Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 19, 2011

Illustrator Saturday – Micah Chamber-Goldberg


Micah Chambers-Goldberg, known for his unique ability to manifest whimsical imagination and fantastical imagery, is a versatile and accomplished artist in Animation, Illustration, Film, and Fine Art.

While Micah conveys the wondrous beauty within the ridiculous and supernatural, he maintains an authenticity in all forms of his artistic expression. His work is at once fresh and absorbing. His most recent film project is Who Stole the Mona Lisa?, an animated short, commissioned by Astral Artists which premiered at the Kimmel Center for The Philadelphia International Festival Of The Arts. Peter Dobrin of The Philadelphia Inquirer called the program “…A Triumph”. This comes on the heels of Things That Go Bump in the Night, a live-action/stop-motion animated music video for Tommy Space and the Alchemists. He has also completed illustrations for the children’s book, The Princess and the Peanut (published release in 2011).

Micah, who currently resides in Los Angeles, received his BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. During his time at UARTS, Micah not only interned at Dreamworks Feauture Animation Studios but also completed his thesis film, Brain Juice, which took “Best in Show” and was well received in film festivals all over the world. Upon Micah’s relocation to Los Angeles, he spent several years painting live, on-stage, for Def Poetry Jam poets and musicians, as well as illustrating published children’s books such as Stone Soup and Even Superheroes Get Diabetes. He also designed toys and showroom environments for JAKKS Pacific, the third largest toy company in the U.S. Most recently, Micah wrote and directed an award-winning live-action short film, The Lifter Upper, which has traveled the film festival circuit and attracted much attention and critical acclaim.

Now, as a renowned filmmaker, animator, illustrator, and fine artist, Micah Chambers-Goldberg continues to inspire his audience to see life in a broader spectrum of color and possibility.

“Things That Go Bump In The Night”
Music Video
Stop-Motion and Live Action mix

1. I listened to the song 20 times.
2. I storyboarded out a concept in Photoshop
3. I used a video editing program to lay out the boards with the music into an animatic to see how it would work
4. I hired crew and we shot the band in front of a green screen playing instruments and doing a few specific actions. This was a one day shoot.

5. I made sets of paper mache painted with flat house paint so the lighting wouldn’t glare

6. I made monsters

Made 2 wire armatures or skeletons at the size of the figure
Sculpted a monster onto one armature out of oil based clay
 Cast that in plaster with
 Took out the clay figure
 Brushed in liquid latex
 Laid in the other armature
 Poured in expanding foam and shut the cast (This had to be done in about 8 seconds because the foam would immediately start to rise)
 Let that cure
 Took out the rubber figure

 Clipped of excess rubber

 Painted it with acrylic mixed with adhesive to allow for bending during animation
 Added Sculpy eyes painted with acrylic and gloss medium

7. My cinematographer came and lit and photographed the scenes as I animated the monsters in front of a pink screen (I couldn’t use green since the monsters had green tones in them, but they didn’t have any pink, so this could later be keyed out)

8. We shot dry ice melting in slow motion for fog.

9. I used After Effects to delete the green screen on the live action and the pink screen on the monsters.

10. I composited everything together and added effects and color correction (There are tons of effects here, so for the sake of keeping this brief, I won’t get into that)

11. I exported in HD and we posted it on YouTube and Vimeo

Here is Micah’s process for his new book Princess and the Peanut
Process:

“The Princess And The Peanut”
Children’s Book – ISBN-10: 0983148708

1. I read the book twice.
2. I did a lot of research on costume, fairy tales, time period, allergies, etc.
3. I started by doing tiny thumbnails to work out the composition and concept of a page. I can’t show examples because these are always so rough, I throw them away.
4. I drew the images in pencil, scaled up. The book comes in at 8.5 X 11, and I drew them at around 18 X 24. This way I could get in more detail and a bigger sense of scale.
5. I scanned
6. I painted it in Photoshop with the pencil drawing as a transfer layer on top.
7. I added texture from photographs and clip art again as transfer layers set to multiply or overlay. These were photos I’d taken for this purpose.
8. In the end, they went into InDesign and the book designer laid it out under my art direction.

Below are some other illustrations that Micah has done along with my interview questions:

Q: I see you received a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. Are you originally from the Philadelphia area?

A: I’m from Vermont originally. I move around a lot as a kid. I spent 5 years in Minneapolis, Vermont for High School. Philadelphia was just the collage chapter. I love Philly though. It’s one of my favorite cities.

Q: Your resume shows that you illustrated five books for children with Picture Windows Books. Can you tell us a little bit about this publisher and how this project came about?

A: The contact came through my mom. One of their editors was a chiropractic patient of hers. They’re a Mid-West based publisher that sells directly to schools. They seem to do a high volume of books so they have very fast turn-a-rounds. It was a pretty straightforward gig once the contact was made. This was some years ago, and I have mixed feelings about it now. It was an excellent opportunity and they were easy to work with, but I left feeling like I wanted to put a much higher degree of polish into what I do.

Q: You list three more recent books, two with the same author. The latest Princess and the Peanut with Wild Indigo. Are these self-published books? If so, could you tell us about how that came about?

A: Yes, they are self-published. My girlfriend at the time, (now wife) and I went to see about purchasing a cat from a woman named Star. I had a pocket-sized portfolio that held a bunch of paintings and whatnot. Somehow she ended up seeing the portfolio and said I should meet with her friend Sue. We ended up not getting her cat, but it was the beginning of a long and wonderful working relationship with Sue who wrote “Even Superheroes Get Diabetes” and “The Princess And The Peanut.”

Q: I can see why a writer would want to have you illustrate their book, but how did you decide as an illustrator that you wanted to work with the author? Have you developed a contract to use when writers approach you? Do you have a set fee? How do you feel about the whole process? Is it something you think other illustrators should consider? Do you see a difference in attitude for paying an illustrator between the East and
West coast?

A: This question sounds remarkably like 6 questions. Ok, so money is pretty important. I’d say the fact that the author wanted to pay me was the most important thing. In the case of Sue, I thought she was writing for noble causes and it felt good to be part of that. I didn’t have a set contract. I believe the contract initially came from Sue’s lawyer and it was quite generous with the royalty portion, so it was easy to sign. I have had to go back and forth on contracts in the past, so I’ve found it’s really a good idea to read everything. I’ve also used an old contract as a starting point for a new one. Every deal is different, so an old contract will typically need to be modified and updated. Right now, I’m trying to find a way to make illustration really profitable When I did “The Princess And The Peanut,” I spent a lot more time on it than I was being paid for, just so I could see how far I could take it. The industry isn’t usually paying what I think my time is worth, so I’m still figuring all of this stuff out. I don’t see a difference between the East and West coasts as much as I see a difference in personalities. Some people don’t want to pay for anything, and some people will value time and work. It’s kind of the same everywhere.

Q: What made you decide to move to California after getting your BFA? Do you feel the opportunities are more on the West Coast?

A: I moved out here for animation. I thought I’d get into a big studio, but the industry was in turmoil when I graduated. I had lots of contacts, but the studios were converting from traditional to 3D and there were a lot of layoffs happening as a result. It was ultimately a good thing because it gave me a chance to find myself as an artist and as a person, and now I’m directing animation. There are definitely more opportunities on the West coast. Everyone is doing something creative. If I go to a party, there will be people in the film industry, people writing books that need illustrations, animators, people in the music industry, etc. It’s just not like that anywhere else. Even in other parts of California, it’s not that way as much as it is here in L.A.

Q: What fueled you interest in animation?

A: My stepmother enrolled me in a class when I was 12. I discovered I had more than my share of patience, and I loved it. I think I got off on being Dr. Frankenstein. I could take a ball of clay, turn a camera on, and before I knew it, I had breathed life into it. It was moving, acting, and even emoting. Later, the addition of sound and story in my pieces made it feel like a much more complete medium than anything else I was working in.

Q: Do you feel that the digital age has increased the opportunities for all illustrators?

A: Yes. The thing that makes it really different now is the insatiable hunger for content. People sift through huge amounts of material at a lightening speed, so industry needs more and more content.

Q: Have you ever thought of writing and illustrating your own books?

Yes. I’ve begun to do just that. I know ultimately that’s the way to go. I’m never quite satisfied with illustrating for someone else’s voice.

Q: Are you represented by an agent? If not, would you like to be?

A: An agent does not represent me. I would love to be represented. I’ve been trying to find one, but most agencies have strict solicitation policies, so you have to know someone, or they have to come to you. So if a really great agent is reading this right now, call me!

Q: I assume you do most of your illustrations via the computer, but do you ever use watercolor, acrylics and other traditional painting materials?

A: I’ve been steering toward digital, but my training was mostly in traditional media. I’ve illustrated in water color (Picture Window Books), Acrylic (Even Superheroes Get Diabetes), oil (Betty Goes To Sea) and a combination of pencil drawing and digital paint (The Princess and The Peanut). I’ll use whatever works, but I’m finding I can get across more information, at a faster clip when I go digital. Life is short. I need to pour it out while I still have time.

Q: Do you have and use a graphic tablet? How and when do you use it?

A: I do. I use it all the time to draw and paint in various design programs.

Q: Did you go to school to learn the software used to make films and animation?

A: Yes. I went to The University of the Arts for Animation and I learned a bit about a few programs, but most of what I know now, I learned after college.

Q: How much has the market changed since you graduated?

A: The Digital revolution has been in full effect since then, so between animation going digital, books going digital, music going digital, and sales going digital, I’d say it’s a night and day difference. When I got to college, it was still relatively acceptable not to have a computer. It became completely necessary about one or two years in. Now I don’t think a student would even consider not having one.

Q: How do you market yourself?

A: I have a website, but it’s mostly word of mouth. My strategy is to always give a client more than what they’re paying for, so they will be more likely to give me more work, bigger budgets and more referrals. So far, it’s worked. It also gives me more satisfaction and pride in my work.

Q: Do you have any words of wisdom for other illustrators trying to find success?

A: My late grandfather, before he passed away, took me by the arm and said, “Come here. I just have one thing to say to you…” and in his deep, gravely voice, with a little too much importance on his words, he said, “Know Thyself.” I giggled a bit at the cliché. After a while it sunk in. As a person, it’s incredibly valuable, but as an artist it’s incredibly necessary. What are your likes? What are your dislikes? What will you refuse to do, no matter the pay? What will you bend over backwards to do, no matter the pay? What will give you a feeling of fulfillment while you work on it? What stories do you want to tell? What do you have that needs to get out and into your art? What is your worth? “Know thyself” turned out to be an amazingly complex goal and when I get closer to it, my life is ever more complete.

Also, a very wise man once told me, “Never be afraid to be the best dressed man in the room.”

Thank you Micah for sharing your excellent and creative talents with us this week. Stop by www.micahmonkey.com  to see more illustrations and videos.  Hope you will leave Micah a comment.

Talk tomorrow,

Kathy


Responses

  1. OMG, this stuff is absolutely amazing. If Micah were a singer, he would have a twelve-octave range! I can’t imagine anything he couldn’t illustrate. Thanks so much for posting this.

    Like

    • Rosi,

      With so much talent, I would be surprise if I found out that he does sing. Thanks for the comment and have a nice Thanksgiving.

      Kathy

      Like

  2. Kathy, I am blown away by the illustrators you “gathered” while you were at the LA conference! This work is SO remarkable, I just want to linger and linger over the images *sigh*

    Talk about a full career and more than well-deserved. Micah, you’re phenomenal! I can’t imagine an agent wouldn’t want to scoop you up! Thank you SO much for sharing your time and your artwork with all of us (and, of course, thank you, Kathy, for all the hard work!)
    Donna

    Like

    • Donna,

      Don’t you love the music video and the pictures of how he made the monsters? I love all of the illustrations, but I really love the one with the Knight is riding on his horse back to the castle.

      Kathy

      Like

      • Oh, that one is gorgeous! Actually, I was mesmerized by all “The Princess and the Peanut” illustrations. It’s SO my taste 🙂 All of this is amazing and I’m always in awe of the sculpting.
        Donna

        Like

  3. I’m blushing.

    Like

    • Micah,

      You’re so cute! It is all true.

      Kathy

      Like


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: