I am incredibly honored to have an 8-page feature in the March/April issue of Communication Arts. I started reading the magazine while a student at Pratt Institute and it’s been a dream of mine to be profiled by CA ever since. Sue Apfelbaum wrote the story and did a really nice job of summing up my career until now. A huge thank you to Rebecca Bedrossian, Managing Editor, for making this dream come true. Download PDF of article.
A few months ago, I received a phone call from the actor, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., who has been featured in The Wire, Cedar Rapids and Louis CK amongst many other movies and television shows. Isiah, who has his own private wine label saw my work and commissioned me to create a label for him. After initial sketches, he requested that I make the penguin's butt bigger, one of my favorite client comments ever.
A provocative story on former Ramparts Magazine editor, David Horowitz, targeting Muslim student organizations on campus. The art ran on three covers nationally and as an interior illustration in several others. Thanks to Tom Carlson, Art Director.
Another interesting yet somber cover for Village Voice Media. The story is about juvenile lifers who were sentenced before that punishment was ruled unconstitutional. Thanks to Jay Vollmar, Art Director.
Ididnotarod, a personal piece that found a home on The Atlantic Magazine’s gallery page. Norman Rockwell said, “ If a picture wasn’t going very well, I’d put a puppy in it.” Why stop at one?
Last week I taught a four-day workshop in Xalapa, Mexico through the design group, Amarillo Centro de Diseno. A special thank you to Aida Aguilera Rocha, Juan Carlos Padilla and Joan Xavier Vazquez who comprise the design group and invited me. Another big thanks to Emilia Casana who provided the translation and yummy cupcakes everyday.
On Tuesday, I gave a lecture at Universidad Gestalt de Diseno. At first it was scheduled to be a casual conversation with a class or two of students. When the lecture was announced, more expressed interest in attending and the auditorium which seats 200 was filled beyond capacity with people standing in the aisle and the back. Many were from different majors in the school and they all had lots of questions at the end, which I always consider being my favorite part of a lecture.
Art created for workshop that was silk screened onto notebooks and tote bags. Two local newspapers covered my visit.
The workshop was titled “Collage as a medium, a design tool and a way of life.” The attendees, twenty six in all, traveled from all parts of Mexico to attend. Some came from nearby but others traveled from Mexico City, Puebla and a few even took an eight-hour bus ride from Guadalajara. We had a mix of students and some professionals. Our first project was to create a poster for Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. This is a holiday I am fascinated with and the timing of my trip was perfect. The objective was to create a poster to honor and celebrate the life of someone who was important to them. The main restriction was not to use bones, skulls or catrinas but to celebrate the life of the person and their connection to them. I asked my hosts prior to coming if the concept was ok or maybe just interesting to me. They loved the idea especially since it returned to the original meaning of the holiday and less like Halloween.
I did a short presentation of my work to begin, showing how I use my own family photos in my work. My collection began when my grandfather passed away when I was eighteen. All I took from his apartment was a box of photos filled with many relatives of mine I never got to meet. That collection has grown considerably over the years. The students were asked to bring a photo or object to work with that reminded them of their subject. We all gathered together and one by one, everyone introduced him or herself and talked about whom they were going to commemorate. There were many emotional moments; a grandmother who recently passed away, a father gone before any real memories could be established, and some chose a person who was a source of inspiration such as Frida Kahlo. Collage proved to be a perfect medium for this project, allowing us to combine layers of memories into an image.
Everyone busy working and our first critique of the final work.
We then completed a second project, which is one I give my students at the Rhode Island School of Design as well, an anthropomorphic self-portrait. At RISD, we begin sketching in the nature lab that has an amazing collection of taxidermy specimens. I give the students the choice of being their aspirational animal- the animal they wish they were or the animal they really are. I am always impressed by their honesty (I’m a bat; I like to stand in a corner and stare at people. I couldn’t be a beaver; I’m too lazy.) Collage worked well for this too as we peeled back layers to describe whom we really are.
Everyone worked incredibly hard and with great dedication. Many went home after the workshop hours and worked all night and then returned in the morning and worked all day. I encouraged the students to use the concept of collage to combine their own drawings and paintings and use it as a tool for exploring ideas. For our last day, Emilia made an intricate and delicious cake based on a painting I did of Fritzie.
Our graduation ceremony minus a few who had to leave earlier, Juan Carlos, Aida and Yume, Emilia working hard on cupcakes, Joan and Emilia. Emilia even managed to create her own self-portrait in between translating and baking.
In between the workshop hours, my wonderful hosts took me sightseeing and out to incredible meals. The second largest archaeology museum outside of Mexico City is in Xalapa. The nearby town of Coatapec is quite beautiful with great hand- painted signs everywhere. Preparations were starting for Dia de los Muertos with offrendas, flowers and decorations everywhere.
Aida hosted a wonderful meal in her home as well. I have forgotten how to feed myself after last week.
A postscript to this trip is my delay home due to the powerful storm that hit the east coast. My flight to New York was cancelled and I was stuck in Houston for three days until I could return home. David was back in New York, our neighborhood in a blanket of darkness due to major power outages. At the time of this post, the city remains in turmoil with all of downtown in the dark. We are temporarily at a friend’s apartment who generously offered shelter during this time of need.
My friends in Mexico, having endured a difficult election recently themselves have been watching with great interest the developments here. Through our many conversations, I was reminded of how much we all have in common. Everyone wants safety and comfort for their families and friends, an infrastructure that works, an empathic government to support us. What we share is so much stronger than what divides us.
I recently taught a six day workshop in Venice through the Italian cultural organization, Teatrio and it was an incredible experience. I was a bit nervous at first, since the course emphasized finding your voice as an illustrator. Language was the one thing the students and I did not have in common. The students were all Italian except for one who came from the Savannah College of Art and Design. As soon as we started working this didn’t matter. The language of pictures transcends all barriers.
The class ranged from full-time students to professional illustrators who wanted to sharpen their skills. The group included a graphic designer, an architect and an interior designer who all shared a love for illustration. A number of the students commuted back and forth by train everyday and others stayed in nearby hotels.
The students were required to maintain a sketchbook, a practice I require of my class at the Rhode Island School of Design as well. I encourage them to “draw from life,” literally and figuratively. My sketchbooks are my greatest resource for ideas by recording my own experiences and the world around me. We started with a warm-up exercise based on observation. The weather could not have been more perfect. We then moved on to the main project, a poster for an opera based on the life of Casanova. He was a historical figure of Venice and led a fascinating life with many twists and turns, much like the city itself. The assignment leant itself well to different interpretations and for using the location as inspiration.
Laura working on her ink drawing of Casanova. MariaCristina's observational drawings of tourists and
birds mimicking each other, Alberta imagines a train coming through Campo
San Margherita. Roberta's dog, Ikea came with her to class as did Oddo's beagle, Bernardo.
We had a class trip to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum, one of my favorite places anywhere. There are so many wonderful treasures of modern art in a spectacular setting. The collection also provided another opportunity to use our sketchbooks.
The museum is the former residence of Peggy Guggenheim. She is buried in the courtyard next to her beloved pets. I noticed that the lifespan of the pets increased as she aged.
I quickly settled into a routine of starting my day with a ten walk from the apartment, winding my way through narrow streets as the gondoliers prepared for work. The Accademia Bridge was blissfully empty in the morning except for a plein air painter capturing the morning light. Venice is small enough that by the second day, the local cafe owner would make my cappuccino when I walked in the door. In the early evening when I would walk back from school, the bridge would be crowded with photographers and their subjects defying you to walk in between them. Not unlike a mama bear and her cubs.
The course was held in an elementary school that was rented for this purpose. The space was converted into a working studio by Oddo de Grandis, President of Teatrio and the lovely women who worked with him. Chiara, Giulia and Brenda all helped with translation and logistics. Although we spent many hours together, the workshop days flew by as we worked, had critiques and ate lunch as a group. I had many slideshow presentations that facilitated the discussions of illustration. One of the great rewards of teaching is starting with a group of students and getting to know them as individuals and artists. It is the one on one time in the classroom that I enjoy the most. By the end of the six days we had become friends and I even managed to learn a little Italian.
On top: Nadia working on her embroidery drawing for Casanova, Silvia combining traditional elements into a graphic black, red and white composition, MariaCristina's colored pencil drawing of Casanova and her digital version as well, Alberta's Casanova has his hair and collar shaped from women, Roberta's portrait of Casanova with a nun and a priest, Chieh's carnevale mask with a reclining woman
My husband, David Flaherty and I had a few extra days for sightseeing and we packed in as much as possible. There is so much great art by the Venetian masters, Titian and Tintoretto as well as some treasures by Bosch and Max Ernst to name a few. Finding your way through Venice with a map can be a challenge. Fortunately, it is a small island so you won’t become hopelessly lost but you can easily get misplaced. We even overlapped for a night with Chris Buzelli who was teaching his course after me. Yuko Shimizu, who followed Chris is finishing her workshop this week.
On top is the view from the apartment we stayed in. The gondoliers would sing as they passed by, far more pleasant than the car horns I am used to. On the bottom is Oddo De Grandis and one of his assistants, Camila. We were treated to a great meal with lots of drinks as you can see from the aftermath.
Top photo back row: Nadia Pillon, Silvia Ungaro, Alberta Tessarolo, Oddo De Grandis, Front: Chiara Canziani, Maria Cristina Boero Baroncelli, Laura Crespi, Roberta Zeta, Giulia Vecchiato and myself.
Bottom left: Chieh Lee who came to my lecture at SCAD last year and Matilde di Pietropaolo.
A heartfelt thank you to the students who made it so enjoyable and to the organization of Teatrio. I left Venice inspired and eager to get back to projects in the studio and for the fall semester to begin.