Day Four: HAS: NYC

Yesterday was chock a block--and for me, all in, the most thought provoking time during our encampment in New York. We started the day with Zina Saunders, who is an electric person, filled with passion, intelligence, wit and artistry. She lives her life weaving her thoughts, her amazing perceptions and insights with her art with a seeming endless fount of energy and spirit. Can you imagine, I was blown off my cotton-pickin' chair and found her speech riveting, inspirational, and insightful.

I have a new hero in my pantheon of heros.

Zina stood up, and in her upfront, no frills way, detailed how she came to illustration through her father, the late, Norman Saunders, known for his pulp and sci-fi illustration. Zina was influenced by her father to get into the business and still paints in details and concepts that are homage to his work and humor (a nice example was in the Calamity Sarah picture she shows on Drawger, Sarah Palin is holding the reins of the bucking bronco between her teeth--referencing Zina's memory of the delight her father had in western movies when the cowboy was riding a horse, guns a blazin' with the reins of the horse in his teeth. This, Norman Saunders declared, was something the cowboy would only do once as he would no longer have any teeth after the first go round). And, as Zina has herself, made a career of illustration--doing everything from licensing jobs (books about Sponge Bob, Blues Clues and Dora the Explorer), she has transcended illustration and has fused it with her curiosity of life, the people she lives with in that small town called Manhattan, her energy and her passion to grow and develop completely as a person, an artist and a spirit.

She is a witty and opinionated person who not only says laugh out loud funny stuff, but she uses her lithe and willowy person to accentuate and to some degree, illustrate the commentary, her tales, her insights. She is a complete package with her public speaking. She also is not afraid to teach and share, talking about her transition from a pure traditional media person to all digital with the making of custom brushes, and her desire to paint just as she had before in a new environment, using healthier materials abut with the same vision, same brain and same hands as she had in the more conventional methods. Zina takes up challenges whether it be the white lie to a client that yes indeed, she had done thus and so type of work in thus and so type of media to the current challenge laid down by Nancy Stahl on the Drawger site, challenging the women to do political work. This, Zina Saunders picked up with a zeal that manifested itself in the most amazing collection of images about John McCain and Caribou Barbie--their relationship and all the funny juxtapositions that occurred_ during the short campaign. Zina really found a groove with this--allowing her room to joke and yet bring her formidable talent and skills as an illustrator to deliver the goods. You should really check it out She would often, during this time, get up at three in the morning to create her illustration (she is fast) and have a low res jpg in the mailboxes of the major papers by early morning before the editors even had their coffee. From this resulted phone calls and requests for high res jpgs of the same files...and she was off to the races. She got in front of being tweaked and pinched by the art directors due to the freshness of the art..the Now-ness...and in so doing, created a wonderful body of work which should spin all sorts of other projects.

This entrepeneurial spirit manifested in this political work stemmed from her independent work on the unknown New York and on a women bicycle messenger from Zimbabwe. Zina independently started making pictures of the men who had these wonderful hybrid bikes she used to admire growing up on 104th Street. These vehicles are remarkable, strange, contraptions which, it turns out has a following, a club of people who make and ride them. Zina got friendly with one guy, did an illustration of him a week later and then presented him with the work. One picture a week, a new guy, a new bike--burgeoning to a collection of images that include people that raise bees in the city, raise racing pigeons etc. Wonderful people with passion gave to Zina and she, in turn, gave back to them, and to us, enriching her vision and ours, of the world, of Manhattan. And, this work has been picked up and once again, her passion and vision has driven a body of work which has had a payout for all of us.

Something to remember and think about.

We had Joe Ciardello speak about his work, his engagement in fusing his interest in music with that of illustration. His work is beautiful and inspiring in his use of line and color--muscular despite it's seeming delicacy. He works on a hot press watercolor paper I need to get my hands on as it took the water and paint beautifully. He too, is developing personal work which is becoming paying work with his aspirations for the near future being around some personal publishing work much like Zina's new book from Blurb of the McCain Palin project, The Party's Over.

We had Cheryl Phelps come and talk about licensing, her quick chat about it (you can have her coach you), the complexities of the deal and contracts, how to "find the bachelors", how do develop a portfolio with templates for the market segment you want to focus your illustrations for, and the ways to get your work out there from tradeshows, publications, advertising etc. With her matter of fact discussion, her depth of knowledge and her gentle humor, it was very exciting and for me, a definite opportunity as I know about markets and market driven work, the bodies of work I currently do, throw off illustrations and patterns, and I know how to present ideas in a format to sell. I know how to comp a product. I know production methods. I know how to put a tradeshow together. I can sell. And, aligned with my desire to create alternative cash streams that can spin the green stuff, this fits in perfectly. So, def on the trip to Surtex..and more.

We then went down to the Illustration House to see the work and hear Walt Reed and his son Roger tell us about the work, the up and coming auction and their insights about the work and artists they represent. I had a chance to spend a little time with Walt to ask him about how he got into this business that he virtually created. Walt is an illustrator, who, while he was in Westport, CT was part of the illustration whirl,meeing with friends, going to parties, mixing with some of the phenomenal talent that filled the editorial and magazine pages of the time. He said that at the time, at one of the Westport Art Club meetings one of the members stood up and informed the group that they should all go home and destroy their archives of work as their families would be taxed on the work (as a part of their estates) at a very high level. And many illustrators took his word immediately. Walt had been (as many illustrators do today) swapped illustrations with his friends so he offered to take the pictures off these worried illustrators at that time. From that moment, he was in the business. It moved from Connecticut to New York in several locations to the place they are today on 25th Street. Walt and Roger were part of the unfolding of the Rockwell forgery that was in the press in the last year or so and were the people to inform the family of it's illegitimacy. After he told the family, the family went looking for original and as the story unfolded, they found it hidden in the attic (if my mind serves me, it was hidden because of a divorce or some other split in the family). When asked where illustration was going, and what was going to be in his gallery in ten years, Walt seemed unsure. He mourns the moment of painting--seemingly not recognizing digital media as an option. I find it curious as illustration, as it was practiced in the 50s through the 80s really does not exist in the same places. It is purchased and infused into other aspects of our lives. It is not dead. Illustration doesn't sell Cream of Wheat in an idealized way any more...but to my pleasure, Washington Mutual and their heavy advertising (with illustration) in the New Yorker points to something happening--maybe for novelty or maybe for the illlustrative context of the publication. Maybe what is old will become the chicness of pinhole cameras (Bill K. cited the interest at Pratt), and turntables (like Mr.A's interest in that and "vinyl"). Who knows? The greening of the wold makes used and old, new and fab. We can hope...but not wait.

my roommates from Left to Right:
Jackie Decker, Lori Ann Levy Holm, Linda Tajirian all looking at Grey's Anatomy on TV.
Lotsa laughs with this crew.