The lineart for this year’s CrockerCon poster.

I used to go on extended rants about the moral purity of the original The Transformers cartoon that ran in syndication from 1984-1987 (known as “Generation One” or, simply, “G1” among the fanbase) until the modern Transformers movies beat that argument into the ground, and I had to walk away and accept this reading was mine alone.

That being said, that personal impact gigantic transforming sentient robots had on me at an impressionable age (a baton that would be passed to the X-Men as I grew older) is interesting in light of the art I make. Many artists in my age group that were ravenous The Transformers fans became artists that liked to draw gigantic transforming sentient robots.

I don’t like drawing robots.

There are too many straight lines, and it’s easy to get caught up in the perspective of it all. Drawing robots always seemed like a math problem and drawing people was so much easier and, to me, more expressive. Such philosophies took hold early and continue their grip until this day.

The last few years have been marked by personal artistic growth, seeing me accept challenges that I would have brushed off before. But as my confidence and ability grew, I began looking forward to pushing my talents in ways I hadn’t before.

The CrockerTron posters. From left to right: Sean Sutter, Michael Calero, Nate Flamm, and Melissa Pagluica.

Every year, the Crocker Art Museum plays host to my favorite show I have the honor to participate in: ArtMix | CrockerCon (colloquially known as “CrockerCon”). Early in the show’s existence, the show coordinators created, in collaboration with the artist, Sean Sutter, the show’s mascot, CrockerTron.

Every year since then, the CrockerTron has been interpreted by a different artist. While vastly different from each other, Sean Sutter, Michael Calero, Nate Flamm, and Melissa Pagluica have crafted a unique timbre to this entity called “CrockerTron.” Their different styles casts the figure in a mysterious and mythical light, as if each year were a re-telling of old stories by a new storyteller.

With such a lineage, I’ll admit I balked for a second when asked to design the poster for the 2019 CrockerCon. After a minute, though, I figured this would be a good chance to pay homage to those silly transforming robots from my youth.

What stands out to me most about The Transformers cartoon was how familial and warm the Autobots––the good guys––were to themselves and to their human friends. They were less superheroes and more citizen heroes. Transforming and being big were just what they did––it was normal on the planet where they were from and nothing special. It’s by sheer coincidence they ended up on a planet inhabited by soft, tiny people threatened by things that were not so dangerous to these robots (at least, not until the evil Decepticons showed up with their malevolent machinations and laser guns).

A photograph of the final poster.

Taking that approach, I took elements from previous posters and tried to work my own narrative around it––the design from Sean’s poster, the “Iron Man”-type palm blaster from Calero’s, the emphasis on the Tower Bridge in Flamm’s, and the benevolent giant in Pagluica’s––that would not only present the CrockerTron but also work as a “D. Bethel” piece.

I really wanted to emphasize that benevolent aspect of CrockerTron and didn’t want to present it as threatening at all. So, the main element I built the poster around was that palm blaster from Calero’s piece. I decided that instead of being a weapon that it actually bestows power on people. So, the elevator pitch of my poster is “CrockerTron gifting humanity with the power of art.” It’s cheesy, but melodrama is the easiest thing to draw, and it captures exactly the tone I wanted, paying homage to a fiction that meant so much to me and to a show I love attending.

ArtMix | CrockerCon 2019 will be held on Thursday, September 12 at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA from 6pm-9:30pm. There is a concurrent art show in the Crocker showcasing original comic art by local creators (myself included). More details can be found here.