Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No! It's three cartoonists doing a Triple Lindy! What? You were expecting someone else? This weekend, BAYarts' three cartooning instructors, Randy Crider, Ryan Finley and the Rev. Jim Giar, present new and recent individual and collaborative works. Triple Lindy opens with a reception this Friday from 7 to 9 p.m.
Cleveland has a rich history of comics and cartoonists. Superman's Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Calvin and Hobbes' Bill Watterson, Zap Comix' R. Crumb and Marvel's Brian Michael Bendis all started their journeys in Cleveland.
For Crider, Finley and Giar, a mutual interest in comics, cartoons and just about everything pop culture-related influences both their art and their sense of humor. However, these artists take their silliness very seriously.
"Our boss made us do it, and she's a real slave driver," Randy Crider jokes about the show's origins. "Collectively, the three of us make up the cartoon 'department' at BAYArts, which isn't to say we're the only ones who draw cartoons, just that we're the only ones who devoted our lives to this nonsense. This show was an opportunity to showcase what we've been up to in the past year, and less about making stuff collaboratively. That being said, we did find the time to jam out a few pieces, and they look rad."
Over the past few years, their classes have attracted dozens and dozens of young artists from throughout Northeast Ohio. Through cartooning, the students are introduced to complex concepts in simplified ways. Although they each teach different classes, each course is designed to build an early foundation for their young students. Through cartooning, young artists learn about narrative storytelling, character design, sequential art, layout/composition and more.
"BAYarts programming has seen substantial growth with the inclusion of cartooning, comics and pop culture courses that are offered by these three instructors," says Erin Stack, education director at BAYarts. "They are rock stars and I see firsthand the impact they are making on the children in BAYarts programs. Jim, Randy and Ryan have come together and collaborated on a few different workshops this year like Comic Book Day last January and Super Hero Boot Camp this summer. I think this teaching partnership inspired them to get together creatively and show their fans what they're made of."
Aside from teaching young students at BAYarts, Crider and Giar are founding members of the Rust Belt Monster Collective (RBMC), and Finley is a charter member of the Scribble Nerds. Their similarities and differences create a cohesion and balance in both their artwork and their classes.
"We all teach the same basic things, yet they're filtered through our experiences," Crider explains. "Jim focuses a lot on visual storytelling, and Ryan focuses a lot on fan art, and I end up doing a lot of weirdo monster stuff. If you come to the show, exactly what's on the walls is what we're teaching the kids."
"I like to focus more on the art of sequential storytelling or comic books," Giar adds. "I enjoy the thought process that goes with it. Ryan teaches a lot of the fan-based classes, licensed properties that I know the kids really enjoy. Randy teaches cartooning and basic drawing fundamentals. I can always tell when I have one of his students in my class because the groundwork is there."
"When I pitch an idea for my classes I often try to think of what I enjoyed drawing at that age," Finley says. "I have found that my students, like I did at their age, enjoy learning to draw some of their favorite pop culture icons. It's not only about learning basics and how to draw characters you like, but creating a character you would like to see in that show/movie/comic. It's always an incredible feeling to walk into a room full of talented young artists eager to learn what you have to offer. I am very thankful for my opportunity to teach at BAYarts and encourage young artists to express their passion for art."
Their students have made as much of an impact on these artists as they've made on their students. With Triple Lindy, Crider, Finley and Giar showcase what they've learned from their classes. All three artists are also fathers, and these experiences influence them as much as their students.
"Everything I am putting in this show was executed with the help and influence of my students," Crider says. "Over the past year, they've been a very powerful engine in choosing what to draw, and honing the hand-drawn style that until this year I was too afraid to try. A roomful of artists is a powerful motivator, but a roomful of artists not humbled with the realities of adulthood may be the most powerful motivator."
Reflecting on his recent experience as a new father, Crider continues, "Becoming a father coincided with the success of the cartooning Art Club at BAYArts, causing an unplanned family-friendly shift in my cartooning output. The pieces I've included in the show are very much me approaching my work with the mentality of a 12-year-old, backed with 15 years of illustration experience. I'm excited to share the beginnings this new direction.
Finley's daughter and their mutual love for Star Wars influenced the work Finley made for this exhibition. In fact, he included a father-daughter collaboration.
"The pieces I did for the show reflect my love for pop culture and comics," says Finley. "Sharing the love for Star Wars with my little girl inspired a few of the pieces I did for the show, one I even did with her help. Jim, Randy and myself worked on three very cool collaborative pieces for the show. It was a fun experience to see three different styles come together to create awesome pieces of art."