Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Illustrated Woman

I just finished reading Ray Bradbury's "The Illustrated Man," a book I probably should have read years ago.  The title story in this compilation is about a tattooed man whose life is dictated by the moving, morphing, future-telling images on his skin.

Though I have designed tattoos, I do not have any. I'm fickle. My tastes change. So I thought there must be a way I could wear my own art without permanence.  Jewelry seems like a classier option than wearable tees or the like.  It was my luck to become fast friends with a jeweler who likes my drawings as much as I like her jewelry!

Debbie Liu creates two lines of jewelry.  The first, Bunnies Can Dream, is a line of colorful, whimsical jewelry with many hand-worked elements, like macrame (  The second is Harlequin & Lionhead, also named after her two rabbit breeds.  This shop specializes in sculpted cast precious metal rings, earrings, bracelets, and pendants (  She recently had her first trunk show at Henri Bendel.  Well, I was impressed.

I've known Deb for over a year now.  We are actually relatively close neighbors in Queens. Some time ago we began planning a joint venture where tiny giclée prints would be embedded in pendants.  This is a prototype, a two-sided pendant with two of my Delacorte clock illustrations: The Dancing Bear and the Penguin with Drum.  The pendent is made with giclée prints embedded in resin and brass.

We'll be playing around with variations on this idea that can keep it affordable for a large crowd.  Who wouldn't like a whimsical necklace like this?  It's pretty great that I get to keep the prototype!

Animal Pendant by Jessica Boehman and Debbie Liu: recto, The Dancing Bear

Animal Pendant by Jessica Boehman and Debbie Liu.  Verso: Penguin with Drum

Thursday, July 19, 2012


While I was abroad in London, I received a very happy email from an author looking to use an existing drawing, the Goat with Aulos, for the cover of her forthcoming book, "Goatsong."
"Goat with Aulos" Copyright 2011 Jessica Boehman
That image had already been licensed for use on a Portuguese wine called "Dancing Goat"--I can't wait for a bottle--so I asked if I could create something new for her.

In the author's own words, "the book is about three "homeless" women, one of them with a cabin and a herd of goats, and a young neglected-by-her-own-mother girl who lives with them for a while. It is about redemption, about Goatsong... the original "tragedy" (from the Greek tragos, “goat,” and oida, “song”), that separation from nature, and a reunion through love and Joie de vivre." For more information, visit

Clearly the goat needed to be joyful, even more joyful than the goat above, which derives from the Delacorte Clock in Central Park.  Since the title of the book came from the Greek root for tragedy, I thought it appropriate that the music fit the theme.  The aulos, a two-horned pipe, is also Greek.  I chose to use the pan pipe, which we tend to associate with fauns and satyrs, the half-men, half-goat, well-known for their own joie de vivre, the joy of life or exultation of the spirit.  They are mischievous creatures.

Here is the drawing for the cover of the book.  Indeed, I may like him more than the original. It also shows how my drawing style has become a bit tighter than a year ago. 

"Cover for Patricia Damery's 'Goatsong'" by Jessica Boehman. 2012. Pencil.
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Monday, July 9, 2012

A Day with Roald Dahl

"Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
--Roald Dahl, "The Minpins"

My sister and I recently took a trip to England (based in London) and Rome.  The highlight of the London portion of our trip was the day we took a train from London Marylebone station to the tiny town of Great Missenden, most famous as having been the home of the writer Roald Dahl.  We traveled there specifically to see the Roald Dahl Museum, and it really was worth the trip.  It was only 40 minutes by train, and the town was lovely and all that you'd expect a tiny British town to be. The museum was whimsical, with many fanciful details.  To top it off, the food at the museum restaurant, Cafe Twit, was delicious, well-priced, and very fresh, and the chef and staff were exceedingly friendly.  Where else can you enjoy a piece of Bogtrotter cake, Matilda-style, drizzled with chocolate ganache, white chocolate, and maltesers, along with fizzy lifting drinks?
Dahl and Fantastic Mr. Fox
 The museum was small but contained many wonders.  The first room was called "Boy," both after the book and the way Roald used to sign his letters to his mother.  It contained original letters, a candy jar with mouse (which derived from "Boy"), a school uniform you could try on, and audio stories also taken from "Boy."  The door was a giant chocolate Wonka bar.

Chocolate Doors...they even seem to melt.
Letter from Roald Dahl to his mother, signed "Love from BOY"
My favorite item in this room was the first draft folio from "The Witches," hand-written.  This is the chapter that tells the story of the grandmother.  This may be my favorite of Dahl's books.  I first read it on the day we moved out of the US to Germany.  I got through most of it in the airport, but it eased my nerves (or distracted me) on a day I was really nervous. We would not be returning home for three years.

First draft folio from "The Witches"
In the next room, we traveled with Dahl across the world and watched him grow first as a pilot and then as an author.   We saw portholes with photographs of alligators morph before our eyes into drawings by Quentin Blake.  Blakes's lively, sketchy style filled the pages of all of Dahl's children's books.  He formed our first visual impressions of Charlie, Willy Wonka, the BFG, the Grand High Witch, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Matilda, and more... He remains one of my favorite illustrators to this day.  You won't regret a trip to his website,

Dahl with Quentin Blake, his amazing illustrator
We measured ourselves against a Dahl measuring stick, where the Big Friendly Giant, foxes, Grandpa Joe, and Oompa Loompas served as height indicators.  My sister and I were both "A Complete Wonka."

We're a complete Wonka.  Only half the size of Roald Dahl, it seems
We also got to see, amazingly, the original writing shed of Dahl, completely preserved and intact as it was when he passed away in 1990.  After the injuries Dahl received as a pilot, this was the most comfortable way he worked. He surrounded himself with little objects he loved, as most of us do.

Dahl's writing shed and chair
Meghan with the original set from the recent film version of "The Fantastic Mr Fox": an animator's dream?
Notice that the set above, from the wonderful film rendition of "Fantastic Mr. Fox," recreates Dahl's writing chair and shed, and many of the details on the walls.  Elsewhere in the museum, we made our own stop-motion animations, drew pictures, made silly stories with magnets, and dressed in costumes.  We whispered ideas into an idea-generator and dreamed stories of our own.

Afterward we stuffed ourselves on the Bogtrotter cake and a delicious, fresh lunch at Cafe Twit.  I broke my diet for this and it was worth it. It was absolutely delicious.
(Bruce) Bogtrotter cake at Cafe Twit, Great Missenden, UK. Yes, it was as good as it looks.

We then walked through town and in the country and stumbled across the cemetery where Dahl was laid to rest.

As you might guess, the BFG showed us the way:
Me and the BFG's footprint
How amazing to be able to visit this location from which so many of my dreams have sprung, and to pay my respects to one of the most talented, creative, ever-youthful minds the last century has ever seen. It was a perfect day, and I am very happy my sister and I got to share it together.

The grave of Roald Dahl