from Tuesday © David Wiesner

from Tuesday © David Wiesner

The great children’s book illustrator Davis Wiesner (WEEZner) came to Kutztown to talk at the 16th annual KU Children’s Literature Conference. The 3-time Caldecott Award winner visited a Communication Design class to share his art and creative process.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

Oddly enough, he considered attending Kutztown University but was put off by our art test used in our admission’s process. Instead he attended RISD, Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with great illustrators including David Macaulay.

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

One of his illustration jobs after college was a cover for the kids’ magazine Cricket. He said he always enjoyed the art school assignments that were the most vague, and this magazine assignment was wide open. The editor said there were several stories about frogs in the issue. Once he began sketching, he discovered, to his great delight, the shape of a frog centered on a round lily pad resembled the classic flying saucer seen in cheesy 50′s science fiction films.

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

From Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers, 1956, © Columbia Picures

His cover was a hit and David was inspired to take the imagery further into a full 32-page children’s picture book. The resulting nearly wordless book, Tuesday, won the Caldecott Medal for the best U.S picture book in 1992. David shared his four stage process of book creation. Stage 1: Storyboard, rough little pencil thumbnail sketches of all pages that will appear in the book. Stage 2: a dummy book, or prototype made to the same scale as the final. Stage 3: Detailed drawings for each page.

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Stage 2 and 3: dummy, then finished drawing © David Wiesner

Compare the dummy to the final drawing and you will notice the houses are a lot more detailed. This is because at Stage 3 he gets serious about his image research. In this case, he found photos of homes in Provincetown, Mass, to serve as models from the neighborhood under aerial amphibious attack. He also constructs clay models like the frog below to help him envision the final image.

model by D. Wiesner

Frog model by David Wiesner

Stage 4: is the final exquisite watercolor painting. For Tuesday he used traditional transparent watercolor, (no black or white gouache) applied with kolinsky sable brushes. He makes his own low-tech graphite carbon paper to transfer his finished drawing to stretched Arches cold press watercolor paper.

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

This was a wonderful opportunity for our KU students to interact with one of the great masters of the childrens’ picture book. David Wiesner is a very busy artist. He is working simultaneously on two big projects now: an interactive tablet-based tale, and his first full-blown graphic novel. The graphic novel is a collaboration with writer Donna Jo Napoli. It has an octopus in it; I can’t say any more.

David’s own web site, www.davidwiesner.com  has much more information about his creative process. I was especially blown away by his step-by-step documentation of the development of one single page from his picture book, Art & Max.

Kevin McCloskey meets Box Brown at MOCCA Fest, 2014

Kevin McCloskey meets Box Brown at MOCCA Fest, 2014

I met cartoonist Box Brown at MOCCA. He is the creator of my new favorite book, Andre the Giant.

K.Mc: Is there a big comics scene in Philadelphia?

Box: Yeah, pretty big. There is the Philly Comix Jam, a monthly meeting of artists at a bar. Anywhere from 10 to 40 artists show up. It’s been going on for about 5 years now. There’s about 5 or 6 comic shops in the area and a few small conventions. I hear about new artists all the time via internet and stuff. too. Of course, Charles Burns also lives in Philly but he’s not really part of the comics “scene.”

From 'Operation Pizza' by Box Brown

From ‘Operation Pizza’ zine by Box Brown

K.Mc: Did you study illustration, take a course in cartooning?

Box: I didn’t r-e-a-a-a-l-ly study art formally, at all. I just started drawing comics one day in my 20′s and slowly got more and more interested until finally one day I decided to pursue it in earnest. I was really inspired by James Kochalka to do a diary comic strip in 2005 and since then I’ve drawn at least one comic page a day. I did take Tom Hart’s continuing ed. comics class at SVA twice in a row.

From 'Beach Girls,' a Retrofit Comic by Box Brown

From ‘Beach Girls,’ a Retrofit Comic by Box Brown

K.Mc: You created Retrofit Comics. Promoting and working with other artists must take time away from your personal work, but did it pay off for your personal career?

Box: Well, I think ultimately it’s raised my profile. I made money the first year, lost money in year two, and then found a business partner who knows what he’s actually doing. So, at this point I’m only editing really, whereas before I was doing every thing including shipping. I think working with other artists this closely has been really beneficial to my own work.

Sticker by Retrofit Comics artist Jack Teagle.

Sticker by Retrofit Comics artist Jack Teagle.

K.Mc: Willing to share something about the economics of your comics income?

Box: It’s hard to say where money comes from. Ha-Ha! Lately, I’ve been doing freelance poster design and other illustration jobs as they come. I have hopes that Retrofit will again turn a profit (at least enough so I can get paid again). Selling my personal zines and stuff helps too.

From his store at www.boxbrown.com

From his store at http://www.boxbrown.com

K.Mc: How much does the sale of original art help?

Box: Over the past year original art sales have become a decent amount income, believe it or not. It’s not constant, but once in a while it’s a great boost.

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K.Mc: How did it come about that Andre the Giant is published by a major publisher?

Box: At one point I had a literary agent who was trying to sell my “Everything Dies” project as a graphic novel. Through that process I got to meet my editor at First Second. So, when I started working on Andre and conceived of it as a long book I sent Calista (my editor) an email submission (along with other publishers) and :01 liked it. (Note :01 stands for First Second Books .)
K.Mc: Can I take images from your site, like your round self-portrait and one of your original pages for Andre?

images-1Box: Yeah, no prob.

K.Mc: Got some advice for students who want to break into to indie comics?

BOX: Work. Work. Work. Self-publish! Self-publish the hell out of everything you can. Online, zines, go to conventions interact with other artists, get on twitter and follow your favorite artists and interact with the community. Read comics a lot, immerse yourself in the culture. If after a decade you feel it wasn’t a worthwhile pursuit you can give up.

Beginning in May, Box Brown will be on his Andre the Giant tour. He will visit Kutztown in the fall. Date to be announced.tumblr_n2n429DbmZ1qlps06o1_500

 

 

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I was reading multiple great books: a novel set in Mexico; a literary biography; a history of the U.S invasion of Iraq. Then I opened a padded envelope to find a review copy of Box Brown’s Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Those other books got thrown out of the ring.

From Andre the Giant © Box Brown

All drawings from from Andre the Giant © Box Brown 2014

Looking at the title and cover art, I expected a quick, fluffy read. This book is much more than that. Andre the Giant is a serious biography that reads like a graphic novel. It is a series of fantastic vignettes from the life of Andre Roussimoff (1946-1993.) Andre’s eventful life is artfully woven from the whole range of human experience, at times funny, poignant, ridiculous, noble, generous, tragic. This gentle giant was, by and large, a wonderful human being, but he also could be a big jerk, especially when he got drunk. Box Brown has done a brilliant job of portraying Andre’s multidimensional life.

Andre the Giant in late 1980's from Wikipedia

Andre the Giant in late 1980′s from Wikipedia

Box Brown says in the book’s frank and philosophical introduction, “The idea of truth in professional wrestling is certainly elastic.” He also explains that as an artist he had to improvise dialog and envision scenes he never witnessed to tell the this “true” story.

From The Princess Bride

From the cult film, The Princess Bride

I was only dimly aware of Box Brown’s work. I knew he was a Philadelphia-based zinester who had some success using Kickstarter to produce Retrofit Comics. His deceptively simple illustration style is perfect here. His line drawings of Andre are spare, with just enough tonality to impart a sense of mass. He artfully designs the pages so that often his drawings of Andre fill individual panels to capacity.

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There is a lot aspiring cartoonists can learn from a careful observation of Brown’s style. Consider the two panels above where the narrator’s voice overlays the ring announcer’s speech balloons. I first noticed this multi-track cinematic effect in Daniel Clowes’ work. You don’t see this in the works of a novice.

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Brown ends the book with a complete bibliography. He clearly enjoyed his research, reading obscure wrestling magazines and freeze-framing Wrestlemania DVD’s.  For me the story rings true. I never saw Andre wrestle, but I did see Gorrilla Monsoon wrestle Bruno Sanmartino in Asbury Park. And I just watched a midnight showing of The Princess Bride at Kutztown’s Strand Theatre. Sure, he was typecast, but Andre did great as the giant, Fezzig. According to Brown’s book, making The Princess Bride was one of the happiest time in Andre’s life. It shows.

I have been raving about this book since the moment I finished it. My daughter is pleading with me, “Dad, Can you please stop talking about Andre the Giant?” I guess I can’t.

Next post we will have a brief interview with Box Brown. Hope to get him to visit Kutztown next fall. Andre the Giant will be published in May by First Second Books. Ask your local indy bookstore to order you a copy.

Detail from an ink drawing at the Toonseum © Theo Ellsworth

Detail from an ink drawing at the Toonseum © Theo Ellsworth

We are all different, but Theo Ellsworth is more different. I met the artist at Pittsburgh’s Toonseum where his enchanting one-man show hangs through April 30. He calls his studio The Thought Cloud Factory. He came to Pittsburgh from his home in Montana to participate in PIX, the Pittsburgh indy press expo. Big Sky country seems like the right place to relocate a Thought Cloud Factory. First I ever heard of him, he was part of the Portland art zine scene. My daughter sent me an early copy of his sold-out collection, Capacity.

Theo Elsworth, photo by Kevin McCloskey

Theo Elsworth, photo by Kevin McCloskey

The bio on the wall at the Toonseum announced: “Theo Ellsworth is a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat.” A witch doctor? I asked him if that was true. He said that was a bit of a family joke. –His wife is a certified acupuncturist.

The Imaginary Field Trip, ink on cut wood, © Theo Ellsworth.

The Imaginary Field Trip, ink on cut wood, © Theo Ellsworth.

Theo says he “came to comics through automatic drawing.” I took notes at his PIX presentation. He described his monster drawing project based on a recurring childhood dream of a collapsing house. A young phantom soul, wrapped like a mummy, floats through an attic populated by strange entities. Alas, my notes are more confusing than Theo’s dreams. You’ll have to read the book, The Understanding Monster, Book 1. Book 2 will be out soon.

The Understanding Monster © Theo Ellsworth

The Understanding Monster © Theo Ellsworth

Robert Kirby described The Understanding Monster (Book 1) like so: “Ellsworth’s deep imagination, as well as his idiosyncratic charm, humor, and sincerity are evident in every passage rendered, no matter how far out into the ether it may be. His trippy psychedelic home movies are projected directly from his head without ever forgetting the heart.”                                                                           – The Comics Journal.

Capacity, Collected zines © Theo Ellsworth

Capacity, Collected zines © Theo Ellsworth

Theo’s work is tough to categorize. Neil Gaiman included his drawings in the Best American Comics of 2010, so they must be comics. Some of Theo’s works on paper have outlined panels and speech bubbles. Many have thought balloons. Perhaps his idiosyncratic style belongs in the fine art annex of the big tent of comics.

At the end of Theo’s PIX talk someone in the audience asked him if he practiced astral projection. He repeated the end of the question, ‘astral projection?’ He seemed bemused, gently shook his head -No. Bill Boichel tried to draw him out about his stylistic influences. Theo vaguely referenced nonwestern and outsider art. He said he loves Native American art and recently acquired a real Kachina on a trip to the U.S. Southwest. When asked if he used photo-reference, Theo’s smile neared the border of laughter. No.

Logic Storm, zine, ©2013 Theo Ellsworth

Logic Storm, zine, ©2013 Theo Ellsworth

At one point I overheard him explain, “Logic Storm is denser. I was exploring ideas for The Understanding Monster.” His fans will understand. In the forward to his zine Logic Storm, Theo writes, “Over the course of this exercise, I became aware of a mythological emergency taking place in my subconscious that needed to be tended to with a creative act.” We are lucky to live at a time when a determined individual can publish such an acts of imagination.

Cover Imaginary Homework © Theo Ellsworth 2013

Cover Imaginary Homework © Theo Ellsworth 2013

I bought his 28-page illustrated zine Imaginary Homework. It was originally produced as a text for a workshop he taught in scenic Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. He’s made it available through his Brooklyn-based publisher, Secret Acres. At just $5 this would make a quirky textbook for a college course on creativity. Below are two panels to give you a sense of this happy project.

From 'Imaginary Homework' © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

From ‘Imaginary Homework’ © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

Incidentally, Theo is pleased with his publisher, Secret Acres. They are “fairly hands-off” as far as editing. In fact, he says, most of their editorial suggestions involve pointing out his spelling mistakes.

From 'Imaginary Homework' © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

From ‘Imaginary Homework’ © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

Finally, I asked Theo Ellsworth if he had any advice for young artists who want to enter the field of comics. “Just get a blank book. Then fill it completely from beginning to end. That’s what I do!”

 

s a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat. – See more at: http://secretacres.com/?page_id=973#sthash.OCpnx87C.dpuf

 

s a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat. – See more at: http://secretacres.com/?page_id=973#sthash.OCpnx87C.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Went to the PIX 2014 this weekend. PIX is Pittsburgh’s indy press expo of creator-owned, self-published, small-press, and handmade comics. Not the biggest expo I’ve seen, but I had a blast.

Chris Pitzer manning AdHouse books table at PIX.

Chris Pitzer manning AdHouse books table at PIX.

One of the first people I met at PIX was graphic designer and publisher Chris Pitzer of AdHouse Books. Chris told me he launched his critically acclaimed press with a single title in 2002 at a similar type event called SPX in the Washington, D.C. area. This was his first PIX. He was invited by Jim Rugg, creator of Afrodisiac and SUPERMAG, and one of the Pittsburgh artists published by AdHouse.

JIm Rugg's SUPERMAG is published by Adhouse.

Jim Rugg’s SUPERMAG is published by Adhouse.

Asked why he chose the name AdHouse for his business name, Chris had two smart reasons. A.D. stands for Art Director, his full-time job, and since it begins with the letter “A,” AdHouse rises to the top of alphabetically ordered catalogs and rosters.

images-1 The press’s stylish logo looked familiar to me. The illustration is the work of my SVA classmate Doug Fraser. Chris is a longtime Fraser fan. He said each year when he got hardbound illustration annuals, he’d just rip out the Doug Fraser pages as keepers and toss the rest of the book. I was happy to learn Doug has done a graphic novella, Mort Grim, a road rage tale.  Chris pointed to the page below and noted how Fraser’s illustration style owes a debt to the landscapes of Thomas Hart Benton.

From Mort Grim © Doug Fraser, an AdHouse Book.

From Mort Grim © Doug Fraser, an AdHouse Book.

Chris told me that AdHouse did a few anthologies, but now is concentrating of single-artist books of the high artistic caliber, like Gregory Benton’s B+F. One of the cool things about the AdHouse website is that many of the books have free downloadable pdf samplers.

Oddly enough, not long after my visit to Chris’s table I found myself at the Copacetic Comics table. Pittsburgh’s Copacetic Comics is the best indy comics bookstore I know. Bill Boichel, Copacetic’s proprietor, has been a mentor to a generation of Pittsburgh comics artists and he has a truly prodigious scholarly knowledge of the field. Really. To get a sense of the elevated discussion of comics that (sometimes) occurs in Pittsburgh check this podcast at Tell Me Something I Don’t Know, where Boichel talks with artists Jason Lex and Jim Rugg.

Pope Hats #3 © Ethan Rilly

Pope Hats #3 © Ethan Rilly

I digress. At the Copacetic table, I was drawn to a book I’d never seen before called Pope Hats. Bill looks over and says to me, “You’ll love that.” Though I have only bought a handful of comics at Copacetic, he was absolutely right. Bill Boichel is like a comics preference app, the comics equivalent of Pandora radio. Pope Hats by Canadian artist Ethan Rilly is one amazing book. The drawing is fluid, the story is compelling, the characters are intriguing. And guess what? It is an AdHouse book, too.

Next week, I will post about other folks I encountered at PIX including (in alphabetical order) Theo Ellsworth and Trina Robbins.

My last post was on the Afro-Mexicano experience. Here is something about a little-known African American experience. The wonderful thing about being an illustrator is researching fascinating new things. -K.Mc

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Chad Williams is coming to Kutztown to talk about African American soldiers in World War I. I got to illustrate the poster. First thing I did was visit Dr. Williams’ website Torchbearers of Democracy. His book of the same name has won some serious awards. I was surprised to learn 380,000 black soldiers were involved in that war. Next I did a Google image search for statues of black WWI soldiers and found Chicago’s Victory Monument. Generally, public sculptures are in the public domain. Though I am doing an unpaid project for educational event, I never want to knowingly violate another artist’s copyright.

From chigagogreys.com courtesy Jack Foley.

From http://www.chigagogreys.com courtesy Jack Foley.

I used several reference photos including some from tour guide Jack Foley’s super site on Chicago history, www.chigagogreys.com.

Victory Monument, Chicago, courtesy Jack Foley.

Victory Monument, Chicago, courtesy Jack Foley.

That gear bag on the soldier’s chest would hold his gas mask. Trench warfare in the First World War was horrific for the use of poison gases, the original weapons of mass destruction. I did a rapid india ink brush drawing of a soldier rushing forward, bayonet at ready. I simplified his uniform and ditched the gas mask pack. Then I scanned the ink drawing into Photoshop and added a sepia tone.

My india ink drawing with a digital wash of sepia tone.

India ink drawing with a “digital wash” Kevin McCloskey

Sometimes an illustrator needs a designer. Type is not my forte, so I asked another faculty member for assistance. She was swamped, but referred me to a talented design student who is interested in military history. It is my good fortune that junior John Woodward took time to design the poster below. He is a Communication Design major with concentrations in Advertising, Interactive and Graphic Design.

Poster design by KU CD student John Woodward

Poster design by KU CD student John Woodward

Thanks to John Woodward’s design for making my illustration look good. The info is clear on the poster. You are invited to hear Dr. Chad Williams if you are in the area on April 1. Should be fascinating.

Have you seen this man? Baltazar in his Danza de los Diablos persona.

Have You Seen This Man?   Baltazar C. Melo in his Danza de los Diablos persona.

Baltazar Castellano Melo is a tall handsome fellow with long curly hair. I asked to take his picture. He then picked up a number of magical items: a donkey’s jawbone and his bote, a musical instrument made of a jaguar skin stretched over a gourd. He donned a wooden mask decorated with goat horns, diamondback rattlesnake skin ears, and a horsetail beard. Only then, did he let me to take this picture.

La Callida, litho © Baltazar Castellano 2008

Lithograph of Danza de los Diablos © 2008 Baltazar C. Melo

Baltazar has a reputation for being a wild man, but the 30-year old artist has settled down a bit. A family man now, he lives with his lovely wife Karla and infant son, Yumael in a small house on the edge of Oaxaca City near the church of the Virgin of Juquila. Baltazar’s patio doubles as his open-air painting studio. He has a tabletop printing press to print miniature prints. He is also a popular musician. His music, like his artwork, is infused with his Afro-Mexican heritage.

Woodblock print © 2012 Baltazar C. Melo

Woodblock print © 2012 Baltazar C. Melo

Afro-Mexican Heritage

Baltazar was born into a family of 6 children in the coastal village of Cuajinicuilapa, Guerrero near the border with Oaxaca state. The entire region, known as the Costa Chica, is very poor. Most of the people are of mixed heritage. Afro-Mexicano is the term Baltazar uses. His African roots come from his mother’s side. His father is mestizo, mixed Spanish and Indio heritage.

Without Coyote- nothing. relief print. © Baltazar C Melo

“Without Coyote – Nothing.” relief print. © Baltazar C. Melo

Life can be tough on the Costa Chica. For many years, Baltazar’s father, who never learned to read or write, journeyed north without documents to work heavy construction in the U.S. In 2011, Señor Castellano was left to die, stranded in a U.S. desert without food or water by an evil coyote. In the desert his father fell and fractured his kneecap. Miraculously, he managed to claw his way back to Mexico. After this near-death experience, he is not likely to return north again.

From Orquedeas de un Puebla Negra. Mixed media.

From ‘Orquedeas de un Puebla Negro.’ Mixed media.

Baltazar’s artwork is lively and colorful. There are often pastel-toned boats and fish in his art. Growing up near the Pacific Ocean Baltazar learned to fish both from boats and from shore. He mastered the hook, line, and net. Sometimes he would simply dive into the surf with a homemade spear to bring home dinner.

Dance of the fish of Yemaya, mixed media canvas,© Baltazar Castellano 2013

Dance of the fish of Yemaya, mixed media canvas,© Baltazar C. Melo 2013

'Orquida en le cortejo" mixed media  ©2014 Baltazar C. Melo

‘Orquida en le cortejo” mixed media ©2014 Baltazar C. Melo

Padre Glyn Jemmott, a Roman Catholic priest of Afro-Caribbean ancestry is stationed in the Costa Chica.  He works to shed light on the Afro-Mexican culture and increase opportunities for his flock. One of the projects he sponsored was the Cimarrón (Freed Slave) Cultural Center. In 2002, Maestro Mario Guzman, later a  founder of Oaxaca’s ASARO collective, taught printmaking at Cimarrón. Baltazar, a teenager at the time, became one of Cimarrón‘s most productive artists. He went on to study fine arts at Benito Juarez University in Oaxaca with Maestro Shinzaburo Takeda. He graduated with a major in printmaking in 2010.

Announcement for his recent one-man exhibition.

Announcement for his recent one-man exhibition.

Baltazar has developed a distinctive dreamlike imagery in his bold prints and colorful paintings. He is active in several Oaxacan artist’s collectives including ASARO and Colectivo Tutuma. Recently he has been traveling around Southern Mexico playing Afro-Mexican percussion with the Tapacamino Musiquero (Musical Roadblock) Band. Sometimes he earns more income from the music than his artwork. I asked if he thought of himself as more of a musician or visual artist. He put his hand on his heart and said, “Artista Visual!”

Baltazar Castellano Melo, photo © Maricela Figueroa.

Baltazar Castellano Melo, photo © Maricela Figueroa.

More of Baltazar’s artwork and a bio in Spanish can be found at www.pintoresmexicanos.com.  Glad I found that site with Maricela Figuero’s photo of Baltazar unmasked. Not sure if that is a flower or a crab in his mouth. Baltazar remains a man of mystery. He can be contacted through the Pintores Mexicanos or via his Facebook page.

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'Taking the Plunge' graphic designed by Prof. Karen Kresge

‘Taking the Plunge’ graphic designed by Prof. Karen Kresge

“Taking the Plunge” is an annual event at Kutztown U’s Communication Design Dept. where (very) recent grads share with current students their experiences after graduation. Prof. Karen Kresge runs the show. Someday, KUCD is supposed have its own social media campaign, meanwhile Prof. Kresge’s personal Facebook page serves as the resource for recent grads to find and share job news.

One Trick Pony's mascot  © 2013 One Trick Pony

One Trick Pony’s mascot © 2014 One Trick Pony

Speaking of social media campaigns, Danielle McShea worked on a wild one at One Trick Pony, a creative agency in N.J.  She handled social media postings for Virgin Mobile’s FreeFest 2013. Virgin may not be the biggest phone company, but thanks to Danielle, they have a lot more Facebook friends – like hundreds of thousands of friends! Danielle shared advice from her first meeting with Bill Starkey of One Trick Pony at a portfolio review. Starkey asked to see only the one worst piece in her portfolio, saying,  “You are only as good as the worst piece in your book.” By the way, according to their website they are hiring ‘client whisperers.’

Image from the Phillyosophy campaign from visitphilly.com

Image from the Phillyosophy campaign from visitphilly.com

New York, New York, or NOT!

Kelsey Kolvacik got a job for a big NYC agency, McGarryBowen, working on American Airlines social media. One day in NYC she saw a Visit Philly ad that she recognized as the work of the cutting-edge Philadelphia agency, Red Tettemer O’Connell. She had interned there and realized that it was her dream job. Kelsey got in touch with her old supervisor. At the exact moment she clicked the email from Philly offering her the job, You Make my Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates came on the radio.

From Possibilities, the Nike ad that changed Jessyca Pacheco's attitude.

From Possibilities, the Nike ad that changed Jessyca Pacheco’s attitude.

Living Here in Allentown

On the other hand, Jessyca Pacheco, had her sights firmly set on NYC. She went so far as moving in with an aunt and uncle who live in New Jersey. She managed to do bit of freelancing, but needed to waitress to pay her bills. Then a job opened up at the Media Arts Group, the in-house design studio at Allentown’s Morning Call. She got it, but admits that at first she felt she had failed by returning to Pennsylvania. Then a one-minute Nike commercial called “Possibilities” turned her attitude around. She sent me the link. Just click it. Taking the message of Possibilities to heart, Jessyca says she is thrilled by the challenge of projects like this “Red Hot Chili Pipers” cover for Go Street.

This week's Go Street, cover design by Jessyca Pacheco

This week’s Go Street, cover design by Jessyca Pacheco

Kelly Arsi talked enthusiastically about her work at Allebach Communications in Souderton, PA. As a transfer student to KU she had to stay a fifth year, but felt the extra workshops paid off as she designs everything from packaging to annual reports. Jessica Savard is doing a wide range of graphics at MCS Industries. Matt Stachewicz got hired by recently at MAG/Morning Call, joining Jessyca there. Court Woytko, who is a sports and entertainment fan seems to have landed her ideal job at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem. She met Iron Mike Tyson this week. Raychale Fulginiti and Kelsea Ashworth couldn’t be in Kutztown, but phoned in video greetings from Disneyworld (Rachel) and Boston (Kelsea) where they are happily employed.

Self-portrait illustration by Mellen from www.mellenmade.com

Self-portrait illustration by Mellen from http://www.mellenmade.com

This blog is called Illustration Concentration, which admittedly is the smallest subset of the larger Communication Design major at Kutztown. Typically, only a handful of students complete the illustration concentration. One who did so is a wonderful illustrator who goes by “Mellen,” Melissa Rae Rheinbold. She graduated in December and just began her job yesterday at Crayola. Mellen said Prof. Kresge suggested she send a copy of her illustrated book to Crayola, and the job offer came quickly. We will give her a few days to settle in, but hope to have a future post devoted to Mellen and her illustration work.

SCOM stood in a doorway in Oaxaca and told us some hairy stories of his life as a graffiti artist. He grew up in L.A. His mother came from a remote village in Oaxaca.

20140204-231015.jpgAs a kid, he was George. Sometimes his Mom would bring him to visit family in Oaxaca. One day, his L.A. high school art teacher showed his notebooks to a California art college. “That’s so weird,” says SCOM, “cause she was always flunkin’ me, but I guess she saw potential.” He met the art school admission committee and they offered him a full scholarship. But, he had to come back for a formal interview.

Tiny monster paintings (2 inch squares) by SCOM, collection of Sean Sweeney

Tiny monster paintings (2 inch squares) by SCOM, collection of Sean Sweeney

Unfortunately, right before his big interview he got busted for painting graffiti. He called the art school from jail to reschedule the meeting. They must have had caller I.D. They gave the scholarship to someone else.

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Mural by Scom (detail) barrio Xochimilco, Oaxaca.

“So I just went down to Venice Beach and started painting. I did it for a couple years. It was probably just as well I never went to art school, ’cause I did way more painting. I developed my style, ya’ know? And people bought my stuff. My friends said, ‘Hey, how come you got money, when you don’t got no job?’ I said, hey, this is my job.”

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SCOM’s van parked by Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca, mural by Sanez.

Shots Fired in West Oakland!

Graffiti can be tough. “Once in West Oakland we got shot at. One night me and my partner were painting the back of a billboard on a warehouse. I like the backs better. They stay up longer. We had lookouts down below. So, this homeless guy sees us. He gets out of his little plastic tent, and he says he has asthma and the spray is bothering him. So we are thinking this over. But then I hear this scrape of metal on concrete and the homeless guy drags this big wrench out of his tent and swings it at my buddy, the lookout. Just misses his head. And we are like O.F !”

SCOM and Cesar Chavez spraying a stencil at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca

SCOM and Cesar Chavez spraying a stencil at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca

“I say, ‘should we go down and help him?’ and my partner says, ‘Nah, it’s too far down, just wait.’ The lookouts run off. But then the homeless guy starts bangin’ on a metal door. The door flies open. Out comes a big white guy looks like Elmer Fudd, with the stupid hat and the shotgun!”

Artist's recreation, Kevin McCloskey

Artist’s recreation, Kevin McCloskey

“Just like Elmer Fudd, but he has beard. Comes out with his shotgun and first thing he says is, ‘Where’s the problem?’  Our buds are long gone, but the homeless dude says I think I see two more on the roof.  So F! We move behind the posts. We don’t even breathe. We wait like an hour and we thought it was safe to come down. But, NO! Elmer Fudd was there waiting for us. I heard the shotgun blast and the buck shot was bouncing of the walls all around us. We just ran and didn’t look back. That was West Oakland. East Oakland is supposed to be the tough place, where are the murders are, but in East Oakland the people were nicer to us. They were clapping for us. So you never know.”

Can I Buy a Vowel?

Question: How did you get the name SCOM?  “Well, I was writing a lot, I came up with this phrase, Society Creates Monsters, then I shortened it to SCM. Painted it everywhere. SCM. SCM. Then some dudes said, ‘You know, man, SCM is the tag of a gang you don’t want to mess with,’ so I added the O. SC-O-M. Now, I am SCOM.”

SCOM, Painting on canvas, Taller Siqueiros, Oaxaca.

SCOM, Painting on canvas, Taller Siqueiros, Oaxaca.

SCOM’s paintings on canvas can be seen at Taller Siqueiros and Projecto Chicatana on Porfirio Diaz in Oaxaca. His littlest paintings sell for 150 pesos, about $12. His biggest works can be seen in tunnels and on the backs of billboards all over California and Mexico.

My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org

My photos and story of my visit to Los Leñateros at printeresting.org

Sometimes I get to write for Printeresting.org. It is a very cool site. In 2011 Printeresting won the Warhol Foundation’s Writers Grant in the blog category. I feel lucky when I get 100 visitors on a day to this blog, so I am delighted to write for the online journal, Printeresting. Jason Urban, one of the founding editors, is a Kutztown University Fine Arts grad. Though I’ve never met him, Jason is good enough to edit my work.

Click the link in line one, above, to see my story on Taller Leñateros, a women’s papermaking and print collective in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Founded in 1975 by poet Ambar Past, the collective now boasts nine members, mostly women of Maya ancestry.

I am blessed to be on sabbatical, researching and working in Mexican print studios. Here are a few photo out-takes from my visit to San Cristóbal.

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Woodblock prints on handmade paper by Los Leñateros.

The white building is Taller Leñateros.

The white building is Taller Leñateros.

Los Leñateros, which means wood-gatherers, use native plants in their paper making. Here Kari, a master bookbinder shows me the recycled bicycle they use to shred flower petals.

The stationary bike.

The stationary bike.

Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.

Maps printed offset, scored on an old Thayer and Chandler letterpress.

The see the whole story of this amazing print workshop click here.

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