Archives for posts with tag: drawing

Batman, detail, original art by Tommy Castillo.

I was sorry to hear of MoCCA’s near-death experience. I’ve met some interesting people at the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art in lower Manhattan. I ran into Prof. Bill Foster there, the expert on the portrayal of African-Americans in comics. He came to Kutztown to share his presentation, “Looking for a Face Like Mine.”

Underworld © KAZ (Kazimieras G. Prapuolenis)

Last summer MoCCA went broke and closed its doors overnight. MoCCA scrambled for a refuge to “transfer their assets”  and keep the name alive. The call was answered by the venerable Society of Illustrators. The MoCCA collection moved uptown to the townhouse walls at the Society of Illustrators, 128 E.63rd St.

Anelle Miller & Dennis Dittrich of the Society of Illustrators.

I was at the 2012 Educator’s Symposium at the Society and met Dennis Dittrich, President, and Anelle Miller, Executive Director, and asked about the MoCCA adoption process. Dennis, whose own humorous illustration style leans toward the cartoony, loves the new acquisitions. He told me the merger happened so fast, “it turned on a dime” and he felt like “a blacksmith on the freeway entrance.”

Homage to Norman Rockwell © R Sikoryak for the Comics Journal

Dennis and Anelle consulted attorneys to make sure MoCCA’s liabilities would not haunt their organization. The merger still needs final approval from the NY Board of Regents. I knew the NY State Board or Regents was responsible for universities, but Anelle explained the Regents’ mandate also includes museums and other non-profits.

MoCCA Hellboy © Mike Mignola

What’s in it for the Society?  Wonderful original artwork from comic books, comics strips, and gag cartoons. Dennis says an unexpected benefit is the new blood of MoCCA’s passionate fan base. The Society is now hosting “Dare to Draw” and Super Hero Sketch classes. Pros are teaching Penciling and Anatomy for Cartoonists. Anelle confirmed that MoCCA fest, the hip NY indy comics con, will happen April 6 & 7, 2013 at the Fighting 69th’s Armory on Lexington Ave. Unlike ComicCon, which is slick and leans toward shameless film promotion, MoCCA fest is the real deal. At MoCCA fest you can still find diamonds in the rough, from Norse graphic novels and Pittsburgh zines to thesis projects from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

The MoCCA Gallery area at Society of Illustrators

The New York Times called the Society of Illustrators one of NY’s five hidden gems. Now they have Batman, Wolverine, and Hellboy originals on the wall. The Society’s Museum of American Illustration may be one of NY’s last free-admission museums. Hours and directions can be found here. I was delighted to see the crackpot strips of my old Hoboken neighbor, Kaz, on the wall. His artwork reminded me of the first time I saw original illustration with my own eyes at the Society of Illustrators. I was so relieved to see eraser marks and retouching with white paint that I was able to get back to the drawing board.

Photo courtesy Society of Illustrators.

Find more info on MoCCA and The Society of Illustrators here.

Out of the blue I got a note about Ryan and Audrey Durney’s Birds of Lore” Kickstarter project. I was impressed enough by this couple’s fantasy illustration project to become a low-level backer. I emailed them a few questions and asked to share some of their art here. 

Q. Other than Leo and Diane Dillon I can’t think of many husband/wife illustration teams.  What are the rewards of this creative partnership?

Ryan: My favorite thing about it, is that we speak the same language, even if we don’t always agree on things about the field. And, we sit right beside each other, sipping coffee and sketching and riffing off of each other’s direction and discovered influences. Sometimes, critiques get precarious-they can be given too early, or too late! But, it’s really rewarding to be in the same boat.  …we’ve rarely ever gotten to work on a complete idea together, which is one reason for the Kickstarter.

Mexican CU bird sketch © 2012 Audrey Durney

Q: Where did you two meet, the Kickstarter video says art school, but what art school?

Ryan: We met and fell in love at Columbus College of Art & Design. Back then CCAD  was like “military art school” they purposely overloaded you-so I don’t know how we even had time to date!? CCAD did a lot to prepare me for a career as an illustrator. However, at the time about half of the staff was anti-digital art, and I have a lot of bitter memories of instructors knocking my grade down just because I did assignments on the computer-meanwhile, I had been up all night at KINKOS trying to get one stupid final to print correctly!

Q: Can you tell me something about the CCAD illustration program, maybe a favorite prof, or most important class?

Ryan: Mr. Stewart McKissick was probably the most influential instructor for me. He really cared about preparing us for the real world, and he even forged a class where we competed against each other for real, paying assignments. I remember winning 2 of the 3. That was the kind of confidence boost I sorely needed so near to graduation. Audrey’s favorite was Ms. Tam Peterson for her energy and enthusiasm.

Q. Have you had some success freelancing illustration?

Ryan: Both Audry and I have won some awards and earned some respectable commissions. I make a modest living, with some good years -feast and famine, I suppose, but I’ve been happy doing it for over a decade. It’s really true that you just keep getting better and evolving. Audrey has taken a more stable road, working as a technical illustrator by day and freelancing via an agency at night, -tough but way more practical. My one complaint about making a living this way is the level at which freelancers are taxed. Also, illustration agents take the highest % of any creative endeavor, including music, acting, etc. at 25%, and art is one of the lowest in compensation. 

Q. Why Kickstarter vs. traditional publishing?

We can keep and manage the rights to our own work, and we get to finish a creative endeavor without corporate edits. I believe this brings the book much closer to an actual work of art. It’s being written and illustrated by unfettered artists, from start to finish. This is what the storytellers of olde did.

The Wila, or Vila, or Veela of Polish folklore. © 2012 Ryan Durney

Q. Who drew the Harpy (top image) and the Wila?

Ryan:  I did both the “Captive Harpy” and the “Wila.” I’m pleased with both. The Harpy is the more popular of those two (based on viewer feedback.) With the Wila, I tried to integrate pen-and-ink within the 3D. Sometimes that meant actually sculpting “ink-like” lines into the mesh, and sometimes that meant adding ink touches. That’s why you can see me using pens in the video. I’m 3D, but definitely experimental. I love mixing hand and digital media. The other thing about the Wila is that I was completely taken by an old etching. The Wila is homage to a very old engraving by Anton Eisenhoit (see below). Before anyone thinks it, yes-I agree that his original is better!

Q. Who did the little yellow bird blowing the horn, the Hercina?

Ryan: Audrey did the “Hercinia” bird, which is equally enjoyed by all. She  is a master of vector work and using Painter with vectors. Audrey and I are tilting our illustration styles in a few different directions, depending on what there is to say about each bird. The Hercinia is a direct homage to medieval bestiary art.

Note: As always: all art © the original artists. See a more Birds of Lore on the Kickstarter site. I have a hunch this project will fly.

Pittsburgh cartoonist Nate McDonough’s graphic novel Don’t Come Back is quite interesting. It is nightmarish and convoluted in a good way. There are falling angels, dogs peeing in a cemetery, and one screaming chicken demon in the pizza box. There is death and resurrection. Don’t worry about me spoiling the ending. I’m not sure I figured it out. Another fascinating thing about Don’t Come Back  – All 160 pages are available online Free! Here, the entire book, Nate’s gift.

Nate raised over $700 on Kickstarter to get this project in print. In 2011 Publisher’s Weekly reported that Kickstarter.com was the third largest source of indy graphic novels in the U.S. Today it looms even larger. Yet Kickstarter is not a publisher, but a funding site that savvy entrepreneurs and artists use to essentially pre-sell creative projects of all kinds. I’ve contributed modest sums to 7 Kickstarter ventures.

Fresh from the printer, first editions of Don’t Come Back.

Full disclosure: Nate is a close friend of my son Daniel. Incredibly, I first met Nate, by chance, as he and I were gassing up at a Sheetz in Wheeling, West Virginia. Nate popped the trunk of his red 2005 Chevy cobalt and gave me a pile of his monthly zine, Grixly.

Have Coffee with Nate: Yinz near Pittsburgh? Don’t miss the Release Party for DON’T COME BACK. Weds, May 30, 7:00pm at Copacetic Comics and Lili Coffee Shop in Polish Hill.  Here is your personal YouTube invitation. Even if you can’t make it, next time you are in Pittsburgh visit this great indy comic shop and great indy coffee shop.

Q & A with Nate McDonough.

Nate talks about his art education, Pittsburgh, his zine, and how Kickstarter worked for him. He talks frankly about the dollars and cents of the project and offers advice for aspiring comics artists. Interested in doing your own project?

To read the full Nate McDonough interview, click here…

© 2012 Mr. Fish, used with permission

Mr. Fish recently came to the Kutztown University’s Rohrbach Library. He also visited my illustration class. Students are lucky to have visiting artists like Mr. Fish in the classroom. His topical artwork savages our social system. Biting social satire is not the sort of thing a tenured professor (like myself) is likely to get away with. It is safe to say Mr. Fish will not get tenure. An Ivy League college dropout, he could not even get hired to teach at a state university.

Mr Fish, photo by Kevin McCloskey

Even though this blog is unofficial, Mr. Fish’s work is so radioactive, I don’t think I should publish much of it here. It is a shame, as he gave me permission to use as many images as I like. Fortunately, my friends at Commonsense2.com, the progressive web magazine offered an outlet to share more of his work. If you are ready for a direct hit, visit Mr Fish’s own website, www.clowncrack.com.

His new book Go Fish is on sale at the Kutztown U Bookstore or from the publisher, Akashic Books.

Matt Phelan is coming to Kutztown this weekend for the 2012 Children’s Literature Conference. Even if you can’t make the conference you might go to the KU bookstore to pick up his books at a discount. He is a prolific and popular illustrator. He writes as well. A piece of Matt’s original artwork from his award-winning graphic novel, A Storm in the Barn, was in the Dornish collection show last year at KU’s Miller Gallery. I emailed him five questions and here are his replies.

Art from Storm in the Barn, courtesy & © Matt Phelan

1. Do you recall an author or illustrator visit your elementary school when you were a kid?

Matt Phelan: I don’t recall anything that remotely cool happening at school. I don’t think author visits were a thing back then. It’s a shame because Lloyd Alexander (author of the Chronicles of Prydain and many other books I loved) lived in my town and might have been open to a school visit. Many years later, I ran events at a Borders store and I would invite illustrators in for signings mostly so I could ask them questions.

pencil sketch © Matt Phelan for cover of Around the World

2. Are more children’s books headed in the graphic novel direction, like your recent Around the World?

Matt Phelan: The children’s publishing industry is definitely interested in putting out more graphic novels for kids. The great thing is, like all of children’s publishing, they are open to many different kinds of graphic novels. So there’s room for superheroes, talking mice, and creepy historical fiction set in the Dust Bowl. I believe there will be more picture book illustrators like me trying graphic novels in the near future. It’s already happening with people like Dan Santat (“Sidekicks”), Jarrett Krosoczka (“Lunch Lady”), and multiple Newbery Honor-winning author Jennifer Holm (“Babymouse”) putting out fantastic graphic novels for kids. Eric Wight came from comics and animation and is now creating a hybrid of prose and comics for his Frankie Pickle young reader series. Innovations like that and the variety of stories makes me think that children’s publishing is the most exciting place for comics today.

3. Any advice for aspiring illustrators?

Matt Phelan: The only thing you have compete control over at the beginning is your portfolio. And that’s really the one thing that will get you work. Before you worry about mailings, contacts, or any of that marketing stuff, concentrate on making the strongest portfolio you can. Other than that, I recommend that illustrators take an acting class or two or at least read some books on acting. I studied acting in college and it has proven to be the most useful training I’ve had for my work.

"Niles" watercolor © by Matt Phelan from his blog.

4. Often students say they met/know someone who has written a kid’s book and wants illustration. I give them the standard warning that publishers prefer “unencumbered projects.” What do you think, are they better off coming up with their own original story?

Matt Phelan: Publishers do not want to see illustrations in manuscript submissions unless the author and illustrator are the same person. If you want to write, then submit a sketch dummy of a book you have also written. If you want to illustrate other people’s books, then all you need is a strong portfolio. I’d say that illustrating someone’s unsold manuscript (even if they offer to pay you) is time that could be better spent elsewhere.

5. Have you been to Ireland? or taken a trip abroad that’s influenced your art?

Matt Phelan: I actually went to Ireland on my honeymoon, Why do you ask? Does my work seem Irish? At any rate, I always bring plenty of sketchbooks on vacation. I think everything has potential to influence your work at some point. The important thing is to be open and observe as much as you can. Sketching forces you to slow down and notice. (I’ve included some Ireland sketches of one of the many walls of the Aran Islands and some sheep in County Galway.) I have taken some research trips for my work. I spent a week in Muskegon, Michigan which is the setting for my next graphic novel. Sadly, I didn’t have the time to circle the globe for Around the World. A missed opportunity there, I think.

Stone wall, Ireland, from a sketchbook. Courtesy Matt Phelan © 2007

Notes: I asked about Ireland out of curiosity after finding a web page where Matt explains the pronunciation of his Irish surname. If you haven’t read any of Matt’s work, I especially recommend Around the World. It graphically recounts three true stories of round-the-world voyages, by the reporter Nellie Bly, sailor Joshua Slocum, and bicyclist Thomas Stevens. It is like getting three good books for the price of one!

Courtesy Matt Phelan, http://www.mattphelan.com

More of Matt Phelan’s entertaining thoughts and lively sketches can be found on his own blog - planetham.

Loni Sue Johnson is an an illustrator who has had enormous success. Her whimsical watercolor illustrations graced the pages of the NY Times and six memorable New Yorker covers. Then one day in 2007 she fell ill with viral encephalitis, a rare condition, sometimes carried by mosquitos and ticks. She survived the virus, but large portions of both sides of her brain suffered devastating neurological damage.

Drawing from the Right and Left Side of the Brain:

Her mother, Margaret, invented drawing games to rehabilitate Loni Sue. She would draw a partial drawing then ask Loni Sue to complete it. Very gradually Loni Sue began to draw again. Shown artwork by famous artists she had studied in school, like Vincent Van Gogh, Loni Sue failed to identify the artist. But shown her own artwork, pre- or post illness, she recognized it immediately as her own creation. This suggests how very deeply one’s drawing style becomes ingrained in one’s self-identity.

Watercolor childrens' book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson

Watercolor children's book illustrations © Loni Sue Johnson

An exhibition originally organized by Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum can be seen at Morven Museum and Gardens, Pricenton, NJ, through June 3, 2012. It is a wonderful show. Two Johns Hopkins University scientists, Dr. Barbara Landau, an old friend of Loni Sue, and Dr. Micheal McCloskey have been studying her art.

Loni Sue Johnson drawing, from the the Johns Hopkins video, link below.

Most illustrators are familiar with Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.  Dr. McCloskey describes Loni Sue’s recovery portfolio as a sort of scientific detective story. The left brain/right brain divide may be more porous than we thought. There is a remarkable short video at the exhibition, in which Dr. McCloskey states, “I think if we were to make a map of the brain which showed which parts of the brain were important for art it would be pretty much the whole brain.”

Loni Sue on NPR: Radio seems a nutty way to consider illustration, but Guy Raz’s poignant interview with Loni Sue and her sister Aline is well worth a listen.

detail from Morven Museum announcement. Art above © Loni Sue Johnson 2011

See more of Loni Sue Johnson’s art via the links on her blog.

Grant Snider is a talented young cartoonist. I think his work is brilliant, but you be the judge. He generously gave permission to share a selection of comics. I selected strips that should interest illustrators. More of his art can be seen at Incidental Comics. Grant is studying orthodontics. I find that mind-boggling. We did an email interview.

KMc: I am impressed you are going to dental school, like the poet William Carlos Williams keeping his day job as a pediatrician.

Grant: Thought about your William Carlos Williams comparison before, but I think dentist/cartoonist sounds less noble than physician/poet. Also, Osamu Tezuka went to medical school while simultaneously becoming the god of manga, though he never practiced medicine.

Your work reminds me of one old, and one new artist, Otto Soglow and Kevin Huizenga? Are you familiar with them?

Grant: Definitely. I’ve read Otto Soglow’s cartoons in some old New Yorker cartoon collections, and I’ve read a couple of Kevin Huizenga’s books and followed his work closely in comics annuals. That’s a flattering comparison – Soglow’s cartoons have some of the most beautifully efficient line work ever drawn. And I can identify very closely with Huizenga’s “Glenn Ganges” stories – especially the middle-class suburban-Midwest adult-male protagonist. They’re everyday life drawn with incredible attention to detail, and he experiments with comic format and convention in a way that adds great depth to the story.

Who are your influences?

Roz Chast, Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell,” and Tom Gauld have probably influenced my comics the most. Edward Gorey, Bill Watterson, Chris Ware, and B. Kliban are four cartoonists I greatly admire, but they would be very difficult to emulate. Designer and illustrator Christoph Niemann has genius graphic ideas and is a huge inspiration, though I doubt he considers himself a cartoonist. This American Life keeps my brain occupied in the long hours spent drawing and probably subconsciously influences my comics. I also frequently look to children’s books and music for ideas.

Does your online poster shop pay enough to cover your time at the drawing board or is Incidental Comics a labor of love?

Labor of love! It’s very nice when people like a comic enough to put it up on their wall, but if I tried to break down the hourly wage of time spent at the drawing board I would quickly become depressed. My comics appear weekly in the newspaper in Kansas City (where I went to dental school) and biweekly on GoComics.com (also based in Kansas City) so I get some compensation that way as well. It’s never been my intention to make it a full-time job, though I plan on pursuing my dual careers (cartooning and orthodontics) as far as they will take me.


Could you share some sketches?

I included some pages from my sketchbook that eventually became full-fledged comics (“Jazz,” and “The Diabolical Botanical Garden”). I use my sketchbook mostly for working out ideas and rough sketches, though there’s an occasional bit of life drawing or journaling. It’s full of false starts, but I sometimes come back to a long-unused idea and manage to spin it into a new comic.

Can you give any advice for aspiring web or print cartoonists?

Focus on writing and ideas! If you are excited about an idea, you will find a way to make the drawing and layout work. Nothing is going to look how you want it to when you first start, but if you make new comics consistently your drawing style will develop and improve. Some of the best cartoonists have idiosyncratic (or even “bad”) drawing ability, but their drawings look amazing when coupled with great ideas. Share your work early and often – try to get into your school newspaper, start a webcomic, print out mini-comics and give them away, don’t keep it hidden in a sketchbook until you’ve achieved some imagined level of perfection.

Thanks, Grant for thoughtful answers and great advice. Wonderful to see the sketches, showing that even great ideas need to be refined. The sketch below became “The Diabolical Botanical Garden.” Most of Grant Snider’s cartoons are available as $15 prints from his Poster Shop.


Sketchbook pages & all art reproduced above ©2011 Grant Snider

Poster by Jeffrey Smith, 2011

There are at least 2 great illustrators named Jeff Smith. One is a Pennsylvania-born cartoonist who moved to Ohio and started cartooning for the Ohio State Lantern. In 1991, Smith self-published a small black and white comic book called Bone. Bone went platinum, with such a fanatic following that it was picked up by major publishers, and has since sold millions of copies. I know the other Jeff Smith.

Bone cover, artwork © 2011 Jeff Smith

By the way, Columbus, Ohio is fertile ground for cartoonists. The brick Victorian home of James Thurber, the New Yorker cartoonist best known for his short stories, is worth a visit. Milt Caniff, who drew the aviation adventure strip Steve Canyon lived in Columbus. Caniff’s original artwork, along with that of many others, is housed at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum on Ohio State’s campus.

Cover for a Smokey Stover comic, courtesy of Wikpedia

Years ago, I visited the Cartoon Library and Museum. I was told there was no public exhibition at that time and the collection was only open to comics scholars. I said I was scholar with a specialization in screwball comics. (If you are ever challenged about your comic scholarship, this response works wonders. I was a college dropout at the time.) The librarian gave me a pair of white gloves and opened up a flat file. I was permitted to hold original art from Bill Holman’s Smokey Stover. It was just india ink on bristol board, but Wowie-Zowie, the ink was in all the right places. I was in screwball scholarship heaven.

Clang! Dang! Clang! I digress. The other Jeffrey Smith is a friend of mine. Here is an invitation from the Society of Illustrators to see his work. Go ahead. Click on it. You are invited, too. January 5, 2012. I know, it costs $20, but this is your chance to get into the exclusive Members’ Hall of Fame and the Society of Illustrators lays out a nice spread. Smith is illustrator of Shadow Nights: The Secret War Against Hitler. He will discuss the project including his research trip to Paris to visit the places where Churchill’s Special Ops Unit fought their secret war against the Nazis.

Shadow Nights is part of a new series called Pulp History from Simon and Schuster, which looks to be a fascinating mix of  history and edgy graphics. There is another volume, Devil Dog, illustrated by legendary underground cartoonist Spain Rodriguez.

Shadow Nights Illustration © 2011 Jeffrey Smith

This other Jeff (as I call him) Smith and I were classmates at the School of Visual Arts. He teaches at Art Center of Design in Pasadena. He studied with illustrators Phil Hayes and James McMullan, both outstanding watercolorists. The work he has done for Pulp History shows their influences. Stylistically, this new work also reminds me of my old thesis advisor, Julian Allen. Jeff’s illustrations have appeared in Rolling Stone, Newsweek, and G.Q. He deserves his success. I hope to make it into the big city next week to celebrate his Shadow Knights exhibition.

Hannah Stephey holding her comic

Hannah Stephey is a sophomore. She just published a remarkable comic book through Lulu.com. Lulu is a print on demand publisher. In other words, when someone orders a book, Lulu prints and ships a bookstore quality book or, for ebooks, sends a pdf file. Hannah’s comic book is called “I (Heart) Captain; A Paper Space Opera!” I asked her to write a little bit about herself and how the project came together.

Cover of I (Heart Captain) : A Paper Space Opera ©2011 Hannah Stephey

“I was born in a town almost as small as Kutztown called Chambersburg, PA, but I always felt like I belonged somewhere else. When you’re an only child in a stale environment like that, your imagination is your best friend! I was always weird, and from age 6, I had a whole cast of characters based on my stuffed animals that I would draw in “books” (xerox paper stapled together).

My whole life I’ve been drawing characters in books. Finally when I was 10, I made the leap to comic books, and at first they weren’t too attractive, but I pursued the craft and have been pursuing it for 10 years. Over the summer, I put together the fruits of two years of character design and story development and called it “I (Heart) Captain; A Paper Space Opera!”, a title awkward enough for the bizarreness within.

Right now I’m working on sequels in between school projects. Someday I want to write and design for my own TV show on Adult Swim. If they put “Squidbillies” on the air, surely I’ve got a chance!”

“I (Heart) Captain; A Paper Space Opera!” is available at Lulu.com. For more info or to order Hannah’s project in ebook or full color comic book form, click here.  Here is a partial plot synopsis: Lieutenant Zish Biscuit is a scrawny, sleep-deprived young soldier for the planet Emperia. His quality of life is about to go from bad to worse once his dream job is plucked out of his hands by a nightmarish girl, Mala, who can’t even dress herself. The planet Emperia is in deep…

Elaine Cunfer, Kevin Cornell, Matt Twombly, and David Bullock

We had a full house, an audience of 177, for the David Bulluck Return of the CD Grads. Prof. Elaine Cunfer deserves a lot of credit; she did a great job organizing the event. Both speakers shared their passion for illustration. Matt Twombly talked about his internship at Marvel Comics. A highlight of that experience was a personal portfolio review from Joe Quesada  Marvel’s editor-in-chief. He also talked about the four months he had to move back to his parents house, before landing his job at Science Magazine. He had some good news to share. At the end of this month Matt begins a brand new job for National Geographic. In his free time Matt is creating his own Western-themed comics.

copyright © 2011 Matt Twombly

Kevin Cornell punctuated his presentation with fond recollections of KU. He showed a hand-written index card on which I had scrawled a note,” Kevin, you have  12 recorded absences and I only took attendance 22 times. This is an insult to the concept of a studio class!”

Over lunch at the Tavern Kevin graciously told me I was on the mark with the criticism. During his presentation he said that students can’t expect to be “taught illustration” by a professor. One needs to do lots of work to gain illustration skills. He also had other painful truths, like, “Don’t expect your first job to be glamorous.”

Kevin illustrated Moustache! written by Mac Barnett, a brand new book published by Hyperion-Disney. So new, that it arrived in the KU bookstore on Friday, one day after the Return of the CD grads. Check it out. Kirkus Reviews praised the artwork “Cornell ushers the story forward with cinematic artwork, framed in elaborate medieval-like borders, but paced sequentially like a comic book.”

from "Moustache" © artwork 2001 Kevin Cornell

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