June 23, 2008

Payne Illo Honored by Legal Marketing Assoc.

Last Fall C.F. Payne completed a Thanksgiving card for the law firm Hamilton, Brook, Smith & Reynolds, P.C. in Concord, MA. The project has just won 3rd Place in the Legal Marketing Association's Excellence Awards, External Communication category, and 1st Place in the Regional New England Division. The AD on this project was Doug Eymer of Eymer Design LLC.

June 20, 2008

OK, Who Licked The Mark Summers?

The U.S. Postal Service has honored Pulitzer Prize winning author James Michener and physician Edward Trudeau, whose life was devoted to the eradication of Tuberculosis, with commemorative stamps illustrated by Mark Summers. The two stamps are part of the Postal Service's "Distinguished Americans" series.

Summers has also created art for previous Distinguished Americans stamps: Joseph W. Stilwell (2000), Claude Pepper (2000), Hattie W. Caraway (2001), Edna Ferber (2002), Wilma Rudolph (2004), Jonas Salk (2006), Albert Sabin (2006), Margaret Chase Smith (2007) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (2007).

I wonder which is the greater honor, having your likeness immortalized on a stamp, or getting your portrait done by Mark Summers? It's a toss up.

The Michener stamp is 59 cents for the First-Class Mail letter two-ounce price, and the Trudeau is 76 cents for the three-ounce. Both are perfect for those oversized letters to your Grandma.

You can purchase the stamps at your local Post Office, on usps.com, or by calling 800-STAMP-24. More information on the stamps and their honorees can be found here.

June 19, 2008

John Collier in Munich

John Collier is currently in Munich studying the craft of Stained Glass with the world renowned Franz Mayer & Co., which has been in business since 1848. John has promised us some pictures upon his return which we'll happily post here.

June 12, 2008

Report From Trouville Book Fair

My wife Joan and I recently came back from the Trouville Book Fair in Normandie. I signed books there along with many choice illustrators, including guest of honor Nathalie Novi, with a mind-blowing exhibit of her oil pastel illustrations. Nathalie is one of the most talented French illustrators of the "new" generation. Her work is rich in colors, warm and seductive, poetic, and at the same time inventive and full of energy.

Trouville, like its better known neighbor Deauville, both resort towns on the "English" Channel, used to be a fisherman's village. So were Saint-Tropez, Cannes and Monaco, but let's stay north, there's no reason to linger on the French Riviera unless you have the privilege to live at Cap d'Antibes or Cap Ferrat or in the lovely town of Eze, perched on a cliff above the Mediterranean. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, who recently bought a "home" (ch√Ęteau de Miraval) fifteen minutes away from our own, must have noticed that inland Provence is far more interesting and unspoiled than any location on the coast itself.

In the turn of the century both Deauville and Trouville quickly became fashionable spots for "le tout Paris" of the time. The photographer Lartigue was a frequent visitor, so were Marcel Proust and Flaubert, and painters such as Dufy, Manet, Marquet.... The palace hotel (now divided into private apartments) and rococo villas, the boardwalk along the beach and small shops give the place an air of melancholy and loneliness that I find quite moving.

Joan and I noted once again how very well intellectuals and creative people in general are treated in France. The Book Fair catered to each of us with no restraint, from the paid travel fare to a very comfortable room, exquisite meals (oysters and other sea food, foie gras, quality champagne, etc. which—as expected from people in our profession—we devoured as a swarm of locusts). Of course, a stipend was also included. In the company of major authors and illustrators, my table at the signing was stacked with 8 or 9 of my books.

As I visited three consecutive schools, I was surprised by the maturity of the 8 to 11 year old children I was addressing; they studied Italo Calvino's "Palomar" and "Difficult Loves" (in the adult editions I illustrated) and one boy at least had a passion for Obama to the point of plastering his bedroom wall with photos of him. I was happy to give him my Obama button which he seemed to cherish much more than he would have any pop singer memento.

We are now back in Cotignac, our Medieval village. It has rained today. Our windows are open, the cool scent of night drifts in, along with the rhythmic croaking of frogs. As old as our home, both built in the middle of the 17th century, the fountain on Place de la Mairie, "Town Hall Square", trickles softly as it has for generations.

June 5, 2008

Aerosmith Sketch by James Bennett

One of the first full color oil paintings I ever attempted as a young teenager was a portrait of Steven Tyler. I thought that our hairstyles were similar, which tells you how long ago that was.

My sons were introduced to "Guitar Hero" this past Christmas, and it became an instant hit, which made it understandable to me why the entire world agreed. So when I found out that the next game would be focused on one of my all time favorites, I wanted to try and capture the "Aerosmith" that I knew so well. This is my finished sketch, which I will transfer to board, and hopefully, transfer the energy.

James Bennett sketch

American Illustration 27

American Illustration has announced the winning images that will appear in this year's book, to be released in November. They've posted a sneak peek slideshow on their website. Keep an eye out for Yan Nascimbene, who has a piece from his new picture book Yuki and the One Thousand Carriers.

June 4, 2008

San Francisco Museums with John Mattos

Friday in San Francisco was my solo day, and I had plans to visit the San Francisco Museum of Asian Art, which is a truly world-class institution. Don’t miss it. During my visit I concentrated on Southeast Asian art, including Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Thailand, and Indonesia. I’m very slow, and I read many of the plaques, so I’m not a lot of fun to go with for museum visits.

A personal highlight was finding Indonesian Gamelan rod puppets in the gift shop. If you’re not familiar with this Indonesian art, it focuses on telling the traditional stories of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. I was elated to find them.

In the afternoon, John Mattos and I went to the Blackhawk Museum of Automobiles in Danville, CA. John and I are both auto fans, particularly interested in the design component. Looking at his gallery, you will note many of the pieces contain intriguing man-made objects, including aerodynamic cars. The Blackhawk museum is renowned for it’s collection of pre and post WWII automobile icons, The space is huge, and the cars are breathtaking. I got to see one of my all-time favorites, the ’63 Iso Grifo Prototype, and the three Alfa-Romeo B.A.T. cars.

The museum also featured a temporary exhibit of work by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, the artist responsible for the original Rat Fink cartoons and customizer of hot rods. Ed Roth had more lives than Fritz the Cat, and his current status is on the ascension, running lockstep with his contemporary, Von Dutch.

Danville is about 45 minutes outside of San Francisco. I recommend to all lovers of cars and design to put this on their schedule.

June 3, 2008

He likes his men hairy.


This week's featured illustrator is David Johnson.

Studio Visits with Owen Smith and John Mattos

Already in San Francisco to judge the Academy of Art University's Spring Show, I took the opportunity to meet with my two Bay Area artists, Owen Smith and John Mattos. John picked me up on Wednesday morning and we headed across the bridge to Alameda, where Owen lives and has a studio in a separate building in the back.

Owen showed us his current work, including a sculptural piece that he’s doing for the city of San Francisco. Owen is getting into sculpture now, which is stylistically similar to his paintings. Also, we looked at a work-in-progress picture book, among other things. After a lovely outdoor lunch at a Berkeley restaurant, owned by a buddy of Owen's, all of us piled into the car and went back to San Francisco to John's studio, a loft in Chinatown. Quite a contrast between those two places!

We went over several of his current projects, which also included a city of San Francisco commission, a poster for an auto race, and various other newly finished and on the board projects. We also reviewed his just-completed online illustration gallery, which we all agreed was solid.

June 2, 2008

Judging the Academy of Art University's Spring Show

Several months ago I was contacted by Chuck Pyle, the Director of Illustration at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, to join a group of industry pros to review and give awards to the best MFA and undergrads in the illustration program.

The Academy goes to great length to organize these trips, and I always enjoy participating. I applaud the fact that their agenda is not only to provide a wonderful education for their students, but to think through ways to give them insight into the professional world that faces all of them upon graduation. During the course of our itinerary I mingled with my colleagues from architecture, fashion, graphic design, gaming, concept art, and automobile design, among others.

On Tuesday evening Irene Gallo of Tor Books, two designers from Pixar, Robert Hunt, the illustrator, and myself walked through the illustration area, and at first individually, then as a group, debated the pros and cons of the best art in the various illustrative categories. It was so interesting to see how we reacted individually, and how we tended to agree on the best work. I was looking for what I call a signature style, an artist who had developed a look that was consistent in his or her work: individualistic. Many times during the course of the evening I repeated my mantra not only to myself but to my colleagues: what problem does this solve?

Even though we came from different illustrative worlds, a rep, an illustrator, and two concept designers, we were of like minds in terms of judging criteria when we got down to choosing gold, silver, and best of show winners.

Thursday I plunged into meeting, greeting, and reviewing about 25 student portfolios from both the MFA and undergrad programs. I have found that this is an extremely nerve-wracking time for the students. So a few well-chosen self-deprecating words go a long way in relaxing the atmosphere.

I gave advice and commented on each student’s portfolio. This is not an easy assignment, one has to take into account these students are not fully molded. I know that the students do not want to hear pap, they want criticism that they can apply to their work. They want answers, and I try as best as I can to help find them.

I was lucky enough to have lunch with designers from GM and Mitsubishi. Automobile design is yet another program the academy features, so I had to opportunity to talk cars with industry pros. I’m a bit of car-design fanatic, so this was a highlight for me.

Inspired by these designers, I checked out the Auto Design portfolios. I was particularly impressed with these students and look forward to seeing what they do in the future.