Monday, December 28, 2015

angry strongo and the new look-a-like!!!!

I have been enjoying this new Cartoon Network show called Clarence. A very strange cartoon about an even stranger young kid named Clarence. He has all kinds of odd habits and hangs with the other bizarre students in his class. You really have to watch a few episodes to get the full picture. 

The more I watch it, the more I am reminded of my Angry Strongo design and the similarity to Clarence's friend Jeff (Clarence and Jeff are pictured above). Jeff's design is an over-sized block head with a sweep of hair across the forehead and a large semicircle down the sides. Angry has a slightly different sweep that resembles a large wave that follows his always scowling uni-brow.

Not that anyone that reads this blog gives a hoot about whether I copied off this cartoon or not, but the reason for this post is the sense that any one reader might think that is the case. I am also not saying that I believe that the creators of Clarence copied my design but there sure are some weird similarities. What we have here, more than likely, is a very close case of independent invention...I hope.

April 14, 2014 was the premiere date for the show. This has Angry Strongo being designed some 2 and a half years prior. I first started showing designs for my new "Angry" character in 2011. With the first post showing the current look of Angry Strongo appearing in October 31, 2011 (shown above). I had a version of Angry even earlier than this but the one below shows the first time I clothed him in the striped shirt that was later colored red to pay my respects to "Calvin" from Calvin and Hobbes.

As I researched the similarities further, I was struck by the layout of the room pictured below. Now I know many homes have large framed images on the wall and rounded doorways that were all the rage back in the day, but when you look at it all together, it just seems strange. 

My Angry Strongo layout pictured above was from January of 2013 (again, Clarence didn't air until April of 2014).

Anywho, I am not attempting to show any type of copying on the part of the creators of Clarence. I was just struck by the design similarities. I talk with my students about independent invention in my classroom. It happens quite often. When I give them a design problem to solve, a student sitting on the opposite side of the room often solves the problem in a remarkably similar way to someone else located far away. 

Check out this is very funny (my sense of humor is in line with this cartoon). Good day.

All the images used of Clarence and Jeff were copied and pasted off the net. My apologies and thanks to those who uploaded them.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

the history of fonts on stools for my classroom

About 3 or 4 years ago, my Principal, Mr. Smith, allowed me to order new metal stools to replace wooden ones that had become splinter hazards for my students. The new ones were perfect for the size of my students and my table height. The new metal stools had one flaw, a Masonite top that couldn't withstand the long term abuse that would be occurring in an elementary art room. I ran through many ideas to cover the tops. All seemed cool and I believed that the students would like the ideas. The only issue was that a majority of my ideas were way too involved and it would have taken me a year or two of design and application to conquer the project.

My love of letters seemed to fit just right. I thought about using my favorite fonts. I thought about listing the fonts and having each one drawn in its own font. Then, the simple concept of going through the 26 letters of the alphabet worked best for an Elementary art room.

I spent many hours searching the history of fonts and the important designs/designers of the last 500 years in the world of typography. I saw many lists by many of the respected minds in the font community. The fonts that continuously showed up on these lists were automatic picks. Fonts like Garamond, Baskerville, Bodoni, etc. were obvious choices. Helvetica, with its surge in popularity (surge in disgust as well) over the last few decades, was always going to be my A. Helvetica is not my favorite, but thought the students should be aware of how prevalent it is in the design world. I do love its lower case A with that bent drop of water as its bowl. 

30 Typography Stools

A Helvetica
B Copperplate
C Garamond
D Baskerville
E Rockwell
F Century
G Bodoni
H Franklin Gothic
I Times New Roman
J Claredon
K Broadway
L Sentinel
M Futura
N Gill Sans
O News Gothic
P Bembo
Q Akzidenz-Grotesk
R mine... (this does not mean that believe that I am the least bit important in the history of Typography because I AM NOT the slightest bit important in the history of Typography)
S Gotham
T Univers
U Officina
V Caslon
W Didot
X Interstate
Y American Typewritier
Z Metro

Italic (Poster Bodoni)
House Industries Ampersand
A blank one for students who choose not treat them well (not pictured)

I had some gold spray paint at home so I went to work on that Helvetica A. I made a circular mask to shield the gray metal ring at the top during spraying. My want for the letters to be exact had me tracing out enlarged letters via the computer... large enough to be seen well and still leave room for additional information. The Helvetica "a" is already taking a beating.

The thought of having all the stools gold sounded horrible, so off to Walmart and a myriad of spray cans were purchased. I used masking type and an Exacto knife to create masks for many of the letters while some were hand painted to achieve a variety of colors.

Upper and lower case was always considered to add interest as many lower case letters have unique styling. Also, I wanted to shift it around a bit just to keep it interesting.

Certain letters were treated to an interesting background. No real rhyme or reason to my choices on that. Just kept it kid friendly.

I designed this R for a project I was teaching at a local university. It was definitely inspired by the impressive House Industries ampersand pictured below.

The camo Z took the longest as I masked off each layer of green.

House Industries has been a frequent stop on my daily net surfing for many years now. Their designs are top notch and will be the kinds of designs that shall remain relevant for many decades to come. Their ampersand is way cool. You can even buy it cast in aluminum or iron!.

I threw in the Earnhardt "three" for some of my Nascar loving students and the 007 seven popped into my head at the last minute. Willie Stargell's 8 was for me. The rest of the numbers were just well constructed numbers I liked.

I have told my students that all the items in the room that I have designed, I have designed them for myself as well. I have to look at this stuff all day. The form is important but they must function as teaching devices. When these designs lose their cool, I head back to the drawing board and revamp them. I definitely had my taste in mind when designing a lot of these stools. Letters and lettering never seem to dull. I do love them.  

-Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

angry strongo #45

It has been quite a while since Angry Strongo has appeared on a blog named after him. Our lives have been hectic with children, our jobs and artwork on the side. This winter has allowed me to work outside in the garage in the evening as the temps have been awesome. I was even able to hang lights without a jacket, gloves and a winter cap!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

another barn wood buffalo bills sign

A few weeks after I posted a Buffalo Bills sign designed for a family that has been so good to ours, I was contacted shortly after posting it to see if that sign was for sale. It was a teacher out of Rochester, NY, who was interested in the sign and if she could not have that one, would I build one. I told this very nice lady that I would check my supply of barn boards and give her a quote if I had the material. I had the material. Once we agreed on a price, I got to work.

I have probably typed this before, but I am always amazed how awesome weathered and aged wood looks. It is an honor to upcycle these barn boards that experienced/survived countless sunny days and winter storms to get to them to their current glory. I do my best not to waste any pieces but must make artistic choices when considering where to cut as the knots and blemishes add to the appeal. This does result in some fine pieces becoming too small to fit into any design ideas I currently have in mind. 

The dimensional set up really shows off the boards. This design has zero relief carving. It was purposely simple in order to make the wood the center of attention once the viewer has mentally travelled past the fact that they are looking at the Buffalo Bills logo made out of wood. 

It is always my hope (I guess the hope of anyone who makes stuff and sells it to others) that those individuals that buy what I make continue to enjoy it long after that initial newness wears off. 

44" wide x 30" high

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

new logo for the Northern Tioga School District

I was asked quite a while ago to redesign the logo for our school district. I tossed out multiple ideas and none were accepted. I sat on the project a while, as no deadline was given, until a concept popped into my mind a few months ago. I sat down at the computer and pushed it to its current state.

They decided that this was ready.

I wanted to represent the 3 communities in which we have buildings.....avoid looking to industrial or too elementary school as well as still remain simple and easily understood. School is the foundation of a quality life and the teachers I work with do an amazing job at giving students an Opportunity to succeed. Well, this is it. (there is also an upward arrow lurking in the general layout)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

vintage crayola box with awesome type and cool elf

I'm a sucker for great lettering. A nice piece of typography appeared in my school mailbox the other day. The day after it arrived, I found out that it had been gifted by a wonderful second grade teacher who is soon to retire. She assumed that I would like this empty crayola box and she assumed correct! Wow! Just big enough to hold 36 crayons, the box is of a sturdy board and in relatively great shape....a few blemishes on the corners. Though it was empty, I will display it proudly in the office that my wife and I use (when it is clean enough) to do artwork, bills and other computer junk.

The elf has a Disney feel. The type has a genuine friendliness and beautifully scaled to the box. Love the stubby ampersand as well.

One is currently on eBay for about $50. It is full of red crayons. The list describes it as coming from the early 50's (1952 is the exact claim). Awesome!

Monday, November 9, 2015

tee shirt design for beavertail skiffs

There is this top shelf boat manufacturer in Florida that goes by Beavertail Skiffs. My brother Capt. Gregg McKee has a great relationship with the owners and must have dropped my name as someone who could design a tee shirt for their inaugural owner's fishing tournament. As usual, research was followed by sketching and more research. In the end, i had little to go on since it was their first event. Sometimes, that's mighty good. 

I chose to mock up a vintage trophy look and etch the designs into the solid color. I knew they would be using a light blue tee and went with a bold blast of darkness against the light ribbon with dark lettering. I was unsure if they were going to apply corporate logos around the sides and bottom so I attempted to keep it more vertical. I may have moved the date and location to the east and west if I would have known sooner.

I lifted this picture of someone wearing the tee during the tourney from Beavertail's facebook page. My brother may have taken it, not sure. Anyone looking for a great flats fishing boat....check 'em out! My brother owns one and it is awesome!

Thanks Beavertail.....for the opportunity and the TEE! it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

buffalo bills wooden sign

I work with some amazingly talented, kind and dedicated teachers. Two of them have become good friends of our family. They are terrific people with two fine children. Their kids have babysat our children on many occasions. As a gesture of gratitude for having us over to their home and the allowing of their children to take care of ours, I decided to build them something to hang in their basement. 

The basement in the home is a beautiful one and I set out to design something to add to the quality. Another teacher I work with just set me up with some well aged barn wood and I thought it would do the trick (Thanks JOE!!!!).

The man of the family is a big fan of the Buffalo Bills. I decided to build the logo out of the boards. After a bit of google searching wooden signs of that subject, I found nothing that looked anything like I had planned (always a good thing!). 

First, these barn boards are naturally striking and to paint them always feels wrong. My design was to stain them, if necessary, with new and used motor oil...nothing that would hide the beat up and weathered look of the wood. 

I have limited tools and limited skills when it comes to working with wood. The design has to be simple for both my taste and my talent with this material. 

The Bills logo has two colors and also a white outline that separates the colors and continues around the outside of the entire design. I decided to make it a dimensional piece with the white of the logo being a total background layer. The idea came together as I started the assembly of the background. A simple raised layer of lighter wood on top of a layer of darker wood. 

I wanted the piece to be large but not pompous. A bit of thought had to be put into the scale. Knowing the basement, I rested on 44" x 30". Too small and the design would waste the limited wood.

Below, the final resting place. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

large tarpon wooden sign/piece of art

I am not sure yet as to the point of making this large tarpon sign. My awesome neighbor scored this amazing bunch of very old wood (we think it is silo boards) that has incredible texture.

 This tarpon strikes a much more dynamic pose than the last one I made for my brother's home. 

At just over 6 feet from the bottom of the jaw to the tip of the tail, I believe this tarpon to possess the correct dimensions of these beautiful fish. Some old motor oil and roughed on paint and she'll soon be ready for whatever her future holds.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

local font find #24

We found ourselves in Coudersport, Pa. the other day. We were helping a fine young lady move her things from apartment to apartment. Upon our journey, we made our way past a Pennsylvania Dept. of Transportation building near the elementary school. The lettering was awesome. I had to stop and snag a few photos. The lettering was beautifully retro and dated and very few were aligned on the building with any regard to being straight. 

This type style is part of the Art Deco movement that was experienced in the early part of the 20th century. Most consider it from the 1920's up to WWII.

If you follow the horizontals of the brick, you can see how off the individual letters were set. Maybe they rotated slightly on one connecting point (I did not walk up to the side of the building to see how they were stuck to the facade).

They are awkward and jovial. They really do jump at the viewer as individual design gems. The weight is interesting and a real feat of problem solving can be attributed to the designer. I was unable to google search an exact font name but many Art Deco themed fonts were very similar.

Friday, July 24, 2015

local font find #23

It should be obvious that the spacing between letters (kerning) is horrible on this sign we drove by in New York state. Problems are everywhere. The reason that I have it as #23 is how poorly the 99 looks on the interstate logo. Why is it so far right?!?!??!?!??!!!!!!! The border of white is much smaller on the I-86 shield but at least the 86 is centered. WOW! is this horrible. I will get some shots of a good I-99 sign compared to this poor one in the near future. YIKES!

Monday, July 6, 2015

my brother and son and an interesting catch

This pic has nothing to do with art, design or the ranting of Angry Strongo. Read my brother's post over on his blog here.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

"not so" local font find #22

We have made it a yearly destination to stop for an overnight rest in Staunton, Va on our way home from visiting my family in Florida. Staunton (we learned it is pronounced "stan-ton" on this trip) is the home of Woodrow Wilson. Ash thought we should take a trip through town before risking our lives on I-81 north and the mayhem of 4th of July traffic. We drove by Pres. Wilson's birthplace and decided to stop and take a look.

At the museum next door to his birthplace, they had his Presidential limo outside. It was to be in a parade the following morning and the museum staff was attempting to get the motor to turn over. 

The head of the museum was overseeing the maintenance and saw my family passing by. He called us over and asked if we would like to take a closer look. Another man opened the back door and we were invited to step inside. My children took him up on the offer.....

This Pierce Arrow Limo is in pristine condition and quite beautiful. I'm not an extreme "car guy" and I could have stared at this machine for an hour or two.

The details were awesome.

To the point of this post, the type! The license plate looked like it was designed for this machine. It fit it so well. As we walked around this piece of art, the plate blended in with all the glossy detail. Being a font nerd, I was alerted to its beauty and classy look immediately.

If I found any flaw, it would be the font used in "antique vehicle". This is all about the numbers. The 5 and the 2 being the same makes the 5 seem unique. Love the zero as well. Anywho, if you are every experiencing the misery of I-81 in the middle of Virginia and you need a break, stop into the beautiful city of Staunton (stan-ton) and drive around town for a bit. A small slice of American heaven.

in addition: I am in no way promoting the ideals that Wilson stood for. I have avoided politics on this blog for many reasons. Recent readings have convinced me of this former President's racist beliefs. My family will no longer have a single cent spent in the positive upkeep of this man, his legacy and the attempt to keep his history a positive one.