Illustration for Liebovar, a Children’s Opera

I have worked with composer and librettist Misha Dutka before, illustrating the poster for his children’s opera The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. Recently Boheme Opera NJ performed a beautiful concert version of Misha’s full length opera Liebovar, or The Little Blind Girl, at the 1867 Sanctuary in New Jersey. Liebovar‘s plot has an opera-within-an-opera, and now Delaware Valley Opera Company plans to mount the short children’s opera that is within the larger story of Liebovar, in the fall. Misha asked me to do an illustration to advertise this performance.

Misha explained that the children’s opera involves the same young girl I depicted in the art for the full length work, a blind girl in a WWII concentration camp –

– but in this fairy-tale-type opera she is a poor peasant girl wandering through the woods, and befriended by various animals – a squirrel, a turtle, a fawn and a duckling. As soon as he described this I sketched a rough idea quickly, which he then approved:

I tightened up the pencil drawing –

and did a colored pencil color sketch first –

and then the final painting, in acrylic washes over prisma pencil, on illustration board. Below is the poster with text added for the event.

My Poster Art for Gilbert & Sullivan’s ‘The Gondoliers’ in June

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy, and I’m excited that this year’s show will be one I’ve long enjoyed, The Gondoliers. It has the same wonderful songs and orchestrations as their other shows but with an Italianate flair, which makes the singing even more lyrical. The Gondoliers will be performed with the wonderful Bucks County Gilbert& Sullivan Orchestra accompanying, on June 17, 18 and 19 in Doylestown.

I started with some pencil sketches – at first I thought I’d put the major characters in the gondola and the minor ones running around a canal bridge in the background, but it seemed the minor figures would be too small – they are all great characters, after all.

So I tried packing everyone into the gondola! That worked fine, since the show is kind of a screwball comedy

In looking at reference photos of Venice, the buildings along the Grand Canal seem to glow in the sunlight at times, so I indicated in this rough color sketch how I’d paint them in loosely for the background. The gondola’s shadow in the water would give a lot of room for the necessary text of the poster.

I traced my drawing onto illustration board and painted the gondola & characters first –

And then painted in the sky, water and buildings, and dropped in the text.

Liebovar illustration

Misha Dutka is a composer for whom I have created illustrations before, for his children’s opera The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge. He has written a much more serious work and it will be performed this week by Boheme Opera of NJLiebovar, or the Little Blind Girl. The involves the inhabitants and soldiers in a concentration camp in WWII. Misha asked me to create an illustration of some of the main characters for online promotion.

I tried a few different pencil compositions to show the blind girl and also the love triangle of the camp Kommandant, wealthy opera diva and imprisoned opera impresario. I used a photo of the actual camp at Theresienstadt as a backdrop.

With the composer’s suggestions we eventually came to this composition –

And I tightened up the drawing to a finish, below. Liebovar will perform at the 1867 Sanctuary in Ewing NJ this Wednesday April 27 at 7 PM, and it is a free event. For further info see this page on the Boheme Opera NJ site.

My Scout Card for ‘Crossing Over’ from Cub to Scout

I have added to my line of Boy Scout congratulations cards – the two I have drawn for Eagle Scouts are quite popular sellers on my Etsy page – by drawing a whimsical illustration for young cub scouts who are making their ‘Crossing Over Ceremony’ from Cub Scouts into full Boy Scouts. I’ll add, the card is inspired by my two grandsons, who made their Crossing Over into Scouts. I’m very proud of them and their friends, who have completed their work as a Cub and want to further their knowledge and experience in BSA.

In my whimsical drawing style, I drew a friendly adult Eagle, in scout troop leader uniform, waving 3 happy little eagles across a footbridge in the great outdoors. This mirrors the Crossing Over Ceremony that young scouts go through when they ‘cross over the bridge’ from Cubs to Boy Scouts.

I first pencilled in a sketch of the scene –

I tightened up the drawing, scanned it & colored a printout roughly to work out the colors –

– and then transferred the drawing to illustration board, outlined in ink and painted it in with acrylic washes.

To see the finished card, inside message, and all other info and for purchasing, please see my Etsy shop HERE.

A fan of my cards who is a troop leader reviewed them this way: “These cards are exceptionally unique and well drawn. The messages are well thought out and brief, a good thing. I always add a personal message to the card as well, and there is room to do that. These are beautiful cards and an inspiration to the scouts receiving them.”

More Madonna and Child drawings

A few more from a life drawing session of a model posing as Madonna and Child. The first is again chalk & conte crayon on toned pastel paper, the second is more a line drawing in prisma pencil on toned paper.

Sketching the Madonna and Child

I was very happy to be able to arrange a life drawing session a few weeks ago (before a nasty bout of sickness from which I’m emerging) to help celebrate the Christmas season – a lovely model who posed for as the Madonna and Child. This is one of the ways I hope to continue to bring art and faith together in my life.

Here are a few of the first quick sketches we did to loosen up, on plain paper & toned paper – we called these croquis drawings in art school. I used sepia chalk and conte crayon for these loose sketches. More drawings to come this week.

Logos for Youth Orchestra Events

The Youth Orchestra of Bucks County gives children in grades 4 to 12 the chance to meet other young musicians, participate in group activities, and get a taste of what it’s like to be in a real orchestra. I was happy to be asked to create some logos for their fundraising galas in the last few years.

The first gala, which was held virtually in the spring of 2021, had a Night at the Movies theme, and their coordinator suggested images of popcorn, theater curtains or movie reels. I came up with some ideas for them to consider –

They liked the popcorn theme, and with suggestions from their coordinator I developed a marquee-type logo for the final –

This year’s gala will be in person and has the theme Tropical Rhythm, so the coordinator suggested images of bright flowers, greenery and some type of rhythm instrument. I drew a basic idea and tried various fonts & details –

The coordinator suggested a great ‘tropical’ typeface and a revised logo for YOBC, and I modified the design to his suggestions, for the final logo.

He did like the toucan I put in the first design, so he may use that in the program book where some art is needed.

Bills! Bills! Bills!

I recently painted the cover art for another fun book by author James Miller, whose previous book, The Book of Jims, I also illustrated. This one is another compendium of historical figures having the same first name, William or Bill. Bill’s! Bills! Bills! is the title.

I started with a very rough pencil sketch of the Bills to be shown on the cover – William Tell, Buffalo Bill Cody, William the Conqueror, William Shakespeare, William Penn and Bill Clinton.

Jim also asked me to include a red-billed toucan, a spoonbill and maybe a hen, along with some dollar bills and cable bills, so I worked those into the drawing and tightened it up a bit by tracing it in felt tip pen.

I then made a rough color sketch, coloring in a scan of the drawing and placing the text.

I consulted with Jim on some details of the drawing & text and painted a finished illustration to drop into the design. He’s awaiting publication now. I think Bills! Bills! Bills! will be a fun & interesting read – especially to other Bills – but also for anyone who likes quips and quirks of history. 

Illustrating “Robbie to the Rescue!” Part 3

(To read Part 1 and 2 of this process click HERE and HERE.)

After I did rough color sketches for Laurie Nowlan’s entire book, I started transferring the drawings to illustration board and painting. I use prismacolor pencils to outline my characters and acrylic paint, thinned with water to the level of a wash, to paint the colors. You can get nice vibrant hues using acrylics, which brightened up the autumn pages at the beginning of the book.

This story follows two brother robins as they go on a southern migration to Florida, the twists and turns they encounter along the way, and how they help each other as siblings. They encounter a nasty storm, which knocks the younger brother, Robbie, for a loop.

The older brother, Ben, has trouble with one of his wings, and suddenly little Robbie is the sibling that has to look out for his older brother.

Robbie steels himself and finds the strength to get both himself and his brother out of danger.

And to see the sunny conclusion of the story, you’ll have to get the book!

Since the cover art is so critical to the appeal of a children’s book, the author and I went through several sketches of the cover illustration before we settled on the right scene and feel for it. We wanted Robbie alone on the cover, but did not want to give away too much of the climax of the story.

I envisioned Robbie swooping through the stormclouds with a determined, serious expression; and after discussion with Laurie we tried a more cheerful look and we both liked it better.

I did a color sketch and added some lightning to create a little more excitement –

and then painted the finished art.

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“Robbie to the Rescue!” is available now through BookBaby HERE.