Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Spring Cleaning

Granted, the spring season seems particularly far off with the colder temperatures we're seeing, but why not take a moment to consider the yearly tradition of amusement maintenance? Traditional parks are marvelous places, and are skilled at conveying a sense of escape through beauty, dizzying motion and childlike frolic. Historic carousels are perfect examples of all three elements, and require a lot of work to remain operating smoothly and attractively. Here we have an artisan and a handyman, polishing and painting a standing carousel horse.

The handyman wears 1920s-styled overalls, and the painter an early-1920s day dress, trimmed at the hem for free movement. The carousel horse is loosely based on the figures carved by the beloved Philadelphia Toboggan Company, one of the finest manufacturers of carousels. Let's have a look at the trappings, which aren't unlike the beautiful, complex details that PTC's carvers created so long ago...

As well, a quick glance at the material in the painter's dress. Fabrics of this era were often woven with lightly colored, at times metallic, threads, in order to create interest as the dress moved with the wearer's body. With a simple draped lapel and full skirt, her dress is simple and graceful - the perfect thing to don on a warm spring day.

Sadly, Texas is rather lacking in the historic, Philadelphia-style carousel category - an acute aggravation to a true fanatic for such things. However, plans are in the works for a summer visit to a true bastion for these machines - Knoebels Amusements in Elysburg, PA. Even if the moment is fleeting, my fix will be attained, and my mind will once again be rampant with the joys of whirling glory. Here's to these marvelous pieces of history, and the stewards who keep them happy and healthy.

Brisk and Blissful

Though I am a touch late in posting about it, I recently created this year's holiday card - a frosty tribute to the arrival of winter... centering around Coney Island, once again. What can I say? The traditionally summery spit of shoreline comes to life for me in the coldest months of the year, and I love drawing the billowing surf and skies. Here, before the shuttered amusements of the quiet landscape a vivid, happy winter swimmer frolics in the surf, weightless and alive. Her beach umbrella boasts icicles - and while such an accessory is unlikely to be carried by a seasoned Polar Bear, we have seen frost on at least one swimmer's hair! Three stray spectators in heavy coats are left behind on the sand - a scene that continues to this day.

Here is a close up of the seafoam-laden waters, complete with metallic accents. The blend of blues, greens and greys of the ocean is a hell of a lot of fun to illustrate.

Familiar buildings and amusements, past and present, are shown in the background - the Parachute Jump, Steeplechase Park, the Thunderbolt, Stauch's Baths, the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone - as well as a couple of small concessions. Even the structures that have stood the test of time seem like tangible phantoms - living relics from a magnificent era in popular culture.

And so, Greetings, and wishes for a Brisk and Blissful season indeed!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Veritable Buffet

Tonight, I'd like to share a healthy handful of spot illustrations that I created for the clever cookbook, "Quickies for Couples", written, and currently under revision by, Katy Scott. This charming book centers around speedy recipes for two, and features a range of flavor palates and, once re-released, a hearty selection of illustrations by Yours Truly. I had a fantastic time coming up with playful pieces to suit many of the recipes, as you'll see - for example, here is one for Fish Tacos:

As well, here we have Classic Potato Salad, inspired by Grant Wood:

For the Cajun connoisseur, a surefire hit would be Meuniere Sauce:

Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese is always a delight among many species:

As well, Beer Bread is a great favorite, Oktoberfest season or not:

We can't overlook the delights of Mexican Tortilla Soup:

Perhaps a French vegetable dish is more your style:

And finally, there is Orange Pork - a happy pig with a full belly is a pleasant way to round out a great feast.

With luck, the revised edition of "Quickies for Couples" will be released in 2016 - in the meantime, have a look at the book's website, linked below. Happy Eating during this holiday season, and throughout the year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Two Charmers

It's that time again - New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and that means just one thing - Another Poster for the Orchestra. This time around, I decided to let a sea lion play the starring role, balancing a ball upon his nose, ushering in the year 2016.

The usual parties are in attendance - linear lettering, metallic inks, plenty of shading and fun with color. It's a bold design, as confident as the traditional jazz played by the Singapore Slingers themselves.

For good measure, a nice close up of our main attraction, suitably attired in a sort-of-tux, appropriately fitted to his sinuous shape. As always, our New Year's Eve performances are a heady blend of elegance and tomfoolery - as such, this is a perfectly representative poster!

And now, allow me to introduce... Miss Luxe. She was designed for www.savoirluxe.com - a wonderful, Dallas-based consignment service that specializes in high-end designer clothing and accessories. The company's owner/director is the marvelous Mindy Loll, who is a force unto herself! She saw a small display of my prints at Vintage Martini, the Dallas vintage and designer clothing boutique, and immediately commissioned a "flapper, with touches of gold and silver". Miss Luxe will help represent SavoirLuxe, and I couldn't be happier about it.

 Miss Luxe's gold and silver elements are rendered in mica-based ink - the beading of her gown, plumage and champagne coupe are redolent with it.

Two new projects to finish off the year, with more around the corner. As you'll see in the coming days, there have been other pieces, as well - vivid, eclectic, playful and pleasing. You'll enjoy what's ahead.

To visit the fantastic shop now carrying my prints, see www.vintagemartini.com

For more information on Mindy Loll's company, please visit www.savoirluxe.com

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Earthly Music

I have long been meaning to create a simple illustration centering around mermaids - yes, another tribute to my beloved ocean.  In this case, however, things are just a little less salty, and a touch more brackish... I went for a Cajun bent, and created "Zydeco Mermaids".  In a household filled with the presence of accordions, I adore this genre of music - and what better way to celebrate it than via the benevolence of mer-people?  A fiddle, accordion and spoons (played on scales, of course) constitute this aquatic performance - just enough to attain the sound.  I would imagine that there is at least one vocalist... or however mermaids express themselves so.

Any zydeco group worth its salt has an accordion in the mix.  In this case, I had to do some light research (courtesy my husband, Matt Tolentino) in order to understand the appearance and workings of the diatonic "button box" instrument, that creates the characteristic sound of zydeco.  They are smaller accordions, and have a marvelous guttural tone - they also tend to be quite colorful, their casings trimmed in gold.

And where would a Cajun band be without the fiddle?  Our lady seems lost in quite the pleasant reverie, perhaps playing a waltz.  You can see the ridged spines I gave to my mermaids - recalling bayou alligators, truly fascinating primal creatures that grace the region.

Finally, a detail to show the joyous shades and light play of the fins - enhanced with mica ink, of course.  I wanted to capture colors reminiscent of earth, as well as the deeper waters of the sea - terra cotta, celadon, teal and kelp were my goals.  and though the reptilian spines end in a point, the transition from reptile to fish is captured by the grace of the fins.  I live for drawing long, fluid lines, and these fins were downright euphoric to create.

In other news, it's worth mentioning that I now have a Facebook page for the illustration work, as well as an etsy shop.  Both are linked below - join/follow on the former, and watch the latter for additional print runs.  As always, Thank You!



Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Coming of the Cold

The cooler months are in the arrival process, and I couldn't be happier.  Granted, we had an uncharacteristically mild summer, which is an enormous blessing in the often vicious heat of Texas.  But nothing reminds me of home - whether the Mid-West or East Coast - quite like the onset of the fall season.
And while most folks anticipate the colors, vistas, scents and such most often associated with this time of year... turning leaves, campfires, woolen blankets, tweeds, cider, etc, etc, etc... my mind turns to one thing.

Winter swimming.  Yes, I have mentioned this activity - part daredevil feat, part spectator sport, part spiritual experience, in total a source of sheer delight for those so inclined.  A drawing documented earlier, featuring hippocampi flourishing in the icy surf, captured a sense of the adventure - in this case, I created a piece for Zelda Magazine, focused more on a brave Art Deco maiden, exploring the frigid breakers in high style.

Jade, teal, violet, sage, celery, parrot green, bronze, yellow ochre... so many colors are incorporated in the effort of representing the waters of Coney Island in the wintertime - the shade is anything but blue.  Rather, the tones of a thriving, healthy ocean rule the season - as one of my dear Polar Bear brothers often states, "The Medicinal Waters of Coney Island".  He couldn't be more correct.  The saltwater surrounds you, invigorates you, embraces and heals you.  Nothing less.

Boots!  Many of the Polar Bears, myself included, insist on neoprene boots and gloves - they protect the extremities and associated digits.  I'll never forget an ill-considered swim one October day - as it was early in the season, I figured the water would be balmy enough that my hands could easily withstand the temperature.  Not so much - my typically graceful hands were temporarily transformed into claws, and it took nearly half an hour to change out of my bikini, and into street clothes.  As such, I thought it considerate to let this sensuous creature have an elegant set of boots and gloves, with which to enjoy her swim.

A little close-up of our friend's face, and one of her ravishing gloves.  I do own (and wear) a wool suit not unlike this one, though I have not taken a saltwater dip so attired.  As a preservationist, I'm a bit too strict to subject such a treasure to the roiling waves - besides, I prefer bikinis, as they let you feel the temperatures all the more.  Crazy?  Perhaps - but I miss it terribly.  I never felt so healthy in all my life, as when I was swimming each week, all winter long, at Coney Island.

To Zelda, of which the upcoming Fall/Winter issue is due very, very soon.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Heaven's Feathers - a Blessing, To Say the Least

Good morning, friends - and welcome back to my oft-neglected blog!  As ever, life has gotten in the way of updating this most important journal - but I do have good news, and new drawings, to share.  Today, I want to talk about "Heaven's Feathers", which has been quite a journey unto itself.

I recently joined the marvelous world of "Zelda:  Magazine of the Vintage Nouveau" - a marvelous publication out of my old stomping grounds - New York City.  This magazine has a beautiful history, having been founded by Diane Naegel.  Hers was a life of great creativity and community among the vintage scene, cut tragically short by breast cancer.  Zelda is only part of her legacy, and I am thrilled to contribute as an illustrator.  Their spring issue is due out soon, and, with editor Don Spiro's blessing, I would like to offer a sneak preview of my first piece for the publication.

Interestingly enough, "Heaven's Feathers" was inspired by a brief, misguided friendship, during which I once asked the party, "Give me a color - any color."  Formal green and grey was the response, and I instantly thought, "Ostrich".  I knew that I wanted the illustration to reflect the jazz era, and what better way to make that happen than through a streamlined lady, replete with feathers?  Done and done - and thus, both tones could be incorporated.  Let's have a closer look or two at those abstract plumes...

Whorls and curls aplenty, with the usual layering of metallic ink and colored pencils...

And, of course, a close-up of the animal in question.  I have a fetish for illustrating feathers, and researching ostriches in detail was a fascinating experience.  Like all birds, the variety of colors and silhouettes among their feathers is staggering... and they have some INTERESTING feet.

I love this piece based on its own visual merits, as well as for its role as my first piece in Zelda.  But taken further, it marks my healing from a hand injury that will likely affect me for many years.  A nasty fall taken while dancing with an intoxicated partner on New Year's Eve left my right hand with a torn finger ligament - a terrifying situation for any artisan.  Thankfully, routine exercises, and the counsel of several deeply caring specialists at the hospital, have helped my hand to recover.  Granted, there is pain on a daily basis - but this piece proved to me that I can still draw just as steadily as ever, and that is, indeed, my idea of Heaven.  Lesson learned:  Choose your dance partners, and confidantes, wisely.

To finish, a shot of my desk - a beautiful 1940s set that we rescued from a hoarded estate sale situation.  Now scrubbed within an inch of its life, it houses my supplies, as well as all and sundry Ganeshas, Beardsley images, Coney Island goodies, family photos, Waterford remnants, Polar Bear Club souvenirs, etc, etc... keepsakes of a life well lived.