The closer you get to Amherst, MA, the more you feel in the middle of the woods. It’s a serene feeling, honest. Meeting House roads are all over New England, as my passengers noticed.
We arrived at the home of Tony and his partner, Angie, right on time, and were in for a major treat. This pretty much captures the wonder we all felt.
Tony was very upfront: I started right where you are.
He has a non-stop passionate all-out work ethic, and set his goals early. He grew up in Florida, where he met Angela. They share a love of children’s books. Angela is an author and Tony’s studio manager. And a mom, just like me. Her office is full of sweet vignettes of vintage toys and art.
As a chronologist, I appreciated Tony’s narrative. He gave the tour of his studio and opened his wall of flat files, beginning with his high school homage to The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. His characters were infused with the early 80’s, naturally; he freely shared his opus in pencil and marker.
He showed his meticulous dummy book for The Spider and the Fly.
Seeing it next to the final book was informative for everyone. Those studying illustration need to see it as a perpetual process of refinement. Things change. It’s all good.
He also brought out well-known illustrations, to our utter amazement and deep satisfaction. Seeing original work is a blessed thing. What? What IS that you paint over the final watercolor that makes it come alive?!!
There came a point in his career where he could revive an early adolescent obsession: the Spiderwick Chronicles. Back when he was 12, he filled and filled and filled notebook paper with an elaborate tale of fantastic proportions.
His years of work could bring it to fruition. Illustrators, look at THIS dummy! Made with enormous attention to detail that the publisher could BELIEVE.
Surrounded by pin ball machines, vintage toys, sci-fi books, shelves and shelves of reference, masks, props, and his art next to his groovy daughter’s, we swooned.
He graciously signed our books, posters, and gave us stickers and tiny dinosaurs. Smitten, we were. With one last glimpse of this Mary Blair piece hanging in a dining room lined by Tony’s own wallpaper design, we reluctantly departed, filled with cookies.
Tony and Angie, we are infinitely grateful for your time, talent, and wisdom. What a feast you shared! No sketch can do it justice.
Our satiated troop headed to Northampton to our lodgings, and then to Local Burger.
We stopped at the nearby Tunnel Bar for some funnel.
The next day we visited the R. Michelson Gallery, renowned for it’s illustration exhibits in a former bank.
You can find original art by Mo Willems, with all the markings of reproduction.
This painting by Nan Hill summed up the moment my eyeballs melted.
We drove next to The Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art for a finale beyond our expectations.
Let it be known: the class of 2016 is one fine band of illustrators.
Chief Curator Ellen Keiter treated us to the full tour of this lively place chock full of incredible work. We discovered that for every 6 months the paper works are on display, they must “rest” out of view for 5 years. Illustration has purpose, it’s a means to an end, and only recently been considered worthy of display. Therefore, not always archival.
We viewed the exuberant show, Eric Carle’s A-Z, which ran directly into a gallery filled with David Macauley’s work from Black and White, a Caldecott Medal winner. Ellen explained he didn’t want any of the work to be framed. That was not possible, so he added to the display by painting directly on the gallery walls. Of course, no pictures allowed
We could photograph this, the entrance to an expansive exhibit of the work of Mary Blair, known for her Golden Book illustrations and visual development for Walt Disney.
The above photo doesn’t do the show justice. Just GO. She created inventive and expressive environments for classic Disney films like Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and many others. Ellen provided background to Blair’s life while we peered up close at her painterly gouache scenes of miniature dramas.
Next we were ushered into the museum’s library and reading room, where a display of illustrated books of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland caught our attention. Look, an Arthur Rackham!
Ellen said goodbye as we ventured over to the learning studio to make collages from letter scraps, in honor of the A-Z show. Abbie Masso made this feline concoction.
As we headed to the parking lot, what did we see? A very hungry bug.
I am thrilled to have this piece in the current exhibit now in the Lewis Gallery at the Portland Public Library, Wake Up Alice!
I love adding collage bits, and photographed cards for inserting into my drawing done with charcoal pencil and pastel on cut paper.
I’m pleased to see my fierce little Alice hanging among such esteemed company!
To the right, my former MECA student, Declan McCarthy, created a corner chock full of the entire adventure told in comic vignettes he drew on the wall. Here he is before his arm fell off.
To my Alice’s left is MECA faculty Judy Labrasca’s exquisite collage and ink drawing.
MECA alum Liz Long’s bold yet delicate painting shows Alice considering the infamous Drink Me bottle.
Current MECA senior illustration major, Taylor Mirabito, creates a lush garden environment for her curious Alice.
Her classmate, Abbie Masso, created a detailed diorama with pattern and shadow.
MECA alum, Taylor Grant, made a narrative book and lantern show called Dinah in Wonderland. This scene captures the wit and humor of her story.
We have Scott Nash, co-founder of the Illustration Department at Maine College of Art, to thank for this delightful homage in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the publication of Lewis Carroll’s classic, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Scott’s visionary efforts began two years ago and now culminates in a fantastic display of talents within the Illustration Department, celebrating it’s first decade. Besides curating the show, developing marketing visuals, and supervising the installation, Scott created this fetching meta-picture, a large ink drawing that is framed in four pieces, suggesting a window through which a too-big Alice peers.
Upon closer inspection, he has written texts with more drawings, echoing the grand Cheshire Cat he created for the show’s poster and banner.
Current Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd created a stunning cat of bold stripes and manic contrasts.
Former MECA faculty Calef Brown’s cat is disembodied yet charming in a world of bright colors.
A fantastic display case also holds wonders such as this beaded cat, part of the collection of Deb Deatrick, member of the Lewis Carroll Society.
MECA faculty Alex Rheault’s “Journey of Madness” touches on the hallucinatory torment of Alice’s trip.
MECA faculty Michael Connor conjures a well of dramas in detailed pen and ink.
MECA faculty Daniel Minter’s “Serpent” is richly layered against a backdrop of tumbling figures.
Former MECA faculty Mike Gorman’s bold lines capture a badass Queen.
Former faculty Kevin Hawkes’ stage set panels invite the audience to enter.
As does this elaborately constructed tunnel book by MECA alum Emma McCabe.
MECA alum Kiah Gardner created a theatrical narrative within a miniature stage.
MECA alum Cecil Cates’ “Why Is A Raven Like a Writing Desk” is an earthenware balancing act featuring a snoozing Rabbit.
MECA alum Hana Firestone’s whimsical mixed media piece presents the White Rabbit in a mosaic of paper.
MECA alum Joe Rosshirt’s White Rabbit is caught in a rubbery dash of animated limbs.
There is SO MUCH MORE awesome work in this show! Don’t be late to see it! It’s on view through December 31. On First Friday, December 4, some artists in the show will be on hand selling prints, talking Jabberwocky, and drinking potions. I’ll be there in striped stockings.
But first I am off to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art to see Mary Blair’s work with the senior Illustration MECA majors. She illustrated this Golden Book version which is among other vintage copies of Alice in Wonderland in the Lewis Gallery.
Time to fall down the rabbit hole!
The 6th Annual Illustration Research Symposium hosted by the Illustration Research Network and Rhode Island School of Design was a total blast of ideas and great presentations. Thanks to Maine College of Art for sending Illustration Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd and me to this international gathering of illustration academics. I filled my MECA sketchbook and more.
Thursday evening upon arrival at the RISD ISB Gallery, we were warmly greeted by Susan Doyle, Department Head of RISD Illustration at the opening of the conference exhibition, Little Pieces, Big Ideas.
It was a delicious entry to what was in store for Friday’s full day of presentations and panels, held in Chace Auditorium.
RISD Illustration faculty, Robert Brinkerhoff, designed a charming visual for this year’s theme: Illustrator as Public Intellectual. He offered a welcome, introductions, and made the apt comparison between ICON (celebratory and extroverted) and the Research Symposium (reflective, abstract, introverted) and we were off and running.
The first panel on Challenging Professional Identities and Roles included David Blaiklock from the University of South Australia, whose topic, Illustration: Towards an Understanding of Expertise, was peppered with his conceptual illustrations. Many of his drawings made great use of the eye as metaphor, but for some reason this is the one I captured.
I was sketching the man in the row ahead of me. I liked his hat.
It turned out to be Gary Powell from the University of Brighton who spoke next on Inside the Outsiders: Intellectual Creativity and Social Concerns. Leaving Jamaica as a child to live in England, he gained confidence making art. He gave credit to his teacher, Ms. Hyden, for encouraging him, and quoted Eleanor Roosevelt: No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.
Roger Reed of Illustration House, Inc. gave the history behind Illustrator/Author John McDermott’s Intellectual Look in the Mirror. McDermott wrote Brooks Wilson, Ltd. under his pen name, J. M. Ryan, about the exploits of an illustrator in NYC. Later, a film adaptation was made, Loving . Back in the day when being an illustrator was way more glamorous, and yet apparently still unsatisfying.
Mary Catharine Johnsen, Carnegie Mellon University’s Design Liaison Librarian, discussed New Yorker Cartoons and Invention. Her premise that “cartoons can teach ideas” was effectively presented with a bounty of examples, many from the 40’s and 50’s. She suggested “have the user finish the thought” for more powerful visual communication. She shared a wealth of fabulous lists, this one being my favorite, also handy for brainstorming in the classroom.
After a lunch break, the next panel was Visual Satirist as Public Intellectual. Marsha Morton from Pratt discussed German illustration from the mid-1800’s, much of it from Kladderadatsch, a newspaper in Berlin that frequently used illustrations by Wilhelm Scholz.
This led into the next topic, Thomas Nast’s “Appropriations”: Agency and the Mechanically Produced Image in Nineteenth Century America by Stephanie Delamaire of the Winterthur Museum. While Nast is perhaps better known in American illustration history, I didn’t know he was born in Germany or that he refused a bribe from Boss Tweed to go to Europe. His pictorial journalism grew into sharp satire that could change opinion and thus the balance of power. I sketched Stephanie as she spoke. My likenesses aren’t great, but drawing helps me listen.
Duncan Ross from Ulster University talked about Illustrating the Vaccum, literally. The Vacuum is an alternative newspaper whose strategy was to subvert the “troubles iconography.”
After presenters were done, they gathered together as a panel for questions. There was mention of Charlie Hebdo and the illustrator as agitator. The Kladderadasch Boy in Germany is now Alfred E. Newman of MAD, the foil for satire. This led into a roundtable discussion led by D.B. Dowd of Washington University on Cartooning & Illustration As Modes of Authorship: Cousins, Siblings, or Twins?
With Nora Krug, Seymour Chwast, and Anita Kunz onstage, the discussion covered big territory. Dowd argued that cartoons are stand-alone creations while illustrations are interpretive, accountable, and contingent upon text. Does that make illustrations less creative? Krug said illustration is underestimated; it has power to shape faith, politics, morale, and culture. “The act of drawing is a form of research,” she said. In illustrating her book, Kamikaze, she could imagine her subjects more deeply by drawing them, not seeing them as either victims, heroes, or culprits, but as human.
I drew her profile.
Chwast was born in the Bronx and lived in Coney Island, “a hotbed of naive radical activity.” He was influenced at a young age by trips to MOMA and the art of Ben Shahn, Daumier, and Goya. His point of view inspired the posters he created. Dowd suggested illustration lies in the middle between cartooning and art. With the economic climate of publishing shrinking, creators are left to make more personal work. Within the simultaneous scarcity of opportunity, there is a new audience bounty online. Kunz finds the now massive appeal of Comic Cons (one happening the same weekend in Providence) evidence that the field is changing. Chwast’s advice: Be brave, be aware how your work communicates.
We broke for fresh air and forays to other destinations. Mary Anne and I had fun in the RISD Museum.
I returned to Chace to catch part of “In And Out Of The Margins: Affirming The Illustrator As Philosopher And Boundary Catalyst in the Public Realm” with Chris Glynn playing piano while Richard Parry sang. It was remarkably entertaining, even though the audience was hesitant to sing along. They are launching the “University of Wednesdays” declaring there’s a tunnel that runs under the Venn diagram, and it’s the space anywhere people talk about relationships. Affirm obscurity!
A reception followed with wine, food, and mingling. We befriended Harini Kannan and Nayana Gupta, both visiting from Bangalore. They were presenting the next day, and had participated in last year’s Research Symposium in India.
We returned for the Keynote Address by Rick Poyner from the Royal College of Art in London, who was introduced by Jaleen Grove, Assistant Editor of a forthcoming History of Illustration (Bloomsbury 2017) and currently teaching at Wilfrid Laurier University. She was the first person I had sketched as the conference began.
She’d gotten her first degree in Graphic Design just when there were no jobs to be had, and became a freelance illustrator doing little $100 spots. She discovered the lack of discourse on illustration, but her questioning led her to the Illustration Research Network, where she now edits the Journal of Illustration as well. She called Rick a great megaphone for illustration, but when he took the podium, he admitted “I forgot my megaphone.”
He asked How seriously should we take illustration? How seriously does it take itself? Read more on that topic here. Poyner used Russell Mills as a case study for an illustrator who meets his definition of the public intellectual. Mills didn’t see any difference between self-motivated work and commissioned work. His illustration became less narrative and more complex, with use of collage with painterly textures. Mills now lives in Ambleside, a bucolic lakeside village in England, where “establishing a sense of place is a radical antidote.”
Meanwhile, I sketched the audience.
We headed off into the Providence night, and this rather summed up the day for me, an ode to the scopic regime in the window of Lovecraft Arts & Sciences.
Saturday’s agenda brought tough choices with double the offerings; panels in either Chace or over at the ISB Gallery. Arrrggghhh! I opted for Image Reference & Authorship.
Stuart Medley of Edith Cowan University presented Metapictures: Signposts to an Illustrated Public Space. He asked, “can illustration resist words?” He defined a metapicture as a picture inside itself inside itself, or a picture that references picturality, or a picture that is related but with a new spin. The hands-down best example was a smart series by Mike Mitchell called Super.
And what the audience brings to a visual gestalt….
I was eager to hear Lisa French’s talk: The Impact of Data Collection Technology on the Sophistication of Visual Thinking. I had this feeling: will she touch on the overuse of Google searches as primary reference?
She discussed how visual memory, even unconsciously, can focus the mind inward, where creative impulses form a cognitive network. I sketched her.
She outlined the steps in creating an illustration, the fact finding, problem finding, incubation, photo referencing. As a non-fiction illustrator, I get the inherent limitations of using only a single source, and one that is at everyone’s fingertips. We all need to dig deeper.
Catrin Morgan presented Evidence and Illumination. She said, “Illustration doesn’t need to make any claims to being important. It uses all languages.”
James Walker presented The Forgetful Act: Erasure and Forgetfulness in Illustrative Reportage. My, how true. I am leaving out SO much in this report, and my sketches barely catch a whiff of what I saw.
Photography is one click on an event, while drawing takes more time and perhaps discomfort. It is a furtive and clandestine act amidst “the image well we are drowning in.” What is left out of a drawing, the white spaces, the erasures, create “an empty space that becomes filled with viewers’ emotions.”
During the coffee break, Mary Anne and I dashed over to the ISB Gallery for the next panel: Cultural Representation & Intervention in the USA. Chris Lukasik from Purdue University began with Looking the Other Way: David Hunter Strother, Race, and The Rise of Mass Visual Culture. In his examination of Strother’s rise from an “expensive ornament to a crucial piece of media” he documented the work of Strother’s alias, Porte Crayon, whom he called “the drunken uncle” that nobody talks about. A peer of Winslow Homer, his work for Harper’s New Monthly was full of racial stereotypes that earned him praise in media circles at the time.
I began sketching the woman in front of me who was in fact the next speaker, Robyn Phillips-Pendelton from University of Delaware.
She presented Diversity, Perception, and Responsibility in Illustration, a continued thread of racial stereotyping in newspapers and advertising from Strother’s day, to Uncle Tom’s Cabin, to Aunt Jemima packaging, to Time’s cover by Matt Mahurin of O.J. Simpson, to Barry Blitt’s New Yorker cover of Michelle and Barack Obama’s fist bump. It just doesn’t stop. When will it STOP?
Sabrina Scott’s Drawing the Other examined the contemporary illustration scene by looking at recent illustration annuals, counting the number of white males, females, people of color, LGBTQ folk. White males are the default in illustration, while females are often sexualized, sometimes appearing only as legs. She said, “We can make work smarter than this.”
There was talk of who are the jurors for these one-sided annuals? Robyn pointed out there were no people of color presenting at the last ICON, where she was one of two black women in an audience of 500. We ALL need to raise our voices.
After a quick lunch break, I headed back for Practitioners in Collaboration With Clients & Audiences. Nayana Gupta presented Urban Dissection, in which she shared this busy map of what makes Identity.
Culture is primary; her observations while walking in Ranchi (capital of Jharkhand), where little temples sprout up on public property, became an investigation into what those structures represent. Her first step is to decode the environment, in which sketching adds a focus. “The gods are on the street” became not just a translation, but a diagram of symbolism, materials, and relentless expansion.
Kathrin Amelung was unable to attend, and Chris Glynn superbly delivered her Scientific Illustration as a Specific Kind of Research, declaring that scientific illustration is not just after the fact, but can BE the research, using dinosaur bones in animation to argue the point with great effect.
Chloe Bulpin, a recent RISD graduate in Illustration, presented The Art of Conservation, asking do we need to keep every species? Like, the oblong rock snail, who cares? What is the more effective approach to conservation, doom and gloom or empathy? The viral circulation of this photo is evidence that empathy might work.
Check out Creature Conserve to learn how you can contribute.
Mark Smith presented You Look Like the Right Type, his dedication to overheard phrases and hand-lettering. He’s become fascinated by Scott McCloud’s definition of closure, that space between sequential panels that a reader completes without thinking. He considers these juxtapositions when hanging his works in modular displays, all done on small sheets of drawing paper.
Last but not least was the Education panel, where Luise Vormittage from University of the Arts presented Confidence, Conviction & Depth: Emboldening Illustration Students. She used Google search image clusters to illustrate her points, asking if what we teach at our institutions is relevant to contemporary conditions. How we currently teach is neither practical or truly academic.
We expect students to be self-directed, to find their “voice” when such work is rare and badly paid. Students don’t often choose relevant themes. She said, “Most illustrations aren’t made by illustrators.” It’s the usage that has become primary. What authorized the author? In today’s digital glut, a personal voice has become anachronistic. She raised many questions.
Dushan Milic from Ontario College of Art and Design followed with no visual aids whatsoever for The Power of Forms: Abstraction and Imagination, Representationalism and Power. He said what is excluded counts. A blank screen engages the void when we are awash in images without meaning.
Robert Brinkerhoff’s presentation of Stereotypes and Paradigms: Revolutionizing Archetypes in Illustration also used Google as a data visualization device to illustrate the filter for flower, for man. Is there parity or clarity? His students are showing him the way.
He has noticed a shift in their sensitivities; they are bold, vocal, and active. They are investigating empathy. The closing panel provided great dialogue around broad issues of diversity, ethics, and interiority. A row of RISD students spoke about their ranks, their need to question, to not force passions on them. They have their own and will get to them.
Both Susan Doyle and Sheri Wills, Dean of Fine Arts, thanked the audience and presenters in their closing remarks. Everyone was ready for the reception at the RISD Library. After all, as Jaleen had remarked at the beginning, the Greek translation of symposium means drinking together. Finally!
Thank you, Illustration Research Network and RISD, for a provocative assembly in the name of illustration studies. May we all keep our pencils, eyeballs, and thinking sharp. Waterfire was a fitting parallel to all the bonfires set in the mind.
I’m eager to see the current production of The Mountaintop that just opened at Portland Stage. I worked on the illustration last winter, and as usual, learned so much in the research process. Katori Hall’s award-winning play is set at the Lorraine Motel, the night before Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination. I found this photo on-line. Seeing it brings a brutal reality all back, one that I didn’t understand when I was 9. I still don’t.
I began thinking by drawing.
The play involves an encounter between King and a maid, Camae, who brings him coffee and more than he bargained for.
I tried several approaches, some involving a transparent female figure against the iconic profile of King.
In this, I’m attempting the look of isolation before his fate.
In one scene, flowers magically cascade like tears from Camae’s eyes. I so wanted to draw that.
This is straight-forward literal: opening the motel door.
The first sketch got the nod, so I made a color version with possible placement of the play’s title and credit.
In the final illustration, I added stars digitally. There’s a powerful spirituality in the conclusion of the play.
Portland Stage and Dispatch Magazine are hosting a community conversation, Race and Performance in Maine, this Monday, November 9 at 7 PM at Salvage BBQ. Blues musician Samuel James, Portland City Councilor Jill Duson, and Rene Johnson, Director of Theater Ensemble of Color, will lead a discussion of the challenges and dimensions of “being a performer of any kind in a region as white as Maine.”
Let’s all go and learn, discuss, and understand each other better.
Thank you, Portland Stage.
No matter which route you take, Portland to Baltimore is a solid 10 hour roadtrip. But how warm the welcome!
They have a wide collection of art, but this oil painting of Peter as a young man is my favorite.
We headed in the morning over to MICA’s Parents Weekend, eager to see our new freshman. Let the hugs begin!
We stopped at MICA’s Print Lab. Nice to have such resources so handy on campus.
We hung out for awhile in the Main Building, so we could meet faculty.
Abandoned drawing boards held studies interrupted. I later did this sketch of a statue in the mezzanine that could be a Weeping Angel.
While Daisy returned to class, we ventured to the Paper Moon Diner, a feast of eye candy.
This place shares the same over-the-top spirit as the local American Visionary Art Museum. Nothing is ever wasted.
We met back at Founder’s Green, aglow with autumn.
Patterson Park was a sublime discovery. Sunset vistas and more hugs.
This pagoda was the magnet.
She met up with us later at MICA’s Haunted House.
We snaked through a long line but it was worth it. One creepy tableau after another, nightmarish settings with bloody characters totally in your face. I was relieved when it was OVER.
On Saturday we returned to MICA for more encounters. Marty went to a panel on the Freshman Foundation program, while I participated in the Art of Critique, led by MICA faculty and Foundation Chair, Fletcher Mackey. He asked for 5 volunteers to become the “author” of a work on view in the Decker Gallery’s exhibit, The Possibility of Transformation.
Each parent spoke about their piece, followed by comments from the group, while Professor Mackey promped us with questions and feedback. Insightful discussions, indeed.
We connected with Daisy for another visit to Paper Moon, followed by a rendezvous with Donna at her newest restaurant opening soon at Mill No. 1. Such a cool location, location, location.
Back at the dorm, Daisy showed us her projects. She’s been plenty busy.
Those color studies, I remember them well.
We headed to Federal Hill for more vistas and fresh air.
The entire production was stellar, from the mature performances to the detailed sets and haunting lighting and sound design.
Daisy returned to her dorm and we stayed with Karen and Steve. We can highly recommend their place, in a historic row house not far from MICA or Johns Hopkins. It was hard to leave on Sunday morning.
Here’s a little pastel I made of the Brown Building, we call it the Ice Cube. It seems to change shape as you walk past.
We encountered another family from Portland, Daniel and Marcia Minter, whose son is a classmate with Daisy.
Family time felt so good! We left Baltimore full of hugs that we hope last til Thanksgiving. Thanks, MICA!
There’s no harder evidence of time flying than considering your 35th college reunion. Whaaat? Upon finding my RISD 1980 yearbook, I wondered if I’d find any former self at RISD By Design 2015.
I headed to Providence in time to meet up with classmate Rika Smith McNally. Hadn’t seen her in five years, since the last reunion. We headed over to the Inauguration of Rosanne Somerson, the 17th President of the college, and the first alum.
What a graceful, thoughtful, and moving ceremony. I was delighted to spy MICA’s President, Sammy Hoi, in the throng of Visiting Delegates from other institutions. Janine Antoni led the entire audience in a hand-holding wave of intention that connected Rosanne’s mother and the Metcalfs, descendants of RISD’s founders, all the way up to the stage where Rosanne stood.
I was impressed by RISD Illustration major, Yelitsa Jean-Charles, who offered remarks on behalf of undergraduate students. She’s making her own waves by launching a toy line for black girls, Healthy Roots. The theme of the weekend was all about designing the future: Forms that don’t exist yet, Subcultures that don’t exist yet, Tools that don’t exist yet. Bravo to Rosanne Somerson! I felt immense positive energy that she will lead RISD with open arms and wise vision.
After the inauguration, a loose parade of plants formed, everyone carrying a potted something along Canal Street. I drew the woman who ingeniously created a headpiece from a helmet.
Along the way, we passed firetrucks spouting arcs of water. It was like a baptism, with sound installations and floating sculptures.
Rika and I stopped at the Colossal Camera Obscura, to peer at the upside-down views inside.
I headed to my favorite spot, the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab.
That place was a major source of transformation for me. I sketched this bird while eavesdropping on other alums wandering about in wonder. Every RISD student spends time here.
Not all specimens are still, either. This guy had a friend slithering into his pocket.
I headed over to the new ISB for my part in the RISD Reads.
The event was held in the gallery where the annual RISD faculty exhibition was on view, with a super poster by Calef Brown.
Christina Rodriguez ’03 IL was there getting set up. As Alumni Relations Coordinator, she invited me to RISD Reads. Many thanks, lovely Christina!
I was thrilled to meet another alum, 11 IL Joohee Yoon!
I read Here Come the Humpbacks and answered questions about my process. Thanks to all who came and listened!
94 IL Joe McKendry discussed his richly detailed illustrations for One Times Square, and his enthusiasm for research.
Joohee read from her recent books, talking about how her printmaking experiences at RISD informed her current 2-color illustrations for The Tiger Who Would Be King. Then we mingled and signed books. It was a blast to see my former student, Paul Gray, and catch up with my former teacher, Judy Sue Goodwin-Sturges. I always thought of her as a Celtic goddess with her thick mane of red hair. She is ageless, and still teaching!
We toured the new building, where students still paint from the masters.
Madeline’s now creating felted wares, and I modeled her latest at the reunion dinner at the Providence Art Club.
Several classes gathered in the cluster of historic buildings dating from the 1700’s to 1885.
The class of 1980 enjoyed one intimate dining room with two tables and a fireplace. At Beth’s urging, we took turns telling what we’re up to these days. We share this one formative chapter in our lives, yet the waters run mighty deep.
80 PT Bill Braden and his wife had traveled from Hawaii for his first ever reunion. 80 IL Ron Defelice told tales of working at Disney and Blue Sky Studios. We exchanged whatever news we had of those not in attendance, and mugged for the photo booth.
Before leaving Providence on Sunday, Madeline and I visited the RISD Museum, where I met up with former students, Miles Cook and Michele Cooney. It was heavenly to stroll around such an amazing collection. Walking along Benefit Street in the dappled sun, I think I glimpsed the art student I was. Looking at Memorial Hall, I can hear the beat from the Tap Room, can you?
Soon we will visit MICA for Parents’ Weekend, where our daughter is learning her own rhythms. Art school is a great place to discover images that don’t exist yet.
Whenever a moon can make it’s way into an illustration project, I’m happy. And I am over the moon to be working with Portland Stage on their 2015/16 season. In frigid January, I began illustrating all the posters, starting with the season opener, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel.
I played my wee stash of Irish music while sketching, to help me capture the energy and spirit of the five Mundy sisters. These are a few of my preliminary sketches.
The above design was chosen. I also visited a moonrise on the backshore, adding to my inspiration. Moon cycles are well observed in this house, thanks to my participation in the Lunar Calendar for the last 30 years.
At fullness, the moon is often fat and pink and rather shy upon the horizon. But as she moves up into the sky, she shines even brighter.
Lughnasa is a Gaelic festival celebrated in Ireland and Scotland usually between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. In Brian Friel’s play, the unmarried sisters all recall their former revelries on the hill, with wild dancing and bonfires. We haven’t learned any step-dancing yet, but we love having bonfires!
My final illustration is a mix of greens with transparent layers, like the dancers are part solid, part memory.
Portland Stage’s production is dedicated to actress Susan Reilly, who died last year. She and her husband, Tony Reilly, co-founded the American Irish Reperatory Ensemble. Tony played the narrator, Michael, who appears onstage to lyrically spin the memories of that late summer in 1936, as well as stand-in as the voice of his younger self at the edges of the drama.
My posters are all in the lobby, a rather graphic back-drop before the show.
Anita Stewart always creates incredible set designs! The kitchen is a tableau of inert furniture, on the verge of becoming dynamic devices for the joy and intrigue of Friel’s drama.
Having read the script, the moment before the play begins I am edgy with anticipation. Bryon Winn’s lighting made the most of the brilliant full moon that slowly rose over the stage as the actors began their dreamy movements. Both the performances and dancing were powerful, flooding my Irish soul.
Go see, and bring some lunacy with you!
This post wraps up our motorcycle adventures in Canada, I promise!
We returned to Nova Scotia via Tidnish, and rode along the Northumberland Shore in late afternoon sun, at one point parallel to a herd plodding towards their barn.
We stopped in Pugwash to buy a bottle of zin for later, and found out there were lodgings in Tatamagouche. Man, we lucked out with the Train Station Inn!
The rail cars offer accommodations but were already booked. We instead enjoyed a Victorian room in the main Inn, and a delicious dinner later in a dining car that ran on the Intercontinental Railway until 1972.
Housed in a former train station built in 1887, the Inn is chock full of antiques, railroad memorabilia, portraits of royalty, and friendly taxidermy.
We headed south the next day, a sunny Saturday swarming with other motorcyclists. We rode through Truro, Maitland, Scotch Village, Brooklyn, and Windsor before stopping for ice cream at a farm stand. A group of other riders did the same.
Just when we thought we couldn’t ride another mile, we came upon the sweet Sun Valley Motel.
With rain in the forecast, we hopped on the bikes without breakfast in the morning, towards a rendezvous with cousins on the Fundy Shore. Fell in love with this stout little lighthouse.
The landscape is rugged like Maine, but the Bay of Fundy stretches SO wide.
This sign always makes me feel welcome.
My grandfather built a cabin in 1934 in Young’s Cove, where he’d been visiting since a child to other camps in the area.
On this visit, it was closed up already for the season, but has been lovingly maintained and modernized over the years by my Uncle Roley and his family.
Here’s my cousin, Brian McDonough in 1959, with his grandfather and mine, Roland Bell Hogan, also known as Grumpy, on the steps of the Hogan camp.
Here’s me with cousins, Wanda McDonough, Brian’s widow, and their daughter, Mati, on those same steps.
We all stayed next door at the home of a mermaid named Jane, whose house sits between the Hogan camp and property now in Mati’s talented hands. She’s an internationally acclaimed artist and educator, used to teaching and creating in different locales. We found her hard at work in a make-shift studio in a house formerly on Jane’s property, that’s been hauled over and awaiting further renovation.
She hopes to finish off the house for future retreats. For now, it sits in the wild, catching sunset reflections and the whispers of birches.
We joined her folks and their family for a spectacular sunset.
The next day we ventured into Bridgetown to see our cousin, Nathalie Harlow, a fetching rug-hooker who showed us her latest work-in-progress, a collaborative friendship rug. Art and craft runs deep in my family!
We met up with more local kin at the Bistro East in Annapolis Royal.
It was back to the shore for another gathering. I made a pie with peaches from Wanda’s backyard.
While it was baking, I sat on the rocks to sketch where Hogan Brook meets the Bay of Fundy.
Mati’s stepdad, Mike, got a bonfire going. Plenty of driftwood in these parts; Fundy tides are legendary.
Mike’s sister, Patty, and her husband, John, brought ample good cheer to the party.
We stopped in at Mati’s place once more before heading out the next morning. Bravo for staking your claim in Novie, this location has potential in spades.
We visited the lighthouse in Hamilton Cove before heading south to Yarmouth.
The coastal route along Baie Ste-Marie has several grand churches. Traveling mercies are always appreciated.
For the first time, the ride grew cold. Still, we rode out to Cape Forshu before checking in at the Rodd Grand Yarmouth.
We boarded the Nova Star in the morning, a calm and clear day for sailing back to Maine.
The Yarmouth Light makes a striking sight upon departure.
We left Portland in the dark, so it was lovely to return at a golden time of day. Got a different perspective on Ram Island Light. From the Nova Star, it’s looks like it’s floating.
Portland’s pretty harbor gave us a warm welcome back.
I sketched their cat, Jack, whose compact curl is beyond description.
No wonder Mary Anne is so inspired by them! And thanks to Islandport Press for noticing! Mary Anne’s catchy illustrations fill their 2016 poster calendar, Studio Cats.
Before catching the ferry home, we stopped at my Storybook Waters exhibit at the Portland Public Library to meet up with Mary Anne’s seniors in the Illustration Department at Maine College of Art. SO GOOD to see their faces again!
Now the bikes are back in the barn. It’s time to sharpen the pencils, haul out the scarves, and welcome October, my favorite month. I’ll be heading to Providence soon for the RISD Reads on October 10. Can’t wait!
This trip was my eighth to Nova Scotia, with family always a destination. We decided to see Prince Edward Island for the first time, with yet another ferry to board (our third, if you’re counting.)
We passed this Bay Ferry just after spying a whale spout. The trip was only an hour and fifteen minutes, just enough time to feel the breezes and check in with wifi. The striking feature of our ride from the Wood Islands Ferry Terminal to Charlottetown was the wide-open expanse of fields and coves. It’s hard making high mileage when there’s so much natural beauty to distract us.
Charlottetown is called Canada’s birthplace, where the Fathers of Confederation met in 1864 to plot out the creation of the country. We were lucky to find a suite at the Colonial Charm Inn, given that the city was hosting a Shellfish Festival and booked to the gills.
We walked a few blocks to Victoria Row, lined with shops and places to eat. A little too cool to sit outside for dinner, which we had at the Brick House.
We found ourselves on this street, with stomachs full and souls refreshed.
The next day proved to be our longest ride, but how full it was! We left Charlottetown for a coastal tour of lighthouses, yet farm animals always get our attention, too.
The Point Prim Lighthouse is Prince Edward Island’s oldest, built in 1845.
It’s a National Historic Site, well-maintained and open for tours. We made the climb to find an epic view of Northumberland Strait and Hillsborough Bay, colored by the islands red earth. Our first selfie, too!
We happened upon Hannah’s Bottle Village, a curious endeavor of devotion.
No one was there to offer any details, so we simply enjoyed the wondrous craft. Donations were accepted for a local children’s hospital. The sheer number of bottles left us speechless.
This structure, on the edge of a vast cornfield, was a beacon of luminosity within.
PEI may be Canada’s smallest province, but boasts 63 lighthouses, according to the Prince Edward Lighthouse Society, the highest concentration of lighthouses in North America. Many are decommissioned or privately owned or inaccessible. Our next destination was Cape Bear Lighthouse, built in 1881. It’s not open, but was well worth the visit. A Marconi Wireless Station nearby was the first to hear the Titanic’s distress signal as it sank off of Newfoundland.
We stopped in Murray Harbour for a much needed lunch of grilled cheese and milkshakes at the Brehaut’s.
A shady spot is necessary for mapping out the back roads. My Honda GB500 on the left is light compared to Marty’s Kawasaki 650 Versys which carried our entire load.
The ride to Panmure Head Lighthouse is spectacular, along a narrow road bordered by sand dunes, up a curving hill to the sight of horses grazing.
This was built in 1853 overlooking Cardigan Bay. We opted not to climb this one, with many more miles to ride.
We headed inland, crossing rural intersections with distinguished churches and more pastures. Our destination was Cavendish, on the Central Coast. How sweet to find a place at the Anne Shirley Cottages across from Lucy Maud Montgomery’s resting place.
I could have stayed a week there, even though the pool was already closed. It so reminded me of the motel where I grew up in New Hampshire.
The next day we went directly to the Green Gables Heritage Place. My grandfather, Roland Hogan, Sr., gave me a copy of Anne of Green Gables as a young girl. It was the first book I wanted to illustrate, and I wish I still had the drawings I did of Anne and Gilbert. Here is L. M. Montgomery, the author whose storybook world has become a cultural icon of international significance. We just beat a busload of Japanese tourists to the ticket booth.
I got downright weepy seeing her typewriter!
This is the house that inspired it all, the real life farm belonging to the cousins of her grandfather.
I was absurdly smitten by every single room.
Local antiques and period pieces are typical of an island farm in the late 1800’s.
Anne is fictional, but her spirit fills this room quite believably.
This is L.M. Montgomery as a girl kissing her goat named Daisy! Her writing captures the pulse of farm life and the wonders of nature with a magical imagination.
We learned from a guide that Anne of Green Gables is read in Japanese schools, and Japanese visitors abound at the park, with many Japanese weddings taking place on the grounds.
Marty and I got into the spirit along Lover’s Lane. There are trails through the Haunted Wood as well.
Sigh. Story book wonders never cease. We left and rode over to the PEI National Park before heading south past field after field of rounds of hay.
We headed to the Confederation Bridge, one of the longest in the world at 13 kilometres.
I was apprehensive about the winds buffeting my bike, but it was instead a bracing ride with sparkling views in all directions. I was sad to leave the island too soon, but a family rendezvous was waiting in Nova Scotia. We stopped on the other side of the bridge in New Brunswick at the Cape Jourimain Nature Center to catch a glimpse of this lighthouse built in 1869.
We didn’t have time for the trek, with more miles back to Nova Scotia. Stay tuned for the final leg of our trip: Fundy Shore, here we go!
We did it! Our 1000- plus mile motorcycle trip to Canada is complete. Marty and I haven’t done this much riding since before our daughter was born. Could we do it? Our ambitious route kept us moving every day, and we kept our focus on the road ahead.
Much has been written locally about the Nova Star, a too big ship for too few passengers. As it docked in Portland, we were very eager to board.
How glittery Portland looked in our porthole!
We cruised around the ship, finding various places to settle for awhile before succumbing to a rocking slumber in our neat cabin. Upon arrival in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia in the morning, we found a place for breakfast and headed straight to Middle East Pubnico, to the d’Entremont cabin I sketched on our last visit in 2013. Marty framed the sketchbook for the recent Continuing Studies Exhibit at Maine College of Art.
Timing was perfect, as it began pouring as we rolled up. It’s one of the coziest places to hear rain on the roof. An alder wood fire in the stove adds to the glow.
Long talks in the evening and sketching in the morning renewed our energies. Here’s my drawing of the shy Pi.
The blacksmith forged two nails for us, chatting away about the history of his craft.
We visited the shanty where a cousin of Nicole’s (she is related somehow to just about everyone in Pubnico) showed us the early methods of catching lobsters.
Nicole gathered fallen apples to feed the ravenous pigs.
Later we feasted on king crabs caught by her neighbor, Terry Cunningham, as well as fruit pies baked by his wife, April, all so delicious under a starry sky in their backyard.
On Sunday we went to the East Pubnico Community Picnic, where Marty tried his lumberjack skills at axe-throwing.
A big highlight was the apple pie contest, which April Cunningham has won in the past. It was tricky deciding from just a small morsel.
We picked B, and learned later, YES, April WON. Look at this mammoth trophy carved in wood by the local champion woodcarver. Congratulations, April!
We made our way out to the Pubnico Lighthouse before heading to the Southern Shore.
Our next stop was Mahone Bay, where we stayed at this lovely B & B, and were greeted by the resident “Ambassadog” Mirah.
Dinner was just a short walk nearby to Mateus Bistro, with a local duo playing music a few feet from our table. We met a couple from Virginia in the morning while enjoying an amazing breakfast and chatting with the gracious innkeepers, Scott and Elke Sager. Fortified, we rode on through Halifax to the Eastern Shore. Whenever possible, we take the smaller roads, where things like folk art and stunning churches bring us to a halt.
We found Anke’s B & B in Sheet Harbor, cozy and familial with two dogs greeting us as we rode up into the yard. We walked back into town for dinner at the Fairwinds, glad that the Oods were nowhere to be seen.
Anke’s rooster woke us up in the morning, and we had fresh eggs for breakfast with a sunny view.
The road to Caribou was long and patchy with potholes. This remote lily pond was a good spot to shake out my rattled bones.
We made it to the Prince Edward Island ferry just in time for the 1 PM sailing. Guess what? You don’t even need a ticket! Marty is liking the free ride concept.
On every ferry, we were lined up with other motorcycles and often got to board before the trucks, an unexpected perk of two-wheels.
Stay tuned for the PEI tales up next!