Tahoe Activist Artists Fight Back


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I had the pleasure of talking to Shelley Zentner yesterday, a fine artist whose work is clearly steeped into the classic form as embodied by DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and others.

Shelley and other artists living in Northern California’s winter paradise, Lake Tahoe, CA have banded together to show their resistance artistically to the current government’s policies as personified by Donald Trump. The Illustrators Journal’s Gregg Masters was at a recent meeting of the creative group and was inspired and encouraged by this tiny faction of brilliant people who are taking on the powers that be they only way they know how to do it. Through their ART.

Both Gregg and I are looking forward to working with Shelley and the group and look for our up coming coverage of Shelley and the Tahoe Activists Artist Group in the Winter Edition of the Illustrators Journal


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Sometimes you come across information that stops you in your tracks. Such it is with this story about Mac Conner. He is one of the pillars of the modern world of illustration and deserves to be recognized. Here’s some video and a story from Newsworks.

McCauley “Mac” Conner worked as an illustrator during Madison Avenue’s 1950’s heyday, drawing pictures for both advertising and book covers from to romance and crime fiction.

If you’re familiar with HBO’s depiction of the world of advertising ‘Mad Men,’ then you know the era and culture Conner worked in. “Mac Conner was an original mad man in the sense that he worked in advertising and also in illustrations for magazine fiction,” said Mary Holahan, curator of illustration for the Delaware Art Museum.

But don’t call Mac Conner a commercial artist though. “I never liked the word commercial art, I was an illustrator.”

He always drew for a commercial, realist point of view. “My point of view was the way I lived, I never went in for crazy hats and stuff.”

Norman Rockwell was a big influence on his work. “Inspired by his sense of humor and plus his painting of course, he was a great painter.”

Like Rockwell, Mac even landed his work on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. But his work goes far and beyond that milestone.

The exhibit on display in Wilmington covers not just his advertising work, but also his fiction work. The work itself has an almost photographic quality to it. My favorite works were the crime noir illustrations. From the colors to the composition of the pieces these works really jumped out at me.

In fact, color was one of Mac’s trademarks. “Colors are probably the things that attract people the most. It’s very dramatic, it was an important part of his design sense,” Holahan said.

Even more than the color for me was some of the things depicted in the illustrations, gunshots, blood trickling out of a wound, smoking. Yes smoking! Remember the days of flipping through a magazine and seeing people smoking? It was everywhere, billboards and television commercials, even TV shows. It was almost jarring to see the smoking in Mac’s work as I hadn’t seen it in that context since I was a boy.

If you are of a certain age you will definitely get that sense of nostalgia from Mac’s work, but they don’t seem dated. “When we look at them now, we recognize they are from another period, but the color and the composition and all the design elements comprise works of art that speak to us today,” Holahan said.

Wilmington, Delaware is of course the home of illustration through the work of Howard Pyle and his school atteneded by famous students like Frank Schoonover and N.C. Wyeth as well as others. That’s a big reason why the museum feels it is important to host an exhibit like this. “There are compelling reasons for people to value this work because its beautiful but also because its part of a historic tradition,” Holahan said.

This exhibit also afforded me the pleasure of getting to talk to Mac about his work and life. “Certainly its the first experience that I’ve had with an artist of this age whose looking back at work that he did such a long time ago,” Mary said.

For Mac, it’s a joy to see his work front and center for a new generation to view, “Its good to know its still around, it’s good for the ego of course.”

“I look around and see what you’ve accomplished over the years. I can’t even draw a line now, I can’t even draw a line and I look at this stuff and I say how the hell did that guy do it.”

I don’t know how Mac made this body of wonderful and beautiful work, I’m just glad he did, and that I got to experience it with him, if only for a little while.

Artists Need to Reflect And Shine A Light


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What is going on in our country? This isn’t the America I grew up in or at least it doesn’t seem that way. The present leader (I use the term very loosely) of our country is a tragic and distorted abomination of our country’s obsession with winner take all mentality. Somehow he has normalized behavior that is appalling and amoral. As an artist and a citizen I feel compelled to speak out verbally and visually. Hence,..Arnold Grump, gross pig leader of the “United Farmlands”.
Arnold grew out of my daily conversations with my wife, Havi who used to be Tom Hayden’s right hand woman and knows her politics. Our combined frustration gave birth to a character we could use as our voice. There is no other intent other than to show resistance and let other people vent along with us.

Protest artists come from a long line of political satirists (Daumier, Thomas
Nast, James Gillray, Ronald Searle, Conrad, David Levine and Art Spiegelman) To get how powerful an artist can be in the political universe consider Napoleon’s comment about English caricaturist James Gillray , “He did more than all the armies in Europe to bring me down.”

The importance of your own voice cannot be minimized and it is incumbent for every American to study, listen and research what you’re hearing reading and being told. Do not just accept things at face value. This President has made promises to the American public and his base that are not being met and probably never will. That is my opinion and so I ask anyone who reads this to consider being thoughtful and mindful about what is happening and where you stand.

To not comment or to remain neutral is to agree with what is happening.

You have a voice , use it even if you only share it with family. We are free in America to express ourselves. So I implore you speak your truth.

Interview with KID LIT writer/Illustrator Kristi Valiant


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I recently became familiar with Kristi Valiant’s work and how valuable she is to Kidlit. So I thought I’d post her interview and some of her bio on TIJ website. Of course I will try to get her to talk with me for an article in the next issue of TIJ Ezine.

The whimsy and color of her illustrations and the movement of her characters are so appealing and fun you can sense the delight she gets when she goes about her work. I’m so happy to see another user of a computer to do her work. Forward thinking and steep in tradition here’s Kristi’s own bio.

In fourth grade, I got in trouble for drawing too much during class.
After graduating magna cum laude from Columbus College of Art and Design as an Illustration major, I worked in the graphics department at an educational publisher. Now I write and illustrate children’s books.
I wrote and illustrated PENGUIN CHA-CHA (Random House, 2013).
I’ve illustrated the following:
PRETTY MINNIE IN HOLLYWOOD (written by Danielle Steel, Doubleday)
PRETTY MINNIE IN PARIS (written by Danielle Steel, Doubleday)
THE LITTLE WINGS Chapter Book Series (Random House)

Some of my favorite things in life are my husband and daughters, dark chocolate, hot fudge pudding cake, collecting picture books, reading, swing dancing, musicals (especially Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers), monkeys, penguins, and my faith in Jesus.
I grew up in Wisconsin, studied in Ohio, moved to Texas, taught English for a summer in China, and now live in Indiana with my husband, daughters, and a room full of hippos and monkeys. I tend to draw a mouse, hippo, monkey, and penguin somewhere in each of my recent picture books.

I create my art in Photoshop using a Cintiq display and pressure-sensitive pen. I find that working digitally allows me to be creative and edit easily, without the hazard of spilling dirty painting water or drinking it by mistake.


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12:01 – 20 April, 2017 by Patrick Lynch

The words of David Adjaye are so on point in design that it’s appropriate to include this video and article on our site. Whether you’re an illustrator, painter, sculptor or architect his words ring true.

TIME Magazine has named architect David Adjaye to their annual list of 100 Most Influential People, recognizing the world figures who have had the most impact on society in the past year in five categories: Pioneers, Titans, Artists, Leaders, and Icons. Unlike Bjarke Ingels and Wang Shu – who were selected under the Artist category in 2016 and 2013, respectively – Adjaye was nominated in the Icons category alongside champions including media personality RuPaul, subversive photographer Cindy Sherman, and US Congressman John Lewis, the civil rights leader who was the original advocate for a National African American Museum in Washington, which was eventually designed by Adjaye and inaugurated last September.

In the citation for the award, Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem (and currently working with the architect on an expansion project for the museum), describes Adjaye as “one of the great architectural visionaries of our time,” and lauds his work as “deeply rooted in both the present moment and the complex context of history.”

Are These Sands Crabs, Insects or Creatures From Outer Space: Does It Matter?


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This painting is from a children’s book without a home yet. It’s called Emma and Digger. It started out as a sand crab adventure story, yet I fear that since Emma and Digger don’t exactly look like sand crabs that perhaps they should just be little beach creatures and call it a day. I’ve gotten feedback that these are insects or sand crabs don’t look like that.

If you’re working on your own projects I’m sure this has happened to you. You get excited about the work and suddenly after the fact you realize you’ve done something that doesn’t make sense…or does it?

I think sometimes people cannot let go of what their perceptions are to see the bigger picture. Here it’s about losing family and friends and creating your own life and completing the cycle. Not about whether Emma and Digger are sand crabs, insects or from outer space. Thoughts??

End of the Week and What Have You Done?


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This is what I worked on this week. It’s an illustration from my upcoming book about imagination.It’s not done but it’s close enough to show. It started as a sketch of three kids modeled after my daughter’s kids and blossomed into what it is now.

I ask the question of you like I ask the question of myself. What have I done this week, this day, etc Most of the time we are on auto-pilot and don’t think too much about what we’re doing. We have house chores, bills to pay, assignments to complete, kids to take care of etc. The thought of having another goal or task is overwhelming, especially a personal goal. So those goals like I’m gonna write a children’s book or create a painting seems like it can wait.However taking it in small does you can accomplish a lot. That’s how I approached this art and all the other projects I set for myself.

If this resonates with you you may want to read “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy or Small Move Big Change by Caroline Arnold.

Keep up the good work, watch for the Spring Edition of the Journal and much more to come!