Monday, November 17, 2008

An Extrodinary Journey - Part One

After getting stung so badly by the business deal I had with the first poster, reliving that was not something on my agenda. However I still had the want will and desire to continue my work on Star Trek and in someway Star Wars(though they both have different meanings for me). My Brother Matt was going to Ferris State University and essentially was taking the same major as I had taken. The Christmas of his last year he was contemplating his final project. For Christmas I gave him an original series Enterprise Model made by AMT and I let him borrow copies of my manuals and blueprints. I thought if I could do it so could he. At that time it was only a school project but he really through himself into it and soon he had a stunning illustration of the Enterprise. Quite remarkable in detail, right down to the pumbing... yes there were toilets!

I too was starting to think of some new ideas as I was really starting to dig Deep Space Nine the third series in the Star Trek world. At the same time I had heard of a Star Trek Group while visiting a convention at the Dearborn Civic Centre. A local group called the USS Intrepid. They were a large organization who ran the greenroom and provided refreshments at the convention. I had visited a couple times over the course of a couple years and I got to know some of the people. I would sign copies of my poster that were still selling like hotcakes! (I loved signing even though I never saw a penny from those sales) I had shared my story with one of the groups leaders who suggested that one of their members might be interested in picking up the mantle of what I had started. A Grosse Pointe Park business man named Martin Petz. I got his number and contacted him and shortly there after Matt and I had a meeting with him to show him what we had started. I conveyed my story to Martin and expressed my concern on how this would play out and Matt who was working for a patent law firm in Grand Rapids worked with Martin to draw up contracts that provided me with relative piece of mind. We were off once again. Matt was closest to completion as he submitted his school drawing to Paramount. There were more than a few changes and Matt worked very hard to make it just that much better. He contacted an expert on the Enterprise, someone who had direct experience with the actual filming model, Ed Miarecki.

With many of the changes made to Matt's poster when for its color work. Detroit area artist Bob Kayganich took a retro look at the original Enterprise. It had a 60's feel reminiscent of some of the original AMT/ERTL Model box art.

The silver metallic ink framing makes it virtually impossible to photograph properly.

Matt's specialty was always the engines. One of the big changes from the school project to the final poster was the position of the engine room. It seems Franz Joesphs blueprints were not all to accurate in this area. There was a lot of commentary from the art department namely Mike Okuda which helped to fashion the engines in a way that lent themselves to a natural progression to the Next Gen engines.
This was uncharted ground which Matt helped to design.

Bridge Detail!!!

The Saucer section deck by deck including transporters, sickbay, and Kirk's Quarters!

The Galileo 7 Shuttle Craft (notice the James Doohan signature on the poster...)

Matt's poster went on to be the biggest seller at SciPubTech proving the power of the original series is and continues to be the strongest. I am hoping this will carry through to JJ Abrams new film. (More on that later)

In part 2 I will talk about the DS9 poster and all the challenges it represented.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Good - The Bad - The Good

The first few months after the poster was printed were great. There were the signed and numbered posters to be signed, and lots of orders to be fulfilled. There was plexy mounted Dura Trans created and donated to the Smithsonian's permanent Star Trek collection which includes the original 14 foot model of the Enterprise. To have ones work in such an important museum was quite an honor and it was very satisfying to see such a positive response to the poster. Plans for a new poster to start the Star Wars line were in the works and a first draft of the Millennium Falcon had been submitted!

For a few months life was great! But something happened that would challenge me forever.

I cant put a date to it but along the way the folks at JDT stopped calling me. It was subtle at first but then the money stopped all together and my phone calls stopped being answered. Over the coarse of the next couple years I would ride a roller coaster of emotion as I had to resort to legal steps to communicate with the company that had brought my poster to life. This was a shock that I had never imagined would happen. About mid way through the process it seemed as though things might get better after we had the first deposition. Some money would be released in exchange for the balance of the signed and numbered posters to be signed. It quickly de-solved again and later in 1993 I found myself in court facing a jury and sitting across from the people who should have been my friends. The trial lasted the better part of two days with jury selection and all. When the fact began to be presented it was clear what JDT's motivation was. The poster was a huge success, a cash cow and the calculated royalties after two years was over 50,000 dollars. My lawyer did an excellent job of presenting my case and as I was about to see an even better job of picking the jury. Deliberation took perhaps 25 minuets which was very fast... it seems they had come to a unanimous conclusion right away but asked the court if they could award punitive damages on top of the money being sought for damages.

When the jury came back they had awarded me nearly $67,000 in damages and punitive. It seems the other lawyer neglected to ask any of the jurors if they were Star Trek Fans. They all were and were all appalled at how I was treated. I had won my case. Before I could be happy about the result I received a letter from another court stating that the entity known as JDT and Associates had filed for bankruptcy and that any moneys owed to me were likely never to come. I was devastated and angry and I can still feel some of it today. It runs deep and it has informed every business venture I have gotten into since that time.
But as they say, Karma is a bitch! Several years later while visiting my art supplier I noticed a newly framed piece of art. It was the Millennium Falcon and the details of the finished piece looked far to familiar. I inquired as to whom it belonged and it turned out to be the artist scheduled to render my Falcon a few years back. My Falcon had just been published under license to Lucas Film. It seems that an end run around me had been attempted by JDT. They had used the profits of the Enterprise to complete the Falcon project.. When they lost in court it collapsed the project thus allowing my new company to come in and do the Falcon. Lessons in life often come from something negative and I was about to use my new found knowledge to take this work to the next level.

My Trek Cred

Star Trek is more than just a show for me, I know it is fictional so not to worry I am well grounded in reality but Trek is a vision of the future that I subscribe too.  The world that Gene Roddenberry created is one that has surpassed the frailties of greed and selfishness of todays world.  The people of Earth 300 years from now live in peace, appreciate diversity and is a world where know one goes hungry or homeless.  As such Star Trek represents my personal beliefs and aspirations for the future.   I have been watching the show since September 1966, since day one.  One of my favorite aspects of the show was the Enterprise and the technology with in her.  When I turned ten my grandmother purchased a set of Blueprints of the Enterprise. The blueprints showed every nook and cranny of the ship and opened my imagination.  It was that set of drawings that convinced me that being an illustrator was what I wanted to be.  So you could say Star Trek inspired my life in a more fundamental way.

In high school I took every drawing and drafting class I could and in my senior year I entered a cutaway drawing of a Boeing 747 into a state wide Industrial Arts contest taking first place. From there I entered the Technical Illustration program at Ferris State University and I took as many illustration and design classes I could... some were more than what was required but I wanted to do it all! In 1979 Star Trek the motion Picture debuted and several of my class mates attended the opening in Grand Rapids Michigan.

(Sorry for the glare in this image, I have tried to remove as much as I could)
One of the highlights of the evening was the posters of the new revised Enterprise being sold, a cutaway technical illustration that had been airbrushed to near photo-realistic quality by an artist named David Kimble. David was at the peek of the illustration world and this illustration furthur pulled on my strings to be an illustrator and designer in much the way that first set of blueprints had. In 1981 I graduated with a degree in illustration and I went on to work a few short term stints in Ft. Wayne Indiana working on government contracts and briefly in St. Joseph Michigan for the heath Kit Company drawing how to manuals for the electronic kits Heath was famous for. By 1983 I had moved back to Detroit and began to work in ernest in the automotive industry. It was there that I really developed the width and breath of my experience in illustration and design world. I was fascinated with the technical cutaway as a format because in one single illustration you could show so much information about the most complex machines.

In 1987 Star Trek The Next Generation had debuted on TV and the world of Star Trek was re-born and in my mind the thought of getting involved in Star Trek was possible. In 1990 providence/fait and the opportunity presented it self or should I say himself. While sitting in the lobby of the Cadillac Fleetwood Plant waiting for and engineering meeting I happen to overhear a gentleman introduce himself to the receptionist in a way as if she should know who he was. It was David Kimble himself. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to meet this famous illustrator I walked up and introduced myself. I told him I was an illustrator with GM and that I had really enjoyed his work including most of all the Enterprise Poster! He asked if he could stop by my office the next day as he was headed to the GM Tech Centre where I worked and asked if he could see some of my work!
Some of my work! Wow I was very excited and I went home that day picking out a few choice pieces I had worked on as well I took a sketch of the Enterprise D from the Next Gen that I had drawn as I wanted to get his opinion.

The next day David stopped by and looked at my portfolio, and asked me on the spot if I would be interested in doing freelance work for him. He explained all the details and the level of work he would be needing which was to a very high standard. I asked him what he thought of the Enterprise illustration I had started and he loved it, I pushed the conversation into the direction of a possible collaboration figuring he had the contacts at Paramount. He looked less than happy when I mentioned that explaining that he had not profited from the first poster very well and preferred not to work with them again.
He sensed my disappointment and immediately offered up to put me in contact with someone at Paramount. I sent a letter and a copy of the illustration to the person he suggested who contacted me back stating they did not work with individuals but loved the work and suggested that I find a licensed Star Trek product company who might take my piece to the next level. Undaunted I sent letters to many of the companies on the list paramount provided me and within a few weeks I had gotten shot down with five or six responses. I was working freelance for a company called JDT Associates in Rochester Michigan and one day I shared my story and illustration with the owner. She immediately saw the value in the property and set out to become a licensee of Paramount. Within a year the project was on and I began to take the illustration to the next level. Paramount began to provide substantive input to my illustration with advanced galleys of a new book they were producing, the Next Gen Technical Manual. As well comments from Mike Okuda from the Star Trek art department started to flow in. To accommodate the level of detail the drawing was enlarged to 77 inches in length as this would allow me to draw the details of each deck.

Within a couple months of steady work the Enterprise D began to fill out with a level of detail that even surprised me.

The first phase was the pencil drawing and the detail was minimal as you can see.

The second phase was the ink drawing on a frosted mylar which would give the drawing its fine line work and definitive detail!

Once this drawing was completed and approved by the folks at Paramount... an airbrush artist, Gary Richardson from Windsor Canada was brought in. Gary was a well know colorist who worked for McNammara and Associates in Troy Michigan just out side of Detroit. He was a fan of the original series and thought this would be a great project to work on. Within a few weeks he had completed the rendering and a large film of the final product was shot. During that time I was busy with the format of the poster including the size, design elements and the type. It was till the early 90's and much of the production was done by hand as computers had not fully come of age. I designed the format to reflect the technical displays on the ship... Large swooping bars enclosing the text and callouts of the various details of the ship. All of this was composed together with the image of the ship and the poster was now ready to be printed.

The poster was set to break its first record by eclipsing the original Kimble poster by two inches! At 50 inches wide this meant
that we had to print on a very specialized press and at the time there were only 5 in the entire country. We were off to Chicago's Carqueville Press who owned a 52 inch Mitsubishi five color offset press. This was and amazing machine at nearly 80 feet in length. We spent the entire day In Chicago as they adjusted repeatedly the press to optimize the color and alignment of the printing. Finally around 3:30 in the afternoon the first of 100,000 posters began to roll off the press. As the artist of the poster I was given the honor to sign off on the first perfect print. The press was locked down and the printing proceeded.

I came back to Detroit, it was done! I had entered my name into the lore and canon of Star Trek! What ever happened next was unimportant in that moment. I thought back on the twenty + years it took to get here and since that day I have never thought something was impossible to do as long as you believe in what you are doing.

In my next post I will talk about the next part of my journey as this poster and my work took turns even I would have never imagined.