May 15 2017

Kusama

I finally, just barely, got to see the Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirrors” exhibit at the Hirshhorn before it closed. There was a lot of standing in lines involved, but nevertheless it was an awesome and inspiring exhibit. And I used that time standing in line to draw this little comic in honor of her art and the experience of nonduality she describes as inspiring much of it.

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Feb 03 2017

Folger Shakespeare Theatre’s “As You Like It”

Earlier this week, I want to see Folger Shakespeare’s production of As You Like It, directed by Gaye Taylor Upchurch. I really enjoyed the performance; the first half was slow in a couple of places (mostly because Shakespeare didn’t do a very good job of giving the characters motivations)┬ábut once things start to come together in the second half it’s a delightful romp, with excellent dramatic, comedic, and musical performances by the entire cast.

Here are my sketches (done digitally with iPad Pro & Procreate app) –

Cast: Lindsay Alexandra Carter, Kimberly Chatterjee, Michael Glenn, Will Hayes, Jeff Keogh, Aaron Krohn, Allen McCullough, Brian Reisman, Daven Ralston, Lorenzo Roberts, Antoinette Robinson, Dani Stoller, Tom Story, Cody Wilson.

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Jan 30 2017

Samurai Rising at ALA Midwinter ’17

Published by under appearances,samurai

Last weekend in Atlanta some wonderful things happened to me.

YALSA Nonfiction Award finalist Samurai Rising!

Samurai Rising won a fancy silver seal as a finalist for the YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award, and Pam Turner and I each got a lovely plaque. It’s really her award, but I was super happy to be part of it. Unlike most of the awards announced at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, the YALSA finalists are announced ahead of time, and the only mystery is who will get the gold seal. The answer (unsurprisingly, at least to Alison and me), was March Book 3, the wonderful graphic novel by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, published by Top Shelf Comics.

March proceeded to win 3 more ALA awards, bringing the total medals on its cover to an unprecedented six! — National Book Award, Printz, Corretta Scott King, Walter Dean Myers, YALSA Nonfiction, Sibert Nonfiction. I think (as, it seems, did the award committees) that this is the book of our time. We’re in a moment reminiscent of the events of the civil rights movement, and may need the lessons of March and the leadership of men like John Lewis to move civil rights forward.

The real high point of the weekend was the award ceremony for the YALSA and Morris Awards. Since the finalists for these two awards are announced ahead of time, they have their acceptance ceremony right after the award announcements (as opposed to the Newbery and Caldecott, which have their ceremony at ALA Annual in the summer). The Morris is the award for the best debut YA novel. Each finalist for the two awards was invited to speak briefly.

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I guess it should come as no surprise that good writers can write really good speeches; that debut novelists can express heartfelt and earnest passion for their work and gratitude for being recognized; and that nonfiction authors can paint a vivid picture of how history relates to the present. But wow, did they ever! I wish the whole video was online, because I’d like everyone I know to be able to watch it. It was such an amazing expression of the passion authors and librarians have for the power of books. Sadly, at the moment, all I can find are handheld recordings of John Lewis’ and Sonia Patel’s speeches on YouTube.

I also did some sketches of the speakers at both award ceremonies:

ALAYMA17 Morris awards1

Morris awards2 YALSA awards

Afterward we had a group photo in which I sat next to Congressman Lewis, and lastly the photographer had us make a human chain — which seemed rather silly at first, but when I realized (a) that I was locking arms with John Lewis, a man who has done the same thing so many times for real in the service of civil rights, and (b) the symbolism of all these nonfiction authors “holding the line” for facts and advancing truth in this time of “alternative facts,” I was very moved. Indeed I think it was one of my life’s peak moments.

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So, yeah. Incredibly grateful to the YALSA Nonfiction committee, to ALA, to Pam, to Charlesbridge, and to the other authors for an amazing weekend.

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Sep 16 2016

Islesford Painting Workshops 2016

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I just got back from a fantastic week on Little Cranberry Island, Maine, helping to teach the Islesford Painting Workshops. As always, it was a complete blast. Look how much fun we are having!

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I’m up to my ears in catch-up tasks, so I won’t write too much about it, but once again it was great. I’m sad that this is (almost certainly) the last year it will be held, because the Dock Restaurant & Gallery which hosts it is being sold.

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Anyway, here are my paintings/sketches/studies. Some are digital this time — I continue to play with the iPad, and I’ve also been messing about with Kyle’s brushes for Photoshop. On one level it’s silly trying to get painterly effects on a digital device, because a real painting “in the flesh” is SO much more awesome than any print or purely 2-dimensional representation of it can capture. On the other hand, using tools that make different kinds of marks can help one understand more about the problems of painting, and in that respect it’s cool to have a really large toolbox in a small device to experiment with.

My favorite take-aways this year: First, the idea of “carving into” a painting, usually to simplify or define the space better. Second, the realization that I am usually willing to get quite experimental with color but not so much with forms/drawing. I want to play with that a bit more.

Previous year’s workshops: 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 (2012 has the most theoretical/philosophical musing in it, if you like that sort of thing.)

So long, Islesford. The workshops may be over, but I’ll be back.

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Jul 11 2016

eBooks now available to libraries via Overdrive and MackinVIA

Published by under e-books

I’m pleased to announce that my eBooks are now available via Overdrive and MackinVIA, excellent platforms for schools and libraries who want to make them available to patrons in a single-user perpetual license model. The library must purchase each title, just like a physical book (they aren’t just available automatically), so if your library uses one of those services, please consider asking them to carry any or all my graphic novels (which are e-published under my own name, not by Candlewick).

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May 16 2016

STC’s Taming of the Shrew

Last night I saw Shakespeare Theatre Company’s new production, The Taming of the Shrew. It features an all-male cast, a craft market in the lobby, a lot of music, and a bunch of other cool immersive touches. As with every Shrew production I’ve seen, it struggles to rise above the misogynist speech in the final scene, but in other respects I thought it was quite marvelous. The actors were all superb, and extremely consistent. The musicality was impressive. You could almost say they turned the play into a musical — which is a kind of an odd choice, and it didn’t work 100% of the time, but there were points later in the story where it really elevated what was going on. It did, however, make for a long show. It ran almost 3 and a half hours. During the intermission they had drinks and snacks in the theater, and allowed the audience onto the stage while the actors continued to do… well, a lot of things that aren’t in the actual play. That might sound odd or gimmicky, but actually I found the result was unique and powerful. In fact I’d say the treatment of the intermission, and some of the threads that emerged from that, might have been the coolest part of the show.

Of course I drew. Some of these I drew on paper, and others on a new iPad Pro I’m testing out. I turned the brightness all the way down and worked on a grey background so I wouldn’t distract my neighbors. You can probably tell which drawings are digital and which are traditional (especially since there are some glaring clues besides the line quality) but I’m pretty impressed with some of the tools, especially ProCreate’s pencil simulation, which uses the Apple Pencil’s tilt sensor quite effectively.

 

The show runs through June. Definitely recommended.

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Mar 04 2016

STC’s Othello

Published by under shakespeare,sketchbook

Last night I went to Shakespeare Theatre Company’s production of Othello. It’s a powerful performance of a powerful play. Without further commentary, here are my sketches…

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Feb 21 2016

Samurai Rising – process post

When I was contacted by Charlesbridge about possibly illustrating a nonfiction book about the legendary samurai Yoshitsune Minamoto, I jumped at the chance. The timing was great, as I was in transition between Macbeth and Poe, I’d been wanting to work with the Charlesbridge crew, and the subject matter is an intense interest of mine. I had done some karate and aikido as a kid, studied Japanese culture and language during high school and college, and spent a summer in Japan in 1990. On that trip I met lots of great people, tried kendo, got to visit a famous Japanese swordmaker, watched hours and hours of anime and sumo wrestling on TV, and learned what real jet-lag feels like. Later I took up aikido in a more serious way, and I’ve been practicing that art for over 15 years now. I also did an illustration project in college about Yoshitsune, so I knew the basics of his story — though at the time I was focused more on the legends about his early life than the real details of his military exploits. Anyway, I was quite excited to illustrate this book, especially once I had read the manuscript, which I found vivid, compelling, and action-packed. The author, Pamela Turner, has written lots of excellent nonfiction, lived in Japan, and practices kendo, and she brings all of that background plus a clever modern sensibility to the story.

The scope of the assignment was a cover plus an illustration for each of the 15 chapters, plus a title page spread and 4 maps, all to be painted in a loose brush-and-ink style.

I started filling up a sketchbook with rough pencil sketches for each chapter. I tried to keep these loose and focus on interesting silhouettes and compositions. I wasn’t sure yet whether these would be half-page or full-page illustrations, or exactly what the page size would be. I did 4-8 sketches for each chapter, and maybe 15 or 20 for the cover.

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I discussed the sketches with my editor Alyssa Pusey and art director Susan Sherman. Once we narrowed down which ones we all liked the most, I did larger sketches digitally. We decided to go full-page, so many of the compositions had to be adjusted to fit the page size, and then tested opposite a chapter opening. Author Pam then checked the illustrations for historical accuracy. She researched this book so thoroughly, we all wanted to make sure I didn’t mess anything up.

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In order to do a loose brush painting, I actually needed to work out a fairly precise drawing, often with more information in it than the finished illustration would have. Then I put the drawing on a light table and painted over it, laying down the solid blacks first, then the grey tones. I used some carefully distressed, bristly brushes I’ve cultivated over the years (a good inking brush, as it ages, tends to lose its ability to keep a sharp point, but sometimes gains other magical qualities!).

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Layout 1

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We decided to do a wraparound cover, and Susan mocked up the type with our favorite sketch. I worked out the composition for the wraparound, then drew in more precise details. I tend to find horses a bit challenging to get right, so in addition to a lot of photo reference I also used a plastic horse that I bought on eBay and hung over my drawing table.

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I did use digital techniques in a few places. Most notably, I replaced the ink wash sky in the original art with a color gradient and white clouds made by reversing black ink strokes I did separately. Then I added a layer of digital red and gold as accent colors.

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Samurai Rising Cover finish

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I also got to help pick out the colors of the endpapers, the red ink of the cover type, the stamp and the paper for the casewrap, and even the striped pattern for the headband and footband.

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Here’s one of the maps. It’s a brush painting with a grey wash digitally inserted behind it for the ocean. Labels added by the publisher.

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Charlesbridge has been wonderful to work with, and the book has been getting a great critical response. It’s on sale now, and I hope you’ll check it out. Thanks for reading!

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Feb 11 2016

Midsummer at the Folger in midwinter

Published by under shakespeare,sketchbook

Last week I went to see the Folger’s excellent production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a fairly modern interpretation, with strong performances by the whole cast, including very physical performances by Puck and Oberon, a demurely scene-stealing Snug (Lion), and several lovely and comical musical interludes. Definitely recommended. It’s up until March 13. Here are my sketches.

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Feb 09 2016

NY, Samurai, Dinosaurs

Published by under appearances,sketchbook

Just got back from a short but sweet trip to NYC, where I did Samurai Rising events at Bank Street Books and Book Court. Saw a lot of great friends and fans at those events, caught up with a few of my super-creative NY artist pals, and made a little time to stop by the American Museum of Natural History and see the new Titanosaur. I actually didn’t do a drawing of the Titanosaur because I was crunched for time, but I did a quick sketch of the lobby that came out reasonably well.

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