Monday, March 28, 2011

collegial connections

We blasted to Danielson, CT last week to see our work in "12 New England Illustrators" at Quinebaug Valley Community College. The show was curated by Annie Gusman Joly, a fellow illustrator, educator, and colleague from many years ago at the Art Institute of Boston.  

She's been a source of inspiration for decades, with her style, flair for color, and teaching experience.
It was fun to see what's in the works in her studio in nearby Putnam.

The show includes illustrators working in very different methods and markets, from oils to scratchboard, and books to beer labels. 

Here's my better half, Marty, with his wall of wonders.

Below is Dave Joly, Annie's husband, who helped install the show and is an adjunct at QVCC. He's no doubt telling a smart anecdote about the classroom, to Laura Tedeschi and Rick Schneider, also in the exhibit. They are in front of a scratchboard illustration by Doug Smith, fellow Peaks Islander.

Doug wanted to include versions of his sketches along with the final piece. Good for viewers to see that many unseen choices go into published works. Here's a close-up.

We had our own private showing, as the gallery is not open on weekends, when several of us were able to convene. Love this shot of Laura having a good laugh. 

It was great to see some faces that go all the way back to college and my early days in the illustration field, when I regularly went to Boston area meetings of the Graphic Artists Guild. Alan Witschonke and James Steinberg, you're looking good!

The show remains up til March 31. Here are works by the inimitable James.

And here he is with Annie at 85 Main, where we reconvened for lunch.


I was sorry not to meet all the fine folks in the show: Doug Andersen, whose magical realism blew me away, or Cora Lynn Diebler, whose work is so lively! I really liked the paintings of Anthony Foronda, quite cool. And would have loved to meet other educators, like Bill Thomson and Dennis Nolan, who possess amazing techniques.

The illustration field has taken a beating over the last decade. We veterans have seen the stat camera hit the dust, and technology allow us to work in our pajamas. It was gratifying to share some fellowship with an amazing pool of talent and wisdom.

Bravo, Annie, for bringing together a group of illustrators connected by the classroom, the field, and our diversity of tools.

Monday, March 21, 2011

forces of nature

The tsunami in Japan and it's aftermath remain unfathomable. I walk around my little island and say prayers to the trees, for recovery, for renewal. The sump pump burbles incessantly in the basement, as the snow melt runs down to the sea.

I'm happy to have more studio time, for illustrations for a book project. This week, oddly, everything was under water.  First, a spread about coral. This is a detail.

Next, four species of fish, affected by warmer temps: trout, salmon, bass, and carp. This is a detail of the bass and carp, plus their tags for labeling.

Then I drew a loggerhead turtle, who is laying eggs that may be washed away by rising sea levels.

Over the weekend, the sun came out. Finally! A walk in the woods always brings a new perspective.
Spotted this fallen birch covered with scalloped lichen.

Returning to my studio, I drew a marmot, coming out of hibernation high in the mountains.
Groundhog day? This is a detail of a two page spread.

By Saturday evening, I was ready for a little lunacy. Headed backshore for the advertised "super moon." As a regular contributor to the Lunar Calendar for over 20 years, I generally don't miss a full moonrise on the back shore. They are a cosmic sight to behold. Thanks to my calendar, which lists the moon rise and set times for every day of 13 lunar cycles, I know when to show up. You don't want to miss the moment it emerges from the ocean's horizon, as hot as a neon sign.

It was a brisk and blustery moment, one shared with a community of lunatics. It gets us roused for the next round of reality.

On Sunday, it was time to stand an egg on end, a feat of the spring equinox. Just before 7:30 PM, we tried balancing an egg on it's end. It worked with one, but only momentarily with another.
Something about equilibrium, balance, and natural mysteries.

Even though snow was in the forecast today, I was buoyed by spring. Drew another piece for the book project, an arctic fox. Something sinister looms in the air, but animals adapt. We hope.

Tomorrow I'll be back in the Hive at MECA

My show of pastels from Ice Harbor Mittens comes down at Knit Wit this Thursday. Hope you saw it!

 The pink in the shop goes lovely with my work, if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

welcoming guests at MECA

The little hive known as MECA was plenty busy during the first half of the spring semester. In Illustration 2, we welcomed some amazing guests. Last Thursday, just in from San Francisco, a dynamic pair of creators arrived to tell their story.

Hugh D'Andrade and Mati McDonough frequently collaborate, as couples often do. Yet they have very different approaches to their work. They made a presentation first to the junior illustration majors.

Hugh studied fine art at the California College of Art and after graduating, began doing free art for friends, for posters around San Francisco for music events and political organizations, anything that triggered his sense of activism.

That graphic work drew the attention of publishers, and now Hugh is busy with book jackets, magazine covers, and more music posters. Here are two of the latest.

Mati took a more circuitous route to art, first earning a degree in Latin American studies from Macalester College. She spent time in Columbia, where the vivid colors of local art would someday influence her work. As she told the audience, "Nothing is ever wasted."

She met Hugh in a Photoshop class he was teaching. After grades were in, they began dating, and have been married since 2007. Mati studied also at CCA, and gravitated more to painting. Both of them began having shows of their work in various bars and restaurants in the Bay Area.  Mati's vocabulary of whimsical animals and cheerful colors have garnered a huge following, from her etsy shop to major 
retailers. She brought in samples of work now licensed for items such as clothing, cards, magnets, and jewelry.

They talked about forming collectives with other artists, teaching online, and loving their creative freedom. They spoke again to the sophomore class, not yet majors. The discussion of technique in translating line drawings into Photoshop layers was quite helpful, and we shared an informative
discussion on the Orphan Works bill. Hugh once worked full time for the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Mati worked in a law office that represented artists. All these experiences round out their careers, in which artists need multiple skills.

Thanks, Mati and Hugh!

The previous week, we welcomed another guest, Dexter, who brought his open minded charm to a short life drawing session.

Drawing animals can be a regular challenge for any illustrator, as is a not-so-still model. Dexter obediently paused for little treats, and the students of IL 206 worked quickly.

Noreen Torelli made several energetic sketches with brush and ink, like this.

Shayna Blumert worked in charcoal, and captured Dexter's calm disposition.

Gaella Materne worked in pen, and made this graphic profile.

Dexter took all the attention in stride. He's used to it. This month, he can be seen posing with local textile designer Angela Adams in a story about her cottage in Coastal Living Magazine. 

Thanks to Dexter's person, Julie Smith, on staff in the Registrar's office!

Meanwhile, students were conjuring up fabled folks for an assignment in character design. After Dexter left, Andi Croak's goblin visited the class.

Character design is a fundamental task for illustrators, whether two-dimensional or fully formed. Bringing them to life, and clothing them, has yielded great variety.

Part of the assignment also involves staging and photographing. Here is Andi's final piece.

Students were free to choose materials, and it ran the gamut, from Super Sculpey, to wood, to paper, to fabric.

This is Devon Johnson's "Fox and the Grapes."

This is Hannah Rosengren's "Swedish Brownie" carved from maple, and hidden in a leafy nook in the Joanne Waxman Library for good luck.

Bevin Lucas created this floating "Snow Queen" from paper and wire.

Daelyne Bell used fabric, Sculpey, paint, paper, and an un-Disney intrepretation of the Little Mermaid for her melancholy character, doomed by love.

MECA students never cease to surprise. This is just a small sample of the many ways they bring their fresh voices to illustration projects.  Since there are no BFA classes this week, I'll head back into my own studio, inspired by their energy.

Monday, March 7, 2011

down the bay mitten tour

Last Friday was a gloriously frosty day to head down the bay for more Ice Harbor Mitten visits. I was feeling so hearty I even stayed on the upper deck of the Island Romance, my favorite little Casco Bay Lines vessel. The car ferry's out of service for most of March, and commuters are happy to huddle in the lee.

For those who can't do without a car, here's your alternative: the Lionel Plante barge.

I no sooner arrived in Portland and then headed back out on the Aucocisco with author Robin Hansen and the gracious Patty Temple, Long Island's children's librarian, and Christine McDuffie, who escorted us to our next destination. Talk circled around knitting and lambing season. Here's what Christine's working on, a pair of Middle Eastern socks with wool from a fondly remembered sheep, Patrick.

We arrived at the Long Island community center, which also houses the library, a gallery, and the school, with two classes of students. One is K - 2, the other 3, 4 and 5. Look, they post the titles they've read on a mitten board!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get my slide presentation to connect, about the making of art for Ice Harbor Mittens. We told our story anyway, and Robin guided a couple of kids in an orienteering activity. Compasses do come in handy.

I met some students later, when they tried some pastels. Here's Abigail Dunnigan and Kiera Horr drawing their own mitten patterns.

Abigail's brother, Jake, shared his sketchbook with me. He knows his boats! Here he is with Caleb Hansen, no relation to Robin, the author.

I love coming across a young artist who draws from observation. Documenting and observation skills are useful in many fields other than art. Keep up the good eye, Jake!

Speaking of boats, we had to hustle off to catch the mail boat going to our next destination, and were in the good hands of Penny Murley. Small world: her son is friends with the father of my model for Josie. Follow?

It sunk in that Ice Harbor Mittens is about these people, in coastal places relying on boats, at the mercy of weather, hanging in together. One boy asked if the book is "real" and in many ways it is. But, it's a fiction drawn from an observed slice of icy life in Maine.

Next stop, Chebeague Island Hall, where children's librarian Sheila Putnam made us feel right at home.

This time, my presentation connected, thanks to Deb Bowman. These book gigs are a continuing education, for sure. We had a bit of time to browse the bright library.

  There was a fun display about mittens. Someone found evidence of compass mittens from way back.

More Small World facts: Mimi, who found this photo, let me know she is the mother of David Tyler, a writer who came to my house last January to interview me for a piece in the 2010 Island Journal about Peaks Island children's book illustrators. I'm telling you, the connections are quite the ball of yarn.

I brought this unframed original to show what kind of materials I use, such as very rough pastel paper.

One of the boys drawing at the table said he gets to band lobsters like this on his dad's boat. This is Isabelle, who did a lovely pastel of a boat. Yup, this is my kinda crowd!

Meanwhile, Robin was in her element, talking mittens with the Chebeague Island Ladies Auxiliary, many of whom could be Aunt Agnes in the story, the elder knitter who weaves in good faith with every mitten. The young lady in yellow, below, is Lydia, who comes from a long line of knitters, including her mom, Misa.

We had time for a little tour of Chebeague. Heard a story about this wreck. Not all tales have a happy ending.

We made it just in time for our water taxi back to the mainland.

The captain's puppy, Whiskey, made sure we were duly welcomed aboard and well-licked.

It was a choppy ride through Hussey Sound, but well-worth the time saved. We beat the ferry back to Portland by at least a couple of hours. Gave me time to check out the MECA senior illustration show at Art House.

Something about the bright lights brings out the happy shadows in this work by Cyndi Norrie.

Who doesn't love a comic touch? Joe has it with this polar bear, balancing like a circus act on the last piece of ice. This totally relates to my current book project about climate change, another Small World detail.

After this, I ventured home to Peaks on my fifth boat ride of the day, a record.

I was back for more action the next day, at Knit Wits, in Portland. Robin did a knitting workshop and I
stopped in to sign books with her.

There was some serious yarn talk, which I can't translate.

Seven of the original pastels from Ice Harbor Mittens will be on display (and some for sale) for the next couple of weeks.

Here's Robin, signing books. It's her lot to be paired with a compulsive documentarist such as myself!

And it's my good lot to have been paired with her, plus her devotion to folklore, coastal Maine stories, and the communities from which a good yarn has sprung.

Thanks to Robin, DownEast, Long Island, Chebeague Island, and Knit Wit Yarn Shop!