Monday, November 23, 2009

Capture the Imagination:
Original Illustration & Fine Illustrated Books

Bloomsbury Auctions announces its annual holiday sale of original illustrations and fine illustrated books on Wednesday, 9 December at 2pm. The sale will showcase important works from the Golden Age of Illustration to the present day.

Among the other important modern illustrators in the sale are Caldecott winners Arnold Lobel, Uri Shulevitz, Beni Montresor, Evaline Ness, Richard Egielski, Paul Zelinsky, Trina Schart Hyman and Leonard Weisgard. Other treasures that will be auctioned are Maurice Sendak’s original designs for the Wild Things Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon ($40,000-$50,000), an unused illustration for The Bee-Man of Orn ($30,000-$40,000) and numerous signed presentation copies.

Watercolors by William Steig for the original Shrek! ($15,000-$20,000), Sylvester and the Magic Pebble ($15,000-$20,000) and other works will be sold to benefit The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Two time Caldecott winners Leo and Diane Dillon are represented by works from Ashanti to Zulu ($15,000-$17,000), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice ($10,000-$12,000) and other award-winning titles. There will also be watercolors, drawings and other work by Edward Ardizonne, Umberto Brunelleschi, Edward Gorey, Tomi Ungerer, Al Hirschfeld, H. A. Rey, James Marshall, Barry Moser, Jerry Pinkney, Charles Santore, Charles M. Schultz and Walt Disney.

Saturday, 5 December, 10:00am to 3:00pm
Monday, 7 December, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Tuesday, 8 December, 10:00am to 5:00pm
Wednesday, 9 December, 10:00am to 1:00pm

Special Event
Illustrators of Our Time
Lecture by Michael Patrick Hearn
Tuesday, 8 December, 6:00pm
at Bloomsbury Auctions, 6 West 48th Street New York, NY 10036

Bloomsbury Auctions, New York, Wednesday, 9 December, 2pm

Thursday, November 12, 2009

For What It's Worth No. 12

Getting out of town helps clear the mind, getting out of the country creates a whole new perspective. Trying to avoid jet lag before the lecture series, we opted to land in Paris instead of London. Our first day was spent getting used to a new language, one that I'd feverously studied but came up lacking during our entire trip. All I really needed to tell them that I spoke no French was Je suis un Americain, I am an American.

Later that day we ventured into Pere Lachaise which was two blocks from our hotel--as many of you know I have a dreaded fear of cemeteries but somehow Pere Lachaise was different; perhaps it was the time of day--the quality of light and the fall colors made the place look radiant. Maybe I would have had my old familiar feelings had it been a cold, dreary day. Whatever the reason I embraced it, it was similar to visiting a sculpture garden, the variety of gravestones, the typography, the ornamentation all lent an air of artiness to the place and one I could enjoy.

The next day was a step back in time with a visit to Palace de Versailles, it was huge! I pictured something a bit smaller, something like what I would soon experience in London, but the massiveness of the place was almost overwhelming. And the crowds of vistiors spent little time in the rooms, preferring to raise their cameras above their heads and snap photos. Thankfully, the gardens were less crowded and much less so at the Petit Tranon, the simplicity of this place was much appreciate after the extravagance of the palace.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was Villa Savoye, the next day's excursion. Completed in 1929 it is a prime example of the architecture of Charles Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier. The austerity of each room, the multiple views, the contrasting colors, the act of bringing the outdoors in makes it a home worth living in, though its tenants were very disappointed with the house and the workmanship--sometimes to be expected as the result of working with a genius.

Two ends of the spectrum, Louis XIV to Le Corbusier but both mad geniuses.

On to London via Eurostar, under the English Chanel which lasted only 20 minutes of the two and half hour trip from Gare du Nord to London's St Pancras. If they offered an cross Atlantic route I'd sign up. The trip was smooth, the food was what you used to get on the best airlines with service to match.

We tended to remain historic in our sightseeing, looking back at centuries past rather than searching out the contemporary scene. Our weekends were spent sightseeing, our weekdays conducting lectures on illustration at various colleges and art schools in and around London.

We also got to visit the offices of the Association of Illustrators in their shared loft space with Big Orange in East London. We met with Derek Brazell whom we have been in contact with for sometime and their new director, Ramón Blomfield who just celebrated his first full year this month. We talked about the difficulty and non-profitable aspects of newsstand distribution especially in the US and found we both share better interest in both Canada and the UK. Their house publication, Varoom, started off as their newsletter and my suspicion is that once they saw 3x3 they decided there must be a market for a magazine on illustration, several other publications have sprouted up since we started back in 2003, all with dismal results. A new one just launched this month in London.

I have long admired what the AOI is doing for illustration in the UK and feel they do a much better job than we're managing to do here in the States with our illustration organization which has a much longer history than the AOI. Why that's the case I'm not sure, but it does not bode well for illustration; we must all be doing more to increase the visibility and promote the viability of illustration.

Sometimes you have to get out of the country to see what you really are. Our visit uncovered the fact that 3x3 holds the only international student show as well as the only international professional show--something I hadn't really considered before. Being there pointed out just how insular each of our countries are. The fact that neither the AOI nor the Society of Illustrators actively invite international entries nor have international panels of judges pointed out our uniqueness and something we need to exploit as it gives our readers and our entrants a totally different "perspective" on what's happening in illustration.

Getting a first-hand look at the education of illustrators in the United Kingdom was one of the purposes of our trip; seeing the differences and similarities was helpful. What I noticed immediately was an intense sense of pride in each school, each went out of their way to explain why their school was the best in the country. Whether the claim was the largest, or the highest number of successful graduates or the star-quality roster of alumni, each school felt that they did it best.

In a number of the schools a student would get instruction from a single instructor for each level, others may interact with one or two more but I did not encounter anything like we have here in America with multiple instructors for each year. And their programs ran three years, not four. What I did notice was an emphasis on idea generation rather than style which I found refreshing. In America we seem too worried about developing a personal voice, sacrificing sound market-driven visual solutions in the process: Students may develop a voice but they often times have too little to say. I didn't find that in the UK, and from the class I sat in on the problems are not simplistic, they're quite involved requiring research before laying pen to pad. I wish our schools did more of that. But from what I learned their national government has put much more emphasis on practical knowledge and as a result those studying applied arts learn how to apply their craft though at times sacrificing experimentation in the process. There they can learn something from us Americans. No educational system is perfect, ideally it would be a mix of the two systems I've witnessed.

Being abroad also puts today's news into focus. What I also gathered is that the 24-hour news cycle has exploded the recession way beyond fact. While there was a downturn in the early part of the year, the illustrators I've spoken with, here and abroad, all say that they are busy, and some are busier than they've ever been. Which is really good news, for illustrators and for illustration. And it looked like the Christmas season was already in full swing judging by the crowded streets and stores.

Getting out of one's homeland points out differences but also similarities. Looking at the faces of the students in the crowded lecture hall was no different than here in the States. Bright, enthusiastic faces that will soon become the next generation of illustrators. General remarks about our talk were that it gave a more "American" approach to being an illustrator, the fact we stressed about illustration being a business, that it was important to be visible and the fact that using the correct marketing tools led to a successful illustration career were appreciated with more interaction from both students and faculty than we've received before. Though I did add two new sections to the talk since last speaking in the States, so it may not be a fair comparison. Whatever the response I'm glad we went, I'd like to thank all of the schools who invited me to speak, for their warm hospitality and welcoming spirit and I'd like to thank Sarah for the planning of the trip and keeping us on schedule.

Lecture Six: Kingston University

Our final morning in London started with a cab ride through some of the historic British landmarks onto Waterloo Station to catch the train to Kingston.

A short train ride later followed by a short cab ride and we arrive at Kingston's Art and Design building and were quickly greeted by Geoff Grandfield. Geoff is a noted illustrator and has been the Illustration Course Director at Kingston for almost four years now. A short tour of the building followed by a stop in the cafeteria for an espresso and then a laptop presentation about the school and their areas of concentration. Sequential work is stressed here both in comics, graphic novels and in motion--short films and movies. We found out at the Royal College that Kingston is one of the school the RCA actively recruits from for their MA program.

The lecture took place in one of the large classrooms, over 100 students crowded in to hear the talk. Afterwards we had the pleasure of having lunch with Geoff at a local pub a few blocks away from the school that had been transformed into a Thai restaurant. Then we were off on a 45-minute car ride to Heathrow.

Photo of Geoff Grandfield by Sarah Munt

Lecture Five: Royal College of Art

Thank goodness for the two day respite between lectures, a good time to catch up on sightseeing and rest before starting the week. After a morning meeting at the Association of Illustrators (AOI) with Derek Brazell and Ramón Blomfield we were off to the RCA.

And wouldn't you know it, the one time we didn't consult our map coming up out of the Tube we started walking in the wrong direction. Arriving a bit late Andrzej Klimowski and Debbie Cook swept us off to the faculty dining area for lunch which started with a bottle of red. It was like dining in a museum, a Hockney here, a Moore there, Kitaj and other alumni from the Royal College graced the walls and plinths. We were used to eating in the school's cafeteria which was all well and good, but here they have their own chef; on today's menu: pheasant, risotto, salmon with scrumptious sides. Too nervous to eat much I settled on the risotto. Then time for espresso and on to the lecture hall.

Entering the building I was struck with a familiar smell, turps; it brought back memories of all those days in the fine arts building down in Austin and it had been ages since I had smelled that old palette buddy. Setting up was a breeze and then it was time for the lecture. Good questions at the end and then a quick tour of the school's facility and then back to the flat to ready for our final lecture and then the trip back to New York.

Andrzej and Debbie before the lecture and students, photos by Sarah Munt

Saturday, November 7, 2009

London Get-Together

As many of you know we like to invite out of town artists for a meal at our studio so we figured why not try the same thing in London. Except we were only going to be there for such a short period we opted for a small get together over wine and cheese. And we kept our list to artists from the London area.

On the invitation list were those who had been in the magazine including A. Richard Allen, Andy Potts, Paul Wearing, Richard Wilkinson, Jo Holdaway, Sara Fanelli, Paul Blow, Russell Cobb, Nishant Choksi, Phil Wrigglesworth, Harriet Russell, Vanessa Dell, Chris Corr, Joao Fazenda, Sharon Tancredi and Chris Haughton and added Cantell Ronca who we'd just met when we were in Hatfield. Several couldn't make it due to personal obligations or last-minute deadlines but it was good to meet those who did come and put a face with an email address.

It's helpful to get a sense of the illustration community in the UK and how it's the same or different from the US. All seem to be unaffected by the recession, though things had slowed down early in the year now some are busier than ever.

The next time we're in London we hope that we can meet more illustrators in the community. Thanks to those who braved a soggy London evening to drop by.

Andy Potts, left and A. Richard Allen listening intently to Paul Wearing who is off-camera.

Lecture Four: Loughborough University

A short train ride south from Sheffield and we arrive in Loughborough, home of Loughborough University, the site of our next lecture. We were greeted at the train station by our old friend Andrew Selby and his colleague Alastair Adams, a noted portrait artist and head of the illustration program. Thanks to the generosity of Andrew and his wife Felicity we were invited to stay at their lovely home in Oakham the evening before our lecture. Located about 45 minutes from Loughborough we arrived in Oakham in time for dinner with the Selby's at one of the area's oldest pubs, The Olive Branch.

The following morning we got a better look at the beautiful countryside as we took the trip back up to the university. Andrew had scheduled my talk for the evening but had Sarah booked for a roundtable talk about publication design with the students interested in publishing in mid-afternoon. Reports are that Sarah did quite well in her first-ever lecture, mine followed in the evening.

A fairly restful day before our lectures we got a chance to see the sites around the small village town, had a coffee and English Breakfast at a lovely spot call Wests and got a tour of the illustration floors in a building that had great light and a life drawing studio which was once used as the energy generator plant for the entire campus, plans are for the department to move into newer quarters in the not too distant future.

Unfortunately we didn't get to see that much student work as they were in the midst of tutorials but we did wander about the studios to see the work hanging on the wall.

The evening's lecture took place before a fairly-packed auditorium, especially considering it was Guy Fawkes Day, the equivilant to our 4th of July. We had lots of questions during the lecture and afterwards. Then off to bed for our trip back to London on Friday morning.

Andrew introducing the speaker for the evening, photo by Sarah Munt

Lecture Three: Sheffield Hallam University

Our first visit far outside London took us to the North Country. After a two hour trip we arrived in Sheffied, crossed the street and arrived at the university-one of the largest campuses in the UK.

Frazer Hudson met us in reception and took us on a short tour of the Arts and Design building before a quick lunch at the school's cafeteria and then onto the lecture hall. Frazer has been at Sheffield for two years, prior to that he had lectured and taught part-time at a number of schools in the UK. The building is fairly new--the previous location was well outside the city center--each specialty has its own floor with numerous classrooms and open spaces.

After a quick setup at the state-of-the-art lecture hall, the presentation, a Q&A period and then we gathered our books, magazines and suitcase and headed back to the train station for our journey south to Loughborough, the site of our next lecture.

It was a treat to finally meet Mick Marston who came down from Leeds for the lecture. Thanks to Frazer and Claire Lockwood for their warm hospitality.

Photo of Frazer Hudson by Sarah Munt

Lecture Two: Central St Martin's

Following a wonderful lunch with Brian Grimwood and Ben Cox from the Central Illustration Agency we ventured first to the Apple Store to get a necessary connector to work with all the overhead digital projectors. From there it was back to the flat and then on to Central St Martin's for our evening lecture with their Master of Arts students.

Thanks to Patrick Roberts, Course Director, MA Communication Design, for helping us setup for the presentation and it was good to see Gary Powell whom we'd met a few years ago when he brought his students over to the studio. And of course, Andrew Foster who'd arranged our lecture. Andrew is this year's 3x3 Educator/Illustrator of the Year and is featured in the 3x3 Illustration Annual No. 6 due out later this month. Andrew is an exciting and intense artist who is definitely blurring the lines between illustration and fine arts. We also met the artist, Anna Bhushan who had just returned from a four-year stay in New York.

The lecture was followed by one of the more intense Q&A periods we'd experienced on either side of the Atlantic. A brief dinner followed at a Greek restaurant around the corner. Thanks to Andrew, Gary and Anna for making us feel so welcome.

Sorry no photos, there were problems with the camera.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lecture One: University of Hertfordshire

The day started off lovely, it had rained most of Sunday but Monday morning is bright and sunny, a bit cooler but still nice. A quick walk to Knightsbridge station and we were of to King's Cross to catch the morning train to Hatfield. Just two stops on the express train outside of London we arrived in Hatfield, took a cab to the campus, entered the Todd Building and rang up Adam Graff who quickly met us in the lobby and then took us for a quick espresso before getting setup for the lecture. Adam, a noted illustrator, has been teaching at the university for ten years, just finished his masters and is a proud new papa.

Everything was running swimmingly until the presentation was about to begin, then technology raised its ugly head. It took well over 20 minutes to get a picture on the overhead screen but everyone was quite patient during the process. A bit of background, the history of American illustration, three tips every successful illustrator knows and a list of Do's and Don'ts that young illustrators need to know and an hour and forty-five minutes later the talk was done.

Off to lunch at the school's new food court and Catell Ronca joined us, Catell teaches the first year students and is a graduate of the Royal College of Art; Adam teaches the second year students. Unlike America there is one instructor per year and the curriculum is very hands-on practical assignments taken from real jobs. Adam permitted Sarah and I to sit in on one of the classes for an hour or so and we were able to see first hand Adam's teaching style and the work he is getting from his students. And we learned a bit about British humor and how each of his students approached their assignment.

Conceptual thinking is stressed from day one at the school, everyone enters the Communication Design department but in the second year the students decide on which direction they would like to pursue: design or illustration. You could see the results of their thinking in the sketches they presented to Adam, they did their research on the different sayings as related to the game Bingo and then showed a number of solutions to the visual problem. Just like in the real world they were given limited time to complete the assignment.

Then it was time to head back to London. We appreciated the hospitality Adam and his group granted us, it was a pleasure to speak in front of such a receptive audience. One down, five lectures to go!

Photo of Adam Graff by Sarah Munt