Llove is Llove

Posted by on Feb 15, 2018 in Drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, Peaks Island | 6 comments

I heard the news today. We surely need love more than ever, every minute.

I’ve been doing my tiny bit to spread it around. A few weeks ago, I dropped off a pile of cards and valentines at Knit Wit Yarn Shop, the one and only place to find my cards out in the world.

Then I made a collage with a re-purposed illustration of mine for the first of February’s Rabbit Rabbit tradition.

It got me thinking about an animal themed valentine. From a knitting book I illustrated this llama gave me an idea.

It feels more urgent that opposites need to love each other. What animal would make a good contrast?

This little fancy pig, that’s who.

With some bits from my box of valentine scraps, and a white pen, voila.

I brought my design to Bayside Printing and then mailed my cards as far and wide as I could. Because showing love is not just for your hottie!

Of course, my guy got a handmade card!

As well as my handmade cookies and unique finds from Portland Trading Company.

We don’t mess around. Going all out, even as we approach our 30th anniversary, because.

Marty made this adorable card for me, queen of dots.

Roses and truffles and a Maine charm necklace by our Peaks neighbor, Judy Fitch. Swoon!!!

I battled my love hangover to cross Casco Bay, warmed by the sight of the Love Bandit’s mark on Fort Gorges.

photo © Sean Thomas

I had the honor of sharing the classroom all afternoon with the best illo ninjas, in my Picture Book course at Maine College of Art. My esteemed colleague and Best Illustration Department Chair, Mary Anne Lloyd, caught this shot outside the hive.

From there, the evening only got better as my date and I dined at Walter’s before ferrying home to a surprise plate of sweets left by our beloved neighbors. Blessings abound!

Time now to head back to the drawing board, filled with sugar and an abiding faith in that…. all you need is love.



Babette’s Feast

Posted by on Jan 30, 2018 in Illustration, Pastels, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

I worked on the poster illustration for Portland Stage’s world premiere of Babette’s Feast about a year ago. It wound up being a circuitous journey to the final piece, which can happen sometimes. I faintly recalled having seen the movie years ago, but didn’t want to see it again or color my approach too much by what had been done cinematically. I based my ideas on the script written by Rose Courtney and adapted from the short story by Isak Dinesen. Local actor and Affiliate Artist Abigail Killeen conceived and developed the play, which is set in the small town of Berlevag in Norway.

The story takes place in the mid- 1800’s in a pious community at the edge of the world. Two daughters gain the affections of many, but their conservative father, the church leader, discourages their suitors. One day, a mysterious refugee, Babette, arrives from war-torn France, and insists on working for the sisters. She proceeds to add flavor to their simple lives in an act of generosity that feeds their very souls.

My sketches all feature Babette in a variety of compositions, allowing room for several credits. Her apron seemed like a good area to place visual elements.

I also tried including a church, native to that time and place. In this sketch, the two sisters, Martine and Philippa, who provide refuge for Babette, are silhouettes in the open door. A towering Babette rings the dinner bell, sign of the large figure she becomes in village life.

A variation on the idea of Babette feeding the village with her magic.

What’s a feast without French champagne?

I tried drawing the table setting, as Babette scurries about.

I really liked this idea, going back to the apron as a portal to the Norwegian village under a winter moon.

In this sketch, Babette is conjuring a table of bounty in her mixing bowl.

This last one got the nod. In the final illustration I went for a Parisian cafe feel, looking at posters and palettes of Henri Toulouse Lautrec.

This was well received. I went on to work on another poster. A couple of weeks went by, and then Director of Communications and Marketing, Eileen Phelan, called to say there’d been a change of direction. In a conference call with Eileen and Abigail, I got new feedback and went back to the drawing board. I focused less on the figure of Babette, who needed to be older, and more on the setting of the fjord and church, with Northern lights swirling from the bowl.

I thought I was done, but no. Awhile later, I revised the typography and removed the face, to add to the mystery.

The end result is still vibrant yet less cluttered.

I saw the play on Saturday night, and it is quite a production! There is humor, music, and profound elegance. The stage set is stark. Rows of sea glass hang like icicles from above, and a simple wooden table is wheeled in for a few scenes.

Otherwise, it’s the agile cast in drop-dead amazing costumes by Oana Botez that activate the stage, riding invisible horses, or gathering as a congregation to sing hymns, or bartering in an imaginary market. It borders on being Shakespearean at times, with a Greek chorus speaking in third person. There’s a dynamic variety of sizes and shapes of actors, and when they convene for the culminating dinner, it is a sight to behold. Kudos to director Karin Coonrod for bringing all the layers of magic together. Come, be at this feast of theater, too!



Winter walks

Posted by on Jan 19, 2018 in Pastels, Peaks Island | 4 comments

As the anniversary of the Women’s March arrives, I’m reflecting on when I walked the very slowest in my life. Being in a huddled mass of humanity was life-affirming, our scrawled signs of dissent, our loud voices, our crush of bodies moving through Manhattan that historic day.

In the year since, I have walked daily, mostly solo but sometimes with others. I am deeply nourished by these walks and none more so than now, in the heart of winter on an island in Maine. I recently came across two things that confirm why my winter walks are so important.

In Brain Pickings, a marvelous newsletter of literary delights, I found this quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Every walk is a kind of crusade.” He also wrote: “Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.”

My daily walks were a habit as a dog owner, and many of my walking friendships were born in the company of canines. Like Peg, whose dear Sadie and my Posie were the best of fur friends. She visited on New Year’s Eve day to walk a little backshore and touch the full moon.

That super moon seen rising on New Year’s Day.

I’ve also walked the island’s frosted beaches with my neighbor, Nicole, who led the way at the Women’s March.

Former Peaks Islander and insightful author Caitie Whelan of Lightning Notes wrote:

“…this kind of beauty deserves a full pause. Beauty like that nourishes us.”

YES. I have so needed nature’s beauty for my spirit in the past year of political turbulence. Have you? Even on the coldest of days, getting outside has been imperative.

I’ve seen a fair amount of wildlife out walking, too.

Turkeys have been trotting around our end of the island enough that Marty made them the subject of his holiday card.

Sometimes I don’t head out until late in the day, when the moon might be hiding in the clouds.

If the tide is low, I enjoy catching the last light, always stopping at Troll Rock for gratitude.

I enjoyed several walks with my daughter during her college break. We often surprised a gaggle of skittish geese back into the sea.

She made us this sweet Christmas card of delicate snowfall.

When we caught the last sunlight, it was worth the bitter winds biting our cheeks.

A dusky sky is a divine moment.

Later, we encountered fellow walker, Kathy Hanley, who steered us to this magical sight: a snowy owl overlooking the marsh behind her house!

My New Year’s resolutions are simple: drink more water, walk every day, draw every day. It’s actually been the hardest to draw daily. But I managed a pastel sketch back in my studio of the owl sighting.

Another day I used thirty minutes waiting for a ferry to walk in a different end of the island.

Back at the ferry landing, these fine fowl waddled up Welch Street right past me.

Carol borrowed my scarf for a brisk but sunny walk to the TEIA to gaze at bobbing icebergs.

Whenever I spy a cardinal, I think of my dad, Bill Hogan, who loved red and built the Red Doors Motel where I grew up.

I gave this pastel to my mother in his memory. She’s gone, too, so it hangs now in our home.

On one walk, I found Daisy on her own perambulations.

I won’t be marching in NYC tomorrow, but I will be there in spirit. Our country’s got such a long way to go.

Whenever I arrive home, I am refreshed, and usually sweaty, even on the coldest of days.

Fare thee well, marchers, and all who brave the elements.



Portland Public Library Bookmarks!

Posted by on Jan 18, 2018 in Children's Book Illustration, Illustration, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library | 0 comments

Here’s the tale of how my Portland Public Library 150 Commemorative Bookmark came about. When Marty and I were contacted last May about participating in a series of artists’ bookmarks the library would use for fundraising, we said YEAH!!!! Of course! Well, right after asking when did they need the art, because that’s always my first consideration.

Project manager extraordinaire Heather Wasklewicz didn’t need the artwork until the end of August. That meant I could stall until a couple of weeks before. I have a saying (it comes from teaching) the more time you give an artist, the less time they will use. It surely applies to me, as well as most of my students! But once I got going, I had ideas.

My first one involved revisiting an old illustration that features a child in the woods on Peaks Island. It’s the illustration (used for a postcard years ago) that landed my first children’s book publisher. I cropped the illustration to see how it might fit the bookmark proportions.

I revised the idea in a rough sketch, in which a child is actually reading, not dreaming.

Meanwhile, Marty was sketching up a storm, too. His ideas all featured Peaks Island elements. I decided to focus on a setting other than the island. The Portland Observatory seemed like a good fit for the vertical composition. The fluttering flags, a playful balloon, and a young reader hanging out a window with a good book…

But I realized the emphasis was on the history of the PPL, not another historical institution. More ideas, please.

What about a silly owl with a book and plaid flannel pants and wellies?

Or a big chrysalis hanging over a butterfly girl?

Or a groovy reader in front of the Portland branch, wearing a library card?

I couldn’t decide. Thankfully, Heather picked the above, and provided me with a new card to use as a collage element. You know that song from Arthur, right? I couldn’t get it out of my head.

Having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card!

My model daughter obliged me for some handy photo reference.

The final illustration, submitted in late August.

Fast forward to almost Christmas. A package showed up on our door, it happens on Peaks now and then. We put it under the tree. What a delight when we opened up our stash of swag: bookmarks, a PPL blank journal, and a PPL bookbag. Thank you, Portland Public Library!

The best surprise was the company we are in, which includes five Peaks Islanders: Scott Nash on top, and from left to right, Scott Kelley, Marty Braun, Nancy Gibson-Nash, and me. Sweet!

Even better, all the bookmarks are for sale now at the Peaks Island Branch Library. Go get your bookmarks by Alice Spencer, Chris Benemen, and Teagan Moon!



It’s a Wonderful Life

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 1 comment

When I learned last winter that this season’s holiday show at Portland Stage Company would be It’s a Wonderful Life, I couldn’t WAIT to see the live radio play version. Joe Landry’s adaptation brought in all the vintage touches of a live radio broadcast, with applause signs, a foley table, and period commercials for cake soap and hair tonic.

I worked on rough ideas for the theater poster last February. My first idea used a big radio as if it’s the pivotal scene on the bridge between George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence.

Another composition, with a wreath and big vintage microphone above a small trio of actors.

My research on radio programs of the times showed everyone reading from a script. They could be carolers in this idea, with a big wreath framing two actors.

More variations on the theme…

Sketch #2 got the nod. I worked in pieces, since Portland Stage uses the illustration in so many formats. Background first! Bright red pastel, yum.

Our players, George, Mary, and Clarence. Of course, I didn’t know the casting at that point. I drew on sandy colored paper, blocking out the background with white, so the figures could be silhouetted digitally.

Likewise, the microphone was drawn on a white background for a silhouette that could be layered over the other elements.

Typography? Marty Braun came to my rescue, with a plethora of choices.

It’s a matter of digitally merging the separate illustrations from this point on, playing with scale and placement of the various parts, plus adding wings and snow, some shadows beneath the type.

I saw the noon show yesterday, with family plus our neighbor, Nikolai.

There was plenty to watch before the show, as actors gathered on set, a 1940’s era radio studio. Director and set designer Anita Stewart made ingenuous use of every inch.

In this production, nobody is reading their part! The fantastic cast nimbly changed multiple roles without missing a beat, donning a prop or two, while pulling off a full range of comedy to drama. David Mason channeled Jimmy Stewart impeccably, and Emma O’Donnell played a winsome Mary AND a despicable Mr. Potter. Dustin Tucker was downright divine as Clarence, yet also agile in countless other roles. His Mr. Walsh cracked me UP, as did Courtney Moors’ Mr. Martini.

Among my crew, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end.

There are still six days of performances. If you need a bit of angel in your frantic holiday chores, this will do it. Thank you, Portland Stage!




Sweet finish for Illustration MECA juniors

Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Art Classes, Drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, Peaks Island | 0 comments

I last wrote about my class at Maine College of Art after the first month of the semester HERE.

So so SO much has happened since! I’ve gotten to know the Junior Major illustration students  better, their abilities and voices have grown, and it has been one blur of productivity. Project 2 finals were brought in, and the crit was quite articulate and thoughtful, regarding the success of illustrating a figure in an environment with convincing space and depth. These two used the phone as a prop.

Illustration by Stephanie Henry


Illustration by Lauren Merritt


Illustration by Carla Nunez-Hernandez

Project 3 involved illustrating one of three editorial essays for a magazine. One was from Sierra Magazine, titled The Wilderness Out Your Front Door. To warm up, we had a visit from Katie Brodeur from the Center for Wildlife, seen here introducing Zipper, the corn snake.

Students sketched while she brought out a petite screech owl, Lady Willow, and then Wilbur, a curious opossum.

drawing by Jacob Papciak


drawings by HC Elliott

Students formed groups according to what article they had chosen and then brainstormed ideas with word lists. They were asked to develop concepts that played with metaphor and juxtaposition.

Art Director Beth Taylor of Longstocking Design visited class for a sketch critique, giving each student feedback on which preliminary idea was strongest and most appropriate to develop for the story.

Students placed their finished illustration in the context of the layout for the class critique.


Illustration by Fred Aldrich

Illustration by Alice Eafrati

Another article was from The Atlantic.

Illustration by Meaghan Chandonnet

The third article was for Nautilus Magazine.

Illustration by Sarah Sawtelle

Project 4 involved reportage, the visual documentation of an event or place. It was the perfect time for a field trip to Peaks Island. They hiked up to Scott Nash’s studio where the remnants of a Halloween installation were still in place.

Scott discussed his work and professional practices and answered their questions, surrounded by his toys and scraps of watercolor blotters.

They headed down the street to the home studio of Doug Smith, because there are illustrators everywhere here. He showed the preliminary sketches for a book jacket and students marveled at his collection of vintage illustration and pulp fiction paperbacks.

We engaged in an impromptu golf cart parade followed by a hike to Battery Steele.

Illustration by Stephanie Henry

We hiked through the woods to my house, where everyone ate brownies and Halloween candy.

Illustration by Eli Cania

Students had only a little time to trot down to the low tide.

Back to Portland too soon.

Illustration by Meaghan Chandonnet

Their choices of subject matter for the reportage assignment, which required five images, ranged from the public to the personal. Emily did a series of watercolors at a local cemetery, capturing a certain slant of light.

Illustration by Emily Carlson

Elliott documented five MECA students in costume at the Halloween party and put them into a zine. This is Baby Driver.

Illustration by HC Elliott

Jenna did a series on the special objects in her relationship. Like the couch she and her boyfriend moved several blocks.

Illustration by Jenna Zammett

Hannah’s series was about comfort zones, the places that bring her calm.

Illustration by Hannah Stritch

Right before the Thanksgiving break, MECA alum Sophie Cangelosi came in to demonstrate the RISO printer, which is a somewhat vintage machine that has found new fans. It requires printing in separate colors, like a silkscreen, but with the advantages of a copier. This is my sketch of Sophie.

She brought in some of her RISO misprints to discuss the accidental glories of imperfection.

Students brought in images from their sketchbooks to try out a couple of colors, discovering the challenges of registration.

print by Meghan McDunnah


print by Owen Scott


print by Jenna Zammett

After the break, there was intense hustling to complete all things for all courses. In the final assignment, students chose their own theme for three illustrations that had to be the same size, use of media, and color scheme so all three appeared related and demonstrated a deeper connection to what drives their illustrative voice.

One student used the RISO with strategic color mixing of orange, yellow, and blue inks.

Illustration by Sam Myrdek

Another chose to illustrate edible plants, emphasizing color and pattern.

Illustration by Emily Hepler

Another student brought historic buildings alive by creating an informational graphic with her hand-lettering.

Illustration by Eli Cania

This student created three posters of performers of magic, including a self portrait as a mentalist.

He embedded images of cake and the word cake in the illustration in an attempt to persuade us all to think CAKE. It worked on me! I felt compelled to make one for a sweet ending to a busy semester.

Congratulations to the juniors who stretched their abilities and showed so much patience in our 5 hour crits! What an honor to witness your growth and discovery. May you all rest up for the next semester and enjoy merry holidays!


Full moon soon

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in Drawing, Illustration, Luna Press, Pastels | 1 comment

Calling all lunatics! This Sunday will be the last full moon of 2017. I know this because of my handy dandy Lunar Calendar, to which I have contributed since 1983 at the invitation of Nancy. F. W. Passmore, editor of the Luna Press. I worked on the cover of the 2018 edition during my trip to Ireland in May. Well, I did a quick sketch anyway.

From the cottage where we stayed in Dunquin, I saw a distant island.

Everywhere we went, it was there, like a body floating.

It’s called Inis Tuaisceart and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Plus, there are goddess faces in unlikely places.

Upon return, I drew several versions of it with a slightly more goddess shape. After all, the Lunar Calendar is Dedicated to the Goddess in Her Many Guises.

I’ve illustrated the cover many times. This is my fourteenth! Normally I do several ideas for consideration, but on this I was really into this single idea. But I did several color studies, each featuring a crescent moon, since that’s what we saw during our stay in Dunquin.

The final pastel captures how alive the goddess can be under even a sliver of moonlight.

I did an interior piece, also sparked by our travels in Ireland. We stopped at the Celtic History Museum one afternoon, where I saw this curious figurine.

Later that day, we came upon a labyrinth behind the church in Dingle.

Some things can’t be explained. This is what I did.

In order to fit the calendar, Nancy sought poetry to be paired with this. Voila, Diana Rowan obliged, with grace! It appears in black and white in the calendar, above the informative spiral of moon phases and their daily rise and set times.

How else do I know when to wait by the ocean for the moon to perform it’s magic? Meet me back shore on Peaks at 4:30 this Sunday, if you like.


Giving thanks

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Book: Island Birthday, Children's Book Illustration, Drawing, Illustration, Pastels, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, Publisher: Tilbury House | 2 comments

Don’t ask me how a flock of wild turkeys has been roaming our end of the island for many weeks. Leading up to Thanksgiving Day, there were plenty of jokes about them. Peaks Island is part of the City of Portland, where no hunting is permitted, so these birds were just free range.

When our daughter returned for college break, our first stop was at the delightful Dahlov Ipcar exhibit at the Portland Public Library. You can’t miss the fantastic reading nook with a mural of lively fowl! This First Friday is the closing reception, so hurry up.

Besides Ipcar’s original picture book art that dates as far back as the 40’s, there are super sweet animals hopping around.

On Thanksgiving Day, we ventured across the road to our neighbor’s house where a bunny named Mathilda holds court on the porch. Here’s my humble sketch of her bundle of fur.

The Moxhay’s kitchen has been duly represented in Island Birthday.

I could hardly do it’s wonders justice in my illustration. We walked into a cloud of yummy cooking smells.

Our dear neighbor Nicole was already there, sharing this board of goodness.

An elegant table had been lovingly set, hand-lettered place cards by Imogen.

Nikolai made hand printed souvenirs for everyone.

He also entertained us all with his nimble balloon craft. I sketched one of them later.

After a sumptuous meal, we headed to the shore just in time for the day’s end.

It took more than a few self-timed camera shots to get this one. Don’t blink!

The sky just kept getting better and better.

We earned our pie, we did!

Nothing like a dessert table, is there? Ginger tea, chardonnay, cider, and cabernet with a heady bouquet of conversations.

Thank you, Moxhays, for hosting a memorable feast!

As a family, we avoid Black Friday. All I bought was two pounds of coffee from Peaks Island Coffee Roasters during a ride around the Rock.

On Saturday, we headed to town. Big YES to Small Business Saturday! I found gorgeous hand printed wares by Pretty Flours on our way to the Animation Show of Shows at the Portland Museum of Art.

Sunday was all island time. Long walks and talks.

We walked past the horses. Daisy heard the news: these acres of island farm are up for sale, victim of a border dispute.

I drew island horses owned by Jeanann Alves years ago for her picture book, Maddie’s Magical Ride. In fact, Olwyn and Imogen Moxhay posed for this illustration when they were little.

I hope the horses can remain on island, and their story has a happy ending. I give thanks to all the creatures here and gone on this tiny rock three miles out to sea! SO grateful for family, friends, and children’s books, they all share a deep thread in my life.








Illustration MECA field trip

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Art Classes, Children's Book Illustration, Drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, Travels | 6 comments

A week ago I traveled west with senior Illustration MECA majors, co-chaperoning another field trip led by our intrepid Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd. This time we ventured in a wagon train of cars, landing at the venerable Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. While awaiting everyone’s arrival, we ate our bag lunches in the classroom, appropriately surrounded by the drawings of young artists.

Our tour guide, Patrick O’Donnell, led us through early works by Rockwell, with the eye of a professional illustrator. We saw Rockwell’s detailed studies in charcoal pencil near the classroom. Here’s my charcoal sketch of Patrick.

We sat before each of the Four Freedoms, slowing down our looking to discover Rockwell’s calculated visual strategies. I had not seen the likeness to Abraham Lincoln before, or the symbolism of the speaker’s blue collar.

He brought us down to the archives, where Rockwell’s reference photos show the story behind his authentic realism: his models, many of whom visit the museum regularly. He pulled out Rockwell’s paintbox and some of his correspondence, including a letter from Walt Disney, which Rachel Breckenridge was thrilled to read aloud.

We then roamed about Tony di Terlizzi’s exhibit, Never Abandon Imagination.  The Class of 2016 met Tony on a previous field trip, and the opportunity to see his work was a main draw for the Class of 2018.

There’s a cool display in which Tony says he is an award-winning illustrator and a thief. He traces his borrowing to specific sources in both fine art and illustration history. Perfect examples for students to dig deep!

Illustrators get a kick out of putting themselves into their work, including Rockwell. I enjoyed spying this piece by Tony of Mo Willems and himself at a table in Paris, which appeared in their collaboration, The Story of Diva and Flea.

It was a sweet surprise to come across this exhibit about the Famous Artists School.

This was a popular correspondence course launched in 1948 by illustrator Albert Dorne. I inherited the four volume set a few years ago that belonged to my uncle, Roland Hogan. What a vintage treasure of traditional methods! Nice to see the same binders and all the ephemera together.

Some things never go out of style, such as drawing in sketchbooks. I noted one of the display’s signage read:

Time and again, Famous Artists School illustrators urged their students to steep themselves in art and experiences. For Robert Fawcett, other training was just mechanical. He advised students not to worry about technique or about the development of a “style,” noting that technique emerges from a way of thinking and feeling and that style follows naturally. Drawing on location frees the mind and the hand, and makes personal exploration with no strings attached possible…”

My students know I push sketchbooks as ultimate tools of discovery, so finding reinforcement of that philosophy is a delight.

We shopped in the store and wandered over to Rockwell’s studio. It was closed, but the fresh air and expansive views of the Berkshires as golden light settled over the hills was a perfect ending to our visit.

Next stop was Northampton where we settled into our hotel. Kids wasted no time in making for the pool!

Western Mass. is a veritable Bermuda Triangle for illustrators. We headed out in the morning for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in nearby Amherst.

Even a pile of leaves looks well-placed there.

We let our souls shine walking through the portal to the exhibit, Eric Carle: Night.

Here’s my sketch of Courtney Waring, Director of Education and our welcoming guide who walked us through the galleries.

Besides all the work of Eric Carle, we saw a fantastic exhibit, Collecting Inspiration: Contemporary Illustrators and their Heroes. Curated by that dynamic duo of Mo Willems and Tony di Terlizzi, the pairings of art that illustrators bought for their own collections beside their own work, plus the fascinating stories behind them was… downright brilliant.

Nobody could resist a drawing table, c’mon.

Let it be said, the Class of 2018 is adorable.

Left to right, back row: Jennifer Olson, Katie Steere, Michaela Flint, Cara Peslak, Veronica Jones, Kat Harris, Rachel Breckenridge, Rob Mannix, Hannah Barrett. Left to right, front row: Tyler Eldridge, Amanda Wood, Aric Gross, Kolby Senrick, Brittany Taylor, Jeremy Libby, and Sami Monoxelos.

We fueled up at Atkins Farms before returning to Northampton for one last destination, the R. Michelson Galleries. Located in a former bank, the galleries include a vault of priceless work. Students oohed and aahed at the actual prices. On the balcony, Sami and Kat were dwarfed by a set piece by Maurice Sendak from the opera, The Love of Three Oranges.

We hit the road for Maine full beyond words. It was a blast to witness so many worlds of illustration in the company of this year’s awesome class. Thanks to Mary Anne Lloyd and Maine College of Art for the infinite miles of inspiration!



Complications From A Fall

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

Kate Hawley’s script Complications From A Fall, triggered some heartache for me. Having walked that final episode of eldercare with my mother years ago, it touched a few nerves. I went looking for the walker that is still in the basement, don’t ask me why. That thing was a metaphor for my mother’s decline. I made it an element in all of my ideas for the poster for Portland Stage’s recent production.

In one scene, Elizabeth, the aging mother, sets fire to some old letters. It seemed very direct to visualize the walker falling in flames.

Maybe too direct. So I tried variations with people.

In this idea, Elizabeth’s son, Teddy, has arrived to take over the eldercare from his uptight sister, Helen, while she attends, of all things, an Ibsen conference. Eldercare throws everything out of whack, family roles and identities are in a disorienting suspension. Teddy spends part of the play on the couch, drinking from his flask of Scotch.

Here the walker in the foreground dominates the scene. Like Elizabeth’s care literally does.

I tried three silhouettes, of Elizabeth, of Helen with her luggage, and of Lucy, the young caregiver. Teddy’s face is in the glass.

Medications are the dominant element in this one. So much of eldercare rests on them.

Marketing director Eileen Phelan asked to see some ideas without booze or drugs. I revised a previous sketch to include Helen and Teddy in the background.

I reversed the emphasis here, with the siblings in the foreground, Elizabeth burning an old letter in the background.

This sketch made the cut.

For the final illustration, I decided to keep the center bright, like a flame in a field of blue. Had a blast just making textures in pastel.

The linear figures were digitally layered over the drawn background. Fun to see the poster appear in the New Yorker!

All the posters for this season were done in a feverish rush between January and March. Normally I like to attend the shows early in their run. But, Portland Stage has so much goodness going on. Instead we saw The Haunting Hour in late October, which was crazy creepy good.

We saw the show on Friday night, and it was deeper and funnier than I expected. That would be stellar direction by Paul Mullins and performances by Maureen Butler (a regular favorite of mine) and Erik Saxvik. The set design was brilliant, with all the touches of Elizabeth’s home tidy and ready for the emotional unraveling to come.

My theater dates clearly enjoyed it. Thanks to amazing actress Moira Driscoll for taking this photo.

Complications From A Fall hit all the still tender spots, but with compassion. The last chapter for one’s parents can be disorienting, yet so important to bear witness.

Gunnel Larsdotter wrote to me afterwards, “Staging, incredibly well done. The play also gave us things of both serious and not so serious nature to ponder. “Elizabeth” -the lead – a super star!”

Tonight is the last performance. I truly hope you saw it.