Maestro Marshall Arisman’s Retrospective.

Marshall Arisman’s Retrospective is stunning. If you get to New York City, see it before it closes on Sept 16. If you can’t get there, watch this 10-minute video tour .

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I remember the day I met Marshall Arisman. It was 1984. I went to his office at School of Visual Arts after seeing an ad in the NY Times for a new degree program, The MFA in Visual Journalism. The ad showcased in bold headlines a stellar faculty line up: Tom Wicker, Pete Hamill, Robert Weaver, James McMullan, Marshall Arisman.

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Marshall sat at a big desk, wearing a camel-colored cashmere sweater. I showed him my cartoons and spot illustrations for The NY Times and Village Voice. He laughed at some. He told me I should apply. I told him I wanted to apply, but had a problem. I’d dropped out college and didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. He laughed harder then. He said I couldn’t enter the MFA program without a bachelor’s degree.

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SVA recruitment poster, 1980, by Marshall Arisman.

I pointed out the fine print on the SVA MFA application. “Must have 10 slides, a biographical essay, 2 letters of reference, and a transcript of an earned bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.” Then it said, “Any of the above requirements can be waived by the chairperson.” Marshall waved his hands over his desk as if to say  ‘meeting over.’ He told me he might waive a letter of reference, or slides, but he couldn’t waive the undergraduate degree, New York State would take away his program’s accreditation.

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I asked if he could let me in conditionally. “If I get a bachelor’s degree before I finish the MFA program, can I get in?”  I told him how much I wanted to study with him and the writers and artists in the ad. I kept talking. He was looking at me askance. He asked if I would like a cup of coffee. I said sure, and looked around his office for a coffee maker. He said, “Let’s go outside.” He lit an unfiltered cigarette the moment we hit the sidewalk of 23rd street. We walked across the street to a coffee shop on the corner of Third Ave. He bought me a cup of coffee. He shook my hand and told me he needed to get back to work. I drank my coffee on the street corner. Yes, it did occur to me our the trip to the coffee shop was his way to get me out of his office.

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I got in the MFA program. I worked on my bachelor’s degree simultaneously with the SVA night classes. One night of the week we studied with Robert Weaver, next night, Marshall Arisman, then Jim McMullan, then Steve Heller teaching Illustration History. Alas, the heavyweight writers, Wicker and Hamill never showed. Arthur Pincus, a sports editor for the NY Times was our writing coach. He was a good writer. The other students, all better artists than I, didn’t care much about the writing component.

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Marshall is one of the word’s great storytellers. His delivery is so dry, it may be an acquired taste. Marshall told us that he could read auras. His grandma was a psychic. The first aura he ever witnessed was during a lecture by Krishnamurti at Carnegie Hall. Great wings of light blasted from Indian mystic’s shoulders to fill the entire stage. I asked Marshall if he read our student auras. He said sometimes. I was rude enough to I ask if I left the room and changed my shirt would my aura change?  “Auras change all the time, ” he said with a chuckle.

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Marshall told me he once saved a life by reading an aura. A fellow wandered into his SVA office and claimed he needed to contact his girlfriend who was in class somewhere in the building. It was an emergency. “What sort of emergency?” asked Marshall. The guy mumbled something about lost keys. Marshall paused, read the man’s aura and saw mad white-hot flashes flying off his face. Marshall said he could call the Registrar to locate the girl. Instead he phoned SVA security and calmly conveyed that he had an immediate problem in his office. Public Safety arrived just in time to subdue the man as he pulled a gun and revealed his true intentions, “I am gonna murder that b_____!”

I recall a lot of things Marshall said in class. He once told us, “Give me 5 good years, that’s the artist’s prayer. ” Well, this retrospective is called Marshall Arisman: An Artist’s Journey from Dark to Light, 1972—2017.  That’s 35 years, right? Seems like Marshall Arisman’s prayers were answered seven times over.

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Marshall was mobbed at his opening. He stood in the center of the gallery, backed by a troop of his sacred monkey figures. I got a moment to shake his hand and thank him again for all he did for me. He thanked me for coming. I tried to eavesdrop on what he said to his many other well-wishers. He locked eyes with each of them. His lips moved, his eyes lit up. I was inches away, but I could not hear a single syllable Marshall or his partner of the moment said. It was so very strange. It was if they were enveloped in Marshall’s aura, something I will never quite see, but will always respect.

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Gil Ashby with Marshall Arisman.

You can find a proper interview with Marshall Arisman by Nicholas Gazin on Vice.com, entitled, Enter the Nightmarish Realms of an Iconic Illustrator. There are  more interviews and talks on his website, MarshallArisman.com. The man is an artist worth knowing.

 

 

 

 

Kutztown, where seldom is heard a discouraging word…

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As the semester begins, I warn new students that illustration is a very tough field. Like acting, -the world only needs so many movie stars. On the other hand, I should share success stories of grads doing great work in illustration. Here are a few stellar grads.Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.33.15 AMTake 2017 grad Heather Fox, for example. She made a zine that debuted at MoccaFest 2016. Then she self-published via Amazon’s CreateSpace. She created a retelling of one of Rudyard Kipling’s Just So stories, The Elephant’s Nose.  She collaborated with her boyfriend Jonathan Stutzman on these projects. Now they have an agent and a real book deal with Putman books for Butts Are Everywhere! I wrote more about Heather and her talented classmate Meredith Shriner here.

Tom Whalen, KU CD, 1996, is one of the greatest vector-illustrators in the country. He has worked for major entertainment studios including Disney, Lucasfilm, Paramount, Marvel, DC, and Warner Bros. Above are his collector’s tickets for Rogue One’s theatrical release. Below is one of his posters for Disney/Pixar.

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Toy Story poster for Mondo © Tom Whalen

Tom Whalen’s work can be found at Strongstuff.net. Below is a screen grab from his site to give a window into his versatility and prodigious output.Screen Shot 2017-08-30 at 11.13.08 AM

Amanda Geisinger, a 2008 grad from Pottstown, won an Emmy for her work at Nick Digital, part of the Nickelodeon empire. She works on Times Square with Spongebob and other celebrities. Back in 2010, I interviewed her for a blog post I titled, What’s Spongebob Really Like.

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Spongebob© Copyright 1999 Viacom International Inc.

See more of Amanda’s work including cool gifs like the one below at her website, AmandaGeisinger.com

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“Mermanda” © Amanda Geisinger  2017

There are hundreds of successful Kutztown University grads working in illustration and related fields. These 3 are just the tip of the iceberg. Kutztown University has produced some amazing illustrators. Here’s links to explore some more: Tom Hallman, Stephen Kroninger, Renee French, Kathi Ember, Kevin Cornell, Tom Warburton, Simeon Wilkins.

Greg Pizzoli -Printmaker Makes Good!

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Tom Angleberger and Greg Pizzoli

I tabled at ALA in Chicago to promote my new Toon book, Something’s Fishy. ALA is the American Library Association’s mega-convention. Over 10,000 librarians and hundreds of authors and illustrators roamed the aisles. Anchored to my table, I still managed to meet some superstar illustrators as they passed by. In front of my display, Greg Pizzoli bumped into his pal Tom Angleberger, creator of the mega-hit Origami Yoda series. 

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I asked Greg how he came up with the idea for his new book, The Quest for ZTruth be told, I wish I had thought of it. It began in Greg’s studio while working on his prior nonfiction kid’s book, Tricky Vic. He listened to the audiobook of David Grann’s bestseller, The Lost City of Z: A tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. He  was enthralled. “Soon as it finished,” Greg said, “I started it over, I’d never done that before.”

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Greg is a 2005 Millersville University of PA grad with an MFA from Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. He still lives in Philadelphia where he is part of the printmaking scene. His specialty is serigraphy- silkscreen. He taught for 8 years at the U of Arts before becoming a full-time author and illustrator. He did 8 books in this year ranging from board books to nonfiction picture books. I asked Greg about how he came to do the nonfiction works.

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Thumbnails of art © Greg Pizzoli

Tricky Vic: The Impossibly True Story of the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower started out as a self-published zine. “Self-published is an overstatement,” said Greg, “I printed 100 copies and sent them to friends.” Somebody clearly liked it! Tricky Vic, in the form published by Viking, went on to success, and was selected for The New York Times 10 Best Illustrated Children’s Books of 2015.

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a spread from “Z” all art © Greg Rizzoli

On Sunday at the appointed hour I went to the Penguin Books for Young Readers aisle where Greg was signing books. His line of fans snaked through the aisles much like an image from his ‘Z’ book. I will have to get mine another day!

Chicago was great. I had a good ALA convention and so did Greg. His Good Night Owl  won a Geisel Honor.

Hey, Philly! Greg Pizzoli is doing a series of Free Public presentations for the Free Library of Philadelphia’s neighborhood branches. Check your local library. Info:DBk5fM3VYAERh2R-1.jpg-large

He is also signing books at Princeton Children’s Book Festival in NJ on Sept 24, 2017. The event is a fundraiser for the Princeton Public Library. I will be there, too.

P.S. For Pizzoli nonfiction fans I asked Greg about the subject of his next book. I would never have guessed – John Wilkes Booth!

 

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!

Illustrator Awards at Kutztown U

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“Sea Salt and Lime” © 2017 Meredith Shriner

Each year Kutztown University presents awards to the best of our Communication Design Graduates. This year the illustration honors went to Heather Fox and Meredith Shriner.  Meredith Shriner’s 3-D sailor, above, graced the poster of the K U Children’s Literature Conference. Created under the tutelage of Prof. Elaine Cunfer, it has been selected for exhibition at the Society of Illustrators, NYC.

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Caldecott Winning illustrator Bryan Collier meets Meredith Shriner

Meredith won the Terry Boyle Award for the most improved illustrator. Terry Boyle was a student a Kutztown whose life was cut short by a car accident on RT 222 back in 1984. Terry had ambitions to be a children’s book illustrator and so her family and friends endowed this award in her honor.

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The Bothersome Bat, a zine © Meredith Shriner.

Meredith did a wonderful zine for last year’s MoCCA, Museum of Cartoon and Comic Art event in NYC. Another memorable zine was made by Heather Fox. Heather won 2017’s Don Breter Award for the outstanding student illustrator.

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Heather Fox and Jonathan Stutzman, photo from Facebook.

Heather, from Lancaster, PA, did a culturally appropriate illustration for her poster of the PA German colonial publisher, Peter Miller.

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Peter Miller poster © Heather Fox

Heather has some great news that was revealed last month on Publisher’s Weekly site.

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In 2015, Heather and Jonathan Stutzman reworked one of Rudyard Kipling’s  “Just So” tales, The Elephant’s Nose. Using Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing service, CreateSpace, they turned it into a real book, available here.  As you can see from the brief notice above their next book will be a big deal published by Putnam.

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Words by Jonathan Stutzman, art by Heather Fox

Don Breter, by the way, was the chair of the Communication Design Dept in 1989 when I got hired. He was an excellent draftsman and calligrapher and a wonderful man.

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Here is a photo of all 5 Communication Design Award winners. Left to right: Graphic Design Award winner Jamie Hubert, Heather Fox, Interactive Design Award winner Alicia Wrye, Meredith Shriner, and Dianne V. Dockery Advertising Award Ciara Sweeney. It was noted this is an all female sweep of the awards. Since the majority of our Communication Design class is female, this should not be a great surprise. Excellent work all around. We expect great things of them all.

 

The Big Feminist But in Kutztown

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Joan Reilly makes comics. A established illustrator she moved last year from Brooklyn to Kutztown. Imagine that! She is co-editor along with Shannon O’Leary of the acclaimed comics anthology, The Big Feminist But. Originally published via Kickstarter, the book has been republished twice by Alternative Comics.

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An exhibition of artwork from the book is now appearing on the walls of Eckhaus Gallery, 157 W. Main, Kutztown, PA. The opening reception is Saturday, April 8, 6-8pm. Info here.

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Art © Gabrielle Bell

The show features work by many important artists including: Gabrielle Bell, Jeffrey Brown,  Vanessa Davis, Shaenon Garrity, Justin Hall, Shannon O’Leary, Sarah Oleksyk, Virginia Paine, Mark Pritchard, Joan Reilly, and many  more.

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Art © Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown lent his original sketchbook with the comics pages he contributed to the anthology. Observers will note he is one of the few cartoonists who draws his work smaller than the size it will be printed.

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KU Student Rachel Wessner looking at Joan Reilly’s original art.

The artwork on display at Eckhaus beautifully drawn. It is clear that the artist care about their work. Kutztown may not become the next Brooklyn, but we are fortunate to have this exhibition in town.

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Art © Andi Zeisler

My illustration students, some of whom have ambitions to be cartoonists, had the chance to see the show thanks to Olivia Knowles, one of the Eckhaus directors. My students seems particularly impressed with the story dealing with gender identity by Virginia Paine, below.

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Art © Virginia Paine

As Heidi McDonald of Publisher’s Weekly says on the back of the book, “The Big Feminist But Kicks Ass.” If you can’t make the opening, the show runs until April 16, or ask for the Big Feminist But wherever books are sold.

Star Illustrators at KU Kid Lit 2017

Bryan Collier is coming to Kutztown. The ‘Kid Lit’ in the headline is shorthand for “The 19th Annual Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference” on April 1, 2017.

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Trombone Shorty cover art © Bryan Collier

Collier is a stellar illustrator, best know for his vibrant collage work focusing on the African-American experience, such as Uptown and Rosa. He’s won The Coretta Scott King Honor and Ezra Jack Keats Awards. Trombone Shorty, image below, is a 2016 Caldecott Honor winner. Collier is only one of the four award-winning authors and illustrators coming this year.

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We’ll see  Caldecott Medal winning illustrator/author Lauren Castillo. In a starred review, Publisher’s weekly praised the artwork above- “Castillo conjures security with her trademark warm colors and solid black contours .”  Castillo is a graduate of NYC’s School of Visual Arts and, I think, she shares a  Harrisburg studio space with Jonathan Bean, who was a hit at last year’s conference.

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From the Animated series Max and Ruby based on Rosemary Wells’s books.

Rosemary Wells is a superstar, perhaps best known for Max and Ruby picture books. Max and Ruby became a hit animated series and there is even an educational app based on the pair.

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Rounding out the Keynote speakers is nonfiction writer Deborah Hopkinson. She is the author of over 50 books ranging from picture books to middle-grade history titles.

Besides hearing these superstars, conference attendees have a chance to join in informal chats with Aubry Joi Cohen and me.

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Art by Aubry Joi Cohen

Aubry Joi Cohen is a 2014 grad of Kutztown University’s Communication Design Dept.She did a great job illustrating Seek and Find Animals Around the World  while keeping her day job. Aubry is currently a designer for Artskills, an educational art firm specializing anything related to posters: poster markers, poster lettering, and decorative items like stickers. Aubry will talk about how her first book came about. She was contacted by Auzou, a French children’s book publisher, because of her artwork online.

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Cover art by Aubry Joi Cohen

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Lastly, I will be there. Toon Books has declared my books are a series,- the Giggle and Learn series. My latest is Something’s Fishy. Publisher’s Weekly wrote: “Like McCloskey’s We Dig Worms! and The Real Poop on Pigeons!, this overview of fish big and small (mostly small) takes an irreverent approach to its subject.”

All the books will be sold at a conference discount (20% off) at the KU bookstore through April 1. The full schedule for the Saturday conference is here. A number of activities will be available free to the KU student and faculty community on Friday, March 31, info here.

KU students may attend the full conference Saturday for a reduced fee of $10.00! You can show up Saturday with your student ID and register by 8:30am in the Student Union Building.

All art in this post ©the original artist.