Click Herefor Info on “The Lively Art in Picture Books” at KU’s Sharadin Gallery, Oct 21-Nov 21.
New Books by Successful KU Artists:
The Superest is a book based on a drawing game of dueling superheroes by KU grads Kevin Cornell and Matthew Sutter. The rules of Superest are : a) Player 1 draws a character with a super power. b) Player 2 then draws a character whose power cancels the power of the first character. c) Repeat. Now you can do it, too.
Kevin Cornell and Sutter (he goes by his last name, like Usher) played the game so long that they got this slapstick book out of it, available at Amazon.
Sutter began publishing a comic called Bean in the Keystone; then he collected Bean’s greatest hits into funky Xerox zines. One early Bean zine came with a pack of matches glued to the cover; try getting that on a plane. His output has been steady, and his production values have improved. Picnic Mountain was a handsome collection with a silk-screened cover on kraft paper. His latest anthology, published by LULU, is Return to Picnic Mountain.
Martin Lemelman told me I’d be impressed by Kevin Cornell’s graphic novel version of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. One reviewer called his illustrations “gorgeous” and I agree. Kevin did an outstanding job. He was good enough to share some of his preliminary sketches here on his award-winning website.
I didn’t know the original story of Benjamin Button was written by the great American writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald. This book has that story adapted for the graphic novel format by writers Nunzio DeFillippis and Christina Weir. The afterward by Prof. Donald Sheehy, Ph.D, Edinboro U. of PA. adds fascinating insights into the creation of Fitzgerald’s original short story. I read a fair number of graphic novels and this is one of the finest examples of a literary adaptation I’ve ever seen.
Dr. Robert Dornish, Kutztown University Professor Emeritus, taught for over 28 years in the Elementary Education Dept, beginning in 1969. He fondly recalls the point in his career when a last-minute change of schedule found him teaching children’s literature. While he and his wife Alice often read classic literature aloud to their own children, for his new course he sought out the best in current children’s books. At conferences and bookshops, he struck up friendships with many of the nation’s leading illustrators. He began collecting signed first editions, many now housed in Kutztown’s Rohrbach Library.
After the book collection came the collection of original art. It began with a single painting, when Alice gave him a large oil landscape by illustrator Thomas Locker as a gift. The collection has since grown to nearly 180 pieces. Portions of the collection have been exhibited at the Reading Museum and the Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, Bethlehem. Individual pieces have been exhibited in museums nationwide, including the Allentown Art Museum, the Brandywine Museum, and the Orlando Museum of Art. The Kutztown selection is the largest number ever exhibited.
Highlights of this show include a 3-D pop-up model of Robert Sabuda’s 2003 version of Alice in Wonderland and works by a number of Pennsylvania artists. Two Kutztown alumniare included: Erick Ingraham and Tom Warburton. Ingrahamhas illustrated over a dozen award-winning books; his contribution is a painting from Faye Gibbon’s Night in the Barn.Warburton, a Communication Design grad, the creator of the animated series CodeName: Kids Next Door, is now writing and illustrating books.Art from Warburton’s 2009 book, 1000 Times No is one of the most recent additions to the collection and the exhibition.
Dates: October 21 – November 21, 2010. Opening Reception: Thursday, October 21, 4:00 – 6:00 p.m Sharadin Gallery, Kutztown University. Dr. Dornish will be at the reception (which happens to be his 73rd birthday) and he will lead an informal gallery talk on Sat. Nov. 6 at 2 p.m. Gallery and events are free and open to the public.
There was amazing creative energy on the streets of Lancaster’s “First Friday.” Prof. Karen Kresge and a bunch of KU AIGA students carpooled the 60 miles from Kutztown to Lancaster. There were drum circles on Prince St., open air parking lot aerobics, men in full tuxedos, cops on horseback, buskers of every stripe. The Monty Python Musical “Spamalot” played to a packed house at the beautifully-lit Fulton Opera House. On a side street a disabled artist painted a landscape on canvas by holding his brush in his teeth.
Our reason for the trip was to see the Heads of State at Infantree. Turns out the Heads of State had done a VIP talk the night before. It was little disappointing to learn we didn’t make the VIP list, but the public opening we attended was exciting. The work was strong, mostly hand silk-screened poster-sized prints.
I separated from the group and visited a number of galleries. Found most of the artwork was locally made, which is encouraging. Subject matter varied from the abstract to local Pennsylvania landscapes. Most paintings had a familiar feel, the sort of artwork you might expect in a model home or a young doctor’s office. There was some exceptional and experimental work, too. I couldn’t tell which sort was selling.
I didn’t expect to find illustration and comics on a gallery walk. By chance I wandered into the a post-production video studio called “POSTAGE” at 45 N. Market Street, Suite 1002 in Central Market Mall. I met POSTAGE’s Alex Clements and Joe Krzemienski, who make their own films under the studio name, “The Fictory.” They gave me a poster for their upcoming animated film, Atomic Robo: Last Stop. I found a YouTube trailer for it here. Alex and Joe invited their comic artist friends to set up a mini-comics convention in the hall outside their studio. I met Dominic Vivona who pencils and inks the web comic, Tiegre: East of Warmageddon. The Kraken above demonstrates Dominic remarkable drawing skills. Lancaster, which I had thought of as a pretty old-fashioned city, has clearly got one foot in the future. -K.Mc
Bill Mowder, Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) chartered Bieber buses to bring new students in our college to Philadelphia last Saturday. Communication Design Profs Kate Clair and Kevin McCloskey joined the students’ trip which included a guided tour of some of Philadelphia’s famed murals.
Last year, Jane Golden, the director of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, or MAP, spoke at Kutztown University. We learned that the largest employer of artists in the Commonwealth of PA isn’t a publishing house, a university, museum, or a greeting card company. It’s the Mural Arts Program, founded in Philadelphia in 1984 and still going strong. In fact, this program is among the largest arts programs in the nation. In recent years the program has employed roughly 300 artists and art educators and paid them a combined total of over 2.2 million dollars per year.
The 2010 “First Year Text” for the incoming students in the CVPA was the book, More Philadelphia Murals and the Stories they Tell, by Jane Golden and others. The Dean’s office contacted the Mural Arts Program and arranged for guides to get on each of the charter buses and take us on a tour. Some of these areas were impoverished, but were rich with pride in their murals. Many of the murals reflected the ethnic identity of a particular neighborhood. We saw Irish-American, German-American, Italian-American and African-American themes.
Anyone can wander around Philadelphia and find these murals on their own. However, the Mural Arts Program supports its projects and the local community through guided tours. They have guided walking tours, trolley tours, and Septa train tours. They even have bicycle tours May through November. Schedules and more info are available at their website, www.muralarts.org. If you like a bargain, sign up for the weekly newsletter, FunSavers, at the Philly Fun Guide site; they sometimes offer half-price deals on official mural tours, and other arts events in Philly.
Ryan Smoker (KU CD alum) of Infantree invites everyone to Lancaster’s First Friday: “We are excited to be hosting The Heads of State this coming First Friday, October 1st. The Gallery will be open from 5-10. Heads of State is a Philadelphia based, award-winning design and illustration studio consisting of Jason Kernevich and Dustin Summers. Together, they produce work for a wide range of clients. We are really looking forward to this show and are excited to see what these guys come up with to fill the gallery walls.”
Infantree 21 N. Prince St. Lancaster, 4th floor, 5-10pm, Friday, Oct.1. There will be other open studios in the neighborhood for the Lancaster First Friday event.
The Infantree is a full-service graphic design studio, whose work has been recognized by the most prestigious organizations in the industry, including AIGA, Graphis, Print Magazine, HOW Magazine, Rockport Publishers and The Ad Club of Central PA.
The Stretch Limo Amish Buggy poster above is a great example of the graphic wit of Heads of State. Here are a few more examples:
From Here to There, from The Princeton Architectural Press, is the first book from the The Hand Drawn Map Association. Philadelphia-based artist Kris Harzinski has been collecting hand drawn maps for years. He finds maps dropped in laundromats. He sets up a table at indy lit events like the upcoming Philadelphia Zine fest and begs strangers to draw maps. Of course, he put out an open call on the internet. He has accumulated hundreds of maps; the variety is quite astounding. In 2008 he founded the Hand Drawn Map Association, or HDMA.
Maps vary, but most have a very specific purpose, and it is not always a matter of getting from point A to point B. Take the map of the best places to skateboard in Dallas, Pennsylvania. I found it charming, even though I am not likely to use that information. Cartoonist Dash Shaw’s map of Boney Borough, loosely based on the original plans for Epcot, serves as reader’s guide to his Body World comics. Another remarkable entry was by Marilyn Murphy, a young lady suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, who drew a body map of her medical injections.
There are maps by Stefan Sagmeister, Daniel McCloskey and Shakes. Full disclosure, I know some of these guys. I got to know Stefan Sagmeister when I drove him home to Manhattan during a blizzard after his talk at Kutztown. Shakes, I’ve met him, too. He is a well-known busker, a street musician, in Pittsburgh’s Strip district. I know Daniel McCloskey best of all, my son, the founder of Pittsburgh’s legendary Cyberpunk Apocalypse Writer’s Cooperative.
If you do draw maps, the HDMA is still looking for quirky work. From Here to There begins with this note: We would love to add your work to the collection. Please consider submitting your maps or diagrams to us at:handmaps.org
NYC MAP Show:
Map Fans will not want to miss an upcoming exhibition with HMDA maps plus such astounding wonders as Liz Hickok’s Jello-like map of Manhattan, a “Scratch and Sniff” map of New York by Nicola Twilley, and a subway map in Urdu by Pakistani artist Asma Ahmed Shikoh.
Being an illustrator in today’s market is not easy. While the market opportunities may be quite large, and although illustrative work is needed for everything from editorial content, children’s books and licensed products to custom blog headers and backgrounds, cell phone wallpapers and apps, if you don’t have the right skills and motivation you may become one of the hoards of starving artists.
Talent – So You Think You Can Illustrate?
This should be a no-brainer. Of course you have talent. The real question is, do you have the right kind of talent. The industry is saturated with highly skilled and highly talented illustrators. The top schools churn them out right and left and seasoned professionals are around every corner. To add to the difficulty in finding jobs, gone are the days when design firms and advertising agencies have in-house illustrators on staff. Illustration is easily accessible as stock art, hundreds of portfolio websites are available on the web and sites like Flickr, Facebook and Twitter are great free advertising for illustrative services. To put it simply, you are not alone and you are on your own.
This begs the question, how are you going to stand out? Your work may be good, but is it different from anyone else’s? Does your work blend in with the masses? Your work needs to be ownable and distinctive. Look around at other illustrators and focus on what makes your work unique. Look at your technique, style, medium, perspective, subject matter and point of view. What is your niche marketability? Until you are able to answer this question, your work will be lost in a sea of talented but unexceptional illustrators.
Attitude – Illustration is not for the Weak
You work by yourself so you need to market yourself and you need to find work for yourself. Sitting back and assuming the work will come to you will end in you being penniless, hungry and working an unrelated job. If you do no advertising, promotional work or schmoozing, art directors will never know you’re out there. Simply having a web site alone is not enough.
You are your own boss and therefore need to pick up on some boss-like qualities. You need to be confident in yourself and your skills. You need to become a go-getter. You need to be aggressive in your promotional abilities. Meekly passing out business cards to your relatives is not enough. The more contacts you have, the better chance you will have in succeeding. Join illustrator-based organizations such as the Association of Illustrators, the Society of Illustrators or the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Pay to participate in web-based initiatives like workbook.com and theispot.com or participate on free sites such as IllustrationFriday.com and threadless.com. Start your own blog or Flickr gallery and make sure you post at least once a week. Be sure to leave constructive and intelligent comments on other people’s artwork as well. Consider exhibiting at trade shows or taking part in portfolio reviews. You never know who you’ll meet and where that meeting may lead.
Be Savvy – Do You Need an MBA?
Illustrating is the easy part. Being a business person is not. Your first step in creating a sustainable business is developing a business plan. A business plan helps keep you on track, helps you understand how to market your talent, gives you confidence in your future and improves the chances of you being successful. A good business plan includes but is not limited to:
• Current Situation including financial needs
•Target Market – general and specific clients, market segment
• Competitive analysis – other illustrators, successful promotions
• Strategy – marketing goals, artwork goals, marketing and promotion strategy including web presence
• Execution Plan – timetable
In addition to a business plan, you must also behave like a business professional. You need to know how to do simple things such as balance a checkbook, properly keep paperwork for taxes and put together professional sounding emails. You need to speak clearly, speak confidently and follow through on deadlines and budget. You need to learn how to put together a proposal and discuss a contract. You may need to hire a contract lawyer to help with a more complicated job. You need to keep abreast of competitive rates. Consider purchasing Graphic Artist’s Guild Handbook of Pricing and Ethical Guidelines to help with your rates. If any of these tasks are issues for you consider taking classes such as accounting, marketing or speech. You are a professional so act like one.
Imagination – Draw, Draw, Draw and Draw Some More
Illustration constantly evolves. Resting on your laurels is not an option if you want to remain competitive in the market. All work can be made better, all portfolios can improve and all illustrators grow over time. Continue to challenge yourself to create new work even if you have no jobs in sight. Consider creating your own assignments. If you think you need to revise old work, do it. If you are not sure what to revise, take advantage of a portfolio review or ask a trusted illustrator friend to review your work.
Keep a sketchbook and draw in it everyday. Don’t be afraid to experiment with a new style or technique as you never know where something may lead. If you are short on time, at least create a fresh new promotional piece once a month. Contrary to popular belief you can get rusty over time so sketch a lot and sketch often. This will help you stay on top of your game so you can get the work you want.
Martin Lemelman stopped by Kutztown to share his new book, Two Cents Plain: My Brooklyn Boyhood. His graphic memoir published by Bloomsbury, is finally available in bookstores and at Amazon. Like any new parent Martin wants this book to start life on the right foot.
He talked about the tremendous amount of follow-through an artist or writer needs to do when a new project is birthed. He is doing web interviews, pod-casts, and book fairs in Brooklyn, Montreal, and beyond. Locally, he will be at the Lehigh Valley Barnes & Noble, Oct. 17. He’ll give a free lecture at the Tenement Museum on N.Y’s Lower East Side, Sept. 28th. The book’s website, designed by Prof. Todd McFeely, includes many preliminary sketches and sample pages for illustration students to consider. Martin is framing the book’s original artwork for exhibition. He is ready for any sort of presentation with Powerpoint slides and posters on foam core.
He sent advance copies to famous writers he admires to get jacket blurbs. One wrote back she didn’t do blurbs, but she liked getting free books, so please keep her on the list. The New York Daily News wanted an interview to run in a special Brooklyn edition in July, weeks before the book would be available in bookstores. He persuaded them to hold off and they recently featured Two Cents Plain with a story. The headline is catchy, Illustrator Documents Nabe’s Transformation.
Early reviews have been splendid: “Memory comes alive in this compelling amalgam of drawing, narrative and archival photography. A prolific illustrator of children’s books and an artist whose work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review …made a major leap into memoir with Mendel’s Daughter (2006), his debut in the genre. Where that well-reviewed volume focused on the Holocaust from the perspective of his mother, this follow-up continues the story of Lemelman’s family through the author’s Brooklyn boyhood. Though there’s an innocence to his tales of working at his father’s candy store—squashing cockroaches, playing pranks and exploring the worlds of the streets… —this was not an idyllic childhood, nor is it rendered sentimentally.” from a starred Kirkus review.
Now that I’ve had the pleasure of reading Two Cents Plain, I gotta’ say, I feel like I have an advantage over some readers; I can hear Martin Lemelman’s voice on every page. It’s funny, I’m the same age as Martin, more or less, and spent much of my childhood in Elizabeth, NJ, not 20 miles away from Brooklyn. There are phrases in the book like, lime rickey, that I forgot I ever knew. But there are also deeply moving and memorable experiences unlike any I ever had.
Turn on the T.V.— Cartoon, sitcom, war movie, or police story, and you’ll hear stagey Brooklyn accents. These voices don’t always ring true, on the other hand, Martin Lemelman’s voice is authentic.
– K. McCloskey
Video Update: Hear Martin Lemelman’s distinctive voice, in a short video interview from the Georgetown University series, Faith Complex.
If only I had diversified my retirement portfolio and bought 100 copies of Marbles in My Underpants by Renee French in 2001. Today scarce copies sell for $100 or more. I’ve never met Renee French (Kutztown ’86, BFA, Fine Arts, Drawing). I’ve learned her fans are passionate about her work, and her graphic novels and comics are extremely collectible. One fan, KU Prof. Emeritus Dr. Tom Schantz, calls French “one of the most delightfully crazy and talented people with whom I have squeezed tube cheese.”
In July, I was at Copacetic Comics in Pittsburgh (PA’s best comics shop) and found a copy of The Soap Woman. This book was inspired by a very peculiar, yet real, body on display at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum of Medical Curiosities. I didn’t buy it, my mistake. I did pick up the hip comic anthology, Mome, with French’s graphic story about a Snake Island that eats little children who swim alone. — great beach reading.
Then when I was at Evil Prints‘ Bootcamp in St. Louis, I told my fellow camper, Tessa Shackelford her art reminded me of Renee French’s. “I worship Renee French,” Tessa shrieked, “that’s what I’m going for!” At that moment, I realized the Kutztown grad was a cult figure.
I emailed Renee French to ask how she felt about the skyrocketing value of her books. “it feels silly” she wrote back, “i wish i could do something about it. i’d like for those books to be available and affordable for everybody, but you know, things go out of print and get harder to find and then that happens. Top Shelf is reprinting THE TICKING so that shouldn’t happen with that book for quite a while, and doing a second edition of THE SOAP LADY next year, i think. MARBLES is the tough one. not sure Top Shelf is gonna want to touch that one. we’ll see.”
I asked about her next book, H Day, to be released by Picturebox on Halloween; is that pub day a coincidence? or a clue to what’s inside?
Renee replied; “total coincidence. it’s actually going to debut at APE (the alternative press expo) in San Francisco, oct 16& 17… a couple weeks before halloween.” and inside? ..”swarms of insects, a huge disaster, hanging sacs, straw dogs, whirlpools, tall buildings, one survivor, and a giant ship.”
Asked for advice for aspiring illustrators, she said, “always be drawing or painting. get in as much time working on what you do, as you can. and seriously, if you don’t absolutely LOVE doing it, then don’t do it. it’s too much work for too little payoff if you don’t absolutely love it.”
Renee has added a new image daily for over two years to her blog, without missing a single day. (I aim for one entry a week.) I’d say she is dedicated to her art; she calls it “a serious compulsion.”
I’ve been thinking lately that I really need Photoshop CS5, the new turbocharged Mac Pro, and a Cintiq tablet to get started on my 8 page zine, so I asked Renee what sort of technology she used to create the haunting images for her 200 page book H Day? Renee: “just a .3mm mechanical pencil with 2b lead. That’s all.” she wrote. — Yow!
Popular KU Professor Evan Summer spent a portion of his summer in China at the Guanlan Print Original Industry Base. Seems an “Original Industry Base” is what we in the U.S. might call an “art and business incubator.”
The Chinese government has invested millions of yuan building a state of the art printmaking studio in Guanlan, not far from Hong Kong. Evan Summer was one of small number of international master printmakers invited to do a residency there. To read his article about the Guanlan experience, published at Printeresting.org, click here .
Printeresting.org calls itself the “thinking person’s favorite online resource for interesting printmaking miscellany.” It is updated often and always features fascinating stories and amazing printed images. If you can read Chinese, check out www.guanlanprints.com to learn more about the Guanlan Print Original Industry Base.