2 Hot Illustrators Came to town…

Kutztown University’s 26th annual Children’s Literature Conference brought two stellar illustrators to campus, Brendan Wenzel and Duncan Tonatiuh. Both young men are award winners at the top of their games. They studied illustration at two of New York City’s Great art schools. Duncan went to Parsons. Brendan went to Pratt.

Brendan Wenzel meets fans from Brandywine Elementary

Brendan grew up in Connecticut. Both of his parents are artists. His dad, David T Wenzel , is best known as the illustrator for the graphic novel version of The Hobbit.

From Tolkien’s Hobbit, art © David T. Wenzel

Brendan and his wife Magdalena left the bustle of NYC to live in Australia. As they traveled through Australia, then Viet Nam and Nepal, Brendan sketched the people, landscape, and especially the wildlife he encountered.

Pileated Gibbon © Brendan Wenzel

Whenever he can Brendan collaborates with conservationists to raise awareness of endangered animals, large and small.

From ‘Some Bugs’ © Brendan Wenzel

Brendan won a Caldecott Honor for his 2016 book They All Saw A Cat. In it he visually explores how animals’ senses differ from human senses, including eyesight. Personally, I don’t like cats, but I found this book conceptually brilliant.

They all Saw A Cat © Brendan Wenzel

Brendan is a skilled animator and shared a rough-cut trailer for his upcoming book, A Stone Sat Still. It looks absolutely wonderful. That trailer is not yet online, but meanwhile you might check out his trailer for his most recent hit, Hello, Hello.

I got a copy of Hello, Hello. The concept for the book of animals is deceptively simple. He links together creatures that share common attributes, –shape, size, color. Sounds simple, but Brendan made me wonder anew at the marvelous beauty and diversity of our planet. As Publisher’s Weekly put it, (Hello, Hello ) “is a joyful way to deliver a message about the fragility of life on Earth and what would be lost if more of it disappeared.”

In our next blog post, we will take a look at the work of Duncan Tonatiuh.

Glimpse Inside a Video Game Artist’s Sketchbook

Michelle Davies with sister Christina at Kutztown Univeristy
Michelle Davies with sister Christina, president of the Sketchbook Club at Kutztown University.

Michelle Davies graduated from Edinboro University. Edinboro, like Kutztown is part of PASSHE, PA’s State System. State university facilities can’t compare to privates specializing in game design, but Michelle proves a dedicated student can launch a career from anywhere. She said her foundation art classes, life drawing and 2-D design, prove valuable everyday in her job as a concept artist on Camelot Unchained.

Sketchbook life drawings © Michelle Davies

Students may think a game concept artist does impeccably finished work. In truth, Michelle draws fast and furious against tight deadlines at City State Entertainment. She got a call from City State when she was teaching English and researching K-pop culture in Korea. They flew her back to their Fairfax, VA, headquarters. Her first task was to design a logo for the game.

6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State entertainment
6 variations for Camelot Unchained logo © 2105 City State Entertainment

Michelle visited Kutztown thanks to KU’s AIGA chapter. Her sister Christine, also a stellar illustrator, is heading into her senior year here. Michelle spoke to the AIGA crowd in the Academic Forum. The next day she visited the Sketchbook Club to share her sketchbook with students.

Sketchbook Detail © 2105 Michelle Davies
Sketchbook Detail: Character and Perspective Studies © 2105 Michelle Davies

Illustration is a big field, and many of our students say they want to be video game concept artists. I admit I know little about it. Michelle used unfamiliar phrases. Who knew a MMORPG is a Massively Multiplayer Role Player Online Game? When I asked what the phrase “Low Poly” meant, Michelle asked me if I was familiar with “Assassin’s Creed.”  Students laughed when I said I wasn’t.

Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies
Michelle shared her sketchbook at Sketchbook Club © Michelle Davies

Low poly means a simplified shape, – a low number of polygons. “Like an inflatable doll compared to a real person.” is the metaphor she used. Actually, her metaphor was saltier.

Concept art from camelotunchained.com © City State Entertainment
Concept art from camelotunchained.com © 2015 City State Entertainment

Michelle showed a slide of her coworkers at City State sitting around a conference table. They were mostly male. I asked if there is a glass ceiling in the gaming field. She said not in her experience, half of the staff artists are female. She said female programmers are “golden unicorns.” Her boss, Mark Jacobs, has tried hard to recruit female programmers, only to have them snatched away by Google.

From camelotunchained.com promo art ©City State Entertainment
From camelotunchained.com  Promo art © 2015 City State Entertainment

There is much more impressive art to see at camelotunchained.com  There is a free Fan Kit available to download. I grabbed some of the above art from there. I must admit some of the game lingo on the site is greek to me, but I did notice that City State Entertainment is hiring. Golden Unicorns please apply.