Tuesday, April 24, 2012

london loop

We're back from a blitz of a trip to London. From Darwin to Diana, the Beatles to the Bard, we covered a lot of ground, thanks to the Tube.

Here's a slice of our jolly good time. After wearily arriving at our hotel, we crashed for a few hours. Being right near Kensington Palace, we then had a lovely stroll through Hyde Park, past so much wide open green space and romping dogs, we felt restored.  Especially by the Peter Pan statue.

Nearby is the serene memorial for Princess Diana, where a rolling loop of flowing waters calmed our jet lag immensely. This sculpture by Simon Gudgeon was a welcome sight.

More astonishing was the very near presence of real herons, like this one, who waded a few yards away.

On Sunday, we headed to the Upmarket for browsing and being in the throngs. Unique wares, indeed.

Our daughter found a vintage 1930's collapsible top hat that she had to have. Great signage everywhere, buskers, reggae, and street murals.

Our real destination was Ryantown. As fans of Rob Ryan's work, we had only Sunday to make it to the shop. The narrow street was crowded with flower seller's but we found it!

The big bonus was chatting with the Queen of Ryantown, Cynthia Grandfield, who offered suggestions for places to eat and see in the area. She and her partner are classmates of Rob's, all alums of Royal College of Art. We chatted about teaching, zines, and blogging. Cynthia's son even has a blog! Drawing brings us all together, doesn't it?

From there, we headed to our next important destination: Abbey Road. Our top-hatted Beatles fan found kinship there.

We continued this trail the next day, taking a Beatles walking tour, in which our guide Kevin brought us to a ring of spots, including the local jail where John spent a bit of time, Trident Studios, and a bar where Paul met Linda. He often pulled out vintage photos for effect.

We continued on the bus, passing some interesting public art.

On Tuesday we toured the massive Tower of London, where I was surprised to learn a polar bear was once kept as a pet, and allowed to swim on a chain in the Thames.

Quite a bit of brutal history there, alongside the Crown Jewels. Our heads were spinning.
In need of fresh air, we headed over the Tower Bridge.

After crisscrossing the bridge and admiring the mighty river, it was off to the circus!

We had ringside seats for a most amazing performance. My favorite act was the ringmaster with his budgies, as classic as can be.

The next day we payed homage to Darwin, at the Natural History Museum.

The architecture alone made us swoon. Everywhere a carved monkey, ornate columns, vaulted ceilings.

So many specimens, our eyeballs crossed.

We found a nice bench to commune with the blue whale for a spell.

We visited St. Paul's Cathedral just before evening mass, enough time to say a prayer and be humbled by the sacred space and history. After a hearty pub meal and pint of ale, we hauled over to Big Ben.

Just in time to catch the striking of 10 o'clock.

Time to re-watch some Dr. Who episodes, after spying the London Eye.

On our last day, we headed to the theater for a lively tour of Shakespeare's Globe. A downpour proved a handy example of the conditions experienced by a medieval audience.

Right next door is the Tate Modern which provides a startling welcome for visitors.

I found this piece by Do Ho Suh to be most memorable and brilliant. It thoroughly lifted me to another place.

The entire museum triggered my radar for red. The dotty spaces of Yayoi Kusama delighted me no end.

And we even glimpsed the Beatles.

We crossed the Millenium Bridge in a daze, noticing dark clouds. Got caught in our first thunder and lightning storm, taking refuge in a doorway at Westminster Abbey. The sudden downpour was still no match for the local drought.

The sun prevailed in the end.

We gazed through the puddled gates at Buckingham Palace before making our way to another pub for dinner. Our very last destination was King's Cross Station, of course!

Bravo, London, for a rocking good time.
The city is bracing for both the Queen's Jubilee and the Olympics. We missed the real crowds.
Too much to see, not enough drawing time!

I managed to do only a few sketches for the Sketchbook Project.

I think I'm done. Saved the first page for last, a sketch of my mum taking a photo. We have her to thank for our trip. I know she was with us in spirit!

Back to the final week of classes at MECA, and the upcoming Children's Book Week
No rest for the wicked.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

circus of wonders

It must be spring. Illustration 2 students are warming up for their final project: a circus poster.
With the Shriners Circus due in town next week, we drew from a model who was a ringmaster, a clown, and strong man in the eyes of the class. I made the above drawing pretty quickly.

Chris Snowman drew this on a Wacom tablet, upon being handed a small plastic animal toy. I asked students to incorporate one somehow in relation to the figure.

Here's a drawing by Morgan Cremins:

Below, Lucas gets loose with brush and ink, and the idea of looking but also imagining.

The model didn't have a unicycle, but Shannon Owen thought he should, turning a static pose into a humorous sketch.

A top hat is one prop that conjures up many things.

Directly after class, I headed to Victoria Mansion, a magical journey into another time and place.
I'd heard all sorts of good buzz about their current installation, Wonderama, which proved more than worthy.


This inspired convergence of art and history is only in place for another week, but hopefully will be the seed for many more dialogues between an historical institution and contemporary artists.

Interior photography is forbidden: you really MUST see it to believe it. The pairings of sculpture, photography, paper cuts, and narrative installations will beguile you beyond belief.

A favorite feature was the time machine, outside.

It's perhaps a cross between a gondola and the Tardis, only more ingenuous. This piece by Christian Matzke features thoughtful touches slyly interpreting steam punk parallels to human travel and communication.

Isn't this communication center the most endearing device?

I'm looking back into a fantastical future here, thanks to docent Kathie Schneider, who gave me a personal tour on a quiet Wednesday afternoon.

Flash back to Tuesday, when I had a taste of tomorrow during Scott Nash's "Drawriting" workshop at the Telling Room in Portland.

He demonstrated the fundamentals of drawing and writing with iPads for brainstorming a fluid blend of visual and word ideas.

I'm a died-in-the-wool analog girl, but took fairly easily to sketching with the stylus. My pal Richard Goldberg and I had great fun creating characters from simple features.

This was right on the heels of another demo earlier in the day at Maine College of Art. On behalf of the Pastel Painters of Maine, Wade Zahares shared his methods of madness with pure pigment dust.

He draws bodily, creating sweeping perspectives with dynamic spaces.

Working in bold colors, he blends wearing latex gloves, defining crisp edges that seem to defy the medium.

I'm entirely jazzed by such a mix of inspirations, tools, techniques. Thanks, Wade, Scott, and
the wondrous cast of artists at Victoria Mansion!

Now it's time travels for realz: we're off to London tomorrow.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

between deadlines

I'm in that delicious place I call "between deadlines" during which I get a teeny bit more sleep, and fill my well. Recently, this meant spending more time in Portland, drinking in the vibe there and being inspired by art and artists.

My illustration class enjoyed an engaging visit from Mike Gorman, who previously taught illustration at Maine College of Art. Now he does web design, and maintains a prolific freelance career.

He shared his formative years working feverishly for multiple regional papers, as well as the process from preliminary sketches to final art for two recent clients. Thanks, Mike!

He also confessed that he believes in Bigfoot. Below is one of his paintings for a show at Sanctuary Tattoo.

Somehow the idea of Bigfoot really made a mark on my, um, brain. I used him as a metaphor in
a brand new site for A Warmer World.

Thanks to Kirsten Cappy, colorful publicist and kids book advocate, the site offers e-postcards for young readers and anyone concerned about our warming world.

We met one gray day in Portland to brainstorm. Spring, anyone?

Portland was our fling over the weekend. Marty and I saw a magnificent documentary by Michael
Maglaras at the Maine Festival of the Book.

The filmmaker opened the evening by saying he fell into Lynd Ward by reading a new edition of his Six Novels in Woodcuts. As illustrators, we were already familiar with Ward's work and know at least a few illustrators who claim him as inspiration. The film proved a fascinating immersion into the historical, cultural, and personal influences that shaped his pioneering art.

From there, dinner at the East Ender and a comfy stay at the Inn at Park Spring made us islanders feel at home. We walked around the immediate neighborhood the next morning.

Portland's got such architectural character. Spotted these in the span of two blocks, my radar always up for a good face, like this knave.

A hearty lion protects this house.

A scholarly profile ornaments the old Baxter Building, current home of VIA.

Baxter was the site of my first class taught at MECA in 2003. Quite gratifying that a former student, Tom Dowling, had his sculpture play a role in Heroes at Portland Stage, which we saw, right around the corner.

The play, an adaptation by Tom Stoppard, is fantastic!

Afterwards, we wound down by walking the labyrinth near the Art Gallery at UNE.

Yes, a grand blast of culture now settling into my bones. 

I confess I've done precious little drawing. Just a few sketches for the Sketchbook Project like these.

This is my Mum, who's on my mind. Back when she was 18, getting a hug from her beloved aunt.

There, my well is filling up, just in time to start anew on another deadline!