Thursday, August 12, 2010

Trout Live in Truly Amazing Places

I'm sorry for the delay in posting another entry on my blog but we have been very busy around Whitefish and Libby.
Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of this week Sharon, Sara, Jay and myself took a short trip to the Philipsburg, MT area. It was an absolutely wonderful experience for me. I got my first chance to fish Rock Creek in an area about 25 miles from the town. The creek itself is considered one of Montana's Blue Ribbon streams, making it one of the best in the country!
     We headed south to Missoula and got on Interstate 90 east(If you take it far enough east you'll end up on the NYS Thruway) to Drummond, then south on US 10A to Philipsburg. At Philipsburg we turned onto Rock Creek Rd.(MT Rte 348) and traveled west for about 15 miles, until the pavement ended and the road came to a Y. We turned left at the Y onto Co Rd 102. The landscape seem a little barren and is rolling mountain terrain with many pines of different sorts. Once we reached the stream the landscape closed in but was very scenic.

Trout really do live in amazing places...

This rock wall drops to the stream which is behind the line of trees at the bottom of the picture.

     We were invited there by Sara's great friend, Shannon Ostrowski, whose family owns this beautiful cabin on the creek about 10 miles up the dirt road and a short walk from "Huffman's Hole" on the stream.

They also own these great little bunk houses for guest like us. Sara and Jay used the top cabin, Sharon and I were in the middle one and Shannon was in the bottom. There was plenty of space for all our gear and a nice comfortable bed. The cool mountain air was especially good for sleeping.

This picture shows a small portion of the trail leading to the stream. Shannon told us that at certain times of the year, Spring especially, the creek runs very high and overflows the banks. This is a small bridge for one of those overflows.

As I emerged from the trail through the woods, this is the sight I was greeted by. Not too shabby a scene to look at.

The 2 larger pictures show the views upstream and down. There were lots of opportunities to fish around the small channels entering the main stream. Most of my time was spent in the areas of the upper left picture. You can see the clarity of the water in the lower left picture, sparkling clear. Sharon caught me casting in the other picture above.

     In this section it is common to find Cutthroats, Rainbows, Cutbows (a hybrid) and Brown trout. The majority of my catch was the Brown Trout but I did land several Cutbows and a very colorful Cutthroat Trout. I used lots of different flies but I did best on a size 16 Elk Hair Caddis. Size 14 and 16 beadhead Hares Ears nymphs, beadhead Prince nymphs and San Juan worms worked well below the surface. I also got lots of short strikes on hopper patterns and Orange Stimys. I landed 15 to 20 fish during my fishing time and lost at least that number as well. The size ranged all the way from a whopping 4" up to 14". The best fish I caught was on the "Night Bite" with an Elk Hair Caddis. It was really just luck because at that time of day and low light conditions, you can't see your fly on the water. If you see a rise in the general area you think your fly is in you must strike and hope for the best. It was an 18" Brown Trout which was in full color. What a fish!
     The most unfortunate part of my fishing experience was that I came back with no pictures of the fish I caught. The stream is VERY slippery. As a result, I didn't want to take the chance of taking my camera out on the stream and then go for an unexpected swim.

We had a great time on Rock Creek and Shannon and her Grandparents were the most gracious of hosts. They really made our time there special and most memorable!

On our way back to Whitefish we made a quick stop in the town of Philipsburg at the most incredible candy shop called The Sweet Palace. If you can think of a type of candy they made it. I thought we were in the Montana branch of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. Of course, we had to take home our share and buy Johnny a gigantic gummy snake, red licorice scotty dogs and a supply of multicolored candy dots.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beauty in Very Small Packages

A couple days ago we went to Blankenship, again, to fish. What a surprise! About 5 miles out of Columbia Falls and doing about 70 (the speed limit in Montana IS 70mph), I happened to spot several clusters of Indian Paintbrush. I know, going that speed I should keep my eyes glued to the road. They were very close to a spring that is along side the road and spouts gallons of crystal clear water constantly. There were a few cars behind us so I decided to stop on the way back from fishing.
     I had to do this to take advantage of an unusual sight this year. We haven't seen many wildflowers yet. As a matter of fact, the previous evening, I read an article in the Daily Interlake at Kristen and George's house about that very issue. The thinking of experts is that because they had such a late, wet and cold spring this year the wildflowers are either late to bloom or will not bloom as prolifically as in past years. The article also mentioned that the Beargrass is not expected to make its usually showy appearance either because it was a banner year last season. Beargrass plants bloom approximately every 7 years, so we may have to wait awhile before we see it again, at least in the Whitefish area.
     So, I felt I had to take the inspiration of the small cluster of blossoms I did see and do another painting. We are going to Libby later today and may see more over there. I can only hope.
     More to come...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Watch Mom AND Your Step

It doesn't happen very often, but I was in the right place at the right time! Traffic was stopped for the never ending construction on Going to the Sun Road and this young mountain goat was standing on a cliff next us. It is shedding its winter coat. It's amazing how these creatures are able to move with such agility in an unforgiving environment. There are lots of these animal in Logan's Pass and surrounding areas. They seem fearless around the huge number of humans who invade their home every day during the summer months when the road is actually open.

     Being such a great sight and pose, I knew I had to do a drawing of this cooperative little creature. So, here it is.
     More to come... 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Trip to Logan's Pass

 After getting rained out on Monday, Sharon, Sara and I returned to Glacier National Park July 20th. I took lots of photos, mostly of scenes that I've seen many times before. But, no matter how many times I visit, I am still awed and inspired by the phenomenal beauty of this place.

At the foot of Lake McDonald viewed from
Apgar Village looking to the northeast.

5 miles
up Lake
on the southeast shore.

Lake McDonald Lodge
     Insets include the dock with sightseeing boat on the lake, hanging baskets in front of the lodge and the classic "Red Jammers" which carry sightseers into the park.

The General Store on
the way out of the Lake
McDonald Lodge area

On the way to Logan's Pass
     This is one of the spectacular vistas seen along Going to the Sun Road through the park. The lower road can be seen in the distance in the middle right of this picture, as it snakes around the mountain.

At Logan's Pass looking approximately east
     The yellow flower is the Glacier Lily. It is one of the first flowers to appear after the snow melts. It covers most of the high alpine fields right now. Other colors are appearing as well but not as dominant as this small blossom. The inset shows the specimen more clearly.

Pink Mountain Heath
This is another interesting plant that is showing tiny, colorful blossoms not yet in full blossom. The color combination in this early stage makes it appear almost black in the distance.

Ground Squirrel at Logan's Pass
   These tiny critters are always looking for a handout. They continually put on a show for humans visiting the area. This little guy was a very cooperative model but I don't think it appreciated our presence.


High alpine sparrow
     This little bird hopped back and forth from bare earth to snow and was not afraid of people. It stay near my feet for a long time looking for food. It's a bit larger than the more familiar English Sparrow. 
I haven't identified it yet.

These are a few of the sight from our trip up to Logan's Pass. We will be going again some time during the next 2 weeks to see how things have changed. The snow will melt, the flowers will bloom in different colors and the temperature will rise. I will post these sights later.
     Tomorrow, look for a drawing of a special little friend we saw...

Monday, July 19, 2010

So Many Sights...Not Enough Time!

So, this past week we drove to Libby to get my eyes checked and fitted for new glasses by my friend, Terry. I had a chance to fish the Kootenai and had GREAT luck. It's a really huge river. The first day I caught 15 rainbows all the way from a gigantic 4 inch frantic fighter to a most respectable 16 incher. The following day I landed 4 rainbows from 12" to 16". The most troubling part was that both times I was alone and unable to photograph the fish. Maybe next time someone will be along to do that for me.

 Good for me that there is wonderful visual information in front of my eyes every day. It's difficult to decide what to record first. I think my next few drawings and paintings will be of wildflowers in this part of the country. Almost everywhere I look, I see lots of flowers. In front of businesses, hanging from almost every porch or deck, I've seen all the flowers one might see at home in New York state.
     Along the highways, on trails and in all the fields I'm starting to see many of the beautiful wildflowers I don't see at home. On our regular walking path by the river we see lots of wild roses. Even though we have some varieties in New York, this is the subject of my latest painting.
     Yesterday Sharon and I went for a short drive to Glacier National Park. All the way from Apgar Village to Lake McDonald Lodge, along the edge of the road we saw many Indian Paintbrushes in full blossom. Tomorrow I hope to get some good photos of this very interesting flowering plant, and travel Going to the Sun Road up to Logan's Pass. There, I'll also be able to get photos and drawings of some of the high alpine flowers. The best part is taking the shuttle buses so I can actually see the sight along the road. In years past, it has always been a "white knuckles" drive with my eyes glued to the road ahead of me. There was never a good opportunity to sight see.

More to come...    

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Getting Down To Serious Business...

Yesterday started out GREAT! Our daughter Sara stayed with us over the weekend and had Monday off too. We drove to Blankenship which is the area where the North Fork and Middle Fork of the Flathead river meet. The confluence forms the Southwest corner of Glacier National Park. It's one of my favorite places to fish near Whitefish because I can wade the area easily and there is also great parking. This is a prime area for float trips and fishing trips to take out. Upstream and down are away from the crowds and hold good numbers of cutthroat trout. They're not too big, but very cooperative.

    About a half dozen rafts and boats floated by during the time we fished. You get to see all sorts of people coming down the river. Some serious, some not so much. Most are just having a wonderful time full of fun. Three of the boats were loaded with fisherman who had just floated the North Fork. They looked serious! One kid did a great job of slapping the water with every cast. It looked like the guide was glad to take out just downstream from us. In another boat the guy in the back actually had a fish on, but I don't think he actually landed it. Too bad for them!

    Sara and I fished and Sharon knitted. Very enjoyable! The water is still VERY cold but I stepped in anyway. About an hour was enough to make my toes numb so I got out and let them warm up. I did this a couple times. But, this was enough time to get a bit of action from those sneaky little cutthroat trout. It takes some time to get my timing right so I missed a few rises to my flies. I started with a Prince Nymph and only got one hit. It was probably the tiniest trout I have seen there. It was so tiny that when I struck on the take, I pulled it totally out of the water. It must have been all of 3" long! That little guy got off immediately because of the slack that was left in my line. Too bad for me! Then I switched to an Elkhair Caddis. I made a couple casts and one took my ball of fuzz. This trout I actually landed and it turned out to be about 9". After a few more casts I switched flies again and tied on a Yellow Sally. I fished this one for quite a while getting many rises and a few half hearted takes. Finally a 10-11 incher finally took it with conviction and I landed this on as well. Both of those small fish were very good fighters and I had a lot of fun on my first outing on the river. In my drawing you can see an Elkhair Caddis fly in the lower right and a Yellow Sally (Parachute style) above, between the 2 rods.
     Tomorrow Sharon and I are going to Libby. I'll have an eye exam by my friend Terry who had to put me off for a week because of some lame excuse. He was going to Alaska to fish! I guess for a fisherman that is a pretty good excuse for not working! I hope my new glasses allow me to see my flies easier. I hope they work because the fish are bigger on the Kootenai river.
     More to come...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On Our Daily Walk...

In the morning, sometimes 8AM, sometimes 9AM, sometimes...well, whenever we feel like it, Sharon and I take a walk from our condo. It takes us through about 2 1/2 to 3 miles of great views of Whitefish. We walk near several ponds and along the Whitefish river.
     There are a lot of marshy areas with loads of cattails and long grasses around the water. The first day we were here I saw several blackbirds I have never seen before. They are a bit larger than Redwing Blackbirds but with many of the same characteristics. As it turned out, they are named, of all things, Yellowheaded Blackbirds.
     So I decided to do a small watercolor of the bird sitting on a new shoot of a cattail at the edge of one of the larger ponds we walk around. I don't really do much watercolor but I thought this a good opportunity to brush off some of the cobwebs to see if I still had the skill. I think the painting is passable, but I have considerable brushing up to do! I'll give it another try as time goes on here.
Fishing is on hold for a few more days because the water is still running very high because of the late winter snows and heavy rain in June. It's hard to find a good spot for wading. The guys at the fly shop said the action is starting to pick up. The water is also pretty darn cold too.

More to come...

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Welcome to the NEW West

It's July 4th and it's about time I start working again. I plan to post at least 1 drawing per week for the next 7 weeks featuring the sights around Whitefish and Libby, Montana.
     We arrived in Montana on June 30th after altered travel plans but we did make out very well with the air line. It seemed like almost all flights on United were overbooked!
     The view of this picture is directly out the back door of our condo. I was interested to see the great view looking toward Glacier National park. There it was, beautiful as ever, but this year there were a lot more clouds and rain on our arrival than in past years. Cooler too! I had my eyes set 20 miles east.
     As I took in more of the scene, closer to where we are staying, I saw an open field with a home and barns. The gate is directly across the road, not 75 feet from our building. Just beyond I saw a large solar collector at a Y in the drive. I thought this was a very interesting composition and one that indicated the desire of folks in the Flathead Valley to use renewable resources. During the summer there are hot, sunny days most of the time and this piece of equipment will be most useful. It's also interesting that the gate is remote controlled. Maybe energy from the solar collector operates the opener.
    That's all for now, with hope there will be many more drawings to follow.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Aviator Letter Box

It's great to be able to make a piece of sculpture that is out of the ordinary for me and something that pushes me like the old days to meet outrageous deadlines.
   The "Aviator" is really a glorified letter box I did for Frank Cost, who is acting Dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences at RIT. He's a great guy with a wonderful sense of humor and will be leaving his post as Dean and returning to the School of Printing, most likely, in the upcoming school year.

The inspiration for the piece comes from Frank's love of anything aviation and his interest in one of the wooden sculptures I did a few years ago entitled "My Big Heart". See right.

Because of the tight deadline (3 days, including my regular teaching load!), I wasn't able to completely finish the piece even though I put in 2 VERY LATE nights. The flier has the start of a helmet and goggles, but the helmet has no straps and he is obviously missing a scarf. The scarf and straps most certainly should be flapping in the breeze like you can see in my original sketch. The clouds were not originally part of the plan. They became a necessity to hide the lower legs and feet that I did not finish. The piece is made out of a variety of materials, most of which are covered with small pieces of newspaper glued on with matte medium. The basic materials are cardboard, wood, aluminum screen and rigid blue insulation foam. The final size was determined by the size of the box. It had to be big enough to hold 8.5"x11" paper. So it is finally about 25" tall.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Working process for completing a spread in my Pop Up book, Spread 8, "Going Home"

 The working process for all spreads is basically the same. I generally start with an idea or story line and then visualize the scene with all narrative elements necessary to tell part of the story that will appear on any particular spread. To accomplish this segment I begin by doing lots of small, thumbnail sketches to formulate the picture space. This gives me the opportunity to consider many different directions from which to view the scene.
   During this phase of the process I think of myself as a camera. I mentally move myself to any location in the scene I feel will give me an interesting view. My eyes (the lens) see the space and my brain records the picture. To get a "print" of the image I visualized, my brain processes the picture through my hands, onto a piece of paper in the form of a drawing.
  The drawing can be a very rough sketch I can produce very quickly, or one that is more finished I can show to a client for approval. By doing very rough sketches for myself, I can look at many different alternatives in a short period of time. This gives me the time to consider the way I am portraying space and the importance I give to the various picture elements. I also think about how the placement of objects convey the idea I'm working with as well as how the eye of the viewer will move throughout the composition. By doing rough sketches I can also make adjustments, either slight or major, as I do successive variations.

You can see in the spread of the eagle flying up to its nest, the rough drawing shows the basic elements and their placement. This sketch is the result of do many smaller and way rougher versions. While working on this tighter sketch I gathered photographs of the different objects contained in the picture. I located many pictures of eagles in flight, eagles nests, eagle chicks in nests, different species of trees, overhead photos of the location and my own reference photographs of the actual location. Using reference photographs is essential to producing work which is accurate and believable.
   You can also see that the drawing also takes into account the relative size of the pages and flaps that will be included in the book. I also think about what elements will rise up from the page as the spread is opened.
   Based on this sketch and placement of objects I can start to think about the pop up mechanicals that can be used to make the spread three dimensional when it is opened by a reader.

Making the objects pop up is a trial and error process. It can also be very frustrating and time consuming. I use David Carter's book, "The Elements of Pop Up" as a bible for making pop ups. The examples in his book are just the starting points for making decisions about what may or may not work.

   Most movement and energy is gained by opening and closing the pages. The basic mechanical giving the eagle life is a small tent behind the body of the bird. This is accomplished through what is called the rough cut dummy. Parts are added and, or modified to make the bird look accurate. You can see in the closer look, that there are lots of small pieces taped on a larger piece.

   Behind the short flap is the nest which is based on opposing angles. The nest with the eagle chicks actually twists to open and then close into the flattened space between pages. Again, lots of trial and error resulted in the rough cut dummy.

After all the mechanicals have been perfected and I know they work as planned, I'll progress on to making a white dummy which is a more precisely produced working model. You can see in the picture below, parts are cut cleanly and there are no parts that have been taped together. To achieve this, the perfected rough cut dummy must be carefully disassembled and recreated on a single sheet of paper adding all glue tabs and score lines. Angles, scores, slots and tabs must be plotted with precision in order for the white dummy to work properly. The result you see is the perfection of a model that actually works and resulted in a small hill of discarded attempts that did not work.

Now that the white dummy has been prepared and is working as intended, this final illustrations can be rendered. For this project I'm creating the initial renderings as black and white pencil drawings. The first drawing I did was the overall background with the trees, river, bridge and figures standing next to the pick up truck. This drawing was scanned and opened in Photoshop to add color. The technique is to start by silhouetting various objects which will be saved for future use as digital friskets. They are created as channels. The various channels can be turned on and off at will to protect excluded areas from the colorization I need to perform. Below is the original pencil drawing and the resulting colorized version.

In addition to the background there are many other parts that have to be made and assemble into the other elements of the spread. All are originally illustrated in pencil and colorized using the same technique described above. Below are individual parts necessary to complete the eagle and nest with the eagle chicks. This function becomes something of a jigsaw puzzle, trying to fit pieces together to economically utilize the paper stock that will be printed.

The final picture in this series is the assembled working color dummy. The color prints were made on my Epson 1280 printer using bright white International Papers Accent Digital Opaque. I used 65lb. and 80lb. cover weight paper stock. It's a nice smooth sheet and prints well for making dummies. It's also strong and scores well.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Rough Spreads in pencil

Spread titles top to bottom:
1. Off to the River
2. Lookout for that Deer!
3. Beginning the Hike
4. Hurry up Grandpa!
5. Fishing the River
6. Snatched!
7. Almost back to the Truck
8. Going Home

From these drawings I'll start developing ideas for the pop ups mechanicals and begin piecing together very rough dummies of what the working spreads might look like.

Development of my pop up book so far

I am writing, illustrating and engineering a pop up book. The illustrations highlight the sights Johnny and Grandpa see on a day trip and hike to the Flathead river near Glacier National Park. Pictures include magnificent Montana scenery while eagles, native cutthroat trout, moose, wildflowers and bears populate the pages. My story is all about closely observing nature in all its magnificence. But, beautiful as nature might be, wild creatures must sometimes behave instinctively in order to survive in their environment. This is a hard lesson for a young boy to learn. In the final spread Johnny comes to understand the eagle that stole his fish is really a mother providing food to her young. 
   My pop up book has eight spreads and minimal text. There's a surprise behind a flap on each spread. Storyboards are roughly sketched to disclose Johnny and Grandpa's complete hike.  The illustrations are rendered in pencil and digitally colored. The style is very realistic with lots of detail in anatomy, botany and authentic locations.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What I Do

I have been a professional artist and teacher for over thirty years. I came from a small town not known as a center for creative activity, but one where a strong work ethic and sense of accomplishment prevailed among the hard working population. Coupling the notion of hard work, a creative outlook, flexibility and a desire to approach projects from a different point of view, allowed me to begin a successful career in art. 
   These experiences have provided me with the rare opportunity to interact successfully with a broad spectrum of commercially proficient professionals and students working in a variety of media ranging from traditional painting, drawing and sculpture through current digital manipulations. Additionally, my own studies and experimentation have provided me the practical knowledge and understanding of what makes great composition, proper contrast, technical skill, work ethic and craftsmanship. The blend of these attributes and a driven desire to create can contribute to the generation of wonderful works of art.

I am an Associate Professor of Illustration in the School of Art at Rochester Institute of Technology. I earned my MFA degree from Syracuse University and have been in the illustration and graphic design business since 1974 with the majority of my experience as a studio owner. My specialty as an illustrator is three-dimensional. My work is produced as relief sculpture in paper or mixed media and then photographed with lighting to reveal the textural qualities of the materials I use. As an illustrator, the subject matter I deal with varies widely and is dependent on the needs of my clients. 
   My work has been commissioned by clients including Kodak, Xerox, Mobil, DuPont, Holt Rinehart and Winston, Citibank, Federal Reserve Bank, Dunn and Bradstreet, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, Nalge Company, Time, Habitat for Humanity and Fisher-Price Toys.
   My dimensional illustrations have been exhibited in shows including the Society of Illustrators and the Dimensional and Digital Illustrators Awards Show. I served as a member of the board of directors for ICON4 (the Illustration Conference) during 2005 in San Francisco and serve as a member of the Board of Directors of Wayne County Council for the Arts, Inc. In the Fall of 2007 I was curator of an exhibition at RIT entitled “Pop Up Books: An Interactive Exhibition” featuring the mechanics, creativity and production of commercially produced Pop Up books.
   Currently, I am thinking about Montana and working on my own Pop Up book. Very soon I'll be doing as much fly fishing as humanly possible.