Friday, October 29, 2010

visions and views from MECA

The senior illustration students at Maine College of Art have had a busy fall: looking, listening, and drawing. As background for a sci-fi book jacket assignment, the esteemed Joshua Bergey gave a fascinating lecture on his grandfather, Earle Bergey, a brilliant illustrator of many genres in the 30's and 40's. Joshua never met his grandfather, who died when Joshua's father was young. He's piecing together a biography, and talking to models still living. He also shared a big collection of books and magazines with Bergey's illustrations, as well as some of the photos he shot for reference.

The next week, we did some drawing from life, with the lovely Eris Avery, who brought some choice accessories.

Sketch by Alysa:

Sketch by Cyndi:

Sketch by Lori:

Sketch by Seumas:

And I draw, too. I mean, who can resist a space vixen with blue hair? My sketch:

Here are a few of the science fiction book jacket results (before titles):

Bri did a zippy crustacean girl, zooming through the cosmos:

And Bret envisions a cyborg posing, post- apocalypse:

Juliana's got a thing for Egyptian lore:

Tom's got the troops invading the Alien Nation:

From the future, we came back into the present by doing a quick art walk of some nearby drawing and illustration exhibits. First we visited Art House, where our very own Alex Rheault, department chair extraordinaire, had some large canvases.

 Then we walked up to Congress Street to the Green Hand Bookstore, where proprietor and MECA alum, Michelle Souliere, let us in to the exhibit of Michael Connor's ink drawings. He's a master of absurdity with line, and teaches a Graphic Novel class at MECA, too!

We trotted over to Forest Avenue to Sanctuary Tattoo, where Mike Gorman (former instructor at MECA) had drawings in bags.

Last stop was right next to MECA at Space Gallery, where MECA alums Kimberly Convery and Kreh Mellick had transformed the place with wallpaper and a parlor feel, with vintage frames around inky portraits and detailed narrative worlds of sails and waves.

 It was a healthy trek in search of how artists present themselves, physically and conceptually.

Yesterday we had Eric Hou visit the illustration studio to tell us his odyssey of finding himself supported by his art, which was fun and inspirational. Here he is with a new puppet, his koala character that appears in many cards and posters.

 And what a stash of great stuff he brought in!

Right in the middle, we also received a generous donation from David Wing of vintage sci-fi paperbacks. VERY timely. Thanks, David!

Big thanks to Eric, and to all artists, students, and galleries who make the world more real with their visions and views.

Monday, October 18, 2010

nook book fling

Quack!        Quack!      Quack!

Here it is, all the noise that's fit to print about my recent book fling for Nest, Nook & Cranny.

This was months in the planning, so that opposite coasts could come together. Author Susan Blackaby arrived from Portland, OR and I immediately whisked her across the bay to Peaks Island.

Daisy took this shot on the beach at mid-tide. We roamed through the woods, and over to the backshore, planning our duet at the Peaks Island School.

As a career veteran of curriculum writing, Susan's ready for romping wordplay.

And the kids were, too. It was a much-deserved break from state-wide testing. Susan talked about finding inspiration in unlikely places, keeping a sharp eye for detail, and the structure of a cinquain.

I showed my rough sketches, talked about the process of evolving an illustration, and drawing from life. We both brought some found natural objects to spark discussion, writing, and sketching. The third graders wasted no time in their nature journals.

When the recess bell clanged, we headed off island, spotting these cormorants convening.

Here's Susan in Monument Square, ready for round two at the Portland Public Library.

We met in the teen lounge, with even more to display, thanks to Kirsten Cappy's taxidermy, on gracious loan from the Audubon Society.

This flicker in flight got some sketching going.

There was yapping, too. About rhyme schemes and see-through guitars, smudgy pencils, the beginning of driftwood, and how deer lose their antlers.

Thank you, Portland Public Library! It was a fun exchange with lovers of books and habitat.

Susan left for another event in VT, and I hung an exhibit of work from the book at the Gem Gallery on Peaks Island. Art on the walls, and poetry in the woods, thanks to Curious City and Story Walk!

The intrepid Kirsten Cappy arrived bright and early to help place signs (printed locally by Banacom).

Spreads from the Woodlands and Wetlands habitat sections of Nest, Nook & Cranny were dotted along a nature trail stewarded by the Peaks Island Land Preserve.

Visitors to the gallery exhibit joined up with PILP president, Garry Fox, a naturalist and science teacher at Portland High School. He led walkers down a poetic path, with a quack here and there.
(photo and video courtesy of Fran Houston)

The signs were pretty in situ...

He pointed out plenty of evidence of beavers in action. (photo by Daisy)

Daisy also shot this detail of the white seed pods, dangling like dew from the invasive species of Japanese knotweed, often mistaken for bamboo.

For those lacking time to linger in the woods, a few signs were posted at Ferry Beach. Susan Blackaby's poem here begins, "Otters loll like whiskered boats, bobbing in the swells." So the sign
paired well with this black and white vessel.

Back at the Gem Gallery, I was yapping again, meeting old friends and making new ones. (photo below courtesy of Martha Morris-Gibson, Gem member and bodacious basket weaver)

I put up a "process" wall, showing all the preliminary sketches done for the cover art, as well as various attempts that evolved into the final piece.

I am thrilled that my favorite folks turned out to celebrate the book. This photo by Fran Houston captures the wacky affection we islanders have for each other.

After I closed the door at the Gem, I returned to the entrance to the Story Walk, marveling at what a magical place I inhabit, full of critters and creators doing what they do naturally. Notice the downed birch, the nefarious work of our beaver colony, maybe not so bold about sharing their territory.

Thanks to all who helped me pull this off: Curious City, Longfellow Books, Portland Public Library, Healthy Portland, Peaks Island Land Preserve, the Gem Gallery, and, my better half, Marty.

Also to Charlesbridge, who partnered me with a simpatico soul mate and amazing writer, Susan Blackaby. Sweet!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

rhymes & patterns

a book brings two coasts
together, smiling broadly
like birdies calling

OK, there's my haiku in honor of Susan Blackaby, who's in the air at this moment, maybe somewhere over the marshes of the Cape. I will meet her today! Hooray!

We'll be doing bookish things tomorrow at the Peaks Island School and the Portland Public Library.

YA Authors Talk Books With Teens

Thursday, October 14th, 2010
3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Teen Library Lounge
Portland Public Library
Monument Square, Portland, Maine
INFO: 207-871-1700 x773
Ages 12+

I have souvenir nature journals all ready for the Nature Walk on Saturday on the island. Please, weather, stay as glorious as today!

Monday, October 11, 2010

time travels

Time to play that Talking Heads song again: how did I get here?

Can it BE 30 years already? Yes, it can. I went to RISD for my 30th reunion this weekend, and while the flashbacks were few, the chance to see familiar faces was grand. My fellow time travelers, Ged Kenslea, David Hicks, and Madeline Sorel, checked in with me here.

So much is new, it was a bit disorienting. Back when we were students, Providence was a seedy mafia town. Now, it's been rebranded as the Venice of New England, or something. OMG, gondolas!

Thankfully, some things don't change. Carr Haus is still a gathering spot, where I learned to drink coffee and ponder my place in the throng. Ran into lots of classmates there, like Ron de Felice, Wendy Northrup, and Mary Maguire. Wonderful!

From there, I was determined to spend some quality time at the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab. Thanks to life transitions on the elder front, I've come back in possession of this drawing I did there as a freshman.

I've been marveling at the level of determination here, and it brings back tangible memories of many hours in that lab. It remains a magical cabinet of curiosities.

No matter what your intended major, every student spends time here freshman year. I did some referencing for a current project. There are live specimens, such as this turtle basking under a heat lamp.

And the forensic samples...

This one is kinda freaky.

I sketched some cool coral samples, all white now, much like living coral that is being bleached of color due to warmer waters.

I found a curious squirrel labeled "rhubarb" that needed to be drawn.

I sat across from a student, no doubt doing her nature studies assignment. The fundamentals don't change. As stated in the Nature Lab brochure:

"By exploring specimens, students can learn about design and the intersection of form and function, the integration of parts to a whole, and be inspired by the simple elegance of natural patterns. Once that students see that all plants and animals represent a solution to a series of design constraints, they may then employ aspects of nature's solution in their works."

I sketched her as she sketched. Ah, youth.

It was hard to tear myself away from a place that really brought me back in time, but I wandered about the Waterman building and ran into Doris Ruth, former CoLab Queen. She brought me to see the new wing over at the museum, where we traveled into the cosmos looking at Tristin Lowe's Lunacy, made with sewn felt.

Talk about natural inspiration. After all my contributions to the Lunar Calendar, it was a kick to be in the same room as the moon.

Here's another favorite. The exclamation point may be overused these days, but here it has the weight and meaning it deserves. Damn, forgot to find out the artist. For shame.

From there, we joined up with other classmates, including Lane Myers, who currently teaches at RISD. He gave us a tour of the new Fleet Library, impossibly swanky, but a good place to convene and catch up on the state of art education.

He led us to Thee Red Fez, an esteemed establishment where we quenched every thirst and then some.

From there, it was on to Water Fire, a spectacle of natural elements that brings out the masses.

Downside: the streets turned into a parking lot and we were rather late for our reunion dinner at the President's house. President Maeda visited our tables, and asked us all to support his effort to bring art and design into the national STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) agenda. He asked us to support a House resolution.

He's blurry in my quickie photo, but dead on sharp about bringing more creativity to education.

It was a fantastic time, reconnecting not only to classmates, but to that distant chapter of being a student immersed in exploring the world through art and art making. It's an exploration I am still on, and loving every minute. Thank you, RISD, for helping me focus my vision.

Bravo, class of 1980. You're looking goooood!