Veronica Lawlor’s Way of Seeing

Gate of Heavenly Peace, Beijing, ink on paper, ©  Veronica Lawlor, 2015
Gate of Heavenly Peace, Beijing, ink on paper, © Veronica Lawlor, 2015

Veronica Lawlor is an artist who draws to document what she sees. When everyone carries a camera 24/7, why bother drawing?

Viewing Lawlor's drawing of Stp Peter's Square Rome, at AFA Gallery, Scranton.
Lawlor’s pen and ink drawing of St. Peter’s Square, Rome, at AFA Gallery, Scranton.

The new 1.5-micron pixel iphone is, according to Apple, “the world’s most popular camera.”  Has the iphone replaced pen and ink and human hand?  It is worth recalling Robert McCloskey’s observation, “Hands do play a part in drawing, but it’s an automatic part like shuffling cards or knitting. Drawing is most of all a way of seeing and thinking.”

Panoramic drawing of St Peter's Square, Rome. © Veronica Lawlor
Panoramic drawing of St Peter’s Square, Rome. © Veronica Lawlor

Veronica Lawlor proves hand-drawn journalism is not a throwback to simpler times. Like craft brewing, observational drawing is in the midst of a remarkable renaissance. And Veronica Lawlor is at the vanguard of the movement.

Veronica Lawlor, with Chris Spollen and Kevin McCloskey, AFA Gallery Scranton.
Veronica Lawlor, center, with Chris Spollen, Kevin McCloskey, AFA Gallery, Scranton.

A working illustrator, she is a professor at both Parsons and Pratt. Her original drawings can be seen through March 28 at Scranton’s AFA Gallery. I have the honor of sharing the gallery with her and Chris Spollen, who I wrote about last week. Veronica emailed me answers to questions I posed about her work.

Times Square urban sketches for Canson Paper © Veronica Lawlor.
Times Square urban sketches for Canson Paper © Veronica Lawlor.

KMc: Veronica, where are you from?

V.L: I was born in Manhattan, and spent my early childhood in the Bronx. I have lived in four of the five NYC boroughs: the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. From about 1998 to 2006 I lived within walking distance of the Manhattan hospital that I was born in. I always liked that it was so provincial, in the middle of such a large city.

More Times Square Tourists, detail © Veronica Lawlor
More Times Square Tourists, detail © Veronica Lawlor

KMc: Where did you study?

V.L: Parsons School of Design, in the eighties, and after graduation at the Passalacqua School of Drawing and Illustration, with my mentor, the late David J. Passalacqua. He used to take us to Disney World in Orlando, and sit us down at the entrance gates to draw all the tourists as they came in. He called it the Gates of Hell! (Almost felt like it, since this was usually happening in August.) The illustrator Margaret Hurst and I have continued this tradition with our own school, Dalvero Academy. More recently, I received a Master in Media Arts from the New School.

Tour de France ©2006 Veronica Lawlor
Tour de France ©2006 Veronica Lawlor

KMc: I am fascinated that you drew in Lower Manhattan on 9/11/2001. How did that come about?

From the book, "Sept. 11, 2001:Words and Pictures" © Veronica Lawlor
From the book, Sept. 11, 2001:Words and Pictures  © Veronica Lawlor

V.L: On September 11, 2001, I was heading downtown to meet a friend. When I got off the train at Union Square, in downtown Manhattan, there was bedlam on the streets, and the World Trade Center was burning. I had a sketchbook in my backpack and a few pencils, and my first instinct was to draw what was going on.

Police Barricades 0n 9/11/2001.© Veronica Lawlor
Police Barricades 0n 9/11/2001.© Veronica Lawlor

I kept drawing and walking, further downtown, as the towers fell, until the police stopped me, somewhere in TriBeCa. I continued to draw the events of the next month around the city. Unfortunately a dear friend of mine lost her husband, a firefighter, on 9/11, and she asked me to draw his funeral as well. These drawings are in a book, called September 11, 2001: Words and Pictures. You can see a few of the drawings here.

The drawings were exhibited at the New York City Fire Museum in 2006, and I was very touched by how many big, burly firemen came up to me with tears in their eyes, and told me how the drawings brought them right back to that day.

Venetian Vendor, St. Mark's Square, Venice © Veronica Lawlor
Venetian Vendor, St. Mark’s Square, Venice © Veronica Lawlor

KMc: What can you tell us about the Urban Sketchers and upcoming projects?

V.L: I am working now on a book for Quarry called: The Urban Sketching Handbook: Reportage and Documentary Drawing, coming out soon. It’s full of examples of on location illustrations by me and many other artists involved with urban sketching – drawing on location. USk is an international organization of people who draw their home cities or travels, and post online in international and regional blogs. I am giving a workshop at the Urban Sketchers annual Symposium in Singapore in July, very excited about that! Learn more about Urban Sketchers here.

Brooklyn Bridge, detail, for Brooks Brothers, © Veronica Lawlor
Brooklyn Bridge, detail, for Brooks Brothers, © Veronica Lawlor

KMc: You still do corporate work, like the Brooks Brothers campaign?

V.L. Yes. I’ve just completed a reportage campaign for JP Morgan Chase that will be in branches around the country this spring.

Gallo Wine Label © 2015 Veronica Lawlor.
Gallo Wine Label © 2015 Veronica Lawlor.

KMc: What is Studio 1482?

V.L: I am the president of Studio 1482, an illustration collective based in New York City. Our website is www.studio1482.com. There are seven illustrators in the group. We all met in school and enjoy sharing our work and our experiences in the business. 

Veronica Lawlor’s portfolio can be found here. Even if you can’t get to her show in Scranton, or join her Singapore urban sketch workshop, her way of seeing might inspire you to sharpen your pencils.

 

 

Danny Gregory Sketches From Life

Peonies, all images in post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.
Peonies, all images in this post © Danny Gregory, from his Flicker page.

“Danny Gregory and his wife, Patti, hadn’t been married long. Their baby, Jack, was ten months old; life was pretty swell. And then Patti fell under a subway train and was paralyzed from the waist down.

In a world where nothing seemed to have much meaning, Danny decided to teach himself to draw, and what he learned stunned him. Suddenly things had color again, and value. The result is Everyday Matters, his journal of discovery, recovery, and daily life in New York City. It is as funny, insightful, and surprising as life itself.”  – note from Hyperion, the publisher of Everyday Matters.

Hounds © Danny Gregory.
Hounds © Danny Gregory.

Danny Gregory is coming to Kutztown University on Thurs, Dec. 4, thanks to Prof. Ann Lemon. Danny is an artist, illustrator, teacher, filmmaker and writer. I see from my Amazon history that I first bought his Everyday Matters when it came out in 2007. Like so many others, I was touched by the story of how he sat at his wife’s side during her hospital stay, and how the act of drawing saved his life. We use two of his books, The Creative License and The Illustrated Life as texts in classes at Kutztown.

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Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory
Detail from Amsterdam Sketchbook ©Danny Gregory

I asked Ann Lemon three questions about Danny Gregory. I asked when she first met him and what was her favorite drawing? and what’s Danny really like? Below are her answers:

Ann Lemon:  “So, I honestly can’t remember how long ago I met Danny. I think it was back in the 90s through his art director partner, who went to school with me. But I got to know him when we both worked at mcgarrybowen. I maybe even was more friends with his wife Patti – but then everybody always was.

Sketchbook © Danny Gregory
Sketchbook © Danny Gregory

Then, kind of a weird surprise, after Patti died (major tragic accident) he began dating my good friend, J.J. Wilmoth, who had also worked at mcgarry. They moved out to L.A. together for a while when she took a job out there last year, but they both missed New York too much and returned a few months ago.”

Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory
Bad to the Bone by Danny Gregory

“Not sure what drawing would be my favorite. Maybe the cover of Bad to the Bone cause I have a major crush on his dog, Tim. I hope Tim comes to the talk. Actually, as long as Tim comes, I don’t even care if Danny comes.

Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.
Self-portrait © Danny Gregory.

His work personality is absolutely the opposite of his book personality – at work he comes across as kind of tough, silent. Also, he is a writer by trade, not an art director, so a lot of people at work had no idea he had this other life as an artist. He’s really funny, but always serious, too. You’ll see.”

O.K. You’ll see, too. Come see Danny Gregory at Kutztown University, Thurs. Dec. 4 at 6pm, Academic Forum 101. Free and Open to the Public. Bring your sketchbook, Danny will not mind if you draw while he talks. Sponsored by The Communication Design Dept., KUSSI, and KU’s AIGA student group.

WATERCOLOR STORYTELLER Felix Scheinberger

Felix Scheinberger's Urban Waterclor Sketching
Felix Scheinberger’s Urban Watercolor Sketching

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color by German illustrator Felix Scheinberger.  What a wordy title! Maybe it’s all one word in the original German? – Something like, um,  –“AguaZityKunstenKolor.” *

Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger
Detail from a two-page spread about blue. All art © Felix Scheinberger

I found this book quite wonderful, though it might not be ideal for an absolute beginner. Scheinberger does provide how-to lessons on stretching paper, selecting colors, and brushes. The best pages, though, are overflowing with his illustrated musings on the expressive potential of the medium. Watercolor is unfortunately often associated with hobbyists. This book will be a kick in seat of the pants for artists wanting to attempt something bolder, more inventive.

Ivy © Felix Scheinberger
Ivy © Felix Scheinberger

According to the vita on his website Felix was a drummer for various punk bands before studying illustration in Hamburg. That makes total sense, his best drawings have a punkish intensity.

A bold portrait in wash that lets the paper provide the white.
A bold wash portrait lets the paper provide the white. © Felix Scheinberger

He has a section called ‘Pimping Watercolors’ in which he writes, “When you re-wet watercolors, they lose their luminosity. Watercolors are at their most vibrant when they are left to dry without lots of manipulation.” Personally, that’s something I love about working with watercolors, they force you to take a break, now and then, to let the page dry.

Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.
Fanciful pageful of bugs displays the brilliance of clean color © F.S.

Vodka-colors?

Scheinberger is clearly a globetrotter. He shares one surprising workaround for sketching alpine landscapes in sub-freezing weather. He substitutes vodka or clear schnapps for water when sketching such icy landscapes. He specifically advises against using Jaegermeister and reminds us to wash the brushes thoroughly.

Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.
Beer bottles show how a dash of color adds life to a sketch. © F.S.

Felix Scheinberger has illustrated over 50 children’s books in Europe. Must admit I haven’t seen them, but the work he shares in this volume demonstrates a ferocious talent.

Illustration © Felix Scheinberger
Illustration © Felix Scheinberger

Urban Watercolor Sketching: A Guide to Drawing, Painting, and Storytelling in Color is published 2104 by Watson Guptill, $22.99. Available online and wherever books are sold.

Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.
Sketch of House in Transylvania. © F.S.

* Note: The true title in German is “Wasserfarbe für Gestalter,” or according to Google translate, Watercolor for Designers.

The Man from The Thought Cloud Factory

Detail from an ink drawing at the Toonseum © Theo Ellsworth
Detail from an ink drawing at the Toonseum © Theo Ellsworth

We are all different, but Theo Ellsworth is more different. I met the artist at Pittsburgh’s Toonseum where his enchanting one-man show hangs through April 30. He calls his studio The Thought Cloud Factory. He came to Pittsburgh from his home in Montana to participate in PIX, the Pittsburgh indy press expo. Big Sky country seems like the right place to relocate a Thought Cloud Factory. First I ever heard of him, he was part of the Portland art zine scene. My daughter sent me an early copy of his sold-out collection, Capacity.

Theo Elsworth, photo by Kevin McCloskey
Theo Elsworth, photo by Kevin McCloskey

The bio on the wall at the Toonseum announced: “Theo Ellsworth is a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat.” A witch doctor? I asked him if that was true. He said that was a bit of a family joke. –His wife is a certified acupuncturist.

The Imaginary Field Trip, ink on cut wood, © Theo Ellsworth.
The Imaginary Field Trip, ink on cut wood, © Theo Ellsworth.

Theo says he “came to comics through automatic drawing.” I took notes at his PIX presentation. He described his monster drawing project based on a recurring childhood dream of a collapsing house. A young phantom soul, wrapped like a mummy, floats through an attic populated by strange entities. Alas, my notes are more confusing than Theo’s dreams. You’ll have to read the book, The Understanding Monster, Book 1. Book 2 will be out soon.

The Understanding Monster © Theo Ellsworth
The Understanding Monster © Theo Ellsworth

Robert Kirby described The Understanding Monster (Book 1) like so: “Ellsworth’s deep imagination, as well as his idiosyncratic charm, humor, and sincerity are evident in every passage rendered, no matter how far out into the ether it may be. His trippy psychedelic home movies are projected directly from his head without ever forgetting the heart.”                                                                           – The Comics Journal.

Capacity, Collected zines © Theo Ellsworth
Capacity, Collected zines © Theo Ellsworth

Theo’s work is tough to categorize. Neil Gaiman included his drawings in the Best American Comics of 2010, so they must be comics. Some of Theo’s works on paper have outlined panels and speech bubbles. Many have thought balloons. Perhaps his idiosyncratic style belongs in the fine art annex of the big tent of comics.

At the end of Theo’s PIX talk someone in the audience asked him if he practiced astral projection. He repeated the end of the question, ‘astral projection?’ He seemed bemused, gently shook his head -No. Bill Boichel tried to draw him out about his stylistic influences. Theo vaguely referenced nonwestern and outsider art. He said he loves Native American art and recently acquired a real Kachina on a trip to the U.S. Southwest. When asked if he used photo-reference, Theo’s smile neared the border of laughter. No.

Logic Storm, zine, ©2013 Theo Ellsworth
Logic Storm, zine, ©2013 Theo Ellsworth

At one point I overheard him explain, “Logic Storm is denser. I was exploring ideas for The Understanding Monster.” His fans will understand. In the forward to his zine Logic Storm, Theo writes, “Over the course of this exercise, I became aware of a mythological emergency taking place in my subconscious that needed to be tended to with a creative act.” We are lucky to live at a time when a determined individual can publish such an acts of imagination.

Cover Imaginary Homework © Theo Ellsworth 2013
Cover Imaginary Homework © Theo Ellsworth 2013

I bought his 28-page illustrated zine Imaginary Homework. It was originally produced as a text for a workshop he taught in scenic Port Townsend on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. He’s made it available through his Brooklyn-based publisher, Secret Acres. At just $5 this would make a quirky textbook for a college course on creativity. Below are two panels to give you a sense of this happy project.

From 'Imaginary Homework' © 2103 Theo Ellsworth
From ‘Imaginary Homework’ © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

Incidentally, Theo is pleased with his publisher, Secret Acres. They are “fairly hands-off” as far as editing. In fact, he says, most of their editorial suggestions involve pointing out his spelling mistakes.

From 'Imaginary Homework' © 2103 Theo Ellsworth
From ‘Imaginary Homework’ © 2103 Theo Ellsworth

Finally, I asked Theo Ellsworth if he had any advice for young artists who want to enter the field of comics. “Just get a blank book. Then fill it completely from beginning to end. That’s what I do!”

 

s a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat. – See more at: http://secretacres.com/?page_id=973#sthash.OCpnx87C.dpuf

 

s a self-taught artist and storyteller living in the mountains of Montana with a witch doctor, their son and a slightly evil cat. – See more at: http://secretacres.com/?page_id=973#sthash.OCpnx87C.dpuf

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take a Line for a Walk

“Whereas Picasso, Matisse, even Mondrian and Kandinsky concentrated on abstracting from perceived reality, Klee began with a point, extended it into a line and famously took it for a walk wherever it wished to go.” Bridget Riley from an essay quoted here in the London Times Educational Supplement.

Robin Landa, a design professor at Kean College in NJ sent me a copy of Taking A Line for a Walk: A Creativity Journal. It is designed by Modern Dog. It is got me thinking about the nature of blank books.

Blank books and sketchbooks like the famed Moleskine, for example, are not cheap. Walk into a Barnes and Noble and in the Remainders area you will find novels and nonfiction books for a fraction of the price of sketchbooks. These are hardcover books, tightly bound, some with high quality rag paper, – unread, unopened books. Some of these may be brilliantly written, but the publisher misjudged the market for the title, or the marketing department didn’t support the release. I’ve seen folks gesso the pages of printed books to turn them into blank books.

The Reader Experience as User Experience

Taking a Line for a Walk is a ‘not-quite blank’ book. It has just enough inspiration on each page that the reader, or user, in this case, is not faced with the paralysis a blank page can bring. There are prompts from great artists and designers like Stefan Sagmeister. Notebooks are very personal things, even before you make a mark in them. If you enjoy taking cues from other creative types, or if you prefer going in the total opposite direction from creative prompts, this might be the book for you.

Grant Snider, Remarkable Cartoonist, and Future Orthodontist

Grant Snider is a talented young cartoonist. I think his work is brilliant, but you be the judge. He generously gave permission to share a selection of comics. I selected strips that should interest illustrators. More of his art can be seen at Incidental Comics. Grant is studying orthodontics. I find that mind-boggling. We did an email interview.

KMc: I am impressed you are going to dental school, like the poet William Carlos Williams keeping his day job as a pediatrician.

Grant: Thought about your William Carlos Williams comparison before, but I think dentist/cartoonist sounds less noble than physician/poet. Also, Osamu Tezuka went to medical school while simultaneously becoming the god of manga, though he never practiced medicine.

Your work reminds me of one old, and one new artist, Otto Soglow and Kevin Huizenga? Are you familiar with them?

Grant: Definitely. I’ve read Otto Soglow’s cartoons in some old New Yorker cartoon collections, and I’ve read a couple of Kevin Huizenga’s books and followed his work closely in comics annuals. That’s a flattering comparison – Soglow’s cartoons have some of the most beautifully efficient line work ever drawn. And I can identify very closely with Huizenga’s “Glenn Ganges” stories – especially the middle-class suburban-Midwest adult-male protagonist. They’re everyday life drawn with incredible attention to detail, and he experiments with comic format and convention in a way that adds great depth to the story.

Who are your influences?

Roz Chast, Matt Groening’s “Life in Hell,” and Tom Gauld have probably influenced my comics the most. Edward Gorey, Bill Watterson, Chris Ware, and B. Kliban are four cartoonists I greatly admire, but they would be very difficult to emulate. Designer and illustrator Christoph Niemann has genius graphic ideas and is a huge inspiration, though I doubt he considers himself a cartoonist. This American Life keeps my brain occupied in the long hours spent drawing and probably subconsciously influences my comics. I also frequently look to children’s books and music for ideas.

Does your online poster shop pay enough to cover your time at the drawing board or is Incidental Comics a labor of love?

Labor of love! It’s very nice when people like a comic enough to put it up on their wall, but if I tried to break down the hourly wage of time spent at the drawing board I would quickly become depressed. My comics appear weekly in the newspaper in Kansas City (where I went to dental school) and biweekly on GoComics.com (also based in Kansas City) so I get some compensation that way as well. It’s never been my intention to make it a full-time job, though I plan on pursuing my dual careers (cartooning and orthodontics) as far as they will take me.


Could you share some sketches?

I included some pages from my sketchbook that eventually became full-fledged comics (“Jazz,” and “The Diabolical Botanical Garden”). I use my sketchbook mostly for working out ideas and rough sketches, though there’s an occasional bit of life drawing or journaling. It’s full of false starts, but I sometimes come back to a long-unused idea and manage to spin it into a new comic.

Can you give any advice for aspiring web or print cartoonists?

Focus on writing and ideas! If you are excited about an idea, you will find a way to make the drawing and layout work. Nothing is going to look how you want it to when you first start, but if you make new comics consistently your drawing style will develop and improve. Some of the best cartoonists have idiosyncratic (or even “bad”) drawing ability, but their drawings look amazing when coupled with great ideas. Share your work early and often – try to get into your school newspaper, start a webcomic, print out mini-comics and give them away, don’t keep it hidden in a sketchbook until you’ve achieved some imagined level of perfection.

Thanks, Grant for thoughtful answers and great advice. Wonderful to see the sketches, showing that even great ideas need to be refined. The sketch below became “The Diabolical Botanical Garden.” Most of Grant Snider’s cartoons are available as $15 prints from his Poster Shop.


Sketchbook pages & all art reproduced above ©2011 Grant Snider

Jonathan Bean, local children’s book illustrator makes good

photo courtesy Jonathan Bean

Once upon a time, a young man named Jonathan Bean  stopped by KU’s beloved old Communication Design House. This must have been nearly a decade ago. He was a recent grad from Messiah College in central PA with a small portfolio and large ambitions. He was wondering about topping off his bachelor’s degree from Messiah with a BFA in illustration from Kutztown. Of course, we might want to steer a talented young artist toward Kutztown University, but I find a second bachelor’s degree redundant. Like adding a side of cheese fries to your cheese steak. At KU a second degree, especially now with our new gen ed requirements takes three more years of schooling.

In my opinion, a recent grad who wants more illustration classes is better off earning a two-year MFA in illustration. That’s the advice I gave Jonathan. They have a limited residency MFA at Marywood in Scranton called Get your Master with the Masters,  for example. Jonathan decided to apply to SVA, The School of Visual Arts, my alma mater, in NYC. Flash forward to 2011: He has recently moved back to nearby Fleetwood, PA and he stopped on campus earlier this semester to tell me how it went. It worked out OK.

New book by Lauren Thompson, Artwork by Jonathan Bean

He has no regrets about going to SVA. It was expensive, for sure, but he found living and working in New York City exhilarating. He also said he was very lucky to be part of a really talented and supportive MFA class. On his website he has links to his SVA classmates’ work, including Paul Hoppe and Taeeun Yoo among others.

Jonathan has had great success as a children’s book illustrator. He is already working on his twelfth children’s book. His most recently published book is One Starry Night, a retelling of the Christmas Story (the original one with the birth of Jesus, not the one where Flick’s tongue gets stuck to light pole.) One Starry Night is written by NY Times bestselling author Lauren Thompson. The text is nicely complimented by Jonathan’s deceptively simple art. To my eye his work harkens back to the classic style of Wanda Gag. Kirkus Reviews calls it “an artistic tour de force. ” The Society of Illustrators has honored Jonathan by including artwork from One Starry Night in their current exhibition, on view through Dec.29, 2011.

At Night, words and watercolor paintings © 2007 Jonathan Bean

He wrote and illustrated At Night, a Boston Globe Horn Book Award Winner. Here is what the NY Times said about At Night, “Bean’s debut as an author is sweet and resonant, as calming as a mug of warm milk…he captures the solitary sense of being the last one awake…the peacefulness that comes with discovering a restful space of one’s own.”

Sketchbook page from jonathanbean.com ©2011 Jonathan Bean

Take a look at his website. He has had many more accomplishments than the few described above. It is wonderful to see the well-deserved success of this talented young man. Hopefully, we can get him to visit our illustration classes this year at Kutztown.