Thursday, February 25, 2010

go figure

I just finished reading "The Undressed Art: Why We Draw" by Peter Steinhart for the third time. It's a book about life drawing, the rituals found in drawing groups, the artists and models who participate. I reread it from time to time when I am teaching, because it reinforces all the facets of this driving urge to draw the figure.

In an illustration class, the nude figure is less necessary. Drawing people in clothing or costume is also a great challenge, especially with elaborate folds and details. I encourage students to bring in props, anything that will add intrigue. And I allow drawing what is there and maybe what is not there. Inventing is appropriate for illustrators.

Of course, someone always brings in a weapon. Our culture is so saturated with violent entertainment, a (toy)gun is a standard prop. This student cleverly turned his pose into an idiomatic gesture, a metaphor for human foibles. One student noted that it was also a political act, to avoid the draft. Here is my quick sketch:

In another class, students posed as Alice in Wonderland characters. I added the mushroom perch, of course.

Here's the Cheshire Cat.

I even posed with a mad hat and a cup that said "drink me." This is Shannon's drawing, which doesn't show the quivering arm of this amateur model.

A hired model in another class brought some interesting costumes of her own. This is Annie, in a graphic skeleton suit.

These drawing sessions provide an opportunity for everyone to capture fashion and mood, in 10 or 15 minutes. I make mine quick, maybe 5 minutes, so I can also circulate among students and offer encouragement.

Practice, practice, practice is the mantra for everyone, including the teacher. Students may think they will be DONE with the learning after they get the degree. It will only have just begun. Every time I pick up a pencil, I am seeking new ground.

Go figure.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

lovey dovey

There's nothin' like a valentine to cheer me up. I love makin' em, and I love gettin' 'em. Don't you?

I dusted off the ole gocco machine for this year's edition.

I repurposed a little spot from a book that I illustrated for Storey. Added an embellishment from a chapter heading from Rickshaw Girl and voila. Always fun to try colors combos on different papers.

Why stop there? I brought my handy dandy kit into class, where students were working on a Love Zine project.

Here Devin applies the goopy ink like icing to his master.

Presto: his "Love Life" zine covers!

This project never ceases to amaze me with the sheer variety of responses. From a midnight bus ride, to an alien looking for love on a desolate planet, to mixtape romance memoirs, to stalkers, to sugar addiction, to girls, robots, and pin-ups, the class ran the gamut expressing visual stories of love, with sometimes loveless dimensions.

Now I need to tackle my own love duties.

First, a shout out for Mike and Wanda, my cousins who celebrate their anniversary today.
Love is all you need!

Their daughter, Mati, is the groovy fabricator of this pillow, sewn by Wanda, and delivered with love.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

objects of affection

I have a little box in my studio that displays my collection of souvenir cameras and various objects of my affection. I have a thing for starfish and urchin shells, very rare to come across on the rocky shores of Maine. I draw them every chance I get.

This illustration is on the title page of Nest, Nook, and Cranny.

I used this drawing, titled "Urchin Experiment" for a postcard mailer awhile back.
Backstory: I did a lot of diving off the diving board growing up at my parents' Red Doors Motel, where the pool was my spot. No urchins there, though...

When I brought my illustration class last week to the Portland Museum of Art, I was delighted to find a little hall with a BIG cabinet of curiosities.

This was the activity place inside the new Objects of Wonder exhibit of still lifes.
A few of us were like bees on honey, immediately sitting at the stools and fondling little things to sketch.

Opposite the wall of drawing tables, is an arrangement of gold frames that one can slide sketches behind and say: My art is on display at the PMA. Serious fun for all ages.

It was a great cue to head back to my studio and make some pastel pieces of my locations of affection on the island.

This is the entrance to the Trout Pond backshore. The parting in the reeds leads to a much larger pond, perfect for skating.

This pastel is titled "Salty Sky" and features a marsh on the southeast edge of the island that always captures my attention.

Both of these are now in the Think Pink show at the Gem Gallery, an annual love/art fest with a portion of proceeds benefiting the South Portland Breast Cancer Foundation.

Here is gallery owner Kristen Chalmers at the opening, full of pink and red.

Look, more objects of affection! My daughter's fun print, Acorn House, sitting pretty atop a yoyo runner by Kathy Newell.

Puts me in a pink mood, to send out valentines. Be on the lookout for yours!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

nook books are here!

Hooray! I got my box of Nest, Nook and Cranny books! O happy Pub Day!

I worked feverishly a year ago on the illustrations for this book of poems by Susan Blackaby. About animal habitats, it was a delicious challenge to immerse myself in the wordplay and my own environment, my radar always on the look out for immediate reference.

The book is punctuated by spreads that define a particular habitat: desert, grassland, shoreline, wetland, and woodland. Except for desert, I could mine my own territory, more or less.

Since there is a beaver colony on Peaks, I thought I could do some direct research. However, they are elusive critters, leaving only their signature chiseled marks on downed trees. Probably why I drew this beaver leaving the picture frame in my first piece for the Wetland spread.

The interior is black and white, but for the spreads, I wanted to play with some paper combinations for a greater range of tonal values. I needed to revise this, and show the beaver, plus draw a less awkward heron in flight. Thanks for astute art direction, Whitney!

There are some things you just have to invent. I had to draw a bear and a hive, but couldn't find very detailed reference. I drew this pattern.

I inverted and warped it, printed it out, and tore the edges, for that layered, papery quality of a hive. I combined the collage with the bear drawing.

It figures that reference often comes too late, but maybe it will be useful for another time, like this honeycomb I found in the snow yesterday.

Even though I live on an island, there's plenty of woodsy inspiration for this piece, for the Woodlands spread.

I loved the pattern of the inside of an envelope for the tree, but needed to revise that. This is the final version in the book.

Whenever I could, I played with cut paper and silhouettes.

Most of the illustrations are simple with plenty of white to give the poems their space.

Look who visited the lowtide about 3 months after I finished my illustrations...

And this morning I noticed this on a neighbor's roof:

The author writes at the end, " As a writer, I'm often asked where I get my ideas, and I usually say that I poke my nose out the front door. I suggest you do the same. If you stay on the lookout for quirky, curious, and remarkable things, you'll soon discover them everywhere."

Well said, Susan!

It was hard to miss this quirky curiosity, spotted down my street.

Only a clever quack would come up with such a remarkable obstacle for those drivers blasting to the next ferry.

Thanks to Suz, Charlesbridge, and folks like Tim, who make the world an ever fascinating place.