Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Month: February, 2017



When I was a little kid, there was a TV show called Circus Boy starring Mickey Dolenz, later of the Monkees.  He played an orphan who was adopted by the circus after his parents died in a fall during their trapeze performance.  I always dreamed of living that life, and running off to join the circus, but never expected them to actually come looking for me.  When they asked me to do the program cover and poster for 1981, it was a childhood fantasy come true.  I wound up doing 5 posters for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus over the years.  Four were the actual posters, one was used as an insert in the program to promote one of their starring acts.

They would give me loads of photos and slides to use as reference, and a list of the acts they wanted to see on the poster.  Other than that, I pretty much had complete freedom.  Now I hear that the circus will be closing in May, after 146 years of operation.  Falling attendance, high operating costs, and the loss of the elephants due to protests from animal rights groups, were the main causes.  Kids just don’t dream of running away to join the circus nowadays.  So the circus is leaving town, but what a history they leave behind.

I wish I had better images to post, but these were all I could find online, and my programs are all in storage.



kd-lang-grammy-copyI also used Caran d’Ache Crayons on my work.  They were a waxy crayon that went on very smoothly and opaquely if you wanted them to.  You could blend them with your fingers and they would dry to the touch and not smear after they dried.  The same company made an oil pastel, but it never seemed to really dry.  I would use them quite a bit for background textures .  One day I had finished a job, and it was  leaning up against my flat files, ready for me to flap it and ship it that night.

My 5-year-old son poked his head in my door and laughed as he squirted me with his water pistol.  I laughed too until I noticed that the overspray had hit the painting, and when I tried to dab it up, it only removed the colors where the water drops were.  At first I was furious, and wondered why these things always seem to happen within hours of deadline?  But as I dabbed at it, I realized that I could never really fix it.  So instead, I splattered more water on it and dabbed off more color.  It was a major improvement to the work, and I began to use it on many pieces from then on.

I just looked them up and they are still manufactured.  Called Caran D’ache Neocolor II Artists’ Crayons, they are water soluble.  Their strong pigmentation allows light colors to cover dark colors and vise-versa.  They are soft enough to blend with your fingertip, yet much firmer than oil pastels.  Yep, that’s the way I remember them!





When I worked traditionally, Prismacolors were my best friends.  I would lay in the underpainting and then basically do the whole picture in Prismas.  Then I would drybrush over it using a Windsor Newton Series 7 size 3 brush with acrylic paint.  Millions and millions of tiny x’s.  And even if I was doing a painting 30″ x 40″, the x’s remained the same size.  Basically the Prismacolor would create the fine blending between the acrylic and the underpainting, without worrying about making the paint being that refined.  But the Prismas didn’t have the intensity or the punch of the acrylics, so the acrylic layer was always a necessity.

I did come up with a way to do more with the Prismas, and give them more opacity.   One night my Prismas fell into a cup of water.  They sat in there for several minutes before I noticed.  When I rescued them and tried to use them, the colors had become soft and mushy.  They went on almost like paint.  When they dried out, they were back to normal, but I had liked the softer, paint feel, so I got a cup of water and would dip my Prismas into that while I worked in order to keep them soft.  They remained very opaque, even when the color dried on my painting.

Things were great until one night, with the painting due in the morning.  I had spent a week doing the job, and I was really happy with how it was looking, so I wanted to make it extra special.  I decided it would look so much cooler if I took it out in the hallway and sprayed it with Krylon Crystal Clear.  That always made paintings look like they had a resin coating on them, like little jewels.  I was finished early, so I went out there and sprayed away.  Of course the lighting wasn’t very good in the hallway, but the painting looked beautiful all sparkly like that.  I left it out there to dry and went in to clean up so I could go home and get some sleep.

When I brought the painting into my studio to admire it, I thought my eyes were over-tired.  It seemed as if everything was blurry.  That’s when I realized that Krylon Crystal Clear dissolves Prismacolor.  If you worked in Los Angeles around that time, you might have heard me scream.  What had taken a good part of four days to accomplish, now was gone and had to be reproduced in about 5 hours, and me with no sleep.  Have you ever noticed that you can paint something the second time around so much faster than you did the first time?  Like when my computer crashes and I have forgotten to back up my work for five hours.  I can redo it in one hour.  Amazing.

So, that is what happened with my illustration for the book Radio Eyes that I was doing for Roger Carpenter and Stewart Weiner.  Still one of my favorite paintings.



How many ex-illustrators would spend the last few hours on the last day of a job, finishing every little bit that had been overlooked, flapping the art, packaging it up for FedEx, and then the mad dash at 60 mph on surface streets to get inside the door of FedEx before 6:00?  Once in the door, your package was safe, it was assured of going out, but otherwise you would have some explaining to do the next morning.  And how many actually enjoyed the adrenaline rush?  Oh, I remember being supremely upset that I ran out of packing tape and had to change rolls while I only had fifteen minutes before I absolutely, positively, had to be in my car dealing with all the crazy drivers on the road.  Traffic lights that usually only took 2 minutes, were now on their dinner break and would be back shortly.  The panic was palpable, but when I made it and the pressure was off….oh, that was such an amazing feeling.

I don’t have that with digital work.  Since I can send the finished art in by 6:00am if necessary, the deadline panic is gone nowadays.  My life is much more easy going, but sometimes I have to admit there are things missing.  No originals, of course, and that’s too bad.  But that rush…I am not so sure if I miss it or not.