Monday, December 5, 2011

Back from Montreuil

I know it's been a bit quiet here at the Secret Blog™lately, but I have been in Montreuil at this year's Salon.  And it was a real humdinger this time!  
I will tell you all about it soon. Patience, young grasshoppers.
A très très bientôt...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I can now finally reveal these illustrations, which were my participation in this year's Ilustrarte Biennale.
I wanted to make this announcement a few weeks ago, to coincide with Ilustrarte's posting the news of the winners and selections for the exhibition. But then it transpired that my illustrations had vanished into the ether—for over four weeks, nobody knew what had become of them! Which in turn precipitated a state of DEFCON3 and a flurry of agitated activity to recover them. Ça m'a mis dans tout mes états!

But:  HAPPY ENDING! Lo and behold, yesterday my images were uncovered, mysteriously returned from their month-long sojourn in the 17th dimension. Welcome back!!!

Anyway, congratulations to all the selected illustrators, and a special 'complimenti' to Valerio Vidali and Simone Rea.  And also to the other participants—this list includes such a lot of wonderful artists, it must have been very difficult to choose just 50.  

The exhibit will open in January 2012, in Lisbon, and from there it will go to Ghent (where I hope to see it) and elsewhere. I'm looking forward to this!

PS.  Merci, les filles, for your sympathy and support...

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carnet de croquis

I got to sketch a bit while I was away...
...this is Rugolo, in the hills above Sàrmede (click to see larger).

Go here, to see a few more of my sketches.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Immagini della fantasia

Le immagini della fantasiathe 29th annual exhibit of children's book illustration—is now in full swing.  I am happy to say that I was able to go to Sàrmede to attend the opening.

The guest of honour this year is Linda Wolfsgruber —indeed there was a mini-retrospective of her work within the overall exhibition, from her earliest picture books to her more recent prints. It was a real treat to see the originals, they are stunning and luminous.

Altogether, over 300 images are on display, by illustrators from all over the world.  Some of the illustrations can be seen here and here.  The theme, as you can see, is Tales from India.

These 300+ images also had work from students and newcomers to the world of children's books, including me.  My illustration (mentioned previously) can be seen in the photo below.  Click here for a closer look at it and other work from newcomers.

All in all, a very good crowd turned out to attend not only the opening but a whole weekend of workshops, entertainments, encounters (including a very thought-provoking panel discussion with half a dozen of the artists), and other events.

Some of the illustrators who were able to make it to the opening weekend included: Simone Rea, Guido Scarabottolo, AnnaLaura Cantone, Alessandra Vitelli, Gabriele Clima and of course Linda — among many others.  Rock stars! ;-) I was also happy to catch up with friends and class-mates whose work was selected in this exhibit, notably Rossana Bossu, Laura Borras, Olga Tranchini and Francesca Zoboli. Good to see all of you...

The exhibit will be in Sàrmede until 15 January, and after that it goes on tour. The details will be on the website, but in general it goes first to other cities in Italy (Rome, Florence, Naples, Bologna for the book fair) and then all over Europe (Barcelona, Vienna, Paris, Stuttgart...) — and beyond (Florida and Istanbul)!!

Catch it if you can — highly recommended (even if I do say so myself!).

PS.  See here for more pics of the opening, and here for a few more views of Sàrmede.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Farewell, Steve Jobs

"..the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did.  You've got to find what you love.  And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers.  Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.

And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.

If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.  And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on.  So keep looking until you find it.  Don't settle."

From the very inspiring commencement speech, Stanford, 2005.  
Full text here... and don't miss the video:

Goodbye —and thanks for everything.

PS. My first computer was an SE-30 (circa 1989) very much like the one in his lap. A pang of nostalgia!!

PPS. More here:
         From WIRED

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Beatrice Alemagna

Beatrice Alemagna has a new book out!

Published by Editions Autrement, it is entitled La Gigantesque Petite Chose. Half poem, half riddle, it is about that enormous but tiny thing* (so hard to define) that we all look for in our different ways. It comes and it goes, it is never where you expect it to be, it is small and fragile and brief and evanescent—and yet looms so large in all our lives. A very beautiful book.

To mark the occasion, there was a one-woman show of her work at Galerie Autrement— called, of course, La gigantesque petite expo — where she was also present for a book signing.  I went along to the opening.

There were many small pieces and a few larger ones, as well as some objects and a few posters.
There were also these shaped paintings, like the one below. Painted on a raw linen canvas, unprimed, unstretched and cut to silhouette, these larger-than-life characters were my favourites!
It was very nice to chat with her for a bit...
...she wrote such a nice dedicace—with a small drawing too! I love it.
Grazie, Beatrice!!
image found on Carnet Imaginaire

PS. Those of you who are in Paris, the show can be seen for another week at Galerie Autrement, 77 rue du Faubourg Saint Antoine, 75011 Paris. They're open Monday through Friday 10:00 to 6:00. (I would call first...)

PPS. Here is a fine little interview with Beatrice, if you want to know more.

*Hint:  "Cette petite chose invisible, et gigantesque pourtant, qu'un jour quelqu'un a appelée bonheur..."

11/7/11, LATE-BREAKING UPDATE:  I just came across this video interview with Beatrice (via Annagrazie!), and I just had to add it to this post.  Very illuminating... enjoy!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tales of India

I have just been informed that my illustration has been selected for Sàrmede's upcoming exhibition, "Le Immagini della Fantasia".
It is one I created while I was at the workshops last summer, under the tutelage of Svjetlan Junakovich.

The theme this year is "Tales of India" and illustrators from all over the world will be participating, including: Philip Giordano, Tom Schamp, Clotilde Perrin, Aurelia Fronty, Sherley Freudenreich and many many others (click here for the full line-up).  This year's guest of honour is lovely Linda Wolfsgruber.  And furthermore, Simone Rea has created this year's display of "How a book is born" ("Como nasce un libro illustrato") — in which he creates several large panels describing (in both images and words) the steps that went into making his most recent book "Favole" ("Aesop's Fables"). These are always included in the Sàrmede annual.

Best of all:  another road trip to Italy when I was least expecting it!! WOO-HOO!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sàrmede, again

Following on from my last entry, here's a quick postscript with a little bit more about the teachers — and the students — of Sàrmede.

Linda Wolfgruber's work (like this image above, from  Finn's Land) is expressive, refined and full of wonderful surprises.

Her spare and evocative compositions allow enough room for your  imagination to enter and find its own way...

I especially love these skating ducks!

Svjetlan Junakovic is prolific and exuberant...
Have a look at his site, and this nice write-up from Animalarium
He has recently begun to make these sculptures, too.

As for the former students,  many of the people who have been taught at Sarmede's workshops  have blossomed into some of the best illustrators of the up-and-coming generation.  To see a few (there are many more, obviously — and many yet to come!), look here:

Simone Rea (who studied with Linda)

Violeta Lopiz (who studied with both Linda and Jozef Wilkon)

Adolfo Serra

and the incomparable Beatrice Alemagna....

....who took courses taught by Stepan Zavrel himself, back when the workshops were held in Zavrel's house.

How lucky can you get!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sàrmede in summer

I spent part of last summer at the art workshops of Sàrmede (pictured in the fresco above, by Jozef Wilkon). For those unfamiliar with it, Sàrmede is in northern Italy, in the hilly region at the foothills of the Dolomites about 70 KM north of Venice. Not the kind of place you'd expect to find an international illustration exhibit —nor, more to the point, a highly respected school of illustration. One way or the other, this calm green corner of Italy attracts artists and students from the world over.
Workshops are held from April to September, covering a good variety of techniques— everything from acrylics and gouache, to watercolour, egg tempera and all kinds of printmaking.  What they all have in common is a focus on some aspect of children's book illustration: storyboarding/visual narrative to making a composition work (graphically, chromatically and otherwise) to character studies.  All the elements of vocabulary needed for the language of illustration. An embarrassment of riches!
I ended up taking two courses, with Linda Wolfsgruber and with Svjetlan Junakovic —both of whom I have long admired as artists, and now appreciate as teachers.  Each one with their own style (both in art and in teaching) they succeed in getting the best out of us students, whether it was in struggles with the medium or in our search for a personal style. I really got a lot out of my time with them!

Mind you, the other teachers there also come highly recommended— including Chiara Carrer, Eva Montanari, Simona Mulazzani, Octavia Monaco, to name but a few: the crème de la crème of children's illustration! If you don't already know their work, do click!!
Svjetlan's workshop focussed on acrylics.  One of the topics for illustration was "Tales from India", which is the theme of this year's exhibit.
In Linda's workshop, the technique focussed upon was printmaking —monoprints, mixed media and collage. The subject was "Rodari and his tales"— using Gianni Rodari's wonderful stories, or his creative approaches (eg, the binomio fantastico) as outlined in La Grammatica della Fantasia (English version here).

In addition to the coursework, we had a few extracurricular treats, including visits from publishers (Andrea Rauch from Principi e Principi, and earlier in the season Topipittori).  We also got to see a mesmerizing documentary film (directed by Karl Bachmann) about Stepan Zavrel, the wonderful Czech illustrator who founded the school /exhibit.  And best of all, we had our end-of-term party at Stepan Zavrel's magical home— unforgettable!!
All in all,  these workshops had an atmosphere just fizzing with energy and enthusiasm and concentration, much more intense than art school. More than one person remarked that it was like being in another dimension...

And of course, you learn a lot from the other students — the people I was with came from as far afield as Tblisi, Sao Paolo, Vienna, Bangkok, Barcelona, Wales, as well as all over Italy (there were up to 7 languages flying around at any given moment!). Ranging from 19 to 70 years old, with all kinds of experiences:  published book illustrators, seasoned print-makers, art students, teachers, graphic designers... the lot!  There was a real esprit de corps — an atmosphere of camaraderie and generous exchange.  For those of us in this solitary profession, it comes as a real source of energy.

I'll be back, Sàrmede!

PS.  If you want to see more photos, look here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

La rentrée

I'm back!!  ... did you miss me?

During my summer break, I did a bit of traveling; I participated in some art workshops; I've been attending to some deadlines (both work and otherwise).  Also, I wanted to refrain from putting things into words for a while, the better to savour and absorb my new experiences.

All in all, I had a wonderful summer — really really refreshing.  Details will follow in future blog posts — very soon, I promise!

How was your summer?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Dog Days

It's official: the dog days of summer are upon us now.
Although there is some dispute about their start date (July 3? July 6? July 8??), most agree that they bring 40 days (biblical!) of heat and humidity and stillness, relieved only by the occasional welcome thunderstorm.

Why "dog days"?  According to the Romans, it was caused by Sirius, the Dog Star (brightest element in the constellation Canis Major, or "Big Dog"), which is closest to the sun at this time of year.  And these canine references continue to this day:  canicule ("little dog") is, of course, the French term for heat wave...

Anyway, I hope all of y'all are near a body of water in this time of torpor. And keep those mint juleps comin'!!


  • Illustrators illustrated: portraits of practitioners
  • Emma Mason: British prints
  • Dog portraits, while we are on the subject...
  • And finally: a tip of the hat to Maximum (aka The Best Cat Ever™), who went walkabout four years ago today. And was never heard from again. Come back, Pic-pic!

PS.  This blog is going on its summer break — see you when we get back!

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Exactly one year ago today, I began this blog (Top Secret™, but some of you found out anyway!). It has really taken on a life of its own— opened doors and windows in my life in surprising ways.  Happy birthday, little blog!

And thank you to you (yes, you) for reading, looking and shooting the breeze with me.  And stay tuned for more...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Summer sketching

Summer is here:  let the sweltering commence!  In my sketchbook (totally ignoring the scorching heat) a giraffe  serenely munches a cool fresh leaf.   Me, on the other hand?  Melting.

Any tips for beating the heat?  Other than Mind Over Matter™??  Now would be the time to send them.

In the meantime, if you have energy to click:

Stay cool, Reader.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Paris and posters

Here's a page from my sketchbook, revisited with the odds and ends that always find their way into my pockets. These Colonnes Morrispart of the Parisian landscape since the mid-1800's—are advertising pillars originally built to combat rampant advertising and graffiti. Some of them contain telephones and automatic public toilets.  And sometimes—startlingly— they serve as a broom cupboard for street cleaners.
(Here's a Colonne Morris seen from my local café—also doubles as as hat!)

But most of all, they are adorned with beautiful posters: only those advertising cultural events (films, concerts, theatre, etc) are permitted. With such a steady stream of work (some of it publically funded) and abundant places to display it in, the flowering of French poster art was the inevitable result.  From Toulouse-Lautrec and Alphonse Mucha, to A.MCassandre and Raymond Savignac and Hervé Morvan, not to mention André François, Nathan-Garamond and Jean-Michel Folon —they all contributed to the rich visual feast on the streets here.

Newer practitioners you may want to look at:
In general:
Road trip, anyone?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Bologna, part 2 — Discoveries

In this installment of my ludicrously unpunctual series of posts on Bologna, I want to share a few discoveries I made while there.  Once you tear yourself away from your appointments, the exhibitions and other activities, your explorations will be amply rewarded!

Estonian illustrators really caught my eye this time. Juri Mildeberg did this one (as well as the one above):
Piret Raud's images are fresh and quirky:

Then there was Anu Kalm...

...and the somewhat elusive Anne Linnamagi:

Next up:  from the book stand of EKEBI (the National Book Centre of Greece), I stumbled upon the work of Effie Lada:
She is one of the nominees for the 2012 Hans Christian Andersen Award (aka the "IBBY").  Quite an honour — these are like the Nobel Prize for children's books!

For one reason or another (friends, rendez-vous, etc), I found myself spending a good bit of time in the German publishing area.  And there I found quite a few artists whose work was unfamiliar to me, including —

Manuela Olten, and her charming hippopotamus Nefertiti (seen here rummaging for her lost cup):

{Eine Tasse für Nofretete Nilpferd — Berlin Verlag 2010}

... and a bedtime scene:
There was also Martina Badstuber, and her flying donkey: 
(Published in German as "Fredo träumt vom Fliegen". In English: "When Donkeys Fly")

"Das Kleine Schwein..."
There was much much more — far too many to name! I will just mention in passing that the Spanish publishers had much that was intriguing— from (just to name a few): EdelvivesZorro RojoOQO and Kalandraka.... 

Great work... and enough inspiration to be getting on with!