Friday, December 30, 2011

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Crossing the Finish Line

Yesterday morning we woke up dark and early. Betsy and I showered and packed before the boys even woke up. We were all out of the hotel by 6:30 and airport bound. We skipped our continental breakfast (a big selling point for Holiday Inn Express) and got into a frozen car. We hadn't experienced this at all during the trip so of course this happens on the morning we actually have to be somewhere on time. I ran back into the breakfast, filled three coffee cups with hot water and ran back to the car. After pouring onto the windows and putting the address for the car rental company into the GPS we were on our way into the heart of Tuesday morning New York traffic.

I enjoyed the ride, sitting in traffic watching the Manhattan skyline reflect the sunrise back to us, eating leftover cannolis (Betsy turned the bathroom sink into a frig the night before.)

We got the airport a lot earlier than we needed to be which was nice not having to rush in a mad panic with two little children, but it did mean that we had to wait in a panic with two small children. I spent the majority of this time chasing Big D around. Betsy and Little P returned with to little bowls of Instant cereal; Big D got the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Little P had Cocoa Crispies. This entire time, Betsy and I are juggling two bowls of cereal, the gate is filling up with more bodies and we shift our attention to the two year old. We both tell him repeatedly to sit down so he wouldn't make a mess or worse, spill the whole bowl. That's when the bigger one dropped his bowl all over the floor, his clothes, and the carry-on bags. Sweet symmetry! The perfect book end to the beginning of our trip. Betsy comforts him, Big D continues to eat his Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and i get to work using a brochure as a dust pan. As soon as I finish scooping up the Rice Crispies and find a garbage can, Big D has finished his breakfast and fleeing to wherever he wants (because he's two years old, and can easily fit under areas security has roped off for normal sized folks like myself.) And carry him kicking and fussing back to Betsy and tell her that if I were the crying type, I'd be doing it right now. As if on cue, Big D spit up Cinnamon Toast Crunch on my jacket sleeve. We couldn't help but chuckle.

The plane ride back to Orlando was just as moderately stomach-churning as before with Big D kicking the chair in front of him (I removed his shoes to lessen their impact and also reduce a half-inch of reach) while Little P annoyed him (his duty as a big brother.)

After we touched down and got our van back I kept trying to get a high-five from Betsy. She wasn't having it. She was still far from thrilled that we still had to drive four a half hours home. I was just relieved to not have to "share" my boys with the rest of the world. We were in the comfort of our own private little van.

Keeping the speedometer between 85 and 90 we got home in almost record time. Big D fussed a bit and Little P took two naps (something he only does when he's sick or tired.) I checked the mail inches before we pulled into the driveway home and tried to get a high-five from Betsy and she still wasn't having it. I told her to lighten up. We'd crossed the finish line. As Betsy and I unpacked the van and started laundry, I went back to the van to get Little P. He was crouched on the floor between the middle chairs having just thrown-up all over the back of the van.

This was by far, the worst vacation I have ever been on. This is the vacation to measure all other bad vacations against. I'm confident, that given time, we can look back at this time a smile. It was definitely memorable.

The good news is, I've come back to work on a team planning day. I could certainly use some time away from children for a while.

You know, like a vacation.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Trip Continues...

Yesterday, we figured we would journey into the city.

Everyone either told Betsy don't drive into city, or, parking is free on the weekends.

Our plan was to take the car to the Staten Island Ferry. Betsy punched in Staten Island Ferry into the GPS and it took us towards the bridge. The next thing we knew, we were on the bridge.
Paying a thirteen dollar toll.
Driving into the city.

Betsy would slow down as we passed parking signs, trying to read and react in time. We quickly employed the strategy of parking first, reading second. We found a spot along the street right near the bridge exit. We figured that the sooner we parked the "smaller the knot we have to untie later" would be. We hoofed in up to Times Square and met Uncle Jimmy and Melissa in Toys-R-Us. Way too crowded. The five of us soaked up the Manhattan energy as we hopped into various stores (too crowded) until we reached Central Park. I'd been to New York four other times, but this was the first time I'd ever walked into the park. Keep in mind that the boys have not been getting great nights of sleep. When this happens, Little P acts nasty. Today was no exception. He was a rude, grumpy mess as we walked through Central Park and bought a pretzel that tasted like cardboard. We lost Uncle Jimmy and Melissa at Dylan's Candy Store. Besty wanted to visit Chelsea Market (home of Food Network) but that consisted of me standing in line with Little P for twenty minutes to use the bathroom while Betsy chased Big D through six or seven stores. Not fun. By then, we were exhausted. It was time to head back to the car. I hoisted Big D on my shoulders and we walked towards the car. We knew that as long as the river and Jersey City were to our right and the bridge was in front of us that we'd eventually/hopefully find the car. Two miles later we did.
This was the first time in my life when I've been to Manhattan and not really done ANYTHING.

Except survive.

That was Sunday.
Today we met up with the rest of the family and took the train to Hoboken, New Jersey. Everybody wanted to buy pastries from Carlos' Bakery: Home of the Cake Boss! Betsy and her family love to cook, buy cooking gadgets, and watch lots of Food Network. I joke that they're "entertained" by food. I tend to just eat it and poop it. Going to Carlos' Bakery wasn't a high priorty for me, but what else was I going to do?

The wait to get in started at the CVS across the street. A bakery employee handed out ticket numbers to the people waiting in line. Betsy got #67. I chased Big D up and down the block while Little P and Poppy ate pizza at Basil's Pizzeria next door. Little P is not a big eater, so to see him and Poppy cross the street eating pizza was a thrill for Betsy and I. Especially when their objective was just to find a bathroom. We crossed the street to the front of the bakery forty minutes later. Thirty minutes after that, Betsy and the crew gained admittance into the bakery. On the farthest wall we saw the sign: NOW SERVING NUMBER 27.


I continued to chase Big D up and down the block ( and into a BLIMPIES!) for the next hour and half. I wouldn't have kept my sanity if it weren't for cousin Timothy. Big D wanted to play with him the whole time and he was a great sport to oblige. Big D kept referring to him as "Mr. Mailman." No one knows why. On a side note, Little P was an awesome sport too for being super patient inside the bakery with his mom. We all had dinner at Basil's Pizzeria, took the subway to the bus stop, and rode the bus back to Staten Island.

We ended the night with a game of Quiddler around Aunt Betsy's kitchen table. By far, the highlight of the trip. Betsy concurs.

And conquers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Did Something Pretty Cool Tonight...

I'm sorry. Did I say "vacation" in that last post?

THIS IS WORK. I'd rather be at school...and I hate school.

We woke up Friday morning at Uncle Jimmy's apartment in Orlando. The boys did not get enough sleep to be pleasant on a plane today. They were already amped to be sleeping in a different place when we came in an hour later than we planned.

We got to the airport between 7:30-8:00 to meet our 10 o'clock flight. Big D wanted to run around everywhere. I gave Little P his "Chick-fil-A/TPD" I.D. to make him feel a little older. I thought I was being a cool dad. Big Mistake.
Little P is anything but shy as he interrupted (with an "excuse me" of course) the conversations plenty of TSA agents while we stood in long lines, hands full with carry-ons, shoulders full with an impatient, squirming 2-year old.

Once we got through the security, we met up with the in-laws at a food court. I downed my BK #1 while taking turns chasing Big D around. Betsy got a smoothie from Smoothie King. Her plan was to drink it on the plane. At the gate, we would normally have two options: board first and lock the boys down while the rest of the plane loaded, OR board last. Seeing as how we were the last ones at the gate, we were forced into option #2. Betsy hands me here smoothie while she looks for that "pocket-where-the-tickets-will-be-easy-to-find." So now I find myself holding a crank 2-year old in one arm, and car seat in that hand, and a smoothie in the other as Little P takes it upon himself to run his I.D. through some scanner/expensive looking machine. Stomach in knots (it's natural state) I grab Little P's wrist trying in vain to prevent him from breaking a scanner thing and getting us kicked out of an airport hundreds of miles from home.

That's when the smoothie explodes on the floor. And on our pants. And on our carry-ons.

A two-hour-long plane ride (funny how the missus found a seat away from the boys and myself) and we touch down at La Guardia. We get in the rental car (Toyota Carrola) and drive 25 miles in an hour and a half. Betsy is the primary driver at this point because she causes me nothing but stress when she's a passenger (not sure when this happened in our relationship) so I figure if she's going to be stressed anyway, she might as well drive.

We get to the hotel and Big D enters first. I'm a big stickler for routine when it comes to children, and we just broke MY first rule of entering a hotel room. I always enter first and do a quick sweep that includes: putting the microwave, glasses, coffee pots out of reach, and disconnecting the room phone either from the receiver, or the base, or both. Because when you don't do that, those are the first things at their eye-level, and their to-do list. After that, I jump on the beds with them. Why not?

From there, we drove to Aunt Betsy's house on Staten Island. We used Mapquest on Betsy's phone and got lost like crazy. The phone would sleep, I'd wake it up, press some button I wasn't supposed to and lose our directions. Betsy and I seriously hate each other at times like this. I snap and figure out GPS on my phone. I felt like Batman, rolled in a James Bond, and covered in Iron Man. It was the highlight of the trip by far.

That was Friday.

Today was the day/night of the BIG PHOTO. The ENTIRE reason this trip was planned months ago is the BIG PHOTO.

My mother-in-law is one of ten children. Back in 1961, all ten Werring kids took a picture in front of the Christmas Tree. They Werring kids (half- are grandparents now) wanted to take the same photo 50 YEARS LATER in front of the Rockafeller Tree with all the extended branches of the family.

Today, we drove to Aunt Betsy's, got lost following a gold van to the restaurant, and ate for four hours. Not really something my boys are conditioned for. Big D wanted to run around everywhere and Little P had a fever. A chartered bus picked us up (all 67ish of us) and drove into the city. This was a bigger highlight to me. To dive into the city in a bus, above the traffic, against a setting sun was very cool.

We all disembarked from the bus a block out and walked to the tree. As all 67 us trekked into the city, and exactly how crowded the tree was, how constant the stream of tourists was, it sank in that the BIG PHOTO, the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, the ENTIRE reason this trip was planned months ago wasn't going to happen. Even the "photographer" bailed.

It was shoulder to shoulder crowed. Betsy and I both teach. We don't like chaos. If kids act crazy of off the chain, we get them in line and we do it quickly. This was a big nightmare. I don't know what an anxiety attack feels like, or what it's like to have a nervous breakdown, but all the ingredients were there. Eventually the original ten had their photo taken and then the next generation took theirs. Half of the crew stayed and partied, the other half (our half) started the hour long journey back home.

The city was/is just too crowded, and a 2-year old didn't make anything easier.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Comic Pitch Page 1 (Final Colors)

Off to New York this weekend. The fam' and I left right after school. Drove to Orlando tonight knowing that Big D wouldn't nap. Did not expect the EXTRA HOUR delay on I-75 outside of Ocala. Crawled. Not one of our better starts to a vacation.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Monday, November 28, 2011

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Happiness Withdrawls...

What you see here is my good buddy Chuck’s “To Do” list at work. I’ve been best friends with Chuck since kindergarten, and we’ve wound up at the same job more that once in our lives. Which is awesome. Well, it turns out that the boss noticed that I needed some “get up and go” and had Chuck add that to his list.

The problem is that I’m coming down from a brief but powerful creative high. I took the day off recently to doctor/redraw a children’s book. I called in sick to work, stayed home alone, cranked out picture after picture listening to iTunes however loud I wanted to. I jogged around the block a couple times when I felt stiff. I was never interrupted. It was basically everything my job should be.

Last fall I was working on a super secret movie pitch (that I still shouldn’t talk about.) But that experience had something to do with a comic book that I had drawn (168 pages!) being adapted into a movie. The movie being made would mean that the comic that I spent drawing for months would finally see the light of day. That little movie project was the accumulation of every daydream and fantasy I ever entertained coming true. It represnted everything that my life had been building up to. It was the crescedo that Little Billy Penn set into motion when he saw his first movie, cracked open his first comic book, and scribbled his first pictures. And nothing continues to happen with it. I still wake up everyday, and toil in the same job I have for the last nine years.

But this is something different. I’ve gone through “happiness withdrawls” before, but never have I felt them as severe as this.

Drawing a book/comic/movie pitch is sooooo frustrating. I’m just flirting with a tease. It’s like I’m torn between two jobs: one that makes me happy, and one that makes me money.

And work is NEVER REALLY THAT BAD. The dread of going back to work ALWAYS outweighs being at work. It’s never as bad as I think.

But I still get downright suicidal thoughts driving to work…

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Paging Dr. Penn...

Well this turned out to be a doozy of a project. It started out as a simple “head replacement” assignment. You might remember seeing it here. Initially, The original artist penciled in the figures and her artwork was “inked” in Adobe Illustrator. Which is fine and dandy, but the writer/publisher/money wasn’t thrilled with the results. The artwork was deemed a little too realistic/not-so-fun. With my “cartooning” background, I was asked to replace the heads. Seemed simple enough. And it was, until it was time to “marry” my heads to the originals.

The biggest problem I had was finding out that all of the elements (text, photographic backgrounds, and characters) were combined in Adobe InDesign (the preferred way to publish.) I don’t have InDesign or Illustrator, so I was forced to “recreate” the finished artwork as best I could (with only Photoshop.) I uploaded those pictures and got my check. I thought my contributions turned out pretty well. I didn’t redraw the original artists’ characters (I’m no inker) so it was a team effort. I think what I’d done in addition to adding more personality to the characters’ faces, was add facial consistency and continuity. Pervis the pigeon’s hat is uniform from page to page, and the female quail is obviously female despite a lack of accessories.

And then I got a phone call.

“So [my wife] and I have gone back and forth with the illustrations for the Quail Book. We have spoken with a few different people about how they look and one suggestion kept being made: either go with one illustrator or the other. People seem to pick up on the fact that the heads of the birds have a different 'look' than the bodies.

So we are not in a great situation with this because we like your illustrations but we already have full completed birds by the other artist. I know you are a busy guy, but we just wanted to ask you three questions:

1. Would you be interested in just redrawing the entire bird, not just the head/face? You could just use the same poses and layout that we already have, we would just need you to make it all look uniform and of the same style.

2. How much would you charge to do it?

3. How quickly could you get it done?

If we went with you, we would need it completed by Sept. 25th at the latest. If this is not possible, then I think we will just use the images from the other artist.

No pressure on this, I know you have a lot going on but we thought it would be worth a shot.”

Being the “freelance illustrator” that I fantasize I am, I said “yes” and continued to plow through my western comicbook pages. Dumbass.

When I finished my western pages, I jumped head first into the full-body replacement art. With three days left before the deadline, I knew: Chill the F@#* out guys! I got this.

Days one and two were spent tracing/drawing the new character bodies (why redraw the heads right?) and setting up the pages. Again the final revision was a pdf., so I had to increase the resolution in Photoshop and wait FOREVER for the pages to load. This is a very by the numbers/rote process. I set up ALL the pages at once for that step of the process. (ex. STEP 1: A-Z, STEP 2: A-Z ect. Instead of A:Step 1-10, B: Step 1-10, etc.)

And then, on Day 3, it took me two-and-a-half hours to complete five pages.

Now, it’s no surprise that I fantasize that I’m a professional, freelance illustrator, but part of that fantasy is having a wife who will say,” I’ll get the kids out of your hair and we’ll leave so you can get your work done. You’re the best! Love you. Bye.”


I was torn: throw away “easy” money at let them know I can’t do it, or do it, and have it consume my life for a day?

I sent the following email with the picture you see topside:

Okay. So I'm not going to make the deadline today. I've attached two pages of comparisons and if you like what you see and can give me another week, I can have it done for you (realistically). I have all 29 pages worth of drawings done, I'm just taking longer than I would have liked to "reconstruct" some of the backgrounds. I can invest a lot of time coloring this tonight, but I don't know if I'll cross the finish line in time. I know we didn't agree to a deadline extension and that September 25 was the latest you needed these. If I'm too late, I understand and I apologize. No hard feelings on my part (I'll just be kicking myself, that's all.)

Anywho, I like the revised text and pics, and can't wait to see the finished book!

And was replied by:

These look good from my phone. I will take a better look in a bit. We do need these as soon as possible. Can you just post them to the Dropbox as you finish each page? Is there any way you can complete them by Wednesday? Anything after that is really going to put us in a bind.

To which I replied:

Absolutely. I'll get these to you asaMFp!

This was not the ideal way for me to illustrate a picture book. The project started with a “penciler” and those drawings were sent to a designer. So now, here I am, artist number three who is basically filling the role of inker. The heads are on a different file that the bodies. The original art (charatcters/poses) is still there, it just has my interpretations on top of them. In many instances I found myself confined to the parameters of the original contours of the first drawings (to keep from having to recreate the photographic backgrounds. For example, the finished art you’ll see is not representative of how I’d draw a baseball cap.)

So I took Tuesday off and finished the project. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING makes me happier than calling in sick to school. I was on cloud nine when I finished!

Then my wife found out I took the day off (and “lied” to her. And that’s a whole other argument. Sheesh!)

And then I went back to school.

And now I’m going through Happiness Withdrawls

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011