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: http://www.rayzablocki.com/179648/1870225/work/parsons-les-kanturek

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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Feb 07 2015

Scott McCloud at Politics and Prose

Published by under sketchbook

Scott McCloud, author of Understanding Comics*, has a huge new book out called The Sculptor, and he’s on a 14-city tour promoting it.¬†Last night I went to see him at Politics & Prose, in conversation with Michael Cavna of the Washington Post. The conversation was wide-ranging, and offered great glimpses into McCloud’s applied philosophy of comics storytelling. I’ll say more about the new book, but first some¬†sketches:

(I found Scott’s likeness a bit hard to capture, so I’m afraid most of these aren’t great likenesses. Michael is easy though.)

The Sculptor is massive in scale, and ambitious in its goals. Scott hits the big universal themes: love, life, death, and art, and digs into each one pretty deeply in the course of 500 pages, bringing the story together in an appropriately big and dramatic climax and a complex ending that encourages several re-readings (of at least the ending, if not the entire book). I recommend it highly.

*Understanding Comics, if anyone isn’t aware, is the preeminent work about¬†the medium of comics, written in comics, and is very accessible and interesting to anyone whether or not they read comics. If by chance you haven’t read it, you really, really should. Here, I’ll make it easy to get started:

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Feb 06 2015


I went to see David Greig’s play Dunsinane, a production of the National Theatre of Scotland¬†and Royal Shakespeare Company, playing at Shakespeare Theater Co. through 2/21 — More info here. I thought it was quite brilliant. It starts more or less where Macbeth ends, with Siward attempting to stabilize the country whose monarch he’s just unseated. It quickly asserts¬†a more accurate version of the history than Shakespeare’s¬†– Lady Macbeth is still alive, is known by her actual name, Gruach, and has a living son, Lulach. Macbeth has ruled for 17 years (relatively¬†peacefully by Gruach’s account). A finer point, and I’m not sure if this is historically supported, but¬†by clan¬†heredity she¬†embodies the¬†crown¬†of Scotland, her husband(s) being king only by marriage. The story is basically told from the point of view of the English soldiers, who find themselves in hostile territory, trying to stabilize a country whose culture they don’t understand — a deliberate parallel to the Iraq and Afghanistan situation.

The play is powerful, the acting is superb, and the themes are satisfyingly complex. Highly recommended.

Here are my sketches from the performance, with the usual caveat about a dark theater, blind contour, unflattering likenesses, etc.

I’m on a panel with several of these folks on Sunday. It should be very cool.

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Feb 03 2015

Mary Stuart at the Folger

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

The Folger Shakespeare Theater’s Mary Stuart just opened, and per¬†my usual modus operandi, I went and did sketches. The house tends to be quite dark there, so most of these are “blind contour” drawings, with the bizarre proportions and overlaps that result from that.

The story is quite engaging, and the acting is excellent. The play has, as its title might suggest, a sympathetic view toward Mary Stuart, but also conveys the complex and dangerous situation in which Elizabeth I found herself with little choice but to treat Mary as an enemy. The sets and costumes are extremely well done, though I found the lack-of-color palette combined with a lack of action in the play made the performance a bit less interesting visually. Still, the personalities and various twists of the story kept me engaged, and I recommend the show to anyone who is (at least somewhat) interested in the Elizabethan period of history.

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Jan 30 2015

The Tempest part Deux, and more upcoming Shakespeare-related theatre

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

STC was kind enough to invite me to attend their magnificent production of The Tempest a second time. Sketches below!

Next up for STC are The Metromaniacs, a “rediscovered French comedy masterpiece” from 1738, translated/adapted by David Ives, and David Greig’s Dunsinane, a sequel to Macbeth, produced the National Theatre of Scotland and Royal Shakespeare Company.

Also the Folger is doing Mary Stuart, about the power struggle between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

Tempest sketches part two (part one here) —

Prospero’s final monologue is especially powerful in this production. Here it is in its entirety:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

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