“Sir, we’re getting ready to land–I’m going to need you to slide that under your seat.”
I started reading and chuckling at New Yorker cartoons in high school when my dad introduced its unparalleled humor to me. He and I shared many hours discussing our favorite gags and cartoonists, and, while Dad did land a great cartoon one time in The Saturday Evening Post, he never made it into Eustace Tilley’s grand library. He hoped someday I would. Dad passed away 8 years ago but I have the uncanny feeling he’s been pulling some strings.
Over the last year or so my son Tom and I have been collaborating on a big batch of gag cartoons – Tom wrote the ideas in New York City, between working at NYU and doing frequent standup in clubs and bars, and sent them over to me here in Bucks County, where I drew them up when I had time. I’m happy to announce that we’ve finally assembled them into a book titled Zeitgeist Meetup, and we’ll be signing copies at The Mercantile, 444 N. Main Street, Doylestown, on Sunday, December 11 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Tom’s humor has a young, New York-type viewpoint, with some ideas coming from his everyday experiences in the city doing improv comedy, some reflecting his standup style of wordplay and visual puns, and a few short-story cartoons like “Bushwick Self-Defense,” “The In-Convenience Store,” and “The Kool Aid Spectrum.” Our book riffs on lots of topics that are in the ‘zeitgeist’ right now— from food trucks to Bigfoot to crickets to Elvis – all just for fun. We want people to laugh!
Tom has been involved in comedy for over 15 years, leading an improv comedy group when he attended Holicong Middle School and CB East, continuing through college at American University and comedy clubs around Washington DC, and now in NYC.
I’ll also mention that two of my latest New Yorker magazine cartoons have been chosen to be in the “2023 New Yorker Day-to-Day Calendar,” which I’ll have there at the Mercantile on display, and I’ll have some of my humorous holiday greeting cards for sale too, so I hope you can come and say hello!
There is plenty of convenient parking at the Mercantile since it’s right in the Doylestown Shopping Center, in the space where BonTon used to be. The Mercantile is a collaborative store that showcases creative small businesses, so there is a ton of great gift items to browse after you’ve chatted with Tom and me – they have beautiful housewares, accessories, vintage items, baked goods, furniture, jewelry, gifts for men and adorable stuffed animals for kids. There are even places to sit down and have a snack when you’re tired of shopping – you can’t beat that!
Zeitgeist Meetup sells for $12.95, and if you can’t make it on December 11 but you want a copy, just let me know. And if you went to CB East with Tom or were in his improv group, please just stop by to say hi, we’d love to see you!
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.
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.
I was on Blaine Greenfield’s podcast last night – a delight all around, he’s the Ed Sullivan of the Asheville, NC area!
I fumbled a bit getting my artwork to screenshare, so I’m posting a pdf of some of my New Yorker published-and-rejected cartoons below, so you all can take the full tour I was going to give Blaine. Please scroll through!
(If they appear too small to read, try clicking on the three horizontal lines at top left. All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles, but the first four are (c) The New Yorker.)
Now below is the slideshow I was going to show Blaine of my children’s book illustration, and some illustrations for adult books too. Included are illustrations from The Upside-Down Gardener, Grand Slam Birthday and the Adventures of the Poodle Posse series by Chrysa Smith; Robbie to the Rescue by Laurie Nowlan; Let’s Visit New Hope, by Gayle Goodman and Roy Ziegler; The Book of Jims and Bills! Bills! Bills! by Jim Miller (they are fun books all about famous people thru history named Jim/James or William/Bill, fun to give as a gift to friends of those names), Leading Team Members with Super Powers by Thomas Edwards (a great informational book about working and training neurodiverse employees), and A Woman’s Book of Dirty Words by Mary Fran Bontempo. If you want to purchase any, I believe they are all available on Amazon. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
This slideshow below shows some of my greeting cards for Eagle Scout events and for the holidays – some are available now on my Etsy shop (click HERE) and some I hope to post there soon. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
And finally here are my illustrations for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society, a wonderful group of devotees to some of the loveliest, and funniest, operettas ever written. (All artwork is (c) Pat Achilles)
Now you have seen all the things I meant to show Blaine – thanks so much for taking a look. Here’s the link to the half hour of me with Blaine: go to https://www.blainesworld.net/ and look for the podcast dated 11.8.2022 And thanks again to Blaine!
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!
Now that the Phillies are in the World Series, it’s definitely time to write about a new kids’ book by my friend, author Chrysa Smith, and illustrated by me – A Grand Slam Birthday. Chrysa brings back the lead character from her book The Upside-Down Gardener, Dory Oslo, for a delightful story that makes a perfect birthday party gift for youngsters – or a holiday gift, since that season is coming up too!
Chrysa describes the plot like this: When Dory Oslo arrives at her cousin’s birthday party, nobody looks like they’re having too much fun. In fact, the kids are lined up against the wall. But Dory turns up the excitement once again as her cousin opens her gift and finds something that turns the party inside-out and into something quite unexpected—and FUN! Dory, her cousin Izzy, and their friends learn a thing or two about having fun, trying new things, and having confidence in yourself.
In illustrating Grand Slam Birthday I started with pencil sketching the whole book as usual, for example these double-page spreads :
Once Chrysa suggested adjustments to the sketches, I transferred the revised drawings to illustration board and started drawing and painting finished artwork with acrylic paint washes. Because of the birthday party theme and the surprise gift involved, it made for some colorful pages:
As you may have guessed, an impromptu baseball game figures into this story – Dory after all is a tomboy! It’s a fun story that also helps kids think differently about trying something they may think they’re “not good at.”
You can order A Grand Slam Birthday online from Chrysa HERE – and if your child’s school would like to have Chrysa do an author visit (in person or through zoom), she has some great programs that help teach and inspire the kids to write on their own. Send Chrysa a message to inquire about how she can spark the imagination in your students! You can also meet her in person, selling this and her other books, at the Warminster Kris Kringle Holiday Market this coming Saturday, Nov 5 from 9:00 AM – 12:30 PM, at 300 Veterans Way, Warminster, PA.
A Mother of the Bride asked me to draw the lovely exterior of her daughter’s wedding venue for the Save-the-Date card. The venue will be The VanLandingham Estate in Charlotte, NC, and it’s a stunning building. The client showed me several other samples of cards with venues drawn in simple line and I loved the classic, elegant look of them.
She sent me a perfect head-on photo of the building and I drew it first in pencil.
A graceful and dignified mansion, is it not? After the ok from the client I inked it in cleanly with black ink and sent it off.
Just a few days ago the Mother of the Bride sent me the finished card, beautifully printed on heavy rag paper. The letterpress printing was done by Scott McClelland, with assistance from Bo, at Paper Meets Press in Glenside, PA. Letterpress is a traditional printing technique that creates a relief of the type and image in the paper – you can feel the depression if you run your fingers across the text. Some of the impression is visible in the closeup below.
I think the finished card is a very stylish and appropriate look for what I’m sure will be an elegant wedding.
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.
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.
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.