Archives for posts with tag: art exhibition



Here is your invitation to walk into Lucky 13 Tattoo & Piercing Parlor and The K’town Pub and Basin Street Tavern. If you don’t want another tattoo, go to Lucky 13 before you hit the bars! Meet Kutztown area artists at a variety of local businesses. Each venue will feature works from one or more artists, and many of the artists will be available to talk to about their work on Friday evening.

Linear Composition, painting by Jan Crooker.

Linear Composition, painting © by Jan Crooker on view at Lucky 13.

What I really like about this event is this: it’s not a fundraiser!  It is meant to build an audience for Kutztown artists and give you a reason to enter a new business. It is free to see. The artists don’t have to pay to play; perhaps someone might buy their work. The Kutztown Community Partnership is the sponsor. Thanks to Kutztown booster Jim Springer of Dunkelberger’s Jewelers for coordinating this unique event.

Navajo Madonna and Child by Maureen Yoder. Kutztown

See Navajo Madonna and Child © by Maureen Yoder at Vynecrest Wine Shop

Artists will also be at Global Libations, Uptown Espresso, Jackie & Daughter, Monaghan Realtors, Wholesome Foods, Adam N’ Eve, Firefly Books, J.A. Meyer, CC’s Wooden Grill, Pop’s Malt Shoppe, Main Street Inn, and Spuds. Start anywhere and grab a list!

Portrait of Azuka ©Leah King at KTL Cigars.

Portrait of Azuka ©Leah King at KTL Cigars.

Leah King was my illustration student at Kutztown. She’s had success lately doing art for children’s books like Bathtime for Brandon by Angela Hunt. Leah will be showing her mixed media artwork at KTL Cigars, 100 Constitution Blvd. Two of my former KU design colleagues are Artist Harvest participants, Dianne V Dockery and John K Landis.

Clay monoprint © by Dianne Vottero Dockery at Dunkelbergers.

Clay monoprint © by Dianne Vottero Dockery at Dunkelbergers.

John Landis is sharing his hand-made miniature buildings. His work will be on view at Colasanti Printworks. He sent me some photos of his tiny buildings based on real places he recalls from his childhood, like the one below. What is happening on the second floor?


Dress Store and Doctor’s Office © John K Landis at Colasanti Printworks

All the artists and venues will be happy to see new faces. Most are located along Main St. At the edge of town Nectar’s Cafe will be open for dinner Friday Oct. 4 from 5-8pm in celebration of the Artist Harvest. My friend Camille Eaton Romig will be showing quilts there and Nectar’s will be rolling out a new orange cognac coffee just for the event.

Graphic © by Matt Williams of Firefly Books, Kutztown

Graphic © by Matt Williams of Firefly Books, Kutztown

Depending on the venue, the art work may be on view Saturday and Sunday Oct. 5 and 6, as well. However, if you want to meet and great the artists, get to Kutztown Oct. 4. It’s like New York, but smaller.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

Reflejos de Huida, stencil, 2013, Lapiztola.

MACO,The Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca has an exhibition of street art on its walls. Does street art belong in a museum? Well, MACO’s Hecho en Oaxaca spills over into the streets. The artists came from all over the globe, Swoon, The Date Farmers, How and Nosm, MOMO, Retna, Saner, StenLex, and Vhils. Oaxacan artists Yescka, Dr. Lakra, and Lapiztola round out the show curated by Pedro Alonzo.

Lapiztola Collective's birds seem escape onto the street

Lapiztola Collective’s birds seem escape onto the street.

I am fond of Lapiztola’s work. I’ve met them, in fact they once let me hitch a ride home with them from a birthday party in the hills. Their stencils are always crisp graphic statements, often they relate to musical themes. I was not familiar with L.A. artist Retna. Retna’s blue wall at MACO (below) titled “Somos los ninos de las manos manchadas” translates as “We are the children of stained hands.”

Art by Retna, 2013 Acrylic.

Art by Retna, 2013 Acrylic.

His work resembles Arabic calligraphy. I thought Retna also painted the front of ASARO’s studio, Espacio Zapata, home to a gallery and the cafe,”Atila Del Sur.”  A reader informs me it is the work of Sanez.

Retna, Espacio Zapata, Studio of  ASARO collective, # 519 Porfirio Diaz. Van artist unknown.

Wall by Sanez, Espacio Zapata, Studio of ASARO, # 519 Porfirio Diaz. Van artist unknown.

Dr. Lakra has an untitled mural in the exhibition. It looks to be inspired by Hollywood, Bollywood and cheap whiskey. In Lakra’s case, I prefer his simpler ‘dragon woman’ mural on a wall near Espacio Zapata.

Dr. Lakra, untitled, acrylic and spray paint.

Dr. Lakra, untitled, acrylic and spray paint.

Dr Lakra, Street mural, Porfirio Diaz. Oaxaca.

Dr Lakra, Street mural, Porfirio Diaz, Oaxaca.

Swoon’s project is among the largest artworks in the museum. Like many old public buildings in Mexico the museum was once church property until it was seized by the government. Swoon worked around fragments of painted wall decoration which may date from the 17th century. She turned a high-ceilinged room into a temple of intense female figures. To borrow a phrase, the walls reflect both “agony and ecstasy.” Overall, her imagery evokes a suggestion of hope. I first saw Swoon’s work on a wall in Braddock, PA. She is an inspiring artist.

Swoon, detail, showing fragments of colonial wall decoration.

Swoon, detail, showing fragments of the colonial wall decoration.

Wall by Swoon at MACO, Oaxaca.

Wall by Swoon at MACO, Oaxaca.

Swoon’s outside murals were on prime real estate in the historic center of Oaxaca. I was told the building houses Dr. Lakra’s painting studio. Her works are woodblock prints on kraft paper which are pasted to the walls with wheatpaste. In some places they call these works “throw-ups.” The street artist can unroll the work and throw it up on a wall in a matter of minutes.

Oaxaca Street Art by Swoon, complete with a museum label on right edge.

Oaxaca Street Art by Swoon, complete with a museum label on right edge.

I will leave you with an image that includes art by Swoon, but it looks to be a collaboration with Retna and perhaps the blue skull is by Dr.Lakra. Next post I will share work by my old friend Yescka.

Oaxaca Street art, Swoon, Retna, and maybe, Dr. Lakra.

Oaxaca Street art, Swoon, Retna, and maybe, Dr. Lakra.


I visited Hoboken, my old hometown, for the opening of an art show from Meadowlands, Thomas Yezerski’s beautiful children’s book. His book is about the battered, but amazingly resilient, ecosystem that exists just a few miles from Hoboken and it’s better-known neighbor, New York City. The exhibit runs to March 10 at the Hoboken Historical Museum, my favorite small museum.


I met Thomas last year when he came to Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference. Raised in Allentown, PA, he now lives in Hoboken. He is a graduate of Syracuse University’s famed illustration program. Thomas has illustrated a variety of kid’s books, but Meadowlands: A Wetland’s Survival Story is his masterpiece.


His ten years of research began by reading everything he could find about the natural history of the area. Then he got into a canoe so he could observe the North Jersey wetlands firsthand.


Thomas found some remarkable wildlife thriving beside some of our nation’s noisiest, and ugliest highways. His watercolor washes and finely detailed pen and ink drawings are perfect for depicting this strange world. The New York Times gave the book a glowing review: “Meadowlands is tremendously (but not intimidatingly) informative, fun to read and gorgeous to look at.”


The book is a generous 40 pages, more than the typical children’s picture book. Nearly all of the panoramic two-page spreads are framed by multiple vignettes, like those appearing here. Thomas includes dozens of these supporting images in the current exhibition.

The artist custom matted his illustrations to include the supporting details.

The artist custom matted his illustrations to include the supporting details.

Thomas Yezerski will return to the Hoboken Historical Museum on Sun. Feb 10 at 4pm to describe his research, writing, and illustration process. (And sign books!) More info on the event can be found here. Admission to the Museum is $2 for adults, free to children and members.

Thomas Yezerski at Kutztown

Thomas Yezerski at Kutztown’s Children’s Lit Conference in 2012

If you can’t get to the Hoboken Museum, Thomas’s publisher has a nice page about the book with more pictures. To see the wide range of his illustration work, visit

All artwork on this page © 2012 Thomas F. Yezerski

A prior clothing installation from

“SCARP” A prior clothing installation from

Kutztown University will host Canadian artist Jarod Charzewski as he transforms the Miller Gallery into a “site-specific installation based on the consumer culture of Kutztown shoppers.” What’s that mean? Come find out. Based on his past installations, Charzewski’s work is likely to be colorful and eye-pleasing, yet also thought-provoking.

Army Man Made of Books about War © Jarod Charzewski

Army Man Made of Books about War © Jarod Charzewski

Charzewski’s winning artist residency proposal was one of nearly 125 that came from all over the world. His Kutztown U gallery installation will be in progress from Jan 21 – Feb 7.  Artists (students or not) who would like to assist him in the project can contact Karen Stanford via the Miller Gallery webpage. The exhibition will be up until St. Patrick’s Day.

Detail showing Books about War.

Detail showing Books about War.

Born in Winnipeg, Charzewski graduated with a BFA from University of Manitoba. He got his MFA at U on Minnesota. He is currently teaching at College of Charleston, S.C. I emailed him a few questions:

Q. How important is drawing to your process of visualizing an installation?

Jarod Charzewski: Drawing has always been an important part of what I do. I have always drawn. It’s the first creative thing I did when I was growing up. I don’t really think I was very good at it. I could blow my friends away with drawing, but that was only copying things from photographs. I wasn’t very spontaneous with my subject matter.

Many of the drawings I do today are schematics for planning my installations. My wife is an architect so I frequently bounce ideas off her as far a traffic flow and the height of things.

installation sketch © Jarod Charzewski

installation sketch © Jarod Charzewski

Q. What tools do you use to draw?

J.C: Right now I am using Sketchup to do drawings of all forms. Everything from detailed schematics with dimensions, vegetation and pedestrians to doodles and scribbles. It’s a very fun tool to play with.

Sketchup drawing ©  Jarod Charzewski

Sketchup drawing for a project at Ohio University © Jarod Charzewski

Q. What is the best advice you got in art school? From whom?

J.C: The best advice I got was from Alex Bruning. He taught advanced drawing in my BFA program at the University of Manitoba.  It was one class when he gave us some instruction and then turned us loose to work. I sat in front of my drawing board with a blank piece of white paper on it for – I guess – ten minutes, wondering what to draw. Meanwhile, my buddy Richard Wlodarczak just jumped right in, without hesitation or evidence of a single thought and started drawing.

I was amazed. Alex Bruning came by and said to me. “Richard trusts himself…. You must trust yourself”.  I think about that a lot. I can’t say I remember what I did at that moment but I recognize now the things I trust myself with. It’s also fun to see students in my classes that trust themselves.  By the way, Richard Wlodarczak is an accomplished painter living in Vancouver, B.C. 

Jarod Charzewski borrows, then returns, clothing from Goodwill for installions like this.

Jarod Charzewski borrows, then returns, clothing from Goodwill for installions like this.

Q. Is Canada more supportive of the visual arts than the US?

J.C: It is and it isn’t. It’s common for anyone with BFA to get provincial and federal artists grants as soon as they graduate.  There are many that make a living doing just that. What is rare is a chance to exhibit the work you make with the grant money, as there are so few galleries, compared to the US.  I feel it’s the opposite here in the US. Even before students of mine graduate they have shows in commercial spaces and are selling their art in one way or another.  It’s the grants that are few and far between.

Jarod Charzewski’s artist statement and many more images of his artwork can be found at If you are near Kutztown, visit the Miller Gallery. The artist will be talk about his work, free and open to the public, Feb 7 at 7pm. The official installation opening is the same day, 2/7/13, from 4-6pm. Details here.

Back in the ’80′s, when I told my pal Putka I was getting an MFA in illustration, he laughed, “What’s next?  -a Phd in Wallpaper Hanging?” What’s Next? Looks like the answer is Advanced Comics…

The SAW campus © SAW 2012

The SAW campus © SAW 2012

Stanford is a great university with one respected graphic novel class. But suddenly, universities across the country are offering complete advanced degrees in comics. CCS, the Center for Cartoon Studies, in Vermont has offered a Comics MFA for several years. CCS is not to be confused with CCA, California College of the Arts in San Francisco which is launching a new low-residency MFA in Comics in 2013.

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

A curious new educational option has sprung up in Florida. It is called SAW for Sequential Art Workshop. Cartoonist Tom Hart who taught for a decade at SVA in NYC has relocated to a storefront on So. Main St. in Gainesville. There, with a group of dedicated faculty and students, he has begun an intensive comics course. SAW’s one-year intensive program is not an accredited MFA, but it cost far less, $3600. I contacted a SAW student, Adrian Pijoan, to learn more about this grassroots educational experiment.

Adrian Pijoan at SAW from

Adrian Pijoan at SAW from

KMc: What do you think of MFA’s in comics?
Adrian: “I’m all for MFA’s in comics — the more that the art world accepts comics as a legitimate medium the happier cartoonists will be.”

You are in a non-degree program, Why is that?
Adrian: “I met with some cartoonists who are also faculty at a major art school over the summer to talk about the MFA program at that school. Those faculty members convinced me that if my interests really lay in cartooning then the MFA program would be a waste of time and money.

comic panels from Roots ©2012 Adrian Pijoan

comic panels from Roots ©2012 Adrian Pijoan

For some reason drawing, painting, and literature are all legitimate art forms, but there’s still this idea that when you combine them some sort of dark magic happens and the end product is no longer art. So, I think the idea of a comics MFA program is great, but that there’s still this silly prejudice against comics in the mainstream art world. There’s also the issue that a lot of cartoonists — myself included — are more interested in producing art that is available to everyone than in producing art to hang in a gallery or in the houses of the extremely wealthy.”

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

detail from Roots © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Why SAW?  Adrian: “SAW is a really fantastic community and a much more holistic learning experience than I experienced in college or anywhere else. The curriculum is very rigorous, but it is also adaptable to encourage our growth as individual artists. During our end of semester show last Friday (12 /14) we were all impressed by the improvement we’ve undergone in three months. The whole school — students and faculty — work together as a community and we’re constantly pushing and challenging one another. There are always other artists around to critique or help you solve a problem.

Student show at Saw, August, 2012, used with permission.

Student show at Saw, August, 2012, used with permission.

Another reason I chose SAW over a degree program is that SAW is very inexpensive, but provides the opportunity to work with really amazing faculty. And though there’s no degree, I believe that in the art world your portfolio is more important than having a degree. So the quality of the education is more important than the diploma.”

from Fig about co-evolutionary symbiosis between wasps and figs. © Adrian Pijoan

from Fig explaining co-evolutionary symbiosis  © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Can you tell us something about your background?
Adrian: “I have a bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. I realized while there that my interests are more in outreach and education that research. I think a lot of research gets locked up in academic journals in the same way that a lot of art gets locked up in galleries. So my interest is in taking that scientific information — primarily about ecology and conservation — and translating it into a medium that is accessible, interesting, and fun. Even more than that I’ve found that my comics about science are creating conversation and generating curiosity about the natural world.”

From Sitting Ghost © Adrian Pijoan

From Sitting Ghost © 2012 Adrian Pijoan

Any advice for young artists interested in making zines and comics?
Adrian: “Do just that – make zines and comics! Make them and get them out into the world. Trade them with other creators, go to conventions, put them online – get your work out there. And, even more importantly, keep making work. It can get discouraging when it feels like no one is listening, but you just have to keep on going. Don’t get too hung up on your early work, either – your first comics probably won’t be great, so finish them and move on. Set goals by the project. If you make a mistake or don’t like the way it’s turning out, finish the project and then try not to make that mistake in your next one – but don’t get discouraged. Also, even if you think you are going to draw in the most flat, cartoony style, still take the time to learn traditional art skills because your drawing can always benefit from them. If you don’t want to go to a traditional art school, look for local figure drawing sessions or evening classes taught by local artists. Or, better yet, apply to SAW! “


Adrian, one more question: What’s with the argyle sock on your arm?
“Haha, the sock — I get lots of questions about that. It’s a trick I learned from Tom Hart (director of SAW). It keeps the oils in your skin from getting on your bristol board (which can interfere with inking) and it allows you to slide your hand across the drafting table smoothly to make straight and consistent lines — especially helpful when you ink with a brush like I do! And on chilly nights it keeps your hand warm.”

Check out Adrian’s work at and watch Kathryn Varn’s video of him at the drawing board. I really appreciate Adrian’s perspective and expect more great things from him.

Indie alternatives to institutional higher education in the arts deserve support. Non-credit, off-the-grid, DIY art education centers are popping up all over. Tom Huck’s Woodcut Bootcamp in St. Louis, Maine’s Beehive Design Collective and Pittsburgh’s Cyberpunk Apocalypse are a few examples I’ve seen. I hope to see more. SAW has a fundraising Etsy page with original art by Vanessa DavisDash Shaw, John Porcellino and other important comics artists. Check it out.

"Un Gran Consejo"or "Great Advice," César Chávez, 2011

“Un Gran Consejo” or “Great Advice,” César Chávez, 2011

Our 2011 visiting artist César Chávez of Oaxaca, Mexico left a great impression on Kutztown University. He also left a number of plates.

El Chamuco drawn by Cesar Chavez.

“El Chamuco”  by César Chávez, 2011.

Ceramics Prof Jim Chaney formed a half-dozen red clay plates, then iced them with a coat of white slip, or diluted clay. He invited César to the ceramics studio to draw. Prof Chaney speaks some Spanish and once did a ceramics workshop at the University of Azuay in Ecuador. Even though César spent most of his time at Kutztown in the printmaking studio, he was happy to spend one very productive afternoon in the ceramics studio.

"Mescal" by Cesar Chavez 2011

“Mescal” César Chávez, 2011

César is a happy fellow who often draws moody, morbid sketches of the human condition. The plate above suggests mescal, Oaxaca’s agave-based alcohol is “Good for Nothing and Good for Everything.”

"Mojado" by César Chávez

“Mojado” by César Chávez, 2011

Interestingly enough, César is back in Mexico and working in another new material, glass. He has been working with artist Jason Pfohl who founded the international art glass and jewelry studio, Gorilla Glass, in Oaxaca. César’s one-man show “Peste” (Pestilence) opened at Gorilla Gallery this week. He is printing multiple impressions from etched and melted glass. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. César is also continuing his ongoing experiments in computer animation and image projection.

César Chávez, photo  courtesy of Gorilla Gallery

César Chávez, photo courtesy of Gorilla Gallery, Oaxaca, Mexico

César told Gena Mejia of the Imparcial newspaper that he is excited by the infinite possibilities of working in glass. It appears fragile, but can be a strong and very versatile material. If you can read Spanish the full story can be found here. César Chávez is an inspiring artist, a 21st century renaissance man, always searching for new materials in pursuit of his artistic vision.


Savage County, movie poster illustration © 2010 Vincent Castiglia

Saturday I took the early bus from Kutztown to New York City to deliver a print to a downtown gallery. I’ve shown my illustration work at the Society of Illustrators during their teacher shows, but this will be different. This is a juried “fine art” exhibition at Sacred Gallery, 420 Broadway. Emerging from the Canal St. subway station at noon I made my way east through the sidewalk bazaars of fake Fendi and Gucci. On Broadway I looked for a ‘Sacred’ sign. Looking up, through the railings of a fire escape, I found the words, “Sacred Tattoos.” Tattoos? A hoarse Chinese man stood by the doorway repeating, “Watches, Watches, Watches, Watches.”

I climbed the stairs past boldly lettered warnings. “Stairway Under Surveillance by Camera 24/7.”  Another sign said,  “Photography Strictly Forbidden.” I entered the tattoo parlor and a lean young lady glanced at me. She had short black hair and was dressed in black jeans and black t-shirt. Her only touches of color were the serpentine tattoos covering her forearms. She said, “You are here to deliver art?”  The big flat parcel in my hands gave me away.

Vincent Castiglia’s blood collection tools and brushes

She pointed me toward a large, well-lit, gallery. On the walls was a one-man show by NY artist Vincent Castiglia. Mostly figurative, expertly rendered, nicely framed, the work was strong. The media was shocking. Everything was painted in pale reddish brown washes -of blood. I looked around at all four walls, blood, blood, blood, and more blood!

The artist uses his own blood. According to the gallery’s press release, “In the privacy of his studio, Vincent practices a kind of modern-day phlebotomy, siphoning the life force which contains his own psychic energy, while giving it an outlet and form. In doing so, he dissolves the barrier between artist and art in a most literal and immediate sense.”

Detail from a triptych of portraits in blood © Vincent Castiglia

Castiglia’s large blood paintings were priced in the thousands of dollars. On the other hand, he sells his hand-signed posters for the MTV horror film, Savage County, on his website for only $25. The poster is printed with archival Lucia inks. For $25, what do expect? Blood?

To see more of Castiglia’s art, head to his website. To learn more about Sacred Gallery, check here. The Art of Democracy print show opens at the Sacred Gallery, Sat. Nov 3. There is a reception 8-11pm. You are cordially invited. My print, below, will be there.

Woodblock print about California’s 3 Strikes Law © Kevin McCloskey

Batman, detail, original art by Tommy Castillo.

I was sorry to hear of MoCCA’s near-death experience. I’ve met some interesting people at the Museum of Comic & Cartoon Art in lower Manhattan. I ran into Prof. Bill Foster there, the expert on the portrayal of African-Americans in comics. He came to Kutztown to share his presentation, “Looking for a Face Like Mine.”

Underworld © KAZ (Kazimieras G. Prapuolenis)

Last summer MoCCA went broke and closed its doors overnight. MoCCA scrambled for a refuge to “transfer their assets”  and keep the name alive. The call was answered by the venerable Society of Illustrators. The MoCCA collection moved uptown to the townhouse walls at the Society of Illustrators, 128 E.63rd St.

Anelle Miller & Dennis Dittrich of the Society of Illustrators.

I was at the 2012 Educator’s Symposium at the Society and met Dennis Dittrich, President, and Anelle Miller, Executive Director, and asked about the MoCCA adoption process. Dennis, whose own humorous illustration style leans toward the cartoony, loves the new acquisitions. He told me the merger happened so fast, “it turned on a dime” and he felt like “a blacksmith on the freeway entrance.”

Homage to Norman Rockwell © R Sikoryak for the Comics Journal

Dennis and Anelle consulted attorneys to make sure MoCCA’s liabilities would not haunt their organization. The merger still needs final approval from the NY Board of Regents. I knew the NY State Board or Regents was responsible for universities, but Anelle explained the Regents’ mandate also includes museums and other non-profits.

MoCCA Hellboy © Mike Mignola

What’s in it for the Society?  Wonderful original artwork from comic books, comics strips, and gag cartoons. Dennis says an unexpected benefit is the new blood of MoCCA’s passionate fan base. The Society is now hosting “Dare to Draw” and Super Hero Sketch classes. Pros are teaching Penciling and Anatomy for Cartoonists. Anelle confirmed that MoCCA fest, the hip NY indy comics con, will happen April 6 & 7, 2013 at the Fighting 69th’s Armory on Lexington Ave. Unlike ComicCon, which is slick and leans toward shameless film promotion, MoCCA fest is the real deal. At MoCCA fest you can still find diamonds in the rough, from Norse graphic novels and Pittsburgh zines to thesis projects from the Center for Cartoon Studies.

The MoCCA Gallery area at Society of Illustrators

The New York Times called the Society of Illustrators one of NY’s five hidden gems. Now they have Batman, Wolverine, and Hellboy originals on the wall. The Society’s Museum of American Illustration may be one of NY’s last free-admission museums. Hours and directions can be found here. I was delighted to see the crackpot strips of my old Hoboken neighbor, Kaz, on the wall. His artwork reminded me of the first time I saw original illustration with my own eyes at the Society of Illustrators. I was so relieved to see eraser marks and retouching with white paint that I was able to get back to the drawing board.

Photo courtesy Society of Illustrators.

Find more info on MoCCA and The Society of Illustrators here.

Rostislav “Russ” Spitkovsky by Kevin McCloskey 2012

Russ Spitkovsky makes things happen. He came to Kutztown as one of the 9 artists in the 2012 Print Invitational at the Miller Gallery.  The founder of the cutting edge art magazine Carrier Pigeon hung artwork from the latest issue at the Eckhaus Gallery on Main St. He circled back this week as a visiting artist to spend time with students.

oil monotype illustration by Russ Spitkovsky for “Hall of Mirrors”

Carrier Pigeon is an artist-driven publication. Russ and friends began it after grad school at SVA’s Illustration as Visual Essay MFA Program. Each issue has works by six fine artists, plus six writers, and six illustrators.

Carrier Pigeon cover by Cannonball Press, Martin Mazorra & Mike Houston

The magazine has included original etchings and woodcuts by Russ and guest artists including Marshall Arisman, Bruce Waldman and Frances Jetter. KU Prof. Evan Summer has contributed to several issues.

Russ speaking to overflow crowd in KU Print studio. Photo by Evan Summer

Russ shared some mind-boggling stories. Like the one about a meth addict who tells his wife he’s spending their life savings importing alpacas, but the alpacas are being held up in customs. There are no alpacas; he’s building a giant meth factory. The factory bursts into flames and meth maker gets encased in glass and, well, I don’t want to ruin the ending. The full story by Ryan Scamehorn called “Hall of Mirrors” can be found in Carrier Pigeon #3. It is fiction; I hope.

Illustration by Marshall Arisman for “Good Dog” by Erin Browne, Carrier Pigeon #7

Digression: Many years ago I sent a book idea to Lawrence Ferlenghetti’s City Lights Press. A few weeks later I got the best rejection letter ever. It said, ‘Your project is so interesting, you should publish it yourself. We are swamped publishing our own friends. Start your own press. Here are some resources…‘  Russ Spitkovsky never got that memo from City Lights, but certainly he embodies the D.I.Y. publishing spirit.

Kevin McCloskey, Moe Tierney, Russ Spitkovsky. Photo by Evan Summer

Russ was born in the Ukraine. Why do so many amazing printmakers come from Eastern Europe?  KU’s Print Invitational includes Michael Goro from Russia, Ivanco Talevski from Macedonia, Endi Poskovic from Sarajevo, and Russ. It occurred to me perhaps these artists find core concepts difficult to express in English and are therefore driven to excel at graphic communication. Russ provided a better insight into why so many extraordinary artists come from places once under the Soviet sphere of influence. Growing up in the Ukraine he showed a precocious talent for art. He was plucked from preschool and put in an art academy. He was drawing the human figure from plaster casts at the age of four.

Illustration by Russ Spitkovsky from Central Booking, his self-published visual essay.

On the night of January 3, 2009, Russ was walking down a Brooklyn street. The police stopped and searched him and found he was carrying a knife. It was an ordinary knife purchased at Home Depot. The NYPD decided it was a lethal weapon, “a gravity knife,” and threw him in jail. He spent the next 32 hours in an overcrowded holding cell at Brooklyn’s Central Booking. Charges were dropped, but Russ made art from the experience. Upon his release, drawing from memory, he transformed that grotesque night into a visual essay in book form. He published “Central Booking” via the print-on-demand publisher Blurb. The book was not a financial success, but led him to explore other self-publishing options.

Russ loves working with the likes of Martin Mazorra and Mike Houston of Brooklyn’s Cannonball Press. Russ calls Cannonball Press the pioneers of the indy press and affordable art movements. Russ advises art and illustration students not to hole up in their studios after graduation. “Find a co-op print shop; work among other artists.” He said the community of Robert Blackburn’s  NYC printmaking studio saved his sanity. He was able to get instant feedback on his art and stay in a creative loop.

Today, Russ works not only with graphic artists, but an ever-expanding community of playwrights, jugglers, Coney Island sideshow performers and puppeteers. Strange doors keep opening for Russ. Recently someone gifted Carrier Pigeon with a building in Gutenberg, NJ. To keep up with Carrier Pigeon news and events visit their Facebook page.

Justin Sanz, Eckhaus workers Nicole and Megan, Russ. Photo from

If you are fortunate enough to be in Kutztown, PA, get to Eckhaus to see the original art from Carrier Pigeon. There are copies of the latest issues for sale. Each issue costs $25. Twenty-five bucks is a lot of money for a magazine, but not a lot for a work of art.

Patrick McCloskey was born in Killycolman, County Donegal, Ireland. He was my grandfather. He immigrated to the US around 1915. His family in Ireland called him “Paddy the Yank.” He celebrated his birthday on St. Patrick’s Day. My middle name is Patrick, after him. There are many Pat McCloskeys. I’ve got a wife named Patt, an Uncle Pat, and cousins Pat.

St Patrick Driving the Elephants from Ireland ©2010 Kevin McCloskey

My parents were born in the USA, but St. Patrick’s Day was a big deal growing up in our Irish-American household in Elizabeth, NJ. Each spring, the family would fast for the 40 days of Lent. We didn’t stop eating, but we ate less. One pious year, maybe 1961, I went to Lenten mass every morning, meaning nothing but water for breakfast. We’d have a very small lunch. I remember my Dad eating dry saltines. At dinner there was no meat, not even hot dogs, as the days stretched toward Easter. There was no dessert, either.

The Miracle of St. Patrick’s Socks. linoleum print ©2011 KMc

March 17th, St. Patrick’s Day, generally falls in the middle of Lent. In early March the parish priests at St. Gen’s would announce that Archbishop Boland was prepared to bless us with a dispensation from Lenten observances for St. Patrick’s Day. There was a catch. First, there would be an extra collection for a very worthy project, and if the collection was robust we got a one-day free pass. We always won the St. Patrick’s Day pass!

After three weeks of fasting, we had a smashing big dinner of beef brisket and boiled potatoes with baby pearl onions in the peas. There was butter on everything. We had Irish soda bread made from cousin Kitty Gallagher’s recipe. Dessert was Mom’s Dundee pound cake filled with walnuts and cherries. Dad would have a Scotch, Mom sipped a Rye and Ginger. The four kids got a dash of ginger ale to toast the glory of St. Patrick.

The Last Platypus in Ireland © Kevin McCloskey 2012

Years later, a priest told me my memory of this dispensation proclamation was “absolute rubbish.” Archbishop Boland wouldn’t do such a thing. Next, some theologians decreed that St. Patrick never existed, or, at best, he’s an amalgam of Gaelic-speaking missionaries. The heck with them. In my mind, St. Patrick will always be a beloved symbol of my heritage. I see him as a canny and powerful man who out-wizarded the druids at their own game.

My St. Patrick print series started in 2010 in St. Louis, Mo. I went to study woodblock printing with the great artist Tom Huck at Evil Prints. Huck has a diabolical persona. His printing press is named for the British Satanist Aleister Crowley. My fellow students were carving Huckish prints of devils and demons, fiends and phalluses. Being a contrarian by nature, I decided to make my print about my favorite saint, blessed St. Patrick.

“Sit, Stay!” © 2012 Kevin McCloskey

Now I have these six St. Patrick prints done. I’ve got ideas for many more. Folks seems to like them. These will be on exhibit at Firefly Books, 230 W. Main St, Kutztown, PA. Show runs Sept. 6 to Sept.30. The prices range from $50 to $150. I hope to make enough to cover my frames and paper. My definition of an artist is simple. An artist is anyone who can increase the value of art supplies. After the Firefly exhibition I will print proper editions of 30 or 40. I will put them up for sale on my Moonpenny Press website when they are ready.

St. Patrick Skipping Rope © Kevin McCloskey 2012


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