Portrait: Two Boys and a Dog

A friend commissioned me to draw a portrait of his sons and their sweet (recently departed) family dog, which the boys, and his wife, loved very much. He sent me some very good, clear photos of them all – they live on the other side of the country from me, so live drawing was not possible. I started with a pencil drawing.

I scanned that and roughly colored it in with colored pencils.

After the client approved this I drew the image on illustration board in prisma pencil and painted it in with acrylic washes. There was a lot of play between the warm and cool colors in the scene, which helped define the shapes. I also feel that the fact that the boys were not aimed full-face at the camera helped me get their facial features well – profile or 3/4 view of a face is easier to define and draw that full-front portraits because you naturally get some 3-D effect from the head being turned.

A Bucks County Farmhouse Monochrome

I was asked to paint an old farmhouse, dating to the 1800s, using an old photo provided, since the house, while still existing and lived in, is much changed and renovated over the years. My client asked for the painting to be in sepia tone, to give it that nostalgic feel.

I used the photo reference exactly since there was no other information about the structure, and the photo was fairly good – a farmhouse along a horizon, with distinctive trees, a few outbuildings (we think they are an outhouse and springhouse) and a field in the foreground, giving it the feeling of a hand-built home plopped in the middle of a vast rural America – which this most likely was at the time. I started with a pencil drawing.

I did a rough tonal sketch by painting over a scan of this sketch in grays, then made it sepia with a click of a computer key, and the client approved it –

I took one photo while I was working on painting it on illustration board with acrylic paint washes –

And finished and delivered it yesterday for the client to frame. The only real change I made from the original photo was to add two birds flying low on the horizon – I think it’s always nice to show some life and movement in a landscape.

My Cartoons in the New Yorker Calendar

It’s a real kick to see a couple of my cartoons, previously published in the New Yorker, also printed in their 2023 Day-to-day Calendar. This desk calendar has tear-off sheets so you can have a new cartoon practically every day.

Above is the first one of mine, which I originally wrote about here. Below is my second drawing in this upcoming year’s calendar, which I also mentioned here.

I can show you the calendar, by the way, when I am at The Mercantile this Sunday, December 11, with my son Tom as we sign copies of our new cartoon book, Zeitgeist Meetup. It’s a compilation of cartoons written by Tom, who does occasional standup in Brooklyn after working at NYU, with drawings by me. I hope if you’re in the area you stop in at The Mercantile between 1 pm and 3:30 pm. If you still need to do holiday shopping, The Mercantile has tons of delightful items so you can also pick up some gifts after you chat with Tom and me. And I’ll have some of my funny holiday cards too, if you need to send a chuckle to any friends this season. Please stop by!

At the front and back of Zeitgeist Meetup I included some pages of the sketches I did for all the cartoons in the book – here’s a sample below – just gives an idea of the process we went through in developing the gags.

Biblical Life Drawing, October 2022

I arranged a Biblical Life Drawing session last month and we were fortunate to have two models for some of the time. I drew with prisma pencil on toned pastel paper for these quick sketches of a woman holding a basket and Mary cradling the Child in a basket

We discussed a pose for our two models together and came up with the idea of a quiet moment with Mary and Elizabeth marveling over Mary’s new Child – this is a scene I would like to come back to and develop more, I think there could be many beautiful emotions to manifest here.

I drew these Madonna and Child sketches in prisma with some chalk highlights. I will use one of these on a Christmas card this year.

Finally, I went back into a drawing I did last session of Jesus with Mary Magdalen, and added some tones to it with charcoal, which added some needed depth to the scene.

Hat Shop in Turn-of-the-Century Doylestown

My illustration can be seen at the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Bucks Fever Art Exhibition which opens Thursday, November 10 from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in Doylestown, PA.

There’s a building in the middle of Doylestown, at the corner of Main St. and Shewell Ave., that’s been scaffolded for months – it’s being renovated into lavish condos, with a craft brewery on the bottom floor. But if you’d walked down Main Street in 1900 you’d have noted the latest women’s fashions in the elegant semi-circular second floor window of that same building, because that floor was home to Mrs.Ivins’ millinery shop.

The Doylestown Historical Society asked me to envision a typical day in Mrs. Ivins’ shop, with hats, customers and that lovely Victorian arched window. I had a wonderful time researching and creating this scene and I’m pleased to say that my original illustration will be in the Central Bucks Chamber of Commerce Bucks Fever Art Exhibit, which opens to the public tomorrow, Thursday, November 10 with a reception from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in the Doylestown Shopping Center.

Kurt Spence of the DHS sent me excellent photo references, courtesy of the Doylestown Historical Society, to begin sketching for the scene. Some were photos of the outside of the building from the turn of the century, some of ladies’ dress and hat fashions, and some from the interiors of Victorian hat shops.

I boiled down my process of creating this historical scene to three steps: research, distillation, and reintroducing selected detail. The research came in studying these photos, pictures from costume books I have, and information on the internet. I started sketching by creating the empty shop room with little detail, just to get the space correct. I sketched some figures separately, to drop into the scene. This was par0r of the ‘distillation’ – simplifying the elements to get a clear composition

Here is the room with the figures dropped in –

At this point I showed the sketch to Kurt, who, as a retired contractor, knows a lot about architecture and buildings, and he gave me suggestions which I was happy to revise. I next did a tonal sketch next to help with simplifying the light and dark areas. This would be a fairly complex drawing when finished, so thinking tonally helped organize shapes so the viewer could ‘read’ the picture more easily.

The DHS asked for this picture to be in color, but of course all the photo reference I had from the urn of the century was black/white, so I had to look at painters of the era to get a feel for the colors. I found this lovely piece of an interior by William Merritt Chase, painted in 1895. I liked the teal, rose and muted yellows and creams, and saw those colors repeated in other paintings of the era, and felt I’d found a good palette.

I did a rough color sketch, using colored pencils over a scan of my line sketch –

At this point I could start adding ‘selective detail’ – detail that would give the flavor of the era but not confuse the viewer’s eye too much. I could add pattern – the Victorians loved patterns of course – to the the carpet and the wallpaper, as long as it was low contrast. I added the bold wallpaper border near the ceiling because there was not much going on in the top third of the scene, and used my chosen teal, rose and yellow in that border.

I wanted to make this scene tied specifically to my hometown, so out the window one can see the Civil War Monument and the Intelligencer building, two landmarks that can be seen from this corner in Doylestown.

After this stage I transferred the drawing to illustration board, outlined using prisma pencil, and painted it in using acrylic paint washes. The finished piece –

The public is welcome to attend the Central Bucks Chamber show to see my piece and many other works of art. The opening reception is Thursday Nov. 10 from 5 to 7 pm at the Mercantile in Doylestown, with light refreshments and music on tap. The exhibit continues until November 20.

Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ – Porcine Version

I have once again dreamed up a humorous setting for the Lenape Chamber Ensemble‘s Children’s Concert, which is coming up Saturday, November 12 at Delaware Valley University. The Lenape Chamber Ensemble is a group of world-class musicians who twice a year host a delightful hour of playful information and performance for kids and their parents, on the weekend when they also perform magnificent concerts for adults at other times and venues. Their talent is sublime, but for their children’s concert I am permitted to draw a light-hearted fantasy of a scene for a poster, just for entertainment’s sake. For this one, I chose pigs as my musicians.

The concert November 12th features the most popular of Vivaldi’s works, The Four Seasons, as well as works by J. S. Bach and Jean-Marie Leclair. I felt a dance ensemble might be fun to accompany my little pigs’ musical performance, so I drew an audience of piglets admiring the dancers representing the seasons, while their accompanists play behind them.

I first sketched pigs in different music & dance positions –

  • and then placed them within the space I have on the flyer, hand-lettering the info above and below them. The final poster is below – I also looked up the names the the seasonal movements of the Vivaldi. I’m hoping some enterprising children might learn a little French in the bargain! I highly recommend this concert for kids & parents alike, it’s really a delightful hour of music and fun!

Drawing Biblical figures

I organized another Art+Faith Life Drawing session through my church and this time we had two wonderful models, husband and wife, who posed in our makeshift Biblical costumes so artists could imagine and draw scenes from our shared religious heritage, bringing our faith into our art.

We started with warm-up sketches of 5 to 10 minutes in length. I sketched on charcoal paper with prisma pencil..

Our models took a poignant pose of Mary Magdalen receiving counsel from Jesus. I drew this longer pose in pencil on charcoal paper –

While the models often posed together in a scene, time restrictions made it hard for me to get developed drawings of two figures, so I concentrated more on one or the other. Here is our model posing with ‘tablets’ as Moses below. It was really striking to see him standing in front of us – there is a grace in the draping of ancient clothing styles that does make you stop and contemplate: the gravity of their lives so long ago, the convictions they held that carried them through devastation. Drawing these faithful figures has an effect that goes beyond simple rendering.

My favorite from the day – an Evangelist.

My Illustration for a Business Birthday E-Card

I drew this car parade birthday illustration for Furia Rubel Communications last year. They originated the idea and needed me to make it into an image for them to send out with their best wishes to their clients. I think it’s a great way to make a touchpoint with each client – a beneficial marketing strategy – and remind their clients of the whole team of people working for their interests. I have often drawn the FRC team for projects in the past.

I started with a pencil sketch of the whole train of cars and caricatures of each FRC member.

When that was ok’d I printed out a copy and did a rough color sketch with markers and colored pencils. The great thing about sending out ecards is, there is no more expense in doing full color over black and white. On computer screens, color is free!

I decided to colorize this illustration using digital color, so the colors would match those in the FRC logo and other hues on their website. I drew each carload in black line, then filled it in with digital color.

After drawing and colorizing each piece of the picture this way I assembled them onto one page and added the banner, balloons and honking horns.

Another advantage of assembling this piece digitally is that if employees change from year to year, I can adjust the picture accordingly. And in fact, this year I was asked to add new team members and remove some who have moved on; so with some tweaks Furia Rubel will have an updated ecard showing their full team for 2022.

Portrait of a Charming Little Home in Vermont

A friend commissioned me to paint her daughter’s adorable first home, as a gift and celebration of this milestone. I waited for a while so they could send me some photos of full trees and flowers blooming around the house – Vermont’s spring comes quite a bit later than it does here!

I started with a pencil sketch. My client also sent photos of her daughter’s cat, so I pencilled him in on the front porch.

After some more recent photos were sent I was able to add newly-planted flowers to the color sketch.

And after approval from my client I transferred the drawing to illustration board and painted it using a combination of prisma pencils and acrylic paint washes.

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.