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Donald Kilpatrick
Hashtag Throwback Thursday
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Being that it is hashtag Throwback Thursday, I thought that I would revisit an interesting job and opportunity that came my way ten years ago at a time when I was moving from Salt Lake City to San Francisco. I was reminded of these posters the other day when I was showing a series of Walter Moseley book covers I illustrated in 2002 to my students. All of this work feels a bit distant from me now because of how my approach has changed over the years. I am not painting in acrylics so much anymore, I am doing more carving and cutting these days, but I am proud that my work appeared in the Michael Mann film “Collateral” which was released in 2004. Up until most recently I have not enjoyed looking at my work I did from that time because I was wanting to really change where my work was going. Maybe now I can handle looking at it again because I feel like I have finally allowed myself to explore new areas and move forward in my work. I was really just starting out when I did these paintings, and I also have ten years of brush mileage between now and then that helps as well.
 
These posters were created for a job that had a rocky start, so when DreamWorks called in early fall of 2002 inquiring on whether or not they could reuse these and blow them up large on the wall of a fictitious Los Angeles jazz club, I was more than happy to listen.  When my agent explained to me that it was for a Michael Mann film, I was even more excited. I got the phone call while having lunch at my favorite restaurant in Salt Lake on literally the day before I was to leave Utah for California and join the rest of my family.  I was sitting there in the restaurant having doubts about leaving Axiom design (now known as Struck) where I had worked for six years, and was even more nervous on whether or not I would ever really make it on my own as an artist and illustrator. Sometimes when we are in those moments we don’t see the good things that are just around the corner, and having the perspective that I do now, that move was one of the best decisions I have made. As a result of that decision, I have been in a position to meet many illustrators and others who I have admired, and these people have been great friends and mentors to me. Many of which are fellow members of Drawger.
 
I had the pleasure of viewing Collateral for the first time with my friends and fellow students in Syracuse’s ISD Master’s program in the summer of 2004, and was pleasantly surprised when I saw that my posters were in the back of Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx for almost an entire scene.


Remembering Imre Molnar.
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About two weeks ago, like many others, I received the shocking news that Imre Molnar has passed away. This is a huge loss for his family, for the College for Creative Studies, and for many others who knew him.
 
Imre Molnar is one of the five important mentors in my life so far. I am a firm believer in that one can find mentors of all kinds throughout life, but there are those rare individuals that stand out from the rest that you remember often. There are many mentors in one’s life, but there are few who challenge you. Imre was one of these for me. I have found in many instances when I remember mentors such as Imre that these remembrances act as catalysts for meaningful change in my life. His challenge to me many times was to not become complacent, and to not accept mediocrity from myself, but to expect more. This is not an easy task.
 
Many times a mentor like Imre can be frustrating, but I have found that this is the case only because I knew his criticisms were right most of the time. Imre always did this in a kind but firm manner, and few people possess this talent to lead you towards the serious self-reflection of things that you can improve upon.
 
I miss him already, and it will take some time to find another mentor like him, but maybe I never will. Maybe the lesson that I need to reflect on this that I need to see in myself the qualities that he saw and be that kind of mentor to others. I feel that it is sad that it takes something like this for me to reflect upon this, but maybe not.
 
You see someone like Imre is like one of those rare comets that streams by the earth every few hundred years, and is brilliant to watch. You feel privileged to have been here to see it. They are only here for a short time, but how memorable they are!
 
I will never forget him, and I will do my best to be that kind of mentor.
 
I-Pad painting.
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This is a study that i worked on before i bought a stylus. I thought that painting with my fingers would be more difficult, but it actually works better for me than using a stylus of any kind.

This past November I finally broke down and purchased an I-Pad 2 after having debated with myself for some time. I have found that this has been one of the most productive tools that I have had the pleasure of using, and I have really enjoyed experimenting with using this as a tool for my art and illustration. 
 
My primary goal in buying this was not to have an overgrown I-Phone, or just to waste my time with video games or something like that, but it was to have a goal of using it as a means to be more productive. I set out with the intention of learning to use this as another painting medium, as well as have the convenience of taking something more compact on the road with myself as I travel. 
 
I have downloaded almost every art app that is one the market currently, and have bought a range of styluses that one can use with the I-Pad. In the process of working on my i-pad, I have received all kinds of questions about which apps are good to use, what stylus works best, and how one can take one of these things outside with them if they want to do some plein air painting. I hope to use this post to answer some of these questions by reviewing what I have bought and used thus far, but by no means is my review conclusive or definitive. I am sure that there are better reviews out there online, but I wanted to give the perspective from someone who has got back into painting, and offer my two bits. 
 
The apps-
 
Like I mentioned I have downloaded almost every art app out there, and enjoy most of them for various reasons, but my favorite app I have found so far is Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro. I like this app most because it is most like Photoshop, and from what I have used so far, it has the most export options that can be a challenge for an I-Pad. Sketchbook Pro has the ability to export layered Photoshop files to Dropbox, and not only that but it can export layered files that have transparent backgrounds on the layered image file. I enjoy using Procreate and Inspire Pro in conjunction with Sketchbook Pro, but my experience has been that these other apps don't offer the same export options (but maybe someone out there can correct me on this, and I welcome that...). I have started illustration jobs on my I-Pad in Sketchbook Pro, export the file to Dropbox, and then download these images to my laptop to place the finishing touches in Photoshop without any kind of difficulty. It has really made my life more convenient when I don't feel like taking my entire digital studio with me when I am out and about.  One thing that I really enjoy about using Sketchbook Pro with Inspire or Procreate is that I can work an illustration up to a certain point in Sketchbook Pro, and then place the finishing touches in Procreate and/or Inspire Pro. I have found that these two latter apps have a more painterly feel to them, and I usually take an image in them to soften edges, or add a more painterly feel to them. I also prefer the user interface with Sketchbook Pro more so than I do with the other apps. It has a color wheel window and brush options box that is easy to use and relatively quick to work and change with. 
 
The I-Pad 2-
I haven't really used other tablet devices as much yet, but I have downloaded the Sketchbook Pro app for both my I-Pad and my daughter's Kindle. There is a big difference between these two in terms of surface reactivity and some differences with interface, and I hope to compare the I-Pad with more robust tablets in the near future. I have found as with most of my Apple products that I use, they almost always get it right when it comes to the user's experience. I hope that in the near future that the I-Pad will follow what Wacom already does well with the Cintique screen. This will make having a brush stylus more effective and responsive, and less reliant on an app's interface for changing brush size, opacity, etc. 
 
The styluses-
In addition to buying almost every art app around, I have also purchased a range of styluses for my I-Pad. I have bought styluses on the lower end of the price scale as well as those that are on the higher end of the pricing scale, and I have found that they all have their strengths, and a couple of them have had issues even though they are on the higher end of the pricing scale. 
 
To be honest, I have found that painting with my fingers has been the most effective, and I feel like I have a better connection with the medium this way. 
 
The "two dollar" stylus from Walgreens. When I was in Salt Lake earlier this summer, I came upon this stylus as I was at the cashier's, and bought a few of them thinking that my children could use them and there wouldn't be any worries if they trashed them. I didn't expect much from these cheaply priced styluses, but they have actually worked very well considering they aren't anything special. They aren't made of the higher quality materials as the others, lack a little bit with sensitivity, but they mostly work just fine while painting.
 
A "Griffin" stylus. I bought this the other day while at Target shopping for my children's school supplies. This stylus costs $14.95, and is a decent stylus for the price. I use it primarily for blocking (massing) in shapes and toning my surfaces in Sketchbook Pro, and have better responsiveness than the cheaper stylus I bought at Walgreen's. All in all, it works well, but the tip on this stylus is distracting because of its larger size. 
 
The Wacom "Bamboo" tablet stylus- Before I found a couple of styluses that actually use a brush, I dropped 40 bucks on this stylus for my I-pad, and out of all the styluses I have bought, this stylus the most disappointing for me. It only took two weeks of normal wear and tear the non-replaceable rubber tip on it, and now it is basically useless. I don’t feel that the price tag is worth it because with this stylus Wacom really doesn’t offer anything that resembles what one can do with their other product line.  Partly due to the technology of the I-Pad not being as sensitive as a Cintique screen, and partly due to how Wacom failed to envision what a tablet stylus could be, I have no love for this particular stylus.
 
The "Sensu" brush- a student of mine turned me to this brush tipped stylus on Facebook a few months back. I watched the videos on the Sensu website, and I had to have one. The tip of the brush has the look for a typical Round brush, and the bristles work well. I ordered one of these a couple of months ago, and it worked so well for about three weeks then stopped working altogether. I was left wondering what could have happened to this for it not to work, and could think of anything because I treated this like a baby.  I was so disappointed because this happened around the time that I was taking my I-Pad out to paint with on location. I have bought a replacement, and I hope that if there were problems with the early styluses, that Sensu has worked out the problems. This is the stylus that I recommend most, and I would have given it five stars had my first one not crapped out on me.
 
The "Nomad" brush- I just got this in the mail within the past few days, and after opening the box, I saw a brush that looks more a brush used for a can of rubber cement. It took a little bit of time to get myself used to how large the bristles appear while painting, but it is a decent brush. I might use it for larger washes, and for blocking in large areas, and use the Sensu stylus for finer detail, but I feel that it might be a bit excessive.
 
My fingers- in all honesty, I feel that simply using your fingers to paint on an I-pad is the best way to go. I have had no problems using them, and they won’t wear out for a while I hope.
I really see no difference between using my pointer finger for painting on my I-pad than I do when I hold a brush in my hand while I am painting with traditional media. I always keep in mind that the brush that I hold is an extension of my hand, and it makes a difference how I rotate that brush when I make a brushstroke.
Sure it is strange at first to go back to finger painting, and I sometimes have difficulty because I worry that maybe this is pat of that trend where people might be getting away from learning the muscle memory to draw with a pencil or paint with real paint and a brush. I feel that way for a bit, then I get caught up in how fun it is to use this thing, and it has really had an improving effect on my work with traditional media.
 
I searched online for ways to mount my I-Pad on a tripod so that I could take it plein air painting and into figure drawing sessions. After spending a few minutes searching online, I found a backing with a screw mount for a tripod, and this has worked out extremely well, and makes it so simple to take everywhere. The Grifiti i-Pad tripod mount costs $20.00, and has not only been useful for my plein air painting and model drawing/painting sessions, but has proved itself useful for watching movies, and as an impromptu display with a Bluetooth keyboard for typing up emails and other documents.  There are Velcro strips on the back of the Grifiti tripod mount, and the hood I made out of black matte board attaches to these without a problem, and this hood works great for when I am outdoors and want to fight off the glare of the I-Pad’s glossy screen. The hood i made looks similar to what an American football referee might look into for reviewing a disputed play on the field...
 
All of the illustrations in this post were created primarily using Autodesk's Sketchbook Pro app, and i export them to dropbox. I really like how Sketchbook pro allows you to save out your image as layered Photoshop files. The image resolution is pretty good, but i usually take my images into Photoshop anyways and do a bit of work on them to "crispen" them up.
Most of what i am showing here isn't necessarily reflective of what i am doing right now with my work, but it has been a fun experience, and i really feel that there are real possibilities with this medium. I am using Sketchbook pro right now to do studies of pieces that i am currently working on for my first solo show in November. I will post these soon after the show opening on November 3rd.
So all in all I have found that making that purchase was well worth the money this past November, and though the technology for touch screens will improve in the not so distant future, it is a great medium to explore right now, and I am excited for the possibilities. 
From Left to Right- the Griffin stylus ($14.95), Wacom Bamboo stylus ($40.00), and a generic $1.50 stylus from Walgreens.

The Wacom Bamboo stylus didn't hold up too well at all, but when it worked it was the best out of the rubber-tipped styluses that i have purchased so far. I feel that Wacom should be leading in creating innovative and new designs for touchscreen tablet styluses, but this was a bit disappointing.

Left to Right- the Sensu brush, the Nomad brush.

Both the Nomad and Sensu brushes come with protective cases, and the Sensu brush folds into itself. The Sensu folds into itself and when it is folded up it has a rubber tip stylus end that works just as well as the 40 dollar Wacom Bamboo stylus. The particular Nomad brush that i bought doesn't have a dual tip to it, but you can buy them that way. The carrying case for the Nomad works well, but not as easy to slip into your pocket.

Working on a portrait using the Nomad brush. the Nomad brush took some getting used to due to the size of the bristles, but worked well. It seems to me that the technology isn't there yet to replicate accurate "muscle memory" from traditional painting.

From a recent figure drawing session. Was fun to draw/paint from a live jazz trio.


Recent plein air painting from a trip to Utah this summer. I used a hood that i attached to the I-Pad to shield the sun and glare on the shiny screen.


the first figure painting i did using my I-Pad. It was fun to not have all of the stuff i usually take to a figure drawing session.

Signal-Return- Preview opening!
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Signal-Return- Teach, Serve, Connect, and Produce.
 
A couple of the large reasons I have been A.W.O.L. from Drawger these past few months have been both that I have assumed the role of Chairperson of my department at CCS, and that I have been involved in an amazing collaboration- Signal-Return.
 
Last night we held our preview opening at Signal-Return, and it was one of the most special nights of my life.
 
When I was asked to participate in this project over a year ago, I jumped at the opportunity. I knew then as I do now that this would not only be an amazing venue for artists, illustrators, and designers, but for writers and the Detroit community as well.
 
In the process of working on this project I have gained a lot personally as an artist and person. I have made friendships with my fellow board members and director that have changed my life forever, and they are as much of an inspiration to me as the project itself.  I am excited for what is ahead! I can’t wait to work together with them as we hold workshops, participate in the Detroit community, and invite artists (i.e. many of my fellow Drawgerites…) and other creative minds, and truly make this a space where everyone feels welcome and is willing to truly collaborate and participate.
 
Be on the lookout for some amazing workshops in the immediate future, workshops that deal with learning letterpress, binding of books, and creating posters and broadsides.
 
Be on the lookout for amazing printed material for sale in our storefront! Come on down to Detroit’s Eastern Market to do your holiday shopping!
 
I want to take this opportunity to personally thank my fellow board members- Toby Barlow, Helen Ectors, Ryan Schirmang, Megan O’ Connell (our director), Leon Johnson, Michael Stone Richards, Rebecca Mazzei, Blake Vanier, and Amy Deines.
 
I also want to thank the many individuals and volunteers that have been such a great support to us so far- Christian and his team of M1/DTW (our architect and responsible for designing our beautiful milwork), Naomi, Amanda LeClaire (for taking a ton of photos of construction from week to week...), The fine folks from Eastern Market Corporation, Eric McClellan, Andrew Davis, Christian Mulligan, Aaron, Lucas, Mark Stead, Fosdick printing, Inland Printing, Don Schultz, Andrew and Dave Churchman, Jessie Doan, Phil Cooley, Bryan Baker, Mark Moreno, and many more who I know I am forgetting at the moment. Please forgive me for my poor memory, and please remind me to include the names of those who I have forgotten.
 
Here below are photos of the construction process from the start to where the space is now. We hope to work with you soon.









This photo shows just how dark it was inside before the new windows were put in.

Photo by Amanda LeClaire

Photo by Amanda LeClaire

Board member Ryan Shirmang releasing the inner beast for the old facade demolition. Photo by Amanda LeClaire

Photo by Amanda LeClaire

Photo by Amanda LeClaire










Photo- Studio Couture Detroit

Photo- Studio Couture Detroit

Photo-Studio Couture Detroit

Signal-Return's storefront counter set and ready for customers! Photo- Studio Couture Detroit

Signal-Return's workshop area. Photo- Studio Couture Detroit


The beautiful bindings of Leon Johnson. Look for his workshop soon! Photo- Studio Couture Detroit

Our new facade. An honor to have my 5'relief print in view. Photo- Studio Couture Detroit.

Our membership cards. Let me know if you want us to mail you one of these! Join up and participate!

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Kilpatrick is teaching at TutorMill, an online mentoring site for students of illustration!