Rob Dunlavey
March 2011
Playing with Bears
Winter's over; time to wake up!

Just going for a little walk

The stars are brilliant

The amazing Aurora Borealis.

Hmmm… a city!

The welcoming committee!

Playing in a fountain!

What the…?

Inscrutable. He didn't respond. He just kept staring at that rock.

Some people are strange. It's still winter. Maybe when Spring rolls around, I'll come back and figure out why he just stared at that rock. That's it. You want more? These things take time!

Early one morning last weekend, the cat sleeps in my usual chair so I sit on the floor with my coffee and start cutting up old envelopes. I've been working with this bear lately. He's pretty reticent and it's difficult to get him to tell me what's going on and what's important --from a bear's point of view. I was able to take some pictures while he wandered around.
I'll keep working at it.
He wanders rather aimlessly; just following his nose. I bet once he figures out that Spring is here for good, he will jump for joy and life will assume its usual meaningful direction.

Photochroms at the LOC
The good old days on view at the Library of Congress.
Algiers, lighthouse in moonlight
Photochroms were purchased singly and in albums as travel souveniers at the turn of the century. The LOC has over 6000 images in its collection.
I find these images poetic, surreal, inspiring and ultimately melancholic like a Life that accrues and collects about you and is then blown away like leaves before the wind. Where did the world of these images go? Or did it only exist in the eyes of the retouchers and the collectors of such ephemera? And if this is less than temporary, where will your output (collected by no one except maybe Google) be in 100 years —at the turn of the next century? Will it be in some silicon fortress or in the dust orbiting the rings of the planet formerly known as Earth?
Perhaps these charming images predict a mysterious disaster and a subsequent benefit event at which we will not be present. Today (not always or forever) I believe that these are dark and anxious days.
(You can find out how photochroms were made here. Read and be humbled; we stand on the shoulders of a multitude of anonymous giants!)
Bonne chance!
A disclaimer

Dieppe, FRANCE

Ghent, Palais de Justice
Paris, Worlds Exposition 1900
Paris, Republique
Algiers harbor
Drawing Nature
I've always thought that the only difference between illustration and what we call fine art is where the text comes into the process. In illustration, presumably, the text comes first. It's usually accompanied by a third party who desires an image to accompany a text. Fine art, on the other hand, precedes text. It flows out of a different set of desires and assumptions.
Yet, as a illustrator who blogs, the images come first — like fine art. Some of you may have some thoughts you need to get off your chest and you write them down. Then you may look for something to go with them. Or you want to describe a recent job and you assemble your collateral images to illustrate your descriptive text.
I've gotten into the habit of doing these life drawings and landscapes I see on my frequent walks near my house. Later, I scan them and the sketchbook is closed until I see something new to draw.
Many of them make it into a nature diary/sketchbook blog I've been more or less faithful to for about a year.
It's not illustration. But it doesn't feel quite like Art. Art is the illustrated life then. I guess I can live with that for the time being.
a roadkill raccoon escorted to the roadside by a snowplow is revealed by the melting snow.

Nearby forest and paths. Media: china marker or litho crayon. approx 8 x 11"

The Charles River in flood the other day. I have a lot of views of this bridge in my "Observations" gallery

3/14/2011: Coots and geese, Lake Waban, Wellesley, MA

Recent BD raves & the Crumb show
I was accosted at the Wellesley Library recently by the librarian in charge of the BD (bande dessinée) section. I've been working my way through the collection trying to educate myself on my tastes in graphic novels. We chatted and he begged me for suggestions for additions to the collection. I suggested Christoph Blain, Joann Sfarr and Gipi (all recommended to me by Leo Espinosa). The librarian thrust a Blacksad collection and, when he understood that I was focusing on European authors, he gave me Jacques Tardi's "It Was The War of The Trenches" to read. Below are a few scans.
To the left is a panel from "Isaac The Pirate" by Christoph Blain. Isaac is an aspiring marine painter who leaves his fiancée and Paris and ships out on what turns out to be a pirate ship. As you can imagine, he's the odd duck in the crew. The captain begrudges Isaac's independence (before fulling losing his own mind) and rages at the artist for not working. I guess you could find a lot of useful metaphors in the tale.
A page from the Blacksad collection. All translated from the Spanish and available from Dark Horse (or, if you're lucky, your local library).

I love all this rendered stuff. It's so different from the style I'm currently working in.

Taking anthropomorphism to a new level: "Blacksad", illustrated by Juanjo Guarnido, author: Juan Díaz Canales
Available from Dark Horse

I'm that guy… can't you feel it? The numb desperation that makes your mind only only on the insane task.

Hell… on Earth :-)

from "It Was The War of the Trenches" written & illustrated by Jacques Tardi.
I had to skim through this classic a few times because the horror of the imagery was too intense. Yup, I'm a serious wimp.

I love the storyboarding and cinema-feel. I imagine that I'm actually watching a movie and am somehow actively involved in the plot as it develops. But I'm very ill-informed about graphic novels and I don't see a lot of movies but I am in awe of this special art form that fuses draftsmanship, composition, drama, graphic wit and power, and the fourth dimension: Time. AND, the time it takes me to come up with sketches for a spot illustration, guys like Tardi have scoped out a whole sequence of war, mayhem, disaster and a resulting terrible truth.
I love the little boxes and how the artists work with them. Sometimes it's big and bold and other times the change is as subtle as a glance around a poker table as the cards get begrudgingly revealed. Blain's "Gus and His Gang" is full of these moments of exquisite timing and revealing hilarity:
from "Gus and His Gang" by Christoph Blain. This is a very complicated and hilarious send-up/love poem to Westerns.

In the midst of chain-reading these books, I found myself in Brunswick, Maine visiting colleges with my daughter. The Bowdoin College art museum has mounted an exhibit of Robert Crumb's "Book of Genesis" original drawings. Crumb is banal and profound at the same time as befits his stature. The 200+ drawings are arrayed around the small-ish gallery and you really must take the time to slowly follow the narrative. Submit. The enormity and uniqueness of his effort slowly sink in. Basically, and contrary to so many readers of scripture, he has actually read it and asked the basic questions an illustrator has to ask to do the job. Page after page, his unstinting hammering and cross-hatching mounts up from the big guy with the beard creating form out of chaos (another artistic metaphor!) to Joseph (who looks nothing like Donny Osmond) and Pharoah and Potipher's lovely wife. The show closes May 8th, 2011.
If you do get up there, you might look up fellow drawgerite Calef Brown. I spent a few hours with him talking poetry, his upcoming books, Art in general & blogging. What a nice guy!
Javier Zabala
Javier Zabala sketchbook exhibit

Cristiana Clerici has conducted and absolutely WONDERFUL interview with the fabulous Spanish illustrator JAVIER ZABALA. Read it here.
reblogged from Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast.
sketches for "Hamlet"

Javier Zabala was born in León, Spain in 1962. He has illustrated over 70 books of poetry and fiction for children.

"During his brilliant career as an illustrator, Javier has undertaken undoubtedly complex works: from the illustrations of Don Quixote, to those for Santiago by García Lorca (for whom he obtained the Mention of Honour at the Bologna Book Fair), to the illustration of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for adults. Amongst others, he has illustrated stories by Melville and Rodari. Let’s say he’s made sure to cover almost all possible experiences! He probably doesn’t have much hesitation when it’s time to take up new challenges; this is an attitude I personally appreciate very much, because it’s symptomatic of a strong will to keep evolving, researching, and studying, something a professional, in my humble opinion, should never abandon. Though united by a thread that resides in his sensitivity, his vision of the world, and in the ability with which he gets to transfer those into images, adapting the language according to the audience he’s addressing, all his books are different."
— from the interview, text © 2011 Cristiana Clerici

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