Friday, October 30, 2009

dark shadows

Ah, the crunchy leaf piles, the fragrance of woodsmoke, and eerie scratchings on windowpanes from gnarly branches. I so love this time of year. It's also a blast to be part of a new show at the Gem Gallery, signage above. I was addicted to this show back in the 70's, trotting off the school bus, opening a bottle of Tab, and flopping onto the living room couch to become mesmerized by the campy convolutions of Barnabas Collins.

My inhouse framer put my recent Zombie Warrior into a crumbling frame while I worked on a new pastel, Big Night.

This is a spot near my house, cleared of it's birches by the owner looking to sell. Instead, it is a lonely bog, a vernal puddle that changes in size and reflections on a daily basis, always catching my eye.

Here are some shots of the installation, which Carol Cartier, fellow cohort in crime, styled after a game of Clue. Hence, next to my new pastel, I added my Miss Peacock, in the Drawing Room, with a Candlestick.

Carol is an artist of many talents: she paints, creates dolls, jewelry, assemblages, collages clothing, and writes poetry. As a former stylist, she's outdone herself with this current installation. Downright creepy. I gallery sat on Wednesday evening, with only a few brave visitors, and I had myself a solo seance with the environment.

I'm getting a vision of Miss Scarlet in the library with a bludgeon.

And who but a Scavenger Extraordinaire like Carol would have a possessed tree stump on hand for the centerpiece?

My Zombie Warrior looks good next to Carol's Black Siren.

Too bad: this is all that's left of Colonel Mustard.

The Gem will host a reception for spooks today from 4 to 8 PM. You have to see it to believe it.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

zines & zombies

In every illustration class, I print student work, so the class can see their art in context, reproduced, and as part of a larger whole. During two weeks this semester they worked on a collective comic, which will be a 32 page full color zine titled "Coast City." This is a patchy undertaking, getting a class of 15 to collaborate in a timely manner, but was undoubtedly a worthwhile project, allowing for imaginative brainstorming (a useful skill in any environment), and aiming for a clear visual thread as a group (visual literacy). The peer dynamic came into play, another positive. In the end, the successful delivery of digital files for reproduction is a basic professional practice, too.

After a visit from guest illustrator, Joel Zain Rivers, each student offered a possible character. Here Sarah makes note of the gamut, which ranged from trolls to dopey ducks.

With an unwieldy cast, the students merged characters, editing to a list of 6. Elise
takes on the strong-armed revision necessary.

Students then brought in their character studies for the motley cast:
a mobster lobster, octopus, sexy cyborg scientist, a duck crossing guard, a mime, and a
zombie horde. This called for some life drawing reinforcement, in which students volunteered to pose. Here Thomas holds an undead lurch.

I invite students to draw from both observation and imagination. I try to do some quick drawings also, to both mentor and stay aware of what I am asking them to do.

They get it. When students take turns modeling, they appreciate how quickly they need to draw. Not easy holding your hands in the air for ten minutes.

These are Stephan's brush and ink drawings.

Here, students reenact a scene in which the mad scientist commands her zombies.

Thanks to an eneven number of students, a pair of pages fell to me to illustrate. Each of us drew two pages from a hat, and were assigned a piece of the story to illustrate.

Here are mine.

Katie made puppets for her scenes.

I collected digital files from everyone and did the production. Today, I will pick them up from Xpress.

It's an absurd satire with a mash-up of styles but also a great exercise in drawing, collaboration, character design, visual literacy, and meeting deadlines.

Yay for students in IL 321-421 at MECA!

Friday, October 9, 2009

it's in the cards

There's nothing like an old friend.

Here I am with Doug Smith, fellow illustrator, and the first friend in the field. We met at a Graphic Artists Guild event in Boston in 1980, when he gallantly offered the empty seat next to his. It was my first foray into a professional workshop and no small thing to find a friendly face. Now, he is a neighbor on Peaks Island and recently referred me for a very fun project with Portland Stage Company.

Doug and I are both illustrating posters for upcoming productions. Mine is The Gin Game by D.L. Coburn, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the drama between two aging players in a retirement home.

I always start with very loose scribbles like these:

And then I used head shots provided by the marketing director, Carole Harris, who has to be one of the most elegant and congenial clients ever.

This is actress Christine McMurdo Wallis, who plays the weepy but calculating Fonsia.

And this is J. Patrick McNamara, who plays Weller, a sore loser at gin.

So then I did tighter sketches. I did 8 and these are a few that proved usable in part.

As is often the case when presenting multiple visual solutions, there are elements from one or another than merge in a final. This was the final sketch.

I had fun playing with the collaged card pattern and going bold with unexpected color
for the final illustration. And Karen Lybrand, the amazing maestro of graphic materials for Portland Stage, pulled it all together for the poster.

I stopped in the other day to pick up some posters and cards. Can't wait for opening night on October 30!

Thanks to Doug for connecting me with a fabulous organization, and thanks to Portland Stage for featuring local illustration to promote their theater offerings.


Friday, October 2, 2009

swing tour

Trees are good for many things
but most of all
the magic of swings

In this scene from Seven Days of Daisy the girl is going full-tilt. There's a thrill from a tree swing that doesn't happen on the average playground. Looping in circles! Wheeeee! The daring dangers of crashing into bark! Arrrrghhhhh!

I had plenty of fun moments to choose from when structuring my story around the highs and lulls of an island week. But I certainly could not leave out swinging, one of the biggest bangs for any buck spent on toys EVER. The little round pink and purple number shown above was handmade, and tied with blue rope. It lasted for countless hours of glee until just recently splitting apart, thanks to a wet summer.

For awhile, we had to roam for swinging play. There's always the schoolyard.

This one's a bit off the beaten track, but still good.

But this tree is the mother of swing trees, known affectionately on Peaks as the winnie-the-pooh tree.

It sports about 4 different swings, including a tire. Recently, we found a notebook tied to the tree. It was left by the family who owns the property and whose daughter was getting married. The tree and its swings meant a lot to them; they wanted anyone who stopped by to sign the book as a momento for her wedding day. Man, what a romantic concept! It was chock full of signatures and good wishes, many from islanders who had watched this girl grow up, always smiling.

Happily, we've crafted a new swing, painted by Daisy from leftover house trim.

A good swing can lighten the soul. Try it!