John Kascht iPad App: "cutting edge meets old school"

John Kascht iPad App: Above & Beyond: John Kascht is the latest iPad app from Joe Zeff Design, featuring the well-known illustrator and his caricatures of celebrities and political figures. In the spirit of JZD's other storytelling apps -- Time's 9/11 anniversary, Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz and The Final Hours of Portal 2 -- Above & Beyond: John Kascht goes beyond the artist's work to present a compelling story about Kascht himself with multimedia content that helps the audience better understand and appreciate what makes each drawing unique.

Kascht and Zeff are scheduled to appear together at the Society of Illustrators next month to discuss the project, its process, and opportunities for illustrators and designers to reinvent themselves through the iPad. In the meantime, John took time to answer three questions -- plus one bonus question -- for SPD.
So how did you get mixed up with Joe Zeff Design anyhow?
Joe and I met about five years ago while we were both on the faculty of an illustration seminar at Northwestern. We hit it off and agreed that it would be fun to collaborate on a project sometime. 
We did work together a couple of months later - turning Justin Timberlake into a yellow M&M for an ad campaign. Weird project, but we had a good time. Five years later Joe and Ed Gabel came roaring up the dirt road to my house on their Harleys with an invitation to make this app. They rode three hours and got lost on rural routes that don't show up on GPS. "I'd love to make the app" was the only possible answer.

You live on a farm and don't even own an iPad. Why would you ever consider doing an app? 
I've been making audio and video essays about caricature for a few years - and recently for iPad specifically - so working on an app was less of a leap than it might seem. I was honored to be asked and excited about the chance to learn a lot more about iPad publishing.
I know that the way I live strikes some people as unusual, but from my vantage point having moonshine in the cellar, beehives in the field and laundry drying on the line doesn't contradict with having an iPad app. I love the iPad for the same reason I love my 55-year-old work truck. It's perfectly designed to do what it does. Since it can incorporate every kind of media, the iPad seems like the complete package in terms of storytelling. The fact that a user can determine whether to skim the surface or go into depth in any area makes it almost like a conversation. 
My favorite thing about the app we created is that it's an ode to traditional materials and traditional craft. I love the poetry of "cutting edge meets old school."
The whole idea of "Above & Beyond" is to present a story -- not just a portfolio of work, but everything behind it. I loved what JZD did on aerial photographer George Steinmetz and I understood that their invitation came with an interest in my own somewhat eccentric backstory. I've made a career of dissecting people who have chosen to be in the spotlight. Personally, I'm uncomfortable being in the spotlight. If anyone thinks that I believe the world needs a John Kascht app . . . my midwestern modesty shudders at the thought of it. But the opportunity to work with Joe and his team, as well as my buddy Greg Raymond who contributed some gorgeous photography and video, was too good to pass up.

What advice would you give other illustrators who are thinking about the iPad?
Think of it as a blank slate and make it your own. Traditional illustrators are wary of technology and frustrated that the ground is constantly shifting. I understand. If you have many years invested in a particular style or method of working, you don't want to reinvent yourself in order to keep up. But creating content for the iPad doesn't have to require reinventing so much as re-imagining how work can be presented. Painters don't have to adopt a digital technique, and illustrators don't have to become animators. The great thing about the iPad is that it's so accommodating. Doing illustrated essays for the iPad I've found a creative freedom that reminds me of the good old days of illustration. As of yet, there aren't many sheriffs on the frontier. 
As iPad publishing continues to grow, it's important that illustrators demand fair payment for high-quality original content. No more work in exchange for exposure. You can die of exposure.
Bonus question: Pickleback shots. For or against?
I researched this topic one night but I don't remember the findings.

  • Brian Taylor Illustration

    Kascht is the master!

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