Varoom!, a British magazine of Illustration, Culture, and Society, has published the drawings I made of my sister Patty in it’s Issue 25. The theme is Empathy, and Derek Brazell, the reportage editor, asked me if he could show the drawings and ask me a few questions regarding the experience, for me and for Patty. The piece is so sensitive and I love what Derek wrote as well. I’m proud to have my sister represented this way and can’t wait to show her the magazine. Thank you Varoom! You can order a copy HERE.
So, today was St. Patrick’s Day. Also my birthday. After spending the morning teaching my Parsons School of Design Illustration in Motion class at Grand Central Station, I decided to go to midtown Manhattan and draw a little of the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and spend the rest of the afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. A perfect way to spend the day. Well, let me tell you, it was COLD on Fifth Avenue today! And I have to admit, I have a love/hate relationship with the St. Patrick’s Day parade. On the one hand, I am 3/4 Irish descent, and very proud of the contributions the Irish have made to the United States. Did you know that the French troops sent to help the colonists win the Revolutionary War were mostly Irish mercenaries? They couldn’t wait to stick it to England and help one of her colonies gain independence, how very Irish of them, ha! And I love to see all those proud people marching with their Irish sweaters on, bagpipes blaring. Those are my people! On the other hand, I really hate that the Ancient Order of the Hibernians continues to refuse to allow gay and lesbian Irish groups to march in the parade. The group claims to exclude the homosexual marchers on religious principles, but, as my four-year-old nephew says, “REALLY?” It is so against the teachings of Christianity – Jesus accepted everyone, according to the Bible – that I just can’t abide it. And don’t believe that it’s right. Everyone who is PROUD to be of Irish descent should be welcomed, Irish sweaters, Kelly Green atrocities of fashion, and all! So there’s my dilemma about this parade. I mean, even the Pope himself has said that he cannot judge people by nature of their sexuality, and rightfully so!
So, there lies my overall mixed feeling of the St. Patrick’s Day parade: I love it, I hate it, but it’s a part of who I am, so I absolutely can’t ignore it. So that’s why I found myself compelled, despite the frigid temperatures, and despite my political/moral objections, to at least draw a little bit of it. And I have to admit, I enjoyed drawing those extremely Irish faces. Made me think of family members, some long gone, whom I have loved, and who have shown me love in my life. So come on Irish-Americans, let’s get it together and welcome everyone to the fold already!!
(Setting up at Grand Central Station.)
After I froze myself for a little while on Fifth Avenue, I decided to treat myself to an afternoon at the Museum of Modern Art. It’s my birthday, after all, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than gathering some inspiration for the coming year at one of my favorite museums in NY. OK now, here is the crazy part. I swear to you, this morning as I got on the subway to go to Grand Central Station to meet my class, I mentally asked the universe for a sign. “Universe,” I said, “It’s my — – year, and I need a sign for the next part of my life.” (Didn’t think I’d tell you how old I was, did you?) So I’m walking around the MoMA, thinking over my life, and of course, thinking not only of the blessings of my life (there are many) but also of those things I wish I had done, or those things I feel that I should have done. Not in any kind of dramatic way, you understand, just that it’s my birthday, and I’m kind of going over my life, good and not-so-good, as all lives go. So, as I’m thinking these thoughts in a peripheral kind of a way, I turn a corner in the museum and see this word, in letters about two feet high: REGRETS. No kidding, regrets. I can’t even believe it! So, I walk in to the gallery, and it’s a show by Jasper Johns, whose work I love.
So apparently Jasper Johns purchased this old photo of Lucien Freud, that Francis Bacon had used as a point of departure for a portrait. Bacon preferred to paint from photos rather than from life. And this old photo is cracked, ripped, and mutilated, plus it is covered in spatters of paint, from being in Bacon’s studio as he did his painting. So Jasper Johns decided to use it as a metaphor for life. He took that damn photo and used it as a point of departure for a whole series of new paintings and prints. Johns turned the photo upside down, he flipped it, he turned it, he painted it, he printed it, he did all kinds of things to it, but most importantly, he saw the new art (life) inherent in the past art (life.) And the work was GOOD. What a statement, and what a wonderful thing to inspire me on my birthday. Wow.
Here is a quote from the show:
Seen as a whole, the series reveals the importance of experimentation in John’s practice, laying bare the cycle of dead ends and fresh starts, the way problems and solutions develop from one work to another, and the incessant interplay of materials, meaning, and representation so characteristic of his work over the last sixty years.
Dead ends and fresh starts. Thank you Jasper. Thank you universe, you answered my question and gave me a sign. I’m ready for another year, and looking forward to see the fresh starts and [more] problems and solutions that develop! There is so much more life and so much more work to do, even after the age of – – -!
(Still not going to tell you my age. I mean, I’m inspired and all, but haven’t lost my senses.)
And happy St. Paddy’s Day everyone! My gripes with the Ancient Order of Hibernians aside, I’m very proud to be an Irish-American!
Last night at one of our Dalvero Academy life drawing sessions, I got my first chance to see the book, Understanding Illustration, that I posted about here. The book is beautiful, thank you to authors Jo Davies and Derek Brazell, and I am thrilled to be a part of it. Well written and designed, and featuring many illustrators whose work I’ve long admired. Including, one of my students, Evan Turk! It’s so wonderful to be recognized for our projects, and sometimes it feels even more wonderful when our students are recognized. Evan’s work in the book is his ongoing project on gay rights, and it features his reportage of the Seattle Gay Pride parade that was recently in Varoom magazine. (See the full interview on our Dalvero blog HERE.)
And while I’m bragging about Evan, let me also congratulate him on the release of his first picture book, Grandfather Ghandi. My copy arrived today – what a wonderful debut work! I recommend it to everyone – it’s an emotional, intelligent, and, a very personal look at Ghandi’s non-violent philosophy.
It’s so gratifying as a teacher to see your students rise, and it’s even nicer when you can continue to work with them as they do. This is true not only with Evan but all of the students of the Dalvero Academy, as we have been asked to create another exhibit regarding the 38th Voyage of the whale ship Charles W. Morgan. The work done for the exhibit of the restoration was such meaningful and thoughtful illustration, and I’m looking forward to see how this next phase of the project, which includes a mission of whale conservation, will be interpreted by all of the Dalvero artists. I’ll be posting more on this new endeavor as we begin the work in earnest, in the meantime here is a link to our website from the previous exhibit about the Morgan: DalveroMystic.com
Exciting days indeed!
The Charles W. Morgan awaits the next step in the process
for her 38th Voyage.
Today is Fat Tuesday, and New Orleans is full of partiers enjoying their last Carnival moments before the start of Lent tomorrow. But a few years back, when I visited the lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, I was surprised and saddened to see how much re-building was still left to be done. Families living among ghost houses, or fields, in what were once thriving neighborhoods. I was inspired by the emotional resonance of the abandoned homes, and did a series of portraits of them – as I felt they were speaking eloquently about what had transpired in the neighborhood. And the residents have spoken, too. Fats Domino said, “I’m gonna wait it out. I don’t think I’ll ever leave the Ninth Ward.” (Robert Siegel, “Fats Domino, ‘Alive and Kickin’’ after Katrina,” All Things Considered, March 13, 2006, National Public Radio)
Recently, filmmaker Spike Lee spoke at Pratt Institute, and he had some vehement things to say about gentrification, and the racial divide that often still exists in cities across America. The Ninth Ward is a traditionally African-American neighborhood, and an artistic center for jazz, that most American of music forms. It seems sad to me that the will to bring this neighborhood back is not stronger than it is. It’s a holding ground of our cultural heritage and yet it has been largely abandoned. I don’t pretend to know what the solution is, I know that geographically it is a terrible idea to rebuild, but then again, emotionally, how can you not rebuild a place that means so much to so many people? There are some projects going on now that help, but it’s a shame there aren’t more.
My reportage essay on the Ninth District of New Orleans is going to be featured in an upcoming book, Understanding Illustration, by Jo Davies and Derek Brazell. The book focuses on the meaning and message of illustration, and features 36 other talented illustrators besides myself. I am gratified to be a part of this project, and I hope that the inclusion of my visual essay in the book may bring some attention to the Ninth Ward re-building that is going on.
If you are in London tonight, March 4, you can attend the panel discussion about Understanding Illustration at the Gallery at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, that begins at 18.30.
Read more about the struggles of the Ninth Ward in this interesting essay by Juliette Landphair in the Journal of American History here.
Wycliffe Gordon was tremendous – singing and playing the trombone. He brought a definite New Orleans vibe to the evening, and performed a few Louis Armstrong classics, too. Fantastic energy and soul. And Svetlana and the Delancey Five were no small potatoes either – I had seen them play recently at the Vintage Train event, and they did NOT disappoint. Here is the sultry Svetlana belting one out – -
You can see Julia’s drawings of the event HERE.
Drawing from the model in the studio is my favorite way to spend time. And it’s so wonderful to draw someone like Kika, a true performer who becomes many different people on the model stand. The last four days I had the opportunity to teach and draw with some wonderful artists in our Dalvero Academy advanced group. Below are some drawings of the always fabulous Kika, in her many forms…
As an Amazon warrior (above) and a back view of a pink-ish 1920s flapper girl (below)
Then she turned into a Pre-Raphaelite dream woman, below…
Like I said, I love to draw the model, especially one who invites you to take so many liberties as Kika does. Ready to head back to the studio for some more!
On the night before the night before Christmas, Julia Sverchuk and I were invited by Seth Myers to come to a new 8th St. lounge, Analogue, and see him perform with the Seth Myers Trio – consisting of himself, drummist Will Terrel, and guitarist Joe Cohn. Seth was especially looking forward to playing with Joe, his teacher and mentor. Julia and I decided to go, and it was wonderful! We listened to fantastic music, spent time among friends, and drew together in a nice Greenwich Village club that wasn’t dirty or loud, it was just perfect.
Can’t get much better than that, folks.
I absolutely love to draw musicians while they play – especially jazz musicians when they improvise – as their body language is so eloquent. Love the body language going on by Joe Cohn, below:
Even if you didn’t hear the music, you can tell who is improvising and leading the trio by watching who has the most expressive body language. Fortunately Julia and I could hear the music, as they were wonderful. Seth gave us each two of his CDs, I’ve been listening to them since. Here are some more drawings of the evening:
–while Will seemed to be looking all around the club while he played, at the other two musicians and the audience. I wanted to capture that moving portrait, above left. Also wanted to capture the fingers flying, above right, Seth on the bass and Joe on the guitar.As Julia mentions in her post, after the set was over we had a conversation about the links between drawing and playing music. We talked about the moment that we love – the Greeks called it ‘kairos’ – the sublime moment where you forget everything, you are in total motion, and your body is only a vehicle for something else. More than what you’ve learned, and more than what you can explain in words. Ah yes, that fleeting moment of joy in art, in all its forms. That’s what brings it all together.
Thank you to Seth for the invitation to a sublime moment at Analogue. Check out Julia’s drawings from the same night on her blog, HERE. They are wonderful.