Monday, July 25, 2011

connections on the book trail

I recently visited Judy Labrasca's narrative book class at Maine College of Art, scene of the crime 9 years ago when I hatched my own Seven Days of Daisy. It's a marvelous class, and I enjoy revisiting the space where stories begin. Judy always brings in lots of supplies, all organized in irresistible fashion.

She also brings in loads of books for browsing when the mind draws a blank. Quite satisfying that mine are in the mix.

Judy shares a ton of information, which might seem overwhelming, but becomes a backdrop to all the inspiration.

She made small books for students to start visualizing. I was immediately drawn to the colorful energy splashing around this book.

It never ceases to amaze me the variety of ideas that come out of this class. Students generally have been carrying around either a specific story, or just the yearning for one, for a long time. The class provides the diving board. You bring a deep well of visions, and finally are given the proper space to tap them, with Judy's thoughtful guidance.

It changed my life. Thank you, Judy!

I showed the dummy made in class. It's only 3.5 inches tall but I remain quite proud of my story seed.

From MECA, I went to the Scarborough Library, where I made an Illustrating One World, Many Stories presentation to a group of young artists. I showed the process of making the illustrations for Rickshaw Girl and other projects that involved immersing myself in another culture through books, film, music, and live models getting into costume. Afterwards, kids shared my supplies and just started drawing.

Jillian so sweetly gave me this drawing, inspired by the alpana designs that the character, Naima, creates around her family's dwelling in Bangladesh. Thanks, Jillian!

Another artist, Lucy, drew this pink pig. You'll notice from the dummy page above, that Daisy has a pig collection. What's not to love about this? Thanks, Lucy!

This artist has a good eye. Heads are not easy to draw without a good sense of proportion.

This boy drew a killer whale which I immediately recognized, now that I am working on a current project about whales.

Once paper and pastels start flying around, it's a creative free-for-all and a sight to behold. Making art seems to be too often cut from the curriculum, or defined by a narrow product. Letting kids choose what to draw unleashes their imaginations on paper, and I encourage all of it. It's about paying attention, to their ideas and observations. Their creative identities make them who they are.

Thank you, Scarborough Public Library, for letting me connect with a fine band of young creators!

Once I got home, my daughter showed off books she made in a youth camp at the TEIA.

The making of books, and the filling of books, are wonderful acts of connecting to the world. Yes, I am biased about the tangible joys found in the book as an object and vessel. Why else would I head out again on the book trail?

On Saturday, I stopped at the Island Institute, where my books are on display at Archipelago, a swell shop featuring products made by Maine islanders.

I took a quick look in the Farnsworth Art Museum, where, among the Wyeths, Robert Indiana's work makes variations on an indelible theme.

My destination for the afternoon was the Maine Lighthouse Museum where I joined 8 other authors for a book signing.

It was fun to chat with fellow illustrator, Nicole Fazio, whose latest book is a charmer. I sketched her sitting across the room.

 I also drew some of the cool buoys, a colorful collection hanging from the ceiling.

 I was thrilled to find myself next to C. S. Lambert, whose Sea Glass Chronicles is a treasured book of mine. Here she shares a shadow box filled with favorite finds.

As a veteran thingfinder, I couldn't resist her latest, Sea Glass Hunter's Handbook. She introduced me to the term, flotsametrics. Who knew there was a cosmic flow? She also identified the shard I collaged into this illustration in Seven Days of Daisy,

Daisy, after all, has her own flotsam and jetsam collection, mostly rope. Peaks Island abounds with good spots for finding glass and shards. After meeting Carole, I looked the next day and found these without much effort. How many? Seven, of course!

It could be coincidental, but we have a rubber ducky collection that shares the wall with a compass rose mosaic mirror I made years ago from shards found entirely on Peaks.

No matter where I go, connections surface. It takes paying attention, and being open to what life brings to my shore. How fortunate that books are my vessel. 

Now, I'm back in the studio to go deep with humpback whales. Hooray!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

have pencils, will travel

My bookish travels have taken me to interesting places. In Skowhegan, I spotted a shop called From Nana to You. I simply had to pull over. Look at the vintage British paintbox I scored.

I love everything about this illustration: the zoomy feel, the Space Station 7, the goofy moon. With 100 colours, anything is possible.

I also found a vintage DownEast magazine from the year I was born. Guess that makes me vintage.
Back before all magazines had to have slick photography covers. The illustration is by Henry Martin.

My destination, the Skowhegan Free Public Library, is a proud keeper of many universes.

I read Seven Days of Daisy and prompted a table of kids to think about what makes their 7 days tick.

There's an enormous silver shoe in the entryway, an ode to the local shoe industry. There's got to be a story around it.

Best of all is the lovely painting inside. A treasure, indeed. Thanks to the library!

I left to drive past fields and hills, rivers and marshes, over to Edgecomb, where I was sheltered by Kim, the kind friend who knows how to make me feel at home, with touches like this by the guest bed.

The next morning, I visited the Bristol Area Library in New Harbor.

 I found new friends waiting in a charming children's room. What a welcome sight. Love the mural!

After another reading and drawing, I was on my sunny way back down Route 1, hopefully leaving kids with their own stories taking shape. Thank you, swell library!

When you are crawling through Wiscasset, the prettiest bottleneck in Maine, you should stop at Rock, Paper, Scissors. It is hands down, my favorite shop. Like a candy store for artists.

They sell many things, but it's the books, cards, tape, groovy pens, stickers, wrapping paper, rubber stamps, shall I go on? I bought a pair of scissors, shaped like a long-beaked bird, for my scissor collection.

I was home on Peaks Island just long enough to eat, sleep, and read. The next day as I boarded the ferry, a crowd was lining up for the Peaks to Portland Swim, the 30th annual open water race, 2.4 miles across the bay.

But I headed to Bayswater Books in Center Harbor, NH for a book signing. It was fun to meet a fellow author/illustrator, Marty Kelley. We talked shop in the heat rising from the parking lot. We were joined by local favorite, Karel Hayes, and the author of her recent book, The Witches, Andy Opel.

Indeed, good times traveling with books and art supplies, connecting with old friends, and making new ones.

On Wednesday, I'll be at the Scarborough Public Library for an Illustrating One World presentation.
Then it's off to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland for another book event with DownEast authors this Saturday, July 23.

Meanwhile, I'm at the drawing board today, made in the shade. Best place to be!

Friday, July 15, 2011

drawing with color

"Colors are the children of light." So said Johannes Itten, a Swiss painter and Bauhaus teacher.

Here's a glimpse of some color fun that happened in a recent youth art camp I taught at the TEIA on Peaks Island.

We started with color terms, creating a color wheel, and drawing a palette of 10 favorite colors.

Below: Owen's choice of colors with very original names. Color naming and branding can be very associative and personal. I like "ish."

I also gave everyone a color journal. Just for fun, and for keeping notes and sketches and anything that might strike an artist's fancy about color.

The location, right by the shore, can't be beat.

Shade is good on a summer day, and the setting provided ample inspiration. Some drew the nearby trees. Fan-Tai drew the rocks and old pilings.

On the second day, we had a color scavenger hunt: find 6 colors and draw them. We sorted the drawings by color when we were done.

Red is my favorite, from bicycles to signage, flowers to kayaks.

Orange you glad?

Then we drew a still life, drawing on the porch with gentle sea breezes.

Here is Calee's bold pastel:

Her sister Teagan did two drawings with different color schemes, cool and warm:

Virginia, a most awesome art intern, tried warm pastels on warm paper, perfect for a sunny day.

The youngest camper, Caroline, was eager to draw everything. She drew fire, and it matches her headband! Her passion colors her world.

She was happy to be a model the next day, when we drew each other. Caroline brought colorful scarves and fancy shoes for posing.

Here's my quick sketch of Virginia, who is bound to be famous on the stage someday. Very soon.

And my sketch of Teagan:

 We mounted an impromptu show of the drawings.

 I was impressed by the engagement and positive attitude of this class. Many thanks to Chris Harper Fahey and the TEIA, for allowing us to create our worlds of color on paper!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

one world

On the seventh day of the seventh month, my busy tour of bookish events around Seven Days of Daisy began at the Graves Memorial Library in Kennebunkport. Quite auspiciously, too, since I was there over four years ago on a visit with Mitali Perkins and Rickshaw Girl. Nice to start with familiar faces!

In keeping with the summer reading program of One World, Many Voices, I gave a presentation first to a book group of girls who had just read Rickshaw Girl. I showed images from my childhood, my early career as an illustrator, and then sketches and referencing in the making of illustrations for the book. Process is always a good topic, because people are generally curious about the back story. I had to travel in my imagination to be in Bangladesh, and I did that with many visits to my island library, as well as listening to music, eating Indian food, and watching films set in Bangladesh.

That book has led to plenty of other assignments in the same area of the world. I showed this illustration, done for Cricket Magazine, since henna designs are relevant to the alpana designs in Rickshaw Girl. This piece is currently on view in Tell Me a Story: Folktales and World Cultures at the University of Southern Maine's Atrium Art Gallery at Lewiston-Auburn College, through August 12.

And most recently, I worked on illustrations for a curriculum activity for Saraswati's Way by Monika Schroder. Here's my drawing of the goddess of learning and knowledge, Saraswati.

Calling attention to the strong decorative patterns running through these cultures and my illustrations, I invited the group to draw with my colored pencils and pastels. Stand back!

These can be like doodles or radial designs that begin in the center, and expand outward. Or, some decided to draw an imaginary scene, anything that shines with color.

This artist was the last to leave. She needed to get her color all over the page. And maybe a little on herself! Her drawing has a bold palette and strong composition. Hooray!

Another artist decided to make use of patterns. Love all the striped petals here.

The book group cleared out and made way for another round of younger kids who heard my story of the making of Seven Days of Daisy.  After reading the book, they got busy creating their own summer story.

This girl was very excited about an upcoming sleepover:

Every day of the week, something cool happens to this girl:

Many thanks to the Graves Memorial Library for a fun exchange of stories and art!

I made it back to the island in time to gather some pieces for the Color of Peaks show at the TEIA, the island sailing and tennis organization down the hill. The "club" as it's known, makes an appearance in Seven Days of Daisy.

It's the large white boathouse that hangs out over the water in the background above. I walk by it every day on my way to the beach with the dog.

 "Dusky Diamond View," below, is one of the pastels in the show.

Next week I'll be teaching a Drawing with Color workshop to young artists at the TEIA for three days
followed by a flurry of book visits.

On Thursday, July 14 at 2 PM, I'll be at the Skowhegan Public Library.
The next morning, July 15 at 10:30, I'll be at the Bristol Area Library.

And on Saturday, July 16 I'll be at Bayswater Books in Center Harbor, NH from 11 AM - 1 PM.

Whew! Have pencils, will travel!