Friday, October 30, 2009


Andrew Marlowe, creator of CASTLE shook my hand and wished me luck with all the work I had to do. All the while you're speaking to him, you're painfully aware that you're speaking to someone incredibly intelligent who is measuring your every word and intonation. His insights during the meeting were quick and incisive. He cuts to the point quickly and effectively communicating that he had already played out all the possibilities in his head. I learned a great deal watching him work and I'm beginning to appreciate the qualities and the level of vision required by a show runner.

After Andrew had left I turned to Howard Grigsby the producer of CASTLE. I asked him if it would be possible to come down to the set and watch any of my art being filmed. He said of course and would keep me in the loop.

Unfortunately schedules clashed and I wasn't able to see the sets that were made out of my artwork. Nor did I see any of the scenes that involved my graphic novel. But I got to sit in on the scene at the police precinct where Castle explains to Beckett why people get involved in the vampire sub culture.

Gina was my guide and took me around the set. The first thing that hit me was that the precinct set is HUGE. Holding cells, corridors, office after office, interrogation (er interview) rooms, stairways to nowhere, and of course the main area where Detectives Beckett, Ryan and Esposito have their desks. I first ran into Seamus Dever who plays Detective Ryan and then Jon Huertas who plays Detective Esposito. At the time I hadn't watched enough CASTLE episodes to appreciate who I was meeting. My reaction would be very different now. They were really low key and stopped by for a chat when they realized I was new and how I was involved in the show.

Afterwards, I mentioned to Gina that I'd love to meet Nathan Fillion. I asked her if it would be "out of line" to get him to sign a couple copies of Firefly that I'd brought with me. She said he's super cool and snagged him as he zoomed past on a kid's scooter. It looked miniscule on him. I'm not small, I'm 6'1 and 215 pounds and he made me feel pretty tiny. He's gotta be 6'3 and 240 pounds and he carries it well. He was fun and gracious and signed both the Firefly dvds with his signature, "Watch this, it's good".

When I later gave my friend her dvd she totally flipped out and actually jumped into the air several times waving her arms and legs like a hummingbird. She's a pretty cool cat, and to see her lose it was gratifying and hilarious.

I'm a reasonably cool customer, but I may have gushed around Nathan and there may have been some fanboy babbling.


Anyway... moving on. They finished shooting the scene and it was great to watch them work. Then the crew moved across to Castle's apartment which is also huge. And it's a really nice apartment. It was all decked out for the Halloween party and Michael Courville from the art department gave Gina and I a tour through the Halloween candy that he had especially catered for it. The whole apartment is so thoroughly designed. Everything is thought of. The letters of congratulation and rejection to Castle on his wall are all proper letters not garbled words. The books on the shelves seem like the sorts of things that Castle would read and they're all real books. He has fencing statues (reminiscent of the time that he and his daughter Alexis began an episode fencing.

I ran into Barry, the first AD and a huge HEROES fan. I mentioned to him that I'd brought down my first HEROES graphic novel for Stana to sign but that she was nowhere to be found. Above and beyond the call of duty, Barry ran upstairs and asked Stana to come down and chat to me. I was taken aback. Stana was lovely, very tall and very lithe. As I handed her the graphic novel we spoke about her character on HEROES, Hana Gitelmann and how the character was the mouthpiece for the online fans. I commented that the writers probably didn't realize her rise in popularity and really should have included her in the show more. She would have been the perfect way to keep the sprawling cast together.

On the plus side, I got to draw her Death which set me on the map as a creator who cared about his work on HEROES. She had a great laugh at the ridiculous portrayal of her body and clothing by some of the artists. I told Stana how the fans agreed and how I tried to get them involved and to put their money where their mouth is and get them to design a dress for Hana. Meanwhile she's flipping through the pages of the story I drew and I'm getting increasingly nervous. I then hurriedly told her how I was going to do a competition for who gets to kiss Hana. She laughs flicking through the pages saying, "So who won? Who did I kiss?"

Then her hand moves away from the offending panel...

Yeah. Em-BAR-RASSING!!!!

We laughed so hard. I told her that at the time I didn't have a girlfriend, and I joked that if I wasn't getting any action in real life, I could at least get some in my comics. So I drew myself in thinking that I would NEVER HAVE THIS CONVERSATION with Stana. She (graciously) laughed very, very hard.

So she asked me if she could write something in the front of the HEROES graphic novel for me as well as sign it. "Will your girlfriend read it?"

"Yeah, but you can write anything. She's totally cool."

So Stana wrote:

"To Jason, For the best virtual kiss I ever had. Stana."

And that ladies and gentlemen is why Stana Katic is awesome.

That concludes my time on CASTLE. I had a ball and was overjoyed to see how well it turned out. I only hoped that my artwork would be integrated as well as it did. Thank you to everyone involved for making it such an awesome experience. I hope you liked seeing the extra artwork and if you go back and watch the episode again (206) you will see where it fitted in.

As a final piece of icing on the cake, I turned in my invoice. A day later I got a call from Howard, "Jason, we need to have a talk about this invoice.". I start thinking, "Oh god, I've over charged. I thought it was fair but he's going to ask me to compromise or explain some of the invoice. Here we go..."

Instead Howard says, "I've been talking to Alfred (the head of the art department) and we both think you did a tremendous job and seriously undercharged us. We think you should redo this invoice. Here are some suggestions..."

Howard basically increased the invoice by 50%. I was so humbled, and stunned. I knew I'd probably undercharged myself, but fair is fair. I quoted a price so I felt (as a man of honor) that even though the amount of work blew out, I had to stick to that price. That Howard would call me to tell me that he didn't think it was fair to me tells you the caliber and integrity of the people working on this show.


Castle. 10pm ABC.

They've made me a fan for life.

NEXT: More freelance work. The GI JOE Facebook application.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

CASTLE part 2

I've attached here some of the main artwork that we saw and didn't see in the actual show. I did a great deal for CASTLE that didn't make it onto the final cut. Hey, it happens. I'm more concerned about giving them what they need rather than what they use and don't use. If I even felt slightly bad about not seeing all my work featured that feeling is assuaged now by showing you the artwork right here.

These first two pieces are the key pieces of the tree that we see. They kept referring to this off as Crow's sketch work, when it was obviously a digital print out. That's ok, I mean they wanted Crow to be a digital artist. Karen and Alfred even asked me extensively about my setup at home. But when it came to the final cut I think that detail got lost in the mix. My only concern was that I did a great deal of actual sketch work using actual charcoal work for them. Yeah, you heard me. REAL artist stuff. Non-digital artist stuff. I generally don't tend to work in media other than digital because I tend to wear everything that I work in. The charcoal was no exception. I looked like a chimney sweep by the end of a solid drawing session.

But I remember the story involving these two digital pieces of the mother very well. I am by nature, nocturnal. As the night draws on and the numbers on the clock reach their maximum and start again at one my creativity winds up more and more. So I tend to get to bed around 4am and rise from my coffin around 10am. So when a call comes at 8am, it gets shut off pretty quickly. Except when my phone reads, "CASTLE".

I answered the phone, still trying to hang onto the blanket of sleeping hoping that I could slip back under again. They apologized profusely. The order of the scenes they were shooting had been moved around for logistical purposes. But then they realized they needed artwork for the scenes. They needed a sketch of the mother under the tree, and perhaps also a close-up so it read better. And they needed it by 10am.

I told them that I could do the charcoal sketch but even if they sent someone now we couldn't courier it back to them in time. They assured me that a digital sketch would be fine to send by email.

I remember going into full-on fight or flight mode. My adrenaline was pumping so hard my hands were shaking - which doesn't help you draw, believe me. Now I know how Kaylee felt with Captain Reynolds yelling through the intercom to get the engines back online or they're all going to be raped to death by Reavers.

I managed to get them done in time. Somehow. You don't have much choice when you realize an entire production is waiting on you to get something done so they can get to work. Every minute is costing ridiculous amounts of money. I remember after the adrenaline come-down going back to bed to sleep for another 4 hours. I was so exhausted.

The "pool of blood" picture was for a piece that sat on Crow's easel. I originally misinterpreted it and drew it much smaller. Once that confusion was cleared up I was given the go-ahead to do a huge 3 foot by 4 foot piece. I drew the faces separately and glued them on, figuring that no one would ever notice and it wouldn't read for the camera. Now apparently the glue started to give and her face started peeling off. But it made for a really nice creepy effect. It's one of the key images as Castle and Beckett enter Crow's apartment. An accidental piece of art. I wish I could take credit for it, but I think that goes to Alfred and Karen.

I took a photo of the piece before I painted in the pool of blood. I was terrified that the pool wouldn't work and I'd have to digitally rework the piece. Turns out, it ended up looking ok. I also liked that it's a subtle mislead that Morlock killed her and possibly him.

What I loved is the amount of thought that goes into every aspect of the production. Everything is considered. In addition to the huge "pool of blood", Alfred Sole, the head of the art department wanted a huge mural for Crow's wall. It was supposed to be a work in progress or visual diary for Crow. So every night Crow would awaken from his nightmares and draw what he dreamed. Visions of his mother mixed with Morlock and the tree and blood. I threw paint at the mural, flicked it, smeared it. Drew on it with paint and charcoal and ink and everything I could get my hands on. It's about 4 feet wide and 6 feet tall. That's my toes in the corner as I climbed on my ottoman to take that photo. It was the only way my camera lens could get the entire piece in.

They also asked me to do a bunch of sketches to cover up Crow's wall. Here are two of Vixen his vampiric lover. I ended up asking Samantha Shelton to "friend" me on Facebook so I could steal some pictures of her to draw from. She kindly accommodated my bizarre request to Face-Stalk her. I was concerned that I wouldn't know what her makeup would look like. Then I realized that all the goths I know change their looks more often than a chameleon sitting in the window of a moving train.

I also did a sketch of the daughter, Crow's sister, but I can't seem to find that anywhere.

Next: The third and final part of my CASTE experience. Sketches of Zoe Taylor as the dead mother and Robert Arbogast as Morlock. And of course, meeting Nathan and Stana.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

CASTLE part 1

I've attached here the four pages of Crow's, (our murdered graphic novel artist's) comic book and the cover. You will find notes on each page next to it. It was written by the CASTLE writer's assistant John Zaozirny and edited by co-producer and the episode's writer, Terri Miller. It's important to note that the cliched, and heavy captions are intentional. After all, it's written by a twenty year old emo vampire-wannabe.

The artwork is drawn, colored and lettered by me.

<- The cover to Blood Everlasting, Crow's graphic novel. Crow's mother was played by the super lovely ZOE TAYLOR who is much prettier than the photo of her in the show. I tried to do her justice with these illustrations. She was kind enough to give me a lift home after our photo shoot. Note the blood drenched dress.

I would recommend reading the blog post first and then coming back and reading all the image comments in italics. You can click on any of the images for a higher res version.

It began with an email from (now) HEROES staff writer, Oliver Grigsby. Ollie has been the editor for the HEROES comics for a while and I think most of the best stories I've done have been with him. His email asked me to contact his father, Howard Grigsby, the producer on CASTLE. Apparently they needed a comic book artist and I was the first guy Ollie could think of. I guess the lasagne I cooked for Ollie and his wife, Abby as thinly concealed bribery paid off.

<- The original sketch for the cover of Blood Everlasting. The actor who played Morlock is Robert Arbogast, who I thought did an amazing job of playing a very subtle crazy person. You might note the similarity to my HERESY piece. It was referenced by the producers as a direct inspiration.

Anyway, Howard asked me to quote for some comic art and I did so - keeping to the rate that I quote for HEROES. Then... crickets chirping. I'm thinking, "Oh man, I've insulted him and he's looking elsewhere. He's probably told Ollie how greedy, short sighted, unprofessional and unreasonable I am."

It appears I was wrong.

Then the floodgates opened.

<- At this stage I had no idea what Robert's makeup would look like so I kept to this clean cut direction to showcase his pretty boy looks. Little did I know...

<- ...that they would go all "Rob Zombie" on us. I was excited to see that this page really got used. I drew it before the set photographer managed to get me reference shots for Robert's Morlock makeup. I had to add the beard and dishevelment afterwards. There are only four pages to the graphic novel (plus the cover) because that's all we needed. Two sets of open pages.

First I was sent Terri Miller's script for VAMPIRE WEEKEND episode 206. I had never seen CASTLE before. Reading the script I went from smiling, to giggling to downright laughing. One of my favorite lines was cut from the episode. It was a good cut, but I was sorry to see it go. I think it's the most accurate and pithy commentary on women's halloween costumes I've ever heard:

<- This is what I gave to the producers and the art department to show them what I had in mind. I drew these after the location shoot. That was a day which involved me wandering with certain members of the crew around different parts of LA trying to find locations that would work as sets. At one stage we're in a very nicely designed and appointed warehouse. A girl in lingerie and ridiculously high heels walks past and goes, "Who are all these people?" Turns out they were shooting an "adult movie" in the adjoining room.

You could be slutty Nurse... no,
too sexist. Slutty Doctor. Oh here,
you can be slutty Supergirl... or
love this one...

(He pulls it off the rack.)

Slutty slut!

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Then I asked myself why the hell I wasn't watching this show. I'm a huge Nathan Fillion fan, I had to draw Stana Katic for HEROES (see the link on the side for THE DEATH OF HANA GITELMANN) and the banter was as fast and as sharp as VERONICA MARS (probably my favorite tv show ever which Howard was coincidentally also a producer on).

<- I was buzzed to see that the last panel got so much coverage on the show. I knew that it had to resemble the location exactly. Karen, the director told me it would literally be held up to camera then removed to mirror the exact location. Karen and I meticulously coordinated the shot but I didn't hold my hopes up. How wrong I was! Those bricks and graffiti took FOREVER. Andrew Marlowe suggested the guys huddled by the burning trash can on the left.

I was asked to come down to Raleigh studios and talk to freelance director extraordinaire, Karen Gaviola; the episode's writer and co-producer, Terri Miller; the show's creator, Andrew W. Marlowe; the first AD the lovely, Barry K. Thomas; the head of the art department Alfred Sole; and of course, Howard.

<- a layout based on the photo reference I took of this old basement under an abandoned hospital. It gets used as a set so often there's still duct tape and fake spider webs up from the previous crew's efforts. But Alfred redressed it so well you'd never ever know.

The meeting was basically to show them and assure them that I can do the job and I "get" what they're trying to do. I brought my portfolio and that pretty much spoke for me. We bounced ideas, around and generally agreed that I would have a metric bucketload of work to do.

<- After looking at my reference photos I was forced to do a different angle of panel one. I just felt this angle helped the storytelling more. If you re-watch the scene before they find Morlock you can see that this is a step by step guide as to how to find Morlock's lair. If I ever get murdered I'm screwed cos I mess with geography and locations all the time. You'd need a teleporter to follow my graphic novels.

<- The idea is that Morlock has the spirit of his old lover floating over him and protecting him. But he feels alone not knowing that he is being watched over. Zoe was kind enough to pose for all these reference photos. You can see again I thought Morlock would be clean shaven.

Afterwards, Barry came up to me and told me that he is, "a huge fan of HEROES and that he's kind of locking it down right now." I'm used to this, and I'm also used to the misapprehension that a fan of the show has confused me for someone really involved in the who. I launched into my usual schtick of telling any HEROES fan that they should check out the online comics as they're set between episodes and expand on the stories in the show. He replied, "Oh, I know about them. In fact I've read them all and I'm a huge fan of your stuff. The work you did with Stana on the 'Death of Hana' was my favorite."

<- The last panel here got some great coverage and I was very happy about that. I remember kidnapping the location scout as my model. There's an amusing reference photo (that will never see the light of day) of panel one on this page of Terri playing Morlock and Karen looming awkwardly over her. They were doing that to give me a sense of perspective and composition for the shot.

I was totally taken aback. He actually not only knew my work, but liked it! Being recognized has happened a couple times before, but never in a professional capacity. Barry went on to do one of the nicest things for me and it was my favorite anecdote from my time working with CASTLE. I will go into that and meeting Nathan and Stana in a later post.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MUTEMATH: breaking the silence

Sorry to not post. But I'm so busy. And busy on stuff I can't talk about yet. But I have so much to cover and catch up on. NDA's are starting to fall by the wayside (storyboards, GI JOE Facebook apps, Castle etc.).

Now it's a bit out of keeping to recommend music. I mean, you don't come here for music reviews. And who cares what I'm listening to as long as I'm pumping out pages, right? But I just went to one of top five gigs ever last night. In the past top five gigs have generally been because I went with an awesome crew of people, and when you take awesome people anywhere you have an awesome time.

But while my girlfriend and her bff are amazing people, the ties between us were eclipsed by one of the best shows I've ever seen. Here's a review I wrote:

"Mutemath are one of my top 30 bands. I think they're cool but my girlfriend is the big fan and keeping her company was the main reason why I went.

Imagine my surprise when Mutemath did one of my top 5 gigs EVER.

Mutemath's albums are great, but onstage they are off the chart. You need to see these guys live, even if you don't know their stuff. If you're an up and coming band this show (not a gig) is a step by step guide on how to perform. They organically and spontaneously remix popular tunes and then open the flood gates on lesser known songs to show you why you should love that track as much as they do.

Every time I thought we'd peaked, they played the next song. Visually it was like Stomp meets the Blue Man Group, and sound-wise like Mutemath swallowed a jazz band and European dj. And in case you think it's a one-off they've been doing this show every 2-3 nights for almost two months now.

I paid a ridiculously small $20 for one of the best shows I've ever seen. If they were playing here again in LA tonight and wanted to charge twice or even three times as much, I'd go in a heart beat."

Please. They're still touring. And it's SO cheap. Whatever music you're into is irrelevant. Go check them out. You can thank me after.