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San Diego Comic-Con 2019 July 14, 2019 18:42

It's time again! San Diego Comic Con is upon us! For Jess and I, it's a week of very welcome mayhem and getting last minute things attended to. This year we have a lot of fresh things to present and I'll dive right in.

PINS     PINS     PINS      PINS  !

My wife Jess has really outdone herself and produced so many fresh enamel pins, I have trouble counting them all. Years ago I thought pins would be a thing, and even made one for Con. Eight or nine years later, you can't stop at a booth without having a few offered for sale. They brighten your day and make a statement about the wearer. They're also tiny works of art.

Now, I must jump in here and mention I've learned a heck of a lot about pins watching Jess make these. There's a genuine talent to translating a drawing while holding its character, and an art to orchestrating a limited number of colors, the placement of the enamel, and augmenting with delicate pad prints to produce a remarkable object with great depth and complexity. Not to even begin going into the harrowing process of shepherding these through production. More on that as we go along...

So first up are a series of three unusual pins that Jess created directly from the original art: the first three drawings I made to pitch the concept for "Lilo & Stitch." While these are recognizable as Lilo and her alien friend Stitch, there are some differences from the ones that ended up on screen. Stitch began as green, and was changed to blue in early development. His signature black eyes are slightly smaller, and his ears flare at the base, not near the top. In one of the drawings his nose is below his eye-line, not above. Each of these three pins is backed on a card with the original artwork, and a short story of the unique origin of the film's style. Take a look at the pad printing on Lilo's dress which mimics the watercolor original! The complexity of the six-legged Stitch is truly incredible to see in person.




Next up is a return of our Island Girl, an extremely cute and popular pin, now in three new colorways for 2019. Joining the blue, coral, and mint green versions from earlier this year will be a RED variant with a white-glitter flower, a TEAL variant with a ruby-glitter flower (if you missed out on the blue one, this is a slightly darker, slightly greener version), and a VIOLET variant with a yellow-glitter flower.


Every year that we have a new sketchbook we also have a new cover girl, this year featuring a redhead in a red fox outfit. After finishing the cover I mentioned that it would be swell to have a pin that would accompany the book release, and ka-bam! Jess produced a beautiful pin! This 1.75" pin is the perfect companion to "Sketchbook 8"!


Years ago we had a company produce a Moon Witch pin based on one of my pinup drawings. It was cute, but Jess in particular found it wanting in a lot of ways. She had always wanted to take a second swing at it, enlarging it overall, changing the base metal color, perfecting the eyes, reflections on the vinyl bodysuit, and most importantly, upgrading the moon so that it would actually GLOW! This year she did it. As I watched the process of re-making and re-issuing this pin, I was so very excited to get a finished one in my hands so I could run to a nearby closet and see that big moon glow. Well, I did, and it does, and here she is, bigger (at 2" tall) and better than ever, and waiting to join your Halloween, pinup, or moon-pin jacket or bag. 


But WAIT.... just to make things harder to decide on, Jess turned around and created three variants on Moon Witch. One in CORAL PINK, one in VIOLET, and one in MINT GREEN. These three are posed in front of a pale blue moon which glows quite nicely in the dark!

 

One of the most popular images from a past sketchbook was a girl riding a scooter while reading a guidebook. At first the image seemed too detailed to consider translating to enamel. But Jess thought it could be done, and jumped right in. She worked like the devil to preserve a ton of the little details that make this drawing what it is, and submitted it to multiple manufacturers before finding one that could keep everything on-point. And by golly, she did it! Everything is here, and stunningly beautiful. Note the printed pages in her guidebook, the labeled bottle of wine strapped to her scooter, and the pad-printed polka dots and dog spots that give the pin dimension. Oh, and just for fun she gave the scooter a glitter-paint finish! 


"Sketchbook 3"'s cover girl in a yoga-esque pose seemed perfect for translation into a pin. I get to share the same studio as Jess, and I get to watch these pins come to life on her Centiq. Jess made this one look easy, but be assured that capturing the vibe and lines of a drawing and holding them as they are miniaturized is no small thing. I really love this pin. It has a wonderful scale, and a shape and gesture that stand out on any pin board or jacket, or bag. Don't miss this one! Yoga Girl comes in four variants, each with different hair and paired bikini stripe color. 

 
 

One day in the studio Jess said, "You should draw a series of Ogo heads that I can turn into pins." I was like, "Yeah, that's a cute idea." I'm sure I didn't get to it right away, but Jess patiently reminded me. In the meantime, I'd look at pins we bought and admire the ones with a big, bold outline. Jess reminded me that the Ogo pins could have a similar vibe. So, I drew them! When it happened, it happened fast. I kicked out the sketches and gave them the bold inks that make Ogo look right. Turns out, those fat inks make translation into a pin a bit easier than my more thin-lined stuff. Jess ran with these, and took special attention with the enamel color choices, since there are only a few and they're pretty big, so harmonizing them was critical. The result? A series of six pins that really POP! These look awesome when worn or displayed, and if you get all six and put them in order, they actually animate!

 
 
 

Morgan is a tiger I've drawn for years, and will eventually be joining the "Kiskaloo" universe. He's friendly, optimistic, and LOVES spiced cocoa, coffee, and the occasional buttered rum. He also owns a mug with a razor-sharp pad-printed "M." If you love coffee, hot chocolate, and drawing when it's cold outside, this pin is for you!


Kellee Riley is an illustrator that Jess and I are quite fond of. Her drawings exude confidence and joy, and her mermaids in particular are truly things of wonder and beauty. Frankly, seeing her stuff is inspiring, and makes me want to run straight to my drawing table and do a better job!

A while ago, Jess partnered with Kellee to create a set of the "Rescue Sirens"' five lead characters for use in merchandise, and Kellee drew her personal interpretation of Nim, Kelby, Pippa, Echo, and Maris. The result was stunning! This year, Jess thought that those illustrations would make a great set of pins, and she began the process of translating them. The first two, Nim and Kelby, are finished, and I have to say, these are probably my front favorites among the pins Jess has produced. Their scale, charm, details, and freaking GLITTER TAILS make these pins that you will want to display and covet for a long, long time. No way you'll trade these away, so you'll need an extra one for bargaining purposes (which you can do, as our pin purchase limit is two per design).

 

In our house there are two problems: finding enough time to maintain our tiny "Animal Crossing" towns, and finding miniature pins that can fill empty spaces that inevitably crop up on jackets and pin boards. Enter these two new pin collections --  inspired by one of Jess's and my favorite video games, these two limited-edition filler pin sets are designed to complement both ocean-themed and "Animal Crossing" pin collections. These are cute and happy, and really fun to pin to things! 

 

So where do you find this stuff? As usual, booth 4616, in the Illustrator realm. There will be some other stuff as well, but as the pins are the biggest new addition, I thought beginning with a pin-only post was a great way to start the Comic-Con announcements!!

I'll be at the booth every day, (save for momentary times when I'll step out to do some "Call of the Wild" approvals) and Jess will be there every day save for Friday, so if you have "Rescue Sirens"-related questions, pin questions, or general aquatic or mermaid-related questions, come see her Wednesday night and Thursday, and Saturday and Sunday!

Stay tuned for further announcements about sketchbooks, stickers, and original art...

RIP Stan Lee November 12, 2018 19:15

My very first job in LA was at Marvel Productions. I think the building was on Sepulveda Blvd. Once in a while Stan Lee would walk through, as he had an office on the second floor. One day, I was approached and asked if I would dress up in a Spider-Man costume and pose with Stan for a photo shoot with him and his Rolls-Royce. They held up the costume I was to wear and I swear to God it was a little teeny one-piece thing that had a zipper in the back. I think they asked me because I was the skinniest person there. I said no.

Then they said they’d give me $20.

I said okay.

I went to the bathroom and stripped to my underwear, and squeezed into the Spider-Man suit thing. Semi-mortified, I then boldly walked through the studio feeling very naked. But I learned instantly why someone would wear such a thing, as my identity was erased: no one, and I mean NO ONE, knew it was me.

I walked out front and posed with Stan and his car for a while. At the end, right as he was wrapping up, the photographer was struck with inspiration and suggested Stan and I take one more picture, staring at each other, nose to nose.

Stan Lee and Spider-Man (Chris Sanders) stare each other down

 

That last shot was the photo they used.

For decades, I’d see that photo here and there, mostly hung in comic shops with Stan’s autograph. Jess and I even saw it painted on a coffee shop wall in the Turnstyle Market beneath Columbus Circle in NYC.

Once, on TV, I caught an interview with Stan, and I glimpsed a large painted version of this photo on his wall.

I’ll never forget that day. This photo reminds me of my first job in animation, and, of course, of Stan. Excelsior!


San Diego Comic-Con 2018 July 18, 2018 12:16

Here on that most hallowed of holidays, the eve of Comic Con set-up, I'm sipping an old-fashioned and writing this blog post nestled beside the pile of stuff I need to fit into my truck tomorrow morning. Boxes, banners, lights, all to make booth 4616 a great place to visit this year! And this is an exciting year indeed, as we're bringing the latest installment of the the thing that started it all over ten years ago: the Chris Sanders Sketchbook.



Sketchbook 7! Designed by my wife Jessica Steele-Sanders and filled with drawings culled from my archives, Sketchbook 7 is a worthy addition to your collection. Forty eight pages of fresh artwork including witches, mermaids, my first comic book cover, and a few formerly secret lineups from sitcom development. It's been five years since the last sketchbook, so there was a lot of material to choose from!

But that's not all!  Jess has been hard at work producing some terrific new products based on her "Rescue Sirens" characters. A big favorite of mine: CHARMS!!!


Precision printed and cut on crystal clear acrylic, these colorful characters are miniature treasures to collect, display, or wear. Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa and Maris are the perfect size to hang from a cell phone, a zipper, or wear as a necklace. There are not one, not two, but three unique sets of the five Rescue Sirens featuring the art of Kellee Riley, Gabby Zapata, and myself.


All of the charms feature artwork on both sides!  Kellee Riley's Sirens are wearing their lifeguard tops on one side and their mermaid tops on the opposite, while Gabby Zapata's sets show the mermaids in both their human (feet) form and their secret mermaid tail identities. Supplies of these tiny treasures are limited so stop by early!




Last year we introduced vinyl stickers into our lineup. We're happy to let you know that all the stickers from last year are back, and we've added to the lineup!  The same great art from Gabby Zapata and Kellee Riley have been transformed into colorful vinyl stickers as well!

Also new this year are a number of stickers made from artwork featured in Sketchbook 7.








So there you have it - a quick view of the things waiting for you at SDCC booth 4616. And of course, Jessica and I will be there. See you soon!

INKtober Witches October 31, 2017 00:03

Inktober is a wonderful month. You are encouraged to put ink to paper, which is something I never tire of and wish I did more often. There's no substitute for committed lines on paper, both the experience of doing it, and the final, tangible object that is created: an inked drawing, a little piece of art that is both a statement and a signature. A time traveler that you leave behind.

And whilst you are busied by Inktober, bent over your board with pen in hand, the weather is changing outside your cozy warren! Leaves are turning, winter sprites and baby goblins press their noses to your window to see what you might have for them, coffee stores are offering the stuff you really want: spicy drinks topped with whipped cream and cinnamon. Suddenly having a hot drink in the morning seems a better idea than ever!

Well, with all that in mind, I didn't want anyone to think I haven't been inking in October. Er, Inktober. I have. Almost every day. You see, I'm boarding again, on a new movie. And the best, fastest way for me to board is to just jump straight in and put ink to paper. I've emptied many cartridges of ink through a couple favorite pens I use for just this sort of job. Unfortunately, I can't share any of the hundreds of panels I've inked, since, you know. In production and all. 

But, I have also inked a couple of witches for the Halloween season that I can post! I love drawing witches, and always want to find some fresh angle for them. In the case of these two, I drew one cheerleader witch on her way to a rally, and a witch in a steep dive with her familiar. The diving witch is a rough I've fiddled around with off and on for a year, and I have several variants I'll be trying. Just the steep angle is interesting to me.

Cheerleader Witch inks
Diving Witch inks


Even here in California it eventually becomes cold, and sometimes we almost have weather! Wind, mostly. But that counts as weather here. My wife Jess is from Florida, so she's used to rain. And I'm from Colorado; I know snow and real fall. So we both spend gloomy days in the studio together, pretending it's snowier and rainier than it really is. And it's here we listen to the most dreadful podcasts we can find. Tales of misfortune and disaster, not unlike the short stories I wrote as a child. These are my favorite days. I draw; Jess writes and edits. Sometimes I even draw Jess! She's the rare person I ever try to draw a likeness of. Someday she may let me post one!

Jess is encouraging about me doing drawings, and helps me keep my characters' eyes straight. I, in turn, dissuade her from trapping the ravens that populate our premises. Not to eradicate them, but to befriend them. Jess, you see, gathers creatures of all kinds, and doesn't limit herself if the opportunity presents. At Skywalker Ranch, she collected salamanders that were in a winter torpor. She ran out of room in her pockets and hands, so the last couple got a ride back to our room in her shirt. It was as good a carrying place as any. Jess isn't happy lest she have buckets and baskets of slithering, snapping, hissing, or furry things. Her ideal situation would be to spend the winter in a mermaid grotto filled with furry blankets, books, candles, and eventually a 'possum that she will name "Pumpkin" that will munch on mint Oreos and clasp and unclasp his paws when presented with a melty brie.

For this month, since she has yet to disappear into her hibernation cave, Jess also edited together a video of me inking the cheerleader witch, and set it to some swell music.



These videos are tedious because of the way I ink: turning the paper constantly and frequently leaving it off-center. As soon as I hand Jess the raw video she has a mountain of color-correcting and cutting, reframing, and music syncing ahead of her. But once she is done, she has created a little gem of a video that's a lot of fun to watch. So I must credit her, and thank her profusely for making these. I'd never, ever find the time to do one myself.

So happy Inktober, and Happy Halloween to all!

INKtober 2017: Katrina Van Tassel Edition October 30, 2017 07:00

It's Fall again, the time when thoughts turn to cider, pumpkin carving, and my favorite Disney featurette, 1949's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow."

It's also the time of year that my wife Jess dons her amazing Katrina Van Tassel costume and spends the night enjoying the sights and sounds of Halloween-themed Disneyland with me. I dare say, as she floats through the crowds with her pumpkin in hand she really makes the park even more Halloween-ish.

I won't go into my regrets that this most wonderful Disney property seems to have vanished from our collective cultural landscape. People still know all the Disney animated features. The Disney princesses, villains, and core staples fill stores to bursting with mugs, T-shirts, and collectibles of all kinds. Heck, even characters within the rides have become iconic enough to appear on merchandise.

But poor Ichabod, the Headless Horseman, Brom Bones, and the fair Katrina Van Tassel are rarely, if ever, seen. Now, last year Disneyland opened their Halloween parade with the Headless Horseman, and this year he re-appeared, this time accompanied by Ichabod Crane. The Headless Horseman was even on a special Halloween pin for Annual Passholders! So that's encouraging. But Katrina -- the driving force behind the entire story -- is still nowhere to be seen. Thus, I always think it somewhat of a public service that Jess spend the evening traveling the darkened paths from Main Street to Small World, spreading Halloween cheer.



If you read last year's post, however, you'll recall we had trouble getting "Katrina" past Security in 2016 (despite Jess wearing the exact same costume as in 2014 and 2015); rules are tight when it comes to skirt length and width, etc. 

We have gathered through the grapevine that the park's concern is with guests that are costumed so accurately that they might be confused for official face characters. This would be especially odd in the case of Katrina, since she is neither a princess nor is she represented by a face character. Even so, we decided to play it safe this year and not bring the costume to Disneyland.

Instead, Jess suggested that I draw Katrina and we make T-shirts to show our Halloween spirit!

I thought this was a good idea, and I dove in with great enthusiasm. Holy mackerel, Katrina isn't easy to draw! Seems Katrina shares a lot of DNA with Cinderella, who is also hard to draw. Maybe not for some of you, but definitely a challenge for me. She's... subtle. And at the same time I was dealing with her elusive face, the rest of Katrina has some pretty extreme proportions. I actually toned her down a little for my drawing. After many, many false starts, I got a drawing I thought was close enough, and I proceeded to ink and color it. She definitely got a lot better with color, I think.



Jess and I made my drawing into "Team Katrina" T-shirts just in the nick of time, and we proudly represented one of our favorite Disney characters at Mickey's Halloween Party yet again.




This was, I realized, the first time I'd really ever tried to draw an established Disney character (well, outside of the films I've worked on, and those were always in pre-production). I think in the coming months I'll try again with Katrina, and maybe even add in an Ichabod! No promises, but I'll give it a shot! Happy (almost) Halloween, everyone, and don't forget to watch "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"!