Wednesday, February 17, 2016

2016 Reading List - Updated 2/17


A collage of what I've read since my 1/19/2016 2016 Reading List post. Edited to the best of my blogging attention span abilities.

Notes:

Long Tail Kitty was very cute and extremely clever. I really like Lark Pien's art. A great choice if you need a smile and an excuse to say a few positive-sounding, "Awwww's..."

Jeff Mack did a nice job with Clueless McGee. Great humor sounded by fun drawings. I really enjoy these text-heavy yet simple graphic novel-style books. Simple... As if. Mack put a lot of work into this, as do Jeff Kinney and Dav Pilkey. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. If they do, they're not your friend. :P

Katherine Applegate's The One and Only Ivan was a beautiful book. I admit that I was getting anxious as to when the (or any) action would start. But this wouldn't have been nearly as great without Applegate's amazing character development. Curse my literary impatience. Ivan contains possibly the finest ending to any book I've read. Awards-shmawards I always say, but I think it earned that John Newberry stamp on the cover.

SuperMutant Magic Academy. I was expecting a long tale in graphic novel form. And that's what I got. Kind of. But I got so much more than expected. Jillian Tamaki expertly wove a story via a series of single (sometimes multiple, but too multiple) pages containing between one and six (or so) comic panels. They tie together so well, and there is so much thought put into each page. After I was done I read it again. And then I ordered a copy online. Awards-shmawards and all that, but I really hope this wins something. It would be a crime if you didn't give it a look.

Boxers, and then Saints. These must (MUST) be read one after the other. Gene Yang is one of our greatest storytellers. With written word and image he gives us a lesson in modern Chinese history that is epic, uplifting and heartbreaking. Yang is an absolute genius.

The seed for Elle Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must began as a blogpost that was urged to become a book. I never visit the self-help section at libraries or bookshops. Can there be a cure-all book that suits every individual? Of course not. But I've read and enjoyed Austin Kleon's Steal Like and Artist and his follow-up, Show Your Work. So I suppose I do subscribe to self-help, as it relates to art. And that's how I approached Luna's book – from an art perspective. It helped me consider and accept a new position with a company that provides Mathematics and ELA lessons to schools and families, with an emphasis on bilingual learning. I found my "must" within this book, and it played a role in my accepting an amazing job.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling. I've been reading the Potter series with Jake, and, like millions of others, we've been enjoying every word. Even her frivolous use of "reckon." I always connected that with the old West...

I often judge books by their covers. Books. Not people. Books. So my initial assumption was that  Americus by MK Reed and Jonathan Hill was going to be a graphic novel about early America, the Constitution, maybe with a a Roman twist (AmeriCUS?) I was so wrong. Despite my failed assumption, it's a great book about a middle-schooler finding his way and finding his voice in a town where some closed-minded people just can't mind their own bee's wax. Highly recommended.

I need to start rereading Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series (I've only read the first three...) in anticipation of the next book coming out super soon. Explorer - The mystery Boxes is a great collection of short graphic stories by a variety of illustrators and writers (See? I try to put illustrators first when I get the chance.) Very entertaining, while serving as a sample platter of talent whose other works should be searched out.













Tuesday, January 19, 2016

2016 Reading List

Here's a collage of what I've read so far in the year of our calendar, 2016. I'll update as often as possible.

Notes:

Solid batch.
Mac Barnett kills me.
Wonder was fantastic.
Circus Mirandus was pure magic. Everyone should read that book.
The ending of Wonder got me all choked up.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Holiday TV Specials (Re-Blog from 11-29-2007)

Remember when I used to be one of the TV bloggers for the Times Union (Albany, NY)?

You do? Thanks.

You don't? Read these when you get some time.

To celebrate the inevitable arrival of Christmas as well as my return to this blogging platform from another trendier yet crappier platform, here's a professional copy and paste of my Holiday Specials blog from November 29, 2007 which is actually a copy and paste from my personal blog back in 2006. In other words, I couldn't come up with something new to blog about. But tomorrow! Just wait until tomorrow...




A big part of the holiday season has always involved me, a TV, and some holiday specials. This year wasn’t any different, as I tried to catch at least a few moments of the classics. Here’s a list of what I was able to see:


1. A Charlie Brown Christmas – Probably my favorite of them all. I remember watching it with my Pop when I was a wee lad. When it ended I started to cry, because it was over and I wouldn’t see it again until next Christmas (this was the early 1970’s – no dvds, vcrs, dvrs, ipods etc.) So if anyone claimed to have seen Rudolph “like a hundred times” before 1980 or so, you could call them a liar, because that would have been impossible. Unless they were named Rankin or Bass – then I could see that as being plausible. Anyway, I asked my dad to see if they would play it again, so he opened the window (28th floor of a 33 story apt. building) and yelled out, “Hey! Play Charlie Brown again!” or something like that. And I was so happy, because I thought that they may be able to hear him and they might just air it over again. Or maybe I was just happy that Pop was making the effort to have them play it again. Now this happened when I was around 4 years old, so this next part may not be accurate, but I think I remember someone yelling, “Shut the **** up!” after Pop yelled out the window. OK – I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen, but it makes for a better story. OK, so I watched this again this past year. It’s just as good as it was back in the day.
2. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Watched it. Kind of got distracted a few times. Rudolph’s voice is pretty annoying. Burl Ives really looked like a snowman. Wendi and I saw a woman at Target a few nights later that looked like the Bumble.
3. Santa Claus is Coming to Town – I saw the first 10 minutes, and then we decided to watch an episode of House. This one was okay, but it was kind of like Rudolph’s slow cousin. I dunno… Some the the songs are pretty good. Mickey Rooney’s voice is almost as annoying as Rudolph’s. Have you ever seen an old Mickey Rooney movie? What a punk. There was one where he was a high school football star heading to Notre Dame. I had to turn that off. An embarrassment to all decent football players out there. The leading lady in this show – Miss Jessica – is pretty hot for a puppet.
4. Year Without a Santa Claus – This is a sad, sad piece of work that over the years has ridden the coattails of the Heat Miser/Snow Miser song. Christmas stories should be silly, not stupid. Not sure if I’ve ever even seen the end of this one. Once the song was over – click! I didn’t make an effort to find this one this year.
5. Christmas Vacation – This is one I bought for my VCR 10 years ago and watched it way too many times. I saw about 20 mixed mintues of it this year. I really like the squirrel scene. There’s a guy who lives down the street from us with a Winnebago in his driveway. I’m waiting for the day when he’s outside with a can of beer in one hand and a hose in the other, draining the ‘Bago’s septic, announcing that the, “S**tter’s full.” I’ll let you know if that ever happens.
6. It’s a Wonderful Life – Wendi and I recorded this and watched it the other night. She’s only seen a few minutes here and there. I really like this movie. George Baily is a really good guy. Then his idiot uncle loses $8000. In today’s money that’s probably over $200-grand (based on the part of the movie where they claim one could buy a decent house in Bedford Falls for $5000). George should have beaten the crap out of Uncle Billy. Saturday Night Live has a great skit where they show “the lost ending” to It’s a Wonderful Life. Uncle Billy remembers that he accidently gave the envelope with the $8000 to Potter, so they all head over there and kick Potter’s ass. See if you can find that on nbc.com or youtube.com. Classic.
7. A Christmas Story – Watched this, plus a bunch of minutes here and there this year. I went to see this when it first came to the theater with my uncle and aunt. They laughed their asses off. I kind of laughed, but didn’t get most of the humor. I can definitely appreciate it now. Great scene: when Ralphie is beating the piss out of Scott Farkus, listen closely to the kids watching the fight. Toward the end they start yelling, “Kill him! Kill him!” Kids… they say the darndest things!
8. Miracle on 34th Street – I saw a bit of this one this year, but I was saving it to watch with Wendi, who hasn’t seen it. Since we did It’s a Wonderful Life this year, we’ll do that one next year. Did you know that it’s based on a true story? It’s not. I made that up.
9. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol – They sliced the crap out of this one, so it fits neatly into a one-hour time slot, including commercials. I recommend seeing it if you haven’t – it’s really entertaining. Very good songs. The highlight is the Razzleberry Dressing tune.
10. Nestor the Long-Eared Donkey – Never heard of this? I’m not surprised. My sister and I loved this when we were kids, and I was psyched to see a few minutes of it this year. It’s about a donkey with long ears who carries Mary into town so she can have the baby Jesus. Done in the same puppet fashion as Rudolph and those others, but it’s got a really dirty and grainy quality to it. Like they filmed it and then thought it was crap and kicked it through the street, but then they decided to keep it and tried to wipe it off.
The only other one I remember watching this year was the Christmas episode of Hey Arnold! – a Nickelodeon cartoon. Arnold finds out that a Vietnamese guy who lives in his grandfather’s boarding house had to give away his daughter during the war, so Arnold attempts to find her as a holiday gift to this fella. In the end it looks like he fails, but of course father and daughter are reunited and all is happy and bright and I get all teary-eyed. Catch that one if you can.
Oh, and then there are all of the South Park Christmas episodes as well. Required viewing. Definitely. And seriously, how can you go wrong with Christmas poo?

Return of the Blog

I moved this over to Tumblr, but you know what? Tumblr kind of blows. I'll tidy this joint up a bit tonight and start blogging again tomorrow.

Until then, here's some coffee art:

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

New Blog Location Over at the Tumbler

Pretty sure the t should be lowercase, but really, who's checking?

So I'm following the hipsters over to tumblr.

"Why?" you ask?

"Why not?" I ask back.

Easy of use and the ability to reach and be followed by more readers are the biggest reasons.

Here's the link. Hope to see you there.

And here's the link again in case you missed the other two.

Friday, January 30, 2015

If/Then


Tonight (Friday, January 30, 2015) is the opening of the Berkshire Museum's If/Then exhibition. I'll be attending in with my lovely wife Wendi and our super-duper son, Jake. I'm thinking sport coat, white oxford and jeans.

Here's a clip from the official press release that explains what If/Then is all about:


[PITTSFIELD, MA] – The new exhibition If/Then opens Saturday, January 24, 2015, at the Berkshire Museum, and will be on view through Sunday, May 3. Visitors to If/Then will enter a topsy-turvy world of experience, where senses rule. They will traverse the horizontal climbing wall; dodge an obstacle course of pretend laser beams; and use dots and dashes to mark their height on a drawing wall. If/Then was conceived and created by Peter Garlington, a Berkshire-based designer, and Craig Langlois, Berkshire Museum’s education and public program manager. If/Then is proudly sponsored by Greylock Federal Credit Union. 


This new exhibition is all about inspired rule-breaking and the exploration of irrational creativity. For children it is a chance to freely climb, jump, and explore the large-scale sculptural structures in the galleries; for older children and adults it’s an opportunity to release the confines of rational thought and re-engage with their own childhood. The two designers are working with illustrator Greg Matusic to create a visual vocabulary for If/Then, comprised of vibrant symbols and graphics that will guide visitors of all ages through the creative play space without written words. 



It was about a year ago that the three of us took a day trip (45 minutes from Albany, minus a stop at Starbucks) to the Berkshire so Jake and Wendi could show me how cool of a place it was as they'd been there at least once before. In the artsy section of the first floor was an area where kids could sketch a few still life set-ups using the provided (the Berkshire provides LOTS for its visitors) drawing boards, paper and markers. Jake finished his drawing (which was excellent btw) and hung it up on the nearby wall using a provided clip. Since there was a lull in the area I grabbed some materials and created a quick doodle of some kids enjoying themselves at the museum, adding a voice bubble cheer that came pretty close to rhyming. I added a www.matusic.com at the bottom as I tend to do because you never know who's going to see it.


Sure enough, I received an email a few days later from Van Shields, Executive Director of the Berkshire Museum. (See?) Van really liked my drawing and after corresponding a bit more thru email and Facebook he mentioned that he'd keep me in mind for any future museum projects that may need some illustration/cartoon work. Being the eternal optimist it wasn't a matter of if it would happen but when.


So this past Fall I saw an email message from Craig Langlois, the Berkshire Museum's education and public program manager asking if I'd be interested in helping with an upcoming exhibition. Arrangements were made and I arrived at the museum to meet with Craig and Berkshire-based designer, Peter Garlington. They showed me an impressive display of blueprints and plans that showed over a dozen amazingly creative exhibits whose "rules" and instructions would rely on my illustrations. Now I really wanted to work on this project, so I really pitched myself over and over as they described what they had in mind. At one point I said something like, "Man, I'm so jealous you guys get to work on this." Peter replied that I'd be working on it with them. I honestly thought this was an interview for the job, not the first meeting. I suppose it makes for a good story, which is why I'm blogging about it.


The challenge was to create a series of comic strip-style panels that would visually describe to visitors how to navigate each section of the exhibit. We decided on creating and utilizing a number of symbols and icons to show what would be needed for each part of the exhibit (i.e. A boot icons would mean there would be walking involved. A hand icon would mean that sections would be hands-on, etc.) Trying to limit the number of descriptive illustrations to six per panel proved to be tricky in some cases while trying to fill six panels with descriptive illustrations was tricky in others. But based on my extremely intelligent and blatantly honest focus group (Jake), I think we did a pretty good job.

I also created two characters to show/suggest the movements necessary to participate in each each exhibit section. It's weird that these two characters (Are they brother and sister? Cousins? Two old friends? Two new friends maybe?) don't have names, because I usually give names to everything I draw. Good thing I didn't, because the Berkshire will be holding a Name the Kids contest in the near future. I'll post the contact info in another blog post once it's released to the public. Rumor has it that I'll be drawing a fun portrait of the winner(s). Stay tuned.


A thousand or so sketches (yes, all paper not kept is recycled), many hours on my iMac utilizing Adobe Illustrator CC 2014 and a wireless mouse and not nearly as many edits as I had anticipated, here we are: The evening of the official opening of If/Then.

Take your kids. Take your friends. Take yourself. It's an amazing exhibit at a very very cool museum.





Note: The unofficial opening was last Saturday, during a snowstorm of course. I was "trapped" in a cozy converted barn in West Stockbridge, MA that weekend (20 or so minutes South of Pittsfield) with eight of my best children's book illustrator and writer pals for our second annual Little Man Retreat. Lots of critiquing of others work, talking about the industry, sketching, writing, eating, eating, drinking and then eating. I consider these guys and gals to be "my people", so I was very happy that they could visit the museum with me to see the work I had done. It meant a lot.

Here's a link to the Berkshire Eagle's piece on If/Then. On that page are additional links to a photo gallery and a downloadable coloring page contest for the kids.

The additional pics scattered throughout this post were taken during last Sunday's visit with my Little Man peeps. More pics from tonight's opening and our inevitable returns to the exhibit will be on display in future blog posts and on my social media pages.

I'll have a complete lineup of all If/Then illustrations on my web site later this weekend. And if you're interested in any part of the brainstorming and drawing process feel free to contact me in the comment section, via social media or send me an email: greg@matusic.com.


Friday, January 2, 2015

No. 2 Pencil


If you don't get it, ask your kids.

I need to get some of these printed up. Maybe I'll do that once I open the shop on my website (posters, prints, etc. for cheap.) Coming in February. 2015.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year Resolutions



Feel free to keep tabs on my progress and call me out on any of these...
  • Watch more hockey.
  • Leave random happy drawings in random happy and unhappy places for random people to keep. Randomly.
  • Go all “YOU SHALL NOT PASS (my lips)” to soft drinks.
  • Learn all the lyrics to the songs I always try to sing during my morning and evening commutes.
  • Record myself singing along to those songs and add them to my web site (www.matusic.com).
  • Write in my Q&A a Day every evening. I skipped the final 95% of 2014. Shame on me. 
  • Follow that up with some sudoku or reading. A big juicy brain like this doesn’t maintain itself, people.
  • Help Wendi get her craft and blogging beeswax of the ground and on to your computer screens.
  • Speak at TEDXAlbany.
  • Home improvement projects. That deck isn’t going to build itself. And the shed won’t demolish itself. Well it will eventually if we leave it up long enough.
  • Set the zombie books aside and read some of the modern classics I’ve been missing out on.
  • Purge a majority of my wardrobe, because I wear the same 15 items in a sort of awkward rotation.
  • And then buy a few new things because sometimes I go places that command nice clothing.
  • Start up the Albany Drink and Draw.
  • Keep up with the ice skating. Jake and I just started and we’re both getting better. We really enjoy it.
  • Stay the weird course of weirdness with my drawing and writing (see pic above). 
  • Fewer movies/shows. More podcasts.
  • And maybe some audio books. 
  • Utilize the gym in the lower lobby of Upside Collective's new building in downtown Albany. A big juicy body like this doesn’t maintain itself, people.
  • Blog more.
  • Make sure the posts are entertaining to both the readers and the writer.
  • Improve my After Effects skills so I can throw down some quick animated shorts.
  • Quarterly promo post cards.
  • Posters. The weirder the better. And then sell them online or at festivals. For cheap.
  • More museums visits.
  • Work with Jake to launch a game app. That kid is full of great ideas. It’s about time he started paying out.
  • Write letters. Add art.
  • Work on some chapter book and graphic novel ideas.
  • More live baseball games. Including a trip to Yankee Stadium with Jake.
  • Take better advantage of everything the SCBWI has to offer.
  • Same with AIGA.
  • Visit my folks more often.
  • Same with my sister and her family. 
  • Set up a small screen printing daily-o for basic paper and t-shirt prints. And then sell them online or at festivals. For cheap.
  • Network more often. And enjoy doing it.
  • Which means I should attend more conferences and talks. And I’m cool with that.
  • Meditate daily, or at least when necessary, which will probably be daily.
  • Get back into throwing heavy things. It’s worked as a form of meditation in the past.
  • Check this list periodically to make sure I’m on track.
  • Complain less. Thank more. Like so:
Thanks for reading. Have a fun, exciting, productive and prosperous 2015. Best of luck with your own resolutions.

-G

Friday, October 24, 2014

#inktober

So there's this thing and it's called #inktober. And #inktober is all about getting back to basics with ink and paper. The only need for technology is to show your work on the social media sites. At least that's what I think it's about. Here's a graveyard's worth of my #inktober drawings up to this point. One more inky week to go.














Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Frankensmiths

Prepping for Halloween with the first in a series of monsters quoting The Smiths.
I don't know. It just seemed to make sense.
Stay spooky my friends.