Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Aviator Letter Box

It's great to be able to make a piece of sculpture that is out of the ordinary for me and something that pushes me like the old days to meet outrageous deadlines.
   The "Aviator" is really a glorified letter box I did for Frank Cost, who is acting Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at RIT. He's a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor and will be leaving his post as Dean and returning to the School of Printing, most likely, in the upcoming school year.

The inspiration for the piece comes from Frank's love of anything aviation and his interest in one of the wooden sculptures I did a few years ago entitled "My Big Heart". See right.

Because of the tight deadline (3 days, including my regular teaching load!), I wasn't able to completely finish the piece even though I put in 2 VERY LATE nights. The flier has the start of a helmet and goggles, but the helmet has no straps and he is obviously missing a scarf. The scarf and straps most certainly should be flapping in the breeze like you can see in my original sketch. The clouds were not originally part of the plan. They became a necessity to hide the lower legs and feet that I did not finish. The piece is made out of a variety of materials, most of which are covered with small pieces of newspaper glued on with matte medium. The basic materials are cardboard, wood, aluminum screen and rigid blue insulation foam. The final size was determined by the size of the box. It had to be big enough to hold 8.5"x11" paper. So it is finally about 25" tall.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Working process for completing a spread in my Pop Up book, Spread 8, "Going Home"

 The working process for all spreads is basically the same. I generally start with an idea or story line and then visualize the scene with all narrative elements necessary to tell part of the story that will appear on any particular spread. To accomplish this segment I begin by doing lots of small, thumbnail sketches to formulate the picture space. This gives me the opportunity to consider many different directions from which to view the scene.
   During this phase of the process I think of myself as a camera. I mentally move myself to any location in the scene I feel will give me an interesting view. My eyes (the lens) see the space and my brain records the picture. To get a "print" of the image I visualized, my brain processes the picture through my hands, onto a piece of paper in the form of a drawing.
  The drawing can be a very rough sketch I can produce very quickly, or one that is more finished I can show to a client for approval. By doing very rough sketches for myself, I can look at many different alternatives in a short period of time. This gives me the time to consider the way I am portraying space and the importance I give to the various picture elements. I also think about how the placement of objects convey the idea I'm working with as well as how the eye of the viewer will move throughout the composition. By doing rough sketches I can also make adjustments, either slight or major, as I do successive variations.

You can see in the spread of the eagle flying up to its nest, the rough drawing shows the basic elements and their placement. This sketch is the result of do many smaller and way rougher versions. While working on this tighter sketch I gathered photographs of the different objects contained in the picture. I located many pictures of eagles in flight, eagles nests, eagle chicks in nests, different species of trees, overhead photos of the location and my own reference photographs of the actual location. Using reference photographs is essential to producing work which is accurate and believable.
   You can also see that the drawing also takes into account the relative size of the pages and flaps that will be included in the book. I also think about what elements will rise up from the page as the spread is opened.
   Based on this sketch and placement of objects I can start to think about the pop up mechanicals that can be used to make the spread three dimensional when it is opened by a reader.

Making the objects pop up is a trial and error process. It can also be very frustrating and time consuming. I use David Carter's book, "The Elements of Pop Up" as a bible for making pop ups. The examples in his book are just the starting points for making decisions about what may or may not work.

   Most movement and energy is gained by opening and closing the pages. The basic mechanical giving the eagle life is a small tent behind the body of the bird. This is accomplished through what is called the rough cut dummy. Parts are added and, or modified to make the bird look accurate. You can see in the closer look, that there are lots of small pieces taped on a larger piece.

   Behind the short flap is the nest which is based on opposing angles. The nest with the eagle chicks actually twists to open and then close into the flattened space between pages. Again, lots of trial and error resulted in the rough cut dummy.

After all the mechanicals have been perfected and I know they work as planned, I'll progress on to making a white dummy which is a more precisely produced working model. You can see in the picture below, parts are cut cleanly and there are no parts that have been taped together. To achieve this, the perfected rough cut dummy must be carefully disassembled and recreated on a single sheet of paper adding all glue tabs and score lines. Angles, scores, slots and tabs must be plotted with precision in order for the white dummy to work properly. The result you see is the perfection of a model that actually works and resulted in a small hill of discarded attempts that did not work.

Now that the white dummy has been prepared and is working as intended, this final illustrations can be rendered. For this project I'm creating the initial renderings as black and white pencil drawings. The first drawing I did was the overall background with the trees, river, bridge and figures standing next to the pick up truck. This drawing was scanned and opened in Photoshop to add color. The technique is to start by silhouetting various objects which will be saved for future use as digital friskets. They are created as channels. The various channels can be turned on and off at will to protect excluded areas from the colorization I need to perform. Below is the original pencil drawing and the resulting colorized version.

In addition to the background there are many other parts that have to be made and assemble into the other elements of the spread. All are originally illustrated in pencil and colorized using the same technique described above. Below are individual parts necessary to complete the eagle and nest with the eagle chicks. This function becomes something of a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fit pieces together to economically utilize the paper stock that will be printed.

The final picture in this series is the assembled working color dummy. The color prints were made on my Epson 1280 printer using bright white International Papers Accent Digital Opaque. I used 65lb. and 80lb. cover weight paper stock. It's a nice smooth sheet and prints well for making dummies. It's also strong and scores well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rough Spreads in pencil

Spread titles top to bottom:
1. Off to the River
2. Lookout for that Deer!
3. Beginning the Hike
4. Hurry up Grandpa!
5. Fishing the River
6. Snatched!
7. Almost back to the Truck
8. Going Home

From these drawings I'll start developing ideas for the pop ups mechanicals and begin piecing together very rough dummies of what the working spreads might look like.

Development of my pop up book so far

I am writing, illustrating and engineering a pop up book. The illustrations highlight the sights Johnny and Grandpa see on a day trip and hike to the Flathead river near Glacier National Park. Pictures include magnificent Montana scenery while eagles, native cutthroat trout, moose, wildflowers and bears populate the pages. My story is all about closely observing nature in all its magnificence. But, beautiful as nature might be, wild creatures must sometimes behave instinctively in order to survive in their environment. This is a hard lesson for a young boy to learn. In the final spread Johnny comes to understand the eagle that stole his fish is really a mother providing food to her young. 
   My pop up book has eight spreads and minimal text. There's a surprise behind a flap on each spread. Storyboards are roughly sketched to disclose Johnny and Grandpa's complete hike.  The illustrations are rendered in pencil and digitally colored. The style is very realistic with lots of detail in anatomy, botany and authentic locations.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I Do

I have been a professional artist and teacher for over thirty years. I came from a small town not known as a center for creative activity, but one where a strong work ethic and sense of accomplishment prevailed among the hard working population. Coupling the notion of hard work, a creative outlook, flexibility and a desire to approach projects from a different point of view, allowed me to begin a successful career in art. 
   These experiences have provided me with the rare opportunity to interact successfully with a broad spectrum of commercially proficient professionals and students working in a variety of media ranging from traditional painting, drawing and sculpture through current digital manipulations. Additionally, my own studies and experimentation have provided me the practical knowledge and understanding of what makes great composition, proper contrast, technical skill, work ethic and craftsmanship. The blend of these attributes and a driven desire to create can contribute to the generation of wonderful works of art.

I am an Associate Professor of Illustration in the School of Art at Rochester Institute of Technology. I earned my MFA degree from Syracuse University and have been in the illustration and graphic design business since 1974 with the majority of my experience as a studio owner. My specialty as an illustrator is three-dimensional. My work is produced as relief sculpture in paper or mixed media and then photographed with lighting to reveal the textural qualities of the materials I use. As an illustrator, the subject matter I deal with varies widely and is dependent on the needs of my clients. 
   My work has been commissioned by clients including Kodak, Xerox, Mobil, DuPont, Holt Rinehart and Winston, Citibank, Federal Reserve Bank, Dunn and Bradstreet, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Nalge Company, Time, Habitat for Humanity and Fisher-Price Toys.
   My dimensional illustrations have been exhibited in shows including the Society of Illustrators and the Dimensional and Digital Illustrators Awards Show. I served as a member of the board of directors for ICON4 (the Illustration Conference) during 2005 in San Francisco and serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Wayne County Council for the Arts, Inc. In the Fall of 2007 I was curator of an exhibition at RIT entitled “Pop Up Books: An Interactive Exhibition” featuring the mechanics, creativity and production of commercially produced Pop Up books.
   Currently, I am thinking about Montana and working on my own Pop Up book. Very soon I'll be doing as much fly fishing as humanly possible.