Nancy F. W. Passmore is the venerable editor of Luna Press, which has published it’s 41st annual edition of the Lunar Calendar: Dedicated to the Goddess in Her Many Guises. I sketched her after our recent visit in Boston, which I will always consider Luna Land.
I’m honored when it’s my good fortune to do the cover! These are some of this year’s sketches, done in June.
In this rough idea, I have referenced my goddess figure sculpted by Peg Astarita.
I tried a collage approach.
This mosaic of blues was inspired by the work of Paul Klee.
How about simplicity?
This is based on the real deal: full moon rises on the back shore of Peaks Island have become a monthly calibration of my rhythms.
This one got the nod, and here is the final pastel, titled “Strawberry Wave.”
I’ve been contributing to the calendar since 1983, and Nancy has become a dear friend. We try to rendezvous annually at the Museum of Fine Arts, no better place to imbibe divine forces at work. She was unable to join us, but provided passes so Marty and I could wander among the masters.
We marveled at the work of John Wilson, in a series of prints in different states.
And I never knew William Merritt Chase worked in pastel! His wife was a frequent model and bears a striking resemblance to one of my current MECA students.
In the Modernism gallery, it was startling to see the original of one of my favorite paintings ever. Reproductions don’t do justice to all the texture in a Stuart Davis work.
We also saw a super exhibit of vintage posters from the collection of Robert Bachelder, A Century of Style: Masterworks of Poster Design. The Stephen D. Paine Gallery at Massachusetts College of Art and Design is filled to the brim with decades and decades of jewels.
Why am I always drawn to eyes? And polka dots? You could hypnotize me with this one by Fritz Buhler in 1945.
This detail from Richard Avedon’s classic from 1967 remains as trippy as ever.
I love the ornate detail in this one by Franz Von Stuck in 1911.
Nancy would enjoy the moonlight in this one.
We went straight to Nancy’s house for a quick visit, amidst her cat collectibles.
She shared an article with me, where I found a revealing quote by Marcel Proust: “The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having fresh eyes.” Exactly!
We headed back to our island in time to welcome our own visionary girl, here looking closely at some of the zines from my junior illustration MECA majors.
During her visit my eyes felt as fresh as ever, seeing beauty everywhere. I take comfort in the eyes of nature watching over us, the goddess in her many guises.
We make our marks by being ourselves.
Thanks to Nancy and the Luna Press for the gifts of wisdom and lunacy!
Of all the scripts I read in January for Portland Stage poster development, Sotto Voce by Nilo Cruz stood out as multi-layered, romantic, and evocative. In the play, a young Cuban man finds a German-born novelist living in New York who shares a connection to the 1939 voyage of the MS St Louis, a German ship that left for Cuba with German-Jewish refugees, only to be turned back. The elder writer, Bemadette, calls the young man Student. They don’t meet yet weave a romance built on memories and imagination via phone calls and messages.
Like all the plays this season, the theme is about what never was, with an underlying longing that triggers mixed emotions. Here are some rough sketches. Bemadette is looking back. The ocean liner hovers in memory, with a couple dancing, submerged below the water line.
I tried the idea of using the O’s in the title as portholes with different images..
In one scene, the young Cuban, Saquiel, invites Bemadette’s caregiver, Lucila, to a dance class. It’s an electric moment.
The dancing couple got the nod. I enjoyed looking up vintage clothing, this dress is by Sonia Delaunay.
This is the final illustration, done in charcoal pencil and pastel.
Anita Stewart’s set design gorgeously combines real and imaginary spaces. Director Liz Diamond staged an amazing dance of the past and future with stellar performances by the actors, James Cusati-Moyer, Carmen Roman, and Anita Petry. The lighting by Solomon Weisbard cast the perfect spell.
The playwright and Pulitzer Prize-winner, Nilo Cruz, will join Inaugural Poet, Richard Blanco after this Sunday’s 2 PM performance for a discussion. I hope you’ll go see this enchanting play, you have until Nov. 20!
Last week I traveled to Wayne, Maine to visit a beloved friend, Katherine. She is laying claim to her father’s retirement home, the kind of legacy that some of us have faced, and for one reason or another, have sold. In her case, she is making way for a new relationship to her father’s land and all that he left behind.
Jack Mahoney was an avid fisherman and salty outdoorsman. Kathy shares his Yankee humor, so we spent most of our time laughing our guts out.
We walked around the property, which borders Androscoggin Lake.
We later identified this peculiar fungi with a guide found among Jack’s hefty book collection. (These are shaggy manes, Coprinus comatus, also know as inky caps, thanks to Charlotte Carlson’s note in the comments!)
I heard the story about how Jack got this deer.
We had so much to catch up on! And walks to share, over beaver-chiseled logs and deer droppings.
Found this glorious chart on Jack’s table.
After a good night’s sleep with loon calls over the lake, I woke to find a guy dipping a net.
There was just enough time to make a quick pastel study before we packed up to leave.
Thanks to Katherine for a serene retreat filled with great company! The legacy of place is beyond compare in the realm of memory. What a blessing to sustain it for making new stories.
We are well over the hump of this semester in IL 321, where I lead an intrepid pack of 15 students in the Junior Illustration Majors Studio at Maine College of Art. I met them briefly last spring after they declared their major, and gave them sketchbooks to fill for the summer. I believe in the powers of daily drawing, and knew whatever they brought back to the table would provide seeds for insight and inspiration. And I’m always blown away.
Tyler Eldridge is double majoring in Illustration and Graphic Design. Stand back!
Some students had a tough time finding the space to draw, with summer jobs and needing a creative break. Aric Gross made the most of what was on hand at his job.
Hannah Barrett captures a fierce determination in her sketchbook.
Katie Steere drew folk costumes from her maternal homeland.
For the first project, they created zines based on ideas sparked by their sketchbooks. From girl gangs to sled dogs to long-distance romance, they illustrated very specific stories.
The next project involved a circus poster. Here Kat Harris draws a nimble model during a session of life studies that informed their figurative needs.
I brought in pastel supplies for some quick color studies. This is Sami’s.
The good guys from Wing Club Press had done a workshop in RISO printing just in time for the poster project. Jennifer Olson laid out her first prints to dry.
Once again, students found totally different ways to approach the same theme. This is Rachel Breckenridge’s:
Kolby Hildebrandt’s made use of the off-register moment in her pile of contortionists.
Aric Gross allowed for color-mixing by using different paper.
The next project was illustrating an editorial piece for a travel magazine. Sami Monoxelos made the yak her metaphor for adventure.
Jennifer Olson’s zebras are a field of form and pattern.
Cara Peslak made dramatic use of limited color in this sly encounter.
The current project involves illustrating a historical narrative moment of their choice. I brought them downstairs to the Joanne Waxman Library for an exercise I call Secrets of the Stacks. Library Director Shiva Darbandi met the class with a warm welcome and a floor plan.
Students drew a call number prompt from a box, such as Fashion and Textile TT500 or Native American Art E78 – E99, and located that shelf. Then they chose a book to page through, found an image of interest, and traced it on a sheet of tracing paper provided.
They did this multiple times, creating a layered image from a variety of sources. It’s less about the tracing as it is about the finding, the searching, and the unexpected encounters with books they’ve never met.
My goal is to familiarize everyone, including myself, with the resources available and hope they found research material for their project. Their linear collages of free associations invite more complexity of visual thinking. Hannah Barrett’s drawing:
This is Cara Peslak’s:
Next the class traveled across the bay to Peaks Island for a brisk field trip. We stopped at the local barn to view the horses.
Beachcombing, the best for last!
The display of original illustration accompanied by process boards with preliminary sketches, notes, and references… is a gold mine of how final pieces take shape.
Look, it’s the bit of historical ephemera that sparked Chris Van Dusen’s The Circus Ship.
I delighted in finding this endearing thread from Scott Nash, curator of the show, who proved that memory stays with us, whether we know it or not.
Fellow MECA faculty Daniel Minter included an open sketchbook in his process board:
Students can relate to how something begins this loosely:
And in the veteran hands of Kevin Hawkes becomes this, a detail from The Wicked Big Toddlah.
The class was glad for a place to sit and mingle with books and each other.
I’m thrilled to be sharing MECA’s illustration studio with this tribe of students. If you want more evidence of how special Maine College of Art really is, check out this new VIDEO.
The former printmaking studios are under renovation, and have relocated to 1515 Mount Royal Avenue.
Daisy showed us her recent monoprints made with a cut Mylar stencil.
We also toured the silkscreen studio, where she laid out recent editions.
I didn’t see it at first, but this is a family portrait.
We went back to her dorm to find this papercut Daisy did of her roommate, who was dreaming in the next room.
She proudly showed us her latest tool.
Working in the dark room is proving to be challenging but fun.
We kept finding murals to love, this one around the corner.
We dropped Daisy at MICA and joined our gracious hosts, Karen and Steve. Here is my humble sketch of Karen Houppert, editor of the City Paper. So grateful for their hospitality!
The next day at MICA was full of informative talks and inspiration. Megan Miller, Director of the Joseph Meyerhoff Center for Career Development led an excellent panel of recent alums talking about their journeys from school to professional life.
I sketched Precious Blake, illustrator and community organizer, who remarked, “I say stand out and be memorable.”
We found the City Cafe for a hearty brunch before more roaming in the blustery wind.
After running into fellow MICA parents, Daniel and Marcia Minter, we followed Daisy back to the silkscreen studio, where she washed out a screen for her next project.
We also encountered more exhibits, this one titled FRESH, work by female students curated by Ricki Rothchild.
Daisy left to study for a Modernism exam. We hung out in the Decker Library enjoying their new zine collection and making buttons.
And always, we spied another mural.
We rounded up a gang for a delicious evening at Cosima’s. Ellie and Daisy enjoyed the menu!
On Sunday we had a picnic at Federal Hill, Daisy’s favorite park. Best dang spot to take in the view.
Our hugs have to last a whole month. Soon enough she’ll be back on the Rock, seen here from the plane as we returned to Casco Bay.
The Peaks Island Elementary School, also known as PIES, is brimming with curiosity even after the bell rings. I’m excited to share the latest Side x Side project I’m working on with fellow teaching artist, Pamela Moulton, as part of the school’s After School Academy.
We kicked it off in theatrical style, thanks to Pamela’s bounty of hand-crafted costumes.
Pamela and her performance collaborator, Sharoan Cohen, brought loud squeals from the students as they emerged from a special package from Professor Pitcher, an Earth Sciences researcher in need of assistance. They took questions from the kids and their intrepid leader, Jonathan Downs.
We shared a visual presentation of land forms in photography and painting.
Everybody wanted to get into the act!
Are kids always this angelic after school? Yes, and no!
For the next visit, I made sketchbooks for the explorers. Drawing is the first step in sharp observational studies.
We began outside, drawing any natural thing that caught our fancy.
For some kids, this meant getting INTO a tree to draw.
For another, it meant drawing a leaf turned brilliant red.
We returned to the art room to open another package from the Professor.
WOW. A big hunk of sparkle! Quite a few explorers identified this: micah!
There was more to see and touch, and magnify.
I love the sound of drawing.
The attention to detail, to placement on the page, to color contrasts of warm and cool…all landed intuitively within their sketchbooks.
The following week, another letter arrived from Professor Pitcher. She teaches at the University of Toronto, and is studying deep fissures in the Earth’s crust. While on Peaks Island during the summer, she collected some island rocks. As she ran for a ferry, she was unable to carry them all.
She included photos of our island’s land forms, like cove, peninsula, pond, and cliff.
Island Explorers set out with the mission to find her hidden package!
Two right turns, and four manhole covers, and one big driftwood log later…
Just at the edge of the high tide, tucked under a house..was a very old leather pocketbook. Full of rocks.
It was time to draw the findings.
Maybe even identify a few.
We returned to the art room where Pamela enlarged an island map drawing found in the Professor’s bag. Everyone was eager to help with mapping.
They took turns tracing the outline of Peaks Island.
There were spools of thread and tape to add to the mix.
A blue and green coastline emerged.
Quick eyes spotted the similarity: thumbs up, Island Explorers!
Tomorrow they will seek more knowledge while building sculptures for a 3D prototype of island land forms. Bring it on!
Many thanks to the Peaks Island Fund for supporting arts integration.
Maine College of Art’s Pace House is a legendary destination for alums and students. With great anticipation, I drove the MECA van with 7 of this year’s senior illustration majors and their fearless leader Mary Anne Lloyd under crisp October skies to Stonington, Maine.
The house is full of art by Stephen Pace and his wife Palmina, whose hats hang in the front hall. Annelise and Gunnar wasted no time in embodying their kindred spirits.
We made lunch and then scattered to scout out the local village and environs. I made a pie to bake later.
Mary Anne put her lasagna in the oven, and brought out supplies for making sketchbooks.
How fulfilling to feast together, dining on Palmina’s ceramic plates.
Stories were shared by a fragrant bonfire under starry skies.
Students made an enormous breakfast the next morning, and then we scattered again to draw. I sat on rocks at the edge of the harbor and drew the incoming tide.
Annelise came along and sketched, too.
I switched to pastels and made a quick study of the nearby fish shack.
We regrouped for lunch where I found Haley drawing nature objects.
Later I found a perch by myself to draw the pond up the road, using one of the handy-dandy drawing boards Mary Anne gave to each of us.
By 5:30 we all piled in the van again in search of the setting sun.
We got there just in time for that golden October light.
The woodstove was lit, and another delicious meal was served.
We hung out in the toasty living room, and shared what we drew that day. Better than any crit, I tell you!
Gunnar had spent the day painting with materials he found in the barn, so we went there for a look.
The boys got another fire crackling and the night was still young.
Before we left in the morning to return to school, everyone signed the guest book, where I found this collage by Nancy Gibson Nash from last summer. It beautifully sums up the love for this amazing place!
Indeed, thank you Maine College of Art and the Paces. What a legacy you have generously shared that sparks the souls of so many. Thanks to Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd for all the planning, art supplies, and food!!!
I’m also grateful to MECA grads Liz Long and Hannah Rosegren, who filled in for my class of junior majors while I was away. I’m honored to know such fine students, both in the classroom and on the road.
A Porcupine’s Promenade by Lyn Smith has been getting about! My neighbor sent a photo of the book spotted at the Common Ground Fair, at the Maine Authors Publishing booth last weekend.
I had the honor of joining Lyn at the Louis T. Graves Memorial Library on Sunday as guests of their Pasco Lecture Series. I have a fond spot for the Graves Library, where I gave my first library presentation with Mitali Perkins years ago.
Library Director Mary-Lou Boucouvalas gave us such warm introductions! She’s a passionate advocate for book creators, and I’m proud to know her.
Lyn Smith is a reading specialist at Kennebunk Elementary School, and thoroughly in her element reading aloud, with sound effects, too!
I shared a visual presentation of my illustration journey for the book. I learned so much about these curious critters. It’s important for young readers to get outside, and be observant of the wildlife we share the world with.
What a pleasure to sign books side by side with Lyn!
Many thanks to the Graves Library for hosting us!
Lyn will be on the road signing books at the Fall Foliage Festival in Boothbay on October 8, with other events to follow. She and I were interviewed by Donna Buttarazzi, for the York County Coast Star. You can hear Lyn read a bit of the story HERE.
Congratulations to Lyn, and to Priscilla the porcupine. Drawing her and her habitat was a worthy challenge!
We headed to Belgrade Lakes on Friday for a rare Maine gathering, the Agents Editors Writers Conference.
I felt rushed and unprepared until we pulled up to the cutest cabin at Castle Island Camps.
The tiny but tidy spot on the edge of Long Pond put me in the best mood. A dinner bell rang at 6 PM, and we crossed the road to join guests gathered in the lodge for a lobster feast.
The owners, John and Rhonda Rice, have photos of proud catches all over the walls. This is Rhonda’s grandfather on the left.
We met a father and son pair of fishermen who have been coming to the area and this camp for decades. Walt is a retired engineer with an avid passion for nature photography. His son, Pat, shared tales of encounters with wildlife from his years in forestry management. They fish between dawn and breakfast for the best catch.
After a night of loon calls I almost didn’t want to leave in the morning.
But I had my writing samples, ready or not.
The conference took place at the Maine Lakes Resource Center in the heart of town.
Writers chose an editor or agent’s table, depending upon genre: picture book, middle grade, or young adult. I was with Rebecca Podos, an agent with Rees Literary Agency. Seven other writers and myself took turns reading our first chapter out loud, followed by comments from Becca. I took copious notes on everyone’s feedback, because every bit of good writing advice applies. She was positive, thoughtful, insightful, and very constructive. We all have re-writing to do, but with clear purpose. Thank you, Rebecca!
During the lunch break, I encountered a delightful surprise: Kearen is an illustrator and author plus licensed wildlife rehabilitator. She brought a pair of baby squirrels she is tending.
After lunch, the whole panel heard first pages, anonymously submitted, and commented on the problems, any small thing that would make them stop reading in a slush pile. This included Erin Murphy, Melissa Kim, Audrey Maynard, Kaylee Davis of Dee Mura Literary, Rebecca Podos, and Ammi-Joan Paquette. About a dozen pieces were read, but not mine. Still, it was an informative and brutally honest discussion. Melissa Kim pointed out, “Little things make a big difference.” From peeves about punctuation to the importance of point of view immediacy, the panel put it all on the table, quite succinctly. They deconstructed a few query letters, and then took questions from the audience. There were several about submissions. Erin Murphy’s interest in a manuscript is a determination between trepidation vs. excitement. An editor will only want to work a story if she can see exactly what it needs. It’s harder to make writing better than it is to edit the plot. Each of them shared their submission requirements and we were done, a long but very educational day.
I found new author Lyn Smith in the crowd, and she shared the new proof of our book!
This will be published this month by Maine Authors Publishing. Lyn and I will be visiting the Louis T. Graves Memorial Library in Kennebunkport to talk about the book on Sunday, September 25 at 2 PM. Come join us!
After being inside all day, Marty picked me up for a ride to Blueberry Hill.
We found a rocky trail before the rain cut short our hike and we returned to camp. And the loons.
We departed on Sunday just before a storm hit.
High five to Cathy McElway, a fellow SCBWI member, who pulled together a conference in such a sweet spot. The insights gained will renew my writing goals for the months ahead. Thanks to all who shared their wisdom and to all the writers who braved the rounds of reading. Onward!
What an honor to be included in the 2016 Biennial Faculty Exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art at Maine College of Art! The catalog’s cover (designed by Nicole Holmes ’14) is a detail from Treppenhaus, an oil painting by Hilary Irons.
Guest Curator Sage Lewis writes “Artists have a deep and often private relationship with their subject matter before it becomes public. It develops and changes over time as life experience, research, and inspiration comingle with the handling of materials, the recording of images, and the reading of texts. As I was selecting work for the 2016 Faculty Exhibition, I saw evidence of that private relationship unfolded as a generous offering to the viewer. “Bounty” is the word that came to mind.”
Sage visited my studio in April on a rotten rainy day, when I pulled from my messy studio piles of research materials: photos I took of models, photos I found of John Muir, and pages upon pages of sketches. I had submitted illustrations from John Muir Wrestles a Waterfall, for the call for submissions to the Biennial. This non-fiction picture book required a certain historical correctness, consultations with the John Muir Center in California, and many revisions. You can read some of the backstory HERE.
I showed her the shed out back where I staged photos of my neighbor, posing as Muir. Evidence of these elements are on display in the exhibit, including several of the props I drew upon for reference.
At the opening reception, there was a fantastic turnout of 1400 viewers streaming through. It was gratifying to talk about my process and discover mutual Muir fans.
But best of all was being in the company of my fellow faculty. Hilary Iron’s detailed nature settings were perfect partners hanging nearby.
Gan Xu’s landscape paintings are sumptuous pleasures. He has taught art history courses at MECA for over 24 years. His return to painting in 2015 became an escape from the suffocation he felt politically and environmentally when visiting China.
Kate Green’s photographs are still images captured from videos of fireworks. They also could be deep space, the universe revealed. Divine.
In the middle of the gallery Julie Poitras Santos‘ installation, O time your pyramids became performance on the night of the reception.
I urge you to duck behind the black curtain and watch Joshua Reiman‘s hypnotic film Panoramique de L’immateriel, a journey along the Seine in search of gold. Mesmerizing.
Nearby hang large prints by Program Chair of Photography, Justin Kirchoff. Vistas of overgrown interchanges near Interstate 95 are moody invitations to ramble.
The narrow hall joining the front and back galleries is lined with the darkly blooming work of Gail Spaien, whose focus on botanical still lifes is spectacularly gorgeous.
Nearby is the work of Lucy Breslin, so delicious I want to eat it.
The front gallery is filled with the prolific ponderings of my beloved colleague in the Department of Illustration, Michael Connor. Good, and Not Perfect represents his long-standing affair with pen and ink, panel divisions from his wealth of comic endeavors, and cryptic absurdity.
Department of Illustration Program Chair Mary Anne Lloyd was on hand to document this rarest of moments: two illustration faculty in the ICA!
I am humbled beyond measure to be in this Biennial with such esteemed colleagues. Many thanks to Director of Exhibition and Special Projects Erin Hutton ’98 and Guest Curator Sage Lewis ’04 whose wisdom and insight brought together such a seamless and thoughtful exhibit.