Parody and Homage

My latest effort for the My Handsome Life project. Eventually most of the entries posted on the blog will be compiled into a  parody of the J. Peterman Catalog .  Note: "Put out your hand and touch the face of God" was adapted from the last line of the poem "High Flight" by John Gillespie Magee Jr. (1922-1941)

The Year the Comics Died

"It's always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip's popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now "grieving" for "Calvin and Hobbes" would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I'd be agreeing with them."
Calvin and Hobbes creator, Bill Watterson to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/1/10.

Watterson and I exchanged letters just before his new strip was launched in 1985. After previewing samples of his strip sent to the Palm Beach Post by Bill's syndicate, I sent him a fan letter  predicting a hit. This letter is dated the day after Christmas, 1985 and reads like Calvin himself wrote it (a few lines are edited out.) It  features an original drawing of Hobbes done in brush and india ink.

Watterson pulled the plug on the strip ten years later. In the same year, 1995, the other "best comic ever" ended when Gary Larson quit The Far Side.

One of the funniest captions ever written-
 (or was it "Look who just walked in- 'God's Gift to Warthogs."
The syndicates made half-hearted attempts to fill the massive void left by the loss of their highest rated features ( notably The Argyle Sweater, Red and Rover) but the "fresher, livelier talent" never materialized. Today, newspapers (and most of the cartoonists themselves) are content to let the whole business die a miserable, slow death. Internet fans of these two great talents will see to it that Watterson and Larson never suffer the same fate.

Art School Ad

I built the matchbook from scratch in Photoshop. I can't resist doing a good lampoon- my favorite form of humor. I'm teaching art classes at a local school in the Fall and thought that a humorous approach would set the proper tone.

Prototype Book Cover

Update: I'm tweaking the cover a bit. The title needed to be larger. The font is too rounded for my taste and needs to be changed. A limited number of the books will feature glow-in-the-dark ink on the title and dial (numbers and tic-marks.)

Ain't Got No

Ain't got no apostrophe for this "aint!"

Our culture of complaint...the original was done in water color, gouache and india ink and measures approx. 25 x 30 inches.

Sketches for "Fresh Kills"

Pencil sketches for a  new series- not for print- inspired by Orwell and Animal Farm.

Business Card

I like to produce limited edition business cards that are hard to throw away. This one folds into a matchbook- like a little paper sculpture.


This video, of Obama's recent trip to South America, was shot by New York Times Photographer Stephen Crowley using a Flip camera. Great editing, soundtrack and use of ambient sound.

Curiously Refreshing Vacations pt. II

We shot this scene at the Sponge Museum in Tarpon Springs on Florida's west coast.
Tarpon Springs once had a large Greek population who were attracted to the area's thriving natural sponge industry.

This scene features "Gomek," St. Augustine's fabled giant, albeit long dead and stuffed alligator.
This picture was taken at Miami's Monkey Jungle. The model is wearing a vintage Girl Scout uniform to match the vintage tourist attraction. We were covered in monkeys during the shoot.

All photos by Scott Wiseman.

Curiously Refreshing Vacations

We continued the Florida Travel series the following summer, this time shooting on location. The theme was "Curiously Refreshing Vacations." I enlisted my daughter, Jillian, who was attending the nearby University of Florida at the time, to model for us. She convinced a friend to play the role of "The Creature." We did some shots of "The Creature" in the water and nearly killed him.  
A shot from the previous series using the same backdrop as the mermaid picture. We hired this model from an agency in Miami and used her again the next year (below) at a bird sanctuary in the Florida Keys. Her uniform was a rental. I made her hat the night before in my hotel room using a handkerchief glued over a piece of cardboard.  Her other daytime job was as a pharmacist. Photo by Scott Wiseman with Ray Graham.

This is an amazing shot. The pelican, a patient at the sancutary, was a real pro! The birds in the background flew to this spot at the same time every day to be fed giving us a brief window of opportunity to make the shot. At one point, the bird took a bite at my head which was just below where the picture is cropped.

Third in the series. Same backdrop.The fourth in the series featured the same model on water skis. Photo by Scott Wiseman.

Cape Fear Unzipped

In 2006, Palm Beach Post Fashion Editor, Staci Sturrock and I conceived a fashion shoot that tapped into our storm-battered readers' anxiety (caused by some wicked storms the two years prior) over the approaching hurricane season. Photographer Ray Graham agreed to do the shoot.

Staci summed up the story here:

Cape Fear Unzipped!

ONE MAN STRUGGLES TO SAVE HIS FAMILY - and his Brooks Brothers suit!
Does hurricane season make you feel like there's a dark cloud over your head even when it's sunny?To give you a cheap laugh we've re-created scenes from the 1962 movie Cape Fear - with a style twist.
OUR (FASHIONABLE ) Cape Fear 2006.
Staci's writing is laugh-out-loud funny. Excerpts are included below. More of her text here.

A Style Disturbance in the  Atlantic
Cape Fear Unzipped opens with Max Cady (Nick Mochella) being interrogated by police detectives Mark Schwed, Pat Crowley and Officer Fred Marion (all are Palm Beach Post staff.) Max Cady has been accused of stealing Tapcon screws and cans of tuna from his neighbors as they prepared for a gathering storm.

"A Menace To Sobriety"
Max: "I got somethin' planned for your wife and kid that they ain't nevah gonna forget. They ain't nevah gonna forget it . . . and neither will you, Counselor! Nevah!"
Sam: "You shocking degenerate. I've seen the worst — the dregs — but you . . . you are the lowest. Makes me sick to breathe the same air." from Cape Fear, 1962

Enraged but resplendant in Tommy Bahama wear, Max stalks his equally fashionable neighbors. (Aime Dunstan, Michele Kelley, Mark Schwed)

Fear Grips Coastline
 "As style anxiety rises, Nancy and her pals dash for shelter. Madras and eyelet, vintage-inspired dresses and skinny jeans - they all pass inspection."
The models featured here were students at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach. Staci Sturrock plays the "teacher" at the top of the steps, right.

Stop in the Name of Layered Tanks
 "Although the mysteries of the four-way stop have flummoxed another young driver, there's no mishap in the way Nancy and her friends track the trends. Full skirts and fashion-forward denim are insurance against looking out of style."
The look on the driver's face is priceless. This is my favorite scene in the shoot.

Daddy Do Right
"Sam secures his shutters - and admires his family's stockpile of updated preppy classics."
All the sites we used were built circa the 1920's. Period props (including the 1950's paper bag she's holding) finished the look of the scenes and meshed with the classic style of the clothes.

Peggy Panics: "I've got Lake Worth Power!"
"She'll be dressing in the dark after the first gust but that'll be a breeze thanks to this stylishly simple caftan, left. (Where's her perfect hubby, Sam? On the lookout for Max, who is threatening to turn Sam's turbine caps into punch bowls.)"

Cape Fear Unzipped, Part II

         " I have donned my best and will die like a gentleman!"

Style surge
 Let the winds howl! Sam and Peggy scream "fabulous" as they brace themselves for the tempest. "I have donned my best and will die like a gentleman'" Sam announces as the lights flicker and the hand-cranked stereo plays "Nearer My God To Thee." - Caption from article

"What shall I wear to the squall?"
"Throwing caution to the wind," Max looks for a floozy (Stephanie Ceccarelli) to ride out the hurricane with him on his houseboat. Our model poses seductively in a Lake Worth bar.

Reckless Rendezvous
"A houseboat party! Wow, I was afraid I'd have to spend the storm in an icky old shelter!"
"Max's dame Diane sizzles like Sterno as she awaits her feckless fellow's arrival at the local watering hole. Diane's so hot, Dr. William Gray predicts her odds of making landfall in Max's '57 Packard are at least 60 percent."
"Max, I feel so safe in your arms. And your arms are pure Cat 5, by the way, in that Nat Nast shirt." 
"Keep right on talkin, honey..." -  Captions from article

Soused and Doused
Max (Nick Moschella) confronts disastor head-on (and hat-on) - "I'm king of the world" he crows- while Diane cowers in a windbreaker against the storm's blustery and surprisingly powerful back end
-Caption from article

A newspaper clipping reveals a tragic ending for both tough guy and floozy.

Cape Fear Unzipped, Production Notes

Like Dancing on a Shoestring, this project was shot on a low budget. And like "Dancing" the final results defied the conventional wisdom of what could be produced for a daily newspaper.
Props and the homes to shoot in and around were provided by Post staffers. Locations (like the bar) were opened to us just for promising a credit. The owner of the car that we used in two of the shots responded to a knock on the door and a request by an assistant. Most of the models were Post staffers. The photographers, assistants, page designers etc. put in quite a bit of free time just for the fun of working on it.

We teased the story for weeks in advance using this poster parody created by graphic designer, Rebecca Vaughan and an online movie trailer using stills from the shoot mixed with clips from the original movie.

 Photographer, Tim Stepien, helped with the shooting and lighting. He is standing in a corner of the photo studio that was used as the set for the police interrogation scene. 

L to R: Fashion Editor Staci Sturrock, reporter/model Mark Schwed, Art Director Pat Crowley, reporter/model Fred Marion, Sports Editor/model Nick Moschella and lead photographer Ray Graham discuss the shot.

I combed the internet for 1950's era mugshots and put together wanted posters for the background wall. The mug on the far lower left is a young Frank Sinatra. Next to him on the right, is Palm Beach Post Graphic Director, Mark Buzek. Buzek refused my request to model for me so I added him to the wall of shame.

The frame looked too spare using just three figures (my original plan) so Staci and I stepped in to figure out how to compose the frame and allow the photographers to adjust the lighting.

 Stephanie Ceccarelli and Nick Moschella brace for a re-creation of sorts of the final scene in the movie  which takes place on a houseboat during the storm. We transformed the balcony of a an old bungalow to the deck of our "houseboat." Down below we used hoses and buckets of water to create a fashion tempest. This was at the end of a long day and involved tricky lighting.

Dancing On a Shoestring

Fred Astaire performs his famous "ceiling dance" in Royal Wedding (1951)

 A few years ago, just before I left my job as Creative Director at the Palm Beach Post I discovered that our humor columnist, Frank Cerabino, had been taking ballroom dancing lessons with his wife. I suggested it would make a great lead story for the Sunday Features section and assigned myself the job of illustrating it.

The final set. Furniture dangles from overhead beams.
 Props are taped or bolted into place.

 At the time we had one of the best photo departments in the nation. In that department was Ray Graham who shot mostly in the studio. Ray is a master of studio lighting, interiors shots and portraiture. As it turned out- he was also very handy with carpentry tools.

Ray Graham engineered the set after my initial design including
 the wiring for the "ceiling" light and wall sconces.
 We scavanged for furniture and built light-weight props
for the set. The paintings came from my studio.

 My plan was to construct a set and re-create the famous Astaire picture. I'm not a fan of using Photoshop as a means to an end. Too often the picture ends up looking boring and amateurish. Save Photoshop for "post-production" nips and tucks.

Ray and I couldn't resist posing as Spiderman 

 It was essential to keep my costs down- if for no reason than to justify not doing it all in Photoshop. Not counting the extra unpaid man-hours Ray and I put into the project the fina bill came to around $600. Half came out of my pocket and half was reimbursed.

Art director and photographers work out the pose and final lighting.

Working through the poses with dancers Frank and Jo Cerabino.

The story appeared in the newspaper just before Christmas
so I added suitable decorations to the set.

The final result called for a simple crop to the "floor" and side walls. It was a great  collaborative effort by everyone involved and proves that there are no limits to what can be accomplished on a shoestring budget. I suppose I could have just DRAWN the picture but where's the fun in that?

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning

De Kooning - An American Master

Written by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan

An epic book (it took ten years to write) about the epic life of a great painter and the Abstract Expressionist scene of post-war New York.

An excerpt from a 2004 review in The New York Times written by the artist, Red Grooms:

 "One of the great strengths of this book is its sense of an artist in his studio. At times the authors disappear, and rather than just read about de Kooning we watch him apply paint, scrape it off and attack again, trace sections of a painting and pin them on other parts to see how they work, stare at pictures for hours, destroy canvases, fly into rages of frustration and fling furniture about. He had a loft on Broadway just below 13th Street in the late 50's, and from across the street we could see him working. Painting was his addiction; it was what he did for hours and hours every day."

I left the background of his studio blank and
 painted the art on his hands instead.
Acrylic on canvas, 18" x 20"

The Mona Lisa Curse: Part 1

Art critic Robert Hughes exposes the vulgar world of contemporary art collectors -some of whom don't have a clue about the art they collect- just the work's value as a commodity. The film goes a long way in answering the question why all the major shows and galleries offer the same art year after year after year.

It's an excellent, well paced documentary that'll make you laugh in between grimaces.

Art Student

Posing near the school in 1974

When it came to art schools there were two choices for a budding Florida artist back in the early 1970s- the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota. Ringling had prestige along with an excellent fine arts program while the AIFL, the Florida offshoot of the Art Institute of Pittsburg, offered mainly commercial art.

I couldn't afford to attend either without a roommate. And the roomie would also have to provide transportation as the closest thing I had to a car at the time was a bicycle.
Several of my fellow art students at Jupiter High picked the AIFL over Ringling so my choice was made.

 The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale ca. 1974. This impressive looking
 building was actually a Holiday Inn. The school occupied the bottom
two floors in the foreground. The brochures offered an early lesson in
the deceptive art of advertising.caption

The school was very small when we arrived and had been open for just five years. There were some excellent teachers from the Pittsburg school there; namely Michael Angelo DiVincenzo, the life drawing teacher who started teaching at the Art Institute of Pittsburg in 1947.

After running through my savings and in spite of holding two part-time jobs I had to leave the AIFL just short of the halfway mark for Palm Beach Junior (now State) College where I majored in English Literature. From then on I took art classes wherever I could get them - from the Armory in West Palm Beach to the Corcoran in Washington.

Painting at the studio of a friend, sculptor Luis Montoya.

I spent the next three decades working in print media as a political cartoonist (Palm Beach Post, Copley News Service syndicate, The Hill in Washington,) illustrator (Palm Beach Life and The New York Times) and Art Director.

I started more serious studio work in 1988 with a series of minimalist paintings in oil paint and plaster on wood and branched out to large scale painting and sculpture. 

The minimalist works (1988-1994) are still among my personal favorites. But I get bored (or anxious) easily and move on to other ideas and mediums. As disparate as my work appears to be, there's a common thread through it all from which I've never wavered.