[ Illustrations, Posters & Signs | Murals & Exhibit Painting | Young Artist Mentoring ]

Illustrations, Posters & Signs

I specialize in natural history, wildlife, environmental and agricultural subjects to create visual art work that is eye-catching and dramatic as well as a precise and accurate depiction of the subject. My illustrations have been published in books, magazines, publicity and educational material and used on signs and posters. My work is suitable for museums, nature centers, wildlife refuges, parks, zoos, farms, historical societies, animal shelters, and equestrian centers. I also create work for businesses, individuals, and private or non-profit organizations. I use a variety of black-and-white and color mediums, and will meet with you to discuss work for your specific needs.

Woodcut Relief Print

I have been carving unique, boldly-designed woodcuts for over thirty years, producing relief prints that have been published as book illustrations, magazine covers and posters. Most of my woodcuts are in the traditional black-and-white, although sometimes I color them with watercolor. Woodcuts are the oldest form of visual art reproduction, used to illustrate books printed on the earliest printing presses. Woodcuts are made by carving the images in reverse on a block of wood, then inking the block with a roller (brayer), laying a sheet of paper over the inked block, and rubbing it by hand or running the block through a press until the ink is transferred evenly onto the paper.

Producing a series of woodcut prints for illustration is a relatively time-consuming process, but the results are truly striking and unusual.

Drawings in Pen and Ink, Pencil and Colored Pencil

Pen and Ink.  This medium is very effective for scientifically-accurate illustrations of animals, plants, and objects that require a clear rendition of every detail of the image. Pen and ink drawings can also be done in a looser, more sketch-like style that is appropriate for less formal, more artistic illustrations.  I have used pen and ink for nature trail signs, nature center signs, magazine illustrations and posters. Pen and ink illustrations can be black-and-white, or colored with watercolor or colored inks.

Pencil. The graphite used in drawing pencil varies from very hard, which produces a crisp, clean line, to very soft, suitable for infinite shadings from misty gray to dense black. When several varieties of graphite are used in a drawing, it can produce an intriguing result of complexly molded shadows and fine, detailed lines.

Colored Pencil. This medium combines the qualities of graphite pencil with the transparent color of watercolor. It is a good medium for sketch-like illustrations or for providing tints of color to pen and ink drawings.

Paintings in Watercolor, Latex and Oil

Watercolor. This transparent, highly fluid paint medium evokes a sense of flickering light and movement which is highly effective for conveying mood in an illustration. I have been working in watercolor all my life, often using it along with pencil and pen and ink for sketches done outside in the field.

Latex. I have worked in this opaque, highly durable paint medium for over thirty years, producing bright, densely-colored paintings, signs, exhibit work and murals for interior and exterior use. Although I most often use latex as it was designed to cover large areas with opaque, boldly colored paint such as in murals, I also use it with the finest of brushes to create small, strikingly brilliant illustrations for posters, signs and publications.

Oil. This painting medium in its conventional usage is most often associated with fine art paintings. However, I find oil to be a highly malleable medium capable of producing an endless variety of painting effects in illustration work, ranging from densely opaque through translucent layering to transparent as watercolor. In my illustration work I often combine transparent oil paint with graphite pencil or use it to color photographs for collage.

I created this alphabet as part of the "Animals A-Z" exhibit at the Auckland War Memorial Museum in Auckland, New Zealand in 1983. The animals in this exhibit were grouped by the letters of the alphabet and included ceramics, carvings and taxidermy specimens that normally were part of the vast private collections maintained by the museum and available for study by scientists, ethnologists, anthropologists and other professionals but were not on public display.

I am enthralled by train graffiti, those brazen, anonymous, peripatetic works of art that are so often seen as evidence of urban blight. To me, the spray-painted words and images seem to explode with a primal energy, bursting clear of time and space in a parade of color that leaps and whirls and tumbles away down a receding line of container and box cars, proof of the human spirit's most urgent and unbound expression of its indomitable creative purpose.

Taking photos of the graffiti on trains parked as they wait to enter railyards can be difficult. I have to scramble up steep banks or push through thick woods before I can step out onto the loose gravel berm where the train sits motionless and silent on tracks bound on both sides by the woods. I often have the sense of coming upon some strange, remote world, the massive cars curving out of sight in either direction the ruins of an alien civilization. Perhaps that is why the graffiti strikes me with such a paradoxical force of mystery and primal recognition. The stylized words, indecipherable symbols and defiant shapes, the unbridled glory and rage of color sprayed as high up on the faded walls of the train cars as an arm can reach, the paintings are unmistakably, universally human: I am here! I am speaking to you! Pay attention!

But what gets my attention most on those long stretches of track is another world, more familiar but largely hidden, which thrives seemingly-incongruously with the graffiti-festooned trains: the wooded right-of-ways through which miles and miles of tracks run are home to a rich variety of wildlife. These woods, as well as so-called "wasteland" stretches of tangled weeds, briar thickets and scrub trees common to railway right-of-ways, provide habitats for hundreds of birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and insects. Often these wooded and overgrown areas run through an otherwise urban landscape. Unlike more scenic areas like state parks or wilderness recreation areas with trails through them, these wild areas are largely ignored. The right-of-ways belong to the railroad, and strictly speaking it isn't legal--certainly not particularly safe!--to sneak in to the tracks as I do. I have never seen another human being on my clandestine artistic forays to photograph graffiti. Trains may rumble along the tracks several times a day, but as far as the wildlife is concerned, they are just part of their largely-safe and secluded habitat.

  

             

These are samples of illustration sketches done for a variety of projects. The pastel drawings were preliminary sketches for the Connecticut River mural I painted in the main stairway of the Children's Museum at Holyoke. The colored ink and colored pencil drawings were illustration sketches for a proposed children's book based on the New Zealand novel Beak of the Moon by Philip Temple, published by HarperCollins New Zealand. The pen and ink drawings were illustrations published in Vermont Magazine.

Nuestras Raices ("New Roots") is described on their web-site as a "grassroots urban agricultural organization based in Holyoke, Massachusetts." This impressive organization maintains a working farm on land along the Connecticut River on the southern boundary of the city of Holyoke. I was commissioned to paint the sign for the kiosk set near the main gates of the Farm. On one side I painted the lush vegetables and beautifully-patterned animals that I hope evokes the feeling of care and pride the Latino farmers have for their domestic animals and crops. The extended design of vines and leaves forms a border around a bulletin board used for posting up-coming events. On the other side I painted a map of the farm and surrounding property. The four pen and ink drawings were used for educational signs on a nearby nature trail, identifying species of wildlife, trees and plants along the river.

During the years I lived in New Zealand, especially on Great Barrier Island, and during several trips to the Hebridean islands of Tiree, Mull, Aran, Seil and Luing off the western coast of Scotland, I sat on sandy beaches or on rocks or on damp moor-land to paint and draw many of these sketches. Sometimes I began a painting in the field and finished it later in the day when I'd returned to where I was staying.

I met Leslie Leyland Fields in 1992 when we were both in the MFA in Writing program at Goddard College. Almost immediately we began to talk about living on islands. Leslie and her husband Duncan live in Kodiak, Alaska, for most of the year, but every year during the summer salmon-fishing season they move to their house on tiny Harvester Island in Uyak Bay, off the coast of Kodiak Island, where they join Duncan's brothers in their extended family business of set-netting for salmon. When I met her, Leslie was beginning work on her memoir of this experience, Surviving the Island of Grace, which was eventually published by St Martin's Press in 2002. Leslie asked me to do the illustrations for her memoir and in the late summer of 1999 I flew to Anchorage, took a smaller plane to Kodiak, and took an even smaller sea-plane to Larsen's Bay where I was picked up in an open fishing skiff by Leslie for the eight-mile trip out to Harvester Island. I did this series of woodcut relief prints from the sketches and photos I took that summer.

I have been carving woodcut relief blocks and hand-printing them since I was eleven years old, when my mother gave me my first set of wood-carving tools. Every year my mother made a woodcut print for her Christmas cards. In the early years, before photo-copying, she printed every card by hand, placing paper over the inked block and rubbing it with a smoothed wooden spoon to transfer the ink to the paper. I have used this technique ever since and have never printed my wood blocks on a press. I carve pine boards and sometimes grade-A pine plywood. Although I have added to my collection of carving tools over the years, I still have two or three left of the original Grumbacher set.