Monday, January 31, 2011

2 pianos 4 hands

At last! The illustration I did during the summer for Portland Stage Company is now all over the place.
I had fun drawing hands many, many times. Nothing like the relentless practicing necessary for the musicians portrayed in the script. I got Marty to pose for one pair of hands.

And our neighbor's son, Jacob, posed for the other pair of hands.

Portland Stage gets great coverage for their marketing, which means the visual needs to fit a wide variety of formats. I supplied the art in separate layers; the title font (2 Piano 4 Hands) was one piece, the illustration another, and the text another.

We saw the opening night show on Friday: marvelous! Even though I'd read the script, the actor/musicians, Tom Frey and Jeffrey Rockwell, are dazzling in their seamless performance of multiple characters, voices, and interrupted playing. They brought us to another place with the finale, a piano duo performance of Bach's Concerto in D Minor. Heaven.

Hands are a challenge to draw, but I keep coming back to them. I drew them in this scene in Ice Harbor Mittens, when the elder knitter, Aunt Agnes, grasps Josie's hand to size him up for mittens. Josie thinks her hand feels like an "osprey's claw."

Now I'm prepping for a book event this Saturday on Peaks Island. Author Robin Hansen and I will make a presentation about the folks and folklore behind Ice Harbor Mittens, with some drawing and orienteering activities. I'll have some original illustrations on hand, and she'll bring a suitcase of mittens.

Come on by! At the Community Room on Peaks Island, Saturday February 5 from 11AM - 1 PM.

Monday, January 24, 2011

polar paradox

I've gotten the layouts back for A Warmer World, the book project I am working on. These two pages have gone through more changes. Back to the drawing board with polar bears.

While the premise of global climate change is undeniable, it's not feeling warmer right now. Sub-zero temps and another blanket of snow make this winter feel like the old-fashioned kind. The kind that drives one to cozy pursuits like... baking.

We decided to try making the January cupcakes from the Hello, Cupcake calendar I got for Christmas. Yup, polar bears!

These were not exactly easy to make, and I'm not crazy about gumdrops in my cupcakes, but it was a chance to share some silliness in a warm place, the kitchen.

This called to mind a drawing Daisy did awhile ago, thinking about polar bears making the best of their changing habitat. This says animals are resourceful, and kids are hopeful.

When it's as cold as it is today, one finds warmth wherever possible, like in this striking sunset over Portland, viewed from down front on the island.

Such a scene can feel even colder with the right pastels. Here's my "Dusky Chill."

Back to the drawing board, with an extra fleece vest!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

sketch book project

Today's the deadline for the Sketchbook Project! It's been a fun engagement, and I'm almost sad to see it go.  A recent Snow Day helped, allowing time for natural wonders and drawing. A walk with the dog begins the day, sharpening my powers of observation. Noticed Perry's wheelbarrow ready to cart some powder.

The fresh air invigorates my need to organize. Sharpen every pencil and take stock of my tools.

With the MECA semester about to begin, I have class on my mind. Here are some drawings done for the Sketchbook Project during a model session. I usually draw along with my students and did a few of the model, and a few of them. This is Zoe.

Here is Spenser. I realized too late that charcoal pencil, my favorite thing, is too smudgy for this purpose, and I gave in to the mirror shadow that falls on the opposite page.

The paper is really thin and you can see multiple drawings showing through. Here is Bri:

Here is Bret:

Good thing I am not hoping to lecture about drawing, since they are listening to someone else.

Here is Joe, with his Rye character.

Here is Seumas, Austin, and Eric, who visited the illustration class with a character of his own.

It was fitting that I spent the last hours with my sketchbook at Mary Anne's, fine fellow faculty in the illustration department.

Our daughters are sharing a sketchbook. Love this collage by Mary Anne on Eda's door.

Mary Anne's a master of fun lettering, and the cover of her sketchbook says it all.

Her book is filled with funky still lifes of her habitat: objects of affection, studio tools, kitchen utensils, and several lovely cat portraits. Our daughters shared the topic It's Raining Cats and Dogs. Eda mostly drew cats, and Daisy mostly drew dogs. Here's one she did of our mutt, snoozing in her favorite chair.

The girls decorated their cover with silver pens, and here both Mary Anne and Mei find contentment in the project.

The books are shipped off today, as another storm drops new snow. They will be like snowflakes in a massive drift: the rumor is there are 28, 000 sketchbooks! Such is the enormous power of drawing.

Meanwhile, I hope to keep up the practice, without the promise of display. Back to the drawing table!

Monday, January 10, 2011

in with the new

I found some mitten wrapping paper by Graham & Snow that became a collage card to ring in the new.

The first week of the year was busy with newness. I went to an opening for an exhibit of photographs by Peaks Islander Zev Eisenberg in the lobby gallery of the Chestnut Street Lofts in Portland. Zev, a junior in the new media department at U Maine in Orono, possesses an eye for the surprise moment. As the son of Avner the Eccentric and Julie Goell, he's wise to the slight of hand and lyricism that are everyday in his household. Here he is straightening his work with the level in his phone.

He was clearly excited for this first showing of his photographs, and fellow photographer and islander Arthur Fink was there to cheer him on. 

As one who almost switched majors from illustration to photography in college, I appreciate the thrill of a good eye, and a group that hangs well. Congratulations to Zev!

From there, I headed to the Friends School, for a book launch for "Fufu and Fresh Strawberries" written by two Telling Room students, Caitlin Lowell and Charlotte McDonald. The story about a young Sudanese boy who makes friends in his new neighborhood is illustrated by Anna Boll, a friend and cohort in the Maine Illustrators Collective. It was fun to share in another first for everyone.

Here are Charlotte, Caitlin, and Anna, all smiles.

Both young writers spent many formative hours at the Telling Room, followed by a grant and a trip to Haystack in the fall of 2007, where the story was born. It went through many twists that stories often do before publication. 

Anna, the illustrator, began the event with a paired drawing game, in which one person thinks of an object without naming it, but instead gives directions to a partner on what to draw. Good example of the humorous perils of visual communication, which sometimes resembles mind-reading.

Hooray for first books!

The next day, I was a visiting artist at King Middle School for their World Languages Expedition Kick-Off. Students are researching a famous French or Spanish-speaking artist; as part of their research they met local artists to ask questions, like: how does culture inform my art? I brought in books, a portfolio, a couple of sketchbooks, reference photos, and working sketch and final pastel illustration, along with paper samples, pencils, and pastels. 

On the cue of Ms. Emily Zack-Farrell, groups of students filled 9 tables for 20 minutes to hear what we had to share, take notes, ask questions, handle the art. After 3 rounds of students, I began to forget if I was repeating myself to the same table. I was in terrific company, with designers, musicians, painters, a printmaker, a dancer, and a few King teachers with amazing talents, such as Peter Hill, who teaches 8th grade science by day, and handcrafts custom guitars by night.

I put out blank paper and pencils, but few were brave enough to try drawing. I can usually spot the artists, they have doodles all over their notebooks. It was probably no coincidence that Charlotte Eisenberg, cousin of the above Zev, not only tried the materials but did a drawing of me. Go, Charlotte!

It's a kick to be part of anything at King, where the energy and pride run high. They know how to get students into their work, as witnessed by a display for another expedition, 1000 Years Without a Bath, in York 8. They placed themselves in roles, while exploring costume designs of the medieval period.

Getting reference for a visual project, and making it personal, is a regular part of my process, too.

In a pinch, I got my resident model to pose as the 11 year-old boy in Ice Harbor Mittens.

I work from many sources, real and imagined. Author Robin Hansen has a great phrase on her blog, "not everything true is real."

Calling all knitters: Robin will be at Kennebooks on January 29. Ring in the new with learning to knit compass mittens!

Monday, January 3, 2011

ode to joy

Joy is such a diminutive word, but it's been showing up lately for me. I think if I carry the idea of joy around in my head, everything will be all right. I painted the little plate above at a recent girl party at
a neighbor's pottery studio. Without a whole lot of thought, out came this little tree and "joy." But it didn't come out of nowhere. I've been clipping little twigs with berries for decorating the house, bringing the outside in.

 I notice the twig is a metaphor for the tree, and the tree becomes anything looking to branch out.

Noticing nature and it's patterns brings small epiphanies. With 2010 speeding to a close, it was heavenly to spend it simply outdoors with favorite people. We met at the ice pond nearby and brought lots of candles and lamps. The night was chilly but bright with stars. The kids cleared a small circle for gathering.

From the ice we went backshore for a bonfire with other friends. Firecrackers popping now and then,  the hissing fire, teens laughing, waves lapping the rocks. Time actually seemed to slow down.

Now 2011 is here. What will it bring? The weather turned mild so we rolled out the motorcycles for a few laps around the island, to get the stink blown off.

No matter where I ride, or venture, or gad about, coming home is what grounds me. We decorated the front door with a flurry of cut paper snowflakes made a few years ago during a storm.

It's really the little things that bring joy.

My resolution is to find little joys like these wherever I can. Happy New Year!