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.