Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel.

Once upon a time, in 2007, The Metropolitan Opera staged Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.  Françoise Mouly, art editor for The New Yorker, helped organize an exhibition at the opera house based on the fairy tale. Contributors included stellar New Yorker cover artists including Roz Chast, Jules Feiffer,  Anita Kunz, Christoph Niemann, Gahan Wilson, and Lorenzo Mattotti.  Mattotti, one of Italy’s most important contemporary graphic artists, contributed a series of large-scale india ink drawings.

All images from toonbooks.com

All images from toonbooks.com

Pictures Came First: Françoise Mouly is also publisher and art director of the influential line of children’s books, Toon Books. She shared Mattotti’s moody artwork with her friend, writer Neil Gaiman. She asked him to retell the tale first written down by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

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Neil Gaiman, from Toon Book’s Facebook page.

Gaiman, best known for Coraline and The Sandman, took up the task. Gaiman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this tale of Hansel and Gretel, of lost children and starvation, resonates in 2014. He spoke of his recent tour of Syrian refugee camps, “talking to Syrian refugees who ran out of food, – telling me of getting permission from their imams to eat cats and dogs, – eating grass, – drinking swamp water. -This is Hansel and Gretel!” Full interview is here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

“…shadows crept out from beneath each tree and puddled and pooled until the world was one huge shadow.” There is a wonderful visual verbal synergy here. The cadence of Gaiman’s prose flows as swiftly and smoothly as Mattotti’s brushwork.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

In April at MOCCAfest, the comics convention in NYC, I met with Françoise Mouly about a book I’m working on with her. (More on that another day.) She shared with me the proof of Hansel and Gretel. The black and white printouts were neatly folded, fastened together with scotch tape. I held it in my hands and looked at Mottotti’s art for the first time. I found the images remarkably powerful, but not what I expected of a Toon Book. Toon Books are all different, but generally made in a colorful comic book style, with panels and word balloons. Mouly explained Toon Books was branching out with a new line, Toon Graphics.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

She asked me what I thought of the book. I told her it was quite beautiful and I expected it would be a great success. That was an understatement. Gaiman recently read Hansel and Gretel to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The book hasn’t even been released yet and it is already in its third printing. Variety reports Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake bought the movie rights to the book.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

The NY Times gave Hansel and Gretel a glowing review. Gaiman said it was the best review of his career. Mouly said it took her breath away: Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of “Hansel and Gretel” astonishes from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that the book itself is a gorgeous and carefully made object, with a black floral motif on its pages’ decorated borders, along with red drop caps and tall, round gray page numbers. (Published by Toon Books, the New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s venture into richly illustrated books for children, it comes in two formats, with an oversize one that includes an afterword about the evolution of the tale.) Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale.” -NY Times. The full review can be seen here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel is being released Oct.28. For more info, including video interviews with Gaiman and lesson plans based on the book visit Toon Books here. Near NYC? Lorenzo Mattotti is flying from Europe to visit McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, NYC on Sat, Nov.1. He’ll read from the book and share how he makes his pictures. Details here.

Illustration © by Jeremy Gilberto to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

Illustration © by Jeremy Gilberto to raise awareness of testicular cancer.

C.D. stands for Communication Design. I say C.D. so often I forget it is jargon used at Kutztown U, not everywhere. One of our annual events is the David Bullock Return of the CD Grads. This year we have two Renaissance men coming to campus to share their art and design. If you are in Kutztown come see them, if not, well, click the links below.  Jeremy is an Art Director at Red Tettemer. Greg is currently an Associate Creative Director at 160over90, both uber hip Philadelphia-based design firms.

White Rabbit design © Jeremy Gilbert

White Rabbit design © Jeremy Gilbert

JEREMY GILBERTO

Jeremy Gilberto writes: “I’ve given a good part of myself to advertising (not just time -it takes its toll). I graduated in 2010 and have since lived in two cities, been employed by two agencies and have had two very different experiences. In the past four years I’ve worked on about every type of client you can imagine, from those that will probably kill you, to ones that are used to clean you.

From Dean Ballas's blog on Jeremy Gilberto.

From Dean Ballas’s blog on Jeremy Gilberto.

When I’m not busy pushing pixels and making ads I’m busy pushing a stroller and being a dad. Occasionally, I’ll take a break from advertising and use my creative eye to take the cutest darn baby pictures I can. When I grow up I’d like to be an astronaut, but I probably should have made that decision earlier on in my life. Check me out here.

For an in-depth interview with Jeremy visit the dezignrogue.blogspot. This always interesting site is by former KU Prof. Dean Ballas.

hairypotter500

Hairy Potter © Greg Christman

GREG CHRISTMAN

I wrote a post about Greg Christman when he came to visit in 2012.

jerry

‘Sailor Jerry’ press kit design by Greg Christman

Greg Christman is a designer, illustrator, typographer, husband, dad and cat blogger. He is currently writing this bio in the third person. Since 2007, he’s worked on Ferrari, Sailor Jerry Rum, Prince Tennis, Versus TV, ECCO Shoes, Tullamore Dew Whiskey, Hendricks Gin, The Philadelphia Eagles, countless bands, AAA, Mars Drinks, New Balance, Spike TV, US Open, and a ton more that he can’t remember because his wife isn’t here to remind him.

PA Hardcore Gig Poster ©  Greg Christman

PA Hardcore Gig Poster © Greg Christman

His cat blog has been featured on Comedy Central’s Adult Swim, BBC Comedy, and tweeted by countless celebrities. His design career is jealous of his cat blog.

Jeremy and Greg are both remarkable talents. I grabbed some of their illustrative work from their web sites, but they are great designers, too. The RETURN of the CD Grads is Thursday, October 16  4:30 p.m – 6:00 p.m. in KU’s SUB Alumni Auditorium. Shout Out to Prof. Elaine Cunfer who does the nearly thankless job (THANKS!) of creating the Return of the CD Grads every year.

Robert Ripley at his drawing board from www.nealthompson.com

Robert Ripley at his drawing board, from http://www.nealthompson.com

In 1930, in the depths of the Great Depression, the highest paid artist in America was a cartoonist. Robert Ripley earned $350,000 in 1931. Presidents of railroads earned less. Babe Ruth earned $80,000. The average American earned $1,850. King Features syndicated his Believe it Not cartoons to hundreds of newspapers. That contract alone was worth $100,000 annually. Ripley leveraged his drawing ability and celebrity to earn his fortune via lectures, newsreels, and a radio show.

ACuriousMan_Ripley_NealThompson-web

A Curious Man, The Strange and Brilliant life of Robert ‘Believe It or Not!’ Ripley by Neal Thompson is now out in paperback, published by Three Rivers Press.

A classic Ripley cartoon, drawn charcoal, 1932.

A classic Ripley cartoon, drawn charcoal, 1932.

I enjoyed the biography. I like Ripley’s charcoal drawing style. Even when he had photo reference his line quality suggests direct observation. I wanted to like Robert Ripley, the man, but found him terribly creepy. He was a world traveler, but like many Americans declined to learn other languages. He’d just speak English louder expecting to be understood.

classicripley

Ripley did have an urbane assistant, a Polish emigre named Norbert Pearlroth. Pearlroth had a photographic memory and spoke eleven languages. It was Pearlroth who spent long days in The NY Public Library mining the stacks for bizarre factoids to fill the columns. Ripley did the drawings. Ripley paid Pearlroth $75 a week and never publicly acknowledged Pearlroth’s contribution. He never invited Pearlroth to the endless parties at his posh Manhattan digs or to his private island.

Ripley’s island, called BION Island (Believe It Or Not) was on the Long Island Sound. He hired a string of beautiful 18-year-old female assistants and made them sign a waiver stating that they came voluntarily to his island. He was a heavy drinker and by the end of the night could forget his date’s name. His 28-room mansion on BION Island had a basement full of erotic curiosities and medieval torture devices. We learn “girlfriend-secretary-housekeepers overlapped and two or three would be living on BION Island at once.” And “those who stayed found… easy living, easy money, not too much work and plenty of liquor.”

Ripley published Charles Schulz's first dog cartoon in 1937.

Ripley published Charles Schulz’s first dog cartoon in 1937.

Long before Snoopy appeared in Peanuts, Charles Schulz drew his iconic beagle and mailed it to Robert Ripley. Ripley included the teenager’s drawing in the 1937 cartoon above.

Thompson writes that Ripley, who had buck teeth and a speech impediment felt empathy for the strange people he wrote about. Ripley never liked the term “freaks” He preferred his own word “queeriosities.”

Ripley measuring a moustache.

Ripley measuring Arjan Desur Dangar’s mustache aboard a ship from India.

Mister Arjan Desur Dangar was scheduled to appear at Ripley’s Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. That did not work as planned. “Dangar fought with his manager, who ripped off half of his mustache. Ripley sent them back to India.”

The syndicated Ripley cartoons continue to this day. Perhaps they have lost some impact. Today everybody is a Ripley documenting the freaks on their block, or you-tubing their own Jackass antics.

Ripley might be pleased that this book has a gimmick: the downloadable “Oddscan” phone app. When the reader finds the Oddscan mark on a page they can scan the page with their cell phone to view exclusive hidden content. “Dear Reader: Want to see a man stick a spoke through his tongue, or get shot in the gut with a cannonball and survive?” Alas, I can’t vouch for this feature. I don’t have a cell phone, Believe it or Not!

Amazing Facts and Beyond © Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch

Amazing Facts and Beyond © Kevin Huizenga and Dan Zettwoch

I will leave you with one final irony, above. Ripley became a millionaire with his Believe it or Not cartoons. Today Dan Zettwoch and Kevin Huizenga are creating Amazing Facts and Beyond, a satire on Believe it or Not. Zettwoch and Huizenga are two amazing cartoonists, but are making hardly any money at all! -Believe it or Not!

Detail© K. Huizinga& D. Zettwoch for more info: leonbeyondfacts.blogspot.com/

Detail © K. Huizenga & D. Zettwoch- More info: leonbeyondfacts.blogspot.com

Disclosure: I got this Ripley biography, A Curious Man, free from bloggingforbooks.org. If you blog, check it out.

 

America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.

America, mural detail, Chapel Atotonilco, Mex.

In a few days I find out if I have enough students to run a sketchbook class in Oaxaca, Mexico. Info on the class can be found here. I’ve been looking through my Mexico sketchbooks. These pages remind me of the wonderful days I have spent in Mexico over the years.

Flower vendor, Guanajuato.

Flower vendor, Guanajuato.

Sometimes my drawings are quick pen sketches. Sometimes I take time to add watercolor washes. Often they are drawn to remind myself about a particular place, like the restaurant Itanoni in Oaxaca. My notes remind me of Itanoni’s fresh organic corn tortillas. Itanoni also serves a wonderful hot chocolate drink, called champurrado, a type of atole made of maize flavored with cane sugar and cinnamon.

itanoni

tule copySometimes I draw tourist attractions, like the giant Tule tree outside of central Oaxaca. I’ve seen people jump out of a taxi, snap a photo of the Tule tree and be gone in 60 seconds. Sketching forces me to catch my breath, to savor those few minutes I spent under the shadow of this ancient life form. Some call it the world’s largest tree. The Zapotecs believe it was planted by Ehecatl, the wind god,1400 years ago. With a circumference of 137 feet, it is wider than the giant sequoia of California.

The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.

The Weaving Teacher, Oaxaca.

zocaloOnce when I was drawing in the zocalo, Oaxaca’s central square, an old campesino asked me if I could draw his picture. I told him I would be glad to do so. He folded his arms across his chest and stared hard at me.

campesinoA crowd gathered. Some thought I was drawing him all wrong, some thought I was doing it right. In the end, I showed it to the man and he just laughed and walked away happy. The crowd turned their attention to the marimba players and the balloon vendors. I kept drawing and I felt connected to the throng, like I was a part of the wonderful human opera of Oaxaca. I have a new sketchbook and I look forward to visiting Mexico again.

 

minocover

I picked up a sad old book for 50¢ at the Kutztown Library sale. The cover reminded me of Jean Charlot’s art. The pages were yellowed, torn in places, many illustrations were defaced with crude blue pencil marks. Even in this sorry state I found the book quite moving. Citizen 13660 is a graphic documentary by an American woman put in a concentration camp near San Francisco. Citizen 13660 was first published in 1946, before the terms graphic novel or graphic memoir existed.

minoinBerne

Miné Okubo was born in Riverside, CA to Japanese parents. A top art student at U.C. Berkeley, she won a prestigious fellowship to study in Europe.  She studied with Leger in Paris, but 1939 was not a good time to live in Europe. When the Nazis took Paris she managed to get home to Berkeley, California with only the clothes on her back.

Berkeley

Okubo got some interesting art jobs for the Roosevelt’s WPA.  She worked with Diego Rivera for a time when he was doing his San Francisco murals. She got her own commission create a mural for a Soldier and Sailor’s Hall in Oakland. Then the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. She had to carry special authorization papers to allow her to travel more than 5 miles from her home in Berkeley to Oakland.

stables

Things quickly got worse for the Japanese-Americans. They were rounded up and put in internment camps. Miné and her family and 8,000 others were taken to Tanforan, a camp made from a run-down horse track in San Bruno, just south of San Francisco.

acmebeer

Her text is remarkable for its simplicity. She notes gambling was forbidden, yet they were living in stalls at a race track. She avoids pointing out the irony, letting the reader connect the dots.

caucasian

The “Japanese American Segregation Centers” were the result of racism. Over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were imprisoned, the majority were U.S citizens. The U.S. was waging war with Germany and Italy, too. German-Americans and Italian-Americans may have suffered wartime discrimination, but they were white Europeans, and so never herded into interment camps like the Japanese.

laziness

Her sketches document the daily indignities of six months at Tanforan. Then she and her brother were relocated inland to Topaz, a Japanese Relocation Center in Utah. Topaz was even less pleasant than Tanforan. After two years of confinement she was eventually released. She remained an artist until her death in 2001 in Greenwich Village, NYC.

photgraphed

Miné Okubo wrote  I am often asked, why am I not bitter and could this happen again? I am a realist with a creative mind, interested in people, so my thoughts are constructive. I am not bitter. I hope that things can be learned from this tragic episode, for I believe it could happen again.‎”

The pages of my first edition of Citizen 13660, (Columbia University Press, 1946) are falling apart as I turn them. I may be the last person to read this particular volume. Fortunately, the book has been reissued in paperback by the University of Washington Press. And nearly 200 of Okubo’s internment camp sketches can be found here on the web site of the Japanese American National Museum. Miné Okubo illustrated a life worth remembering.

 

Groot and Rocket, out of the box.

Groot and Rocket, out of the box.

Invest now in Guardians of the Galaxy collectible toys! O.K, I was wrong about Beanie Babies & Longaberger baskets. But I should have trusted my gut and bought a second Pee-Wee Herman Doll in 1985.

10525946_807600575950868_4731335839473129566_nKelly Weihs is a 2010 grad from Kutztown University’s Communication Design major with a dual concentrations: graphic design and illustration. She designs the packaging for Diamond Select Toys, including the new Guardian of the Galaxy figures.

Grax, Rocket Racoon and Groot from Diamond Select Toys.

Grax, Rocket Racoon and Groot from Diamond Select Toys. Whole cast above.

Keely gets paid to play with this stuff.

Kelly Weihs gets paid to play with this stuff.

She and one other graphic designer do all the packaging there. I asked her how she came to have such a cool job….

Kelly: “My internship at Crayola is probably what made me seem appealing to my current employer. I have learned a great deal about packaging since my internship! I didn’t expect to end up at a job doing package design. Diamond is a small toy company in Maryland, part of a larger comic book distributing empire. 80% of the time I make packages for collectibles and toys. Since I’ve been here, the licenses have changed some and we’ve gotten some more popular things within the last year. Lately, I have gotten to make Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and My Little Pony packages and related things – and those are quite popular.”

10313481_772474246130168_5039475249172596406_nWhat are you working on?

Kelly: “We have a line of small 2-inch toys called Minimates – characters from films, comic books and even our in-house characters. Last year was their 10 year anniversary. We did Guardians of the Galaxy as Minimates. Since we make products so far in advance sometimes I lose track of time and think the movie has already been released.

What are your favorite projects?

Kelly: “My favorites are probably the ones that are Marvel-film related. Iron Man, Thor and Avengers characters have been fun because I enjoy the movies and they’re neat to see in action figure form.”

10371518_764218633622396_4042951185519255170_nHulkPkg

How much time do you get to work on a project?

“The time I have to work on projects varies. We have factory deadlines to keep up with and licensor approvals so things must get done in a timely fashion.”

Pulp Fiction is not for Children under 3, -Choking Hazard.

Note re: Pulp Fiction – Not for Children under 3 – Choking Hazard.

“Besides Marvel, I design packages for Disney, Star Trek, Star Wars, Universal Monsters, The Walking Dead comics, Batman, Kevin Smith properties, Mass Effect games, Miramax films like Pulp Fiction and other things I am probably forgetting.”

Sin City packaging by Kelly Weihs.

Sin City packaging by Kelly Weihs.

“We’ve been branching out at work into new products besides action figures and toys – we even make silicone ice cube trays and bottle openers featuring your favorite characters.”

When Kelly is not sitting at a computer she likes to time travel by reenacting history at the actual historic sites. This summer she was at Monocacy Battlefield, Maryland, on the side of the Union Army.

Kelly and her beau Kyle are civil war reenactors, here at the 150th anniversary of Monocacy. Photo my Mel Sessa.

Kelly & her beau Kyle at 150th anniversary of Battle of Monocacy. Photo by Mel Sessa.

More of Kelly’s design and illustration work can be seen on her Behance site here. Diamond Toys has a blog worth visiting if you are a collector.

I went to NYC for the 92nd meeting of the NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium. I’ve missed 90 meetings, but they are a welcoming bunch. The Symposium pops up someplace different each meeting, so you need to find it. The Symposium is free, info here.  This is not Comi-Con. The emphasis is on D.I.Y., independent and innovative comics.

SAWbanner

Tom Hart and Leela Corman, husband and wife artists and educators presented. There was a crowd of about 40. Tom and Leela arrived a bit late navigating their way into the SVA conference room with their baby Molly in a stroller. Tom shared a Powerpoint about the Sequential Artists Workshop, SAW, the one-room schoolhouse for comics they founded in Florida in 2011. As Tom’s eyes darted across the audience he gave shout-outs to old NYC friends. He taught cartooning for 10 years at SVA.

Leela Corman teaching Life Drawing at SAW, Gainesville.

Leela Corman teaching Life Drawing at SAW, Gainesville.

VISIT GAINESVILLE: More Lizards than Criminals! Tom spoke of their move to Florida. A New Yorker in the audience must have flinched. “It’s Gainesville!” said Tom. “It’s not what you think of when you think ‘Florida.’ We have WAY more lizards than criminals.” He’s working on a graphic memoir dealing, in part, with their exodus from New York. I read somewhere Tom just got tired of being a starving artist in New York. I recall one telling detail. He wore his useless wristwatch for months because he couldn’t afford a new battery.

First floor at SAW, Gainesville, from SAW's blog.

First floor at SAW, Gainesville, from SAW’s blog.

SAW’s one room schoolhouse is in what looks like a mini-mall. Tom touted his Gainesville neighborhood, pointing out SAW’s proximity to the South’s oldest feminist/LGBTQ bookstore and the South’s oldest Infoshop. He explained the impetus for creating SAW, an affordable stand-alone academy for comics. “I had this vision of an intense, serious place, – The Paper Chase for cartooning.” (The Paper Chase was a ’70’s T.V. show about Harvard Law School with a hero named Hart, oddly enough.) Tom’s recollections of his time studying cartooning at SVA were not pretty. Nobody finished anything. -“It was terrible. They were all listening to The Cure and doing drugs,” he recalled. “and my mother had to take out a loan.”

Tom Hart's Hutch Owen comic strip is at www.hutchowen.com

Tom Hart’s Hutch Owen comic strip is at http://www.hutchowen.com

“It’s not right. There are art schools charging $35,000 a year, and there are schools charging less, like $12,000. Even that’s too much.” he said. “SAW’s flagship program, a 1-year full-time comics boot camp costs $3,500 for the year.” SAW’s program includes master classes in life drawing, comics/art history “that begins way before Hogarth” lo-fi technique classes, and, naturally, critiques. They don’t have a lot of computers or software, but they do have a risograph printer. SAW is not accredited, but teaches the same stuff as  accredited schools and the results are quite impressive. I wrote about SAW before and interviewed student Adrian Pijoan here.

Yahrzeit detail © Leela Corman 2013.

Yahrzeit detail © Leela Corman 2013.  Silver Medal winner, Society of Illustrators

Leela took to the podium. Besides teaching at SAW, she’s a zinester, illustrator, and belly dance instructor. A Powerpoint malfunction prevented her from showing much of her award-winning graphic novel Unterzakhn. Tom still asked her the question that irks her most, “Is Unterzakhn autobiographical?”  She answered with mock annoyance,”It’s about twins! It takes place in a brothel! in 1910! The answer is, No!”

leela-corman-unterzakhn-2012She shared work done for the Symbolia, the app ‘where comics meets journalism.’ I took some solace from her offhand remark, “I have to learn to draw again for every book.” The progressive Jewish mag Tablet published some of her most heartfelt work, – her graphic meditation on her Holocaust survivor grandfather and her own pain of losing a daughter. Their daughter Rosalie died near the age of two in 2011. “Since my first child died, I’ve tried to understand how my grandfather handled losing his entire family, and how he kept going.” As Leela noted, no one can understand this sort of grief, if they have not experienced it. Even then, it is beyond understanding. The full strip is here.

Odyssey, detail, © Justine Mara Anderson, SAW faculty.

Odyssey, detail, © Justine Mara Anderson, SAW faculty.

Secret Project GNAT

Tom returned to the podium to share a rather incredible comic he is editing for DARPA. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency are the folks who invented the Internet and drones. Really! Everyone is getting into comics. The GNAT project (Graphic Novel Art Therapy) is meant to help vets deal with PTSD. A declassified explanation of the overall project can be found here.  Tom shared pages from a graphic retelling of the Odyssey for vets. He pointed out details including extraordinary inking by Justine Anderson, above. That final panel is drawn with a toothpick.

Gasoline Alley panels by Frank King, circa 1921.

Gasoline Alley panels by Frank King, circa 1921.

Tom looped back to his own memoir project. He posts his Rosalie Lightning work-in-progress online. He, too, spoke of his massive grief when baby Rosalie died. He recalled reading classic 1920’s Gasoline Alley strips by Frank King. When got to a panel where Walt panics about losing his baby Skeezix, he couldn’t bear to continue reading.

The Gasoline Alley panel Tom Hart showed, taken from his Tumbler.

The Gasoline Alley panel Tom Hart showed, taken from his Tumbler.

Maybe it was a catch in his voice, or a dip in Tom’s positive psychic energy, but as he talked about “losing our baby” something changed. It seemed even Molly, eleven months old, sensed it. She swung her wee body away from her mother’s breast toward her father. Leela held on as long as she could, but Molly went willfully horizontal, arms outstretched toward Tom.

A page from Hart's Rosalie from http://rosalielightning.tumblr.com/

A page from Hart’s Rosalie Lightning from http://rosalielightning.tumblr.com/

Leela carried Molly across the room carefully shielding the girl’s eyes from the glare of the projector. Tom cradled Molly in his left arm and, as best he could, used his right hand to advance the slides. At one point he tried to pass Molly back to Leela. Molly refused to go that go far.

Tom Hart and Molly at NY Comic Symposium. K.McCloskey

Tom Hart and Molly at NY Comic Symposium. K.McCloskey

Nick Bertozzi seated near the podium managed to bounce Molly on his knee as Tom wrapped up his commentary. Tom apologized if he’d gone on too long. The room filled with applause. Molly’s eyes lit up as if the clapping was for her. I suppose some of it was. Grateful applause for the whole family: Tom and Leela and Rosalie and Molly.

There was time for a few questions, and someone asked how to help SAW. Tom was clearly relieved by the softball question. He’d totally forgotten to mention that key point. SAW depends on donations to keep tuition low. SAW will announce a new Indi-GOGO fundraiser in December. To help out visit the SAW site and sign up for the newsletter. They also have low-residency weeks if you haven’t got a year off.

……………………………………………………………………………….

Note: The 93rd NY Comics & Picture-story Symposium is Mon, Aug. 4, 2014, 7 pm, Dixon Place on Chrystie St. Free and open to the public. Presenters: Sophia Wiedeman & Anna Raff.  Details here.

"Jesus is Condemned to Death." Station of the Cross by Tom Quirk.

“Jesus is Condemned to Death.”  1st Station of the Cross by Tom Quirk.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Kutztown, PA is out by the Rt. 222 bypass. From the highway it looks like a typical mini-mega-church. Inside there is something to behold -the art of Tom Quirk. Stations of the Cross are a fixture of Catholic and some Protestant churches. The stations are 14 sequential images depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

2. Jesus carries his cross. All art by Tom C. Quirk, Jr.

2. Jesus carries his cross. All art by Tom C. Quirk, Jr.

Thomas C. Quirk, Jr. retired from teaching illustration at Kutztown University in 1989. I know the year, because 25 years ago I got his job.

3. Jesus falls the first time, and 4. Jesus meets his mother.

3. Jesus falls the first time                                    4. Jesus meets his mother.

Tom Quirk’s obituary tells the story of a life well-lived. He was born in Pittsburgh. He died in Pittsburgh this month. He was 91 years old.

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.

Tom Quirk went to Catholic high school in Johnstown, PA where he lettered in football and baseball.

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

He was a WWII Navy veteran. He illustrated popular coloring books for Dover books.

7. Jesus fall a second time. (detail.)

7. Jesus fall a second time. (detail.)

He also illustrated a number of natural history and gardening books for Rodale Press, including The Field Guide to Wild Herbs.

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

A former student, now an art teacher herself, Maureen Yoder, remembers Tom Quirk as a great teacher and “master of watercolor washes.”

9. Jesus falls the 3rd time.

9. Jesus falls the 3rd time. (detail)

Illustrator Martin Lemelman shared an office with Tom Quirk. Martin fondly recalls “His ink work was meticulous, masterly… breathtaking.” 

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.

He also taught oil painting. Kathi Ember, the children’s book illustrator, had Tom Quirk for Intro to Painting. She remembers a very organized teacher who was incredibly patient with his students’ first attempts at painting. She calls him a “sweetheart of a prof.”

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross. (detail)

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross. (detail)

It wasn’t until he retired from teaching that Tom Quirk devoted himself to sculpture. In the 25 years after his retirement his focus has been on the religious sculpture. Notice how for stations 1-11, above, he carves squares of unpainted wood into relief illustrations and places them on decorated cruciform panels.

12. Jesus dies on the cross.

12. Jesus dies on the cross.

For the 12th Station, the crucifixion, he created a near life-sized figure of Christ. The crucifix measures 6 feet across. It is carved from laminated basswood. It is polychromed in parts. Other parts are animated with illustrated biblical scenes, including the stories of Abraham and Lazarus. He carved this masterpiece in an old red barn on Rt 73. I went out there one day around 1992 to see his progress. I told him I thought it was extraordinary. He shrugged and got back to his carving.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Stations 13 and 14 are mounted on gray crosses.

14. Jesus is taken down from the cross. (detail, Q.. in lower right corner)

14. Jesus is laid in the tomb. (detail, Q.. in lower right corner)

In the lower left corner of the 14th and final station, less than 1/4 inch tall, you can find one carved initial “Q..” – followed by two dots. I’m guessing the dots stand for junior, the signature of the artist – Thomas C. Quirk, Jr.

Thomas C Quirk, Jr. (1922-2014)

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Felix Scheinberger's Urban Waterclor Sketching

Felix Scheinberger’s Urban Watercolor Sketching

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by German illustrator Felix Scheinberger.  What a wordy title! Maybe it’s all one word in the original German? – Something like, um,  -“AguaZityKunstenKolor.” *

Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger

Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger

I found this book quite wonderful, though it might not be ideal for an absolute beginner. Scheinberger does provide how-to lessons on stretching paper, selecting colors, and brushes. The best pages, though, are overflowing with his illustrated musings on the expressive potential of the medium. Watercolor is unfortunately often associated with hobbyists. This book will be a kick in seat of the pants for artists wanting to attempt something bolder, more inventive.

Ivy © Felix Scheinberger

Ivy © Felix Scheinberger

According to the vita on his website Felix was a drummer for various punk bands before studying illustration in Hamburg. That makes total sense, his best drawings have a punkish intensity.

A bold portrait in wash that lets the paper provide the white.

A bold wash portrait lets the paper provide the white. © Felix Scheinberger

He has a section called ‘Pimping Watercolors’ in which he writes, “When you re-wet watercolors, they lose their luminosity. Watercolors are at their most vibrant when they are left to dry without lots of manipulation.” Personally, that’s something I love about working with watercolors, they force you to take a break, now and then, to let the page dry.

Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.

Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.

Vodka-colors?

Scheinberger is clearly a globetrotter. He shares one surprising workaround for sketching alpine landscapes in sub-freezing weather. He substitutes vodka or clear schnapps for water when sketching such icy landscapes. He specifically advises against using Jaegermeister and reminds us to wash the brushes thoroughly.

Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.

Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.

Felix Scheinberger has illustrated over 50 children’s books in Europe. Must admit I haven’t seen them, but the work he shares in this volume demonstrates a ferocious talent.

Illustration © Felix Scheinberger

Illustration © Felix Scheinberger

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color is published 2104 by Watson Guptill, $22.99. Available online and wherever books are sold.

Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.

Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.

* Note: The true title in German is “Wasserfarbe für Gestalter,” or according to Google translate, Watercolor for Designers.

Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Shelly, class of 2014, shared a coloring book available at Amazon. I asked Gabby to tell us a bit more about the project.

Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.

Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.

Gabby: “Dino Day Out was created primarily for my Senior Illustration Seminar at Kutztown University with Prof. Denise Bosler. I created it for the class, but also kept in mind that I wanted to make something marketable,– something that was believable enough to hold up in the real world of publishing.”

From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley

From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley

Question: You graduated from KU with a degree in Communication Design, -What were your concentrations?

“Graphics and Illustration, which I tried to combine in this project.”

Q: Where did you intern?

” Lunchbox Communications in Manayunk, PA. I helped to design printed pieces to aid in pitching possible new television shows and documentaries. Their on-staff designers, Leah Houck and Nick Madeja, also went to Kutztown and are awesome people!”

Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Sheeley

Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Q: Why dinosaurs?

“Well, I love drawing animals! Drawing people has never really been my thing; it is a lot more fun to draw adorable creatures. And as a little girl I was always more interested in dressing up as a dinosaur for Halloween than a princess. There is also an educational element to the book; there are recognizable dinosaurs along with the lesser-known ones.”

From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley

From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley

Q: What was the hardest part about the Dino Day Out project?

“There were a few things… I am still struggling a bit to find my style as an illustrator, so drawing different creatures in a cohesive style was difficult for me. Also, there are (obviously) no photographs of dinosaurs, so it can be challenging using other artist’s representations. You have to put a certain faith in them that their drawings are accurate; You also have to be able to compile those references into a generic idea of this creature that lived so long ago, then be able to “cartoon-ize” it. And besides all that, I had to match the right dinosaur with the right activity – their anatomy can make certain positions completely implausible. Try making a t-rex do anything with his tiny arms!”

Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014

Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014

Q: What media and software did you use?

“The drawings were done at first with good old pencil and pen. I then scanned and vectored the drawings using Adobe Illustrator. That part went pretty quickly. The book itself is assembled in InDesign.”

Q: Why did you choose the POD (print on demand) publisher Createspace rather than other platforms, like LULU, for example?

“To be quite honest, I had never heard of LULU until now. I only knew about Amazon’s print-on-demand, -Createspace.”

Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley's Unfriendly Forest deck. ©2014

Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley’s ‘Unfriendly Forest’ deck. ©2014

Q: What do you have in mind for your next project?

“Ha, my major project now is finding a full-time career in design, or at least some rewarding freelance work in design or illustration. On a personal level, I want to try to improve my hand-lettering skills. I’d like to take a printmaking class, since it never fit into my schedule at KU.”

Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley

Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley

Gabby’s “Monsters of the Deep” bus shelter ads (above) are based on her original linoleum prints. Visit Gabby Shelley’s website at Behance to see her virtual portfolio book and a wide variety of illustration and design projects. Let her know of any job leads!

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