Sep 22 2015

Islesford Painting Workshops 2015

Published by under landscape,sketchbook,travel

For the last three years I’ve attended the Islesford Painting Workshop, led by my friends and amazing painters Henry Isaacs and Ashley Bryan, up in the gorgeous environs of Little Cranberry Island, off the coast of Mt. Desert Island, Maine. It’s a wonderful workshop, with first class food and accommodations and very non-formulaic instruction. This year they asked me to help them teach both 3-day sessions.

ALM Maine 641

It was an honor to be asked, a joy to work with them for a whole week, a sacrifice to spend less time painting, an intimidating challenge to try to contribute something meaningful to what these two great men are doing, and to continuously find useful things to say to painters who range from absolute beginner to highly experienced. I am happy to say that, based on lots of great feedback, I do feel I contributed significantly in a number of ways, and found the experience very rewarding and instructive (in relation to both teaching and painting).

Maine Day7 006

On one of the sketches I wrote “wrap the space around the viewer”, which was my biggest painting takeaway from the week — I think I understand more now about why that’s important and how to accomplish it.

I found a little time to paint each day, and here are the pieces I did, as well as sketches I snuck in when I only had a moment to jot something down. The paint is gouache (opaque watercolor). Some got a little additional work/color added when I got home.

It’s a pretty amazing workshop, and I highly recommend it. I’m already looking forward to next year!

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Sep 17 2015

Jonathan Stroud and Eoin Colfer

Published by under authors,sketchbook

On Tuesday I returned from a fantastic trip to Maine (where I attended and helped teach the Islesford Painting Workshop). I will post lots of art, photos and thoughts from that experience soon, but in the meantime, here’s the other thing I did Tuesday: went to a great author event at Politics and Prose with Jonathan Stroud (Bartimaeus, Lockwood & Co.) and Eoin Colfer (Artemis Fowl, WARP). Jonathan charmed and Eoin cracked up the large audience crowded into P&P’s kids department. Here’s a page of sketches of the scene.

Jonathan Stroud and Eoin Colfer full

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Aug 11 2015

Published by under Macbeth,odyssey,Poe,process

Today is featuring an article I wrote about my process (in general, with specific focus on Macbeth). They also have a short audio clip I recorded about my approach to The Odyssey.

Poe status update: 1 month to go! Also, listening to The Iliad again in preparation for jumping into that.

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Jul 07 2015

Beth Cavener

Published by under sketchbook

Just before the long San Francisco trip detailed in my last post, I went to an artist talk at the Smithsonian American Art Museum by the amazing sculptor Beth Cavener. I posted a few drawings of her work a couple of years ago when I first discovered it in a Chelsea gallery. Her animals are virtuosic, disturbing, conceptual, and laborious. In the talk, she showed slides of (I think) pretty much all her work, and for fun I drew little quick gesture drawings of as many as I could capture.


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Jul 06 2015

ALA 2015 recap

ALM San Francisco 444

At ALA with Ashley Bryan

Although I’ve been to the American Library Association‘s (smaller) Midwinter show, I’d never been to the main ALA Annual show until last week. It was a really wonderful experience. Alison and I flew out a week early to explore and visit friends in the area. Here are a few highlights of our travels and of the show (below the cut):

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May 24 2015

What Does the Fox Read?

Published by under animals,sketchbook


This is the piece I’ve donated to the ABFE silent auction, which is this Tuesday at BEA (for those unfamiliar with the acronyms, the auction¬† benefits the anti-censorship group American Booksellers for Free Expression, and is part of Book Expo America).

It’s the first time I’ve done a new original piece for the auction (as opposed to donating a piece of art from one of my books), and I’m hoping people will dig it. I also recently drew a fox on my Mom’s birthday card because I gave her Jane the Fox and Me, and I’ve discovered that foxes are a lot of fun to draw :-)


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May 11 2015

Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival 2015

Published by under animals,sketchbook

I went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival last weekend, with some friends and a sketchbook. Sheep and sheepdogs are a lot of fun to draw ūüėČ

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May 10 2015

Brian Selznick and the Arbuthnot Lecture

Published by under sketchbook

Arbuthnot program

Alison and I went to see Brian Selznick deliver the May Hill Arbuthnot Lecture Friday on night at the MLK branch of the DC Public Library. Brian gave a very beautiful, deep and thought-provoking speech (no surprise). Afterward I introduced myself (and showed him my sketches) and he said he’s a fan of my books– which is one of those things that just kind of blows your mind when it comes from someone of his stature in the book world!

I’m quite happy with these sketches, though I was too far away to see a lot of facial details of any of the speakers, or to note that Brian’s suit had a super-elegant indigo paisley pattern on it.



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Feb 27 2015

Launch event recap

Published by under appearances,Macbeth

Presenting Macbeth at the TKPL, photo by Bruce Guthrie

I’ve had three Macbeth launch events so far, and all have gone swimmingly. First I was in Boston, dealing with snowbanks up to my chinny-chin-chin, but lots of folks came out to join me, for which I’m very thankful! Wellesley Books and Porter Square Books have been super-supportive of my work for years, so I was very happy to have the first launch events there.

The first event was at Wellesley Books, Alison’ former employer and a fabulous group of folks who are really¬†family to us at this point.¬†Lots of teachers came to this one, as well as friends and fans old and new.

Next up was Porter Square Books, with¬†a great turnout including lots of good friends, and two fabulous actors from ASP doing a scene from Macbeth as part of the presentation. Mara and Jesse were great. If you’re in the Boston are you should really check out ASP, they stage wonderful productions.

The second round of events is here in the DC area. Monday night I was at the Takoma Park Library. Great turnout, including some of my fellow aikido students. The talented Dave Burbank turned the tables on me by doing this great drawing while I was presenting — and pulled in some imagery from my Macbeth reference photos as well!

Portrait of me presenting at TKPL, by Dave Burbank

Portrait of me presenting at TKPL, by Dave Burbank

Also Bruce Guthrie took all these great photos. This is the best-documented event I’ve done by far!

Me with Dave Burbank and Karen McPherson (two of my favorite librarians!)


Presenting at TKPL, photo by Bruce Guthrie

Tonight I’ll be at Hooray For Books in Alexandria, VA. No projector, so I’ll be drawing oldschool, on an easel. Next week I’m doing an event for local schools at Politics & Prose, and then my local events are done for a while. (To keep up with all my events and major news, sign up for my e-newsletter here.)

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Feb 07 2015

For Les

Published by under Macbeth

Macbeth comes out this week. Here is the dedication page…


Macbeth dedication page


Les Kanturek died almost 2 years ago, on Feb 25 2013, after a long battle with cancer. Of the many excellent art teachers I was lucky enough to learn from during my education at RIT and Parsons, Les was one of my favorites, and one of the few who became a close personal friend in the years after I graduated. He had an incredibly generous heart and a great sense of humor, and he made even dry subjects like how to do self-employed taxes fun to learn. He helped countless young illustration students find their artistic voice, and he will always be missed by those who had the good fortune to know him.

Here is a short video profile of Les created by Ray Zablocki:

You can see some of Les’ quirkier projects on his blog. There is a Facebook group called “For the Love of Les” featuring lots more stories and photos of Les.

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