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Livingston County Daily Press & Argus

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fun house:  Laughs keep family close

By Lon Medd   Daily Press & Argus

Photos by Alan Ward/Daily Press & Argus

To a visitor's ears, it sounds like Archie and Edith Bunker, Joan Rivers and Homer Simpson are all living under the same roof.
  It may seem like it with Darrin Brege and his wife of nearly 12 years, Karen Bell-Brege, conversing at the breakfast table using a wide array of celebrity impressions, all while their son, Mick, sits in total amusement.
"It's really fun to tell you the truth," said Mick, 9.  "My friends want to trade their parents for them."

A simple breakfast at the Brege home erupts into a whirlwind of Edith and Archie Bunker impressions with a smattering of Rodney Dangerfield.  Pictured are, from left, Karen Bell-Brege, Darrin Brege and son Mick, age 9.

  The Brighton couple was first introduced while Bell-Brege was auditioning people to join her improvisational comedy troupe, Totally Unrehearsed Theatre, of which she is the founder and director.  At the time, Brege had just moved back to the Detroit area from Los Angeles and was working as a bouncer at a bar called Wooly Bully's.
  "I was going back to California, but I had heard about the improv tryouts," he said.
  Bell-Brege's troupe was holding auditions.  After Brege performed, she didn't want to pick him, but she relented after a friend told her he was "so funny."
  Two weeks later, the troupe was performing at Roosevelt's in Farmington Hills.  The two of them were up on stage and stared doing voices back and forth.
   "We were doing Edith and Archie (Bunker); the cupid's arrow just struck," she said.
  Fast-forward to today and Totally Unrehearsed Theatre still performs regularly in the Detroit area, mainly working out of Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle in Royal Oak.
  Comedy is only part of what keeps the couple busy.
  Bell-Brege officially got here start in comedy working a the Second City in Chicago.  She has been performing for audiences since she was a child and would put on shows for children in her neighborhood for a nickel.
  She takes care of all management issues for Totally Unrehearsed Theatre and does the same for Brege's busy career.  Bell-Brege is a former communications specialist for UAW-Chrysler, but instead of working for major corporations, she is a member of the National Speakers Association and has a lucrative career as a corporate speaker and motivational speaker.
  Comedy has opened many doors for Bell-Brege's as well as Brege's career.  Brege is the cover designer for all of the Michigan and American Chiller children's books.  The couple has been on a book tour promoting "The Chill Art Sketchbook, Learn to Draw 12 of Your Favorite Chiller Creatures."
  "We put a lot of cartoons in it with tips and hints and show them how to draw comics," she said.  "The Chillers are selling like crazy, and I thought we should capitalize on it."
  Brege said it was important "to make it fin and cartoony" as opposed to other sketchbooks that just stick to the basics of drawing. 
  When he has time to spare, Brege makes regular appearances on Detroit sports-talk radio station WDFN (1130 AM).  Brege shows off his comedic chops by doing the voices of Homer Simpson, Beavis and Butthead, Michael J. Fox, Gilbert Gotfried and others.
   "Former WDFN program director Gregg Henson saw a show, and that's how it all started," he said.
  With the comedy, the speaking, and the drawing, it's a busy life for the couple.  They said that if you want to make it in entertainment, especially in Michigan, you have to do it all.
  "Michigan is a tough place for the arts," Bell-Brege said.  "It's a lot of work.  Bookstore and nightclubs call at all hours of the day and we have to be available."

Warren Weekly

April 13th, 2005

Visiting artist draws in students

By Maria Allard  C & G Staff Writer

Photos by David Schreiber

Artist Darrin Brege demonstrates how to make a SpongeBob SquarePants sketch and a Swamp Monster.

There was a "chill" in the air at Warren Woods Middle School March 18th.
  That's because Darrin Brege, illustrator of Johnathan Rand's popular "American Chillers" and "Michigan Chillers" series, was in town to discuss art with Katie Duffy's seventh-grade art students.
  Brege has worked on animated storybooks for Disney, Hasbro, Universal and Warner Brothers.  Winnie the Pooh, Bullwinkle and Tonka Joe are among the characters he's drawn.  His visit was geared to motivate students.  He also passed on several drawing tips and sold copies of his new book "The Chill Art Sketchbook," which demonstrates how to draw the "Chillers" book characters.
  "They were really excited about it," Duffy said.  "It is nice to see a working artist and what he's doing."
  During his presentation, Brege, who brought his wife Karen Bell-Brege, used an easel to demonstrate how he creates his drawings.   The students, with blank sheets of white paper and pencils, sat on the floor and followed Brege's lead.  When drawing his characters, Brege often starts with a stick figure, shapes are added, and Brege then focuses on perspectives, shading, outlining, and detailing.
  "As artists, we need to look around us," Brege said.  "Drawing takes time.  If you want a cool drawing, it's going to take some time."
  One demonstration included Brege breaking down a face.  He drew an egg-shape head on blank paper and then drew a line to split the head in half.  Taking suggestions from the students, Brege decided to go with a "squatty head."
  "Let's give his jaw a bit of excess.  We're going to make this guy angry and make some thick, angry eyebrows." Brege said.  "Let's give him bags under his eyes.  Let's give him a big mouth and let's put some messy teeth in there."
  Voila.
  "All we did was place shapes around where we wanted them," Brege said. 
Along with being an artist, Brege has a talent for celebrity impressions.  His WWMS visit left some time for the students to enjoy his and Bell-Brege's character voices.  The couple, whose son Mick is 9, met when Brege auditioned for Bell-Brege's comedy troupe "Totally Unrehearsed Theatre" at Mark Ridley's Comedy Castle in Royal Oak.
  The couple performed a brief sketch to become Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, and then switched gears to do their best Marge and Homer Simpson impressions.  The students egged them on for more, so Brege brought to life Yoda and Chewbacca from "Star Wars" and Adam Sandler.  Beavis and Butthead are among Brege's favorite to perform.
  "You can live in Michigan and work in the arts," Bell-Brege said.  "All kinds of opportunities open up for you when you find that one thing you love."
  "Whatever you do, it takes a lot of practice," Brege said.  "It takes a lot of schooling."
  "You take on phrase or one sentence and practice it over and over," said Bell-Brege adding comedian Joan Rivers is her favorite to impersonate.  "She's so out there."

Darrin Brege is available for school visits, book signings, personal appearances and freelance graphics.  For further information, contact
chillerartist@yahoo.com.  "The Chill Art Sketchbook" is available at local Borders and Barnes & Nobel bookstores and at www.chillerart.com.
You can reach Maria Allard at
allard@candgnews.com.

The Macomb Daily Tuesday, March 29th, 2005

Freelance artist Darrin Brege, far right, illustrator for the "Michigan Chiller" book series, give the seventh-graders at Warren Woods Middle School tips on two-dimensional design during a recent visit to the school.  Brege, who has created artwork for Hershey's, Tri-Star Pictures, Warner Brothers and Columbia House, is also a celebrity voice impersonator and comic who spoke to students about careers in art and radio.

Article from the Rochester Eccentric and Canton Observer 11-14-2004 .

Illustrator draws students' attention

 Artist encourages kids to be creative

 By Kevin Brown - Staff Writer

But the sound of Bart's dad Homer rolled off his tongue, along with Bugs Bunny and characters from Toy Story and other films. Brege, who also does celebrity voice impersonations for sports talk radio station WDFN, fielded a flurry of furious requests for funny voices - after his main presentation on how kids can develop their artistic talent. 

To start, Brege asked a student to draw a stick figure on a pad of paper displayed on an easel as 50 students looked on, sitting on the floor in the school's media center. To make a figure come alive, he adds simple shapes to the stick figure arms and legs - squares, circles, tubes and more, to give bodies mass and personality.

To start, Brege asked a student to draw a stick figure on a pad of paper displayed on an easel as 50 students looked on, sitting on the floor in the school's media center. To make a figure come alive, he adds simple shapes to the stick figure arms and legs - squares, circles, tubes and more, to give bodies mass and personality.

"If you want to be an artist it's a great time. You can send your artwork all around the planet," he said, via the Internet. Brege stressed an artist can find a range of work by being open to a range of assignments. He has designed everything from characters for Hasbro toy makers to Web site advertisements for the film Shrek. "You never know what kind of work you're going to get," he said.

He encouraged students to practice what they love, art or whatever else, to become skillful enough to pursue a career. "What about break-dancing?" one fourth-grade boy asked. After a brief pause, Brege said, "If it pumps blood in your heart, sure, why not?"

While Brege gets some direction for Michigan Chiller illustrations from series author Jonathan Rand - who is appearing at the Rochester Hills Public Library at 7 p.m. Nov. 17 - the artist said he draws creative ideas from the world around him. To demonstrate, he showed the cover of one Chiller book about an oversized spider. He chose to depict the spider on the top level of the I-275-Six Mile Road overpass - with his own red minivan caught in the spiderweb below.

"One of my most favorite things to use is the eraser," he told the group. Brege went on to say that after adding ovals, tubes and circles to a stick figure to give it shape and mass, "You just get rid of stuff you don't want - you can do it; you're the artist." In one exercise, Brege began turning straight stick figure lines into an oversized monster squid. "What's going to make him look more real? Pimples, veins?" he asked. "Acne!" one boy shouted. "Ripped skin," said another. "We'll put more spit on him," Brege said.

He said projects can take two hours to two weeks. "It takes a lot of practice," he told the students. He encouraged young artists to trace if they want to. "If it keeps you drawing, you bet," he said. Brege also encouraged young artists to seek out how-to-draw books and to take art classes in school or even summer camps.

"I liked when he drew the shapes," fourth-grader Jessica Smith said afterward. "I liked the shapes and stuff," her classmate, Hannah Duchardt, 

Illustrations Darrin Brege 2005  email:  chillerartist@yahoo.com