Posts Tagged ‘Society of Illustrators’

MoCCA Mecca

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Covering the MoCCA Arts Festival 2017 is our guest blogger, Tom Motley, who is an SVACE faculty member, cartoonist, and illustrator. His publications include Tragic Strip (a monthly strip in The Brooklyn Rail), The Golden Ass, The One Marvelous Thing, and contributions to the indie anthology Cartozia Tales. For this guest blog post, Tom shares insights, photos, and original artwork. 

Blutch, MoCCA guest of honor, also spoke at the New York Comics and Picture Story Symposium. Artwork: Tom Motley

At MoCCA Fest: Blutch, MoCCA guest of honor, also spoke at the New York Comics and Picture Story Symposium. Artwork: Tom Motley

Since 2002, the Museum of Comics and Cartoon Art has hosted MoCCA Arts Festival, its annual festival of indie and art comics. This year’s edition, held April 1 – 2 at the Metropolitan West event space and Ink48 Hotel, was the fifth under the stewardship of the Society of Illustrators. I’d say the quality of the programming and the work on display was as good as it’s ever been, which is to say, excellent. What greets the public is a reliably eclectic mix of talented newcomers, stalwart old masters, reputable publishers, and promising students.

At MoCCA Fest: Brace yourself, over 200 cartoonists are exhibiting amazing work. Photo: Tom Motley

At MoCCA Fest: Brace yourself, over 200 cartoonists are exhibiting amazing work. Photo: Tom Motley

Longtime SVA Continuing Education student, Van Hong, emphasized to me that the real pleasure came from shopping for small handcrafted work one would never see at a comic store. She showed me marvelous silkscreened booklets by Kim Ku among other finds. For my part, I was enchanted by Alden Viguilla’s silkscreened Lucha Libre postcards and Ken Wong’s formally rigorous Origami Comics. But really, every table seemed to have breathtaking comics, prints, and other merchandise. I didn’t chance to see anything I disliked. How many ways can one make a comic? How many styles or subjects could there be? A walk through these aisles underscores how the answers are dizzyingly infinite.

Saturday’s Cartoon Allies crew, Annette Fanzhu, Joy Li, Cyan Daly, & Amanda Erskine. Photo: Tom Motley

Saturday’s Cartoon Allies crew, Annette Fanzhu, Joy Li, Cyan Daly, & Amanda Erskine. Photo: Tom Motley

SVA alum, Yao Xiao, selling prints and her comic, Baopu. Photo: Tom Motley

SVA alum, Yao Xiao, selling prints and her comic, Baopu. Photo: Tom Motley

The influence of SVA, which began in 1947 as the Cartoonists and Illustrators School, and has been the think tank that helped birth Will Eisner’s Comics and Sequential Art, Raw magazine, and much more, permeates everything there. “This is like an SVA reunion,” Yao Xiao, SVA BFA ’13, told me. Brendan Leach, SVA MFA ’10, wondered if the school might frown that he’s working for a rival school now. Brendan is acting chair of the Masters in Illustration program at FIT. I assured him that this is precisely the point of art school– to whip young talent into shape and send them out to succeed. I trust his teachers are beaming with pride. I lost count of all the instructors and current and former SVA students I ran into from our continuing ed, undergrad, and masters programs, attending, tabling, staffing, guest speaking… SVA had tables running from Cartoon Allies & the Visual Narrative MFA, including a very active Riso lab.

SVA alum Brendan Leach waves hello from FIT. Photo: Tom Motley

SVA alum Brendan Leach waves hello from MoCCA Arts Festival. Photo: Tom Motley

There were opportunities for academic interaction, too, with strong representation from other schools near and far: Parsons, Pratt, MICA, SAW, CCS, Kutztown, Syracuse, the High School of Art & Design, and many more.

It was great to see original paintings from Drew Friedman’s (BFA ‘81) Heroes of the Comics, such as these portraits of Marie Severin and Alvin Hollingsworth. Photo: Tom Motley

Original painted portraits of Marie Severin, Alvin Hollingsworth from Drew Friedman’s (SVA BFA ‘81) “Heroes of the Comics” series. Photo: Tom Motley

But is this worth doing? At the panel “Teaching Comics Internationally,” the panelists Ben Katchor from Parsons The New School for Design, Jessica Abel from Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (and formerly of SVA), and Merav Salomon from Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Israel, expressed serious concerns about the high cost of education and the low to no pay that awaits most cartoonists. I’d offer that creative expression is a vital component of the pursuit of happiness. Many of those who work in commercial genre comics, giving life to ideas not their own, are likely no more fulfilled than workers at any other job. But those who pursue comics as literature and art enjoy the full benefit of this superior medium. Nobody at MoCCA Fest seemed to regret their hard won power of speech.

My sketch from the panel, Teaching Comics Internationally.

My sketch from the panel, Teaching Comics Internationally. Artwork: Tom Motley

Which brings us to another panel, “Covering Trump.” It can be hard to see how a lone cartoonist might move the needle in contemporary politics. Steve Brodner, perhaps our greatest living American caricaturist (and a top SVA instructor, naturally), sees his function as “rallying the troops, showing that we’re fighting a monster in a weakened state.” I was humbled to learn how Edel Rodriguez, famous creator of viral conceptual illustrations, engages in street art, dropping posters at Trump Tower and posting prints around Times Square, often with the encouragement of our local police.

SVA instructor Steve Brodner and daughter, Terry (SVA BFA ‘12). Photo: Tom Motley

SVA instructor Steve Brodner and daughter, Terry (SVA BFA ‘12). Photo: Tom Motley

These are scary times, but life must go on. At MoCCA Fest, it goes on vividly, brilliantly. I look forward to next year’s.

Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman want you to submit to the second volume of Resist!

Francoise Mouly and Nadja Spiegelman want you to submit to the second volume of Resist!

Do you love comics, graphic novels, cartooning, and illustration? Check out our upcoming course offerings, including courses by Tom Motley! See more of Tom’s work on his website, on Twitter, and on Instagram!

Faculty Updates

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

What have SVACE faculty members been up to? We have exciting updates from Dina KantorSteve BrodnerMatt Rota, and Grant Shaffer!

unnamed

Natasha Chuk, “Vanishing Points” (l); Dina Kantor, “Water Tower, Treece, KS,” 2012 (r)

Dina Kantor converses with arts writer Natasha Chuk on Feb 15, to discuss the themes of Chuk’s recently published book Vanishing Points, and Kantor’s images from the series Treece, which are featured in the book. This event is free and open to the public, hosted by MFA Photo, Video and Related Media and Visual and Critical Studies.

"Presidents" by Steve Brodner

“Presidents” by Steve Brodner

Steve Brodner will speak at the Norman Rockwell Museum on Feb 19. He will discuss Presidents, his new book in progress, which will explore the significant events of the administrations of president William McKinley to the present.

Matt Rota at Society of Illustrators

Matt Rota at Society of Illustrators

Matt Rota won a Silver Medal for the Editorial Category from the Society of Illustrators for his illustrations for ProPublica. At the reception, he gave a brief speech about his work. Read our interview with Matt about his book here.

Image: Grant Shaffer

Image: Grant Shaffer

Grant Shaffer illustrated Three Magic Balloonsa children’s book presented by Juliana Marguiles, whose father wrote it for her and her sisters when they were children. The book is slated for release in May.

See more updates on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram pages!

 

Point Man

Monday, December 28th, 2015

It’s a wonder that Matt Rota found time to write The Art of Ballpoint.  An SVA alum and faculty member recently endowed with a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, Rota maintains a busy freelance illustration career, in addition to teaching courses for SVA MFA Visual Narrative and Continuing Education.

Matt recently published The Art of Ballpoint, a book that examines the qualities of the ballpoint pen as a fine art and illustration medium.  The book combines drawing exercises with interviews featuring contemporary artists and illustrators.  The book is “equal parts instruction and inspiration,” according to Marc Scheff, writing for Illustration Age.

We flagged down Matt to discuss his insights on ballpoint, technology, and illustration.

"The Art of Ballpoint" by Matt Rota

“The Art of Ballpoint” by Matt Rota

SVA: You have interviewed many artists on your Tumblr blog, Pen and Ink. Is The Art of Ballpoint an extension of the blog?

MR: The blog is actually an offshoot of the book.  The book itself is an offshoot of teaching,  I have taught for several years in illustration departments at SVA and the Maryland Institute College of Art. I also was teaching online classes for a company called Craftsy; these were basic drawing and painting classes.

It was these online classes that I think led to the book. The classes were structured in a similar vein as a book, with chapters and condensed lessons, and it gave publishers a chance to see the sort of language that I use and how I communicate. A couple of publishers approached me to do books on drawing. (I assume not only because I taught an online drawing class, but because my professional work is largely drawing.)

I had generated a lot of writing that would be used for the book, but in a slightly different form. I did these interviews, but in the book, they are translated into third person. So the blog started once I was done with the book, as both a way to raise awareness for the book, but also as a way to to showcase some of the really great interviews I had gotten from the artists.

The interviews have the artists speaking in their own words, and the artists I got for the book I think are really great, so I was excited to present those as well. I thought it would be a shame to have all this writing sitting around from all of these great artists not being seen. Right now, the blog is attached to the book and the material from the book, but I gathered so much stuff I could not fit into the book. Eventually, the blog will carry on beyond the book until I run out of ballpoint material to post.

Ballpoint drawing by Joan Salo

Ballpoint drawing by Joan Salo

SVA: What makes ballpoint pen a unique and compelling subject for an art book? Is it distinctly different from traditional materials, such as charcoal, graphite, and watercolor?

MR: The ballpoint pen has been around for less than a century, in the form we know it now. It’s only been in existence since right before World War II, and has only been on the market since the fifties, so it’s really the tool of the mechanical age. Pencils and pens have been around in various forms for centuries. You could make an argument that the ballpoint is an extension of the fountain pen in that they are both pens that contain their own ink wells, but really the fountain pen is a part of the quill tradition, the last step in the evolution of a quill pen, and a ballpoint is something quite unique in and of itself.

Ballpoint drawing by Dawn Clements

Ballpoint drawing by Dawn Clements

MR (cont.): The main thing that makes the pen unique other than the ball tip is the ink. The evolution and success of the ballpoint is the development of its ink.  The innovation of an ink that dried quickly, did not smear, but did not clog the pen, and did not dry out over time (by some accounts the ink will last 20 years without drying inside the reservoir) came from Laszlo Biro, the first innovator of ballpoints (though not the inventor). He was working at a newspaper and noticed that printer’s ink dried more quickly than fountain pen ink, so the first ballpoint ink was based on printer’s ink formula. What these innovations meant was a writing tool that was extremely durable and long-lasting. (The ink can draw, I think, up to almost two miles’ worth of a line.)

The next major innovator, Marcel Bich, figured out how to mass produce them. He is the reason ballpoints are everywhere; there’s been something like 100 billion pens made by Bic over the years. For art, that has meant a lot of different things. For some, it is the modern drawing tool; it was popular among Futurists like Lucio Fontana for its mass-produced modernist implications. It has lowbrow appeal for other artists like Lennie Mace, where the pen is a non-art drawing tool due to its inflexible tip and ubiquitous, mass-produced nature. The fixed tip of the pen, typically 1.0mm, is pretty small, and the fact that you don’t have to dip, refill, or sharpen it results in a very focused, detail-oriented aesthetic that is common to the ballpoint. That unbroken focus creates a specific mindset and almost meditative quality that is almost always associated with the pen, and quite unique to it.  The pen’s ubiquity also lends a casual quality to some of the art associated with it; it’s a thing you can just doodle and daydream with.

Ballpoint drawing by Joo Lee Kang

Ballpoint drawing by Joo Lee Kang

SVA: You describe the ballpoint pen as “the tool of the mechanical age” and “the modern drawing tool.” And you observe that its precision and endurance make it ideal for a visual language of a focused, detail-oriented aesthetic and meditative process. Do the artists in your book all share these qualities in their artwork? Or some more than others?

MR: It seems to me, and according to many of the responses I got through interviews with the artists, that this is common to most. (I say most, but none have said it wasn’t, I just don’t want to speak for everyone.) Although all of the artists are unique in their own ways, and the book covers a wide aesthetic range, the artists drawing with the pen tended to have a very meticulous focus. (Shane McAdams uses the pen a bit differently, and is more experimental with it, so he may not fit in here.)

Ballpoint drawing by Shane McAdams

Ballpoint drawing by Shane McAdams

MR (cont.): Take two very different artists: Joanne Greenbaum, an artist whose drawings can have the feeling of complex, cerebral doodles, and compare her work with Jim Rugg’s. Jim creates these nostalgic pop culture references in spiral-bound notebooks that bring us back to things we may have been enthusiastic about in high school. Both have the attentiveness and inwardness that comes from the pen. Jim’s drawings take on these dedicated daydream-type feelings, like getting lost in your sketchbook as a teen, filling the whole page up with shading and textures. Joanne’s images are radically different thematically, but also have feeling that she has let her mind wander. There is a “letting go” here that is what I’m getting at. An important aspect to this is that the motion of drawing with these is fairly limited and within a constrained area. The motion is all in the wrist; it requires very little physical engagement, and far more mental focus. The drawings as a result tend to be smaller than if you were using charcoal with your entire arm on a larger sheet of paper. This, I think, has an effect on the inward quality that ballpoint can deliver, and is typical of the medium. (Though it’s not universal, given the drawings of Il Lee, who creates giant, cloud-like field drawings, using long, bold pen strokes on a large sheet of paper.)

Ballpoint drawings by Chamo San (l) and Joanne Greenbaum (r)

SVA: In addition to publishing interviews and teaching classes, you maintain a busy career as an illustrator, with work appearing in Vice, Reveal, and many other outlets. Do you consider these occupations to be separate interests, just various jobs? Or are they part of each other, like facets on a gem?

MR: At the core of it is my own work. I draw for my illustration work. I love drawing, and specifically, narrative drawing, storytelling. So the love of drawing and storytelling facilitates everything else. I teach illustration; I write about drawing and art that interests me. All of these are offshoots of my main interest in the art that i do. All of it, the teaching and writing, circles back around through and has a big impact on the work I do. As I teach and write, I have to research and always learn about new things, new skills, new artists. These things always impact my own work, so it’s all part of one big cycle.

Ballpoint drawing by Mu Pan

Ballpoint drawing by Mu Pan

SVA: You’ve made some good points about innovation and the technology of the ballpoint pen. And you benefit from technology in your work and teaching, such as Digital Coloring. Where do you see the most important technological advancements in art and illustration? Do you follow any publications or websites that feature innovative art?

MR: There is no particular area where I’m looking to find innovation, aside from the internet, where I find 99% of my art. Technological innovation is too widespread in the art world for me to talk about it broadly. In illustration, it takes a couple of forms, mostly in programs like Photoshop or After Effects, which simplify tasks and art forms that are over a century old, but which required processes that were much bulkier, and maybe required more people. Digital technology allows for one person to do what would have at one point required a team. Also, it allows for far more experimentation with less risk.

Ballpoint drawings by Jean Pierre Arboleda (l) and Joo Chung (r)

Ballpoint drawings by Jean Pierre Arboleda (l) and Joo Chung (r)

MR (cont.): For myself, I have a more traditional background in drawing. Photoshop allows me to treat my drawing process like printmaking, but with no constraints. I can replicate processes like screen printing, lithography, and offset printing, combining all kinds of wild ideas into a single image. I can explore multiple solutions to a single image very easily and quickly, and decide which one I like the most. For me, a program like Photoshop equals freedom to explore new possibilities in drawing, combinations of drawing, painting, collage, and printmaking that would be extremely hard otherwise. The coloring capability of Photoshop, that is, the freedom to explore a range of color options in a piece, is very liberating and has led to an era of very bold and exotic color palettes that I think are unique to this era. Photoshop helps me discover very unconventional but harmonious color choices I would not have thought of with traditional paint. Also, Photoshop has become wonderful at replicating the effects of traditional drawing and painting materials like pastels, watercolor and oil paint, which is great because it allows for quicker, cleaner illustrations that look traditional, but can be convenient for quick deadlines. Also, Cintiq computer screens, on which you can draw directly, have been around for more than a decade, but continue to advance, making digital drawing and painting more exciting.

In my experience, those are the advances that are happening on a technical level and that are advancing the field of illustration the most right now. In other ways, the internet and mobile technology are the other major advancement that are effecting the way people interact with art and illustration. More content than ever is migrating online and is changing the presentation and capabilities of print media by integrating motion and sequential elements in ways we’ve never seen. The internet has also facilitated advances in digital printing, which allows for inexpensive, high-quality, low-run print editions, like books, magazines, and prints. This allows for a much more affordable marketplace for printing and selling art products, which is great for getting artists secondary sources of income, as well as spreading their work to a much wider audience. I think these are the things making the illustration world a very exciting place at the moment.

Ballpoint drawing by Shane McAdams

Ballpoint drawing by Shane McAdams

See more from Matt Rota on Twitter and The Art of Ballpoint on Instagram.

#theartofballpoint #illustration #MattRota #SVACEfaculty