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Schoolism Live San Francisco 2015 – Day 1

Today, July 18th, I was able to head to downtown San Francisco to go to a live Schoolism event. This workshop featuring some pretty amazing artists. I got a two day pass for this conference so I was able to learn from some icons of the entertainment industry. The weekend agenda went as follows;

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Day 1
STORY ILLUSTRATION with Helen Mingjue Chen
COLOR AND LIGHTING FOR ILLUSTRATION with Ryan Lang
PICTORIAL COMPOSITION with Nathan Fowkes

Day 2
DRAWING CHARACTERS with Wesley Burt
CHARACTER ILLUSTRATION with Karla Ortiz
TBA with Iain McCaig

The first day began at 9 o’clock and I walked in about 20 minutes early. I got checked in and picked up my swag bag which had a water bottle in it and a few other Schoolism items. The event was already starting to fill up, so I found a spot about 10 rows back and got ready for the first workshop – Story Illustration with Helen Mingjue Chen. Helen began her 3 hour lecture by walking us through her career so far. From her start at Disney, working on movies like Wreck-It Ralph, PaperMan and Big Hero 6, and into her current position, as an Art director at Paramount. From there, she walked us through a short presentation on what she thinks about when telling a story through illustration. It was a good talk with a lot of good information. My big take away from this workshop was that you need to think of your illustrations for movies as quick reads. The moment you’re depicting will only be seen for a few seconds so the viewer needs to get the information you’re trying to tell in a very quick amount of time. The example she used was if someone had just passed away and you wanted to show the loneliness that the person is feeling you would put them in a room by themselves with all the loved ones old possessions surrounding them. A spot light from the door would highlight the character casting everything else in shadow.

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Then she moved on to the live portion of her workshop where she did a live drawing of an environment scene that she came up with right on the spot. It was an image of two cities. One was upside down in the sky and the other was below. The city on the bottom was fairly normal but the upside down city in the sky had lots of Gothic cathedrals and felt much more old timeie. I thought for her just coming up with the image right off the top of her head it turned out well, but she didn’t seem to be particularly pleased with it. However, she did do a really cool trick when creating the lower city. When she created her perspective grid, the vanishing point was right in the middle of the image, and then she said she likes to “cheat”. Opening a new document she began drawing simple shapes that depict the city as if you were seeing it from the top down. These were just rough square shapes but when she put them back into her illustration she adjusted them to fit her perspective grid. It just gave her a starting point for her to quickly rough out the city. For me I’ve always had a hard time creating large cityscapes and this seems like a great way to get the illustration started quickly. I mentioned this to another attendee and they looked at me like “You don’t know that” so maybe I’m just a noob but, I thought it was a helpful tip.

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She began working on the top city looking up plenty of reference for different Gothic cathedrals. When that was done she quickly ruffed out a character for the foreground and began adding lighting.

Next up was an hour long break for lunch and after that we returned to hear Ryan Lang talk about Color and Lighting for Illustration. This talk was similar to the first, but Ryan began his talk with a short YouTube clip that he said describes his illustration process. Here’s the video.

Similar to the first presentation, Ryan walked us through his career taking a look at movies he’s worked on like Disney’s PaperMan, Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph. Then he began walking us through a short presentation about his thought process for creating an illustration. This presentation had several very solid tips. He didn’t want to go as far as calling these rules but more like guidelines that you should keep in mind. In his talk, he said that most illustrations he creates are done in five values of gray or less. The guideline he gave was; 0% black, 30% black, 60% of black, 80% black, and 100% black. Another good tip he gave was if you look at the Photoshop color picker the left side of it is all gray. The top starts at a pure white and the bottom left half is 100% black. Anyone can see this just by looking at it but what he talked about that I hadn’t heard was about the other three sides. The bottom half is 100% black but the top half runs from white being in the upper left-hand corner then moving to a 50% value in the upper right corner. Of course you can change the color of this but I didn’t realize that the top right-hand corner was essentially 50% of a value. Then moving down from the upper right corner down to the lower right the value turns to 100% black. I never thought of the top right hand corner as a percentage of grays because the color changes depending on what shade you want.

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Once his presentation ended he began showing us several images that he was going to use as reference for his live drawing demonstration. These images were of destroyed buildings which he was going to use as reference for a giant Mech standing on top of them.

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He began his image by finding the lightest light of his drawing and the darkest dark and began roughing in the rest of his shades of color. Ryan did his value studies in color which I hadn’t seen before. Most people I’ve seen do their value studies working only in grays and adding the color later but Ryan worked differently. Doing his value studies in color. He worked on the rough value study for the better half of two hours and then finally began refining the image for the last 60 minutes. The image turned out really well. Ryan seem to be a pretty funny genuine guy. He turned his robot into a turtle mech which got a pretty big laugh from the crowd.

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Snagged from Ryan Lang’s Instagram

The day began wrapping up with a half hour break and then the final presenter of the day was Nathan Fowkes. My mind was struggling to find room to hold any more information but Nathan had every intention of filling every last braincell I had. Which wasn’t a good thing, because I don’t know if any of you have ever heard Nathan Fowkes talk before, but this guy has a lot of knowledge to share. Which lead to a lecture that had a lot of information in a short amount of time. His lecture was about pictorial composition. He began this workshop more like an art history class and talked his way through old masters and how he applies what he learned from them to his own work doing visual development for movies. The majority of his talk was about unity with variety; big vs small, hard vs soft, dark vs light, active versus passive and saturated versus desaturated. Next he talked about how everything you see is made up of hue, saturation and value. The end of the presentation finished up with Nathan showing several videos about how you can take one illustration and change the mood of it just by changing the lighting. For instance he created a castle illustration and changed it to feel six different ways. The first was a very iconic lighting scheme with the light shining through the spires of the castle. Then he took the image in a different direction moving to something that was much more moody like a zombie film.

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He then reworked the image to have a storm blowing in. To accentuate this he added a lightning strike hitting one of the castle’s towers. Finally, he finished up with a bright sunny “my little pony” version of the castle. I wish I could remember more about this presentation but my mind was on overload at this point. Sadly my notes didn’t really help. My brain and my hand weren’t communicating anymore, so they were just illegible scribbles.

Day one wrapped up with a group photo and a whole lot of really crammed brains.

Since I’m a Schoolism Alumni I can get you a small discount. If you’re interested follow the link here to get the discount code.

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Personal Projects: Why They Are so Important

As artists and illustrators you’ve probably heard it before –  working on your own projects outside of client work is really important for your development.

Let’s face it, working in the field of illustration can be difficult and discouraging at times. Finding client work, submitting to publishers, trying to find an agent – it’s a constant grind for most of us, so it’s important to set aside time to work on personal projects. This can be anything – a single illustration, a series of illustrations on a theme, a comic, a picture book, the possibilities are endless. A personal project will be something that excites or inspires you – something you are passionate about. Working on a project that means something to you will give you the fulfillment and satisfaction you can’t get from client work alone. And this is vital over the long term in maintaining your creative energy levels and personal artistic happiness that will spread out into all other areas of your work and life.

I think the importance of personal projects can be summed up into three main points:

Skill Building

Personal projects are a great way to build your skills and discover new techniques. When working on something for yourself you’ll push yourself harder, and often find you produce your best work. Creating something that has personal meaning almost always gives you better results than something you create for a client.

Gain Confidence

Building skills with personal projects will also help grow your confidence. It’s a good idea to start out with smaller projects at first, so you can see them through to completion. Completing your projects is key, because that gives you the confidence that you can see them through, and will give you a sense of accomplishment. This will in turn motivate you to start another project – perhaps bigger or more ambitious that the last.

Personal Fulfillment

Have a picture book or comic idea that you are excited about? Instead of submitting it to agents or publishers and playing the waiting game, you may want to consider working on it for yourself. There are many options for self publishing these days, even if you just decide to simply publish your project on the internet. There is a great sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in seeing your project complete, and you may even find you can build yourself an audience along the way. I myself have published quite a few projects this way, and I have found it very fulfilling and motivating.

A Final Word

With the openness of the internet and social media right now, there are minimal barriers to getting your work out there. Of course the challenge is in getting your work noticed, but that’s part of the fun in building an audience. There’s never been a better time to be an independent creator. There are so many creative ways to get your work in front of people, and many artists are already doing just that – side stepping the traditional publishing routes and building audiences for themselves. I think we will see this trend continue to grow in the future.

About the author

  • Chris JonesCHRIS JONESContributor

    Chris Jones is a Canadian based children's illustrator. He has always been interested in telling stories visually, and his colorful style focuses on humor and expressiveness. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD), he has illustrated for several magazines and educational publishers. Chris is inspired by good music, good books, long walks, and generous amounts of coffee. Chris is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

100 Days of Personal Work

I have been an advocate for illustrators to work on self-directed work for some time now. The problem is that making the time for personal work can be difficult when clients come calling and your belly is rumbling. Those are the times when a lot of us put our own comics, children’s books, and dreams back on the shelf to collect dust until our client work has been cleared off our plates. This can create another problem… It may take more time to build up the steam we had, on our personal projects, if we only work on them in the spaces between commissioned gigs. In my experience, this usually means the self-directed projects never get done and I remain a contractor that only works on the dreams of others.

I recently became inspired by a website called Giveit100. The big idea, presented by this site, is that if you practice something for 100 days you will gradually learn whatever it is you want to do, whether that be dancing, cooking, or playing a musical instrument for example. People who sign up at this site are asked to make a short video everyday for 100 days to track their progress and as a way to stay motivated to stay on course while being held publicly accountable.

I slightly altered the goal of Giveit100 to fit what I want to do, which is to consistently work on my personal projects despite the amount of client work I am often saddled with. In my case, I’m trying to finish my own books while working on books I’ve been hired to do for publishers. Right now I am trying to finish a 4 issue comic book story and am devoting, at very least, 30 minutes a day to it. That doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but as of this writing, I’ve finished over two whole working days worth of time on this project that I wouldn’t have had completed had I not decided to do this. The benefit I’m getting is that my motivation to finish my personal project increases everyday. I jones to work on it and feel satisfied keeping the ball rolling. Additionally, its becoming a habit already just 17 days in.

I want to encourage you to try something similar. All of us working professionals are making money for other people and making their dreams a reality. Its our job, but I’d like to see more of us take the initiative to get our own personal vision out into the public sphere. In a world of decreasing advances with no promise of retirement, where quality art is made mediocre through design-by-committee, I think we owe it to ourselves to live our dreams and give the public better alternatives.

If you’d like to follow my progress as I work on a comic book for 100 days in a row, you can do so here.

Good luck!
Kevin Cross

How FREE can help you and your illustration business

Free: The Future of a Radical Price is a book written by Chris Anderson that examines the pricing models of free and how companies can make money by giving things away. We see it all the time from Google giving away services like email, Google Docs, and music groups giving away their music in hopes that you will buy a ticket to their concert. Often the strategy is to attract users and up-sell some to a premium level. This model has become widely referred to as “freemium”. Anderson makes the case that some businesses can make money by giving products and services away rather then charging a premium price. Chris explains how this radical pricing model can be used for the benefit of consumers and businesses alike.

How does this apply to running an illustration business? Well there is a chance you’re doing it already. Maybe you’re writing a blog, giving away coloring sheets on your website, or just putting your work on the web for all to see. Things that cost you very little to produce, but can possibly give you a big return if seen by the right people.

Of course this model is not for everyone and not everyone will agree with what Chris has to say but he has made the barrier to entry very small because Chris walks the walk by giving away his book in  digital form. Of course the printed version costs, but if this book sounds interesting to you its free to try. I personally see this model as a way we illustrators can use to promote our selves. No matter what you think about Free hopefully you’ll find an idea in this book that will be helpful to your career. Oh and did I mention it’s free.

The Book is available for free at:
Chris Anderson’s blog
iTunes
Audible.com

About the author

  • Norm GrockNORM GROCKContributor, Founder

    Having grown up on the shores of Maui, Hawaii, Norm has always had a love for drawing. Since leaving the Islands’ beautiful beaches and landing in Oregon he went to college and received a degree in graphic design. Now living in Beaverton, Oregon, Norm has been working as a full-time graphic designer and illustrator for the last 12 years. He has spent countless hours perfecting his craft as a freelance illustrator working on several children’s books, a few video games and creating numerous educational products. His ability to draw has given him the chance to do the thing he truly loves — Create.

Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference

A few weeks ago I was able to attend a wonderful SCBWI, which had some very enriching sessions for illustrators, leaving me feeling inspired and excited to create new pieces and to apply what I learned to clients’ work!  If you are not involved with your local chapter of SCBWI or other professional organization, I encourage you to do so.  Attending national conferences, while obviously very great opportunities, can be difficult to attend, depending on your financial, traveling and other personal needs/situations.  Local conferences can be a great alternative, and can offer a more intimate experience for the attendees. For example, in addition to participating in the sessions for illustrators, I was also able to volunteer as a reader for a picture book manuscript critique session, which was a fun additional way to connect with the staff and members and be more involved with the weekend experience.  Here are some highlights from my favorite sessions.

Keynote Speaker LeUyen Pham

LeUyen Pham is an award winning illustrator and author who works in many diverse styles.  If you haven’t seen “Big Sister, Little Sister”, you should check it out.  My own daughter loves this book, written an illustrated by Pham.  In addition to talking with us about her history and journey into the publishing world,  she spoke about strategies she has used to stay fresh and relevant in the constantly evolving world of children’s book publishing throughout her career.  Pham style is constantly in a state of evolution, and she likes to very her technique and look, sometimes drastically, from book to book.  She encouraged illustrators to take on projects with which they feel a connection, to create samples that reflect the types of projects they would like to work on that year, and to send those samples to a small targeted group of art directors.  Most of all, Pham spoke about the importance of making personal connections with clients, and allowing clients to see you as a multidimensional person rather than just a work source.  IN noe of her breakout sessions, Pham talked about how she goes about constructing a picture book.  We looks at the development of visual hierarchy to facilitate storytelling in each individual scene, as well as how that hierarchy fits into the overall scope of the book, creating a natural flow between page turns.   She was such an inspiring and engaging speaker, and this particular session on picture book construction was so enriching!

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Maria Middleton, Associate Art Director

Two of my other favorite sessions were offered by ABRAMS Kids Books associate art director Maria Middleton.  The first few illustrators who signed up for the conference had the opportunity to work with Middleton on a “homework project” in which we had to create character and place them in a situation where they will encounter conflict, great or small.  We got to send her our sketches, which she reviewed ahead of time, and then created final art to be reviewed during a session at the conference.  This was so much fun!  I love seeing everyone’s interpretation of the theme, and the evolution for sketch to final.  Here is my artwork that I created for the assignment.

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In a separate session, Maria talked about the makings of great cover design.  She encouraged us to think about the spine, which is often the only part of the book that is visible on bookshelves, and giving attention to typography.  For those illustrators who feel comfortable doing so, she suggested hand-lettering the title text, so that the cover has that added touch of image-text unity and customization.  She also walked us through the many stages of some of the book covers that she art-directed, explaining how the team arrived at the final cover design for each book.  It was intriguing to see the thought process behind each revision, and to see how those changes drove the cover towards a stronger design.

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Who Inspires You?

Who are some of the illustrators out there that inspire you? That was the question I asked my fellow contributors here at Once Upon a Sketch. Along with giving me some names, I also wanted to know why they loved their work. This is what I got:

Macky Pamintuan

James Bennett – One of my all-time favorite children’s book illustrators. From colors, to background detail and storytelling, just an overall superb illustrator. His editorial artwork is something I’ve looked up to all the way back to my art school days.

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Peter De Seve – To me, one of the best narrative illustrators in the biz. He’s known for his character designs, and justifiably so, but his compositions and the way he delivers a story in just one image (His New Yorker covers are amazing) is also why I picked him. I also love his muddy watercolor palette and rough, free flowing sketch work that show underneath his paintings.

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Phil Hale – All emotion and kinetic energy. His form & compositions are always inspiring. There is nothing static and boring in his work and I can always feel a dark intimidating energy from them.

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Chris Jones

Robert Williams – During my early school years he was a big inspiration and influence for me. I really admired his painting style and how he mixed it with flat compositional elements. And his mix of car culture and psychedelic and apocalyptic imagery are just plain crazy fun.

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Dan Santat – I really admire his great character designs, sense of humour and playfulness in his work, and his wonderful use of colour.

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New Illustrator to the OUaS Family

Here at Once Upon a Sketch, we are delighted to welcome our new contributor, the super talented Macky Pamintuan to the family. Along with multiple picture books, you might be familiar with his work such as the Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew and the Flat Stanley series. I had the pleasure of interviewing Macky and he offered some insight into his career and background.

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Can you tell us a bit about your background? School?

I’m originally from the Philippines and moved to San Francisco when I turned 21. There, I studied at the Academy of Art University and initially majored in 2D animation but soon switched to Traditional Illustration after realizing that I enjoyed that craft more.

I’m glad I did. I was always that one kid in class who did nothing but draw, but the 5 years learning the proper discipline of approaching an illustration (photo refs! thumbnails! commitment!)really helped me.

Shortly after graduating, I was at a fork on the road career wise. Not sure whether to seek stable employment under an art related company or try to go on my own and freelance. I gave myself 6 months to see if I could do the latter. Luckily, it all panned out and here I am.

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How long have you been illustrating?

As a working (translation: starving) art student, I’d pick up freelancing projects like an illustrated poetry book, theater posters, logos and even as a caricaturist for private parties. Around 2004, a few months after signing with my rep, I quit my job as an after school art teacher and began illustrating full time.

I’m still amazed that I’ve been doing this professionally for over decade now.

What do you consider was your big break?

That’s a tough question. I think my opportunities came in increments, most of them unexpected. For example, a small baseball portfolio piece that I did opened doors for me to do a lot of baseball artwork including three picture books (one of them for my beloved SF Giants).

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Come to think of it, there was no singular “big break” for me. Slowly building working relationships with publishers and art directors no matter how big or small the project may be helped me get considered for future work.

Sometimes, It’s hard to tell which piece leads you to more projects. One of my earliest picture books, “I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track” (2006), still gets me work inquiries to this day. And sometimes, it’s hard to tell when it will happen. I was backpacking in Europe when I got offered to do the relaunched “Nancy Drew & The Clue Crew” series.

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We are both represented by MBArtists, can you tell us how you came to sign with them?

Yes, we are! In 2004, when I resolved to see if I can pursue a career as a freelance illustrator, I contacted a long list of art reps to inquire if they’d be interested in representing me.

After more than a few “No’s,” I found two reps who were interested. A Chicago based advertising rep and Mela Bolinao from MB Artists. The Chicago guy was talking big numbers, but I went with my gut and signed with Mela. I enjoyed the energy she brought and I foresaw a valuable partnership and friendship in the years to come. Easily one of the best decisions I’ve made. Continue reading

13 Rules For Making Comics

13 RULES FOR MAKING COMICS
by Kevin Cross

1. Write. Then rewrite. Then rewrite again. Etcetera…

After you’ve figured out who your main character is and what genre your story will fall in to, write a rough outline. Don’t worry about how it looks or if there are tons of misspellings. The outline is for you to throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks while figuring out  the beginning, middle, and end of your story. When you are satisfied with your rough outline, write another more detailed outline. Then write the first draft of your script. Put it away for a few days. I guarantee that you’ll find flaws with your first draft after you come back to it with fresh eyes, so write a second draft. Once the second draft is finished, if possible, show it to someone whose opinion you trust. Show it to someone who can be honest with you. Don’t get butt hurt and remember to say thank you! If you can’t show it to anyone… you guessed it… put it away for a few days. In my experience, no script is ready to go until at least the third draft is written, so get cracking on your next draft. Put it away again, but let it sit for a month or two while you work on something else. Use this time to nail down your character designs or design the environments your story takes place in, for example. After some time has elapsed, pull out that third draft. See if the story feels finished. You may want to show it to someone again or maybe you find more flaws or have ideas to make it better. You might need to do more drafts or less if you are a brilliant genius. Make sure that you know exactly what the story is, in and out, before you draw one line. It’ll save you headaches in the long run.

2.  Read!

Read stories without pictures. Don’t just read comics in your genre, and for goodness sake, don’t just read comics. Doing so can make your comic come off as derivative. I’m not saying you shouldn’t read those comics at all. They can help you learn the language of comic storytelling, but please, vary your diet to see what works and what doesn’t work from storytellers that have come before you. Study that sh*t! I know its cliche, but reading does make you a better writer.

3.  Keep It Simple Stupid!

Comics are about communication. Get rid of superfluous details! They can be distracting and take you out of the story. Simplify and go for clarity in your storytelling.

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2014 Caldecott Winners

Locomotive003On Monday the American Library Association announced its most esteemed literary prizes. The ALA hands out a lot of different awards, but since this is a site dedicated to illustration we are only going to focus on one, the Caldecott medals. The award was announced at the American Library Association’s winter meeting in Philadelphia and selected by a national judging committee of librarians and children’s literature experts. The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

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This year’s award went to Locomotive by Brian Floca. The story about a family taking a trip across country in the summer of 1869 on one of the first passenger trains. Floca is the author and illustrator of Locomotive. He has also written and illustrated other books like Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11, Lightship, and The Racecar Alphabet. Mr. Floca’s work is no stranger to awards. His books have received 3 Robert F. Sibert Honor awards, an Orbis Pictus Award, a silver medal from the Society of Illustrators, and have twice been selected for The New York Times annual 10 Best Illustrated Books list. Check out more of Brian Flaca’s work on his website, brianfloca.com.

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The other contenders for this award were Journey by Aaron Becker; Flora and the Flamingo by Molly Idle; and Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner. Congratulations to all the nominees. It must have been a tough job to select just one.

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