Tag Archives: workshop

Comic Relief

May 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Tim Mayer

Forget Batman and his gadgets, or Thor and his biceps. There’s a new hero on the block—“Oldguy,” a spandex-sporting, crime-fighting senior citizen who seeks out injustice equipped with his “denture grapple.” While Oldguy may have the mighty ability to scale the First National Bank Tower, his illustrator is just another everyday citizen of Omaha. But that doesn’t mean Tim Mayer isn’t super, too.

Armed with a unique skill and the ability to seamlessly adapt different drawing styles, artist Tim Mayer’s “Batcave” is his drafting table. Whether he’s working on a comic book or the cover of a sci-fi novel, his illustrations pack a punch — all of them uniquely different in appearance, but always skillfully, thoughtfully, and imaginatively executed to meet a project’s needs.

“I’ve been drawing since I could hold a spoon,” Mayer says. “It was one of those things that just instantly clicked for me.”

But as is the case with many freelance artists, the work didn’t instantly come clicking in after he  earned his bachelor’s degree in studio art from the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2008. While working a stint as a shoe salesman, he picked up a few smaller drawing gigs. That all changed after he began attending creative workshops at Legends Comics & Coffee (5207 Leavenworth St.). It was in the comic shop’s basement where he met Jeff Lawler, a local writer who pitched him the idea for his next big project.

Together, the two created The Anywhere Man, a comic about an ex-solider who, after a freak accident, has the power to instantly transport anywhere. Following Anywhere Man, Mayer illustrated two additional comic/short story hybrids — Oldguy and Prophetica, a digital comic that tells a fictional tale about prophecies, brutal ancient rituals, and the fate of civilization hanging on a thread.

“I struggle to see consistency in my work,” Mayer admits. “I look at one thing I illustrated compared to another and I see a completely different side of me.”

One constant for Mayer has been his involvement with the Ollie Webb Center Inc. (1941 S. 42nd St.). Mayer became a mentor there five years ago and now leads art and drawing classes at the organization, which strives to enrich the lives of individuals with developmental disabilities through support, programs, and advocacy.

“I introduce students to a variety of visual storytelling methods,” Mayer says. “Whether or not a student wants to pursue something in the creative field, I see a lot of potential in each of them.”

Mayer and his work bring new meaning to the term “self-portrait.” From whimsical sketches of a doe-eyed girl to haunting black-and-white skull designs, everything Mayer creates looks different on the surface, but always reflects the man behind the pen.

“My experiences and personality always show in my work,” Mayer says. “If I look at something I created, I remember personally what was happening to me the moment it was drawn. It’s my own public journal.”

timmayer.wordpress.com

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Great Plains Theatre Conference

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Plays and playwrights remain the heart of the May 25-June 1 Great Plains Theatre Conference, which is now in its eighth year, says producing artistic director Kevin Lawler. But since assuming leadership over this Metropolitan Community College-hosted stagecraft confab four years ago, he’s brought more focus to a smaller selection of plays and playwrights and deepened the conference’s community connections.

The conference revolves around readings or performances of new plays by emerging playwrights from around the nation and master theatre artists responding to the work in group and one-one feedback sessions.

“We used to bring somewhere around 70 plays out, and we didn’t have time to read the full play, which was unfair to the playwright,” says Lawler, who writes and directs plays himself. “And 70 plays meant 70 directors and 70 casts, which our local theatre community wasn’t quite able to properly support, so there was always kind of a heightened energy of struggle trying to fulfill all those roles and spots.

“We’ve reduced that number to about 30 plays, so now we’re able to really find great directors, great casts, and we’re able to have a performance of the full script.”

Playwrights find a nurturing environment during the event.

“They’re getting a lot of great attention. It can be a very transformative experience for playwrights who come here. The feedback they give us is that [the event] is moving them forward as theatre artists.”

Omaha playwright Ellen Struve says, “It’s been phenomenal. Going to the Great Plains reaffirmed this was something I was capable of, and finding a playwrighting community was very important.” She and others who participate there formed the Omaha Playwrights Group, and two of her own plays read at the conference have been produced, including Recommended Reading for Girls at the Omaha Community Playhouse this spring. As interim artistic director of the Shelterbelt Theatre, Struve regularly draws on conference scripts for productions.

“It can be a very transformative experience for playwrights who come here. The feedback they give us is that [the event] is moving them forward as theatre artists.” – Kevin Lawler, artistic director

“Ellen’s a shining example of somebody who was really able to find their feet at the Great Plains and really go from there and grow and take off,” says Lawler.

He adds that other local theatres also source plays and contacts at the conference.

“There’s an aspect of community building that occurs here,” Lawler says. “We try to foster that. There are many folks who leave here who stay in very close contact with others they meet here, supporting each other, sharing work, working on each other’s projects, helping get their work made. A national network is starting now.

“There’s a great exchange that happens.”

Featured plays are selected from 500-plus submissions. Guest artists who serve as responders also teach workshops. These artists are nationally known playwrights and educators who lead “various new movements in theater expanding what theatre might be, widening the horizons a bit,” says Lawler.

Works by featured guests are performed, including a water-rights drama by 2013 honored playwright Constance Congdon. The drama is slated to be presented on the edge of the Missouri River.

The conference’s PlayFest is a free festival that happens citywide. This year, “neighborhood tapestries” in North and South Omaha will celebrate the stories, music, dance, art, and food of those communities.

“We’re trying to be more rooted in the community,” Lawler says. “It’s kind of a lifelong quest I have to keep looking at the art form and saying, ‘What are we doing that’s not working very well?’ That’s part of the reason the whole PlayFest is free. Theatre is just priced out [of some people’s budgets]. That doesn’t work.”

“Going to the Great Plains reaffirmed this was something I was capable of, and finding a playwrighting community was very important.” – Ellen Struve, playwright

StageWrite is a conference initiative to nurture women playwrights and their work in response to the disproportionally small percentage of plays by women that get produced in America. A writing retreat for women playwrights is offered and funding is being sought for year-round women’s programs.

Another way the Great Plains supports playwrights is by publishing an anthology of select scripts to get those works more widely read and hopefully produced.

Lawler says Omaha’s embrace of the conference has allowed it to grow. Actors, directors, and technicians from the theatrecommunity help put in on. Donors like Todd and Betiana Simon and Paul and Annette Smith help bring in guest artists.

For the conference schedule, visit mccneb.edu/gptc.

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.

Q&A: Andy Colley

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A creative from a very young age, Andy Colley tells us how he found his calling in woodworking early and what he most enjoys about about being a craftsman.

Q: How did you first discover your interest in woodworking? When did you decide to pursue it as a career?

A: Originally from Connecticut, I spent my childhood at Air Force bases in Japan, Hawaii, and the upper East Coast. I settled in Omaha about the time I entered high school. Throughout my youth, creativity in many forms had been an outlet, but never woodwork. Unsure of my future path after graduating, I started an entry-level position at a production cabinet shop. Within a few weeks, I was operating a production saw and then moved on to a bench, becoming a custom builder. After working at a couple shops in town, I started my own company. Ironically, a year later, I talked with an uncle who I hadn’t contacted in years and was told woodworking ran deep in my Connecticut roots.20 November 2012- Andy Colley is photographed at his studio for Omaha Magazine.

Q: How has your craft and your studio progressed over the years?

A: Colley Furniture has been through many changes in 12 years. As I develop and hone my skills, my work evolves…an endless pursuit for a craftsman. With this growth have come increasing budgets as well as complexity of projects. I’ve been involved with projects from coast to coast and collaborated with many great artists, architects, and designers constantly trying to push our expectations of furniture. Located in Benson for 10 years, I moved downtown last summer. For the first time, the shop now has a showroom and a storefront.20 November 2012- Andy Colley is photographed at his studio for Omaha Magazine.

Q: Describe your approach to furniture design. What sets your furniture apart from other work out there?

A:  Typically, materials dictate the design of my work. I am fortunate as an artist to work in a medium that presents me with a great base to start. Every single piece of wood in my shop is unique in color, grain characteristics, and mechanical properties, from large slabs of walnut to slivers of highly figured maple. All of these attributes guide the way in which that particular piece is utilized. A certain piece [of wood] might look better, but it might not have the characteristics you need for that component. Humility and respect are rewarded. Use of hand tools and joinery in construction intensify the relationship to wood and provide otherwise unobtainable strength and longevity to [pieces]. Many times the most complicated, most time-consuming parts are hidden from view. Some bakers rely on fancy, over-the-top frosting; others devote their attention to a more refined use of ingredients and methods. My intention is always to reveal and share the beauty of the wood without interference from design.20 November 2012- Andy Colley is photographed at his studio for Omaha Magazine.

Q: What do you most enjoy about your work? What message do you hope your pieces convey?

A: One of my goals is to show people that furniture can be so much more than disposable, uninspired places to sit or set things on. It can be something so much more—from Grandma’s favorite rocking chair to your parents’ dining set that has been a gathering place for so many occasions and emotions—[furniture] can be very personal. It can have a positive effect on our lives, and when we respect the resources we use, we have a positive effect in this world. Inspiration surrounds us. The more aware we become of the world, the more we can understand and appreciate every aspect of life.

Q: What are your professional plans moving forward?

A: [The studio] is planning to show artists of all mediums here, with a focus on process…bridging the gap between an artist’s conception of a work and an art patron’s purchase of a finished piece. Face-to-face events, such as workshops, presentations, and even small dinner parties are in the works to help achieve this. Retirement is not a part of my plans, as creating is essential to my being. Art is life, life is art.