Illustration is literally all around right now. I just realized I’ve been doing it, living it, and breathing it non-stop for the last month.

My talented kin, Mati McDonough, an artist, illustrator, and teacher visited Maine in November. She gave me a long, hard hug the day after The Election, the results of which were still sinking in.

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We went straight to the Portland Museum of Art, sure that art could lift our spirits. She signed her latest children’s book, How Do I Love Thee? an illustrative telling of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem.

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We then browsed the Matisse show, which is full of his illustrations for art books.

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In another exhibit, I spied this gorgeously illustrated plate by Rockwell Kent. Don’t miss all the epic Moby Dick action, it’s there til the end of this month.

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Downtown on Congress Street, another exhibit showcases illustration: Picture This: The Art and Workings of the Illustration Institute, at the Portland Public Library. I’m thrilled to be part of it. This is my “process board” for Rickshaw Girl. Each participant was asked to fill a provided frame with the preliminary sketches and references that became the final illustration on display.

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Marty included his sketches for John Cariani’s Last Gas, a poster for Portland Stage Company.

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We attended a reception for the show on December 1 that included a DRAW OFF. Here is curator and Illustration Institute Director Scott Nash ready to duel with Matt Tavares. Basically anyone can throw out a prompt, the more absurd, the better. Kids seem to have the quickest ideas. Scott and Matt had to draw the god of candy!

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Marty and I were paired. This actually happens at home, a lot. Our prompt: Pistachio Queen.

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Chris Van Dusen and Joe Rosshirt tackle a ninja moose.

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Here picture book illustrator Kevin Hawkes and tattoo master Danielle Madore await their prompt: a panda eating bamboo with dancing marshmallows. I kid you not.

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Nancy Gibson Nash and Daniel Minter responded to a difficult prompt: a Trump Santa Claus. Illustrators really can draw the unthinkable.

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Soon after, the Illustration Junior Majors manned a long table of their wares at Maine College of Art’s Holiday Sale. Thanks to IL Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd for the swell banner.

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They tried their hands at a Draw Off during the next class.

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We made an outing of studio visits to close out the semester. We began at Daniel Minter’s home, where soulful paintings like these line the walls.

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He pulled out a huge stash of old sketchbooks, the kind he carried everywhere as a student and early professional. When one was full, he wrote RUINED on the front.

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I noticed this David Driskell woodblock print in his library, reminiscent of the Matisse show, but more evocative.

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We all got a kick out of seeing his early sketches, many of them satirical.

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His dog, Kofi, guards the studio on the third floor.

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I love seeing other people’s collections. There were wooden bowls of shells, cupboards of woven baskets, hanging brooms, and more. But what’s not to love about toys wearing LL Bean boots?

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Everywhere there are wooden vessels, carvings, boxes, sticks, and frames. Daniel told us this blue is his favorite.

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He discussed his recent book project, showing his sketches drawn directly on the manuscript for Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Told the World About Kindness.

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He has stacks and stacks of linoleum pieces, this one for a USPS Kwanzaa stamp. He considers these the real art. “I’m a carver,” he said. He’s not that interested in the printing part. It’s the physicality of carving that he enjoys.

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In this detail of a piece in the hall, Daniel’s favorite blue, his love of pattern, and an unforgettable eye all come together. We could have stayed there all day, spell bound.

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We headed back towards the college to the Art Studio building where Kris Johnsen keeps a studio.

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Students enjoyed patting Capone, another solid studio mate.

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Kris has drawers full of ink drawings that he sometimes pieces together digitally for new hybrid images.

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He majored in Graphic Design at MECA, but spent most of his time after hours in the printmaking studios. He began his career working at SPACE Gallery, and doing gig posters on the side. He maintains a silk screen operation in another room, and takes pride in printing his own multiples.

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He’s also deeply involved in the Portland Patch Project. Here the whole collection shares space with a few toys.

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I’m grateful to Kris and Daniel for sharing their magic, and for the curiosity of my students, and for illustration havens like Portland Museum of Art and the Portland Public Library.

See what I mean? So much illustration everywhere, so much to love.

 

 

 

 

 

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