Rob Dunlavey
May 2007
It's all Greek to me
Michael Phelps, the unstoppable American swimmer and Olympic athlete
This little drawing popped out this morning and it reminded me how in debt I am to the masters who painted pottery in the Greek world so many ages ago. The draftsmanship and design of Greek vessels are self-assured and beautiful. The black-figure pieces show what an artist can do when he is working the negative space as well as the positive. The line quality of the red-figure designs is precise and fluid.
I love the figure as a shape. I like the relationship it sets up to other figures and objects in the picture's space. I like that the figures are silhouetted.
The subject matter of Greek pottery is generally theatrical. Many of the images illustrate episodes from Greek plays or Homeric epics. These stories were woven throughout all levels of Greek culture. The illustrations tell the stories that tell the people who they are and who they want to be. I think the best art aspires to hold a mirror to the culture as well as point a way into the land of desire.
Finally, I like the un-ashamed necessity of decoration as a vehicle to communicate important truths.
Birthday Boy: Henri Rousseau
The Sleeping Gypsy 1897 (70 Kb); Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 200.7 cm (51" x 6'7"); The Museum of Modern Art, New York
This famous French Customs Officer and painter was born on this day in 1844.
Is "The Sleeping Gypsy" in Chicago? I need to find out because I feel like I've grown up looking at it. Nope, it's in New York. Well, never mind. That picture is taped up in every grammar school art classroom in the Western world. And I don't care how popular and iconic these images are, I still find them inspiring for a few important reasons:
• Just paint darn it! Don't listen to critics.
• There is life after 40. Like many "Outsider" artists, Rousseau didn't start the work he's most remembered for until he was in middle age.
• Keep the work simple: meeting basic needs is a profoundly moving human endeavor. Children remind of this all the time!
WebMuseum, Paris
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Tate Museum
Play before Work
ink, collage
Here's a sketchbook-doodle ogre for your Friday morning. And this makes me think of Shrek. Our local paper gives "Shrek III" a pretty good review. I have found the franchise to be formulaic and artistically bland. Still, a bit enjoyable though. I was spoiled by being able to read, multiple times,  the original picture book by William Steig to my kids. Any subsequent movie version was vastly disappointing …But that's Hollywood.
"rain, tears" ballpoint pen, collage, gouache
It's raining in Boston today so here's some "rainy" mbira music: "Karigamombe". You should hear the experts perform this: it's sublime. My version is just sort of jaunty and crude.
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Karigamombe is  the first song that mbira players usually learn. It's usefullness in establishing contact with ancestor spirits is depended upon in traditional Shona ceremonies. If the musicians are good, the ancestors will come and help the people set things right …and Zimbabwe needs their help --and ours!--now more than ever.
Addendum: There has been some discussion of Shrek in this thread. Barry Jackson did some of the original production and character design for the first movie.  Here are two images from that effort. I like them better (visually) than the Shrek that eventually came out.
The final illustration for the LA Times Sunday Magazine
Last week I worked on a full page illustration for Liz Hale at the Los Angeles Times. I thought I'd share a bit of the process with you because I thought it turned out well.
It was for a humorous editorial article about obnoxious squirrels invading the fruit and nut groves and other, more domestic, suburban environs. What's a homeowner to do when squirrels begin chewing into his cable, telephone and electrical connections?
a variety of sketches. Lately, I've been doing sketches for jobs in my sketchbook so the pressure is on.
The approved sketch (right) started out a bit simpler (left).
The approved sketch. I adjusted it a lot in Photoshop and added value and more details.
When seeing my final draft, Liz Hale, the art director wrote "LOve that BadAsssSquiRrel. don't change a thing!"
I began tracing the basic shapes in Freehand and started adding color and texture. The cross hatching in the tail are strokes sprayed in with nozzle. The actual lines are thousands of separate vector objects.
The drawing on the body and face was done with a custom brush made up of parallel lines of varying thickness..
Layers of blends and colored 1-bit files bound up in an EPS wrapper! Bon gusto!
Lately, I've gotten on the texture bandwagon (it'll run its course I'm sure!). I have created and scanned decalcomania and inked brayer textures and converted them to 1-bit tiffs that I can drop into Freehand and assign colors to. I also create original textures in Painter and Photoshop and use those as well. The half-tone textures are the same basic process: create the gradiant in Photoshop or Freehand,  convert to grayscale and then convert it again as a 1-bit bitmap with a dot pattern. It's fun to layer it all up and mess around. I'm trying to replicate my painting process (or lack thereof!) with a set of digital tools. Not to recreate the paint look but rather to be truthful to the digital tools I'm using. Just use them in a "painterly" way.
My Mom the nun!?
Margaret Kiburtz Dunlavey
Luckily, my mother only portrayed a nun in Frances Polenc's opera "Dialogues of the Carmelites".  I have no idea what year but based on this publicty photo it must have been around 1932 or so.
She was a promising contralto and started getting gigs in churches and other places. At some point she fell in love with my father (he accompanied her on the piano) and they started a whole new adventure and the singing went into hibernation. After having eight kids and homesteading on a farm in what would soon become the suburban sprawl around Chicago, she started back to college to earn a music teaching degree. She died when I was ten years old so I didn't know her that well. I miss her a lot. Happy Mother's Day Mom!
(I have a stepmother and she is "Mom" too! --a fabulous and brave human being)
Happy Birthday Leo Lionni!
Leo Lionni was born on May 5, 1910.
If you haven't seen and been effected in even a small way by his intelligent and playful art you need to go back and reassess your formal and informal artistic education.
profile of Leo Lionni by Steven Heller for the AIGA
• a nice elementary school website
Random House appreciation
• 1997 Smithsonian review of "Frederick's Fables: A Treasury of 16 Favorite Leo Lionni Stories" (Knopf)
• Lionni drawing exhibit 
Today is May 4th
He's happy!
All hail to the Hal - Almighty - Mayforth! He is calendrically un-challenged. Hope everyone's treating you nicely today Hal!
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