Dec 14 2015

My brief obsession with knifemaking

Published by under Uncategorized

Here’s something most of you don’t know about me. During high school and college I was quite interested in metalworking, especially as it applies to historical weapons. I read a lot about the subject and found some very nice folks who helped me pursue it, and for a while I had a fairly encyclopedic (entirely theoretical) knowledge of how Japanese swords are made, as well as various types of Damascus pattern forging. At one point a local blacksmith let me make one or two super-crude blades in his forge (one was just a leaf spring ground to an edge, the other looked like a pointy baguette gnawed by a dog). Later I met the amazing Jim Kelso, who I am happy to say is still a close friend. He brought me to a bladesmithing conference, which was an amazing experience that really opened my eyes to the true level of craftsmanship involved.

My sophomore year in college, I did an independent study with Leonard Urso in which I attempted to make two fully-finished knives. I was not very successful, but I recently found these knives in storage and thought I would post some photos for posterity.

The first knife was an experiment in “cable Damascus,” probably the easiest way to produce a pattern-welded blade. I was picturing this as a throwing knife, hence the weight is toward the tip, and it has a full tang which is threaded to attach a pommel (I was planning a ring-shaped pommel). I was pleased with the shape, and the pattern in the steel — but I never finished it, both because I ran out of time and because I was disappointed that the cable didn’t weld solidly all the way through, producing the cracks you see at the tip (and making the knife somewhat useless as a tool or weapon). The steel isn’t stainless, and has rusted a bit in storage.

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The second knife came out better, though not nearly as well as I’d hoped. It was supposed to be a sort of East-meets-West knife, a double-edged stainless steel blade essentially European in style but married to a more Japanese style hilt and fittings. The shape got away from me a little in the forging, and I had to keep simplifying the fittings to accommodate the amount of skill and work time I had. Still, it is my first and only complete knife, and it is functional (solidly built and very sharp), and not quite the ugliest knife I’ve ever seen, so I’m a little bit proud of it.

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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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Nov 09 2015

2015 Picture Book panel at Politics & Prose

Published by under Uncategorized

Last night Politics & Prose hosted a great panel about picture books for older readers. It included Jason Chin, Jacqueline Woodson, Christopher Myers, John Parra, and Chris Soentpiet, all fabulous picture book authors and/or illustrators. In the audience were dozens of the local educators and book-industry folks I’ve been getting to know, as well as many I hadn’t yet met. Lots of great questions from moderator Julie Danielson of 7 Impossible Things, and from the audience as well. Good times! They videotaped it, so that should be available to watch sometime soonish. Also Alison tweeted lots of quotes here. Here are the sketches I did during the discussion:

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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.

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Aug 11 2015

Published by under Macbeth,odyssey,Poe,process

Today TeachingBooks.net 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

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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

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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 😉

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