Friday, February 27, 2009

hop on for history

King Middle School was the scene of a powerful connection to living history this week. Claudette Colvin was 15 in 1955 when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery, Alabama bus. This act led eventually to the desegregation of public transportation in the South. Librarian Kelly McDaniel and Curious City's Kirsten Cappy brought together book discussions, image-making, and an art exhibit on a public bus in the Understanding Courage project, an awesome opportunity to bring history full circle.

My daughter was among a group of students who read the recently released "Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice" by Maine author, Phillip Hoose and worked with Maine College of Art art ed majors to create posters in response to the book. The posters were done on the backs of actual bus posters, narrow horizontals that slide into the captive space over the bus windows. It was a departure for her, prone to drawing puppies and dragons, to conceive an image in response to a chosen quote from the book. Talk about visual communication!

We viewed the poster display on the METRO bus while it was parked in front of the school on Wednesday. We found her piece at the very back of the bus. She chose Dr. King's quote: "And we are determined here in Montgomery to work and fight until justice runs down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I also liked her classmate Fiona Cagney's piece.

The MECA students also did posters. This one by Katy Hughes is colorful and direct.

While we were on board, another class from King jostled on to view the exhibit.

Inside the school, students gathered to hear Phillip Hoose and Claudette Colvin speak.

She made the point: young people can make a difference. Most of the students had questions about her emotions: how did you feel when they arrested you? What was it like to meet Martin Luther King? How did you feel when Obama was elected? King Middle School is proudly diverse, boasting 29 languages spoken amongst the student body. It could be hard for them to imagine that when Claudette was their age, she could not try on clothes or shoes when shopping. She brought a tracing of her foot to size a potential purchase.

MECA student Sam Wunster's poster quoted Claudette, "I knew then and I knew now that when it comes to justice, there's no easy way to get it. You have to take a stand and say this is not right."

Thankyou, Claudette Colvin, for taking that stand! Applause to Phillip Hoose for a gripping story. And bravo to King Middle School, that knows how to bring history alive for kids. It's not just learning the facts, it's understanding courage.

The exhibit will be on this bus for about another week. Hop on!

Monday, February 23, 2009

bugs and birds over and over

Funny how my radar seems to pick up coincidental stuff. As I wrap up my project for Charlesbridge, I keep coming across parallels to my assignment. Just as I was drawing the egg for the jacket, Elena brought us fresh ones from her backyard chickens.

I had to revise a beehive for one of the interior spreads. I made this one by inverting a single drawing, distorting it and repeating it.

Then I went to the Gem Gallery exhibit, Think Pink, Give Love, and saw this assemblage by Carol Cartier.

I also love this contraption by Tim Nihoff, a collector of broken tail-lights and consummate recycler.

Then I got ready to substitute in Illustration 2 at MECA for Mary Anne Lloyd. During the recent valentine fest at my house, she made this ditty.

And so what's the assignment they are working on? Bugs and Birds!!! Each student has chosen a bug or bird and must create 8 versions in various media, such as a black cut-paper silhouette, a collage, a portrait, in habitat, in scale, as a mechanism, etc. All of them done in a limited palette of 4 colors. It's a great exercise in getting to know a subject while exploring different approaches. True to form, not all students were crazy about the assignment, or into each of the requirements. Perfect! This is precisely the kind of resistance that illustrators so often face with client demands. And it's an opportunity to find a way around, or through, the specification that can be a turn on. Easier said than done.

Since this is mostly the same group I had in Illustration 1 last semester, I brought in the deck of cards I had printed from their final assignment. Each student crafted a 3D character and provided character info for the back. The collection of cards is a way for students to see their work published, as part of a larger context, as an example of promotion, visibility, and communication.

There were 24 cards to sort.

Coincidentally, wings on the cover. The cover drawings came from a drawing session in which students posed for each other. I had brought in some black wings. These three are Sheridan, always willing to model. I love the variety. Top right: Alysa Avery, on left, Olli Percival, bottom right, Liz Hardy.

And here's a winged creature by Elaine Smart.

Her name: Francesca. She is "the stupidest demon the devil ever made. Gender is questionable."

Most of the students used Super Sculpey, some used cardboard, felt, or broken Barbie dolls. Never a dull moment with illustration students. After handing out the cards in Mary Anne's class, I circulated among the students and saw their progress on the bugs and birds project. Again, I love the surprising variety.

Lori Stebbins chose a praying mantis, with exquisite results.

Sheridan Cudworth was ambivalent about the whole thing. Her choice says it all: an albatross. There is a deadpan nature to her drawings that is oddly humorous.

Abbeth Russell is a new student who chose an unlikely subject: the mosquito! I loved her quirky line and palette choice. Every piece made me itch.

Nate Plourde wants to be a sculpture major, but with illustrative tendencies.
He began crafting a powerful cardinal from cardboard.

I'm happy the 3 dimensional impulse is alive and well. I saw more evidence when I dropped into the majors studio. This is Dani Evans' signature creature.

I encountered a bit of profane levity in the studio, perhaps a symptom of senior slump, same day as the exhibit forms for the thesis show were due.

And then it was back to my assignment: revising the egg. A little pastel shading and voila.

So, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

free love in Freeport

Look, it's the scurvy knave, Sarah L. Thomson, author of Pirates Ho! getting into the spirit at Sherman's Maine Bookstore in Freeport on Valentine's Day. Four of us came together to celebrate literary love in honor of KidsHeartAuthors, an event hatched by Mitali Perkins. It was all about community, buying local, giving a signed book to your beloved, and meeting the folks who create them.

Here, Jay Piscopo, directs Sarah in the art of drawing a pirate. It's easy!

Illustrator Aileen Darragh described the research process for her book, Give a Goat , about the Heifer International Project.

I made, what else, valentines, to pass the time between browsers, and Jay Piscopo sketched his favorite superheroes.

Thanks to the folks at Sherman's for the opportunity to connect with readers, each other, and spread some literary love. They had great treat bags!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Indie love fest

I'm off to Sherman's Maine Books in Freeport this morning to be part of the KidsHeartAuthors day. Mitali Perkins, author of Rickshaw Girl,
came up with this idea to bring together authors and illustrators on Valentine's Day at independent bookstores, to share love and literary valentines. I always buy a special book for my beloveds on Valentine's Day and today I'll pick some out while schmoozing with cohorts I've never met, like Jay Piscopo, Sarah Thomson, and Aileen Darragh.

There are 44 bookstores all over New England participating, so visit an indie near you.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 9, 2009


I hosted a lovefest of valentine making with middle school daughters and ladies on Saturday. What a blast of collage, candy, and connections. It dawned on me right before that I actually didn't have enough chairs for everybody, but somehow we crammed in amongst the scissors and stickers just fine. It was parallel fun: girls in one room...

and big girls in the kitchen (where else?)

Some girls made valentines for moms right off. Nothin' like that mother/daughter love, especially now as it gets dicey and delicate in the tween years. It's important to be lovey dovey so girls won't settle for anything less, right?

One girl made a valentine for the dog:

Another made one for Dad about the dog:

And the big girls got crafty. Carol is a veteran scrapper:

Trisha made these confections:

Elena got angelic:

Molly got a bit naughty:

Nancy, the goddess of collage and assemblage, made a handful of pretties:

And Jolene was a blur of 3-D creations, wrapped and sashed with cool fabric bits:

Mary Anne made sweetly animated ones like this cutie:

Of course, I never cleaned the whole house beforehand, dawdling over my stash of stellar cards from years past like this oldie but goodie Love Bug by Mary Anne:

I managed to make a few, one of them with some of Mary Anne's painted papers:

The girls all headed out skating, to work off some of that energy. Oh, to be 12.
I myself would rather not repeat it.

The ice pond is not far.

And even the moon made an appearance, caught in some branches.

After the gang all left, I was inspired to make this with some loot that got left behind.

So, grab some scissors, maps, stamps, old wrapping paper, and heat up the snail mail. You and the recipient will feel warm all over.