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By: Joy Chu,
Blog: got story countdown
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A Countdown Quickie
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* NOTE: The above is from an interview that was featured in UCSD Extension's Blog last fall, just before I began teaching the on-line version of my class, "Illustrating Books for Children"/Winter 2013 Quarter. — JC
Last week I got a new office chair (my back thanks you!)
The next day, our office manager offered us the box it came in.
I found the good boxcutter. Intrepid Brooke found the brown butcher paper, scissors and a mile of tape and 45 minutes later...
I hope you note the nifty skylights, the comfy bean bag and the exclusive nature of our box...ahem Reading Cave. No sooner was it done, then kids hopped inside one by one for a relaxing read.
Now come on, do we work in a great profession or what?!?!
We have started a tradition at our library of holding some kind of kid-led DIY art or decoration program within the first week or two of the start of Summer Library Program. We gather art materials and let the kids loose.
It may be our easiest, mellowest and most delightful program. And we never have to worry about pre-decorating the area to a theme. The kids take care of it with their creative touches.
This year, thanks to Crayola Window Markers, a crowd of kids created a garden of beauty on our windows. These few pictures hardly do justice to the work of the sixty kids who filled eight windows with their ideas. If you happen to be passing by in the next eight weeks though...
Enjoyed this article today: Why NonGeek Parents Have the Advantage in Parenting Young Makers. The whole piece was interesting but this bit especially grabbed me, because it’s singing my own song:
The parent panel was surprisingly united on several points. “Makers gotta make, so if you can’t get their stuff (maker treasure) under control just find a way to live with it.” “Kudos for letting your kids disassemble, repurpose, void warranties, and explore fearlessly!” “Allow projects to take time and make room for play and exploration–even if it means lots of projects are in progress at once (if you aren’t going to work on it in the next six months maybe it can hang out in the back of the closet for now.)”
Whenever I speak to homeschooling groups, I urge something similar. Never underestimate the importance of freedom to be messy. Creativity is a messy, messy business. Art is messy. Writing is messy. Sewing, woodworking, robotics, cooking, all these awesome pursuits we want our kids to dive into, all these handcrafts and skills we love to see them develop—they require room to get sloppy. The paint-spattered corner, the room abandoned to fabric scraps and bits of Sculpey, the table overtaken by wires and circuit boards…
I know it isn’t always easy, especially for type-A parents, to live with the clutter and chaos that so often surrounds a creative mind, but there are ways to compromise. For us, it means keeping the front of the house reasonably tidy, one main room where people can count on an uncluttered space, and letting the rest of the house wear a jumble of raw materials with abandon and zest. The girls’ room is overrun right now with wand-making supplies. The house smells like hot glue. Every time Scott looks at me he finds another piece of glitter on my face—I don’t even know where it’s coming from; it’s in the air.
Along with Freedom to Be Messy goes Lots and Lots of Down Time…that’s part two of my refrain: give ’em time to be bored, time to stare into space, time to tinker, time to obsess. So much of my work as a writer happens when I’m far from my keyboard…I’m writing while I’m gardening, while I’m doing dishes, while I’m curled up under a blanket doing a crossword puzzle. I may look idle, but I’m not. Things are churning in my head. Scott used to do his best writing on the walk home from the subway. Now, far from NYC, sans commute, he stands in the backyard, mind-working while Huck runs circles around him. Our kids know that we’re absent sometimes—lost in our thoughts, working something out—and they understand, they know we try to make up for it by being extra-present, fully engaged, in other parts of the day. But also by giving them that same kind of mind-space in return: big chunks of the day unscheduled, unspoken for. Let me get out of your hair so you can put glitter in it.
By: Mark G. Mitchell
Blog: How To Be A Children's Book Illustrator
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Shelley Ann Jackson
, The Writing Barn
, Will Terry
, Bethany Hegedus
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, Cyntia Leitich Smith
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So what is musician-performer-dancer-composer Lindsey Stirling doing on this blog about children’s book illustration? She’s an artist but she works in a different medium. She hasn’t published a children’s picture book. (Not yet, anyway, but give her time.) I’m sharing this video of her 2011 tune Shadows, because twenty-two million YouTube viewers are not wrong […]
By: Allen Capoferri
Blog: Allen's Zoo
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Again I was drawing passerby from my usual picture window at the cafe yesterday.
Tagged: About Me
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Blog: Darlene Beck-Jacobson
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Today’s post is presented by my guest blogger and science buff Betty Gail Gallender who will demonstrate how art and science join forces to create unique projects. Here’s Betty:
I have always loved the art of creating. But what I try to understand is the “how and why” of it. This is the “Science of Art.”
Today’s experiment starts off as an art project- but helps us see that science is behind everything we make.
Our kindergarteners created the “stain glass” butterflies pictured in this entry, which inspired me to do the same lesson with the 2nd graders using “dinosaurs of the deep” as the theme.
My questions were how did they make their “stained glass” and why did it turn out like it did?
The “How” involves some pre-work on the part of an adult. First cut out the shapes you will use on black construction paper leaving a wide outline. Trim away the inside of the design. (I used an exacto knife.) Glue the outline onto a sheet of wax paper. Turn old crayons into shavings using a pencil sharpener, a sharp knife or pair of scissors to scrape them like a carrot.
Divide the shavings by color. Then, let the kids lightly sprinkle the shavings into the open spaces on the back of the wax paper design. (Don’t use too much–a little goes a long way!) Cover the picture with another piece of wax paper. Help them place the prepared picture between a towel or a folded piece of heavy paper.
Have an adult iron over the towel covered wax paper until the crayons melt and seal the design to the second piece of wax paper. Trim the design along its outer edges and hold it up to a window to reveal your “stained glass.” Take another copy of the cutout design and glue to the back to give the picture support and a finished look.
The “Why”—your work of art looks like stain glass is due to the heat and pressure of the iron combined with the translucent qualities of the melted crayons and wax paper. The heat melts the crayons turning a solid into a translucent liquid while the pressure spreads the liquid out. The wax paper is always translucent.
Things to discuss with your kids:
Explain to them that while unmelted crayons are solids that you cannot see through, the wax paper and melted crayons become translucent. This means that you can see through them, but not clearly because they diffuse the light that is passing through them. Point out that the glass in the window is an example of something that is transparent- you can see clearly through it.
Ask them why the crayon shavings changed and discuss how heat and pressure from the iron caused the crayon shavings to melt and spread out.
I love experiments like this because they are a perfect example of ways to engage your kids in fun projects that are both educational and entertaining. Science is not boring or hard- it’s all around us. It is something that becomes obvious when we look into the how and why of the things we make and do.
I hope you enjoyed my guest post. If you try this experiment, I’d love for you to leave a comment here or over at sciencefunwithmom.wordpress.com.
After seeing many tantalizing mentions of Tara Books over the last few years, I was delighted to receive Joydeb Chitrakar and Gita Wolf’s The Enduring Ark and get a firsthand look at one of their creations.
They say that from time to time, the world must be made all over again. Ancient stories remember from an age when a huge flood destroyed the earth. Almost everything as we know it disappeared under water, and it was only later, in the course of time, that new life emerged again from the remains of the old. You may have heard this story before, but great tales deserve to be repeated — and so let me tell it here again, in my way.
So begins Gita Wolf in her version of that old story in The Enduring Ark, but even before we read this text we’ve seen a huge eye seemingly merging into water signaling to us that this will be a retelling like no other. That is because of the unique accordian-style book making and Joydeb Chitrakar’s vivid illustrations done in the West Bengali Patua style of scroll painting. Readers can immerse themselves in Wolf and Chitrakar’s intertwined words and art by conventionally turning the pages or by opening the book to view them all at once. Water flows through the book from that first enormous eye of warning, tinkling through the gentle stream at Noah’s home, on as he collects his creatures, rising with the flood, and ending with the water merging with a rainbow of hope. The Enduring Ark is a spectacularly gorgeous book, one well worth reading again and again.
And Tara Books is a remarkable publisher, a co-operative founded by writers and designers and committed to feminist and egalitarian principles and gorgeous visual bookmaking. Based in Chennai, South India, many of their books are completely handmade and they are focused on celebrating the range of Indian art. For a fascinating look at how their books are made and more I recommend taking a look at their blog.
Draw Rainforest Animals by Doug DuBosque, a years-ago gift to Jane from her aunt, has been seeing a lot of action around here lately. Excellent tutorials and such fun material.
Boa by Beanie
Sloth by Rilla
Quetzal, Spider Monkey, Kinkajou by Rilla
Please, Runners, if for no other reason than the sake of vanity do what you can to improve your form.
Joking aside, running with proper form will make you more efficient…running more efficient will make you faster. And hey, you won’t look like this poor sap running either…PERK!
Posts all about form and how to improve yours HERE, HERE, and HERE.
More running cartoons HERE!
1) What’s the craziest looking runner with poor form you’ve seen before? It’s okay if you were looking in the mirror.
2) How has your form improved? What form related work did you do or are you doing?
3) Finish this sentence: I may have poor form but at least I don’t look like…
4) Anyone racing this weekend?
I am very excited about my interview with paper engineer extraordinaire, Bruce Foster. Read the interview here. If you love pop-up books like I do, you will be in awe of the painstaking process it takes to make a book like America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book.
© Bruce Fosster
Bruce Foster with a pop-up of Grand Canyon National Park
Companion to last month’s Galloping Horse. She’s still working hard on getting those legs just so, as you see. I’m loving this chance to watch a young artist hone her skills. She’s made big strides (so to speak) already.
I believe next up is Trotting Horse. All three are from the horse page in the Usborne Book of Drawing.
By: Valerie Storey
Blog: Valerie Storey, Writing at Dava Books
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, Found Poetry
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April is National Poetry Month, and this year I'm celebrating the season with a small poetry/art journal project with a Japanese-inspired theme I'm calling "30 Days of Kimono." The idea came to me when I visited the Albuquerque Art and History Museum with my writer's group several weeks ago. The museum was hosting a special exhibition on Japanese Art Deco, and because I've always been a huge fan of Japanese style, culture, and literature, it seemed like a good time to do something with all that inspiration!Rather than restricting myself to just poetry, I'm using a variety of methods, mediums, and digital sites, including Polyvore, where I made the kimono pictured above, as well as a Pinterest board. To keep all my ideas in one place, I've chosen to use a Moleskine Cahier Kraft blank notebook, which means I can decorate the cover too (still a bit of a work-in-progress...):On the inside I'm writing down my poetry thoughts, found poetry snippets, and sketch ideas for larger paintings:I'm also pasting in drawings made on other types of paper. For instance, the sketch below is made on a Japanese paper I can't describe very well other than to say it's slick on one side, rough on the other (I don't know if it's rice paper--sorry!). I used a pen cut from a piece of bamboo, Black Magic ink, and a little watercolor, then cut it into a kimono-ish shape. The pattern was based on my recent visit to New York and Central Park.One of the most enjoyable parts of this project has been my research; any excuse to go to the library and immerse myself in good books is fine with me. Besides losing myself in several gardening books covering Zen gardens and tea houses, my favorite find was a classic, The Book of Kimono by Norio Yamanaka. Everything you'd ever want to know about the history, making, and wearing of kimono is in this comprehensive little book. And believe me, there is a lot to know about wearing a kimono--about 36 actions just to get into "the thing," (which is all the word "kimono" really means: "a thing to wear") and half of those include hand-sewing, my most detested task on earth. Then of course there's the good behavior required to not crush or ruin the kimono, including never letting your back touch the back of a chair or car seat. Reminds me of when my mother forced me to wear scratchy nylon dotted Swiss on Sundays--don't move! Don't eat! Don't breathe! Which was perfectly expressed in this bit of found poetry I took from various lines of my magazine cut-outs:
Piety, memory, cleanliness,
Tip of the Day: Whether it's National Poetry Month of National Novel Writing Month, why not choose a theme or subject you've always wanted to know more about but never really had the time to explore? Not only could it start an entire new direction for your creativity, but it could also help give you that special edge to stand out from the crowd.
By: Allen Capoferri
Blog: Allen's Zoo
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Drawing & Painting from Life
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Oh what a difference running crazy amounts of miles in training makes. Come time for that post-race break those racing shorts…errrr, ‘shoes’ may be fitting a little differently!
Sunday morning deserves some running cartoonage! That being said, we can poke fun but one needn’t get TOO would up over some post-race ‘love’ weight, giving the body a chance to recover is incredibly important and your racing will be much better off in the long-term.
On the flip side there is a difference between recovery and gluttony…haha. As with most all things in running and in life, it’s all about balance. Now, pass this runner the Pop-Tarts!
POST on fueling for races.
POST with tips on runners eating out.
POST on the importance of the 30-minute refuel window.
POST on timing your fuel to best support your running performance.
Get more Running Cartoons HERE!
1) When it comes time to break after a race or season, do you eat differently?
2) What are some of the things you do to give your body some TLC to recover after hard races or between seasons?
3) Favorite thing you treat yourself to after a great race?
Loose Leaf is a project by Manual, located here in sunny San Francisco. Caught somewhere in between art publication and curated print series, the format of the project is part of what makes it so enticing. Each edition comes as a series of leaves, hole-punched and ready to install. This allows the user to continually rotate and swap out images.
They’ve also picked some fabulous artists and designers with which to work: Mark Giglio, Jon Boam, Chris Dent. Oh, yeah, NASA contributed an image, as well.
See more here. Check out Manual, too.
Featured Book: Irving Harper: Works in Paper
A Huge thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring this week’s RSS Feed!
Because holidays are just better the runner way.
Happy Running Easter…may you make it through the intervals before you barf and may you eat your weight in chocolate eggs and avoid a refund.
More awesome cartoonage HERE!
1) Do you tend to throw up after hard workouts or races?
2) Favorite kind of candy or chocolate goodie?
Cadbury does indeed rock, but Junior Mints are quite nice. But nothing beats Pop-Tarts.
This unsettling image is one of several prints available from Levon Jihanian, a cartoonist/animator perhaps best known for his Ignatz-nominated Danger Country. Check ‘em all out.
Madefire—the VC-funded IoS-based comics starter— and DeviantArt, the 7th largest social network on the internet, have teamed up to share art and technology.
Madefire will allow its motion comics technology to be available on DV to present comics; and DV users will user this technology to create new limited animation comics.
Todd Allen previewed the union at Publishers Weekly: Comics produced in the motion comics app will be available for download—either for free for a fee set by the creators. Madefire’s comics will be available on the DV portal, some free and some for ten cents.
As you all know, DV is a huge repository for comics art of all kinds—but you may now have knwn how huge:
While it isn’t well known outside the DeviantART community, the site does have its own cartoonists. Sotira was quick to point out the work of an artist named Yuu Mei. Her signature piece, a Flash-based comic titled “1000 Words,” has been viewed 1.35 million times, downloaded another 38,000 times, has 114,000 “favorite” votes and even has 25,000 comments, a huge humber that underscores the power of the DeviantArt community.
By: Heidi MacDonald
Blog: PW -The Beat
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, Stephen Mooneym Jordie Bellaire
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Later this year IDW will be publishing Half Past Danger, a new series written, drawn, and created by Stephen Mooney. After working as artist on several IDW titles including Star Trek and Angel for the last few years, Mooney decided it was time to set up a creator-owned project, which he’d have full control over. In order to do so, he had to set aside a year in which he scripted, designed, pencilled, inked, coloured and lettered the project – six months in which he wasn’t earning money from any other gigs. It was quite the risk, taking himself out of the comics scene for a year in order to focus on a comic he had no idea would ever see the light of day.
However! The good news is that IDW decided to pick up the book, starting with issue #1 this May – preorderable now! I spoke to Stephen about making the leap into creator-owned work, the inspiration for Half Past Danger, and how the experience has been.
Steve: Half Past Danger is dedicated to your father, “who took me to the movies”. What kind of films would you go see? Were there any in particular which served as inspiration for Half Past Danger?
Stephen: Oh wow, yeah. Loads! The first film I can remember my dad taking my brothers and I to see was E.T. in the Savoy cinema in Dublin in 1982, when I was five years old. Still my favourite cinema to this day. I can remember it like it was yesterday; its one of my first real memories. The whole experience made such a huge indelible dent on my psyche, in so many ways. The bustling anticipatory atmosphere of the jam-packed theatre, the crowd reactions as the movie ebbed and lowed. I was absolutely hooked. It also started my love affair with Spielberg’s eighties ouevre. Films that followed included The Return of The Jedi, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, The Goonies, Back To The Future, Big Trouble In Little China, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, and many, many more.
The most obvious influences on Half Past Danger filmically-speaking are undoubtedly the first three Indiana Jones movies. They really colour and inform my entire storytelling style. That bang-zip-wallop rapid-fire action beats-ridden kind of a narrative, with a few gags interspersed. Half Past Danger aspires to be that style of tale. Strong influences also would be the very early Connery Bond films, and pulpy matinee-style fare like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Then of course you have the classic Harryhausen dino movies. Great stuff, all.
Steve: How did the story of Half Past Danger start to come together? When did you first have the idea for it?
Stephen: The idea has been in my mind in some shape or form for years now, in that I’ve always known that if and when I ever attempted a story of my own that it would be 100% mired in that kind of pulpy action-adventure style, simply because that’s the genre I feel most comfortable in, and know so well. I always knew also that I’d want the main character to be an Irishman, since that’s the one thing I’ve been all my life, and nobody could tell the story of that particular character better than me, to my mind. I guess somewhat inevitably I injected much of my own personality and traits into a somewhat idealised version of myself, and placed him squarely into this scenario I’d begun to dream up. Hell, the guy even looks like me. If that’s not vanity wit large, I dunno what is.
The story came together over the last couple of years, I knew the high concept from the start, Nazis versus dinosaurs, but I wanted to really take my time and write something that hadn’t specifically been seen before, since as everybody knows, a lot of these themes have been done before on many occasions. The real trick is to give readers something they haven’t experienced as of yet, and I didn’t want to press too far ahead until I was sure I’d come up with a new spin on what in some ways could be seen as an old tale.
Once I figured out the main wheres, whys and whats, the rest came fairly rapidly.
Steve: This is your first creator-owned work – how did you decide that Half Past Danger was the right project to get off the ground?
Stephen: Well, it’s the only project that I’ve ever completely fleshed out, to be honest. I had this one idea that I thought was really strong, and it was bang in the middle of my wheelhouse, or more specifically what I wanted my wheelhouse to be, so I ran with it. To be honest I didn’t question it too much. Do I have other ideas? Yeah, but they all revolve around this universe! I guess I just had a single, enormous itch I needed to scratch for the time being, and I’ll see where I go from there.
Steve: You’ve said that you took six months off to focus on this project, writing, drawing, inking, colouring, lettering…. Where did you start with the project?
Stephen: With the writing. I didn’t put pencil to paper drawing-wise until the full series was totally written and put to bed. Then pencilling, inking, coloring, lettering, in that order. Then back to the start again for issue 2 and go again; rinse and repeat.
Steve: Did you work issue-by issue on the story, or plot out an entirety and then start filling it in? How did you approach the story once you had the concept locked down, in essence.
Stephen: I worked out the entire plot first. I’d be terrified to embark on a story without knowing how it was going to end. To be honest, I’d probably never GET to the end in that scenario, I’d just circle the drain narratively until I eventually flushed the project. In order to commit myself to this massive body of work, I had to make sure everything was utterly and clearly signposted. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to visualize my goal, and I’d be second-guessing myself all the while. Because the writing was the only element that I’d never approached before, I wanted to give it all of the respect it deserved, and to take the time to get it done right. Or, at least as right as I could get it!
Steve: How long has each issue taken you to complete? Did you find yourself surprised by how difficult certain aspects of the process were?
Stephen: Man, too long! The writing took about 2 months all-in, including research. That was fine. It was when I got stuck into the art side of things that I began to get bogged down a little. One of my dreams for the book was to do absolutely everything myself; complete creator control. That proved to be somewhat of a pipe dream in a way, though. The first issue of the book took me four months to pencil, ink, colour and letter. That was just unsustainable, the book would take another two years at that rate, and I was already six months in. Hence the addition of Jordie Bellaire as series colorist from issue 2 onward.
Something had to give, and of all of the aspects visually, I was spending the most time on the colours, which was crazy. Jordie is a very close friend, and when she saw me floundering she offered to dive in and help me out. She’s an amazing colorist, and a big fan of a lot of the same source material as I am, so it was a pretty seamless transition really. It also doesn’t hurt that Jordie’s a phenomenally talented colorist, in constant demand at all the biggest companies. I’m certainly beyond delighted that she chose to climb aboard.
With Jordie alongside, I’ve been spending two months a piece on the subsequent issues, almost all of that time spent drawing and inking the 26-odd pages per issue, then a couple of days of lettering at the end.
Steve: I was really struck with a blog post you wrote about the role of writing and art in comics - http://www.halfpastdanger.com/2011/10/writing-vs-art-this-time-its-personal.html . Now you’re further into the story, how have you found the balance between writing an issue and drawing it?
Stephen: It’s very hard for me to separate the two, if I’m being honest. In this instance, it’s all just the story. When I was writing it, I knew exactly how every beat and scene would look on the page (or at least how I’d like it to look), and now that I’m drawing it, I almost know off by heart the entire story and script, so it all just flows onto the page. Again, it’s all just utmost inseparable elements of the story, for me. The script is more a broad outline with fairly tight dialogue than anything. Stage directions.
Steve: I’ve read the first issue of the series, and really enjoyed the central character, Tommy Flynn. Did you find the design process easier for a character you created, and would be writing yourself? Has it been easy translating your ideas to the page, rather than interpreting an established work, as you’ve done before for IDW?
Stephen: Yeah, I think it has. I wouldn’t say easy, but I certainly haven’t had to wrestle it into submission or anything like that. Probably because the main character is a bit of a cypher, in that he acts and reacts pretty much the way I would assuming I were a lot braver and a tad more selfless. Working with the established characters, like say Angel or Spike wasn’t that difficult either though, in terms of working what was written on the page, because I had such bloody good writers whom I trusted implicitly. I’ve been very lucky that way. I’ve never had trouble portraying any given character on the page, the acting and character beats are one of the very few aspects of the drawing that come totally naturally to me.
Steve: With more control over the final product, have you noticed yourself experimenting more with pacing and panel layout?
Stephen: Oh god, yeah. WAY more. I’m very respectful of a given writer’s script when I get it on a work-for-hire job, I’m loathe to mess with what they’ve asked for in their direction. They spent time working that stuff out, so I stick pretty religiously to it when at all possible, even when I might disagree on the shots called for. Or maybe there might be a crazy talking order or something going on that just isn’t feasible without the addition of an extra panel or the use of a slightly different angle. Perhaps I should go more with my own gut, I don’t know. Usually I just want to make the writer happy. If there’s leeway there, I’ll certainly take it. This kind of touches on that article on the Half Past Danger process blog that you mentioned in one of the earlier questions.
On my own book, I’m much freer to go with my initial instincts, storytelling-wise. It’s one of the most satisfying elements of the whole venture, and one of the reasons I actually wanted to attempt it. I think one of the reasons that people seem to be responding to how ‘cinematic’ the storytelling is, is because that’s my natural modus operandi, and my default setting.
Steve: How has the experience of working on a creator-owned project been for you?
Stephen: Absolutely wonderful, so far. Dizzying highs, terrifying lows, creamy centres. It’s as hard as I’ve ever worked, and in even more of a vacuum than before. It’s incredibly scary and daunting, because at the end of the day, for better or for worse, it’s all me on the page; nobody to hide behind. But at the same time, that’s pretty much the most incredible aspect. Where else can a sole creator be responsible for almost every aspect of production? Film? Animation? It just doesn’t happen, and that’s one of the reasons I love comic books so much.
Steve: Do you see yourself doing more creator-owned work in future, or are you looking to alternate with some more work-for-hire projects?
Stephen: In a perfect world, I’d love to do further HPD series every year or two in the Hellboy model, with the odd work-for-hire gig interspersed between. But obviously, that all depends on how the first series is received. I’ll certainly stick around for as long as Chris Ryall and the amazing guys at IDW will have me, I genuinely don’t think that there’s a better home for Half Past Danger.
Steve: Jordie Bellaire will be coming on as colourist as of issue 2, as you’ve mentioned, whilst I believe Declan Shalvey will be drawing a backup strip for each issue. There seems to be quite a growing community of comics creators in Ireland recently. How important is it to have that sense of a creative community? Is it helpful to have people to bounce these ideas off?
Stephen: Oh, it’s invaluable. it really is. Having guys (and gals!) like Dec, Jordie and also Nick Roche, Will Sliney, Stephen Thompson and all the other Irish pros to bounce stuff off and get opinions from is simple indispensable. We’re a very close network. Almost collaborators in a way. I couldn’t do this without their help, I mean that. Otherwise I’d just be floating along in a nebulous void of gibberish. And I wouldn’t even know if it was good gibberish. So yeah, absolutely essential.
Steve: What advice would you give to anybody looking to create their own comics?
Stephen: Get off the pot and do it. Let go of the doubts and the maybes, and just make it happen. Everybody is afraid; everybody wonders if they’re actually good enough. I know I do. The only way to find out is to light that touch-paper, and have at it.
At the end of the day, even if Half Past Danger doesn’t hit that sweet spot critically or commercially, I’ll still have the satisfaction of knowing I tried.
I did my best. Otherwise, as dramatic as it sounds, I’d go all the way to the grave wondering what might have been.
Many thanks to Stephen for his time! If you’d like to find out more, you can read all about the process on his blog, which has been constantly updating with information and thoughts on the creation process for the last few months. You can find his pencilling, inking, colouring, bits of script, all sorts of things on there – I really recommend you have a look. You can also find him on the twitters! Half Past Danger #1 is out in May.
|Front Cover of Mister Orange|
Racing along New York City streets one March 1945 day, Linus Muller stops to catch his breath when his attention is suddenly arrested by a familiar face on a poster. Noting the address on the poster, Linus changes course and sets off for it instead.
Flashback to September 1943: Linus is 12 years old and has just inherited his older brother's shoes and his job delivering groceries for his parent's shop. In fact, with six kids and a war on, everything is a hand me down, except for Linus's older brother Albie, who is off to war now that he is old enough to enlist. Linus has also inherited Albie's bed and has been made caretaker of Albie's superhero comic books collection, a love they shared, as well as Albie drawing of his own superhero Mr. Superspeed, with whom Linus keeps a running conversation while he makes his deliveries.
As Linus begins his life as a delivery boy, he meets all the customers and quickly learns their quirky ways, like Mrs. DeWinter who always has another task waiting for Linus to do when he brings her groceries. His job takes him all over the Upper East Side of Manhattan, an area Linus knows like the back of his hand. Late in the afternoon, on his first day, his mother hands Linus a crate of oranges and tells him to deliver them to 15 East 59th Street. Little did Linus know this would be his most interesting monthly delivery.
Living there is an elderly painter with a difficult to remember name and a studio that has stark white walls, except for the groups of brightly colored squares and rectangles here and there. Linus started called the painter Mister Orange and it turns out that Mr. Orange had recently arrived from Nazi-occupied Holland to escape Hitler's oppressive control on the arts.
Meanwhile, brother Albie is still excited to go to war and ships out to Italy as soon as basic training is over. At first, Albie's letters are still filled with enthusiastic descriptions about being a new recruit and the friends he has made. From Italy, he asks Linus to play a rather harmless practical joke on a friend's mother for her birthday and leave a card from her son at the same time. Linus carries out his mission with stealth, but then Albie's next letter is more somber and sad, as he reports his friend has fallen in battle.
Linus understands how it feels to lose a friend. It appears that he is losing his best friend to an older boy who dislikes Linus as much as Linus dislikes him.
And so his visits to Mr. Orange become a bright spot in his life and it is there that the two talk about life. Angry at the reality of war that Albie describes, Linus decides that comics and superheroes are imaginary escapes from all the horrors in life and rejects them completely. Now he doesn't even have the voice of Mr. Superspeed to accompany him. But as Mr. Orange talks to him about his painting and even teaches him how to dance the boogie woogie, he also tells Linus about the importance of imagination, especially during wartime: "If imagination were as harmless as you think...then the Nazis couldn't be so scared of it." (pg 122) All the while, Mr. Orange works on his latest painting, a freedom he would not have had if he has remained in Europe.
Can Mister Orange help Linus through this difficult time?
Originally written in Dutch and skillfully translated by Laura Watkinson, Mister Orange
is itself a wonderful historical fiction work of imagination that skillfully portrays the daily hustle and bustle of life in one New York City neighborhood during WW2 as Linus makes his deliveries. I grew up in Brooklyn and Manhattan at a time when Mom and Pop grocery stores were still common (my brother's first job was delivering groceries), and if you had a fight with your best friend, you just went over to their house to make up - just the way Linus does - very simple, very easy. So I know that this and more of Mister Orange
is pretty spot on. And so is the Action Comic that Linus buys for Albie - November 1943 No. 66. Matti has done her research well.
But the friendship between Mister Orange and Linus would be unusual, though maybe not impossible. In a way, however, it is a nice example of how even a short lived friendship can impact our lives, in this case from September 1943 to February 1944.
is a nice coming-of-age story that unfolds slowly and steadily, but should still engage young readers, though probably not everyone. Linus is a thoughtful, introspective, observant boy who really loves life, at least until reality comes knocking and he finds his world terribly shaken.
I put Mister Orange
on hold at the library based only on the cover and knowing it was a WW2 story because I loved the cover of the American edition. Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) is one of my favorite abstract painters, so as soon as I saw the cover, I knew he would be in the story somewhere, someway. Jenni Desmond, the illustrator of Mister Orange
, has really captured both the motion of the city as Linus travels around and the sense of movement that Mondrian's painting reflect, so that it becomes such a wonderful mixture of Linus's life, and Mondrian's painting, which is as it should be. I found myself going over it again and again after I finished reading the book.
In the back on the book is a section called Mister Mondrian. This FYI section describes his life and the paintings he did while live in New York City. The painting that he was working on during Linus's visit was his never completed Victory Boogie Woogie
, see here:
|Victory Boogie Woogie by Piet Mondrian|
Mondrian's studio had an immediate, deep impact on Linus and helped him realize hope for the future. Here, though, are photos of that studio, almost exactly as Linus describes them (right down to the orange crates):
(click the images to enlarge them)
There are some who think this book would not appeal to young readers, but I think they will enjoy reading about Linus and his life, and the person who helped him work things out for himself.
This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was borrowed from the Webster Branch of the NYPL
By: Tonia Allen Gould
Blog: Tonia Allen Gould's Blog
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What’s an idea? The mere concept of an idea is difficult, maybe even impossible to perfectly define. Even notable philosophers couldn’t seem to agree on what an idea truly means. The Free Dictionary Online indicates that according to the philosophy of Plato, the definition of an idea “is an archetype of which a corresponding being in phenomenal reality is an imperfect replica.” The web source goes on to say that according to the philosophy of Kant, “an idea is a concept of reason that is transcendent but nonempiral.” But, even Hagel said it differently. He claimed that an idea means “absolute truth; the complete and ultimate product of reason.” In the dictionary, the definition of an idea reads “something, such as a thought or conception that potentially or actually exists in the mind as a product of mental activity.”
To me, an idea is something that begins as a glimmer; a mere flicker in the mind that can suddenly grab hold, and unfold through any period of time, like the single root of the ivy plant that grounds itself deeply into the soil before it grows upwards, clinging to a wall with its tiny tentacles, reaching out and hanging on, until it forms its own shape and dimension. The ivy grows and grows, like no other ivy plant in existence, and reaches for the sun in a way that suits itself in order to flourish. Like an idea, the ivy didn’t plant itself. Someone had to place it there. The gardener of the ivy had to have foresight to buy or rent the house, invest in the fertilizer and the soil and the tools; he had to invest in the plant and spend his time digging the hole and planting it in the hopes that it would grow.
Like the gardener; creative professionals must make an investment in time, be committed to the outcome, and diligently work to understand and meet the project objectives. That’s a lot of footwork and fancy dancing already. But, what about the ideas you generate…those tiny seedlings of thought, that grew and took shape and added a dimension to the project that were unlike every other idea before it…those absolute truths…those nonempiral transcendent concepts of reason…those imperfect replicas…what about those? Those ideas, my friends, have value and they are your greatest asset. Sometimes, we forget that and give them away too freely, as if they have no value. So if you’re questioning your creative worth, maybe you should start looking first at your assets. #yourideashaveworth