It’s been five years since I’ve completed an animated film. The reasons why have a convoluted history. Going back around 15 or 20 years, I first discovered a hidden feature on the illustration program I was using at the time for my work. Corel Painter, along with its many fine realistic brush features, had, in an earlier version, a primitive ‘animation feature’. The feature wasn’t much more than the ability to use multiple onion skin overlays to see the progress of your animated drawing over several frames, and then to play back the animation instantly to check your progress. I did several test projects, and, from 2010-2015 was able to complete 3 animated music videos for my band, the “Jukejoint Handmedowns”, also using Apples ‘iMovie’ for combining animated clips.
A computer upgrade (and subsequent upgrading of my system software), meant that I had to also upgrade Corel Painter, who had, in the meantime, dropped their ‘animation feature’ from the latest version of the software. I have been playing around with various alternative animation software platforms in the past five years, but nothing had really clicked with me, the way that the original Painter tools had.
During the recent pandemic slowdown, I spent some time learning how to use Adobe After Effects and Adobe Character Animator, and put together the above film for our upcoming album release. I had a lot of fun learning new techniques, and stretching my horizons. Each scene was a new challenge, and led to new skills, and have learned even more since its completion. So stay tuned for more.
Or to paraphrase a line from a Terry Pratchett novel I just read: “Is that a light at the end of the tunnel, or is the end of the tunnel just on fire?”
In the last few days of this week, after a much too quiet month, business-wise, a few jobs trickled in, which did wonders to buoy my spirits. Above are a few rough sketches for an illustration I’ll be finishing up this weekend for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Oddly enough, this is the first assignment I’ve had pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic. They wound up choosing the first one, but told me to hang on to the other one for possible future articles. And then on Friday, I was contacted by the publisher of the ‘Who Was’ series of books, to take on an upcoming book on Walt Whitman. I’m currently working on one on the Civil Rights Movement, and expect to begin work on a book about Climate Change very soon, so I anticipate having a very busy May, which has put me in a much more hopeful mood than I’ve been in several months.
Earlier in the week, I had a few spot illustrations for GreenPrints (pictured above), and I’ve been spending a lot of time this past month working on a new album for my band, the Jukejoint Handmedowns. This will be our 5th album, which we began recording in February, and then, when the ‘stay at home’ order came down in March, we decided we would attempt to finish the album in isolation, each of us recording our parts separately and sharing them with me for final mixing and mastering. We are very near completion, and below are a few of the ‘in progress’ versions of the lyric sheet insert (front and back) and the rough layout for the album cover. The album was already very dark and apocalyptic in tone before we even began, so the pandemic and shut-down seemed to fit the theme even more urgently. We are hoping to release this sometime this summer, when, hopefully, some of the restrictions loosen up.
After working on this album now since spring (and the planning for it has stretched back over the two years since our last release), the new Jukejoint Handmedowns album is nearly ready to go to the manufacturers. We’ve got one more song to record this week, and a few tweaks to a few other tunes, and we’ve still got to shoot a band photo for the interior (the one that is shown is a place holder for now). I’m hoping to place the order for the first batch the day after Labor Day, with a lot of production work to finish up over the weekend. This is our fourth album, and the songs are all about our home state of Michigan, covering various topics from notorious tourist traps to urban legends to the growth of the craft beer movement, the decline of the auto industry, the state’s generous bottle return policy to its natural wonders (and several famous and not so famous local ‘characters’ round out the mix). Above, you can see the exterior CD cover, and below is the interior, featuring a cartoon map that pays homage to every one of the songs in one way or another. Further down, is the artwork for the CD itself, and two sides of a trifold ‘lyric booklet’ that will be inserted opposite the CD.
As always, like our previous albums, these will be available at our live shows, on iTunes, CDBaby, Amazon and other online music outlets.
Also, in conjunction with the CD release, we’ll be printing up some new tee shirt designs, which is pictured below (likely these will be offered on grey shirts with blue ink).
Almost finished with the ‘car coloring book’ project for Dover, and in the afternoons, have been working on the interior art for my band’s new CD. This is an album of ‘Michigan themed’ songs, so I did a map featuring cartoon images from each of the songs that we’ve recorded, plus place names that have been mentioned in various songs. A lot of work went into it, but it will likely be so tiny on the CD jacket that a lot of the details will get lost. (a good excuse to cut a vinyl of this album just so we can showcase the artwork in a larger format)
In between projects today, I took some time to design a tee shirt to offer in conjunction with the new CD that my band will be releasing in the next few months. Not much illustration involved with this, mostly found and photoshop manipulated imagery and type design. I still have about another week of ‘drawing cars’ for my new coloring book project, but I may post a few more samples from some of the Penguin biographies I’ve been doing over the past several years, later this week, so stay tuned.