What a year it’s been! There’s so much to update you on – new drawings, new projects, and a new baby! Our family grew with the arrival of my son, Colin, which has kept updates to the Red Admiral site at bay, but now that he’s a little older (and slightly less demanding), I’ve finally gotten an opportunity to add in some of the work that’s kept me busy these past couple of years!
To sum up 2014 in a word: WOW. Red Admiral has grown so much over the last year thanks to some amazing and interesting collaborations and projects, and it looks like 2015 will keep the momentum going! There are wonderful things in store ahead, but first, here’s the Red Admiral Creative Studios year in review, with links to our projects so you can own your own piece of RA!
Starflyer John Jackson (Steven J. Shaw)
This story is perfect for the sci-fi fan-in-training! RA provided video support and graphic design for the Starflyer John Jackson Kickstarter campaign, and managed the illustrations, text, and design for this one-of-a-kind romp in space with a young pilot and his quirky crew. Purchase on Amazon.com!
Summary: Starflyer John Jackson may be the youngest pilot in the Outer Planets, but he’s also the best! Together with his best friend and First Mate, Winfield, Ack the Robot, and a half lizard/half dog named Lizzie, he shuttles cargo across the solar system, outsmarting the Zeeps and having fun in their unstoppable ship, The Rough-01. Join Starflyer John and his crew on their first galactic adventure!
Cover Artwork for Starflyer John Jackson
Willow Watts and the Green School Wish (Annie R. Donnelly)
Willow was the recipient of the 2014 Center for Green School’s “Moment for the Movement” Award for its role in raising awareness of green building and sustainability among young people. Perfect for the kid with dreams of changing the world one person at a time! RA managed illustrations, text, copyediting, and design. Purchase on Amazon.com!
Summary: Princess Smog has a special wish for her birthday but her Grandfather King Smog is hard to convince. With help from her pen pal Willow Watts, Princess Smog teaches her Grandfather why a green school is the perfect gift for her and the students of Smogville.
Cover Artwork for Willow Watts and the Green School Wish
Discovery Girls Magazine (Discovery Girls Inc.)
So proud to be the contributing illustrator for Discovery Girls Magazine, a Mom’s Choice Award winning publication! Look for my illustrations in the “Ask Ali” and “Embarrassing Moments” columns. Available at your local bookstore or subscribe at DiscoveryGirls.com!
Hostage Negotiator (Van Ryder Games)
I’m so excited to announce the imminent arrival of my first board game project! RA provided graphic design support for the base game and expansion packs, and provided illustrations for Abductor Pack 2 (because, every hostage crisis needs an abductor, right?). This riveting solitaire game is now available for pre-order at VanRyderGames.com.
Summary: It happens on rare occasions, but it is what you have spent your life preparing and training for… Hostages have been taken. You head to the command center at the scene. The Crisis Commander briefs you on the situation, then you pick up the phone and the mental jousting begins…
Hostage Negotiator is a solitaire Card game where you play the role of a Hostage Negotiator that has the responsibility and the burden of negotiating with a hostile Abductor who has taken hostages and is hell bent on achieving some unscrupulous goal. Use your wits to adapt to whatever the Abductor or the situation throws your way to save the hostages and win the game!
Hostage Negotiator now available for Pre-Order!
Incredible how time flies! Thanks so much for following and supporting Red Admiral in its very first year of business. I like to think Red Admiral Creative Studio is all about helping good stories become great stories, which is precisely what I wish for all of you in 2015. Make this year your best story yet!
All has been quiet on the blog front, but I’m happy to report it hasn’t been for lack of activity! As a matter of fact, the last several months have proved the most exciting yet, with major news to share of RA’s upcoming projects! Here’s what’s in production:
1) Salvation Road: A VanRyder Games board game
Concept art for “Post-Apocalypse: Salvation Road”
Red Admiral Creative Studio will be providing illustrations and graphic design for a new board game, “Salvation Road”, to be Kickstarted and published by Van Ryder Games! Be sure to check out the Board Game Geek Press Release, which talks about about the thematic nature of this “Road Warrior” inspired game.
This project will be RA’s first board game, and I’m not gonna lie – I couldn’t be more excited to draw some seriously bleak and decrepit stuff. More details on how you can contribute to the Kickstarter and own your own bit of post-apocalyptic fun in the months ahead!
2) Starflyer John Jackson
The cast of “Starflyer John Jackson”, a sci-fi book series by Steven J. Shaw
We did it! With your help, author Steven J. Shaw was able to meet the Kickstarter goal to produce his upcoming children’s book, Starflyer John Jackson with illustrations from Red Admiral’s own drawing board. I couldn’t be more excited about this project, as it promises to take readers on a thrilling ride through space with Starflyer John and his eclectic crew.
3) Willow Watts and the Green School Wish
Cover Artwork for Willow Watts and the Green School Wish
Red Admiral is proud to announce that its very first children’s book illustration and graphic design project is nearing completion and will be released in time for the holidays! Willow Watts and the Green School Wish was written by Annie Donnelly and is being published by Great Books 4 Kids
As you can see, things are super busy in the best possible way, and there’s only more great news ahead as these projects come to fruition and make their way onto shelves. Be sure to come back to RA’s blog or follow RA on Facebook and Twitter for the latest details on these projects and more!
April is a huge month for Red Admiral! In addition to finishing up illustrations for Willow Watts and the Green School Wish (more info on that project coming soon!), the Kickstarter campaign has officially launched for Starflyer John Jackson – a children’s book RA has partnered with author, Steven J. Shaw to produce! (Have I used enough exclamation points?) Check out the intro video we made to get you guys just as excited about this project as we are:
How We Did It
I live for getting the behind-the-scenes details, so consider this the ‘Special Features’ tab on your Starflyer John Jackson Blu-Ray. Starting with the Google Doc manuscript of his story, Steve and I spent months prior to the Kickstarter discussing Starflyer John – his character, his friends, his world, and how the book would meet the very real need for more Sci-Fi children’s literature. Ultimately, this led to conversations about how to make sure the book would not just get published, but perform in the marketplace.
We even modeled Starflyer John after Steve’s son, Jack.
Once it seemed like we had a good handle on how the book would look and feel, we developed our game plan for getting the project funded. Everything from concept art to videos was plotted in advance and dropped into a timeline to ensure Steve had everything he needed to help his project reach as many people as possible once the Kickstarter campaign went live.
Living in an internet age is stupendous, especially when you’re tag-teaming with 300 miles between you. Knowing we couldn’t send me up to New York to film Steve’s interview, I sent the specifications Steve would need to film an interview and introduction in the comfort of his own home (using none other than an iPhone. Thanks again, Apple), and upon getting the raw footage, we worked together to arrive at a brief, persuasive video introduction to the project that conveyed all the fun and whimsy of his story. We then sent a rough cut to the truly talented guys at Write Me My Song to produce music for the Kickstarter video. The group’s in-house composer Evan Behlivanis literally whipped up a stellar soundtrack that hit every visual cue in the video.
Steve and I are big “Firefly” fans. You might see a little of Serenity in “The Rough-01” that Starflyer John Jackson pilots…
And there you have it. The recipe for making a big splash with a small budget.
One of the reasons I’m so excited about this partnership is that it represents the kind of collaboration that Red Admiral specializes in rockin’. This project not only brings together the imaginations of a writer and illustrator, it also marks the first film collaboration between Red Admiral Creative Studio and Write Me My Song, a partnership that means wonderful things for us and our clients from here on out. From the source material to the marketing materials to the final product, it’s a team effort, and the effects are magical.
I hope you’ll consider contributing to this project, and help us send “Starflyer John Jackson” into the galaxy! More on this exciting project is ahead, so stay tuned!
Last night, Alfonso Cuarón’s audacious cinematic undertaking “Gravity” brought home seven Oscars – a hefty lineup of statues that included wins for Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Editing, and Best Sound Mixing. These technical categories get placed at the top of the show because, to be truthsome (as Mal Reynolds would say), everyone is more likely to stick out a 4 hour-long award show if the fan favorites are placed last (i.e. Best Actor/Actress, Best Feature Film, you know what I mean).
AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures
But you should care about these categories and who wins them. Not even Jennifer Lawrence can save a film that hasn’t been edited well. Often, a riveting visual story told alongside some well chosen words is what makes a movie memorable, and the thousands of decisions made after the cameras stop rolling can mark the difference between Academy Award-worthy art and yet another hyper-extended cut of “Avatar” (Did anyone really miss the longer alien sex scene with mildly squick-inducing hair follicle seduction?? I sure didn’t…).
A long while back, I met Alfonso Cuarón outside the men’s room of a college auditorium where he, Guillermo del Toro, and Alejandro González Iñárritu were discussing their experiences as Mexican filmmakers, and I told him how much I enjoyed his revision of the Harry Potter franchise with “The Prisoner of Azkaban”. I am a self-professed Potterhead, but I am aware that my love of this movie’s treatment puts me in the minority of fandomers who saw this adaptation and actually liked it. HP purists hate this movie primarily because of how much was cut from the script.
At the time, I was a recent English/Film grad and therefore newly equipped to see what many fellow fandom folks did not: that which was cut from the dialogue was not lost from the film. It was all there in the visual storytelling. One simply had to “read the film” to see all the ways it communicated plot points that there was not enough time to convey more blatantly. (For example: If you’re mad that the movie never expressly identifies Harry’s father as the deer that characterizes his Patronus, go back and watch it again. As Professor Lupin and Harry discuss Harry’s dad, the shot places the illusion of antlers behind Harry’s head. See below:)
Warner Bros. Pictures
This brand of storytelling in film challenges standard Hollywood fare and relies on the advanced capabilities of technical visionaries to produce a movie experience that transcends its enjoyment as a literal artform. (In other words, when we watch movies, we don’t usually see the metaphors and other artistic devices upfront because the medium lends itself to literal interpretation. For our brains, it’s a simple exercise to just watch and enjoy.) But as Cuarón told us that day in NYC, his job as a director was to move the tip of a pencil being held by a thousand people. So much of that magic happens behind the camera and after the production has wrapped. Hence: These special categories are pretty darn important.
Here is the short list of reasons why you should care about the technical stuff, and why the folks that win the awards for it should be admired as much as the pretty people on screen!
Cinematography: You could refer to this as the photography of the film. Everything you see on camera has been orchestrated by a cinematographer to reflect a singular aesthetic that the audience can respond to. It’s not just about setting up the shot – it’s about defining the movie’s look as a whole and ensuring that every shot belongs in that vision. The cinematographer is a close collaborator with the director, bringing together the art and science of filmmaking to extend the story onto the screen. Take “Glory”, winner of the Best Cinematography Oscar in 1989. With as many moving pieces as a war scene, it was a feat of awesome cinematography to convey what the script cannot – that the 54th Massachussetts Volunteer Infantry are meeting their destiny on this very beach:
Film Editing: Imagine the most repetitive, drawn out, boring conversation you’ve ever had. The content of the discussion could have been really important – thrilling, even – but something about the lackluster emotion behind it or the pacing of it was just putting you to sleep. Movies have the potential to do the same, but it is the editor’s job to make sure it not only keeps you awake, but glued to your seat. If cameramen make pictures like writers make words, editors provide the punctuation, grammar, and style, and their language is breathtakingly effective. The juxtaposition of scenes, the timing of a look, the choice between one perspective over another, the tint of color or granularity of the footage – these are ways of controlling what you, the viewer, is feeling and understanding about the action. Perfect example of the film editor’s prowess? Take the iconic shower scene of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. There isn’t a word of dialogue in this scene – nothing but jump cuts and well placed shots to make you jump out of your skin. Bam.
Sound Editing and Mixing: You know that club scene in that Fill-in-the-blank movie where everyone is dancing and every character in the scene is screaming over the music to be heard? It was shot in near complete silence. Foley artists and sound editors combine talents to create environments, from club scenes to war scenes to space scenes. One of the best sound designers that ever lived (in my humble opinion) was Ben Burrt, mastermind behind the signature sounds of Star Wars. This same dude gave Wall-E his voice. Literally. As in, he actually recorded his own voice and mixed it to sound like everyone’s favorite Pixar robot. As a matter of fact, watch “Wall-E” sometime and realize with shock and awe that neither Wall-E nor Eve say more than a small cluster of words over and over again the entire film. It’s the blips, whirs, and manipulated effects that pair so well with such an endearingly animated robot.
Visual Effects: These artists are the current unsung heroes of the industry. Combining technical genius with classical artistry, special effects teams are capable of creating worlds where there are none, engineering from pure imagination some of the most iconic scenes of our modern cinematic age. This picture from “Gravity” conveys what I mean pretty well, since NOTHING IN THIS SHOT IS REAL.
Warner Bros. Pictures
More impressive than the choreography of this keystone scene is that it mimics reality so well as to not draw your attention to it. That is arguably the highest objective of visual effects, and the movie that fails to achieve it risks snapping viewers out of the experience of the film to say, “Wow. That’s a lot of CGI.” (Not a problem with “Gravity” unless you are a professional astronaut and/or astrophysicist.) And right now, folks in this particular part of the industry are being abused and horrendously underpaid for their incredible, limitless talent.
These categories serve to remind us all that there is art in filmmaking and there are stories in art. And as someone on the humble outskirts of “the business”, these people inspire me to be better, think bigger, and work harder. This is why, my hat goes off to the winners of these categories, and so should yours.
Since launching Red Admiral’s new digs, it’s been a crazy few weeks! The RA Facebook page has 170 likes as of this writing (woo hoo!), the twitter feed is growing, and today, we finally have a pin!
In honor of our Facebook success, Red Admiral hosted a facebook contest for a Valentine’s Day quote we could illustrate, and we have a winner! Check out the winning quote submitted by Linda Lewis from Washington, DC with a special RA Valentine’s Day illustration:
Be sure to follow Red Admiral on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/redadmiralpins, as it will be the new home for all our fun side projects, tutorials, and more!
In other news, some major illustration projects are under way, and you can see the sneak peeks in the Illustration Gallery. I’ll have more to report in the coming weeks, so come back soon for more art and videos from Red Admiral!
Wishing you a Valentine’s Day filled with love of every kind!