My students are working on their first illustration project, Mixed Media Memory. It's pretty wide open to interpretation. I like to start out with an open mind and see just where they are at, what they are fixated with, dreaming about, or eager to share/show off, how they pull together their drawing skills with materials and techniques. When I gave this assignment to a previous class, there were some very revealing results. I worked then on an image, too.
This is my "Lupine Land."
I combined a variety of preoccupations at the time: a fantasy world not far from reality here, in which deer antlers can be found in the compost pile out back, one after the other. Did you know antlers are shed every season? Deer sightings remain a magical thing. At the time, I had just learned I won a Lupine Honor award for illustrating Rickshaw Girl. I collaged a gocco print of an alpana illustration from that book for the girl's dress. Hidden subtext, you see.
The Lupine Awards this year celebrated 20 years of annual presentations honoring the best in Maine literature for young people, thanks to the Youth Services Section of the Maine Library Association. Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, was the inspiration for the award. As a young girl, Alice Rumphius loved the sea and through her travels wanted to make the world more beautiful. She scattered lupine seeds.
I'd never heard of the book until moving to Maine and receiving a copy of Miss Rumphius upon my daughter's birth. It's become a family classic in our house. With great reverence for Barbara Cooney's amazing work, I traveled to see an exhibit of her originals and sketches from four books at Bowdoin College Museum of Art last week, with my cohort in curiosity, Kirsten Cappy.
Her paintings are the same size as the reproductions, fabulous feats of narrative rendered with exquisite detail, painted on silk or percale in acrylic. Even though I know these images like the back of my hand, it's still breathtaking to see the real thing. And even better, her sketches and dummy books. This collage of palette studies reminded me of another great Maine illustrator, Melissa Sweet.
And oh! There, beneath the glass was an actual shell, the gift from the Bapa Raja in the story, one of my favorite scenes in any book. I love it when real objects take on storied proportions in another world!
Kirsten and I got away with sneaking a few photos but the polite guards caught up with us. No problemo: out comes the pencil. Here is Kirsten, sketching her own take on a relief sculpture of a winged figure from Iraq, circa 800 BC.
Barbara Cooney's attention to color and setting was just the shot I needed to complete a commission. I was asked to draw a house portrait by a neighbor on the back shore, to give to his wife for their 40th wedding anniversary. I love people who value art as a unique gift!
The house is antique, sitting on a cove amongst a grove of trees. I walk by it all the time, and took tons of surreptitious photos, this one at low tide.
But I wanted the ocean to be in the piece, since location is what it's all about. Here is the unframed pastel.
This piece was recently commissioned for a wedding gift, a view towards Great Diamond Island called "Duo."
And this was commissioned for a woman turning 80 who knows this beach well.
I could draw this view endlessly. I love the sturdy white house on stilts over the sea, punctuating the curve of the beach. I apparently sold this piece via the Gem Gallery to the owner of the house, Wally, but nobody here can remember his last name!
That's island living for you, first name basis.
Everything loops together. I recently sold this piece at the Gem, to a lady whose daughter attended the Horse Island Camp here. Coincidentally, the owner, Jeanann Alves, wrote Maddie's Magical Ride, my first picture book.
Little Joe, a most handsome guy, grazes at the field down the street from my house. I always enjoy encountering him with various riders. Here he is with Hallie on a recent foggy afternoon.
So in my land of lupines, I'm putting pigment and place together. They tell a certain story of what I love about Maine.