Monday, June 29, 2009

writers and wizards

What's on the top of my reading stack at the moment? "The Cutting" by island neighbor and debut author, James Hayman, is a graphic thriller set in Portland, Maine. I bought two copies at the Hayman's recent book launch party, one to give away. But Marty grabbed one and so we're feverishly reading the book at the same time. This pretty much never happens. He's ahead of me, and he better not spill any details. Be warned: you can't put this book down.

We knew Jim had been writing a book; who isn't these days? We rejoiced when he found an agent, then a two-book deal, and now publication. In their signature classy style, the Haymans threw a lovely party at the Bakery Building, where Jim's wife, Jeanne O'Toole Hayman, has a studio.

The crowd was quite a mix of artists, writers, and islanders, and perhaps a few surgeons. Not surprisingly, this was where I preferred to hang out, near Jeanne's gestural figure studies and encaustic tools.

The Haymans used to host life drawing sessions at their house. I give Jim credit for trying his hand at drawing the model. He said it was too distracting to have a naked female in the house while he was writing, considering it rude to walk through the session, so he simply joined in.

Perhaps it was all material for the writing. Coincidentally, the lead character's love interest is an artist.

Here's Jim signing books.

In fact, he has quite a schedule of readings and signings. He started at Longfellow Books last week. Tonight he is at the Borders in South Portland, Maine at 7 PM.

If you have a thing for thrillers, suspense, Portland, anatomy, or need a page-turner, get your own copy.

It would be no surprise if this book became a script. Congratulations, Jim!

Is it not amazing that stories are spun out of thin air? Mere words on a page filtered from the mind's eye. After many, many grueling drafts, of course.

Stories can have such power. In a leaping segue, consider what a certain story about wizard school has launched right here on Peaks Island. The Peaks Island Fiber Arts Camp began another season with a week of Wizard Camp. Our daughter came home with tales of finding magical rocks at the beach, hand-sewing a black robe, and making motion retardant slime. Here is a cabinet of curious potions, labeled such things as "pepol blood" and "fairy tears" and "orc blood."

They made brooms, stitched leather journals (for recording potion recipes and spells), made felted owls, crocheted amulets, and fashioned wands. All this concentrated handiwork happened in the morning, while afternoons were for rousing games of quidditch on the front lawn. Here campers are hunting for the snitch.

Our resident wizard brought home this pile of handmade things.

She's ready for a summer full of inventing magic, and we're hoping not to become toads.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

working artists show

This original illustration will be part of an upcoming show:

The WORKING ARTISTS SHOW, organized by the Maine Illustrators' Collective, will be featuring art by many nationally known and internationally published artists at Kennebunk Free Library in Hank's Room, a gallery space, in Kennebunk, ME.

Show runs July 2nd-July 31st.

Artist's Reception is July 8th 4:30-7:30pm. The public is welcome.

This show, featuring professional, commercial artists was created to promote public awareness of an art form usually seen for a few fleeting moments in print or film. Most consumers are unaware of the background behind producing commercial art: the time, thought, and skill. Advertising art, design, and illustration, once considered less than fine art, is now highly collectible in print and original form, with some of the best commercial artists' work, such as Andy Warhol's, Norman Rockwell's, and N. C. Wyeth's, found in art museum collections around the world.

Commercial artists are disciplined and highly skilled artists doing the business of art; producing their contracted art while accommodating their own family's needs, dealing with tight budgets, constantly creating “new” and inspired work, learning new skills as digital demands and software continue to change, negotiating with clients, all the while meeting often impossible deadlines. These " invisible artists" rarely, if ever, show their work in original form to the public. Hidden by the limitations of reproduction the many tiny pen, pencil, and pastel strokes, brushwork, beautiful color blends on acid-free papers and boards are usually “hidden” away in flat files right after being scanned and printed.

I am in the marvelous company of these talented colleagues:

Andy J Smith
Gabe McPhail
Joel Zain Rivers
Nicole Fazio
Nancy Cooper Funk
Jessica Lynn Clark
Judith Hunt
Patricia Sharp SHARP DESIGN’S STUDIO & GALLERY Milbridge, Maine
Pat Wooldridge
Leticia Plate
Christia Siravo
Katie Diamond
Michael Boardman
Roz Davis
Helen Stevens
Wade Zahares

Come see a truly unique art show! Original art and prints will be for sale.
The Maine Illustrators' Collective (MEIC) is an informal collective of illustrators and designers meeting in Portland once a month to brain storm, critique new work, give support, share ideas, and offer advice on promoting each other's work. They also organize events, talks and shows.

Thanks to Judith Hunt for all the organizing!

Monday, June 22, 2009

summah at last

The daisies are in bloom, along with my daughter, who took this photo en route to my nephew's high school graduation. Tis the season of culminating events, completion, honors and awards. I was commissioned by the Peaks Island Elementary School's PTO to create a piece for Gayl Vail, retiring after 30 years of teaching, promoting literacy, and fostering good will and excellence at Portland's oldest school. Guided by fellow staffer and cousin Kathy Newell, I drew a portrait of the family's summer cottage. Named the Marion, it is an antique dwelling typical of Peaks Island's summer architecture. Peaks has a wonderful history of gathering families and these cottages hold dear memories of days gone by.

I worked from a few vintage photos provided by Kathy and also walked down and took a few of my own. Here it is in progress.

My daughter suggested I include Gayl's dog, Brady. Brady happens to be the sibling of our dog, both island mutts from the same litter. Here's the final piece before framing.

The piece was presented to Gayl at the fifth grade graduation, a truly special event for the island. The Peaks Island School spends a full 90 minutes graduating the fifth grade class, no matter how small. From piano recitals to students' offering essays on what it means to be an American to willing favorite erasers to younger classmates, this rite of passage makes everyone feel proud.

Hot on the heels of this event was Peaksfest, the annual celebration of island community. Now in it's eighth year, Marty is piling up
t-shirt collectibles. He somehow has become the de facto Peaksfest designer.

This year's design was influenced by Mexican cut paper art, Javanese shadow puppets, and the swell work of cousin-in-law Hugh, who we hope will visit this week!

I made a new pastel for the last group show at the Gem Gallery before the start of weekly summer shows. I titled this one, "Glow" and it features a favorite spot near Trefethen Beach, a delta of sea grass that captures my fascination.

On my way to the gallery for my shift, I spotted a few of the new recycle bins decorated by fellow artists. This one, by Tim Nihoff, graced the entrance to the Peaks Island Branch Library where an exhibit of laundry photos wafted in the breeze. Here we are happy hanging it all out to dry.

This one by Nancy Nash is a celebration of salvaging from all those walks on the beach. Lovely!

I enjoyed my shift at the Gem, as always a chance to meet new folks passing through, reconnect with summer art lovers back in their cottages, and SELL some art for anybody in the collective. I sold pieces by Norm Proulx and Jane Banquer, both participating in the first of this summer's Art Walks.
Unlike the well-established and city-funded Art Walks in Portland, the Peaks Art Walks are ad hoc happenings of a magical sort. Each one involves a different number of artists who open up their homes and studios as slices of their lives, not their gallery facades.

I stopped in at Norm and Jane's studio to tell them the news. They were open, but away at the Trek Across Maine, building biceps and raising funds for the American Lung Association. Friends were manning the space. This is Jane's area downstairs. It's no coincidence that as a printmaker and gardener, she works in a light-flooded studio overlooking flowers and draws them with a meticulous eye and delicate touch.

Norm paints upstairs, and is drawn to still lifes, architecture, and places of the imagination.

I ventured down the rain-slicked hill to the home of Jessica George and Cole Caswell. Jessica painted these signs as whimsical markers for establishments near and far.

In brave fashion, they hung their work on the side of the house, making the boldest statement about place and placement.

On the back porch, Cole had set up a handy outdoor darkroom for shooting tin type portraits.

Besides art, Peaksfest means bingo, skateboarding, pie-eating, golfcart and bike parades, fire boat tours, kayak races, and jumping off the dock. Even when the sun don't shine.

This is the kind of scene that inspired an illustration done recently for an imaginary book cover.

It is reminiscent of another book I made, egads, seven years ago. Seven Days of Daisy was done after taking a picture book class taught by Judy LaBrasca at Maine College of Art in 2002.

I took a simple idea, documenting a week of my daughter's playful moments, and fleshed out a picture book. Although I had two decades of editorial and corporate illustration under my belt, tackling the picture book format was all new. As Judy advised, it was like telling War and Peace in 32 pages. Visual complexity and only a few well-chosen sentences to carry a story. I made a little pencil dummy during the week-long class and went on in the next six months to do the entire book. I published 10 copies on my own printer, had them bound by a local bookmaker, and sent some out to publishers while giving the rest away.

After 10 rejections over the next year, I decided to strengthen my writing skills, completing a correspondence course with the Institute for Children's Literature.
I got busy teaching at MECA myself, and illustrating other books. The time is now to publish this one on a larger scale, with encouragement from Eleanor Morse and John Wetterau, who have both written and self-published with acclaim.

In between illustration assignments, I am revising some of the spreads and editing the text even more. Stay tuned! Summer release is imminent, I promise.

Friday, June 12, 2009

busy bookish bee

It's been a hectic couple of weeks, all revolving around books and bookmaking. There's moaning about the death of print, but the tangible satisfactions evoked by the simple turning of a page will not perish. Not in my world!

I had good news about Rickshaw Girl, a book that has brought me many connections and inspirations. The publisher sold translation rights in India! This doesn't mean much in the way of money for me, but more importantly, way more readers will become familiar with the story. Very cool.

This is the title page from the book.

I was also interviewed by the New York State Reading Association for the Charlotte Award, again about Rickshaw Girl. Stay tuned for the posting on their excellent blog about book creators.

Last week I was at King Middle School for a book making session with Marcia Salem's ELL class. These English Language Learner students have been studying marine life in Casco Bay. I helped them create accordion books featuring their drawings with pertinent questions and answers about their given sea critter. First session: construction. Cutting, folding, no blood, please! Here Marcia supervises some slicing.

Second session: making potato prints of their creature. This was an inky, chaotic, but fun mess. The idea was to make a repeatable image that could decorate the cover of the book, along with rubber stamping letters. Here are the ones that were done in session three:


They made great use of design, stamping, collage, hand-lettering, and patterning. Great work!

Meanwhile, the zine workshop I did with some sixth grade teachers produced very inspired results. Many went into this with some trepidation: "I'm not an artist," several said. I am deaf to this excuse. I believe everybody has a creative well ready for tapping. We just need the time and space to do it. Sure enough, each of them produced a unique and compelling zine. Here's the collection:

Topics ranged from censorship to adoption, lyrical to poetic, graphic to subtle. They documented talent, domestic narratives, and field work. I came away completely thrilled. I hope they will find some purpose for zine-making in the classroom while identifying with students who are finding their voices.

I dashed back to the island for a spirited session of book making at my own table. I hosted Peaks Island's Girl Scout Troop 1977 as they made two books for their scout leaders. More glue sticks, rubber stamps, and fun papers.

No stoppin' girl power.

This binge of bookish creativity was capped by the news that Nicole d'Entremont's book has been published! Nicole taught the recent session of Sudden Fiction here on Peaks Island and I was privileged to be part of her class. Even better, she asked me to illustrate the jacket of a book she has been writing for many years.

Can't wait to read the book! Congratulations, Nicole!