August 11th, 2009

andrew potter

Behind the Cover: Glen Orbik & Laurel Blechman

""If you're having fun, you're doing it wrong" - Fred Fixler - The only advice Fred gave us which I didn't take to heart.

Several decades ago, with the original intention of drawing super-heroes, I started serious art study with retired illustrator, Fred Fixler. Fred was a highly skilled illustrator best known for painting movie posters ( Comedy of Terrors, Pit and the Pendulum, Man with the X-ray Eyes, Burn Witch Burn, House of Usher, Hercules- Unchained, Where the Boys Are, etc...). and elegant pretty girls. Fred had been a student of Frank Reilly and Robert Beverly Hale at the Art Students' League, with fellow classmates James Bama, Robert Maguire and Clark Hulings, among many others.

Summer Treat

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After a few years, I took over many of Fred's classes at the school he started when he retired from teaching and have continued off and on for over 20 years. While at school I met future partner and sometimes collaborator, Laurel Blechman, a fellow Fixler student and teacher. I've been lucky enough to work on everything from book covers to movie posters, collectable lithographs and plates, to video games and comic books. I've gotten to do covers for such authors as Stephen King and Ray Bradbury.

I've painted retro detectives, femme fatales, fantasy heroes, Sci-Fi rockets & Jedi's, western bandits and Hammer-style vampires. I'm a major fan of classic magazine illustration (who isn't ?), pulp paperback art, and film- noir.

A short, incomplete list of artistic influences (and a chance to name-drop...): Robert McGinnis, Gil Elvgren, Dean Cornwell, Mead Schaeffer,Andrew Loomis, John Buscema... and a healthy dose of Norman Rockwell

Partial client list: DC Comics, Vertigo, Marvel Comics, Warner Bros., Clampett Studios, Universal Pictures, Sony, Avon Books, Berkley Books, cRandom House, Del Rey, Hard Case Crime, and TSR / Dungeons and Dragons." Glen Orbik


""If it takes doing 100,000 drawings to get to the good ones, you'd better get started." - Fred Fixler

When I was a classical musician, I used to do art for relaxation - those days are gone. After trying several different art instructors, I was lucky enough to find Fred Fixler. Beyond being astounded by his drawing skills, his practical approach to teaching art really struck a cord with my own musical training. As a professional illustrator, Fred's working methods (and now our's) were very simailar to Norman Rockwell's (also a former student at the Art Student's League in NY). We do extensive research, where my background in costuming often comes in handy. ( I make Glen build the props.) Our back room is a melange of costumes, props (anyone need a Galatus helmet?), scrap files & my old comic book collection.

Roslyn's War

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My first artistic influences were the decorative styles of artists like Aubrey Beardsley and Alphonse Mucha and the bold compositions of the early poster artists like Ludwig Hohlwein. Any partial list of major art influences would definitely include James Bama, Mead Schaefer, Bernini, Ingres, and 50's & 60's illustrators like Coby Whitmore and Al Parker who pushed the compostional envelope. And for great compostions you can't beat old black & white film noir and classic Westerns-- at least that's what I have told my students.

Partial client list: DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Berkley Books, Scholastic Books, 20th Century Fox, Bic, Penzoil, Screen Writers Guild, California Bar Association" Laurel Blechman
andrew potter

Horizons by Mickie B. Ashling

I usually don't read reviews of book I have in mind to read myself since I don't like to be influenced in my judgment. But the eyes sometime caught something, and I'm true, I look out with more attention when it's a new author. So as soon as this book was out, I read a very negative review for Horizons by Mickie B. Ashling and I was a bit surprise, since from the blurb and the quality of the publisher, I was really interesting in reading it. What last more to me of that review was the critique on the lack of research in the specific matter, the College Football environment, and the too emotional behavior of the main heroes. I will give mine own opinion in both matters further on in this post.

Jody is a 33 years emergency doctor in an Oakland hospital. He is out and proud to be and he was helped in being so by a supporting family, which not only accepted him when he came out but also helped with good advice and love all around. So Jody had the easy way and the only bump in his gay life was a fated love story with Rick, a man Jody met when Rick was already HIV positive and who died three years after their relationship started. But despite the heartbreak, it was nevertheless a good and fond memory, since Rick was a good man, a man who helped Jody in the transition from sheltered gay teen at home to gay man exposed to the big bad world. Again, Jody had it easy, Rick was a wealthy and respected personality of the San Francisco society, and Jody was not exposed to the harshness usually reserved to a young man coming out. So even if Jody is 33 years old, I have the feeling that he is a bit "naive", a bit pampered from life: it's easy for him to be out and proud, he has never witnessed the negative implication of it.

Clark is a 23 years old college student and gay in the closet. He came from a very conservative family, the fifth of five sons. His father is a jailor at Folsom, and he is the worst homophobic man you can imagine. He brought up all his sons in an homophobic environment where he described gays like the worst sinner and perverted people. When Clark realized that he has different feelings towards men, sexual feelings, he was not easy for him to reconnect it with what he was listening at home. He was still at that stage in life where you are too young to question your parents words and so he really believed that he himself was wrong in his desires. To add shame to shame, he has Attention Deficit Disorder and his father dealt with it with the same obtrusive way, ignoring it. Since Clark was good at football, the fact that he was not good at school was not a problem, it was all right to have a dumb son, if that son had the change to bring home a lot of money using his body instead of his mind. Again Clark has not courage to question his father's beliefs, and his ADD problem is another proof that he is wrong, in more way than one.

When Clark meets Jody, the young man has big behavioral problem. He has not self-esteem, he thinks that his only worth lies in his body strength, any possible damage to it is a damage to his future. The smallest injury is a drama, taking drugs to help him concentrate is not to be discussed. Plus for Clark is the first time he has the chance to meet a gay man, and for him it's like meeting with an alien. All right, at the beginning, and maybe even during their relationship, Clark comes out with some sentences that make me cringe for how homophobic they are, but I believe in that moment his Clark's father speaking, not the boy. Both men sometime ring wrong, like they are out of this world, but I believe that, in Jody's case, it's the way he has always had it easy in life, and for Clark's it's that I'm not used to speak with homophobic people... and I'm not saying that Clark is homophobic, I'm saying that he talks like one because he was taught to be like that.

It's true, both men are quite emotional, but it's not like they are crying every page or so. For Clark then I believe it's a way to react to his inner struggle; he has always to behave like this big and strong jock, he has a lot of turmoil inside, and he doesn't know how to come out from the trap he is in. On the other side, Jody only comes to tears when he has a very personal involvement, when he thinks that his story is slipping away from him; again I think it's only a natural way to react to the situation.

And then the big trouble, the fallacy on the timing of the Football season. First of all, I'm not an excerpt so I can use only the few I collect on the web. From what I read, the College Football season starts the Labor Day and ends at the beginning of December. The book didn't exactly says what time it is when the story starts, but Clark has a bone injury during a game (he is in full uniform) and he is stopped for a month; than there is a period he visits Jody after that month, then they starts to meet once/twice a week since Jody is tutoring Clark, and more or less at the third meetings it's Thanksgiving (end of November) and Clark says that his season is over. I don't believe there is a so big fallacy in the timing, it's possible that Clark was injured during an official game, he was out for a month, then started again but his team didn't make the finals, if so, it's possible that at the end of November the season is over for him. What probably it's not so believable, it's that being stopped for a month during the game season didn't worried so much nor Clark or his father. But truth be told, all the aspects related to Clark's life as football player, games, trainings and so one, are not so much detailed, not in comparison to other sports themed novel I read. Only once we witness to a game and never once to a training. So yes, maybe all the sports side of the novel could have been better, but I think it doesn't matter so much since it is not so essential to the story: the essential point is Clark's desire to be a professional player in a big money sport, the sport itself in this case is football, but it could have been baseball or basket or something else for that matter.

What instead I found unsettling at the beginning, but that then I think it makes the book even more original, it's the different point of view of the heroes. The book is not a total first point of view, it's like that only when it's Clark's time to think and speak, for all the rest of the characters it's a third point of view. As I said, at the beginning it's strange, also since I found that Clark was way more too overanalyzing. He spoke of himself as if he was another person, like he was the third point of view narrator describing the main hero. Since I started with an idea of Clark and a dumb jock, it was strange to "hear" him speak like that. But more on the story, I understood that Clark was in a coming out process, that he was analyzing his life and his beliefs to find the courage to do the right think.

All in all I think this is quite a particular novel, since it's not following the "normal" standard. To like it you have to put yourself inside the characters, trying to judge their action not by your standards but by their own. For example, Clark being a 23 years old student and Jody a 33 established doctor, it's something that lead you to believe them being at distance, in expectation and behavior; but as I said, Jody is almost "naive", and Clark is in a growing process, and so the distance is not so big, and it's almost a non existent factor. For normal standard this is wrong, but if you think like the characters it's not.

Amazon: Horizons

Amazon Kindle: Horizons

Reading List: list&view=elisa.rolle