Friday, March 7, 2008

2008 Art Forum Report

Doug Dabbs, Chris Schweizer, and Pat Bollin, along with a large number of other SEQA and ILLU students, really took advantage of the 2008 Atlanta Art Forum. Our guests: Eric Canete, Andrew Robinson, Yuko Shimizu, and James Jean, proved themselves fantastic artists, lecturers, and people leaving everyone a lasting impression to savor. Here Doug, Schweizer, and Bollin tell us about their experiences.

Click here to read Doug's report.
Click here to read Schweizer's report.
Click here to read Bollin's report.

Doug writes: "The Atlanta campus hosted its second annual Art Forum that took place from February 21-23. The event kicked off with a discussion panel on Thursday night featuring artists Eric Canete, James Jean, Andrew Robinson, and Yuko Shimizu. The next morning each artist conducted a workshop over their own techniques, process, or experiences in the industry. I attended Eric Canete’s workshop in which he discussed his 90-minute process.

First off, Eric is one of the nicest guys you can meet. There was a set time for portfolio reviews and he still made time out of his schedule to look at Darnell’s portfolio because he knew Darnell was not able to get it reviewed later. Eric reviewed the portfolio with about fifteen workshop students circled around him. While critiquing, Eric evolved the whole class and educated us as well as help Darnell. He explained that in animation or comics it is important to communicate because we are trying to tell a story in a set amount of time. He explained if want to communicate a piece of clothing; we need to do it in a simplified means. If you can show a sleeve folding in two creases rather than six, two would be much easier to read and would be easier for the animators to reproduce, as well easier for the audience to comprehend. Overall, he was very impressed with Darnell’s portfolio (who wouldn’t be), and he was ready to start the workshop. I already felt like I had learned so much.

After the review was over, Eric jumped into his 90-minute process. Eric explained to the class what the purpose of the process was and how he tackled it. It originated when he was working in studios on art jobs he particularly didn’t care for. During his lunch break (which, surprise, was 90 minutes) he wanted to see how much drawing he could get done. That moved into an illustration that contained a story concept, like we can see on his blog today. Eric explained that obviously you have to move fast, but it is more about simplifying. When simplifying, it is important to use what is necessary and not fall into the trap of using immaculate amounts of detail. You want to keep the reader in the story and not distract them with illustrative drawings. His career in animation was a definite influence on changing his style and developing his approach.

For the sketch, Eric decided on doing Frank Frezetta’s Death Dealer… without any reference. That’s right. He told us that in ninety minutes you may not always find perfect reference but as communicators it is our job as an artist to create objects, people, and environments that are believable. After being unhappy with the initial sketch, he simply turned the paper around and started again. When he was happy with his pencils he began to ink. He explained that he does not fully develop all of his pencils to finished look, he only did in selected areas were he felt he needed to get a strong guide for his inks.

Eric also stressed the fact that we should use tools that we like no matter the quality or price. While many people in the comic industry use brushes, Eric used a black Staedtler Mars Graphic 3000 Duo Watercolor Brush Marker. Even though they cost as little as three dollars they do what they what he wants to get across in his art.

As he continued inking, he talked more about his process, experience, and ideas. Everything he preached, he practiced, and it was evident in all of the pieces he brought with him. Near the end of the class he finished the beautiful Death Dealer illustration (seen right). So, for the completed piece Eric Canete started over, taught a class, and used no reference all in 80, yes 80, minutes. It was truly a great learning experience. It is always amazing to meet an artist who can teach clearly and rationally, while analyzing art objectively and with an open mind."

Schweizer's report: "A couple of weeks ago we had the Atlanta Arts Forum, our version of the Savannah Comics Forum. We had a great batch of pros at the school – Eric Canete, , Yuko Shimizu, James Jean, and Andrew Robinson. They did a talk that was open to the public at the opening, answering questions and the like.

Yuko and James

Afterwards Shawn, Nolan Woodard, Pat Quinn, me, Justin Wagner, Doug, Eric, James, Andrew, Yuko, and a few of the illustration students and professors went to Ted’s Montana Grill, where I got AMAZING lemonade, Knob Creek, and my perennial order, Ted’s Kitchen Sink Burger. The Kitchen Sink Burger is Bison, Blue Cheese, Sautéed Mushrooms, Onion, Lettuce, Tomato, Fried Egg, Bacon, Cheese, and a nice mustard sauce. I love that burger, even though finishing it is invariably a torso cramp in waiting.

James gives his recipe for success.

I took Yuko’s workshop on the business end of freelance illustration. Yuko is an amazing illustrator who teaches at SVA in New York. The workshop was INCREDIBLY helpful. I’m waiting until Crogan’s is finished (time management issues) before trying to get regular illustration work, but this has given me tons of ideas and inspiration for doing so, when the time comes.

One of the most interesting aspects to me was her approach to portfolios. The only time I ever put together a portfolio was to try and get into/get a fellowship for SCAD – I’ve never had one since. Usually I have a particular project in mind, and pitch that particular project, which has never necessitated a portfolio. Likewise, I’ve never really expended much effort to get work-for-hire jobs, hoping that word-of-mouth, reputation, and published work will be enough. Granted, my particular publishing goals do not, at this point, call for a portfolio, but man-oh-man, Yuko’s talk got me excited about putting one together.

For the first time, she explained a “science” behind the works in a portfolio and the order in which they should go – colors going into like colors, a work that you used to GET a particular job followed by a commissioned work whose tone was predicated on the “look” of the aforementioned promo piece, spreads, spots, tear sheets, etc... for the first time, I could see an almost narrative styling to the portfolio, and now I’m excited to make one. As I’ve not updated my gallery section in almost a year, I’ll likely do so with these principles in mind.

Andrew showing his thumbnails to Cara, Jackie, and Olu.

The other workshop I took was with Eric Canete. Eric recently did the art for the Iron-Man origin miniseries Enter the Mandarin, which is a model of storytelling. He also is a concept designer and storyboard artist for Cartoon Network’s BEN•10, with a number of other great cartoons under his belt.

Eric is one of those all-to-rare birds, a comic artist with a true understanding of storytelling and narrative principle, on an academic level. His workshop focused on shot placement more than anything else, showing mood and the relationship of the characters to each other by means of the relationship they share in the composition. We talked about Citizen Cane, Heat, using scale effectively, foreshadowing each subsequent panel, etc.

It’s always exciting to have interaction with someone who has such a wealth of understanding of the form, and the students got a lot out of it – it’s great to have pros tell the undergrads (and, I guess the grads) what they hear every day, because that does serve to legitimize it. That every shot, angle, panel break, etc needs to be a conscious decision, made with a good, story-based reason is something that comics needs more of, and I’m confident that a lot of the kids who turn pro from here will adhere to that logic.

Eric being far too forgiving while looking at the Crogan’s originals

I gave Eric and his girlfriend Naomi a ride to the airport, and he was kind enough to pass on all sorts of great stories about the Animation business and working on Iron-Man, and then headed back to Shawn’s where I drew pictures with Zoe, his oldest, who at five is showing serious artist chops, drawing awesome characters and her own interpretations of obscure Kirby characters, like Karcass. Then I drove Andrew to the airport.

That’s it!"

Bollin's report: "This is my second quarter in the grad program at SCAD-Atlanta, and my second quarter in a row being treated to amazing events hosted by SCAD where students get to meet, greet and be instructed by world class professional talents working in our fields of study. This quarter was the second annual Atlanta Arts Forum which included top artists from both comics and illustration: Eric Canete, Andrew Robinson, Yuko Shimizu, and James Jean.

The first night students were treated to a panel discussion including guest artists. I was really excited to hear them all speak, as I owned comics and books from three of them and have followed Eric and James’ blogs for some time. The discussion was lively and open, and they gave advice and personal anecdotes about topics ranging from how to manage your career to how to manage your relationships while keeping that career. The value of that kind of frank talk from pros-who-know is immeasurable.

Eric and Andrew during the panel discussion.

The following day the workshops began. I got the pleasure of attending Andrew Robinson’s (creator of the acclaimed comic, Dusty Star). After introductions he gathered the students around his portfolio full of original Dusty Star pages and opened the floor for questions. He graciously gave detailed answers to questions that ranged from how he approaches his thumbnails to how he approaches life as a busy artist.

Andrew likes his pages to be cinematic and dynamic and he showed us lots of examples to illustrate his points. He values his original pages as works of art unto themselves and his crisp, clean finished pages show it, although he admitted the guilty pleasure of using sharpies that will eventually discolor the original pages. He does all of his own color work as well, and showed us examples of how he uses color to move a story along. He likes to start with realistic lighting situations, and recommended using as much reference as you can find or observe in person. He pointed out that the color on the final printed page is almost never what he originally intended, but as long as his palette harmonizes the final version still seems to work just fine.

Andrew prepping for his workshop.

After going over his process the conversation transitioned to his publishing career. His first run of Dusty Star, which he released through Image comics, netted him a whopping 700 bucks. After working on that first issue for the better part of a year he didn’t feel that he could keep publishing that way, so he found other ways to put his work out. Self-publishing 48 page hard backs in 4,000 copy runs is what he’s currently doing. He says he’s getting an acceptable return this way. It was really inspiring to see someone making it on their own steam like that. It proves that there are ways to make it in Sequential Art, and keep creative control.

I first heard of James Jean a few years ago when a friend shoved a copy of "Fables" in my hand at a comic shop in Seattle. Later the same friend introduced me to James’s website and blog called, Process Recess. I’ve been following his work ever since. When I heard he would be here for the Forum I signed up for his workshop immediately. At the panel discussion the first night James (jokingly I think) said that he was still trying to figure out why he agreed to come, but then proceeded to throw himself into the forum like a man possessed. He really seemed to enjoy interacting with the students, looking at portfolios and giving advice. On the second day of the forums they couldn’t even get him to tear himself away from the students long enough to get himself some lunch.

James during his Photoshop workshop.

The workshop was packed, and half of the students in the room had driven all the way from Savannah to be there. James admits to not being very tech savvy, and that he didn’t like using a Mac. But despite his misgivings about the computer, and while holding a mic to his face the whole time he proceeded to give a great demo. He covered how he works from a simple graphite drawing to a finished Photoshop file. His original drawing was done in regular graphite on smooth drawing paper and blended with a stump in certain areas. He showed us how he cleans his line art in Photoshop using the command, “Image - Adjust - Replace Color” which I had never seen done before. He then went into his “flatting” process. For that he duplicated the line art, and then created multiple layers underneath. Each layer contained only one shape of flat color. When he was done creating each of these shapes he merged them into a single layer and called it “flats”, so that he could go back again and again to select a specific area of color. After that, James created many more layers, dropping in color and using mostly the airbrush tool in a painterly fashion to do light and shade work. The process is labor intensive, but relatively straight forward. He likes to play up to the strengths of the computing environment by mixing graphic elements like spots and geometric shapes with his more organic line art. Past that, he just plays around with color and contrast and adds affects until he arrives at something he likes. The magic, he says, just isn’t in the computer. It’s in the years and years of drawing and painting that lead up to his ability to see and create. When asked how important the concept of an original piece of art is he said that it was “very important”, and that’s also why he was moving back in the direction of producing more art with traditional painting and drawing methods.

Over all the entire Atlanta Art Forum was highly inspiring. The small venue and direct access to top professionals is unprecedented in the comic convention circuit, and really made this a great experience."

We've set the bar high this year and the memories will surely stay with our students for years to come. Thank you for all involved. Just wait to see what we do next year!

And special thanks to Ben Dashwood and Dane Sponberg for taking such amazing photos during the event. Great work, guys!

1 comment:

Illink said...

Yes the entire art forum was great I received a lot of knowledge. Eric critique was very helpful. Thanks Doug for the shout out.