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Firesign Theatre Cover

Firesign Theatre Book Cover Rough
Firesign Theatre Book Cover Rough

While I’m a guest at Baby Tattooville (see previous Journal entry) I thought you might like to see a cover rough I just drew for my ol’ pals the Firesign Theatre.

For those of you who are too young or just not in the know, the Firesign Theatre is a group of four very funny guys: Peter Bergman, Philip Proctor, Phil Austin and David Ossman. They produced comedy LPs that were enormously popular in the late 1960s/early 1970s (The Guys are still recording and touring; go to: Their LPs were unique among other comedy LPs in that you could listen to them over and over again and discover new stuff each time. Their counter culture and above ground cultural spoofs were the audio equivalent of a Harvey Kurtzman/Will Elder MAD comic book story — but with an often Kafka-esque nod to the drug and hippy realms. Incredible stuff!

With my background and shared cultural references, I always felt my graphic work and talents fit the Firesign like a glove.

I created some LP covers for them as well as a bunch of advertising and T-shirt designs. I designed and built props for their movie Everything You Know Is Wrong and appeared in that film as an extra.

This cover is for a book and disc set that contains a gigantic selection of their radio shows from back in the day. The cover I designed is extremely text heavy because that was what was called for in the original specs I was given. I think I found a good solution to all that text on the cover by turning it into very readable comic book word balloons.

This cover came back to me with so many fundamental changes to my concept (although, happily, most of the text was eliminated) that I no longer understood it (and I’m a pretty smart guy). The fun gig I was so looking forward to had become work. I bailed on it and won’t be doing it but I thought you might like to see what the rough looked like (one of the perks of visiting my site).

The illustration part of the cover is a nod to one of Jack Davis’ It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World movie posters. My intent was to fill the crowd with the Firesign’s most popular and enduring characters. That’s The Guys themselves hanging from the bottom of the earth.

I’m sorry this particular one isn’t going to happen but, nevertheless, I look forward to future collaborations with the Firesign Theatre. I highly recommend that you seek out their first four LPs (out on CD): Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him, How Can You Be Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All, Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers and I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus. Fire up a fatty, put one of these babies on and you’ll never be the same.

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Baby Tattooville – THIS WEEKEND!

This weekend (Friday through Sunday) I’m involved in a very interesting annual project created by Bob Self of Baby Tattoo books.

Each year Bob invites ten terrific artists to participate in a secret society event entitled “Baby Tattooville”. Bob puts up the artists and their wives in this astounding, rather Byzantine hotel, the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside (CA) and covers their fine dining at this joint as well.

In return, the artists make themselves available all weekend to a select group of just 45 fans. The fans purchase tickets to this event from Bob. The tickets aren’t cheap (usually about $2500 each plus an extra $300 for their spouse) but the fans not only get full access to ten great artists all weekend long (not just a brief moment for a signature like at a convention), Bob also produces several goodies specific and exclusive to the event and its attendees. The price of the event includes Friday and Saturday night hotel accommodations, a Friday night party, several unusual panels and presentations, a Saturday merchandise event and a Sunday brunch buffet.

I’ve already contributed to a large jam painting. After the painting is finished (worked on by all ten artists), Bob has high quality giclee prints made of the painting, has the prints signed, and then distributes these rare prints to the artists and attendees.

Nine of us are also contributing some special black and white art that will be produced as a limited print that honors the special guest of this year, my friend Robert Williams.

The other artist guests besides Bob and myself are a veritable Who’s Who of Juxtapoz/High Fructose artists: Van Arno, Anthony Ausgang, Coop, Ron English, Michael Hussar, Johnny Ryan, Spain Rodriguez and Suzanne Williams.

There’s all kinds of other stuff and goodies happening as well that I don’t recall right now (ask Bob).

Bob did not need to do any advertising this year (the event’s 4th year); it sold out well in advance through word-of-mouth.

This week, though, there were two emergency cancellations. If you are interested in attending, contact Bob at

For more detailed info about the event, go to

I believe Bob is already taking reservations for Baby Tattooville 2011. After talking to Bob, I already know that the line-up next year is going to be unbelievable.

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Questions From a Young Student

A young student approached me with some questions that I think some of the rest of you might find interesting (although I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record to some of you with my constant pushing of life drawing and plein air painting), so I’m going to share his questions and my answers. Here you go:

On 9/25/10, Lxxx Axxx wrote:
Hello William Stout, I am an 11th grade student doing a career research paper. The career I’m interested in is in comic art and writing. I was then referred to you and after seeing your work; it’s completely amazing! Anyhow, if you have the time, I’d like to ask a few questions about the business and getting into it.
—Lxxx Axxx

Hi Lxxx Axxx,

I’m not sure I’m the right guy to talk to about breaking into comics. I love the medium and never stop drawing comics but my work is sporadic (at best) in that field. I always work under my own terms — without any creative meddling.

I’ll be happy to answer any of your questions, though. I was a co-founder of the Comic Art Professional Society and its 10th President. I also help many young artists with the business aspects of art.



1. For specific training in art, what would be the best things for me to know?
The quickest way to get good as a drawer is to do as much life drawing as possible. I still do three hours of it every Sunday at my studio. Animal drawing one day a week (at the zoo or from pets) will benefit you enormously.

The quickest way to get good as a painter is to do as much plein air painting (creating a small outdoor landscape painting; generally begun and completed in a one or two hour sitting) as possible. Nature will constantly surprise you with her color combinations and it will also teach you composition and design.

2. How does it work; are you basically called about a job to draw for someone?
Yes; all of my jobs come to me. In general, I don’t pursue them (except for mural work). It’s been that way for over thirty five years. If you always give 100% on each job, word spreads, along with your good reputation.

3. How did you get into art?
I’ve been drawing nearly all my life. I was going to be a doctor (doing lots of anatomical studies and superhero drawings taught me anatomy) but changed my science/math major to art my last semester of high school because the academic classes at my high school were so crappy. I went to art school (CalArts) after that and majored in Illustration.

4. When you did, how long did it take to begin to get recognized?
I gauged my success by how long I had to eat peanut butter sandwiches around Christmas time (winter is Slow Time in the entertainment business, especially around the holidays). The first year out of art school it was for about four months (October through January). The following years were three months, then two months, then the three weeks around Christmas and New Years. After that, my peanut butter days were over.

5. How do you go about starting to be a comic artist?
Draw up some sample stories. The stories should show that you can draw and ink in a good, consistent style and that you know how to tell a good story well with pictures. If you’re a good writer yourself, all the better.

6. What’s the general process of starting your work, or any work?
I define the problem presented to me that needs to be solved. I then look for graphic solutions without regard to style or technique. I let the problem itself dictate its own solution. After I’ve done a series of thumbnail sketches to solve the problem, I develop those sketches and refine them until I end up with a piece of beautiful finished art.

7. How does it work getting things published?
Basically: I do the job; it eventually gets published.

8. If your works are successful, how much money do you make in an average year?
I had a string of “best years” where I was making over $300,000 per year. Thank you, Mr. Spielberg.

9. Are there any downsides to this?
To making a lot of money or creating art for a living in general? Very few that I can see in either (if you make a lot of money you have to pay more for your kids’ private schools and universities), but let’s talk about that: People with so-called “steady jobs” can’t understand how I can function as a freelancer, not knowing where my next job is coming from. I feel I actually have much greater job security than they do. If they get fired after being on the same job for twenty years, they’re out to sea. They have no idea how to secure another job. Me? As a freelancer, I get fired every week, so it’s no big deal — just business as usual.

I always have about six to eight irons in the fire. At least two or three (if not all of them) will pan out.

10. I noticed you draw Dinosaurs and prehistoric life quite a bit. In general, is it much easier to draw things you like to draw?
It might not be easier but it’s much more fun.

11. Following that, do you often end up having to draw things you wouldn’t normally draw?
I’m at the point in my career where I don’t have to draw anything I don’t want to. Having said that, I love drawing things I’ve never drawn before. I’m always trying to stretch myself as an artist. Except that I hate drawing stuff that involves rulers. Me love organic!

12. As far as classes, were there any which helped you?
Figure drawing and plein air painting helped the most, especially when I had Hal Kramer as a teacher (because he was so honest and accurate with his criticisms). And my business class.

13. Are there any specific schools that would help?
Find a small, relatively inexpensive art school that is strong on teaching traditional art. The best schools for that change from year to year with faculty and educational philosophy turnover. I’ve noticed that the best computer art guys are also very skilled as traditional artists (Justin Sweet, for example).

14. As it is, I’ve basically just been randomly pencil and paper drawing, but I noticed things are computer enhanced quite often nowadays. How would I go about learning to practice that?
First, do the standard PhotoShop tutorial. Then, take a good beginners’ computer graphics course. From there, you’ll get a feel for what you’ll need to do next.

15. As far as creating your own series, how exactly does that work?
I assume you’re talking about your own comic book series.

Create model sheets of all your characters and clearly define whom they are and how each one is distinctively different from the others in your cast. Write, draw and letter the complete first issue. Write story outlines (and maybe create a few covers) for the next nine issues. You want to show that your concept isn’t going to run out of exciting ideas — that it has what we call in the film biz “legs”.

Print all of this stuff up as handouts (xeroxes are fine). Before going to a publisher, get feedback on what you’ve done. You may have to start over. You don’t want to present anything but the best you can possibly do to any publisher. Once you’re satisfied that what you’ve done can’t be improved, then make appointments to meet with the editors of the publishers you would like to see print your work. You can usually do this all in one spot if you’re at a major convention like Comic-Con International. Listen carefully to what they say. They may be full of crap (it happens) but occasionally you’ll run into someone who is smart. His or her criticisms will help you to become a better comic artist.

Don’t give up!

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2010 Birthday

I had an unusual birthday on Saturday. First off, I received over 700 birthday greetings from my Facebook friends. Yikes! As someone fairly new to Facebook, this was a huge surprise! Thanks, everyone!

My wife had to run down to San Diego to help tend to our grandson Jesse. Feeling guilty for abandoning me on my special day, she promised me that the rest of September would be celebrated as my birthday!

I spent most of my birthday working (pretty typical for me).

My friend Samantha Holmes has been staying with us this past week as she and Roger Lay edit her film “Lucky Day” (my acting debut). I drew a logo for Sam’s new company, Leaping Lizards Entertainment. I also completed the rough to a new Firesign Theatre book cover.

Sam and I went to the local Farmer’s Market Saturday morning. I had a beef tamal and a pork tamal for breakfast there and bought two more beef tamales for my breakfast this morning. Yum! I also picked up some great peaches and nectarines at the Farmer’s Market.

Saturday evening I helped to celebrate the engagement of the eldest son of some dear friends of ours.

I came home about 10PM and looked for some monster movies to watch. Sam joined me later that evening after her editing chores and Film Biz Meet ‘n’ Greet opportunities were completed. We watched something together but I don’t specifically recall what that was (maybe a couple of episodes of “The Comeback”) .

All in all, a pretty low key day for a very happy and lucky guy (the little fella below, my first grandson, is one reason I’m feeling so lucky).


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My First Grandson!

Jesse Naga Irwin-Stout was born late last night after a long, long labor. He weighed in at 7 lbs. 6.5 oz. There were a few complications that should be resolved in the next two days.

His parents, my son Andy and his wife Amy, are rightfully exhausted — but happy.

My wife and I gave our sons unusual middle names (“Dragon” and “Wolf”). Andy has continued that tradition with “Naga”. A naga is a serpent deity that protects Nature and the Buddha. The Cambodian people consider themselves half-naga (in addition to a couple of other places, Andy and Amy honeymooned in Cambodia & Angkor Wat).

Jesse is my first grandson. I have two granddaughters, Lexi and Savannah, by my daughter Faith Collins Brannan.