AUAFA NEWSLETTER| SPRING 2019 | Documenting Faculty Work

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SPRING NEWSLETTER | 2019 Documenting Faculty Practice




AUAFA OFFICE | RM 547 | AUArts T 403 284 7613


Natali Rodrigues


Cover image : From Skin for Skin, Animated Short Film by Kevin Kurytnik (and Fifteen Pound Pink Productions) Back Cover image : Crafty Lama Book Cover written by Mike Kerr


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(non-voting) OFFICE MANAGER Karin McGinn (Non-voting)

The opinions expressed in this newsletter are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Alberta University of the Arts Faculty Association. Copyright | Alberta University of the Arts Faculty Association and Contributors 2019

What's Inside......


"A good brand has a story. a great brand has many stories within that story." JOHNNY TALISMAN | Sessional Instructor, Advertising Stream | School of Communication Design Working in LA | Based out of Calgary | Creative Director


"When The Red Wagon (Book) first came out, it was on the NY Times Best Seller list for one week - but it has sold 350,000 copies since then." MIKE KERR | Limited Term Appointment, Illustration Stream | School of Communication Design Illustrator | Writer | Product Fabricator | RandM | Principal's Office


"My philosophy – or process – behind designing these (books) is always the same. Everything starts with research." KELLY HARTMAN | Sessional Instructor, Graphic Design Stream | School of Communication Design Designer | Hartman Design Studio | Multiple Award Winning Artist’s Book Designer


2019 Best Animated Short Film | Oscar Long List | Skin for Skin KEVIN KURYTNIK | Assistant Professor, School of Communication Design Fifteen Pound Pink Productions | Director, Writer, Design | Animator

JOHNNY TALISMAN | Sessional Instructor, Advertising Stream, School of Communication Design Working in LA | Based out of Calgary | Creative Director

Micro-Targeting | Influencer Marketing | Experiential Branding | Reverse Flip Marketing

a good brand has a story. a great brand has many stories within that story.

“Most of my clients are still in LA, so I go back 2-3 months at a time.”

JACKIE : “ Tell me about Scion (a Division of Toyota).” JOHNNY: “ I was put on the Scion account when I worked for Bon-U.S.A. out of L.A.”

“ . . . Scion is a Division of Toyota : it is a car design for the youth market, first-time buyers or fringe buyers, those who would never be caught dead in A Toyota - Toyota's answer to the Mini. Scion wanted to reach this market that didn't trust advertising, in a cost effective way – looking for "Influencers" to add equity to the brand.

Scion and Bon USA decided they would try to influence buyers before they would consider a car – they were trying to influence an audience before they were even ready to consider buying their first car – they wanted to build a brand.

The first challenge is creating the stories that fit the brand, that feel part of the brand.

The second is finding how we tell that story so it fits in the brand.

Scion’s analogy was “we’re never going to be like Hyundai who sponsor’s Alicia Keys concerts” – they wanted to find the artists,

that people had only just started talking about. Bon and Scion partnered with an agency that specialized in finding these new up and coming artists, starting with musicians, right as they first come out onto the scene. Through those musicians they then started finding Artists – through album covers they designed, etc. Music Artists like RZA introduced us to artist, David Choe (who later struck it big). Other musicians brought in artists like Sage Vaughn, French and SSUR.

“We got their equity but it was genuine. It came

naturally in their true voice. They tweeted when and how they wanted, not prompted.”

“We helped out the bands – the idea was to help them create, help them with their first video, create the social media platforms. As long as they had a good core audience, a good voice as to what their music was – and not a flash in the pan. Then we put in the structures to help support them.” “Scion never took a percentage back – they poured out the money to the artists." Often they would just say, ”Presented by Scion” as a tag at the end – they played it very low key. That way the artists were always the main focus and Scion was just associated with them. The concern was that if Scion took a more dominant position then it would feel commercialized and lose its authenticity.

Once they started getting that cred with them, they kept building – once they helped the Musician, the Musicians appreciated the spotlight and income, and we got their equity. But it was genuine – we never sent them a list of the tweets they should do – we never required anything from them – it came naturally in their true voice. They tweeted when and how they wanted, not prompted. That's how word spread. That's how Scion built their brand. Authentically. Once we had that foothold, Musicians came to us – can you help us out – here we had the festivals – all musicians had friends that were artists – we created a traveling art show – but one that always looked back to the Music – Music Posters for the musicians etc, album covers. As our equity grew, Scion created the “Musicless Music Conference” – this was a grand gesture from Scion - a three-day concert, featuring Musicians like Danny Brown, RZA, Steve Aoki, The Melvins. They all came, spoke at the conference, it was free – the Musicians never played music – this was a conference about the business of creating your own music – Musicians spoke on how they got started, on topics such as copyright, how to protect yourself in a deal – we wanted this to have as much truthful information from the sources in it, as possible. We filmed all of this and made it available through Scion’s website.

We were filming all the concerts, interviews, art shows, etc– in a year we would do over 400 videos: 2/3 of of my staff were video based – editors, project managers, videographers. We now had all this content (over 8,000 videos at the site) and the website was crashing, the search filters didn’t work well.

So we redesigned the entire site, re-tagged everything and made it more intuitive. Once you had been to it a few times it knew your preferences and filtered the site based on that but we always did 10% of another genre to expand their horizons. We never required a sign up for anything because that took away the trust of this demographic. I created an infrastructure where we created one main video and then we made alt cuts from that one that ran on social media to get people back to the main one. We weren't trying to bring the money in. Scion's measurement was by participation – by the number of eyeballs engaging with the brand. They would compare this to a TV buy – the budget for a few commercials was equivalent to our entire budget – by the time we were done with our brand efforts, they spent at the most three million. We were having conversations with individual groups that were engaging with Scion – we were talking differently within each genre – we weren’t pushing the same message to everyone – and doing topics that they were interested in, in the first place.

We started looking for different ways to get our content out -– we had some videos that underperformed vs. the others so we decided to do an online variety show. We approached Prince Paul (massive equity in the Hip Hop genre) – he was part of the band called De La Soul – everyone in hip hop knew and respected him. He said, I'm in. But I want my guys in it. Our response was to support him. We approached it as a partnership. We provided everything, brought in a producer, built the set, lined up the guests but kept it true to his vision. This is what made Scion unique.

Scion partnered with these people – that's how you create the micro targeting – when you partner, the conversation changes. They never just "hired" these people. Prince Paul brought on his crew – we did his talk show – he had two key guests – and then cutaways to videos that we had already done, or festivals that we had already done – to freshen up the content His first interviews were Danny Brown, and ASAP Rocky. Scion discovered ASAP Rocky. Both of whom Scion partnered with in the very beginning of their careers and got out their first video and tracks. We used all these platforms to help the others that needed more exposure.

We would hire some of these artists and their friends to do these odd branded videos …they had never done these kinds of things, but we gave them a chance to do it. When the FR-S was launched – we created a mini-movie. I wanted to amp it up so I brought in a director to oversee the entire thing – using a loose script he wrote – we allowed each one of 5 chapters to be given to different team of artists (a musician, street artist, and SFX artist). Each chapter had it’s own artistic flavor to it driven by different music.

Scion on Melrose

We wanted to help the street artists reach new audiences so we decided to open up a retail gallery – on Melrose – it was an experiment for 4 months – to see what access we could get. A street artist could sell his stuff for one month – we helped them take some of their work and find a way to apply and sell it in different forms. For instance with SSUR (artist): he had carved a baseball bat with Russian hieroglyphics – that he hand chromed so we created a limited series from that in different colours. He also had this great pattern so we created wallpaper. We took some of his other art and applied it to lighters, t-shirts, mugs, pencil cases, wallets, etc. We worked with him to create an entire line of sellable products, but we paid the bill.

All the profits went to the artist – we didn’t even cover our costs – this was our method of advertising – social equity advertising, or social branding – but on an artist level. With SSUR, he didn’t know what to expect – we put this on Scion’s and Franks’ social media and told our artist partners about it. On the first day we had a line-up around the block. Walking in no one even knew Scion was behind this except at the very back, around a corner was a little area where people could sign out a Scion car that they could use for free for the day. SSUR sold $60,000 worth of artwork that day. Scion considered it a success – their brand equity was authentic and unique.

And like I said, we got their equity. That's how word spread, in their true voice. Through social media.

"Scion considered it a success – they found their return in the brand equity was great and it made the brand unique."

MIKE KERR | Limited Term Appointment, Illustration Stream | School of Communication Design Illustrator | Writer | Product Fabricator | RandM | Principal's Office

“ I like to connect what I'm doing in the Industry and in my Practice, with what I teach at AUArts. cSPACE was a research experiment.”

JACKIE : “ Tell me about your most recent work.

I understand you've been getting a good share of awards and good reviews for it.” MIKE : “ I wrote a Children's Book that has just come out currently selling at Chapters / Indigo, Barnes & Noble + Amazon.”

It's in the Society of Illustrators Awards Show this week in New York ( Nov 5 2018 ).

It's called, “The Cra ty Llama”.

“The story received a lot of good reviews. It's featured in "The Next List" – put out by an organization connected to independent bookstores in the U.S. The book was illustrated by Renata Liwska. Renata is a judge at the Governor General's Literary awards in Ottawa right now. She's the "R" in our retail/studio space at cSpace, called RandM. (editors note: Renata Liwska is a former AUArts Sessional Instructor within the SCD Illustration Stream.) RandM is about connecting, and about entrepreneurial practices. I wanted to do a retail space so that I could teach the students what it is and how it works. Everything should be about application – if I’m teaching how to be a Illustrator in the 21st century, a lot of it is online or retail.

So then I teach how to interact, what sells, what doesn't, how you market it – how to sell it. I’ve been doing a lot of writing – pitching ideas for books, contacting publishers. When we work on books, we do books with a purpose, not just a subject. The books of ours that have sold better, like The Red Wagon, have a specifc purpose. When The Red Wagon first came out, it was on the NY Times Best Seller list for one week - but it has sold 350,000 copies since then. Jackie : What other work are you doing in the studio? Mike: Illustration students now, are entrepeneurial. Many of them are interested in doing their own comic books. I decided to do them myself, so I can bring this back into the classroom. How do I talk about these things, unless I'm doing it myself.

The Principles Office Project 1/Preamble The internet has changed things for creatives. It has changed the who, where, what, and how of making illustration. It’s changed who we are making for and who we are making with. It’s changed where we are making and where what we make ends up. It has changed what we are making and what we are saying with what we make. And it has directly effected how we are going about making. As a practicing illustrator and an instructor guiding students who desire to be professionals I’ve spent a lot of my energy researching and understanding how this effects myself and my students. A piece of advice I’ve heard regarding engaging in the internet world is that we need to engage our audience. It’s not enough to deliver creative content for others to passively consume. It is suggested we develop a truly collaborative relationship with our audience. As a visual communicator I’ve taken this to mean making art that not only communicates but also allows the audience to communicate themselves. 2/Entrepreneurial Although I have a significant interest and experience with new media, to get my head around this new paradigm I’ve actually went old school. When I heard that cSPACE was transforming the old King Edward School into an arts incubator I thought it was a great opportunity for Calgary’s arts community - and I wanted to be a part of it. I had grand dreams of an artist collaborative focused on illustration with exhibitions, workshops, retail, and collaborative projects. Looking back at my two year research experiment at cSPACE King Edward, what I’ve learned is that engaging directly with your audience is complicated. It is also a very honest, genuine, and revealing experience. Being at cSPACE offered a direct

entrepreneurial experience, from business basics such as lease agreements, licensing, and designing a retail space. To creative specific challenges such as curation and content development. Early in our career we spend a lot of time focused on creating content. For creative types this is the easy part. Content is a question of having and/or finding something to say and then utilizing passion, commitment, and discipline to say it well. For my experiment I utilized my passion for whimsical illustration, my commitment to print media, and my craft discipline to develop content. The content being a children’s picture book called Crafty Llama. I have a keen interest in crafts fostered in the inspiring and vibrant fine craft culture that’s grown popular in the last few years, and originating with my father. I also felt the content have the potential to directly engage an audience, specifically anyone that does crafts. My studio is RANDM collective which really stands for Renata AND Mike. My wife Renata Liwska is an award winning and NY Times bestselling illustrator and author of children’s pictures books. One thing I’ve noticed when you introduce yourself as a children’s book illustrator to serious people, they don’t always take you seriously. However, when I looked at the royalty statements for a book Renata wrote and illustrated called Red Wagon, it had sold 350,000 copies. It is not unreasonable to assume that 350,000 children and parents have read this book – and a good many of them over and over again. And read at one of the most impressionable points in a person's life, one of the most personal moments between a parent and a child. Talk about having cultural impact. I enjoy curating exhibitions and feel they are valuable, but a few hundred people experiencing a gallery show compared to hundreds of thousand of people, is not objectively or subjectively comparable, is it?

Another thing I’ve noticed with Kids Lit is that the publishing seems to be about throwing a bunch of stuff against a wall and seeing what sticks. Red Wagon stuck I believe because beyond a story featuring wonderful drawings of cute animals it had a purpose and use. People buy it when they buy a red wagon.

wallets for quick and easy access (with a slot to keep your pen handy too), and fine wood sketch boxes to hold creative content for those that like to create on random loose pieces of paper.


I am still in the middle of this research project. I can say it’s been engaging for myself and it’s definitely helped give a better understanding of entrepreneurship and collaboration. It's also helped in the classroom where I can provide the insight to help the students understand their challenges.

That is the hope and the experiment with Crafty Llama, that it will engage an audience because they have a use and direct connection to the book. It has just come out in October and the reviews have been very positive. And so I am about to enter the clinical trial stage by taking the book on the road to craft shows. Just like my audience I didn’t want to just passively consume the content, I wanted to be actively engaged – by doing crafts myself. So that’s what I’ve been engaged in, and not just one discipline. I’ve been experimenting with screen printing on textiles, indie publishing, leather, and wood working. It’s been interesting juggling these diverse crafts but it’s also interesting how it all comes down to the basic fundamentals of communication design, specifically process. The importance of a rigorous process becomes clear when you are trying to stitch a straight line or get a clean (and safe) wood cut on a table saw. As with Crafty Llama I have made sure all the projects I make explore the hypothesis of audience collaboration. For instance I’ve created an indie comic book but also made it a colouring book to add an element of direct audience participation. I’ve also created a couple of picture books and drawing cards that feature characters that are only silhouette templates to allow the reader to participate directly and draw in the faces of the characters themselves. Obviously with textiles people wear and use them directly. And with my leather and wood work I have created content to be used by artists and writers. Leather sketchbook


I can say that while many things are changing, something I don’t think is changing is why. Why we make art. For myself it’s always been about communication, about finding an original voice and giving that voice to influence and contribute to community and culture.

Cra ty Lama | Reviews School Library Journal – October 2018 The message of this fun story is simple and pertinent: If you do things that make you happy, you are bound to share that happiness with others. Llama is presented with a beautiful day and knows that there are tasks she should be doing, but she wants to do something special. So, she begins knitting, trying to think of what she can do on her special day, and as she knits, other animal friends join her to work on their own crafts. At the end of all her thinking, she has many special creations to give her animal friends. They love them, except for Beaver who doesn’t know what to do with his gift. He has trouble understanding crafting and making unless it’s useful, but with a little help from Llama, and a little crafting of his own, Beaver is able to figure out that making for fun is very useful. The illustrations are cozy and delightful, just like the text. A fun and inspiring read-aloud and a first purchase for elementary school libraries. – Meghan Oppelt, Whitehall School District, WI Publisher: Bloomsbury Llama and Beaver both enjoy making things, but for different reasons. One day, Llama decides she wants to make something but isn't sure what. Nevertheless, she starts knitting. Friends visit, and each decides to start on a project, too. One paints, and others embroider, bead, weave baskets, or sew. Beaver drops in on the crafty gathering. He likes to make things, too, but his projects have to be "useful." He asks Llama how her knitting will be used, but she admits she has no idea. Friends gather to suggest different ways it could be used—as a sail, rocket ship, hot air balloon basket, each depicted in meticulous stockinette stitch that's hand-drawn but almost looks photo-collaged in—but none seem safe. Beaver leaves to think up an idea of his own. Thinking harder, Llama discovers ways her knitting can be useful—and Beaver ends up making something useful but lovely too. Softedged, whimsically anthropomorphized animals are downright adorable, especially as each friend shows their gratitude to Llama for their new, knitted "somethings" (a trunk carrier for Elephant; a turtleneck for Turtle). Husband-and-wife team Kerr and Liwska combine their love of handmade crafts in this book designed to spark interest in crafts with young readers. Like Llama and Beaver, they will see that despite having different outlooks, there are many ways to work together. A sweet meditation on the value of creating, regardless of use.

Selling through Chapters / Indigo | ISBN 978-1-68119-121-8 | Publisher : Bloomsbury

@ @ @

KELLY HARTMAN | Sessional Instructor, Graphic Design Stream | School of Communication Design Designer | Hartman Design Studio

The Story behind the Story . . . or book in this case. Kelly Hartman is a Multiple Award Winning Artist’s Book Designer

“My philosophy – or process – behind designing these is always the same. Everything starts with research.”

“I've been designing books for a large part of my career. The books comprise approximately half of my body of work. The other half is devoted to branding and all that it entails. It’s a perfect balance. Although both streams are entrenched in research and strategy, the books provide an outlet to engage with the reader in a very specific way." To set the stage though, my philosophy – or process behind designing these – is always the same. Everything starts with research. Dissect the contents: understand what it is about this books’ subject that is so special, so unique. Most of the books were designed for artists so it’s important to understand the artists process and the thinking behind their body of work. The book then becomes the platform to “memorialize” the artists

work in a very intimate way. It needs to subtly nudge the reader to engage with it through its structure, pace, paper, binding, design details, and typography. It isn’t just image and type on paper but an experience – one that aligns with the artist’s own thinking of how their art is meant to engage. The design has to captivate without overshadowing. It’s a delicate balancing act. The backstories are extensive. Each book has a story behind the story. Research can sometimes be straightforward. Read all the contents, discuss the purpose of the book, it’s intended audience. It’s “shelf-life”. But in other cases it can be quite layered. The obvious aside, there are cases where the contents dictate a much deeper dive in understanding it’s relevance, nuance and place.

Bon A Tirer by Garry Newton is one of those. And this is

Important elements Garry cared about became elements in

probably the most rewarding book of my career in terms of

Bon A Tirer. The book became a limited edition “hand-

the depth of research that led to the final outcome.

numbered” run of books (not unlike that of a printmaker). The

In this particular case, the artist had passed away and this book was a retrospective of his life's work. That in itself is a daunting task. How to do a person’s whole body of work justice in one book? Garry had a diverse, and accomplished portfolio. His work consisted of sculpture, marquetry, print making, mixed media, and book making. An extensive collection of his work was housed in the archives of the Esplanade Museum & Art Gallery. To fully understand the depth and breadth of this work required a trip to these archives. Several days were spent exploring this collection with the purpose of understanding all elements. His printmaking and book making in particular were very complex. The books were ficticious representations of families living in South America. Garry not only wrote all the narrative but created all the visuals (usually prints) then designed the entire book including hand printing and binding. These were very large pieces. Garry had a very unique sense of humour not only in the narrative but in the design of these pieces. Very subtle elements permeated his pieces.

papers are very tactile to also support this notion. Titles and all work captions were rendered as if they were done by an AOL typesetting machine – Garry used this in setting the type for his books. In this case, a system was devised to replicate the nuances such a machine would produce, like variation in baseline and some letters may be too tight, while others might have a slight twist. Think of a very old typewriter and how certain characters have particular traits. Other details in Bon A Tirer include hand-written notes scattered throughout as Garry had done. Gatefolds replicated books within books and the back cover featured a little random bug pulled from his book. A subtle humorous ending as Garry would have done. So why was this piece so rewarding? At the book launch I was asked to speak to the process behind the books design. I talked a lot about all the findings from the research. At the end, Garry’s partner came up to me, crying, and said he appreciated all the research and effort to fully understand the complexities of Garry’s work. That he was amazed at the time spent on this and how perfectly realized and appropriate the book was. That was a very satisfying moment.

Other books have required trips to multiple galleries in multiple cities to see the breadth of work. In one case, the book was to be a part of a multi-city tour and required branding and other deliverables to support the book and show. Road Trips & Other Diversions was the biggest book I’ve ever done but the project also required gallery signage, billboards, overall branding for promotional support pieces and a DVD that was to be produced and housed within the book. Since the artist’s work continuously discussed the vernacular of place, it was key to understand how each deliverable played a role in this discussion. Books – by nature – provide so many levels of opportunity to engage a reader. I’ve done books that interact through physical change: printed with thermochromic heat sensitive ink, vacuum packed and time stamped (Time + Distance Cannot Erase). One that has to be unwrapped: a hand-knitted outer cover depicting the title of the book wraps around another cover made of mac tac. This book: an homage to 70's ephemera and low tech crafting methods. (Lubberland). A cover that resembles rubber pools of blood adorn Hindsight. The rubber was cut into two different shapes – one for bookshelf and one for coffee table (bound with heavy bolts). The artists work features cast road kill discussing humanity’s collisions with nature (such as vehicles). Wabi Sabi was designed for a group of Japanese artists. The book reads, appropriately, from back to front. The term Wabi Sabi means “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty in the imperfections”. In this case, all components of the manufacturing process were embraced including the make-ready’s in the

printing. These make-ready’s were then reprinted as posters and doubled as dust jackets for the book. Nothing was wasted, all imperfections embraced. A book constructed out of “chunks” of paper painstakingly bound together to resemble stacked shards of ice is embossed with skate marks that glint in the sunlight. The topic: the demise of pond hockey in the age of global warming. These shards became the “chapters” and actively engage the reader in navigating each artist’s work while still feeling slightly uncomfortable. (Once Upon a Pond). Other materials utilized were flocking (fuzzy print), cloth bags, drilled holes, hand-sewn spines, embroidery, embroidery backing, stickers, acetate…. the list goes on. The point? Nothing is impossible. Often the tighter the parameters the greater the gift. It forces you to think outside the lines. Each project’s success is dependent on solid research and strategy. And it’s amazing how many people – from all areas of life – will jump in to help realize an idea if you give them a chance. I’ve used cobblers, rubber tire manufactures, lab assistants, fish packers, junk yard connoisseurs… In a world of overload, my ultimate design goal is to create an artifact that has purpose, encourages you to interact with it. Is appropriate yet beautiful. Is crafted. Is unique. And provides substance and value.

Awards + Accolades

Retrouver Book | artist: Laura Vickerson AIGA | APPLIED ARTS | GRAPHEX | COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS | NUARS Best of Show Once Upon a Pond Book | artists: multiple AD RODEO | REDGEES (Finalist) Hand Read Book | artists: multiple AD RODEO | APPLIED ARTS | COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS Technologies of Tenderness Book | artist: Susan Shantz AIGA | AD RODEO (Book Design + Craft Design Award) | AVERY Choice Award | COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS Canadian Contemporary Ceramics Book | artists: multiple AD RODEO

Efflorescence + Id Book | artist: Catherine Heard AD RODEO | APPLIED ARTS | GRAPHEX

Road Trips & Other Diversions Book | artist: David Thauberger uVU NATIONAL DESIGN AWARDS |REDGEES

Photo Roman Book | artists: multiple APPLIED ARTS |

Slow Spring Book | artist: Annette Merkenthaler COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS |

Bon A Tirer Book | artist: Garry Newton APPLIED ARTS | REDGEES (Best in Category, Honourable Mention) | COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS | uVU National Design Awards

Wabi Sabi Book | artists: multiple COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS |

Hindsight Book | artist: Susan Detwiler GRAPHEX | COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS Lubberland | artist: Luanne Martineau COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS |

Slow Spring Book | artist: Annette Merkenthaler COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS | Between Earth & Sky Book | artist: Dan Hudson REDGEES (Honourable Mention) | SCAM Book | artists: Multiple COUPE INTERNATIONAL AWARDS |


AISA-PACIFIC DESIGN NO.4 | SANDU PUBLISHING | 2010 Efflorescence + Id | pg 172 Hand Read | pg 174 Lubberland | pg 176 Name Paintings | pg 177 Off the Map | pg 165 Retrouver | pg 178 Slow Spring | pg 179 Souvenir | pg 180 Technologies of Tenderness | pg 181 Time & Distance Cannot Erase | pg 153 Wabi Sabi | pg 183



BEST OF VISUAL COMMUNICATIONS IN CANADA 2006 | GRAPHEX 06 – Hindsight | pg 78 2003 | GRAPHEX 03 – Efflorescence + Id, Lubberland



Efflorescence + Id Hindsight Lubberland Technologies of Tenderness | pgs 75, 106, 114, 122, 125

Name Paintings Blind Stairs Wabi Sabi

Photo Roman Time And Distance

KEVIN KURYTNIK | Assistant Professor | School of Communication Design Fifteen Pound Pink Productions | Director, Writer, Design | Animator

2019 Best Animated Short Film Oscar Long List Skin for Skin “With nods to Melville and Coleridge, directors Kevin D.A. Kurytnik & Carol Beecher have created a visually stunning contemporary myth about the cost of arrogance and greed.” National Film Board “Skin for Skin is a dark allegory of greed and spiritual reckoning set during the early days of the fur trade. In 1823, the Governor of the largest fur-trading company in the world travels across his Dominion, extracting ever-greater riches from the winter bounty of animal furs. In his brutal world of profit and loss, animals are slaughtered to the brink of extinction until the balance of power shifts, and the forces of nature exact their own terrible price.” National Film Board

2018 Best of Fest & Best Animation Yorkton Film Festival | Skin for Skin FIFTEEN POUND PINK PRODUCTIONS

“Researching the history of Simpson, Kurytnik discovered some pretty astonishing early 19th century data. "We were looking at the research, and read that they processed two million beaver a year," Kurytnik said in an interview with host Russell Bowers on Daybreak Alberta. "Can you Imagine?” CBC News

When I caught up with Kevin, I had just learned that his Dramatic Animated Short Film which was 7 years in the making, was long listed for an Oscar Nomination. Called “Skin for Skin” (the latin translation of the Hudson Bay’s original Logo Motto), this National Film Board funded film had already won Best of Festival at the Yorkton Film Festival (the prestigious Golden Sheath Award), among others. Wins at Oscar Certified Film Festivals like the Edmonton International Film Festival and the Calgary International Film Festival, make a film eligible for an Oscar Nomination. Out of 72 films made by the National Film Board last year, the NFB has chosen only two to enter into the Oscar nominations. Skin for Skin is one of them.

“Nature takes the most powerful man of the time, on a journey of salvation and has him make a choice to either live in some sort of balance with the world, or perish.” “The film is about now, and about choices – we are the Governor, we get to choose – do we want a balance with nature.” Kevin Kurytnik “The Congress of Animal Souls must be heard!!!” Abraham Castillo Flores, Head of Film Programming | MorbidoFest | Mexico City “Nature wants it's pound of flesh...” NFB Twitter promo line

With over 30 years of Animation experience Kevin is familiar with industry professionals such as his friends, Bill Plympton, and Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis, the creators of the amazing When The Day Breaks. He is also friends with Paul Dutton, a key animator on Triplets of Belleville and the co-director of the Jacques Tati scripted Sylvain Chomet feature The Illusionist. Eight or nine years ago Dreamworks cold called Kevin's studio – they optioned him to a feature film development, mentioning they liked Kevin and his company's cartoons on Vimeo. During development of Skin for Skin, Kevin and Carol were interviewed by Warren Leonhardt, lead story artist for feature film development at Blue Sky on upstate New York (Ice Age, Peanuts Movie, Epic, etc.) Warren was a former student of Kevin’s at the Quickdraw Animation Society in Calgary in the 90’s. “I have been grateful ever since. … With his partner Carol Beecher, they have nearly 20 years worth of independent animation experience and they have a knack for spreading enthusiasm for the art of animation and inspiring others to make their own approach to the medium. Lucky students at AUArts can now benefit from these loveable nutjobs, as they both have a hand in the animation curriculum there. ….These two are some of the few who walk the walk in indie animation.” Borrowing more from Warren Leonhardt’s Interview, Kevin comments on the process and the technology used to create Skin for Skin : KEVIN (2015) : “I am. . . working with a storyboard artist, overseeing previz staging of shots using Maya, and resolving the final story events. I also spend a fair amount of time creating colour beat boards, more resolved images which represent key moments in the film. This early summer we are going to finalize the Maya/2D hybrid pipeline and the design which will be very gritty and textural with a lot of film noir type lighting.

Currently this film is our first 2D/3D hybrid project and so our studio is currently using Z Brush creation of characters and rigging these for Maya and the whole pipeline challenge for managing and rendering 3D frames. So far the results have been very promising. Live action posing was very important in our film to get the best dramatic gestures for our shots as they were staged, blocked and animated. Included here ( blog-1/2018/10/9/2689l1bcsky9ly0fwc88rdhd2cgoei) are three sequences from the film that illustrate this process. First shot has Co-Director Carol Beecher acting out the end of the film where the Governor transforms into the Raven.” I was interested to learn that Skin for Skin is based on Celtic mythology. After we met, Kevin sent email after email of information, links, supporting articles, interviews, development boards, awards lists, public notices etc. The following, among many, was of particular interest. JACKIE : “Tell me about the story.” KEVIN : “Skin for Skin is based loosely on the structure and events of the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner which is about a mariner who kills a bird who led his ship to safety in a storm and is punished by nature. The poem is a kind of amazing fever dream with fantastic supernatural imagery. We have transposed the setting to 1823 and have made a character loosely based on the Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company for our protagonist. He kills a Raven and goes on a similar journey. During development the film was called True North.

We hired a number of AUArts grads on Skin for Skin., about 30. They all contributed and made the story.

The text in the film uses a font called Moose Factory designed by AUArts alumna, Lauren Shipton especially for the film. As part of the development process we thought it would be interesting and useful to present the story of the film, in the form of a short story. One of the primary ideas of the film was the aspect of horror. The initial time period for the film was 1843, and we realized that this was when Edgar Allan Poe was at the height of his writing career (The Black Cat was published that year, and The Raven in 1845). He is one of Carol's (Beecher) favorite authors and an influence on the film, so her writing took on some of his style. Carol was the lead and wrote the story.”

Excerpt : “I hardly noticed the falling of the snow, so entranced was I in the telling of my tale. I stood at the dock in the port at York Factory, heedless of all who passed but for the Mariner, captain of one of the barques at anchor, who's passage I had impeded I know not how long ago, but it had been awhile as the accumulation of snow on his coat was quite deep.

Skin for Skin | SELECTIONS + AWARDS Official Selection | Fantasia 2017 Canadian Panorama - Official Selection Ottawa International Animation Festival 2017 Short Films National Competition Quebec City Film Festival 2017 Best Overall Short (Live Action or Animated) Calgary International Film Festival 2017 Grand Jury Award Best Short Film (Animation) Edmonton International Film Festival 2017 Audience Favourite, Narrative Short (Live Action or Animated) Morbido Fest 2017 - Mexico Special Mention - Best Short Film more than 5 up to 24 minutes Cinemania International Film Festival 2017 - Espinho, Portugal Best Animation and Best of Festival Yorkton Film Festival 2018 Competition - Short Films Anima Mundi International Animation Festival 2018 - Brazil Official Competition Anima Brussels Animation Festival 2018 - Belgium Official Competition Melbourne International Animation Festival 2018 - Australia Special Distinction Award from Short Film Category SICAF Seoul International Cartoon + Animation Film Festival 2018

The poor fellow was transfixed, in fascination of my

To View :

story or fear of my person I could not tell.”


Each shot was important. I would spend a month or two on just one key image that was not working. I wrote 100's of notes for the crew to fix things. I would draw on top of everything.

YOUTUBE : NFB : OSCAR QUALIFIER NEWS : CARTOON BREW : Skin for Skin is listed 51st : MAKING OF: Behind The Scenes - Live Action Reference mini-doc :


We were 3 years in development, 5 years in production with overlap. I studied mythology for 6 months – the research! We wanted to make something special. We created a 3 part myth. Cordell Barker (The Cat Came Back) was a consultant for the NFB reviewing our very early story development. Carol Beecher did the research for us. She discovered that Hudson Bay was incorporated in 1670 - making it the oldest company in the world. Their first logo is the same as it is today. The motto in Latin translates as "Skin for Skin". It's from the book of Job in the Bible : Satan answered the Lord and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. However, put forth Your hand, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse You to Your face."

Essentially The Bay is inferring that they are Satan. Our main character, the Governor, gets stripped apart - he gets reconstructed - he loses his skin (his Governor's job) -– he's a business man that is forced to think about more than business. The film is about now, and about choices – we are the Governor, we get to choose – do we want a balance with nature or do we want to essentially "shit where we eat" so to speak. Everything is deep and layered. The film went from extreme mythology to the Governor's journey. After 1-2 years of development and research we decided to make it the POV of the Governor. We had over 100 pages of sketches and research. The gun design came from the Urnes Stave Church in Norway, a UNESCO heritage site. Our early idea development and research resembled The Revenant. We had some shots that were very similar that luckily we had already decided not to use. We were drawing from the same historical references that they were.

C H R O N O L O G Y | C R E A T I N G T H E S T O R Y O F S K I N F O R S K I N 01 In the Beginning | In 2009 we decided we wanted to develop an animation project with the National Film Board Northwest Centre in Edmonton. We wanted it to have Canadian content and to be mythic in nature. In a magazine I owned I found a set of stamps that started our project percolating. These were Canadian supernatural creatures -

Sasquatch from BC, Kraken from the east coast, Ogopopgo (BC again) and le Loop Garou werewolf from Quebec as pictured below.

image 01 Canadian Fortean Creature stamps from The magazine Fortean Times #59 Sept 1991

image 02 This was an image we were inspired by - classic Quebecois folk tale.

We thought our idea could be a variation of the Quebecois flying canoe folk tale where our characters encounter various creatures while flying from East to West. It was to be comedic. From the creature thing we then thought about who is in the canoe and gravitated to a story about a canoe of

02 The Story Takes Structural Shape | First we did some initial research and discovered that when Simpson was put in charge of the HBC in the early 1820s he would take an annual canoe trip every spring when the ice broke. image 03 The real Governor Simpson and our final design which is a cross between Daniel Day Lewis, Sean Connery and Jack the Ripper. The real man was short, our Governor towers over his crew.

fur traders, settling on the first Hudson’s Bay Company head honcho Governor Simpson as our main character. Because the NFB had already made a flying canoe project in 1996 called The Legend of the Flying Canoe (La Chasse-galerie) : we reduced that aspect of our story development and thought about how we could work with a canoe that did not fly. Two great ideas moved us forward.

He would leave from their headquarters on the southern tip of Montreal Island and head river by river, across lakes and more rivers and by portage (travelling across the land) till he got to the BC coast. This trip would take over three months. As they headed west they would visit outposts and fur forts and see how the winter trapping went, as well as reviewing the employees, promoting some and firing others.

With this great trip as our guide we had a reason to move across the landscape. image 04 The path the Governor's canoe took in real life - the white skull is where the canoe is destroyed on Lake Winnipeg

image 05 Comparison: Mariner tied to Albatross on the left, Governor tied to Raven on the right.

03 We Submit Our Proposal | In 2010 we submitted a paragraph and ten mood boards of our proposal to create a Canadian myth.

Our first outline generally spoke of the Governor heading out on his spring brigade and halfway, at Lake Winnipeg, a storm comes up and a Raven leads them to safety. Instead of rewarding the Raven the Governor shoots it and all hell breaks loose. The canoe is destroyed and the natural world is replaced by a supernatural one where his dead crew comes back to life, ties the Raven around his neck and completes the journey. Along the way he is given several chances to change his ways. By the end of the story, when the canoe lands in the Pacific Ocean he becomes a changed man who has understanding and respect for nature. Like the Coleridge poem his craft sinks and only he survives, but in our story he metamorphoses into the Raven that caused him all his trouble. We got an investigate where the NFB gives a little bit of money to test out if an idea is viable. We travelled to the St. Lawrence River. Our investigate was a success and the NFB green-lit the project. The original title for our film was True North.

Image 08 On the left is the first image I created for the book, a rough pencil drawing triptych of the beginning, middle, and end of our film. The structure was inspired by the mysterious triptychs of Max Beckmann as seen on the right.

04 The Story Bible | For six months I was paid to do a story/visual idea sketchbook of all aspects of the production. We ended up calling this the story bible. Very proud of this thing, it is a work of art in and of itself.

image 07 We got our final title Skin for Skin from the translation of the Latin motto for the HBC, “Pro Pelle Cutem�, the world's first Corporation. The phrase comes from the Book of Job and is a quote from Satan who was discussing mankind with God!

image 09 An example of a productive page from the story bible. Many concepts for the film are on these two pages!

05 More Viz Dev Images

Visual development began in earnest. Along with

developing ideas in the story bible, I designed these

images which were painted by AUArts alumni, Eran

Fowler (nee Cantrell). These important images were my ďŹ rst a empts at the look of the ďŹ lm.

image 10 This is our first attempt at placing the Governor and his crew in the canoe. Even in this first image he is trying to kill things.

image 11a Even at this stage we were trying to include our original Canadian supernatural creatures in the film. Note the tiny smoking canoe skimming the surface of the lake under the creature.

image 11b This is a very important image of the Governor's trek - burning tars sands in Alberta where the Governor is put back together and purified to continue his journey.

image 12 Final frame from the film of Alberta. Note all the industrial elements have been removed and the colour finally resolved. The tilt is from the camera move which starts as the shot dissolves in.

Storyboards, Live Action Reference, and Maya Pre-viz Our storyboard process was not straightforward. When we could, we shot live action reference for poses but it was not enough to get the staging control we wanted - we needed to stage much of the action in the 3D animation program Maya to really control the camera placement and lens size.

image 15a Simple pre-viz staged carefully for maximum dramatic effect. image 12 A frame of our crew acting out the toast and a frame from the final.

To do this we created simple Maya forms of all our major characters with simple rigging so they could move their spine and limbs.

image 14 Isometric plan for one of the pre-viz crew, Hugo. He is the fellow in the back of the staged shot in Maya on the right. Note the abstract Raven form on the prow.

We also created props and the canoe. These simpler elements were placed and posed for each shot, trying out different cameras until we got it right. This process is called pre-visualization or pre-viz. Then the approved frames were printed out on paper and our storyboard artists worked outside the computer and interpreted the frames with drawings, improving the non-camera concerns - character poses, action and mood. The storyboards were then imported into Maya and placed behind the animation in the program as a flat background so the animator could roughly match up the drawn design and get the best staging and performance when animating the final animation in 3D.

image 15b After print out the details are then improved in the storyboard drawing.

image 15c Final rendered frame with the final approved rigged Governor and textures. Note the crew has been removed to emphasize the Governor aiming the musket.

image 16 Raw page of storyboards by Danielle Bazinet. After approval these frames would have been separated digitally, labeled, and put in their proper order. Then they would be imported into Premier Pro and properly timed with the film work print. Note these particular images are partly out of order.

image 17 Three frames from the finished film from the same storyboards

image 18 This is a sample of the approximately 210 shots we created for the story.

Final thoughts......... The fifteen minute film ended up being split into nine thematic sections, listed on the left above. The final sequences are: Hunting, Working, Drowning, Frozen, Journey, Demolition, Reconstruction, Decision, and finally, Circle, which pretty succinctly sums up the events. The visual story development took up a lot of time with the production. A benefit to working with 3D software was that we were able to make changes to our story very close to the end of the production. We worked it right up to doing colour correction. I believe this flexibility made for a much stronger animation project.

Skin for Skin Online Vimeo FaceBook YouTube Fifteen Pound Pink Productions


Copyright | Alberta University of the Arts Faculty Association and Contributors 2019

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