Wednesday, September 19, 2007

William Stout, Artist

The caricature of the Stones that introduced the previous blog chapter (below) and the illustration next to this paragraph are both the work of my pal William Stout, highly regarded illustrator, comics artist, movie production designer, and fine artist specializing in paintings of dinosaurs, animals of the Antarctic, and just about anything else he can research first. Right now, for example, Bill is working feverishly to complete a dozen large-scale murals for the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Bill and I met a third of a century ago (yikes!) at a major comics convention in New York City devoted to the great Fifties landmark called E.C.Comics--Weird Science, Two-Fisted Tales, Shock SuspenStories, Tales from the Crypt, and Mad (comic book and then magazine) were just a few of the titles published by William Gaines and produced by his stable of comics art geniuses: Harvey Kurtzman, Al Williamson, Wally Wood, Johnny Craig, Jack Davis, Frank Frazetta, John Severin, on and on and on, the creme de la creme of Fifties comics.

Anyway, back then Bill was helping Kurtzman and Bill Elder finish on-going chapters in the saga of "Little Annie Fanny" for Playboy (prior to that he had been assistant to Russ Manning on the renowned Tarzan comic strip), and he came to the convention as a guest artist lugging his portfolio of previous work, maybe looking to score some other jobs. I was there simply as a fan, and met Bill casually in some brief gabfest. But when he left, he forgot his portfolio, which I quickly scooped up, and then tracked him down to return. He was grateful much beyond my small assistance, and we struck up an acquaintanceship that became real friendship over the next few years as I visited Bill down in L.A. or at subsequent San Diego Comicons.

A busy, hustling comics guy then, Bill made several treks north too as a featured guest at Seattle science fiction events, And he pursued his interest in film, producing major posters or significant graphic design work (weapons, costumes, storyboards, what-have-you) for dozens of films over the years including Wizards, First Blood, The Life of Brian, both Conan movies (Bill has lots of stories about those films!), Invaders from Mars, Masters of the Universe, and so on, right up to The Prestige and Pan's Labyrinth.

Things have a way of coming 'round again... Bill started out, while still a student at Chouinard, working part-time as a sidewalk caricature artist at Disneyland (hiding his longhair under a shorthair wig!), then years later worked first as an Disney Imagineer designing the branch Disneyworlds around the globe, and then as a major production designer for the 2000 Disney feature Dinosaur.

Bill's connection to dinosaurs must stem from childhood, but by now he is an expert known internationally--and probably still has his giant Triceratops head sculpture in the house too. He has published at least three different dinosaur books, the best-known a beautiful text-and-illustrations book from Bantam--as well as art portfolios, oil paintings, comic convention sketches, and more, all drawing on his dinosaur expertise, sometimes coupled with his wicked sense of humor.

And speaking of humor, in connection with Disney I must mention his two volumes devoted to a slovenly, drink-sodden, depressed-but-uproariously-funny character called "Mickey at 60" (taking the mickey of a certain mouse!), entire bookfuls of daily-newspaper-styled comic strips that were notorious around the Disney organization.

What else? Well, he's done major work for George Lucas and helped design the first three GameWorks gaming parlors for Steven Spielberg/Seaga; and as I mentioned in an earlier blog chapter about Rainier Beer, he painted a brilliant Frank Frazetta-styled Sasquatch poster and also provided designs for a TV commercial depicting a giant pinball machine.

Music... Bill plays rock guitar and occasionally sings or writes songs, and he sorta "made his bones" as a music industry artist producing scores of covers for the great Trademark of Quality rock music bootlegs of the early to mid Seventies (as in the Stones drawing), then creating many industry-legitimate covers for Varese Sarabande LPs and CDs. Plus he is a fanatical collector--of records, CDs, laserdiscs, DVDs, comic books, art books... Bill has amassed what may be the single best and biggest collection of 19th and 20th Century illustrated books in the world; hard to know of any measurable rivals, anyway!

He still visits comic conventions regularly, a very popular guest artist willing to produce quick sketches for fans (generating a dozen books filled with his sketches that he sells privately), yet he has also become renowned as a painter of animal life, with several exhibitions and travelling shows, most devoted to "The Wildlife of Antarctica"--and he is now completing his major, several-years-in-the-painting San Diego murals assignment. (To read more about Bill and see his varied and amazing art, you can simply click on the shortcut provided at the foot of this page.)

Bill and I have a 35-year history, encompassing marriages and children and changing times. I own several of his sketches and a few watercolor originals, not to mention almost everything he ever produced in the comics world. We've visited each other on many vacations (I even managed to get to his 50th Birthday party) and still stay in touch thanks to emails, but see each other less frequently now, sadly. I'm just travelling less, and his business jaunts to Seattle are fewer.

But I remember many a fine evening of the kind shown in the funny, friendly watercolor I've reproduced. I hope there are more to come.

No comments: