Friday, March 07, 2008

In memory of ~ Gary Bialke

Our friend and colleague passed away on Sunday March 2nd.
Gary was a really good airbrush artist and when I first started at Will Vinton studios (now Laika) I helped him move into his apartment and to show his appreciation he painted a tee shirt for me with the California raisins on it. I got lots of compliments on that shirt because it was one of a kind and all done free hand. He was a good character designer as well and did lots of the designs that were used on the Moonlighting episode staring Bruce Willis as a Claymation frog and Cybill Shepherd as a witch that Gary also animated. Gary did lots of the character designs that were used in the Michael Jackson Speed demon video that we did at Will Vinton studios back in the 1980’s. Gary was one of those artists that could draw, paint, animate and sculpt and had a very distinctive style. When he sculpted a character even the shoes had attitude, feeling and personality in them. I remember he’d always sit really low in his chair while he was working, reclined backwards like he was about to slip out of his seat but this was so he could get in really close to work on his characters. His sculpting technique was a bit unconventional and he used primarily one tool to do everything from faces to shoes. He could sculpt clothing really well and could do it with one or two strokes of that flat stick while the rest of us used five or six different tools. We sometime made fun of his armature choices. When he was in his "zone" sculpting he'd use anything and everything for an armature. I've seen sculpts of his that had ball point pens, toothpicks and paper clips inside of them but when he was sculpting we wanted to let him flow and not get in the way of his creativity. Gary had a great imagination and could create likeable and interesting characters out of anything from a pretzel to a stick of broccoli. He sculpted many of the characters that you see in the you-tube videos that I have posted below. He must have had super sharp vision as well because some of the fine detail he got in his sculpts and his illustrations were amazing. Sometimes I still study his drawings with a magnifying lens to appreciate all the fine detail that you can’t really see with the naked eye. His medium of choice for drawing was colored pencils and he could get some really cool effects. I remember Gary getting a tattoo back in the 80's and it blew everybody’s mind at the studio because back then you’d rarely see a tatt on someone. He got a tattoo before they were common and before they were considered “cool”. He felt like it was a piece of fine art that should be kept out of direct sunlight much like you would a fine painting and to him it was just another expression of his artistic nature.The first one he got was a Chinese pattern or dragon symbol and we used to tease him about being a ninja but he’d just tell us to bug off. He was well liked, easy to talk with and had a very calming personality. If you asked him a question or his opinion on something he'd often have a relaxed and humorous answer for you. He would certainly have a funny comment about this article that I've written. He rode his bicycle to work every day, rain or shine, summer or winter, ten miles each way. He was in good shape and a pretty robust guy in his day. Gary had two or three dogs and cared for them dearly. His dogs were an inspiration for a lot of his animal and character designs. He really liked music and listened mostly to classic rock, alternative rock, and guitar solos. He never played an instrument that I know of but he loved seeing live music whenever he got the chance. He also liked creating artwork for friends and family especially cards for special occasions and birthdays. We’ll never know what Gary was going through in his life but we all wish we could have helped. Gary was a great guy and we’ll miss him, but never forget him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That guy was amazing. I have an old bootleg of some Vinton gags which feature his work prominently during the Raisins era, late 80's. I'll gladly give you a copy. I've been meaning to buy that aged Van Aken, too. Sorry it's been so long.

I never knew it, but it was Gary's designs that inspired me to start sculpting caricatures. My deepest condolences go out to his friends and family.

8:50 AM  
Blogger DanB said...

Many thanks for a very nice tribute, Tony. Please know that Gary's family appreciates your kind words. Best wishes.

Dan Bialke

2:45 PM  
Blogger Andrea Ebner said...

Thank you for your wonderful tribute about my brother Gary and all his talents. It brings me comfort that his art touched and inspired people.
Andrea (Bialke) Ebner

7:22 PM  
Blogger Tony Merrithew said...

You're welcome, and thank you for the comments. Gary leaves us with his great artwork and characters that only he could create but mostly we're happy to have known such a great guy.

7:45 PM  
Blogger jriggity said...

He left behind a definate Mark....


8:08 PM  
Blogger 8r said...

A well-written tribute, Tony.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Tony Merrithew said...

We had a really nice memorial for Gary on Sunday at Marilyn's old church in St. Johns. Lots of people showed up to share their thoughts about Gary. It was really quite amazing to be there and be a part of that.

9:34 AM  
Blogger J.R. said...

Tony...great to see you! A few photos from the memorial gathering for Gary are posted here:

10:02 AM  
Blogger J.R. said...

Tony-just a note to let you & your readers know that I'm removing the Bialke memorial photos from the above link to make way for new material...JRW

7:06 PM  
Blogger ronnie said...

I was a class mate of Garys in St Paul Mn @ Mccellan elementary his art was original then he used to draw cartoon type characters all the time he and his cousin Rick were both great artist for there ages all through my life i would put down some of Garys type of chracters to show my kids they would laugh. Then id tell the story of wear i learned how to draw those faces. Ricks art was real detailed mechanical like tanks planes and cars. Mine was more a free style art.
Anyway I have good memories of Gary.

Ron Heltne

12:02 AM  
Blogger ronnie said...

P.S. Hi to you Andrea , Gary was one of a kind Ive met you as a kid also.

12:18 AM  

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