Kutztown illustration students went on a field trip to The Pencil Factory, Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to visit a great illustrator, Paul Hoppe. Paul grew up in Germany and his name is pronounced something like “Powell Hopp-uh.” He is a graduate, like me, of the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program at SVA. He also teaches in SVA’s summer program.
Paul doesn’t let the grass grow under his feet. If SVA illustration has a core philosophy, it revolves around self-propulsion. When you don’t have a job, – you make a job. I first met Paul selling his handcrafted comic zines at Moccafest. His mini-comic superheroes channel 20th century Marvel heroes, but get into NSFW jams.
Today Paul works in a large shared space with other four artists on the fifth floor of the old Eberhart Faber Pencil Factory. Paul used to work from home, but he enjoys the sense of community. He has been able to grow his business to afford the studio rent. Paul was up against a tight deadline for a children’s picture book set in Brazil. He showed us his sketches for the project, Neymar: A Soccer Dream Come True by Mina Javaherbin coming in 2018 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
We also met his studio mates, Alex Eben Meyer, Neil Swaab and Jasu Hu. We didn’t meet Jen Hill, who must have heard us coming up the stairs.
Jasu Hu is from China. She got her graduate degree from MICA in Baltimore. She draws metaphorical figurative work. She says she does 4 or 5 commissions a week!
She has an illustration each month in Oprah magazine. She showed work she does for trade magazines, the sort you don’t often see on newsstands. Come to think of it, how often do you see a newsstand?
Alex Eben Meyer, is originally from Eastern PA. He studied at Wash U in St. Louis. His illustration style differs from his studiomates. His unlined vector images remind me of Matisse’s paper cut-outs.
Alex passed around his recent sketchbooks and noted that he continues to go to life drawing classes. He was working on a big project for MIT lab and just got back preliminary images from a children’s book about the concept of opposites for Abrams.
Neil Swaab has a diverse portfolio. He is a graphic designer specializing in book covers. He self-syndicated a comic, Rehabilitating Mr. Wiggles, in the indy press. He has done animation on “Super Jail,” been an in-house art director, and taught at Parsons/The New School. Students asked the artists about their grad school experience. Neil’s advice: “Don’t go to grad school until you’ve worked awhile.” and, “It is all about finding your voice as an artist.”
Coming from a Kutztown perspective, it was invigorating to see such a concentration of amazing creative talent. There are more illustrators in the Pencil Factory than in some states. Many thanks to all the artists in Pencil Factory’s Studio 515.
After our Pencil Factory studio tour we walked to Transmitter Park on the East River. We spent the afternoon sketching. It was a perfect fall day.