$15,000 Advance for a Kid’s Comic by New Artist. Hey, you!

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Graphix, the young adult and children’s comics imprint of Scholastic announced a contest at Comic-con. Some contests are scams; they charge high entry fees, or insist you give up rights to your characters at time of entry. This one looks wonderful. It is only for unpublished creators. The prize is publication and a $15,000 advance. I’ll explain what an advance is in a minute, if you don’t know already.

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Cover of Raina Telgemeier’s new fall 2016 book.

The deadline is April Fool’s Day, 2017, but it is no joke. Comics for kids are a red hot commodity. According to Publishers Weekly Raina Telgemeier‘s Ghosts, her next graphic novel for kids will have a first printing of 500,000 copies. Telgemeier’s book Smile has been on the NY Times bestseller list for 218 weeks! I read her Sisters and loved it.

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art for El Deafo © Cece Bell

Graphix would love it if this contest uncovers the next Raina Telgemeier, or Cece Bell, or Gene Luen Yang.

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A panel from Cece Bell’s award-winning ‘El Deafo.’

If you haven’t read a graphic novel for kids recently, pick up anything by Telgemeier or Gene Luen Yang or Cece Bell’s El Deafo. These books are all quite brilliant and deal tastefully with serious issues including gender roles, racism, and disability. It is heartening that such great storytellers are having financial success.

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From Gene Luen Yang’s ‘American Born Chinese.’

Back to the Contest: The contest website explains what they are looking for: “Since our founding, the focus of Graphix remains on creator-driven graphic novels appropriate for children and teens that bring exceptional art, rich content and strong storytelling to realistic fiction, memoir, fantasy and beyond.”

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David Saylor, founder of Graphix, has a short video that clarifies this search further on this page. He is looking for up to 5 new artists. The $15,000 is better than the typical advance a new artist might get.

OK, That $15,000 prize. What is an advance?

What exactly is an advance? Same as in the record business, an advance against royalties.  Remember when Bruce Springsteen sang, “a record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance.” It’s money up front. For the sake of simplicity, let’s say you have a contract for 10% royalty on a $10 dollar book. You’ll get 1 dollar for every book sold. Suppose you got a $10,000 advance when you signed the contract. You will not get any royalties until book number 10,001 is sold. If you sell 15,000 copies, the publisher will send you a check for $5000.

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‘Boxers’ and ‘Saints’  by Gene Luen Yang

There is an interview with graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang at the TED Ed blog. the whole interview is interesting.  Here is one important thing he says that I try to convey to my ambitious illustration students:

“When I was really little, I wanted to be in animation — I wanted to be a Disney animator; that was my lifelong goal. And then after I started collecting comics in fifth grade, I slowly switched over. I think it solidified for me when I was in college and I took a summer-long animation class, and during that summer, I produced like two, three minutes of animation total. That’s when I realized that animation is so labor-intensive that it’s actually very difficult for one person to have control over an entire project. I mean, comics is really labor-intensive as well, but at least it’s manageable enough that one person can do it. If you really want to, you can do the whole thing all on your own.”

That’s great advice. My advice: Read something new by one these stars of this genre. I am recommending this contest to my illustration students. What if Graphix doesn’t select your work?  Well, there are other publishers focusing on graphic novels for young people. You’ll have a project ready to go.

 

William Grill, an English Illustrator Worth Watching

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William Grill shares his new book with Bobby Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press.

I recently had the honor of being on a panel for reluctant readers at the ALA Convention in Orlando. The other panelists were Jim Ottaviani, M.K. Reed and a charming young Englishman, William Grill, who goes by Will. Will told the assembled librarians that he was a reluctant reader himself. He has dyslexia. As a kid he’d slog through a novel, but he loved to read maps, atlases, and illustrated coffee table books. Today at 26, he makes the sort of book he would have happily read as a child. His oversized picture books are light on text, but filled with maps, diagrams, and visual information.

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A spread from Shackleton’s Journey © William Grill

Will won the Kate Greenaway Medal, Britain’s version of the Caldecott Medal, for the best picture book of the year. That book was Shackleton’s Journey, about the epic 1914  journey to Antarctica. It is published by Flying Eye Books.

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The book began as a junior year project at Falmouth College. He visited New York while still in school to pitch the idea to U.S.publishers. He met several editors and art directors. They told him to keep working on his art and “perhaps visit again in ten years.”

Back in England, he exhibited the original Shackleton art at an annual exhibition for new illustrators called ‘New Blood.’ Will explains, “Shackleton’s Journey started as a relatively small third year university project. However, it later grew into an 80 page book after being spotted by Flying Eye Books at the D&AD (Design and Art Directors) show. As well as wanting to create an unconventional picture book, I saw the project as a chance to channel the way I draw in my sketchbooks into a more finalised piece of work.”

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His new book is The Wolves of Currumpaw. He got the idea when he came upon an old leather-bound book in a used bookstore in the village of Peterborough, England.

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E.T. Seton Photo from Wikipedia

It was a work by Ernest Thompson Seton written in 1898. Seton was born in England, but raised in Canada, where he became an expert outdoorsman.

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Ernest Seton’s illustration  for his story Lobo The King of Currumpaw

In the 1890’s Seton moved to New York City to work as a writer and illustrator. He missed the great outdoors. Seton heard about a $1000 reward to kill a legendary wolf, Lobo, the King of Currumpaw, in New Mexico. Lobo was said to be so smart one trapper insisted he was a werewolf. Seton headed west to kill Lobo. I will not spoil the story. Like his Shackleton book, The Wolves of Currumpaw is 80 pages. This is more than twice the length of a typical 32-page picture book. The pages are airy, some resemble a storyboard with dozens of vignettes on a page.

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Artwork © William Grill

Other pages are wordless, atmospheric images that maintain the immediacy of the artist’s sketchbook. He uses Faber-Castell Polychromos colored pencils in his sketchbook and for the finished illustrations.

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New Mexico landscape, colored pencil ©William Grill

William Grill didn’t go to Antarctica to sketch for his first book. Some of his best reference for that project came from old Pathe newsreel footage of Shackleton’s voyage. But he did go to New Mexico and camped out and sketched in the same valley where Seton tracked Lobo over a century ago. He spent a week drawing at a wolf rescue station.

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Early sketches of wolves © W.Grill 2016

Will’s work is simple yet remarkable. The writing is spare. The drawings are marked by sincerity and a keen sense of observed details. The term I hear used to describe illustration created by actual observation and drawn on paper, unfiltered by Photoshop, is mid-century. It refers to the mid-twentieth century, which doesn’t seem so far away to me. Will’s style is often compared to the great Raymond Briggs.

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William Grill is often compared to Raymond Briggs.

I asked him if there were other British artists who influenced him. He named two, Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. I had to look them up.

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Sign Shop © Eric Ravillious estate
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Cattle Market at Braintree © Edward Bawden estate.

Here are links to bios of Ravillious and Bawden. It is great to meet a talented young artist following in the footsteps of these midcentury masters. More work by William Grill can be found on his website. There is also a fascinating interview about his wolf project on his publisher’s site, here.  I also recommend the Guardian page where he shares his sketchbooks. It gives give a great overview of his artistic process.

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William Grill signing for fans at ALA Orlando,2016

The reviews for The Wolves of Currumpaw have been great. Publisher’s weekly calls it “A powerful, cinematic work of naturalistic fiction that deftly outlines the importance of respecting nature.” I think it is the perfect book for reluctant readers. I know we will be seeing more from William Grill.

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Pigeons/Friend or Fowl (Pun Intended!)

I’m not the only one thinking about pigeons and art. I found this teacher’s art blog that touches on Duke Riley’s “Fly by Night” and my “Real Poop on Pigeons.”

OH THE ART PLACES WE CAN GO

Possible Classroom Concepts: Science – Birds (Pigeons), Ornithology,  Endangered Species, Extinction

Language Arts – Nonfiction, Reading For Information

Social Studies – History (WWI And WWII Carrier Pigeons)

Possible Art Concepts: Art History – Pablo Picasso, Duke Riley, Rachel Berwick, John Beck, John James Audubon

Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Installations, Casting, One Point Perspective

For pigeons, there seem to be a lot of haters out there. Some haters may even think pigeons capable of  this. Hate might be a strong word, but until a recent turn of events, I was one such hater. Let’s just say, I refrain from feeding pigeons or sea gulls and don’t appreciate people who do. I am always fearful of being  (for lack of a better phrase) “pooped on”. The first turn of event was a visit to a MOMA (Museum of Modern Art) Store, where I found a book entitled, The Real Poop On Pigeons by Kevin…

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NEW KUTZTOWN U ZINE LIBRARY

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Sometimes, a zine of things I do, by Jonathan Stutzman with art by Heather Fox.

Zines by Kutztown students will form the beginning of a new Zine Collection at Kutztown University’s Rohrbach Library. Other academic institutions have famous Zine Libraries including Barnard College and Hampshire College. Kutztown is starting small.

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A zine, rhymes with seen, is a small book or pamphlet. Merriam Webster defines a zine as “often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter, such as a feminist zine.” The works above by Kate Chambers and Deanna Black offer insights on body image and are great examples.

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Jesse Warner, student and co-founder of Brain Bug, proposed the idea to librarian Bruce Jensen. Bruce responded with enthusiasm telling Jesse,” Your idea of a zine library in Rohrbach is brilliant!  KU’s a perfect place for one, with so many knowledgeable zine-loving faculty and supertalented zinemakers hereabouts.”

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Zines by Rachel Behm and Alexis Manduke

Zines are harder to catalog than the typical book. Some have odd dimensions and many have no pages numbers. The Rohrbach librarians will have there work cut out for them. Hopefully by the fall, KU zinesters will find their work in the library.

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Fantasy and SF zines by Kristen DeMelfy and Carly Zehring

If you are a student or faculty and have an idea for a zine, you need not be in a special class. Just do it! The library’s new ‘maker space’, now called STEAMworks has printers and the rare extra-long staplers needed for binding a simple zine. STEAMworks is located in room RL 18. Maybe we can have a zine workshop in the fall.

Zines do not have to be serious. Spoiler Alert: Next image is the final death scene from a very funny zine, SnailMan by Kate Desiderio!

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As my zinester son, Daniel McCloskey always says, ” Zines are a great calling card for an artist. Zines have a life of their own.” Very often the original reader will think of a friend who likes a particular sort of story and pass it on. And so on.

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Urban Nomad from http://www.alisaharris.com

At least one former KU student has become something of a zine star. Alisa Harris studied here before transferring to SVA in NYC to major in traditional animation. Her Urban Nomad is a step up from a zine, but we will have issue #1 from 2008 at Rohrbach. It tells of her journey from Pennsylvania to New York. Urban Nomad is a simple autobiographical tale that might inspire other young artists to head to the big city. It is available at select bookstores like Bluestocking in NYC. Alisa’s website has more info about the project.

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photo: Bruce Jensen

Are you a Kutztown grad who made a zine? If you would like to donate a copy to be lovingly housed in the new zine library, get in touch with Bruce Jensen at Rohrbach Library.

Pigeons, Pigeons, everywhere. Keep your hat on!

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Pigeons to the left of me. Pigeons to the right. OK, I wrote a book about pigeons, so I’ve been thinking about ’em. BUT! I am astounded by how often pigeons cross my path. On the NYC subway, my entire car was filled with pigeon-themed ads for Jet Blue.

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Arnold Zwicky defined the phenomenon Frequency Illusion”- once you’ve noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even “all the time”. Your estimates of frequency are likely to be skewed by your noticing nearly every occurrence that comes past you. “

Seen my pigeons? I’m having an show at the Hoboken Historical Museum. McKevin Shaughnessy designed this cool poster for the event, adding to the pigeon image barrage.

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My pigeon history began when I sketched a pigeon racer on his Hoboken rooftop. I put that image in my 1986 book, Walking Around Hoboken. That same drawing would later appear on the cover of The Pigeon Guys.

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Holly Metz was editing a series of chapbooks for The Hoboken Historical Museum and asked me to illustrate this project about the city’s last pigeon racers. I spent a morning at Vinnie Torre’s loft on Monroe St. and he told me some amazing stuff about pigeons.

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Prof. Ann Lemon took a snapshot of another NYC subway poster for Dinosaurs Among Us at the Museum of Natural History. The headline: You’ll Never Look at a Pigeon the Same Way Again. Of course, I was asking for pigeon overload when I went to the Mo Willems’ exhibition at the NY Historical Society. Good show, Mo.

A student sent me a link to Bert Doing the Pigeon. If I’d seen it before, how did I forget it?

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Patt and I, Takoma Park MD Library, photo Bruce Guthrie

I have been visiting schools, libraries, bookstores, with a stuffed pigeon on top of my hat. So, I am getting what I deserve. The one time I went looking for pigeons, but failed was the first weekend of Duke Riley’s pigeon art performance at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.bridgeI got a wonderful view of the Brooklyn Bridge, but that night the rain and fog kept the pigeons cooped up. If you are anywhere near Hoboken, or a public library, check out The Real Poop on Pigeons.pigeoncover

 

 

 

 

1st MFA’s at Kutztown U

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pattern © 2016 Emma P. Brooks

Emma Brooks and Al Bronokowski made history as the first MFA’s in Communication Design. This MFA is the first terminal degree offered at Kutztown University. I, myself, was once in a first MFA class at another college, so I know it takes a leap of faith to embark on something so new. Emma and Al are to be congratulated. They learned a lot and produced fascinating work.

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Emma’s thesis project was called ‘Kindred Memories’ a collection of illustrated pattern designs based on her family history. The imagery on dinnerware and curtains above, for example, are based on her great-grandfather Martin Schicker, an outdoorsman who collected luna moths.

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Emma said her education was transformative. She completed her thesis under the able direction of Prof. Denise Bosler. “I came here to get an MFA so I could teach. I realized designing is what I want to do!”said Emma. “Maybe I will teach someday in the future, but  now I really want to design patterns.” More of Emma’s work can be seen here.

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Emma Brooks explaining her thesis for Kutztown faculty and Dean Mowder.

Al’s final project was not so illustrative, but no less impressive. He did an interactive project with Prof. Josh Miller. Al said his breakthrough came when Prof. Josh Miller told him, “Interactive design doesn’t have to be just web design, it can be so much more.”

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Al created an immersive multi-sensory experience based on Arcadia National Park. The experience included multiple projectors, natures sounds, and even scents meant to evoke the features of this particular park. It reminded me of the Holodeck on Star Trek.

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Screenshot from AlBronakowski.com

Al explains it on his website: ” I constructed an interactive table that uses an infrared camera and reacTIVision software to track fiducial symbols on the bottom of objects. The table also includes servos and multicolored LEDs that are controlled by an Arduino and react to the fiducial symbols. The interface projects information about the park onto three walls and the table top.” He  wrote the program that controls the entire project in Processing. I must admit that is all Greek to me, but the end result was remarkable.

More of Al’s work including video of his thesis project can be found here.

The Kutztown University MFA in Communication Design Program is still looking for a few good students to begin classes next fall. More info can be found here.

 

Viva Frank Viva!

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From Trip to the Bottom of the World © Frank Viva.

I love Frank Viva’s “Trip to the Bottom of the World with Little Mouse.”  It is drawn digitally in Adobe Illustrator, yet it has a retro feel. I got to meet the Canadian author/illustrator at the American Library Association Midwinter Meeting in Boston.

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2- page spread from Sea Change ©Frank Viva

He flew down from Toronto where he heads an award-winning graphic design agency, Viva & Co. I was blown away by his new book Sea Change. The book is getting sensational reviews for both its story and graphic design. Sea Change is a Toon Graphic title. That means it is geared toward middle-grade readers. The literary quality and the visual design is so fine that older readers will appreciate its genius.

The pages of Sea Change are filled with playful typography, -the sort we read about in Phil Meggs’ History of Graphic Design. I showed my copy to Prof. Karen Kresge, who teaches advanced typography at Kutztown. She was so impressed she went directly to her computer to preorder a copy.

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Experimental type by Lewis Carroll and Stéphane Mallarmé from “Meggs”

School Library Journal says “Viva’s bold, simple illustrations are whimsical and bring to life the story’s unique characters. The unconventional format of this funny, poignant coming-of-age story will appeal to fans of comics and graphic novels.”

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detail from Sea Change ©Frank Viva

Graphic designer Chip Kidd is a fan: “In ‘Sea Change’ Frank Viva ingeniously weaves words and pictures to evoke that heartbreaking, strange, wonderful moment—when the very worst experience of your life somehow becomes the very best.” 

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It would be a crying shame if the design was extraordinary and the story fell flat. That is not the case here. The story is quite moving, written with an understated grace. The narrative has a great sense of place, namely, a remote fishing village in Nova Scotia. The author’s voice reminded me of Jack Gantos’s popular Joey Pigsa novels, though Viva told me he was not familiar with those books.

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details from Sea Change © Frank Viva

None of the great reviews I’ve seen touched on the chilling anti-Italian bias our young hero  endures. The book is not a memoir, but I asked Frank Viva if he had experienced bigotry as an Italian kid in Canada. “Oh Yes” he said, “I grew up in a very Anglo neighborhood. It wasn’t hurtful, but it was memorable, and it was typical.”

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The drawing style in Sea Change recalls Ben Shahn’s best graphic works. Viva explains that he sketches freely in pencil, then digitally colors the work in Photoshop.

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    A New Yorker cover by Frank Viva

Besides his children’s books Frank Viva is known for his elegant design work for fortune 500 companies and many New Yorker covers. He has come a long way. He told me about his college years delivering seltzer bottles to fifth floor walk-ups in Manhattan. Oddly enough, Ontario College of Art and Design allowed him to pursue his art studies in New York City.

Young Frank once thought he was headed for a career in fine art, but found work as a junior art director when he returned to Toronto. In the 70’s, he was a contributing cartoonist to the short-lived Toronto-based underground comic, “Berford Seaman’s Fabby Thighs and Butter.” I found a cover of the comic online. It bills itself as “a Canadian Magazine Everyone Can Read and Not Understand.

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Sea Change is an important work. It delivers a sea change from the typical design of ‘chapter books’ for young readers. I found myself totally immersed in the story, and I expect younger readers will, too.

Full disclosure: I got a free advance reader’s copy of Sea Change. Not only that, Frank Viva bought me a beer on a barge in Boston Harbor. Really! However, that one strong pint at the Barking Crab did not affect this review.