Thursday, July 31, 2008

Skulltastic fun

fun with mandibles. had rare access to a good skeleton. i shot the heck out of it with the fuji. all kinds of orientations of the jaw. thought the one looked liked the guitar player from the band GWAR... a Richmond VA favorite. VCU sculpture department grads... using their degrees in a unique way.

working on my pulp magazine sketches. got a couple i want to push further. have a two man show in Sept at the Blue Elephant. gotta do a postcard design. The Hispanic Youth Symposium is on the 7th down at George Mason U. I have to judge the art show. Always looking out for the kiddies.

Monday, July 28, 2008

chewing it over in va

had a bit of time to organize files, papers, burn a dvd back up and shuffle art supplies around the studio. catching up on two weeks of backlog in the office. my second in command, Chris Paulsen has been holding down the fort in my absence, and was very happy to see me in my chair this morning. dishing out projects as i can, while trying to pace them.
I was looking in Dick Blick's catalog for the Schmenke watercolor tray and empty pans to try Dennis Nolan's pallet and technique. He has a great technique with a limited pallet, which is similar to my oil pallet. i'd like to dip the watercolor brush and give his method a try. pictured is his demo on the 18th in Hartford. Blick didn't have it in their catalog, so I may have to try Cheap Joe's.

The second photo is the storm i had driven though on Saturday evening. the white section of the cloud in the photo was firing lightning bolts all around. i kept shooting, but was always too late. next time i'll shoot a quicktime movie and then screenshot the stills. i was digging the single star in the the sky over the storm.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hartford | Day 13

Top: Me and my Children's book spread during the critique, photo by Ed Tuttle.
Mid: David Labrozzi during the crit
Bottom: The Big Crit Four, Background: Vin Di Fate, Betsy Lewin Foreground: Ted Lewin and Murry Tinkelman's back.
The final crit of the Children's Book comp. We were able to turn the projects around in a week, with total exhaustion. Many of these will be left where they ended on Friday, but many others have strong possibilities to become published children's stories. Ted and Betsy Lewin tackled the walls with persistence and care for each individual project, running nearly an hour over our scheduled end of class. With 20 people represented, each showing 32 pages, it took a ton of effort to move it along. I got some great feedback on my project, especially with my closing 5 pages and how I can sew it up into a tighter package. I was satisfied with my imagery, especially at this early stage, but my story needs to move quicker, tighter and with more dynamic pacing. I have heard plenty of horror stories about children's books and rhyme, so i may ditch that whole idea and push it into a standard tale.
After our critique on Friday afternoon, we went to the main gallery to view the graduating classes' show, then off to to the dinner and ceremony at the campus restaurant. Ron Mazzellin's speech was stirring. I scribbled notes on his main points of successful illustration, which had as much to do with day to day living, as being an artist.

Saturday: David Labrozzi and I left Avon CT by 10, drove, got gas, drove, ate, drove, cut off two cars, drove, got gas, dropped David off at Target (I think he lives in the parking lot somewhere) THEN the real drive started... in the last 10 miles. I hit a torrential rain storm that stopped traffic in the highway, both shoulders and crawling for cover every where you looked. My wipers were clearing it as fast as they could, but the hail was slamming so fast on the windshield, I could only make out brake lights and hazards through the rippling waterfall that was my windshield. I kept rolling forward for the next 10 minutes, then started to see the sun breaking through, while the rain pounded the highway... it was totally eerie. Within the last three miles, you wouldn't have known it had rained. it was just that weird. Lightning and black in my rear view mirror, blue sky and sunshine over the hood.

It's good to be home. I have a ton of homework, lecture papers and projects to being working on, but it's nice to hug the family and see my lovely bride.

I'm in a good place.

It was the right thing to do, starting the MFA... It's where I belong. Good things are about to happen if I keep on my toes and keep the eyes opened for opportunities.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hartford | Day 12

my last big work day begins. i have to crank out 9 spreads, along with text placement within the next 12 hours. it should be a reachable goal. it's raining like mad here in CT. torrential downpours as we shuttle from lecture to class like a bunch of wet cows. i'll upload my progress tonight.... sci fi and fantasy art genres lecture is about to begin
- conceptual art lecture this afternoon

Di Fate's lectures were as intense as ever. i try to key in the notes as he talks, as i look at the slides on the screen. the worst is to look down an notice my fingers had gotten lost and spewed a pile of gibberish, then retype and try to listen to the current slide explantion while remembering the previous one... i think i'm keeping up, but the notes are overflowing. i think i'm developing a mighty hump on my back from hunching over the keyboard, while slouching as low as i can in the seat to get the best view of computer and projector screens. i need the fighter pilot heads-up display. it would work much better.
I've finished my full sized book comp. i've dummied in the text, especially since i don't want to commit to anything final at this stage. i need to revisit my edited version of the story... i don't even have a title that speaks to the story yet. They go on the wall on Friday morning. Ted and Betsy Lewin want everyone's work on the walls... it's going to take the walls in the three classrooms to display them all. 640 images, except many are spreads... so nearer to 3-4 hundred full-sized book pages all around the studios. this critique will take most of the day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hartford | Day 11

i'm friggen wiped out. the lectures are heavy duty. i have to be on my toes to soak it all in. there is so much info, and i'm typing like a crazy person to try to get it all down. on top of that, i try to have a couple of "tips" documents open to record any tidbits that may aid in technique, suppliers, or printing information. the average student in the seat has 10-20 years in the business, and there are 20 in my class alone. do the math... it's a ton of experience in many areas of the illustration and design fields. if i eaves drop on the most casual conversation, i pick up a tip. it's mind boggling. my children's book is rolling on. i'm working on spreads, which are built from Monday and Tuesday's sketches. they're coming together, but i have to keep remembering to leave space for type, and the gutter in the middle of the spread. i'm getting it, although i'm slow on the uptake. We covered Pulp, SciFi and Western illustation Genres today in history lectures. such great work. i have to create an illustration in one of the covered genres, and i haven't settled on one yet. too many great ideas to work through. we had a great critique of the second year's book projects in the hearth room of the hotel this evening between 7 and 8. Ted and Betsy, Vin De Fate and Murray all gave their opinions on the work. it's always great to see where people take their projects. each one is unique and individually valid directions, even though they're as different as a butterfly is from a clownfish.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hartford | Day 10

Lots of lectures today. 4 involving slides. two from Sci Fi illustrator Vin De Fete covering the history of Pulp, Action and Romance illustration Genres. He assigned our first painting outside of the thesis, which is an illustration in the genre of our choice, of those covered in his class. I may see if I can roll it into the CD/DVD design of the Deadneks new DVD. It could be a good vehicle, as long as Joey Fang doesn't want to stick with his original idea... based on some funky porn boxes from the 80s... I have no idea what he's referencing, and i'm sckeezzed out thinking about looking it up.

We had a late day lecture from Jerry Zucker, humorist and Emmy winner for his auto-biographical online shorts at It's Jerry Time!. He was a friggin laugh riot. He's centered in Boston, so he drove down for the talk after reconnecting with his old professor, Murray Tinkelman. It was interesting to see his work on "Mass Murderer Trading Cards", "Dirty Priest Trading Cards" and his early cartoons. really fun.
That followed another slide presentation from the Lewins on each of their processes. Very interesting to see how they build children's books.
Here's a couple more sketches from my book project.
On a side note, but not less important... the washing machine broke back in VA... Noelle called with the bad tidings. it's always something. can't win.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Hartford | Day 9

The weekend went over with minimal rest. Saturday was the Eric Carle Museum of the Picture Book and the New Britain Museum of Art. Both chock full of fantastic work. Saw many of 19C illustrations from classic works up close... Beatrix Potter's Mouse (similar to this link) was unreal... so tiny, so precise. The great Arthur Rackham and his mighty pen Many works from the first Wizard of Oz series, Winnie the Pooh, the Kewpie kids - all incredibly small and complex works, done with exquisite execution and control of both Ink and Watercolor. On Sunday, the MFA students all gathered for a cookout at Jaqueline Decker's home in the rolling hills of CT. It was a picture postcard home, worthy of Rockwell... an old American Gothic church converted into a home. really something. i'll post pics when i pull them off of the Fuji.
Today was the first class with Ted and Betsy Lewin, Caldicot winners as well as NY Times best sellers. They've given me a thumbs-up to do my ten year story... i'm finding out that I don't have to have the books finished to shop them to publishers... just three spreads and a sketch dummy for the rest. I've been getting a ton of feedback about the work, and feel my confidence building.

I started mocking my story up on tissues, which i have scanned and will place into an InDesign mock-up template for my Friday delivery. I hope I can pull this off the way I had hoped... I've changed the characters from children to the puppy format to tone down the bad-dream material. I Think it's a good choice, but I just don't know for sure. A bit more feed back from third parties would be a good thing.
More work to go before this is where it needs to be for my satisfaction.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Hartford | Day 6

Friday finally rolled around. We had two demonstrations today. A watercolor demo by children's book illustrator Dennis Nolan was a lesson in detail and control of a very tough medium. He works in a limited pallet, with no more than 6 prismatic colors and another 6 earthtones. He showed his modeling technique as well as fades, fills and color progressions. I learn a few tips I can translate into hours of frustration saved. The other demo was by Ron Mazellan, Marion, IN did a demo with one of his Indianapolis Colts images. He works very similar to my oil style, but his projects are much more realistic. I picked up a couple of nice tips, such as wearing an odd sock on your left hand and using that to wipe or brush cleaning, even lifting pigment with the sock as a built-in tool. Quite a big crowd surrounded him as the area went from a small demo for three friends to a crowd of 20, plus 4 faculty members and a couple of visiting colleagues. I'd like to see more of these demos in the future, but i don't see how they can cram it in with the number of class hours we have to devote to REAL school work, like the Business of Illustration... etc...
Museum tomorrow... Not sure what we're seeing, but I hear it's a pile of original classic American Illustrations. Word is that it's a trip to the museum basement and their secret stash of hidden treasures... Indiana Jones-style

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hartford | Day 4-5

I've finally gotten to get to color... i opened painter for the first time since i bought my wacom. i believe i had used it once back at the university of the arts, but that was so new to me back then, and i think i was using a mouse (drawing with a soap dish) which isn't easy. Posted here is my first ever, EVER Painter image... it's a crappy tom cat... notice his cat "package". i think this is something i could do. i just need to get more familiar with the tools. Q Cassetti gave me some tips on the program in the elevator, like "You're gonna hate it" and "Remember all those crappy Sprites from Director?.... It's almost as aggravating." Q is a bundle of encouragement...
Also posted here is Bobby, Burying his Bone. The color comp isn't supposed to look finished, just correct in values and intensity. I will be having to answer for my week's work tomorrow at 11 am... Lets hope it goes well. The instructors have been very nice about the project, but it needs "punching up" to really be something that takes off. I'm surrounded by caldicot nominees, pulitzer nominees... if i'm not getting good advice making books, it's my own fault.
Here's the reason I was messing with a cat in Painter. It's the revised version of C is for Cassy. I was going to post it yesterday, but I was working past midnight, and my connection wasn't allowing uploads... I think it's getting to be pretty dynamic. The more funny, the better. The idea is to have something the kid wants to read and laugh at over and over.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Hartford | Day 3

Fried... did i say fried? David and I crashed by 1:15 or so... The critique on my 50 pieces went pretty well. the group liked the zany pieces, as do i. lots of great talking going on. students learning from each other, especially with the huge number of years of professional artists among the group. each person is bringing 10-15 years of career experience to each critique. the faculty has an unbroken chain back to NC Wyeth and Howard Pyle, and the lessons are being absorbed through some hard scrabble work.

These two were singled out from the previous 50 posted, but a couple of new directional ideas were brought to the project. I will be changing a pile drawings to get my comps together, but it will be well worth it... infusing more life to the gem of an idea... burnishing and polishing until it shines. nothing is easy except failure

Quote of the day:
Bunny Carter - "Every time you decide to take the hard route, you eliminate 90% of the competition."

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hartford | Day 2

awoke at 5:45... off to class by 7:15. logging in to the school system was a clunky affair. extremely long password, but i guess it's secure. my 6 sketches were a bit further along than i think they should have been... some folks are very much in the same boat, adding a broad range of tones and finishes to their sketches. i felt i should be presenting as to a new client. i think i can make changes, especially since my new method is to scan a simple pencil sketch into photoshop, make many layers and manipulate as needed. changes can happen very quickly, while retaining the original, by a previous name. Bunny and Dennis took turns beating us up, then piled 50 thumbnails on us to deliver as jpgs in the the 8am hour... i've been at it since returning to the hotel at 7:30 (12 hrs of school)... and it's 10 of 10, and i only have 20 sketches on tracing paper... i'm getting bleary eyed. David is cranking along on his pile carmen meranda and brazillian jazz images... i have to rework c is for cassy 50 different ways by tomorrow.. this is insane. i'm not that creative... i need to dig deep for some inspiration... like a rousing game of Golden Eye on my N64, or slamming the medicine ball around. c is for cassy... c is for cassy... my mantra. old dudes need their 8 hrs sleep... or we get cranky. just ask my kids.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hartford | Day 1

We all got down to business early on Sunday morning. We had introductions from the Dean and Assistant Dean of the Hartford Art School, as well as meeting our advisers and each other. A Powerpoint presentation was shown of the incoming classes' work. I rolled up last with a healthy chuckle from the crowd as Van Toad flashed on the screen to Michael Jackson's "Don't stop till you get enough..."
Thanks to Q Cassetti for the well paced presentation. We all got a good handle of where we were coming from. I really do appreciate her open and helpful tips about the faculty. In this pic, you can see her with the dark over shirt and hip glasses... she looks strikingly like my dear sister Ellen. We were fed veggie wraps, chips and drinks, then given the grand tour, featuring the printmaking lab, photolabs, tv studio, media labs, technology lab, and culminating in the illustration workroom seen here.
This is my locker for two weeks... Bob Dylan, Amnesty Intl, and some scratched out porno girls will watch over my paint box. I need to chase down the financial aid fellow to see if i qualify for traveling money to get to the various cities... it ain't cheap being a student. David is sleeping on the foldout loveseat, and i got the bed for the first week. We switch on Saturday... I may end up sleeping on the floor it's too lumpy.
Tomorrow at 7:45 is the first class through 6pm. We have 24/7 access to the studios. I hope i don't need it...

Friday, July 11, 2008

AK Baby - Color or not to Color...

AKBaby painting by Paul Zdepski, 2008
I put a kiddie-chromatic colors to the AK-Baby, but I'm beginning to regret it. I wanted to take the somberness off of the heavy earth-tone version it had been... My wife liked it better then, and I think I should have trusted her eye. I wanted to push towards irony, rather than the weighty Kathe Kolowitz / Otto Dix piece it had been. My desire to paint like a 1920s Berliner is something I have to constantly fight. Social themes demand that sort of handling. I just didn't want to have folks walking past it without taking it in, just because it WAS so dark and brooding before. Now I have those lovely Nick at Night and Disney colors on the stock and barrel. I dunno... Still debating. It's a gallery piece I plan on showing at the Blue Elephant in the fall. I should run it past David Heatwole and get his input.

I leave for Hartford tomorrow. Most of you know this already, but I will be posting progress and discoveries here over the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lviv 1942

Zdepski's painting - Lviv 1942, Jew Stick
my father's family is Ukrainian, and very proud. I was taught this pride from early childhood. We suffered under the Tzar, starved under Stalin, murdered by Hitler, and re-enslaved by the USSR. I yearned for knowledge of the old country... the same place my father would visit in his final years... at the end of 2007 i found a number of sites, groups and newsletters devoted to all things Ukraine. I also began reading of an item hidden from my known history... The bloody pogrom of 1942 in the city of Lviv, my ancestors home. First, it was the communists murdering the Ukrainian separatists. Then the Nazi's murdered the Polish University professors, artists and intellectuals, followed by the Nazi's whipping up the city's population against the Jewish population for the previous murders committed by the retreating communist forces. Everyone suffer horribly. Most of all, the name of Ukraine. To this day, the anger about this time period divides. I have a hard time puffing my chest out about my heritage upon learning about this. I painted a number of canvases depicting the pogrom and atrocities. I haven't shown them in a gallery setting, but am posting one here for commentary and karma. I think it has to be akin to the feeling modern Germans have about the sins of their fathers.

manDog - the inspiration

dogMan, the first painting in the series
i did this crazy little painting in acrylic on cardboard in early '06. he was one of those brain salad items that just flowed as i dipped paint. not much to think about. he spawned the spotted pup, then learning to howl. each found in the dogbabies pdf on my site. The initial dogBabies were much, much rougher and dirtier than the cuddly pups they now are... I have a pdf of the first six mutts from my sketchbook.they're doing all kinds of stuff that BAD dogs do... humping the stuffed animals, licking themselves, barking at guests... manDogs here for download
John Bracken holds his pound puppiesEven ManDogs find a home... John Bracken, sound man to the stars (B-52s, Beach Boys, etc...) had fallen for the final manDog painting. i had kept it hidden in my studio rack away from the other dogs... john stopped by the studio in December for a puppy for his friend, saw the bad dogs, titled "Litter Mates" and took them home. Nice to know everyone can find love, eventually.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Amick Detail

Detail of the USS Amick painting by Paul Zdepski
I just dug this out... I CAN do detail... Really!
USS Amick, DE-168 - the whole painting is here: USS AMICK
A life long friend commissioned me to paint this back in 2000. I see it on occasion. I don't do much work like this, but it's fun to research and execute these pieces.

Tornado Joe - First Pieces

Zdepski's initial painting of his story concept
The black and white painting is the piece I did the morning after the dream in 1997. Those with the manuscript for the story will recognize the players, but I'm not letting much out until it's published.
Zdepski's sculpture of Bob Beezel, the villian
The sculpture is the bad guy in the story. I have begun some very, very rough sketches for each stanza in my sketchbook... i'm up to stanza 9 of 44... I have a way to go... PLUS they need to be much tighter. They look like cocktail napkin work right now, but it's just to flesh out the flow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More Catalogs

Zdepski's photo of his auction catalogs
As you can see, the catalog pile is big. I disperse them where I can. All kind's of subjects and titles.

Wife and kids are in NE PA, visiting Grandama and Pop R. Zhana's plane was diverted to Ohio due to weather on her flight from SF to DC. Thankfully, she didn't get off the plane. She did call from the airplane with a trembling voice, but after a call to grandma and mom, she sounded much better. Landing three hours late, then in the van and off to PA. I assume they're all kicking back in PA right now, but no phone calls to let me know they're in... just me, the dogs, chinchilla and fish staring each other down... waiting for the first sign of weakness.

Monday, July 7, 2008

C is for Cassy and Catalogs

Zdepski's greyscale illustration of C is for Cassy
I have put the finishing touches on my initial six roughs for my children's book class. I wanted them to be at a point that I would be comfortable going forward without any adjustments... THEN let the class and instructors shoot them to pieces. The students seem to be the best-of-the-best, so I have to make sure I'm on my toes when presenting my work... They're not going to listen to my BS, they're going to rip into my execution... which is different than the majority of their work. I expect to be doing a lot of changes, but hoping to hone what I have, making it stronger. This is Cassy. It represents the greyscale stage of my rough sketch. I think I'm ready to go...
Zdepski's pile of Auction Catalogs
I had a pile of Sotheby's, Bonham's and Christies auction catalogs that were given to me for use and dispersal... I gave them to all of the High Schools and Art Groups in my county. They were well received. Each school and group took possession of 250 or more. My poor little car was scraping the ground as I made my delivery trips.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A is for Ava

who's always alone...

My rough sketch - I didn't want her to be a junkyard dog, but the mood is of a dog that someone thought was a good idea... for about a week, then put it out in the yard. The tire pile was a bit lonelier than a garbage dump. Rats don't even hang in a tire pile... just mosquitos. She's always looking at the backdoor of the house, hoping someone will come out an play with her.

Part of my "dogBabies Backyard ABCs" project for Hartford

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Kids, Pigs and Partying

Zdepski Photo of one of the 5 acts on-stage

Here are some of the "Gathering" photos from the camping/artshow/bluegrassfest/pig-petting party. Niki and I had a blast. Cousin Sarah and husband Joel Meisner are a fun time. The folks in the Blue Ridge know how to roll.

Zdepski photo of Cousin Sarah Mull-Meisner

I even tasted some "White Lightning" for the first time... Joel had "stumbled across" a jar. His version had strawberries floating in the jar, coloring it a wine red... super smooth and hit hits your stomach like warm pancakes. You can see why folks like the stuff.

Kids and Kids, Kids and Pigs... lots of cheerful screaming and squealing on both sides.Zdepski photo of Kids and Piggies

Zdepski photo of Kids and Billy GoatsNiki got his shirt caught in the billygoats horns and it shook him up a bit, but he still liked being around them.