Sunday, August 15, 2010

A river runs through it

My fam has not been on a vacation in ages. The concept of vacation to an artist is the same as the concept of retirement- a sad joke. I have had so much important work that needed to get done, but my wifey is the one who missed out. And so we spent a week down in Cave Junction, Oregon, where she grew up. It is a unique and remote little hamlet, surrounded by bleached dry grass, oaks and evergreens, old farmers and new farmers, hippies and good ol boys, and most importantly for this story, rivers.

The Illinois River is a cool salvation to the fiery heat of summer. And, of course, fiery is the painfully accurate word. You pass lots of scarred hillsides, black from recent fires. Driving toward home this very morning, we could barely see the next hill over due to a forest fire smoke. I recall flying over a few weeks ago from LA and spotting a half a dozen major fires from the air.

I grew up in places that were also very hot during summer and cold in winter. But it has been a while, and I am now acclimated to one of the most mild climates around. Cool summers. Cool winters. Grey grey grey. And SO, arriving in southern Oregon mid august with a partially functioning AC in a van with only two windows, was, to say the least, hot. We did the wet cloth trick a few times, but mostly our survival was mercifully administered in the form of swimming holes.

A stunning swimming spot on the spectacular Smith River.

Orca Rides with my boy.

We would visit with fam and friends under the beautiful sun, swelter to the fainting point, and then dash off for a swim. Dry after only moments of walking away from the water, we would venture to the next destination. And again, pop in a river for a swim after that. Lunch. Swim. Dinner. Swim. Beer. Swim.

T Man getting ready for a swim after a long drive south.

Grandma helps get the burs out, after some exploration down creek.

Drying off takes only seconds.
I got my fill of clear water and it was for the betterment of my soul.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Ancient Being

The giant Redwoods are simply not done justice in photos. They need to be experienced for one to take in the grandeur. Just like the national parks. I grew up near a massive Sequoia grove and was always stunned when I walked through. This time, right at the edge of California and Oregon, I was quieted and humbled by these trees. Trees is too glib a word. Too small. The energy that abides among these ancient beings is not exaggerated.

There is a quiet calm that surrounds this area. The Smith River winds up against this spectacular grove and both the river and the forest are mystical. And I don't mean that in a literary way. I mean, straight up mystic vibrations. There is some imminent impression of ancient mythology when you walk amongst living trees older than many civilizations. Once you leave the place, these dreams might dissolve in the sunshine. I hope mine do not. I want to write about it more and try to get to the essence of my fascination with this spot. I want to create new mythology about these giants.

I wonder how old any of us are. Not our days crawling and walking on earth. Were we around inside the mind of God before we were born? Sometimes it seems that way. Sometimes with a person or a place, song or smell, you catch a sliver of familiarity and knowing, well beyond your actual contact.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Ripple: time to bid

Here is the link for my piece in the Ripple Auction.
One sold, but this one:
... is still one available as of 9:30 pm.
If you would like the original, go check it out. All you have to do is send her an email expressing interest and then go donate $50 to a charity involved in the clean up, email her the proof of that, and I will mail the original art to you.


At Press with Hope for Haiti

Thanks to Susan Kochan, editor for this book, and Cecilia Yung, art director, we have a visual treat to share with you. Here are photos of the printing of the book. When I come to your school or library, I can share the entire process more specifically, but for now, take a look at a simple run through of the printing process.

This printing is done using a four color process. My original art is scanned on a big drum scanner that gets a very high resolution file of the art. Then the printer separates the file into the four colors, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black. CMYK. (As opposed to the RGB, or Red, Green, Blue, that you find on your monitor. We can get into a delightful conversation about the difference between the two types of color during a workshop sometime. But for now, suffice to say that the printed page is usually done with the CMYK process.)

Then "plates" are created that will be the point of contact between the inks and the paper. They are fastened onto a roller where the paper will pass by and collect the four colors from each plate.

Here we have the Cyan plate:

and the Magenta plate:

and the Yellow plate:

and the Black plate:

Ink is distributed to the specific plate:

The paper is fed into the press, and the fun begins. These machines crank a lot of paper, very quickly. The rolls weigh more than my car:

Each page in the book has been run through each of the four color inks, until the combination of these inks create the full color image you see on the paper:

The covers go through a wrapping machine that wraps the printed cover over the hard surface underneath. The endpapers are also glued to the cover board:

The pages are folded, the bindings are stitched:

Some really cool stuff goes on in there... (maybe that is where they give it the coating of awesomeness, I am not sure.)

And as the copies begin flying from the end of the press, the spectacular art director of the book is there, in person, to ensure the color exactly matches that of the artwork. Bless her heart:

I have been on press a few times and it is a nerve wracking thing. You feel like you have to hurry up with your color correcting because the press is roaring away, and people are all standing around kind of quietly willing you to decide already, and bins are filling by the second with printed paper. My art director, Cecilia Yung, thankfully, is not the type to get intimidated. She kept at it until the skin tones were rich, the shadows full, and the whites sparkling. Here she is with the press supervisor, color correcting:

Cecilia really knows her stuff. She has overseen and directed some of the best picture books in print. Here she is employing a secret trick of the trade. She checks color upside down. That way the person trying to match colors is not distracted by the subject matter, or the familiarity with the piece that comes from months of working with the images. Also, you can notice mistakes or questionable elements very quickly upside down. (Or in the mirror.) Try it out sometime if you are wondering what to do to finish off your piece of art. You may notice you still have work to do if you take a peek upside down.

Once the art director gives her thumbs up, the press steams ahead until the books are printed:

I would love to give a big thank you to Putnam (Penguin) for the rush printing on this project. They made it possible for the book to come out much faster than most books ever do, and ensured its message and purpose would be effective in its timeliness. The book, in fact, is something of a miracle baby. Usually picture books take up to two years, pen to product. But this book will be complete, from first spark of idea to finished book, in less than nine months.

Thanks to Rubin Pfeffer, my admirable agent and friend. When I told him I was the fastest painter in the west, he told me I may just have to prove that someday. After we signed Hope for Haiti, he reminded me that this was that very time. Right around two months later, the entire book was painted, cover and all.

Thanks to Cecilia Yung for her eagle eye for color and the way she carefully birthed this book into existence, from written word, to final product. And, a special thanks to Susan Kochan, for her editing acumen, her out of the box thinking, and her trigger finger camera skills in documenting this part of the process of Hope for Haiti.

October, here we come.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

Old Friends and New Friends and Facebook Friends

The Facebook friends are the ones I worry about. The ones that might have a nine under their jacket and who may have spent hundreds of hours in preparation for this very moment. To silence the Jesster. But, alas. I am delusional. Or am I?

When you finally meet a Facebook friend or Blogger friend in person, there is a measure of awkward intimacy... kinda like waking up next to a stranger. Or, so I hear. There really is this weird thing where you get to know these people over time, but never face to face. Sometimes it ends in shame, like the time I woke up next to the clown. And other times, with a happy ending. Uh...let me rephrase. I mean to say, sometimes it ends in an even more solid friendship, one with the foundation of the pen-palish aspects of the internet, but with the well rounded features of a hand shake or hug.

In LA, I got to meet several such people (not to mention, a very special someone with size 17 shoes and a bright red nose. But that is another story entirely). Lots of these folks I ran into and then spent time with were complete strangers to my face. I knew them by their comments. And that is actually not a bad way to meet and get to know someone. It is like speed dating, but opposite. Long dating. And not dating, but you get the point. You get used to the kind of response a person would probably have to any given thing. And then you meet them in person and you know them enough. Enough to hang out.

My artist friends who I met through blogs or otherwise online, are a ruckus crew. I really enjoyed them. The writers, as well, although, since they are all in the business of telling lies, I was more dubious. My dubiosity proved almost always unwarranted. Good folks, all in all. But, I tell you what. I love how writers do their thing. Online, you can NOT shut them up for anything on earth. They will just comment until the sun comes up. Except ...when you ask them something in person. I witnessed the silent stammers of many typically loquacious wordsmiths, when asked to suddenly give an answer or response on video. Classic! And I am the same way. I am solid if you let me write about it... actually, write about it and then go and revise what I have written for an hour or two. Then I can sound like a cross between Mohatma Ghandi and Phil Jackson. But, on the spot, I sound like a cross between Chief Wiggum and Sarah Palin. You come looking to me for a sound byte after a few mohitos and a day's worth of lectures, and I will provide you with enough lorus ipsum to fill a brochure.

One other minor point about those internet friends is this. Many times the most confident, hilarious bloggers or FBers are in fact, shy little cutie pies who, without their cloak of invisibility, just about blow away in a gentle breeze. So your job is to confirm their awesomeness. Unless they are carrying a nine and a full clip, in which case, you have got to drop them before they drop you. And, take it from me. Carrying a big sketch book is great for dropping assassin bloggers.


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Charity Art Auction for Education

Please go check this out. It is hot. Lots of great artists doing impressions of Santat Style and images from the book, Oh-No! The book is simply majestic in its awesomeness. It kicks booty. And now, there are all these originals that kick booty for a good cause.

Click here to check out the art!

Here is the piece I did:

Pencil on Bristol Board.