RED NOSE STUDIO animation workshop

IMG_20170524_084359The insanely-talented Chris Sickels came from rural Indiana to rural Pennsylvania with a suitcase full of strange characters. He let me play with his dolls. – Me and a roomful of artists attending his workshop for the UCDA Summit at Kutztown University.

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Chris Sickels is Red Nose Studio. The studio is known for 3-D illustration and experimental animation. “I don’t think of myself as an animator,” said Chris, “but as an animation enthusiast.” And his enthusiasm is contagious.

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Prof. Brytton Bjorngaard improvising an exploding cigar.

Chris gave us a rapid demonstration of how he shoots still frames on his Canon SLR and animates in Photoshop. After the demo he divided us into pairs.

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Wire armature, Sculpy, and Chris’s simple tools of the trade.

I got paired with Prof. Brytton Bjorngaard of U of Illinois, Springfield. We tore up scrap paper, bits of a Brillo pad, and using Chris’s model plus some masking tape and florist’s wire we made a film. Our 20-frame film is so extremely short that by the time you say the title, Professor Cigar, it is starting over. See below:

It was a wonderful learning experience. I was lucky to work with Brytton, a whiz at both analog and digital media. A one-woman art and design department, she has taught animation and everything else. She ably used Photoshop’s Healing Brush Tool to clean up the frames where the Professor’s stray wire was showing, see below.

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Frame 7 before the wire was edited out.

Seven other short films by newbie animators were created by noon and then we had a mini-film festival. Thanks to KU Prof. Josh Miller, the Program Director for the 2017 UCDA Summit. He did a wonderful job planning the event. Kathy Sue Traylor, the CD Dept Office manager, did a great job at event planning. The wine tour was a hit. Even I, a designated driver, enjoyed it. Nearly 100 conference attendees came from all over the country, a few even flew from China for the event.

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Prof. Summer Doll-Myers focusing on a chair for her film.

Below is a link to the Optimist © Red Nose Studio, one of Chris’s shorts.

Do visit Red Nose Studio and check out more wonderful Lo-Fi animation here.

IMG_20170524_112849.jpgOur last blog post featured recent illustration grad Meredith Shriner. Chris Sickels signed The Secret Subway, one of his children’s books for Meredith as Prof Cunfer looked on. His books are as marvelous as his animations and another way to become acquainted with his extraordinary imagination.

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Children’s books illustrated by Red Nose Studio.

There was more to the UCDA conference, but Chris’s workshop was a high point. We will leave you with a a photo of KU CD grad, James Pannafino, now a prof of Interactive Design at Millersville U of PA. He worked with Prof. Denise Bosler, chair of the KU CD Dept. Believe me, they made this little bellhop hop!

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Chris Sickels keeps busy making award-winning illustratios. He only does one or two workshops a year. If you ever have the chance to participate in one, do it!

Serious Comics, Deadly Serious.

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Dr. Rachel Williams talked comics with Kate Chambers and Alexis Manduke.

Rachel Marie Crane Williams, PhD, was invited to Kutztown University to speak at the 6th Annual Diversity Conference. She draws comics about social issues –prison, poverty, lynch mobs. She also teaches at the University of Iowa. She has a joint appointment at the University’s School of Art and Art History and the Dept. of Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies. Her flight from Iowa to Pennsylvania got cancelled (twice !) due to winter storms. It seemed she would not reach the conference. She jumped in her car drove across country. She’s unstoppable!

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Her work on The School To Prison Pipeline

She raced straight from her car to our illustration class. Her artwork is informed by news, history, politics, and social practice. She shared a stack of images from her graphic novel on the Detroit Race Riots of 1943. She told us how she traveled to Detroit to do research. She obtained original news photos from The Detroit Free Press archives and transcribed contemporary interviews done by the NAACP.

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A project based on her work at an Iowa women’s prison.

Sometimes her visual essays are sponsored by organizations. The School to Prison Pipeline, for example, was done in 2011 for Jane Addams Hull House Museum, the Chicago Freedom School and Project NIA.

She talked about her work inside the Iowa Correctional Facility for Women. A student asked if she liked Orange is the New Black. She said she didn’t think much of the Netflix series, but recommended Image comic’s Bitch Planet. It’s science fiction, but somehow manages to evoke a real sense what life is like for women behind bars.

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Dr. Williams asked every student in the class to give their ‘elevator pitch’ for their zine project. She gave lots of good advice. She advised cartooning students to make a font from their own handwriting. A personal font creates a far authentic match to one’s drawing style than using comic sans. There are a number of web sites that will convert your handwriting into a usable font for free. Here is one tutorial.

She also recommended the digital publishing platform ISSUU. Many of her comics and graphic essays are available on ISSUU via her website.

The pages reprinted above and below are from  Black and Blue: Stories of Police Violence. This comic was distributed by Chicago’s Project NIA , part of an educational outreach project about police violence.

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Detail from Black and Blue: Stories of Police Violence

Her forthcoming project is the monumental graphic novel, Run Home If You Don’t Want To Be Killed: The Detroit Race Riot of 1943. She began work on this project in 2008. It is finally nearing completion and will be published by University North Carolina Press and the Duke Center for Documentary Studies. Meanwhile, there is much more graphic work by Rachel Marie Crane Williams on her website.  All images in this post © Rachel Marie Crane Williams

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From her forthcoming graphic novel on the Detriot Race Riots.

Danny Gregory Sketches From Life

Peonies, all images in post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.
Peonies, all images in this post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.

“Danny Gregory and his wife, Patti, hadn’t been married long. Their baby, Jack, was ten months old; life was pretty swell. And then Patti fell under a subway train and was paralyzed from the waist down.

In a world where nothing seemed to have much meaning, Danny decided to teach himself to draw, and what he learned stunned him. Suddenly things had color again, and value. The result is Everyday Matters, his journal of discovery, recovery, and daily life in New York City. It is as funny, insightful, and surprising as life itself.”  – note from Hyperion, the publisher of Everyday Matters.

Hounds © Danny Gregory.
Hounds © Danny Gregory.

Danny Gregory is coming to Kutztown University on Thurs, Dec. 4, thanks to Prof. Ann Lemon. Danny is an artist, illustrator, teacher, filmmaker and writer. I see from my Amazon history that I first bought his Everyday Matters when it came out in 2007. Like so many others, I was touched by the story of how he sat at his wife’s side during her hospital stay, and how the act of drawing saved his life. We use two of his books, The Creative License and The Illustrated Life as texts in classes at Kutztown.

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Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory
Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory

I asked Ann Lemon three questions about Danny Gregory. I asked when she first met him and what was her favorite drawing? and what’s Danny really like? Below are her answers:

Ann Lemon:  “So, I honestly can’t remember how long ago I met Danny. I think it was back in the 90s through his art director partner, who went to school with me. But I got to know him when we both worked at mcgarrybowen. I maybe even was more friends with his wife Patti – but then everybody always was.

Sketchbook © Danny Gregory
Sketchbook © Danny Gregory

Then, kind of a weird surprise, after Patti died (major tragic accident) he began dating my good friend, J.J. Wilmoth, who had also worked at mcgarry. They moved out to L.A. together for a while when she took a job out there last year, but they both missed New York too much and returned a few months ago.”

Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory
Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory

“Not sure what drawing would be my favorite. Maybe the cover of Bad to the Bone cause I have a major crush on his dog, Tim. I hope Tim comes to the talk. Actually, as long as Tim comes, I don’t even care if Danny comes.

Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.
Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.

His work personality is absolutely the opposite of his book personality – at work he comes across as kind of tough, silent. Also, he is a writer by trade, not an art director, so a lot of people at work had no idea he had this other life as an artist. He’s really funny, but always serious, too. You’ll see.”

O.K. You’ll see, too. Come see Danny Gregory at Kutztown University, Thurs. Dec. 4 at 6pm, Academic Forum 101. Free and Open to the Public. Bring your sketchbook, Danny will not mind if you draw while he talks. Sponsored by The Communication Design Dept., KUSSI, and KU’s AIGA student group.

A Man of Few Words: DAVID WIESNER

from Tuesday © David Wiesner
from Tuesday © David Wiesner

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

David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.
David Wiesner sharing his work with Kutztown University students.

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

March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner
March 1989 Cricket cover by David Wiesner

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

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

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

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

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

model by D. Wiesner
Frog model by David Wiesner

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

Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner
Detail from Tuesday © by David Wiesner

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

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

Bak’s Book: Island of Memory


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The adventurous graphic novelist T. Edward Bak is coming to Kutztown University to speak about another adventurous explorer from the 18th century.  Bak’s ‘Wild Man’ tour includes stops at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont, SAW in Gainesville as well as KU. The KU event is Free. Boehm, Lecture Room 261, Tues. Nov. 19 at 7:00 pm.

Letterpress print of Stellar Sea Lion © T Edward Bak
Letterpress print of Stellar Sea Lion © T Edward Bak

Bak, who now calls Portland, Oregon home traveled to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands to research “Island of Memory.” The 72-page graphic novel is based on the adventures of the German naturalist  Georg Wilhelm Steller.

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Steller worked on the ill-fated Russian expedition led by Vitus Bering that explored Alaska in 1741. Steller discovered a number of species of birds and animals unknown to Europeans. The Steller Sea Cow became extinct within a 25 years of his initial description of the docile beast. The Steller Jay, though, is still common on the Pacific coast. It’s similarity to the American Blue Jay led Steller to rightly conclude Alaska was not an island, but part of the North American continent.

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Bak’s publisher, Floating World, puts it this way, “Steller’s first-hand descriptions of the natural and human worlds at this crossroads of continents illuminate the unique confluence of culture and ecology binding North America to Asia via the North Pacific.” Island of Memory is “Part natural history, part adventure yarn and part experimental narrative, this …fever dream is the artistic realization of Bak’s inquiry into the socio-ecological consequences of empire.”

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Bak’s Island of Memory is a labor of love, and only the first installment of a planned four-volume epic work on Steller. In an interview with designer Francois Vigneault, Bak recalled when he first visited to Alaska to work on a ship, “I flew to Sitka, and the minute I stepped off the plane, I realized ‘I’ve been headed here my whole life. I’ve been on a trajectory my entire life to come here.’

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Steller Sea Lions detail from Bak’s Alaska sketchbook

I got on the ship, and the first morning I woke up to the announcement: “We’ve got humpbacks starboard!” and there were humpback whales breaching beside the boat. I ran to the window and flipped out. So there are humpbacks every day. Constantly around the boat, breaching around the boat. There were sea lions constantly. Sea otters! We saw sea otters, like rafts of sea otters, floating out in the passage. And of course there are bears everywhere on the shore, and moose everywhere, wolves and orcas and Dalles porpoises, so many crazy birds. Anyhow, all of this was completely overwhelming for me. I had no idea what to expect. I expected to see wildlife, but not anything like this.”

Bak’s Island of Memory presentation touches on art, ecology, geography and the humanities. The event is co-sponsored by Kutztown’s Modern Language, Geography, and Communication Design Depts. A book signing will follow his illustrated presentation.MemoryZ

DRIVE BY PRESS to Park at KU

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Linsay Derecola
Lindsay Derecola

The Legendary Drive By Press,  touring woodcut printmakers, will print in Kutztown, PA, next week. They will do a brief residency in the KU Printmaking Studio and present an illustrated lecture: Thursday, Sept 12 6pm @ 120 Sharadin, Free and open to the public. Here is the scoop thanks to this guest post by Lindsay Derecola, KU student and President of the Art Club:

Drive By Press is a portable print shop made up of artists and designers that believe process is just as important as the results. Quality over quantity; while we live currently in a world surrounded by the desire for instant gratification. Drive By Press believes that craft is and always will be top priority. It is about doing what you love because you love it, not to be the next superstar in the art world or to make lots of money.”

29_n copyI found out about Drive By Press through Evan Summer, Printmaking Professor at Kutztown University. He mentioned he met Greg Nanney and heard about this amazing tour he puts on with his crew. The idea of a portable print shop was intriguing, so naturally as I explored their website and social media outlets, I was becoming even more excited over their work and their mission. I persisted in making it official to have Drive By Press come to Kutztown to bestow their wisdom and creativity on the student body. Thankfully, everything worked out marvelously.

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Founded in 2006 by Greg Nanney and Joseph Velasquez, the Drive By Press team finds the best designers and artists to work along side them on their mobile printing journey across the country. They have two studio locations, one in Austin, Texas, the other in New York, NY. They are currently on tour doing educational and promotional trips to “spread the ink” about their purpose and passion. They will be making their next stop at Kutztown University on Thursday, Sept.12 and Friday, Sept. 13 in the Sharadin Arts building’s Printmaking Studio, Room 12G.

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During their stay they will be inhabiting the University’s Printmaking studio that Evan Summer, Professor of Printmaking at Kutztown University, has opened up for their special visit. Drive By Press will be in 12G from 12-6pm doing demonstrations on various printmaking processes, techniques, talking about history of their medium and their process of printing t-shirts. At 6pm, Thursday 9/12 in room 120 Sharadin, they will be presenting the history of their company and how they have evolved and progressed through the years. The Printmaking Studio will be open for all students Friday for additional demos, or just to say hello to the Drive By Press crew. Please stop by to welcome Greg Nanney and crew Thurs Sept. 12 and Friday Sept. 13.

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T-shirts and prints for sale for $20. Bring your own t-shirt and have it printed for $10! Don’t forget to spread the ink!

NEW SVA MFA in Visual Narrative

Art by Nathan Fox © 2011 detail from GQ  essay on the hunt for Bin Laden
Art by Nathan Fox © 2011 detail from GQ essay on the hunt for Bin Laden.

Nathan Fox will direct the new Visual Narrative MFA program at NY’s School of Visual Arts. Nathan is a comic book artist and illustrator. Like me, he is a grad of SVA’s MFA Illustration as Visual Essay program.

Nathan Fox's covers for Pigeons From Hell, Dark Horse Comics.
Nathan Fox’s covers for Pigeons From Hell, Dark Horse Comics.

Nathan is juiced about what he calls “the future of storytelling.” I asked him how this new MFA is different. For one thing, it is low-residency with an emphasis on the concept of “Artist as Author.” In fact, writing will account for a full 50% of the program. Every student must create a digital version of their narrative. A narrative created for this MFA program might be a graphic novel, but it might also be an interactive game, an animation, or a mix of time-based and traditional media.

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Visiting lecturers naturally include stellar comics artists and graphic novelists. Animators J.J. Sedelmaier and John Canemaker are on board. The program promises some unusual perspectives from game developers, typographers, copyright lawyers, and a neurologist.

Students will work in the studio in Manhattan for three intensive eight-week summer residencies. Nathan tells me the Chelsea area studios will have magnetic walls for slapping up storyboards of work in progress. There will be smart classrooms and pop-up studios and where each artist gets an individual workspace.

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Between summer sessions students go home, but continue their projects online. Nathan envisions eight to ten hours work days, six days a week during the summer sessions.

How Much? If my math is right, the tuition will be near $70,000 for the three summers and two “winters.” I asked my junior level illustration class what they thought of this tuition. Several gasped, our instate undergrad tuition is about $8,500 a year. Hannah Stephey was the exception, she said, “Hey, it is a very specialized and really cool degree! It’s like -You want to be an astronaut?  -You have to go to astronaut school! It’s very specialized; and that’s going to be expensive!”

Tit for Tat © Jennifer Daniel
Tit for Tat © Jennifer Daniel (detail) from Latina Magazine

Jennifer Daniel, known for her witty iconic illustrations and infographics will be on the faculty. “Tit for Tat” piece above is a part of a page of slang terms for women’s breasts appeared that in Latina Magazine. Ross McDonald, whose humorous illustration appears below, is also a faculty member.

Art by Ross McDonald, Faculty member.
Art by Ross McDonald, SVA MFA Visual Narrative Faculty member.

Stellar faculty. Presuming he gets similarly stellar students, Nathan Fox may well be onto something as he races towards the future of storytelling with the MFA Visual Narrative. Apply here if you want in.

For God and Country (detail) drawn by Nathan Fox, ©2010
For God and Country (detail) drawn by Nathan Fox ©2011

By the way, the full visual narrative “For God and Country” on the death of Osama Bin Laden (detail above) can be found at GQ.com. Give it a minute to load. The writing is by Matt Fraction, ably illustrated by Nathan Fox, and superbly colored by Jeromy Fox.