's essential message seems especially appropriate as well. I hope you enjoy...
Recorded in 1971 for his Teaser and the Firecat album, Peace Train would become one of Cat Steven's ( aka Yusuf Islam), most popular songs. One of numerous "protest" songs during that era, Peace Train offers a vision of hope and promise, for a time of war and uncertainty. It's only call to action is to believe in, and pursue peace. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be an end of times when that vision isn't needed. Despite whatever side of the fence your beliefs and situation find you, perhaps you can find hope in the song's lyrics "For out on the edge of darkness, There runs the peace train"
Peace Train would reach #7 on the Billboard charts during the week of October 9, 1971, becoming Stevens' first US Top 10 hit. -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peace_Train
THE DESIGN: This was done completely in Adobe Illustrator over a period of several months. I can't remember the exact details, but I think it started just as a random sketch, and it grew over time, working on it here and there as I had time. The train imagery came first... I think at the time I was focusing on creating art that would be appropriate for really young children. The design has a very obvious Peter Max influence, which is on purpose. I love Peter Max's style and I just let that happen. Oddly, I added the Peace symbol to the train while in Peter Max mode, and the Peace Train connection just hit me. It was a Homer Simpson moment.... DOH !
As always, I hope you like it, and if you know any fans of good music and fun art inspired by said good music, please share this with them. I'm going to try and squeeze one more edition out before Christmas, a special Christmas edition, featuring one of my all time favorite "rock" Christmas songs... it's vintage, it's classic (in my eyes), and I'll bet you'll never guess what it is, but I guarantee it'll bring a smile to your face.
In closing, let me leave you with a video of the man himself performing Peace Train at his induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, in 2014 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HExjPn547Z0
Recorded & released in December, 1966 by Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Still's iconic song is largely misinterpreted. Assumed by many to be a protest song fueled by the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, the song's origin is from a much smaller and local uprising.
Stills wrote the song in response to imposed curfews on the Sunset Strip. The numerous "night/music" clubs on the strip, including the famous Whiskey a Go Go, (where Buffalo Springfield had become the house band) had been attracting large amounts of the local youth, and the local businesses and residents had started to become increasingly annoyed. The actual closing of one of the clubs, Pandora's Box, resulted in a staged "funeral" for the club, and close to 1,000 demonstrators took part. The "event" eventually turned into a small scale riot, resulting in clashes with law enforcement, and the arrest of numerous protestors. - http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=3035
Some other quick facts about the song:
"For What It's Worth" would eventually be covered by such diverse acts as, Cher, The Staples Singers (I'd love to hear that version), Ann Wilson of Heart, Ozzy Osbourne, and drumroll please.. Sergio Mendez & Brazil '66 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/For_What_It's_Worth_(Buffalo_Springfield_song)
It's very easy and tempting to draw parallels between the assumed origin of "For What's It's Worth", and our current political / social climate, but I'll resist, and leave that to you if you so desire.
Recorded by the legendary Howlin' Wolf ( aka Chester Burnett) in 1956 on Chess Records, "Smokestack Lightning" is an early rock/blues classic. Howlin' Wolf said his inspiration to write the song came from watching trains in the night: "We used to sit out in the country and see the trains go by, watch the sparks come out of the smokestack. That was smokestack lightning."
The musicians joining Howlin' Wolf on Smokestack Lightning, included guitarists Willie Johnson, Hubert Sumlin, bassist Willie Dixon, and drummer Earl Phillips. While perhaps "unknown" at time of the recording, the revered status of these musicians, in todays musical circles, would certainly grant this lineup the status of Super Group.
Sparse on meaningful lyrics, Smokestack Lightning is more recognized for it's animalistic, primal tone and flavor. Whether it is mournful, passionate, aggressive or predatory is for each listener to decide. The song, along with several other blues standards, would become a performance staple in the early careers of English Blues bands, and would end up in the catalogs of a who's who of rock-n-roll, including The Animals, The Yardbirds, George Thorogood, and Aerosmith.
Smokestack Lightning's status as an iconic and influentional song is cemented by it's inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame list of the "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll" and in 2009, it was selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry of the U.S.Library of Congress. - courtesy of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smokestack_Lightning
I'm continuing to flex and discover my Photoshop muscles. I'm still infatuated by the "watercolor" effect I see alot of my fellow artists use online. There's an excitement in "playing" and experimenting with Photoshop's various tools and settings, that I'm not familiar with. For now, it's fun for me to have a general direction I want to take a design, and try to find the tools that will help me get there. It's even more fun when I tool I'm using, helps me find a new direction that I enjoy even more.
The original sketch for this was created on my iPad using ArtRage. Once I had a good sense for what I wanted, I imported that into Adobe Illustrator, where I created just the black line art. That in turn, was imported into Photoshop, where all the color work was done.
I hope you like. Please feel free to comment, and if you have a music, art fan in your life, that you feel may enjoy this, please share.... even better, ask them to subscribe to the newsletter... who know, it'll give you something to talk about after you both get a chance to look it over.
Thanks again for stopping by. I really appreciate it.
Recorded and released in 1956, "Who Do You Love ?" is an iconic Rock-n-Roll standard, written by Ellas McDaniel, more commonly known as Bo Diddley. Regarded as one of Bo Diddley's strongest lyrical efforts, "Who Do You Love ?" uses numerous voodoo related images. It is believed the title itself is actually a play on words, referring to HooDoo, an African American religion, which has origins in West Africa, similar to Voodoo. Released on Checker Records, a subsidiary of Chess Records, "Who Do You Love failed to reach the record charts, until it was re-released on Bo Diddley's first compilation of hits in 1958, according to Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Do_You_Love%3F_(Bo_Diddley_song)
According to Songfacts.com, http://forum.songfacts.com/index.php?/topic/10582-meaning-of-lyrics-who-do-you-love/ , some of the obscure yet fascinatingly descriptive lyrics can be translated this way... " for the 47 miles of barbed wire. It means he's been in jail a long time, walking outside in a courtyard surrounded by barbed wire for half an hour per day, at the most." "An 'ice wagon' was also slang for a hearse, or the ambulance that picked up a dead body."
Considered a classic among many rock artists, "Who Do You Love ?", would be recorded by numerous iconic rock stars, including, Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks (aka The Band), Quicksilver Messenger Service, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.
One final footnote, and also according to wikipedia, Rolling Stone magazine ranked "Who Do You Love" at number 133 on it's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time". In 2010, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences acknowledged it with a Grammy Hall of Fame Award, which "honor[s] recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance."
This started as a sketch on my ipad, using my go to app, ArtRage. I laid down the colors I felt I wanted to go with, and when I was semi satisfied with it, I imported it to my iMac, recreated the line art in Adobe Illustrator, imported that into Photoshop as a smart object and used it for my line art layer.
I used some water color brushes to lay down the type of background I wanted, and also to search and find the water color brushes that I would use for the rest of the painting. As I worked on it, I found various objects in the line art that I wanted to change, or that I felt needed re-working, particularly the Cobra head. In the original sketch it didn't look enough like a cobra. At first it didn't bother me, but the more I looked at it, the more I felt it needed to be fixed. Once you start thinking like that, you need to listen to the voices in your head.
I also decided early on, not to paint the background with any amount of detail. I wanted the character to be the focal point of the design. I felt keeping in just shades of one color would be a good way to do that. What do you guys think ?
As always, I look forward to your comments. If you think you know someone that may enjoy this, please share...http://www.martytoons.com/newsletter
Thanks... talk to ya next time.
I found very little information on line regarding the history of Chuck Berry's song, Hail Hail Rock n-Roll. Google will provide numerous links to the Chuck Berry documentary with the same title (a very interesting film by Talyor Hackford, featuring a much younger Keith Richards, check it out if you get the chance). But I can only assume the song is one of the 26 singles Chuck Berry released between 1955 and 1962, on Chess Records, according to Gibson.com http://www.gibson.com/News-Lifestyle/Features/en-us/hail-hail-chuck-berry-invents-rock-0726-2012.aspx . An educated guess is that due to the fact that songwriting back then may not have been as introspective as it would become in the next few years, a history per se, just doesn't exist. Maybe Chuck just needed a song and he slapped this together, like many others of that era. That's not to say it isn't a good song, many great songs have been written quickly. Chuck Berry's library of hit songs is iconic at the very least. With that said, Hail Hail Rock n Roll simply seems to be about one teen's dreary day at school, simply watching the clock until he (or she) can hit street and head "right to the juke joint" and dance that days's blues away. That's good enough for me... it is rock and roll after all.
I have to be honest, the more I look at last week's post, the more I'm dissatisfied with it. It looks rushed, and very unpolished. I wanted to avoid that this week, so I decided to dust off Photoshop and see what I could do. It's been awhile since I did anything intensive in Photoshop, so I really just explored alot as I was working. I've been looking for a more a layered, textured look for some of my designs, and I believe I came close to what I was looking for here.
The first thing I did, was rough out the initial design in my sketchbook, and lay down some colored pencils, for what would become my guide when I brought it into my Mac. Those of you who follow me on Instagram (@martytoons) may have seen this as one of my recent posts.
The next thing I did was create the black line art in Illustrator, using the pencil sketch as a template. I imported the .ai file into Photoshop, and then used a ton of layers to color, shade, and add detail. For almost the entire coloring process, I experimented with various water color brushes until I got the effect I was looking for.
As always, I hope you like this. Please feel free to leave a comment below. I look forward to hearing from you. Until next week, keep Chuck's wise words in mind...
"Long live rock and roll
The beat of the drums, loud and bold
Rock, rock, rock and roll
The feeling is there, body and soul" - Marty
Released in October of 1976, Bob Seger's Main Street is one of my favorite Seger songs to this day. The album Night Moves, from which it comes, began Seger's transition from gutsy blues / soul influenced inner city rocker to his more popular rock-n-roll top 40 hit machine style that would last for another ten plus years.
While the song title is Main Street, the locale of the track itself, is actually a street off of Main Street in downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ann Street, according to various sources, (http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1232 & http://www.songplaces.com/Mainstreet/Ann_Street_Ann_Arbor_Michigan/). The change came, I'm sure, for song flow and listeners being able to relate better to a "Main Street".
The lyrics and haunting music paint a very realistic picture of a grown man looking back at his past, whether it's reminiscing about a lost romance, first love, or a simple reflection on a more innocent time in his life. Whether he is doing so fondly, or forlornly is not answered. The slow rolling piano intro, stays steady throughout, setting the tone for our narrator's hazy dream like look back on his long past romantic interest with the "long lovely dancer in a little club downtown". He's an outsider looking in. Whether that's because he's too young, or because he lacks confidence to fully enter into the smokey world of the hustlers and the losers that he watches through the glass, is left unanswered as well. A simple Google can answer that, but that would wipe away from some of the "feel" of the song.
I jumped back to digital art for this one for a few reasons....
1) Time constraints... I started the sketch for this in the ArtRage app on my ipad, while I was away from my studio, and while I was at home but in a different room doing other things. The best reason for artists to own an iPad in my opinion. (Apple, you can send my endorsement check to.....)
2) I wanted to NOT get rusty with the ArtRage program as well... like any software, the longer you don't use it, the more you forget how to use it. Graphics software especially, is filled with so many tools and settings, that it's easy to forget where and what they are if you don't use them frequent enough.
3) Bit map based art programs like ArtRage, (and Photoshop ) allow me to add a texture quality to my designs that aren't as easy to add in vector programs such as Illustrator.
4) and for all you fontaholics out there, in case you're wondering, the font I used to set Mr. Seger's lyrics into the design, is Artful Beauty, which you can find here... https://creativemarket.com/PhotographyLogos/403350-Artful-Beauty-brush-font
That's it for this week kids. I hope you enjoyed it. As always, feel free to leave a comment below, let me know what you think.
Thanks for taking a minute to stop by. - Marty
THE SONG: Originally written as "White Collar Worker" for Randy Bachman's previous band the Guess Who (according to Soundfacts.com), Takin' Care of Business was dismissed by the band for sounding to similar to The Beatles "Paperback Writer" and it sat on a shelf until The Guess Who disbanded.
Released in 1973 on Bachman Turner Overdrive's second album, a re-worked "Takin' Care of Business" dominated the Rock-n-Roll charts and airwaves almost immediately. At first glance, it can seem to be a slacker's anthem, boasting about "working at nothing all day" and sticking it in the face of the typical 9 to 5 working person. I, personally, don't believe that's what it's about at all.
A closer look at the lyrics show a closer look into the actual working life of a musician, artist, photographer, painter, dancer, (insert your self employed creative position here.)
"Taking care of business every day
Taking care of business every way
I've been taking care of business, it's all mine
Taking care of business and working overtime
While punching a clock and showing up to an office aren't required, the self employed creative has to work just as hard, if not harder, than the typical commuting office worker. In the creative's case, their craft is thier product, (songs, pictures, designs, shows, etc)... no product... no income, so it's a constant hustle, between marketing, manufacturing and selling. I believe that's what Randy Bachman is saying, in a self defense, tongue in cheek kind of way.
I was unaware of this until I researched this song, but there's an urban myth regarding a pizza delivery guy playing the piano on Takin' Care of Business. Accoring to Snopes.com, Randy Bachman himself has verified this story on multiple occasions. Randy Bachman's brother Robbie, however gives a slightly different version. Robbie's version states that the piano player (Norman Durkee), was already in the studio, playing on a session for Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle". According to Norman Durkee, (the piano player himself in a 2010 interview, he was actually recording music for commercials.. came in as a favor to BTO's engineer, whipped off the needed piano part, and had to hustle back to his commercials due to time constraints. He didn't even have time to listen to the finished track.
Colored pencils... sketchbook, slight, very slight adjustments in Photoshop. The sketch itself took approximately 20-30 minutes to rough out. Coloring took about another 45 minutes. I'm sticking to just sketches for the newsletter for now. This, along with some of the others, may be developed further for another project (s), I haven't really decided yet. I hope you like, and as always, feel free to post a comment below. See ya next week. - Marty
One of the more "heavier" songs to come out of the Steve Miller songbook, "Space Cowboy" often gets confused with one of his most popular song, The Joker, due to the fact that the Joker lyrics reference both the terms Space Cowboy, and Gangster of Love from "Space Cowboy" in it's first two verses, four years after "Space Cowboy" was recorded.
Released on The Steve Miller Band's third album, Brave New World, in 1969, Space Cowboy borrows it's primary guitar riff from The Beatles Lady Madonna, which (according to Wikipedia), may have had something to do with Paul McCartney singing background vocals on "My Dark Hour" and "Celebration Song", two other songs on the Brave New World album.
"Space Cowboy" features a heavy bass line, and has more groove in it than the more popular Steve Miller songs, such as "Fly Like An Eagle", "The Joker" and "Rock n Me". It expresses the singer's desire to escape the elitism of society, along with the empty promises that come along with it. If you're even a casual fan of Steve Miller's music, I highly recommend giving this song a listen. If you're only familiar with his more popular hits, I think you'll be in for a very pleasant funky surprise.
Still working from my sketchbook, and glad I am. I'm finding that I'm able to sketch the rough outlines and concept quicker than working on my ipad, which disappoints a small part of me. For those who don't already know, the main reason I purchased the ipad was to be able to sketch more readily and on the go without hauling around a large sketchbook, and bundles of pencils and markers. The ipad still serves that purpose, but maybe because of the infrequency of being able to use it as much as I'd like lately, the last few sketching attempts felt clunky. I did bring the sketch into Photoshop to add the text however. I also bent the spaceships name to curve along the bottom of the bottom.
I did resist the temptation to add a small caricature of Elton John ala Rocket Man in the background, just as a pun, but thought better of it.
I hope you enjoy this.. and please... if you have a moment, feel free to leave a comment. AND.... if you'd like to suggest a song for me to illustrator, let me know. I'm not promising anything, but I'm always open to suggestions and cool ideas.
Instantly recognizable from it's opening drum beat and power chords, Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting was a rock n roll anthem in the 1970's. Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting was released in 1973 on the Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album, while Elton John was at his peak rock star status. The song only reached #12 on the U.S. Billboard charts, (according to Wikipedia), but received heavy airplay on FM Rock radio stations through the entire 1970s, and was played at countless high school sporting events, practices, and parties. I'm also willing to wager you'll find it on the majority of CLASSIC ROCK CD collections both online and in the big box stores.
The song contains some of Bernie Taupin's most memorable lyrics, "I'm a juvenile product of the working class...", " A couple of the sounds that I really like, are the sounds of a switchblade and motorbike..". Shakespere ? Of course not, it's not even some of Mr. Taupins most eloquent lyrics, but they bounce off each other so well here. It's just a really fun, catchy song. That said, the lyrics in this song that have always stood out to me where, " My Sister looks cute in her braces and boots, a handful of grease in her hair.." really ? I guess in a family where the "old man is drunker than a barrel full of monkeys", greasy hair, braces and boots is a step up. Go figure...
I sketched this in my sketchbook again, as opposed to sketching it digitally on my ipad... I may keep this practice up for awhile as far as the newsletter posts are concerned... it is a different feel, and it's good not to lose that more natural feeling of actual pencil to actual paper. The other plus of working this way this week, is I realize I need to get a heavier duty pen for my line weight. Last week's lines were too heavy, but I think these are just a bit too light... that's what I get for buying a combo pack... every size but what I need. Also, I need to find some type of white marker that will allow me add white highlights on top of my colored pencils... I had to add these highlights digitally in Photoshop, where I also adjusted the colors slightly after I scanned it in.
There it is folks. I hope you like it. Let me know.
Nowhere Man is one of my all time favorite Beatles records. The first time I heard it, was during the late 60's and my family was on one if it's yearly summer treks to Vermont to visit my grandmother and assorted Aunts, Uncles and cousin. If my memory serves me correctly, this was just a few years after it was recorded (1965), so I was about 8 or 9 years old at the time. One of my cousins lived in the house behind my grandmother's and running across the yard to her house was a daily ritual. She, (my cousin) was always on top of what was trendy, and being a Beatles fan, at the height of their careers was no different. She had a ton of 45 records (how many of you remember or even know what they were ?), and a healthy dose of Beatles singles was among them. I can still remember the yellow and orange swirl of the Capitol Records label, but I digress.
To this day, the very beginning of the record is magical to me. John, Paul and George harmonize on the opening verse, and then are joined, first by a single guitar chord, and then the bass and drum together. If you're not a huge music fan, this may not seem like much, but to a music "nerd" like myself, certain musical combinations, like the first 17 seconds of Nowhere Man, are just magical, (yes, I said it again.) Even as a young kid, it was always the melody and music that grabbed my attention first. It wouldn't be until numerous listens later that I would try and get some personal message from the lyrics. In Nowhere Man's case, I just assumed that John was singing about anyone who walks around oblivious to the world around them. A little research proved to be a bit interesting however.
According to Wikipedia, ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nowhere_Man_(song) )and apparently a 1980 issue of Playboy magazine, John Lennon wrote it about himself after a bit of reflection and trying to write songs to fill out the Rubber Soul album. A few years later,also in an issue of Playboy, Paul McCartney confirms this and also cite's Paul's concern regarding Lennon's state of mind during this time.
While the sketch here isn't as introspective as what John Lennon had in mind when he wrote Nowhere Man, I think it's an appropriate visual for how the song may fit in today's society. I'll let you be the judge.
I switched things up a bit here. Instead of working digitally, I got the itch to go back and do some traditional old fashioned sketching, aka pen and paper. So I broke out the sketchbook, my colored pencils and my brand new set of Micron pens. I'm not entirely pleased with how it came out. I think the line art is too thick... I made the first few lines with a much thinner weight, but felt it was too thin. I over compensated though. I also felt very out of practice with the pencils, andI think it shows, especially with the shading. If I decide to something more professional with this, I'll keep that in mind, and also for when I sketch in the future.
I hope you enjoy this, and as always, please feel free to leave a comment.
Thanks for stopping by.
There a lot of songs that will always make me stop what I'm doing and take notice. The Rolling Stones' Sympathy for the Devil is one of them.
Charlie Watts' tribal drums and Mick Jagger's howl, drag you down into it's satanic history lesson, as the Stones musically illustrate the devil's hand in some of the most horrific events through the ages. The pounding piano is hypnotic as it whirls around the bass and drum lines, as the lyrics remind us that evil is in each one of us. If songs could physically wrap themselves around, this would definitely be one of them.
This also was created in ArtRage... first, on my ipad and then brought into ArtRage on my iMac for some finishing touches. I purposely left the sketch lines in. I've done this in the past and it seemed to get more "likes" than usual in the past, so I thought I may keep doing this for awhile for my newsletter sketches. It gives the design a sort of organic feel, which I find interesting.
Two other things I experimented with, I started this on a colored background, instead of white. I saw some of my cartooning peers do this, and I really liked the look, so I decided to play around with that some more. Lastly, I wanted to play with some of the tools in ArtRage that I wouldn't normally use, (Roller, sprinkles, etc), and see what I could do as far as adding a textured background.
I hope you like it. Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
I've loved Leon Russell's Tightrope since I first heard it back in the 70's. I may not have seriously listened to the lyrics back then, but the music was infectious... filled with piano riffs that echoed both a traveling circus and an old black & white silent cartoon jumping back and forth from thumping bass keys to the twirling dancing higher notes. The fact that it was so different from what was being played on Rock FM stations back then is a large part of what made it so appealing to me, and apparently millions (perhaps) of other listeners.
Once my musical tastes matured, some years later, I learned to appreciate the lyrics (and most other lyrics from Leon Russell), as well. He's one of my favorite songwriters because, for me at least, his lyrics paint very vivid images. The lone person on a high wire at the circus is a perfect metaphor for a person in a relationship. Straddling the choices that can result in either pain or pleasure, love and hate, comfort and discontent, their struggle going unnoticed by their partner.. I can only imagine Leon's relationship status when he wrote this.
Now to the art... I created this using Ambient Design's ArtRage app. I sketched it out very very loosely on my ipad and then imported it over to my iMac and breathed new life into with my desktop version of ArtRage. I like it, but I'm not thrilled with it. I see room for improvement, but I'm still learning the program and getting a feel for the tools. I originally wanted to try and see what would happen working just with the pencil tool, but found it too limiting at this time, so I switched back to the paintbrush and watercolor settings, which I'm more familiar with.
I've never been shy about my devotion to the Hanna Barbera cartoons from the 60's, and the huge influence they've had on my work. I think this time period of the Hanna Barbera Studios was the gold standard for humorous TV cartoons, and it has yet to be equaled. I'm sure those whose youth was spent in front of a TV during the decades that followed will disagree with me, but this is my newsletter, not theirs, so there.
Each series had it's star obviously, Yogi Bear, Top Cat, Secret Squirrel, etc, but I always seemed to be drawn to their side kicks. Whether they existed to clean up the star's mess, or suffer the result of the star's dim witted carelessness, they always seemed more interesting to me.
There's a running joke in the cartoon world that features usually non threatening characters becoming threatening for whatever reason... Poodles from Hell, Cereal Killers, When (insert docile character here) Go Bad.. you get the picture. Maybe I had that idea floating in my head at the time, but for whatever reason, I drew a sinister version of Baba Louie from Quick Draw McGraw just for fun in my sketchbook, and shortly after, that grew into this....based on one of my favorite cheesy movies, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, (that wasn't too hard to figure out, was it ?)
Let me know what you think. And if any of you work for Hanna Barbera / Warner Brothers, maybe you can mention to the powers that be, that this would be a cool design for t-shirts, or maybe even a new series...just putting that out there. :)
If you love music as much as I do, I'm sure certain songs conjure up images in your head. I suppose that's the sign of a good song, much like a good novel, short story or poem, the words paint pictures in your mind. Song lyrics are no different. Song writers have been creating colorful characters since the dawn of music, Mack the Knife, Dolly from Hello Dolly, Rosalita, Eleanor Rigby, the list goes on and on.
I remember hearing The Hollies' Long Cool Woman back in the early 70's when I was in 7th grade, and from the very first time I heard it, I vividly pictured a very seductive, cool, sultry woman, in dark glasses and a long black gown, working her exotic magic on the singer, as they sat in a dark seedy, underworld bar.
Jump to the other end of the spectrum, and you have the Gin Soaked BarRoom Queen from the Stones' Honky Tonk Woman, a free wheelin', fun loving, fast lane livin' lady of the night.
I've always drawn and for the most part, I've always listened to music while I drew, but it wasn't until very recently, that i've incorporated my love of music into my art. For the longest time, I purposely created my designs with the children's market in mind, cute, funny, warm and fuzzy, that type of thing.
but when I doodle for my own enjoyment, the art is always a little more mature, quirkier, and alot of times, has a music theme about it. That's how the design above started out. this theme just seems to come more natural to me, so I decided to run with it for awhile.
Alot of rockabilly art (of which I'm a big fan of), incorporates a wolf or a dog, (same family). I must have been listening to some early rock (late 50's, early 60's, maybe some Duane eddy, or Carl perkins, I can't really remember, but I doodled the dog character above... just the dog, nothing else. As i was doodling him, the movie Grease popped into my head, and I thought, hey, this guy needs a tough, sexy girlfriend from the wrong side of the tracks, hanging on him.
I drew the "girlfriend" and right away, i realized, this needs a cool car. so I googled "50's car", meshed some reference pix together and viola ! and man, I gotta say, I hate drawing cars, but this design needed a cool car, so I sucked it up.
Usually I would stop there, and call it a doodle and just be done with it, but..... This called to me Everytime I looked at it. I felt it could be so much more. so I colored the figures, and the car, and the vibe just started to build. a 50's type convertible, a greaser, guitar playin' dawg, his hot sexy cat girl friend... this needs a drive in... a drive in and a gas pump... at least that's what the voices in my head were saying. so I listened, and this is the end result. I liked it so much, I had it professionally printed on aluminum substrates, and I like it even more. I hope you do to.
Why am i a cartoonist / humorous illustrator ? because I can't be anything else, as "dramatic" as that sounds. sure, I probably could get an office job, and crunch numbers, or drive around from town to town selling what ever product I was supposed to be selling, but I wouldn't be as good as the really good number crunchers or product sellers are, because I would be constantly distracted by the images dancing in my head.
As a young child growing up in the sixties, I was exposed to some of the coolest saturday morning cartoons, some of the brightest, eye popping package designs, and some of the most emotional, coming from the gut music, ever to be created. As I started to develop my style, I kept subconsciously referencing this images and sounds from my youth. Maybe it's just being nostalgic, but they just took me to a place that was so naturally easy for me to create in, and that still holds true today. The only difference now, is that I reference things even further back then my youth, for inspiration.
Show me some advertisement graphic from the 40's and 50's, show me a saul bass movie poster, or a rick griffin poster from the fillmore, any cartoon Hanna barbera produced during the 1960's, and I just have to start drawing something. Put on some Howlin' wolf, ike and Tina turner or ten years after, and the fever starts to climb. What can I tell you... I'm a cartoonist, we're a strange breed indeed.
The Martytoon Newsletter
The Thoughts, Designs & Process of Marty Qatani aka MartyToons.
Hi and welcome to the first blog post / newsletter of the all new revamped MartyToons website. Where to start ? I suppose a quick intro is in order for those of you who may be unfamiliar with me and what I do. I'm a cartoonist / character designer/ humorous illustrator. That sounds like a lengthy title, but none of those by themselves seems appropriate enough by themselves to describe what I do.
If I call myself a cartoonist, people tend to think I create a comic strip.... not true. If I call myself just a character designer, it seems a little limiting to me. I like to think I do a little bit more... make people think... wake people up, help someone remember a happy thought.... maybe even put a smile on people's faces.... hopefully. Calling myself just a humorous illustrator, just doesn't seem to have any "punch", "pizzazz", "sparkle"... you get the picture. I do like the sound of "Creator of Visual Enhancements for Artistically Challenged and Cartooning Impaired." It has a pretty cool ring to me, but it's a little hard to fit on a business card and still look cool.
What can you expect here ? How's a little doodle sound ? A little peek into what goes on in my working process and maybe even in my thought process ? That's my plan... I hope you enjoy. So let me dig into my archive, maybe shed a little light on happened and then invite you to comment. Sounds good ? Good... then lets get to it.
This is an early sketch of one of my favorite designs I'm working on. It's inspired by one of my favorite music artists, Cat Stevens, who know goes by the name of Yusuf Islam https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_Stevens . Check him out if you get the chance and are a fan of 70's "Soft" Rock, and especially if you're a fan of songs about being positive, hopefullness, and becoming a little wiser.
Music is playing more and more a part in my designs. I love many styles of music and I always have it playing in my studio while I'm creating. Alot of times I let the music direct what I'm going to sketch when I intentionally sit down to sketch, sometimes I'm not planning on sketching at all, but I hear a song and an image will just pop into my head, and I have to get it down on paper. I believe that's what happened here, but to be honest, I came up with this sketch several years ago, and I can't remember the exact circumstances that gave birth to this.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoy it. Got any questions ? Feel free to comment below.