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On the subject of competition law inspections and similar procedures, tensions have been building between the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (EUCJ). The latest case-law appears like a step in the direction of reconciling the two. One of the crucial points that must be resolved in the future is the lawfulness of the authorities’ extensive digital evidence gathering during on-site inspections. Such searches are nowadays a matter of routine, although the law seems to be lagging behind. Not only must the lawfulness of those measures be resolved, but also the matter of procedure. Companies subject to inspections have gone to court repeatedly in order to obtain up-front judicial control of specific measures such as copying and mirroring of hard drives and servers.
Delta Pekárny concerned a competition law inspection. The inspection began with an examination of digital correspondence. Delta Pekárny was subsequently fined for refusing to allow an in-depth examination of its data. It challenged that decision, arguing, among other points, that it was contrary to domestic law and to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) for the Czech Competition Authority to carry out an inspection without having received prior authorisation from a court. In the judgment, the ECtHR makes references to EU law, to a comparative study of the investigative procedures prevailing in all Member States, and to the Commission’s inspection powers. The ECtHR considered that in the absence of a prior judicial authorisation by a judge, an effective control afterwards of the necessity of the measure, and rules on destruction of copies made, the procedural guarantees were insufficient to prevent the risk of an abuse of powers. There had been a violation of Article 8 of the ECHR (right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence).
The ECtHR’s legal assessment in Delta Pekárny cannot, in my opinion, be seen as a criticism of the investigation procedure under Regulation 1/2003, a procedure that has been copied in several Member States. Rather, the outcome seems specific to the procedural rules applicable in the Czech Republic.
Delta Pekárny builds partly on Robathin, a case that concerned a search warrant at the office of an Austrian practicing lawyer who was suspected of aggravated theft, aggravated fraud and embezzlement. The warrant was issued by an investigating judge in the context of criminal proceedings. All files of the lawyer’s computer system were copied. The ECtHR held that domestic law and practice must afford adequate and effective safeguards against any abuse and arbitrariness. There should be particular reasons to allow the search of all data, having regard to the specific circumstances prevailing in a law office. There were no such reasons either in the search warrant itself or in any other document. The ECtHR found that the seizure and examination of all data went beyond what was necessary to achieve the legitimate aim. There was a violation of Article 8 of the ECHR.
The Robathin case concerned classic or hard core criminality. Depending on the circumstances, a competition law fine can be considered a criminal penalty. Competition law cases nevertheless lean more towards the administrative enforcement side, and this can influence the procedural requirements.
A hint at how the ECtHR may regard competition law dawn raids came in Bernh Larsen Holding. The case concerned a tax inspection.Three companies used a server jointly and the Norwegian tax authorities copied the entire sever content. The inspection order was adopted without prior judicial authorisation. Volumes of surplus information without importance for the tax inspection had been copied, including private correspondence and business secrets. The ECtHR accepted considerations of efficiency of the tax audit, but made clear that this did not confer on the tax authorities an unfettered discretion. The Court assessed whether the measure was necessary and proportionate. There was a wider margin of appreciation since the measure was aimed at legal persons and not at an individual. The nature of the interference was not of the same seriousness and degree as in the case of search and seizure carried out under criminal law since the consequences of a tax subject’s refusal to cooperate were exclusively administrative. The outcome was that the Norwegian order had been subject to important limitations and was accompanied by effective and adequate safeguards against abuse. There was no violation of Article 8 of the ECHR.
The judgments of the ECtHR can be seen in relation to those of the EUCJ. In Nexans, the Commission carried out a dawn-raid and decided to remove four DVD-ROM discs and a copy of the hard drive of the laptop of an employee of Nexans France, for later review at its premises in Brussels. The inspection decision, as well as the mirroring measures and other measures, were appealed to the General Court. Nexans’ claim relating to the Commission’s decision to remove copies of certain computer files and of the hard drive, was deemed inadmissible. After reminding that Nexans could bring its claims within an appeal against a final decision, the General Court pointed out that Nexans could also bring an action for damages against the Commission if it believed that copying of several computer files and of a hard drive for later examination in its offices was illegal and had caused harm. There was consequently no assessment in substance.
“Step by step, the Court in Strasbourg is moving into domains that have, for many years, primarily been a matter for the EUCJ”
An outcome which appears opposite can be observed in Deutsche Bahn. Deutsche Bahn challenged three Commission inspection decisions. One of the claims was that Deutsche Bahn’s defence rights had been infringed in view of irregularities during the first inspection. According to Deutsche Bahn, the second and third inspections were based on information that had been unlawfully obtained during the first inspection. Among other things, the Commission had searched certain e-mails that were clearly unrelated to the subject-matter of the first inspection. Allegedly the Commission officials had also used certain keywords unrelated to the inspection during their electronic search. The General Court looked into all those aspects in relative detail and finally rejected the plea as unfounded. The General Court’s judgment has been appealed.
While the General Court’s judgment in Nexans seems somewhat difficult to reconcile with the case-law of the ECtHR, the approach in Deutsche Bahn appears to be more in line with the methodology envisaged by the ECtHR in Robathin and Bernh Larsen Holding. The facts of Delta Pekárny may be too specifically related to Czech domestic law to be of general application. Nevertheless, the ECtHR’s approach is telling. Step by step, the Court in Strasbourg is moving into domains that have, for many years, primarily been a matter for the EUCJ. This as such, should come as no surprise. The EUCJ has made references to the ECHR for decades in competition law rulings. Can we in the years to come expect to see a mutual alignment?
Featured image credit: FW Pomeroy’s statue of Justice atop the Old Bailey. Photo by Ben Sutherland. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr
Children have become heavy new media users. Empirical data shows that a number of children accessing the internet – contrary to the age of users – is constantly increasing. It is estimated that about 60% of European children are daily or almost daily internet users, and therefore, by many they are considered to be “digital natives”.
However, in our view, the use of this “digital natives” concept is misleading and poorly founded, and is based on the assumption that children are quick to pick up new technologies. A recent EU Kids Online study invalidates this assumption. The study shows that even though children actively surf on various online applications, they lack digital skills such as bookmarking a website, blocking unwanted communications, and changing privacy settings on social networking sites. Many children are not capable of critically evaluating information and changing filter preferences.Interestingly, the lack of skills to perform specific tasks while being online does not impinge on children’s beliefs in their abilities – 43% of surveyed children believe to know more about the internet than their parents. At the moment, no correlation between this proclaimed self-confidence and their actual understanding of how internet works can be done due to the lack of data. Nevertheless, it is worth questioning whether, and to what extent, it is reasonable to expect that children understand the implications of their behaviour and what measures could mitigate children’s online risks in the most efficient and effective way.
It is probably closer to the truth to say that, in terms of privacy and data protection awareness, children are anything but “digital natives”.
Indeed, children’s actions online are being recorded, commercialised and serve for the purposes of behavioural advertising without them actually realising. This media illiteracy is tackled by awareness raising campaigns and policy measures on domestic and EU levels. However, it seems that these measures only partially address the challenges posed by children’s online engagement.
The European Commission (EC) seems to be in favour of legislative measures providing for a stronger legal protection of children’s personal data in the online environment. In Article 8 of the proposal for the General Data Protection Regulation, the EC introduces verifiable parental (or custodian) consent that would serve as a means of legitimising the processing of a child’s personal data on the internet.
Article 8 of the proposal foresees that parental consent would be required in cases where the processing operations entail personal data of children under the age of 13. The age of 13 would be the bright-line from which the processing of children’s personal data would be subjected to fewer legal constraints.
In practice, this would divide all children into two groups; children that are capable to consent (i.e. 13-18 year olds) to the processing of their personal data and children that are dependent on parental approval of their online choices (i.e. 0-13 year olds). Drawing such a strict line opposes the stages of physical and social development. Also, it requires the reconsideration of the general positive perception of the proposed parental consent from a legal point of view. In particular, it is necessary to evaluate whether the proposed measure is proportionate and whether it coincides with the human rights framework.
In a recent article published in the International Data Privacy Law Journal, we have analysed the proposal to distinguish between children younger and older than 13 years and found many practical and principled objections. Apart from the practical objections, which are often self-evident (e.g. what about the protection of children in the age group from 13 to 18 year old? How to ensure the enforcement of the proposed parental consent?), there are several fundamental problems with the proposed 13 years-rule.
The bright-line rule, which would require data controllers to obtain parental consent before processing personal data of children aged under 13, seems to be incompatible with the notion of evolving capacities. The proposed measure is based on the assumption that from the age of 13 all children are able to provide an independent consent for the processing of their personal data in the online environment. The proposed Article 8 ignores the fact that every child develops at a different pace and that the introduction of parental consent does not ensure more guidance regarding online data processing. We also regret that Article 8 in its current form doesn’t foresee a way in which children could express their own views regarding the data processing operation; the responsibility to consent would rest exclusively with a parent or a legal guardian. This set-up opposes the idea of children’s participation in the decision-making process that concerns them, an idea anchored in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and that is recognised by both the EU and its Member States.
Finally, our analysis suggests that children’s rights to freedom of expression and privacy may be undermined, if the proposed parental consent is introduced. As a result of Article 8, children’s access to information could become limited and dependent on parents. Also, the scope of their right to privacy would shrink as parents would be required to intervene in children’s private spaces (e.g. gaming accounts) to make informed choices. Therefore, it can be observed that the introduction of parental consent contradicts the key principles of human rights law enshrined in the UNCRC.
Featured image credit: Student on iPod at school. Photo by Brad Flickinger. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Or at least we're headed in that direction anyway. About 6 million things to do in the next three weeks, but I'm zeroing in on a holiday card image/mailing and I'm kind of excited about this snowboarding polar bear :) Back to the drawing table. Ride on!
While my color mood project is officially over, I haven’t stopped keeping an eye for effective uses of color and geometry in illustration and design. Because I happen to be a musician, I’ve also started creating gig posters for my band’s shows. The gig poster is an interesting format–you have to draw attention quickly and effectively, which typically means that it needs a striking illustration or eye-catching typography.
Dan Stiles is a cornerstone of the gig poster world, and has continued to surpass its limits with his incredible command of color and use of interacting shapes. He’s a Portland-based designer and illustrator with an award-winning track record, and has worked with clients such as Death Cab For Cutie, Feist, Nike, Birch Fabrics, MTV, and Wired Magazine.
Dan, originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, got his footing in Portland during his college years. He gravitated towards design by falling into the role of rock-poster-maker at the University of Oregon. Interestingly enough, he got his start as a pen-and-ink artist rather than a digital pixel-pusher (which he expounds on in his interview with WeMake). As a punk DIY-er, he originally was avoidant of graphic design. It’s a relief to know that there were others who resisted digital illustration at first aside from me!
From there, he fell in love with the design process as well as the silkscreen process, which is often a principal element in many gig posters. His minimalist aesthetic and focus on the integrity of shape only lends itself to his chosen medium. As a gig poster designer, he often has complete creative control over the concept and execution of his designs.
Since those early days, Dan has branched out to advertising, branding/identity, surface design, packaging, and even creates his own books and merchandise. He’s worked with Birch Fabrics on their Marine Too and Mod Squad lines (the former of which was borne out of his design for an A.C. Newman poster). Dan cites his success as being dependent on his abundance of completed work.
“I look at it like the sorcerer’s apprentice. I’m Mickey Mouse, and every project I complete is another broomstick out in the world doing work for me. The more quality work I release, the wider my reach.” -Dan, from his interview with Birch Fabrics.
I discovered Jon Contino by following the work of Jessica Hische and Drew Melton (the typography world is very small). The first two things that resonated with me was the fact that he, like me, didn’t go to art school, and that he also used his musicianship as a passageway to his passion for design. As much as I’ve grown to love digital illustration and type design, I’m always the most drawn to analog aesthetics–and Jon prioritizes them in his work.
Jon Contino is an award-winning designer, illustrator, art director and self-professed alphastructaesthetitologist. His style is strongly inspired by contemporary street art, his native stomping grounds of New York, and the grit of hand-drawn type. He’s worked with clients like Ogilvy, Nike, Whole Foods, McSweeney’s, Target and The New York Times. He’s also an ADC Young Gun 9 winner to boot, and happens to possess a heartwarming Long Island-born accent.
Jon cites his family as being vital in governing his design and illustration aesthetic. His mother and grandmother happened to be artists, both supporting and assisting in his pursuit of his craft by bringing home reams of butcher paper and instructional drawing books (more about this in the wonderful Shoptalk interview here). He discovered that the lettering he was seeing in movie posters and baseball adverts still counted as typography–even at a very early age. It took me much longer to figure out that illustration and beautifully drawn words weren’t just for books–the marks of our handiwork can truly be found anywhere, if you just slow down and take the time to look.
As a teenager, Jon got his freelancer chops very early on. As a designer geek and drummer in a hardcore band, he was constantly relied upon by his band (and friends’ bands) to supply flyer designs, gig posters and the like. Soon enough, he realized that he could actually “make money at this thing,” and he was preparing invoices and freelancing by the ripe old age of 15.
In 2006, after working for a few different companies and design houses, he opened his own creative studio and has been working for himself ever since. He’s constantly turning pet projects into mini-businesses–most recently, he started up Contino Brand. And even amidst his successes, he’s learned the art of saying no for the sake of self-preservation.
Jon has spoken about how his preference for modern minimalism and his hand-drawn gritty aesthetic meets with a clash. That clash has governed a unique vision that brings the best of clean design and true-to-form drawing together. I’m enthralled by this intersection, and so clearly see the passion and determination that stands solidly behind Jon’s work. His personal history only continues to illuminate it.
Have you ever awoken in the morning with a lingering feeling that’s something like queasy wonderment, with fading images of strange, unearthly places bobbing at the edges of your consciousness before sinking forever into the cloudy depths of forgetting? Well, what if at that moment you were able to hook up your dream-addled brain to some fantastical art-machine that had the power to transliterate the fevered firing of your synapses into psychic Polaroid snaps? The result might be something very much like the art of Josh Courlas.
This New York illustrator’s fantastically atmospheric work is filled with mysterious figures lurking in shadowy halls and trudging through foreboding, misty landscapes or worlds of nightmarish, geometric architecture. In quite what manner of quests these cloaked somnambulators might be engaged remains always arcane, but that’s all part of the appeal. It’s as though those crazy dreams of yours had something to do with those dog-eared copies of HP Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe sitting on your nightstand…
See more of the products of Courlas’s magnificent, spattery 1970s airbrush of gloom over at his website.
In writing these Art Crush posts, I’ve found that I’m usually late to the party. Meaning, of course, that literally everyone else has known about these illustrators already before I stumbled across their work, since I’m probably an unhip grandma. But in this case, I’m kind of excited–Kelly Thorn is an up-and-coming junior designer at Louise Fili Ltd. and generally amazing typographer and illustrator, and she’s already blossoming on the scene.
I stumbled upon Kelly Thorn’s work by way of Friends of Type, a “typography sketchbook” of sorts started by Erik Marinovich and a few of his illo-designer buddies. Kelly’s command of linework and her gorgeous color choices immediately drew me in. Her pieces demonstrate a solid understanding of design and composition, but still leave room for illustrative experimentation and expression. Lovely.
A 2012 graduate of Tyler School of Art’s Graphic & Interactive Design program, Kelly now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.
Things are going pretty well on the new book, although the garden studio is officially closed now (sigh). I would SO much rather be outside in all this glorious weather than sat at my computer, with the blinds drawn against the sunshine. Hey ho.
The sample spreads I am producing ready for the Frankfurt presentation are going to be: Sketching on trains (2 spreads)
How to sketch with colour first, then line (2 spreads)
Drawing eyes (1 spread)
These were decided on by the publisher. They know what the US co-edition publishers will be looking for. My art director has done sample designs for me to approve (which I'm afraid I don't think I can show you yet) and I have written all the text.
I have chosen all the sketches for these sections too. Unfortunately, all my sketches are scanned at low-res for general sharing, so the ones for the book all have to be re-scanned at 300ppi. I have set John onto that task and he has done the lion's share now.
One of the train sketches had to be redone, because I tinted it digitally, originally at low res (duh). I was experimenting with digital tinting in 2010. Above is the original pencil drawing, done in a 3B: my tool of choice back then. I used a very basic drawing tool in Photoshop and a limited palette to re-created the coloured version I did at the time. Below is the final tinted version.
The weird image at the top of this post is the coloured layer, separated out, which I thought looked rather fun and funky, but also helped you to see how the digital version was created.
Right - enough chatting to you guys: it's back to work for me!
In my journey towards becoming somewhat of a graphic designer, I’ve gone through many bouts of chocolate-fueled rage, cursing when I can’t figure out how to line up my beziers correctly, or how exactly to create a seamless repeat pattern. Although there are loads of tutorials online, the Australia Graphic Supply Company is set to become the “square one” learning source for budding designers and typographers of all types (pun not intended).
Self-described “pixel-wranglers,” Dave and Laura Coleman are a husband-and-wife team working out of Sydney, Australia, focusing on a wide range of visual services from photography and branding to illustration and tattoo design. While Laura mostly manages operations & finances, Dave handles the creative side of their shared business–and both of them share a serious passion for design, photography and lettering.
They host a selection of their own client work on their website, but the primary focus is on their community and growing tutorial section. What’s neat to see is that their tutorial aesthetic matches up perfectly with that of their professional projects–the aim is clearly to give the viewer proper insight into the process of creating high-quality design and typography while simplifying the process down to layman’s terms.
Dave and Laura were briefly living and working abroad in Oviedo, Spain, but are now in the process of returning to their home base in Sydney. To follow along with their adventures, check out their travel blog.
I’ve also included a couple links to my other favorite tutorials below:
I can’t wait for more exciting tutorials and developments from the AGSC. Thanks so much to Dave and Laura for sharing their knowledge with us! Follow along with them on theirwebsite, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Social media and other technologies have changed how we communicate. Consider how we coordinate events and contact our friends and family members today, versus how we did it 20 or 30 years ago. Today, we often text, email, or communicate through social media more frequently than we phone or get together in person.
Now contrast that with psychotherapy, which is still about two people getting together in a room and talking. Certainly, technology has changed psychotherapy. There are now apps for mental health issues. There are virtual reality treatments. Psychotherapy can now be provided through videoconferencing (a.k.a. telehealth). But still, it’s usually simply two people talking in a room.
Our psychotherapy clients communicate with everyone else they know through multiple technological platforms. Should we let them “friend” us on social media? Should we link to them on professional networking sites? Is it ok to text with them? What about email? When are these ok and not ok?
Social Media Explained (with Donuts). Uploaded by Chris Lott. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
Some consensus is emerging about these issues. Experts agree that psychotherapists should not connect with current or former clients on social media. This is to help preserve the clients’ confidentiality. Emailing and texting are fine for communicating brief messages about the parameters of the session, such as confirming the appointment time, or informing the psychotherapist that the client is running late. Research has shown that emotional tone is frequently miscommunicated in texting and email, so emotion-laden topics are best discussed during the session.
How do we learn about new people we’ve met? In the past, we’d talk directly to them, and maybe also talk to people we knew in common. Now everyone seems to search online for everyone else. This happens frequently with first dates, college applicants, and job applicants.
Again, contrast this with psychotherapy. Again, two people are sitting in a room, talking and learning about each other. When is it ok for a psychotherapist to search for information about a client online? What if the psychotherapist discovers important information that the client withheld? How do these discoveries impact the psychotherapy?
No clear consensus has emerged on these issues. Some experts assert that psychotherapists should almost never search online for clients. Other experts respond that it is unreasonable to expect that psychotherapists should not access publicly available information. Others suggest examining each situation on a case-by-case basis. One thing is clear: psychotherapists should communicate with their clients about their policies on internet searches. This should be done in the beginning of psychotherapy, as part of the informed consent process.
When we’ve voluntarily posted information online–and when information about us is readily available in news stories, court documents, or other public sources–we don’t expect this information to be private. For this reason, I find the assertion that psychotherapists can access publically available information to be more compelling. On my intake forms, I invite clients to send me a link to their LinkedIn profile instead of describing their work history, if they prefer. If a client mentions posting her artwork online, I’ll suggest that she send me a link to it or ask her how to find it. I find that clients are pleased that I take an interest.
What about the psychotherapist’s privacy? What if the client follows the psychotherapist’s Twitter account or blog? What if the client searches online for the psychotherapist? What if the client discovers personal information about the psychotherapist by searching? Here’s the short answer: psychotherapists need to avoid posting anything online that we don’t want everyone, including our clients, to see.
Ways to communicate online continue to proliferate. For example, an app that sends only the word “Yo” was recently capitalized to the tune of $2.5 million and was downloaded over 2 million times. Our professional ethics codes are revised infrequently (think years), while new apps and social media are emerging monthly, even daily. Expert consensus on how to manage these new communications technologies emerges slowly (again, think years). But psychotherapists have to respond to new communications technologies in the moment, every day. All we can do is keep the client’s well-being and confidentiality as our highest aspiration.
Jan Willer is a clinical psychologist in private practice. For many years, she trained psychology interns at the VA. She is the author of The Beginning Psychotherapist’s Companion, which offers practical suggestions and multicultural clinical examples to illustrate the foundations of ethical psychotherapy practice. She is interested in continuing to bridge the notorious research-practice gap in clinical psychology. Her seminars have been featured at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, and DePaul University.
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While the landscape for digital comics continues to develop in the post-Amazon takeover of comiXology era, the devices upon which those comics will be consumed are evolving as well. New announcements and new devices appear almost daily, with a number of eagerly-awaited devices rumored to hit in the next few weeks, most notably new, larger iPhones. Trends seem to be shifting towards ever bigger mobile phone devices, while tablets begin to cool. Taken together both indications may actually point to a brighter future for digital comics.
The iPad, of course, popularized the tablet category and has remained the segment leader since its launch in April 2010, with almost unheard of sales figures, even while maintaining relatively high price points. Competing devices have flooded the market in the iPad’s wake, but the generally cheaper Android powered devices have mostly filled market niches, while providing a large diversity in size, performance, appearance and media tie-in. Newer models with improved screens continue to appear from Amazon (Fire HDX), Samsung, Sony, Lenovo, Asus, Toshiba and many more in the $175-299 price range, while sales and refurbished older models can bring the prices of modest but name-brand Android tablets down under $100. This wave of tablets, especially those from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, have also had the effect of weakening interest in traditional black and white eReaders, a category that limps along at this point.
In a surprise to many, however, the tablet boom is beginning to slow down considerably in recent months. In Apple’s last financial releases, iPad sales numbers have declined both quarterly and in year-to-year figures. Tablet sales from other manufacturers also seem to be declining, raising the question of where tablets fit into the mobile device ecosystem and why tablet owners are not replacing them as fast as smartphones. Is it a lack of innovation in new tablets? A lack of new use-cases or new applications, that might spur sales? Are older models still capable of doing everything that users want from their tablets (primarily media consumption, web browsing and light email)?
On the other end of the mobile device spectrum, sales continue to climb for smart phones, and will likely only jump further with the release of new iPhones, possibly as early as next week. Tellingly, the major innovation that is expected from the iPhone 6 is screen size: according to the most reliable of Apple watchers, the new phones will continue to increase screen real estate. The original iPhone had a 3.5 inch screen with a 480×320 resolution, while the latest 5S has a 4 inch 1136×640 pixel resolution. The expectations for the iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches with a 1334 × 750 resolution, and an even larger iPhone 6L at 5.5 inches and 2208 × 1242, pushing the latter device firmly into the hybrid category sometimes called “phablet.” Samsung has been the leader in the bigger is better smartphone segment with it’s Android Galaxy Note devices, which have had screens as big as 5.3 inches since 2011, and the latest model, the Note 4 just announced yesterday, is 5.7 inches at 2560 x 1440 resolution. Other highly anticipated upcoming devices include rumored Motorola Nexus devices (“Shamu”) at 5.2 and possibly 5.9 inches. And just to show how expectations of smartphone size has changed, a recently announced device from Chinese manufacturer ZTE, the Nubia 5S, with a screen of 4.7 inches, 1280×720 pixels, is called the “Mini.”
Is there a link between the slowing in tablet sales and the ever increasing phone screen size phenomenon? Does owning a device like the Samsung Galaxy Note make also carrying a tablet superfluous? Could larger iPhones cannibalize iPad sales, at least of the iPad Mini (7.9 inches, 1024×768 or 2048×1536)? Evidence at this point is very sketchy, and it’s also quite possible that larger phones will just drive tablet manufacturers to increase screen size as well, and in fact there are rumors of a new, larger iPad in the works with a 12.9 inch screen. The next few months, leading into the holiday buying season will clearly indicate the direction the mobile device trends are going in, and whether or not we will have to start looking for pants with larger pockets to hold our monster sized phones.
From a digital comics perspective, the evolution of mobile screens could have a very large impact, particularly as they remain the primary consumption device for such comics. The rise of comiXology matches in many ways the growth of the iPad, and it’s not a coincidence that Amazon wanted to purchase a key digital content distributor to integrate with its hardware offerings. While a weakening tablet market may be somewhat worrisome to digital comics sellers, the explosion of interest in larger sized phones may be a far more beneficial development. Reading comics on smaller phones, even with Guided View type applications, can be very frustrating, but as those screens get bigger and better, smart phones may indeed become more suitable for comics consumption. Reading comics on a 5.7 inch Samsung Note 4 phablet is actually a pretty decent experience and not that far off of 7 inch Kindle Fire in any case. And even more so, if Apple does, indeed, embrace this size trend wholeheartedly with a 5.5 inch iPhone, a device with the prospect of true mass acceptance, the landscape of digital comics friendly devices could grow explosively in the near future.
Natsko Seki collages lively, saturated scenes of urban life from her own drawings and photographs. Begging to be explored, each illustration is populated with human activity and contains clues left by a moment in time that—if only yesterday—is now lost. Iconic architecture stands as a grandiose reminder that Seki’s people are living in the shadows of history and are unknowing participants in the writing of their city’s centuries. Seki’s interest in architecture, fashion, and contemporary urban life has landed her commissions with Transport for London, Royal Historic Palaces, The Guardian, Bloomsbury, and Hermès. In 2013, Louis Vuitton published a book of Seki’s London illustrations as part of their travel books collection. Seki grew up in Tokyo and studied illustration in Brighton, UK. She now lives in London.
A number of comics publishers today joined comiXology’s no-DRM initiative, and will start offering their titles without digital anti-copying technology. Comixology’s announcement at San Diego in July that publishers could now distribute DRM-free focused on a small group of early enthusiasts, including Image Comics, Dynamite Entertainment, Zenescope Entertainment, MonkeyBrain Comics, Thrillbent, and Top Shelf Productions. From conversations at San Diego, it was clear a number of publishers at San Diego would be embracing DRM-free digital comics soon, and IDW Publishing, Valiant Entertainment, Oni Press, Fantagraphics Books, Aspen Comics, Action Lab Entertainment, Th3rd World Studios, A Wave Blue World, Blind Ferret Entertainment, Caliber Comics, Creative Impulse Entertainment, Devils Due Entertainment, GT Labs Comics and Kingstone Media have just made it official.
It is not clear to what extent the publishers will be extending DRM-free backup capabilities to the whole range of their titles, or to back issues that were previously distributed with DRM. In a quick scan of offerings Fantagraphics has already made some titles available, including today’s release of Cosplayers #2 and Jim Woodring’s Jim. IDW has made today’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Ongoing #33: Dawn of the Autobots DRM-free but Godzilla: Cataclysm #2 is not. It may be that it will take time to implement the DRM-free option, or it may be that particular deals with license-owners or individual creators do not allow it. Time will tell how far DRM-free gets extended by these publishers.
As a trend, though, the indications are clear that more and more publishers are embracing a flexible approach, giving their customers increased options and autonomy over their comics purchases. The movement is strong among small to medium publishers, but should put some pressure on the Big Two (and Dark Horse) that have so far resisted the call for less restrictions on their crown-jewel intellectual properties.
This Art Crush entry has truly been a long time coming. I first came across Lisa Congdon by way of Meighan O’Toole’s former art blog and podcast, My Love For You (which is post-worthy in its own right–it was an enormous source of inspiration for me during my college years). While I definitely gravitated to Lisa’s work on a visual level, it was her personal story that drew me in. Freelance illustration had been her second career. She didn’t start painting or making art until she was 31, and here she was, participating in museum-level shows, working with clients like Chronicle Books, and just being a genuine, successful badass. Lisa is not only someone I look up to artistically–she’s also a prime example of a human being.
Lisa’s art career was secondary, after she accumulated over a decade of experience in the education and nonprofit industries. By pure chance, she stumbled into a painting class and began making art of all kinds from that day forward–fueled by pure joy instead of the desire to succeed quickly. Having always been an avid collector, her random ephemera would find their way into countless collages as well as a series of photos, drawings and paintings that would eventually make up her A Collection A Day project. As she continued to develop her craft and share it with the ever-expanding Internet, people began to catch on. Today, she is an accomplished and prolific working artist, blogger, illustrator, public speaker and writer. Some of her most notable clients to date include The Land of Nod, The Museum of Modern Art, Harper Collins, 826 Valencia and Martha Stewart Living Magazine.
Lisa unabashedly tackles the subjects she is most passionate about, and that fearlessness is expressed effortlessly in the execution of her work. She describes herself as a “visual junkie,” and is deeply inspired by patterns, travel, architecture and vintage packaging, just to name a few. A faithful blogger, Lisa writes about her own process in addition to other artists whom she admires, as well as her life “outside the studio,” which includes swimming, biking, sewing, and traveling. In other words, she’s just making all of us look bad! (I only kid.)
One of the reasons I relate to Lisa’s work is due to the versatility and ever-evolving nature of her aesthetic. Certain characteristics like neon hues and her penchant for all things Scandinavian are mainstays, but she continues to branch out and explore all kinds of mediums (block printing and calligraphy, to name a few). These explorations fuel her work and expand her direction, which is most recently geared towards abstract painting. She’s a wonderful example of why you don’t need to narrow yourself down to one specific style (something I often grapple with).
Lisa is quite a unique artist in that she is not only a creator, but a mentor as well. Breaking into freelance illustration can be a challenging and solitary undertaking, and she continues to give her generous time to those who wish to pursue and learn more about the field through classes, speaking engagements and conferences around the country. I first met Lisa at her first Freelance Illustration class at Makeshift Society back in December 2012, and it was one of my most pivotal learning experiences to date.
Lisa recently released her new book, “Art, Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist,” which is a revolutionary and timely answer to the starving artist stereotype. It covers all areas of the freelance artist’s domain, such as photographing fine art, finding printing services, copyright, and diversifying income. It sits on the shelf above my working desk (I like to call it my “VIP” shelf) as I reference it constantly.
On that same note, I’m very excited to be taking Lisa’s “Become A Working Artist” class through CreativeLive next week! You can follow along with the class virtually by RSVPing here.
Today during DC’s “Download This!” panel new books were announced that will expand the publisher’s digital comics universe. Wonder Woman 77 will be written Marc Andreyko with cover art contributed by Nicola Scott. No story details or interior artist were mentioned, but the comic will debut as a six-part weekly series in December with print editions to follow. The series follows Lynda Carter’s TV Wonder Woman and is a natural extension of what the publisher started when they launched Batman 66.
Fables: The Wolf Among Us spins out of the popular Telltale games series which was originally based on the Bill Willingham Fables series. The creative team on the digital comic will include Matthew Sturges who will co-write with Dave Justus with art by Steve Sadowski, Travis Moore, and Shawn McManus. Covers will be by Chrissie Zullo. This will be Vertigo’s first digital series.
Mortal Kombat X will be written Shawn Kittelsen and drawn by Dexter Soy with covers by Ivan Reis. The series serves is a prequel to the highly anticipated game of the same name by NetherRealm Studios and Warner Interactive Entertainment. The story takes place 25 years after the events of 2011’s Mortal Kombat game and will tell the stories of characters both new and old.
As of today, We Give Books has a new home at First Book. The online platform, which features nearly 300 digitally-optimized children’s books, enables anyone with access to the Internet to put books in the hands of kids in need, simply by reading online.
This generous gift to First Book comes from The Pearson Foundation along with $1.3M in cash to support We Give Books and help First Book deliver new online programs and services to our growing network of 140,000 classrooms and community organizations serving children in need.
You can get involved too!
Children, parents, caretakers and educators can visit www.wegivebooks.org and select books to read together. Reading on the site also triggers donations of new books to programs and classrooms serving children in need. Launched just four years ago, We Give Books has helped deliver more than 3.25 million books to children around the world.
We could not be more thankful to the Pearson Foundation or more thrilled for We Give Books to join the First Book family, helping us provide even more critical reading opportunities to young people across the United States and around the world.
Learn more about We Give Books joining First Book here. Then check out We Give Books and start reading today.
Back in 2009 when I first decided that illustration was definitely the route for me, I was finally beginning to stumble on a lot of other illustrators that really governed my taste and aesthetic going forward. Interestingly, a lot of them happened to reside across the pond in Great Britain. Julia Pott, Lizzy Stewart and Gemma Correll are a few that come directly to mind when thinking of the geography, and are some of my favorite working artists to this date. Lize Meddings also happens to hail from the UK. I stumbled upon her work via Tumblr of all places, and am quite happy I did!
Lize Meddings is a Bristol-based fine artist and illustrator with a penchant for the color pink, animals, nature and all kinds of positive self-expression. She works in both analog and digital formats, showcasing wonderful brushwork and gestural figures. Since finishing up the Illustration program at Plymouth College of Art & Design, she’s become a self-publishing fiend–constantly working on the next comic, zine, print, bag or fine art commission. The idea of a creative block seems far and away from this one’s mind.
Lize is quite interested in the act of characterization, if that wasn’t obvious before. Her medium of comfort is a brush and some ink, but she also demonstrates a natural comfort around the use of color. I particularly love the way she draws eyes–very fairylike for some reason.
Something I’ve noticed about several British illustrators is the tendency towards a more “naive” aesthetic. While that might sound negative, it’s completely the opposite. There’s a unique youthfulness in Lize’s work that allows it to appeal to a wider, younger audience, all while the messages remain witty and cheeky. It takes a special person to turn reality into something appealing, and she does just that by focusing on the relatable, more beautiful aspects of life.
So last February I went to the Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators conference in New York City. Made the journey all by myself, leaving my toddler 871 miles away with daddy in Atlanta. The first night there I got food poisoning, forcing me to miss the entire morning session on Friday. Oh, did I mention I was 2 months pregnant as well? It was an experience for sure.
But none of that really matters. What matters is what I learned from the convention and what came out of it. I've wanted to attend for years and was not disappointed. Learned a lot, including how to approach my portfolio and branding for the next time I attend.
What's especially wonderful is how many art directors/editors are right at your fingertips. The conference allows for a lot of self promotion. During the open portfolio showcase, where you get to display your portfolio as well as leave out business cards and postcards, I had an editor ask me about one.
He especially liked the little girl and wanted to know if there was a story to go with her and if I would send it to him.
"Yup!" I replied. I did have a story, just didn't know what it was yet.
So after the excitement, nervousness, panic, and anxiety went away, I asked a few experienced illustrators and writers at the conference what I needed to do exactly. Elizabeth O Dulemba gave me some great advice. If an editor or art director asks you if you have a story, always say you have a story (check). Then take a couple months and write it. Editors expect it to take some time, and 2-3 months is not out of line. But make sure it is perfect! Illustrations to accompany are a bonus, but not necessary. He already liked my illustration style, he just wanted to know what it was all about.
So I followed their advice, kind of. Being pregnant and moving just a few months after the conference set me back a bit. Then a severe case of writers block set me back even more.
"You need to work on that story," my husband would often say.
"I know," was my only reply.
I have a lot of picture book ideas. I'm not saying every one is gold, but they are an idea, a place to start. But having an illustration and being told "come up with a story for this" put my mind in a fog I could not overcome. So I did the only thing I could do, took my time. Did research, had some creative procrastination and worked on the story little by little.
Till voila, I had an idea. Which developed into a story. Which has since become a world with characters and setting and concept. Here is a little peak.
Once the storyboard is finalized I will send it off to the publisher! Only 6 months late.
Michelle Thompson graduated from the Royal College of Art in 1996. Her techniques include mark-making and photography. She also combines traditional collage with digital technology, often working with found materials. She has worked internationally most notably collaborating with Vaughan Oliver. Michelle Thompson’s clients include Royal Mail, BBC and the Guardian amongst many.