Friday, September 24, 2010

here, there, everywhere

It's official! I'm getting postcards printed so the long held intention of celebrating Nest, Nook & Cranny is now gonna happen. At last. Author Susan Blackaby is coming east, and we'll meet for the first time. Can't wait! We'll do a school visit to Peaks Island Elementary and also a visit to the Portland Public Library at 3 PM on October 14. We will write, draw, and be yappish.

In other news, I am jazzed about autumn. Tis my season, y'know. It promises to be hectic. I've been all over lately, soaking up inspiration. Made a jolly good jaunt down to Boston with the ever colorful Kirsten Cappy.

We stopped at the Art Institute of Boston to see the gut-wrenching exhibit of Sue Coe's work,
The Tragedies of War. Not for the squeamish. She was a big inspiration in the early days of my editorial illustration career. There was no matching her unequivocal approach to the brutalities of the world. These political bedfellows are vintage Coe.

From there we bopped to Charlesbridge Publishing, where I picked up galleys for my next book project. Yay! Then, we schmoozed with kid lit folks at Boston Pie Company, where Mitali Perkins held court.

I found myself in a crowd of librarians, bloggers, and authors exchanging Twitter handles. Uh, my only handle was that I illustrated Mitali's Rickshaw Girl. That seemed to do the trick. I'm forever grateful for that fine story, and the chance to bring my visuals to it.

Twitter, twitter, tweet: met groovy librarians like Kara Dean and Laura Koenig, fellow fans of graphic novel for kids.

In other realms of art and performance, I brought my MECA class of illo ninjas to a tech rehearsal of The 39 Steps at Portland Stage Company. It was a good exercise in observation of choreography, framing, and the very difficult task of capturing it all, with no one standing still.

A vintage phone played a role in the action. Students Elise and Bret get ready to draw.

Here's Alysa's sketch:

And Seumas's:

 Elise drew some of the other sketchers, since we were at least sitting still.

Erica captured the director's fashion:

Seumas had a different take on him:

I myself was riveted by the leading man's pencil-thin moustache. Here's my quicky sketch.

I handed in final art a few weeks ago for 2 Pianos 4 Hands. It doesn't open for a couple of months, but here's the sneak peek.

Meanwhile, though, I've got to see The 39 Steps, with a lovely poster by my island neighbor,
Doug Smith. Although the class only saw a couple of scenes, rehearsed a ton of times, it looks to be a madcap hit!

Bravo and thanks to Portland Stage for welcoming my students!

Friday, September 17, 2010


Back in the classroom at Maine College of Art, the senior illustration majors are drawing up a storm. Each was given a blank sketchbook at the end of last year, and asked to fill it during the summer. My first project this semester was for them to find some seed in there, and create a new piece. Illustrations are usually done via a series of sketchy steps. I wanted to see where we'd begin.

Joe likes to create characters and imaginary places. He chose a purple guy named "Mikey" from his sketchbook.


He decided to make it 3D, and photograph it.


Joe's got a great tactile sense to his work, something always is oozing or bubbling. Here's another page from his sketchbook, dripping with color.


Lori had a fun watercolor piece in her sketchbook, that pairs well with this boat.

Lori has a whimsical style, and is hungry for children's book work. She chose this sketch to work with.

She really fleshed it out for the final project, adding more detail and attitude.

Thomas is into legends, folklore, and heroic struggles. He's the only one who included the classic studies of heads, noses, hands, and feet in his sketchbook.  These are obligatory exercises in first year foundation drawing, but should be done more often, at all levels.

He chose an epic encounter for his project. He began with this:

He's exploring new digital skills, so went perhaps a bit too far on the final, but learned a few things in the process.

We went to see a show of drawing at the UNE Art Gallery. There was a great range of approaches, and students found something to like, some things not to like, a new interest in a particular artist, and a chance to see how artists present their work.

Yesterday we drew at Portland Stage, during a rehearsal of The 39 Steps. That was a challenge, so much action, so little time to capture it. More on that in another post!

Meanwhile, my students get under my skin, inspire me, and keep me coming back to the classroom.

Monday, September 13, 2010

ice harbor news

I met the author of Ice Harbor Mittens, Robin Hansen, for the first time on Friday when we drove together to Down East publishing in Rockport. We headed for a meeting with the publisher and sales folks to discuss publicity for our book. And here it is!  On the backseat in Robin's car, strewn with her signature mittens...

I used my island neighbors as models, and am hoping to make an island tour of Casco Bay libraries.

This is Finn, who becomes Josie in the book, an 11 year-old who wants to be a sternman on his cousin's lobster boat.

I staged my reference photos back in February, with mittens sent by Robin. Now that the weather has cooled, I can recall how chilly it really was. It was relevant immersion to walk the dog on a frosty morning and then return to my studio to make winter scenes.

Here's a scene in the book:

Editor Michael Steere took this shot of us in front of Down East's headquarters.

I'm excited we'll be seeing each other soon, plugging our book and exchanging views on coastal community life from Bath to Peaks!