30 December 2007

Oh cheerio, it's but a wee jaunt to London!

Well, got to London and they threw this parade for me!! Oh, how silly. I am teasing. But it does look like I will be heading to London for New Years night after all. I'm pretty excited because I haven't been able to add another country to my list in sometime. England is totally foreign to me, and even though my family jokes that I am the great world traveler, I so am not. I mainly return to places I am comfy with. So after a few baguette and cheese platters, the train takes off around noon tomorrow. May I wish everyone a very safe, very merry New Years Day! And remember, there's no better feeling than to awake with out a smashing headache. I fully intend to make it the 4th consecutive sober's eve.

Cheers et bisous à tous!

27 December 2007

Illustration Friday: Horizon

An excerpt from Loony Little (Candlewick Press 2003), written by Dianna Hutts Aston. Inspiration for all the arctic scenes came from Rockwell Kent's paintings, and it sure does show!

23 December 2007

Warm Wassail Wishes!

(Anglo-Saxon: wæs þu hæl, "be thou hale" to be in good health

Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
You many a Plum and many a Peare
For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
As you do give them Wassailing.

The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the Autumn. Traditionally on Old Twelfth Night (January 17th), the ceremonies of each wassail varies from village to village but they generally all have the same core elements. A wassail King and Queen to lead the proceedings, and song and/or a processional tune to be sung from one orchard to the next, the wassail Queen will be lifted up into the boughs of the tree where she will place toast that has been soaked in Wassail as a gift the tree spirits and to show them the fruits of what they created the previous year. Then the assembled crowd will sing and bang pots to make a terrible racket around the orchard to make sure the work was done.

10 very small apples
1 large orange stuck with whole cloves
10 teaspoons brown sugar
2 bottles dry sherry or dry Madeira
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3 cloves
3 allspice berries
2 or 3 cinnamon sticks
2 cups castor sugar
12 to 20 pints of cider according to the number of guests
1 cup (or as much as you like) brandy

Core the apples and fill each with a teaspoon of brown sugar. Place in a baking pan and cover the bottom with 1/8-inch of water. Insert cloves into the orange about 1/2" apart. Then bake the orange with the apples in a 350° oven. After about 30 minutes, remove the orange and puncture it in several places with a fork or an ice pick. Combine the sherry or Madeira, cider, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, allspice berries, cinnamon, sugar, apple and orange juice and water in a large, heavy saucepan and heat slowly without letting the mixture come to a boil. Leave on
very low heat. Strain the wine mixture and add the brandy.

14 December 2007

Illustration Friday: Backwards

Le Medecin

This is a painting I have been working on some time now, since roughly the beginning of my mother's illness. It is mainly a response to how the medical field is founded upon the oath to improve, nurture, and sustain a person. Having a family history rooted in medicine (pharmacology, nursing, anesthesiology), I have a keen interest and thirst for the particular knowledge. But what I am most frustrated with is the legal and financial issues associated with it. Often counter intuitive to helping a person.

As far as it tying into the theme of backwards, the mask is a symbol brought from the Bubonic Plague. Doctors would use these clothes and mask to prevent themselves from being infected. In the long beak of the mask, smelling salts were packed so as to purify the air. a tunic of pure linen or waxen cloth was worn and gave him the appearance of a mournful bird. He also would wear spectacles on the mask and furthermore always had his trusty staff with which he removed the clothes of plague-victims, thinking that in this way the terrible epidemic would not bring him any harm. So in essence, the doctors were trying to help the people, but only spread the disease more so. Thus, being quite backwards as to their original intention.

A Brand New Cover

Just finished up the final painting, which for me is always the cover. Perhaps other illustrators sequence their paintings differently, but I always make sure to sketch and paint the cover last. I think it's a better way to summate the colors and theme of the entire book. Ok, maybe I am just yanking your chain, and it's that I procrastinate and can't come up with a good enough sketch until the publisher is knocking down my door. That's a lie,too. All of my publishers have been very kind and patient. It's my own catholic guilt getting to me. Regardless, here's the cover.

13 December 2007

Another Waiting Room Session

Happy Saint Lucia Day

Lucy light,
Lucy light,
Shortest day and longest night!

11 December 2007

Walking in a Winter Warmerland

Forget freaking winter wonderlands. Picture Homer dancing with donuts falling around him, and replace him with me twirling in sprays of Harpoon's Winter Warmer. If you have not had this seasonal beer, then you have not lived. I was turned onto this by my good Grundy friend, Sue... and for this I am forever grateful.

Boston by birth, Harpoon makes me swell with hometown pride. I have attended the occasional Harpoonfest (and they have brought me down to Chinatown), and have had the opportunity to sample some of their other seasonal brews. Typically I avoid ANY seasonal item like the plague. But perhaps it's the nasty New England weather that makes the Winter Warmer's nutmeg and cinnamon aroma enticing. For instance, after a strenous workout at the gym, walking out of the gym into a freezing rain, we HAD to stop off for a quick refreshment. It was that horrible out, people. The trees were encased in ice and children were crying for their mother's warmth! Ok, I am over dramatizing. We were lazy, cold, and secretly craving some holiday spice. Trust me, as soon as you try one of these, you will too.

Winter Warmer was Harpoon’s first seasonal beer. It was designed specifically to be enjoyed during the holiday season. One could easily determine, it's not exactly something you want on a hot summer day. When you bring a glass of this dark copper ale to your lips to take your first sip you will notice the aroma of cinnamon. There is no aromatic hop added that might overpower the distinct spice scent. The medium body of this beer is formed from caramel and pale malts. These create enough body to support the spices without making the beer excessively rich. Bittering hops are added to counter the sweetness of the malt and spice. The finish of the beer is a blend of cinnamon and nutmeg. The combination of these two spices results in a balanced, pumpkin-pie flavor. "Heaven... I'm in heaven. And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak! And I seem to find the happiness I seek, then we're out together dancing cheek to cheeeeeeek!" That my song to this tasty beverage, and it's why no one talks to me at holiday parties.

Harpoon even goes so far to recommend savory hors d’oerves, duck,
apple and pumpkin pies as a friendly pair. Sue confirmed after several hours slaving away at tree decorating, that the Winter Warmer goes smashingly with cinnamon rolls, too! These are the tips to pass down to the next generation people. Take note.

Illustrophile Pheature

Today, I was honored to be mentioned on Illustrophile, an illustration blog for lovers of all forms of illustration and commercial art. Everyday, I am impressed and shocked at the variety and scope of fellow illustrators, and Illustophile is another venue in which to bookmark. Thanks Charlene for the mention!

Click here to get the daily Illustrophile update!

10 December 2007

More Pan-O-ramas

Gare du Nord, Paris France. 2006.

08 December 2007

Bottle Cap Coolness

Tooling around on the interweb this morning (did I mention the lack of a looming book deadline?) brought me to a pretty amazing site. Bottle Cap -O- Rama. Things typically named -O- Rama hold a special place in my heart, especially Weinorama in little Rhodey. But Bottle Cap -O- Rama is quite a dedcated place. There's comfort to me in collecting small objects, that for the most part go unlooked. Mr. K, the collector, has gone all out. He wanted something relatively cheap, easy, and fun to collect. He found the variety of designs, colors, and bottles to be interesting. Plus, if Mr. K actually buys a beverage to get the bottle cap, He gets to try a unique drink. I hear ya chirping Big Bird.

But what is even more fascinating is how he stores his collection. Currently he is using CD cases to store the bottle caps. He rip out the black CD tray, leaving the clear, plastic case. One empty container fits 18 bottle caps in a hexagonal pattern. Mr. K goes into more detail about this whole system on his website. I totally recommend taking a looksee. I love this level of dedication.

For another amazingly dedicated page of collecting, check out Brand Name Pencils. The site is really pretty.

06 December 2007

Asta la Vista, Blue Babies.

What a crazy last four days. I knew I was in for a challenge, when I had to finish "x" amount of paintings in "y" amount of days. But, holy smokes... It got it done. If it's possible for an entire 3 bedroom house to be packed and moved in 16 hours (true story this past fall), then I could get this done. And I did! A big sleep deprived, and a few screaming incidents at 3am ("God, I just, just don't want to paint anymore! Please! Stop the insanity!"). I thought the above badge security picture showed the level of frustration and fatigue I was experiencing before handing in the book.

After packing up the latest book, Brand New Baby Blues (Kathi Apelt), I squeezed in about a two hour nap before getting up at 5am to catch my NY bound train. Miraculously, I was the last car into the garage. I JUST made it onto the train. Good thing I didn't grab that DuDos cruller beforehand. After hearing about the miracles of the womanly change behind me, the giant lead slug-mobile train (sooo slow) eventually made it into Penn Station. I figured it was faster to take a taxi up to 55th Street, and boy was I wrong. When in NYC, WALK. It will get you there faster, and you can do a mean workout on the glutes while your at it.

The jury's still out on New York for me. There are parts of it that really get me excited, but all in all, it's a pretty loud place. Surprisingly, it's more and more navigable so I don't have that panic of finding places or addresses like I had before. The architecture on some buildings is astounding, but then you come down to the street level, with gross store signs and scaffolding. It's this weird dichotomy, which leads me running into lots of poles and people, since I am constantly looking up. I think I just need to loosen up, and not get swept up into the fast sidewalk pace to enjoy the city. But I got to work those glutes!

BUT, the best part of the trip, other than handing in the artwork for the book, is going to the MoMA. HOLY CRAP. I'd never been there, and figured that it's just a building filled with weird creepy sculptures and ridiculously huge paintings of genitalia. BOY, was I wrong. I'd never really had time when I was in the city previously to hit museums, but since it was so close to the HarperCollins offices, my editor walked me over to the place. I almost went INSANE when she told me what was the special exhibit there. SEURAT DRAWINGS. I have been madly in love with these drawings since the word go, and the thought of me getting to see one of them in person literally gave me goose bumps. People must have thought I was a crazy person, just smiling in front of them, sometimes jumping up and down. They are so incredibly amazing in person, shatters any sort of reproduction. After seeing them, I understood why he was trying out the pointillism technique. The tooth of the laid paper when drawn over with conté crayon must have pushed him into that direction. If you have any chance to see the exhibit, GO. GO NOW. In addition to seeing my man Seurat, I got to see freakafricking JOSEPH CORNELL ORIGINALS! I almost fainted. Wow, want a closedminded idiot I was for never going to this museum before. It's odd. I almost sort of felt that because I was an illustrator, I shouldn't like what i considered overly-thought and selfish. But, just because it's "modern" art doesn't mean that we both don't think of the same concepts and explore the same ideas. Why would I cheapen my profession, which I have an extremely high respect for, like that. Poor, Kelly... poor.

ANYWAY... after treating myself to some Guinness and a plate of fries at an Irish pub, I headed back to the train station, and CRASHED. All in all, a quick uneventful trip, but I was incredibly lucky to catch come artistic inspiration. Enough to fill my tank up. And I have NO MORE BOOK DEADLINE! Something I haven't had in seven years. I am beside myself. I think it shows, with the length of this post. Time for my OWN projects!

This song was also stuck in my head the whole day. Kind of fitting in a way. Easy to freak out in a big city, but we all should just relax and take it easy!

01 December 2007

Just a Miiiiinute!

I am really sorry for the lack of interestingness here. I am sooo almost done with deadlines, and then I can update you with all that is pointless in the studio. But in the meantime...

...enjoy these infectious grooves.

God I love Claude.