Monday, November 30, 2009

tis the season

With the pies gone and the turkey slept off, the holiday drill must begin. I had the delicious opportunity to bring my illustration class to a tech rehearsal of Santaland Diaries at Portland Stage Company, which proved to be a perfect segue for the season. It was challenging, to say the least, but put us all in a properly satiric mood.

Dustin Tucker plays Crumpet, a disenchanted Macy's elf. Here is my quick sketch of the stage setting.

I told my students beforehand that it would be hard, very hard, to capture a moving target, but this was a chance to strengthen their recall and eye for detail.

Here is Alysa's sketch, a study of costume and character.

One thing I love about sharing a classroom with illustration students is their sheer variety of responses. Here is Thom's sketch, done with soft charcoal, large and gestural, from a figure drawing stance, yet showing great energy.

This one from Seumas, who makes use of a middle ground:

Bret always goes for the maniacal:

Stephan has an easy line, and here documents the directors who kept stopping the action to finesse the lighting and sound effects.

In this sketch, also by Stephan, he captures a picture book quality of the character.

Sarah McCann caught the slouch of an actor in sullen repose during a 9 hour rehearsal.

From the same angle, Joe sees a different attitude:

Cyndi created a very deliberate and stylized face:

Elise got the actor in a down moment, between the numerous takes. We were actually fortunate that there were many, for our purposes.

I drew another "between takes" from across the room.

I'm not the kind of teacher that draws over a student's drawing. I encourage them to draw what attracts them, to draw as they see fit. By drawing alongside them, I recognize just what I am asking them to do. I can only hope that offering venues for drawing from life, theater, and situations that don't sit still will
sharpen their skills and eyes for drama, the seen and unseen, and magically invented.

This is a small slice of the many drawings done on site. I did a ton of just the actor's profile, completely unable to accurately capture his nose. Drawing is quite often a frustrating exercise, but you draw, and draw again. It's a persistence that demands fitness and focus.

We were all distracted by the hilarity of the play, what little we saw in two hours, given the repeated stops for tech adjustments. But as an exercise in visual essay, it was worth it.

Bravos to Crumpet and Portland Stage! Go see Santaland Diaries!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

songs and stories for a soggy saturday

Rainy days are the perfect opportunity to curl up with a good book. Instead, I braved vast puddles and stormy seas to admire what's up with stories and the folks who create them.

First I went to the community center on Peaks Island to see Shana Barry, a former islander and creator of Fofers. She awed a crowd of all ages with her sweet vocals and guitar, singing about pink whales and peaceballs, creatures who inhabit the colorful world of Fof, a secret island off the coast of Maine. "Fofers are very shy," she told us, yet each of her characters has a certain furry something about them. Shana is multi-talented: writing songs, animating them, and fabricating fuzzy puppets that mesmerize kids with their serene faces and gangly limbs.

Her colors and simple graphics bear a resemblance to my daughter's work, which is inspired by a real, not-so-secret island but nonetheless magical. Daisy made this of our island:

We then departed across the bay to Many Voices, a book fair hosted by CAFAM and Curious City. It's a bright and busy bebop of activity, a must destination for anyone interested in books with diversity and great illustration, fragrant dumplings, and paper dragons.

We acquired the latest from Grace Lin, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, having become major fans of her Year of the Dog and Year of the Rat.

She graciously signed books while kids were running to the stations in her activity that followed the journey of the book's character. Brilliant!

It was a swell chance to meet up with friends, teachers, and fellow book lovers.

From Portland, we traveled in driving sheets of rain to Freeport, to see the
Maine Illustrators Collective exhibit, The Classics Re-Imagined. The Freeport Community Library is some swanky place, with a vast collection in a spacious and inviting environment.

My Alice version is below:

She's in good company, next to Leticia Plate's bright and graphic version:

And next to hers, Christina Siravo's:

Alice is the only book that had multiple re-imaginings here. No doubt because she's such a metaphor for feeling tossed about, confused, dwarfed by the chaos and surrealism of the world. Yet able to challenge conventions and remain ever curious.

Here is Marty's fun bunny:

And this is by Michael Boardman, who recently visited my MECA class with his silkscreen expertise.

The show is a fun display of the power of enduring characters that can pop to life in new ways. We returned to our rock in the ocean, content to curl up with a book at last.

Snuggled and cozy, like in this final scene I illustrated in Maddie's Magical Ride.....where a good book is the best way the end the day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

here a show

there a show, everywhere a show show.....

I finally finished my Alice for the upcoming Maine Illustrators Collective show at the Freeport Library. The group dreamed up this idea in visibility back in August: re-imagining the classics. I knew immediately that I wanted to do my own Alice version. Coming on the heels of another project involving cards, I managed to work them in again, along with a huge mushroom, perhaps because another classic, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron, is in the house. Even though our daughter is 12, reading plenty on her own, we haven't let go the nightly ritual of reading aloud. The Mushroom Planet series, from the 50's, were favorites of Marty's.

This Alice is equal parts our daughter (who gladly posed), references to illustrations by Arthur Rackham, and MECA grad, Dani Evans, whose signature blue-streaked hair and hot cross bunnies are part of our world.

I'm excited to be in the company of fellow MEIC members, who enjoyed a nifty link on the ispot.

The show will be on view during the month of November and the opening reception is this Saturday from noon to 3 PM. Meet the artists, as well as the intrepid librarians who are thrilled to have books and art celebrated in their midst.

I realized I've used cards as collage elements several times. Hmmm, recurring motifs.

This was a very early promo card, done with charcoal and gouache way back when I thought I would be a fashion illustrator.

I used cards again in a valentine postcard, featuring our babysitter at the time, Marieke, who posed with our toy accordion just for fun.

Collage went from being a bit player in my work to whole hog during the 90's. For nearly a decade I worked completely in photo collage, cutting and pasting actual color copies before Photoshop became mainstream.

When esteemed colleague, Alex Rheault, put out a call for illustration for the upcoming Empty the Fridge, I pulled from a stash of collages in my flatfiles.

This one was done after seeing Blue Velvet, that creepy classic film by David Lynch, and later ran in San Francisco Focus Magazine.

The opening for Empty the Fridge is this Friday, 5 - 9 PM at Art House. There will be
lots to look at, and people to meet. Come on over!

Here's another collage submitted for the show, A Good Catch, which ran in Men's Journal. I think: it was awhile ago.

Can you believe a men's magazine article about picking the right diamond?

Although I returned to drawing after moving to Maine, my cache of photo collages represent a formative chapter in my evolving career. Any chance to throw in a real element is part of my deck of tricks.