May 8, 2014

IT'S GOING…IT'S GOING...IT'S OUTTA HERE!!!! ...HITTING A HOME RUN, SUPER BASEBALL 2020 STYLE, in AIRBRUSH, BABY!!!

IT WAS 1990, AND IN ONLY 30 YEARS WE THOUGHT CYBER PLAYERS MIGHT FILL THE AIR WITH HOMERS!


We're only six years out, and there aren't any cyberplayers in sight? Looks like another aerocar of the future, but WHO KNEW?! 


I got a call from Gamepro magazine for a cover based on the concept of cybernetic Baseball players in an NES game called Bases Loaded II: Second Season, from japan's Moero 3!! Pro Yakuu '88, and we took it to the wall! It was used on the cover, and as an inside illustration.This job, which eventually led to another piece for Electronic Arts in 1994 named SUPER BASEBALL 2020! The staff at EA remembered the cover and quickly gave me a call, and we got rolling. I've chosen these pieces to talk about using Airbrush to paint these illustrations because it seemed a good match: blasting paint and getting air!




Fans of this site will of course recognize my fellow illustrator and model Carl Buell using some of his moves from his Double A SemiPro days!







Super Baseball 2020 found many fans in Europe as well as Japan, the home of the original Bases Loaded II: Second Season!



MY GEAR:


Otherwise known as my Tools of Ignorance, (as they once called a catcher's protective gear) …The Jun-Air Compressor … My airbrush of choice was the Thayer & Chandler.


The Jun Air would maintain a
tank pressure of around 15 pounds
and a head pressure of around 5-7
pounds

My Jun Air Compressor circa 1994
The rig I used for 95% of my video game art was my Thayer & Chandler Model A Air brush with either a tank of compressed air (early days), or a beautiful jewel-like compressor built in Denmark named the Jun-Air.

The airbrush was held as one would a pen, and had a top mounted pivoting trigger that released the pressurized air, pulling the paint from a side mounted cup into the pressurized airstream. This created a fine mist of color that laid down on the surface of the illustration board, and immediately dried.
I used the brush with the rear cover off. This allowed me
to constantly remove the pressure needle for cleaning.







Portions of the art that needed to be protected from the paint overspray were covered with a tacky sided film called friskit. This was laid down over the art, and the areas to be painted were cut out gently with an Exacto knife, and the friskit removed.


The 1994 EA release for Super Baseball 2020


Here we see the 1994 U.S. release of the package for EA. Quite a handsome box with excellent design, as were most of EA's offerings over the years. I've always been grateful to Electronic Arts in joining Broderbund with their policy of allowing artists signatures to appear in the art.










And the EURO version:

The smooth gradations and brilliant color were only two of the many reasons I employed the airbrush technique. I also found it to be very fast, which aided me in my scheduling of deadlines, and it seemed an extension of my drawing capacity.




As you can see, the Game borrowed much from the Gamepro cover, but the baseball was added, and the catcher was made into a young woman, There was a robot Umpire added as well, but left out in this European release. It is also clear to see on the close up of the batter's and the young catcher's face the detail and clarity that could be gained by using the airbrush.


Here's a shot of my 5X7 transparency of my original art back in '94, showing
both the players and the Robot Umpire.




THANKS FOR DROPPING BY!! I'll see you in Portland in October!


Mar 19, 2014

CRY 'HAVOC', and Let Slip the DOGS OF WAR!! ...and that ROBOT TRAIN thing! ...and those CHOPPERS, and AUTOMATIC WEAPONS!! ...and …and, oh yeah, that FROGMAN guy!!

It's SNK's MECHANIZED ATTACK!!

Really?…A Boiling Brain?
Wait,…ROBOT TRAIN?
In late December, 1989, I received a call from a design group named Beeline, in San Jose. They were in a panic about getting an illustration done for the cover of a new SNK release tentatively called "Mechanized Attack", and they had 6 days to produce it from sketch to color!! The only problem was that this shooter game, in addition to a Boiling Brain, had every malevolent enemy known to man, and a few not: An evil robot headed train? There were thuggish troops that are actually cyborgs, Battleships, attack
choppers loaded to the gills with armaments, cyborg DOGS?…and vile attack frogmen wanting to get inside your guard and shove a K-bar shiv into your guts!
Vicious, Slobbering, Attack Cyborg Dogs?!! OMG!!



Your Light Zapper Uzi machine pistol
seems equipped with a bottomless
magazine, and all the rounds you
can possibly fire.















HURRY UP and WAIT.

I immediately began throwing together sketches and lining up gear for shooting reference models as rapidly as possible, but the client had a sudden realization that the release date couldn't be met in a number of ways, so the project slowed way down. In the end we had plenty of time, and it became one of my most chaotic jam packed fight scenes ever, and it was great fun.
This product was an NES platform using The Light Zapper application, and in the earlier arcade iteration allowed the player an Uzi style machine-gun to wield.

CARL BREAKS BAD AGAIN!

Stalwart Carl Buell again stands in as a raging
UDT cyborg enemy apparatchik desperate to
get his knife in you before you cut him down
How can I say any more about Carl Buell than I already have in prior posts? Here goes: What more could any illustrator of adventure themed imagery want, than a tall, great looking hunk-like matinee idol styled illustrator for a friend, daytime studio mate, and willing model? 

Granted, he could be a pain in the neck, but in his time he had been a model, the lead singer in a touring upper NY State rock group (that actually made money), a Vietnam veteran (shot in the Gluteus during a firefight and sent home with his drawing hand intact holding a Purple Heart) , a semi pro football and baseball player, and to top it all off,  is a world class drawing talent in demand for his art of the natural, and prehistoric, world. 

How Carl's shot developed on the actual box cover.












Whew, that's quite a catalogue, yeah? 
Like me, to this day, he is still making his living illustrating.
So, who better for our menacing flipper freak? He also posed for the Cyborg Guards, The shooter's hands with our studio Uzi, the Robot Train, and the Attack Dogs! (…just kidding about the last two.)



TYPICAL STUDIO FLASHBANG PHOTOSHOOT


Carl again in the various guises of the nefarious cyborg thugs arrayed
against the gamer in SNK's Mechanized Attack.
This 4-transparency inclusion photo (if enlarged) will give you an idea of just how lame our photo sessions could be. Although we had photo flood lights, the sun blasting through the ceiling to floor windows at our studio at the foot of Telegraph Hill in North Beach usually rendered them useless. It was basically, "Just stand over there Carl, and I'll put up the tripod here and we'll bang these off and get them to the lab!" We were always in one another's way, but worked well together. I had 4 to 5 freelancers sharing my space at any given time. Always for at least 4 years. Robert Evans was with me for 25 years, and Carl for 12 years.

I shot 35 mm Kodachrome transparencies, because I could project them down onto the illustration board into the positions I needed the figures. There was always a process of melding the reference shots into the drawing base, then revising angles or body position to get everything to work together.

SO 23 YEARS LATER, I FIND MYSELF TRYING TO CLAIM AUTHORSHIP FOR THE COVER ILLUSTRATION FOR "MECHANIZED ATTACK.'


No signature, no credit line, no proof of authorship?

Proving to Mobygames.com that I WAS THE GUY, came down to my putting together a technique comparison guide between M.A. and another SNK game to which they had already awarded me credit: Guerrilla War. As you can see here, it was a collection of visual similarities that convinced the judges at MG, combined with my log sheet, and invoice from 1990.


THANKS AGAIN FOR DROPPING BY!  I'll see you at The Portland Retro Game Expo: prge.com


Jan 31, 2014

LIFE ONLINE, or "How Do You Know I Am Who I Say I Am, and That I Actually Did The Art That I Say I Did?!"

WHO IS THAT MASKED MAN??!! and What's He Doing With Those INCREDIBLE CRASH TEST DUMMIES??!!


Well, all those Crash Dummies: Vince, Larry, Daryl, Skid Kid,
Spare Tire, Hub Cap and Bumper, and all the Junkyard Bots were close personal friends of mine. 

I did all the art for that series for Tyco Toys in '92-'93, and was there when they made their way into the video game world!

Vince Marc and Larry, of The Incredible Crash Test Dummies,
..not Marc... though he spent late 1992 through early 1993 creating
all the packaging art for the Dummies and Junkbots for Tyco Toys

HOW CAN I PROVE THAT??

One of the major challenges I faced when I began my quest two years ago to claim credit all of the art I did for the gaming world involved overcoming gaming company policies stating that there would be no credits given for the illustrators on the packaging.


This was certainly not uncommon. Ordinary practice in Commercial art was in line with those policies. Editorial art was a far different matter, and most illustrators doing work for magazines and newspapers always received their bylines.
Acclaim bought the rights to feature the
Dummies in a videogame platform.
The Japanese version is seen here.

Obviously, 30 years after the fact, it leaves most video game art orphaned, with its creators scattered to the winds , possibly not even among the living.

Marc's art for ICTD Crash Cab
was the art chosen by game
company Acclaim in '93.

Determined to dig as deeply as I could to recover the credit that I had lost so long ago, I was brought me into contact with 

                                                                  mobygames.com

This group, I found through their forum, agreed with my suggestion that game fans would be a least a little interested in the lost art of retro video game cover illustrations. 


 I found that in fact, many are viscerally interested in learning about the art that so influenced them in their youth.


Mobygames is no pushover though. Each reviewer for each game I submit for approval asks questions or brings up issues with anything they perceive could be inaccurate or untrue.






My first forays with mobygames involved letting them know I was who I said I was. I referred to my website marcericksen.com so they could check out my current work. Then I began sending them images that HAD been printed showing my signature. Primarily these were my original works for BRODERBUND, where Doug Carlston so kindly requested in 1982 that I sign my pieces, when I did the first half dozen pieces for his firm, as he launched it into the nascent gaming world.



Track Attack was an early Broderbund offering and allowed
me to begin to establish my role as a video game
illustrator, through my visible signature.

ANOTHER INCREDIBLE CRASH TEST DUMMIES APPLICATION CAME WITH THE  POPULAR NINTENDO GAMEBOY PLATFORM 

Here is a never before seen 8"x10" transparency full art version of Crash Test Taxi playset art created for Tyco Toys, later used in the Game Boy version of the Incredible Crash Test Dummies video game, one of many applications for gaming with this popular toy series, for which I illustrated all the packaging art.





My illustration for the Game Boy version of the
Incredible Crash Test Dummies went through
various iterations before printing.





                        The Game Boy box took its art from the Student Driver Crash Set shown here.



THE LOGSHEETS and Peripherals. INVOICES and PURCHASE ORDERS.


Another tactic for proving my claim is to show Mobygames log sheets that I maintained during my time illustrating. Once or twice a week, I would create an letter sized log sheet, that very roughly told me where I stood on various jobs. These were never intended to be be maintained in perpetuity. 

I was simply too lazy, or busy, to clean out my business cabinets, and the net net was that they slowly accumulated over the years like the sediments in the Dead Sea.
4-'93 Logsheet

To my delight, when I began gathering these logs, they provided vital clues to help me remember so many of the games I had worked on.






In the end, it is sites like Mobygames, that work so hard to insure that the information they gather is correct, that give me hope that my own contribution to early gaming will be accurately remembered in years to come.




Thanks again for dropping by!



Dec 25, 2013

I, CYBORG!! ...MY TRANSITION FROM PICTORIALIST to PIXELLARRANGER* (Caution:*May not actually be a word.)

DO I QUALIFY?  CYBORG?  …I THINK SO!!


This Piece I did by hand, in Airbrush, with no Cybernetic aid whatsoever,
for Letraset Corp.'s International catalogue in 1990.
Little did I suspect what lay in store!



If we check my trusty Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary we will find the definition as follows:


My earlier views on Cybercreatures as pests
to be eliminated, are indicated in this
piece I did for the Atari Lynx System…By hand.

CYBORG?


Let's see,  ..Vital Bodily Processes…Well, my creative process, drawing talent, and capacity to render certainly could be classified as Bodily Processes, right? As for them being controlled by Cybernetically
Controlled Devices, I have to consider my Mac, Adobe, Photoshop, Illustrator, and all the other keystroke and Wacom aided waving about of hands and feet and brain to generate illustration these days to be C.C.D.s, agreed?

That leaves only the vital word 'VITAL'.  Hmmh, ...I think it is certainly vital to me to not be slinging burgers at Mr. Box's place for a living, as sadly are some of my aging contemporaries. So yeah, I'm all about being all things CYBORG.

IT WASN'T ALWAYS THIS WAY.

For the largest part of my career, and certainly during the era I did game art, I actually produced illustrations you could hold in your hands and admire. 
Today all my work enters life as data, in all of its freeform, lightly floating, in the cloud, easily transmitted glory.
One of my cyborg pieces, done for The Baltimore Sun
in  2003, using strictly Photoshop.

What it is NEVER, however, is TANGIBLE. sure, you can run a print., but so can everyone else.


In my capacity teaching Graduate level Illustration classes at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco, I have been confronted with extremely talented young adults who have grown to adulthood in a world where the majority of their efforts in art have been conducted on an electronic surfaces. My most recent class requested to see some of my Twentieth Century art, and I was persuaded to bring in several of my airbrushed pieces, and I was delighted to see a connection occur. The students seemed transfixed by the tangible nature of the materials, and were full of questions about the processes, techniques and materials we used to use as illustrators. 

They are incredibly talented at sketching directly on their E pads, and of course, draw diligently in their old world sketch pads, but for some reason, the connection with manually rendering in full color the finished illustration for what could be a very complicated image seems beyond their view, but certainly not beyond their talent.


In their (perfectly legitimate) world, they can drag and drop mountain ranges, billowing cloud forms, tempestuous oceans, towering cities, beautiful sunsets, as long as they are careful not to step on an originator's copyright. To them, the idea of facing a blank canvas, and creating all those sorts of things from scratch seems to some of them confounding. 

In the end however, in their own venues, they are using their talents to create magnificent imagery, aided by their computers, and in sync with a vast array of visual reference at their fingertips, that to illustrators of my era would have seemed simply an impossible dream.



OKAY, IT'S 1996: CYBER UP,  OR GET OUTTA DODGE.



Detail from Maxis' Full Tilt Pinball,
Marc's initial transition-to-Photoshop Illustration

MAXIS CALLS WITH FULL TILT PINBALL.

So for me, the time came when it was "Dude, put away the airbrush, we need the art in layers". 


This was actually a 'Bridge' piece for me. My techno savvy studio mate Robert Evans was tutoring me in Photoshop, which had been around since '90. I was trying hard to grasp things, and I took on this piece for Maxis. I wound up airbrushing it and dragging it into PS to do the detailing , and thereby learned a great deal. Soon my hand was more rapidly forced, as agencies saw the benefits in receiving their art in a form they could much more easily manipulate.




BITTERSWEET PARTING


At the time I was transitioning into Photoshop,
Which I needed to do if I wanted to keep illustrating, The imagery and gameplay for video games were reaching a critical mass for the concept that they could be used as cover art for the game boxes themselves. It was that concept that drove most of us out of the market.

It was also that impetus though that allowed me to continue as a freelancer in the Bay Area, working in Photoshop as I have been doing in the intervening 20 0r so years, doing packaging art, technical art and presentation art for the advertising market outside the gaming industry.

The Gaming art was the most fun, and most rewarding era of my long career as an illustrator. During that period I met and worked for some of the most forward looking and creative people imaginable, and had a blast doing it. I can't imagine having a career be any more fun.


GO Mega Man-a-Thon!!


I wanted also to give a shout out to Bryan Belcher and his Half Empty Tank group effort in launching his second Mega Man-a-Thon marathon promotion Jan. 2-5, at MAGfest12, contributions for which will go to help Child's Play, an organization dedicated to get game gear to hospitalized children. I will be donating  10 signed prints of my original Mega Man 2 illustration I did for Capcom back in 1989.

THANKS FOR GIVING ME YOUR VALUABLE TIME, I HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED IT!!




Nov 16, 2013

THE DEVIL'S IN THE DETAILS, AND A HELL OF A LOT MORE! Take a look !!!

DETAIL Has always been a large part of the appeal I tried to put into my Illustrations.

I've always been a big believer in giving my viewer a payoff for taking a close look at what I'm presenting, and felt I had a duty to GAMERS to go the extra mile to give them some special eye candy to help their imaginations get into the gameplay. Besides, it was challenging and fun!






                                       WITH THAT IN MIND

Let's take a look at my cover illustration for STRATEGIC SIMULATION's 1988 tactical game
'FIRST OVER GERMANY'. 


Because this early flight simulator featured one of my favorite aircraft of the Second World War: The Boeing B-17, I felt I demanded an entertaining 'you are there' kind of treatment. 


I was well aware of the crew dispositions and the type of actions they would be involved with in the course of a bombing mission. I chose a perilous moment for the bomber crew, hammered by enemy fighters as it approaches its IP, or Initial Point, and simultaneously dealing with heavy flak, damaged, and forced to leave the protective fire of its fellow formation members. The pilots are trying to dive away from the formation, in an effort to put out the flames of a shot up Starboard engine and a dead feathered Port engine. An BF-109, and a FW-190 immediately jump the crippled bomber, and take fire from the belly turret and the top turret as they make their dangerous passes. German Interceptor pilots had a phrase for making a pass at a B-17: They called it "Like flying into a barn door."


As you can see, the Bombardier has freed up his
.50 Cal. and is scanning the sky for targets, and the Belly turret is spitting out its spent brass casings as the gunner tries to track the Focke Wulf below.

The Pilots are obviously busy trying to keep the aircraft in trim while the top turret gunner peppers the Messerschmidt passing overhead with a combined transverse closing speed of maybe 600 MPH. 

I can tell you that this is what tracers looked like to these men, floating glistening into space like beads of water catching the sun out of the nozzle of a hose... until one slammed into your airframe, OR WORSE, YOUR BODY. The German fighters were firing 20 mm cannons (The nose cone barrel is visible at the center of the BF-109 propeller boss) through the aluminum skins of these B-17s, set to detonate a microsecond after hitting anything, they exploded into the crewmembers, cutting control cables, oxygen lines, and critical equipment, all in the freezing thin air 3 miles up. 

This is an oil painting I did for the U.S.Air Force Art Collection depicting B-17G Tail number 239843
'Daley's Mate' of the 305th Bomb Group, dropping her ordinance on a target of opportunity during the initial offensives against Berlin in 1944. The Tailing white smoke marker was dropped by the lead bombardier to signal for all aircraft in the group to drop at once. This group would lose 768 aviators of all ratings killed in action, and over 900 interned as captives.


You can see the details of the crew again here, although the nature of working in oils as opposed to airbrush can be readily seen. The 'G' Model of the B-17 was the first to feature the forward facing remotely controlled chin turret, developed to counter the Luftwaffe fighters' favorite tactic of attacking these bombers head on, which was very effective, as you might imagine.



I wanted the Courage of these men recognized, and that's where and why these details mattered to me.



ON A LIGHTER NOTE... 


was 1989's SNK's  P.O.W. PRISONERS of WAR: My thought on this game, as a sister game to the SNK's GUERRILLA WAR was less realism, simply a wild eyed shoot 'em up, wherein a crazy break-out scene would really get the gamer excited.



POW!!BLAMMMM!!!

BUDDA BUDDA!! VIP VIP!


My two captured Good Guy Prisoners of War have somehow snatched a  submachine gun, and are using their prodigious karate skills to overwhelm their guards, while in the rear, more guards come boiling out of the woodwork, directed by an enemy officer, at the left rear. A tank squats menacingly around the corner of Bldg. A12, while two detonations take out the Tower and  a middle ground bad guy in the exercise yard.

Might our boys be overwhelmed by the Fidelistas? Will they have the ammo necessary to make it to freedom??!!


OF COURSE THEY WILL!! 

Dude, it's a VIDEO GAME!!!









KAABOOM!!



You can see the detail I put into the Detonation in the guard tower/ machine-gun nest: The guard is seen doing the classic windmilling arms stuntman fall, while the .50 caliber M-1 heavy machinegun is blown to the ground, as the Banana Rebublic palm frond stronghold is blasted to smithereens.

The enemy commander is leisurely directing his troops to capture the pesky Americanos, while being careful not to put himself at risk, while our Heroes blow and blast their way to freedom, amidst the flying shrapnel and tumbling hot brass, spewing from the receivers of their wildly firing submachine guns.


BRRAAAPPP!!!

FREEDOM!!

Remember: Details matter!


AS ALWAYS, Thanks so much for dropping by, and keep your muzzle down and your ammo dry!!