Archive for the 'sketchbook' Category

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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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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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.

Layout 1Toy horse

Layout 1Samurai Cover finish grey

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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Nov 19 2015

Pericles at the Folger

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

Last night I went to see Pericles, Prince of Tyre at the Folger. Pericles is an unusual play, and most scholars think it was only partly written by Shakespeare (Wikipedia link). The first half of the play is colorful but rather choppy, as the narrator tugs us along quickly through an epic series of journeys, not really getting into much depth in terms of character or drama. However, the events themselves are quite interesting, with cool mythological overtones, and eventually the narrative builds up a compelling reality. Working with this source material, the small company of actors/musicians paints a beautiful and vivid tapestry. It’s visually lush and musically ambitious, and I recommend it quite highly. Here are the sketches I did during the performance.

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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.

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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).

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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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