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BOOK REVIEW: The Art of Ian Miller (Titan Books)

When the ol’ Rollickin’ Retroist sent me Titan Books’ The Art of Ian Miller to review I had but one thought; “Who in the hairy hells is Ian Miller?” Well dear fiends, after thumbing through this lavish tome, I simply cannot believe my ignorance as to the work of this immeasurably talented artist.

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In a way I am happy to have been unfamiliar with the enchanting etchings of Mr. Miller, as it provided me with the pure visceral reaction of seeing his work uncluttered by the sweet miasmic haze of our beloved nostalgia (although we will touch upon that more in a bit). The best way that I can describe the work of Ian Miller is thus; it is the cumulative result of what would happen when a teenage metal head’s notebook doodling forgot it was a sketch and became fine art! Monsters, demons and Elder Gods dance across the pages, brought to life by lines simultaneously sketchy and breathtakingly detailed. It’s a fascinating dichotomy that imbibes Miller’s subjects with both a surreal nature and a sense of plausibility.

With this being the home for so many lovers of pop culture ephemera, special attention should be paid to this book for lovers of two specific genres of nostalgia; namely tabletop role-playing games of the 80’s and outré pulp stories of the 30’s, as Miller unleashed his distinctive aesthetics upon both the seminal RPG Warhammer (as well as the first edition of its off-shoot Warhammer 40,000) for which he provided the illustrations that helped solidify that universe, as well as the covers for paperback editions collecting the work of weird fiction legend H.P. Lovecraft.

In short, if you are anything like me; a lover of fantastic creatures that defy imagination as well as the fantastic environments they call home, this collection is an absolute must have! Head here to order your copy today!

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Retro Signs on sale at Hobby Lobby

When I was a kid I associated Hobby Lobby with hobbies. I mostly remember them mostly selling art supplies and toy models and fabric. These days they sell a lot more than that, including lots of home decorating signs. Last night I found a ton of retro themed signs on sale for 50% off!

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These large signs, including that Play-Dough one, were marked at $20 (normally $40). They also had these slightly smaller ones available.

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So many good ones here — Scooby Doo, Tom and Jerry, Yogi Bear, and more! These signs were $15-$17.50, depending on the size. I really loved that bomb pop sign down near the bottom. (Spoiler alert: I ended up buying that microphone sign. It’s hanging next to where I podcast.)

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Here are more signs from the same price range. Although not all of these are retro (*cough* Duck Dynasty *cough*) I felt compelled to include that Mr. Potato sign.

Finally, next to the metal signs were these mounted canvas piece of art.

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The vintage board game covers were $15, and the only reason I didn’t buy one is because I wanted to buy them all. The smaller signs were $10 each. Any of these signs would be a great addition to a retro-themed room.

Th-Th-That’s all, folks!

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Easy Way to Draw by Walter Lantz

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As a kid, even more than Disney and Warner Brothers, I loved Woody Woodpecker cartoons. I liked Woody’s attitude; he was a little edge and a little sarcastic but he usually still came out ahead in the end.

Also when I was a kid, I loved to draw. I bought all the “how to draw” books that my mom would let me from the school’s book club. All the books you see above are mine and ones I owned as a kid. I had books that showed you how to draw animals, and cars and trucks, and other books that taught kids how to draw dinosaurs. One of my favorites though was “Easy Way to Draw” by Walter Lantz.

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While most of the other books I owned taught kids how to draw things like generic models of cars or random animals, “Easy Way to Draw” showed kids like me how to draw the very characters we saw on television every morning before the bus arrived. A couple of circles here, a beak there, and blammo, you had Woody Woodpecker! And not only could you draw Woody by reading this book, but you could draw all his friends too! There were pages for Splinter and Knothead (Woody’s niece and nephew), Buzz Buzzard, Wally Walrus, Andy Panda, and a few others.

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This book also taught kids how to draw other things you might see in a cartoon, things like airplanes and houses and of course automobiles. I remember it bothering me that this car had flat tires, and whenever I would draw it I would fix that.

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3/4 of the way through the book, Walter had kids drawing entire scenes. This is the first drawing book I owned that explained what perspective was. Like the picture on the right shows, every time I would draw a scene I would draw all those perspective lines to help me shape walls and doors correctly, and then carefully erase them while attempting not to erase the rest of my picture.

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By the time you reach the end of the book you get the feeling that they may have included some “padding.” These pages show you how to make a real life Woody using an orange and a rag and some cardboard, and a cutout Buzz Buzzard. I never tried to make the Woody but I can’t imagine making anything that would turn out actually looking like Woody Woodpecker. The last few pages of the book are blank so that you can practice your own drawing. This is one of the few times were drawing in books was not only condoned but encouraged.

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I have always loved the back cover of this book, which features a picture of Walter Lantz and his many creations. While I know (and knew then) that they weren’t “really” there with him, I felt like in his mind, maybe they were.

By the way, I never drew anything that looked as good as the characters on the back of this book look. Insert Woody’s famous laugh here.

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Art of Bits, Bits of Art: Fine Art from Classic Video Games

Last week via Facebook I received an invite to an art show titled “Art of Bits, Bits of Art,” which took place at a local art gallery in Oklahoma City. The show consisted of works of art dedicated to classic video games. The show was free and consisted of some fantastic creations, like the Mario and Donkey Kong cut you see above. I shot somewhere around a hundred photos at the show but will just share a few of them.

Along with Donkey Kong, there were many traditional classic figures including this oil painting of MegaMan.

Unlike the peril he was facing, Mario’s cottage looked much more relaxing.

A few modern video game characters found their way into the exhibit, like these creepers from Minecraft.

The creepers were mounted above Nerf dart guns, which visitors were encouraged to shoot the creepers with.

Some of the works of art, like this hand-blown glass Mario, were very small…

…while others, like this airbrushed painting of Earthworm Jim, were quite large.

One of my favorite things is re-purposed items, like this old skateboard with a ferocious-looking Pac-Man chasing ghosts painted on it.

The kids and I spent over an hour wandering around the gallery. Next door, some locals artists were performing a glass-blowing demonstration while other local DJs remixed 80s video game tunes. It was a great experience that really got me thinking about how 8-bit video games really were art. We stayed until Pac-Man told us it was time to go.

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Dave Finch’s Strawberry Shortcake – Warrior Princess

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This painting by Dave Finch has turned my perception of a famous 80s icon upside down. He single-handedly turns Strawberry Shortcake from passive goody two-shoes to berry scented warrior princess and now I will never look at the diminutive redhead the same way again.

Finch’s work and others will was on display at Gag me with a Toon in 2009.

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Merry Christmas from the Metaluna Mutant

One of the worst things about Christmas is accidentally giving someone a gift that they already have. I eliminated that possibility with my father this year by making him an 8′ tall Metaluna Mutant for Christmas.

My Dad is a fan of 1950’s Science Fiction, so the mutant from 1955’s This Island Earth (the film spoofed in the original MST3K movie) seemed like the perfect choice for a piece of Christmas artwork. Nobody’s going to fight those claws for the last slice of pie this holiday season, no sir!

For a long and detailed look at how I created this monster you can check out this lengthy post on my website that shows every step of the process, from cutting the wood to painting the details.