Simon's Path to Retouching
Simon's gonna talk about his interesting path.
I will tell you about my path.
That's me. And there's some artwork. I started off much like Lisa, and I think every kid-- You know, go to arts and crafts and stuff. But, to continue on and do it for a livin' is a real gift. I like that part about it. I remember talking to someone, and they were like, what do you do? I was like, movie posters. Well, how do you do it? I was like, well, you just take pictures-- This was back in the cut and paste days. So, I cut out this picture and paste it onto this picture and then I color it in. Then, I rub some type down on it. They're like, so you pretty much go to Kindergarten for a livin'? I was like, yeah, I go to Kindergarten for a livin'. I've been doin' that for the last 25 years. It has challenges and it gets late nights and it gets kinda stressy and stuff, but at the end of the day, man, you're doin' artwork for a livin' and payin' the bills. And that's-- I think it just, it makes you...
into a brighter person, really. At least, it fits for me, as opposed to bein' somethin' that's not as pretty or not as creative. It just, it's a good fit for me. But, I started off, besides the regular grade school stuff, wanted to kinda hit a little, here's the thing I do. I started doin' T-shirts. I think I just did 'em for myself, and then my sister was like, hey, I'm playin' tennis. Can you do one for tennis? So, I got one for my sister. Then a buddy of mine was like, hey, can you do a T-shirt for me? So, I got to be a T-shirt fellow for about high school and then into college. Then, I called up my sister. Those two on the right, I gave that to my sister. T-shirts that are just kinda freeformed. Facebook got me in touch with an old drumming buddy from high school. So, I hadn't heard from this cat for 25 years. He was like, I still got that T-shirt you did for me. I was like, I have no idea what that looks like. He goes, I'll take a picture of it and send it to you. So, that's how I got into it. It was just startin' off cuttin' and pastin', paintin' and drawin'. When my dad built our house, he said, hey what color do you want to paint your bedroom? I was like, can I paint it anything I want to? He was like, yeah, go ahead. So, I got an opaque projector and started doin' montage, and the pictures went up on the wall. Then, I just got pastel paints and started paintin' this. And my father hasn't painted over it since in 25 years, 30 years. So, when my sons and I go back and hang out with my dad's house, we go back to that old bedroom and it's still the pictures I put down when I was 18, 19 years old. So, I get a kick out of when you make a picture-- When you were in grade school and you bring it home to your mum, and you're like, here, look what I made! She takes it, she goes, ah, it looks wonderful. Let's put it up on the fridge. Click. And just to see that you made somethin' that someone else enjoyed it, and then they want to project it or share it. I got a kick out of that. I still continue on, and still make these pictures that get shared, and it's just the refrigerators kept gettin' bigger and bigger. So, it went to T-shirts and it went to walls. Now, they're building size pieces of art. I still get a thrill out of it. I still-- Especially when it's unexpected. When you're drivin' down, and you forget you did somethin', and you see it. Like, Wal-Mart. You go into Wal-Mart and you just be like flippin' through old DVDs, and you're like, oh shoot, I forgot about that. I did that, I got paid for that. Then it's like a scrapbook that you just kinda keep all over the world. It reminds you of what you were doin' then, or it reminds you of a story or some bill you had to pay or the challenges of it. I moved from Maryland, where I was born and raised when I was 19 years old, and came out to California, thinking I was gonna do music. So, I was not a bad percussionist. Went to school for a year, came out here, and had a bunch of different jobs while I was a musician. While I had all these goofy rock bands goin' on. So, I was a roofer. I was a security guard. I worked at a drug store. I worked at a dry cleaners. I was a mechanic, and I got pretty good at mechanics. So, the whole hands-on, buildin' thing, arts and craftsy kind of thing started to make sense as a mechanic there. That, and it was just powerful and loud. Once you made an engine and put it together and fired the thing up, it was really a hoot. So, I dug that. Came to a position where I was gonna move from this pretty decent mechanic job, and I got a job offer to go further south in Los Angeles and work at a race engine machine shop. It would have been a lot more money you need. You hang out with the race teams and everything. However, at that point, I had a buddy of mine graduate the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, came out, needed a place to stay. So, he stayed with me on the couch at our house, in Glendale, actually. He got a job right away. Took his book around and got a job with what is now BLT. A design firm doing entertainment in Los Angeles. He came back and was tellin' me stories about what his work day entailed. I was like, you just do artwork all day? He was like, pretty much, and they bring us in lunch every day, and the dogs are hangin' out, then we go bicycle ridin' and they bring us lunch. I was like, dude, can you get me a job there? He was like, I'll see what I can do. He came back and within a week, I had this one really nice rock solid job cutting engines for quite a bit of money, and then he was like, I got a delivery boy job that pays five bucks an hour. I was like, ohh. So, I turned down the big, high-dollar, keep your hands greasy all day job, thinkin' let me try out this artwork thing. Let me see how that pans out. Seems like there's a little more room to grow in the artwork, and you're not always in hot, sweaty machine shops, too. So, I did that. I would go in there, and this whole design firm were comin' up with comps and finishes for the movie industry. Then, they would give it to me. I'd jump in my car and deliver it off, and I'd just drive up to Paramount pictures. I was like, holy smokes, this is pretty cool. Here's your artwork, sign here. Then, I'd go off to the Fox lot. Then, I'd go to Universal. And it was quite a thrill. Comin' from Maryland? Comin' from the Appalachians to just now beyond these lots and see the movie stars from time to time, and the lots and the sets and the houses that you see in your movies and your TV shows, it was quite a kick. After I was done with my deliveries, I would go around and ask the artists. I was like, hey, what are you doin'? What are you workin' on? How do you do that? And they would start showin' me stuff. I was like, do you mind me askin'? They're like, no not at all, really nice. You do that, too. When folks ask you, hey, can I learn? You're like, yeah sure. I think if you're true about it, folks will share, for the most-- Or they should. But, yeah, keep askin' around and someone will tell you a tip or two. But, in this boutique, this was before Photoshop. It was going on but they weren't usin' it. It was a hot shop. What they did was they did cuttin' and pastin'. So, we would take all these different photographs, scan them into a color Xeroxer, ad size. So, bigger or smaller, right there on the scanner machine, print 'em out. Cut 'em out with Exacto. Spray 'em on 'em and stick 'em together on another piece of paper. Then, with that, they would get in with their airbrushes, and color stuff. Then they would airbrush out the bottom. Like, vignette it to a white or a dark. Then they would print out type and logos, and we would make our own Chromatex there. So, here's a piece of paper with the type on it. Take it in, photograph it, make a Chromatex. All the different colors at size, justified... Left, right, and then hand it back, and they would rub that down and stick it together. I got picked up by one of the leading ladies there. She was like, help me out, you're gettin' good at this. So, the delivery boy job, we'll hire someone else. We'll just use this Raibel kid. He's got some work ethic and some get up and go. I would go and pick her up from a finishing job. So, when she and I did our designs, and they picked hers, then it was finishing time. They would take her down to the finishing house to get with the finishing artists on a finishing computer. She was like, you should come down and sit with me one of these times. So, I did. They showed cloning and they showed size rotation. It was all digital. I was knocked out of my socks, man. I was like, what's goin' on here? So, I was just askin' questions: How do you do that, are they hirin', where do you get a job for that? She had told me, hey, we have a computer at the shop back where we're goin', where we work, and the back room has a couple better computers. They have Photoshop on it. Ask the computer tech there some questions and maybe get goin' with that. I was like, you got it. Drop her off, I go right back. I said I wanna learn some of this Photoshop stuff. He was like, sit down, man. I'll teach you what I know. Started doin' that. I was playin' around with it and I was like, okay, it does this, it doesn't do this. I don't know how to do this. The next set of comps that me and this lady had to do, I was like, I'd like to do one of these comps digitally. You think we'd be up for it? It was only blank and white at the time. So, back in the day, if they didn't have budget for color, they would say just give us black and white ideas. So, this was a baby job. I asked her, I said, can we try doin' one of these on the digital thing? She goes, you got the chops? I said I can try it. In fact, I'll work on it at night, and if it doesn't work out, I'll just do it the old traditional way. She was like, fine. So, I sat there and put a little love and a little heart and soul, and a couple tears into it that night, and askin' him questions. We scanned it all in, and stayed it out. I was like, okay. Then it would print it out. I took it in to Dawn, and I was like, what do you think? She was like, this is fine. Let's run it. Put it up on the wall with all the other people's ideas, and there's cut and paste, and you can see cut lines and stuff, and the hair edges aren't so great. With ours, it was all noised in, so it looked uniform. Looked so clean. It was the kid who didn't have any art education, nothin'. That went up on the wall, and I was like, I was proud right away. I was like, look how clean that is. Everyone else was like, here comes this-- Things just changed.
That was the first digital comp in Hollywood.
First digital comp.
Yeah, can you imagine?
Yeah, Dawn and I... Blood in, blood out. Black and white. (laughs) So, from there, went to Paramount pictures and did paste up mechanicals in Quark. Did videoboxes. Started designing videoboxes. Finished a couple of them. We have one finishing artist there and he was always backed up. I was like, well, can I help? Or, can you do this for me, and he wouldn't have time. He was like, why don't you just try doin' it yourself? So, I'd start extending the bottom of the pictures to put the billings in. That kind of stuff. Then, got a little better, little better, and finally this friend of mine, Scott, came in and he got a finish for the Stephen King movie, Thinner. He was like, do you think you could finish this thing on a theatrical level? I was like, let's give it a shot. So, we went at it and they gave us a little extra time. Had backups, I had the Quantel book just in case these two knuckleheads can't pull it off. But, we did it, and that was the first one, man. That was my first theatrical finish. That was probably 1991, 92. Long time ago. It was quite the challenges from there. This was while I working at Emerald City with Lisa, they came in and said we want to build another part to Disneyland. We wanna put this building in. It's the animation building. We're gonna give you all the scans. We're gonna make a collage and print it on the building. I was like, this sounds like a cool idea. So, in comes Steamboat Willie original scans. Actual drawings. I was like holy smokes, just walked in, started-- Damn, look at that! Put that in, they collaged it all together. Then, they said this building, we wanna back light it. It's all gonna be windows. We wanna print it that size so it's super tight. They figured out UV protectives, so the sun didn't beat it up. It's still standin' today. But, then the real kicker with this one was that each one of those windows, there were no right angles and none of the windows were the same size. So, Disney Imaginarium, all these really smart folks were like, how do we do this? I was like, I don't know. Let me call up my smart buddies. I called up my smart buddy, he was like, dude, that's high school geometry. You just draw a couple circles and wherever those two things meet, that's your angle. I was like, all right. So, somehow I just meandered into, I'm sharp enough to figure out this math stuff. But, I got a building in Disneyland, which is kinda-- I kinda like that part of my portfolio. This next piece, we used to print out-- They would print out, big bus shelters, they would print out billboards, and that was about as big as you would see. It would be a billboard. The Disney guys came in, and they're like, we wanna go really big. We wanna tile print out a picture and hang it off a building. The movie was called Armageddon. The logo of Armageddon was at the bottom of this piece. So, they were like, let's illustrate a hole in the building, like an asteroid came and just took out the hole. You're gonna have to make out the inside of what would be left of the building, burned. Lots of little fire bits. So, we illustrated it up, and they printed it out, tiled it out. They started piecing it together and dropping it down the building off the 405 freeway in Los Angeles. Before the logo went up, folks were comin' down and it looked so realistic and so out of what normally happens if folks were watchin' and bangin' into one another. So, there was traffic accidents. Made 35 news reels. This piece got some folks in trouble. Anyway, they didn't even get the whole thing launched up in Los Angeles. So, they called up Vegas. Vegas said, yeah, you can put it up over here. So, I went up in Vegas to the Luxor, and my brother-in-law was up there. He was like, you ought to see this piece of art. I was like, I did that piece of art. He was like, no way.
You can't beat that advertising though. Right? Every news channel, it was a big deal. It was pre 9-11, so it was the first time they had seen a building--
That's what I got-- I was just like, yeah. Just keep gettin' bigger and bigger. So, my refrigerator's gettin' bigger, bigger. Big Lebowski, we did. It was like a quiet little film. Bunch of skater guys all got together, we came up with this goofy idea. Then, the film kinda just keeps on goin'. So, you tell folks, we did The Big Lebowski piece, they're like, wow, you did that? At the time, it was just another job. It was a Thursday. But then the movie was really good, and I liked the movie, too. So, that's a proud portfolio piece there. This next one we did, we got to do tattoo girls for a television show. Then I had a buddy, our buddy, Mike Wheelings, did pin-up girls, but he got a job with Harley Davidson. So, he called me as I was on a motorcycle ridin' up to Las Vegas to see motorcycle races. He was like, hey, can you do a motorcycle job. I was like, I have just the right amount of motorcycles in my life right now. Let's do it. So, he did the girls, and I did all the masking out all the spokes and everything. From automotive and all that really clean masking and clean illustration work, went right over to logos pretty easily. So, I did logos, or I was known as the logo guy. I still like doin' logos. I don't know, you kinda go in and out of waves for right now. But, they game me an old Superman logo and they said, this needs to be updated and super duper clean. It was just a lot of pathin' out, and transitions, and gradients, and little blings of stuff. Just make it shiny and metallic, and that's me. I also went over to the Santa Clause one. This is my horror phase, which, I watched Blair Witch project, scared the snot out of me, man. At 40 years old, I'm still afraid of scary movies. But, they'll call me up for these horror movie posters. Get Raibel to do it. Anything that's spooky, he'll do it. So, I got, this one comin' in, that's my Raibel Yell logo for my website. Lisa called me up for Oculus. She was like, I got a movie poster in. Can you help me, I'm busy. I was like, sure. She goes, you do the hair. I was like, I'll do the hair.
He's the hair guy. Isn't that funny? This guy likes big explosion building guy. He actually-- I'm sorry, I'm outing you right now. He is Mr. Finesse. He's quiet, gentle. This hair, I know you can't see it on the slide. This hair is extraordinary. When you see it up close, it's absolutely amazing. But who would figure? If you look at big ol' head of hair you have. Maybe that's--
Thank you. Then, Poltergeist. You remember Poltergeist when we were kids? It was such a huge movie, and then they redid it now and I got to do the artwork on it.
He's the horror guy, too. Everyone calls him the horror guy.
Ah, trucks. Automotive. I still like things that go fast and are loud. Just clean stuff. Pretty girls. You do plenty of pretty girls in movie posters, but then when it gets to be, hey, we're only lookin' at one girl to get seamless, it brings on a bunch of different challenges. It's another learning curve. It's just another skill set to have. Even when I dove into it, I was like, I think I got it. And you kinda got it, but you don't know that you don't got it. Then you just keep practicin' it, and then you got it. More horror stuff. This stuff went through the roof, man. I like it. Then the... Broken glass is, again, how much of all that masking out is bezzy paths, much like logos. Bezzy paths, much like automotive. It all kinda clips in and works with each other. So, they give you this job and go, can you do this? You're like, I can do these other two things that are kinda like it. Yeah, I could probably figure it out. A lot of illustration on the glass, and how things reflect, and it all kinda comes in. So, if you haven't done a job, you can look at it and go, this looks like that, this looks like that, and I can make this up. Yeah, I'll take it. Let's make it look good. Again, with the artwork on refrigerators, I get a kick out of goin' all over the place and just seein' your artwork where you least expect it. 'Cause once you give them the artwork, they can just do whatever. It's not like, hey, we're gonna use your artwork for this other thing, is that cool with you? You don't get that call. It just kinda goes, and then when you wander across it, there it is. So, I would just be down goin' to the airport, and my kids are like, hey, what have you been workin' on? You look up, and there's a big Die Hard poster. I said, did that. He was like, right on. I was like, let's go spend some of that money. Did this one.
Yeah, that's my kid there. So, another time, I did the Mirror Mirror artwork. Got on a plane, flew back to see my kid, and we were just out at the movie theater just checkin' out somethin', he goes, what are you workin' on? I was like, did that. Get in front of it, I'll take your picture. Then this one, my father calls up and goes, did you read this book? I said no, I didn't read the book, but did the artwork. Lisa and I got on a plane, we're drivin' from France to Italy, and as soon as we pop up in Italy, we stop off for a coffee at a gas station. On the bookshelf was the artwork in a different country with different languages. Personal little giggle for myself. It's just to see your work out everywhere, everyone sharin' on it. I dig it. This last one was, hey Lisa, you know that show that you like to watch at night? The Elementary show? I'm gonna finish it. Then, the next thing was is I was doin' Trainspotting, and I was like, guess who one of those four guys are. She goes, I have no idea. The blonde guy, who's that? I was like, that's your Johnny Lee Hooker from your Elementary show. Wee! More artwork. Always artwork. Do plenty of artwork.
Yeah, we have a dosey do-- I get jealous, I'll admit it. He gets jobs-- Because we work together. Who's ever in the hopper's in the hopper. And he got that Elementary job, and I was like, baaah, I love that show!
I shared it.
You did share it.
I made you a little print of it.
You did. That was very nice of you. Anyway, so that's kinda how we got started. Hopefully, our path could help people figure out what they might wanna do, or to just show how diverse it is. 'Cause, unlike being a doctor or a lawyer, it's not like you go to University and you take this class and you go here, and then you take that test, and then you're licensed, and then voila, there you are. It's not that kind of world. I would say, even nowadays, you can find some more specific courses at Universities, but there's nothing that is a A to Z to get you into this business. That's why Creative Live is so awesome. That you can find places and get training in a world that there's no real road map for you.
I got asked the other day if I went to finishing school. (laughing) I know!
The term didn't even exist when we got into it.
Well, finishing school meant somethin' else. It was for women, for back in the day. Anyway.