Monday, November 22, 2010

Elf the Musical

Elf the Musical, recently opened on Broadway. It is the live-musical-theater interpretation of the movie Elf (2003) starring Will Ferrell. I recently had the opportunity to create illustration and animation for the show's projection designer, Zachary Borovay, who was in charge of telling the parts of the story that needed telling through supplemental visuals. My job was to illustrate a children's book that was projected on the stage while Santa (played by George Wendt) reads it in miniature form from the set on the stage's bottom corner. The picture book that is projected shows the progression of the protagonist, Buddy the Elf, as he goes through his journey from an over-sized Elf in the North Pole, to a New Yorker who finds a new family and then starts his own.
Below is a study for Rudolph, who appears in one of the illustrations.

In addition to creating the eleven illustrations that tell this story, I also had my Broadway choreography debut, animating a dancing penguin who is projected on one side of the stage during a dance number, and a prancing Rudolph who enters on the other side of the stage to be fed a carrot by Buddy. Below is an rough animatic for the Penguin doing his thing.

While it was fun and an honor to work on this project, a magical aspect of this experience is that Elf is being performed at the Al Hirschfeld Theater, on 45th Street in New York City.
Al Hirschfeld has been one of my Illustration Gods since I can remember. His work, which captures
the essence of his subjects in such economical line, has been my favorite since I was a little girl and my Mom would clip his illustrations from the newspaper so that I could hunt for the hidden "Ninas" in his drawings. I have needed to write about him on this blog, and this is a good time to do so.
So, to be continued...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mustache Sisters go to The High Museum of Art, Atlanta

October 31st is a new the High Museum in Atlanta, GA.  It's called Dalí-Ween.
My mustache sister (Aya Kakeda) and I are in high gear, making our newest mustache to celebrate 
artist Salvador Dalí. His late work has been on display at this museum since early August, and the exhibition garnered a great review in the New York Times in September. The spooky playfulness of Dalí's work feels like a perfect match for Halloween, and Aya and I are both very happy to have this opportunity to create a new mustache in his honor. We are also excited to fly down to Atlanta (unfortunately, not on this mustachioed airplane) to conduct a craft-workshop for museum-goers of all ages. The photo above is a sneak-peek of a Dalí-inspired motif we are using in our costume, informed by works like this.


Monday, September 6, 2010

Nice press for GFS

Ghetto Film School got front page of the New York Times Arts Section today!
The article delivers a good description of the basics, except perhaps it didn't clearly explain that GFS is an after-school, weekend and summer program for high school students who are enrolled in other high schools during the day. GFS is also the creator of The Cinema School, which is a Bronx highschool that incorporates film studies/film making into its curriculum.

The article implied, but didn't spell out that in order to run an extra-curricular film school, help run a high-school, and have a commercial studio for alumni (The Digital Bodega) the small staff of GFS is an incredibly energetic, non-stop group of dedicated and inspiring people. I feel very lucky to have worked with them (teaching animation at The Cinema School), as I learned what it means to operate on all cylinders.

I hope that this article will draw interest and support from additional donors, collaborators, and students!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Teachers College

This is a photo of a photo that I love, which I spotted when I recently went up to the Teacher's College up at Columbia University, to hear a lecture on early childhood development and recent findings on how children learn. The photo, of graduates from the 1969 Teacher's College class, holds a great feeling for me, of the excitement and optimism of teaching. Newly minted teachers, ready to go!
There was no photographer's credit, but this was among a series of photos hung in a main hallway there, documenting historical moments in the College. This moment of racial breakthrough adds to the photo's inspiration for me.

The event that brought me to Teacher's College was sponsored by the American Center for Children and Media in conjunction with a New York organization which I love, Women In Children's Media. The talk was given by Ellen Galinsky, who made poignant conclusions of many years of studying children in learning settings, in her book Mind in the Making.  The event was created to help clue-in people like me, who work in childrens' media, about recent findings in how young children learn. This kind of connection of academic study with commercial practice is exciting and crucial, especially in the realm of creating "public" eduction for kids via the screen.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Silkscreen Poster for Jeff Tweedy special concert

This is a silkscreen poster that I illustrated/designed as a commission from my pal Sheldon Schwartz, who co-owns the Chicago shop called Strange Cargo. The concert, 30 Songs/30 Friends, was a benefit for charity to which Jeff Tweedy generously donated his talents and time. Sheldon, one of the 30 Friends, thought it would be festive to have a poster for this event.
The poster was printed by my old pal Jay Ryan at The Bird Machine, also in the Chicago area. The poster project and the evening it celebrate friendships and remind me how we are all connected. Thank you Sheldon, thank you Jay!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Post-It Art at Giant Robot NYC

Mark Todd and Esther Pearl Watson, are two of my favorite artist-illustrators working today. They recently curated their FIFTH Post-it art show, and first on the East coast, now up at Giant Robot New York. This is my third time participating in one of their Post-it shows, and each time I have been very happy to have the invitation to sit down and pour out my thoughts and ideas onto a surface that is familiar, casual, and small. The pressure is off, and the creativity is on!

Once again, I produced many throw-aways, but this is always a valuable process through which to go, and I am reminded of this each time I participate in one of these shows.
In this respect, I feel Mark and Esther are giving the Post-It show's contributing artists an experience that is very nurturing to creativity. They are also giving the viewers of the show a visual smorgasboard which stimulates the mind and delights the eyes.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Cinema School Screening at Tribeca Film Center

The Cinema School, in partnership with the Ghetto Film School, had their first official student screening this past week, at the Tribeca Film Center in Manhattan.
As I wrote in a previous post, I have been working with the students at this high school since January 2010, helping to teach them about animation and guiding them through the production of their individual short works. Seventy two brand new animators, born! I am very proud of the students for the work they created, and for braving it through the often repetitive, challenging, and tiring process of creating animation.

My Ghetto Film School colleagues and I chose 17 of the student animations to screen at Tribeca, along with a series of live-action shorts that students wrote, acted, and directed in the after-school Film Credits Program, shepherded by GFS's Derrick Cameron. Sitting in the audience, watching both the live-action and the animated shorts, I was entertained, inspired, educated, and proud.

Here is a photo of the 4-student panel of animators (whose worked screened that night) participating in an expressive Q and A by my co-teacher and Director of the Mid Winter Institute in Animation, Stosh Mintek:

(l to r: Keila Solomon, Ronald Pressley, Wendy Soto, Marquis Hendricks)

While I would love to post animations on this blog, the work belongs to the students and the schools... perhaps down the road I can get permission to post some of this great work. But in the meantime, here are some stills from some of the pieces that screened on Tuesday night at Tribeca:

Lueshen Swainson: "The Last Strawberry"(Claymation)

Ayanna Jones: "Finding Uno"(Hand-drawn animation)

Tasha Ritchens: "Lights Out" (Claymation)

Keila Solomon: "Runaway from the Bronx Zoo" (Flash animation)

Ronald Pressley: "Mr. Mug Goes Hungry" (Stop motion using objects)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Italian Opera Mustache for the Philadelphia Museum of Art

My collaborator/Mustache Sister, Aya Kakeda, and I are up to more mustache activities... we're in the process of creating a new mustache commissioned by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, for their evening of Italian Opera Music and Art on June 4th. Above is a photo of the mustache under construction. We use felt, glue and thread. This one will have beads too.

As folk art inspired our previous mustache, we tried to find some Italian folk imagery to inform this one. But it proved difficult to pinpoint a typical Italian folk art vocabulary through which we could try to have a visually collaborative "conversation". But we did find the ceramic art of Deruta, Italy to be very inspiring, especially this guy.

We also feature a symbol from Italy's capital, Rome: La Bocca della Verità, who represents a water-god, and whose mouth serves as a lie-detector test for anyone who wants to put their hand in there. Other imagery includes the lily (Italy's flower), and some Italian food items, like the lemon, the olive, and the sardine (see second photo, above).

Grey is the color of this mustache, because this is for Italian Opera night at the Museum, and we just felt that called for an "older" mustache. Aya and I will be there on June 4th, for the Art After Five event, with tables of craft materials for any museum-goers who want to make an Italian Masquerade Ball Mustache Mask with us.

(Felt scraps from making the mustache... I love felt! And working with Aya!)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Animation Dioramas at the CMA!

The Childrens'Museum of the Arts in Manhattan is a hotbed of inspiration and a great place. While I've already given it applause in this blog, I was just there for a meeting, and ran into this powerfully awesome exhibit of clay figures and backgrounds in diorama form, which are from the last 5 years of stop-motion animation activity at the CMA. I was so excited by this work that I took a slew of photos...

Sunday, February 28, 2010

BAMkids Film Fest 2010

The Brooklyn Academy of Music has a great offering of live performances of theatre, dance and music... and they also have a cinema. This year I was excited to be asked to teach animation workshops in conjunction with the 12th annual BAMkids Film Fest.

The idea was that BAM, who had invited students from surrounding public schools to screen these films on a school-day, would provide an accompanying education on how animation works. So I was deployed to teach the idea of Persistence of Vision, the visual phenomenon of how we are able to retain an image long enough to overlap it with a subsequent image.

I employed the Thaumatrope, which was a perfect tool for the young kids to grasp this phenomenon, and we followed that lesson with making flip books. The students ranged from 1st to 3rd grades-- some of them I taught solo, and some I taught collaboratively with my pal, animator Tom Eaton. Tom's appealing and satisfying animation "Don't Smash" was part of the 11th annual BAMkids Film Festival, and we "screened" it at the workshops we did together, with Tom showing some of his accompanying drawings. The kids were really smart and fun to teach this stuff to, which made it very festive to meet them again at the screening at BAM. Tom and I were there as a small "panel" to talk about the films we just screened (which included one of each of ours), animation as a practice, and to answer questions. We enjoyed the intelligent questions which came from a theatre-audience-filled room of 6- to 8-year-olds.

On the Sunday of the BAMkids Film Fest, I was there at BAM with a small army of teenage artist/helpers, supervising two tables of Hands-on Thaumatrope-making for visitors. We had kids, parents, grandparents, and everyone in between coming by to make their own thaumatropes. It was rewarding to see people of all ages experience the surprise and excitement of making their images come together when then flipped their thaumatropes. I also enjoyed the fact that the thaumatrope was so quiet and lo-tech, in comparison to the green-screen music video station across BAM's lobby.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Animation, at The Cinema School

This winter I had a unique opportunity to help spearhead an animation program in the New York Public School system, working with the talented and hard-working staff of the Ghetto Film School . Our job was to design a six-week curriculum on the history, techniques, and current industry of animation for the pioneering freshman class at a brand new high school in the Bronx called The Cinema School. This program would be an interruption of the students' normal course of liberal arts studies, and for the six weeks of this "Mid-Winter Institute", they would be screening animation, learning animation approaches, hearing visiting guest animators, and going on field trips to New York animation studios and places of learning.

Technically speaking, the students learned the stop-motion animation techniques of moving objects, claymation, and silhouette puppets. They also learned sequential drawing (working with light boxes) and Adobe Flash animation. While learning these technical approaches, students took classes in storytelling, where they learned methods and approaches which they then applied to writing a short script for their final pieces. They also screened short films, short animations, and feature animations and practiced film analysis. They also had a slew of guest speakers, from animators to storyboard artists, to writers, directors and producers. We also schlepped the students to New York City animation studios and museums.

To keep this from being too much fun, we had pop-quizzes, written assignments, and grades for all of the animation projects accomplished during this institute. At the beginning of the six weeks, students were each given a notebook in which to draw and take notes, and these notebooks were corralled at the end of each week for inspection and grading. Finally, the students were expected to create their own dialogue-less short, using the animation approach (stop motion or Flash) of their choice, following their own script.

As this was the inaugural Mid-Winter Institute, animation was chosen as a way to familiarize the students in this 4-year high school with aspects of film making that they can then apply to future curriculum work creating live-action film. (My hope is that some of them will have loved animation so much that they will want to continue to approach their film making using animation down the road.)

Why I am writing about this on my blog is that this program was completely inspiring to me. I was inspired by the innovative, focused, and tireless Ghetto Film School colleagues with whom I taught, I was inspired by the Cinema School and staff for being there, up and running, I was inspired by the students, who engaged in creating characters, stories and animation (which is hard work), and I was inspired by the many fine contributors to the program who either came to speak, who let us visit at their studios, or who supported the program through funding, interest and/or love.

I would love to share photographs of the students in the process of animating, or their great drawings/puppets/claymation figures, or the many inspiring guest speakers (John Canemaker, George Griffin, Frank Mouris, Signe Baumane, Jeff Scher, Norma Toraya, Ian Jones, J.J. Sedelmaier, Eddie Gamarra, Doug Vitarelli, Dave Levy, Linda Simensky...), or the studio visits (to Curious Pictures, Funny Garbage, Little Airplane, NYU Tisch, Weiden and Kennedy, the Museum of the Moving Image, MoMA's Tim Burton Show). It was a whirl wind of a lot of people of all ages putting their energy into learning and teaching animation and its accompanying lessons. Within the context of a public-school curriculum, this was deeply affirming to the value of Animation as a practice, a story-telling medium, and an industry.

Friday, January 1, 2010