May 22 2014

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki at Politics & Prose

Published by under sketchbook

The fabulous Mariko and Jillian Tamaki gave a nice talk at Politics and Prose last Saturday to close out their book tour for This One Summer. It’s a gorgeous book, and I have huge respect for these two ladies as writer and illustrator.

I had left my sketchbook in the car (doh!) so I drew these one the back of some official P&P stationery. Click to enlarge.

Mariko and Jillian Tamaki at PnP

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May 05 2014

Brookside Gardens + nonfiction children’s authors

Published by under sketchbook

Had a very nice weekend. Saturday we went to Brookside Gardens, a lovely spot just outside the beltway. They have a water garden that reminds me of Mt. Auburn, right down to the great blue heron who was hunting there.

2014-05-04 Brookside tulips   2014-05-04 Brookside heron

Sunday we went to the Takoma Park House and Garden Tour, and then raced over to Politics & Prose for their nonfiction children’s books panel. I think I managed to capture at least a halfway decent likeness of all eight panelists. Top row: Duncan Tonatiuh, Jen Bryant, R. Gregory Christie. Bottom row: Brian Floca, Richard Jackson, Susan Roth, and Leonard Marcus.

PnP nonfic panel

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Apr 22 2014

Quiet Life Motel sketches

Published by under sketchbook

My neighbor happens to be a very talented composer and violinist, and last night we went to see his group Quiet Life Motel play at a charming little French wine bar called Bistrot Lepic. It was a lovely evening of good food, good wine and good music, and I did a few sketches of the group playing. Check out their new album, it’s very cool and atmospheric.

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Apr 11 2014

Cherry Blossoms!

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Cherry Blossoms 2014-01      Cherry Blossoms 2014-02

I spent part of the morning down at the tidal basin painting the cherry blossoms. Not quite as gorgeous as seeing them at dawn yesterday, but this time I brought the right supplies. It was a little crowded, but really not bad.

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Mar 09 2014

Henry IV part 2

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

On Sunday I went back for the second day of Shakespeare Theatre Co’s Henry IV rehearsals. Like Saturday, it was a lot of fun. I met more of the cast, I introduced myself to director Michael Kahn, and I had a seat right in the front with plenty of light to draw. I also found that they have Merchant in their store (along with my competitors Manga Shakespeare and No Fear Shakespeare — I’ll see if I can get them to carry Lear and R&J).

I concentrated on faces in a lot of these sketches because apparently nobody but Falstaff is in their real costume yet. Surprising how well a sword belt over a hoodie works, though.


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Mar 08 2014

Henry IV and other developments

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

First, I finished coloring Macbeth last week. This was cause for much rejoicing, and a brief vacation to the True/False Film Festival, which was awesome. I may write at more length about the films I saw, but the highlights were probably Tim’s Vermeer and Happy Valley.

So, what now? For a few weeks I’ll be drawing final speech balloons and making art edits, and then the book should be DONE before the end of the month. I’m excited to enjoy the spring weather without being chained to my drawing table 70 hours a week! Speaking of which, we had some beautiful spring weather today, and I went downtown to enjoy it for a bit, and to catch an open rehearsal of Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Henry IV part 1.

Have I mentioned DC is a great town for Shakespeare? Not one but two dedicated Shakespeare theaters, and usually other assorted  groups doing Shakespeare at any given time throughout the area. I’m especially thrilled that Shakespeare Theatre Company is doing free open rehearsals for their upcoming Henry IV parts 1 & 2 (starring Stacy Keach as Falstaff)! I love to see these things in progress, and it’s often a good way to meet some of the cast & crew.

They had the house lights down, and I didn’t get there early enough to sit right in front, so as usual I was trying to draw in the dark. With that caveat, here are a few sketches I managed to get.




The rehearsal was a lot of fun. It really looks like an excellent show. Henry IV isn’t the easiest story to make compelling, but they’re doing a great job with it. In an era of stripped-down productions, STC has WAY above average production values, so it’s quite a feast for the eyes too. I definitely want to see the full show, and I may go back for the second rehearsal tomorrow.

They had a little mingling time afterward, and I got to meet Mr. Keach. He was extremely gracious, and complimented my sketches. (I also sat right behind director Michael Kahn during the rehearsal, but after the show he was having important scheduling/tech discussions, and I didn’t think it was appropriate to interrupt him, so I didn’t get to show him my work. Maybe another time.)

By the way, apropo of meeting celebrities, I just found this in an old sketchbook. It’s from a music-store appearance, I believe from the “9 Objects of Desire” tour, so that would have been…1996?


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Feb 04 2014

Richard III at the Folger

Published by under reviews,shakespeare,sketchbook

I’m afraid I’ve been hiding under a rock for a while now, due to my Macbeth schedule being well and truly off the rails. I don’t like to brag/complain about how hard I’m working, because I know a lot of folks have to work two jobs, are on call all the time, have kids, etc, etc — but I will say that I have been working such long hours coloring Macbeth that (a) I got through the audiobook of Neal Stephenson’s 1000-page Anathem in less than a week, and (b) my Photoshop windows started to burn in to my monitor.

I did, however, escape the studio for half a day last Sunday to spend a few hours at the National Gallery, enjoy an unhealthy dinner at Shake Shack, and then watch the Folger Shakespeare Theater’s excellent production of Richard III, directed by Robert Richmond, which runs through March 9th.

The show features very good, consistent performances, with superb clarity and a nice “dynamic range” from disturbing to funny — plus nice use of trap doors, and the space has been totally transformed from the theater’s usual configuration. The cast, many of whom are depicted in these sketches: Drew Cortese, Alyssa Wilmoth Keegan, Howard Overshown, Michael Sharon, Julia Motyka, Richard Sheridan Willis, Sean Fri, Michael Gabriel Goodfriend, Nanna Ingvarsson, Naomi Jacobson, Daniel Flint, Andrew Criss, Remy Brettell, Holden Brettell, and Jenna Berk. Very cool costumes designed by Mariah Hale and sewn by Ananda Keator.

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Oct 28 2013

Plein-Air painting in Maine

Published by under landscape,sketchbook,travel

I enjoyed the Islesford Painting Workshop so much last year that I decided to go again. It was a rather different experience this time, partly due to completely different weather, but still excellent.

The first day we had heavy rain and fog —  all day :-(  We painted from inside the Dock Restaurant / Gallery, and attempted to capture the solidity of the fog. Day two was still foggy but at least we could change locations a bit. Day 3 was glorious, for which Henry apologized several times (the man has a New England sense of humor and a deadpan delivery).

Here’s a gallery of all the pieces I did in two and a half days. Many of these I am thinking of as sketches for later paintings (which I’ll probably never get around to), or as somewhat unfinished works. The thing about goauche, though, is you can’t really work back into it very easily; so more than likely they will just stay as they are, sacrificing “doneness” in favor of (hopefully) a bit of that nice plein-air freshness.

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Oct 23 2013

YOU. Read YOU.

Published by under reviews

I just finished YOU by Austin Grossman. It’s brilliant, in my opinion. As an elevator pitch, I would describe it as Microserfs meets Ready Player One, but with an existentialist heart. A bit slow in places, but the plot pulled me along pretty effectively, and I enjoyed the old-game nostalgia as well as the philosophical underpinnings. I highly recommend it to anyone who is/was into computer games, especially the early RPGs of the 80s and 90s. The recommendation goes double for anyone who has ever worked as a game developer, or wanted to know what that’s like.

There are many references to LookingGlass, and among the characters are many traits mined from the personalities of LG developers — but he’s re-formed all these elements into a kind of archetypal mythology that somehow tells the story of the whole evolution of games, both as it was and as it should have been, AND does the same archetype-evolution trick with both the people who MAKE games and the characters IN games. This can lead to some occasionally-confusing switches of perspective (1st, 2nd and 3rd person narratives are all used, all four “playable characters” are “played” as both avatars and real characters, and sometimes you aren’t totally sure if the protagonist is playing, dreaming, or hallucinating) — but ultimately YOU has big, audacious goals that, in my opinion, Austin achieves elegantly. It also has a really nice cover by Superbrothers.

Incidentally, I listened to it on audio, and the audio book is really well done. (As is the audiobook for Ready Player One, if you haven’t read that yet.)

Also, I should disclose possible bias, since know Austin personally (we overlapped at LG by a year or so). I don’t think personal bias is playing into my love of this book, but shared experience certainly is. It’s possible that no one who isn’t an LG alum will truly appreciate the full, painful genius of Realms of Golf.

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Oct 21 2013

Review: Templar

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I just finished reading Templar, by Jordan Mechner with illustrations by LeUyen Pham and Alex Puvilland.  I read the first section when First Second published it as Solomon’s Thieves, and loved it — except for the cliffhanger ending!!! Now the story is finally available in one volume, thank goodness!

Since that first sentence contained the name LeUyen Pham, I probably don’t have to tell you that this book is drop-dead gorgeous, with 480 pages (!) of beautiful, dynamic, expressive drawings of medieval France illustrating a rollicking adventure tale with comic and tragic touches and a powerful ending. It also has some brief but clear notes at the end about what’s historical and what’s made-up (unlike some of their other reality-inspired books such as Boxers & Saints).

I don’t think I really need to say much more. Read this book!

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