A pirate. The earliest pirates of the Caribbean were newly-arrived French woodsmen who preserved meat by curing it slowly over a smoky fire so it would last a long time (this was before refrigerators). In the native Carib dialect, boucan was a grill (in Haitian: barbacoa).  The French settlers named the process of smoking and curing meat boucaner and called themselves meat-curers—boucaniers.

When Spain drove out the French settlers in the 1690s they turned to piracy.  They continued to call themselves boucaniers and there may have been a grim joke in the name—the native Caribs were rumored to be cannibals.  Maybe the boucaniers hoped their enemies would associate them with their grisly former neighbors.

A very sad day

My little African Gray parrot, Sherman, went to heaven this morning.  Though he was small, he had a huge personality.  He filled up our house with chattering, whistling & singing. He made up words.  He sometimes called himself ‘Shermy-Pie’—his combination of Sherman and sweety-pie.  It’s heart-breakingly quiet around here now.

You can see him in many of my books.  Wherever I’ve drawn a pirate scene, Sherman is there. Now I’ll carry him in my heart.

Goodbye, Shermy-Pie, my little budgie.

Big old machines

I visited the Pioneer Steam & Gas Engine show in Saegerstown, Pa, last Saturday.  Here are a few shots—you’ll find the rest of ’em here.

Rollie Ivers, 1919-2010

Rollie Ivers, my high school art teacher, passed on this week. I haven’t seen him for many years, but we exchanged news at Christmastime somewhat regularly.

Mr Ivers taught me to consider a painting as a design.  He always had us students draw at least 10 thumbnail sketches for every project—of course we hated doing them.  When I got to art school, though, I found that thumbnail sketches were part of every instructor’s requirements and I was already an old pro at generating them.  I was ahead of the game.  Thanks, Mr Ivers.

Mr Ivers did an art history segment once a week, which focused on ecclesiastical architecture, as I remember it.  We got a lot of mimeographed floor plans of churches which were three-hole punched and inserted into our bulging art history binders.  I’m sure there must have been more to Mr Ivers’ art history lectures than church architecture, but that’s what I remember.  It must have been a passion with him.  I have a fondness for Gothic architecture, architecture generally and art history that he must have instilled in me.

Mr Ivers’ greatest talent was his skill as a watercolorist.  He painted en plein air landscapes around Syracuse and Watertown.  These were big, bold compositions masterfully carried off with dash and brio.  His rigorously designed paintings looked like he knocked them out with hardly a care.  That’s no easy stunt.

A month or so ago I sent Rollie one of my books to show him how I was coming along, and he sent me a note in return.  That was our last correspondence.  How our teachers influence us, shape our lives!  I’ll bet that every time I sit down to draw thumbnail sketches, I think of Rollie, if only for a moment.  I’ll continue to do that til the day I finally lay down my own pencil.

Thank you, thank you, Mr Ivers.

R&B art

Art for the Renaissance & Baroque Society of Pittsburgh—two German military musicians.  Soldiers really wore these fantastic costumes 500 years ago.

See? I’m not the only one

Others who are better than me forget to return library books on time.

Spreading the risk

Nightly specials

Rambling around the highways and byways on my way to visiting schools, sometimes I see a billboard that takes my fancy.  Here’s one I liked, and sent a photo to my pal Vince Dorse.

He sent this back:

Frank Frazetta, RIP

Illustration legend Frank Frazetta passed on today—no art student of my generation didn’t feel his influence.

From the New York Times:

“Frank Frazetta, an illustrator whose vivid colors and striking brushstrokes conjured up fantastic worlds of musclebound heroes fighting with broad swords and battle axes to defend helpless women from horrible beasts, died on Monday in Fort Myers, Fla. He was 82.”

He was that kind of artist which is all too rare: he could really draw.

Fixing up the new studio

Here is the main staircase of the National Transit Building, leading up to the art studios.

Painting over the gothic purple walls with ‘custard yellow,’ a Martha Stewart paint color.