I had a great time last Saturday at MoCCA. I think the Society of Illustrators did a good job picking up the ball and running with it, keeping a great show great. They added some lovely touches like a cafe and an original art show. The programming didn’t excite me all that much, but I rarely get to most of the panels anyway because I find it takes most of the day to see what’s at the tables.
Even so, I always feel like I miss a lot. For example I missed most of the pieces selected for ‘best of show’ type prizes this year. But here are a few things I bought or noted I need to get later.
Seven Samurai prints and art book by http://www.gregthings.com/
I heard http://www.lucyknisley.com/ sold out of her new book, Relish, and I can’t say I’m surprised, as it’s beautiful.
Unfortunately missed http://jilliantamaki.com/ this year.
“The Greatest of All Time Comics Anthology” from Ninth Art Press and members of the Boston Comics Roundtable, Jesse Lonergan and Dan Mazur
There’s a giant pile o’ books I need to buy from Self Made Hero, especially their Don Quixote.
Top Shelf is now officially so cool they don’t need a sign over their table.
Met the brilliant Gabrielle Bell and got her new book The Voyeurs.
…and much more!
That’s a small sample of the highlights as I saw ‘em. Bottom line, MoCCA continues to be a great show, with more gorgeous work on display than you can shake a stick at.
At one point I was thinking about setting Romeo & Juliet in the Harlem Renaissance, and I watched some fun documentaries about it. I had a lot of fun sketching some of the great lindy routines they were doing in the dance scenes.
Wow, I can’t believe it took me 2.5 years since I moved to NY to get over to the sketch night at the Society of Illustrators. 2 models, 3 hours, Live music, $15, surrounded by great art. What’s not to like?
Wow, talk about being in good company! The review is very flattering in its own right, and supports my belief that The Odyssey is not just a ‘boy book’…
I did a short interview with the fabulous Jenn Dowell at Audiofile magazine, and I’m featured in a very brief spot in the October issue.
In preparation I looked up what audiobooks I listened to for the 14 months I was working on Romeo & Juliet (previously: what I was listening to while drawing The Odyssey). Here they are, in no particular order:
11-22-63 (Stephen King) – good, but WAY too long.
A Wizard of Earthsea (Ursula LeGuin) – still great, but too short.
Out of the Silent Planet (C.S. Lewis) – still fun, but WAY too short.
Apprentice Adept (Piers Anthony) – I’ve long since outgrown his writing, but this series is still fun and I think it’s high time we made “The Game” in real life. Who’s with me?
SEAL team Six (Howard Wasdin) – I don’t quite know what possessed me to read this. It’s not bad, but pretty much just what you’d expect.
Steve Jobs (Walter Isaacson) – good, but repetitive. Needed better editing. The ubiquitous cover photo has caused numerous people to tell me I look like Steve Jobs.
Ready Player One (Ernest Cline, read by Will Wheaton) – fantastic! The perfect audiobook, at least for a child of the ’80s.
Divergent (Veronica Roth) – at times I enjoyed this, but found it ultimately unconvincing, and I have a pretty strong feeling “the intellectuals are the bad guys” is not just a convenient plot device, it’s something she believes.
David Copperfield (Dickens) – couldn’t finish. It was bad enough when the protagonist was a non-character, but when he turned into a debauched twerp I couldn’t take it any more.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) – holy exposition Batman! Couldn’t finish. Tried the film, and still don’t understand why so many people like it. I found it to be a weak mystery with weak writing and chockablock with horrible gratuitous unpleasantness.
Winter’s Tale (Mark Helprin) – pretty interesting, but I couldn’t finish. I think the reader killed it for me.
The Bluest Eye (Tony Morrison) – brilliant, and oh so unpleasant.
The Old Man and the Sea (Hemingway) – ditto, but in a different way.
A Farewell to Arms (Hemingway) – even more depressing.
Snuff (Terry Pratchett) – not his best, but quite good.
The Scarlet Letter (Hawthorn) – I enjoyed this way more than I was expecting based on my very vague memories of it.
Soon I Will Be Invincible (Austin Grossman) – I enjoyed this more in print, I think. The readers are mediocre.
The Ring of Solomon (Jonathan Stroud) – Awesome, awesome, awesome.
The Wake of the Lorelei Lee (L.A. Meyer) – as with the rest of the series, highly enjoyable, thanks mostly to the fabulous reading of Katherine Kellgren.
Three Cups of Tea (Greg Mortenson) – good.
Better (Atul Gawande) – Complications was better than Better. I was hoping for more insight on how surgeons stay on the top of their game, especially with the long hours that seem to come with that job.
and of course my favorite audio series, which I constantly revisit, Sherlock Holmes.
Nathan Hale is the illustrator of the Rapunzel’s Revenge & Calamity Jack graphic novels with Shannon Hale (no relation — she’s also the author of several critically acclaimed YA novels). Mr. Hale has now decided to leverage his fortuitous name (identical to that of a certain historical figure), to create a series of graphic novels for kids about American history. He calls these books Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales, and I am here to tell you that in my opinion they are absolutely brilliant.
The first two titles in the series are One Dead Spy and Big Bad Ironclad, published by Amulet Books (a division of Abrams). They are narrated by the historical Nathan Hale, with a hangman and a British guard as his fictional audience / peanut gallery. He first tells his own story (One Dead Spy) and then the story of the major naval clashes of the Civil War (Big Bad Ironclad!). With a deft touch for cutting away everything extraneous, and a healthy helping of silliness to spice things up, the two Nathans make these tales accessible and fun in a way that had me laughing and shaking my head with admiration all the way through. This is the point in my review where I have to admit that American history is my Achilles Heel. In school I excelled at most academic subjects, including math, science, and English. But American history I almost failed twice. For some reason I find it difficult to retain historical information, and American history in particular. Some of my friends are gasping with shock here, but yes it’s true, my brain and American History are like reversed magnets, oil and water, republicans and democrats, truth and advertising… you get the idea.
I am not exaggerating when I say that Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are the most engaging history books I’ve ever read. Quite possibly a real history buff would argue that this is “dumbed down history” but if so then maybe that is just what some of us need. The books are not lacking in historical detail — they’re actually quite dense. I’d say they pack significantly more factual punch than Larry Gonick’s critically-acclaimed History of the Universe for example, while being just as funny, and narratively more compelling (I love Gonick’s work, but it doesn’t really stick with me. Hale’s effort seems, so far, to be sticking better). In short, these are books I wish I’d written, and I will definitely be looking for the next installment.
In an effort to maintain some of the momentum from the painting workshop, I went out to paint the George Washington Bridge last week. I rather like these. The reason I did two was because the first one seemed a bit too close in value, especially between the sky and the bridge.
Just wanted to share a few highlights from Chelsea galleries I visited this past weekend:
Beth Cavener Stichter‘s incredible animal sculptures at Claire Oliver Gallery.
Matthew Cusick’s huge, intricate, beautiful, and slightly disturbing collages made out of old maps at Pavel Zoubok Gallery.
Shea Hembrey (known for his TED talk “How I Became 100 Artists”) – Dark Matters at Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery.
Diana Al-Hadid‘s amazing dissolving sculptures at Marianne Boesky Gallery.
Trey Speegle’s clever riffs on paint-by-number at Benrimon Gallery.
The unadvertised show of Anselm Keifer’s GIGANTIC and powerful collage/assemblage landscapes made of metal, earth, burnt wood, and other unconventional materials, plus George Baselitz‘ giant humanoid sculptures, at Gagosian Gallery (24th St location).
Kwang-Young Chun‘s large paintings and sculptures made entirely from triangular paper-wrapped packages at Hasted Kraeutler Gallery.
Alison and I just returned from a lovely 4-day weekend in Maine, where I attended a great little painting workshop with Henry Isaacs and Ashley Bryan. Henry is a landscape painter whose work I find absolutely stunning and inspiring. Ashley is inspiring to me both as a children’s book author/illustrator, a painter, and a radiant beacon of joy in the world. The workshop is organized and hosted by the Islesford Dock Gallery and Restaurant (Cynthia and Dan Lief are the wonderful proprietors). The gallery has excellent art, as I had seen on many previous visits to Islesford. The restaurant, as I discovered over the weekend, has really spectacular food — by any standard! We were fed so well I’d have to say the meals threatened to upstage the painting.
I will post a few of my paintings above the cut, and the rest below — along with a bunch of thoughts about painting that are bouncing around in my head.
Friday was a very foggy morning on the beach. Henry gave a great little demo and talk about seeing everything as solid, even the air, and treating it that way, rather than having a background with a subject in front of it. My first attempt at this was clumsy. I was using gouache, which is my favorite medium for landscape. It’s hard to cover a large surface with gouache though, and that caused some problems every time I tried to work larger than about 5×7″.
My second attempt used too complex a subject, and while I like this piece, it feels more like a drawing than a painting, and more like my habitual approach than what I was going for.
After that I did some pieces that caught parts of what I was after.
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