by Nancy A.
published in Computer Artist magazine
can find something silly in just about anything. As an artist
specializing in humorous illustration, that's his job. As someone
who was trained as a political cartoonist, that'shis nature.
And as a kid who always loved to draw cartoons, that was his
As a humorous
illustrator, Staake says his role is to draw people into advertisements
or editorial, or to persuade them to buy cereal or greeting cards.
Take Kiwi Air,
for example. A client approached this artist to illustrate an
article about a new airline in Australia called Kiwi Air. "Kiwi
Air!," he laughs. "The first thing you think of is
the fruit, which is just ridiculous. So instead I started drawing
this fat, big bird ambling down the runway with a pilot on its
back with a couple of passengers bouncing away like crazy and
you look at this thing and you think there's no way it would
ever take off. But it's enough of a visual, it's wierd enough,
that would cause somebody to look at it - and hopefully become
engaged with the manuscript."
For the past
15 years, Staake's playful, enigmatic drawings have been capturing
people's attention in publications such as Sports Illustrated
For Kids, The Washington Post, Parents, and MAD magazine, and
for clients such as Sony, Hallmark, Blockbuster Video, the Ren
and Stimpy Show, Dexter's Laboratory, and the NFL. This St. Louis-based
artist has also written several books including The Complete
Book of Humorous Art (North Light Books, Cincinnati, 1996).
style becomes more recognized worldwide and he is called on more
often, he explores ways to work faster without jeapordizing quality.
This is especially important to Staake since he refuses to turn
down assignments. "I like to work. I like making money,"
he proclaims. "It's so laughable to me that I make a healthy
income drawing funny pictures. I try to be appreciative of that."
in mind, Staake turned to the computer in 1995, but also because
he was feeling pressure from his clients to start working electronically.
"An increasing number of clients were asking me if I do
my stuff on the computer: it didn't prevent me from getting jobs,
but it just seemed apparent that I'd ignored it long enough,"
he says. "I've always considered myself a pragmatic business
person as much as an artist, and it would be suicide not to be
working on the computer for doing what I do."
Once he got
over the learning curve of his very first computer, Staake began
creating all his illustrations on a Power Mac 7100/80. He usually
begins by creating a sketch, scanning it into the computer with
a UMAX 1260 scanner, and then manipulating the image in Photoshop.
"I've always worked straight pen to paper and I've always
used the same tool - a Fountain Pentel," he says. "With
the computer, sometimes I even draw my art in pencil without
preliminary lines and scan it in and it appears to look like
that the computer increases speed, particularly on projects that
require painting large spans of color and duplicating items.
In his crowded, chaotic drawings, Staake likes the look of flat
color in the background, but he doesn't like the time-consuming
task of painting the colors. "Up until the computer it was
very difficult. It was a real dichotomy because I knew that while
I had this kind of crazy, wild, free-flowing pen line that would
look nice with a solid color behind it, I don't really work that
way," he explains. "I kind of slash and stroke away
at the paper and to spend the time to do the flat colors the
right way takes time. So now, with aflick of the computer --
bingo -- the color is there. To me, that's just an extraordinary
also helps tremendously when Staake needs to duplicate an item.
"Having to do identical twins, repeat something exactly,
or create games for childrens' magazines, the computer is absolutely
ideal," he says. "I had one game called Match the Alien
for Disney Adventures where I had to create 14 aliens that essentially
looked the same. So I drew it in the computer and repeated it
over and over and just changed slight elements-one had four fingers,
another had eyes wide apart. Of the 14, kids were supposed to
find the exact same one. Well, with the computer, that's a major
where the artist needed to duplicate an item was for a game that
Staake created for Sports Illustrated for Kids. The game involved
a busy stadium scene where readers had to locate sporting terms.
The computer made terms like 'double dribble' quite easy: Staake
drew a dribbling baby and doubled it.
is the nature of the industry, he reports. "It's a short-order
business. It's nice to do big, wonderful masterpieces, but this
is more of a McDonald's type of business than a Le Cirque business.
It's a business with short deadlines that are getting surprisingly
finds that the computer fosters creativity. "I'm doing an
illustration for Disney Adventures now, and I feel I can be more
abstract and more fun," he says. "The computer just
makes you feel comfortable to experiment. Computers work best
for people who are creative. I think Picasso would have gone
crazy with the Macintosh."
was trained as a political cartoonist (at the University of Southern
California he majored in Journalism and International Relations),
Staake is doing what he always wanted to do. "I always knew
I'd be a cartoonist," he says. "I'm doing exactly what
I was trained to be ever since I was a little kid. Newspaper
work, books, magazines, greeting cards, animation design, advertising
-- as a humorous illustrator, I try to do it all."