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 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!

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.