Friday, May 27, 2011

the circuit

Here I am, on a dusty shortcut somewhere south of Paradise, California, circa 1990. When we lived in San Francisco, we rode all over the state. I recall riding past miles and miles of rows and rows of crops, dotted with the curved backs of pickers. Those scenes came back to me when I worked on a recent assignment for Cricket Magazine.

Francisco Jimenez wrote The Circuit, a memoir of his childhood as an immigrant from Tlaquepaque, Mexico working alongside his family in the fields of California. The power of his vivid writing pulled me in, and I saw those golden suede hills and felt the dusty heat all over again. His experience was  hard, long days and always moving with the crops. 

For the opening illustration, I drew the family car, the Carcachita, an old Plymouth. They leave at dawn for the next job.

In this scene, he collapses in the heat.

When the picking season is over, he can go to school. He meets a kind teacher, Mr. Lema, who introduces him to the trumpet.

The sound gives him goosebumps. He's eager to learn to play, but upon returning home finds the family's belongings all packed, again.

Francisco Jiminez went on to become a university professor and a writer for children. Illustrating this story gave me a chance to step inside that world, and get the same goosebumps.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

moon energy

With this week's stretch of rain, there will be no full moon viewing tonight. I may not see it, but I can still feel it.

I've just done this for next year's Lunar Calendar. It will run in black and white, so I used
a limited palette for the original drawing, titled "Full Sap Moon."

Events keep coming at a steady clip, and I need all the sap to rise up and keep me grounded. New things are sprouting!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


There's an amazing show of infinite delight at the UNE Art Gallery called "Critters." Having just delivered all the art for a picture book about animals affected by climate changes, I was keen to see animal art. The show is swarming with sculpture inside and out; there's a dizzying amount to take in. There are well-known artists like William Wegman, Bernard Langlais, Dahlov Ipcar, and even a couple of artists I was surprised to find, like former colleague Joe Begnaud, and fellow pastel artist Wade Zahares.

Certain creatures called to me, like this school of ceramic fish by Sharon Townshend that swam up the gallery wall.

I recently did this illustration below for Charlesbridge, and could relate to the pull of the stream. I brought in my own thermometer to gauge the pastel water temperature: chill.

I enjoyed this sculpture by Clare Cohan. We should all take a slow ride, and pay attention.

Could this be a loggerback, like the one I drew below? Here's a detail from my illustration.

I often find odd coincidences in my roamings. This white whale by Don Gove.....

made me think of senior illustration major, Seumas Doherty, who I've spent the past semester meeting with weekly. His independent study project involves concept art for a game titled Moby Dick: A Space Odyssey. He spent his last semester of art school illustrating character designs, costumes, hardware, and scenes.

Here's Seumas in front of one end of his thesis display in the halls of Maine College of Art. 
If you are in need of stalwart diligence and creative design, he's your captain.

There was another whale reference in the UNE exhibit, so tiny one might miss it. My whale radar is exceedingly strong, though. Look, a paper moth of incredible delicacy by Cat Schwenk.

 Whales are mythic in my imagination. I drew Daisy riding a whale named Wink in  Seven Days of Daisy:

Is it coincidence that a picture book manuscript about humpback whales has just floated my way? I think not.

The day after seeing this show, I met another senior illustration major, Elise Smorczewski, to review her thesis project, Strange and Endangered. Since meeting Elise sophomore year, I've learned quite a bit through her devotion to the odd critters of the world.

Elise covered many bases with her body of work: she made oil paintings, and sewed handbags with fabric printed from the paintings and paired with information about each species. She made a website, stickers, and a street campaign of posters and flyers that promote awareness. Did you know there's a World Tapir Day? Now you do: April 27.

Elise plans to pursue more animal research in New Zealand, and wants to teach young kids about conservation. 

All of us can be better informed about the critters with whom we share the planet.  Any art that fosters that wonder is worthy of applause. I give a standing ovation  to all the artists in "Critters", whose work uplifted me.

And to ALL the amazing illustration seniors at MECA, be proud of your creations. Graduation probably can't come fast enough, but savor the accomplishment. Bravo, ninjas.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

ode to mum

My mother, Jeanne Hogan, died on April 10.  It has been a sad yet busy and often overwhelming time since then. Even though I had braced for this event since my father's death 14 years ago, I find I'm not really ready for this transition. But here it is. In going through her things, I came across many photographs I'd never seen, like this one from 1933, when she was 9. 

I also found every card that I ever made for her; I loved making cards for my mother, for everyone. Maybe I worked at Hallmark in a past life. This one will bring me comfort this Mother's Day, my first without the need to make a card for "Mum." That's my sister, Bonnie, on the left, and me on the bottle.

My mother was a tough love kind of mother: pretty tough to please, but very loving when you did.
She appeared many times in my art over the years, even on envelopes.

I worked this same reference into an illustration assignment during college years at RISD, which had something to do with demonstrating a grasp of three point perspective, but perhaps shows quite plainly a family dynamic, with my mother at the top.

The scene above is of the pool at the motel where I grew up. Memories remain vivid of happy days there, but plenty more in the life chapters since then. In this illustration for The Plain Dealer, I tried to capture the benevolent acceptance that aging can bring. For some, anyway. My mum definitely mellowed with age, and my vision of her shaped this piece.

My relationship with my mother changed after my father died. She bounced back from that by checking herself into the hospital for a hip replacement, a sure sign of survival. She lived alone for several years, but stayed active with friends, and visiting our island.
When I wrote a story in a Picture Book Workshop at Maine College of Art back in 2002, I wanted to illustrate the various delights of an island summer. Seven Days of Daisy became a wait for Nana's visit, and in real life there was much anticipation around that.

Even though she won't make another visit, her mothering spirit must be in the air. Just days after her death, I was interviewed about the book by Ray Routhier for the Portland Press Herald.

I've lost my proudest fan, and the source of much inspiration, but her voice in my head will carry me through. Thanks, Mum, for all you gave me.