Research

I am a storyteller. Whether it is a satirical sketch, animation or performing live, my work strives to share a common human trait…to tell a story.

Animation is my preferred medium as the word’s very meaning is “to give life”.  I take pleasure in using traditional mediums like a pencil or brush and combining the marks with the latest technology to develop imagery that is vibrant with movement and sound.  Music and folklore are the genres I find most effective with my animation and I continue to innovate and express myself within this medium.

During the past seven years: I have been part of a NEA grant to help tell the story of an African American community, performed and animated traditional American folk songs, and developed an ecological awareness of the Canadian landscape through animation.  My political cartoons have been published in various academic and professional journals and part of an exhibition at the Benjamin Harris Presidential Library.

The highlights of my research:

  • Animation films screened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, St. Louis International Film Festival and River Run International Film Festival, all are Academy Award Qualifying Festivals.
  • Church Street, We Are Still Here, NEA Grant Funded animation and art work on permanent display, Church Street Heritage Plaza, Anderson, South Carolina and website: http://www.churchstreetheritageplaza.com/the-documentary/
  • Caricature of President Barack Obama was part of an exhibition at the Benjamin Harris Presidential Library, in April 2019.
  • Best Animation Award at the Cuban American Film Festival, and Reedy Reels Film Festival.
  • International Solo Exhibition at the Georgina Art Centre in Ontario, Canada
  • International Film Screenings in Ireland, Russia, Belgrade, Spain, and Canada.
  • Cartoons published in Brazil, Spain, Canada, Professional and Academic journals.

Church Street Project

Church Street was a thriving center for African-American commerce in Anderson, South Carolina from (circa) 1907 until 1980, when most of the buildings were torn down to make way for a parking lot. The citizens on Church Street were educated, professional business owners who served as role models. At its mid-century zenith, there were shoppers here by day and revelers by night. Artists and musicians lined the street engulfed by the thick aroma of barbecue, fried fish and festive libations.

The City of Anderson received a grant of $150,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts to honor this era and inspire a new generation of entrepreneurs with a permanent art installation in a park on the original site. The Church Street Heritage Project was the only project funded by the NEA in South Carolina in 2016. In the fall, Project Manager Beth Sparks Batson commissioned me to create animation that would part of the permanent exhibit that would include story boxes and sculpture.  In addition to creating art, I served on the design committee to oversee and make key decisions on the design, building and implementation of the permanent installation.   Our team consisted of city leaders and artists to develop andcollaborate and execution of the various aspects of the site.

The Church Street Heritage Project recalls the economic and cultural significance of this era with a permanent educational art installation on the original site, now a park, in downtown Anderson. A system of laws limited the social, economic and political participation of African Americans throughout much of the twentieth century. Even so, the citizens on Church Street found a way to flourish. This project seeks to tell their story honoring its essence as a vibrant business community while inspiring entrepreneurship in a new generation

The Church Street story was interpreted in collaboration with “greatest generation” African Americans, known as “The Black Pioneers”, a group chaired by city council member Dr. Beatrice Thompson and includes Alphonso Norris, Frank Mauldin and Mary Frances Wardlaw. In-person interviews with each of these people and background research of all available information on the era informed my animation of the story.

Anderson City Councilwoman Beatrice Thompson and Mayor Terence Roberts
Frank Mauldin

Animation is a time-based medium, and so it was an ideal medium to tell such an epic story of Church Street. The social and economic situations were best staged within a schematic view of a city block to illustrate how Church Street filled up with activity and the ultimate decline and transition into emptiness.  People and businesses were represented within an iconic style to allow for all the multiple personalities and actions of Church Street to come alive in one complete setting.  Music played a critical role with the animation and so it was important that the African American music of ragtime, blues, jazz, and soul became the soundtrack throughout the decades of Church Street.  The climax of the film was done in silence to allow for contrast of the noise of demolition and to pave way for a parking lot with traffic.  The final scene is of redemption and inspiration for a new environment of economic and social development.  I was inspired to end the film on the title, “We Are Still Here” to ensure that the spirit of Church Street can live on and inspire the Anderson community and beyond.

1911 Map of Church Street

Church Street, We Are Still Here, screened at the St. Louis International Film Festival, which is a Academy Award®-qualifying festival. The film was one of the 157 selected from 1731 submissions.

In March 2019, Church Streetscreened at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, which receives more than 3,000 submissions annually from more than 65 countries and serves as one of a handful of Academy Award®-qualifying festivals in the United States.

The Ann Arbor Film Festival is the oldest avant-garde and experimental film festival in North America, founded by George Manupelli in 1963. Internationally recognized as a premiere forum for independent filmmakers and artists, each year’s festival engages audiences with remarkable cinematic experiences. The six-day festival presents 40 programs with more than 180 films from over 60 countries of all lengths and genres, including experimental, animation, documentary, fiction, and performance-based works. Thousands of influential filmmakers and artists have exhibited early work at the AAFF, including Kenneth Anger, Brian De Palma, Agnes Varda, Andy Warhol, Gus Van Sant, Barbara Hammer, George Lucas, Les Blank, Matthew Buckingham, and James Benning.

BLUE NOTE

Was a narrative based on Picasso’s transformation from the Blue Period to Cubism.  It was a film about breaking out of conventions and taking a new step towards the unknown.   I produced, directed and animated the film with collaboration of musicians, Ted Handley, a classical guitarist and performer, and Bruno Degazio, an award winning film and television composer from Toronto Canada.

I incorporated the project into an academic opportunity with several of my graduate students from Digital Production Arts. I introduced the students to my research within art and music based on Classical Spanish Guitar and Gypsy Jazz.  I invited musician and songwriter, Ted Handley into our lab for inspiration. We worked with Ted’s performance and integrated his recordings into the film.  Not only did we learn the musical differences but picked up the guitar to understand the feel, tone and surface of the instrument.  The guitar played an important role as a character and so it was always in the lab for hands on reference.

Blue Note premiered at the Mobile Animation Film Festival, in Mobile Alabama, Cinema Crianza, Spain, MiCe Film Festival, Valencia Spain, Gazte Film Fest, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Álav Spain and the Beaufort International Film Festival in Beaufort, South Carolina.

RAILROAD BILL

Music and Story

I perform  within the Piedmont Blues style that originated in the Southeastern region of the United States.  I learned from some of the greatest old time folk and blues players located in the foothill of Appalachia, South Carolina.   In addition to the guitar, I also play Cajun Accordion.  I continue to learn and perform with  group of talented folks in the Greater Toronto area, York Region.  I am inspired by  the style of country blues artists like Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Brownie McGhee, and old time country folk style of Doc Watson, Hank Williams Sr, and Jimmie Rogers.  I strive to embrace the tradition of these old time songsters and to continue this great tradition of music to a new generation of audiences.

In 2016, I created an animation inspired by a traditional folk song based on a legend of Rail Road Bill, a real live outlaw who in the spirit of Robin Hood, robbed from the rich and escaped on the rails from the authorities for over 20 years.  This film was unique in that I arranged and performed the music in addition to producing the animation.   American folk tales have inspired me to play music and develop a style of animation that combines the narrative and musical styles of the early 1900s that will help preserve and reintroduce our heritage to a new generation. The highlight of the film was at the Reedy Film Festival held at the Peace Center in Greenville where it won the Best Animation award.  The film had its premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in November 2017.

In addition to the film festivals, I performed and exhibited the artwork of Railroad Bill at the Foster Memorial in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada in July 2019.

 

The Memorial stands as a testament to the triumphs and tragedies of Thomas Foster a local boy who went to the city and found his fortune. He was an MP and a Mayor of Toronto and left several legacies.  It is an unique artistic treasure. The Memorial is inspired by the Taj Mahal mixed with Byzantine Architecture, with solid bronze doors, stain glass windows hand painted and fired. The floors are rich coloured terrazzo and marble mosaics wrought in symbolic designs fashioned by some of the finest artisans of the time. http://www.fostermemorial.com/p/programs.html

COLLABORATION:

Animation is a time based medium and music plays a critical role.  This aspect of film making has always been a major effort and I have worked with some exceptional score composers and musicians throughout my career.  Music along with the visuals, tell the story through rhythm, instrumentation and voicing to guide the viewer into an emotional journey.  I have learned a great deal and have a great respect for the artist who help me tell these stories.  Whenever I produce a film, I am mindful of such talent and budget every production to accommodate these artists as they play an important role.  Bruno Degazio is an award winning composer that I have had the great privilege to teach with during my tenure at Sheridan.  We have worked collaboratively for over 15 years (i.e. Blue Note) and through his contributions to my work, I have expanded my understanding of this art form and the role music has played in my growth as an animator.  Lake Ourentironk was such a project that we collaborated on and through his deep understanding of the natural landscape of Ontario we were able to express this unique environment with various animation techniques and instrumental voicing.

LAKE OURENTIRONK

I am actively doing research of the Lake Simcoe region, north of Toronto, Ontario.  In 2015, I documented the environments through traditional and digital media to capture the various light, color and seasonal changes of the landscape.  From these initial studies I created animation that captured and highlighted on the annual and daily transitions of the lake region.  My goal was to develop a higher awareness of this fragile ecology and to celebrate the Canadian natural spirit.  I was inspired by the tradition of the Group of Seven Canadian artists who strived to capture a unique Canadian identity through landscape in the early 20thcentury.  The film along with original art studies and refined paintings were exhibited at the Georgina Arts Centre located within the heart of Lake Simcoe. The film has been screened throughout Canada in film festivals of Hamilton, Toronto Short, and the Durham International Film Festival.

KICKIN’ MULE

Is based on the traditional folk fiddle tune “Kickin’ Mule”.  The score was performed by Frank Lee and Adam Tanner from their album, “Two Mules”.

Old time banjo and fiddle music from these two North Carolina musicians. 12 pieces from the archaic sounds of the South. All pieces feature fretless or fretted banjo and fiddle. Alternate tunings with all tunings included in the liner notes. These songs and tunes were learned from the original artist’s recordings. The artists include Fiddling John Carson

This film sparked my interest in old time Appalachian folk tunes and was the catalyst for my desire to learn to play traditional music.  I met Frank and Adam at the Hagood Mill, a historical site that showcases arts and crafts from the southern Piedmont region of the Appalachian mountains.

Kickin’ Mule made its 2013 premiere at the St. Louis International Film Festivaland in April 2014, at the River Run International Film Festivalin Winston-Salem North Carolina, both are Academy Award®-qualifying festivals.­­­

 

POLITICAL SATIRE

The origins of my art started with political satire when I became the political cartoonist at the Eastern Echo, an independent student publication, my freshman year at Eastern Michigan University. Being a story teller, I find drawing political cartoons and caricatures challenges me to distill concepts and design into a single image.  The political arena is a ripe environment for story and characters that emerge from one year to the next.  Cartooning plays a critical role in all my endeavors as it conditions me to express ideas and issues at the most fundamental level.  Animation and sequential narrative are rooted in time and progression while political cartooning allows me to express the same concepts but within a more immediate and timely forum.  By exploring all aspects of my visual art through animation, time and single images, it allows for my concepts to constantly develop at a higher level.

Highlights of my political satire:

  • Charles M. Schultz Finalist Award for Political Cartooning, 1993
  • The New York Times, Politics/US  Nov 1st 2010, Why I Vote.
  • CNN, How to Draw John Boehner Nov 16 2010
  • Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year Publication, 16 years.
  • The Ohio State University Cartoon Research Library, Permanent Collection.
  • Benjamin Harris Presidential Library, Obama Caricature Exhibition

 

Benjamin Harris Presidential Library from April to August 2019.

 Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year (16 years). 2014 (final publication) Edited by Charles Brooks.  Pelican Publishing, Gretna, Louisana

For over 50 years, The Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, was the foremost collection of editorial cartoons from around the world.  I was part of the publications dating back to 1990.  Charles Brooks (1920-2011) compiled and edited every volume in this series from its inception forty years ago. Brooks was a past president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and was a cartoonist for the Birmingham Newsfor nearly four decades. He received thirteen Freedom Foundation Awards, a National VFW Award, two Vigilante Patriot Awards, and a Sigma Delta Chi Award for editorial cartooning.The publication finished publication shortly after Charles Brooks death in 2014.

 

“Broken English” gained a great deal of interest from various international publications due to the concept of language, immigration and migrants civil rights.  The topic continues to be a hot issue beyond political elections.

Mapping Applied Linguistics: A Guide for Students and Practitioners

by Christopher J. Hall, Patrick H. Smith, Rachel Wicaksono

Taylor and Francis Group Ltd.UK, Oct 2016

 Exame Nacional Do Ensino Médio” Ministry of Education, Brazil,

June 2013

Our current political environment has created a unique syntax with terms like “Fake News”.  My cartoon “News Paupers” 

was a subject matter that was published in Canadian Democracy: A Concise Introduction, by Stephen Brooks, Oxford University Press ISBN0199021651, 9780199021659March, 2013

Oxford University Press (OUP) is the largest university press in the world, and the second oldest after Cambridge University Press.

I am a regular contributor and staff cartoonist to The Moderate Voice, an independent professional web journal covering current topics within an international and national scope.

The Moderate Voice was founded in December 2003 by journalist/entertainer Joe Gandelman as a professional weblog that would offer an independent voter’s irreverent comments, and serious analysis of events, issues and people in the news. It puts a special emphasis on linking to blogs written by “independent thinkers” of any (or no) party who sought to discuss issues and promote dialogue rather than hype specific candidates or repeat talk show (of the left and right) talking points.

Since then, TMV has grown into one of the Internet’s fastest growing and respected group moderate/centrist sites.