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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...

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!

SDCC 2017 July 18, 2017 00:00

And in the blink of an eye, it's time again for SDCC! Jess and I will be heading down today but before we go I wanted to give everyone a heads up on the new things we'll be bringing!


First up, enamel pins! The lead characters from our "Rescue Sirens" series - Nim, Kelby, Echo, Pippa, and Maris - have been carefully translated into these detailed nickel finish pins, plus a gold-toned "Rescue Sirens" emblem pin. Pins are something I've enjoyed collecting over the years, and Jess had the great idea to make a set of our own for San Diego! Hurry over to our booth (#4616) to see them in person!




Something I recently did just for the fun of it, was to generate chibi versions of the Rescue Sirens characters. They became the basis for the enamel pins, but Jess thought they would also make a great set of stickers. And here they are! These heavy weight stickers have great color and a gorgeous pearl finish. Really, really beautiful. They'll look great on a computer, a lunchbox, the bumper of your electric car, or even the control panel of a super-collider or tail fin of the next Space-X rocket. If they allow such things, that is. 


Once we saw how beautifully the Rescue Sirens stickers turned out, we thought we might grab some favorite illustrations from past sketchbooks and give them the sticker treatment as well. Here's four of my most popular pin-ups, as well as my good friend Ogo, looking quite happy with himself indeed.


But that's not all we'll be bringing. Jess and I are very happy to announce our first children's book, "Rescue Sirens and the Great Fish Round-Up." Beautifully illustrated by Dylan Bonner, this 32 page book has a great story all about our five mermaids saving the Miami Beach waters from some carelessly dumped aquarium pets. This is an engaging story for all ages, teaching the younger set (and all the rest of us) about the dangers of invasive species, as well as teamwork and keeping the ocean clean.

Jess's writing is fast and fresh, and Dylan's illustrations have the charm, joy, and vibe of classic Mary Blair drawings. We have a limited number of these advanced copies, so be sure to come by our booth early and pick one up for yourself.

This book is also splash-resistant, due to being printed on special synthetic paper pages. So you can read this "Rescue Sirens" book by the pool, ocean, or tub with confidence that a little water won't spoil it. Just wipe the pages dry if they get splashed and the book is as good as new! - We recommend you not leave the book to dry on its own, as the pages can tend to stick together. But with a gentle toweling-off, it will be ready for another read!


We'll also be bringing some copies of last year's debut, "Kiskaloo: Volumes 1 and 2." If you haven't picked one up yet, it's the collected first and second series of my web comic all about a little girl named Sesi, her older sister Autumn, and Ogo, their wretched little cat. They all live in a fictional town in Northern Alaska named Emergency, where odd things tend to happen.


If you like "Kiskaloo," and are familiar with its lead character Ogo, and wish to take an Ogo home with you, then you're in luck, as we'll be bringing a limited number of Ogo plush with us to Comic Con this year. He's soft, cuddly, and naughty. Don't leave him alone with your chocolate chip cookies or root beer lest they disappear!


One of the most frequently asked questions I get every year is whether or not I'll be bringing original art to San Diego. In the past I've resisted this, mostly because I don't have anything I'd want to part with. This year, however, I'll be bringing a few original inked drawings with me that will be available for purchase. Drawn and inked especially for Con this year, I'll have two to four inked originals with me. They won't be cheap, as I don't like to sell drawings, but I am possessed for some reason to do this. Created purposely for sale, these unusual offerings will likely appear in future sketchbooks, and the inking quality is what I would consider to be perfect. Suitable for framing, brush and Winsor-Newton ink on bristol, these are large: 14"x17".

You can find all this (and us) at booth #4616, in the Artists & Illustrators neighborhood. See you there!

Mer-May #rescuesirensfanart Contest May 22, 2017 00:00

My wife and "Rescue Sirens" co-author Jessica Steele-Sanders and I first heard the term "Mer-May" back in 2015. I loved the idea of a whole month devoted to all things mermaid -- but we couldn't celebrate or participate in it that year because "Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist" was still being finalized, and we didn't want to let the cat(fish) out of the bag just yet.

Then, in 2016, fellow Disney artist Tom Bancroft debuted his swell #MerMay drawing challenge on Instagram. There's nothing more fun than drawing mermaids, and it's been great seeing mermaid artwork all over the place last year and this year. Inevitably I'm swamped with other assignments and don't usually have the time to participate in the mermaid fun, but this year I did scrounge up a few hours to draw and ink something! So to celebrate getting an actual mermaid drawing done in Mer-May, I'm offering up something VERY rare this month: that original inked drawing, depicting one of our "Rescue Sirens" characters. I almost never part with my drawings, so if you've ever wanted one, this is your chance!


How do you go about acquiring such a thing? Well, Jess and I are running a "Rescue Sirens" fan art contest, with this 11"x14" chibi-style drawing of Rescue Siren Nim as the prize.


Here are the rules to enter:

  1. Follow our @rescuesirens Instagram account.
  2. Draw one (or more!) of our five main "Rescue Sirens" lifeguard mermaid characters.
  3. Include the words "Rescue Sirens" somewhere in the image (drawn into the illustration, superimposed digitally, written on a separate piece of paper placed atop your drawing if you photograph it -- however you prefer).
  4. Post to your PUBLIC Instagram account with the hashtag #rescuesirensfanart so we can find your entry!
  5. Tag/mention @rescuesirens in your post.
That's it! A winner will be announced next Monday, May 29th.

Have you already shared "Rescue Sirens" fan art on Instagram in the past? You don't have to draw something new if you don't want to: just go back and add the hashtag #rescuesirensfanart to your original post so we know that you want to be counted amongst the contest entrants.

Best of luck, everyone, and happy drawing!

(Obligatory disclaimer: this contest is in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Instagram.)

Credit Where Credit Is Due (Or, don’t fear telling people you didn’t do something.) October 23, 2016 00:00

Today I want to talk about something that has been on my mind almost from the day I started work at Disney over twenty years ago – well, actually, from before that, all the way back to art class at Foster Elementary School in Arvada, Colorado. And that is the subject of crediting artists fairly. That is, being open to telling people who did what.

I’ll begin with a story. When I was a youngster in the fourth grade, we were all of us making clay pots in art class. Rather than make another clay pot, which we had all done before, I decided to do something different. I made a little blob of a figure, just a head, with a gaping open mouth and lolling tongue on which I placed a big vitamin capsule. It was bold, fun, and colorful. It was pop art and it stood out. It stood out right up until the kid next to me saw mine and made the very same thing that I made only not at all as nice-looking as mine and he got his placed in the case in the school’s lobby and mine wasn’t. He never said a word about where he got such a nifty idea and I’m sure never wondered later about what that all felt like to me as I walked into the front door of the school every day for the rest of the year and saw my fine idea with someone else’s name on it.

That stayed with me.

I’ve had and continue to have the wonderful privilege of working in feature animation. I’ve worked hard to get here – countless hours of storyboarding, pitching, rejection, notes; moments of despair, terror, elation, and pride. At the end of the process, we take press tours. If you like the sound of your own voice, this is your big chance to hear it. In a single day you might talk to a hundred or more reporters in almost as many interviews.

One of the things that I have learned is that many times different reporters are asking very similar questions. Sometimes identical questions. Needless to say, on questions you struggled to answer on your first stop in Denver, you are a whiz at answering by the time you land in Japan. And in many, many cities and many hours in a folding chair, I have noticed something: there is a decided tendency to want to boil a massive collaborative process down into a simple, singular droplet of credit. People will ask how in the world Dean Deblois and I made “How To Train Your Dragon,” or how we made “Lilo & Stitch,” etc. I used to think it was just a question, but as time passed I began to realize that sometimes they were actually wondering how we two did it. That is, just us.

What I learned from my press tours is that even if you do list off particular artists, animators, painters, engineers, producers, and the like that were the true muscle that got a movie made, their names rarely (if ever) make it into print. It’s either too tedious or perceived to be uninteresting, and the people I credited and the stories I told about them tended to vanish. So I made it a point in interviews to spend as much time as needed redirecting credit for particular moments, lines, designs, and story turns to the people that really deserved it. Again, it never really stuck. But that doesn’t mean I stopped doing it. I make it a full-time job.

This all comes to mind because, in this age of the internet, misinformation and the omission of information is widespread. And I came here to talk to not only artists, but to anyone who loves art, literature, film, etc. Recently it became clear that in a preponderance of internet chatter, and even several instances of meeting people in person, a book that I had the privilege to contribute to, “Rescue Sirens: The Search for the Atavist,” has wrongly been credited entirely to me. Not a couple of times, but in many of the posts about it. This isn’t just careless  at best it’s pretty hurtful – but, at worst, it actually changes the history of something that someone else worked hard to create. In the case of “Rescue Sirens,” I neither crafted the world and the story, nor drew the interior illustrations. Those credits belong, respectively, to my wife, Jessica Steele-Sanders, and to artist Genevieve Tsai.




Now, you might think this sort of thing is limited to casual postings on the internet. But it’s not. I was surprised recently to see that an “Art of” book somehow forgot that I worked on a film. And it was a film I actually co-wrote and co-directed. Reading about my non-self was like seeing me fade out of one of those photographs in a movie about a time-travel accident. This still wouldn’t be super-odd except when you consider that the book was actually published by the actual studio that I directed the film for. It is here that I must note that this sort of thing never happened at Disney. To contrast that, Pixar included me in a book about story even though I didn’t work there but was part of a punch-up session for “Toy Story.” They remembered something that happened twenty years ago and followed up with me. That’s class. And that’s what happens when artists look out for one another.

I should add that when someone does something for the first time, I think it’s especially important to get the story straight, and to do it right away. It was Jessica who invented “Rescue Sirens.” She first imagined the world, then created and wrote the mythology and the characters. After that, she outlined a strong story and wrote it. This is where I came in as a second writer. She and I wrote “Rescue Sirens” in tandem, just as Dean Deblois and I wrote “Lilo & Stitch” together. As for the interior illustrations, Genevieve Tsai created those based on a world that Jess saw very clearly and was able to transmit to Genevieve and myself. (And since I’m giving credit here, I must also note that my drawings on the front and back cover were colored by Edgar Delgado, while the Ocean Drive skyline was drawn by Teresa Martinez.) So if “Rescue Sirens” is anyone’s book, it is Jess’s book, indeed.

I seldom get on a soapbox, especially on the internet. But I’m not here to scold anyone; rather, I’m here to assure all of us who create things, and love things that someone else created, that it’s worth all our whiles to take the time and energy to credit people where it is due.

I’ve worked in cultures at Disney and Pixar where collaboration is celebrated. If you are young, just starting out, and something you did is getting attention, I can assure you that you can credit anyone that partnered with you till you’re blue in the face and it won’t detract a bit from your own accomplishment. It will do quite the opposite. We recently met with James Cameron at DreamWorks and one of the things I was impressed by was the sheer number of names he spilled as he discussed everything from camera rigs to animation to software development. He not only knew what everyone did, he spent a lot of time letting us know who did what.

As filmmakers and artists, we owe it to each other to get the story straight. If there are two or three or more writers’ names, don’t boil it down to one. The real story of how things like movies and books are made is far more interesting when the collaborations are revealed and individual talents celebrated. I have been quite fortunate to have worked with people who were confident in their own talents and never hesitated to throw credit and attention my way. Directors like Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff took the time to mention my contributions on “The Lion King” and made sure the illustrations in the “Art of” book were credited properly  that helped me immensely as I went forward.

Books, interviews, and articles become a history. We owe it to each other to not leave people behind.