Cannonball Press

Friday the 13th was my lucky day. I traveled to Williamsburg, Brooklyn for Cannonball Press’s show, “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

99% Gallery, Willimsburg, Brooklyn

Cannonball Press artists Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston were on hand to meet their fans at the opening. 99% Gallery is on the ground floor a repurposed warehouse at 99 North 10th St, near the East River. The gallery was packed. Beer was courtesy of Brooklyn Brewery, thank you. Gallery-goers were snapping up artwork by Mazorra and Houston and other artists printed by Cannonball.

Mazorra and Houston are part of the “Outlaw Print” movement. Why outlaw? Some “fine artists” and critics despise outlaw printmakers as much as they disdain illustrators. Outlaw Printmaking is about democratic visual communication. It is free to look at. And if you have some cash, the artwork is not too expensive to buy and support. I was able to purchase original prints by Mazorra and Houston and add to my growing collection of works by the Mississippi maniac, Sean Star Wars.

Prints by Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston © Cannonball Press

Mazorra has a fine series of cuts that resemble Audubon’s Birds of America with avian personality disorders. Houston’s new series revolves around creating high-impact woodcut images to illustrate the text of workplace proverbs. His graphic craftsmanship energizes these sayings beyond the commonplace.

Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston selling prints.

Prints sell for a mere $20 a piece, or 5 for $80. These are all signed artist’s proofs or short run editions from original woodblocks. How do they do it? With the same efficiency printmakers have used since Durer’s day. They print one pass of basic black relief ink on 18 by 24 inch sheets of good quality, reasonably priced  paper (Mohawk cover stock.)

Detail from Party #2, Mazorra & Houston, giant woodcut on canvas, $10,000

In the true spirit of democracy they have a few things for museums and wealthy people.  Cannonball also produces elaborately detailed, eye-popping, mural-sized canvas prints that sell for several thousand dollars. The 99% show runs until Sept 12th. Cannonball’s next big event will be “Prints Gone Wild” at Secret Project Robot, Nov 5 & 6, 2010. Secret Project Robot is also in Brooklyn, but since it is a SECRET, I can’t provide a link, you’ll have to find it yourself!

Meanwhile, visit the Cannonball online store. You can buy a work of art for less than the cost of a case of beer.

Joe Lacey of L.A.

Ragtime For Robots © Joe Lacey

We got in touch with one of our most illustrious alums, Joe Lacey, to ask what he was up to. Joe works for the biggies: Mattel, Fisher-Price, Crayola and PEZ. He’s done packaging, books, magazines and ad campaigns in America and Europe. His sci-fi art is included in Spectrum Books’ “The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art,” and he has won awards from The Society of Illustrators and The Art  Directors Club of Philadelphia.

A recent project, above, is The Happy Electropop Music Machineby Jean-Jacques Perrey &  Dana Countryman. Joe says he wanted to capture the look and spirit of electronic Moog music, first popularized in the 1960s. The robot is based upon the Ondioline, a French piano-styled synthesizer made famous by music legend Jean-Jacques Perrey. It was commissioned by Perrey, himself, for the CD.

Joe grew up in Sayre, PA.  After earning his BFA in C. D. from Kutztown in 1988, he went on to get an MFA from Syracuse. He taught illustration at Kutztown during the 1990’s before moving to California. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Darlene, and his dog, King.

Asked about his transition from traditional media to digital, Joe explains, “Versatility and the willingness to embrace new techniques or styles is
an important part of being a commercial illustrator. At the same time,
it is also a challenge to keep your work from looking overly trend
driven. This is an important part of my career. I have a love of both
technically driven art and the highly whimsical. I often combine the
two. Coming from a more traditional art background, I did not begin
working with computers until I was out of school. I remember walking into a client’s office where once stood rows of drafting tables, paints and markers. Overnight, they were all replaced with computers. I knew I had to make the switch. With my digital art, I strive for a painted feel and use few, if any, filters. This helps retain a hand-created look .”

The Musical Touch Of Leonard Nimoy © Joe Lacey

Leonard Nimoy was created digitally for www.maidenwine.com. This is a good example of both technical drafting and “digital hand painting.” The guitar incorporates both manipulated vector art and  textures. The figure is hand painted digitally with the use of a Wacom tablet.

Joe’s versatility is evident in his wide range of projects from science fiction art, toy packaging, and kids’ activity books. To see more artwork, or to purchase giclée prints,visit: www.joelacey.com.


Denise Bosler Explains SURTEX

…manufacturers were actively seeking work. Many exhibiting illustrators made deals on the spot.”

Dinosuar Lunchbox for Frecklebox, art by Denise Bosler

Why illustrators should know SURTEX

Every May, hundreds of art directors descend upon New York City’s Jacob J. Javits Convention Center to seek out new talent and new artwork to help their business and products to remain competitive in the market. SURTEX gives illustrators a chance to promote their work to these top manufacturers from around the world. Now in its 24th year, SURTEX is the only show in North America that is solely devoted to selling and licensing original art.

Illustrators who make deals from SURTEX contacts can find their art appearing on anything from giftware, gift bags, wrapping paper, greeting cards and canvas wall art to backpacks, ceramics, bedding, toys, wallpaper and textiles.

In 2010, close to 300 illustrators displayed work that ranged from traditional to contemporary and everything in between. In terms of the industry attitude, manufacturers were overwhelmingly positive and actively seeking work. Many exhibiting illustrators made deals on the spot—an unusual occurrence in these economic times.

Denise Bosler's "Monster" gift bag for Garven, LLC

Of the many commercial opportunities available for illustrators, licensing is one that provides the unique ability to use, reuse and profit repeatedly from artwork. Illustrators typically earn anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a one-time use image to thousands of dollars from a lucrative royalty deal. The best part about licensing is that the illustrator still maintains the copyright to the artwork and maintains the right to license the work again and again to other manufacturers.

For more info on SURTEX and art licensing visit www.surtex.com

-Denise Bosler

Denise Bosler, Professor of Communication Design at Kutztown University, is a licensed illustrator. Her work appears on gift bags, gift wrap, tins, plush, wall decals, lunchboxes, school supplies, stickers and Valentine cards. Visit her website to see more examples of her licensed artwork.

McCloskey Visits Evil


Tom Huck, Evil Prints

In recent years the most interesting artists I’ve met have been print-makers. I visited the studios of Mexican masters. Last summer I had the good fortune to study with the amazing Endi Poskovic, when he team-taught at Kutztown. Wanting to become a better woodblock printer, I asked Prof. Evan Summer to recommend the absolute best person in America to study with. He answered, “Tom Huck, heh, heh.”

Tom Huck told me I was welcome to come study at his shop in St. Louis in July. He calls it Evil Bootcamp and warned I would have to sleep on the printshop floor. I said fine, send me an invoice, since I might be able to get Kutztown University to pay for the course. The invoice was simple and direct, “Please Remit $666 -Payable to Evil Prints.”

Now, I was once a substitute member of the Kutztown University Faculty Professional Development Committee, so I knew there was no way they would sign off on this “666.” My wife suggested I send Tom Huck eight dollars cash and submit a less evil invoice of 558. Based on my limited experience with evil and my excessive experience with faculty committees, I decided it would be easier to just pay the 666 myself.

So I’ve ironed my best Darth Maul polo shirt and I’m off to St. Louis. When I get back I should have an interesting story to tell, heh, heh.

McCloskey and Huck

UPDATE: Since this was published, I’ve written a longer essay about  Evil Prints Bootcamp at the webzine, Commonsense2.com. Good News: Evil Prints will offer two Bootcamps in 2011, apply here.

The Sketchbook Project

UPDATE: 11/5/10 Sketchbook Project Deadline has been extended! You have until Nov 15, 2010 to order your blank sketchbook. At least a dozen Kutztown students and two professors are participating in the sketchbook project. The organizers, Brooklyn’s Art House Co-op also have two more participatory art projects in the works. One is a photo project called a Million Little Pictures. For ‘MLP’ you pay to receive a throw-away camera from Art House, choose a theme, and share your interpretation with the world. Shoot 27 frames on a single theme and then send in the results. They collect your contributions for a traveling coast to coast exhibition, much like the sketchbook tour.

Another project is the “Pockets” project. If you have never heard of The International Association for Empty Pockets, you are not alone. Check the site for details.

Two KU illustration students have already contacted us to tell us they are participating in The Sketchbook Project.

Kimberly Beyer wrote, “I discovered this website today and thought it was too awesome not to share. It’s a sketchbook project where you pick a theme, pay $25, and get a moleskine to fill up, and then you send it back and it gets put in a exhibit and then the Brooklyn Art Library!”

It should be noted that the Brooklyn Art Library is not part of either the Brooklyn Public Library or the Brooklyn Museum. The name does perhaps suggest that it might be associated with one of these two highly esteemed institutions. The fact is, two young 2006 Atlanta College of Art grads founded the Art House Co-op and Gallery in Atlanta, Georgia. They have since moved to Brooklyn and the new name reflects that move. That said, check it out, it looks like a good opportunity to add a few lines to your resume, and if it helps you fill a sketchbook, that alone is of value.

Each sketchbook gets a unique barcode and will be cataloged at the Brooklyn Library of Art. For an added cost of $20, they will upload a digital version of your sketchbook to their web library. Beyond Brooklyn, the upcoming Sketchbook Tour includes stops in Seattle, San Francisco, Atlanta. It will be in Texas at The Austin Museum of Art in March during the SXSW festival.

Art Beat at the PBS Newhour website wrote a brief essay about a previous sketchbook tour. If anyone has been involved with past tours, please let us know about your experience.

Fan Art: Works for Tom Whalen

Fan art has been very good to me. A serious love of comics and movies is what got me into art in the first place and it has recently been the key to getting a lot of internet notice and freelance work. Fan art images I’ve created have tumbled around the internet for a few years now and have directly led to a myriad of amazing opportunities. –Tom Whalen

Tom Whalen's Iron Man 2 drawn for the Italy's edition of Wired

Generally illustration profs at KU, as elsewhere, frown on fan art. Fan art is, by definition, derivative. Fans of Iron Man, or Star Wars, or Akira draw versions of their favorite characters from iconic, and copyrighted creations. Frankly, fan art is sometimes a pale imitation of the original.

Tom Whalen defies the stereotype; he’s had great success with fan art. The 1996 KU grad says fan art has opened doors for him. His gallery on Deviant Art and his own amazing Strongstuff website have gotten noticed by gallery owners and art directors, world-wide. He recently did a full-page illustration for Wired Magazine. It’s on page 114 of the current (July, 2010) issue and Tom says it is a dream come true to go into a bookstore and find his illustration on the newsstand. He’s exhibited his artwork at L.A.’s Gallery 1988, and has been commissioned to do movie posters for the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin, Texas.

Flight of the Conchords, Dublin, Ireland, concert poster, ©Tom Whalen 2010

The sheer number of Tom Whalen illustrations on the web make it clear he has worked hard for his success. And much of his recent work, like the concert poster above, isn’t fan art. He credits Martin Lemelman for helping him refine his skills during his last semester at Kutztown. He also is glad he went to KU, because it is where he met his wife, Kelly Swisher Whalen. After graduation Tom spent nearly five years as a graphic designer, until he found a job at Merion Publications, where he still works fulltime as an editorial illustrator. That’s right, he has a fulltime day job, and does all the other illustration work in his spare time! Naturally, Tom Whalen now has his own fans, if you’d like to read more check the fan sites, here, or here.

Artist Stops Googling and Finds Meaning

James Sturm is halfway through his summer without the internet. Oddly enough, he is writing an illustrated journal about the experience for the online magazine, Slate. You can find his work in their offline section.

Art from his Slate online journal about being offline ©2010 James Sturm

Anyone interested in graphic novels should know James Sturm. He is an award-winning graphic novelist and a founder of the Center for Cartoon Studies. His book, The Golem’s Mighty Swing, about a barnstorming Jewish baseball team in the 1920’s was called the the best graphic novel of 2001. His work is an extraordinary contribution to the field of illustration. His meticulous research and sold drawing skills evoke a sense of time and place that is truly remarkable.

Some of us from Kutztown met James Sturm on a field trip to the Newark Museum for their exhibition, Masters of American Comic, back in 2006. His offline experiment has revitalized his work. He notes that he is experiencing more moments of ‘synchronicity,’ finding connections between things that unfold before him naturally. It is rather mind-bending to sit at a computer, reading online, about the magic life that comes from being offline.

Besides reading more, I am more productive when at my office. Letters get written, calls get returned, and reports get finished. I am drawing more. My days don’t begin and end with me staring at my laptop. I don’t constantly feel humiliated by my inability to refrain from compulsively checking my e-mail. I feel less anxious as I move through the day. A certain texture has returned to my life…

Peter Kuper at Kutztown

Peter Kuper signing a book for Prof. Elaine Cunfer.

Peter Kuper came to Kutztown at the end of spring semester and gave a well-received Powerpoint lecture on political art. Kuper is a graphic novelist and illustrator whose work has appeared in Time, Newsweek, The NY Times, and Mad Magazine. A number of KU students, including Nick Eck, told Kuper they were fans of his graphic novel version of Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis.

Oddly enough, Kuper first contacted KU Prof. Kevin McCloskey via email in 2009 to ask for help identifying graffiti on the walls of Oaxaca, Mexico for a book project. Some of the artwork was, in fact, by McCloskey’s amigos in the ASARO collective. Kuper’s bilingual Oaxaca Diary is a fascinating mix of drawings, photos, collages and found objects. A full review of Diario de Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico can be found here at the website Commonsense2.com.

Students were impressed by Kuper’s D.I.Y. publishing empire. Even though he is published in America’s leading magazines, he still contributes to World War 3 Illustrated, the radical comic anthology he founded in 1979 along with his old friend, Seth Tobocman. After 30 years World War 3 Illustrated is still published a few times each year.

For years Kuper used black spray enamel and stencils to draw his comics. He warned students against that noxious media, noting that even with the best ventilation, he “lost a lot of brain cells.” He still works in many other media from scratchboard to Photoshop. One of his favorite sketching tools is his magic pencil, a novelty pencil with different colors swirled in a single lead. Rotating the point as he draws, Kuper manages to get a variety of colors in a single fluid line, as in the street dog, below.

He shared images from a new project, Alicia en el Pais de las Maravillas, literally translated, Alice in the Country of Marvels. This is a Spanish language retelling of Alice in Wonderland. His Mexican publisher, Sexto Piso, couldn’t give him a large advance, but they did offer him plenty of artistic freedom. Kuper told us, that by happy accident, the first edition arrived in Spain just as the publicity juggernaut for Tim Burton’s film, Alice in Wonderland, took that country by storm, and Alicia became an instant Spanish bestseller.

Oaxaca Street Scene from Diario de Oaxaca © Peter Kuper 2009

James Pannafino’s Typographic Comics: Anti-illustration?

Typographic Comic sample, courtesy James Pannafino © 2010

James Pannafino teaches graphic and interactive design at Millersville University of PA. I recall having James in my illustration class at Kutztown and he has a quirky sense of humor, – so I wasn’t sure if he was kidding about his next big idea:Typographic Comics. He must be serious, he’s lectured at Harvard! Looking at the sample above and those on his website one is reminded of the concrete poetry movement.

James defines typographic comics as “comic books that use typography in place of imagery as the primary method of storytelling. Most traditional comics are sequential art based with letters and sound effects as supporting devices. Type Comics use design principles, typographic layout, and careful page composition to create a unique narrative experience.”

James has completed a typographic comic book called Virtue and is now working on getting it published. He will expound on his typographic experiments at The Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art, 594 Broadway, New York City, Thursday, July 22nd, 7pm. Admission: $5, or free for MOCCA Museum members.

James has already published a more traditional book, Common College Sense: The Visual Guide to Understanding Everyday Tasks for College Students. This How-to book includes illustrations by some of his Millersville University students and is available at Amazon.com. James has graciously offered to come speak to a KU illustration class about these projects. We hope to see him in the fall, or sooner, if we get to the MOCCA event.

By the way, checking the MOCCA website reveals there will be two amazing exhibitions on the walls the night of James Pannafino’s lecture. NeoIntegrity: Comics Edition shows comics-related works by over 200 artists; here are just five names to give an example of the diversity: Kaz, Milt Caniff, Jack Kirby, Big Daddy Roth and William Butler Yeats!  A second exhibit showcases R. Sikoryak’s most ambitious comic book project, his 2000’s “Dostoyevsky Comics,” which adapts Crime and Punishment in the style of a 1950’s golden-age Batman comic. Both exhibitions run until Aug. 29, 2010.

2 Cents Plain by Martin Lemelman

Martin Lemelman, recently retired and irreplaceable KU illustration faculty member, has a new book, Two Cents Plain. Published by Bloomsbury USA, and soon to be available wherever books are sold, Two Cents Plain can be pre-ordered at Amazon. The book already has a You-Tube trailer and a Facebook presence. The reviews are glowing; Kirkus reviews calls it  “both a celebration and an affirmation of life.”

Martin Lemelman has written and/or illustrated over 30 books, notably Mendel’s Daughter, the moving graphic memoir of his mother’s Holocaust experience. In Two Cents Plain he continues the family saga and tells of his own Brooklyn childhood in the form of a graphic memoir. As his former students can attest, he is a master storyteller. Growing up in the back of a Brooklyn candy store he experienced the 1950’s and 60’s from a unique vantage point.  Thanks to this new book and his artistry we will get to share that remarkable experience.

Famed Brooklyn-born attorney Alan Dershowitz writes, “I’ve read many books, even written a couple, about growing up in Brooklyn, but this graphic coming of age memoir brought back memories like none other. Reading it while viewing the pictures took me home, produced tears of nostalgia and let me see, feel, even smell the old neighborhood. I loved it, roaches and all.”