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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What to do? Enrollment is down 20% at Kutztown University from its peak. YOW! Kutztown is the best school for art and design in the state of PA. Full disclosure: I teach at KU.
Let’s crunch some numbers: Private art colleges are great, but cost a fortune. Take PA Academy of Fine Arts,- A BFA from PAFA? Four years tuition is $150,584. According to Payscale.com, median salary for new illustrator, 1 year out of college is $37,638.
Kutztown’s annual tuition and fees for instate students is $9,618 X 4 years = $38,472. So a PA resident saves $112,000 over a private school. One could build a pretty fine studio with that money, or get an MFA.
What about Out-of-Staters? Glad you asked.
Effective immediately, Kutztown University is offering a 40% tuition reduction to all admitted out-of-state students. This reduction will be offered to non-PA residents upon acceptance to KU.. This makes the current out-of-state tuition price roughly $10,850, a savings of over $7,000 from last year.”
I think this is great news from our Admissions Office. I am a proud New Jersey native, but Kutztown is now a bargain for Jersey students.
Does it make sense to go to art school at all? That is a bigger question. I tell students being an illustrator is like being an actor. There are many people with the requisite skill set. Some have the talent, luck, and personality to succeed. A good number of grads have gone far with Kutztown degrees.
Puentes, Si! Muros, No! –Bridges, Yes! Walls, No! is at Kutztown U’s Student Gallery until Feb 9. Five Kutztown art students joined me for a 17-study abroad course in Oaxaca, Mexico. We just got back last week. Woodblock prints they made in Mexico are on display along with prints from prior Mexico study-abroad students and noted Mexican artists. I am proud of this gutsy group of students, all female, and their successful cultural exchange. We worked in Taller Chicharra with Alan Altamirano, the energetic young artist who came to Kutztown last year.
I say gutsy because even in the best of times, college students typically prefer to study abroad in English-speaking countries, think Britain, Ireland, Australia. I’ve taught 4 courses in Mexico, every year it gets harder to recruit students. Last year, as you may have noticed, Donald Trump began his campaign with demeaning insults to Mexico. That said, these students managed to have a rewarding cultural exchange with warm and hardworking people of the great country of Mexico.
Jesse Todero, a freshman majoring in Art Ed, was taken by flowers blooming in January. Most days the temperatures got into the 80’s.
Samantha Kahres fell in love with the mountain landscapes of Oaxaca from the moment we landed. Patt McCloskey made a print, too, based on the balloon sellers in Oaxaca’s zocalo, or center square.
I am not sure if it was the hot sun and tropical fruits that influenced Miranda Pells. It might have been a motif she saw on the textiles or pottery we studied.
My piece, above, is based in part on a pre-Hispanic sculpture I saw and the night we spent ringside at the Lucha Libre.
It is my sincere hope more U.S. college students will have the courage to visit Mexico, Latin America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It is a big world. We need to build bridges, not walls.
As always, all images copyright the individual artists. Opinions expressed are mine and not those of Kutztown University.
MACO stands for Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca. We had the good fortune to visit during the XVII Rufino Tamayo Biennial Exhibition. Tamayo, born in Oaxaca, was one of the great Mexican painters of the 20th century.The exhibition of 50 artworks ranging from abstraction to realism is a juried show of painters working in the region.
The witty mixed-media work by Victor Suiser, above, is called “Tepeyollotl ruge con la voz de cuatrocientos jergas” Roughly translates, maybe, to “The Jaguar/Earth God roars with the voice of 400 hoodies.” (thanks, Google) Those are ten peso coins for eyes.
The work above, Suave Patria, Smooth Country, by Sergio Garvel is oil paint and gold leaf on canvas. It recalls the tzompantli , or skull racks of the Aztecs and Maya. The shopping cart might reference the carts protesters filled with stones during Oaxaca’s street battles of 2006.
The art students with me pointed out their favorite paintings. Several were drawn to Fernando Motilla Zarur’s photo-realistic self-portrait, oil on canvas, 2015. MACO is worth a visit no matter what is on the walls. The historic building was long ago the home of Spanish nobility. It was said to have been a home of the Conquistador Hernando Cortez, though historians now dispute that idea.
Fragments of 17th century murals adorn the walls. You can see them beside Zarur’s self-portrait(above). Sarape #1 , (below) by Paul Muguet, 2016, was done with spray paint and masking tape. This homage to the humble blanket design in the context of a contemporary art museum is eye-poppping and provocative.
Statuesque nudes on a runway is a jolting idea for a narrative painting. That is the theme of Samuel Melendrez Bayardo work, “El Aeropuerto de Paul,” oil on canvas, 2015.
Veronica Conzuelo Macedo’s “Sorri mom I love graf” (detail, above) is a 21st century spin on the classic Mexican landscape. It is done in egg tempera on linen over wood.
This is just a small sample of the remarkable art in the exhibition. Some images were gritty, some witty, and few, I admit, I could not appreciate. Overall, however, I was struck by the keen technical skill and intelligence of the selected artists.
MACO’s facebook page will have details about hours, and current exhibitions. I will leave you with one last image – A photo by Kutztown University student Samantha Kahres of a tourist admiring Siempre Verde (Always Green) by Anja Gerecke in MACO’s back patio.
KU Grad Matt Twombly posted on Facebook that he had left his job at National Geographic and begin freelancing in 2015. He was a stellar student and won the Don Breter Illustration award when he graduated in 2008. So, I was curious about his transition and sent him some questions.
1. What was your job title at National Geographic?
Matt Twombly: Graphic Editor. The job was basically designing, researching, and illustrating graphics. One project might call for a data visualization of some kind, say a chart, diagram, or graph, and another might be better suited for an illustration. But I left that in December 2015.
2. Why did you leave NG? Did the recent acquisition by Fox have anything to do with it?
In short, no. It was a hard decision leaving the Geographic. At times I felt like I was crazy and at other times a transition felt necessary. Basically, it came down to reasons outside my professional life. I wanted to buy a house and set up the foundation for starting a family. DC is great, but expensive. Plus, my wife was offered a position up here (PA) in her old school district, which got her out of teaching in DC public schools, something pretty much unsustainable for even the most dedicated. So we took advantage of that offer to move back to PA.
Coincidentally, the merger with Fox and creation of what is now National Geographic Partners happened just as I was leaving, but it wasn’t a motivating factor for me. The magazine was facing some big changes and up against some big challenges, but nothing that the entire magazine publishing industry as a whole wasn’t already up against. With the merger, some good talent left, or was pushed out, but I was still thankful for the job I had. Not to mention the fact that the staff there, and the graphics team especially, was moving ahead and would keep doing some great work.
3. What did you learn from freelancers at National Geographic?
The most important lesson I learned is what it’s like for the editor on the other side, – hiring freelancers. That was me for a time. A lot of editors find freelancers they like and keep going back to them again and again. Freelancers we worked with were known for their specialty, either a specific style or a specific subject matter: space art guy, 3D guy, paleo art guy, etc.
Freelancers we used regularly had already established themselves in a particular specialty. But they we all very professional, never missed deadlines, always delivered and didn’t push back on feedback from us. If you get a chance to do a job, do it well and you’ll be asked again some day.
4. How did I you get your first freelance job?
Well, some of my first freelance jobs came while still at the Geographic. Someone might see my work in the magazine. Or word of mouth. Mutual friends or colleagues might recommend me. In my case, the first big job, a poster for the Parks Service in Alaska, came from an ex-employee I had known from the Geographic who already had her own working relationship with NPS.
Poster for National Parks Service, Alaska, Archaeology Month, 2016
Not much has changed in how I land jobs now. How I get jobs from National Geographic now probably goes without saying. They know me, know what I’m good at. But I’ve been able to work with some new clients in my first year freelancing. Most of them just by introducing my work to the appropriate editor/art director. Obviously, a lot of people know the Geographic’s work and some are already familiar with my work, so that gives me one advantage. Also, some people from the Geographic (or my first publication, Science) now work at other publications. So in most cases I’ve just sent email introductions.
5. How much time do you spend on self-promotion?
Probably not enough. It can be awkward reaching out, especially to total strangers. And it’s discouraging if you fail to get a response. While I was on staff at NGM, I’d occasionally get a mailer or mass email from illustrators hoping to get work. Most of the time, that didn’t have a big effect on my hiring an illustrator. Part of that is because NGM requires such niche work. But just as much because editors already had a trusted pool of freelancers to draw from. Breaking into that is tough. For that reason, as a freelancer I opt for personal email introductions with a link to my website.
These days most of my self promotion is through social media (Instagram and Twitter) and the occasional email self-promotion.
6. Did typography classes from Kutztown pay off?
Ha, I’m probably the wrong person to ask. At the very least, I think it’s important to have an appreciation for type and all of its crazy intricacies. KU classes were certainly my introduction to that.
7. Any big ambitions or particular projects?
The biggest one is continuing with the professional relationships I’ve made this past year. Hopefully expanding that net wider to more publications. I’d also like to diversify my sources of income. What I mean is find other things besides illustration for publications to make money for myself. Whether that means making handmade goods, collaborating with other businesses, or even teaching in some capacity, I’m open to it all. One thing I’ve gotten into is making art prints to sell on Etsy or Society 6. It’s small potatoes now, but it’s fun and personally gratifying. I’d really like to turn that into something bigger!
Christopher Irving sent me a deck of strange and colorful cards. He is an historian of pop culture, especially comics, and co-author of the book “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics.”
In Spring 2016 Christopher Irving launched a Kickstarter to create Four Color Trading Cards “celebrating public domain comic book characters from the 1930s through 1960s as possible.” Some of these are very obscure superheroes. I’d never heard of the Blue Lady or The Black Owl or Airboy. I wondered if he’d invented them, but they appear to be real.
Irving has since expanded his Four Color card collection to include new superheroes who may or may not be obscure tomorrow. Below is Dean Haspiel‘s new webcomic hero Red Hook, named for the embattled Brooklyn neighborhood.
Haspiel’s Red Hook is a fast-paced epic, drawn with verve. Best of all, you can read it for free at Webtoons.
It could be Irving’s careful curation of the deck, but I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of mid-twentieth century superheroes. The deck has more super women and persons of color than I expected. Take the Green Turtle. The only Green Turtle I knew was a 60’s hippy bus that made regular runs from New York to San Francisco. This Green Turtle is an amazing Asian superhero.
According the to back matter the Green Turtle was drawn by Chinese-American artist Chu F. Hing. The Green Turtle fought the Japanese occupying China during World War II. When his publisher (Blazing Comics, 1944) did not permit him to make the Green Turtle Chinese, Hing cleverly skirted around the character’s origins and ethnicity (his face was always blocked or in the shadows).
Ace Harlem, below, appeared in All-Negro comics #1, 1947. He was drawn by African-American artist John Terrell. Alas, that venture folded after one issue.
War Nurse, created by Jill Elgin, 1941, was British nurse who fought Nazis. Wow! Here is another comic book I’d love to get my hands on. Meanwhile, I am tickled to pore over the amazing eye candy of Four Color Cards.