Assignment of the day

It’s hot as a bastard and we are all recovering from four performances of Annie Get Your Gun in three days. I have spent the past two mornings in the air-conditioned apartment working on an assignment for The Morning News which is about to launch its year long redesign. Rosecrans, my editor, asked me to draw three illustrations to work as launch-pads for the serialized books that appear on the site every couple of weeks.
I had already done a couple of different icons for Peanut:

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This one is meant to look like a sonogram of a peanut. It’s okay though a little gimmicky.

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Then I came up with this one based on a photo of an embryo, sort of 2001-ish but not really uniquely mine.
I decided to start from scratch with more conventional ink and watercolor drawings, each about 4-5 inches square. I painted this fairly scary drawing; still it’s somehow cute in a plucked chick kind of way and I like it.

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For The letters of Gary Benchley, Rock Star, I bypassed my initial thought of painting some instruments ( I have recently done three different illustration jobs requiring sketches of guitars) and decided to try to capture some rock’n’roll energy. I did this drawing fairly quickly and I like it too.

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I struggled most with The Education of Elisabeth Eckleman. It seemed that every story had Elisabeth in tears at some point so I decided to tackle it this way. I was a little worried that I had been overly influenced by fantasies of Molly Ringwold and was listening to too much of the new 9 Inch Nails album and Elisabeth isn’t quite in that nexus.

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I fired off an email to Sarah Hepola, Elisabeth’s creator, who wrote: “She’s a cute 18 year old girl — brown shoulder-length hair that’s a bit curly/frizzy (she likes to straighten it out), a little girlish pudge in her cheeks. Blue eyes. She’s from a small town, so she doesn’t have that natural college girl look yet — she wears a lot of makeup, probably earrings. she probably wears a lot of tank tops and shorts.”
I’m no expert on the nuances of 18-year-old girls anymore and I was a little tense as I went back to the drawing board.

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This was my second and final effort. It has personality and particularity more than the first but tells less of a story and has a little too much Walter Keane in it
I’ll let Rosecrans pick.

A Writer's Paris

monmartreDr. Eric Maisel is a psychotherapist who works exclusively with artists and has written many terrific books like The Creativity Book, Staying Sane in the Arts, Fearless Creating, Deep Writing, A Life in the Arts and other inspiring guides on the creative mind and process. Recently, Eric invited me to illustrate his new book, A Writer’s Paris, which will be published in a year or so.
On Wednesday afternoon, Patti and I will be skipping turkey and heading across the Atlantic; over the next four days, I’ll make as much progress as possible on the 30 full-page illustrations I’ve promised Eric for his book. I’ll be working in black, using a pen and ink wash.
The sketch crawl will be good preparation. I’m going from the 10K of the Met to the marathon of the sketchcrawl to the Iron Man triathlon of Paris. I’ll be dealing with possible snow flurries, temperatures in the 40s and jet lag but it will be a great adventure.

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We had a terrific visit to Paris over Thanksgiving. We arrived (via Frankfurt) on Thursday morning and spent the day in a bit of a jet-lagged fog (I can’t sleep on planes) but did quite a lot of drawing. We had Thanksgiving dinner of escargots, foie gras, biftek, and lashings of bordeaux at a bistro in the Latin Quarter.
We started Friday at the Musée D’Orsay. I’ve only been there briefly before but this time we made a bee-line for the Van Goghs and Gaugins and then I spent an hour drawing the beautiful old clock in the main room. A wonderful museum.

paris-roofs I had a check list of more than thirty things to draw and, by Sunday morning, Patti had checked off about 80% of them. I had taken reference photos of the remaining subjects and will finish the project at home.
We were very lucky with the weather. One day of blue skies, two overcast, and the first raindrops fell on our cab’s windscreen as we got in to travel to the airport. The mercury hovered in the mid 40s most of the time so it was quite comfortable sitting outside most of the time. We would duck into cafés or shops for periodic refreshment.
This sort of three-day drawing trip has a lot to recommend it. We were on the go all day, saw every corner of the City, really studied the sights, and came home with a wonderful souvenir without spending much money. Though the dollar is weak, you can do a trip like this for just over a thousand bucks per person and you will remember it forever.
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I drew on heavy bond either with a Rapidoliner (.25 and .50) or an Art (fountain) Pen . I then pulled out a Niji waterbrush loaded with black Dr. Martin’s transparent water colors . I colored in the darkest bits and then, while the color was still wet, I used a Niji filled with clean water to slosh things around, mixing various shades of grey right on the page or on the knee of my jeans or on the nearest surface (park bench, Rodin sculpture, whatever) using the clean brush to dilute it and then my Welsh pub towel to clean things up.
When I got home, I made photocopies of the drawings and FedExed the originals. The images I’ve posted are scans of the copies.
My aim, and I think I fell far short of it, was to emulate Ronald Searle’s 1950 Paris Sketchbook.

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This book is now available on Amazon Grab a copy!

Meet Prash

chapel-1Every so often I see work that makes me say, “Well, yes, that’s what I’m trying to do but some thing seems to have interfered between my brain and the page.” Prashant Miranda’s journals always make me feel that way.
He emails me tantalizing glimpses from them every so often and I get quite green with envy. His watercolors are so loose and bright and expressive.
Prash came to Toronto from India some five years ago. He says: “if I was to describe myself…i’d say that I am a scribe. I keep sketchbooks all the time, it’s moved from sketchbooks to sketchboxes…with loose pages, and now they are leather pouches that I stitch myself.”
Prash has sent me journal pages he made in India: on his recent visit to Quilon, his childhood home on the south west coast of India, and of the lighthouse in Tangeserri; to Benares, the holy city in the north; and to Goa. And also scenes from Canada, his new home: his solo camping trip on an island in the Moose River; and, most recently, an old sedan being being shot in his neighborhood for the Russell Crowe movie, Cinderella Man.
Prash worked for Cuppa Coffee, a lovely animation studio where he’s developing a kids’ show called Ted’s Bed. The series looks to be an updated version of Nemo in Slumberland and the website is full of watercolored postcards with beautiful calligraphy in Prash’s signature style.
If you’d like to know more about Prash, drop him a line.

Sky Mall pop quiz

I have a new piece in my favorite online magazine that you might find amusing.
I first thought of it on the way home from vacation when I pulled the bizarreness that is the Sky Mall catalog from the back of the seat and wondered, “Who dreams up all this crap?”
“And who buys it?”