Alaska Robotics

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Kes Woodward

Thursday, June 7th 2012 by Pat

I was recently commissioned by the Rasmuson Foundation to create a mini-doc on Kes Woodward, a visual artist from Fairbanks and the recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Artist Award.

Kes was an incredibly gracious host. Lou and I arrived at a time when he was between studios, between homes, and between lives but he found room for us and carved out two days from a very busy schedule.

We talked about life and art and wandered around in the birch forests of Fairbanks as the summer greens were beginning to overpower the chalky dusty colors of early spring, it was a wonderful experience.

We shot way too much footage for this tiny documentary and there was so much more I wish I could have included.

Kes reads every Wednesday morning to a class of Kindergarten students, he’s active in his community and church, he’s an explorer looking within and without to discover truths about the world and he shares his discoveries with anyone who is willing to listen.

Kes has a rare and subtle enthusiasm that fills you with curiosity and a calming sense that the world might be an ok place.

This film also features the poetry of state writer laureate Peggy Shumaker and the instrumental compositions of Marian Call. It was quite an impressive group of Alaskan artists on board for this project.

The Gallery is Open!

Monday, May 7th 2012 by Pat

Phew! We made it. The doors are open!

Thanks to everyone who came to the gallery opening on Friday night, what a kick! It was great to see so many friendly faces and to have such an excellent excuse to eat fancy cheese and bacon wrapped almonds. We had to duck out a little early because of the robots but that’s life. You make plans, robots destroy them.

Putting the new space together was a long process of slow improvement, a bit like trying to lasso a high speed train, we finally got it done and now I guess we’ll see where it takes us. No doubt, it will be an adventure, and that’s what it’s all about. Adventure.

Now I need to thank about one million people. I should start with Aaron and Lou.. but I won’t.

The delicious cookies & snacks were provided by B’s Bakery and Bistro, The Rookery, Laurel & Big Mike, Alicia Jones, Loretta Mosley, and, most importantly, our dear Mothers.

Thanks to Bob & Chris at Alaska Electric for getting our lights installed on schedule and thanks to Tony Talbot who did so much work on the walls and carpentry. Thanks also to our benevolent landlords at Gross-Alaska Incorporated for opening their doors to us.

Thanks to Bridget Kuhar, Stephanie De Roo, Will Race, Jon Warrenchuck, Jamie Karnik, Katie White, Andy Kline and to Poppa Suring for all the painting and hefting.

Thanks to Sarah Asper-Smith for color and grace.

Finally, thanks to Aaron Suring and Lou Logan. You guys are the best dudes ever. Thanks for doing this crazy thing with me.

.. Whew… I think that concludes our lengthy and possibly incomplete thanks.. oh god… I almost forgot.. THE BIGGEST THANKS EVER TO CHRISTINE for reclaiming the bathroom from the monstrous toilet Cthulhu. Songs will be sung about your deeds.

LEGO Robotics Challenge!

Monday, May 7th 2012 by Pat

The big gallery opening wasn’t the only event we had going last Friday. We also participated in the Lego Robotics Corporate Challenge, a fundraiser for the youth robotics teams in town.

This year we were cramped for time so at the last minute we gave up on all of our careful plans and built a chaotic smash-bot to destroy, rather than solve, the puzzles on the board. It was glorious. The theme was food safety and our little Monsantron got good and dirty out there crushing cattle and smashing rats with the Chop-tor 0′ Doom.

A big shout out to our team members in the Lego Robotics Division – Ty & Brevin Keltner, Ben Sapp, Jamie & Jen Karnik, and Tara Greenwood.

Thanks also to Susan Keltner for putting up with the strange noises coming from her basement at 3am.

Tara gave the newspaper what must have been a solid, full-page quote, the best unending line of pure unadulterated bullshit I’ve ever heard.

“It’s a non-deterministic universe and we are sort of moving out of the classical ideas of, you know, you have these inputs and you have a known output and in these chaotic times we wanted to tap into the interconnectedness of all things and to see what happens if we go back to the elementary and primeval … our algorithms are in some ways primitive or even shamanistic … it’s not just about destruction.”

– Tara Greenwood

You can read the rest of the article at the Juneau Empire.

Something Fierce – Marian Call

Friday, September 30th 2011 by Pat

Marian Call - Something Fierce

Marian’s new album comes out tomorrow. You should probably buy it.

If you aren’t familiar with her work, Marian Call is an Alaskan singer/songwriter and entrepreneur who creates lovely music about avocados and space ships.

I’m in no state to be conjuring the deserved praise, I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night.

Just go get the album.

Trust me.

It’s amaaaaaaaaaaaazing.

.. and here are some variations on the above illustration.

Labor Day – 2011 – Women in Comics

Sunday, September 4th 2011 by Pat

Labor Day never meant anything to me until a few years ago when my globetrotting friend Arlo suggested we actually begin celebrating human endeavor.

In a nutshell, every Labor Day I make sure to give some of my money to the independent artists, programmers, and content creators whose work I enjoy and, further, to highlight their work on my blog so that others may find them, too.

Arlo Midgett

In putting together my Labor Day picks this year, I decided to run with a theme.

Women in Comics.

If you follow such things, you know Batgirl showed up at the San Diego Comic Con to ask Where are the women?

So, where are the women? Well, they’re right here and they seem to be doing fine without Marvel or DC.

Meredith Gran

Meredith’s comics have great pacing, she’s capable of everything from explosive action to capturing the subtle, fleeting emotions we haven’t even bothered to name.

Meredith primarily writes and illustrates Octopus Pie, a webcomic about a couple of young women living in Brooklyn. Her work is funny and smart, driven by a strong voice and well expressed through her distinct visual style.

I can only speak from my own experience as a “Woman in Comics”, and I usually choose not to. In the context of interviews it always seems irrelevant and forced. I’ve found that many women my age – whose work amasses years of experience in both major and small publishing, self-publishing, webcomics, all measures of freelance, and studio work – are reluctant to bring their gender into a discussion of their craft. It simply has nothing to do with the ability to get the job done (which we’re also quite busy doing) and serves to “other” women in discussion of a male-dominated industry.

Meredith Gran

Vera Brosgol

I’d never play favorites in an article like this but if I did, Vera’s the one. She’s weird. She’s a curmudgeon. She’s brilliant.

At age sixteen, Vera was writing and illustrating her own webcomic, Return to Sender. It became a bit of a legend in the webcomics world and people still ask about it at conventions. It’s worth checking out even though it’s been mothballed for the past several years.

Vera contributes to the Flight Anthologies but what you’ll really want to find is a copy of her recently released book, Anya’s Ghost. It’s a twisty little story and goes in pleasantly unexpected directions.

Jen Wang

Jen’s work on Koko Be Good is breathtaking. Her lines sway and dance, it all feels very natural, as if she somehow figured out how to paint with wind.

Raina Telgemeier

Just this summer, Raina won an Eisner Award for her autobiographical story, Smile. That’s the big one, the Oscar of comics and it was well deserved.

Smile is colorful and has a timeless element to it. For me, I was drawn back to middle school and the story was like having a friend along who could understand all the same problems and embarrassments of growing up. It’s exactly the book I want to get my nieces when they hit sixth grade.

Raina also logs plenty of hours on the Babysitter’s Club graphic novels and has a nice collection of webcomics.

Erika Moen

Erika Moen has the best biographical webcomic I’ve ever read. DAR: A Super Girly Top Secret Comic Diary. It’s probably not safe for work or kids but I guess that all depends on perspective.

Erika’s artwork improves dramatically from start to finish of the comic but the real beauty is in how she writes. Erika is incredibly authentic and after a while it just feels like you’re sitting in a room with the funniest most awesome little punk lesbian friend you’ve ever had.

And then she farts.

There are others women in comics. Dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. Go find and support Hope Larsen, Kate Beaton, Katie Shanahan, Jess Fink, Danielle Corsetto, Alison Bechdel, Hailey Bachrach & Bridget Underwood, Emily Carroll or any of the others.

I realize that the Women in Comics issue is more complicated than just pointing to some awesome women who are brave enough to pursue their creative passions. Marvel and DC are the big houses and it’s scary how underrepresented women are in the core of the industry.

On one level, it’s just dumb comic book drama but the roots go much deeper into the heart of entertainment, media and society. Stories reflect and shape our world and it’s appropriate to ask difficult questions about their content. Do these stories resonate with our values? What do they expose about the human condition?

There is a grand old tradition in literature of marginalizing, erasing, and dismissing the work of anyone outside the demographic in power. You can treat them like anomalies, divorce them from history and context; you can patronize and infantilize their creative work; and, of course, you can tuck them neatly away in genres outside the mainstream.

Rachel Edidin

Artists have a responsibility beyond entertainment but audiences also have a responsibility beyond consumption. What we support through purchases or patronage changes the shape of the world.

If you believe having women comic creators is important, go support them with your patronage and encourage others to do the same.

Marvel and DC were born from a core audience of men and boys who fantasized about having super strength and a pretty girl on their arm.

I’m one of them, I can’t help it, maybe I’m a victim of my culture or maybe it’s in my code? Either way, the world of comics has some systemic issues and change will only happen if people make a conscious efforts as consumers to pick and choose their entertainment wisely.

So yeah, maybe it is time for DC and Marvel to make some big changes… Or maybe they’re better off just getting left behind? It is a bit like complaining that Seventeen doesn’t have enough quizzes for men. It just doesn’t.

The real problem is when readers feel that publishers are telling them what sorts of story they, as girls, “should” want to read. “You’ll never be a real fan, sweetheart, but look! We made this comic just for you.” Lots of girls are going to want the pink book encrusted with hearts and ribbons, but lots of other girls would prefer to see someone’s entrails ripped out. There’s no one-size-fits-all girl book. Girls like what they like because that’s what they like, not because they’re girls.

Hope Larsen

The Bride

Thursday, September 1st 2011 by Pat

Sarah Asper-Smith

Sarah Asper-Smith, our dear friend and longtime partner in crime has been hitched. Alaskan men from Ketchikan to Barrow are crying in their beers.

All hail Mitch Watley. Long live the union.

If you’d like to do something nice for the blushing bride, I would recommend jumping over to Sarah’s Etsy store and peppering her with orders or picking up a copy of her darling children’s book full of collective nouns… five stars as of this posting!!

Lin-Manuel Miranda Kills on Alex Hamilton

Thursday, June 16th 2011 by Pat

I don’t post this lightly, this piece of verse is a cultural touchstone. It is your duty to view this performance.

Dick Dale, the Future of Music

Tuesday, June 14th 2011 by Pat

Marian Call is a smart, geeky musician I met in Anchorage and she’s part of a pioneering crowd of independent artist/entrepreneurs who are developing quality, creator-owned content and imaginative, dynamic business models. They’re lashing together raw instinct and bold hope with fiber optic cables, running up colorful flags and setting sail.

Marian sent me some great articles by Jonathan Coulton and Amanda F. Palmer detailing their evolving careers. It’s nice to see these successes and it’s nice to know the same stories also exist outside music, that people are making a living from webcomics and even soap.

All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

The thing is, none of this is new. I think we all know that but it’s exciting to think we’re discovering new land. Yes, to some extent we are, but it’s full of the same poisonous plants, wild animals and punji pits as whatever we just left behind.

Wm. Spear Design is headquartered upstairs from our office and carries a world class collection of enamel pins. Bill got started designing his pins well before I had a dial-up connection and his business model is similar to any Etsy success story: Create something wonderful and sell it to people who love your brand of wonderful.

It’s nothing new, it’s small business, but even Bill has made adjustments over the years. He was an early adopter of technology in the form of an online catalog, he had me make a little QuickTime movie starring some of his pins, and he even developed a widget when those were the rage. He’s flexible and smart and willing to experiment, it keeps him afloat.

Getting back to music, Dick Dale is probably my favorite case study, he offers up some great advice here for aspiring musicians and not a word about the Internet but it might as well be coming from JoCo.

So who the hell is Dick Dale? He’s the king of the surf guitar, probably best known for his song, “Miserlou,” featured in Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction.” He melts through guitar picks and is still kicking ass in his seventies. [Edit – The Ed Sullivan clip I previously embedded got pulled, so here’s something more recent as an example of his work.]

Unfortunate Elephants

The Internet is changing the world! As hopeful artists like myself delight and established businesses struggle to cope and we all flail around trying to understand what direction we’re heading, Barry Dallman points to the elephant sitting politely in the corner, “The reality in the music business now is the same as it’s always been – that most people don’t have successful careers in music because they’re not good enough.”

Amanda Palmer hits on another problem, artists asking for money, “People don’t like it.” Historically there’s been a layer of protection between artists and their income, the label or the manager take care of that part. People don’t like an artist looking for a handout, it tarnishes the experience. It’s uncomfortable, like a smelly hobo asking for change.

Palmer provides the solution in a very straightforward, A.F.P. way, “It’s time to destroy the myth that artists shouldn’t ask for money.”

Me Me Me Me and Meeeee!

So what does this all mean for me? I don’t really know, I’m working through it. I think it’s a little different for aimless filmmaker/cartoonist types than for musicians.

Aaron, Lou and I already tried firing all our clients and making a go of Alaska Robotics full-time but it didn’t last long.

If we were a band, we would have been the guys who had no bookings before we jumped in the van to tour. We had trouble meeting self-imposed deadlines. We had trouble producing work on a regular basis. We had trouble finding food. We had trouble building an audience. We had fun.

Lately we’ve been doing a lot of work-for-hire, still very independent and still succeeding as a business, but not doing exactly what I want as frequently as I want. This is where a little voice jumps in (I suspect it’s my mother) and she tells me that it’s selfish to expect to be able to do what I want all the time and get paid for it.

Yeah. OK. I can understand the sentiment but I’m pursuing a calling that isn’t hurting people and fits neatly into a social context. I’ve always been encouraged to follow my dreams by people I love and trust and even if there’s a little voice (maybe it’s not my mother) trying to convince me my pursuits are selfish or vain or futile, I’m here, typing, drawing, dancing, and doing whatever needs to be done to get there.

That brings me around to the final little piece of the puzzle.


This is a note for me. If you’ve read this far through my meandering, metaphor-laden post, you won’t have any trouble with perseverance.

Keep going. You can learn talent. You can learn business. It’s ok if you can’t build your boat while you’re underway. It’s ok to pull over and regroup after a storm.

Patch the holes, mend the sails and get back in the water.


Friday, June 10th 2011 by Pat

I had about ten hours on the ground in Juneau after returning from two and a half weeks in Europe and then I jumped back on a plane and flew north.

I spent some time in Anchorage visiting old friends, making new ones, and then flapped on up to Kotzebue for the 2011 Emerging Leaders Dialogue. It sounded like it had potential to be a dry, crusty political event but it turned out to be an absolutely incredible experience. Formative, inspiring, educational.

The best part of the trip was drawing with all the kids along the way. I’ve never been very confident in my drawing skills, I’m still not, but it’s fun to push that fear aside and draw in front of people where all the mistakes and miracles happen out in the open.

I posted a big bundle of pictures on Flickr if you’d like to see more…

I cried again today.

Thursday, June 9th 2011 by Pat

I think I may be emotionally unstable.. maybe it’s more accurate to say that I’ve been receptive to emotion because unstable has negative connotations. Whatever is happening to me, it sure involves a lot of crying.

Today a woman stopped by our office with a giant box of comics to donate. Her son, Daniel, was in my high school class and they both attended several of our film workshops and festivals over the years. Recently Daniel passed away, he had been carrying around a giant tumor in his gut.

I wasn’t a close friend but I liked Daniel an awful lot, he was one of those kids that just didn’t fit in and everyone loved him or hated him for it. I remember one of the guys on the basketball team constantly antagonized him, they drove each other batty but watching them over time you could see that it was a curmudgeonly sort of grumpy love. They got a lot out of humor and contact out of the sometimes gruff teasing and annoyance.

I thought about Daniel for a bit as I was tearing into the box of comics but at this point I was honestly getting swept up in the discovery of new treasure. What was in the box? Did it have value? Oh boy oh boy oh boy.. new comics!

When I opened the lid, a Superman comic was on the top of the pile and it broke my heart in all the right places.

To all my friends and family, I love you. I know we have a limited time together but it’s just been the best!