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My First Step Into a Much Larger World
Posted 08/30/2012

This past weekend I took my first step into a much larger world. I went to Star Wars Celebration VI.

I went at the urging of the awesome Amy Ratcliffe, Star Wars fan of the highest order. Plus, since I’ll be a Star Wars sketch card artist as of the release of September’s Galactic Files card set, I wanted to do some recon for possibly setting up at the next one.

(Well, the next domestic one. The next Celebration will be in Germany. The week after Comic-Con. That might be pushing it, even for me. And I drove from Orlando to Atlanta to follow up Celebration with Dragon*Con.)

  I have to say, it was pretty awesome. The people are great, and some of the costumes were just out-and-out amazing. There was a great feeling to the whole event. And it’s amazing how Star Wars has continued to find fans through the years. Kids who couldn’t have been old enough to see Phantom Menace in the theatre still get hooked into the way first-time fan who lived through the craziness of premieres and toy lines did.

It’s also cool to see what a unified show can do. The three main stages each had their own specific host. The large theatre had a DJ and warm up act keeping people energized. You can’t really do that at Comic-Con with their universal table and chairs setup.

I was really impressed by the displays that the fans set up. I got to be in a Bacta tank, run from Roxy the Rancor, get rousted by Stormtroopers. stop a trash masher, and even sit in a snowspeeder… my favorite Star Wars vehicle.

There were more than a few things to buy, too. I kept myself from buying the Cup O’Jawa coffee mug and the Mos Eisley Spaceport glass, but, um, I did get them on t-shirts. There was an incredible amount of art at the show, too. Lucas really created a visually enticing world. There’s always something interesting there that’s begging to be drawn.

I got to see some pretty incredible stuff, too. There was the premiere of the new season of Clone Wars (the second premiere of the show that I’ve seen). I saw the 3-D trailer for Attack of the Clones and even a minute of Revenge of the Sith, which really does look great in that format. I got to see Carrie Fisher on stage talk about… okay, well, it’s probably best not to dwell on one that too much. Still cool.

And for one brief moment, I got to be in the same room with George Lucas. Okay, it was an auditorium, but it was still something I never really thought would happen when I first watched Star Wars those many years ago. That was kind of awesome.     If I had to pick a highlight, though, it would be James Arnold Taylor’s one man show.

His show’s about an hour long, and he does over two hundred voices for the first fifty-eight minutes or so. It’s interesting and funny and amazing. He dissects the process of doing impressions person by person along with a video presentation and it’s just amazing.

But the last two minutes are the thunderclap. That’s when he tells you about being exposed to toxic mold at the apex of his career and how it killed his voice, and how it took two years to make a comeback that no one thought he could. It’s one of the best “follow your dreams” moments since Kermit the Frog sang Rainbow Connection. 

I’m a sucker for passion. It’s what fuels me and gets me out of bed in the morning. Well, that and coffee, but mostly passion. And I love being among passionate people. Celebration was definitey the place for that. Amazingly crafted costumes, detailed reproductions of sets and ships, dioramas and Legos like you wouldn’t believe, it was all on display.

So, next time they throw one of these Celebrations in America again, or even Canada, I bet you’ll find me there.

Thom and Amy on the Falcon Thom and Han Thom and Rancor Thom and Stormtroopers Thom and the Emperor Thom Bacta Tank 2 Thom Snowspeeder 2 IMG_3735 IMG_3748 Thom Bacta Tank 2 Thom Snowspeeder 2 IMG_3735 IMG_3748 IMG_3775 IMG_3720 IMG_3722 IMG_3726 IMG_3728 IMG_3729 IMG_3730 IMG_3732 IMG_3735 IMG_3744 IMG_3746 IMG_3748 IMG_3750 IMG_3755 IMG_3775 IMG_3776

Follow the Yellow Brick Road
Posted 10/11/2010

I saw Wicked, I know what really happenedI recently got to do a caricature for a couple people as a present. They wanted a Wizard of Oz theme, as well as a tie to Cleveland. The layout just seemed natural to me, and I turned some Cleveland landmarks into the Emerald City.

This was a lot of fun, and I used a different coloring technique than I have in recent years. Rather than doing that cut color shadow layer (that’s the style I use on Love and Capes) I actually rendered the artwork in color with a few hard cast shadows.

I’m really pleased with how this turned out and so was the client, which is always important.

Wayback Wednesday: Another Swimsuit Story
Posted 02/17/2010

Quantum Leap CoverMy good friend and fellow Kubert School student Sean Tiffany has been doing a series of "From the Vault" posts on his blog. In these, he brings out some old piece of artwork from school or early in his career. Always one to steal from someone smart, I’m going to do the same thing here with Wayback Wednesdays.

The Wayback MachineFirst up is a project from my "senior" year at Kubert. (Kubert was a three year school, but I hate saying "third" or "last" since it sounds like I didn’t finish.) This was actually in Joe Kubert’s class. We had to adapt a TV show into comic book format, doing a cover and a couple of interior pages. I did Quantum Leap. Innovation was doing a comic at the time, and I figured this might be a nice set of samples to show them. Plus, I was a fan of the show and wanted to do the scene that they could never really afford to do.

Quantum Leap had Sam Beckett leap into the life of another character, usually at in inopportune moment. When he got there, Sam’s reaction would inevitably be "Oh, boy." So I threw Sam into a skydiver. Sam leaping into someone who, literally, was leaping through the air was too good, plus the things you could do with Al were too much fun to pass up.

Kathy Ireland SI coverThe cover was a parody/homage to the Kathy Ireland Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover, which had come out a couple years before. It was iconic enough, and lent itself well enough that I thought it was a great fit.

As it was The Old Days, the artwork was done on bristol board, the lettering done by hand, and the colors done with Dr. Martin Watercolor Dyes on a photocopy pasted onto a piece of illustration board. Ah, pre-computer color. There’s some aspects of actually brushing wet color on paper that I miss, but all things being equal, I much prefer computer coloring.

And, as always, click to embiggen!

Quantum Leap Page OneQuantum Leap Page 1

Clean Sweep
Posted 02/04/2010

Melissa's Magnificent Cleaning

Recently, I was called upon to draw a logo for a cleaning service called Melissa’s Magnificent Cleaning. I did it pretty quickly, but it was also a lot of fun. I like the pose and the attitude.

The final file was all vector, which is still a bit of an effort for me since Adobe discontinued their fine Streamline program. And yes, I know Adobe Illustrator has a great trace function, but I just can’t get it to behave the same anymore. I’ll get it eventually, though, I’m sure.

We're Going to the Chapel… soon
Posted 07/17/2009

Love, exciting and neeeew

It’s been a long haul with over 100 guests attending (and, by extension, 100 caricatures to do) but I finished the cover for Love and Capes #12. There will be two versions, the "Love" verson (featuring Mark and all other superheroes in civilian garb) and the "Capes" edition (featuring Mark as the Crusader, and superheroes in the congregation). They’ll be a 50/50 split, but if you’re an attendee, don’t worry. You’ll get the one with you on it. And I’ll be e-mailing you soon about it.

The full cover images will be released sometime during Comic-Con next week. Hey, everybody else is making announcements, why can’t I? But for now, enjoy the little thumbnails I’ve shown above.

All in all, the wedding cover promotion worked better than I could have hoped, and I think it’s a really strong image. Thanks to everyone who participated!

The Coolest Thing Since Cool
Posted 02/09/2009

New Love and Capes news. Click here to see what!

Six Years of Boo at the Zoo
Posted 09/18/2008

No More Boo at the Zoo for You
Since 2002, I’ve been the caricaturist for the Cleveland Metroparks Boo at the Zoo. It’s a Halloween event for kids that the Zoo holds the two weekends before Halloween. It’s been a blast. It originally was a two day event, and over the years has become a four-day extravaganza over two weeks. And, while drawing 100 kids a night for four days straight, sometimes in the rain, wind and cold, isn’t the easiest way to spend an evening, it was always one of the most fun. The attendees were great, and it was always the most humbling event as more than a few people would tell me that they ran to my station to make sure they got in line for the free drawing that had become a family tradition. There are people who have six years of Thom Zahler caricatures on their wall, and that’s just great.

Sadly, I won’t be back this year. The Zoo has contracted with a new gift shop vendor this year, and their contract gives them the license to sell caricatures at the event. I’m disappointed I can’t be there this year, and I’ll miss the kids and the great people at the Zoo. But, I understand the business end of things, too, and know that these things happen. No hard feelings there, and hopefully we’ll be able to find other things in the future. And, if things ever change, I’ll be back Booing and Zooing in a heartbeat.

I figured I’d mention it here because there are those loyal throngs of people who show up, some of whom read this site, and want them to know that I’d still be there if I could. My lines were frequently over an hour and a half long, so maybe this will give those kids a chance to see some parts of the Zoo that they’d skipped because they were in my line.

It’s been a great six years! Thanks for everyone who came by and made it one of my favorite events to do. Hopefully I’ll see you somewhere soon.

The Drawing Machine
Posted 08/28/2008

For some reason, I’ve been doing a lot of caricature gigs lately. More than I have in a while. Sunday was particularly busy, as I had both a morning and afternoon event to do. Still, it keeps me busy and keeps me paid, so that’s all to the good.

The second Sunday event was for Lake Erie College, a frequent client. I love high school and college gigs in general because it’s just so cool to talk to people deciding what to do with their life. As someone who’s always known what he would do, the whole process of figuring things out and what other people decide what to do is just endlessly fascinating.

These photos were taken by the multi-talented Bob Zyromski, late of the YMCA and as always an ace photographer. (You should hire him to photograph something for you, too. Give him a shout here.) He was out taking pictures, and they are pretty cool, aside from my ugly mug. It’s interesting to see what I look like when I draw, too. I didn’t realize that I looked so intense.

With all of these photos, you can click and embiggen!

Morning Had Broken Me
Posted 05/22/2008

Man, waking up at 4:00am will mess you the frak up.

I felt like I was in a haze all day, even after I slept for an hour after the show. I managed to pump out a couple more parts of the Scene cover I’m doing. I even finished it this morning (and by morning, I mean something like seven or eight, not four) assuming my art director gives me the big okay. Part of said cover is even shown here. I’ll post another image or two, probably, before I show the full cover on Wednesday when it prints.

leftcornerAnyway, Good Morning Cleveland was great. I was surprisingly conscious for that early in the morning. Everybody there, from Todd the producer to Paul and Kim and Susanne and Patty to everyone else were fantastic. And a big shout out to Kimmy, who I went to Lake Catholic with and brought me to their attention to be on the show. You can see a slideshow of those caricatures here. I think most of them came out pretty well, and I was lucky enough to get the subjects to sit down for me. Last time I was on the show (it can’t be seven years ago, can it?), I had to look across the studio to try to get a glimpse of them. There’s probably one of the set I did yesterday that I’d do differently, but I won’t out it here.

I think I even came across well in the interview, although I must admit that I’ve not had the intestinal fortitude to pull it up on the TiVo yet. I’ll probably burn it to disc and never look at it again. I really have a hard time watching myself on TV.

But don’t let that stop you if you’re the producer of another morning show and want to bring me out to your studio. Good Morning Dallas… Good Morning Poughkeepsie… whatever. It’s all about the self-promotion.

Sunday in the Park
Posted 04/28/2008

Yesterday I did five hours (or as I call it, The Nickle) of caricatures at a COSE event in Little Italy here in Cleveland. It was one of those near-perfect events. I never had a line, per se, but I did have a steady stream of subjects. At most, there were two or three kids lined-up behind me.

COSE does some great work, and depending on how some things shake down, I may wind up joining. And Little Italy is one of my favorite parts of Cleveland, and for a while had my favorite restaurant in town (which, sadly, has since closed to be replaced by fine place… it’s just not the same, though).

I even ran into some people I haven’t seen in years there. It’s amazing how that happens.

I’ve said before that it’s important to recognize when things go right and yesterday went really right.

Well, except for the light sunburn I got being outside and drawing for five hours. But I can deal with that.