Ken Graning Interview

It is my pleasure to present the autobiography and artwork of illustrator, Ken Graning. Ken Graning's impressive career as an illustrator spans an astonishing forty six years.

When It Comes To Logos These Companies Don't Play Around

The video game industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. In March, Forbes reported that Gabe Newell, founder of Valve Corporation, is "one of the richest people on the planet".

Ed Fella Interview

Ed Fella is one of the most prominent graphic designers of our time, and as you can imagine, a conversation with Ed Fella is both inspiring and enlightening

The Amazing Illustrations and Sketches of J.R. Mounger

Artist and designer J.R. Mounger has a passion for illustration and you sure can tell by the artwork he creates.

An Interview with Art Licensing Consultant, Maria Brophy

I first learned of Maria's work last year, when I featured the artwork of surf lifestyle artist, Drew Brophy, here on Illustration Pages - I've been a loyal fan and avid follower of both ever since.



Marketing Illustration Online: An Interview With Dave Tabler of Theispot is the premier illustration site. Browse through portfolios from over 1000 of the world's top artists. Contact the illustrators or their reps directly to assign your next project. Search 25,000 quality stock images available for license and immediate download.
Most of you are probably familiar with Theispot but for those of you who aren't it's an illustration website where artists can market their work and communicate with other artists worldwide. showcases the work of artists from dozens of countries and serves buyers throughout the world.

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Dave Tabler of TheIspot. We asked Dave what we thought were some challenging questions during this interview and he was very accommodating. We think you'll find our in depth discussion with Dave to be very informative.

Interview Dave Tabler of TheIspot, the I spot,
Tell us more about TheIspot. When did it start? How does a site like this get started?

Back in 1996, the predominant way for artists to market themselves was through annual sourcebooks. The books contained hundreds of pages that, unlike the newly emerging "information superhighway," were not easily searchable. They were expensive to advertise in, and extremely limited in reach and print run. Because of mailing costs, the publishers tended to send them to US-based art directors only. Artists' representative Gerald Rapp of Gerald and Cullen Rapp recognized that this new medium, the Internet, overcame every single one of those barriers. He partnered with a technology company and built focusing on what he knows best, which is successful, innovative marketing for illustrators. Jerry also felt very strongly that artists would benefit from a central point from which to license their existing work as stock, where they could set their own prices and be supported by a marketing and technical staff to maintain their collections and handle transactions. The stock part of TheIspot launched a couple of years after TheIspot Portfolio section was established and now proudly hosts over 25,000 rights managed images.

How do you market and advertise the site? How do you get art directors and designers to the site to browse through the portfolios?

Originally we marketed the site using such traditional print channels as direct mail and multiple ad pages in trade magazines, and we continue to maintain robust programs in those venues today. In more recent years we've added a mix of mass email, social bookmarking, and social media. We maintain web banners on various design sites and were pioneers in Google’s AdWords program. Obviously, the options are constantly evolving and we always keep our eyes open for the next opportunity to promote our subscribers effectively.

Roughly how many artists presently promote their work on TheIspot? What would you say to those artists who haven't joined TheIspot because they feel as though it would be difficult for their work to be found amongst the many members currently there?

The number of artists on the site at any given time hovers around 1,000, a quantity that offers buyers a rich variety of talent broad enough to provide a solution to most any illustration project they have. Artists who are concerned about being found should remember that Google has fundamentally changed our cultural understanding of how to search for what we want. Five or six years ago art directors would put in one keyword and manually plow through the results. As users have become more comfortable refining searches through multiple keywords, TheIspot’s search engine capability has evolved accordingly. The single most important thing an artist can do to take advantage of that is to keyword their images thoroughly and accurately. We employ a full-time strategist to review portfolios and help our subscribers shape their presence to receive maximum return on their investment in TheIspot.

Are there statistics available for the site? How many daily visitors does the site get? What's the average time spent on the site? Do you have this information available for artists prior to joining?

All of these types of statistics are publicly available to all on sites such as or

New online, paid portfolio sites seem to be popping up everywhere. Some charge less to be part of their group of artists. How is TheIspot different from its competitors? What extra value does TheIspot offer that the others don't?

TheIspot is not the least expensive site out there, it's true. We're in an era where the cost of online storage is dropping dramatically, and it's easier than ever to whip up a site using off the shelf content management system software packages. Much of what artists pay for, then, on portfolio sites, boils down to a human factor: how carefully do the management teams craft, promote and maintain the professional profile of a site? Do sites maintain adequate safeguards against spammers and hackers on the back-end? Is the programming kept current? Is the design and aesthetic flow of a site held to a high standard? Is the staff knowledgeable about industry trends and dedicated to sharing that knowledge with the artists it serves? Is there support for artists who have questions on how to improve their results on a site? At TheIspot we’ve always taken each of these issues very seriously. We’re in constant dialog with our designers and developers as well as our subscribers to elevate the quality that we’ve worked so hard to build.

illustration, stock illustration, new illustration portal, illustrators, spot illustration, commercial art
Some folks might not understand why TheIspot charges a setup fee. Please explain the purpose of the fee. What does it go towards that the annual fee doesn't already cover?

Like any successful business, TheIspot seeks to encourage repeat customers. One way to do that is to lower the fee a renewing artist pays as a way of saying thanks for the vote of continued confidence.

You've outlasted so many other paid online portfolio sites. For instance is now defunct. What do you attribute to TheIspot's longevity? How has TheIspot kept going in this ever changing environment?

By first of all recognizing that the environment WILL always be changing. It's important to maintain a site balance of seasoned, well respected professional portfolios while still encouraging talented emerging artists to post as well. We’re very proud of the fact that some of our subscribers have found success with us for 10+ years, but we’re still thrilled to be part of the careers of blossoming talent. Sites that have failed during the time TheIspot has existed have not recognized the importance of that balance and what it means to both subscribing illustrators and the art directors who use the website regularly.

You've explained how TheIspot is different from other paid portfolio sites. What's the benefit of joining TheIspot when now there are so many free online portfolio sites like Coroflot, deviantArt, Behance and Carbonmade, etc.?

Free sites usually place no restrictions on who may join. And so you, a high-end professional, may find your portfolio juxtaposed alongside student and hobbyist portfolios. This does not make a positive impression with art directors. Free sites are not there first and foremost for the success of the artists. They generally rely on paid banner advertising to make a profit; to attract and keep advertisers they have to show high traffic volume. Not necessarily quality traffic; any traffic will do as long as there’s lots of it. By giving away web space to anyone who wants it, they get both free content and built-in traffic, which they translate in ad sales for their own profit.

Subscription sites, on the other hand, must deliver results if they expect artists to continue being a part of their site. If the traffic coming to a subscription site isn't made up of designers and art directors with real budgets, artists will not receive commissions and ultimately the site will fail. Subscription sites have a strongly vested interest in maintaining qualified buyer allegiance, and it takes money and careful strategizing to drive that traffic and keep it coming back.

illustration, stock illustration, new illustration portal, illustrators, spot illustration, commercial art
Does that mean TheIspot might not accept some illustrators who wish to join because their work perhaps does not meet certain criteria set for the site? What requirements do illustrators need to meet to be accepted?

Well, we like to take on illustrators that know where their careers are headed – established illustrators or ones that show promise. We take into consideration things like industry awards from third party organizations like, Communications Arts, Print, How, etc. We also take into consideration how the other illustrators already on the TheIspot feel about whose work is alongside theirs. We try not to be too formulaic about it but we like to think we’re pretty good at spotting talent. We’re a quality site that upholds a specific level of excellence. The illustrators that market their work on our site and the people that look for talent on our site depend on us for that.

Have you found that with the current state of the economy fewer artists are advertising on TheIspot?

Obviously we're not immune to the effects of this most recent recession: 2008-2009 were challenging years for artists overall and that of course impacted us. One thing that's been gratifying to note through all of this is that, having been around as long as we have, TheIspot has a very solid base of loyal site supporters (both artists and site users), and that stood us in good stead during these leaner times. We have definitely noticed an up-tick in the industry overall since late last fall, and we’re looking forward to more signs of a strengthening economy.

What would you say is the percentage of artists who renew each year vs. those who don't?

We've tracked this figure very carefully for a number of years. The renewal rate fluctuates less than you might imagine. It's easy to assume that during a recession many more artists will not renew, but in fact the renewal rate during the worst of this recession fell only about 4% from our normal non-recession rate of 75%, and has been rising again in recent months.

illustration, stock illustration, new illustration portal, illustrators, spot illustration, commercial art
Are you open to suggestions from artists and illustrators on how to improve the site?

Of course- we encourage feedback! Any business that's not willing to listen to its clients is a business not long for this world. As a result, some of our best and most creative ideas for refining TheIspot have come from our subscribers. We’re also fortunate to have a team of talented, open-minded developers who are as enthusiastic about the ongoing evolution of the site as we are.

Besides a place to market their work, what other features does TheIspot have to offer artists?

One of our great strengths has always been the sense of community surrounding the site. We were one of the first industry sites to offer a chat forum devoted to illustration, Art Talk, where artists came together to discuss the issues of the day and get all kinds of needed feedback and guidance on pricing, legal issues, marketing, copyright, etc. With the rise of blogging, we've maintained that sense of community in the What's New art news area of the site, where TheIspot subscribers can highlight jobs they've done, awards won, and exhibitions they're involved with. The password protected My Spot section contains an array of tools for artists to edit their portfolios or stock collections and follow traffic patterns to their images.

Lastly, from your perspective, are you optimistic about the future of the illustration profession and TheIspot's place within the industry?

There will always be changes in the industry that will shock most people as they're first occurring. But if you stand back and look at the incredible proliferation of web-connected electronic devices and the astonishing visual worlds that have arisen around and through them, it seems foolhardy to suggest that the need for imagery to supply those worlds will vanish. There is now and will continue to be a high-end portion of the market that values quality, original illustration in all media. That's the market we serve and support.

I think it's important for your readers to understand that, while we ARE optimistic about the long term viability of both the profession and our place in it, we are aware that it will always take hard work to stay out front. The changes I just alluded to are often tricky to navigate; TheIspot is not now and never will be in a position to rest on its laurels.
Thanks to Dave Tabler and all the folks over at TheIspot for taking the time to participate in this interview. These were not easy questions to answer and his honest and candid responses are very much appreciated. Hopefully many of you will benefit from this in depth look into the Theispot.

Visit TheIspot and investigate further at

Enjoy these other interviews on Illustration Pages also.

The Point of Connection

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot - Ville d'Avray

One of the most magical moments in art is the point of connection between artist and observer. That time of recognition that occurs when the work of art stirs something in the observer eliciting a sense of shared experience – a “me too” factor – that eliminates the idea that our unique experience of the world is an isolated one.

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot - An Orchard at Harvest Time

Years ago, I had seen a beautiful landscape painting by Jean Baptiste Camille Corot at the Metropolitan Museum that literally stopped me in my tracks. As a gardener, I find many of Corot’s landscapes stunning – he depicts the loveliness of nature so perfectly - but this particular painting transported me right into his landscape. It was of a morning harvest, and immediately I could feel the coolness in the air, smell the moist, sweet earth, feel the hint of the warmth of the sun that was just rising. There was something about his use of light and color that resonated so clearly with my own experience of morning, and nature and working the earth that the boundaries of time, space and separate experience vanished, and I was left with the sense of shared experience.

Similarly,  a few weeks ago, I was reading a book review by Robert Rastelli of Barbara Kingsolver’s The Lacuna and his turn of phrase, “…Herein lies the merciless search for love and the heart,” evoked an instant emotional response. I had never regarded the search for love as merciless, yet those five simple words, “the merciless search for love” tapped into the feelings of “mercilessness” of every unrequited teenage crush, of every failed attempt at parental approval, or any time I had ever subjugated who I was for who I thought someone else had wanted me to be. I marveled at how a deft hand with paint or prose can unearth a personal collection of human emotion and experience as simply as a key unlocks a door.

Jean Baptiste Camille Corot - Souvenir of Riva

And how powerful art is. All forms of art are ultimately about connection. Even those individuals for whom the “point” of art is to shock or challenge their audience, the core of such provocative work - even if its primary intent is to alienate – paradoxically and inevitably connects us to the artist. It has to because the creation of art is inherently an exercise in self-expression, and key to connecting with one another. Amazing when you think what else but art can connect us to one another even when we try for it not to?

How does art serve you?

Article by LYDIA GNAU

How TV Can Be Inspiring (Or At Least Old TV Guides)

Contributed by Melissa Kojima

I am one of those who doesn't watch TV anymore. I know a few other artists who do, or I should say don't, do the same thing. For various reasons, we don't have time for it, or it doesn't matter to us or whatever. When you get down to it, we just don't find it important and probably don't find it inspiring. But I have found something that is inspiring about it; OLD TV GUIDE COVERS!

Below are some of the great illustrated covers. TV Guide just went through a redesign and so far they haven't used any illustrators. Hopefully, they will look to their past to inspire their future and higher many more great illustrators. You can view more of the great covers by clicking this link.

Unhinge Your Mind With Illustrator C. Matthew Hamby on Facebook

It’s great to come across artwork that makes you say out loud, “Wow, this is really cool.” It happens so many times here at Illustration Pages and that’s exactly what happened again when Illustrator, C. Matthew Hamby’s art popped up on the screen. Fun meets fright in Matthew’s illustrations and once you’ve seen his work, you might never be the same again. His illustrations are filled with outrageous characters doing some pretty wicked and unpredictable things in whacked out situations.

Have you see Matthew’s artwork in person? The colors appear so vibrant on screen. They must blast off the paper at his shows.

Matthew is doing it right, apparent by the four hundred twenty people that like his work over at his Facebook page. That’s right - it’s like Neutra’s mind crashed into Crumb’s pen and exploded into Hamby’s world of fantastic art.

Talking Illustration: An Interview With Veteran Illustrator Garry Colby

Garry Colby is one of the most successful illustrators working today, evident by his numerous awards and many engagements for top corporations in the world. Garry’s illustrations have been featured in many award publications and competitions. His client list reads like a Chinese menu, among them, McDonalds, Hasbro, Fisher Price, Lego, Sears and Popeye's. The list goes on.

Garry took time away from his work to share with us his experiences as an illustrator and a creative professional. In our interview, Garry explains the importance of having a good rep and what it takes to be successful in the tough competitive field of illustration.

Please tell us a little about yourself. How did you make the transition from Art Director to successful Illustrator?

I was approached by several studio reps and offered a job. I chose a very talent heavy studio with a great group of young and talented artists. The studio atmosphere was a great experience.

How did it come about that you were approached by these studio reps when you were an Art Director? How did they know about your work?

I was first approached by a rep that called on me every day. He was familiar with my work and I also knew him from my first job at General Motors Photographic. I spent two years as an errand boy. But they moved my boss and gave me the whole operation - without the title or the pay. That’s the GM way. I was considered an up and coming talent at Campbell Ewald. Within a year of being a Junior Art Director I was made a Group Supervisor. When the other studios heard I might be looking I was approached by two of the other large studios. They knew me because I had used their talent on projects.

How long was it before you were first able to support yourself and your family solely on your illustration work? What were some challenges along the way?

My first job in an art studio paid well. I have been lucky to make pretty good money. I feel it took about 5 to 6 years of hard work in a studio, watching other artists, and sometimes doing a job several different ways, to start to have a level of comfort.

When you say art studio, what do you mean? Do you mean a design studio or ad agency? Or was it a studio made up of all illustrators? What type of work did the studio do?

There were about 38 of the best artists in Detroit; of course we serviced the major and some minor advertising agencies. We did a lot of car work. We had 3 to 4 incredible car illustrators, 4 to 5 great photo-retouchers. We had 4 realistic illustrators (Bart Forbes type), There were 4 to 5 several top designers, several illustrators like myself (design or stylized, and airbrush), the best key liners in Detroit (before computers), a lettering artist, a couple of comp artists (layouts and storyboards), several apprentices, a library person to help find reference, a photographer to shoot reference, a large stat department, about 15 sales people, and a production staff to direct and keep jobs moving. Of course there was office staff for taxes and paper work, things like that. It was a big operation.

Most Illustrators find it difficult to find and master one style. You have two. Is it difficult to work between the two styles? Is this something you would suggest other Illustrators try doing?

I was kind of a utility guy at the art studio. Salesmen would show me a style and ask if I could do it. I would usually say yes if it was somewhere in my area. Meaning there wasn’t another artist in the studio who was either up or capable. So I worked in many styles. Getting it down to two was the hard part. I once took my samples to an Art Director in Miami and he asked if I represented all these people. I said I am all of these people.

What do you attribute to your success?

I went to Cass Tech in Detroit and studied commercial art. Campbell Ewald trained me as an Art Director. I worked for a number of years for a large art studio in Detroit. I do a lot of drawing on my own. I work hard on having a good clip file. The internet is a great help. I keep large files of other artists, even styles I don’t do. My clip files include animals, hands and feet, figures walking, standing, sitting, etc. I think I work hard at improving my craft. I try to do my best work regardless of the money. I know artists who look at the clock and when their time is up for what they think the job is worth, quit. I can’t work that way. The tough decisions come when you have several jobs with tight deadlines. Then you have to use wisdom, and experience to prioritize work and manage your time.

How do you market yourself as an Illustrator? Do you send out mailings? What sites do you advertise on? Which annuals do you advertise in?

I have reps that do mailings, send e-mails, and run ads in Showcase, Picturebook and Workbook. I maintain a web site of my own as well as with 3 different reps and we’ve done some mailings. The sites I have my work on are,,,, and finally

So you have representation. Some say it’s more difficult to get representation than it is to get clients. What advice do you have for Illustrators seeking representation? How should they approach this challenging task?

It helps if you know someone who has a rep to give you a recommendation. It helps to have a great portfolio. It is usually a combination of both. Try to get to know a rep and be persistent. Keep them updated with your new samples.

Do you feel it’s necessary to have representation in order to land the big clients such as McDonalds, Fisher Price and Hasbro?

I think the internet sometimes can help you get very large clients. A good rep can be helpful.

This is a highly competitive field. What advice do you have for Illustrators just starting out? How can they get their work and their name out there?

Get yourself a good rep.

Do you feel having a rep is really that important? Is it simply the best way to do it?

I think it may be the best way to go, however not the only way. Talent will out. The internet is a great equalizing tool - good websites - or your own. Running ads in publications such as Showcase and Workbook as I have suggested is another good route - expensive if it doesn't work. Mailing is inexpensive - about $100 plus mailing costs for post cards and being consistent with it, 6-8 a year. Also going to Art Director’s meetings or award nights to network sometimes pays off. I was Vice President of the EDA (Electronic Design Association). I did some of their mailers gratis, and did art for there website. Sometimes entering contests such as Art Directors Club of New York, or the New York Illustrator’s Annual can give you good exposure. And mailing an overprint of a successful job - you can always ask.

How has this tough economy affected you as an Illustrator? Do you have other avenues within the industry in which you supplement your income?

Yes, my work dropped to half after 9/11. I am not sure it will come back to what it was, but it has come back some. And no, I only make money from being a commercial artist.

Do you do a lot of sketching prior to working digitally? How tight are your sketches before you take them to the computer?

They’re very tight. (See images below)

Where do you look for ideas and inspiration?

My inspiration comes from various sources, Cartoon Network, foreign illustrators, Print, Workbook, Showcase, book stores, comic books and comic novels.

What artists have influenced your work?

I would say, Mad Magazine (Davis, Drucker), David Cowles, Robert Risko and most of the artists in Staake’s, Complete Book of Humorous Art. I love so many styles and I take away something good from many of them.

What’s been your favorite project to date?

Tough question, I did a poster to hang on doctors offices for kids, the product was AsaSite a pink eye medication. I seem to like jobs that have casts of thousands (very busy). I love game boards and have done several. I like the children’s publishing market.

What are you working on now?

I’m animating a character for a department store web site, a dino on a pogo stick. I have someone to do the Flash part. I also have a children’s magazine page to do - Highlights.

Illustration Pages thanks Garry Colby for sharing his wealth of knowledge acquired from his many years of experience as a successful illustrator. Please be sure to investigate more of Garry's work by visiting the sites below.

Enjoy these interviews also:
Behind the Scenes of Illustration Friday: An Interview With Illustrator, Penelope Dullaghan
An Interview with Children's Book Illustrator Korey Scott: Connecting With Children Through Art

Illustrator Garry Colby's Portfolios are on:

Sean Christian Dampier's Powerful Illustrations on Facebook

The artwork of Sean Christian Dampier is absolutely beautiful. You might be familiar with one or two of his subjects, Lady Gaga or some fella named Mick Jagger. Sean’s paintings are bathed in rich colors, exploding with movement and spattered with texture throughout. His work has a Ralph Steadman energy in the way he applies paint to paper but Sean has full command of his own distinctive style which is very different than Steadman’s. Sean is a very talented artist, skilled at creating images of people filled with depth and emotion.

Sean creates his striking artwork with watercolor, gouache, pencil and Photoshop. There’s a recent article on his illustration blog in which he explains his process. It’s definitely worth reading.

His online store has yet to open but when it does – look out! This guy will make a fortune selling his artwork. And don’t be surprised if you see his store featured on Illustration Pages at a later date.

Facebook will only allow you to “Like” Sean’s work but here at Illustration Pages you can love it and still be a fan too.

Late Bloomer William Kentridge

Contributed by Melissa Kojima

I first discovered William Kentridge about a year ago on a visit to the San Francisco Museum of Art. There was a huge exhibition of his work and many rooms were taken over with a continuous loop of some of his films and animations. I was fascinated and immediately fell in love with his raw and gritty work. Most of it is in charcoal and many of it is self-portraits.

I learned that he became an international hit when he was in his 50's. He is one of those very inspiring late blooming artists who I talked about last week in my post called, "It's Never Too Late to Become a Master Artist".

He lives and works in South Africa. His wife is a doctor and supported his art, so he could take the journey to becoming a master artist. He tried many things such as theater and performance before he decided that the best thing that worked for him was doing self-portraits in charcoal. His animations are amazing---sort of funny, sweet and sad.

If you're going to be in New York within the next month, you'll have the opportunity to see a great retrospective of his work at the Museum of Modern Art. I wish I could check it out, but there is a great site where you can explore his work and the timeline in which it was made it. Click here to check it out.

Illustration Pages News :
Charlene Chua Illustrates Director Atom Egoyan for Lucid Media

Charlene Chua illustrated Canadian Director Atom Egoyan for the cover of Lucid Media film magazine. The cover is accompanied by a black and white full page illustration within the magazine.

My Favorite Artist Series: Illustrator Edel Rodriguez Discusses The Work of His Favorite Artist

Today we continue our new series, My Favorite Artist, where we ask accomplished, well respected artists working today, the people we admire, who their favorite artists are and why. As you might recall, illustrator Laura Smith was the first artist interviewed for this series. We recently asked illustrator Edel Rodriguez who it is that he has drawn inspiration from. Edel was kind enough to break from his busy schedule and explain what it is about the work of printmaker and sculptor, Kiki Smith that inspires him.

I first came across the work of Kiki Smith in the early '90s while I was studying at Pratt Institute. Her emphasis on the human anatomy, process, and telling personal stories through one’s art caught my attention when much of what I was being taught were ideas about minimalism and abstract expressionism.

Her delicate sculptures, drawings, and etchings, with an emphasis on the handmade, struck a chord with me at a time when I was trying to find a direction in my own work. I continued to follow her work throughout the years as it expanded into full blown gallery and museum installations. I enjoy how she has continued to change and grow, always going in different directions and continuing to experiment.

Choosing a favorite living artist is very difficult because I like looking at such a wide variety of work. I chose Kiki Smith because her work ethic continues to inspire.

About Illustrator Edel Rodriguez
Edel Rodriguez was born in 1971 in Havana, Cuba. He received a B.F.A. in Painting from Pratt Institute in 1994 and an M.F.A. from Hunter College in 1998. Using a variety of materials, his work ranges from conceptual to portraiture and landscape.

Edel's work has been featured in Print's 1998 New Visual Artists Annual and on the cover of the 2004 Communication Arts Illustration Annual. It has also been regularly selected to appear in the pages of Communication Arts, American Illustration, Society of Publication Designers, and The Society of Illustrators Annuals. He is also the recipient of both a Gold and a Silver Medal for editorial illustration from the Society of Illustrators. He has illustrated three children's books, "Mama does the Mambo", "Oye Celia", a biopic about Celia Cruz, and "Float Like a Butterfly", a story about Cassius Clay. A stamp he created for the United States Postal Service was released in the Summer of 2005.

Edel's artwork is in the collections of a variety of institutions, including the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., as well as in the private collections of a variety of writers, actors, designers, businessmen, and political figures.

You might also enjoy reading, My Favorite Artist Series: Illustrator Laura Smith Describes The Work of Her Favorite Artist

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