A summer moment

Monarda, Q. Cassetti, 2011Cool this morning. The full moon illuminated the night such that morning segued without much fanfare. We had a peaceful evening at the lake talking about fashion and how one transitions their look. Kitty is all over this with interest both from Jacob and Alex. The weekend stretches in front of us— with a pickup from Sweet Land, maybe some raspberry picking and grocery shopping. Some may start on GrassRoots projects, I may party with my pens. Summer full bore.

I am musing over my friends at the Hartford Art School and where they are this week. For those new students, they are dying. The dream project is pushing them all out of their corners, their safe zones, to a place of challenging discomfort. This clever punishment is devised by some pretty amazing educators to get folks off their illustration tookies and into the fray. It is hard work but accomplishes the creation of a class group, shoves everyone to accept change and personal growth, and gives everyone a common day one. But ooh. Ouch right now.

Then there are the confident second year students. They have time with the program. They have friends. They have work. They think they are on track for their thesis. The world is theirs. School is one fat slice of wonderful.

Then there are the third years. They have been dragged through a keyhole backwards. The thesis, the papers, the illustration, the travel, the ancillary papers have all added up. These students want to savor the last crumbs from the slice of wonderful but are distracted with all the to dos to finish. It is a complex time of trying to grab it all,  and yet not being able to really embrace it the way you could during the summer of the second years. It is a bittersweet time during the first week. The second week for me was ” get me out of here…!” It is a tremendous thing, these MFA students are doing for themselves. They are opening themselves up to change, to evolve, to self discovery, to learning. Nothing wrong with that!

Tonight, Amelia and Leah, my friends are singing with Mary Lorson to open for EmmyLou Harris at Greek Peak. This was a spur of the moment thing and I am  so excited for them to get this exposure and chance to sing to a new and different audience. Very cool.

The GrassRoots machine is beginning to whirrrr. Projects are beginning. Tents are arriving. The buzz is in the air.  More later.

Pourhouse Week

Alex (and Bruce) at the Pourhouse, Q. Cassetti, 2010

Quiet Day yesterday. It was turkey stock, present wrapping, and a bit of drawing. Don’t know if I love the drawings, but the stock rocks. Rob worked on a great presentation about a possible new chapter for the Museum. We named an event (the same way we named 2300˚ which was fun…as Rob tells me stories and I write down words and then we hammer them out). We watched “The Abyss” which was great and trashy. Just what the doctor ordered.

Work to do on the Vet School stuff (to nail down as we have time this week). Time to think about the LSP valentine (foil stamped) and get to Mr. Sepi (Pioneer Printing). Need to finalize my mailing list for holiday cards (Barbara is reworking the mailing list…from a word doc to an Xcel doc). Need to add more names from all the new friends I have made over the course of the year.

Need to get the alumni thing going with the Hartford Illustration Blog. Versus me handing the whole thing, we are having class representatives handle their respective class materials. I will need to set up separate accounts…and resolve that. Speaking of  illustration, I will need to get the entryfee thing sorted out with Society of Illustrators LA as I have more stuff to enter. CA is taking entries already.  I am entering CA Illustration and CA Design this year too.

More later.

Summer Song

Goldfish, Q. Cassetti, Pen and Ink, 2008Yesterday was restful. There was swimming, pizza making, drawing and new revelations. I needed a day or two to make my brain stop…(I cannot sing the praises of clear thinking after a nap…so much so I would love to have an hour everyday as it has been producing eureka moments). Did a little drawing…lubki style and was reflecting on an approach I was working with two years ago with the childrens book project I did sketches with the Lewins (see goldfish to the side).

I am going to do some drawings/ constructions along this line as its an idea worth developing and offers me a few more tricks. After thinking about that….I thought about how Arnold Bank would teach us calligraphic “hands”. There was a distinct process to test one’s knowledge and mastery/design with these letterforms.

We would learn the letterforms from the measure and scale of the letters based on the pen or tool width, and stroke. We would create letter necklaces with pen exercises to drive consistency and accurate line and letterspacing. Once we had the letterforms and variations internalized, we had to create a large, medium and small application of single letters, phrases/mottos, with and without illustration. We also had to do a small book/or document with more than 20 lines of text size lettering. It took between 4-6 months just to do this work…Poppy, Q. Cassetti, Pen and Ink, 2008but once it was done, it was understood, committed to memory and hand, integrated into one’s personal design approach. If we took this discipline and applied it to the various illustration “hands” or styles—working small, medium and large, portraits, landscapes, animals, likenesses, patterns =then this approach is best integrated into my thinking.

So, this simple, graphic approach is something I am going to pick up the pen and work up some illustrations in this mode.  Positive and negative, big fields of flat color. Keeping it linear and shapes. Maybe not matching up…Worth taking this around the block. I did something for the Cayuga Blue Notes and though its okay, I am not loving it. I am liking this applied to the Bass Box, Guitar, Slide Guitar and Harmonica…Could feel fresh and difference. We’ll see.

Tuesday: Looking towards the weekend

Sweetness Alight, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and inkTuesday started early. I got double thumped by the cats around four a.m.—impatient for cookies and attention.We then had to get rolling early to get Kitty and a friend to Corning with Rob for the day—to see the Rockwell Museum of Western Art, The Corning Museum of Glass and the fun on Market Street. Alex has a new job (self elected) at the Rongovian Embassy to the US on Main Street here is sunny Trumansburg. Dishwashing. He called me to say he was washing a pile of dishes and will be working until 6 p.m. Hard work, hard lessons…but all good because I am not jamming it at him. He has brought it on through his own motivation. I am thrilled.

Alex and I are going to learn how to smoke meat this summer. We bought a smoker from Josh Ozersky (now ozersky.tv and food writer for TIME) and tried it once. But Alex is anxious to perfect his bro-meister skills…which may incorporate barbeque and smoking to the mix of bro skills. The Urban Dictionary defines a “bro” as:

“An alpha male idiot. This is the derogatory sense of the word (common usage in the western US): white, 16-25 years old, inarticulate, belligerent, talks about nothing but chicks and beer, drives a jacked up truck that’s plastered with stickers, has rich dad that owns a dealership or construction business and constantly tells this to chicks at parties, is into extreme sports that might be fun to do but are uncool to claim (wakeboarding, dirt biking, lacrosse), identifies excessively with brand names, spends a female amount of money on clothes and obsesses over his appearance to a degree that is not socially acceptable for a heterosexual male.”

The MFA program at Hartford is beginning to ramp up. You can see the work of the incoming students here>> I am also collecting the Texas contact period illustrations from the current students (classes of 2010, 2011) and this is where we are>> Take a look. Pretty exciting.

We have three screenwriters in the back room meeting. I am friends with one of the guys who was looking for a place to have a 3-4 hour meeting (not at the coffee shop) so I said “come here” as we have chairs and tables and coffee too. So we have people busy chatting about interesting things that we get snippets as we go in for tea.

Work to do.

Sunday Funday

Northern Lights,v.2, Q. Cassetti, 2010, pen and ink/ digitalTweaking the color...things were itchy last night with yesterday's coloration, so I decided to brighten it up to see where it could go....and I think that this might be better. Learn as I go...and see what happens. Happier is better here. The sobriety of the other one is a bit of a downer. So, I got rid of the subtle/ multiply shadows at the top of the dark area, and in the burst at the top. This is a bit better. I was thinking of recoloring a bit more wildly just to see how it could go. I am, however, obsessed to continue onward with these for a while as they remind me of Chinese papercutting and folk art in general (Ukrainian/Hungarian).

There is some backwards forwards insideout, up down, and layers in the thinking around these images which is thrilling as the back and forth keeps the gears spinning.

This week the Etsy adventure begins. Wikipedia says the following about Etsy:


"Etsy is a website that provides the general public with a way to buy and sell handmade items as well as vintage items and craft supplies. Handmade items cover a wide range including art, photography, clothing, jewelry, edibles, bath & beauty products, and toys. The site follows in the tradition of open craft fairs, giving sellers personal storefronts where they list their goods for a fee. It has been compared to "a crafty cross between Amazon and eBay", and to "your grandma's basement"." 
"Etsy makes money by charging a listing fee of 20 cents for each item and getting 3.5 percent of every sale, with the average sale about $15 or $20 and mostly sold by women, who tend to be college-educated and in their twenties and thirties. Along with handmade products, people on Etsy sell vintage items, homemade sweets, and craft supplies. Etsy offers multiple options for paying for items, including credit card, money order, and PayPal (which is part of eBay); international sellers prefer PayPal.
Etsy has a permanent office called the "Etsy Labs" in Brooklyn, New York. The site's customer support, marketing/PR, business and communications teams operate out of this office. Additionally, Etsy Labs has a community workspace that provides equipment and donated materials where Labs members gather to make items, take and teach workshops, and attend special events.
Etsy is one of the main members of the Handmade Consortium, a 2007 effort to encourage buying handmade holiday gifts."

My launch into Etsy will be with all the cards I already have printed and boxed, Valentines and envelopes, tattoos and postcards. We will sell the felt balls I buy from Nepal and maybe a wreath  or two as well. I will post Gliclees as well as copies of Memento Mori books which surprisingly folks like and send checks to buy. I have the stuff. There is interest among those that know me and the idea of consolidating and marketing these things in the evolving marketplace is perfect. I have teenage help for the mail and packaging...so why shouldnt we jump in and figure it out before everyone goes to college. Seems like a prime opportunity.

Etsy has a nice (read seemingly easy) interface to set up a shop...and their fees are fair. The grassroots beat sez that Etsy is "coming on strong" which I totally believe. I bought a bunch of nice holiday presents from Etsy--things that were cherished and immediately worn upon opening.

Wonderful Don Kilpatrick (MA, Syracuse 2006) markets his screenprints and lovely sketchbooks through Etsy as Little Buffalo Press  and cleverly uses Facebook to talk to all of us who adore his work and his books. It seems that he clears out his offerings pretty quickly among his friends of FB. And friends, you know, have friends....so the network evolves.

Time for studyhall. More pictures...and the great rising of Whole Wheat Sourdough. This bread is a new one...that needs to actually ferment (read more science less Magic (which is what I believe happens in the Pain Levain)) and takes longer to rise and work with. So the long and slow time...is perfect for this coloration fun. Believe me, I need the time...This is work!


Groovin' with Squarespace

As you know, I migrated my blog (1750 entries) from Blogspot to this new place via SquareSpace. What is cool about Squarespace is that it is a very flexible tool for creating a web presence whether it be a blog or a site ...in a very straight forward way. They are continually evolving the tool...so its nice to get into looking at the parts to see how one can modify/change an existing site.

I took on the University of Hartford's  Hartford Art School Limited Residency MFA Illustration site back from a friend who took on the task for a while. I had started this blog in Wordpress thinking that it would be easier and more customizable than Blogspot (which, I will say again and again, is a great place to start to see if you or your content is well suited for the blogisphere). It was more customizable...but it just didn't feel as fluid or as intuitive as I would have liked. What that means is, it wasn't fun; it was always something you had to "work" with versus just getting in there and boogying with the content. So, when Erich heard mentions of Squarespace on the the tech podcast he listens to, I stored it in the back of my head.

Then, coming back from Thanksgiving, the thought became a plan and I put in motion migrating my blog to newer quarters which could accomodate all of my web presences from my illustration page, to the sleeping luckystone page... and the day to day mutterings on my blog. Why not drive traffic to one place? Why be ashamed of being an illustrator (and a designer) which to art directors is despised? I yam what I yam....and that's all what I yam. No big news, but big news for me. I planned the migration for before December and would run both blogs until January 1 when I would focus on the SS. site.

My happiness abounds. Squarespace works (though I am struggling with carriage returns and need to see what the code is to just hand sock them in. Squarespace gives me galleries (like the Atelier) which allows me to post bodies of work immediately. Squarespace also, in less than 10 minutes sucked all my Blogspot content and imagery over to the new home and allows me to back up a copy to my desktop. Only thing I was having an issue with was links and the patchwork of small information that I am recreating.

I did the same with Squint (not ready for prime time but here is the work in progress> I plan to bring over my other pages to merge with the Rongovian Academy, creating a homepage that sits on top of the whole magilla...and doing a page for graphics, work in progress, and illustration.

I am spending time on the Agricultural Entrepeneur work. I am working exclusively with type but trying to put my illustration hat on while working with the fonts to a little success (hopefully more). There are some kernels worth exploring. I think we may be able to do something standout, affordable and memorable. That works for me.

Made another loaf of Pain Levain yesterday. Better and Better. The misty oven is key. And the Biga keeps growing and growing like illustration, graphic design, ideas, thoughts, connections. I started a bitty biga which overflowed it's crock yesterday and have transferred it to a bigger biga jar. I need to double the biga to make two loaves of bread on Sunday...so biga development is happening. I ordered two bread rising baskets (cheapest price) from Breadtopia. I am keeping my fingers crossed that maybe today I might get them!

Was pursuing debossed Moleskines for a client giveaway. Pretty sweet. A bit costly but sweet nonetheless.

Mandy is going back to Hartwick College today loaded down with two boxes of little containers of soup, stews, spaghetti sauce and the like. Its seriously two /three weeks worth of lunches and dinners. We will miss her and her herding pup, Sonata (otherwise known by her Cat On A Hot Tin Roof name, Baby). But, she is back to pick up where she left off in the world of plants, biology and geology. Sounds pretty blissful. I love school.

Snow is not to high here. Enough for the kinder to ski on...

I am hoping that Sunday may be an official study hall!

More later>>


We had a great chat with a pair of Hampshire representatives--one an alumni and the other, a Div 3 student (senior level). They allayed our fears and answered a lot of questions that we had been mulling over as a group. It was terrific to have our minds put to rest along with spending some time with two very confident, thoughtful, talkative, and assured people who were out of a similar mold as our Kitty. Kitty was equally so-- and it was interesting as a parent to see her within this context as confident, articulate, cute and funny with people who were very much oriented the same way. Our trip to Hampshire was well worth the visit.

We visited a small Farm store near the campus, Atkins Farms and were delighted by the offerings within walking distance from the campus. All fresh, and lots of local produce offered...all of them ready for the photoshoot in their pulchritude. I did take pictures (and a lot of them) of their iced cakes and cupcakes which were hilarious and very skillfully done (and affordable). Thank goodness I didnt shame anyone with my antics.

At a quarter of 11, we jumped into the Wonderbus to make a two o'clock tour and information session at SUNY New Paltz which was an interesting option for Kitty as their art facilities are very nice and in some aspects similar to that of Tyler..though not as extensive and as new. The dorms are nice, the student body seemed on the ball and Kitty seemed to identify with the program. Only hiccup is that the portfolio is submitted AFTER you are accepted, and then it is determined wheither you are in the art program or not. We were done around 4:30 and quickly drove by the stone Hugenot houses by the river (amazing)...and then jumped on the road home.

We got in by 9...and heads down on the pillow by 10. We got Alex to school by 6:45 for a Cross Country Meet in Marathon NY which we got on the road for. His form looked great and he is getting to be a better and better runner . He came in 37th in a large pack of well over 100 runners (Rob claims hundreds...) which delighted him to no end...mud bespattered nonethe less.

After the race, it was off to the local ski slope, Greek Peak for their annual ski sale and swap. New jackets all around. Pants, long underwear and gloves...so the home team is ready to hit the slopes this winter in great style and in new equipment. Up until now, they have been skiing with stuff we bought from, yes, antique stores or used sales...and they have never had skis and boots that actually fit and were tailored to them. After six years of skiing, we figure, now is the time.

We just bought candy and candle (and catfood) at Target. The blue lightbulbs are in the light fixtures on the front of the house. We have votives in bags filled with birdseed and a big bowl of wonka candies. So, if the rain and snow do not keep them away, we will have a little treat to hand out. Kitty is gathering with friends. Alex is in costume (as George Harrison on the Abbey Road Album) and the light is fading.

Tomorrow is fall back.
The long nights begin.

Quiet day

The internet has been crawling—slowly, slowly—to finally just stop working today. Erich is on the phone trying to get some help—trouble shooting our connections and the viability of the line. It is amazing to discover how dependent we are on that link to the world, particularly that of mail, for our work, our deliverables, our communication with clients, friends, family, and suppliers. The world stops spinning a bit when the connection hiccups and we find ourselves out of focus for a bit. But, I guess the nice thing is is that these instances teach us that we cannot take this marvel for granted.

Oh look. Now we are back—connected!

We are clocking down the Annual Report for a non-profit research organization we are working with along with a holiday card. We are wrapping up a small mountain of tiny projects for the main client—from consulting on an e-card, to ads and a tradeshow unification between two disparate aspects of the business to presenting a series of colorways for a corporate “little red book” document that is annually issued. Nitty little projects that often have nitty little bits to tweak and change forever, but that is what we are paid for.

I guess we are now in the throes of the peak of the color. The deciduous trees have shed enough foliage to be able to see through the branches/leaves to the darker woods or evergreens behind. The gold color against the dark is breathtaking. And the glimmers of red is remarkable too. Halloweeen approaches, and with that the long winter is in sight.The chestnuts, horse chestnuts and apples are all out…as are the extraordinary number of deer that park themselves on the front lawn as if on contract for some photoshoot about living in the country.

A sad note. Don Ivan Punchatz passed away on Thursday. He leaves an extraordinary legacy as an illustrator, mentor, teacher and friend. Wikipedia says:

Don Ivan Punchatz (born 1936 - October 22, 2009) is an artist who has drawn illustrations for numerous publications including magazines, such as: Heavy Metal, National Geographic, Playboy, and Time. In 1993 id Software hired him to create the Doom video game package art and logo. The result was named the second best game box art of all time by GameSpy [1] His son, Gregor Punchatz, has worked on special effects for several movies, and also created monster sculptures for Doom.

Here is my post from visiting/meeting him in Texas>>

I sent him a note and one or both of My Memento Mori books which he called me about. We had a great chat about how he used his illustration to cope with having stomach cancer--and how interesting and dark work came out of that process. He was enthusiastic, positive and acting as a mentor even to an odd person he briefly met with the Hartford Program. Don was instrumental in putting together the inspiring panel of illustrators in the Dallas/ Fort Worth area for our visit, and had been engaged in that sharing and exchange since Murray and Carol were with the Syracuse ISDP program. He inspired and encouraged, embraced and enthused with his people, the illustrators, and for that, his friendship, strength and quiet humor we are thankful. Bless him.

Catching up on a week

Quick scan of a piece in process. There is quite a bit of calligraphic illustration and lettering in the world of Fraktur. So, picking up my pen and pretending I am a calligrapher, this lion inspired piece is a beginning. I like what is happening with the line work. But, I wont bore you today with my blabbing on about my love of Fraktur...and what I keep learning. But, its not going away for a while, so not to worry.

I got a notice from Creative Quarterly 17 to find out that I got 3 of my one hour portraits and 3 valentines into the next publication. One of the portraits is a "Merit Winner" and the others all runners up...which according to Peg N. may get into the publication along with a posting on the internet. Creative Quarterly 15 posts the pieces I got into the pub...so its pretty nice and exciting. My Society of Illustrators LA submissions are in (09/30 is the close date)--and I am joining this group to support their existence along with some of the nice benefits they offer. Additionally, Jim O'Brien, a former SU and Hartford student (now, co alumni) is shepherding a nice show on digital art that he has invited me to be in --with sequential work on how we build our digital images. I am also pleased to say that I have two pieces in a digital article in The Artist's Magazine, written by my fellow student at Hartford, Ursula Roma.

Am rather worn out from the week. Monday we travelled in the a.m. to get to a tour/info session at Arcadia University in Glenside (a few stops in the suburbs of Philadelphia). Lovely campus, great programs, SMALLLLL, beautiful facilities, global focus (particularly study abroad) but very student focused. Nothing is impossible. Kitty was enchanted. And Oh, did I mention their Castle? The campus centers around a real castle built by a sugar baron who was exiled from Philadelphia--and became Arcadia when Beaver College (in W. PA burned down and moved to this new location). Nice and focused students. We spent the night on Penns Landing with the trip home (on Alex's birthday) planned for a brief a.m. on South Street and then home... However, it never works out quite that way. We had cheesesteaks for a 10:30 a.m.. breakfast (to Alex's delight....we somehow have created this odd tradition when we are on the road to have odd things (If we want to) for breakfast like sushi or now, cheesesteaks.) And, no one seems to think its odd. Matter of fact, I think this is part of the fun of being on the road. The day was perfect and we jumped in the car--doing a bit of rubbernecking down Market Street and then up Broad. Rob managed to find Temple and wind our way in front of a brand new building with lots of interesting, engaged students perched on the grass enjoying the day. No signage...but we found the new Tyler School of Art...and then, we found our way inside the building...the tour, and from no clear winner...Temple's Tyler School of Art spoke to all of us from the amazing energy in this new facility, to the amazing core curriculum to the actual rooms, studios, facilities. It was all about immersing yourself in art, in craft, in drawing and the pursuit of an idea and making it. We are all stunned and enchanted. Top of the list, and the hot truck directly outside the front door sells crepe "just like in France, Mom" as our excited, soon to be applicant, exclaimed!

We got home to Tburg around 8 with pizza and iced cream cake from Byrne Dairy for the birthday boy. We had a birthday brunch for him today for his grandparents and next Saturday we host " Sausage Fest 2009" for the XC boys (with sausage, kubb, doo ball and the like. We also have teeshirts coming to celebrate the event to A's pleasure. He has been a saint...and is truly a wonderful guy. He fully understands his sister (and his mom) and has been a levelset for all of us. He is now playing golf post Brunch...versus the study hall that Kitty and I have going here at the lake. Rob is working this p.m. as manager on duty at CMoG. We always have at least one bump into a holiday weekend...with the MOD job.

Wednesday, it was up and early again with a 2 hr drive to meet the kind and generous Chad Grohman and his colleague, Bob Dorsey at RIT to have Kitty get a gander at the Medical Illustration and Illustration programs. RIT reminded both Rob and me of our time at CMU with all sorts of disciplines all comingled in this interesting building. RIT is on the list--not at the top like Tyler...but def there. Chad and Bob were wonderful...showing us everyting and spending really great time with Kitty looking at her work and giving her good insight and inspiration. I think she has taking a lot in in the last week...and we are seeing change and evolution as we progress. Should be an interesting school year we are pushing into.

Thursday and Friday blew by--with a lot of office work and jobs. And now we are into the weekend at the lake--with chores yesterday to our brunch today. Nothing now...(phew) so I may give myself a break and read something.

More later. My head doesnt quite want to stay upright.

IF:Attitude (Modification)

Back from finishing my MFA in Illustration from the Hartford Art School, University of Hartford. It is a limited residency program that takes three summers (2 weeks on campus each summer) and two independent weeks(per year) traveling with the school to different illustration hotspots. My brain isnt working too well on the illustration front...and plan, once my head syncs back up, to be back in the swing of the Friday challenge.

If you are bored, looking for something to supercharge your career, or just want a general push, the Hartford program is the tops. I cannot recommend it enough.

field work

Relatively quiet day yesterday with a bit of small fireworks at five from the client. Nothing impossible, just hard as I always feel like the branding junkyard dog telling the client who owns this mark and identity that they cannot do certain things. Definitely feel like the odd man out regularly...and then, taking a breath and saying okay...though I have expressed "the line" on brand, their brand, their guidelines..which gets me through that. Generally, there is a ton of work arounds and clean ups around these unconsidered rule breaking. But hey. Thats what i get paid for.

Maddie (my short term intern), Kitty and I went blueberry picking around 6 last evening. It was a glorious evening with breezes and clear skies. We went to Loses Blueberry Patch (signed with some great handlettered arrows), driving down a dirt lane by a pair of goats sitting on top of their goat house, and a golden grain field surrounding us until we got to the blueberry patch. The bushes were glorious and filled with ripe berries (and all levels of berries getting to ripe from pea green to olive green, from pale pink to a brilliant fuscia, to all shades of blue to a shiny purple plum color). It was perfect. We got some small buckets and communed with the laden bushes (rare for me as I always time it that we go at the end of the season and have to glean the dregs). You could just run your hand through the branches with the bucket poised underneath and the berries dropped happily. After a half an hour, we had between the three of us, picked 17 pounds of berreis ($1.65 a pound). So, we are happily eating, freezing and dreaming blueberries. Kitty was musing over children's books and how she would use a blueberry and its transition from a hard green sphere to a ripe shiny berry as a way to express Beauty in Beauty in the Beast. I thought that was an interesting insight. Maddie and Kitty and I talked about food, food in countries they have visited and our plans for our cache.

Maddie is busily registering/copywriting my illustration. It appears to be easier than it seems as images we have used for the website work (note to self, keep a folder on the desktop of images going on the blog or web for future posting). We have also mounted pdf files of images (Memento Mori, my thesis) as a way of capturing images in their entirety. Something to think about.

My classmates from Hartford are settling back into their lives and are talking on Facebook about their work and plans. We graduates are laying back a bit...trying to shift into the new chapter. To be honest, I am having a bit of a traction problem as i cannot really get it going right now. I want to draw and do stuff, but I am a bit stuck in the mud. But, as the program has pointed up, this stall is part of the process. Time and marination is in place.

I just was called about a winelabel for three very sweet (read very popular wines) that are marketed under the Banana Belt name. The Banana Belt is a swathe of Seneca Lake that has a very distinct climate zone "tropical" thanks to the geography of how the land interfaces with the lake. As you know, lakes are a real moderating force whenit comes to weather and climate...with the steady temperature controlled by the the very deep waters and it's temperature of the lake. Takes a lot to make it hot, takes a lot to cool it down. This is a lake that never freezes given the depth. So, back to Banana Belt. Its a pretty cute label as we speak...but Banana Belt reads first without a clear nod to red/white/pink WINE. Love the monkey that is on it...and maybe as the future client suggested, we look at fruit crate art (and my words, put a monkey with a wineglass--not a chimp like Travis from Connecticut, the lawnmower driving, chardonnay drinking, pill popping, hot tubbing monkey)--with a bit of a lakeview in the background? I have been noodling this and we will see. Could be a fun one.

Today I work on a logotype for the Museum of Glass--and do some mom stuff (kid's doctor appointment). Maybe a swim in the divine lake this evening. We did that before dinner last night to all of our pleasure. This is really summer.

Stop talking and start doing.

This week we have Nancy Stahl and Jean Tuttle, two amazing illustrators who work digitally. We are working on portraits in three applications, Corel Painter, Adobe illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop. The image above is work in progress of PT Barnum. He will have some facepaint in illustrator and then will get some gradients and texture applied in the other two programs. Painter is something I was least excited about and now that I have had a little time noodling with some of the Painter brushes, I am  pleased to see that the fight with the application with the palettes and thinking you had to do to get an effect has been significantly modified and simplifed in the newer and newer iterations. I used to use it to create masks for photography (the old, "we only have one decent picture of the chairman and it needs to look different in the various publications we are creating" thing. The Hartford facility is top drawer with the big Epson scanner and three big Epson printers that are filled with ink. All you need to do is to provide the paper. 

Chris Spollen and Dan Pelavin are teaching the third year students so their interesting vision, their work and their sense of humor adds to the roll of the program. Of course, Betsy and Ted Lewin are here for the now settling in first years. They will be thumbnailing books this week.

I am just plain exhausted. I guess my brain has now registered that the work is done, the paper written, the defense given and this is the last chapter of this program. I have had enough...and really just want to poke on my portrait and not have people interrupting me work to ask me what I am doing (I am not inviting this as I am heads down, earphones in), or to talk about their work, their art...when the damned solution for many of these folks is to stop talking and start working. And working a lot. The work is the real teacher here...not the jawboning with like individuals but finding the quiet spot in work that feeds more work, more action, more thinking. The only way to learn here is to pack your imaginary bags and get on the road. The journey is just that...and though there may not be a clear path, there is a path that faith in yourself, automatic writing and drawing, and the permission to just go where it leads you...not staying rigid in your seat. Go with the flow...and see where it takes you. If the work is stale and the content not delightful, go to where you are happy. Then look back, look around, look foward and assess where you are and decide on the next step. I do not believe I will ever be able to see the top of the hill or the end of the path, but the next step emerges through work and observation which is was this program  has given me. Be confident even if it is only in the next step...because that next step is forward in some manner...and sequentially (with the path strewn with images) you will get there...though there is just another milestone step on the journey. The key to all of this is not talk. It's work. If the work isn't done, the small steps are not accomplished and the real learning has not occurred. My thinking is that if you are spending the money for an independent program, pay with the most precious thing you have, your time....and the rewards will be ten fold. If you don't do the work, you get the certificate on graduation day, but you miss the real benefits of the education.

So, stop talking and start doing.
And let me have a moment noodling on the computer....I think I have earned it.

Ammi Phillips, the Border Limner (1788-1865)

New England's austere people are portrayed with grace and humor by the Border Limner, Ammi Phillips

Known as: Folk and naïve (primitive) artist
Born: 1788, Colebrook, Connecticut, US
Died: 1865, Massachusetts
Ammi Phillips began his professional career around 1811. He travelled extensively in the New York - Massachusetts - Connecticut border area, and because of this, became known as "Border Limner".

He married Laura Brockway in 1813 and the couple moved to Troy, New York. At some point they moved to Rhinebeck where his wife died in 1830. He remarried shortly after.

Around 1829, he started painting in a new style. The works from this period were from his "Kent Period", named thus because that was the town in Connecticut where the paintings first surfaced. He probaly did the paintings in New York's Duchess Conty.

He returned to western Massachusetts in 1860 where he died five years later

I was delighted to learn about him from his elegant pink and neutral portrait of a young girl, "Harriet Leavens", we saw yesterday at Williams College's Clark Museum. Albeit, Mr. Phillips was born well over 80 years after the English writer, Jane Austen wrote her celebrated books, the spirit, the simplicity and the styling really reaches over that span of time to embrace her thinking, the styling and the imagery that in my imagination, I sew to her words.

``Miss Bingley,'' said he, ``has given me credit for more than can be. The wisest and the best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke.''

``Certainly,'' replied Elizabeth -- ``there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can. -- But these, I suppose, are precisely what you are without.''

``Perhaps that is not possible for any one. But it has been the study of my life to avoid those weaknesses which often expose a strong understanding to ridicule.''

``Such as vanity and pride.''

``Yes, vanity is a weakness indeed. But pride -- where there is a real superiority of mind, pride will be always under good regulation.''

Elizabeth turned away to hide a smile.

``Your examination of Mr. Darcy is over, I presume,'' said Miss Bingley; -- ``and pray what is the result?''

``I am perfectly convinced by it that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise.''

``No'' -- said Darcy, ``I have made no such pretension. I have faults enough, but they are not, I hope, of understanding. My temper I dare not vouch for. -- It is I believe too little yielding -- certainly too little for the convenience of the world. I cannot forget the follies and vices of others so soon as I ought, nor their offences against myself. My feelings are not puffed about with every attempt to move them. My temper would perhaps be called resentful. -- My good opinion once lost is lost for ever.''

``That is a failing indeed!'' -- cried Elizabeth. ``Implacable resentment is a shade in a character. But you have chosen your fault well. -- I really cannot laugh at it; you are safe from me.''

``There is, I believe, in every disposition a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.''

``And your defect is a propensity to hate every body.''

``And yours,'' he replied with a smile, ``is wilfully to misunderstand them.''

However, Ammi Phillips is lumped into the folk art category (which I go to interpret as decorative illustration and decorative portraiture) and is in a way pooh poohed as its just a whisker away from primitives (read heaven..the work of the amazing Edward Hicks surfaces immediately).

I am particularly fond of Limner paintings (those portraits done by itinerant painters) as I grew up eating in my grandmother's dining room with two family limner paintings (Henry and Margaret Gibbs(1670) framing the door to the kitchen. Brother and sister paintings were two out of the three (a brother was in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts) and had been in the family the entire time somehow ending up in my grandmother's house in Charleston, West Virginia. These portraits, done by the Freake Limner, had been in my family until my grandmother's time. Upon my grandmother's  death, Margaret was bequeathed to join her brother, Robert already at the MFA in Boston. Henry was given to the Clay Center in Charleston WV. I am descended from Margaret, who was married to Nathaniel Appleton of Salem MA, a merchant. Margaret Appleton and her husband were painted by Copley. Margaret's portrait was given to Harvard University in 1855. Her husband, Nathaniel's portrait is still in the family--a shame they are not together as they are a wonderful pairing. I am a bit puzzled by the dates they cite for Margaret's birth/ death as her limner painting was well over 20 years prior to the stated birth unless this is the next generation (which is possible). The paintings by Phillips sets my mind to whirring over Austen's writing, while the Freake-Gibbs Limner calls the Scarlet Letter to mind...and of course, my beloved early american tombstones. I love how it all tails one into the other.

www.mfa.org says:

The collection of American paintings, over 1600 works, is considered by many to be among the best in the nation. The earliest paintings are anonymous portraits of Robert Gibbs and of Margaret Gibbs, both painted in Boston about 1670.

>Here's a bit more>>

Margaret Gibbs
Freake-Gibbs painter
102.87 x 84.14 cm (40 1/2 x 33 1/8 in.)
Oil on canvas
Classification: Paintings
Accession number: 1995.800
Bequest of Elsie Q. Giltinan

Executed not long after Boston was settled, Margaret Gibbs is one of the finest of the few extant portraits painted by New England artists in the seventeenth century. The artist, who also painted portraits of Margaret's brothers-Robert, age four-and-a-half (MFA, 69.1227) and Henry, age one-and-a-half (Sunrise Museum, Charleston, West Virginia)-is unknown. However, it is thought that he created the likenesses of John Freake and Elizabeth Freake and their baby Mary (Worcester Art Museum) in 1674. He is thus known as the Freake-Gibbs painter and is considered one of the most skilled portraitists of the seventeenth-century colonies, possessing an exceptional sense of design and an admirable feeling for color. Probably trained in provincial England, he painted in a flat style derived from Elizabethan art that emphasized color and pattern.
Margaret Gibbs was the oldest child of Robert Gibbs, an English gentleman who had emigrated from England to Boston in 1658. Robert married Elizabeth Sheafe of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1660, and in the same year Elizabeth inherited considerable property from her grandfather. A successful merchant, Robert had their three children's portraits painted in 1670. The depictions of Margaret and her brothers in all their finery are evidence of the materialism and prosperity of the Gibbs family and the remarkable growth of the city of Boston.
In this portrayal of Margaret, the Freake-Gibbs painter has meticulously rendered the seven-year-old's lace, needlework, silver necklace, and red drawstrings and bows. Her sleeves have the single slash allowed by Puritan sumptuary laws. Such finery was only permitted by Massachusetts law if the man of the house possessed either a liberal education or sufficient annual income. Margaret's fan is an indicator of her gender, as children of both sexes were dressed similarly until the age of seven or eight and an attribute was needed to differentiate between images of boys and girls. The pattern on the floor is either black and white tile or, more likely, a wooden floor painted to simulate tiling. This pattern, the dark neutral background, and the inscription of the year and age of the sitter are indications of seventeenth-century Dutch influence on English and subsequently on American art. The period frame of the picture is made from American pine painted black, thus making it probable that it was crafted in New England.

This text was adapted from Davis, et al., MFA Highlights: American Painting (Boston, 2003) available at www.mfashop.com/mfa-publications.html.

I got an F

I am getting somewhere with these Stooges....and was thrilled when I posted it to my facebook just to get a reaction that Pablo Lopato (impetus for this new twist) weighed in and said "Nice!". That means, keep going.

Gary Kelley talked about how he developed his books..the thinking, the research, the design that the illustrator engages in the process with the art director having a point of view and placing the type. Very interesting from the standpoint of the designer and from the look of the books...the engagement of the designer. Gary loves the relationship so it works for him. This is a dream situation for Gary as he views it not as the big CaChing! but more that this is another opportunity to do what he loves and develop a complete body of work, essentially, a portfolio to get his work out there. What I love about Gary is that illustration is magic for him. He loves to see the idea bloom into the image from the conception through to the final with every step a juicy morsel to be savored, stressed over and adored. I can so relate to his more art oriented approach--looking for colors and shapes--and allowing measured risks to happen as the color evolves and the design builds off the bones of the sketch. Remarkable and quite inspiring. Gary's two new books, one from Hyperion on Eleanor Roosevelt which pretties her up a bit, but is as compelling visually with the nicely designed images and spreads to the not for little people book on Paganini and his deal with the devil (mirroring his extrodinary book on Robert Johnson done with singular and stunning monoprints). Both worth buying even if its for grown ups.

Gary's vision, his joy in his work, the so called, simple paring down to color and shape is very motivating to me--his artistic ambition to constantly be amused, charmed, inspired, driven by the work of other artists and have it change and effect his work and direction is a gift upon the closure of this chapter to me. Somehow these last weeks are so poignant and so distilling to make the time fly but at the same time stand still when you hear the truths that are being imparted.

C F Payne loves what he does from the abstracting and stretching of the head to the making/doing of his work--but it is somehow less spiritual and brawnier than that of Gary Kelley. Chris is working on a "celebrity" book with Steve Martin--and it seems to be a happy marriage (we hope for this). Everyone worked on their own projects from portraits in either pastel and/or the multiplexed C Payne technique or on thesis work or in my case-- doing some intellectual stretching trying to simplify and abstract heads.

I had my thesis review today. It was Murray Tinkelman, Doug Andersen, Bill Thompson and to my delight, Bunny Carter. They wanted me to recount a bit of what the paper speaks to--and then to talk about my time at Hartford. Bunny was very nice and very positive about the work, where it could go and that the thing I will need to worry about/focus on are more bodies of work like this or like Memento Mori that will drive the style. Murray projected that in the right time (like the sixties) I would have been asked to join the Pushpin Studio (wow...!). Bunny projected that this work was going to get out there--and get published--and that the thing I will need to worry about when I have imitators, was to keep in front of it. Wow. Imagine. Do you think? And, she also said that she was proud of me as a women doing this...and from a goddess of illustration history and a keen observer of people, I am tearing up from that. Now, I just have to dog it to see where we go.

So, I have the F.
The Terminus F. I want to hug the world, hug myself and cry a little bit.

Week One, Day Four: Hartford Art School

Am slugging away on trying to get some motion around my portrait of Curly Joe Howard. I may park it for today and work on Moe. Larry might be toughest...and then come back to Curly Joe. Everyone is either working on portraits or their thesis work. Many people gasping on fumes--once again shocked into change, changing and discovery. This two week boot camp is a shock to our respective systems--and if you want, you can really realize a change, and begin to evolve. Some shrug and fight the direction and only take as much as they can. Others transform.

Murray took us through the marvelous highlights of the thirties in illustration. John Held Jr., and the ever amazing Mr. Leyndecker (note, need to look at him much closer), and the chameleon stylist, La Gotta. How can one resist the trilon and perisphere, Rockefeller Center, woven with women with bows and arrows or women with greyhounds or long necked birds.

Bunny Carter showed us her student's work(San Jose State) which is wonderful, inspired, witty and beautiful. She gave us a little family history...along with announcing that she is now at work on a book on Rockwell Kent. She had just come back from visiting the farm Kent lived on...being allowed to go into his studio which was just as he had left it, with the palettes in place, the blanket on his little nap couch. Imagine! And, think of how wonderful Bunny's book will be--not only the topic (you all know I adore Rockwell) but also in the way Bunny captures our imagination.

Its getting late...time to roll. Maybe a bit of Moe today.

Week One, Day Three: Big shapes, big colors

Chris Payne (left), Gary Kelley (right) demonstrated today. Chris showed us his amazing, multimedia build approach from a lovely sketch in prismacolor through the steps of Prisma on board; flesh colored acrylics (mixed with gesso vs white paint) in the head shape to create a form; then a dark tuscan red laid watercolor wash on top of that color. Clean brush picks out highlights with water --pulling them out of the watercolor. Then fix the entire thing. A mix of purple and green oil paint is applied to the background where clouds were pulled out of the color with a needed eraser. More prisma on the face, More
paint...and so on.We are going to be given a video as I didnt take notes. Chris draws with his paint...really a more draftsman's approach versus paint into paint. But the quick results are spectacular. He talks about templates (your tissue sketch and even templates he creates as guides in pulling the highlights). Lots of learning in the patter around his presentation. He also showed his slides and talked about his work which was interesting and important to see his growth and how he is evolving. I like where its going.

Gary Kelley also did a slide presentation of his work which I had seen before, but with this work--it is amazing and really pushes me to think. His presentation was really illuminating. Yes, I saw him in Syracuse--and maybe I was too balled up in my own insecurities to really see what was going on...but yesterday! WOW. Gary is contantly designing his composition, thinking about art, art history, palettes, form. He is inspired and motivated by shapes and colors--With that knowledge a switch flipped in this dim skulll that I do that too...and that maybe this abstraction thing might be a wonderful pursuit. With his demo, (a pastel (hard, neupastels on a natural colored stonehenge paper), he worked with a very simple design with his tissue sketches as reference. Then, without planning he dives in for the illustration party--and he builds up layer upon layer of pastel (not ground into the surface of the paper, but lightly applied, using his hand to smooth and blend. Gary looks at the edges and plans places where the "history" of the image can happen--that place where you can see how the color was built up..etc. He is working layer upon layer using a workable fix delicately and rarely. The image emerged from the paper with Gary designing and thinking about adjacenies, tangents, darks and lights...etc. This is the stuff a computer does not do...and the spiritual moment with the computer can happen (at least for me) but its hard to get in that cerebral zone where art/design and all the elements just happen.The final palette and coloration became unveils itself to Gary as it goes.... I love that mystical moment with your medium. This is the sweetspot of the job when its you, the paper, and breathing.

Gary showed some spectacular work he did for gratis for local theater companies (one that got a Gold Medal at SOI). He stressed the import for young illustrators in the field to do this sort of work for exposure. He was very direct about no art direction etc. (my intent with the Hangar) as its a gift etc. Nice to have a bit of confirmation in this process.

Both Gary and CF Payne use other art as reference and guidance. Chris says to copy other artists work from the esteemed cartoonist, Jack Davis (a great way to learn exaggeration) to his nose exploration when he copied everyone's noses from Holbein to Bob Peak--until he got it. Good lesson. Note...study this way. Gary uses the inspiration and lessons of palette, composition, styles and styling (not his words) from the inspirations sources of the day. He finds that that group of artists are always evolving and through time and work, his tastes have changed.

I am sorry this is short...but its all good here. The new class is getting slammed (all part of the first year bootcamp)--but all pretty cheery about it. No tears yet. And I get to work on Curly Joe  today. Worth the presentations and the goading to get with it from Chris and Gary.

Day Two, Week One: HAS

Its been a bit hectic as you can imagine...but I am now set up in Hartford thanks to the kind and gentle ministrations of Kitty and Robbie. They were both tremendous in their good humor,encouragement and just plain being there. Saturday, we got up around 4 to drive via a new, gps recommended route to Hartford. We arrived on time (around noon) to have a tour of the campus for perspective students. That was amazing and frankly, I would recommend anyone considering even this MFA program, take the tour as it paints a different institution than their website or even being in the program suggests. My take away was mini Syracuse without the rah rah, but higher quality. Hartford is comprised of bunch of schools with the Hart School (Music and Performance) and Art School being the top of the pyramid. So its really very arts driven--at a high level. Small classes. Beautiful facilities. Enough housing for everyone. Heavy duty rennovations going on. Nice gym, library, classrooms. Pretty sweet. And NICE is the watchword. Everyone is really nice, and helpful.

We started yesterday with the full bore: Murray doing the History of Illustration (somehow feels refreshed...it was great...) and I am in love with Howard Pyle and his line work. Dennis Nolan did his Zero Degrees of Separation slide show...essentially pointing up how teachers teach teachers all the way back to the established artist who began the process, Giotto. Very funny and very illuminating. CF Payne and Gary Kelley were stellar in their critics of the Thesis show...honestly saying things that had meaning...in a very kind and open manner that even if it were pointed, it pointed to change. Nice warm up for the thesis defense for many, I would imagine. They critiqued the second year work--again, encouraging and d

This directing in a nice exchange...with little stories peppered in. Wonderful. Great lead in for today where I am actually looking forward to working after Chris Payne will demonstrate his many layered technique.

I will be brief now as we went to the grocery store last night and really didnt settle in until a bit before eleven. Cannot do that often.

Gotta brush myself and go.