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Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Extreme Materials

You'd never know it to read this blog but I actually live near three of Rochester's four large museums. And the fourth is a short walk away.
The most famous museum here is of course the George Eastman House, home of Kodak's founder and one of the best repositories of historic photographic and motion picture materials in the world.
Eastman's house is on East Avenue. I live on Park Avenue. East Avenue is the 'Park Avenue' of Rochester. It boasts literally dozens of magnificent houses from 1890-1920, most of them either broken up into offices or condos. A few, thankfully only a few, were demolished in the Depression. I am talking about seriously large mansions and Eastman House is definitely the largest.
Mr. Eastman was so rich that
that when he didn't like the proportions of his new conservatory room he asked that the house be sawed in half and moved back nine feet. He also insisted that the water and electricity keep running while this was being done. The year was 1904. When told this could not be done, Mr. Eastman said, 'Of course it can', paid what was necessary, had it done and kept his hot tea and reading lights going at the same time. It is difficult to think of someone being able to move half of a mansion intact with 'modern' technology. Most likely in 1904 it was moved with horses! The conservatory is well proportioned and a slightly different hue to one section of the marble floor is the only sign of the surgery that survives.
The biggest elephant head I've ever seen looks down at you from the high wall. Unfortunately Mr. Eastman was into that Guy Thing of the early 20th century that had people killing stuff Because They Could. One of his desks is covered in hippopotamus hide from an animal he killed, and he used to joke that 'I shot the desk'.
The Dryden Theatre is part of Eastman House and it shows the best movies in town. I'm a member but what with one thing and the other do not get there much because of ...well, the book, and work.
I literally live right next door to the Science Museum, which boasts a nice telescope on the roof which is always open free to the public on Saturday nights. It dates from the 1960s but is still serviceable, and in the nice weather I go next door to literally see what is up after 9 PM.
I'm not enough of a geek to do it when the weather is NOT nice (they call it on account of rain or cloud, but are out in the cold winter weather).
The third close museum is the Memorial Art Gallery which is owned by RIT'S rival college, University of Rochester. My next door neighbor is the publicist there and I finally joined the museum last week. It's about three blocks away and their latest show is called EXTREME MATERIALS. WHAT a show this is!
Just go and see it. I won't spend time talking about something that already has a nice website showing just how beautiful garbage and 'found objects' can be made to be. I always maintained that the artists would be the ones who really solved the problems of the disposable society. And most of them had a lot of fun while doing it. My favorite is the zipper sculpture on the opening page.
So take a virtual visit there today! The fourth Rochester museum, the Margaret Woodbury Strong Toy Museum, deserves an entry to itself and will have to wait. I have to go play Mouse with Gizmo so will close now.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

You've been away too long, had your say too long...(Fats Waller)

Wow, it's been three months. Honestly, I wanted to post more often, but I've spent just about every waking hour doing three things: Working (which is still defined as 'teaching at RIT' at least til someone tells me different); writing my book, which is now about 80 per cent done; and playing Mouse Chase with Gizmo, pretty much in that order.

There are some excellent senior projects I'm supervising and the students have been kind enough to let me use some of their artwork in PREPARE TO BOARD! I've never worked so hard for so little money but I'm pleased to say that I think the book may just be worth it. Perhaps someone may buy it. I would like to think so.

The main problem so many animation how-to books have is that the authors do all the artwork themselves. I did not want to make this a one woman show so got some really super people to help me on this...and so I've got a little variety here. Some stuff from my collection goes in as well but the most important part of this book will probably be two things: my reworking of a famous 1940 production chart for animated films, since it's about time someone brought this into the 21st century; and my interview with Ken Anderson, the art director of 101 DALMATIANS, THE JUNGLE BOOK, and isn't that enough to know for now?

This is easily one of the best interviews I ever got. I often thank my (much) younger self for asking the right questions in these old interviews, amazing really considering how inexperienced I was (I was 21 and just about to leave school for my first job with Jack Zander.) But somehow, the right things got asked and answered. It's amazing to see how Ken sums up the entire book I took a year to write in just one session. (I edited out irrelevant or dated information since he went on for four hours with us. I'm going to donate the full tape to the new Cartoon Museum in New York if they'll take it.) I should just print his interview and the illustrations to save time...

Ken's got the last word in the book, and it's pretty devastating. Roy Disney kindly allowed me to quote him for the 'opener' and it's equally devastating. Grand stuff. Grand people.

The cat has been useful. She's here to distract me by asking to play Mouse when I've been at the computer too long. Gizmo has a very important job. No, she won't get a credit in the book, but she will appear in some of the illustrations.

I'm on track to finish at the end of August and the book should be out in January 2007.
I had to pinch myself at the beginning to think yes, finally, I REALLY have a book this time that won't disappear and prove to be some sort of dream or joke.

I hope it's not a joke. I've got a lot of humour in it though. I quote everyone from Georgia O'Keefe to Jack Handey (Deep Thoughts) and Louise Brooks in the opening quotes to each chapter.

Dad says it can't be a good textbook since it is readable. That's his way of paying a compliment.

I've also got a great art director vetting my chapters on design and two pro writers proofing other chapters. One corrected an historical error I made when speaking of a certain 'wabbit'.

Gonna do this right the first time since there will most likely be no other. Dad asked about a 'second edition with updates.' I had to explain that I'm talking about storyboard and character design...these things don't NEED updates. I think former classmate Darrell Van Citters said it best: the only program you need to use for it is Pentel 2.0 (a pencil)
And of course, imagination.