Sketchbooks on Peaks: round 5!

Posted by on Aug 12, 2017 in Art Classes, drawing, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island | 3 comments

Maine College of Art faculty Judy Labrasca and I led our fifth Peaks Island Sketchbooks Workshop last Saturday. The weather gods dealt us complete fog this year, not necessarily a bad thing. It was like being in a bell jar, with no horizon line and maybe less crowds. We began on the beach with a discussion of sketchbook practices, paper preferences, and handy tools for portability, like this wee watercolor palette Judy brought.

This class is a gently guided tour of sketching spots with permission to find your own point of view. Judy made small sketchbooks for everyone and I supplied Canson and Sennelier pastel papers to add. Without further ado, sketchers found their perches. Doris focused on a composition of stones while another ferry departs.

Janine gave her signature flourish to the water’s edge.

A driftwood seat for Dan and Lisa works just fine!

Cheryl got experimental with both watercolor and natural textures.

There was not much view, really. It’s the power of artistic vision to bring out mood and place.

Doris used a pastel blending stick to achieve this evocative drawing that hints at the distant presence of House Island.

I tried drawing the very complex structure that is the Peaks Island transfer bridge, the portal we pass through every trip.

We witnessed more than a few canines on their morning strolls to the shore.

Molly quickly captured this dog’s personality in her graphic view.

This dog just needs a unicorn horn, right?

We packed up and moved on to Sandy Beach. At high tide, it’s mostly ledge. We found places to draw from the rocks.

Jay’s watercolor of Whitehead Passage is so serene.

Another dog enjoyed a swim while the gnarly tree provided visual interest for some.

Edie began to draw all it’s winding detail.

I sketched the sketchers below me.

We moved on to the Fifth Maine Museum, where we ate our lunches and shared what we had done so far.

In Mary’s sketchbook, she captured the gap between Picnic Point and Cushing Island in lovely strokes.

Mary and Jay are regular drawing companions, and talked about their favorite methods and tools.

We split up again to draw more. A few ventured down into the Fifth Maine’s gardens.

Sudden sprinkles drove us all back onto the porch.

Doris began this bright botanical study. Leave it to an artist to create a buzz of color!

Judy took this photo of Peaks as the class returned to the mainland. The island has been shrouded in fog many times this summer, but I don’t mind. It slows down and gets dreamy, the fog horns muffled by the mist.

Thank you, MECA and Judy, and all the intrepid artists I am honored to meet. Keep filling those mighty sketchbooks!



Story & Craft

Posted by on Aug 11, 2017 in A Porcupine's Promenade, Charlesbridge Publishing, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration, Illustration Institute, Peaks Island, school visits, Seven Days of Daisy | 1 comment

This summer my cup runneth over with kidlit elixirs. I was pleased as punch to share in one of Pat Crowley Rockwell’s Story and Craft adventures at the Peaks Island library. She is an esteemed educator, the Assistant Principal at King Middle School, and a passionate advocate of children’s books and reading to kids.


She featured A Porcupine’s Promenade by Lyn Smith, how could I not join in? After she read the story, I shared my little pencil dummy and showed one of the original drawings. Kids like to touch the rough sanded paper I use for my pastels. Plus, Pat’s programs always involve a craft, the chance to get little hands on something.


Kids and adults were invited to grab a ball of clay, a box of toothpicks, and some googly eyes. What’s not to love? Just mashing the clay around was a squishy pleasure.


Even with limited materials, plenty of prickly personalities emerged.


I brought mine home to dry and Marty added a finishing touch with airbrush, thank you.


The next day I visited Bright Horizons where my intrepid niece, Cristel, is an award-winning pre-K teacher.


The eager energy of this crowd is a welcome shot in the arm. Their wide-eyed enthusiasm for story always fills me to the brim. I brought my little dummies for Seven Days of Daisy to pass around, along with a few props from the story.


We talked about marking time, and they knew all about it.


At this age (mostly 4 year olds) they are still figuring out the abstraction of time. How long is a week? They’re just getting the hang of the days of the week, sometimes upside down.


They were mighty eager to draw their own stories in the books I brought for them. The parallels can make you giggle.


I noticed some cut paper simpatico in the work of Cristel’s co-worker, Dragona, who makes the room bright.



Some made vigorous color marks while others drew careful lines.


A few took center stage to read their stories, which had no writing but plenty to tell.


Thank you, Bright Horizons, for the book love!

Next up was a Curious City Kidlit Libation outing on the Eastern Prom, where liquid craft was in order.


Witness the rare circle of 2 dogs, 2 librarians, 1 agent, 1 bartender/kidlit wunderkind, 2 authors, and 4 illustrator/authors soaking up the atmosphere.. Best folks to hang with on any dang day.


This week another Illustration Institute adventure unfolded on Peaks Island at Mark Hoffmann’s workshop on Lateral Thinking.

I sketched him while he talked about his background (yay, fellow RISD alum) and methods of working.


He learned the craft of story telling while working after graduation at Soup to Nuts, an animation studio in Boston, and the value of speedy sketching.

I also drew another participant with lovely hair.


He has moved from gouache to painting on the iPad with Procreate, and limits his color palette, while also making copious lists. We divided into groups to tackle lateral brain-storming for five concepts: Secrets, Loss, Danger, Aging, and Chores. Our mission was to create lists of words stemming from words and finding idea combinations that would “push beyond the expected.” Each group went to work, and after half an hour, one spokesperson delivered a story pitch. BOOM. Stories galore!

And then he signed his first book, You Can Read, a wonderful romp in tertiary colors through the wilds where stories can take us.


On Monday, I will be at Ocean Park to share Here Come the Humpbacks and drawing creatures of the sea. The stories and craft cruise on, and I am blessed to be in this kidlit boat.

Vinalhaven adventures

Posted by on Aug 7, 2017 in drawing, Island Birthday, Tilbury House, travels | 8 comments

Our romance began on two wheels. It’s become tradition to roll the bikes outta the barn to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Because every island is unique in culture and geography, we love exploring other Maine islands, but getting motorcycles on two ferries in the same day can be tricky. We opted to take our time.

After a Friday morning stop at Street Cycles, where Marty’s Versys 650 Kawasaki failed inspection, we kept on. Riding the roundabout way through Pownal, Lisbon Falls, Sabbatus, and Hope, we arrived in Rockland at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art.


But we didn’t have time for that. We needed to see Peaks Islander Scott Kelley’s show at Dowling Walsh before it closed!  This year’s collection of huge watercolors featuring Maine animals in Native American dress is downright stunning. If you missed it, you can read his newly published children’s book, Birch. All these characters play a part in a Gluskap legend from Wabanaki stories. Scott’s attention to detail is mesmerizing.


We had just enough time to ride to our lodgings at the Craignair Inn in Spruce Head.


We watched the light fade from our dining spot.


Saturday morning we made an impromptu stop at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. Vintage everything there! SO cool! Just look at this 1935 Indian Scout.


I’ll spare you all the photos I took for future reference, but here’s one fave.


There’s also an excellent display of vintage posters. I love all of this, the typefaces, the color scheme…


We learned the protocol for boarding the Vinalhaven ferry. No reservations left, but were told room can be found for any motorcycle. Otherwise, a vehicle needs a “line number” and we watched lots of car swapping before getting waved on.


The passage to Vinalhaven was sunny and smooth; about an hour and fifteen minutes of tranquility during which we spotted dolphins and seals. It was a short ride to the Tidewater Motel in Carver’s Harbor, which sits over the estuary at the harbor’s north end. The constant burble of the water’s ebb and flow is beyond soothing.

And our deck!


We explored the windy roads for awhile, many of them become gravel and are private. Plenty of pretty coves to pose with, though. My Honda GB500 still looks good.


Compared to Peaks, only a mile long and a mile and a half wide, Vinalhaven has a jagged coastline dotted with tiny islands over about 23 square miles of land, and 145 of water. We rode to several dead ends before returning to our room to watch the changing light.


Vinalhaven’s granite industry has a rich history. Excavated here since the mid 1800’s, it can be seen in the State Department in Washington, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Washington Monument, and many other locations. This eagle stands watch in the center of the village.


The main drag on a Saturday we walked nearby for dinner at the Haven.


Sunday morning we exchanged our hand made anniversary cards and little gifts under a cloudless sky. Any visitor should read Tidewater owner Phil Crossman’s Away Happens. As the “island hotelier” himself wrote in the current issue of the Island Journal, “It’s those simple things, the natural beauty of the island and the vicarious appeal of sitting on the waterfront deck and watching the lobster fleet go about their business that most find fulfilling.”


Indeed! We did a lot of just sitting and watching, and met a guest next door who has fallen in love with Vinalhaven and is plotting her move in the next year. As year-round Peaks Islanders for 25 years, we suggested she try visiting in the winter, at least once.

A sculpture by Robert Indiana says it all. We learned he still lives here, frail but cared for.


Who made this curious folk art monument?


We happened upon a plane waiting for take-off and stopped to chat with the Penobscot Air pilot. Maine islands rely on these intrepid folk!


We had delighted in a 10 minute flight from Matinicus a few years ago when I was working on illustrations like this one for Island Birthday.


Coincidence: Marty posed as the pilot, and Scott Kelley was my model for Harv, on the right.

We returned to our room, got out of our sweaty riding gear, and went strolling. Not much was open on Sunday, but I managed to buy something unwrinkled to wear at Phinneas Fogg.

We walked past charming houses and more scenic views.


Perched near a bridge, I made this quick sketch.


I sketched again from our deck.


Dare I share our amateur selfie? Happy 29 years to my moto martini!


We enjoyed the busy vibe at Salt, and a delicious meal, too.


One full day on Vinalhaven is not enough. We headed back to Peaks on Monday, vowing to return. The Vinalhaven and Rockland boats depart simultaneously six times a day, crossing mid-way on the bay.


We made it back onto the last vehicle ferry to Peaks at 5:35, counting our infinite blessings. Back to work, the drawing table, and the last of summer’s parade of visitors and events. Vroom!






Illustration Institute Inspires

Posted by on Aug 3, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, Peaks Island | 4 comments

This month has been jam-packed with visitors and events. I am inspired and jazzed about the new Illustration Institute’s Marilyn Faison Artist Residency.

There are two houses on Peaks Island available to illustrators and authors for retreats, and they are just up the hill in the woods behind my house. This is the Stone Cottage, nestled in the pines at the top of Tolman Heights.


I brought over a pie to Henrik and Wing, artists/residents for two weeks.


They had decent time to be residential, like take strolls and dunk in the ocean. We showed them our favorite cook-out spot.


The light shifts in lovely ways and the waves almost drown out the conversation.


We brought them back to their cottage just in time for their dog, Tofu, to fall fast asleep.


A few days later, Henrik led a two hour workshop at the Peaks Island branch library.


It was a great crowd of veterans and newcomers to book-making.


Henrik talked about his path to book making. “I went to art school for about five minutes,” he said. He was too restless and more inclined to travel, always drawing in books. “My portfolio was my notebook.” His work was well received, and he got contract offers, doing several books, some of which were in a pile on the table.


Simon’s Book appeared on Reading Rainbow, giving him great visibility beyond publishing. His most recent book, China Days, is a personal chronicle of living in Dali, Yunnan, a mountain town in Southwest China where he and his partner, Wu Wing Yee, enjoyed the benefits of time and space to make their art.

He also said, “Unless you are published, you can’t get published,” which is the current conundrum of today’s publishing landscape. He asked us to choose our paper supplies and begin folding.


Once we had our little books assembled, he gave us various drawing prompts, such as drawing the room and also the other folks. We also passed our books to others.


We cut up two of the pages into three sections for drawing parts of faces, swapping for others to add their bits.


Some observations and awls…


There was more tricky folding directions that required intense focus…


Witness the camaraderie of happy workshop campers.


L to F: Nancy Gibson Nash, James Steinberg, Wu Wing Yee, Michaela Flint, Hal Mayforth, Eda French, Henrik Drescher, Marty Braun

I decided to decorate the cover of my little book appropriately. Thanks to ii, Illustration Institute!


Just two days later, more ii goodness arrived when JooHee Yoon gave a fantastic lecture at Maine College of Art.


She spoke in Osher Hall to an eager crowd about her journey in the illustration field after graduating from Rhode Island School of Design in 2011. She explained the rigors of working for the New York Times, when an e-mail arrives in the morning and sketches are due by noon, final by 6 PM.


She was asked to provide a visual that conveyed her feelings after the November election. This is about the “worm of fear” she felt walking the streets in a daze.


She majored in illustration but spent a lot of time making silkscreen prints, which became an approach she has exploited digitally in her work, using separated colors in layers. But as for using Photoshop, she said she uses only three tools: the magic wand, the lasso, and the brush. “It’s better to know less. The infinite options available can make you crazy.”

She admitted she did not have a sketchbook practice in school, but said, “I’ve changed my ways. It’s relaxing to draw just by looking, and not have to have a clever idea.” This is a drawing from her sketchbook done while traveling in Japan, where her fascination for the jumble of signage led to a series of posters featuring food trucks.


Currently she is living in Brooklyn doing a one-year residency at the Lower East Side Printshop, exploring copper plate etching. While on her residency on Peaks Island, she worked on another book project for Enchanted Lion. I only spied her once, riding a bicycle backshore, where I gave her a sweaty hug. JooHee was in the second Faison Residency cottage with her parents, across the road from the Stone Cottage. I owe her a pie, because we took off for our own travels the next day.

There is SO MUCH going on with Illustration Institute events, my head is spinning. Soon, Lyn Smith will be in the Stone Cottage, and we’ll see what prickly trouble we can get into.

Coming up there will be a workshop with Mark Hoffman, talks given by Chris Raschka, Emily Flake, and Mimi Pond, plus a screening of Beauty is Embarrassing with Wayne White. You can keep up with this parade at the Illustration Institute’s Facebook page. Announcements keep coming!

I’ll leave you with my sketch of Mimi, last seen sporting a beard as Mistress of Ceremonies at the beard-heavy ICON in Portland, Oregon in 2014.


Kudos to the Illustration Institute for it’s bold advocacy of the illustration field. I’m off now to Kidlit Libations, another gathering of local folks in book-making hi-jinks. No lazy summer around these parts!


Book friends unite

Posted by on Jul 19, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, travels | 0 comments

It’s no secret that most children’s books are about relationships.  Author Lyn Smith and I traveled recently to visit fellow book creator,  Jo Miles Schuman.  Lyn and Jo met via Maine Authors Publishing and I’m always down to meet fellow book makers. We found her homestead along a winding road with acres and acres of rolling woods and wetlands beyond.


We ducked beneath swooping swallows nesting in the dark rafters of her barn and into a sunny studio where Jo served a scrumptious rhubarb pie and carrot cake. Double dessert, yes please.


Her studio is filled with collections of nature objects and art tools.  As a former art teacher and author of Art From Many Hands, she is a strong advocate of drawing directly from the wild.


Out the window, we spied a baby swallow resting between amateur flights.


Jo shared some of the wood block prints she’s done for an evolving book idea. Absolutely stunning!


At one point she wheeled aside a wall to reveal stacks upon stacks of amazing wood block prints from a long chapter in printmaking. Her keen eye for detail and compelling compositions had me gushing.


All too soon it was time to depart. Thanks to Jo for a delicious window into her realm of art practice, book making, and carving a wild life in Maine.


Authors Jo Mile Schuman and Lyn Smith

A week later, I attended the presentation, A Glimpse into North Korea, by long-time friend and Peaks Island neighbor, Anne Sibley O’Brien. With over 35 children’s books published, Annie has been a huge model and mentor for me. She was raised in South Korea as the daughter of medical missionaries and has worked for the last ten years on her latest, In the Shadow of the Sun, a political escape thriller set in North Korea.

The Portland Public Library sponsored event was held in the Peaks Island Branch Community Room, where Annie detailed the saga of her research and travels to a large crowd of neighbors and loyal island readers.  She is pointing here to the spot where her characters find a clue, I think!


She read an early passage from the book and took questions.


What a sweet feeling to buy her book and have her sign it! Book makers know these moments are hard-earned.


In the same spot next week, I’m eager for an upcoming book-making workshop with Henrik Drescher, renowned artist and prolific book creator, thanks to Peaks Island’s own Illustration Institute. I have a small but mighty collection of his adventuresome works which I treasure.


We met back when he did a 3-day workshop with Illustration majors at Maine College of Art, seen here intently assembling their hand-stitched collaboration in 2014.


No doubt the energy will be just as fierce in next week’s workshop, with two hours of intensity. Bring it on!

For two weeks, Henrik and his partner, Wu Wing Yee, are encamped, just up the hill from my house, at the Illustration Institute’s Faison Residency. This secluded artist residency was initiated in memory of Marilyn Faison, an artist and long-time summer resident of Peaks Island, who with her husband, John, invited many artists to share their island retreat. Director Scott Nash is tickled to have a roster of notables in the field of children’s publishing visit Maine, the inspirational source of many classic story books.

Here Wing and Henrik look for inspiration, or maybe just the incoming fog.


Also next week, fellow RISD alum and brave bookmaker JooHee Yoon will be in residency as well. She will  give a lecture at Maine College of Art’s Osher Hall on July 27 at 6:30. Make sure you are there early!


JooHee’s work exuberantly layers unexpected colors, evidence of her joy in printmaking surprises. I met her a couple of years ago at a RISD Reads event. So looking forward to seeing her on Peaks Island!


What a bounty of book making folks in my world. Every one of them is a shot in my drawing arm. Back to work I go!


Book Friends

Posted by on Jul 12, 2017 in Art Classes, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Here Come the Humpbacks, Illustration, Maine College of Art, pastels, Peaks Island, Seven Days of Daisy, travels | 0 comments

Way back in 2009, I visited the Friends School of Portland to read my first children’s book, Seven Days of Daisy. Friends do make the world go ’round.


Fast forward to a recent sunny Tuesday, when I headed off island to visit their Stories by the Forest program. When I arrived at the Peaks Island dock, it was oddly quiet. Where is everybody? Well, yours truly had missed the boat! The summer schedule change got me! So, I promptly called the trusty water taxi.

Here she comes, zipping across a placid Casco Bay.


I made it to Cumberland Foreside in a timely manner and set up my table of drawing supplies and books, beneath a shady tent. How sweet to find a vase of daisies provided by Summer Program Director, Laura Glendenning!


These events are free and open to the public, and plenty of summer campers gathered, ready to hear what happens in Here Come the Humpbacks! by April Pulley Sayer.


I did a quick bear drawing on request, and one little artist added his curious lines to mine, to everyone’s delight.


Everyone tried out pastels on little pieces of the sanded paper I use.


This loopy drawing echos the snake on another artist’s shirt.


Here is a mini seascape by Michelle Chetwynd, a friend I made at a book visit to Ocean Park a few summers ago. I will be there again this August 14!


Her daughter Claire made a pretty pattern in multiple colors.


I’m always intrigued by the variety of responses to materials. Thanks, Friends School, for a lively encounter with such an engaged group of campers!

Back on Peaks, I made some new friends and saw familiar faces at the recent Color and Pages of Peaks at the TEIA club. This annual community event raises funds with a portion of sales going to summer camp scholarships.


Readers can find plenty of familiar Peaks scenes and friends within the pages of my books. If you’d like to draw with me, join Maine College of Art’s Sketchbooks Workshop, co-taught with Judy Labrasca here on Peaks on August 5. We always have a grand time!

Le Retour

Posted by on Jun 29, 2017 in Illustration | 3 comments


Since illustrating the cover of Nicole d’Entremont’s A Generation of Leaves, I’ve witnessed her continued discovery of the depths of that story. After taking a play writing class at Maine College of Art’s Continuing Studies Program, she began developing dialogue for her novel’s characters that would become Le Retour.  Her play will be on stage next week at Salle Pere Maurice in Tusket, Nova Scotia, presented by Theatre Generations. Show times are July 7 and July 14 at 7:30, tickets are $12 at the door. For more information, call (902) 740-4094. Nicole will be in the wings, and will sign copies of the novel after the performance, with 50% of the proceeds benefiting the Theatre Generations.

Her novel takes the reader from Pubnico, Nova Scotia to the trenches of World War 1. Le Retour goes into new territory, with the return home of the second son, Elzear.

She wrote, “The coming home stories always seem to get little air time. I wonder why? Maybe they just aren’t the stories we want to hear. The story my father told me about Uncle Felix when he returned home and, seeing that his mother had pinned a newspaper photograph of General Douglas Haig (Commander of British and Canadian troops) on the wall, tore it down and threw it into the parlor stove fire with the words, if they want another war, they’ll have to find me in the woods.”

She discovered the complex and bitter history of the return of Canadian soldiers. Her play is a work of the imagination, with inspiration from these family anecdotes. The d’Entremont ancestral roots still run deep in Pubnico.

For the poster, Nicole envisioned the scene of a returning soldier. I found my photo of a Pubnico house taken on a previous trip to Nova Scotia, a common sight in that area of Acadie.


I found excellent sources of Canadian war posters like this online.


But what does a Canadian soldier look like from the back? A less glorious view in reality.


I needed more detail; thank you, internet.


I presented these rough ideas to the playwright.






Nicole had an immediate response to the second sketch, in which the face of Leonce, the first brother who was killed, looks out from the brooding sky as Elzear returns. With a few revisions, this became the final poster.


Currently the play is in rehearsal, and Nicole sent these photos. Plenty of action!

Aubrey, narrator and Boudreau family friend, is played by Réal Boudreau who speaks an elegant mix of “franglais” in the play.


Léonce, the first Boudreau son off to war, played by Tim Schraeder, and Elzéar the second son, played by Léo d’Entremont, struggle as Aubrey attempts to intervene.


Shelly Clark, Elzéar’s love interest, played by Carrie Thompson and Elzéar share a moment as (if you look closely) Léonce stares from the wings.


Next week will be full dress rehearsals. The troupe formed Theatre Generations to apply for grant funding to take the play to Belgium next year, the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1. May their all-volunteer efforts bring history home for all of us, in memory of the sacrifice as well as the loss of generations. But will we ever learn?

Happy 150th birthday, O Canada!




Ireland adventures: Cork to Dublin

Posted by on Jun 11, 2017 in drawing, Illustration, travels | 5 comments

We headed to Cork on June 2, driving back up the Dingle peninsula about 40 miles to Tralee. While at the Dingle Library, I’d read an essay about the Two Paps, a pair of mountains which, upon seeing them, the writer felt nourished by. I kept looking for them as the landscape, quilted in greens, rolled by.


Every so often we’d ride through a town, where the ancient hugs the modern.


We took an hour’s detour down to Kenmare, so I could pick up a cashmere sweater for Grace, the only person to request I bring something very specific back. It was the quickest of stops; Marty wasn’t keen on driving a mile further than necessary. We got turned around upon leaving and made an accidental detour that included a stop while a couple let some sheep out of their truck. Traffic jam, Irish style.

We arrived in Cork City late in the day.


Our lodging, the Crawford House, lacked the charms of a stone cottage, but was conveniently located near plenty of pubs and restaurants so we walked everywhere.


We’d heard Cork was famous for it’s food, and we tried two restaurants that were all booked, and wound up in a noisy pub, James St. 1767. Let me just say, you can’t go wrong in Ireland. No matter where you land, the folks are friendly and they mean their Cead Mile Failte when they say it. Once the Guinness arrives, it’s all good. We moved over to the bar after dinner to hear the live music, but it was not a trad session. Four excellent guitarists with a mediocre vocalist and a string-less green guitar enshrined nearby entertained us for a bit.


The next morning while Daisy slept, Marty and I set out in search of breakfast. We found Oh My Donut! and knew the whole day would be sweet, no matter what.


We ambled across the River Lee into the gates of University College Cork.


The Glucksman Gallery is a startling piece of architecture near the entrance of campus.


Our first encounter was in the foyer, an installation by Women living in Direct Provision. That is, immigrants who are held waiting for the correct papers, marking their days of limbo in stitches and henna on their hands. Eye opening.


Art always provides a moment apart, an encounter that suspends time while triggering so many associations beyond the visual. As a family, we tend to look solo, at our own pace, and discuss our impressions later. The next floor’s exhibit was Enter Stage Left, with “work by artists whose practice delves into realms of stage craft.”

Whatever that means, the colors by Lothar Gotz hit me like a brick, in a good way.


Watched an informative short film that showed Gareth Kennedy carving this mask.


There was an excellent show of drawings, Set in Time, from the collection of Serge Lifar, no photographs allowed there. But we swooned over Picasso’s line work, Cocteau, di Chirico, and many more. On the next floor there was a curious installation of props that featured many penises and vaginas, and I can’t remember the artist. It seemed to involve Wagnerian themes and sex rites. Daisy found it very “art school.”


We moved on to browsing at Relics and Records and Time Travelers Book Shop. Nothing bought, but much gained in the looking. We headed south to Kinsale, a town stacked by the sea not unlike Sausalito, in a way.


As we parked on a hill, I encountered bride spotting, a spectator sport of mine that comes from living on Peaks Island, where one can easily bump into a bridal photo opp without going out of one’s way. Here I just missed the bride, but heard the squeals that came from her dress blowing up and giving everyone a good view before she collapsed into the car. It was a blustery day.


I spotted another while rounding the five star points.


Charles Fort is the site of historic battles that settled the score between Ireland and Britain. A couple of buildings are intact and offer informative displays, while the rest is crumbling with age.


The wee lighthouse and commanding views made for a lovely walk into the winds.


Once in the center of town, we roamed about considering where to eat.


We happily landed here for a fine meal and excellent service.


We missed the rain during dinner, but found a rainbow before returning to Cork. Sorry, no leprechauns.


The next morning we turned in our rental car at the Cork Airport, much to Marty’s relief. You can get used to driving on the left, but locals drive so much faster, it gets exhausting. We took our first bus back into Cork, delighted by the logo.


The walk from the bus to the train station got our hearts pumping.


Once on the train, we became drowsy with the rocking of the cars and the bucolic scenes blurring past.



Upon arrival in Dublin, we took a tram two stops to our hotel overlooking Smithfield Square. Best surprise: a balcony!


We hung out for awhile people watching, some who were doing the same.


We crossed the River Liffey to Ned O’Shea’s for a fine meal of Irish stew and the sound of musicians in the next room. Is this not beautiful?


We encountered great street art.


This was at one end of Smithfield Square which we could see from our room.


It turned out that Monday, June 5, was a bank holiday and our intended destinations were closed. We decided to walk to them anyway, and take in the Dublin air.


Dublin Castle is a sight to behold. Built in the thirteenth century on the site of a Viking settlement, it is covered in stone busts.


Was this a queen forever fated to stare longingly?


Maybe at this melancholy bishop with the best of beards?


I loved the cacophony of signage.


A pity we didn’t see this sign lit up at night.


We found the gates of Trinity College.


Lo and behold, the line for viewing the Book of Kells was OPEN and like, nothing! We stumbled upon the most exquisite exhibit design, like petals of a flower, so that the flock of viewers flowed organically amid the fascinating displays before going in to see The Book. No photographs, of course. But once in Long Hall, where you go, dazed from the intricacy of what you have seen, towering stacks of antique books surround you with their sage presence.


We revere these places, yet our modern libraries are dwindling. It was gratifying to find an illustration in the displays, this from Gulliver’s Travels, next to a death mask of Jonathan Swift.


Another great mural just inside the gates.


We walked back to the hotel getting properly soaked like everyone else.


We opted to dine at the hotel that night while our clothes were draped about the room. We awoke to a baffling photo shoot taking place below.


Fortified by sunshine on our last day in Dublin, we marched across the Liffey.


First stop: Oifig an Poist. Have you gotten your postcard?


Even the graffiti is green.


Next stop, the Chester Beatty Library, home of an astounding breadth of book arts and collections of artistic treasures from around the world. It killed me that there was no photography allowed. There were Durer wood block prints, bejeweled bindings, Islamic art, one dazzling object after another. We took a littler breather before entering the show of Japanese surimono prints, where there was a bench! I began my only sketch in Dublin there.


We enjoyed a tasty lunch in the cafe before walking to Kilmainham. There’s a Viking vibe all around the city.


We passed the home of Arthur Guinness, but didn’t stop for the acclaimed tour.


I was eagerly anticipating the best for last, meeting my Irish penpal for the first time! We set our rendezvous at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

This installation greeted us, and reminded me of collections seen at the International Folk Art Museum.



I gravitate to art with hands and eyes. Not so much feet, but there was another sculpture in the gardens that seemed related, like doll parts. This is by Janet Mullarney, titled Byzantine.


I honestly didn’t see anything else. Once Mirjam arrived, we found a quiet bench to get acquainted. We connected on Instagram via our mutual love of mail art and stamp collecting. What a gift to finally meet up!!!


We have plenty in common, being moms, artists, and educators. But time was up much too fast. Letters will keep us connected til the next meeting. Thank you, Mirjam!

Marty and Daisy wanted to linger in the heavenly gardens. This would be a major drawing spot if I lived in Dublin.



Our walk back to the hotel took us into the face of rush hour, but we saw more street art to slow us down.



We crossed the square to dine at Sparks Bistro, where they do NOT serve Guinness. They serve great wines, and we had an amazing meal. Our last stop was a nearby pub, recommended by local illustrator, Steve Simpson. Thanks for that, Steve, Cobblestones was the best way to complete our visit! The rollicking trad session made it SO hard to leave.


The moon was nearly full in the square.


Guess what? I’m not waiting another 37 years to go back to Ireland. No doubt our visit will be well savored in the meantime.


Get thee to Ireland and see for yourself!





Adventures in Ireland

Posted by on Jun 10, 2017 in drawing, Illustration, pastels, travels | 17 comments

Ever since a brief visit to Ireland in 1980, I have yearned to go back. Somehow, the years piled up until recently, when Marty, Daisy and I enjoyed two weeks of travels there. On May 22, we flew to Shannon Airport, during which the dusk to dawn was sped up, like a time lapse into the next day. We landed at 6 AM, sleepless, and rented a diesel powered Renault in which Marty bravely took the wheel to find our first lodging.

The Carrygerry House is a mere 15 minute drive from the airport but felt far away in another time, situated above rolling fields.


The inn’s pastoral views relaxed us even more.


The gracious owner let us in quietly, wearing her bathrobe and showing us to our room at 7 AM. We completely missed breakfast with jet lag taking it’s toll. We woke in time to head over to Bunratty Castle in the afternoon. Our tour guide rambled through a few centuries of Irish history while we marveled at the art and embellishment everywhere. And those giant antlers? Irish deer were once enormous.


We climbed up and up and up narrow circles of stairs past windows like these. Built around 1425, the castle was a stronghold of the O’Brien clan, and later kings and earls.


This stain glass collage is my favorite.


Certain rooms brought to mind the splendor of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, with majestic halls filled with ornate carvings, enormous tapestries, and paintings of royalty. But this was her inspiration.


We made it to the top tower for views of the River Shannon, breathless.


While Marty and Daisy descended to the dungeon, I sat outside to sketch the castle.


We strolled through the adjacent Folk Park, were cottages from a century ago were reconstructed. The fragrance of peat fires was everywhere.


We tried to learn a bit of Gaelic at the school, but failed. The teacher was on his way out but promised to find a match for Daisy if she came back the next day.


The fairy village was not on the map, but we found it nonetheless.


There were goats trotting about, pigs, cows, and donkeys grazing on all sides. These carts were typical vehicles of travelers at the time.


We returned to the inn for a gourmet dinner, watching horses prance in the field.


On May 24, we headed to Dunquin, a seaside village on the Dingle peninsula. The highway out of Shannon turned into smaller and smaller roads which passed through village centers and miles of grazing livestock. We stopped in Abbeyfeale and Keel just to get out of the car. From here, Inch Strand, our travels were in view of Dingle Bay.


We arrived at Chris and Nan Hadden’s Dunquin Cottage, our home for the next nine days.


We set out to explore the area, blooming with iris and sheep.


Relics of old homesteads are not uncommon.


We discovered the path to the ferry pier to Great Blasket Island.


The cottage is in the center of this photo, beneath Eagle Mountain blanketed in fog.


After a dinner of beer and toasties at Kruger’s Pub, our loft bed was a welcome sight.


Chris had advised us: the first sunny day you get, go to Great Blasket Island. We awoke to clear skies on our first morning, so off we went. You are taken out to the boat in groups of eight, there’s not much of a pier.


Islanders always happy going offshore!


The ride is about 25 minutes, and you are transferred once again to the concrete pier.


We learned that Great Blasket was inhabited for about three hundred years, perhaps first by Vikings. Emigration and the hardships of an isolated community led the Irish government to evacuate the remaining islanders in 1953.


Marty and Daisy decided to hike up to the top, while I headed down to the beach, where it’s full of bobbing sea lions, curious as ever.


This made Daisy just a little happy.


We hiked back to the pier for the last boat to the mainland, and walked back to the cottage.


A similar cottage is right next door, owned by a man with many cats.


The solarium in our cottage was always warm, a good spot to spy on cats and sketch.


We’d flop about a bit before deciding our next outing.


We ventured into Dingle, a 20 minute drive over narrow roads. We dined at John Benny’s but learned there was no music. Down the street at Paudie’s Bar we happened upon Peter Staunton on button accordion and Niamh Varian-Barry on fiddle, an outstanding duo. Their music made our hearts sing.


Every morning this cheerful kitchen greeted us. We’d linger over toast with homemade jams from the Carrygerry House, and figure out our plan.


Once the Dreamer climbed down from her loft, we’d be ready to roll.


We took the short cut to the Blasket Center.


We learned history about the islanders, their way of life, and their literary legacies. Scholars had visited in the early years of the 20th century to collect folklore and learn the Irish language. Marty began reading The Islandman by Tomas O Criomhthain and I began reading Twenty Years A-Growing by Muiris O Suilleabhain.

The short films, displays and artifacts of a vanished life were fascinating.


The island was plentiful in rabbits. I sketched this from a taxidermy display.


The cottage’s window seat was my favorite perch, where I drew or wrote every day.


I sat out in the field behind the cottage to draw the view of Inis Tuaisceart in pastel, an island that looks like a floating giant.


We set out on one of the hiking loops from the center that led to An Mionnan Mor.


The Inis was ever present from every angle.


We passed so many sheep. Had to draw a lamb with it’s markings.


We stopped at another fine beach, testing the water. Most beaches had warning signs about the strong currents.


Being Saturday night, there was a concert at the Siopa Ceoil, where we enjoyed traditional music with an Irish coffee break in the middle. The atmosphere alone is worth it.


This is 9:30 in Dingle. Colorful and hardly dark.


The drive over the mountain to Dunquin was never disappointing.


In the morning I did a sketch of the cottage sitting on the stone wall across the narrow road, and met the neighbor, Chris, with his dog.


We decided to trek another loop from the Blasket Center, one that took us over stiles that separated fields of livestock.


We made it to the top of Ceann Sraithe with a view of Ballyferriter and Ceann Sibeal behind us.


Back at the cottage we chilled, wrote postcards, and Daisy drew this, our neighbor’s window.


The cats were indeed curious about us.


Too tired for a drive to Dingle, we found a seaside pub with excellent smoked fish and chips in Ballydavid, the Tigh T.P.

On Monday we found the post office in Dingle, bought some groceries, and had a delicious lunch at Goat Street Social. I am a complete sucker for animal signage.


More window seat moments drinking in the late sun….


On May 30, clouds had finally lifted on Eagle Mountain, and we’d found the trail head, our legs were ready.


We climbed up the steep slope, our cottage always in view.  A family of sheep crossed our path just before we stopped for a picnic.


By the time we reached the top, the clouds were settling in again. Kissed by the mist, we headed back down.


While it was still fresh, I did a pastel sketch at the cottage table, with Great Blasket in the distance.


We took a different route into Dingle along Slea Head Drive, which is crazy narrow but spectacular. In general, the driving in Ireland terrified me. I only got behind the wheel once, and otherwise Marty got us places, with me hitting the imaginary brakes on my side, only a bit of screaming.


We visited the Celtic Prehistoric Museum, a unique private collection from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Viking antiquities.  From a huge woolly mammoth skull to goddess figurines, this place seemed liked it could stand some public funding.



We continued into Dingle to browse at the local library, always a welcome respite.


We lingered in the local music store, and visited St. Mary’s where we discovered a lovely labyrinth to walk.


We dined at Fenton’s where I ordered my first Irish lobster.


We caught the airs of music outside O’Flaherty’s pub, too late to go in and drink but safely drive over the mountain. Yet look how light it remains.


The next day, I needed a break in the action. I drew, which brings calm and restoration.


Later we visited the Blasket Center again, just for their splendid tuna melts. We met a lady from Mallow on one of the bus tours that stop there. I took a solo jaunt to the rocky beach nearby and did a quick pastel of craggy rocks.


We headed to Ballyferriter for a second visit to Murphy’s Bar, where the mussels are beyond compare. We detoured in search of some evidence of the town’s claim to Star Wars fame. Apparently the Jedi fortress in the recent film was constructed on the far side of Ceann Sibeal. Instead, we came across this monument at Fort del Oro, a marker of a battle past.


Our last full day in Dunquin was our first rainy one. We headed to Famine Farm, bearing a resemblance to our own cottage with it’s red trim.


We met Gabriel Kavanagh, a farmer who now gives sheepdog demonstrations.


He put his two dogs through their paces, and it is a sight to behold a flock of sheep galloping in unison.


This sheepdog is still learning at a year and a half, but happy with his job.


There are startling mannequins that give a creepy edge to the period installations inside the cottages, where more history is on display.


We left with a signed copy of Famine in Ireland and West Kerry, a detailed history of dark times.

This is where you say your prayers on Slea Head Drive.


We spent the rainy afternoon drawing and reading. There were objects around the cottage that captivated me. The neighbor had told me there was a fire ages ago, back when the animals slept inside cottages for central heating and people slept up in lofts. I drew two skulls I found on a windowsill.



Marty joined me while I drew a taxidermy squirrel I found on a shelf.


He christened a guest book we left. Reading the two full ones there was a major source of amusement and information.


We went back to Dingle for dinner, and were delighted to hear this duo again!


With great reluctance, we packed up the next morning. The day was brilliant making it doubly difficult to depart. We walked once more down to the Blasket pier after turning in the cottage keys to the caretakers.


Dunquin, we shall miss thee! We were off to Cork, but that’s another story. Stay tuned for more.















Posted by on May 19, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

When I read the script last year for Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, it leapt off the page. This play is his first, and he’s the first Muslim playwright to win a Pulitzer. The story begins in Amir and Emily’s posh apartment on the Upper West Side in NYC, where issues of identity, race, religion, and culture clash in unforgettable drama.

The play begins with Emily sketching Amir, inspired by Velazquez’s Portrait of Juan de Peraja.


It played into my first sketch for the poster.


Amir has renounced the religion of his birth, Islam, and diligently climbed the ladder at a law firm. I made him the central figure in many of my sketches, and used Islamic patterns for a focal point.



In one scene, the dinner party shares a celebratory toast. It unravels from there.



I tried a bit of mystery with this one.


Much like Emily, Amir’s painter wife, I fell in love with Islamic patterns as I researched my visual frontier for this poster.


I kept trying to draw them. So much beauty in the organization, but challenging to get the order of it.




Portland Stage chose the sketch with the four actors raising their glasses. But they wanted some of the patterns coming into the image. I revised that sketch.


I asked my neighbors, the Moxhays, to come over and pose for me. They happily obliged.

Marty became Amir, Olwyn became Emily, Peter became Isaac, and Katheryn became Jory. This was the illustration in progress.


I added the patterns digitally over the pastel for the final illustration.


I brought Marty and the Moxhays to see the play last night. It’s always a treat to see how Portland Stage has given life to the setting. The set design by Anita Stewart is stunning. The lighting design by Cecilia Durbin was spectacular; the exterior cityscape changing from day to night was gorgeously achieved.


Director Christopher Grabowski managed a nimble cast for an incredibly tight show. Alex Purcell gave an intense performance of his complex and conflicted character, Amir. Wow. This is a play that must be seen to be believed, and it is very believable, yet everything is unexpected. Thanks to Portland Stage for producing works that cause us to question, have more conversations, and look deeper. This is the last weekend to go. GO.

They will take a little summer breather until their next production, All Night Strut. Marty posed with his poster yesterday. Looks like fun!