A (very) minor detail from the new children's book I am working on. Technically it has been in the works since before Tunnel-Ball was published last year, and with summer fast approaching, I am hoping to get most of the pages done over the next couple months. After hundreds of changes, I am pretty happy with it in rough form. Anyway, this is the logo of Purple Pouch Records, a fictional record store that appears on a storefront page. It doesn't actually have anything to do with the story.
I had a blast at yesterday's special Earth Day reading of Tunnel-Ball. The duo dry erase/chalkboard easel (typically used in the animation workshop) was a nice touch that I plan to keep using in the future. It was great to get to utilize my silly book about a baseball team from Earth for a greater good. Afterwards, I got to do some request drawings for the young ones while they made their own seed paper, courtesy of Cincinnati artist-crafter Annie Roth. Thank you to pal Tara at Robot Inside for putting this one and for their week-long Earth Day festivities.
I will be doing a special reading of "Tunnel-Ball" on Earth Day (April 22) in a few weeks to kick off all of the Earth Day activities at Robot Inside. It's going to be fun!
For whatever reason, I have never been the New Year's "resolutions" or looking back, retrospective type. As I sat down on December 31 to make this post about a new book, though, I couldn't help but to ultimately reflect on what has probably been the busiest, most productive year I have had as an artist-educator. So before I get to the book stuff, let me just take a brief minute ...
"Tunnel-Ball" was a truly awesome experience, and it's surreal that it was about ten months ago now that it was published and it seemed like I was spending much of my free time making felt pennants. The release party included the most fun book reading I have ever done to date, the book made it onto the shelves of a few of my favorite stores in the world, and even into the hands of an official MLB mascot. The most rewarding part of all, though, is just hearing the "it has been a bedtime story staple at our house" messages from friends, family, and strangers.
It was also an unexpected year of contributing a couple of pieces to gallery shows in tribute to two musicians who I had always considered massive inspirations (despite obviously bittersweet circumstances). I also did a Kreate-a-Kaiju workshop event, getting to spread my joy of city-crushing Japanese monster creatures with children and adults of all ages in a collaborative setting was simply remarkable.
Another major highlight was/is teaching the Animation Workshop, in which I am doing my best to attempt to create the type of class that I wish had been available to me when I was younger but didn't really have the resources to explore that big, confusing animation realm. I am doing my best to keep the content original, and most importantly: fun. I have big ideas for the AW, starting with gaining some new supplies and materials which should arrive before holiday break is over.
There was also this, which I hope to make in print form at some point in the new year (hopefully by September, which is ITP awareness month). It was also have a new, actual conclusion. would like to print a few copies just to give out or include with regular online store purchases.
Essentially, what I'm getting at is: thank you to everyone for their support in the past year (in any capacity, even if just briefly glancing at this right now), and now, a brief glimpse of one of the things to come in the future.
This current holiday break also means, as I originally eluded to, that I have officialy began the production of a new picture book. I have tentatively had this one in the works prior to Tunnel-Ball coming out, during the final stretch of everything being put together and sent off to the printers. However, as is typically the case, the entire story was reworked numerous times to get to what it is currently. I'm sure there will be plenty of updates here along the way, but all I will say for now is ...
- After a brief hiatus (Tunnel-Ball's b&w), the book will be in color
- It may or may not have words (!)
- There are tentative plans to have a broader scale expansion/"performance" of the book, expanding on how the T-B was done (see link to post above)
- That storyboard in the first picture gives nothing away (unless you can accurately decipher the "TBCP" acronym ... if that is even still the title by the time it comes out)
- The third picture is my brand new lightbox, which I'll mostly be using to make the book. The wooden part underneath was made by my (carpenter) father. I wanted a better solution to keeping the translucent surface underlit without just cramming a desk lamp underneath. This wood panel has a strip of longlasting LED lights that lights it up perfectly.
- Lastly, the final pic (a pencil sketch of one of the earliest pages), also gives virtually nothing away.
Last month, after making my poster for International Animation Day, I had mentioned how I had been teaching an "animation workshop" class since August. The class has kept me so busy on top of personal projects that I never really had a chance to post anything about it.
The idea came to me last year, when some students at the school I teach at had started asking me questions about animation. They would bring in DVDs of their favorite animated films, read stuff on the bonus discs, then ask "what is a storyboard?" or "what is an animatic?" It instantly reminded me of being that age and having the same questions, and just generally being awe-inspired and befuddled as to how these cartoons magically started to move on the screen.
Of course, when I was growing up in the mid-nineties, animation was in a bit of an odd transitional period. The big digital/Flash boom was on the horizon, but I was too young to have a grasp on any of that, and I was stuck hoping that the library or local bookstores had even one or two copies of books about the animation process (when they did, they were normally too intimidating, how-to books made by old master draftsmen teaching anatomical walk cycles). At that age, most of my animation was spent making flipbooks and trying rough animation on copy paper with a DIY lightbox, since it was essentially impossible to come by the proper type of supplies or equipment (notably a camera and cels). It is kept simple and mostly camera-free for a number of reasons, mostly due to the allotted budget for materials, and the fact that I am far from qualified to be teaching anything more advanced.
In the class, we have done mostly camera-less animation projects. Things like good quality custom flipbooks, working on basic movement the old-fashioned way (lightbox w/ pegbar and punched animation paper), and some claymation using Aardman's "AnimateIt" software. Considering nothing that we do is digital (outside of the claymation, the class is also a bit like stepping back in time. Creatively, I always stress that the class is just about "thinking visually". I am not so much concerned in highly disciplined and fundamentally sound works as much as I am the students just having fun putting their own ideas on the paper. The students are currently working on self-publishing their own class "coloring book" where they each contributed a b&w illustration, and will distribute them to the school.
Another major influence was reading a book about Yvonne Anderson's influential "Yellow Ball Animation Workshop" that she started in the 1960s.
A part of it is also the academic side of animation history when we are not diving in and getting our hands dirty ... learning of the the world outside of Disney/Pixar, both commercial and independent/experimental. We start each class watching a short from around the world. Consensus favorites so far have been Kaj Pindal's "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" (the song is now frequently sang), anything Miyazaki, and Nick Park's original "Creature Comforts".
It has been an absolute blast so far and I hope to keep it going, perhaps even as a traveling summer program of sorts. We'll see. Here are are a few photos ...
Baseball season may be winding down, but Intergalactic Baseball is year-round. As such, "Tunnel-Ball" is now on sale for $12 in the online store located above. The "Bases-Clearing Bundle" (includes a hardcover copy, felt pennant, cards & magnets) is also on sale for $20, a real steal if you like us (no pun intended). Also on sale are T-B mugs and the new prints.
Ever since publishing "Tunnel-Ball" about six months ago now, I have stumbled upon a couple of baseball-related works that would have definitely inspired me even more. Last month it was the Japan/Taiwan baseball sketchbooks of cartoonist Edward Steed.
Recently I came across the self-published work "Bixby Bats" by illustrator/animator Willie Real. Self-described as "a band of misfit vampires from distant lands that begrudgingly play the game of baseball", the illustrations in here are both stunning and hilarious, with an awesome "marker on paper" textured feel to them. You can pick up a copy here.
Of course, I loved it so much that I couldn't help but do a quick doodle
featuring Clive Mole with one of the Bats ...
If you ever happen to find yourself anywhere close to the Midwest, it would be in your best interest to stop by Boxcar Books in Bloomington, Indiana. You will be hard-pressed to find another bookstore like it in the country who does what they do. Poke around their site for a sampling of that, including their Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project. It was, undoubtedly, one of the first bookstores I reached out to when "Tunnel-Ball" was published.
I can't wait to see the newly renovated space the next time I am there ...
T-B and Shel Silverstein, united at last.
Yesterday afternoon's "Kreate-a-Kaiju" workshop event at the Play Library was a success and a total blast! Thanks to everyone who came out and made kaiju with me. The coolest part, by far, was the diverse mixture of both new and familiar faces, ranging from families with young toddlers to adult couples who got their hands dirty and made Japanese-inspired, city-crushing clay monsters. We even had a Japanese visitor (who had moved her less than two years ago), who had heard about the event on social media. She carefully sculpted her own "Booska", and taught me the correct pronunciations of several kaiju.
Here are a few pics from the event. Also, if you came out, when my illustrations of your kaiju are complete and ready for pick up at the Play Library, I will be posting about it here. The Library will also be posting about it through their usual means. I hope to have them finished within a couple of weeks.
(the "Tunnel-Ball" mugs make their in-person debut)
There is going to be a really cool event coming up a few Saturdays from now. On July 23rd, I am teaming up with the brand new Play Library (a recycled toy and game loan library) in Over-The-Rhine (Cincinnati), right across from historic Findlay Market. We are going to create our own strange, Japanese kaiju-inspired creatures and monsters together! I'll be bringing a few of my own for display, and we will be getting our hands dirty with clay and plenty of drawing supplies to make our own (complete with displaying them on our own little foamboard Tokyo). Additionally, I will be taking your designs (sculpted or drawn) and making you your own fully inked 9x12 drawing, giving your doodle my own take. I will also have signed copies of "Tunnel-Ball" (plus pennants and mugs) for sale .
Here is the event link with the full agenda. It is from 10-1 (so you will still have time to do your important Saturday evening things) and perfect for all ages. The Play Library needs your support and I promise you'll fall in love it when you visit. I certainly did when I went to the grand opening last month. See you there!
Doing some cleaning this morning, and thought I would share a few old "Tunnel-Ball" pieces that never came to fruition.
I wish I remembered the exact chronology of Tunnel-Ball's origin (it was a few years ago and changed quite a bit), but it went something like this. While I was finishing my previous book, I was thinking about a new project, and I had unintentionally doodled a mole-looking character in an over-sized shirt that only later became a baseball jersey. Sadly, I no longer have that original doodle, but I do recall it was in one of those "kona" sketchbooks w/ paper made from recycled brown coffee bags that I was experimenting with at the time. I used to hoard and archive old sketchbooks, until I moved a year ago and now have an even smaller/cramped studio. As usual, I didn't jump in and start doing anything with the character, but he stuck in the back of my mind and I kept coming back to the idea until he became the protagonist for a new book idea. Initially, it wasn't baseball-related. Around the same time, I got an idea for a completely different baseball story in which the mole wasn't used. The next few months, I believe I kind of simultaneously realized that the baseball story was too ambitious, and I was also really struggling with ideas for the mole story. When I thought about combining the two, I immediately felt like it would be a lot of fun.
This is the oldest drawing of Clive Mole that I could find. For a while there, he had ears and an "Earth Worms" logo on the jersey. Most noticeably, he didn't always have arms. I think I eventually realized that just having giant claws was a tad on the scary side (not to mention drawing him gripping a baseball bat with no arms was increasingly tedious).
Page 3 before the colored interior was abandoned for b&w.
There was originally going to be a page with a closeup of the floating scoreboard (which is seen on the page w/ Worms Stadium) right before Clive's big at bat. Of course, it wasn't to be electronic, but one of the charming old scoreboards that had to have a worker change the score manually (while sitting w/ a recliner, footstool and popcorn in the meantime).
This "ticket" was never originally supposed to be appear on the back cover. It was just a postcard design to send to friends/families for advertising. But I liked it so much and thought the simplicity of the message ("here's your ticket, hope to see you at the game!") worked really well to be the back of the book.
And finally, a very, very old rough painting. This page idea was ultimately replaced by the page of Clive reading the morning paper. Originally, the "dream" of receiving the package and invitation was quite literal. Clive's baseball obsession is evident in the fact that the room is filled with thousands of balls.