Drawing at the Simpsons’ Scoring Session

Yesterday we had the opportunity to be guests at the orchestral scoring session for the annual Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horror” Halloween show with composer Alf Clausen, orchestrator Dell Hake and a roomful of tremendously gifted performers. We stayed for the entire morning session and loved every eerie, spine-tingling, rip-roaring moment. We were in the booth half of the time, which is a good distance from the orchestra, but we could still see through the glass.

I had looked forward to drawing the musicians but somehow portraying them ‘realistically’ just didn’t seem appropriate, given the subject matter. So I did it this way, instead. They were drawn in pencil first in my Moleskine … then inked onto tracing paper which was scanned and colorized in Photoshop. Getting likenesses was just about impossible considering that their faces were about as big as a thumbnail held at arms’ length, so I did what I could and ‘winged it’ for the rest. After one of the breaks we were allowed to go inside the recording stage with the musicians provided we didn’t make a sound (no dropping of pencils on the floor.) Since we have always been fans of the long-running series this was a real thrill for us. There’s something magical about being close to a large professional orchestra playing outstanding music to another very, very funny show. Set your TIVOS – don’t miss this one hour special.

I have some more drawings which I’ll post tomorrow or the next day – from the brass and woodwind sections.


  1. Jane
    October 10, 2005

    This is cool and so different for you, but appropriate. How did you get it so “Simpson-like”?

  2. Redondowriter
    October 10, 2005

    This sounds like a truly unique experience. No TIVO, but when is the show? These drawings are making me smile from ear to ear. Can’t believe I haven’t known about Bishop Spong, but I’m glad you know his work. Are you Episcopalian?

  3. Cin
    October 10, 2005

    I love what you’ve done here Karen! this is the leap I want to try and take with my journal sketches, to re-do what I’ve seen and change it into something more illustrative.

  4. Puhiava
    October 11, 2005

    Lovely Karen, I actually thought when I first saw your sketches that they were Matt Groenings- great sketches.

  5. Karen
    October 11, 2005

    I ate a few doughnuts to get warmed up. (just kidding) The night before I took a look at some of the Simpsons’ drawings I could find online and made a few mental notes about the characteristics that make them look “Simpson-like.” Those major points are the eyes, four fingered hands, recessed chins and very smooth curvy lines (very few hard edges.) I kept those things in mind as I caricatured the musicians.

    The Simpsons are on at 8 Sunday night on Fox

    Cin, I find it really stimulating to “try on” different styles. This will probably be the first and last time that I try to draw anything in Simpsons-style for my sketchbook (and it was only this particular subject matter that prompted it) however I do find that it is liberating not to try to be realistic. It has also increased my respect and admiration for the artists on the Simpsons who do character development and animation.

  6. lindsay
    October 11, 2005

    Excellent Smithers! Karen these are really funny. I’ll have to try to catch the haloween episode. I think the show animators have some sirrious competition.

  7. Diane Widler Wenzel
    October 11, 2005

    Good for you keeping a journal on the web. There is always so much to learn from basic art lessons at any level. I think of my own work always as a new learning experience. I am so impressed with your commentary and art, I put your blog site address in our Art Guild News Letter and I started my own blog. http://goldenacornspaintjournal.blogspot.com A friend of mine told me about your blog.

  8. joyce
    October 11, 2005

    Karen, these are great! What a neat idea combining what you were seeing with the theme of the concert!

  9. deb
    October 11, 2005

    This rocks! My husband and I have been fans of The Simpsons since the beginning way back in the late fifties (just joking). Doh!

  10. Karen
    October 11, 2005

    Lindsay, thanks. I think you really will enjoy the show. We only saw a few parts of it (and without dialogue) but it looks like a really good one.

    Joyce, thank you. It wasn’t a concert, though, it was the recording session in which they create the orchestra tracks for the TV show. It’s done with a full, live orchestra and a big screen at the front of the room where the animation plays, like in a movie theater. The conductor stands on a podium in the middle and watches the “marks” on the animation which tell when the music stops and ends. It’s quite a fascinating process and the people were SO talented (and really cool, too.)

    Diane, thanks for your kind comments – I’ve enjoyed seeing your site, too.

    Deb, I hope that you’ll have a chance to catch the Halloween show – it’s always one of the best of the year. We are all lovers of satire here, and you just can’t beat the Simpsons.

  11. pinkandpurpleplastic
    October 12, 2005

    This is a Gaaaaaassss! I used to play harp!!! Probably went to school with this woman. Thank God I quit.

    Wow! I thought you must be one of the animators for the show these are drawn so well!

    Thanks for describing your working process. Have you ever used a Tablet PC to sketch? I had one for 12 days until it broke. Maybe it’s not good to stare into that screen light for too long.

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