The Irish..And How They Got That Way

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

I have Irish blood, of course. My great great great grandfather, Patrick Hogan, left Belfast in 1817 at the age of 19 when he settled in Young’s Cove, Nova Scotia. But otherwise my childhood didn’t involve much in the way of Irish heritage. No Celtic music around the house, no Irish step-dancing lessons, no nuns.  I found my way to Ireland in 1980 during my Wintersession at Rhode Island School of Design, traveling on a photography independent study.

My photograph of Joe Malone’s captures only the composition of a typical pub exterior in Limerick in 1980.


Portland Stage’s current collaboration with the Maine State Music Theater of The Irish And How They Got That Way will be all about the Irish soul found within.

I reveled in researching all things Celtic, playing Martyn Bennett’s Bothy Culture endlessly to stir ideas with a bagpiper backdrop.

These are just a few of the early rough sketches presented. So much text!




I needed to satisfy not one, but two clients. I went on to do some revisions of the above. Do away with the bodhran, and add more people. Got it.



Whenever possible, I like to generate my own reference. It so happens a Maine College of Art illustration major is a fiddler, and was studying abroad last semester at the Burren College of Art. Could she send me a photo? Yes.

This is Heidi Hayden, playing in Prince Edward Island, a magnet for Celtic music every summer.


I dressed her up a bit.


The poster involved layers of images. I knew another MECA illustration graduate, Liz Long, had done a residency at the Burren. I looked at her photos posted online for Irish landscapes. This pastel proved too busy for all the other visual elements going on.


I decided to simplify the distant greens behind Liz here.


Photo by Izzy Dow

Next drawing:


The border was the most time-consuming, not that I minded. I relished tackling the intricacy. I found so much to love.


It all came together, and here it is on stage when Portland Stage debuted their new season in March.


I’ll be going with Heidi to see it, thanks to Portland Stage and Maine State Music Theater. Join us!!! Everyone can tap their Irish soul in this rollicking show.




Once upon a prickle

Posted by on Aug 14, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, pastels | 2 comments

Sometimes the seed of a story can take awhile to sprout. Lyn Smith wrote a picture book story in 2008 during a graduate class in The University of Southern Maine’s literacy education program. She titled it “A Prickly Tale” and just a few months ago her sweet book dummy came my way.


The story follows a porcupine making it’s journey through the woods, an event witnessed and photographed by her husband, Brian Smith. Lyn and I were matched up in early May by Maine Authors Publishing, and I said a big YES to illustrating the book.

While the photos within were informative, I also gathered a pile of books at my local library to continue my research. I had a lot to learn about porcupines!


First off, I didn’t know they climbed trees! They can sleep and eat in trees for days. I’d never drawn a porcupine, so to warm up, I drew pine boughs.


These later became end paper ideas. It always helps to just start drawing. The rest followed, such as my little color pencil dummy.


I presented this to Lyn in late May when we met for the first time at Arabica in Portland. She looks happy!

During the two weeks I was at an art residency in Nova Scotia, Lyn held onto the book dummy, refining the text and sharing it with her elementary students in Kennebunk. Her purpose in writing the book springs from her literacy work with children and a small group proved to be eager first readers.

photo by Lyn Smith

photo by Lyn Smith

We met again in mid June to discuss changes, such as a new title.


I dove into working on final illustrations. Here I have lightly transferred an enlargement of my dummy book sketch onto sanded pastel paper.


I always saved drawing the quills for last. If you ever wondered what a porcupine would look like without them, what about this?

I drew the interior illustrations before working on the cover. These photos show a progression from sketch to color.

It’s always good to take a break, and see it with fresh eyes another day. I decided to make the setting at dusk. The art will wrap around to the back cover.

Once I sent off the final art digitally to Maine Authors Publishing, I was ready for a break. Marty and I took off on a weekend motorcycle ride, stopping first at the Maine Wildlife Park. I’d heard there were porcupines in residence.

When I saw these two, I kicked myself for not finding them before I began drawing. They are adorable!


Between busily eating fruit and leaves, this one made a yawn. Notice the bright orange teeth!


Before we headed home, I ventured to pop in at Maine Authors Publishing, recently relocated to an 1823 Federal House in Thomaston.


It was a pleasure to meet the team, especially founder and president, Jane Karker.


I left my book dummy with Art Director David Allen and came back to Peaks. Both Lyn Smith and I returned recently for a meeting, discussing design and marketing details.


photo by Jane Karker

Thanks to Maine Authors Publishing for bringing us together. Stay tuned: A Porcupine’s Promenade is due to be published this fall!




Peaks Island Sketchbooks Workshop

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island, Sketchbook Project | 1 comment

For the fourth summer, Judy Labrasca and I led a Peaks Island Sketchbooks Workshop through Maine College of Art’s Continuing Studies Program. This one day workshop is a fun meander of island views and wide open possibilities. Every year is a different group, paper skies, and new friends made. You can read about past ventures here, here, and here.

Judy meets the group in Portland and ferries over on Casco Bay Lines. I meet them at the island dock where we share materials and our philosophy: sketchbooks are vessels for adventure!

Thanks to The Sketchbook Project, I’ve developed a steady sketchbook practice, always with a small one in my bag. I showed some recent drawings and discussed pastels and sanded paper. Judy shared a buffet of sketchbooks, varieties of paper and portable palettes, plus lots of tips.

We began at the beach closest to the ferry, where Judy used a waterbrush to get started. She used a viewfinder to locate her subject, and made a small sketch for reference.


Here is Bethany’s breezy sketch of House Island.


I drew a small study in pastel of the ferry heading back to Portland.


The overcast morning turned to hot sun, and we relocated to the Fifth Maine Museum porch, to welcome shade and ocean vistas. After lunch, Judy did a watercolor demo.


In just a matter of strokes, she conveyed a variety of methods.


I did a pastel demo on sanded paper. After drawing a quick composition in red pastel pencil, I blocked in where the sea meets the sky.


photo by Judy Labrasca

Working small and spontaneously, it’s about finding what’s visually important to you. It’s not gonna be a photograph, OK? Or perfect.


photo by Judy Labrasca

Nothin’ fancy here, just some color dust.

Then everyone left the porch to sketch. Bethany and Janice picked a pretty perch in the garden.

I used Prismacolors on sanded paper to sketch the drowsy daisies and a glimpse of Aubree.


Here she is drawing below the garden.

She was exploring the pastels with sumptuous results.


I’d brought my island car this year, due to the iffy weather report. We lucked out with sunny skies and the chance to drive to the north side of the island, where a quiet cove awaited.

I sketched Bethany sketching.


Bethany painted a cool house on Long Island.

Meanwhile, Janice made a simple symphony of sky, land, and water in pastel.


Aubree drew island fauna up close.


I can’t resist the rocks there.


Judy drew Long Island, too, on sanded paper with vibrant line.

She suggested an exercise for warming up: just scribble in the forms. The loose approach can ready both the arm and the brain for something unexpected.


All too soon, it was time to head to the ferry back to Portland, Maine. There’s nothing finer than a day of drawing with eager folks. Thanks to Judy and the Maine College of Art!


Book Makers Meet Up

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Charlesbridge Publishing, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration, pastels, Peaks Island | 2 comments

Here Comes April! Yes, the award-winning author of Here Come the Humpbacks! came east from Indiana, and migrated to my shore last week. What a pleasure to meet April Pulley Sayre for the first time.


April’s always on the search for natural wonders and wanted to explore tide pools. I brought her to the best spot at low tide, Picnic Point, where she didn’t waste any time getting her feet wet.

I perched nearby, sketching Whitehead Passage.


She caught me in a pano shot.

photo © April Sayre

photo © April Sayre

We watched a tanker emerge from the distant mist.

The steady tanker flow into Portland harbor became ready reference when I made this illustration for Here Come the Humpbacks.


We decked out the guest room in a whale theme, of course. April slept under this pastel from the book.


My handy humpback prop kept her company on the night table.


photo © April Sayre

My grandfather, Roland Bell Hogan Sr., hooked this rug, which last summer became my prized possession.

Finally, I got April to sign my copy of our book!


photo © April Sayre

She took this pano of my messy studio as I worked on a new project, this one about porcupines!


photo © April Sayre

We had a grand time talking about books, the birds, our families, and the fog. April had come to Peaks Island via other travels, and enjoyed a bit of island relaxation.


Thank you, April, for making the trek. It’s a special place that we share, in the vessel of a book. I’m honored that it continues to make a splash. I hope your island wanders bring forth new book wonders in the future!

Tall Tales from ICON9: Day 3 & 4

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, collage, comics, drawing, fashion illustration, Illustration, Maine College of Art, travels, zines | 3 comments

Welcome to more epic recapping of ICON9, the Illustration Con held in Austin. Last Friday July 8 more awesomeness awaited us in the form of Martha Rich, ICON’s Emcee and quick-change artist. Who needs a Martha Rich paper doll set? I do!


Tall Tale or fact? Martha is a Mainer! She grew up in Pennsylvania, the daughter of ministers, and invited us all to exchange the peace, which the mob of 600 gladly did.

Anita Kunz made a stellar presentation on why art matters. Whoever thought a cartoon could kill, she asked. With imagery, she showed how art can recruit or resist war, worship gods, build up or tear down politicians, expose injustice, teach children, describe the sublime, immortalize, or heal. “Let’s make sure we use it wisely,” she said. She laid it all bare by sharing her very first painting. I love this so much. As the day went on, many speakers shared very early work, tracing an arc from it’s source, which I find deeply fascinating and it moves me to tears.


Jonathan Tobin, an attorney and former designer, discussed orphaned works with a story dating from the 6th century.


Most surprising fact: copyright is guaranteed in the Constitution, in Article1, Section 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

He advised us to get involved. With so much digitization online, if we’re outraged, we aren’t paying attention.

The next panel discussed Zines to Screens. Hellen Jo, Calvin Wong, and Paul Windle are all veteran zinesters now with awesome day jobs, if not dream jobs. Hellen said hers would actually be “eating chips and getting paid for it.” Hey, me too.


Each of them brought their story-telling humor from zines to storyboarding and full creative license at ADHD, The Regular Show and Super Deluxe. Cal remarked that it’s come full circle for him. Watching the Simpsons informed his aesthetic, and now TV has become a mirror, as his coming of age story is part of a new work. Rad.

Kathie Sever, an Austin local, quietly wove the story of her family roots in art and craft bringing her to using chain stitching to create wearable art. Had to draw those braids.


During the snack break, I marveled at this miniature paper model of the ICON stage set by Jason Holley.


Henrik Drescher’s talk was titled Swimming in the Picture Pond, but he said, “This isn’t swimming, it’s climbing.” He left art school to travel and make books, before encountering the work of Jack Kerouac, all the while building his own visual vocabulary in notebooks and found objects. “What an object emanates is very important to me,” he said. His limited editions are punctuation marks of his cataloging of the world. Sublime.


Antoinette Carroll declared, “Everything we do changes the world.” She employs design as an activist tool, to challenge, change, and champion with her Creative Reaction Lab.


Brainstorming in the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, a group of designers created Cards Against Brutality, not a game, but a thought-changer. This and other collaborative projects aim to illuminate our common humanity. She challenged us all to disrupt the system and look beyond fear.

Her rousing presentation was followed by a sobering talk among Lars Refn, Matt Bors, and Steve Brodner, who moderated A Global Conversation on Political Satire.


Lars said, “I  made a difference, but not the one I wanted.” Post Charlie Hebdo, the world of satire is altered. Steve asked, “How do the limits of artistic freedom change your way of working?” He reminded us there are places in the world that are “irony free” and the term “blind spot” came up more than once. Matt Bors acknowledged, “I need to watch what I draw.” This discussion needed more time, so some headed for lunch while others gathered to continue the dialogue.

Len Small delivered his talk on editorial art direction (see previous post) followed by a panel on Illustration Journalism, with Susie Caigle, Darryl Holliday (my sketch below), and Jamie Hibdon.


They go where photography is not allowed, and cover stories beyond the powers of photography, with a deft filter on complex contemporary issues. I want to get in on this!

Between speakers there were sometimes graphic results of an ICON survey, perfectly illustrated by Mark Todd. I finally got to meet him at the Roadshow. His book, authored with Esther Pearl Watson, Whatcha Mean What’s A Zine is like a textbook bible in my illustration classes at Maine College of Art.


Kyle T. Webster revealed his Secrets of the Brush World, saying it’s better to use a glass bottom boat before diving into deep waters. He has combined play and expertise to create innovative digital brushes and a successful global empire to boot. He turned his mantra make it, show it, let the internet grow it into a country ballad.

Local artist Kim Cadmus Owens was next, talking about painting the urban landscape before it disappears.


Three powers in illustration, Melinda Beck, Julia Rothman, and Jessica Hische told us how to Mind Your Own Business. I couldn’t draw all of them at once. Here is Julia.


Besides dishing about double standards, social media, and contracts, Jessica’s message says it all:


Kayla E gave a refreshing and lively talk about inclusivity. Collaboration and amplification are ways to step outside our bubbles and blind spots, but only if we get ALL IN on it. Amen.


Local artist Marc Burckhardt shared this moment, when he realized as a young boy he could “negotiate around things by drawing.” Understatement of the year.


He sees “no firewall between illustration and fine art” and has in fact changed the direction of his commissioned work by creating exquisitely crafted personal work. This was a common theme of the entire conference. Make it and share it, please yourself first.

New York Times Art Director Alexandra Szigamond outlined her many roles as a collector, explorer, trendspotter, matchmaker, and translator. Her palomino-like jumpsuit was perfect in this setting.


Her job is no longer just print, she must design across multiple media, from the verbal to the visual, print to digital, desktop to mobile, with the invisible to the visible being her favorite part.

The sheer variety of presenters at ICON is eye-boggling. Up came James Victore, almost like a circus barker strong man stand-up hybrid in his delivery, saying “trust is my lifeblood.”


He signs everything, and his studio is just “where we duct tape stuff together.” The real inspiration comes meeting people anywhere and everywhere, and asking burning questions, always.

A Happy Hour thankfully followed. We all sorely needed libation before the next thing, an opening for the Tall Tales ICON9 Group Show. I confess, I skipped it. Met local peeps for dinner and sat in a breeze on a grassy lawn, a much needed respite from the relentless ballroom action.

Saturday July 9, are you ready for more?

Alex Mathers did this piece, shown during a panel with Lindsay Nohl and Lily Smith Kirkley talking about building their businesses. He studied geography, which led to working in real estate, and then illustration. The paths a career takes can’t always be explained.


Selina Alko and Sean Qualls collaborate in life and work. The story behind A Case for Loving had so many fascinating details! I’m always interested in process, early sketches, how images evolve.


They shared their secret: separate studios! Since my husband is also an illustrator, that works for us, too. All under one roof, though. I wholeheartedly agree with their statement: “librarians are the backbone of the children’s book industry.” Hear, hear!

Svein Storksen was an accident, arriving quite close behind his twin siblings. He survived his unkissed teen years to find common ground among art students in college, growing up to become an illustrator and publishing company of one.


Kent Bye and Ashley Pinnick shared their faith in the final frontier of Virtual Reality, a veritable Wild West of possibility.


We’re moving from the Information Age to the Experiential Age, one Pokemon at a time. I myself want less screen time, not more, but they make a compelling argument for augmenting our realities.

I fell head over heels for the work of Poul Lange, not to be confused with a Hoarder. No, he is a collagist of the first order, putting broken ukuleles and botanicals to sublime use.


A native of Denmark, he now lives in LA, where The Glue That Binds finds higher purpose, uniting objects and found images into visual poetry. When his wife told him, “Use it or lose it,” he embarked on a 365 day journey to make a collage a day. This turned into a gallery show, and that turned into more. And more. So so grateful, am I.

Allejandro Magallanes Gonzalez from Mexico paced around the stage, speaking partly in Spanish, and always visually with bold design.


We were treated to a Kaleidoscope line-up of ICON attendees who vied for their short moment on the Mainstage. Jill Calder seized the day with her Horses, Teeth, and Bloody Royalty: Illustrating a Scottish Hero.


She embraced the challenge to better her ability to draw horses by going at repeated failure with gusto. The results are dynamic and inspiring.

Kenton Visser’s Yes Virginia There Is a Catharsis showed how his art helped him heal. He said, “Austin is the quarantine for everything cool so it doesn’t leak out to the rest of the state.” For him, art is work, and like exercise, it helps the body and soul.

Cynthia Morris confessed she got an F in art, but has since slain her inner critic by drawing in a sketchbook, empowered by listening to podcasts of Design Matters and doing travel retreats. She just did an artist residency in Paris, so she’s gotten it figured out!


Other speakers included Lenny Terenzi, Tom Froese, and Beverly Coraldean, each one revealing the highs and lows of creative lives, always moving forward. Illustration may be a sometimes fickle field, but illustrators possess a drive that often goes beyond the over-used “passion.” How brave and mighty this band of folks.

I went to lunch with a group of women I’ve only met online. Delicious to have face time! I didn’t realize until later that front left is Shelley Ann Jackson, illustrator, author, educator, SCBWI member, local Texan, and girl group ringleader. Wow! Other ladies include Michelle Kondrich, Andi Burnett, Laura Menardi Jacobsen, Diandre Mae, and Kat Hubbs.


It was all too short, but infinitely sweet to meet y’all!

Having arrived back too late to catch Ping Zhu, I took a short time-out, and so mostly missed Public School, too. Glad I was there for the incredible Gemma Correll whose quirky humor busted my guts. She calls herself “an introspective introvert” and uses her sketchbook as “a filter between my brain and my art.” Here are her stickers for adults.


During the snack break, it got all batty onstage.


Norma Jean Maloney talked about The Lost Art of the Hand-Painted Sign with such humble grace, I loved every second. She asked, “Your dreams are picking you, are you listening?”


Roman Muradov spoke on the benefits of idleness, On Doing Nothing.


He said, “To do nothing well is to get lost.” The whole thing was mesmerizing and sometimes funny and I got a little lost listening and drawing him, so good.

Michael Thompson makes his messages loud and clear, visually communicating on a broad range of global topics with social activism via Freestylee.


We were all reeling from the events in Dallas. This message, silence = complicity hit the hole in my heart.

Eleanor Davis created the visual for the ICON9 poster. She read a story while her art told another. It was magical.


The keynote closers also read stories while playing soothing music. Jet Elfman sang while Charlyne Yi read from Oh the Moon, her illustrated novel. It was like a bedtime hypnosis, I was in a dream state by then.


Marty and I said farewell to Sophie Roach’s marker mural and all the ballroom bonding.


Austin’s got that carnival feel down. In the short walk to the closing party at Stubbs BBQ, we found lots to love.



Did I see a Pokemon? I think so.

First person we ran into was Jill Calder, who joined us in the messy rib fest.


This is just before Esther Pearl Watson got the dance floor full of amateurs.


We tried a lame two-step but had flunked our Western Swing class many years ago. Still, it was a hotsy-totsy hella good time! Thanks to ICON9 and all the hard-working folks that pulled it off. It’s a shot in the drawing arm that should last me til the next one!

















Tall Tales from ICON9: Day 1 and 2

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, collage, comics, drawing, fashion illustration, Illustration, travels, zines | 1 comment

ICON9 was one giddy up good time in Austin!


My sketch of Daisy’s boot, from a pair she bought the last time we were in Austin, became the opener for zines I brought along.

I drew on the flights from Maine, too. Couldn’t believe what I saw out the window!


After a hearty welcome from our dear locals, Kathy and Barton, Marty and I checked into the Hilton Austin which was HQ for the hoedown.

July 6 began four rootin’ tootin’ days of the best illustration conference on the prairie.


I missed the introductions, trying to find coffee to fuel me for the full day ahead of an education symposium and workshops. Once again, Stagecraft Chair, Jason Holley, created a spectacular set that morphed continuously between segments. Here is David Terrell, professor at Kansas City Art Institute sporting a platypus hat. It’s all about forming a hybrid tribe, this radical teaching.


Next up Tilly Janssen and Marleen de Lange presented a lecture titled The Bigger Picture, about their methods of getting students to ask deeper questions about their illustration at HKU University of the Arts in Utrecht Netherlands. By prompting students to analyze their aesthetic triggers, they push finding relevant meaning in their illustration.


Marty headed off to his workshop, Time of the Sign, with Norma Jeanne Maloney of Red Rider Studios.

The toughest part of ICON is all the awesomeness running concurrently. Y’all can’t be in two places at once. I stuck around for most of the education presentations, and glad I did, absolutely thrilled by Colleen Schindler Lynch’s talk: What’s the Skinny? Diversifying Fashion Illustration.


She is shaping a new curriculum that diversifies the concept of beauty, while also archiving a database of diverse fashion images, with help from the Teaching About Diversity Fund. As an occasional fashion illustrator and fan of fashion illustration, I enjoyed these samples from Jade Pilgrom.

I heard D.B. Dowd last fall at the Illustration Research Symposium, and his latest talk, Arguing for Aristotle, made the case for using theory and philosophy to define ideas in illustration, where the lack of pretense has produced a lack of reflectivity. The emphasis on technical aspects, the HOW, has de-emphasized the WHY. In the age of Photoshop, photography has lost it’s authority. Illustration is poised to capture our cultural fluctuations by identifying creative values and translating them.

Roderick Mills of the University of Brighton talked about exploring new technologies in developing an expanded illustration practice, which now encompasses a wide range.


He reminded us there are piles of books about How To Illustrate, but very few about the WHY. Beyond how to illustrate, let’s ask how do we mediate the world, blurring definitions as our field becomes both more accessible and more ambiguous.

After lunch, Susan Doyle, Chair of Illustration at RISD, Jaleen Grove from Ontario College of Art and Design University, and Whitney Sherman, Chair of MICA’s MFA in Illustration Practice presented their case study on producing a history of illustration like no other. Their history of illustration project, first announced at ICON8 in Portland, OR, aims to bridge critical theory and history with illustration practice. Their collective undertaking is all on their own time, nothing short of mind-boggling on top of their academic and artistic pursuits. A standing ovation is in order!

They were quite clear about what the book is NOT: an encyclopedia, a coffee table art book, or a narrow prism. It WILL BE chock full of inclusive themes and overlapping cross-references, thanks to an army of professional illustrators writing about what they know. They provided a hand-out of the table of contents, as well as sample “tech boxes” that include topics such as gillotage, halftone, and hegemony.

Funny thing, though: somehow Charles Dana Gibson fell into so many categories, he was momentarily lost in the cracks. Listen up: they are in need of more writers. And donors!



Nanette Hoogslag of Anglia Ruskin University and Lee Ford from Sheffield Hallam University discussed Making Illustration in the Digital Era. Their question: how can illustration keep making sense in a post-semiotic world? Are we moving past the Gutenberg Parenthesis, beyond print thinking? Again, the premise that illustration is a means to translate, to be a shaping power of perception in an open text world, cannot be ignored. We are now exposed to illustrational experiences in which the distribution and transmission can determine how an image is received. How do platforms influence the message? They shared imagery from Animade, Kin Design Studio and this one.


Sabrina Scott delivered a potent presentation, Drawing the Other, in which she analyzed seven years of American Illustration annuals to learn what representations of humans are deemed worthy. Here’s my drawing of her.


For instance, males are nude 2% of the time, while females are nude 30% of the time. Does illustration reflect sexism? Racism? Are we reinforcing stereotypes in our work? We need to be kind and smarter with the imagery we create. We need to hold ourselves accountable. YES, we do.

I passed Marty coming back from his workshop with Guiseppe Castellano as I ducked out for a workshop with Rebecca Mock, Deconstructing the GIF. She told us right off that she learned the “slow, dumb way” by double clicking her favorite GIFs, taking them apart frame by frame discovering the beat, that pause before the punchline. She considers the scene, what is seen and what is implied. In building the image, “composition is everything” and then file sizes and number of frames determine the success of a GIF. This workshop was a packed house, and she provided a detailed hand-out. Thank you! Because my eyeballs were melted by then.

We bumbled in the steamy heat over to Brazos Hall for a cocktail party.


After swigging a single Lone Star, we found the Alamo Drafthouse, where a curated collection of kinetic adventures was screened, aka Motion Commotion. So many cool animations!! Wish there was a program or list somewhere of what we saw. A handful of makers took questions from the crowd.


That’s just the First Day. Are you still with me?

July 7 was more, more, more: workshops, education panels, opening ceremonies and the Roadshow. Marty went to Alex Mathers’ workshop and I went to Gina Triplett and Matt Curtius’ workshop, Personal Work and Work-Work, a bounty of insights and information. Best part: seeing their sources of inspiration from Matt’s mother’s quilts to Gina’s dad’s painted trays. After a thorough talk about their business pie, they did a demo of their variety of techniques involving masking, painting, drawing, stenciling. Matt said, “Our main vehicle is emotion.”


We had time to work on something of our own with their materials or whatever we wanted. I’d brought gouache and some collage stuff. Look, a peony.


After lunch Marty headed to a workshop with Anita Kunz, Idea Generation on a Deadline. I took in the Education Round Table moderated by Sam Weber. Faculty panelists included Laurie Burruss, Lee Ford, Petrula Vontrikis, LyndaWeinman, David Terrill, and Nanette Hoogslag.


The best skill these days is responsiveness, not necessarily mastery. Educators must instill a level of self-discovery that lasts a lifetime. It’s irresponsible with today’s education costs not to discuss the economy of the field. Faculty can model the ability to learn something new by initiating projects in which everyone begins at ground zero, not knowing a thing.

I ducked out for Len Small’s workshop: A Few Pixels to the Left, his perspective on art direction of editorial art at Nautilus. His wry humor and candid insights filled my head as I sketched him from nearly the back row.


His gems: be clever, be nice, be quick. Will do!

Without much break, everyone gathered for the Opening Ceremonies, awaiting that legendary ICON pomp and circumstance at 5:30. Ballet Folklorico got the crowd hyped with staccato moves and swirling costumes.


Executive Director Mark Heflin welcomed our tribe.

ICON9 President Esther Pearl Watson was visibly proud to have us all in her home state, wearing the BEST cowboy boots EVER.


She introduced the keynote speaker, William Joyce, whose film degree from SMU proved rather handy as he pursued a career as an award-winning picture book creator.


When he was five, he discovered Where the Wild Things are, and decided that being a Maker Upper was his calling. He’s pursued his unique stories ever since saying, “I’m a dorky guy from Louisiana and I’ve stayed there.” After winning an Oscar for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, his hometown of Shreveport held a ticker tape parade in his honor, the first one since the end of World War II.

He left the stage to a standing ovation, and then our herd mobbed over to the Roadshow. My first purchase was from my former student and recent Maine College of Art grad, Sophie Cangelosi, proud of her!


It’s a blast meeting such lovely folks as illustrators. This is Catherine Lepage, creator of Thin Slices of Anxiety.


Here I am with the Little Friends of Printmaking. Trying to lure them back for a Maine visit.


I visited Nicole Ray’s table, who I just met in Gina and Matt’s workshop. Bravo!


I wasted no time in shopping til I was broke. Other peeps probably partied, but all I could do was take stock of my purchases before collapsing into bed with them.


Can I keep up this pace for two more days? Stay tuned, cowgirls.






Side x Side Slides into Summer

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in Art Classes, drawing, pastels, school visits | 1 comment

Working with Side x Side, Portland’s coup in the name of arts integration, has been truly satisfying, as well as a juggle. This spring I visited three schools, East End, Reiche, and Ocean Avenue Elementary, where our Land Forms project had a happy culmination. I attended last week’s Summer Arts Institute at the Portland Museum of Art along with a hearty crowd of teachers on their first day of summer vacation. Now that’s dedication!

Mark Bessire, Director of the PMA, welcomed us and our coffee into the auditorium. He introduced Mayor Ethan Strimling, who supports the arts, telling us that he came from a theater family, and earned a degree at Julliard.

After remarks from USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi and Side x Side Executive Director Beth Wilbur Van Mierlo, we were led through an exercise in Visual Thinking Strategies by the awesome Jenn DePrizio, PMA Director of Learning and Interpretation. So cool, I sketched her later.


The crowd was divided into groups, and mine went directly to a small gallery of landscape paintings. Jenn read us a poem, Peregrination by Billy Collins, and we were asked to imagine a walk into a painting of our choice. I chose Salt Marshes Newburyport Massachusetts by Martin Johnson Heade. We were prompted with the first two words for each line. Are you ready? Here’s mine:

I will skirt the snaking curve of mirrored water

And walk through the knee-deep clover

With this feather of joy dropped from a billowing sky

I will hear birdsong even in the shadows

And seek the skittering sunshine

Until the day is done.

And then, carrying these memories

I will become the salt marsh

Until the ripples vanish

And finally I know myself.

From there, we looked at a John Singer Sargent painting for two minutes, then turned our back on it, writing all the details we noticed. See, it’s all about the noticing. But our next exercise was about embodiment, with Side x Side teaching artist, Gretchen Berg. She gave my group a list of six instructions involving a painting, Icelandic Picnic by Louisa Matthiasdottir. We made a “frozen tableau” with our group of something before the moment of the painting, the actual scene, and something after. Great icebreaker! Here’s a glimpse of another group’s tableau in another gallery.


Next we regrouped in the auditorium where Side x Side teaching artist Laurie Downey led us through a sketching prompt, to draw anything from our pockets or bags after looking at it for a full two minutes. Slow down that looking. She’s been using sketchbooks for students to draw, doodle, make sense of their city. She collects them all and creates murals about place from selected student drawings.

I drew my trusty Ray Bans.


After a delicious lunch break, my group headed to Pamela Moulton’s studio, where  her incredible art kept us company. That’s Pamela on the left, USM student teacher, Hannah Manning, Ocean Avenue second grade teachers, Kelley Nogar and Erin Partridge, Ocean Avenue art teacher, Sally Mitchell, myself, and USM student teacher, Kaczmarek. What a team!


I started us all out with boxes of natural objects to draw. This is Pat’s elegant drawing of a crab part, in which she let the shapes flow diagonally across the page.

The drawing led us into thinking out loud about the next Land Forms project, and we brainstormed a ton. Near the end of our session, Side x Side teaching artists Meg Christie and Geep got us moving with physical theater games. A perfect way to work off all the afternoon snacks that were delivered.


The next morning, we met back at Pamela’s studio with a wee surprise for Erin.


A little celebration was a good kick-off for our sculpting project. I sketched out the shape of the Portland peninsula on a wooden board, and all hands began shaping newspapers into the forms.

We used colored tape and fiber optics to define the forms. A birthday party noise-maker became the Portland Observatory.


We settled down again for drawing, this time with a box of my Terry Ludwig pastels.


Spontaneously there was color heaven. Here’s Kelley’s on the left, and Sally’s on the right, tall vistas of pigment.


Pat (top) and Hannah (bottom) chose the horizontal approach with vivid lushness.


Erin and I had full moons on our minds. Erin’s are the top and right, both dreamy abstractions.


Pamela pulled out her bounty of costumes, as we decided to make a bouncy entrance when presenting our work back at the PMA after lunch.


Hannah is having too much fun.


The first group presented some incredible pop-up books made with collage and paste papers.


Nance Parker’s group had made fantastic ocean animals with paper mache. Check out this gull!


The third grade group drew locations around Portland, and acted out what they did there.


And the last group made films inspired by creative obstacles. Whew!


Bravo Side x Side for another fantastic whirlwind creative blast. See you all this fall with new ideas!


Wonders at the Weymouth Waterfront Library

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Charlesbridge Publishing, drawing, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, travels | 1 comment

Last Tuesday I visited the Weymouth Waterfront Library on the last day of my MECA residency. What a blast! The library sits, literally, at the edge of a salt marsh on the Sissiboo River in Nova Scotia.


I visited the day after my arrival to meet their gracious library clerk, Margaret Thibault, who invited me to share my children’s book illustration with two grades in Azure Thurber’s French Immersion classes from the nearby Weymouth Consolidated School. I made a quick flyer from my pastel of the view from the Jenny Family Compound. It was a kick to find that Margaret had posted it at Frenchy’s, where I found a polka dot shirt perfect for my visit.


My display was in a corner of the kid’s section, full of French language picture books. The area is historically rich with French settlers and proud Acadian heritage.


This is Margaret, on the left, amidst an eager swarm of students. Thank you for hosting me!


After briefly talking about my background as an illustrator, and showing my sketches and process for Here Come the Humpbacks, the best part comes: inviting everyone to draw. I’m always amazed at the results. I like the transparent shading on this spouty baby humpback in shallow waters.


photo by Margaret Thibault

I enjoy the expressions on all the sealife here.


photo by Margaret Thibault

Ethan gave me his drawing with a big ship teetering on the ocean above a happy humpback.


The narrative qualities and joy shine through in this bold sunset scene.


Keep in mind nobody had reference. These were all spontaneous drawings. Great movement in this breaching humpback.


Not everyone was in a whale mood. One boy asked if he could draw his dog. Of course! I love this comic profile.

Who could resist this friendly guy? These two should meet in a storybook.


How about this eagle? Shortly after my visit, while walking near the Jenny house, we saw a bald eagle soaring.


After the kids drew, we gathered again to talk about what we noticed about the drawings. It’s a good exercise in visual literacy and I encouraged them all to hang up their work in their classrooms, and to talk about them. Keep drawing, all summer long, and notice how pictures tell a story in whatever book you read!

I hung out in the library for awhile, talking with a former teacher, and then Keegan, who goes to another school but wanted to meet an illustrator. He dove right into my box of pastels, and told me all about winning a bicycle.


photo by Margaret Thibault

He wasn’t afraid to wear his colors!

The view from the back of the library kept changing, as the clouds parted and the tide came in. I drew this quick pastel as gratitude for my visit.


Thank you, Weymouth Waterfront Library, it was an honor to draw with your young artists and readers. Here’s to a summer of good books!

Baie Sainte-Marie Artist Residency

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, travels | 9 comments

I am fresh back from a divine two weeks, thanks to Maine College of Art’s Baie Ste Marie Residency. As an adjunct professor at MECA since 2003, I was unaware of the deep renewal a residency can offer until I lucked into three nights at the Pace House a few years ago. Since then, I’ve had my eye on this opportunity in Nova Scotia, a beloved place of family ties and epic light. Thanks to the Jenny family, the house overlooking St. Mary’s Bay in New Edinburgh has provided inspiration for MECA alumni, faculty, and staff since 2009.

Our journey began by driving from Portland, Maine to St. John, New Brunswick, a five hour drive. We stayed at the charming Earl of Leinster Inn, with a breakfast the next morning that filled us to the brim. Bay Ferries now has two sailings across the Bay of Fundy, we opted for the afternoon run during which I did this sketch from the sunny deck of the M V Fundy Rose.


Upon arrival in Digby, we drove less than an hour to where the Sissiboo River meets the ocean, and the Jenny Family Compound boasts spectacular views and curious collections of critter bones.


Not hard at all to find sources of interest for sketching!


Marty enjoyed making small translations of the view down the road. The ever-changing light was magical.


For me, it was time to write, at last. I used the residency to dust off a fiction piece that has been on a back burner for too long. We spied this sign on a trip to Robicheau’s for dinner in Saulnierville.


The story involves a young girl, Penny, who surfaced during several sessions of Sudden Fiction led by Eleanor Morse and Nicole d’Entremont.


A card table, a window, raucous crows, and a salty cat ambling by became my writing prompts.

Meanwhile, Marty scouted the area and sketched also. We took breaks for exploring the local rocky beaches.

There’s a defunct fish plant down the road which became a regular destination for walks.

In the other direction, there were horses to watch, and cormorants basking on boulders in the sea.


The absolute luxury was permission to stay put. Life on Peaks Island is a constant coming and going. Our time at the Jenny House was serenely stationary, for the most part. Before writing one morning I drew from the side porch.


The road turns just beyond this cluster of simple houses that became a visual fixation.


A windy picnic on the rocks allowed a quick capturing of the fog parting like feathers over the Baie.


The light there seems to last until almost 10 PM. We drove to Belliveau Cove. I have a fond curiosity for the variety of lighthouses in Canada, quite often well-preserved structures with unique stories. Plus, they all have red doors. I grew up at the Red Doors Motel, remember?


And another day, we crunched around the low low tide at the Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse, nearly lost in the fog.


Marty used a TV table for his portable studio. Every window was a worthwhile location.


There are several out buildings, including a shed, a barn, a log cabin, even a treehouse. Marty drew them all.


Here’s my quick sketch of the faded red barn.


I eventually found my way into the newest shed, meant for writing.


This was helpful when Daisy and August visited. They found every toy and game, from BB guns to arrows.

Meanwhile, Marty made art for mailing, adding splashes of color to his studies.


We watched a few boats that circled the Baie, and I sketched this one as the fog swirled.


After writing all day, we took a drive down Digby Neck, curious about the other side. We drove into Little River Cove, where the boat I had sketched was unloading their haul. Hello, Slave Driver.


Caught a ferry from East Ferry over to Long Island, about a 5 minute trip. The Petite Princess works the passage every half hour, 24 hours a day! That’s service. And surprise! From the mist appeared this beauty, the Boars Head Light.


We headed to Balancing Rock, well-marked at the end of a long trail through skunk cabbage, lichen, bunchberry, and black pines. Oh, and about 250 steps down to a viewing platform, next to this precarious column of basalt.

Back at the Jenny House, in time for the light show of a setting moon.

I have Peaks Island neighbor and author Nicole d’Entremont to thank, for sparking my writing and supporting my efforts with a steady hand. She spends much of her summers at her ancestral home in nearby Pubnico. She arrived for a visit in time for the peonies popping.

The residency also entails some form of open studio that engages the local community.


I’ll share in another post the blast I had at the Weymouth Waterfront Library with a crowd of local kids.

Our last evening I drew the changing dusk.




We were reluctant to leave. My gratitude is bottomless to the Jenny family and Maine College of Art. The two weeks of space and time to reflect, renew, and create was a priceless package I will unwrap for a long time.

Merci beaucoup!





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!