Interview with Local Saxophonist, Lee Robinson

Lee Robinson will be performing live in the Koolkat Café this Thursday, June 22nd from 6pm to 8pm for a special evening of Jazz & Crepes.  He will be joined by his fellow ISKA members, Chris Potter on piano, Eli Naragon on bass, and John Korpiel on drums.  Lee Robinson and ISKA will perform a range of jazz styles including contemporary funk, classical, and orginial compositions. Enjoy delicious, made-to-order, sweet and savory crepes by PGH Crepes food truck from 4pm to 8pm.

Get to know more about Lee in the interview below with Artsmiths managing owner, Kate McGrady.

KM:  Who are some of your most significant musical influences and why?

LR:  My mother trained to sing an operatic style that she used in church gospel choirs as a lead voice.  My father could sound exactly like Nat King Cole singing!

 Jr. Walker was my main influence early on. I get lots of inspiration from Wayne Shorter (sax)  and Santana (electric guitar)! Their musical phrasing is so breathtaking.

KM:  What is your favorite performance memory?

LR:  I have two....

The first:   When I started playing saxophone, my first cover was playing like Monk Higgins, an obscure R&B saxophonist. The group I played with opened for the Five Stair Steps at a local theater. Their hit song was  "Oh Child".   The Monk Higgins tune had a break written in it at the very beginning. I remember our audience cheering and saying "Alright!" as a cool sign of approval immediately after that break!  

The second:  I was performing as guest saxophonist for Tom Reilly's rock group, Band Of Angels. We were to open for Canadian rock group, Bachman Turner Overdrive, at Davis Elkins University. The venue was filled to capacity with 2,500 people in attendance. Fifteen minutes before show time, I was asked by Tom and his manager Geoff Jones to go out on stage and perform a solo opening for them and the entire show. I nervously did that and got an over-the-top appreciative cheering audience approval!   

KM:  Tell us something interesting about a fellow band member.

LR:  John Korpiel, drummer, is a professional engineer, and performed with me as part of a duo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada for Distillery Jazz Festival in 2004.

Iska is a Nigerian word [in the Hausa language] that means 'the wind' .

Iska is a Nigerian word [in the Hausa language] that means 'the wind' .

KM:  When you want to relax and unplug what do you do?

LR:  Hike in the woods alone.

KM:  Do you have any interesting hobbies or interests?

LR:  Exotic sports cars. Any body want to buy a Maserati ?

KM:  What is your favorite place to listen to music in Pittsburgh?

LR:  The [New] Hazlett Theater.  The Old Syria Mosque was great, too!

Interview with Cartoonist & ToonSeum Instructor, George Broderick, Jr.

This June 12th through June 16th, The ToonSeum is sponsoring a Summer Camp at The Artsmiths of Pittsburgh in the South Hills.  Learn Cartooning! with The Toonseum will be taught by the talented and accomplished cartoonist and instructor, George Broderick Jr.  

Artsmiths Education Coordinator, Tiffany DeCosmo, had the opportunity to interview George about his passion for cartooning and comic characters. Read the full interview below.

Who had the biggest influence in your career and artistic development?  I really can't cite any one person. I get my inspiration from many places... newspaper comics, TV cartoons, my parents, the world around me. I guess if I had to pick someone it would be Walt Disney. Always pick Walt Disney.

What do you do to recharge if you have a creative block, where do you find inspiration?  I take long walks and/or listen to music... Oldies and Jimmy Buffett.

When did you create your first piece of artwork? Was it sold or is it a piece that you decided to hold onto?  I created several cartoon character drawings on bond paper at age five and sold them to the neighborhood Moms for a nickel a sketch. I try to sell my artwork but also keep some of it. I still have entire unpublished comic books I drew in high school. I look at them from time to time to remind me how far my skills have progressed. They keep me humble.

Are there other Pittsburgh artists that you have collaborated with or that have mentored you?  I've worked with Ron Frenz and Pat Olliffe on occasion, mostly spot blacks and background inking on Spider-Man, Hercules. They are two Marvel/DC go-to guys.

Who is your favorite cartoon/superhero character and why?  Popeye The Sailor. I have loved him since I was a wee tot. In fact, I was in the peanut gallery on Pittsburgh's "Captain Jim's Popeye Club" on WIIC (before it changed to WPXI) back in the day. I told a joke and sang the Popeye song on air! Popeye is the underdog in all of us that overcomes all the adversities that the world can throw at him! Like Popeye, "I yam what I yam an' tha's all what I yam!"

What tools/materials do enjoy working with when creating your characters?  My non-photo blue technical pencil, a good sketch pad and the classic Sanford Sharpie.

When did you first decide to create comics as a career, and were there certain influences in your life that lead you to that path?  Probably around 4th or 5th grade (1966-1967) when I discovered comic books through watching the Batman TV show starring Adam West!

George has written comics for DC Comics and Marvel Comics,  scripted and edited for InnovationPublishing, and edited for Bubblehead Publishing.  His has produced artwork for Innovation, Now Comics, TV Comics, Airwave Comics, Comic Library International, Cool Yule Comics, Moonstone Books, Bongo Entertainment, and Premium Pop Comics. 

In this Summer Camp, George will introduce kids ages 10-14 to the art of cartooning and comic character design.  Students will design original characters, learn about comic layout including the classic 3-panel cartoon, composition, lettering, inking, coloring, light sources and shadows.

Registration for this camp closes on Sunday, June 11th at 4pm. Register here.  Contact us on or after June 12th, for last minute enrollment.

Your child can have a rewarding experience with high quality instruction and projects with some of the best arts organizations and instructors Pittsburgh has to offer right here in the South Hills.  Register for a Summer Camp at The Artsmiths today!