Monday, February 28, 2011

boston blast

I've been digging in to my current project with all hands on deck. Drawing a multitude of animals, and taking lots of notes.

I scavenged a plastic bear from my daughter's neglected toy bin to help with shadows and form for the book jacket sketches.

These two sketches (cropped here) were the favorites out of 8 variations.

I did a color comp for the publisher's jacket meeting. Again, here is just the bear.

While awaiting feedback on cover issues, I resumed working on the interior illustrations. Just as I was about to tackle a complex page of penguins underwater eating krill, DING! The bell rang for school vacation. 

We made a blast down to Boston, where my better half and I met, so many moons ago at the Boston Globe. And where did we go first? Yes, the penguin pool at the New England Aquarium. They have a little comic "Penguin Power Adventure Guide" that educates about climate change and overfishing in simplified, graphic form. I tried sketching the zippy penguins, who zip far too fast for my camera. Seen from above, it's like they are flying in the wave pool.

Quite a few are content to just chill in the shower.

Had my eyes peeled for lots of other things I still need to draw, such as coral. Of course, the coral in these tanks are fake. But I marvel at who fabricated these. The problem is that climate change is draining coral of color like this.

We circled and circled the central tank, mesmerized. Along with about a jillion other families. It made my day to have a face-to-face with this guy.

So much immersion led us to get wet, too. The hotel has a nice view from the pool.

From there we headed to the Boston Athenaeum, for a fantastic exhibit of Edward Gorey's work.
Croquet in the snow, anyone?

Gorey's work has surely inspired Tim Burton, Peter Sis, and countless others, with his meticulously detailed line and eccentric wit. I loved seeing sketches and lists of made-up words, decorated envelopes, and hand-stitched toys alongside unpublished pieces and fond favorites. Go see it!

Next stop was Mass Art, for an animation exhibit, "Astatic." I thought my daughter might find some inspiration for an animation project she's doing. But, the show was not entirely appropriate for children. Some of it was fun, but a room of Nathalie Djurberg's work was unwatchable after just a few seconds.

Nothing can just be what it is anymore. Like our multi-tasking society, art often has multiple layers now, of both meaning and form. This piece by Atsushi Kaga was an installation as well as a  naive animation made with child-like lines, but it was by no means simple-minded. It had a charming quality that made you want to play with it.

In the Stephen D. Paine Gallery, we encountered a much more satisfying show. Artist Joe Fig interviewed a group of artists and then made miniatures of their studios, displayed along with their work. It was fresh and engaging;  his ability to displace one's sense of scale and consider the maker, the maker's space, and the viewer's relationship to all that creation, made so perfectly tangible, was stunning.

This is a view inside the studio of April Gornik.

Here, from another angle, is a giant viewer.

The mental scale transport was incredibly fun. One can pretend to be a giant looking at the whole gallery, or imagine an enormous face peering over gallery goers.

With that, another bell rang. Time to head back to Maine, the vacation meter had expired. We've returned to our island orbit. Nothing like a blast to Boston to refresh our sights!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

snow splash book bash

It was quite the crowd at the recent Snow Splash Book Bash, in which DownEast, Pineland Farms, and Winter Kids joined forces to bring some outdoor fun and book lovers together. I shared a table with the sunny Karel Hayes, and we both enjoyed connecting with kids at the activity tables.

This boy was getting into the pastels I brought, and made a colorful drawing of a big snowplow, thanks to an inspired poster by illustrator Amy McDonald.

I also met Benton, who likes to draw owls. He got busy during one of the readings.
And he gave me this drawing!  Thank you, Benton, it made my day.
The day was cloudless and brilliant and everyone's rosy cheeks were a good sign that Pineland's rolling hills were a huge draw. I even headed out on my ancient x-c skis afterwards. Now, this is the kind of traffic I like.

Next up for Ice Harbor Mittens will be an island mitten tour, in which author Robin Hansen and I will visit both Long Island and Chebeague Island in the same day. Whew! Stay tuned for details on this March 4 event, followed by a knitting workshop on Saturday, March 5 with Robin at Knit Wits in Portland, Maine.

Monday, February 21, 2011

library love

"Most people don’t realize how important librarians are. I ran across a book recently which suggested that the peace and prosperity of a culture was solely related to how many librarians it contained. Possibly a slight overstatement. But a culture that doesn’t value its librarians doesn’t value ideas and without ideas, well, where are we?" — Neil Gaiman 

This quote comes currently with any e-mail from Moira Steven, the enthusiastic librarian at the Joanne Waxman Library at Maine College of Art. I love books, and thus libraries, and in Moira I've found a robust guide and kindred spirit.

Here she is in her office with eclectic objects of affection.

Moira was gung ho about my library scavenger hunt project for IL 206, the second semester of a sophomore illustration course. I talk about digging deep for researching illustration projects, but too often students rely solely on Google. Sure, it's a handy resource, but it's only one very filtered resource. Quick, but not always satisfying.

I've done this project before in a 2D class, borrowed from the brilliant artist and educator, Rob Lieber. Basically, it involves tracing a found element and creating a linear collage, on the spot. I've brought in my peculiar collection of contemporary and vintage magazines to the classroom, for students to browse, trace, and swap, creating a cumulative composition on impulse. It's a direct method to focus one's design instincts, and useful in terms of making a cohesive drawing from unrelated sources, which illustrators often do.

The added dimension this time was starting in the library with the illustration collection, part of over 33,000 items in this amazing resource that sits quietly on the second floor of the Porteous building. Moira gave me the specific call numbers, and I made some tags.

Everybody drew a tag from the ceramic container (original art on display in the library) and found that category in the shelves, such as Graphic Novels or Botanical Illustration. The ulterior motive was for students to notice how many titles are at their disposal, while allowing for the surprise associations that happen when you're immersed in rows and rows of compounded culture. I gave them each a single sheet of tracing paper.

Pretty quickly, I realized how much work the staff would do, re-shelving. Oops.

Students found a book, made a tracing, picked another tag, found another book from another category, seven times. Rather tricky: every choice impacts the following one. It's a very absorbing activity.

I was intrigued by the books chosen, with no need to roam the aisles.
My hope is now illustration students recognize the wealth of material that beckons, not just in relevant areas, but all through the stacks.

The following class, we had a discussion.

Students were required to keep a list of the books they used, and title their drawing. For the most part, these were not their typical compositions. It's a useful tool, tracing paper, to connect elements in draft, with juxtapositions that may yield surprises. It can also be used to organize their own stash of drawings into a single image.

Here is Devon's lyrical and elegant drawing with a little Beardsley thrown in for inspiration:

Here is Andi's, that makes use of contrast and edges:

Stephen's is graphite, and the smudges and architecture give it a classic feel.

I also stuck with pencil. Still have not titled this. Any ideas?

About half the class was done within an hour or so. Others needed more time. Either way, it was an excellent opportunity to hang out in the company of books. Thanks, Moira!

Librarians are indeed, the gatekeepers of reference points and guardians of ideas. I'm lucky to know several, who keep me informed and never fail to point out a direction when I go searching.

Here is Priscilla, librarian at the Peaks Island Library. She fosters everything from story times, to book discussions, to film showings. Hooray!

Her colleague in arms, Rose Ann Walsh, routinely knows just where and how to find anything. Including the lobster boat I drew in Ice Harbor Mittens. Hooray!


Kelley McDaniel is another royal lady, the King Middle School librarian who recently won the national I Love My Librarian Award.  Hooray!

 In part of her acceptance speech at the the New York Times in December, she said, 

"Libraries are a microcosm of society. Through libraries, we learn to balance the rights and needs of the individual and the community, the "me" and the "we." "We" build libraries together. "We" support them. "We" share their resources. "We" defend the right of everyone in the community to access these resources. Every "me" is represented in the library. The voice of every "me" is protected."

Kelley and her unflappable colleague, Tom O' Donnell, make their school library a happening place.

As does the Teen Librarian at Portland Public Library, Justin Hoenke.
He's got games, movie series, and more friends not his age than you can imagine. 

With these librarians, I am deeply fortunate. Their devotion to books makes my world go round.

Monday, February 14, 2011

hearty peeps

Ah, it's the day to strut my favorite colors: red, orange, and pink, in that order. I love getting out handmade items, such as the felt runner above, made by Kathy Newell. The peeps are a little chewy, perhaps thanks to Valentine products being in stores since, um, the day after Christmas.

It's important to start such a lovey dovey day off right:  warm heart-shaped scones for breakfast, one flies out the door with the middle schooler, and another is enjoyed with my heart's desire.

It's been a week filled with work, events, travel, and as always, love. There are signs of it everywhere.
Found this at the beach: it says, "cold hands, warm heart."

And the tide has left some icy lace for me to admire.

I head back to the studio and draw something foxy for my latest book project.
This is just the beginning. I am distracted by the piles of paper scraps, doilies, and glue sticks. I'm keen on using letters, so I made a batch of monogrammed valentines this past week. Could not help myself.

I stopped in at the Gem Gallery's annual Think Pink show, which donates a portion of proceeds to the Community Breast Cancer Center.  Here is Tim Nihoff's magnet of a sign.

Inside, the walls glowed with the work of island artists and artisans.

I'm downright blessed with local art, and a particular collection of hearty art. This is Tim's. You can barely notice it, but there's a fish hook hanging from the rubber heart. Fell for this one like a total guppy.

Love this one by Shannon Rankin, a simple metaphor of cosmic proportions. Bought this at last fall's Picnic event for my sweetie's birthday.

I made this valentine to honor that sturdy muscle of mighty powers.

Over the weekend, I was off to my old turf, looking for more signs.

Nothing like sugar coated mountains to make me feel at home.

The Kancamagus Highway is a majestic sight indeed. It's a trip in more ways than one. Coming back over the pass to the coast, your ears pop, and you smell the salty air again.

Back just in time to decorate the window seat, where tradition has our holidays begin.

It's all about your outlook. Here's to finding love in your window, wherever you are!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

mitten island

The Friends of the Peaks Island Library hosted a morning of book activities around Ice Harbor Mittens this past Saturday at the Doug MacVane Community Room, next to the library. Author Robin Hansen trekked down from Bath, and together we shared our inspirations. Robin met my model for the Josie character. Here is Finn, a good sport, with Robin.

Robin brought a well-worn sailing chart and a pair of compasses, to talk about orienteering around tricky ledges in foggy waters. I brought my grandfather's buoy, which I included in one of the illustrations. That's a map of Peaks on the wall.

I gave a short slide show of my process, "Drawing a Good Yarn," with sketches and reference photos, talking about using scenes and folks on Peaks Island to shape my illustrations. It was almost a year ago, on Sunday, February 14 that Finn and Ellis posed for me in and around Don Crandall's lobster boat. in a back yard over on Crescent Avenue.

I'd already done some small thumbnail sketches, to sort out the sequence of the whole book, in story board fashion. Josie may look like he's in the road, but he's actually in a kitchen. Trust me.

Then I visited the house of Veronica Foster, who had left for a nursing home. The caretaker of the house, Kathie, let me in to see her kitchen.

I sketched Josie and Aunt Agnes from the story into the same scene, with the above photos, plus one of my model for Agnes, Annie Romanyshyn, along with some imagination and a dash of perspective.

The sketch was approved by the charming editor at DownEast, Michael Steere. And then I got busy with my pastels!

Robin also showed slides of West Point, Maine and the fishing community there, the locale where she once lived and learned about compass mittens. And then, she read her story.

Here's a mom in fine form, fingering the words for her pre-reader. Sweet!

No island event is complete without baked goods. I made some mitten and osprey cookies
from a recipe found in the back of a favorite picture book at the island library, Jingle the Christmas Clown, by the amazing Tomie dePaola.

I made up some activity sheets for kids to draw.

Even little Skye had fun making bright swirls, sporting a most fetching sweater, too.

Here's Daisy's map of favorite island spots, some real and some true.

This is Nikolai's mitten pattern. I rather like the glowing thumb!

Robin and I signed books, and drew little signature mittens in them.

                                   photo courtesy of Kathie Schneider

Our next bookish venture will be at Pinelands on February 22. Come to the Snow Splash Book Bash, sponsored by DownEast, from 11 AM - 1 PM, and find fun inside and out!

Meanwhile, I'm heading out into my own ice harbor...

My morning view of Little Diamond Island shrouded in sea smoke is the kind of cold beauty that makes my day.