Art at full boil

Boilerplate's creators will run classes at the Leo next month.

Daisy Blake Dblake@nowsaltlake.com

Published May 23rd 2012 6:45 pm



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Guinan later co-created Chronos, a time traveling character in the DC Comics universe. "I've done illustration work for various comics publishers and commercial clients, and Anina has done writing, editing, and marketing in various fields. But the work we're proudest of is our two most recent books, Boilerplate and Frank Reade. We applied our combined experience in filmmaking and comics to a new form of visual storytelling. The closest analogy is an illustrated biography or a pop history book. Our books are designed to entertain, educate, and fire the imagination. Boilerplate is currently in development as a feature film by producer J.J. Abrams."

This summer, they will be making a different appearance every month; a steampunk convention this month, The Leonardo in June, San Diego Comic-Con in July, and Trek in the Park in August. Trek in the Park is a phenomenon in Portland--thousands come to see live outdoor performances of classic Star Trek episodes every summer. "Paul and I are guest starring as Spock's parents this season," says Bennett. "Live long and prosper," adds Guinan.

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Boilerplate is a remarkable robot, designed by Professor Archibald Campion in 1893 as a prototype for the self-proclaimed purpose of "preventing the deaths of men in the conflicts of nations."

Boilerplate existed from 1893 to 1918 and charged into combat alongside such notables as Teddy Roosevelt and Lawrence of Arabia. Campion and his robot also circled the planet with the U.S. Navy, trekked to the South Pole, made silent movies, and hobnobbed with the likes of Mark Twain and Nikola Tesla.

All of the above is a fabrication. That's because the robot is the fanciful creation of a Portland-based husband-and-wife team, the authors of "Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel."

The book is illustrated with graphics mimicking period style, including photos, paintings, posters, cartoons, maps, and even stereoscope cards. Boilerplate creators Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett will be artists in residence at The Leonardo art, science and technology museum, from June 6 through June 17. They will be holding a series of workshops and master classes covering a variety of subjects from the basics of visual narrative techniques to the business aspects of making your way through the publishing world.

Boilerplate was in fact created more than 10 years ago when Guinan started posting short vignettes about the robot's adventures on the duo's web site. "The robot is the reader's entry point into real historical events such as the Spanish-American War. Those stories became popular enough that Anina and I eventually got a publishing deal and created the book Boilerplate: History's Mechanical Marvel. The Leonardo's current 'Fantastic Fabrications' exhibit features images from Boilerplate and our follow-up book, Frank Reade: Adventures in the Age of Invention, as well as a Boilerplate timeline and 'artifacts,'" says Guinan.

"My job is to help convey the larger story in words," says Bennett. "In The Leonardo show, we included brief captions for each piece, and copies of the books are available so visitors can read the whole story if they want to. A lot of people have told us they wish they'd had history books like these in school!"

Bennett and Guinan say they're excited about spending two weeks at The Leo. "Anyone interested in visual storytelling techniques should check out the master classes we're offering," Bennett says. "We'll be taking an in-depth look from the writing, art, and business perspectives, and I'm offering individual manuscript critiques for writers. We'll also be working in the artists' lab, where there will be simpler hands-on activities related to comics and animation." [2] =>

There will also be a workshop about how writers and artists work together; Guinan says that their method is often he will come up with the kernel of a story--a robot with Teddy Roosevelt on San Juan Hill, for example--then Bennett deepens it and fleshes out the characters. "When we do comics together, I'll usually work out the pacing in thumbnails, then Anina writes the script while I draw the finished art," Guinan says. "There are other methods, which we'll cover in detail in the workshop. On Boilerplate and Frank Reade, she wrote most of the main text, while I did all the images and helped write the captions and sidebars. We collaborated closely with graphic designers who followed our art direction on how to arrange the images and text."

Guinan and Bennett were both born in Chicago, which is why it was also chosen as Boilerplate's hometown. "I was raised by visual artists, which probably gave me an advantage--or doomed me, depending on how you look at it," Guinan says. "My father is a painter, and my mom is an illustrator, teacher, and social worker. Both of them are a big influence on my work, in terms of style as well as subject matter. As a kid, I drew comics, made models and dioramas, and watched sci-fi TV, while being exposed to fine art and cinema with my parents. In art school, I pursued filmmaking, which combines two of my favorite disciplines: photography and production design."

Like Guinan, Bennett also grew up loving old movies, comic books, and science fiction.

"I loved drawing and building things too, and I read voraciously. My dad came from an academic family--Grandpa Bennett, who taught at the University of Chicago, was a pioneering research scientist. Grandpa was born in Japan and remained deeply connected to two cultures throughout his life. My mother was an immigrant who fled Hungary with her parents after the 1956 revolution against the Soviet Union, and who lived in Brazil before migrating to Chicago. She wrote a book called Sex Signs, which was published after her untimely death in a plane crash. Looking back on those diverse influences, it's no surprise that I'm fascinated by cultural anthropology."

Bennett says she has always been drawn to visual narratives with strong scripts and stories that made her think, laugh, or both. She decided to make movies and went to film school in Chicago around the same time Guinan did.

The two say they have known each other "practically forever."

"When I was a senior in high school, Paul had a job at a repertory movie theater. I went to see Slaughterhouse Five with a mutual friend who introduced us," Bennett says. "Paul immediately tried to impress me by drawing a cartoon for me. It worked. Later, I went back and asked him if he supported the Equal Rights Amendment--that was my litmus test--then asked him out. We both wound up doing graphic novels. He did commercial storyboard illustration and comic book production, and I started working as a comic book editor in 1989. That was also when Paul and I created our first published project together--a science fiction comic book series called Heartbreakers, about a group of renegade clones. In 1991, we got married and moved to Oregon when I went to work for Dark Horse Comics." [3] =>

Guinan later co-created Chronos, a time traveling character in the DC Comics universe. "I've done illustration work for various comics publishers and commercial clients, and Anina has done writing, editing, and marketing in various fields. But the work we're proudest of is our two most recent books, Boilerplate and Frank Reade. We applied our combined experience in filmmaking and comics to a new form of visual storytelling. The closest analogy is an illustrated biography or a pop history book. Our books are designed to entertain, educate, and fire the imagination. Boilerplate is currently in development as a feature film by producer J.J. Abrams."

This summer, they will be making a different appearance every month; a steampunk convention this month, The Leonardo in June, San Diego Comic-Con in July, and Trek in the Park in August. Trek in the Park is a phenomenon in Portland--thousands come to see live outdoor performances of classic Star Trek episodes every summer. "Paul and I are guest starring as Spock's parents this season," says Bennett. "Live long and prosper," adds Guinan.

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You Should Go:

“Master Classes by Paul Guinan and Anina Bennett”

When • Wednesday, June 6-Sunday, June 17

Where • The Leonardo, 209 E. 500 South

More info • 801.531.9800 or theleonardo.org, or bigredhair.com