Monday, November 29, 2010

book brou ha ha

Thanks to several helpings of gravy, I am ready for the upcoming whirl of book events around Ice Harbor Mittens. First off, I am doing a drawing/writing workshop at the Telling Room this Saturday from 1 - 3 PM. We'll play some drawing games, and let a lost mitten find it's way home in 10 panels! I made this collage from my pencil sketches for the book, and put it on the cover of the booklets we will fill.

Author Robin Hansen has lots up her woolly sleeve, too. Check out her new blog! 
We'll be together, signing books, drawing mittens, and having yarnish fun at Kennebooks on Dec. 12 from 1 - 3 PM.

Today I got a copy of a lovely review in the mail from Melissa Sweet. You can read it here. The following weekend, there will be a launch event at the Maine Maritime Museum, which has just opened a new exhibit, "Cross Currents: Visual Arts Distilled from the Maritime World." I will bring along a few framed originals from the book for display.

For the month of December, I'm happy to be part of the Maine Illustrator's Collective show at the Freeport Community Library: WINTER! a fun, diverse collection of interpretations of the season to come... from silly to serious. A dozen Maine illustrators will show works inspired by our long winters. I framed this piece from the book:

Robin and I will also be part of a library swing on Dec. 29, at the Freeport Community Library from
2 - 4 PM, along with other DownEast authors and illustrators. Whew!
I hope there will be snacks. We'll bring the laughs.

In February, we will be having fun with WinterKids at Pineland Farms on Feb. 22. Don't have all the details yet. More to come.

Pretty amazing that all this springs from a pair of humble yarn balls. I forgot how to knit many years ago, so I find it magical that Robin can knit such a thing and spin such a yarn. This still life was done from the yarn and needles she sent me for reference. Good thing, since I had the wrong needles in my early sketches. Ooops.

Here's to a warm and woolly December!

Friday, November 19, 2010

MECA lekka trek

The seniors in MECA's illustration IL 421 blasted down to Boston this week, stopping mid-way at the Portsmouth Museum of Art to see the expansive exhibit, Sugipop!, all about manga and it's influence on contemporary art.

From the opening display of cute severed heads, to the Hokusai book of character designs that spawned Japanese sequential storytelling, the show spans an amazing range of imagery.
This is "Yoko Natsu Chan" by Mr. 

We couldn't go in this room, but you could feel this piece by Momoyo Torimitsu, titled "Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable."
Besides seeing wood block prints from the Edo period, there were actual cells from Astro Boy, another classic, by the man considered the Godfather of Anime, Osamu Tezuka.

There are rooms upon rooms of more art influenced by Japanese fixations that merge the cute and morbid, like this painting by Mike Shinoda, "Purple Skulls."

Skulls are a recurring theme for more than a few illustrators, it seems. This installation by Yoskay Yamamoto, was in the lobby, and was a pleasing piece to leave the show with, and hit the road again.

 Thank you, Zoe, for opening just for us!

The next stop was the Art Institute of Boston, where I taught many many moons ago. While waiting for the last car of students to arrive, I enjoyed this curious blur of signage.

Susan Le Van, illustration department chair, generously welcomed us to a lecture and demo with the brilliant James Gurney,  He touted the advantages of water soluble colored pencils for sketching on the fly, and shared images of travels, moving subjects, and the portability of the Niji water brush. He works small in his sketchbook, capturing landscapes at postage stamp size. But he said, "You don't have to draw what you see," and showed examples of turning a bored passenger waiting for a train into a troll.

Even when drawing on location, you can "go elsewhere" he claimed. Here's the cover of his sketchbook, fancifully embellished:

He proceeded to paint a portrait of a faculty member, Tom Barrett, with a camera recording his every stroke, while calmly chatting about his process and taking questions.

Thanks to James for sharing his wisdom, talent, and amazing technique, and thank you, AIB!

From there, our troop headed over to Cambridge, to the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

This place is enough to blow your mind, from every exotic animal to fragile glass flower to shimmering beetle specimen.

We wandered, and sketched, and got cross-eyed with all the visual stimulation. First stop, dinosaur bones! Here's the Kronosaurus queenslandicus that spans an entire wall:

Cyndi used her vivacious line and quirky humor in this drawing:

Erica's looking at patterns here, I think.

This guy makes me laugh...

as does a recent piece by Joe, that makes the most of comic proportions.

Thanks to the Lion King, I was drawn to this fellow, hearing Hakuna Matata in my head while I drew.

The room with the dinosaur bones is more spacious than other areas, so I sat on the floor to draw this
odd creature, the edaphosaurus, with a little head, stumpy legs, and boastful armor. (This one's for you, Eda!)

The act of sketching gave me a chance to slow down, make observations, and eavesdrop on the nearby class giving detailed reports on various specimens in the exhibit.

Bret pointed out this particular guy, whose noble gesture calls to mind "to be, or not to be.."

Is it any wonder what Alysa would draw? This self-portrait for a recent project might give a clue, since every day is Halloween for her.

Yes, a fruit bat skeleton!

And she got inventive, too, turning a rabbit that happened to be near the antler section into a jackalope.

Our time and meters ran out too soon, but now IL 421 knows where to go for excellent reference on nature's diversity.  It was a weary ride back to Maine, but we left full of inspiration.

Friday, November 12, 2010

seen and noted

 For a small rock, Peaks Island can be quite the draw.  In a most rare event, Charlesbridge designer, Whitney Leader-Picone, trekked out here to connect with several islanders who are creating books for them. It was my good fortune to play host, and here we are in my cluttered studio, looking over a color comp for a non-fiction picture book about climate change.

Here's a rough of a spread about the golden toad.

I still need more reference on cloud forests and toad eggs, but it's a start.

Here is a comp for the title page. I found an old snapshot I took at the Boston Aquarium years ago, of a penguin swimming, and paired it with a torn paper polar bear, topo map style. This, too, needs work.

Sometimes it's good to find inspiration on TV, such as this shot from Disney's Earth movie, which has spectacular footage of polar bears.

Nothing beats getting outside, though, and making your own observations. I brought Whitney to the beach for a brisk walk. We both share an eye for pattern. She took this photo of the carpet of periwinkle shells that covers the sand at low tide.

And I took this of berries, left like ornaments on the bare branches. We both love red!

After warming up by a crackling fire, we met our colleagues, Annie Sibley O'Brien and Tim Nihoff at the Cockeyed Gull.

It was splendid to talk books in a delicious atmosphere. Thank you, Charlesbridge!

The next morning, it was Annie's turn to show her work in progress. Here is her wall of oil paintings, drying and awaiting the next round of color.

Before departing on the ferry, Whitney stopped at Tim's, a sweet cottage facing the bay. She had a bit of fun with his whimsical masks which adorn the studio.

Whitney headed home to Boston, and I got back into the swing by drawing in my Sketchbook Project
journal. You can still sign up! Do it! It took me awhile to break the ice with my first page, but now I am just drawing up a storm. I mean, a sketchbook isn't about masterpieces. It's about making sense of one's day.

My topic is "boys and girls" so here is a giggly girl I know.

I'm having a tough time getting used to the thin paper, and working on white. Testing out brands of colored pencils, seems like Prismacolor suits me best.

While watching the World Series, my dog and I got hooked by the rookie ace for the Giants.

I couldn't help myself, and did some quick sketches of Tim Lincecum, not very good.
The charcoal pencil smudges the opposite page, but sketchbooks are the real, raw deal.

I even whipped it out during the recent talk given by Ahmed Alsoudani, a MECA grad who has become quite successful in international art circles. He was full of great quotes, which I scribbled down as fast as I could.

Maine College of Art has an amazing visiting artist program, among other things. My first encounter with the school was in 2002, when I took a Continuing Studies class with Judy Labrasca. She's an artist, photographer, and teacher who is now a dear friend. We got together recently, and talked about
what else: colored pencils!

We also went for a stroll on the magnificent trails at Gisland Farm, part of the Maine Audubon Society.

I would follow Judy anywhere. She's been a gentle mentor and loyal supporter of all my progress in books.

Once again, it was lovely to get outside. That's the message of Nest, Nook & Cranny, which Whitney art directed. Just saw a great review that can be read here.

Time for me to walk the dog, sniff the air, and find more grand stories to tell with drawing.

Monday, November 1, 2010

yay for Pub Day!

Yes, today is the publication day for Ice Harbor Mittens!

This book was illustrated during the frosty months, starting in January.  If the art makes you need a pair of cozy mittens RIGHT away, then I did my job. Rather fitting that today is pretty darn brisk.
The boat that plays a role in the book is seen out in the bay, on the distant left in this photo I took last week, on a foggyish morning.

My pastels lent themselves to the ethereal blur between sea and sky. I'm looking forward to
teaming up with author Robin Hansen soon, at a bookstore hopefully near you. Details to come!