Monday, August 30, 2010

nature trail

 Woo hoo! The esteemed author, Susan Blackaby, of Nest, Nook & Cranny will be flying in from the other Portland in mid-October! It will be our first chance to meet before combining forces in a couple of book events. Meanwhile, I'm brainstorming with the brilliant Kirsten Cappy of Curious City to map out a nature walk in conjunction with an art show on Peaks Island. My island habitat has provided so much reference for that book, and my outlook in general, it seems only fair to share it!

Every day, I'm trekking through some woods with my mutt, always with eyes peeled and just letting my mind wander.

Spotted this Black Crowned Night Heron in a little marsh, completely unruffled by my presence.

Last week, Kirsten and I followed Garry Fox, president of the Peaks Island Land Preserve, into the woods to scout out a possible story walk. The organization will partner with us and benefit from a portion of sales of books, prints, and original art.

As we padded over the carpet of needles, Garry pointed out the tree species and a couple of man-made

Nice to see kids can still find refuge in a fern forest.

We got talking about island critters, since my daughter and a friend had recently encountered a dead star nose mole. Garry said cats will chase and kill them, but don't like their taste.

When I did this piece for the book, I could have used a better specimen for reference.

I was thinking about my love of Wind in the Willows while drawing this curious mole. But look how curious the star nose mole really is up-close!

Rest assured this fellow had a proper and ceremonial burial..

We spotted a field mouse like this on our walk, looking for a cranny.

And there was also a wee toad, who peed into lucky Kirsten's palm.

Here is a view of the Great Trout Pond near the back shore, home to herons, gulls, beavers, and deer.
Not sure about trout!

The beavers are pretty shy. This is how I picture them in Nest, Nook & Cranny.

They've been gnawing away, creating dams like this.

Garry pointed out this plant form, but I totally forget what he said it was. Anybody know?

Deer are shy, too, but inhabit the inner woods of the island during the day, and graze island gardens at night, those without sturdy deer-fencing.

I admit a soft spot for this fawn, from the book.

My challenge in illustrating Susan's lyrical poems was to leave white space for the words and images while creating drawings that shared some of the same rhythm and reverence for nature as her work.

I'm pleased at the result and eager to meet my better half. Stay tuned for details about YAP and my island celebration.

Happy trails, Suz! And thanks, Garry and Kirsten!

Monday, August 23, 2010

book roamings

The whole brood went on a roundabout to Camden on Friday. This barn, spotted along Route 126, seemed like a good omen. We stopped in Rockland to check out our neighbor's paintings hanging at the Dowling Walsh Gallery on Main Street.

Scott Kelley's huge watercolors of birds and warp are intricately compelling while swooping your eye all around.

We skipped  across the street to Archipelago, where my wee book is for sale.

From there we checked in at our lodging and went straight to the pool, which brought back dappled memories of growing up, poolside, at the Red Doors Motel.

Thanks to a timely suggestion from Mary Anne, we dined at a fabulous little bistro, Francine.

I had the most amazing lobster dish. Ever. Had the chance to work it off strolling around Camden afterwards and then climbing around the top of Mt. Battie the next morning, in search of a letter box.

And we found it!

It's always fun to find a little journal hidden in a panoramic spot. From there, it was on to our final destination, the Book Fair by the Sea at the Camden Public Library, which sits in a pretty setting of its own.

The super children's librarian, Amy Hand, organized a diverse crop of authors and illustrators that included Beth Cadena, Matt Tavares, Jane Cowen-Fletcher, Katie Clark, Pat Brisson, Karel Hayes, and Wade Zahares.

The Owl & Turtle Bookshop had us all set up with our books. Ready to sign anytime!

Each of us took a turn in the sunny rotunda area making a short presentation. I'm still getting the hang of these things.

I read my favorite poems from Nest, Nook & Cranny and then showed some objects of affection, such as pencil boxes, big scissors, toy cameras, the things that fill my studio habitat, as well as some found nature objects like a nest, urchin shells, and shards that I come across in my island habitat. Being observant is the number one inspiration for me.

I missed the cue from my daughter to stop blathering and didn't have much time left for drawing with kids. Note to self: talk less, draw more!

It's just plain fun to spend time in a colorful library with kindred spirits, celebrating books and the folks who create them. Many thanks, Camden Public Library!!!

These encounters will lift me through the final days of summer, as the march to school begins.
Back to the drawing board!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

summer roamings

Here's my sketch of Saskia, the daughter of Madeline Sorel, who I visited recently while her family
was enjoying a stay on the lake in Wolfeboro, NH. We were classmates at RISD and used a bit of our visit to draw together, one of my favorite ways to spend time.

It's been such a hot week, I haven't accomplished much else. I'm working slowly on sketches for Portland Stage Company, for a poster for next season. It's fun doing lots of rough ideas but showing a lot of them invariably requires merging two or more favorites.

For instance, these are the two roughs in the running.

So, hmmm. How do I get the best of both of these into a single image? Not that easy.

But, I've got more work to do. This is just too busy. Fortunately, summer provides plenty of distractions from the drawing table.

My daughter was having a blast in Medieval Camp at the Peaks Island Fiber Arts Camp, where kids learned archery, made felted rats, sewed tunics....and made illuminated letters.

Here a pair of knights await their turn in the display of swordplay.  Both sides got into the drama of battle.

Besides hand-sewing tunics, campers made leather belts, velvet pouches, and leather bracers for their shooting arms.

It was magical! Lady Hanley treated everyone to a magnificent feast of roasted chicken, peasant bread, and honey cakes, telling us about the customs of 14th century England. Such as, they dipped their arrows in dung to inflict disease upon the enemy! And salt was hoarded like gold. I took enough photos to reference my next story idea......

Our imaginations leaped forward several centuries when we saw the invigorating performance of Circus Smirkus later in the day. This amiable Big Foot made regular appearances in the ring during the Wilderness Wonder show.

I wished I could have taken my illustration class at Maine College of Art to this circus! I brought them to the Shriner's Circus back in April as part of their last project, to create a circus poster. Regardless of how tacky that circus struck everyone, students brought in a fantastic variety of solutions. This one by
Tanya is the most Smirko-esque.

And that reminds me: I begin teaching again in only 3 weeks! Back in the classroom with the senior ninjas, a fine troupe of illo majors that have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

But who made the summer disappear?

Now I've got to get ready for Art on the Porch. See me at the Fifth Maine this Sunday!

Daisy and I will be selling prints, originals, and books! Think sun....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

book peeps

Wooooo! This just arrived via Charlesbridge Publishing. Rickshaw Girl by Mitali Perkins is now published in Korea! It's a thrill to see my illustrations paired with another language, and to know the book is getting a wider audience.

And in other news: Seven Days of Daisy is scheduled to be published by Down East next May! My wee book about the passage of time, island-style, has come a long way since I wrote it back in 2002.

Now Nana needs a walker and lives in assisted living in Portland. But some things don't change,
such as Daisy's fascination with the little things. A respect for nature never goes out of style.
She documented her friend, Chiara, wearing a bracelet of live starfish. How fun is that?

Speaking of nature, Nest, Nook and Cranny continues to get rave reviews. "A teacher's dream" is a fine phrase, indeed. Thank you!

This bear knows a good buzz: if anybody's in the Camden area on August 21, come by the Camden Library's Book Fair by the Sea.

I'll be there with other Maine authors and illustrators celebrating books and meeting readers
from 1 - 4 PM. Let's draw together!