Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Coming of Chromacon 2015!

After a year on hiatus, Chromacon is back for 2015! Held this weekend at the Auckland Aotea Centre, Chromacon is an indie arts festival that celebrates the coming together of local creativity, innovation, artistic excellence and community.

This FREE event connects New Zealanders with the best homegrown illustrators, comic artists, designers, animators, videogame developers and more. At Chromacon, you will find original artwork and creative projects from a range of media, styles, and genres.

You will also be able to purchase self-published work such as prints, art books, comics or even original artwork directly from the creatives themselves.This event was conceived by Auckland artist/illustrator Allan Xia, who felt there was a lack of accessible local events for artists/illustrators to showcase and sell their work at outside of exclusive design/advertising events like Semi-Permanent, which aren't always affordable for emerging new artists or the general public. 

The first event in 2013 was a great success, and Xia has taken the extra development time to really fine-tune and expand the event, starting with this Friday's Chroma Connect –  a creative summit focused on professional development, and the sharing of ideas to promote networking amongst local creatives.

Attendees will have the opportunity to attend master-classes, panel discussions, case studies and networking opportunities. Key areas to be examined include: established and emerging traditional/digital creative practices, transmedia strategies and business models. Chroma Connect enables participants to explore past insights, analyse present challenges, and identify future opportunities.

Chroma Connect will feature four internationally renowned creatives, exclusively attending this week's events:

J.A.W. Cooper (USA): Illustrator

J.A.W. Cooper was born in England and grew up in Africa, Sweden, Ireland and various other locations throughout Europe and California. J.A.W. Cooper currently lives and works as a freelance illustrator, gallery and sketch artist in Los Angeles, California.

Jacky Ke Jiang (USA): Animator

An experienced animator who has worked for Disney Studios and the Cartoon Network on award-winning movies and cartoons like Frozen, Wreck it Ralph, Paperman, and Adventure Time.

Benjamin (China): Illustrator and cartoonist

Benjamin is a prolific Chinese Manhua (Chinese Comics) Artist and illustrator whose work has been published in many different countries and languages.

Wenna (China): Illustrator

Wenna specializes in large-scale mural arts, illustration, ceramics and sculpture. Her diverse living mural projects can be found across major cities of China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanchang, Jingdezhen, Leshan etc.) as well as Taiwan, Europe and many other nations and cultures.

All four guests will be giving talks during the event, as well as talks from local art and animation guests: including Mukpuddy animation, and Weta concept artist Paul Tobin. There will also be panel discussions on New Zealand Indie Games and of coarse, New Zealand Comics.

The New Zealand Comics Panel will be an informal discussion with four great local cartoonists including: Jonathan King, Li Chen, Gregor Czaykowski (aka Loading Artist) and Jem Yoshioka. 
Above: An illustration by Jem Yoshioka. cc-by-sa Jem Yoshioka Creative Commons NZ 3.0 license, 2015.

Jem Yoshioka is an illustrator and cartoonist from Wellington. Her work is influenced by the city and her Japanese heritage, and she uses visual narrative to explore themes of human nature and culture. She works both digitally and traditionally. And at the last Chromacon's in 2013 she won the Comic Award for her story Sunshine. Other comics include Concrete.

Above: An illustration from Loading Artist by Gregor Czaykowski. Copyright Gregor Czaykowski 2015.

Gregor Czaykowski is the cartoonist behind the very successful webcomic Loading Artist, which thanks to his Patron supporters he is now able to work on it full-time.

Above: An illustration from Extra Ordinary by Li Chen. Copyright Li Chen 2015.

Li Chen is of the cartoonist behind the webcomic, Extra Ordinary, which has had a series of highly successful Kickstarter campaigns which have allowed her to publish 3 collected editions and work on the webcomic full-time.
Above: An illustration from Threat Level by Jonathan King. Copyright Jonathan King 2015.

Jonathan King has contributed to Faction Comics, including the upcoming Climate Change special High Water, and is also the film director of the films Black Sheep, Under The Mountain and Realiti.

They'll be talking about their work, art process and upcoming projects.

There will be over 40 local comic creators exhibiting at this weekend's main event, including: Ant Sang, Aimee Cairns, Amy Her-Lee, Anthony Pini, Ben Stenbeck, Benjamin Gary Richards, Braden Gordon, Brendan Boughen, Chris Slane, Cory Mathis, David Ogilvie, Dylan Horrocks, Li Chen, James Davidson, Jason Upchurch, Jem Yoshioka, Jeremy Hanna, Jonathan King, Joshua Drummond, Kayla Oliver, Kirsti Hogan, Ralphi, Linhan Ye, Loading Artist, Marc Streeter, Michel Mulipola, Nick Fedaeff, Orion Mabelle, Pablo Espinosa, Rachel Smythe, Sam Orchard, Simon Fletcher, Sloane Kim, Stacey Robson, Stuart Hallam, Stuart Thomas, Tim Gibson,Toby Morris, Zak Waipara, as well as small press publishers and collectives: Earth’s End Publishing, Pikitia Press, Funtime Comics, and Square Planet.

And that doesn't even include  the animators, illustrators, sculpture and craft creators, concept artists, videogame creators and so many more attending the event. So if you're looking for a short of creativity this weekend, or to stock up on some great local comics before winter sets in, Chromacon is the place to be this weekend - and it is FREE to attend!

I also had Allan Xia join me on the National Radio Nights show to talk about the upcoming event. If you missed it last week you can listen to the full interview HERE.

For more information, on Chromacon and Chroma Connect, visit the event website HERE.

- AK!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Ngā Atua Māori: Illustrating Māori mythology with Munro Te Whata

Above: Munro Te Whata drawing live at the KIWA Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novella Launch. Copyright Kiwa Digital 2015.

Earlier this week I reported on the launch and creation of KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novella e-books, today I'm talking to Munro Te Whata, the artist behind these ground-breaking adaptations.

Munro Te Whata was born and raised in Auckland, his iwi are Nga Puhi, Ngati Porou, and also has Niuean heritage. He has a background in animation and a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Creative Writing, and was one of the animators who brought the animated series Bro' Town to our screens during its successful five season run. Long time readers of this blog may also recall some of Te Whata's early comics work, when he collaborated with Czepta Gold on a kids manga/hip hop infused comic, Wulfpak back in 2009.

With KIWA's four graphic novellas competed and more comics work on the way, I caught up with Munro to find out more about the creative process of collaborating on these e-books and some of his artistic influences.

Above: Illustration by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: We've seen different takes on illustrating Māori mythology over the years - from Peter Gossage's children's books to Chris Slane's edger take on Maui; what was your particular approach to the material in terms of style and storytelling?

Munro Te Whata: I was actually the second illustrator to come on board - I was hired because the first illustrator was pumping out some really awesome artwork, but she was way too slow. So there was a style already developed before I even came on. It was meant to look like something an international audience would like, basically something Marvel or DC [comics] readers would buy. Because the stories I was working on were different to the ones the first illustrator worked on, I was able to put my own spin on the artwork, however I was given a lot less time to do it. So my approach was to do everything digital because it was a lot faster. I never really looked at other illustrators of the Māori myths for inspiration, although I do love their work. I looked more at animated TV shows like Avatar and Dragon Ball Z or video games like Street Fighter and Marvel vs Capcom. These were all really influential to me growing up and are therefore part of my style as an artist.

Above: Storyboards be Munro Te Whata. Copyright Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: How closely do you work with the writers to insure that the stories are entertaining but still retain all the key information and cultural significance of the original myths? I was talking to someone at the launch party and it sounded like there were a few 'false starts' before the series found the right balance between retelling the original stories and adapting them as comics for a contemporary audience?

MTW: During the storyboard stage I would meet up with the writer and try to match how he saw the story in his head, to how I drew it. Each page had it's own text so for example: 'Page 1: this happens.. Page 2: that happens..', so I just had to choose what part of the text would be best to show to make the whole story flow and sometimes when there was more than one bit of action on the page I'd split the page into two or more pictures/panels.

It wasn't actually a false start. We had done four different Myths each around 40 pages which were fully completed. The first illustrator worked on two books and when she couldn't finish all four, I was brought on to do the other two. The big problem with these books was that they were written in English first and then translated to Māori. First and foremost the books are a language and cultural resource for anyone wanting to learn Māori. But by telling the story in English first the translation to Māori wasn't very good. The second problem was that the story was retold in a way that a lot of Māori didn't like. Basically defeating the purpose of why the stories were created in the first place.

Above: Illustration by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: Did you have any personal favourites from the stories/sequences you enjoyed illustrating for the series?

MTW: I think the third book, during the first half I felt like I was getting in a groove but due to having to pump them out quite fast - like 3 pages a day - I have to say that took a bit of the fun out of it! (laughs).

Above: Character designs by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: What's your drawing process from script to finished artwork? And what are your preferred art tools of choice?

MTW: I usually start by doing a whole lot of scribbling on paper. Just concepts of characters and then when I have the script I start going through the whole story and doing thumbnails of different ideas for the layouts of the page. Working in thumbnails helps the overall flow of the story, so I try to get it to a point where someone can read the thumbnails without the script and still get the story.

My experience is in traditional animation and I've never really learnt how to paint, so when I started getting work as an illustrator I bought a wacom tablet and now everything I do that needs colour is done digitally. For me nothing beats drawing with just a pencil, pen and permanent marker.

Above: Illustration by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: And what are some of your art influences?

MTW: I find inspiration from everywhere. I love old spaghetti westerns, old samurai and martial arts movies. Comics like Saga, 100 bullets and Lone Wolf and Cub are real inspiring to me and great reads. I follow quite a lot of TV shows. I tend to gravitate toward stories of wandering types maybe because I moved around a lot as a kid. I also like video games and usually the long free roaming types. I tend to listen to a lot of music while I work as well which can be anything depending on my mood. I also find a lot of inspiration reading about world mythologies/religions, New Zealand history and I'm constantly looking for imagery from old cultures. Some favourite artists would be Bengus, Le Sean Thomas, Banksy, Mike Mignola, Tarantino, Fiona Apple, Goseki Kojima, Miyazaki, Joe Madureira, Moebius and so much more I can't think of right now.

Above: Rough art layout by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

AK: At the launch we talked a bit about some of your future projects in the pipeline, and it sounds like you might have a potential long-form comics project in the works?

MTW: With the Ngā Atua Māori comics Kiwa will be pushing to get more of those done in the future. I also have an ongoing comic series which I'm working on with a friend. It's just a passion project at the moment and we both have kids and full-time jobs so not too much time to work on it but we are hoping to eventually submit to Image Comics. Basically it's an historical fiction comic set in and around New Zealand leading up to the Treaty of Waitangi. There's not much else to say about it other than it's going to show a lot of crazy shit that went down in that time. So it probably won't be for kids...

Above: Illustration by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital/Munro Te Whata 2015.

You can view more of Munro's artwork over at his art blog HERE, and for more information on KIWA and their Ngā Atua Māori graphic novellas you can visit their website HERE.

- AK!

Above: Munro Te Whata drawing live at the KIWA Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novella Launch.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

KIWA launches Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas

Above: Artwork from KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novella series, by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital 2015.

Earlier this year I was privileged to attend the launch of KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas - digital e-books re-tellings of traditional Māori myths and stories, accompanied by Te Reo Māori and English text and audio narration, with easy to use language learning features - created to be read on tablets, phones and other digital devices. The series of e-books are designed to share these stories in an innovative and contemporary format, and to promote reading engagement in youth and the use of Te Reo Māori in New Zealand.

KIWA Digital was originally formed in 2003 as a post-production company by award-winning film and television producer Rhonda Kite. Initially the company focused on creating innovative software for foreign-language dubbing for film, before moving into digital e-books and applying some of those same skills - language translation, along with interactive features and animation to enhance the reading experience.

Above: The cover of book #1: Te Orokotīmatanga o te Ao, by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital 2015.

There are currently four books in the Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novella series:

Book #1: Te Orokotīmatanga o te Ao: This story is about the creation of the universe. It begins with Io (The Acme or Supreme Being) and the infinite state of nothingness before you are transported through the ages and aeons to the time of Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatūānuku (Earth Mother).

Book #2: Te Wehenga o Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku: which tells the story of the separation of Sky Father (Ranginui) and Earth Mother (Papatūānuku).

Book #3: Te Pakanga i Te Paerangi: The battle between Tūmatauenga and Whiro, sons of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, that stemmed from long-held grudges between the two brothers and each of their factions.

Book #4: Tāne me ngā Kete o Te Wānanga: The story of Tāne and his journey to Tikitiki-o-Rangi to fetch the Three Baskets of Knowledge and the Two Sacred Stones, Rehutai and Hukatai.

All four novellas are illustrated by artist & animator Munro Te Whata, and are available now on the iTunes App Store and Google Play, with the first book in the series available for FREE (search for: Ngā Atua Māori on the app stores).

Above: Artwork from Book #2: Te Wehenga o Ranginui rāua ko Papatūānuku, by Munro Te Whata. Copyright Kiwa Digital 2015.

To find out more I talked to Jill Tattersall - chair and CEO of KIWA Digital, about the creation of the Ngā Atua Māori series and their future plans for more Te Reo Māori graphic novellas.

AK: After working in film, was it a natural progression for Kiwa to move into children's e-books and bring something new to that market?

Jill Tattersall: The move into digital publishing was to grab an opportunity as content consumption shifted to digital with the arrival of the iPAD.  We realized that the same technology that synchronized audio with text for film (our proprietary software VoiceQ®) could also be used in digital books. We digitized content, synchronized narration, added language options and interactivity … and experiential digital books were born. Some of our earliest titles created 5 years ago, like Barnaby Bennett, still lead the world in their functionality.

AK: With KIWA's understanding on how to integrate language translation into the e-book reading experience, the Ngā Atua Māori graphic novellas are an ideal application for this technology to teach te reo Māori and entertain. How important has this project been to Kiwa, and how long did it take to develop?

JT: The project has taken more than a year, it was commissioned by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori (the Māori Language Commission) and has been a catalyst for KIWA having much closer relationships with iwi and other Māori organisations in Aotearoa I New Zealand.

Above: A presentation video of KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas.

AK: Unlike some of Kiwa's previous children's e-books which have been presented in a more traditional picture book style, the Ngā Atua Māori series are graphic novellas, illustrated by Munro Te Whata. What was the appeal of using the language of comics to bring these particular stories to life, as opposed to a more traditional approach?

JT: The graphic novella style was used to engage with the targeted youth audience. Ant Sang expresses it well: “Vibrant, evocative artwork combined with sound and animation bring these traditional Māori stories to vivid life for today's youth. This is an exciting development for the comic book medium, and an innovative way to bring these important stories into the modern age.”

AK: Were there particular challenges in the process of adapting the stories into the e-book form - staying true to the stories and mythology while presenting them in a way that would be accessible to a contemporary audience?

JT: There was a great temptation to begin the graphic novella series with stories about Māui and his ilk. But, it was important to talk about the origins of such characters first, for the sake of those who did not already have an understanding of the Māori worldview. Now, having provided that missing piece of the jigsaw, we hope that readers will have a better insight of Māori and their connection to things natural and for some, things supernatural.

Rereata Mākiha and Waihoroi Shortland have done a wonderful job of unraveling some of the mysticism around our stories, by retelling them in simple, but engaging language. With Munro’s stunning imagery and animations, the Māori cultural storytelling experience becomes accessible to young and old audiences alike.

Above: A photo from the crowded launch for KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas. 

AK: What has the public response and feedback been like for these titles over at iTunes and Google Play?

JT: We have had a tremendous response to the series from politicians, community leaders, educational organizations, teachers and readers. You can read some of our testimonials HERE  and HERE.

There have been downloads from as far away as USA, Japan, and France in this initial phase, and we are about to launch strategies to deliver directly into schools that will significantly increase this response.

Above: At the Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas launch, KIWA previewed animation from an upcoming adaptation of the graphic novella - Ngārimu: Te Tohu Toa.

AK: With the success of these titles, I understand there are more Te Reo Māori titles in development, including adaptations of Huia Publishing's historical World War II graphic novels illustrated by Andrew Burdan?

JT: Kiwa Digital in collaboration with Huia Publishers and supported by a number of interested parties will produce a new graphic novella - Ngārimu: Te Tohu Toa. This graphic novel was originally published by Huia in 2012. It tells the outstanding story of the first Māori Victoria Cross won in Tunisia, in March 1943 by 2nd Lieutenant Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu, C Company, 28 Māori Battalion. The publication was unique in that the script was published in English and in the dialect of Ngāti Porou from the East Coast.

A growing concern for many iwi in their engagement with males aged between 15-25 years old. Ngāti Porou’s tribal representatives in Auckland believe that publishing this story as an app or graphic novella will provide an innovative digital approach to engagement with this demographic. 

This is an exciting new project leveraging Kiwa’s knowledge, skill and experience developed in the Ngā Atua Māori series. The [e-book] release of the graphic novella Ngārimu: Te Tohu Toa will be announced later in the year.

Many thanks to Jill Tattersall for taking the time to discuss KIWA's great work on these stories, which I urge you to check out for yourself by downloading them from the iTunes App Store and Google Play - the first book is FREE! (search for: Ngā Atua Māori on the app stores).

And stay tuned, as my KIWA coverage continues with an upcoming interview with artist Munro Te Whata!

Above: KIWA's Ngā Atua Māori Graphic Novellas featured on a segment of Te Karere.

- AK!