Christmas Cards

Okay, it’s been a while. Life got kinda complicated last year (more on that in a future post). But, I plan to do a better job of keeping up with my blog, Facebook page, Linked-In page, Web site, etc. this year. We’ll see. Anyway, thought I’d post my last two Christmas card images (2012 and 2013).


Christmas card 2012

Christmas card 2012

Christmas card 2013

Christmas card 2013

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Minnesota State Fair 2012

I love playing with Instagram. I’m going to post some of my favorites here. These were shot at the  Minnesota State Fair in 2012.

View in Instagram ⇒

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Puddleglum revisited (part 2)

In my previous post I showed the sketches for a new piece I’m working on (Puddleglum). After working-out the roughs, I next drew it out on watercolor paper (Arches 140#) using a light-table to trace my sketch(es). Then I inked the lines with a quill pen and India ink. The lighter ink used for the wigwams and background marsh was achieved by diluting the ink with water.



Sharped-eyed viewers will note that I have changed Jill’s head. Previously she was looking at Puddleglum; I thought it worked better having her react to the eel on the line.

Next step: paint…

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Puddleglum revisited (part 1)

I’m rarely satisfied with my artwork. As I’ve chronicled before, I often will go back and redo a piece several times in an attempt to get it right. Sometimes I will undertake a redo immediately; some times it takes a while…

In the early 90s I did an illustration featuring my favorite character from the Chronicles of Narnia—Puddleglum. Puddleglum was a “Marsh-wiggle”—a creature invented by C. S. Lewis. Marsh-wiggles were denizens of swamps; they had long arms and legs with webbed fingers and toes, and a sallow complexion. And they were (at least Puddleglum was) incurable pessimists (think Eeyore). In my illustration I showed the (human) children Eustace and Jill sitting next to  Puddleglum, outside his home (a wigwam), as he fishes for eels. Not surprising, I wasn’t completely satisfied with the results; I thought  the children’s clothes were too drab, Puddleglum wasn’t quite lanky enough, and I didn’t get his face right. My intention was to redo it, but other things got in the way.


The original, with Eustace, Puddleglum and Jill

Flash forward to 2012—I woke up one day and said, “I’m going to redo Puddleglum!”

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Rachel’s Menagerie

When my daughter Rachel was about two years old I hit upon an idea for a portrait of her — Rachel surrounded by a group of animals. I’m not sure what sparked the concept, but it’s very likely that I was inspired by Mercer Mayer’s What Do You Do With a Kangaroo, one of my all-time favorite children’s books. In that book, a young girl interacts with various animals including a kangaroo, possum, raccoon, llama, moose and tiger.

I did a quick sketch, showing Rachel standing confidently, surrounded by the wild animals. Notice the scribbled notes to myself indicating the animals I envisioned.

Original sketch for Rachel's Menagerie

Original sketch for Rachel’s Menagerie

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Suit Suite

Back when I was at RISD, I took a class called Editorial Illustration, taught by Anthony Russo. For the final assignment, we were asked to illustrate a four-letter word of our choice. Not a swear word, but a word that was 4-letters long. I tossed around several ideas, including nude. However, I didn’t simply want to draw a naked figure to illustrate the word for that seemed too obvious. Then I hit upon the idea of using suit, as in birthday suit. Furthermore, I thought it would be interesting to place a nude in the midst of a group of figures wearing tuxedos (sometimes referred to as monkey suits). I thought the juxtaposition would make an interesting illustration.

The illustrations had to be in black-and-white so Russo could make Xerox copies and put books together for everyone in the class; a really nice idea. I drew mine with pen and ink. The results were mediocre at best.

Suit (version 1)

Suit (version 1, 1988)

The line work was stiff, the layout was pretty straightforward and dull, and I made the choice to cut-off the heads of all of the figures. I did this to create anonymity; I didn’t want the people to be anyone in particular. But the result was an awkward composition. However, I still liked the concept, and was determined to take another stab at it. Continue reading

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Haunted by Brown

I think I’m being followed…by a color.

N_20B College Hill - Van Wickle Gates (1901) - 45 Prospect Street - Brown University - College and Prospect Streets

Brown University’s Van Wickle Gates. Photo by Will Hart (1990). Used under the Creative Commons license.

The Rhode Island School of Design, where I attended as an undergraduate, back in the 80s, was right next to Brown University, the Ivy League school (which is perhaps better known these days as the college that actress Emma Watson went to). The two schools had a reciprocal program that allowed Brown students to take classes at RISD and vice versa. Students from both schools also mixed and mingled along Thayer street—the main drag through Brown’s campus, which is lined with bookstores, a movie theater, coffee shops, restaurants, and all sorts of shopping designed to appeal to the college crowd. And there were the numerous social events—concerts, sporting events, parties—that drew students from both schools. As a RISD student, I could not avoid Brown even if I had wanted to—it was an omnipresent force in my life.

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Madam, I’m Adam

Over the years I’ve done several drawings and paintings of Adam and Eve. I think I was initially attracted to the subject because it offered me an excuse to draw and paint human figures. I’ve always preferred to draw people over animals or landscapes or inanimate objects—I find the human body far more interesting and challenging. I suspect that most artists’ depictions of Adam and Eve (as well as Venus and the plethora of mythic, historical and literary figures portrayed in the nude) were similarly motivated.

My first Adam and Eve dates from around 1993.

Adam and Eve (version 1)

Adam and Eve (version 1)

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Yesterday my favorite football team, the New York Giants went to Lambeau Field, and for the second time in four years, beat the heavily favored (and #1 seeded) Packers in the playoffs. I was quite giddy, but alas my poor mom—a lifelong Packer fan—was not too happy. Given the Giants’ win, I thought this would be a good time to revisit a couple of Giants-related illustrations I have done.

In January 1991, the G-Men won their second Super Bowl™, beating the Buffalo Bills in a nail-biter. To get there, the Giants had to go to San Francisco for the NFC title game and beat the 49ers, who had beaten the Giants earlier in the regular season (a déjà vu situation which is repeated this year). The Bills also had beaten the G-Men that year, so not surprising, the Giants were underdogs in both games. To celebrate the victory, I created an illustration.



The painting shows a giant (pun intended) Lawrence Taylor (my favorite player at the time), towering over several other NFL players. On the bottom-right are a 49er and Bill. The 49er is Joe Montana, San Francisco’s quarterback (and ironically, another of my mom’s favorite players). I hated the 49ers back then. Four years earlier, the Giants had knocked-off Montana’s 49ers by the ironic score 49–3 on their way to their first title. Continue reading

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Litany of Failure

Artists seldom get it right the first time. That was one of the big revelations I had when I was in art school years ago. Most of our teachers were quick to regale us with tales of frustration and regret when it came to their own art. They did this to cheer us up when our pieces failed yes, but more importantly, they told us these stories to encourage us to not give up, but instead work at our pieces until we got them right. It is a lesson that I took to heart, and continue to pass on to my students.

There is one sequence of images in particular I like to show them—I call it my “Litany of Failure,” a set of five (so far) failed attempts to get a particular piece right.

The origin of the concept also goes back to art school; we were given a simple assignment: illustrate a song. After some thought I chose “Verdi Cries,” performed by 10,000 Maniacs, and written by Natalie Merchant. The song is a nostalgic look back at a vacation spent at a sea-side resort when she was a young girl. The song begins:

The man in one-nineteen takes his tea all alone.
Mornings we all rise to wireless Verdi cries.
I’m hearing opera through the door.
The souls of men and women, impassioned all
Their voices climb and fall, battle trumpets call
I fill the bath and climb inside, singing:
“La la la la la la
“La la la la la la”

I did several sketches before settling on a concept that showed the young girl sitting in her bath tub, singing to herself. Continue reading

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