Hansel and Gretel and Lorenzo and Neil

Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel
Lorenzo Mattotti with his original art for Hansel and Gretel.

Once upon a time, in 2007, The Metropolitan Opera staged Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.  Françoise Mouly, art editor for The New Yorker, helped organize an exhibition at the opera house based on the fairy tale. Contributors included stellar New Yorker cover artists including Roz Chast, Jules Feiffer,  Anita Kunz, Christoph Niemann, Gahan Wilson, and Lorenzo Mattotti.  Mattotti, one of Italy’s most important contemporary graphic artists, contributed a series of large-scale india ink drawings.

All images from toonbooks.com
All images from toonbooks.com

Pictures Came First: Françoise Mouly is also publisher and art director of the influential line of children’s books, Toon Books. She shared Mattotti’s moody artwork with her friend, writer Neil Gaiman. She asked him to retell the tale first written down by the Brothers Grimm in 1812.

neil-1
Neil Gaiman, from Toon Book’s Facebook page.

Gaiman, best known for Coraline and The Sandman, took up the task. Gaiman told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour this tale of Hansel and Gretel, of lost children and starvation, resonates in 2014. He spoke of his recent tour of Syrian refugee camps, “talking to Syrian refugees who ran out of food, – telling me of getting permission from their imams to eat cats and dogs, – eating grass, – drinking swamp water. -This is Hansel and Gretel!” Full interview is here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti
© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

“…shadows crept out from beneath each tree and puddled and pooled until the world was one huge shadow.” There is a wonderful visual verbal synergy here. The cadence of Gaiman’s prose flows as swiftly and smoothly as Mattotti’s brushwork.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti
© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

In April at MOCCAfest, the comics convention in NYC, I met with Françoise Mouly about a book I’m working on with her. (More on that another day.) She shared with me the proof of Hansel and Gretel. The black and white printouts were neatly folded, fastened together with scotch tape. I held it in my hands and looked at Mottotti’s art for the first time. I found the images remarkably powerful, but not what I expected of a Toon Book. Toon Books are all different, but generally made in a colorful comic book style, with panels and word balloons. Mouly explained Toon Books was branching out with a new line, Toon Graphics.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti
© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

She asked me what I thought of the book. I told her it was quite beautiful and I expected it would be a great success. That was an understatement. Gaiman recently read Hansel and Gretel to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The book hasn’t even been released yet and it is already in its third printing. Variety reports Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey and Juliet Blake bought the movie rights to the book.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti
© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

The NY Times gave Hansel and Gretel a glowing review. Gaiman said it was the best review of his career. Mouly said it took her breath away: Written with a devastating spareness by Neil Gaiman and fearsomely illustrated in shades of black by Lorenzo Mattotti, the newest version of “Hansel and Gretel” astonishes from start to finish. It doesn’t hurt that the book itself is a gorgeous and carefully made object, with a black floral motif on its pages’ decorated borders, along with red drop caps and tall, round gray page numbers. (Published by Toon Books, the New Yorker art director Françoise Mouly’s venture into richly illustrated books for children, it comes in two formats, with an oversize one that includes an afterword about the evolution of the tale.) Their rendition brings a freshness and even a feeling of majesty to the little tale.” -NY Times. The full review can be seen here.

© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti
© 2014 Lorenzo Mattotti

Hansel & Gretel is being released Oct.28. For more info, including video interviews with Gaiman and lesson plans based on the book visit Toon Books here. Near NYC? Lorenzo Mattotti is flying from Europe to visit McNally Jackson Books, 52 Prince St, NYC on Sat, Nov.1. He’ll read from the book and share how he makes his pictures. Details here.

Gabby’s Dinosaurs: Not Based on Photos

Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley
Dino Day Out, cover detail © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Shelly, class of 2014, shared a coloring book available at Amazon. I asked Gabby to tell us a bit more about the project.

Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.
Gabby Shelly, KU Communication Design grad, 2014.

Gabby: “Dino Day Out was created primarily for my Senior Illustration Seminar at Kutztown University with Prof. Denise Bosler. I created it for the class, but also kept in mind that I wanted to make something marketable,– something that was believable enough to hold up in the real world of publishing.”

From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley
From Dino Day Out ©2104 Gabby Shelley

Question: You graduated from KU with a degree in Communication Design, -What were your concentrations?

“Graphics and Illustration, which I tried to combine in this project.”

Q: Where did you intern?

” Lunchbox Communications in Manayunk, PA. I helped to design printed pieces to aid in pitching possible new television shows and documentaries. Their on-staff designers, Leah Houck and Nick Madeja, also went to Kutztown and are awesome people!”

Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Sheeley
Dino Day Out art © 2014 Gabby Shelley

Q: Why dinosaurs?

“Well, I love drawing animals! Drawing people has never really been my thing; it is a lot more fun to draw adorable creatures. And as a little girl I was always more interested in dressing up as a dinosaur for Halloween than a princess. There is also an educational element to the book; there are recognizable dinosaurs along with the lesser-known ones.”

From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley
From Dino Day Out © Gabby Shelley

Q: What was the hardest part about the Dino Day Out project?

“There were a few things… I am still struggling a bit to find my style as an illustrator, so drawing different creatures in a cohesive style was difficult for me. Also, there are (obviously) no photographs of dinosaurs, so it can be challenging using other artist’s representations. You have to put a certain faith in them that their drawings are accurate; You also have to be able to compile those references into a generic idea of this creature that lived so long ago, then be able to “cartoon-ize” it. And besides all that, I had to match the right dinosaur with the right activity – their anatomy can make certain positions completely implausible. Try making a t-rex do anything with his tiny arms!”

Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014
Playing Cards, designed and illustrated by Gabby Shelley. ©2014

Q: What media and software did you use?

“The drawings were done at first with good old pencil and pen. I then scanned and vectored the drawings using Adobe Illustrator. That part went pretty quickly. The book itself is assembled in InDesign.”

Q: Why did you choose the POD (print on demand) publisher Createspace rather than other platforms, like LULU, for example?

“To be quite honest, I had never heard of LULU until now. I only knew about Amazon’s print-on-demand, –Createspace.”

Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley's Unfriendly Forest deck. ©2014
Jack of Spades from Gabby Shelley’s ‘Unfriendly Forest’ deck. ©2014

Q: What do you have in mind for your next project?

“Ha, my major project now is finding a full-time career in design, or at least some rewarding freelance work in design or illustration. On a personal level, I want to try to improve my hand-lettering skills. I’d like to take a printmaking class, since it never fit into my schedule at KU.”

Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley
Monsters of the Deep posters © Gabby Shelley

Gabby’s “Monsters of the Deep” bus shelter ads (above) are based on her original linoleum prints. Visit Gabby Shelley’s website at Behance to see her virtual portfolio book and a wide variety of illustration and design projects. Let her know of any job leads!

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.

Kate Santee, Illustrator and Roller Girl!

Kate Santee in Kutztown T center, racing against Jerzey Brigade photo © by Tom Gaylord.
Kate Santee in the Kutztown tee, racing against Jerzey Brigade photo © by Tom Gaylord.

Speaking of curious networking, another KU grad, Kate Santee, tells me she got to illustrate a book through folks she met in her role as roller derby racer! Kate recently illustrated a chapter book for young readers. First in a series, Silly Nomads From Palmerston Close is written by Jan L. Lewis and Marcus Mohalland. 

Cover art by Kate Santee © 2013 Mohalland Lewis, LLC
Cover art by Kate Santee © 2013 Mohalland Lewis, LLC

Kate’s freelance design work has been picking up. I asked about roller derby and she was good enough to explain the sport.  “I logo1still skate with the Lehigh Valley Rollergirls.  We play home bouts at Independence Family Fun Center in Schnecksville. I usually play as a blocker, whose job is to prevent the other team’s jammer from getting through the pack. The jammer’s job is to lap the other skaters in a pack, and they score points for each skater from the opposing team that they pass.” 

On the Lehigh Valley RollerGirl site I learned Kate Santee, a former KU honor student was chosen as November’s  “Rough and tumble player of the month” and she is part of the “Special Vixens Unit.”

Silly Nomads?

Silly Nomad illustration by Kate Santee ©
Silly Nomad illustration by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis

Kate wrote, “One of the authors is an acquaintance of a woman I skate with; she gave him my business card, and he sent me an inquiry through my website. The project was originally going to be one book, but the authors decided it would be more appropriate for their target audience to make it a series of three shorter books. I’m currently working on the second book and intend to illustrate the whole series.” 

The Silly Nomads are two Jamaican brothers who get into a series of misadventures when they decide to live like desert nomads. My favorite episode occurs when the boys decide they need a cardboard tube from a roll of toilet paper. Mother must have already disposed of the tube, so the boys proceed to flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet.

The clogged toilet episode drawn by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis 2013
The clogged toilet episode drawn by Kate Santee © Mohalland Lewis 2013

Book signing in Bethlehem, PA on Dec 20

Silly Nomads is available on Amazon. Or better yet, if you’d like a signed copy, Kate Santee and both authors, M. E. Mohalland and J. L. Lewis will be at Bethlehem’s famed Moravian Bookshop, Fri. Dec. 20 from 4-6pm.  If you can’t make the signing, the Moravian Bookshop will likely have copies on hand for Christmas gifts.

Networking Pays Off for Maddie O’Neil, Cowboy & Illustrator

Madison O'Niel at Vista Verde.
Madison O’Niel at Vista Verde.

Maddy O’Neil won the Don Breter Illustration Award when he graduated from Kutztown in May.  The honor student attended KU on a full scholarship. For his honor’s thesis he did a great job illustrating a children’s picture book. Oddly enough, his first job after graduation with his BFA was as a ranch hand at a high-end dude ranch in Colorado. I asked Maddy what he did as a ranch hand at Vista Verde Ranch.

maddy2“Pretty much anything that needed to be done outside. Mowing, putting up fences, splitting firewood, fixing anything broken, etc. Vista Verde is absolutely gorgeous, so being outside all day was a blessing. We also got to interact with lots of the guests.  The ranch had many activities that the staff and guests would both take part in: barn dances, horseshoe tournaments, and music nights.  I got to be a dance partner at the barn dance. It was a fantastic place to work and I had a legitimate excuse to wear cowboy boots on a daily basis.”

Cover for Maddy O'Neil's Willie the Moose.
Cover for Maddy O’Neil’s Willie the Moose.

“During orientation at the ranch we were able to share about ourselves to get to know everybody a little better. I shared that I had a design degree and a passion for illustration. Steph, the director of hospitality and head of public relations stopped me one day in passing and said she had an idea to do a children’s book related to the ranch. She asked me if I wanted to be involved. I was obviously excited and began work right away. We met weekly to talk about the story and artwork, but for the most part I had total creative control over the project.”

All illustrations courtesy Maddy O'Neil.
All illustrations courtesy Maddy O’Neil.

Maddy created what Steph of Vista Verde calls ” a charming story of a sweet moose trying to find his place at a little dude ranch in Colorado.” She wrote, “When Maddy revealed the book at our end of season staff party the room was filled with laughter that just wouldn’t end.”

Willie has an identity crisis! by Madison O'Neil.
Willie has an identity crisis! by Madison O’Neil.

Maddy’s success proves the power of networking no matter where one ends up. More Willy the Moose artwork can be seen on Maddy’s Behance page. Willie the Moose is now published in full color and available for 19.95 at the Vista Verde web site.

Willie as Ranch hand by Maddy O'Neil.
Willie as Ranch hand by Maddy O’Neil.

Maddy has returned back East to pursue his design and illustration career. We expect great things from him. Maddy has a great attitude, super people skills, and newly acquired horse and moose sense.

Speaking of curious networking, another KU grad, Kate Santee, tells me she got to illustrate a book through folks met as a roller derby racer! If I can get permission to use her artwork, I will share more.

Paul Hoppe – Keeping it Real

Destinations illustration © Paul Hoppe which he sells as a print.
Destinations illustration © Paul Hoppe

Paul Hoppe was at MoCCA fest selling prints and handcrafted zines. Born in Poland, he grew up in Germany and came to NYC on a DAAD scholarship. (DAAD is the German version of a Fulbright Exchange.) He got his MFA at SVA’s Illustration as Visual Essay program in New York City. Our Kutztown students were impressed by him. Jen Zweiger traded a copy of her very first zine with him. She says,”getting to meet and interact with international artist was a really profound experience.”

Paul Hoppe at MoCCA Fest  2013. photo by K. McCloskey
Paul Hoppe at MoCCA Fest 2013. photo by K. McCloskey

Nathan Hurst liked Paul’s advice to “network with a close knit group of trusted friends.” Paul told us how, in his final weeks of grad school at SVA, he and classmate C.M.Butzer realized they might never again have free access to a photo copier. They created and printed the comic anthology Rabid Rabbit which debuted at MoCCA 2005. It was a hit and SVA gave them a mini-grant to keep the zine afloat.

Birth of Rabid Rabbit by C.M. Butzer from www.rabidrabbit.org
Birth of Rabid Rabbit by C.M. Butzer from http://www.rabidrabbit.org

Paul said Rabid Rabbit grew faster than expected. They got submissions from all over the world. “A guy sent stuff from Australia, and we said Wow! Australia, That’s cool! We wrote to him, ‘You know we don’t pay, we aren’t making any money.’ He said that’s cool and so we printed his story, but mostly we were printing our own work.”

I told Paul how I once got a frank rejection note from Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Press in San Fransisco. It said roughly, “Dear Author, Your work has merit; you should publish it yourself. We keep busy publishing books by our friends; try it with your friends! “ Paul said Rabid Rabbit worked on the same basic principle. They knew which classmates were both good artists and dependable, and those are the ones that got in.

Beholder_BOOKS_Misery1234_2_16_820Paul is no longer involved with Rabbit Rabid, but he is still friends with his co-founder and co-conspirators. He is working hard on his nifty Beholder zines. He explained the series is “homage to super hero comics of the Copper Age.Copper? I thought he was kidding. I’d heard of the Golden Age. I remember the Silver Age of the 1950’s and 60’s fondly. It seems there was also Bronze Age (70’s and early 80’s) and Copper Age (late 80’s) for comic books. Who knew?

Paul said his roots are in zines and “that’s what MoCCA is all about.” As he said on his own blog, “Income-wise, illustration prints and my graphic novel Peanut were the heavy hitters, (since they are more expensive). But I also sold more BEHOLDER books than any MoCCA before.”

Beholder_BOOKS2_2_10

I remember where I first saw Paul’s work. Nonfiction graphic essays are one of my favorite things. I really enjoyed Syncopated: Anthology of Non-fiction Picto-Essays edited by Brendan Buford. It has lots of NY stories including an 8-page essay by Paul Hoppe on Coney Island.

 "Coney Island Rumination" visual essay © Paul Hoppe 2009
“Coney Island Rumination” visual essay © Paul Hoppe 2009

Paul has done all sorts of illustrations, ranging from editorial to advertising. His work for children’s books is energetic. The Midwest Book Review wrote of Metal Man, “The vibrant drawings of award-winning artist Paul Hoppe practically burst off the page.”

From the children's book Metal Man written by Aaron Reynolds art © 2010 Paul Hoppe
From the children’s book, Metal Man, written by Aaron Reynolds, art © 2010 Paul Hoppe

Paul’s latest project is a graphic novel for young adults, Peanut, written by Ayun Halliday. It is about a high school girl who fakes a peanut allergy to make herself more interesting. Publisher’s Weekly praised Halliday and Hoppe’s work, “It’s not easy being both hip and life- affirming, but this team has the secret formula.” The NY Times found elements of his cartooning style “especially brilliant.”

from http://paulhoppeblog.blogspot.com/
from http://paulhoppeblog.blogspot.com/

I’m not sure about the cover of Peanut, a photo of a single peanut on a blue field, not even a title! Paul is philosophical, “as an illustrator, sure, I would like my drawing on the cover. But as graphic designer I admit it is quite brilliant. It’s different, eye-catching and stands out in the bookstore. If that gets more people to pick it up, then I love the cover! ”

Paul Hoppe updates his Beholder site with a new page every Monday. Check out cosmicbeholder.blogspot.com  Paul warns it is sometimes NSFW. I had to look that up. It means Not Safe For Work. I’m lucky I teach illustration; looking at comics is part of my job.

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Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

Speaking of graphic novels, Prof. Lynn Kutch of Kutztown U has created a new site devoted to The German Graphic Novel. Primarily a resource for language teachers who want to introduce cutting-edge German Graphic novels into their courses, it offers illustrated reviews. Graphic novels of all sorts are classified under broad headings: Biography; Literary Adaptations; Horror; Crime; Modern Life. There are links to individual artists, writers, publishers, and in some cases, to German web-comics. Worth a look, even if you don’t read German, to see what is being published in Berlin and elsewhere in Germany.

Detail from Drüben by Simon Schwartz
Detail from Drüben by Simon Schwartz

GREAT DANES INVADE NEW YORK!

Sussi Bech,Thomas, Frank Madsen of the Danish Cartoonists Guild.
Sussi Bech, son Thomas, and Frank Madsen of the Danish Cartoonists Guild.

Cartoonists from Denmark came to New York City for MoCCA Fest. Sussi Bech and Frank Marsden were stationed at the table of the Danske Tegneserieskabere (Danish Guild of Professional Comics Writers and Artists). Frank has a studio in Birkerød and has been doing comics, kids’ books, storyboarding, animation, and general illustration since the 1970’s.

panels from Nofret © Sussi Bech
Nofret, a comic set in ancient Egypt © Sussi Bech

Nofretcover

Frank draws a popular book series starring Kurt Dunder.  Sussi Bech, his partner, is also an amazing cartoonist. Their adventure comics reminded me of the clear line style of Herge’s Tintin. Frank agreed and noted that the Belgian artist Hergé is a lasting influence on comics throughout Europe. Frank and Sussi also draw a weekly cartoon, Eks Libris, about the literary world of Denmark.

panel from Eks Libris  by Sussi Bech and Frank Madsen
from Eks Libris by Frank Madsen & Sussi Bech

I was surprised to learn the Danish artists coming to MoCCA are officially sponsored by the Danish Government. Frank said France is the European champion at promotion of comic artists overseas. As a result of this cultural effort France remains the comic hub of the continent.

From The Mysterious Manuscript © Lars Jakobsen
From The Mysterious Manuscript © Lars Jakobsen

I also met Lars Jakobson. Lars has had success in Europe with his Mortensen series about a globetrotting time-traveling detective. Sort of a fusion of Dr. Who and Tintin, the Mortensen books are being published in the US by Graphic Universe. I bought The Mysterious Manuscript. It is a good yarn with added educational value. The back matter gives readers a brief history of various plot elements including “witch hunts” and “the invention of bicycles.” The Mortensen series is being translated into English with the aid of cartoonist Robyn Chapman, a faculty member at the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Lars Jakobson and his Mortensen series.
Lars Jakobson and his Mortensen series.

I did not meet Ina Korneliussen, but I picked up her quirky little minicomic, Fortællingen om dengang jeg fik en bamse. I have no idea what that means, but her drawings are charming. Based on the pictures the story seems to be about a young mother-to-be who has serious attachment issues with her teddy bear.

InaBook

© Ina Korneliussen
© Ina Korneliussen

The caliber and the variety of comic styles coming from Denmark is quite remarkable. Tusind tak (Thanks) to the Danish government for sponsoring such a creative invasion force.