Loosing oneself into a character is a truly liberating experience for an artist- Under the self imposed guise of an alternate reality I find myself creating and envisioning things through their imagined eyes, they tend to get away a whole lot more than I do.
More and more frequently museums are including programming where art isn’t just presented but interacted with and guests are encouraged to make their own art, learn a new skill or just play around in an unfamiliar medium. As a guest presenter, I adore sitting down one on one with someone and letting them see how ordinary things can be admired objects or talking to a room full of kids about how art no matter how far away or unfamiliar can speak to all of us.
The object of Too Many Chefs is to create a full day of delectable meals from ingredient cards including dessert and midnight snack. You can expand your own recipes or play off your opponents designing signature dishes for more points. Be the 1st player to reach 100 to win or be voted to head chef by fellow foodies and you win. Too Many Chefs challenges players to get creative with their ingredients and with luck game play translates back into the kitchen inspiring real life menu and recipe design.
Hands down, my favorite project this spring was a custom job for Blue Isle Studios creating 60 hand made journals as press kits for their release of Slenderman the Arrival on Xbox 360 and PS3. My client wanted each book to feel like a special discovery, a chronicle of events and clues in the game and expansion of the narrative back story for many of the characters. Along with notes and pages that players need to collect during game play, I included photo "sightings" of Slenderman from internet memes, clippings from forums, original photography and easter eggs like QR codes on a doctor's stationary which led back to the game site and a phone number on the inside of a matchbook for a very creepy voice mail account.
The thing which makes Slenderman so interesting to me is how he came into being, created by unaffiliated authors, bloggers and filmmakers, a crowd sourced child of the internet and collective ghost story. If you aren't fully up on his origins check out his wikipedia entry or even more fun the Slenderman Wiki on Creepy Pasta. Creating real tangible things from fictional characters is exactly the kind of job I love doing and a great follow up project to the work I did for the Dragon Eternity game release last year.
To make the books feel authentic I used different types of photo paper and distressing techniques to age many of the pictures. Many of the letters I wrote by hand, which was a bit nuts but really added to the feeling of legitimacy with the whole piece. The Escapist did an awesome re-cap of the copy they received and went through all the pages of the journal here .
Since many of the documents were supposedly sourced from different authors I needed to come up with several different types of handwriting which was trickier than I'd anticipated. Fortunately it wasn't to hard to talk the kids into helping and my daughter was all over the idea of leaving mud smeared hand prints on the book covers. Aging the books themselves was actually the 1st thing I did to the journals, throwing them into my dryer in batches of 10 at a time along with wet towels. The noise was horrible, but I got clean towels out of the deal so that was an unexpected bonus.
Creating fake news clippings was definitely a creative challenge. The game designers did an awesome job including old papers in the game but the images were created in photoshop and only exist in virtual environments. To make these into real pages with the look and feel of newsprint I copied the stories onto kids drawing paper sketch pads, the dark recycled paper that you might find at the Dollar Store, then printed real news stories on the backside and finally crumpled the pages. There are also a number of burned notes in the book which were also fun to recreate. I tried actually burning a few notes but the look wasn't consistent and some of the pages burned entirely. It definitely wasn't a process that made sense to duplicate 60 times. Instead I found some burned paper images on line and doctored them in photoshop superimposing my hand written text on top and then went through some time consuming work of cutting the burned edges, the results were super cool. Though I don't have a picture of it here...
In one level of the game players run through the woods collecting eight notes which have been left behind on trees and buildings. Rather than duplicate those notes individually I made one copy of each and staged them in photographs in the woods by my house, at night. This part of the job was super fun and super creepy all at once. My husband helped out by holding flashlights and moving branches around and keeping me from getting too spooked out, because you never know who might be right behind you....
I'm fond of pointing out that great beer is happening everywhere, last year alone saw 350 new breweries opening around the US that is almost a brewery a day, along with this boom are appreciative new audiences, wanting to get out of the house, try something new and support their hometown heroes. The same holds true for beer and arts festivals we love to see what creative talents are tucked away in our communities, we love try making things for ourselves.
With this mandate in mind the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg Florida created "The Beer Project" an exploration of the intersections between beer creation, appreciation and the arts. On thing I really loved about this event, it drew not just on the participation of professional breweries but there was a whole day devoted to a home-brew competition and arts district gallery crawl, and of course beer crafting presented by yours truly.
I can't rave enough about the three days of events, the fantastic folks I met along the way and the very truly exceptionally good beers I sampled. Prior to the trip I'd never had a Florida beer and this shouldn't sound like I'm being a snob- there really wasn't a craft beer scene in the sunshine state until 2005 and it wasn't until Cigar City Brewing opened up in 2009 that the whole scene really started to take off. I get this great info from Gerard Walen's indispensable guide Florida Breweries . If you're headed out this way, grab the book it's a fantastic trip planning guide and he's got a wonderful palate for picking the best beers to sample when you've got a huge list to choose from.
The event kicked off on Thursday night with crafting at the museum and beer tastings by Tampa Brew Bus and Cigar City. I finally got to try the award winng Jai Alai which is a deliciously powerful kick in the mouth of citrus and cascade hops- if I didn't know better I'd swear this beer was a Pacific North West IPA with a crisp finish or somewhere else. The perfect thing to pair with crafting! We had two projects on deck that evening- Beer Can Bird Houses and Pull Tab Bracelets. I loved the cans that the sponsors donated, the cool colors and graphics made for darling houses, which some of the gals took to new embellishing heights with fancy roofs and bottle cap interiors.
A huge thanks to the volunteers and awesome MFA staff for helping me out with the crafting. Not sure how many bracelets they put together that night, from where I was standing it looked like a lot. They are total pros now so if you need some one on one help, they are your go-to kids.
Friday during the day was free and I took the opportunity to hustle out of town and head up to to the Weeki Watachee Springs and cross "swimming with manatee" off my bucket list. It was truly a breathtaking and humbling adventure.
I booked the trip through Doo's Amazing Tours and they couldn't have been more accommodating, knowledgeable and fun, plus they are the only company to do paddle boards on the river, which really is the way to go. Not only did John pick me up at the hotel, he drove 35 minutes in the other direction to grab my river buddy from the tire repair shop where she was stranded with a flat. Few words can accurately describe the gorgeous clear water or the magic of meeting not one but SEVEN manatee. Really wish that Florida could do more to protect those rivers and gorgeous creatures from motorized vehicles and pollution, they truly are national treasures. ALSO if I'd known that there were mermaid shows there, we'd have stayed an extra 3 hours.
Back in St. Pete's on Friday night Iheaded over to Green Bench Brewing for their beer release party. This being Florida I went by golf cart a complimentary service from my outstanding hotel The Hollander.
I assumed that everyone in Florida traveled by golf cart but this just isn't true, but they should!
Khris Johnson created two special beers for the Beer Project event based on exhibits and visits to the MFA. One a light rice beer influenced by the show "My Generation" a look at contemporary art from China, and a killer green chili, agave and corn ale base on the outgoing exhibit of Southwestern art. Can't tell you how much I loved this second beer- each flavor was on the money and hit the tongue at separate times with warm Hatch's chili up front and a sweet corn finish. The guys at Green Bench couldn't have been nicer, owner Nathan Stonecipher took me on a tour and it seems like an awesome place to work, with barrel aging room, some very impressive brew kettles and still space for a game of hoops. Nathan and Khris were around the next day too, judging the home-brew competition at the MFA.
Saturday was crazy jam packed with more great events- along with the home brew tasting (which was EXCELLENT) I had a table demonstrating how to make beer can fishing lures. These were a hoot to put together since Florida fish are considerably bigger than the trout I grew up with, fortunately there were lots of nice folks at my table to talk over what would work best on their lures vs. the dainty ones I've made in the past. The St. Petersburg Tribune has a great recap of the afternoon here. From the museum there was a gallery crawl through the arts district with growlers of local beer to sample along the way and an after party at Three Daughter's Brewing, where Gerard took my favorite picture of the weekend.
I'm doing a cheek rub with Carol Deckkers who was a huge part of the fest being so much fun and the truly sweet Mary Szaroleta of the MFA. Can't wait to get out to Florida again as things couldn't have been more fun or perfect and there is a certain approach to life which I highly approve of.
I'm Shawn Bowman, writer and artist. On and off for the last 20 years I've worked with kid artists, writers and filmmakers, helping them create and promote their own work and dig deeper into the crafts they are passionate about. My kids and I are part of an amazing comic club which has met every Friday afternoon for the last seven years, over half the lives of some of the kids who've been regulars. Our club is pretty evenly split between boy and girls, wildly talented people, funny and engaged- some of these kids will be making the comics we read ten years from now and their stories are already amazing. We will actively continue to support our fellow artists and creative medium which gives us super powers and secret lairs. We will paint and draw and write, we will read and buy comics written by and about people of all genders and races, we are comics now we are the faces of comics to come.
In our continuing explorations of story development- this Friday we took our favorite character and placed them in different eras of time. By shaking things up a bit we discovered that changing the context of action our comics are able to draw on key events in history for plot and subplot themes, cool new costume and prop ideas and even changes in character dialect.
The other big exorcise we tried out for the afternoon was creating an alternate time line for the world. As per usual this was hilarious and any one of the key events would make for an excellent comic or comic series. The following is not a comprehensive list but our favorite moments in time that you may not have noticed...
400 AD- Angles and Saxons come to England, Hadrian builds a wall
500 AD- Cthulu begins plans on making you a sandwich, since he invented the sandwich, it should be called Cthulu
600 AD- The alien race we now call humans came to this planet and colonized
793 AD- Some people start dying off, other people get mad
1066 AD- Race of different aliens take over world and make humans slaves
1067 AD- Space becomes cool
1200 AD- Farts invented
1201 AD- Legos invented
1300 AD- A herd of kraken take over the world
1337 AD- Jerry met an alien and was sadly not historically recognized
1400 AD- Annika is recognized as a god
1450 AD- An artist made a painting or something
1492 AD- Columbus comes to America
1500 AD- Cavemen live again
1501 AD- They die
1502 AD- Due to dimensional rift a million vampires invade
1600 AD- Sudden skip in time it is now 5,000 AD
5001 AD- Time works out the kinks
1562 AD- Earl of Sandwich steals Cthulu's idea
1865 AD- Lincoln assassinated by Plague Doctor
6000 AD- It was all just a dream, nothing ever happened
Our 1st meet up of the year and we dove right into the deep end of the pool with a character and story building session based on a DIY game called 1000 Blank White Cards . We started out by cutting 5 index cards in half so each player starts with 10 blank cards, we added crazy titles to these, illustrations underneath and then the amount of blessings or damage each card could do. Easy peasy, also hilarious. Miles had one card where the player had to demand apple juice until someone gave them apple juice and all of Lucy's cards started out with a sneeze. I've enclosed a few of our favorite cards in the gallery below. We'll start next week out with playing a couple rounds of the game and adding more cards if we'd like then draw comics based on the game play. It should be a great exercise since the characters will be facing odd challenges and some even being brought back from the dead. Along with our drawing and comic creation over the last few weeks we've been having more serious conversations about the lack of diversity in comics and how characters of color and sexual orientation are portrayed. A heavy subject for kids but something they've brought up themselves talking about quite a bit in other classes and ideas of justice in larger society which they are beginning to wrap their heads around. We've invited a couple guest speakers in the comic industry to come in and visit with us in the next few weeks as this conversation continues. I'm enclosing links to a couple great articles which I'll be sharing with the kids as well looking at approaches to promoting equity.
Tom Heintjes wrote a fantastic article last year about Charles Schutz's introduction of Franklin, an African American boy to the cast of Peanuts characters and how he was motivated to include based on conversations with an impassioned school teacher. It's a great read and I'm looking forward to sharing it with the club. Our future guest speaker, David Walker blogged a great story yesterday about one of the most important ways to affect change, financially. It truly is something every industry understands, the power of the dollar, if we want to see a diverse group of artists creating our content, then we need to support them by buying and promoting their work.
How comics are addressing sexual orientation also came up in our discussions. Since our club has kids in a wide range of ages I tended to steer our conversations around sexuality into smaller group discussions. Our middle-school girls are very eager to chat and the elementary boys are still really focused on blowing up alien planets. How people are portrayed in comics is a pretty important subject though since mainstream comics continue to depict women in hyper fantasized proportions with very little clothing, not to say men get off easy and their body shapes are also fantastical but the culture of misogyny within the history of comics is hard to sweep under the table. Rather than getting weighed down by examining all the injustices within our medium, I'd love to point out places where comics are doing it right. Raina Telgemeir's Drama is a beautiful coming of age story perfect for our middle school kids. With a very diverse set of characters and a spunky young heroine a number of vingettes are interwoven including characters who are gay which help drive the plot forward into a very rich teen story. The New York Times has a glowing review of the comic here.
With the holidays coming up its super awesome to see some of the great gift ideas coming together around our favorite craft supply, beer! I've been getting some great mail lately and seeing other cool gift ideas on the web and am delighted to share photos and projects. Tim and Devon at Penny's Pints Pittsburgh made this absolutely kick ass beer advent calender . I love the PVC pipe idea which means I could use it from one year to the next OR every month! Seriously, why just once a year? It's a great design and they did a fab job on the instructions, kudos boys!
Merideth at beergeek.com is a true Renaissance woman, traveler, writer, lover of all things beer- she's sent me some very fab photos of her own creations including these rad cards from empty six pack boxes.
One of my favorite holiday crafts came from Geneva in TN, we met at a book signing this summer in Colorado and she told me about her embossed ornaments. Such a great idea and who wouldn't want Kenny and Cartman around to make the season just a bit more festive. I don't quite know how she made the coolness, BUT I've suspicions- expect an embossing tutorial in the near future. AND if you're looking for other great ways to celebrate the season- check out the beer menorah contest on the Schmaltz brewing facebook page, it's a delight and one of the best beers on the planet!
As a holiday gift to you, beer friends- I'm running a discount in my ETSY shop on signed Beer Crafts book, for folks who follow the blog. Enter HOLIDAYBEERS at check out for $2 off your purchase. Feliz Navidad!
Since 2007 a dedicated group of kids have been meeting up every Friday afternoon in the science lab of Sunnyside Environmental School composing their own graphic novels, comics, manga and illustrated narratives. Young creators from kindergarten to 8th grade from several neighborhood schools have participated with an equal number of boys and girls dishing out […]