Graphic Musical Design for Doylestown Symphonic Winds

The Doylestown Symphonic Winds is a wonderful conglomeration of terrific musicians who perform annually to benefit a music scholarship for talented young musicians. I go to their concert every year and love the music – so much brass!

I’ve done a number of posters for them, and this year their conductor Gina Lenox asked for something graphic. There isn’t anything much more graphic and easily recognizable than silhouettes of various horns, drums and pipes, so I had fun playing with instruments, blocks of color and hearts in this one. I felt a nice contrast would be to hand-letter the title in brush and ink.

I highly recommend this concert, they do a mix of traditional and contemporary composers but it’s always punchy music with a lot of personality – just like the brass section!

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.

Drawing Women of the Bible

I organized another Art+Faith Life Drawing session through my church and this time our model was a lovely friend of mine, tall and with waist-length hair; and instead of Madonna and Child poses we decided she could pose as Mary at the time of the Resurrection or other women of the New Testament. Another artist in our group borrowed some beautifully-made costumes from a Nativity pageant, and along with some props, veils and scarves we put together some wonderful depictions of women of the Bible to bring into our art.

We started with warm-up sketches of about 5 minutes in length. I sketched on charcoal paper with chalk and conté crayon.

I didn’t get too far with this one below but I think I have the basic pose, just have to develop it more. This is prisma pencil on charcoal paper. I think this drawing could be Mary waiting to go with the other two women to the tomb on Easter morning.

The last two are twenty minute poses I drew on toned grey sketch paper, with burnt sienna and white prisma pencils. I added some local color with other pencils and chalks. The top woman with the jar could be the ‘woman at the well’ that Jesus met, and the bottom one, since we dressed her with several accessories, could be a wealthy woman – perhaps Pilate’s wife, contemplating her message to Pilate to “have nothing to do with this righteous man.”

Many years have passed since I drew figures daily in art school; until these drawing sessions I had forgotten how personal and cathartic it is to draw from a model in the moment. It inspires exploration, harkens back to stories long remembered, and turns accidental strokes into almost prophetic discoveries. I’m looking forward to our next Biblical model.

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.

Scout Invitations Digital Download

I’ve added an item to my Etsy shop, which uses my popular jaunty Eagle saluting as an invitation card for Courts of Honor or other Scout events. This is a downloadable file which makes it quicker and more economical for the buyer to make invitations – no waiting for mail delivery, no postage fee and you can print as many invitations as you need from the one file. The inside text of the card is completely editable so a custom message can be inserted, and it’s easy to work with since it is a Word document.

Court of Honor season is upon all Scout troops right now, so if your family needs fun invitations that can be instantly downloaded and printed at home for quick mailing, take a look at my Eagle Salute Downloadable Invitations at my Etsy shop HERE.

My Scout Greeting Cards

Once a year I remind my readers that I have drawn some popular greeting cards for scouts, in case they know someone who is earning this special honor. My son is an Eagle and he had such a great experience with the Boy Scouts, learning great practical skills and making good friends, while reinforcing responsibility and good morals, that I am happy to share in celebrating their achievements.

I drew the whimsical Eagle Salute Congratulations card below first, for a friend of my son’s who achieved the rank a few years before him. When my son made Eagle and had his Court of Honor alongside his best friend, I painted the Eagle Scout on a hilltop scene. I’ve had one buyer write a review saying, “The card is beautiful and very good quality. I couldn’t be happier with my purchase!” To see the inside message and ordering info for them, see my Etsy shop here.

The journey to Eagle is guided by Scoutmasters, parents, friends and others who inspire and encourage the Scout to accomplish the challenges needed to achieve Eagle rank. Several customers have asked me to produce smaller thank-you notecards for Eagles to send to their mentors, and they are on my Etsy shop, click HERE. If the buyer wishes a special message printed inside all the notecards, I can do that with these cards HERE.

I drew these black and white notecards below, which are blank inside, for all occasions in scouting. A number of buyers have given these as gifts to scoutmasters and new Eagles. They come 8 to a box and are available on Etsy HERE.

Finally, for young Cub Scouts who are making the journey to Boy Scout, I drew this fun card with little eagles making their ‘Crossing Over’ ceremony. One buyer wrote, “This card is darling and captures the spirit of just how excited my grandsons all were becoming Boy Scouts. Although they are a long way from Eagle Scout, one of them confided how thrilled he was that, We were drawn as ‘little eagles’ on the cross-over bridge! Pat Achilles’s cards are so beautifully perfect!” These cards are available HERE.

All of my cards are printed in full color on sturdy glossy card stock – the congratulations cards are greeting-card-size, and the thank-you notecards are smaller, invitation-size. Envelopes are included with each order, and the cards take standard first-class postage. The cardstock is made from partially recycled paper and my cards are printed in the USA – in fact, they are printed in my hometown! My thank-you notecards are blank inside so a message can be written by the sender.

I’ll mention, if you are in my area of central Bucks County, PA, you can just email me and pick up your cards, to save some postage. And for special orders of quantity, size or message just send your questions by clicking HERE to go to my Contact page.

Hedgehogs with Violins

If you see hedgehogs playing violins and flutes, can spring be far behind?

Below is my drawing for the Lenape Chamber Ensemble’s upcoming Concert for Children in March. Lenape Chamber Ensemble brings together word-class musicians for local classical concerts and the instrumentalists also find time to do a one-hour concert for kids in between their professional performances – they talk to the kids about composers, play snippets of the longer pieces, and generally create an entertaining hour of the fun side of classical music. It’s completely informal – kids spontaneously dancing along to the music is encouraged – and children can chat with the musicians and see the instruments up close.

Highly recommended for an afternoon out with the kids or grandkids, to welcome spring!

Beanies and Knee Socks

I drew some vignettes of Catholic school life when my kids were in school, and I post them today to celebrate Catholic Schools Week. I went through Catholic school in the 1960s and 70s, and some of my teachers were still there when my children attended! I deeply appreciate my Catholic school upbringing, where we were always encouraged to excel academically and discern the spark of sacredness in every human being.

I send my special thanks to Nativity of Our Lord School, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School and Archbishop Wood High School for the wonderful, dedicated teachers, staff and clergy who surround our children with the beliefs and morals they need to create a good society.