Great Illustrators coming to Kutztown

Exceptional illustrators are coming to the Kutztown University campus this week. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Kutztown University Children’s Literature Conference. I’ve been on the conference committee from the beginning and met some stellar writers and illustrators. This year’s line-up is amazing.


Peter Sís came to the U.S. as a political refugee from Communist Czechoslovakia. He has earned a MacArthur genius award and won every major illustration award. His most autobiographical work is The Wall, Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain.

“When my American family goes to visit my Czech family in the colorful city of Prague, it is hard to convince them it was ever a dark place full of fear, suspicion, and lies. I find it difficult to explain my childhood; it’s hard to put it into words, and since I have always drawn everything, I have tried to draw my life— before America—for them.”-Peter Sís.

Raul Colón was born in Puerto Rico and now based in New York City. He has illustrated a number of bilingual English/ Spanish children’s books including “My Name is/ Me Llamo Gabito, A life of/ la vida de Gabriel García Márquez.” He will be visiting design students to share his work, in addition to addressing the literature conference.


Lee Harper grew up in Pennsylvania and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. He now lives in Doylestown. He has illustrated children’s’ books by Walter Dean Myers and Wendi Silvano, as well as illustration for his own writing.

Screen Shot 2018-04-14 at 8.42.59 PM
Cast and cover of Turkey Trouble illustrated by Lee Harper.

Sís, Colón, and Harper will be presenting their work to KU Children’s’ Literature Conference attendees on Saturday, April 21. Colón and Harper and author Sharon Draper will be doing Friday talks for the KU community. Details and times of the Community Day presentations can be found here.


These artists’ books will be on sale at the KU Bookstore this week. Plus KU alum Jennifer Hansen Rolli will also be here. Her work is featured in an earlier blog post.


I will also be sharing my latest silly TOON Book, Snails Are Just My Speed! during a breakout session at the conference. Original art from my TOON books is currently on display at the Kutztown Community Library, info here.

Hannah Stephey has BIG News She Can’t Share!


Not long ago, Hannah Stephey posted the image above on her blog and wrote: “Truth be told, all I want out of life is just to publish this book…and maybe get some cute new boots.”

Maneki Pug © Hannah Stephey

We recently heard from Hannah, a 2014 Kutztown illustration grad, via Facebook. She has big news, but it is still secret. She is not at liberty to reveal which of her many projects are moving forward. I am not surprised to hear of her success. I wrote about her self-published work when she was still a student. Today, she has a literary agent and two, yes TWO! children’s books in the works. I swiped some art from her website.  I really don’t know what she talking about, but I bet some funny-looking pugs are involved. When he get  facts, we will update! Meanwhile –some Q & A.

Look Cookers!, published 2015, art © Hannah Stephey

Question: Hey Hannah, most newly-minted illustration grads don’t find work quickly and get discouraged? How did you avoid that trap?

Hannah: I dealt with the dark void of post-graduation job searching by “keeping my day job,” so to speak. I did internships and freelance work in graphic design by day and worked on my book stuff by night. So, basically, no sleep ever.

Children’s book concept ©2015 Hannah Stephey,

Q: How did you keep your creative juices going? 

Hannah: Here’s the important nugget: plan for the real world WHILE you’re in college. Get your name out there, try design competitions, portfolio reviews, trade shows, anything that puts you in front of clients & art directors. It’s super easy to just sleep and watch cat videos in your spare time, but the people who make it are the ones who never stop creating, even after class.

Comic done while a student at KU ©2012 Hannah Stephey

Q: What did you learn from your self-published I (heart) Captain project? did you do that as a junior?

Hannah: What I learned from my self publishing adventures was ANYONE can make and sell books. Sure it’s much more validating if you get actual-published, but you can make and sell any book you want through services like they make creative portfolio pieces. And, yeah, that was my junior year.

Sir Corgi © Hannah Stephey

Q: Do you think zines are worth doing?

Hannah: Zines are a bigger thing than people realize! Many comic book people start out with zines or have at least dabbled in zines. They’re fun and conventions are a great way to network with other artists (& steal some of their contacts.)

Cover detail from a zine © by Hannah Stephey

Q: How did the book,  The Look Cookers, happen?

Hannah: The Look Cookers is a story my uncle, Jim Malloy, wrote that I illustrated. It’s self-published. (It won a Mom’s Choice Gold Award and is available on Amazon.)

Pugucinno in a Cup © 2015 Hannah Stephey

Q: Did going to BEA and other events help your illustration career?

Hannah: BEA (Book Expo America for students reading this) was a great way to get some serious exposure from the literary world. It’s pricey, though.

Mail Pug © Hannah Stephey

Q: Would you like to give a shout out to any of your Kutztown profs?

Hannah : I’d like to give a shout out to the entire KU CD department, but especially Kresge who was also my advisor for being so awesome and such a huge Toy Story nerd. Cunfer for being a stone-cold perfectionist and whipping me into shape, and teaching the importance of traditional techniques to give our work more soul and personality in a digital world. And of course… McCloskey! Who helped me discover you don’t have to be a cookie cutter logo tweaker to succeed in a creative career, and I needed to hear that! Also Clair and Prof. Voccola. I know he’s a writing prof, but he deserves props for being awesome.

Pugs and kisses.jpg
Pugs & Kisses © 2015 Hannah Stephey

All art in this post © Hannah Stephey. All rights reserved. When we get titles and publication dates of her upcoming projects, we will share more.



John K. Landis, Printer

Prof. John K. Landis.
Prof. John K. Landis.

Professor Emeritus John Landis returned to Kutztown University for the dedication of the Landis Press. It’s a rather small press in a very small room, but the event was large. Prof. Vicki Meloney recalled her days studying typography with Prof. Landis at Kutztown in the 1990’s.

Kutztown U Communication Design Prof. Vicki Meloney
Kutztown U Communication Design Prof. Vicki Meloney

She saw the first Apple computers arrive on campus. The visionaries of the digital revolution persuaded educators all across the nation to trash their letterpresses and make room for computers.


Vicki Meloney recalled learning her love of typography in Landis’s Letterforms class. She told current students how she drew lines of type with ruling pens and rapidographs on illustration board. “It’s how I learned to love type,” she said. “Kerning was something we did by hand and eye. There was no a keyboard command for kerning.”

John Landis with Prof. Ann Lemon displaying the commemorative plaque.
John Landis with Prof. Ann Lemon displaying the commemorative plaque.

When Prof. Meloney was granted a sabbatical she tracked down press equipment John Landis had saved from the dumpster. She brought a rusted Thayer and Chandler platen press (circa 1900) to her home and asked her stepfather to help restore it. It was a family bonding experience. Her stepdad, unbeknownst to her, had worked on a similar press as a teenager. Meloney thanked Ron Lamm, KU’s Studio Art Technician for work on the press, and Prof. Ann Lemon, who poured enormous energy into making the Landis Press room a reality.

Printed work by students of John K. Landis. circa 1985.
Printed work by students of John K. Landis. circa 1985.

John Landis brought dozens of samples of student work he had saved. He said student designs were ganged together and sent to Reading, PA for photoengraving. The plates came back to KU to be inked and printed on the university letterpress under his watchful eyes.

Sophisticated type styling for Bangkok by a student of JKL
Sophisticated type styling for Bangkok by a student of JKL.

These images are about the size of index cards. I asked if they were meant to be luggage decals. He said, no, just graphic designs, mini-posters, really, their small size dictated by the size of the press.

Chigago Landmark.
U.S. Landmarks by students of John Landis

Besides foreign nations, he assigned a variety of projects based on landmarks, great cities, and unusual numbers.

Design like this is coming back, I hope.
KU student design showing “visual verbal synergy.”

John Landis taught many of the KU profs who now teach Communication Design at Kutztown including Professors Cunfer, Kresge, Bosler, Doll-Myers, Meloney, and Chairperson Todd McFeely. I’m told that makes him a “grandprof.” Someone said he is “great-grand prof” since he taught Prof. Cunfer, who taught Prof. Doll Myers.

From the odd numbers file, student of JKL
From the odd numbers file, student of JKL

Looking at the student samples, Prof. Landis remarked that what he hoped for in the typography project was “visual-verbal synergy.” That phrase still echoes in the studios at Kutztown. Speaking to current students Prof. Landis said printing is a proud part of our history. “Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia did many great things in his life -signer of the Declaration of Independence, ambassador to France, experimenting with electricity. But for the inscription on his tombstone he chose simply, ‘Ben Franklin, Printer’.”

Ribbon Cutting for the restored Landis Press. Photo by Chelsea Gassert.
Ribbon Cutting for the restored Landis Press. Photo by Chelsea Gassert.

More info about The Landis Press, including hours of operation can be found here.

Tom Quirk’s Stations of the Cross: Sacred Sequential Art

"Jesus is Condemned to Death." Station of the Cross by Tom Quirk.
“Jesus is Condemned to Death.”  1st Station of the Cross by Tom Quirk.

St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, Kutztown, PA is out by the Rt. 222 bypass. From the highway it looks like a typical mini-mega-church. Inside there is something to behold -the art of Tom Quirk. Stations of the Cross are a fixture of Catholic and some Protestant churches. The stations are 14 sequential images depicting the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

2. Jesus carries his cross. All art by Tom C. Quirk, Jr.
2. Jesus carries his cross. All art by Tom C. Quirk, Jr.

Thomas C. Quirk, Jr. retired from teaching illustration at Kutztown University in 1989. I know the year, because 25 years ago I got his job.

3. Jesus falls the first time, and 4. Jesus meets his mother.
3. Jesus falls the first time                                    4. Jesus meets his mother.

Tom Quirk’s obituary tells the story of a life well-lived. He was born in Pittsburgh. He died in Pittsburgh this month. He was 91 years old.

5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.
5. Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the cross.

Tom Quirk went to Catholic high school in Johnstown, PA where he lettered in football and baseball.

6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.
6. Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.

He was a WWII Navy veteran. He illustrated popular coloring books for Dover books.

7. Jesus fall a second time. (detail.)
7. Jesus fall a second time. (detail.)

He also illustrated a number of natural history and gardening books for Rodale Press, including The Field Guide to Wild Herbs.

8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.
8. Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem.

A former student, now an art teacher herself, Maureen Yoder, remembers Tom Quirk as a great teacher and “master of watercolor washes.”

9. Jesus falls the 3rd time.
9. Jesus falls the 3rd time. (detail)

Illustrator Martin Lemelman shared an office with Tom Quirk. Martin fondly recalls “His ink work was meticulous, masterly… breathtaking.” 

10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.
10. Jesus is stripped of his garments.

He also taught oil painting. Kathi Ember, the children’s book illustrator, had Tom Quirk for Intro to Painting. She remembers a very organized teacher who was incredibly patient with his students’ first attempts at painting. She calls him a “sweetheart of a prof.”

11. Jesus is nailed to the cross. (detail)
11. Jesus is nailed to the cross. (detail)

It wasn’t until he retired from teaching that Tom Quirk devoted himself to sculpture. In the 25 years after his retirement his focus has been on the religious sculpture. Notice how for stations 1-11, above, he carves squares of unpainted wood into relief illustrations and places them on decorated cruciform panels.

12. Jesus dies on the cross.
12. Jesus dies on the cross.

For the 12th Station, the crucifixion, he created a near life-sized figure of Christ. The crucifix measures 6 feet across. It is carved from laminated basswood. It is polychromed in parts. Other parts are animated with illustrated biblical scenes, including the stories of Abraham and Lazarus. He carved this masterpiece in an old red barn on Rt 73. I went out there one day around 1992 to see his progress. I told him I thought it was extraordinary. He shrugged and got back to his carving.

13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.
13. Jesus is taken down from the cross.

Stations 13 and 14 are mounted on gray crosses.

14. Jesus is taken down from the cross. (detail, Q.. in lower right corner)
14. Jesus is laid in the tomb. (detail, Q.. in lower right corner)

In the lower left corner of the 14th and final station, less than 1/4 inch tall, you can find one carved initial “Q..” – followed by two dots. I’m guessing the dots stand for junior, the signature of the artist – Thomas C. Quirk, Jr.

Thomas C Quirk, Jr. (1922-2014)

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OAXACA KU Study Abroad Winter 2015

Update: Kutztown U’s Oaxaca Course will be offered again. Tentative dates: Dec.27, 2015 to Jan.10 2016. Details in August. For a new non-credit 6-day (Jan 10-15, 2016) Oaxaca printmaking workshop see offering here via Oaxaca Cultural Navigator.


Kutztown University is offering an affordable opportunity to study  in Oaxaca, Mexico with Prof. Kevin McCloskey. Oaxaca may the best place for a visitor to experience art in all Mexico. This beautiful colonial city is famed for its markets, street art, and printmaking studios.

Oaxaca Street scene, art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey
Oaxaca scene, street art by Arte Jaguar. photo ©K.McCloskey

Students will experience many things they can’t do in Kutztown. For example: We’ll climb and sketch ancient pyramids. Visit a papermill that makes fine art paper from indigenous plants. Work with local artists. Drink spiced hot chocolate in the lobby of the chocolate hotel.

Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro,  Mexico
Corey Reifinger sketching a pyramid in Queretaro, Mexico, 2008.

Located high in the mountains of Southern Mexico, January weather in Oaxaca is typically sunny with highs around 80°F

CDE 375: Drawing on Location in Oaxaca is a 3-credit Communication Design Elective. A hand’s-on course, students will complete a sketchbook documenting their personal response to the travel experience. Includes a 3-day relief printmaking workshop in a fully-equipped artist’s studio. Field trips to museums, markets and historical sites will provide immersion in the unique cultural traditions of Oaxaca.

Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012
Oaxaca Street art by Swoon. photo © K.McCloskey 2012

The cost?  For in-state (PA) undergrad tuition, airfare, shared accommodations, printmaking workshop, museum entries, and daily breakfasts should total approximately $2,400. Out-of-state students’ will be need to pay more. (Fees must be approved by KU council of Trustees.)

Young girl in one of Oaxaca's many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012
Young girl in one of Oaxaca’s many parades. photo ©K.McCloskey 2012

Prof. Kevin McCloskey has been visiting Oaxaca for over 30 years. In 2007 he was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to study the visual arts of Oaxaca. He received a second NEH fellowship in 2011 to explore the visual culture of the Maya regions of the Yucatan and Belize.

Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.
Kevin McCloskey with one of his woodblock prints at Espacio Zapata, Oaxaca.

He has written extensively about Mexican political prints. He has curated eight exhibitions of Mexican prints across the U.S, notably at the Fowler Museum, UCLA. In 2012, he was invited to Princeton University to lecture on Mexican prints at the Woodrow Wilson School of International Studies. Here are two of his recent  articles on the Oaxaca art scene, one at Project Bly, one at Printeresting.

Interested students can email for more info:

Taking the Plunge! Trending: Social Media Design Jobs

'Taking the Plunge' graphic designed by Prof. Karen Kresge
‘Taking the Plunge’ graphic designed by Prof. Karen Kresge

“Taking the Plunge” is an annual event at Kutztown U’s Communication Design Dept. where (very) recent grads share with current students their experiences after graduation. Prof. Karen Kresge runs the show. Someday, KUCD is supposed have its own social media campaign, meanwhile Prof. Kresge’s personal Facebook page serves as the resource for recent grads to find and share job news.

One Trick Pony's mascot  © 2013 One Trick Pony
One Trick Pony’s mascot © 2014 One Trick Pony

Speaking of social media campaigns, Danielle McShea worked on a wild one at One Trick Pony, a creative agency in N.J.  She handled social media postings for Virgin Mobile’s FreeFest 2013. Virgin may not be the biggest phone company, but thanks to Danielle, they have a lot more Facebook friends – like hundreds of thousands of friends! Danielle shared advice from her first meeting with Bill Starkey of One Trick Pony at a portfolio review. Starkey asked to see only the one worst piece in her portfolio, saying,  “You are only as good as the worst piece in your book.” By the way, according to their website they are hiring ‘client whisperers.’

Image from the Phillyosophy campaign from
Image from the Phillyosophy campaign from

New York, New York, or NOT!

Kelsey Kolvacik got a job for a big NYC agency, McGarryBowen, working on American Airlines social media. One day in NYC she saw a Visit Philly ad that she recognized as the work of the cutting-edge Philadelphia agency, Red Tettemer O’Connell. She had interned there and realized that it was her dream job. Kelsey got in touch with her old supervisor. At the exact moment she clicked the email from Philly offering her the job, You Make my Dreams Come True by Hall and Oates came on the radio.

From Possibilities, the Nike ad that changed Jessyca Pacheco's attitude.
From Possibilities, the Nike ad that changed Jessyca Pacheco’s attitude.

Living Here in Allentown

On the other hand, Jessyca Pacheco, had her sights firmly set on NYC. She went so far as moving in with an aunt and uncle who live in New Jersey. She managed to do bit of freelancing, but needed to waitress to pay her bills. Then a job opened up at the Media Arts Group, the in-house design studio at Allentown’s Morning Call. She got it, but admits that at first she felt she had failed by returning to Pennsylvania. Then a one-minute Nike commercial called “Possibilities” turned her attitude around. She sent me the link. Just click it. Taking the message of Possibilities to heart, Jessyca says she is thrilled by the challenge of projects like this “Red Hot Chili Pipers” cover for Go Street.

This week's Go Street, cover design by Jessyca Pacheco
This week’s Go Street, cover design by Jessyca Pacheco

Kelly Arsi talked enthusiastically about her work at Allebach Communications in Souderton, PA. As a transfer student to KU she had to stay a fifth year, but felt the extra workshops paid off as she designs everything from packaging to annual reports. Jessica Savard is doing a wide range of graphics at MCS Industries. Matt Stachewicz got hired by recently at MAG/Morning Call, joining Jessyca there. Court Woytko, who is a sports and entertainment fan seems to have landed her ideal job at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem. She met Iron Mike Tyson this week. Raychale Fulginiti and Kelsea Ashworth couldn’t be in Kutztown, but phoned in video greetings from Disneyworld (Rachel) and Boston (Kelsea) where they are happily employed.

Self-portrait illustration by Mellen from
Self-portrait illustration by Mellen from

This blog is called Illustration Concentration, which admittedly is the smallest subset of the larger Communication Design major at Kutztown. Typically, only a handful of students complete the illustration concentration. One who did so is a wonderful illustrator who goes by “Mellen,” Melissa Rae Rheinbold. She graduated in December and just began her job yesterday at Crayola. Mellen said Prof. Kresge suggested she send a copy of her illustrated book to Crayola, and the job offer came quickly. We will give her a few days to settle in, but hope to have a future post devoted to Mellen and her illustration work.




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.