Friday, April 16, 2021

Video: Spontaneous Synchronization

I don't understand it. It's a physics thing. But, well, here it is. 

The UCLA Physics and Astronomy Instructional Resource Lab has more of an explanation about this phenomenon:


"Metronomes of the same frequency and resting on the same base are started randomly. They synchronize after a short period of time. In this case the base is free to move. In 1657, Christian Huygens was the first to observe this phenomenon in the form of clock synchronization. The phenomenon of spontaneous synchronization is found in circadian rhythms, heart and intestinal muscles, insulin secreting cells in the pancreas, menstrual cycles, ambling elephants, marching soldiers, and fireflies, among others."
 

Video: Stephen Fry Reading a Letter from E. B. White to a Gloomy Fan

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Bill Peet's Gag Cartoons

 



Bill Peet was a long-time Disney artist, not only working on all of the major animated releases from Snow White to 101 Dalmatians, but also contributing to the choices of these projects. He was a major force at Disney, and Walt Disney himself trusted Peet's opinions.

I had no idea that he tried his hand at gag cartooning as well. Here are a few from his wonderful Caldecott Award-winning autobiography BILL PEET AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY.

He sent his gag cartoons to the top markets of the day: Collier's, True, the Post and The New Yorker. They were all rejected. From The New Yorker he received this note:

"Your humor is too undisciplined, but we would like to see more of your drawings."

Bill writes in his autobiography:

"That small glimmer of hope wasn't nearly enough to spur me on. Doing cartoons week after week, even if I sold them all, would be frustrating work."

Bill would go on, after leaving Disney, to focus on children's books, creating thirty-six books. A lot of them were based on stories he had made up to tell his own kids.

Here's some of his gag cartoons that were never bought. Bill published them in his autobiography. I thought they were great. 















- Edited from a March 21, 2019 blog entry.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Video: Ron Cobb Cartoonist, Motion Picture Art Director

TVDays has this early 1980s interview with editorial cartoonist/production designer Ron Cobb (1937 - 2020). Ron created visuals for movies like Alien, Star Wars, Back to the Future and others. He also created what is now known as the ecology symbol. His extraordinary career, which began as an editorial cartoonist with no formal art training, touched so many movie productions, beginning with Disney's Sleeping Beauty (1959), that they are hard to digest. 

 


©2015 Ron Cobb All Rights Reserved.

 

 Here's the TVDays description of his career:



"Ronald Ray Cobb (September 21, 1937 – September 21, 2020) was an American-Australian artist. As well as being an editorial cartoonist he worked on numerous major films including Dark Star (1974), Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Conan the Barbarian (1982), Back to the Future (1985), The Abyss (1989), and Total Recall (1990). He had one credit as director, for the 1992 film Garbo. 

"Cobb also created a symbol which was later featured on the Ecology Flag. He was born in Los Angeles but spent most of his life in Sydney, Australia. 

"By the age of 18, with no formal training in graphic illustration, Cobb was working as an animation "inbetweener" artist for Disney Studios in Burbank, California. He progressed to becoming a breakdown artist on the animation feature Sleeping Beauty (1959). It was the last Disney film to have cels inked by hand. 

"After Sleeping Beauty was completed in 1957, Cobb was laid off by Disney. He spent the next three years in various jobs — mail carrier, assembler in a door factory, sign painter's assistant — until he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1960. For the next two years he delivered classified documents around San Francisco, then signed up for an extra year to avoid assignment to the infantry. 

"He was sent to Vietnam in 1963 as a draftsman for the Signal Corps. After his discharge, Cobb began freelancing as an artist, contributing to the Los Angeles Free Press for the first time in 1965. 

"Edited and published by Art Kunkin, the Los Angeles Free Press was one of the first of the underground newspapers of the 1960s, noted for its radical politics. Cobb's editorial/political cartoons were a celebrated feature of the Freep, and appeared regularly throughout member newspapers of the Underground Press Syndicate. 

"Although he was regarded as one of the finest political cartoonists of the mid-1960s to early 1970s, Cobb made very little money from the cartoons and was always looking for work elsewhere. His cartoons were featured in the back to the land magazine Mother Earth News. 

"Among other projects, Cobb designed the cover for Jefferson Airplane's 1967 album, After Bathing at Baxter's. 

"In 1972, Cobb moved to Sydney, Australia, where his work appeared in alternative magazines such as The Digger. Independent publishers Wild & Woolley published a 'best of' collection of the earlier cartoon books, The Cobb Book in 1975. A follow-up volume, Cobb Again, appeared in 1978. 

"Cobb is credited with designing the "Hammerhead" creature seen in Star Wars (1977). 

"Cobb returned to cinema work when he worked with Dan O'Bannon to design the eponymous spaceship for the 1973 cult film, Dark Star (he drew the original design for the exterior of the Dark Star spaceship on a Pancake House napkin). 

"After contributing designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky's uncompleted film adaption of Frank Herbert's novel Dune, Cobb was engaged by Lucasfilm to produce conceptual artwork for the space fantasy film Star Wars (1977). Working alongside artists John Mollo and Ralph McQuarrie, he created the designs for a number of exotic alien creatures for the Mos Eisley cantina scene. 

"In 1981, Colorvision, a large-format, full-colour monograph appeared, including much of his design work for the films Star Wars (1977), Alien (1979), and Conan the Barbarian (1982), the first feature for which he received the credit of Production Designer. Cobb has also contributed production design to the films The Last Starfighter (1984), Leviathan (1989), Total Recall (1990) (and also appeared in the film in a brief cameo), True Lies (1994), The Sixth Day (2000), Cats & Dogs (2001), Southland Tales (2006), and the Australian feature Garbo, which he directed. 

"Cobb contributed the initial story for Night Skies, an earlier, darker version of E.T.. Steven Spielberg offered him the opportunity to direct this scarier sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind until problems arose over special effects that required a major rewrite. While Cobb was in Spain working on Conan the Barbarian, Spielberg supervised the rewrite into the more personal E.T. and ended up directing it himself. Cobb later received some net profit participation. 

"In 1985 Cobb received credit as 'DeLorean Time Travel Consultant' for the film Back to the Future. 

"During the early 1990s, Cobb worked with Rocket Science Games. His designs can be seen in Loadstar: The Legend of Tully Bodine (1994) and The Space Bar (1997), in which he designed all the characters. 

"Cobb also co-wrote with his wife, Robin Love, one of the (1985–1987) Twilight Zone episodes, Shelter Skelter. 

"Cobb designed two swords for the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian (the 'Father's Sword' and the 'Atlantean Sword'). Cobb's original drawings of the swords are now used, in cinema merchandising, to mass-produce and sell replicas."




Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Ursula Koering: THE TROLLEY CAR FAMILY




When she was eight years old, Ursula Koering's (1921-1976) parents sent her to the Philadelphia College of Art to take weekend art classes. She continued through her teen years, matriculating as a full-time student at the College upon her high school graduation.

When she left the College of Art, she looked for illustration work -- even though her degree had been in sculpture. In the post-war period, she drew for children's magazines and books. She may be best known for the THE FIRST BOOK OF series (THE FIRST BOOK OF INDIANS, THE FIRST BOOK OF NEGROES, etc.).

Later in life, she did secure a job with The Franklin Mint, and she was able to apply her sculpture skills.

Here are some of her drawings for THE TROLLEY CAR FAMILY by Eleanor Clymer. It's copyright 1947. These scan are from a well loved Scholastic books edition, fifth printing (September, 1962). The story is about Pa Parker, who has just lost his job at the trolley car company. The company is switching to buses, you see, and, so, Mr. Parker is out of a job. The family must downsize, so they get an old trolley car destined for the scrap yard and use that for their house.

"It's the end of the line for the trolley car, but it's a beginning of fun and adventure for the trolley car family." 


No word on why good ol' Pa Parker can't just up and drive a bus. But then Parkers wouldn't have to move into an old trolley car, and, of course, then there wouldn't be this popular (five printings at least!) book.

What drew me to the book was Ms. Koering's penmanship. Her ease with shading and crosshatching --and the liveliness of her line.

Ariel Winter's "We Too Were Children, Mr. Barrie" blog has a wonderful profile of Ursula Koering. 









The trolley-as-home floor plan is mesmerizing. I would have gotten into this as a kid.





Promo text from the back of the book:

"Something is wrong. Cranky Mr. Jefferson is sure of it. Those noisy Parker children next door are much too quiet.

"Something is wrong at the Parker home. Pa Parker has just lost his job. Pa has been driving a trolley car for years. Now the trolley car company is changing to busses. Drive a new-fangled bus? Not Pa Parker! No wonder all the Parkers are worried.

"But if Pa doesn’t have a job, he does have a trolley car. And what could be more sensible than living in the trolley ‘til Pa gets another job. So off they go — Ma and Pa Parker, Sally, Bill, George and Little Peter — and of all people, cranky Mr. Jefferson too. Bouncing and bumping on the trolley tracks, they park their new home at the last stop. It’s the end of the line for the trolley car, but it’s the beginning of fun and adventure for the trolley car family."
 
 
-- Edited from an April 13, 2015 blog entry.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Emil Ferris Awarded Guggenheim



Congratulations to graphic novelist Emil Ferris upon her being recognized in the Fine Arts category of the Guggenheim Fellowship Awards for 2021. 

 

Her book, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (2017) won a number of awards, including: the Lambda Literary Award, the Eisner Award, the Ignatz Award, and the Fauve d’Or at the Angoul√™me International Comics Festival.



From the School of the Art Institute of Chicago:

 

"Emil Ferris (BFA 2008, MFA 2010) is a graphic novelist whose first book, My Favorite Thing Is Monsters, has been praised by critics since its publication in 2017. The book presents itself as the lined notebook diary of a preteen self-avowed werewolf who questions her sexual identity. Set in Chicago in the 1960s, the book is autobiographically infused as Ferris—like her protagonist Karen Reyes—was witness to the highly charged political and social climate of that time. The main character is interested in cultural subjects that have profoundly shaped Ferris herself, including B movies of the Hammer variety, Entertaining Comics (EC) horror magazines, and the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ferris’ protagonist recreates EC-inspired horror comic covers in ballpoint pen, as well as many significant paintings that hang in the Art Institute of Chicago. Journalists have noted how the book parallels themes of monstrosity and otherness."

 

 

Friday, April 09, 2021

Mike Lynch Virtual Cartoon Classes Beginning April 19, 2021

 

I'll be doing some "how to cartoon" classes for kids beginning April 19, 2021. It's sponsored by an arts group, Waterfall Arts, in Maine. Info and registration:


https://waterfallarts.org/.../spring-break.../2021-04-19/

 
Waterfall Arts kindly produced this five minute video to promote the course, which I will be teaching virtually.


Oh, the thing in front of my face in one or two of the shots is a camera that points down at my drawing surface. 


Warning: I naturally sound like Fozzie Bear/Ray Romano, but here goes:



Thursday, April 08, 2021

Matt Bors: "I’m Quitting Political Cartooning"

 

Editorial cartoonist Matt Bors is leaving editorial cartooning.

 

"Thank you for reading all these years. I know a few people who have been reading since the beginning (besides my Mom), through the dark Bush years, the rise of social media, the collapse of alt-weeklies, the rise (and then collapse) of online media. Trump! A pandemic! Here I am. I made it through all that and want to go out on my own terms now."


"... Something had to give in my life to make room for other things and, frankly, it was an easy decision. I’ve drawn political cartoons every week since I was 19 and feel like I have said everything I can say, often a few times over. I know this may be disappointing to longtime readers, but my creative desires pull me in another direction, one where I hope to create more work on par with what I’ve done in this field."

 

He will continue to helm The Nib, the online showcase for editorial cartoons (long-form and short-form) and turn his attention to creating longer pieces.


"I want to do more nonfiction cartooning at The Nib— the interviews and journalism I have only been able to do in between the cracks of my deadlines— and I’m actively preparing pitches as a writer on some fiction comics. It’s time for me to work in longer formats and dip into all the kinds of comics I love and want to create. I’ll also be serving as an Advisor for Tinyview, a promising new comics app, where I’ll be bringing in an array of comics across many genres. (You can download it here.)"

 

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