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1. Hoist your flagons!

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Heave on your futtock-shrouds and don’t leave your swashes unbuckled! ‘Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Don’t forget: If you are anywhere near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, shape a course for The Art Center (819 Ligonier Street) where I’ll talk about illustrating pirates this evening from 6:30 – 8:30. If you miss it, I’ll be at The Art Center again tomorrow morning 10:00 – 11:00ish (we need to clear the decks before noon—when some poor lubber’s wedding takes place).

MoviePirates

As promised, here are the answers to yesterday’s M is for Movie Pirates Quiz:

First row: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean (2006). Second row: (left to right) Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926); Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1950); Sherman the parrot; Errol Flynn as Captain Blood (1935). Third row: Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd (1945); (Charlton Heston as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1990); Dustin Hoffman as Hook (1991); Walter Matthau as Captain Red in Pirates (1986). Fourth row: Maureen O’Hara as Prudence ‘Spitfire’ Stevens in Against All Flags (1952); Laird Cregar as Sir Henry Morgan in The Black Swan (1942); Kevin Kline as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (1983); Graham Chapman as Yellowbeard (1983).


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2. Tomorrow be the big day, belike!

Aye, Friday: the day we’ve been waiting for all year, International Talk Like A Pirate Day! Polish your hooks and sand your peg legs! If you are anywhere near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, set a course for The Art Center (819 Ligonier Street) where I’ll talk about illustrating pirates Friday evening from 6:30 – 8:30. If you miss it, I’ll be at The Art Center again Saturday morning 10:00 – noon.

To celebrate the big day, here is an illustration from P is for Pirate—a theater full of movie pirates. They range from freebooters of Hollywood’s Silent Era to today’s swashbuckling sea dogs.

How many can you name? I’ll post the answers tomorrow, by the powers!

MoviePirates


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3. Alphabet Trail & Tales 2014

Thank you Le & Nancy of Citiparks for inviting me to perform in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park once again this year—at the wreck of the old Salty Carrot.

We added some panels to the interior of our dear old barky. Here they are in progress as I painted them at the Farmhouse in Highland Park.

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4. Join me this Saturday

Henry & The Buccaneer Bunnies

If you’ll be around Pittsburgh Saturday, September 13, please stop by the old Salty Carrot shipwreck pavilion (the big blue slide) in Frick Park. I’ll be part of Alphabet Trail and Tales from 10:00 – 1:00, reading & painting and telling horrible pirate jokes.


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5. Davy Jones

More from P is for Pirate as we count down to Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th! I’ll be presenting a pirate program at Adams Memorial Library in Latrobe, PA, Friday & Saturday September 19th & 20th.

Here is D is for Davy Jones from sketch to final painting. Sorry about the color in my progress shots—must’ve been at night and I forgot to switch the flash on. You can see I based my version of Davy Jones on an 1892 ink drawing by John Tenniel from the British humor magazine, Punch. Tenniel is the guy who drew the famous illustrations for Alice In Wonderland.

Tight pencil sketch Ink drawing of Davy Jones from the British magazine Punch color sketch painting in progress… IMGP1680 IMGP1681 IMGP1682 Finished painting

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6. Captain Kidd’s ice bucket challenge

We’re still celebrating the release of P is for Pirate and the countdown to Talk Like A Pirate Day (September 19th).

Today I’ve got sketches and a few work-in-progress photos of Captain William Kidd. Kidd wasn’t a particularly good pirate—as Eve Bunting says: “Captain William Kidd spilled less blood and captured less booty than any other well-known pirate of his time”. Apparently he didn’t get along well with his crew. Our shot of Kidd shows the scene where he infamously brained the ship’s gunner with a bucket.

You’ll notice in the color sketch and early work on the painting the ship’s woodwork is a mustardy yellow. Once I was into the painting I found it too cheerful a color—it didn’t help convey the mood of the action at all. So I changed it to gray. Much better!

sketch color sketch early progress on the painting IMGP1620 IMGP1621 final painting

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7. Edward Teach

As a follow-up to my last post about Queen Anne’s Revenge, here is the man himself—the terrible Edward ‘Blackbeard’ Teach. I show him in close-up so you can see the slow-match fuses he used to weave into his whiskers and set alight before attacking a ship. You can find him in P is for Pirate, now available in bookstores—or drop me a line in the comments for an autographed copy.

Pirate captains were elected by their crews and could be voted out. To keep his crew in line, Blackbeard constantly showed himself to be more fierce, more outrageous than anyone else on board. Seated with his rogues during dinner, Blackbeard fired a pistol underneath the table and wounded one of the crew, just to remind them who he was.

Blackbeard had to be mindful of his crew’s appetite for liquor—for rum, an ardent spirit distilled from molasses. Without rum, a crew would mutiny, as this excerpt from Blackbeard’s log attests:

‘Such a Day, Rum all out: – Our Company somewhat sober: – A Damned Confusion amongst us! – Rogues a plotting; – great Talk of Separation. – So I looked sharp for a Prize; – such a Day took one, with a great deal of Liquor on Board, so kept the Company hot, damned hot, then all Things went well again.’

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8. R is for Revenge

Queen Anne’s Revenge, that is. Queen Anne’s Revenge is the name of Blackbeard Teach’s flagship—though I have to admit I don’t know why he chose that name. Queen Anne ruled Great Britain & Ireland while Blackbeard was alive, so maybe he considered himself to be a privateer on behalf of the Crown? Was he not happy with the War of the Spanish Succession? I’d like it if, in the comments, someone could offer a better reason behind Teach’s name for his ship. Writers Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift & pirate aficionado Daniel Defoe flourished under Queen Anne, so maybe her reign really was culture’s balmiest day—but why did she need to be avenged?

Anyway, he only captained Queen Anne’s Revenge for 3 years before she sunk off North Carolina. And so I had the wonderful opportunity to paint a sunken pirate ship for Eve Bunting’s new book, P is for Pirate. It was also a chance to pay tribute to fantastic illustrator Lloyd K. Townsend. When I say ‘pay tribute to’, of course I mean ‘steal shamelessly from’. I’ve admired Townsend since I was a wee lad, seeing his paintings in National Geographic. One in particular, from 1979, shows the sunken Spanish treasure ship Tolosa. This was my—cough—inspiration for R is for Revenge. Hey, at least I turned the ship around to face the other way!

Herewith, work in progress:

Townsend's painting from National Geographic December 1979 thumbnail sketch rough tight sketch color sketch painting in progress… IMGP1693 IMGP1694 IMGP1695 IMGP1696 IMGP1697 IMGP1698 IMGP1699 IMGP1700 IMGP1701 IMGP1702 IMGP1703 IMGP1704 IMGP1705 IMGP1706 finished painting

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9. Q is for Queen

Here is one of my favorites from P is for Pirate, the notorious Grace O’Malley—Irish queen & pirate captain. She was a contemporary of Queen Elizabeth I and reportedly had an interview with Gloriana (who, after all, had a soft spot for buccaneers).

Queen Grace has been the subject of songs, at least one play and even a musical. So far as I know the swashbuckling Maureen O’Hara never played her in a movie, but what perfect casting that would have been!

I show Queen Grace in an Errol Flynn pose with her ruffians behind her. In the sketch I thoughtlessly drew a baroque-looking ship like we’re used to seeing from piracy’s golden age. In the final painting I used the Mayflower—much closer in style to a ship from Queen Grace’s time—as reference. Same deal with the costumes: they’re Elizabethan. I first drew her in men’s clothes but thought she looks much cuter in a dress.

Thumbnail sketch Errol Flynn in Captain Blood Tight sketch—in a man's costume In a dress with skirts hiked up for ease of movement Color sketch IMGP1534 IMGP1535 IMGP1622 IMGP1623 IMGP1624 IMGP1625 IMGP1626 IMGP1627 IMGP1628 IMGP1629 IMGP1630 IMGP1632 IMGP1633 IMGP1634 IMGP1635 IMGP1636 Queen

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10. A is for Articles

Here is your Monday dose of P is for Pirate—available in bookstores everywhere by Eve Bunting from Sleeping Bear Press.

The Articles were the pirates’ ethical guidelines which set out rules for behavior & working conditions aboard ship. New crew members signed them before becoming part of the ship’s company. Did you know that the pirate captain was elected—and could be voted out if he didn’t meet the crew’s expectations?

Pirates who couldn’t read or write made an X at the bottom of the contract and a clerk would write next to it, “John Manders (or whatever the sailor’s name was), his mark.”

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11. Ahoy, ye sea dogs!

l_9781585368150_fcP is for Pirate is here!

As long-time readers know, the subject of pirates is a favorite of mine. You can imagine how happy I was when Sleeping Bear Press asked me to illustrate Eve Bunting’s latest, P is for Pirate. 

Here’s how the jacket art came together. Some rough sketches, a tight sketch based on the approved rough, the painting in progress. I lost something in the tight sketch—the pirate doesn’t have the same aggressiveness & oomph—so I went back to the rough sketch to paint from. That’s my dear old African Grey, Sherman, sitting on his shoulder. How I miss him! I like this low-key palette, mostly blacks, greys and red. The talented Felicia Macheske was my art director on this project. I will show more images throughout the month.

piratecover.tn.A179 piratecover.tn.B181 piratecover.tn.C180 piratecover.sk IMGP1753 IMGP1754 IMGP1755 IMGP1756 IMGP1757 I'm using a palette knife to scrape red paint over the black background. IMGP1759 IMGP1760 IMGP1761 IMGP1762 IMGP1763 IMGP1764 IMGP1765 IMGP1766 IMGP1767

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12. Wild Things

Wild Things! is a new book coming out about the ‘behind-the-scenes’ stories of writing and illustrating picture books.

I contributed a story about Prancing, Dancing Lily—the cow who loved to dance—that didn’t make the cut for the book. However, you can read it on the book’s website here.

 


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13. Westmoreland Arts & Heritage Festival this weekend

I’ll be here drawing caricatures Thursday, Friday, Saturday and maybe Sunday.


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14. Princess India

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I lost India, my beloved studio-mate Saturday, June 7th. I’m only now able to write about her.  She was loved and maybe even a little spoiled. India was her mama’s baby but she spent the workday with me. Not only was she my work companion—as well as the official Studio 27B greeter—India made many cameo appearances in my books. I’ve compiled them here. There are probably more and I’ll add them as I find them.

Sleep well, my princess.

india.hike India's first cameo in Broccoli Dog by Lynne Berry (Ladybug Magazine September 2003). From Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller (Viking 2008). From Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller (Viking 2008). From Peter Spit a Seed at Sue by Jackie French Koller (Viking 2008). In the boat with her pal, Brandon. Two Bad Pilgrims by Kathryn Lasky (Viking 2009) Color by Vince Dorse. Two Bad Pilgrims by Kathryn Lasky (Viking 2009) Color by Vince Dorse. India in her winter jacket, helping to deliver presents. From The Year Without a Santa Claus by Phyllis McGinley (Marshall Cavendish 2010). From The Really Awful Musicians (Clarion 2011) Snoozing in Studio 27B.

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15. A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Damascus

Once again I had the honor of being substitute preacher at Second Presbyterian Church in Oil City. While we’ve been without a pastor we elders have stepped up and taken turns at the pulpit. Our new pastor, Rev. Greg Gillispie, will take over in July.

This time around my subject was the stoning of Saint Stephen and the introduction of that one-man paramilitary wing of the Sanhedrin, Saul—found in Acts 7:55-60.

afunnything.title stephen saul characterarc dorothy mcqueen heisenberg unhorsed paul

My talk centered around storytelling—particularly visual storytelling. Here you can see character designs for Stephen and Saul; an explanation of character arc used Dorothy from Wizard of Oz, Lightning McQueen from Cars, and Walter White from Breaking Bad; Saul’s Road to Damascus moment; and Saint Paul who shaped the young Christian Church through his writings.

This was some of the best fun I’ve had speaking in front of a group. I am grateful for a supportive and forgiving congregation! Best wishes & welcome to Rev. Gillispie.


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16. A fun week at Eden Hall Upper Elementary School

Thank you for inviting me!

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17. The Picture of Oscar Wilde

Here is the third in a series of three images for the Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure—specifically for the world premiere of L’Hôtel, a new comedy by Ed Dixon. The cast is stars from the recent and distant past. I showed you Sarah Bernhardt. and Jim Morrison. Here now is Oscar Wilde.

By the way, this painting and the two others will be on display at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni Show which opens this evening and continues through July 20th.

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18. Jim Morrison

Here is the second in a series of three images for the Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure—specifically for the world premiere of L’Hôtel, a new comedy by Ed Dixon. The cast is stars from the recent and distant past. Yesterday I showed you Sarah Bernhardt. Here is Jim Morrison—sketches and final painting. I can’t seem to find work-in-progress photos for this one. I must have forgotten to take them. You’ll notice that instead of thumbnail sketches I’ve done gesture sketches of these characters. I was trying to capture their attitude as well as likeness.

By the way, this painting and the two others will be on display at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni Show which opens this Friday evening.

morrison.gesture.1 morrison.gesture.2 morrison.gesture.3 morrison.sk Jim 400

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19. Loud art poster

I don’t think I ever posted this—it’s a poster I designed for an exhibit of music-related art at the Graffiti Gallery here in the National Transit Building in early 2013. I was without a camera at the time and took these in-progress photos with my cell phone. I finally uploaded them to my computer. Enjoy!

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20. New item at Etsy

For all you fans of antique medical curiosities here’s Doctor Lackzoom’s Patented Head Transplant Procedure, a little portrait I did based on an old photo. You can purchase it at my Etsy shop.

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21. Thanks, Penns Manor Elementary!

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22. Irish Jack the Cat

What a wonderful little video clip! If you’ve read Catherine Friend’s The Perfect Nest, you’ll enjoy watching this Perfect Nest in Ireland

babies.model jack.model


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23. Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks

I received a note from a former student this morning, and thought I’d pass it along. Oksana and here friends want to publish picture books with both Ukrainian & English texts. The link explains the project.

Dear John, This is Oksana Lushchevska writing to you. I want to share some information and ask you to share it, if it is possible. This is a project, which I and my friends organized as a result of my taking International children’s literature course and all the issues and events that might be observed in minor literatures. I think this can be a good way of fostering awareness about Ukrainian children’s literature. Here is a link to “Becoming Global: Bilingual Ukrainian-English Picturebooks.” Please consider supporting and sharing it, again, if you can. Thank you!

Sincerely, Oksana


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24. Some great ink!

Thank you, Claire Kirsch, for your fine reportage on my recent visit to Penns Manor Elementary and my collaboration with the students to create the horrible & dreadful Baby Pandasaurus Rex! Read all about it here.


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25. The Divine Sarah

This past January I had the pleasure of creating images for the Pittsburgh Public Theater‘s season brochure—this time for the world premiere of L’Hôtel, a new comedy by Ed Dixon. The cast of characters is 6 stars from the recent and distant past. Art Director Paul Schifino asked me to create stand-alone caricatures of 3 of them: Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Sarah Bernhardt. Here are sketches, painting-in-progress and the finished art of the Divine Sarah.

By the way, this painting and two others will be on display at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni Show which opens this Friday evening.

bernhardt.gesture.1 bernhardt.gesture.3 bernhardt.gesture.2 bernhardt.sk IMGP1980 IMGP1981 IMGP1982 IMGP1983 IMGP1984 IMGP1985 IMGP1986 IMGP1987 IMGP1988 IMGP1989 IMGP1990 IMGP1991 IMGP1992 IMGP1993 IMGP1994 Sarah 400

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