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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Amy Garbark of Garbella Design

Posted By on Wed, Sep 14, 2016 at 12:23 PM

Amy Garbark and her Fall Arts Preview cover - PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT DAYAK
  • Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak
  • Amy Garbark and her Fall Arts Preview cover

Amy Garbark is the solo force behind garbella, a popular local shop of goods and gear that she draws, designs and screenprints herself. Her “I [bike] PGH” and “P is for pierogi” shirts have been on Pittsburgh gift lists for years: She was crowned “Best Pittsburgh Crafter” in City Paper’s 2012 Best of Pittsburgh Issue and we featured her “Dear Pittsburgh, I love you” T-shirts as one of our personal must-haves in our Stuff We Like [] column in 2015.

Amy grew up in Pittsburgh and lives in Lawrenceville’s 6th Ward with her husband, Steevo, and their newly adopted dog, Cinder. In addition to working in her shop and exhibiting her designs at retail shows across the United States, she also plays drums and sings for local band Reign Check and has mentored young artists at Girls Rock! Pittsburgh, a local rock camp empowering girls through music. We caught up with her over email after she was finished with this week’s Fall Arts cover illustrations to get her thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene and owning her own business.

You seem to travel a lot for work. What's your favorite thing about Pittsburgh’s art scene that tops other cities you’ve been to?
I love the sense of community and camaraderie among artists, makers and designers in Pittsburgh. I have had lots of people in other cities tell me that they are envious of our Pittsburgh scene because there seems to be more collaboration than competition.

When did you figure out you wanted to be an artist?
Hmmmm … I can’t pinpoint one specific moment that I decided to be an artist. I have always liked making art, as far back as I can remember. I had fantastic art teachers in high school who encouraged me to pursue it. I went to school for art at Alfred University, but it was a bit of a journey to get where I am today. Shoe store, office job, back to school to get art-teacher certification, arts-based youth programming nonprofit, to quitting my full-time job six years ago to pursue garbella full time.

What’s it like being your own boss?
It’s the best! It’s great to be able to determine the structure of your day and environment of your workspace. However, with this awesomeness, also come some challenges. That being said, I’ll take the challenges of being my own boss over any other option.

What’s your biggest selling item in your shop?
Hands down: the “P is for pierogi” baby one-piece.

What’s your personal favorite?
The Always Be Snackin’ design is probably my favorite because it’s pretty much been my motto since I was a tiny kid.

You introduce new designs pretty frequently. Is it hard coming up with new ideas?
Sometimes! I prefer to just create and release new designs when I have an idea and feel like putting it out there. However, when I feel pressure to release a new collection, then it can sometimes be a little challenging for me.

I saw you recently were one of the featured sellers in Etsy’s Open Call event where you got to pitch your products to big-name buyers like Macy’s and Whole Foods. That’s so cool! Was it super intimidating?
Thanks! Yeah, I’m really grateful and honored to have been chosen as a finalist and really appreciate the opportunity. At first, the thought of pitching to the huge retailers felt a bit overwhelming and intimidating. However, when you really get down to it, they’re human and relatable, and I know my business and products better than anyone, so who better to pitch to them, right?

We featured garbella's "Dear Pittsburgh, I love you" t-shirt in our Stuff We Like section in 2015 - PHOTO COURTESY OF MATT DAYAK
  • Photo courtesy of Matt Dayak
  • We featured garbella's "Dear Pittsburgh, I love you" t-shirt in our Stuff We Like section in 2015

Where can folks buy your merchandise in Pittsburgh?

Wildcard, Brambler Boutique, The Picket Fence, Robin’s Nest, West Elm, and So Me in Glenshaw. Also, you can order from my online shop [] and pick up at my studio, or come to one of our studio open-house sales, or at various craft shows and markets each year, like Handmade Arcade, I Made It! For the Holidays and Three Rivers Arts Festival.

In addition to art, you’re involved in the local music scene too, from drumming in a local band to mentoring young female artists in the Girls Rock band camp. What kind of music do you listen to when you work?
I listen to lots of different music and podcasts and sometimes audiobooks too. For music, I am always listening to a variety of genres and like to check out some new stuff, but ’90s indie rock still gets played in pretty heavy rotation.

I love the support and courage that Girls Rock provides young girls looking for female role models.
I agree. The Girls Rock PIttsburgh! Camp is one of my favorite times of the year! It’s completely volunteer run by an incredible group of women with diverse talents and skill sets, and the campers are incredible.

Did you have any female artists or musicians you looked up to when you were a kid?

Yes! The first album I remember really, really connecting with was Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which came out on my 11th birthday. I have two older siblings, so they both also introduced me to a lot of new music from there. My brother played in bands and went to a lot of shows and let me start tagging along to shows when I was 12 and 13. Seeing women play in bands like Jawbox, Superchunk, Velocity Girl and Tsunami had a lasting effect on me and was an important part of my formative early-teenage years.

Your cover illustrations this week include lots of cute fall icons. What’s your favorite season?

Is it a cop-out to say I love all of the seasons? I really do! I love the variety of four seasons: the long days of summer, the cooler crunchy-leaf days of fall, the hopefulness of spring and the crisp air of winter with a side of cozy. However, if I have to rank them, then: summer, fall, spring and winter.

Do you have any projects coming up people should look out for?
I’ll be participating in the Lawrenceville Artist Studio Tour on Nov. 19, so stop by if you want to check out my workspace and pull a print!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist Jonathan Trueblood

Posted By on Wed, Sep 7, 2016 at 11:45 AM

Artist Jonathan Trueblood and his cover illustration of Bernie Sanders - PHOTO COURTESY OF HEATHER WILLS
  • Photo courtesy of Heather Wills
  • Artist Jonathan Trueblood and his cover illustration of Bernie Sanders

Pittsburgh-based artist Jonathan Trueblood first reached out to me through City Paper’s Instagram account in March, letting me know he’d love to illustrate a future cover. After I saw his great caricatures of famous faces like David Bowie and Mario Lemieux on his account, I knew I wanted to keep him in mind the next time I needed a portrait.

After finding out this week’s cover story was going to be on Bernie Sanders’ supporters uniting behind down-ballot candidates, I pitched the idea of Bernie Sanders as Uncle Sam, portraying him as this year’s new face of American politics. Editor Charlie Deitch signed off on the idea, and Jonathan came on board as soon as I emailed him.

Originally from Baldwin, Jonathan is a graduate of Edinboro University and has his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. In addition to illustrating, he’s also a graphic designer, animator and an assistant professor at Point Park University, teaching classes like Storyboarding and Fundamentals of Motion Graphics and Visual Effects. He also used to work in New York City making commercials.
We caught up with Jonathan over email after he was finished with this week’s illustration and got his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene, cartoons and the best advice he gives his students.

What’s your favorite thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
I think the artist scene in Pittsburgh is a very tightly knit group. Everyone knows everyone, and they definitely look to encourage work and exposure for each other. I think the more the art scene in Pittsburgh grows, like it seems to be, it will be great for all. A rising tide lifts all boats!

What’s your work space look like?
Haha! My work space is my living-room couch. I have my laptop and my Wacom Cintiq each on a TV tray, and Netflix playing in the background. I have a room that is supposed to be my “office/workspace,” but I’ve been too busy or lazy to get it cleaned up and ready.

Tell me about your process behind this week’s cover illustration of Bernie Sanders.
I always start by finding the best reference photo or photos of the subject. It’s weird to say, but not every picture looks like the person you are trying to draw, or the picture doesn’t capture their personality. Once I grab several photos, I do some quick sketches to get an idea of how I want to exaggerate the features. Some people are much easier than others. Once the sketch is done, I start “painting” in Photoshop. Then it’s a lot of trial and error moving features around, painting and re-painting, and praying that it will look right when it’s all done. I also always send my work to a couple of my friends from college who always give me good advice and criticism. I know they’ll always be honest with me and really tell me if I need to fix the image to make it look more like the person.

One with Bernie Sanders doing the classic Uncle Sam point, and a second option, giving Sanders the point he often uses in his speeches. We thought the Bernie Sanders’ point was a perfect fit for this week’s story.
  • One with Bernie Sanders doing the classic Uncle Sam point, and a second option, giving Sanders the point he often uses in his speeches. We thought the Bernie Sanders’ point was a perfect fit for this week’s story.

In addition to illustrating, you also teach animation at Point Park. That basically means you get paid to make cartoons all day, right?
I joke about that all that time … that I get paid to make cartoons. It’s true, though. I’m very lucky to do something I love. When I’m not teaching animation, I’m also making animations for various clients, drawing storyboards, illustrating and doing graphic design.

Speaking of cartoons, do you have a favorite?
My favorite animated movie is The Lion King. If I had to pick another cartoon, I would say “Rejected,” by Don Hertzfeldt.

What’s the best advice you give your students who are just starting to figure out what they want to be when they grow up?
I have a friend that used to work out all the time at the gym. He used to wear a shirt that said, “Everyday you don't lift, somebody else does.” I think that applies to working at getting into the field of animation. It’s a very competitive industry. I tell my students that every day you aren’t working on your portfolio, animating, drawing, learning or getting better, somebody else is, and they are the ones that will get the job at the studio you want. Work hard and love what you do, and you’ll be fine.

Your celebrity caricatures are spot on. Is there one in particular who’s the most fun to draw?
Wow! There are so many! I’ll say this ... the funnier-looking the person is, the more fun it is to draw them. It’s also easier too.

I discovered your work after you contacted me through City Paper’s Instagram account. Do you think social media is changing the art world in any way?
Absolutely! Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Dribbble have been fantastic avenues for me to reach out to new people to work for and collaborate with. I think the trick for any artist is to be unique. Develop your own personal style.

You mentioned that you used to work in New York City making commercials. Have you done anything we’d recognize?
I’ve been back from NYC since 2006, so it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything on TV. If you used to watch TV shows like Viva La Bam, Jackass, The Tom Green Show, Pimp My Ride and any of those MTV shows, you would have seen some of my projects. My favorite one I ever did was to promote a new band every other week. We would do eight 10-second long animations for each band. Like mini music videos. They would play in and out from commercial breaks. I think in a year we did about 100 or so of those little animations.

Where can we follow your work?,, and on Instagram, it’s @blackpowderdesign.

What question do you wish I had asked you?

I wish you would have asked me about my family. I’m married to my best friend and beautiful wife, April. We have two ridiculously cute and amazing little boys, Cash (3) and Tig (1). I’m a very, very lucky guy!

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Monday, August 8, 2016

A Q&A with Jeffrey Toobin, author of a new book about Patty Hearst

Posted By on Mon, Aug 8, 2016 at 5:10 PM

The story of Patty Hearst's kidnapping has a bizarre staying power. It's been 43 years since the 19-year-old publishing heiress was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, and arrested nearly two years later as their accomplice. Maybe it's the scale of her family's wealth, or the sticky psychological implications of Stockholm syndrome, or maybe it's that infamous bank-robbery photo, but this story continues to fascinate, confound and connect with people even today. 

Count among them Jeffrey Toobin, staff writer at the New Yorker and legal analyst for CNN. His new book Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst (Doubleday)  chronicles the kidnapping in the context of a very troubled decade in a very troubled state. 

Toobin will discuss the book and its story tonight at Carnegie Library Lecture Hall. CP called him to discuss the book a few hours prior. 

You were a teenager when the story of Patty Hearst’s kidnapping broke. Do you remember your response to the story at the time?

To be honest, I have very little first-hand memory. I was aware of it in the way that a 13-year-old is aware of big issues in the news. I was kind of a Watergate junkie as a kid, so I knew more about Watergate than I did about the Hearst case.

There was this weird thing where it came out that one of the places she was held briefly, or one of the places she stayed briefly, was on my block in Manhattan on West 90th Street, and I remember joking with my parents about that — “Did you see her?”

That’s funny, I was just talking to a coworker who grew up in San Francisco and had hoped as a kid to be the one to find Hearst.

Speaking of that time period, the immediate aftermath of her kidnapping I feel gets lost in the madness and oddity of the whole story. We don’t hear much about the very beginning of the story. Can you talk about those first few weeks after her kidnapping?

Well, I think it’s important to say that this was a horrible and terrible experience, to be kidnapped. I don’t think we should minimize the horror of what she went through. To be thrown in a car trunk by people she knew to be murderers, who had killed Marcus Foster, the Oakland school superintendent, and bragged about it, was terrifying. But in the bizarre way of how this story unfolded, things changed over time.

When did you become interested in writing about this story?

It was really only a couple of years ago. I had not really thought about it. But then I wrote a story for the New Yorker about a gang that took over a jail in Baltimore. I got interested in the history of the gang, which is called the Black Guerrilla Family. It was founded by George Jackson, the famous prisoner in Soledad prison. I discovered that the prisons in the ‘70s, especially in California, were sort of hotbeds of political activity, and it turned out that the Symbionese Liberation Army came out of the same world. And that’s what lead me back to the Patty Hearst story, through the New Yorker story I wrote.
You’ve also written in depth about the O.J Simpson case with The Run Of His Life: The People v. O.J. Simpson (which was adapted for television on FX). Both stories feel emblematic of their decade. Hearst’s in the context of Watergate, Vietnam, domestic terrorism, classism in the 1970s and Simpson’s in celebrity, television, race, and voyeurism in the '90s. Did you run into other parallels between the two stories?

What was particularly striking to me was just how violent and dangerous things were in the '70s. The unbelievable amount of crime, political crime, a thousand bombings a year — just think about that idea of a thousand political bombings a year — which was going on in the '70s. The nature of criminal spectacle certainly was a parallel between Patty Hearst and O.J. But the magnitude of public attention was certainly greater in the '90s because there were just so many media outlets at the time.

What would you say is the biggest misconception about Patty Hearst in the general public?

Well, that Patty Hearst was coerced to commit one bank robbery, when in fact she committed an extraordinary number of crimes over the course of nearly a year and half. Three bank robberies, including one where a woman died, shooting up a street in Los Angeles, setting off bombs in Northern California. This was not a single act she was coerced to commit — this was a crime wave she was an intimate part of.

I imagine it’s because of that iconic photograph of her at the bank.

The photo obviously is the defining image of the experience, but also I think she did a pretty good job of convincing people that this was sort of a one-off thing.

Why do you think this story resonates so well with the general public? 

Because it’s a mystery. I think people identify with the mystery. The question of whether a kidnap victim can turn into a fellow criminal with her kidnappers is a very compelling question and I think people remain fascinated by it, and often react very differently.

My purpose in telling the story is not so much to advocate for one view of her or another, but to lay out the full story in all its strangeness and that, to me, is more interesting than the psychobabble you often hear about the case, about brainwashing, about Stockholm syndrome, terms that are more journalistic than medical.

What’s life for Patty Hearst been like since this story took place?

Perhaps the most bizarre and interesting thing of all about Patty Hearst’s life after the kidnapping is that she has led the life for which she was destined. She is a homemaker, a socialite, a rich woman in the suburbs, and a mother, a grandmother, with a few quirky interests like being in John Waters movies a couple times. But basically she has led the life for which she was destined, notwithstanding this extremely bizarre interlude. 

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover artist John Hinderliter

Posted By on Wed, May 25, 2016 at 8:30 AM

John Hinderliter with his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HINDERLITER
  • Photo courtesy of John Hinderliter
  • John Hinderliter with his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration
John Hinderliter, this week’s cover illustrator, is a freelance artist from Bethel Park. He first arrived in Pittsburgh back in 1975 when he came here for art school and never left. He calls the local art scene “eclectic, diverse and incredibly welcoming.” We caught up with him  over email after he completed this week’s cover illustration.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?
I’ve always drawn and painted, but in high school I was planning on being an engineer since I loved physics. Then I learned you could make a living doing illustration (I went to high school in a very small rural town and didn’t know anyone making a living as an artist), so engineering went away and I got serious about my art.

Your cover artwork this week is a digital illustration, but your portfolio includes a wide variety of styles, from cartoons and woodcut drawings to watercolor and fine-art paintings. Do you have a favorite medium?
Nope. I use whatever medium fits the project and, more importantly, what the deadline allows for. No sense in trying to do an oil painting if the deadline is two days away.

You’ve been a freelance illustrator for over 30 years. What was your first big break?

There was no one big break, just endlessly making phone calls, showing a portfolio and sending samples. When you’re a freelance illustrator, the majority of your time is spent getting the work, not doing the work.

What's the most challenging part about working for yourself?

As I told my accountant years ago, I never wanted to be a businessman. I have no interest in being a businessman. I have no talent to be a businessman. And yet, I’ve spent my entire adult life being a businessman.

This week’s cover illustration depicts men from U.S. dollar bills attending a night out at the theater. Do you have a favorite local theater? Favorite play?
I wish. My wife and I should really get out more and attend local productions. If she reads this, I will definitely be seeing more theater productions.

You’ve done some illustration work for us in the past, but your most recent appearance in City Paper was as a model in an advertisement! Do you moonlight as a supermodel after your illustration work is done for the day?
Ha, I’ve been doing acting and modeling jobs for about 15 years now. Thanks to the folks at Docherty Casting, I make a couple commercials a year. It’s fun, and you get to meet and work with some incredibly talented people. Plus, it’s just plain fun to pretend and get paid for it.

Do you have any big projects coming up?
I wouldn’t say big, but ongoing and interesting. I’ve been illustrating historic chapter books for Penguin Random House for the past four years and I have a couple more of them to finish up; a memorial portrait that will be printed on decals for a Jeep event; and I just brought home some new canvases, so I’m looking forward to getting a new painting on the easel. I love it when I have projects going on in all the stations in the studio — computer, drawing table and easel. Any email could wind up swamping me with work.

Where can our readers see more of your artwork?
The best place is my horribly-out-of-date website and my blog.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper Summer Guide cover illustrator Emily Traynor

Posted By on Wed, May 18, 2016 at 6:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Emily Traynor with her Summer Guide cover illustration - PHOTO COURTESY OF PETER MORSILLO
  • Photo courtesy of Peter Morsillo
  • Pittsburgh artist Emily Traynor with her Summer Guide cover illustration

This week marks local artist Emily Traynor’s first time collaborating with Pittsburgh City Paper. I spotted her work on the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrator’s website a few weeks ago while searching for an artist to hire for this year’s Summer Guide. I was immediately drawn to her whimsical pieces, especially one of her colorful self-promotional paintings of a summer sky, the inspiration for this week’s City Paper illustrations.

You can see Emily’s completed artwork on both this week’s cover, and the cover of our Summer Guide pullout, inserted inside this week’s issue. You can also see pieces of her cover illustrations scattered throughout the entire Summer Guide section — they really liven up the entire piece and her upbeat color palette was so fun to work with. Can we hurry up already and get some of that great summer weather, so we can have as much fun as the girl flying the kite on the cover?

We caught up with Emily over email after she was finished with this week’s illustrations and got her thoughts on Pittsburgh’s art scene and what she’s most looking forward to this summer.

What neighborhood do you live in? 

I live in Greenfield, which is a hidden gem of a neighborhood. The location within the city is amazing — a mile or two from just about everything. My boyfriend and I just bought a house here in November; before that, we lived in Lawrenceville for a few years.

Have you always wanted to be an artist?

After I grew out of my obligatory childhood phase of wanting to be a lion when I grew up, I distinctly remember being torn between being a veterinarian or an artist. I remember compromising that I would first become a veterinarian, and then go back to school for art because that seemed like the “stable” thing to do. And I did start on that route, attending the University of Pittsburgh, beginning as a biology major. But I eventually realized that my love of animals didn’t quite translate into a love of rigorous scientific studies, so I switched over to Pitt’s studio arts major which propelled me forward in my artistic exploration.

What’s your favorite thing about Pittsburgh’s art scene?

What I love most about Pittsburgh is what I think makes it such a dynamic art scene. Pittsburgh has a lot of personality and a ton of character. Each neighborhood has a completely different feel than the next, and you can get the best of both worlds when it comes to city living versus small town, depending on what part of the city you’re in. My favorite neighborhood has always been the Strip District — talk about personality and character! I could walk up and down Penn and Smallman all day long and always manage to find a cafe or shop I haven’t been in before, with so many cultures all around and live street music on every corner. That balance between big-city energy and small-town feel is a perfect incubator for creativity.

Your cover illustrations are a lovely mixture of ink and watercolors. Is that always your preferred medium?
I’ve always tended toward drawing over painting, and love how even just a simple black-and-white line drawing can come across. But, as you can see, I love color — and over the past few years, I’ve developed a certain watercolor palette that is a common thread between my work. I find watercolor charming, as it can be bright but soft, and less of it can be so much more striking as opposed to covering the entire page. White space and watercolor work well together, and I often like playing with negative space on the paper.

Emily Traynor's Summer Guide cover illustrations
  • Emily Traynor's Summer Guide cover illustrations

Has anyone ever gotten a tattoo of your artwork? I’ve noticed that watercolor tattoos are really trendy right now. 
Actually, yes — I posted an illustration on social media and, a few months later, came across a friend’s picture of it tattooed on their body. It’s a wonky drawing of a cassette tape unraveling, and the tape is a line of continuous tangled rainbow. It was a bit of a surreal moment suddenly seeing your artwork permanently inked into someone’s skin — and incredible to think they loved it so much to literally make it a part of themselves.

Your art is so whimsical and happy. Do you listen to upbeat music while you work?
It depends on the part of the process on which I’m focusing at the time. During moments when I’m concentrating most, such as brainstorming, sketching and drawing, I find that I need to keep distractions to a minimum, and often times need silence — or at least music with no lyrics that I’ll be tempted to sing along with! In other phases, though, I’ll switch between music, podcasts and, lately, I’ll sometimes throw Buffy the Vampire Slayer on in the background.

What’s something that someone would be surprised to find out about you after looking at your artwork?
Some may find it surprising that as much as I love creating artwork, my biggest love is singing. My boyfriend is a wonderfully talented musician, and lately we’ve been working on writing our own music. We plan to eventually start performing out in venues — aiming for sooner rather than later!

What’s your dream assignment?
I don’t know that I have a dream assignment. I love being able to create art and be creative as my day job — so, in that way, all assignments are dream assignments. Though, of course, some are more enjoyable than others — like this one for the Summer Guide!

Speaking of which, our Summer Guide lists tons of concerts, art shows and festivals happening around town over the next few months. What are you most looking forward to this summer?
I always look forward to the summer here — Pittsburgh comes alive! I try to hit up as many outdoor events as I possibly can, though I think that Pittsburgh’s outdoor movie screenings are my favorite. Picnicking with friends on a hill at night while watching a movie on a giant outdoor screen is too cool. Also, Dave and Andy’s [ice cream].

Have any big projects coming up?
I’ve been working on developing a line of greeting cards, which I can happily report did quite well in a recent artist market. I still only have a few designs, so my goal is to expand upon my designs and success so far, and keep the ball rolling. It’s exciting to create my own product and nurture a new sort of process.

Where can our readers purchase some of your artwork?

I have my greeting cards and giclée art prints available on Etsy: I also encourage people to contact me if they would like to commission my work — my contact information can be found on my website,

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

'Last Dragon' star Taimak answers seven important questions before April 22 visit

Posted By on Thu, Apr 21, 2016 at 10:57 AM

  • Battle of the Masters in The Last Dragon: Leroy Green (Taimak) and Sho-Nuff (Julius Carry)
"Who is the master?!"
Also, how do I get "The Glow"? And just how big can Vanity's hair get?

Important questions asked — and answered — in the 1985's martial-arts comedy The Last Dragon. The film, long a cult favorite, offers fights, cheesy special effects, groaner puns and even a romance. The film's full title is Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon, so you know the Motown Master packed it with musical performances, too.

Most folks probably came to The Last Dragon via VHS tapes or cable, so here's your chance to see Michael Schultz's masterpiece on the big screen. The film screens 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Fri., April 22, at the Hollywood Theater, in Dormont. The film's action star, Taimak, will attend both screenings, sign copies of his new book, Taimak:The Last Dragon, and do a Q&A. More info and tickets here

Prepare your important questions for Taimak now. We got in a few in early, and Taimak graciously answered them via email.

Your fighting preference: fist or foot?

How long does it take to eat a small popcorn using only chopsticks?
Depends how cooperative the kernel is :)

How many headbands were deployed in the making of The Last Dragon?
I don't know, I only wore a hat.

If you could time travel back to New York City 1985, what would you buy?
A VIP ticket to Studio 54

Whatever happened to all those giant boomboxes?
They shrunk.

Besides The Last Dragon, is there a greater martial-arts movie than Enter the Dragon?
I don't know about better, but I love many, like Seven Samurai, Five Deadly Venoms, Shogun's Assassin, Chinatown Kid, Shaolin Soccer, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, 18 Bronze Men ... etc.

Who is the master?
I Am.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrator Vince Dorse

Posted By on Wed, Apr 13, 2016 at 1:44 PM

Vince Dorse's 2016 Primary Election Guide cover, and a self-portrait of the artist
  • Vince Dorse's 2016 Primary Election Guide cover, and a self-portrait of the artist

Vince Dorse and I have been cheering every single time Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump win another primary race or caucus. That’s because Vince finished this week’s cover illustration a month ago. and the entire image would have been ruined if one of the three candidates pictured on our cover had dropped out before our Election Guide hit the streets today. (See This Week in City Paper History for what happened to us back in 2012 when Rick Santorum dropped his presidential candidacy.) Usually, artists that work with Pittsburgh City Paper only have a few days to begin and complete their illustrations. But we knew we wanted to use Vince for our concept back in February, so I assigned it out to him then, letting him know he had over a month to take his time and stew over it. An entire month! Only, he sent me a sketch two days later and finished the piece on March 10 … 34 days ago.

That eagerness is one of the reasons Vince is so much fun to work with. Having someone getting excited about the projects you assign out doesn’t just make our jobs easier, it really shows in his work. Vince, who lives just south of Pittsburgh and shares a studio with an “attention-starved cat,” is an award-winning cartoonist: His web comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot won an esteemed Reuben comics arts award for Best Online Comic, Long-Form. This week’s Election Guide is his 10th cover for us, but not the first to feature a controversial figure. We talked to him over email about political cartoons and his first City Paper hate mail.

We finished this cover a month ago! How relieved are you that Clinton, Trump and Sanders are all still in the race?
It’s nice to finally stop worrying whether you’ll make me erase someone from the composition before it goes to print. Normally, I don’t get more than a long weekend to do these covers, but this was finished waaaay early and the suspense over whether it would be killed at the last second has been excruciating. I don’t know — part of me might actually enjoy those rush jobs.

Do you have a favorite political cartoonist?
Every so often, I run into award-wining editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers [from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] at a Pittsburgh Cartoonists Lunch, so I should probably name him here so he doesn’t spill his drink on me — but mostly because he’s really good at what he does. Thing is, I don’t normally seek out political humor/commentary. Despite all the politically-themed illustrations you’ve hired me to do, I’m really not an overtly political guy, so I don’t have a deep well of experience to draw from for this answer. What I will say about Rob’s stuff is that, regardless of the message, he manages to make his cartoons both funny and poignant, and that’s a killer combination when you’re trying to catch even the casual reader’s eye.

If you could put any celebrity in your dunk tank, who would you choose to get soaked?
Any celebrity? From any age? I don’t know. Maybe later-period Orson Welles or Marlon Brando because they’d displace a lot of water and their level of indignation would be epic. It’s a comedy one-two punch.

Have you ever wished a politician you didn’t like would win a race, just because s/he would be so much fun to draw?
All politics aside, I was really glad Bill Peduto ran for mayor of Pittsburgh because that guy is just a blast to cartoon. He’s got really identifiable features that lend themselves well to comedic exaggeration. During the run-up to his election I was doodling Pedutos (Pedoodling?) every week so I’d be ready if you tapped me for a cover or spot illo. And you did! I’m actually mildly disappointed he hasn’t done anything really scandalous enough to warrant more editorial cartoons. But, just so you know, if he does, I’ll be ready.

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Pittsburgh?
You probably know this already, but Pittsburgh’s got this robust community of illustrators and cartoonists that’s amazingly supportive of its members. Interacting with that community, you improve at your craft, you network, you hone oft-neglected social skills — and, honestly, in my experience, the creative community in Pittsburgh has always been very welcoming and generous with their time and energy.
Two of Vince Dorse's past Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations
  • Two of Vince Dorse's past Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustrations

Where did you learn your skills?

I’ve been drawing stuff since I was a kid, and I studied art in school, but the learning never really stops. I’m still running through tutorials online, devouring art books and magazines, and pestering other illustrator/cartoonist friends incessantly in an effort to get better at this. I mean, ask a few of your other City Paper cover artists. Vince? Yeah, if I have to have one more discussion with him about line weight, composition or color theory, I'll block his email. But really, learning new skills and improving the old ones is a constantly rewarding facet of the work.

You won a Reuben comics arts award for your popular web comic Untold Tales of Bigfoot, featuring a super cute Sasquatch and his buddy, Scout the dog. What are Bigfoot and Scout up to these days?
Bigfoot and Scout are currently helping me put together an upcoming Kickstarter campaign (that should launch in the next couple months) to get their first story in print. They’re also running around in my head on their next adventure. Still in the outline stage, but I hope to start putting images on paper soon. Can’t wait, really. In the run-up to all this, I’ll probably post some shorter Untold Tales of Bigfoot adventures to work the fandom into an appropriate frenzy.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever received from a fan of your comics?
I get a lot of news stories and links about Bigfoot sightings. But I don’t think of them as strange, I think of them as research.

I’m not sure if you remember, but your very first cover for us — a 2011 Christmas-themed illustration of an Occupy Pittsburgh couple protesting in a manger scene, featuring a baby wearing a Guy Fawkes mask — caused someone to rip the page out of the paper and mail it back to us with handwritten insults scrawled all over it because they disagreed with our politics. Have you ever gotten any hate mail for other things you’ve drawn?

Oh, I remember that incident, all right. If I recall correctly, the reader circled my signature and drew an arrow to the word “evil.” That was jarring. In fact, it still comes to mind whenever there’s a politically-charged illustration job from you waiting in my in-box. Who’s Lisa gonna have me rile up this time? But no, most of the time I’m drawing puppies and kitties and Bigfoot, so it’s hard to get worked up too much over that stuff. But who knows? This week’s CP cover’s got trouble written all over it.

I love your behind-the-scenes process blogs, where you give really great details into what goes into making an illustration come to life. Will you have one of those for this week’s cover we can check out?
Of course! Because we had so much lead time on this assignment, I was able to put together a bunch of process images while I was working on it. The finished how-to is up at my process blog,

You see also see more of Vince’s work at and by following him on Twitter at @vincedorse.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A conversation with this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper Pirates Preview cover artist Joshua Gragg

Posted By on Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 7:00 AM

Pittsburgh artist Joshua Gragg and his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSHUA GRAGG
  • Photo courtesy of Joshua Gragg
  • Pittsburgh artist Joshua Gragg and his Pittsburgh City Paper cover illustration

When I emailed local artist Joshua Gragg to see if he’d be interested in illustrating Jung Ho Kang for our Pirates Preview cover, he was quick to agree: “I LOVE Kang.” I knew he was a huge Pirates fan before I reached out to him; he frequently posts illustrations of Pirates players on his Twitter account  and his Instagram, so what better artist to choose for this week’s cover? Plus, editor Charlie Deitch and I have been itching to use him for another portrait since he did such a great job last year on a cover illustration of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.

Gragg, 35, lives in Bethel Park with his wife, Jenna, and two kids, Ben and Ellie. In addition to creating art both traditionally and digitally, he also works full time for a weather website doing front-end design and development. “Most of my days are spent building web ads and trying to get people to click on something.” When he’s not doing that, he’s “playing with my kids, messing around in the garage with various projects or playing drums in my basement.” And chances are, if the Pirates are on TV, he’s also watching.

We caught up with him over email after he was done with this week’s cover illustration.

You specialize in celebrity portraits. Any celebrities take notice of their likenesses yet? (I heard through the grapevine that Bill Peduto’s mom liked the cover you illustrated of him for us last year.)
I started doing celebrity illustrations about two years ago or so for fun. I kind of stumbled upon a process and developed a style that people responded positively to, so I just kept making them.

I’ve gotten the occasional “like” from a celebrity on social media and U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman recently shared an illustration I did of him from his Instagram account. 

Joshua Gragg's 2015 cover illustration of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
  • Joshua Gragg's 2015 cover illustration of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

You create your illustrations digitally. Has that always been your preferred medium?
I’ve worked with computer design and animation ever since I was a teenager, but I really started to refine my skills at Pittsburgh Technical Institute in Oakdale, where I attended as an adult student from 2008-2010. While there, I got much better at Illustrator and Photoshop and gained exposure to various applications and techniques that I’ve since built upon and use daily.

I can tell you’re a big Pirates fan because I’ve seen you post illustrations of different players like Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and you seemed pretty psyched when I told you we wanted to feature Jung Ho Kang. Do you have a favorite player?
I absolutely love the Buccos! I have different favorite players for different reasons. I love Cervelli’s fiery passion and Josh Harrison’s hustle and swagger. Marte also seems like a dude who knows how to have a good time, and how could you not love Jung Ho Kang? His smile and passion transcend language barriers. Plus, he has a portrait of himself tattooed on his ankle! How rad is that!? That said, they all bring something to the overall team characteristic that makes them so fun to watch and root for. 

Give me a prediction for the team this year.
I think we need Kang to bounce back from the injury, and for the starting rotation to hold it together until we can call up one of those young arms from Indy this summer. We also need to do better against the NL Central and avoid the wildcard game all together. We do that and the sky is the limit for this team. Go Bucs!

Any projects coming up you want to share with everyone?
I’m gonna have a booth at the Steel City Con at the Monroeville Convention Center April 15-17 where I’ll be selling my prints. You can also see more of my work at

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Conversation with YouTube celeb Tyler Oakley

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2014 at 10:15 AM

The chat celeb and gay-rights advocate brings his PJs-wearing stage show to town on Saturday. CP's Danielle Fox has an interview in Program Notes.


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