Pigeons, Pigeons, everywhere. Keep your hat on!

Pigeons to the left of me. Pigeons to the right. OK, I wrote a book about pigeons, so I’ve been thinking about ’em. BUT! I am astounded by how often pigeons cross my path. On the NYC subway, my entire car was filled with pigeon-themed ads for Jet Blue.


Arnold Zwicky defined the phenomenon Frequency Illusion”- once you’ve noticed a phenomenon, you think it happens a whole lot, even “all the time”. Your estimates of frequency are likely to be skewed by your noticing nearly every occurrence that comes past you. “

Seen my pigeons? I’m having an show at the Hoboken Historical Museum. McKevin Shaughnessy designed this cool poster for the event, adding to the pigeon image barrage.

Kevin McCloskey light box-PRESS

My pigeon history began when I sketched a pigeon racer on his Hoboken rooftop. I put that image in my 1986 book, Walking Around Hoboken. That same drawing would later appear on the cover of The Pigeon Guys.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 2.37.54 PM.png

Holly Metz was editing a series of chapbooks for The Hoboken Historical Museum and asked me to illustrate this project about the city’s last pigeon racers. I spent a morning at Vinnie Torre’s loft on Monroe St. and he told me some amazing stuff about pigeons.


Prof. Ann Lemon took a snapshot of another NYC subway poster for Dinosaurs Among Us at the Museum of Natural History. The headline: You’ll Never Look at a Pigeon the Same Way Again. Of course, I was asking for pigeon overload when I went to the Mo Willems’ exhibition at the NY Historical Society. Good show, Mo.

A student sent me a link to Bert Doing the Pigeon. If I’d seen it before, how did I forget it?

Patt and I, Takoma Park MD Library, photo Bruce Guthrie

I have been visiting schools, libraries, bookstores, with a stuffed pigeon on top of my hat. So, I am getting what I deserve. The one time I went looking for pigeons, but failed was the first weekend of Duke Riley’s pigeon art performance at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.bridgeI got a wonderful view of the Brooklyn Bridge, but that night the rain and fog kept the pigeons cooped up. If you are anywhere near Hoboken, or a public library, check out The Real Poop on Pigeons.pigeoncover





Thieves at Etsy: SpecialPrints

Picture 2

Jon Shafer is a recent KU illustration grad. He found this cute print on sale on Etsy. It seemed familiar because he drew it over a year ago. Below is Jonathan’s original art as featured on his web page.

Original wedding tree art © Jon Shafer, 2012
Original wedding tree art © Jon Shafer, 2012

Jon wrote to SpecialPrints. I asked him to keep me posted. “She said she found it on google and loved it so much she ‘redrew it by hand.” She also claimed the site she got it from did not have anything about copyright listed. She even asked Jon Shafer to send her his Library of Congress certificate of copyright.

Clearly she is in the wrong.  According to the U.S. Copyright office, “Copyright exists from the moment the work is created.” In fact, SpecialPrints went so far to claim copyright to Jon’s original image:Picture 3

My personal experience with copyright violation ended well. In the 1980’s I lived in Hoboken. I made an illustrated map of the town and included Frank Sinatra’s birthplace. I found my map in a book, The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook, published by St. Martin’s Press. I called the Society of Illustrators to ask for a lawyer referral, they suggested Harry Devlin, son of the illustrator with the same name. I remember Mr. Devlin warning me, “You aren’t going get a house out of this. ” I asked, “Can I get a refrigerator?” He said, “Frost-free!”

 Walking Around Hoboken © Kevin McCloskey
Walking Around Hoboken © Kevin McCloskey 1986

Mr. Devlin got a thousand dollars from the person who infringed on my copyright. In my case, the attorney got one-third of the payment, so I got the diabolical amount of $666. Like Jon Shafer, I had copyright at the moment of creation. If I had gone to the trouble of actually registering the copyright with the Library of Congress, then the offending party would have also been liable for Mr. Devlin’s fees.

To see more of Jon Shafer’s art visit www.jonshafer.com.

FYI: Etsy does have rules against this sort of infringement. They say, in part, “Repeat offenders will have all material removed from the system and Etsy will terminate such Members’ access to the service.

Free factual info on copyright from the U.S. Copyright Office is here.

UPDATE  8/23/13: 

Sent by Jon Shafer:  Just to follow up a little. That lady took it down. For now at least. I contacted Behance about how this link is getting to my image. After countless emails. They’ve established it’s going into their image folder and finding it. But on my end if I delete or modify it. The link still goes to it. So you might want to warn your illustrators. To water mark everything or take angled shots of work. Not perfect scans. Even on their websites unfortunately.





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 thomasfyezerski.com.

All artwork on this page © 2012 Thomas F. Yezerski

High on the High Line

Lower Manhattan from the High Line © 2012 Rona Dacoscos Macias

The Trailing Edge of Digital Photography. This February, Rona Macias spent a week in NYC and shot pictures from the High Line. The High Line, if you are not familiar with it, is a long and narrow public park built on the site of the historic elevated freight train line. It runs North/South two stories above the streets of Manhattan’s West Side.

High Line, Winter 2012 © Rona D. Macias

I asked her what’s so special about this place?  “From the High Line you can see HOBOKEN! ” writes Rona. “The Statue of Liberty! You are high enough to see architecture from a different level without being inside.”

Hoboken from the High Line (detail) © 2012 Rona Macias

She continues, “Anytime of the day is good, but I was surprised how beautiful the light was in the morning with the mists over the river almost covering up the Lackawanna train station. And, the best part is it’s near Chelsea Market where you can pick up something to eat along the way.”

Grand Central Station © 2012 Rona Macias

Naturally, Rona took shots of the Empire State Building and Grand Central Station. She also visited some lesser known sites, like Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. According to Rona the temple below is the final resting place of German immigrant Charles Feltman. In 1870 Feltman put a sausage in a horizontal roll and invented the Coney Island hot dog. The rest is history.

Tomb of the Inventor of the Hot Dog. ©2012 Rona Macias

Rona recommends searching the web for the latest in tilt-shift photography. Here is one site with over 80 examples and links to tutorials. And amazingly, Rona doesn’t use a pricey camera. Her Canon A1200 HD can be found on Amazon or Best Buy for as little as $80.

Mike Tyson and Vinnie Torre

One of the great things about these WordPress blogs is that the moderator is able to see which search terms visitors are using to reach this page. Lately there has been a big upsurge in searches for “Vinnie Torre”, “Hoboken Museum,” and “pigeons.”

Mike Tyson and Vinnie Torre © 2011 Animal Planet

I wrote about Vinnie last year in my very first Illustration Concentration post.  I met Vinnie and his girlfriend Lynne Earring when I illustrated a chapbook for the Hoboken Historical Museum. Turns out Vinnie has recently been featured on a new Animal Planet documentary series mentoring boxer Mike Tyson on the finer points of pigeon racing. I haven’t seen the series. In the trailer, Mike Tyson tells about the first fight he ever had. He was 10. He beat up the Brooklyn kid who ripped the head off his pigeon. In honor of the uptick in searches for Vinnie and pigeons, I am posting a few more of my Hoboken sketches, some of which never made it into the chapbook.

Pigeons at Vinnie Torre's Hoboken loft © 2011 K.McCloskey

Lynne told me that Vinnie used to cut down the iconic Hoboken clotheslines that hung in the way of his pigeons’ final approach home. Vinnie looked wounded, he said he never did any such thing. Maybe, once or twice, he witnessed somebody sanding clotheslines so that they were so frayed that when the women hung their family’s heavy, wet clothes they “naturally” broke. He assured me that would happen only in the case of a very important race.

Vinnie Torre with Lynne Earring, Hillside Lofts © 2011 K.McCloskey

I drew a pigeon before I arrived at Vinnie’s house. Vinnie took one look at it and shook his head. It looked like a street pigeon, he said. He told me to thicken the neck and add more waddle on top of the beak. Here is how it looked after I took his suggestions:

Pigeon Sketch, watercolor © 2010 K. McCloskey

You can download the whole book for free here: The Pigeon Guys: Recollections of Vinnie Torre and Lynne Earing. The 40-page chapbook, designed by Ann Marie Manca is part of a nifty series of Hoboken oral histories. Lisa Sartori interviewed Vinnie and Lynne. Holly Metz edited it, I donated the illustrations, and Museum Director Robert Foster added historic and new photographs.

By the way, I was in Hoboken last weekend and stopped by the Hoboken Historical Museum. They have a sweet show on the walls now, about Hoboken’s love affair with candy and desserts. It began way before the Cake Boss. At the museum you can sit in a booth on loan from Schnackenberg’s Luncheonette and watch a truly touching 10-minute film about Schnackenberg’s, a Hoboken landmark. The film entitled Counterparts was made in 1989 by Nicole Lucas Haimes who has since gone on to a successful career as a documentary filmmaker.Vinnie Torre is a great booster of the Hoboken Historical Museum. In the Animal Planet videos he can be seen wearing his HHM T-shirt. It is a worthy institution and well worth a visit anytime.

“The Pigeon Guys” illustrated by Kevin McCloskey Free E-Book

I had fun doing the illustrations for The Pigeon Guys: Recollections of Vinnie Torre and Lynne Earing. Click on the title above to download the entire 40 page book in pdf format for free. It is part of the Vanishing Hoboken Series, made possible by a grant from the John Wiley & Sons Publishers, and in this case, the Hudson County Pigeon Club. The text is an edited version of a Lisa Sartori’s interview of Vinnie and Lynne. The art director/designer is Ann Marie Manca. Bob Foster contributed additional photos.

The Hoboken Historical Museum publishes this wonderful series of little booklets on all things Hoboken. You can also download more  chapbooks including my favorite title- I’d Rather Lose a Clam than a Customer, Recollections of Michael “Brother” Yaccarino. The Hoboken Oral History Project is edited by the brilliant Holly Metz, who years ago collaborated with famed illustrator Sue Coe on the graphic novel How to Commit Suicide in South Africa.

I used to live in Hoboken, so I drove in to see my brother Brain and he joined me for a tour of Vinnie’s loft one spring morning. Vinnie and Lynne graciously posed for sketches and told us some amazing things about pigeons. For example, mother pigeons nurse their young!  I know it is unbelievable, but go ahead google pigeon milk, or ask your local ornithologist.

That morning in Hoboken reminded me why I love illustration, because it is about sharing interesting stories.

-Kevin McCloskey