This spring I was delighted to travel east to speak and visit at RISD and lead one of my stop-motion workshops at the Society of Illustrators.
Molly Walsh is the student who spearheaded my visit to RISD, she is a student with excellent drive that will lead her to amazing places.
RISD holds a dear spot in my heart, as I spent a semester there in 1995 as part of the Mobility Program where students in a network of private art schools can attend another school for a semester to take classes that their home school doesn’t offer. If you are a student you should inquire about it, it is/was a vastly untapped resource.
Anyways, I went to RISD to study scientific illustration, I spent practically all semester in the nature lab and spent my nights in the basement of some building at Brown Unv. drawing cadavers that the med students studied during the day.
I also was fortunate to take a watercolor class with the amazing Thomas Sqouros who sadly passed away in 2012.
After a semester I discovered that scientific illustration wasn’t exactly the right fit for me and I credit Jean Blackburn for sitting down with me and telling me that I had a drive that needed to explore other realms of illustration and image making.
and enjoyed a coffee at Carr House with SooJin Buzelli and Sota.
I then took the train to NYC and visited with the fine folks at Schwartz & Wade to talk about PR for the upcoming book The Beginner’s Guide to Running Away From Home.
I was able to pick up a copy of the April 22, 2013 issue of The New Yorker at a stand on Broadway to see my series of spots in it. Just a little thing, but was a pretty cool experience for this farm boy.
That evening I had a chance to sit down and chat with Sam Weber as part of his audio side project Your Dreams My Nightmares. I enjoy listening to his interviews (although I wasn’t able to listen past 10 minutes of my own). If you are not familiar with the podcasts, you should check them out. My interview is here.
this was my view overlooking Roosevelt Island
Next on the agenda was the main event at the Society of Illustrators. 4 hours of slap dash full throttle stop motion animation.
It was a packed house with 22 participants. Everyone was randomly paired with a partner, each pair was assigned a puppet and a prop or two. I gave a 30 minute demo and then set them loose. I am always amazed at how everyone just jumps in and goes at it.
Its a very small stage and folks have to practically work on top of one another and it soon becomes a large collaboration with several puppets and animators working simultaneously and taking every imaginable risk with the animation.
I absolutely love this shot with all the hands on stage.
We did have a rogue pair that took to setting up their own scene complete with handmade iphone tripods. It almost appears to be a stereo-optic animation in the making.
All in all, they ended up with roughly 20 seconds of motion. Not too shabby for 4 hours:
and here is the result of the iphone breakout session. Credit to Wonil Suh:
Thanks to Molly and her cohorts at RISD and a very special thanks to Anelle, Johnny, Kate and Katie for allowing me to take over the Society of Illustrators for an afternoon.
I have never considered myself having the chops for teaching. Over the years I have done a lecture or a talk or a 3 hour workshop here and there, but that has always been the extent of my ability. Last year the fine folks at MiMaster asked if I would consider leading a week long workshop at their facility In Milan, Italy. The MiMaster is a project of a group of Italian illustrators, to extend an idea of international specialization in the illustration’s culture. It’s a project focused to professionals, especially in editorial illustration, with interest in meetings with other international illustrators and authors.
here is Anita spinning on the bull in the Galleria.
Although it was clear to me that I was out of my league I decided to take a chance, give it a go, and maybe talk my wife into a jaunt to Milan, which would be a first for the both of us.
I would be remiss if I didn’t post a couple photos from the infamous Duomo. Minus the tourists, it is a time machine.
a 5 inch detail hidden in a corner…
One thing I didn’t want to do was lead a workshop based strictly on my process, firstly it is god-awfully complicated and secondly I know there are better ways of doing what I do and for me to tell them this is the way to do something would be a disaster.
So I concocted a project that would touch on all of the aspects of what I deal with daily, while creating the images I make.
Students were instructed to amass at least a shoebox full of found objects prior to the workshop along with a list of materials ranging from paints, glues, wire and a chunk of wood.
The goal of the workshop was to assemble an object (i.e fighter, skeleton, pear, bull etc) with the found objects the students had collected. Once assembled the object, when rotated 90 degrees, had to reveal the letterform of the first letter in the name of the object. To add one more layer of difficulty to the project, it wasn’t the sculpture/assemblage that was used in the end but the shadow of the sculpture/assemblage was what had to read as the object and letterform.
The first day was focused on one exercise that I had seen practiced by the great illustrator Bill Mayer. He calls it Stay Sharp. Where you take an ordinary object and draw sketches integrating the object. I humbly asked Mr Mayer if I could use his exercise to kick off the workshop, he kindly agreed and it was a hit. It was a perfect way to get the students to start to think with found objects and see how the object can be seen in different ways and imply different concepts.
The rest of the workshop was me doing my best to share with each student that the sculpture/assemblage they were slaving over was not going to be the final, but that it was all about how the shadow looked and how the letterform would be revealed.
Needing found object material for my demonstration, my patient and understanding wife accompanied me for an evening stroll around Turro while I scavenged for junk in the back alleys.
This was the bounty.
Based on the junk, the word I picked was Libulella which is Italian for Dragonfly.
The students were forced to constantly stop and test how their piece was working with the shadow, showing them that revision and flexibility is crucial to creating images.
This reinforced that no matter what the technique, the end result (with illustration) was how the image would look and work in context. especially with 3D illustration, it is not about how the sculpture looks in front of you but how it looks to the camera, in the photo and especially in the final layout.
Here are a few of the final animations from the students.
I was able to visit a few illustrators that I have known of their work but never had a chance to meet in person.
This is Marco Ventura on the left along with Elena and Anna Balbusso, in the Balbusso twin’s sweet little studio. It was an evening filed with shop talk, tales of growth, good snacks, drink and skilled translation by Marco.
We also had a chance to meet with Alessandro Gottardo AKA Shout for a delightful dinner, including an amazing artichoke heart dish that he is surely to be famous for.
I was honored to be introduced to a pioneering 3D illustrator by the name of Libero Gozzini. Here he is with a figure from a 3D illustration he did in 1973!!
We also had a chance to have dinner, conversation and an evening drive with Emiliano Ponzi. His navigational skills are unique.
The good folks at MiMaster were kind enough to arrange a visit to Teatro Laboratorio Mangiafuoco a puppet studio that has been run by Paola Bassani for over 30years. Paola graciously shared her vast array of puppets, she dug out crates from every nook in her studio. I was overwhelmed and practically brought to tears by her passion and breadth of work.
I had one puppet that I had brought with me to share with her.. It is not often that I feel a kinship with another maker of objects, but this visit was amazing. One of her students broke out an accordion to top off the evening.
To Giacomo for making us feel right at home in the big city.
To Piera for all of her graceful translations.
To Stefan for taking care of all things I.T. including camera, lights and tools.
Especially to Ivan for trusting me enough to invite me to lead the workshop.
I look forward to hopefully getting a chance to return to Milano down the road…
The largest east coast showing of my work is currently on display at The Art Institute of Boston through Dec. 18th.
the last time i visited Boston was for the 2008 HOW design conference, and i have to admit that i am growing quite fond of Boston.
i was asked to give a talk about my creative process and my career path on the opening night of the show, and this lovely group of folks were kind enough to sit through 60 minutes of my talking and 220+ slides.
a HUGE thanks to AIB for being such a welcoming institution. I immediately felt right at home.
i apparently am inept at using a camera outside of the studio, but fortunately the school has a nice set of photos of the show and my visit on their illustration and animation blog.
here are a few pages from my sketchbook during my brief trip to Boston.
i was not sure what i was in for as i traveled into Hunt, TX for the 2011 AIGA Austin Design Ranch…
i was charged with leading one of the many amazing workshops that packed the 3 day conference.
This isn’t one of those conferences: No slide presentations, no lectures—just small groups (20 or less) gathering up close and personal with workshop leaders. It’s about putting down your mouse, getting your hands dirty and reviving your creative spirit.
my workshop allowed participants to try their hands at stop-motion animation. it is geared at showing the basic/ bare bones technique behind stop-motion. no after effects, no fancy editing, just move a little bit, click, move a little bit, click, repeat, repeat, repeat…..
there are no storylines or storyboards to follow, each group of 20 is broken into 8 groups 2-3 participants then each mini group is assigned to an object and it is up to them to figure out how to animate their object simultaniously with other groups in the workshop. each following workshop had to start off from where the previous workshop had ended, this allowed all three workshops to create an exquisite corpse type of animation.
this 1 minute film is a compilation of all three workshops totaling about 6-7 man hours of animation.
what an amazing conference! if you ever have a chance to attend, do it! if you are ever asked to lead a workshop there, do it!
here are some shots from the workshops and the ranch:
here is a shot of the me with the wonderfully crazy Kelly Stevens and the goat that Kelly won in a fierce silent auction bout on the final night of the conference.
for an official round up of the conference check out Matthew Porter’s musings at Against the Grain
last friday i spoke to design, illustration and animation students at Ball State and afterwards i gave a quick 45 minute stop-motion demo to a group of animation students.
here is the 3 second 75 frame animation made during the demo.
the demo addressed common issues and questions in basic stop motion, from measuring movements, shooting on 1′s or 2′s, frame rates, basic wire armatures, what to animate and what not to animate, acting out a movement, etc.
here is a close up of the meat, which was an object of curiosity during the demo. its made from play-dough ‘the red meat’ and plastalina which made up ‘the white fat’
thanks to design professor Fred Bower for inviting me and providing the above photos of ‘my better side’ and animation professor Andy Beane.
i was honored to be asked to speak to the entire art department at Taylor University here in Indiana at their Career Symposium yesterday. Nathan Warstler, a luthier and woodworker from Syracuse Indiana, spoke about his work that has spanned over 30 years, the first instrument he made was a Dulcimer with shell inlay that he put in with a knife!! Beautiful instruments, and amazing craft. talk about meticulous.
the other speaker was Scott Dombrowski, professor of art and digital media at Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois. Scott had inspiring advice on balancing work and family and creative passions, he has found a way to run them parallel to each other in his life. and he said he had 40+ chicken in his back yard, awesome!
then i got up and tried my best to ‘illustrate’ how my work from college to now (15yrs) has evolved, changed and developed. for better and worse. trying my best to show how even terrible failures can help you grow beyond expectations.