Monday, February 26, 2018

On Growing Up Walt Disney

When I was growing up, every Sunday night, there was a television show called The Wonderful World of Disney. Maybe you remember it. It was always hosted by Walt Disney (despite the fact that Disney passed away two years before I was born) and Mr. Disney, Walt, was my first and is still my longest lasting hero. When my dad asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I told him I wanted to be Walt Disney. I learned how to draw the Disney characters at a very young age and I used to dazzle my friends and schoolmates with my drawings.

My dad wanted more for me. He told me there were more starving artists than there were anything else.

What he didn't get was I didn't want to be JUST an artist. I wanted to BE Walt Disney.

Fast-forward to the late-eighties. I was working in a factory (Douglas Aircraft), about as far away as I could have ever imagined from being Walt Disney. But it wasn't a secret that I was both a Disney fan and an artist. Many told me I needed to go down to the Disney studio and "go get a job there," as if that was all there was to it. And, at the time, I would have been thrilled to be offered the opportunity. However, I didn't have the schooling and there was no way in. It wasn't like it was in the 20s and the 30s where "decent" artists just showed up at "Disney's" and showed a handful of drawings to a guy and was given a desk. This was Eisner's Disney. Pretty much a different place altogether.

Another thing many people at the airplane factory told me stuck though. "They sure don't make comic strips like they used to. Have you read the comic strips in the newspaper lately? They're not even funny."

Challenge accepted.

At the time, I was reading Disney comics reprinted by Gladstone publishing and Disney was starting to branch out and publish their own new comics, much of it based on the Disney Afternoon batch of characters. I had grown up reading Carl Barks' Donald Duck comic books. And I was a bit of a punster myself. Ren and Stimpy was tweaking the heck out of cartoon expectations and I decided I wanted to fall somewhere in between. I wanted to have a character that was antagonistic and cutting-edge, but maybe the rest of the cast of my characters would be more like Disney characters. And I landed on the idea of a Pet Peeve. And since he's a pet, he's got to be someone's pet. I had always loved Tolkien's books and fantasy in general. My brother was very involved in the local Rennaissance Faires. So I set my fictional world in a fractured fairy tale-like fantasy world that was populated with cartoon versions of knights, elves, dwarves and dragons. And since Peeve had to be someone's pet in order for the pun to work, I made Peeve's straight man a pudgy little elf named Elvin. And that's how "Elvin's Pet Peeve" came to mind.

The idea was to do a series of comic strips and have them syndicated to the newspapers the same way Peanuts, Ziggy and Garfield was.

I studied hard. I studied copyright and trademark law. I studied how the Disney artists used to draw their comic strips. And I studied syndication and distribution of comic strips. I even stopped by the Long Beach Press-Telegram offices to see if I could interest them in running my comic strip locally (they weren't interested). In the meantime, hoping for a grass-roots interest, I put my high school print shop knowledge to work and made T-Shirts, caps, and other screen-printed items. I even sponsored a softball team and had a four-page newsletter that co-workers took home to their kids. I was so convinced Peeve was going to be a hit, I bought a personalized license plate for my car that said PEEVE. I wanted to get it before someone else did!

I was highly motivated. I drew 185 Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips as well as three and a half comic book-style stories (there were four, but only three were fully-inked) before I shelved it to focus on going to school for graphic design (I decided to study graphic design, which was something I excelled at in high school) after I was laid off from Douglas.

From there, I went into a graphic design career, holding Art Director positions at a swimwear company, web design company, screen printing company and then moving into advertising. I revisited Peeve briefly when I was working on potential animated properties with Joe White. But then I moved to Colorado, got married, had a kid, etc. All the things that one does when one grows up.

And then life hit me like a bus.

My wife of ten and a half years was gone. My daughter was fast-approaching her teenage years and I was left with little more than a handful of unrealized dreams.

And a box full of Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips. All sealed in plastic.

And I realized that this is a wonderful time to be an artist. We have the Internet. We have Do It Yourself filmmaking, publishing, print-on-demand books, T-shirts, digital studio-quality recording, wide-reaching distribution. The only limits are your imagination, inventiveness and wherewithal to get off your tail and do good work.

So I found myself pondering what to do with it all. And, after much prayer and soul-searching, inspiration struck. I'm gonna do it all! And I'm going to tie it all together with the re-launch of the TV show that I did right after Lori passed away (The Creative Underground... it started out as an online radio show in Colorado Springs, CO, then was part of PADNET, Long Beach's cable-access channel and aired simultaneously on my YouTube channel). With the re-launch of The Creative Underground YouTube channel, now focusing mostly on what I'm doing (although I'm sure I'll highlight other artists from time to time, as has been my want), I've come full circle to that kid who's head took up most of the TV every Sunday night.

I have my chance to be Walt Disney!

Everything I'm doing I've cribbed from my hero. His TV show was basically a commercial for whatever the studio was doing. And that's what I'm doing too. It is my hope that you come away inspired to do your own BEST creative work.

So check out the show. Every week, we're going to go behind the scenes on something I'm working on, be it the "Elvin's Pet Peeve" comic strip (which should be soon available to view every week at the soon-to-be redesigned paulcarhart.com), my writing (check out my books at Amazon), or my music (which may or may include my cohorts in Third World Sun... I'm using a piece of one of the band's new songs as the Creative Underground's new theme song).

This week, we're gonna watch me draw the first "Elvin's Pet Peeve" comic strip since 1992. I hope you enjoy it. Click here to watch.

Also, please note: Just as I've left all of my blog posts here on this blog from over the years, all five of the previous Long-Beach Creativity-based episodes (1x01-1x05) of The Creative Underground video show are still available on the YouTube channel. If you're so inclined, just scroll on down to find them. Also, I think there are a couple clips of the band as well that I hosted there when the channel was more or less dormant. I left them there for your enjoyment. The new episodes are labeled 2x01 and 2x02, etc.).

Thursday, January 11, 2018

2018 Update!

Yes. I know. The year has barely begun. And I had a bunch of things (see my previous post) that I was hoping to wrap up in 2017 and begin in 2018 and then... I hit the speed bumps. 

First, when I got off work on Friday, December 22, I went straight home to export my Peeve T-shirt artwork and upload it... only to find out my version of Photoshop was expired. What the heck? And in order to get a new version, I needed to get the latest Mac OS (High Sierra). So I started downloading the new OS, and it was taking forever, eventually timing out! After a couple days of troubleshooting, I realized that it must have been my bandwidth through my wi-fi. As an aside, we own a 1915 two-story (three if you count the basement that we use as a rehearsal studio for the band) Craftsman house that is built like a bunker (lots of thick redwood).

But before I could resolve THAT, I got sick!

In order to resolve the wi-fi issue, I would have to bring my computer from upstairs down to where the high speed internet modem is and plug into it. And since I was not feeling well, I didn't feel like carting that sucker downstairs. So I put my Amazon Prime membership to work and ordered a one hundred foot ethernet cable and paid the extra six dollars for next day delivery. I hooked the cable up to the modem, ran it up the staircase and plugged it in. Turned off the wi-fi and downloaded everything I needed lickity-split.

In the meantime, I had to get well enough to play Third World Sun's last show of the year on New Year's Eve at Angel City in Bellflower.

So here's a break-down, an update if you will, as to where I'm at on all these things I was hoping to do over my two-week break. 

Producing new Third World Sun material
I'll be taking the tracks that Third World Sun recorded (so far a total of 11 new songs) and cleaning them up for future instrument overdubbing.
I did this. There might be five left to do. But I'll squeeze them in over the next couple weeks between other projects.

Elvin's Pet Peeve T-shirts
I expect to get two brand new Peeve T-shirt designs produced and available online.
Done. There's a nee "Peeve's Back" shirt (double-sided) and a new Sir Loin Emotions shirt (featuring Sir Loin of Beefe). Both are available at my Elvin's Pet Peeve online store.

New Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips
I haven't drawn a new comic strip in quite a while. I have, however, now storyboarded 13 new comic strips and I expect to draw the first BRAND NEW Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strip in 25 years.
I did NOT get around to drawing the first new Peeve comic strip in 25 years. However, I AM up to 15 comic strips storyboarded now.

The NEW paulcarhart.com
I'll also be designing a facelift for my website that will better point people into the various facets of work I'll be doing in the coming year. 
No movement here.

Re-Launching The Creative Underground YouTube channel
The idea is to put out a weekly 10-15 behind-the-scenes video on whatever it is I'm doing that week. 
No movement here, although we did shoot video footage of me drawing the "Peeve's Back" T-shirt artwork for an upcoming video. Hoping to re-launch this in mid-January.

A Stranger At The Gallows (Worlds Collide #2)
There are only four stinking chapters left and I outlined the entire story from the get-go! I have no excuse. With two weeks' break coming up, I will be facing compete and utter failure if I can't wrap this book up. At least the first draft. Once that's done, it's all about the editing.
No movement here. Complete and utter failure on this front. Also, I need to line up my cover artist. I know who I want to do it, but I hope she's not too busy and is still willing.

Returning to the studio with the rest of Third World Sun
We've been recording new songs and there are two left ("Little Miss Sunshine" and "There Is A Name").
We DID go back into the studio and put down the drum tracks for the two remaining songs.

Family time
As usual, I'll be spending Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Melody and my extended family.
Did this.

The Last Jedi
I look forward to partaking in fan theory weaving and debate with my brother-in-law as we did after the release of The Force Awakens.
Many theories were bandied about. I didn't see the film again, however.

Music outside of the band
I've written a lot of songs that we don't do in the band. I'm toying with recording a batch of them and releasing them myself. I'll start preliminary work on that once the Third World Sun drum tracks are cleaned up.
No movement here. 

Something new. Something Nasti
At least several hours of one day this break will be dedicated to brainstorming a business venture with one of my closest friends. More info to come when I'm at liberty to do so.
I'll be doing this over THIS three-day weekend.

New Year's Eve tradition
Third World Sun will be playing, for the fourth consecutive year, New Year's Eve at Angel City in Bellflower, CA.
Did this.

The Musical Journey
I'll be taking Melody, at her request, to see Hugh Jackman's latest film, The Greatest Showman, from the people who brought you Dear Evan Hansen and the music in La La Land.
Did this. The film was inspirational!

The Happiest Place On Earth
Hopefully, there'll be a visit to Disneyland in the coming weeks as well. It's been a couple months since I've been. And I'm going through withdrawal.
Did not get to this. Ended up helping a friend in need for a few days instead. Hoping to return to Disneyland near the end of January.

Classic Peeve
I'll also start the arduous task of scanning all of the original 185 Elvin's Pet Peeve comic strips so they can appear online once the website gets it's facelift. I'm also hoping these original 1991 and 1992 comic strips will make their way into book form followed by a third book of the NEW ones.
No movement here. But will start this month. 

Peeve Nerdiness
There are also two or three Peeve comic book-style stories--I believe one of them still needs to be inked--that I'd like to scan and figure out how to get into the hands of the public as well.
No movement here. But hoping to start next month.
 
What to write next?
I've got many options. Psychick 2? Fairlight 4? Planetfall vol 2? Start the Melody Midnight children's books?
Haven't' even contemplated this yet. But it will be bouncing around my brain as I move forward.  It's only a matter of time (and effort). 

So that's where things stand. Lots to do and see coming up. Stay tuned and rock on!