Robert Rodriguez fineartprintsca

The art and interests of Robert Rodriguez

Tag: Illustration



Paper Moon Graphics, what a great place to work.   Almost complete freedom to do the art the way you wanted it.  I remember you would go in there sometimes with a sketchbook and show them your ideas and they would pick one and tell you to finish it up.  And it worked that way from the beginning, when I started with them.  Linda Barton, Robert Fitch, and Roger Carpenter all went with what worked, and it was a ground-breaking company.  They did often commission you to paint their ideas as well, but they trusted the artists to interpret everything and didn’t over direct.  Artwork is always so much better when the designer and the illustrator work together, rather than the art director telling you exactly how to handle every brushstroke.

I wasn’t in on why it ended, but I have an idea that it was because they were so good, that everyone copied them.  Of course the imitations were never as good, but they were probably cheaper to produce, and cheaper to buy.  But for anyone who worked for Paper Moon, it was something you will never forget.

I just remember, until Paper Moon cards, I used to buy these cartoony cards for whatever occasion, or make my own.  I was never really happy with what I used.  But once I saw the kind of cards Paper Moon was doing, I never bought anything else.  And Paper Moon was more expensive, but it didn’t matter.  It wasn’t even a consideration because the art was so superior, and the attitude was so cool.



On the extreme left (mostly cropped off) is a self-portrait.  I am also listed on the menu for $1.10.

adult motel

The bartender, the diner, and the adult motel were all originally done for Oui Magazine.





Poor Santa, I somehow forgot one of his fingers.  A horrible toy-making accident, I suppose.


This image was originally an ad for Schwinn BMX bicycles.

TOYS copy



Robert Rodriguez is represented by Lindgren & Smith (212.397.7330)

Sometimes I Get My Caffeine From Coffee

Dr. Pepper is my usual mode of caffeine delivery, but a day isn’t started properly without coffee.  Did you know that New Orleans has been listed as the third most important city in the US for coffee?  With my involvement in Tales of the Cocktail, I’ve been fascinated by the whole subculture of the mixologist.  Now I am seeing the same thing happening with the barista culture, people who really know and care about creating the perfect cup of coffee.  But recently I’ve been getting a behind the scenes look into the history and the growing and roasting of the beans from the owners (Bob Arceneaux and Tom Oliver) of Orleans Coffee.  For instance, did you know that coffee cherries are actually sweet and can be eaten as a fruit?  I understand there isn’t much to them, but they taste something like watermelon, rosewater, and hibiscus combined….I’ve also heard lychee and cantaloupe.

The reason for this sudden exposure to all things coffee is that Bob and Tom asked me to design their new packaging.  Now this is an exciting project!  I was supposed to show them 5 sketches but I got carried away and I think I showed up with 15.  Here are a few of my favorites, and a little description of the thinking behind them.

A. I stole it.  The artwork is from Il Fornaio, and the logo is Orleans Coffee’s existing logo, restyled.  I actually like their old logo and I just made the O and the S larger and changed the font on Coffee, with apologies to Michael Doret.  I used his Orion font but changed the f’s a bit.  The Il Fornaio artwork shows a chef, I was going to change it to a woman with a cup of coffee done in my style,  but I like the colors a lot.

B. My Newcomb Pottery version.  This was a flattened out version of one of Newcomb’s elegant vases.  The Orleans lettering is iconically New Orleans since a lot of the streets, particularly in the Vieux Carré have their names set in tile on the street corners.  I loved this direction but realized that the colors might not have the snap on grocery shelves that would be desired, and you can’t pump up the volume or it wouldn’t be Newcomb Pottery any longer.COFFEE LABELS C&D

C. This was one of my favorites.  Again the street corner tiles for the logo, but the whole bag would be made of smaller tiles.  A lot of the older shops in the city, particularly Angelo Brocato’s Ice Cream, have tiled entries with their names set in.  That’s why there were leaves and shadows on it.  And being a white bag, I think it would stand out on the shelves.

D. The color popped on this one.  In the background would be a second line parade.  I only used a painting of the Grand Marshall that I had done awhile ago, but if it was chosen, I would have done different musicians and dancers.  My idea was to have them interlock and develop a pattern similar to Keith Haring’s dancing men, but fully painted.COFFEE LABELS E&F

E. My Cubist version.  This would have been fun to develop.  I planned to go around and take pictures of an espresso machine, a coffee grinder, the antique roaster at the company, and have someone make a fleur-de-lis in latte art for me to photograph.  Then I would cut the pictures apart to make the cubist artwork.  Something I’ve never done before, but I think it would work nicely.

F. What could be more New Orleans than a woman drinking coffee on a French Quarter balcony overlooking Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral?  I don’t remember who I owe apologies to for the woman I used, some French artist from the 1880’s, but I would have had to make up my own version of her if we had gone this direction.COFFEE LABELS G&H

G. A total type solution.  Very rough but it is the general design I had in mind.  I am completely in awe of those of type treatments of the 1890’s, and that’s where I was heading with this.  It would be metallic gold in on a chocolate brown bag.  And I think my favorite part was the gold ink that would be spattered down from the top.  Fun.

H. This is still in progress, but I think it is the direction we are going.  Things will change quite a bit between now and when it is finished, but generally it will be kept simple.  A silhouetted woman savoring her coffee.  My plan was to have the outlines and the fleur-de-lis grid in the background all be metallic gold.  I was in Vienna over the summer and saw a lot of architecture by Otto Wagner whose favorite colors it seems, were white with gold leaf decorations.  He convinced me.  So clean, so elegant, and yet so rich at the same time.

Though there were other designs that had a lot to recommend them, these were my favorites.  I will post the finished version when it is completed, but a lot of thinking is necessary before we get to that point.

Product Placement


Failure To Launch: Opening scene

Failure To Launch: Opening scene

Failure To Launch, starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parker.  Opening scene:  Man’s foot comes down on his littered bedroom floor, right on top of my senorita that I did for Santitas Corn Chips!   Pretty good product placement and the bag is empty, so he must have liked the chips.  Wonder if he thought my Mexican Pinup girl was cute?

The Curtain is Coming Up.

Not yet, but soon.  Here’s a sneak peek.  A student recently asked me how you know when a painting is finished.  That is a much more difficult question than it seems upon first hearing it.  Of course the answer is so subjective, it would have a different answer for every artist, except to say, it is finished when it is finished.  And that’s no help to a student and would probably be different for every style of art as well.  For instance, I am sure the Impressionists must have called paintings finished that any Academic painter of the period would have considered to be a study.  I guess it has something to do with when the time comes that you can’t imagine any way to make any element of the painting any better than it is, you can call it finished.  Or in the case of an illustration, it is either that, or the deadline looms, whichever comes first.

On this painting, the deadline is getting close, but isn’t exactly looming yet.  So I am still taking everything to the point where I am happy with every little bit.  So far, so good.Image

The Lady in Red

Someone noticed the mention in the last post of the lady in the red dress being a big favorite, and wondered why it was that she had to go.  Sometimes as you work on a painting or the design for a painting, you fall in love with a section and you do everything possible to not destroy that area.  Sometimes it is a brushstroke, a color, a pose, or even the way you painted a certain part of the picture.  But the more you work on it, you realize you are trying to force everything to fit with that bit, to the detriment of the whole.  Then you have to decide to kill your favorite child for the good of the family.  Sorry to be so brutal, but it does feel that way at times.  It is hard to come to the realization that you can’t sacrifice everything for that one area, no matter how much you love it.  It is so difficult that I usually delay the inevitable and try to make excuses, but finally I’ll have to come around.  Besides, with the lady in red, I can try to fit her into next year’s poster and she might be perfect at that time.

In this case her posture was so low that she couldn’t fill the space strongly enough to demand the attention I felt the central figure needed.  I tried making her bigger, but she was more of a horizontal shape and wound up being cropped too tightly.  That’s when it became obvious that what the composition called for was a more vertical pose.  This became the center of focus and the surrounding people became the background elements.

Painting a picture for me is a journey.  Originally I start out thinking, “This is going to be the greatest painting I have ever done.”  Somewhere along the way, I have to admit that I might have painted better things before, but this can still be one of the better ones.  I still don’t give up trying though.  And that’s where the “lucky accidents” come in.  Here I am, trying this, trying that, when all of a sudden something wonderful happens.  I go, “Wow!” Now the painting has direction, now it is starting to work.  Now almost everything I do to it only adds to making it even better.  Once that “lucky accident” occurs, the painting just marches on to completion with no false steps to mislead it.  So I suppose you could call it an Aha! Moment,  a Flash of Inspiration, or a Leap of Faith, but whatever it is, it definitely isn’t me controlling it.  It just happens, and then everything falls into place and I suddenly know where to go from there.

An artist can paint a picture strictly based on knowledge and skill, and it will be a very competent painting, but I don’t believe it will have any soul until that “lucky accident” happens.   At least that’s the way it works for me.

The Lady in Red

Evolution of the Tales of the Cocktail poster 2013

Hopefully, this isn’t too much like pulling aside the curtain to expose the Wizard.  I was just aiming to provide an interesting peek at the path this year’s poster took along the way.  I was putting in old photos, parts of vintage illustrations, and very rough scribbles to start thinking about the direction I wanted to take the art.  As things progressed, I would get one little section working, or one shape, or an area of color, and keep it in mind for the next step in the painting.

Originally in the development there didn’t seem to be any focus, just a scene of a group of people.  The lady in the red dress in the second sketch was a big favorite and stayed around in my layouts for a long time (versions you don’t see here).  But eventually she had to go, a more dominant figure emerged, and I knew I was on the right track.  You can see the color was starting to evolve as well.  I always think it is interesting how lucky accidents occur in the making of a picture, things you expand on until the whole piece is working much better than it was when you started.  I’ve heard stories of artists who know what they are going to do before the first brushstroke hits the canvas.  That has never been my way, though if it were possible, it would make things a lot easier.  My method is to move in little steps until I finally realize it is finished.  Step-by-step discovery, where the painting points the way as it evolves to completion.


Tales of the Cocktail poster, 2013

The Gatsby Era.  The Roaring Twenties.  The Jazz Age went bopping right along until the 1930’s, by which time things took a little break for the Depression.  But some might question whether New Orleans has ever let up and Tales of the Cocktail seems to confirm that.

So, in keeping with this year’s theme at the awards dinner, the poster expresses this era in an Art Deco style as well as by depicting some of the classic cocktails of the day.  We have the Mint Julep, the Rickey, the Corpse Reviver, and the El Presidente.  Out on the town with a few classy ladies and gentlemen in the Vieux Carré of old New Orleans, living it up at a balcony bar setting, drinking it in with the music and the spirits, we are looking down on Bourbon Street while late night revelers make their way home in the wee hours before the dawn.

The poster is printed on 80# glossy cover stock with a special UV coating to protect it from fading, dust and moisture.  It comes to you signed by the artist, in a sturdy mailing to insure against damage during shipping.

Print size is:  19″ x 30″
Poster is $30.00
Shipping is $6.00
Total: $36.00