It's a lonely life...that of the necromancer, er freelancer

A blog by a designer and illustrator, for designers and illustrators which may contain musings on art, movies and random weirdness.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Kitties

My latest painting. It is of our two cats, Pyewackett and Cleo. It was supposed to be our Christmas card this year, but we were too poor to get it printed as a card.  It is painted on a 5.5" x 9.5" wooden panel in acrylic. Maybe we'll use it for our Christmas card next year! Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nemo's Daughter Bookcover

A while back I completed a painting entitled "Nemo's Daughter". I decided to design a bookcover using the image. Now I just have to write it and get it published.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Village Blacksmith

I don't usually post my photography on this blog, but this photo of one of the Pioneer Village blacksmiths, "Mr. Snitch" (Kevin Stirnweis) taken by yours truly during the regular October season at Pioneer Village, Salem, won first prize in the "People and Places" category of the 2011 Essex National Heritage Photo Contest. The link to the contest site is here:

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Chambers of the Cursed" Art

If you read my blog, you know that during the month of October, I was performing in a show called "Chambers of the Cursed" for History Alive! at the Old Town Hall in Salem.
After the end of the run, I decided to do a painting of myself and my fellow cast members as the characters we played in the show. I did the original painting in watercolor and had a limited number of prints made at White Light Digital in North Beverly, MA. Although we each played multiple roles in theproduction, I chose the parts which were most iconic and recognizable.
From left to right are: Armerys Suarez as the banished Quaker Mary Dyer. Myself as Minister George Burroughs of Wells, Maine, former pastor of the First Church in Salem Village and one of the victims of the 1692 Witch trials, Jasmine Myers as Bridget Bishop, the first woman put on trial during the Salem witch trials, and John Chapdelaine, as Roger Williams, banished friend of Mary Dyer and Anne Hutchinson, and founder of Providence, Rhode Island.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Recent Work for the Salem Theatre Company

Here are some recent posters I have done for the STC during October and November.
Salem theater is busy this time of year!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Trustee of Reservations Signs

About this time last year, I did some design work for the Trustees of Reservations. I produced files for about twenty interpretive signs that were going to be installed at various locations around the Crane Estate in Ipswich, MA. The signage was installed this spring, but I never seemed to have time to get up to the estate to take a look. Well my wife and I finally got around to traveling up to Ipswich to check them out in situ. They looked terrific. The Crane Estate is one of my all-time favorite places, and the fact that something I worked on will be part of the landscape there makes me very happy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What I've Been Up To

Since I haven't posted since June, those of you who follow my blog may be wondering what I have been up to. I have been working on several projects including; starting a new business partnership, collateral for the Salem Theatre Company, and a logo design for a nonprofit in Lynn, MA, however, I have been too busy to post about them, because I have been very busy working for History Alive!

The author in costume at Pioneer Village

History Alive! is a public outreach program run by the Institute for Public History, a department of Gordon College, a Christian College located in Wenham, MA. They have a mandate to bring history to the public in a way that is accurate, informative and entertaining. Currently History Alive! leases and manages two properties owned by the City of Salem;
Pioneer Village, a 3-acre recreation of 1630 Salem located at Forest River Park, and the Old Town Hall, located in Derby Square in downtown Salem.

The Old Town Hall is an early 19th-century building that once housed the town's government. It now houses the Salem Museum, a chronological overview of the history of Salem, from it's founding in 1630, to the Great Fire of 1914. Upstairs is performance space for Cry Innocent: The People vs. Bridget Bishop, an interactive recreation of the trial of Bridget Bishop, the first woman brought to trial for witchcraft in the Witch Trials of 1692.

Pioneer Village is a full-scale replica of early Salem that was built in 1930 for the 300th anniversary of the founding of Salem.
I work as both an historical interpreter and tour guide at Pioneer Village, and as a museum guide at the Old Town Hall. Working at the village requires that I dress in 17th-century Puritan clothing (linen shift, wool breeches and doublet, hose, and shoes) and explain the history, structures, food, tools, beliefs and manners of the early Puritans. I enjoy this work both because of my love for history, as well as the ability to work outdoors and interact with people of all ages from all over the world.
The Village is open to the public until the end of October, then closes for the winter, re-opening in the spring.

Filming The True 1692 at Pioneer Village
In addition to being open to the public, Pioneer Village has also served as a location for the filming of several productions including a National Geographic documentary, The PBS series We Shall Remain,
and most recently, The True 1692, a 35-minute film about the Salem Witch Trials. I was recruited along with many other local actors, including, History Alive! and Cry innocent alum.

Chambers of the Cursed cast
I am also rehearsing for a Halloween show called Chambers of the Cursed.
"Walk the dark halls of the Old Town Hall and hear the voices of Salem’s past–cursed and clamoring to be heard. Live actors and interactive media immerse you in tales of murder and betrayal, telling the story of a city still defined by its dark history."
This show is being performed at the Old Town Hall Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings, the last two weekends of October.
I will be back to my regular schedule of design posts by November.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rebel Shakespeare Company Logo

Just completed a new logo for the Rebel Shakespeare Company, a summer theater camp for kids and teens that is based on the North Shore. They have been around for 20 years and yet according to their founder Keri Cahill, have never had an official logo.
When we first met back in April, she told me that she wanted something that would reflect the outdoor and summertime nature of the group. She also wanted to avoid treatments of Shakespeare wearing sunglasses or a bandana, and favored a circular motif. So there are the essential items, Shakespeare, outdoors, kids, circular motif.
With those things in mind I set to work researching and sketching.
First I collected every Shakespeare-related logo I could find, everything from the Royal Shakespeare Company to Shakespeare Santa Cruz. Almost all of them had a stylized portrait of part or all of Shakespeare's face. Although I liked some of these logos very much, this new logo was going to require a different approach.
During my research, I came across several logos and images that caught my eye.
One was this photo of the Shakespeare statue in Central Park.

Another was the logo for the Ithaca Shakepseare Company.

The other was the logo for the Boston Athenaeum, which I ran across on a visit to the Edward Gorey show that was there this spring.

These all started to percolate in my mind. Keri really liked the idea of Shakespeare outdoors, under a tree, possibly reading to a group of children. I tried a couple of quick thumbnails.

Although I liked the basic idea, I could see that the figure of Shakespeare would be difficult to read, or hold together visually, and that this concept would make a better illustration than a logo. So I started looking for ways to render the idea in a way that would be clearer visually. Going back to the Ithica logo, I started looking at trees and tree shapes. Luckily there is tons of reference for trees nearby.

Then I started looking for reference for the figures of Shakespeare and the children.
I found two pieces of public-domain silhouette art by 19th-century German artist Paul Konewka that fit the bill. I liked the idea of using his artwork, as he had produced illustrations for a collected volume of Shakespeare's work in the 1870's, and I liked that historical connection. Plus his work is superb. If you are going to steal, steal from the best.
One piece was of the Pied Piper of Hamlin.

The other was of children dancing in a rural, pastoral scene.

I took the Pied Piper from the first, as I liked his prancing figure, and the dancing children from the second. I isolated them and re-drew them in Illustrator, adding "Shakespeare" details like a ruff collar and a quill to the piper, and eliminating the dog and the uneven ground from the children. I then created a couple of different tree silhouettes and tried various compositions combining all of these elements.

Now the question was, what to do with the type. It was clear that although I liked the non-symmetry of the right hand composition, it made it more difficult to incorporate the text into the image, or drop it into a circle. so I tried dropping knocked-out text into the negative areas above and below the main image.

The one with the text above seemed to work better, but after meeting with Keri, she re-iterated her preference for a circular logo. So I tried dropping the artwork into a circular format, similar to the Athenaeum logo. After trying half a dozen fonts for the text, I settled on AT Handle Oldstyle, a font that was very readable, but had a bit of the flavor of the old-fashioned typeface on the Athanaeum logo.

This seemed to be on the right track, however, there was concern expressed over the figures of the children, that they were so young that they may alienate the older kids and teens who join the group. So I developed the idea of removing the children and replacing their dancing figures with two figures from one of Shakespeare's most popular plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream; Titania and Bottom. Besides being one of my personal favorites, I thought that the figures of Bottom and Titania would be instantly recognizable, and would emphasize not only that the left figure was Shakespeare, but would also highlight both the outdoor setting and magical summertime nature of Rebel Shakespeare productions.
Again, I found more public-domain art by German silhouettist and illustrator, Paul Konewka.

I altered the image somewhat, removing much of Titania's wrapping and replacing it with fairy wings. I added them into the existing composition. I had to alter the foliage on the bottom of the tree to fit in the taller figures.

Now there were two competing logos. As a compromise, I tried some other variations that combined all of the figures, but none of them seemed to work as well.

So Keri did some rudimentary market research and showed both to a group of her former students and directors. They overwhelmingly chose the original composition with the figures of the children.
The next step was to introduce color into the logo. In keeping with the al fresco nature of the group, it was decided that green, would be most appropriate. I selected a dark green Pantone 336, which works well in both solid ink and in 4/C process, with an accent of light green, Pantone 376.
I also worked out several variations for use of the logo, including a version that could be used on a black or dark background, and versions with the type outside of the logo, that would be readable at a small size.

The final package of logos and variations as well as a simple guide to the components of the logo were delivered to the client. The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive.
If I get the time, I may try a version of the logo that is rendered in a style similar to the Athanaeum logo, just for fun.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Another Random Sketch

Sketches from "Cocktail Culture"

My wife Amy and I recently went to the RISD art museum in Providnece Rhode Island. While there we took a tour of their exhibit "Cocktail Culture" which is an exhibit of fashions and accessories associated with the growth of drinking as a social custom. Before prohibition men went out to bars or private clubs to drink. These establishments had an exclusively male clientele and drinking alcohol with a woman in any kind of respectable social setting was unheard of.
After prohibition, drinking and entertaining at home, and in mixed company became a neccessity and over the years, increasingly popular. The fashions reflected this fundamental change in American culture as men and women became more comfortable and indeed celebrated the cocktail.

Since I was unable to take photographs of the exhibition, I did a few quick sketches and made notations while we were in the gallery, and then colored them with watercolor later.
It was a great exhibit and I would recommend making a visit.
The link is here:
The exhibit is open until July 31st.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Latest Projects

I've been lax about postings the last month or so, (partly it is because I gave up Facebook for lent), but I'm going to make up for it with this one long one. I have been very busy.
Recent projects I have been working on:

A logo and website for Stage Soup, a Theater program for kids and teens located in Brookline MA.

Event materials for the Institute of Contemporary Art Party on the Harbor including an HTML e-mail invitation, a promotional postcard and a half page ad for STUFF at night magazine.

Background screens for a production of the musical PIPPIN at the Arts Center at Endicott College.

A Logo and graphic standard for the Essex Coastal Scenic Byway. An 85-mile long scenic route that stretches from Lynn to Newburyport. This work is being done for the Essex National Heritage Commission, which works to promote all of Essex County and the North Shore.

It's been a busy couple of months! Hopefully this trend will continue.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Cleo Painting

Nothing too earth-shattering, just a tiny little painting that I did recently as a gift for my wife, a portrait of our cat #2, Cleo. The painting is only about 3"x 3"on canvas. I post it to remind myself that I can occasionally still paint.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Some Recent Work for STC

One of my regular clients is the Salem Theatre Company. I have been producing various print pieces including large display posters, show identities, and signage for the last 3 years. Here is some of my recent work for them.