I did the cover for the June issue of The Northsider. It's out! And it features some anthropomorphic suns building some sort of "summer machine" ...
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.
My extremely hardworking, creative puppeteer pal Terrence and his Wump Mucket Puppet troupe make their PBS television debut this weekend on the season premier of Cincinnati affiliate CET's "The Art Show". I was at the filming at the Taft Museum back in August and the show and turnout was fantastic, I can't wait to see it translated on the screen. It will air on Saturday, January 7th (6PM) and Sunday the 8th (8PM). Check your local listings and try to catch it!
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.
Originally a Christmas card design, then decided to paint it, then decided to make it a print ... "a Galaxial Christmas". This one's perfect for the unapologetic lover of the holiday, the armchair astronomer, the completist Mark Neeley collector, and/or everything in between. $12 / free shipping, located in the "store" up above. P.S. - "Tunnel-Ball" mugs are ideal stocking stuffers according to the 2016 Sears Roebuck holiday catalogue.
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 ...
One more before the year is over ...
One of my absolute favorite times of the year ... the beginning of December, and making a bunch of custom Christmas cards for friends/family. I believe this is my fourth year doing so, and it's always a blast. Rounding up all of the addresses is the tedious part, now creating them is the fun part. I encourage you to try it out as well! Handmade gifts are usually always appreciated, even if only in miniature card form. You should be able to find pre-cut blank watercolor cards at most local art stores (or online), at a postcard size of 4x6 or 5x7 (your preference).