Bun Bunny Fun

Posted by on May 16, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing | 1 comment

When award-winning children’s book author Cynthia Lord invited illustrators to come sketch the baby bunnies she’s been fostering, I was so there. I’ve followed her regular posts on Facebook, and did this sketch of Benjamin, a Netherland Dwarf rabbit she brought home from Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue.


She also brought home Peggotty at the same time, who surprised them soon after by delivering four baby bunnies! Following their progess was fascinating and a dose of reality. Two of them, Tiny Tim and Pip, did not thrive and died. Meanwhile, Dodger and Fezziwig have grown and moved into a new pen as they reached a month old.

I joined fellow Maine kidlit illustrators Hazel Mitchell and Russ Cox on the floor, already sketching with the bunnies hopping about. They’re darting about now, and it’s a challenge to get a few lines down before they jump away. Most of my details went into drawing Peggotty, the mother.


Worth every mile to hold such an adorable ball of warmth as Dodger.


Fezzi enjoyed checking out my sketchpad.


This is Russ’ page of fun bunnies.


We watched Peggotty get a snack, while we munched on cookies.


Fezzi is wondering “what is Toby Time?” as he lingers in Hazel’s arms.


With a new book about her dog Toby coming from Candlewick in September, Hazel is adept at capturing animals. This is just one page of many she drew.


While we chatted, of course, Beatrix Potter came up. Author and illustrator Charlotte Agell joined the fun, holding Dodger here.


She captured so much with her speedy sketches!


In my sketch, Peggotty is pretty relaxed, totally fine with all the attention.


These bunnies will be available for adoption at two months. Contact Cottontail Cottage Rabbit Rescue if you are interested!


Thanks to Cynthia for fostering these animals and sharing her home with us. We need to do live sketching more often. Maybe next time on Peaks, anybody? We have horses here!

Side x Side at Reiche Elementary

Posted by on May 12, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, school visits | 2 comments

As a Side x Side visiting artist, I made four visits to Reiche Elementary to spark their Moving Oceans program. The kick-off featured Mary Cerullo, non-fiction author and Associate Director of Friends of Casco Bay sharing her books. I was excited to finally meet her!


She told a lively anecdote using this critter for emphasis.


For the first visits to 4 second grade classes, I showed them my stash of sketches for the cover of Here Come the Humpbacks. I do LOTS of drawings!

I also brought along my collection of natural objects, such as clam, mussel, and scallop shells, barnacles, sea urchins, star fish, sand dollars, and crab shells.


Drawing from observation is seldom required of second graders. They tend to trace an object, and I asked them to “eyeball” it: look slowly and closely before drawing.


As Professor Jennifer Landin writes in the Scientific American, “Drawing lessons were standard in school curricula. Why? To learn to observe.”

It takes careful examination to draw with detail. These second graders are up to the task. Getting a good shape with radial symmetry is not easy, but look at this lovely urchin drawing!


My beach combing collection included a bone that sort of resembled a bird. Students asked, what animal did this come from? In David Briley’s classroom, he hauled out part of a moose skeleton for comparison. We determined it was too small to come from a moose. Maybe a deer?


Handling an object can inform one’s drawing.


Some found the sound of the sea.


By the second round of visits, each student had chosen a creature to study. It’s always helpful to have multiple references to draw from.


We made a gallery at the end, to talk about what we noticed from our drawings. They each made great use of their image area.



There are a lot of complex parts coming together in Angel’s drawing.


I love the crazy energy of this anemone!


Everyone began with a pencil sketch and then redrew in black ink. Such a proud puffin here!


Again, we looked at all of them as a group.


What variety!


Next the classes will visit Nance Parker’s studio nearby, to create sculptures based on their drawings. I can’t wait to see what they make!




MECAmorphosis 2016

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in drawing, fashion illustration, Maine College of Art | 2 comments

The Textile and Fashion Design Department at Maine College of Art staged their fourth fashion show last Friday, as splashy as ever. My colleague in Illustration, Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd and I snagged seats next to Jill McGowan, who taught in TAF this year, so faculty pride was brimming!


I love the diversity of models in all shapes and sizes, many of them students. The fresh looks, too, like “Gray Circles” by Jianna Bennetti ’18, modeled by Theresa Uwamahoro.

Some sights begged a sketch. This is Jianna’s also, modeled by Tanner Skilten.


Seated at the edge of the hall running between the two ends of the ICA Gallery, I was privy to the action where Alik Versoki photographed the models.


Is this not totally adorable?


Spectacular surprise to see illustration student Kat Harris’ piece modeled by classmate, Tyler Eldridge.


“Armor” by Mina Hodjikj-Smith ’18 was modeled by Bart Powers.


The models had a blast, trust me.


Here’s Amelia Walz, my student in IL 322, showing off the vibrant “Feldspar Skirt” by Emily Koerner ’16.


Stunning details here!


Illustration alum, Alexis Powers, romped the runway in Stacy Xilom’s “Circle Garment.”


Alic keeps the models smiling.


Part II featured the TFD Major’s Collections.

Parker Smedley’s “Play the Game” was pure spirited fun.


One square of this Napkin Dress by Meg Hudson ’17 features Jill McGowan fabric. Coolest wedding dress ever.


Jell-O Deluxe by Allison Bonin ’16 featured vivid colors and unique shapes.


Delighted to see senior illustration student Jesenia Santana model “Erosion” by Emily Koerner ’16.


The models and designers paraded to a groove for the final walk.


Allison Bonin is the middle of her Jell-O Deluxe!


Bravo, designers and to the Textile and Fashion Design Department! You can see way more photos here.

Land Forms Leap at Ocean Avenue Elementary

Posted by on May 2, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, school visits | 2 comments

In the month since I drew with second graders at Ocean Avenue Elementary, my Side x Side colleague Pamela Moulton had been working with the students on creating sculptures of land forms based on their drawings and research. With every visit, the classes grew more curious about Professor Sneedlebaum. Good news! He would be stopping at the school on his way to a conference in Canada! She worked with the students to create a special celebration of their learning. Here she works out the sequence backstage on April 28 with Mia, intern art teacher and intrepid volunteer.


How exciting when Professor Sneedlebaum addressed the classes!


He expressed  his appreciation for their hard work in creating a model of land forms, and collected their data, which he will use in 3D computer studies at his university to predict future earth changes.


All the land forms, like this impressive glacier, were arranged around the edges of the stage.


Ms. Nogar and Ms. Partridge and Pamela watch a video with everyone of the making of the land forms.


Each group of students came on stage and performed a movement of their land from. This is Canyon and Arches!


Next each group placed their sculpture on a paper map of the island.


Then each group gathered before a projection of the drawings they’d made, and leaped up with the word of their land form. Hooray!


Meanwhile, the Professor examined and measured the models carefully.


He was clearly pleased, as was Mia!


Each group came forward until all the land forms filled the island.


Here it is, complete with a canyon and arches, hills and a river, two volcanoes, a mountain and valley, cliff and waterfall, a cave, a plateau and plain, a coastline, a hoodoo and canyon, a glacier, a mesa and butte, a peninsula, and it’s own little island with a lake!


Next the students performed a special Sing Sing dance, in honor of the Professor’s native Papua New Guinea, where there is a rich diversity of bird species.


And the teachers, too!


The Professor graciously took questions, such as why do you study land forms?


He replied, “I love nature and it’s beauty. What has happened to the Earth and it’s changes has an impact on us now and in the future.”



Q: What’s in your suitcase?


He had keys, a field guide to birds, an old stamp collection, letters, measuring tape, and a stack of envelopes for the teachers, with certificates!


The Professor dashed off to catch his plane. The students returned to their classes.

I am SO proud of their efforts, and ever grateful to have worked with a great school and this visionary artist, Pamela!


Together, with the teachers and volunteers, we engaged the students to embody their learning in multiple ways, from observational drawing, to sculpture, to painting and performance. As I headed back to my own island, I carried their vibrant wonder with me. Thank you, Side x Side, and Ocean Avenue’s honorary explorers!


Muchos MECA!

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art | 0 comments

The spring semester at Maine College of Art is nothing if not frenzied. A LOT happens, and for many reasons, this one was jam packed. My class of junior illustration majors began with a bang: a Sweet Art Shop of valentines had to be installed at the Portland Museum of Art just one week after their return from winter break. Hustle, I said, and they DID.


Maxwell Erwin’s packed an eyeful of desires.


Cody Gauthier’s valentine tells a short lonely story, perhaps you can relate?


We moved into an editorial project, with students choosing from one of three magazine articles. A Rolling Stone piece about David Bowie got the most takers. Here is a striking Ziggy by Amelia Walz:


Meghan Wilson chose a Nautilus psychology article about animal self-awareness.


Haley Flight chose a New Yorker fiction story, putting her fondness for patterns to work.


The next challenge was to apply an illustration as surface design. Mattea Weinberg drew a slew of art museums from all over the world, and fit them on a phone.


Lewis Rossignol created 3 skate deck designs from his notebooks.


Meghan Wilson created wrapping paper for a birthday party.


Meanwhile between projects we also drew from a model. Amelia Walz’s watercolor drips with drama.


We also drew from each other. Here Annelise Zeender models, captured by her peers.


In the halls, MECA work was all over in Through and Through, a display for the NASAD accreditation underway.

It involved gathering student work from three years of courses, in every department. A tedious task, but ultimately very gratifying. Here’s a little slice from  junior students then and now.


Our fourth project tied in with March’s Shakespeare fever in Portland. Actor and founder of Guerrilla Downtown,  Linda Shary, joined the conversation as Guest Critter for a work-in-progress critique of poster illustrations for a Shakespeare play.


Here is Gunnar Johnson‘s for Macbeth.


Maxwell Erwin played with the essence of a duel.


Annelise Zeender’s cut paper illustration for The Tempest blew us away.


In March, MECA enjoyed a visit from Bob Mankoff, Cartoon Editor of the New Yorker along with Emily Flake.


They came for a special screening of Very Semi Serious, and stayed to be hilarious and lead a cartooning workshop with some lucky students. We did a few of the exercises in class later, drawing the same thing within ever smaller time frames.

How about a bat, at 4 minutes, 2 minutes, 30 seconds, and 5 seconds.


Or a burglar?

Students had the final month to work on a series of three illustrations of their choosing.

Cody created character studies for the Sandlot, and Ham was the class favorite.


Mattea illustrated a series of local bakeries, with Union Bagel making us all hungry.


Gunnar created three portraits of our presidential candidates.


Everyone pulled off such a variety of solutions! From politics to panaceas, this junior class worked all the angles.

They trekked to Peaks for a studio visit right before the final class.


It was my honor to share the classroom and studio with these growing talents.

Have a great summer, illo ninjas, and keep those eyes and pencils sharp. Tomorrow I’m off to see what the Textile and Fashion students have been up to. MECAmorphosis, here I come!

Library Love

Posted by on Apr 13, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, Illustration, Island Birthday, Tilbury House, travels | 1 comment

Happy National Library Week! I’m still floating from last week’s Maine Library Association’s 27th Annual Reading Round-Up of Children’s and Young Adult Literature. No better place to be than in a fine flock of kidlit advocates. Winning a Lupine Award with Eva Murray for our book Island Birthday is a spectacular honor.  Inspired by Maine artist, Barbara Cooney’s Miss Rumphius, the Lupine is presented to a living author or illustrator who is a resident of Maine, or who has created a work whose focus is on Maine, shown through the characteristics, plot, or setting. In our case, both illustrator and author are Maine island residents, and the story is set on a Maine island, as real as it gets.


Author Gary Schmidt gave a compelling keynote address on the challenges of writing for young readers in a complex world. He asked us to consider, “What if everything matters? What if everything is a sacrament?” We have to show up, and be in this together.


I attended an author panel, titled Diversity is Reality, with authors Susan Ross, Dana Allison Levy, and Padma Venkatraman. Padma made a great point: let’s not assume what children need to read or want to read, enough with stereotypes.


Next I caught Camden Library’s whirlwind, Amy Hand, showcasing her favorite books for promoting acceptance. She’s not afraid to use humor!


Bravo to Cathryn Falwell, recipient of the Katahdin Award for her lifetime achievement. Eva and I proudly stand between Cathryn and the Lupine Honor winner, Matt Tavares for Growing Up Pedro. So very Maine that we each received hand-made plates, functional and beautiful.


I went straight from Augusta to the newly rebuilt Thomas Memorial Library in Cape Elizabeth, where my former Maine College of Art student, Kiah Gardner, is rocking the children’s room. Looks like a fun rumpus for reading!


Nearby Ocean House Gallery is hosting an exhibit of children’s book illustration, It’s All About the Books! Celebrating Cape Author Fest.  Check out this small but mighty gallery run by Graham Wood. with work by Scott Nash, Andres Vera Martinez, Dylan Metrano, and Lisa Jahn-Clough.


Saturday’s Cape Author Fest was packed, thanks to Travis Nadeau and a league of intrepid volunteers, like these three.


So many book creators in one place, I think I melted.


Such a pleasure to see familiar faces, like author Mary Atkinson and Tamra Wright.


Look, it’s my neighbor, Annie O’Brien, here with her colorful books.


Always honored to be in the company of esteemed colleague and fellow islander, Scott Nash!


He’ll be at Longfellow Books tomorrow night with his latest, Shrunken Treasures. I’ll see you there, 7 PM sharp.


Thank you, librarians and families, for putting books in the hands of kids. Stories bring us together in so many ways. Thank you, Lupine Committee, for these plates, ever so honored and humbled to receive them.



Portland Stage Season Launch

Posted by on Apr 4, 2016 in drawing, Illustration, pastels, Portland Stage Company | 5 comments

Around a year ago, I was scrambling to finish all the posters for Portland Stage Company’s 2015-16 season. On the launch night, Social Media/Marketing Associate, JJ Peeler, and Executive and Artistic Director, Anita Stewart, happily showed my rough sketch for the final show, They Don’t Pay? We Won’t Pay!

Called again to create a cohesive look for the 2016-17 Season, I scrambled ever harder to be ALL done. Two shows remain in the current season; I felt complete seeing this one on stage at last.

Meanwhile, My Name Is Asher Lev is on stage. Based on the novel by Chaim Potok, the play tells the story of a young Hasidic boy driven to draw and paint, against the will of his parents and his religion. These were some of my rough ideas. And I do mean rough, since I was hustling several deadlines.



There’s quite a bit of discussion in the play about crucifixion, so a window with a cross hints at that symbol.



For this idea, Asher’s father looms in silhouette within an ornate museum frame.


This was the idea chosen, but with an added element from another sketch, Asher’s mother at the window.


I kept the space ambiguous, but with Asher’s paintbrush creating an incendiary swirl of color.


I’m fascinated by Hebrew lettering and found this typeface.


Here’s the banner treatment:


It popped up at the recent launch.


I saw the play on Saturday, and the spare set was the best contrast to the complex drama. Thanks to Green Design for being a sponsor; the simple wooden furniture was perfect.


Three actors played multiple roles seamlessly and lifted the story to another realm. Go see it!

I’m relieved to have finished all the plays by the launch event last Monday. It was fun to see them on stage for even a moment.

I’ve now illustrated 25 posters for Portland Stage. Thank you to Carole Harris for starting the illustrated poster direction, and all you players from box office to lighting to sets to sound to stage. You pull it off every time!

Launching Land Forms at Ocean Avenue Elementary

Posted by on Mar 28, 2016 in drawing, Illustration, John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, pastels | 4 comments

Thanks to Side x Side, I had more adventures in second grade, this time at Ocean Avenue Elementary School in Portland, Maine. I’d received an out-0f-the-blue letter from a Professor Amir Sneedlebaum of the University of Papua New Guinea, as did my colleague, Pamela Moulton.


He also wrote to each of the second grade teachers as well.


He needs their help in creating a model island of diverse land forms, so that his team of researchers can study earth’s changes. Cool! Count me in!

I arrived in a costume quite suitable for me, a native of the White Mountains of New Hampshire!


I shared my letter with the classes and rolled in a mysterious package from the hall. Hidden beneath white stretchy fabric, a figure embodied three land forms in sound and movement: a mountain reaching tall, a waterfall so brisk, and a volcano exploding! And then, out crawled…Pamela! She pulled out an old suitcase and put on a new costume and shared her letter from the professor along with some of her recent work. She loves working in found materials and performance art.


The teachers, Tracy McGhie, Erin Partridge, and Kelley Nogar, then showed a slide show of land forms from all over the world: mountains and valleys, coastlines, islands, glaciers, hills and rivers,  waterfalls and cliffs, canyons and arches, caves, plateaus and plains, lakes with islands, mesas and buttes, volcanos, peninsulas, and even hoodoos! What is a hoodoo?!! Glad I can learn side by side with second graders to find out.

Students were asked to share what they saw, thought, and wondered. What a stellar team full of thinkers.


I arrived a couple of days later armed with boxes of natural objects, 2B pencils, Bristol paper, and magnifying glasses for close inspection. The study of land forms begins with observation. What are we looking at? How do we draw the shape and surface?


This young artist clearly has an interest in comics, with panels ready for story, and a feather on a page floating in the foreground of a distant island setting.


But wait, another package arrived from Professor Sneedlebaum.


He sent a hunk of amethyst! This student captured it’s many facets. It could even be a cross-section of a glacier.


This student is magnifying a bit of beehive.


I like how this student composed their specimens on the page, including the magnifying glass.


Next came another surprise, a model of a volcano with papers inside. Brave learners, these kids drawing out a mystery.


Each neighborhood of students drew the name of a land form to work on.


When I arrived for a second session of drawing, another exotic package awaited with the most beautiful stamps from Oceanie.


We all wondered the same things!


The package included photographs of land forms, sent by the Professor as handy reference for our drawing session.  Working on my recent book, John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, taught me a few things about drawing waterfalls, so I began with this quick demo.


Since I live on an island, it was lovely to see this dreamy pastel by a student quick with color.


How about this icy glacier!


That is one bold butte!


This is a work in progress, of river and hills.


I love how this artist used a hot orange paper to create dynamic color for this volcano.


Now the second graders have a new visual vocabulary for their land form mission. Next they are working with Pamela to create the island model. More adventures to come in the Earth Changes learning!

Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods

Posted by on Mar 16, 2016 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 3 comments

Portland Stage’s production of Tammy Ryan’s play Lost Boy Found in Whole Foods is powerful, thanks to strong performances by Tyrone Davis Jr. as Gabriel and Jamil Mangan as Panther,  young men from South Sudan struggling to bridge two worlds. I worked on the poster last year, around this time. Researching for any illustration project leads to discoveries, and this one broadened my awareness big time.

Gabriel is a one of the 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka tribes who were orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983 – 2005.) He fled war to refugee camps to a job at Whole Foods in Pittsburgh, where he is befriended by a divorced single mother, Christine. All of my rough sketches focused on him.

In this one, the backdrop of a produce bin becomes a desert scene with cattle and a village.


I tried using the flag of South Sudan as a transparent element over the figure of Gabriel in his Whole Foods apron. His homeland colors everything about him.



I also tried using the papaya as a metaphor, split open like the sun in his village.


Here I drew Gabriel, whose tragic past is hidden by the bounty of produce he sorts at his job.


This is the one chosen for the final poster, shards of color behind Gabriel holding a papaya.


I kept my pastel drawing simple, but with visible strokes and smudges that imply Gabriel’s restless energy.


Once the production gets underway, I like seeing the poster in Portland Stage’s front window.


Around this time, I learned my illustration had been chosen for 3 x 3’s 2016 Illustration Directory,

where it landed in the Portrait section, next to an illustration by Anita Kunz, one of my illo idols.


We saw the play on Saturday, where I snuck this photo of the stage set.


The contrast in cultures is right there, Christine’s crisp white kitchen set against the cattle horns above. Chantal Jean-Pierre is stellar as the pragmatic Segel, who enlightens Christine on her compassionate but naive quest to help Gabriel by finding his mother in Kakuma.

The time and space America gives to the immigrant experience is a fraction of what is needed. In the end, Christine gets in deeper than she could have imagined. Lost Boy is an eye-opener, but changing one’s world view is a work-in-progress. I applaud the entire cast and Portland Stage for this unforgettable show.


Celebrating Literacy at PIES

Posted by on Mar 4, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, collage, drawing, Illustration, Island Birthday, Peaks Island, school visits, Seven Days of Daisy | 5 comments

It’s a treat to visit schools where literacy is celebrated. But it’s downright spectacular when it’s the island school down the street, where your own child learned to read.


The Peaks Island Elementary School invited Scott Nash, Anne Sibley O’Brien, and me to meet teachers and students who read our books and created book reviews, skits, and reports.

Teacher Leader Renee Bourgoine-Serio opened the evening with questions from kids. Mainly they wanted to know: WHEN is Scott coming out with a sequel to The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate?

And then the Draw Off began!

photo by Nancy Gibson-Nash

photo by Nancy Gibson-Nash

Requests from kids dictated our drawing mission, such as: draw a koala dragon riding a pug. In 90 seconds! GO!

Here is Scott’s:


Here is Annie’s response to : a flying hamburger eating a hamburger!


Scott, Annie, and I got into a huddle to pick a prompt for kids to guess WHAT we were each drawing. Can you? Here is Scott’s:


Here is mine:


Each request became more absurd. How about drawing a dog without looking at the paper? Here’s my blind drawing:


The next day, island teachers Kelly Mascolo, Charlie Marenghi, and Zoe Ryan-Humphrey showcased the real stars: their students displaying super literacy powers!


Here is Talullah reading her review of Martian Rock.


Other aliens acted out scenes from the book in resourceful costumes.

Scott is proud of the only scene in picture book history of brain surgery: from Tuff Fluff: The Case of Duckie’s Missing Brain.


I was thrilled that kids did scenes from Island Birthday and Seven Days of Daisy.

What DO seagulls talk about? Bagels, of course. Gotta love these flapping seagulls!


All the actors took a bow.


Next the book reports received an enthusiastic audience, especially from Annie, who pointed out her daughter posed for both the child and adult in this book.

I loved the comic panels drawn for this report on Cows Going Past.


Older students created diary entries in the voice of a book’s character. What a fun collage!


The enthusiasm of our island students is beyond measure. I’m grateful for this community and their sharp learners, who bring more inspiration than they could ever know. Thank you, Peaks Island School! And to Willow, for her cool hairstyle.