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.


Patricia Erikson said...

It never ceases to amaze me that the roof on your lovely home manages to stay attached with so much creative energy bounding out from under it. I love seeing the world around my through your eyes!

JG said...

jamie! what great commentary on our wall as "boldest statement on place and placement" quite perfect and thanks for all of the shout outs!! i just found your blog tonight! all this time i could have been following you!