Friday, February 16, 2018

even while absorbing the intense athletics of the olympics, great typography takes my eye and thoughts away from the action

Click on the TV. Straight to the Olympics. NBC stinks, by the way, at showing this incredible athletic event. I get way more talk from non-athletes than staight up competition (this whole gripe is for an angry strongo comic on another occassion). Ski Jumping!!! Cool!!! Don't know a single athlete. Don't care! It's the Olympics! It's all about the flag on the outfit. Very exciting. Then.... the mustache. This talented jumper has an old school almost handlebar that is mighty cool. He jumps amazing. Slides over to the camera, and as usual, pops the skis off and gets them into the TV screen as soon as possible. 

THEN.... The ski comes into view. It's beautiful. Clean. Gridded. Helvetica. Very Swiss. Even as I type this out and the image is before me, I keep glancing up and checking it out. Great spacing. Fits snuggly but breathes well. I would hang the ski in my house like any other piece of cool design that I may find. You can check out the skis and the typography used a bit closer at the Slatnar site here.
GO USA!!!!

Monday, February 12, 2018

a love of all things type

Over the past few decades, my sketchbooks have slowly switched from general drawings of my surroundings and random doodles to lettering. Letter forms are inherently beautiful when done well and inherently difficult to do well. That search for making something your own and making it hold it's beauty is a challenge that drives an amazing amount of people all over the net. My nerdiness isolated me prior to the Internet. Once I made my way into the modern age, I realized that my disorder is plaguing people all over the world. 

As an elementary art teacher, I am always looking for a way to inspire my students to look closer at the world around them and creatively analyze it. The "problem solvers" are what schools should be turning out. The art room is a great place to kick start this process. 

When the first two paragraphs mesh, you get student names/initials as design. Some students were asked their interests and others I took as a straight typographic problem to solve. Some choices were based on student personality while others are reflective of my state of mind at the time. (Sophie, the first one shown, is my neice, not a student)....

Thursday, February 2, 2017

a major "thank you" to Ryan Belz...former R.B. Walter Elementary student

This past year, BMW drove an i8 supercar to R.B. Walter Elementary. One of our former students, Ryan Belz, now working for WENY as a Meteorologist and journalist, came to the school to do a story on that event. Somehow, I failed to post the video that Ryan produced that made its way onto our local nightly news.

A fine young man with loads of talent, Ryan has continued to bring his knowledge and skills back to R.B. by presenting super interesting demonstrations on science and weather in the classrooms. I know the demos are cool because my daughter has come home singing his praises. Kids will let you know how they really feel... Ryan is good!

Here is the video that he shot:

We are proud of you Ryan. Best of luck to you as your future is wide open and ready for big things. THANKS AGAIN!!!

Under Armour is Awesome! "Sneakers of the Future" project a homerun!

Two years ago, a major car company did nothing for my 4th graders as we sent in a Cars of the Future art project. I am not naming them because we can never be totally sure if it was the companies fault. Anyway, feeling a bit sorry for the lack of response that was given to my students from that company, I set out to find another way for the students to get some interaction with a major corporation. Sneakers of the Future was hopefully the answer.

I was a teen as Nike defined cool footwear and athletic marketing throughout the 80's. Their shoes were visually light years ahead of the others. Nike commercials, in my opinion, were often more exciting than the sporting events they advertised during. Under Armour has emerged as a possible new trendsetter in athletic marketing. Their logo is showing up EVERYWHERE. Students are wearing the gear, commercials all over and professional athletics have the logo showing up on jerseys across all sports.

So, last year, the 5th graders worked on a project that had them analyzing their own shoes and inventing concepts of how shoes could look and what innovations might show up on them in the future (I defined the future to be months from now up to 100 years from now). They worked mighty hard and they were sent down to Under Armour's corporate headquarters in Maryland. This shipment happened at the end the 2015-16 school year. 

Two examples:

About three months ago, I received call from Danielle Thompson, Assistant Production Line Manager - Youth Footwear, at Under ArmourA super nice young lady, Danielle said that Under Armour was very excited to see the student designs and that they wanted to do "something" to thank the students and their hard work. I, of course, was pumped. I told Danielle that my students would love "anything" that Under Armour would be willing to do. 

Most companies get some gifts in a box and send it off to us. Some get their design teams involved and we get a bit more thoughtful and interesting gifts. And only two, prior to Under Armour, have stepped outside the very cool and entered the awesome and those were BMW North America (check it out here) and Subaru (check it here).

(this next paragraph is slight speculation mixed in with many facts as I was not present with the folks at Under Armour as they went through this process) 

This year, the number of awesome responses from companies has jumped to three. Under Armour had their team of designers review the student artwork. They each picked their 5 favorite ideas presented by the students and then the top 5 of those were boiled down. The Under Armour team then decided that they would make a 3-D digital model of the finished shoe that combined those 5 elements. They then took that show and built a small commercial/thank you for the students. 

Put yourself in the shoes of my students and check out the video (really, no pun intended!!!! really!)... make it full screen....

The video brought the student work full circle. They could see their ideas in seeming real life. The students sketched, made a finished version of their ideas and Under Armour finished it off. The students were pumped.

The top five ideas were:

5. Color changing 

4. Self-fitting
3. Temperature Control

2. Storage Pouch
1. Fly/hover mode

Also, the designers at UA designed a 3D paper shoe (below) that the students could build. This probably took longer than the video to figure out! They sent some blank versions so the students could design variations of the Warrior 2055. So COOL!!!!

With some careful cutting and little bits of glue, you get a very cool paper Warrior.

I gauge awesome in this entire scenario by the response of the students. This was AWESOME! Under Armour should be proud of this team and their thoughtfulness. Creative people can change peoples lives with their time and their care.

Friday, December 30, 2016

local font find #31 i love this lettering!

This was spotted during Dickens of a Christmas over in Wellsboro, Pa. Not sure the bank name, but it is right on the main street. Anywho, the lettering is awesome. The font below is killer as well. Love the wide "c's" and the dot under the small "c". This sign would hand in the living room!!!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

a new version of tee shirt for WildFly Charters

I have been drawing nothing but lettering for the past few months. At some moments, I really feel like I am getting it. Wow, is it difficult to get it "just so". The slightest mistake is usually punching you in the face. There is no middle ground with type. It either works or fails. I am pushing myself with all kinds of tools and styles to get the right look of every project. My brother, Capt. Gregg McKee, of WildFly Charters, is tough to find gifts for. I just try to keep him in interesting variations of tee shirts for his business. 

I like the mix of type styles and the weights of it all. When I squint, which it almost constantly as I draw now, it felt right. The space is just as important as the letters. I think so much differently now about Art in general. My expectations are much higher but the focus of those expectations are in far different places and on elements like "space" and "movement" and "emphasis". When I was young, it was on realism and more realism. That is gone. That is good. Art is becoming much more fun because of it.

version #2 of hand drawn lettering always tastes better

Been super busy as of late but had time off over Christmas break. Merry Christmas to all (by the way) and hope all is going well. This idea, though silly, never seems to be far from my mind. I can't shake it. And when I can't shake it, I doodle it. The many doodles have lead to this.

I look everywhere for well-used vintage book covers. The color and level of abuse are usually the deciding factors when found. They work well for what I have visioned for the final products of certain ideas. All of the color was printed using Styrofoam sheets and then scanning in. I do not use Photoshop Actions or pre-packaged apps to get my weathering.

Happy New Year as well.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

local font find #30

We visited Corning, NY the other day in search of some gifts. Any time I go to Corning I am in search of some old typography. The city has an interesting history and much of it has been preserved and still promoted. 

We stepped into a local glass shop and whammo! There it is. 

Exactly the kind of thing I am looking for. An historically important part of Corning's past and an inspiring part of a Font Geek's present. The sign is huge. About 10-12 feet wide. It is dimensional. Carved out letters with a textured background. Great bird logo above...WOW!

The sign is in rough shape. That is fine by me as I think we should experience it as life and the elements have delivered it to us. It tells a more intimate story in this state. A special "thank you" to the person in charge of displaying it. They had the insight leave it be. Also, the entrance to this building is beautiful. Old, stately doors. Plenty of glass. Great railings on the staircase.

If you are ever in the beautiful city of Corning, head to Market Street on the Wegman's end of town. Check it out. (if the company was as good as the sign, they were mighty good!)

Saturday, December 3, 2016

great artwork you don't see in art history books #5

During a random search on the Internet I came across an image of a tree. It was incredible. I immediately went to look for it's creator. I traced it to a man by the name of Eyvind Earle. An interesting fellow with a great personal story. He is worthy of a look.

The picture below is what has me typing this post. Of all his work, with many of his paintings superb, this painting of a series of barns has stuck with me. I think of it often. There is something about the angles, perspective and the position of the viewer that keeps me coming back.

There seems to be a whole lot happening with so few objects and so little detail. I love the dark shadow that falls across the lower right roof. It keeps pulling my eye around. The blast of light across the grass shoves you left over to the steep roof which start you back right. Wonderful movement. I always love an image that feels as though I would have never come up with the composition no matter how long I lived. Mr. Earle does this with regularity.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

the Air Force 1 by Nike still rules as an impeccable design

I have always loved the look of this shoe. Nike came out with it in 1982. I was 12 (you do the math). I never owned a new original pair but bought a used pair of size 11 1/2 off of a friend (I wore a 10). They were a bit to expensive for a sixth grader. My love of their look has never faded. EVER! I have found that I am not alone with this belief/disorder. To show my love of the shoe and also my love of certain artists/illustrators, I set out to draw a serious doodled right shoe that drops in hints of illustrators that have influenced me.

Many of the marks are just whimsical ideas that happened as chance. As illustrators, cartoonists, or artists jumped into my head, I carved out a place to fit 'em in.

My owl from a graduate school poster project.

The whale squashed into the darkened sole was just a drawing of a whale. No influences. Just thought it would fit in the space.

Sorry about the image quality. Hope it doesn't detract from the time spent drawing this up. Sure was fun to stare at an Air Force 1 for hours at a time.

Sharpie on thick railroad board.

Friday, November 11, 2016

my student's artwork gets them a visit from BMW North America

When I went into this job, I was quite the novice about things like discipline and even how difficult it was going to be to break down something as complicated as art into simple terms for kindergarten students. What I did know was that I like things that are considered different and wanted my space to be as different as the powers-that-be would allow and still be a successful teacher. The Art Room should be different. The Pennsylvania standards for the Art classroom are vague. Some are single words like: line, space, shape, form, color, etc. I have the honor of grinding those words down to their simplest forms and begin to build their comprehension up with the very young. So far, I can do it the way that I believe works best. I hope to never lose that! Having a great Principal is something I wish on all educators!!!!! Also, I would like to add that I am surrounded by professional, high quality classroom teachers, who deliver me the best students possible. Those faculty members are given my utmost respect! Thanks R.B. faculty!!!!

By the time my students reach 3rd grade, my hope is that they are forming a quality understanding of those single words that are truly complicated like line, shape, color, etc. It is about this time that my lessons start to really open up and allow for student-driven outcomes. CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING! The directions can't be as loose as high school or college projects, but I can start to have them push themselves to reach beyond the standard outcome and go after 3rd grade greatness! By 4th grade they should begin to expect that some freedom lies within most of my projects and that their individual ideas are essential. 

Cars of the Future is entering it's ninth or tenth year.  It was a way to have the students visually problem solve while having only their imagination to propel them forward. I created the project with a memory from my youth in mind. I will always remember writing to NIKE back in the mid-80's as their brand was beginning to explode. They would send me catalogs of shoes that were not even available in our area yet. It was an awesome experience! Ithas become a project that the whole school knows about. Kids ask me often about, "When do I get to design a car". This is a good sign. They feel like they are somewhere that only a select few get to experience. Cars of the Future attempts to put the students in a "special" situation. That was the goal. I am proud to say that car makers have responded generously on numerous occasions (sadly, not always). Every year, a different major auto manufacturer gets a package from R.B. Walter Elementary with 50-75 independent concepts conjured up by my 4th grade students. These car companies either react and celebrate a possible future car buyer....or they don't! Some companies sadly did nothing. Two years ago I wrote about how amazing Subaru was to R.B. in a previous post

This year I chose BMW and they responded in a major way...this story could take a while...

When I wrote to BMW (a letter in the box of student artwork pictured below), I explained that the students loved how the i8 looked when I clicked on it as we explored the website (pictured above). "Wows" were heard in all three 4th grade classrooms. The fine people at BMW took that little bit of information and thought it would be cool for the students to see one in person.

I found out that BMW loved the box and was pumped about getting some student designs. They told me that this was the first box they ever received from a school. That was good for us!!! Bring Your Child to Work Day was approaching and they used the designs to line the conference room (picture below) where the employees and their children would have lunch. The children entered the conference room and ran around choosing their favorite designs. Then, like all inspired kids, they asked for paper, pencils and crayons and wanted to design their own ideas for BMW Cars of the Future. That story sure had me beaming with pride. The timing for this package could not have been better.

I received a phone call from Kathryn Vallis, an Executive and Internal Communications Specialist, about the prospect of driving an i8 up from BMW USA's headquarters in New Jersey to visit the students of R.B. Walter. I couldn't say "YES!" fast enough. I had to get the "ok" from our new Principal first, but I was pumped for the students and what could be an amazing experience.

Kathryn Vallis and Rebecca Kiehne, a Product & Technology Spokesperson, planned on driving this hybrid supercar to R.B. early this school year along with some other BMW gear (some of the gear is pictured below) for the kids.

The two ladies and the i8 arrived on a beautiful late summer day. It was a striking machine.

I had called several media outlets and Kathryn and Rebecca had quite a bit of talking to do.

Even the rims looked fast.

The car was impressive from all angles. The students thought the doors were "sick". "Sick" is now a good thing.

Rebecca was very knowledgeable concerning the amazing features and cutting edge design found in the i8.

Kathryn and Rebecca talked briefly about BMW's look toward the future of car design and took many questions from our well behaved students.

Each class was given some time to interact with the car. They were very respectful and careful. A lot of "wow" and "oooh" and "aaah".

I had a large welcome sign set out for the ladies and we all posed for a picture to commemorate the day.

Each student will be getting a copy of the picture below as a bit of memorabilia. 

Big thanks go to BMW USA for allowing Rebecca and Kathryn to have the day and come to our school. Big thanks to Rebecca and Kathryn for making the long drive and being so kind to the students. Big thanks to our new Principal, Mrs. Wood, for allowing the day and helping to make it so awesome. Big thanks to Tyler Belz for coming and covering the event for WENY News. Big thanks to John Vogt from Wellsboro Home Page for covering the event and the excellent video that was produced (CHECK OUT THE VIDEO LINK is very good!!!!!).

Big thanks to the hard working 4th graders (now fifth graders) of R. B. Walter for being so creative, so gracious and so well-behaved on what was a great day for all involved.