Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Muppets World of Friendship: ToughPigs review.

Toughpigs is a website and forum for biting satire, poignant observations, and general wittiness related to the Muppets, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and all things connected to Jim Henson's life and legacy.
While reporting and commenting on the latest news, they've also been reviewing all 226 entries for the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge. This herculean task could only be accomplished in small, manageable bites, so the folks at Toughpigs have been reviewing them in sections. They've finally got to my entry and although they weren't able to post it until after the contest, I really appreciate their review and their score. Here's a screen cap of the review:

You can view the page here.

Thanks a ton to Joe Hennes and the fine folks at Toughpigs. You've got great taste!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Toon Challenge: Punk Rock Chick

No news so far regarding the result of the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge.

In the meantime, I'm just finishing up my entry for this month's Toon Challenge competition over on Facebook. The challenge is Punk Rock Chick. Here's the line art:
I'm just finishing up the submission in color, which I'll be posting soon. Stay Tooned!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Threadless Muppets Design Challenge is OVER!

Scoring for the Threadless Muppets Design Challenge ended yesterday. According to their website, out of 226 designs, mine was the 22nd most popular. Pretty good considering some of the amazing designs that were submitted. I appreciate everyone that voted for me. Thank you SO MUCH!

Now the contest itself isn't over yet. Threadless and Disney have to chose a winner. They COULD go with the most popular design, or throw us a curve ball entirely and chose whatever they want. It's completely up to them. I'll keep you posted if I hear any news...

Monday, June 27, 2011

Muppets in the house

This is the LAST day to score the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge. Please help me out and give me a score of 5.

Muppets Week (plus a few days) is winding down to a close. I've shown the process in creating my t-shirt design, outlined why the Muppets have been such an influence to me and shown most of my Muppets collection.
I've saved these guys for last. The crown jewels in my collection. They are the Muppets photo replicas by Master Replicas.
The three Muppets released; Kermit, Animal and Gonzo were created using the same patterns and materials the Muppets Workshop used to produce the official photo puppets. It's the closest thing to owning a real Muppet. You have to see them in person to truly appreciate them. Sometimes I swear they're going to come to life and start singing and telling jokes. I have these guys in the living room of my house and they cheer me up every time I see them. They seem to like my artwork too!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Muppets: It's not easy being geek.

Only ONE day left to vote for my design in the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge. We're coming down to the wire here folks. I need you to be sure to give me a score of 5. That's FIVE!

As an artist, I'm automatically allowed a certain level of eccentricity. Like most cartoonists this manifests itself in the collection of cool toys. I have a lot of collections, but among my favorites is the Muppets.The bulk of my Muppets collection comes from the amazing line of figures from Palisades Toys. There was such meticulous care given to the sculpt, articulation, paint and accessories of those figures. My collection is nearly complete. I have many of the variants and repaints, but I normally don't like having duplicates of characters on display.
Here's the backstage area. The artwork on the wall is by James HanceThere are a few variants here, some mega Muppets and a few of the minis. There are some non-Palisades stuff here too like the busts and several of the new Muppets Vinylmation figures from Disney.

Here are some figures from The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. I'm not sure what's scarier, the Skeksis on the right or David Bowie's crotch.

Tomorrow is the last day of the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge. I will post another part of my Muppets collection on the blog tomorrow. See you then!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Muppet Influence: Part Three

Only two days left to vote for my design at the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge .
Be sure to give me a score of 5. Thanks!

I've had a connection to the Muppets my whole life. I cite them as my earliest and biggest creative influence. They were with me since birth and during my early childhood through Sesame Street. As I grew and matured, so did the Muppets with The Muppet Show and the productions of Jim Henson's Creature Shop. As Jim became more of a public figure and I researched him incessantly, I realized what a remarkable creative force he really was. When he died in 1990, I was heartbroken.

Control of the company went to Jim's children, who did their best to preserve their father's legacy. But the Muppets were never the same. The Muppets were bought by Disney in 2004, and they weren't sure what to do with them either.

Coincidentally, I had become a bit of a "rudderless ship" myself. I had failed my way through art school, got married and took on a series of "real jobs." I was stuck in a rut. I didn't even draw that much anymore, but when I did, I always picked up right where I left off, and somehow in the back of my mind, Jim Henson was still there.

Here's a picture I did as a present for my parents some time in the mid-1990's. I drew my sisters and I with the things we were interested/involved with at the time. Look, there's Ol' Kermit on my hand!

In 1996, an amazing thing happened. My son Alex was born. Of course, I had to introduce him to an old friend early on:I loved being a father. My whole outlook, EVERYTHING, changed. After my daughter Kathy was born in 1998, I realized that by working those "real jobs", I wasn't being true to myself. I wanted to make my children proud and do what I was BORN to do. Be an artist. So I devised an exit strategy.

In 2000, I moved from Wisconsin to Florida to work as a caricature artist at Disneyworld. And wouldn't you know it, the Muppets were there too. I often visited one of the last Muppet projects Jim worked on, Muppetvision 3-D at Disney's Hollywood Studios.

I tried to expose the kids to the Muppet's world whenever I could.

Things seemed to be going great for me. But a rough and emotional divorce in 2005 shook me to my very core, and I was in desperate need for SOMETHING to go right.
Things were still in a state of flux for the Muppets at that time as well. A few moderately successful films were released as well as some made-for-television movies, but the response to them was lukewarm. The future of the Muppets didn't look very bright.

But there were glimpses of hope. The internet created a new, unexplored venue for the Muppets. They returned in the form of regular appearances by the old men Statler and Waldorf in their own movie review site and several viral videos. But when they released the Muppet's Bohemian Rhapsody on YouTube, I was amazed. For the first time since Jim Henson's death, someone finally got it RIGHT.

The characters were spot on. The tone was perfect. There was heart, humor and anarchy. The Muppets were back, and so was I.
In 2009, that very same year, I got married. I've been in heaven ever since. We've expanded the family with the birth of our son Jett and the Muppets have expanded with a new movie to be released in November. From what I've seen so far, it promises to be a return to the heart and soul of the Muppets. I can't wait!
See how the parallels have occurred between my life and the Muppets? How we've matured together without losing who we really are? We've shared ups and downs, growths and declines all at the same times in history.
Our futures are both incredibly promising as well. With the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge I have vowed to return to my roots and keep Jim Henson's legacy alive. I have a ton of Muppet-related artwork that I plan to work on and as always, you'll be the first to see it all, right here on this blog.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Muppet Influence: Part Two

Score "5" for me!
There are only THREE days left for the Threadless Muppets Design Challenge, so make sure to stop over and give me a 5 if you haven't already.

Yesterday I blogged about my early introduction to Jim Henson and his Muppets. I revealed how their path and mine became intertwined beginning with Sesame Street. Today I will pick up where I left off.

I had successfully navigated my way through kindergarten thanks to my previous education provided by Sesame Street. The genius of Jim Henson had affected me in a deep and profound way. He inspired me to not just draw pictures, but to create characters, real characters with histories and personalities. Characters that could easily exist in our world and fanciful characters from who-knows-where.

I was officially a "big kid" and ready to enter first grade. I had become too old for the Sesame Street demographic, but I was going to miss my old friends and wondered how I would ever be able to replace the constant inspiration I received from them. That same year in 1976, a new show came along that picked up where Sesame Street had left off.

Concerned that he would be pigeonholed as a children's entertainer, Jim Henson created a new show that could be enjoyed by all ages, The Muppet Show.

Sesame Street opened the door to my creativity and The Muppet Show loudly and exuberantly barged on through. THIS show was everything to me. As I devoured every episode repeatedly, I also wanted to know how it was done, who made it happen and how the creative process worked. The show itself was full of vaudevillian humor, songs, dances, skits, quiet and tender moments and explosive bursts of chaos. There were guest stars, corny jokes, sly references, things eating other things and anarchy; in short, the perfect show for a fertile, young creative mind.

On a side note, the bathroom in my parent's basement has a wall that has been signed by everyone who has visited it. Here's my signature from 1981:
Of course, I HAD to draw SOMETHING. Animal seemed like the perfect choice.

I could seriously go on for days about the perfection of the Muppet Show. There was such CARE given to every little detail and such absolute joy in presenting it. And at the center of it all was Jim. I wanted to be just like him, a gentle, intelligent and creative powerhouse.

The Muppet Show spawned three theatrical movies around the same time another group of three theatrical movies had their first run; Star Wars. My second influence. My favorite parts of that trilogy were the Cantina in A New Hope and the Jabba's palace scenes in Return of the Jedi. The aliens and creatures fascinated me and I became obsessed with how they were designed and operated.

That's when I saw Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, a film comprised entirely of creatures. It was obvious to me that Jim Henson had somehow been reading my mind all this time. He created Jim Henson's Creature Shop which provided films with realistic and innovative creature effects. He went on to create Labyrinth and his Creature Shop was a huge success at the movies and did amazing work on Jim Henson's Storyteller and the Jim Henson Hour.

Jim Henson was my creative hero. He always pushed the envelope and created on a constant basis. I was sure I would be influenced by his latest achievements for a long time.

On May 16, 1990, James Maury Henson died of Streptococcus pyogenes at the age of 53.

(I just spent the last twenty minutes trying to decide what to type next.)

Even now, his death is such a heartbreaking loss to me. I felt that I had lost a kindred spirit, a like-minded soul who seemed to know what I wanted to see and teach me what I needed to be taught. Then he was gone.

Tomorrow, I'll continue with the Muppet's Influence post-Jim and I'll even talk about the future.

REMEMBER my friends, pleeeeeeeease go to the Threadless Muppet Design Challenge and give me a 5!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Muppet Influence: Part one

The Threadless Muppets Design Challenge is still in full swing, but you only have a few more days to vote for my design.
Make sure you give me a 5. I appreciate it!

For the next few days I'll be sharing with you why the Muppets and specifically Jim Henson are so significant to me. I'm starting at the beginning. All the way back to 1971.

I've always been an artist. My earliest influence can be traced back to the Muppets and the genius of Jim Henson. When I think about my life and the milestones I reached through the years, I can see some strong parallels with the growth and development of the Muppets.

In 1969, a new television show called Sesame Street hit the Public Broadcasting airwaves aimed primarily at educating preschoolers. It's combination of a strong visual style, fast-moving action, humor, and music as well as animation and live-action short films, made it an instant success. But the breakout stars were Jim Henson's puppet creations. The Sesame Street characters made learning FUN.

Two years later in 1971, I was born. My older sister had already been watching Sesame Street, and it wasn't long before I was watching it with her.

Remember kids, this was the early '70's. There was no cable television, no internet, no VCR's. We didn't even have UHF then. There were the big three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS as well as PBS. Most kids could only watch Sesame Street once on the day and time it aired. Sure, I also enjoyed Mister Roger's Neighborhood, but X the Owl, Daniel Striped Tiger, King Friday and the rest of the characters in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe were just puppets; the guys on Sesame Street were REAL. I had the great fortune of living in Southeastern Wisconsin and we were able to get the television signal from both Milwaukee and Chicago, so we had TWO stations of each network (as well as WGN in Chicago for when I wanted to watch a Bozo show). That meant that I could see Sesame Street TWICE a day on channel 10 and on channel 11.

But that wasn't enough for me. I loved the characters on Sesame Street. I felt like they were my friends. When the show wasn't on, I missed them. Back then, there was very little merchandise surrounding the show, nothing like today where various Sesame Street character toys, books, clothing and games are abundant. I just wanted to be with those characters when I wanted to. So I thought I could try drawing pictures of them.

What an amazing experience! I was able to still see my friends even though the show wasn't on. It turned out that I LOVED drawing! My earliest memories of drawing are of me making pictures of Grover and Kermit. I wanted to draw all of the characters from memory, Big Bird, Oscar, Cookie Monster, Bert and Ernie, Snuffleupagus and Sam the Robot.

My mom made me a Cookie Monster puppet. It's the first puppet I ever owned and I instantly wanted to be a puppeteer when I grew up. I still have him too:
I also still have the old Fisher Price Little People Sesame Street playset. I hang on to everything!
Puppetry and playing never stopped me from drawing...or learning. While the rest of the kids in Kindergarten were learning their alphabet and the sounds the letters made, I was already reading, thanks to Sesame Street.

I LOVED that show. It had such a wonderful combination of music, humor, education, animation and entertainment. The Muppet characters were so alive, tender and very, very funny. Frank Oz and Jim Henson were geniuses at their craft, and through their characters, made some of the funniest comedy duos ever. Check out Jim as Kermit and Frank as Cookie Monster:


Of course, I couldn't watch Sesame Street forever. As I entered first grade, I realized that it was time to move on. But I was going to miss the antics of those crazy Muppet characters. Fortunately in 1976, a new show was about to air...

Stay tuned for Part Two tomorrow!

P.S. DON'T FORGET to vote for my design at the Threadless Muppets Design Challenge and be sure to give me a FIVE!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Muppets World of Friendship: Final ink

After I did my initial sketch for The Threadless Muppets Design Challenge it was time to tighten up the pencils so I could start inking. I looked at what I had so far:I liked the placement of the characters for the most part. I decided to have Kermit be faced toward the viewer with a more positive expression on his face. I knew I wanted to include Lips, and I moved him from under Thog to over by the band where he belongs. I figured I should include Bean Bunny so I stuck him next to Thog and added Beauregard. I wanted to put Walter, the new character from the upcoming Muppets movie in the piece, so I placed him next to the Jim Henson puppet. Manah Manah and the Snowths are my son Alex's favorites, so I put them above Thog on the right-hand side.

I used the Muppet Show DVDs, the Muppet Movies, a few books and the wonderful Palisades Toys line of Muppets figures as references. This is the final inked piece.

After I inked the drawing, I scanned it, vectorized it and colored it digitally. I'm pretty proud of the way it turned out.
I decided to make a key so you can reference the characters by name (in case you're not sure who's who):

Now that I've outlined how I made the piece, for the next few days I'll be sharing with you why the Muppets and specifically Jim Henson are so significant to me. I'm going all the way back to the beginning of my life. You'll see why they're such an influence to my artwork, and what lies ahead.

There are only a few days left to vote for my artwork at The Threadless Muppets Design Challenge. Go ahead, give me the top score of 5. That's FIVE folks!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Muppets World of Friendship: Sketch

I had a lot of different ideas for the Threadless Muppets Design Challenge. I really wanted an image that portrayed a large number of characters. Everyone has a favorite Muppet and would want them on their shirt, so I needed to represent as many Muppet characters as possible. I pictured a big bunch of Muppets squeezed together in a big ball, like a planet.

I thought of the statues I've seen of the mythological titan Atlas, who held up the world on his mighty shoulders. I wondered what it would be like if I drew Kermit holding up a big ball of Muppets like Atlas holding up the world. I started sketching madly.
I worked completely from memory. I wanted to keep with the "classic" Muppets from the Jim Henson era with the exception of Pepe. I knew there were certain characters I absolutely HAD to put in there because of their popularity and ability to be recognized. Next I put in characters that may not be known by name by the average person, but are still very distinctive as an important member of the Muppet troupe. Finally, I put in a few of my personal, yet more obscure favorites.
This is the rough sketch I did before I began to research and tighten the final pencil drawing. You can see the differences in the final piece, where I added more characters and where I made changes and revisions.
I'll be posting more of the design process as Muppets week continues.

If you haven't voted for my design yet, please go to the Threadless Muppets Design Challenge .
Remember, the ranking goes from 1-5, with 5 being the highest so be sure to give me a 5.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Threadless Muppets Design Challenge.

Threadless is a community-centered online apparel store. Members of the Threadless community submit t-shirt designs online; the designs are then put to a public vote. Threadless has teamed up with the Muppets to create the "Muppets T-Shirt Design Challenge".

According to their website,
"The Muppets have gone from television personalities, to hit musicians, to big-time movie stars, and they’ve never let the limelight spoil their friendship. No matter what kind of trouble this zany group stumbles into, they always pull together to make it through. After more than 30 years of delivering smiles and laughter to the world, Kermit the Frog is still leading the way, Miss Piggy is still close by his side (some may say too close) and as glamorous as ever, Animal still loves his drums and the ladies, Fozzie Bear still dreams of being the world’s greatest stand-up comic bear, Gonzo is still performing his death-defying stunts, and The Electric Mayhem Band’s funky soul tracks have been serving as the soundtrack through it all. And now, the Muppets are getting ready to head back to the big screen this November in their brand-new feature film, The Muppets. Use the Muppets in your design to celebrate friendship, and you could win fame and riches fit for a frog!"

The winning design will receive:
$2500 cash
$250 Threadless gift certificate
The winning t-shirt signed by The Muppets and framed together with a signed photo of the Muppets.
Disney Traditions will provide a $250 set of collectible statues designed by Jim Shore. Statues include Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Waldorf & Statler, Animal, and Fozzie Bear.
An autographed copy of the upcoming album “MUPPETS: The Green Album”.

I have always been a HUGE fan of the Muppets. In fact, I became an artist because of Jim Henson and his creations. So I couldn't pass up the chance to enter my artwork in the competition.I call it "World of Friendship". This is my concept:

"The world of The Muppets is crazy and chaotic, with such strong and contrasting personalities that it would seem it could never be contained. Only a frog like Kermit could reign in, encourage, lift up and support this world in the truest meaning of friendship. This hand-drawn picture depicts over forty of the most famous and beloved Muppets (with some personal favorites thrown in for fun)."

Needless to say, I HAVE to win. But I can't do it without your help! Please go to:

Vote for my entry, and please give me a 5. You have 7 more days to vote before the competition is over, but I am obsessively checking my standings on a near-constant basis, so for my own personal well-being, please vote before it's too late.

I have declared this week "MUPPETS WEEK", so every day I will be posting about the creation of this piece and explaining the impact of the Muppets and Jim Henson on my life. I'll have some other Muppet art to show, and even share my Muppets collection with you. It's going to be Muppetational!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there especially my dad, Jim "Papa" "Daddy Durkin".

It was the perfect Father's Day for me. I had a great day with the kids, had crab legs and shrimp for dinner and French silk pie for dessert.

Followed that up with some Skype time with my dad and Wisconsin family. A TERRIFIC day today!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Now THIS is a movie I'd like to see.

From brother Chris of our wedding reception (venue courtesy of Michael McElroy).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Story time!

Doesn't get much cuter than this, folks.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Anniversary Caricature

Last night I drew a couple who wanted to commemorate their 21st wedding anniversary with a caricature. This pretty much summed up their relationship.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Alex and ROTC camp

Alex just returned from a week at ROTC camp.

He was exhausted, but had a great time.

He also won an award:
The Spirit Award
For Outstanding Demonstration of Esprit-De-Corps and High Morale While Participating in
JROTC Cadet Leadership Challenge

Congratulations Alex!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Project M

Got a fun little side project I'm working on, but it's success is going to involve some help from each and every one of YOU.

Details coming very soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Character designs: Kids

Here are a few more designs I did for the project previously mentioned. These are the first three I did for the client. I'm trying to track down all of the stages of development for the characters, but I'll post their final forms in the meantime.

Here is Charlie, Ria and Vivek.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Character Design "Teddy"

Here's a design for another character I did for an animation company before it folded. This one only made it to the initial designs. It's for Teddy, described as follows:
"Twelve year-old Teddy wears glasses. Teddy’s bookish, thoughtful, and he loves plants. He spends hours in the family garden, crossbreeding them to create new species. Teddy is a magnet for animals."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

KaYAK design.

This is a semi-recent design I did for a kayak/bass fishing client. He wanted bright colors and a white kayak.
I could draw fun stuff like this all day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Kenny Durkin: A metric ton of fun

I get virtually no exercise.

That sad reality has manifested itself in the most cruel manner by a rapid change in waist size, a considerably larger butt and an extra chin or two.

Thanks to my wife, I've been eating the most sensibly and nutritiously I've ever eaten, so I can't blame my diet. I've figured out what the problem is; I spend the entire day SITTING. Sitting in the car, sitting at work, sitting at home. Unfortunately, I have a very full schedule and don't have time to work out. Thankfully, there is a solution.
Recently, the research out there has suggested that to be healthy and manage your weight, you will need 30 minutes of moderate intense activity each day ON TOP of your customary daily activities. They've suggested that brisk walking can help reach that goal, and they recommend 10,000 steps a day (roughly 5 miles). The average sedentary American may only average 1,000 to 3,000 steps a day. Sounds like me. I'd better get walking.

To track my progress, I'm using the 7 function big screen pedometer from Sportline. My goal is to have walked my 10,000 steps a day, and I'm not allowing myself to go to bed until I do. Soon I'll be back to my old svelte self again. Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Meatball sammich

Giuseppe loves meatball subs so much he wanted to have his caricature drawn eating one.

The Swiss cheese moon was his idea.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

How's your water?

Florida's drinking water is notoriously awful. Even our Brita filter could not remove the many contaminants and other harmful particles that could be damaging to Jett's development. Yesterday I installed the Watts Premier Reverse Osmosis water treatment system.

The entire installation process took about two hours. Because I did not a) sever any limbs or fingers, b) take any extra trips to the hardware store and c) didn't have any missing or leftover parts, I have deemed the project a complete success. The water's not bad either.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Wrasslin' couple

Drew this caricature the other night. These two had completely opposite body types. As for their request to be drawn wrestling each other, well that's none of my business.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Jedi gal

Speaking of Jedi, last night I drew a caricature of a guest as a Jedi. Not just any Jedi mind you, but the very rare and quite awesome female Jedi. I had to include her favorite Star Wars character, C-3PO.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Star Wars Weekends 2011: Return of the Jedis

Alex and I went BACK to Star Wars Weekends yesterday. The fact that all of that extra Star Wars entertainment is FREE with admission is astounding, so when we had the opportunity to attend for the second time this year, we went. This time we were able to immerse ourselves a bit deeper in the festivities and were able to ride Star Tours three times.
Alex and a Tusken Raider.
Stormtroopers never smile, no matter what you do.
Ray Park, who played Darth Maul in Episode 1, was one of the celebrities in attendance and put on a fantastic martial arts display at his seminar. He even invited about 30 kids on stage and gave them all lightsabers to go home with.
One of the exclusive action figures for sale.

The culmination of the evening was the Hyperspace Hoopla, a stage show just on the cool side of cheesy. What an entertaining show! The audience was packed, but Alex made his way to the front to take some cool shots.
Check out the headband and shades on Chewie! That was for his dance number to the tune of Guns and Roses' Welcome to the Jungle. Turns out Wookiees can dance, but they can't sing. At all.

It's always nice to end the day with a "muffin as big as your head".