Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry and Bright

click to enlarge, print, and turn into next year's wrapping paper.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


One of the animation classes I teach is for a small group of developmentally delayed young adults. Some of these students have physical challenges, some have mental challenges, but as a group they each contribute something different to the film. So the person who has a lack of fine motor skills may not be able to move their paper characters 1/16th of an inch at a time, but will invent the story and dialogue. Another may be almost nonverbal, but has that animator's instinct for creating movement. Here is the project this group just completed.

Space Bananas! from Gregory Nemec on Vimeo.

There was a new student this session. Among the open faces and smiles, he was quiet, withdrawn even. During our test animation with toys on a tabletop, he created convincing flickering flames from clay. Hmmm...maybe this is one of the quiet instinctive ones. I asked for story ideas from the group, and there were lots of childlike, enthusiastic responses: "Race cars!" "Monkeys!" "Pirates!" I asked the quiet one what he'd like to make a movie about. He shrugged. When I asked what kinds of movies or shows he liked, without looking up he said, "I mostly read Lovecraft." That one sentence told me he wouldn't be comfortable making the equivalent of kids' drawings come to life, and probably wouldn't be comfortable working with the other students. Thankfully I had an excellent assistant who was great with the rest of the group so I could work more directly with this one student. He was hesitant to talk about ideas for animation, even after finding out I knew who Cthulhu was, and especially hesitant to create characters or animation: "I'm a perfectionist and it wouldn't have the level of realism I would want." I showed him the animation of William Kentridge—here's someone who gets emotional depth without realism. Once he saw Kentridge's torn paper figures he was ready to get to work. His movie is made from cut and torn black paper on a white background. All the atmosphere was added by the animator using the excellent, discontinued version of iMovie.

The Dunwich Chase from Gregory Nemec on Vimeo.

During animation he would talk about Lovecraft's universe and his own interest in online gaming. His group leader told me that he never talked this much anywhere else. He had told her that he wasn't sure he should even be in this program because he was "so high functioning." He was very particular about each aspect of his film. And he was a natural, laying down torn bits of paper until figures were formed, and he knew how to make them move. Never looking me in the eye, never betraying a single emotion in his voice or face. On the final day, he added the effects and the audio. As the members of the group were getting their coats on to leave, I said, "Christian, it was good to meet you." He said in his typical quiet way, "But you already met me." I explained I meant it was good to have worked with him, and I was glad to have met him, and I wanted to tell him since we may not see each other again. He said "Oh." He put his hand out, we shook hands, and he was gone.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dem Bones

A variety of images of my favorite part of Halloween.

From the top down:

Unknown sculpture.
James Ensor painting.
Still from Ray Harryhausen's "Jason and the Argonauts."
Skeletons unearthed in Verona. Could they be a Montague and a Capulet?
A small section of the Mutter Museum's collection of skulls.
Odilon Redon painting.
Part of a Google image search page. Sometimes they look like someone designed them.
Posada print.
Another Mutter Museum specimen.
Michael Paulus drawing. He has a lot more of these.
Three unknown photos.
A wall in Chitzen Itza, Mexico.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Here are the repeating genies in place. (It helps to click on the image to enlarge it) This illustrates a story in a math magazine, and I warn you, even a story-problem lover like me gets lost trying to solve this one.

What these explorers are viewing is an octagonal treasure chest, with a drum at each corner. Inside each drum is a genie, each standing either heads up or feet up. Each time you strike a drum, the genie within flips over AND the entire octagon spins so that you don't know which drum you have just struck. Once all genies are either heads up or feet up, the treasure chest opens. The logic starts out simply (If there were only two genies, you would hit one drum and the chest opens) but I am left behind as the numbers increase and the thinking gets complicated.

But it's not the illustrator's job to understand the math. What is important: solving the editors' dilemma. Namely, how can you illustrate genies that nobody can see? That was the inspiration for creating a repeating surface pattern to begin with.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I was looking for a heart icon, but could only find the Apple logo. Then I realized it's more accurate in this case: if you focus on the bite, it reads "I chomp Escher." Because I often do. In this case, I really did take a big bite. I have always marveled at his interlocking repeating figures. I designed the genies as part of another image that isn't complete yet. Eventually they will wrap around an object, including the top of a round chest:

Thanks to our friend Photoshop, I can repeat it endlessly, and in a variety of distorted shapes. What would M.C. have done with a Mac?

Friday, May 7, 2010

They're Gonna Put Me in the Movies

Here's the book trailer for "Diamond Ruby" written by Joe Wallace. At the 1:30 mark is a cameo appearance of the poster I made to promote the book. This trailer was all shot in and around Pleasantville, and combines new footage and historic footage.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Caricature of a Caricature

Here's an illustration I just did for an article about the demonization of Frances Fox Piven by Glenn Beck and those of his ilk. It was a good opportunity to draw someone who really doesn't need much tweaking to become a caricature. He has always reminded me of Howard Beale, who was fictional and seen as an extreme satirical character back when "Network" was released in 1976. Watching the movie now, there is nothing extreme or satirical about it. It just seems prescient. A possibly mentally unstable individual, who is encouraged to act in outrageous ways for television ratings? Today we can't even count the Howard Beales.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

"There is No Dog" round 5

The last of three "There is no dog" projects done with my friend John Bergin was the most satisfying. It really felt like an artistic process that evolved into something better and better, and like all good collaborations it would have never been born without both artists' input. It can be seen in its entirety here. The rest of John's collaborations are here.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"There Is No Dog" rounds 3 and 4

See my previous post to get caught up. The two details at the top of the page are from the two completed pieces as they appear on John Bergin's new blog. As the Luna Park image (in progress below) and those by other artists collaborating with John are finished, they can be seen there.

Luna Park, in progress. Here's what John sent back to me (click to enlarge):

This references the true story of the bizarre spectacle of an elephant being electrocuted to death right in Luna Park. Here's what I sent back to him.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"There Is No Dog" rounds 1 and 2

My friend John Bergin (who is always making cool things) invited me to do an Exquisite Corpse-style project he is calling "There is no dog." He also sent this to other artist friends. The idea is that I add something and send it back to him, he does the same, until it is done. Here are the three options he sent (click on image to see them bigger): I thought I might as well add to all three, and see what he does next. From left to right, I added a detail of an illustration I am working on, a Gericault painting, and a photo of Luna Park at Coney island that I am using as reference for another illustration. Here's Round 2:

Stay tuned.