In Her Own Words - Atena Farghadani

From time to time there are campaigns where cartoonists come together to draw in support of a fellow cartoonist whose human rights and freedom of expression are in jeopardy. I am involved in a couple organizations that raise awareness through cartoons.

Not long ago I was cartooning for Atena Farghadani (draw4atena campaign), a young Iranian who was sentenced to 12 years in prison for her art.

My cartoons joined many other cartoons created by people all over the world and were tweeted and printed in newspapers (including the Guardian, the Washington Post and many more), with the intent to raise international awareness for her plight.

Cartoonists know how to band together and raise some hell!

Atena was released a year ago, and she contacted me soon after to thank me for the cartoons.   

Here is her story, in her own words, produced by Amnesty International and narrated by Nazanin Boniadi.

Click here for Atena's story

 


More TTC Sketches

I am carrying my watercolour moleskine with me and I sketch whenever I can. The TTC is a perfect place and I love finding a spot where I can draw stealth-like without being noticed. It's not too difficult (unless the subway is really crowded) as most people are on their mobile phones, sleeping, or just lost in their own worlds.

Left: Really like her bag and socks. (subway north, Queen to Sheppard) Right: Tired and falling asleep. (subway north to Finch)

Left: Really like her bag and socks. (subway north, Queen to Sheppard)
Right: Tired and falling asleep. (subway north to Finch)

Left: Beautifully french braided hair. (subway Dundas to St. Clair West) Right: Texting after shopping. (on the platform at Eglinton West station)

Left: Beautifully french braided hair. (subway Dundas to St. Clair West)
Right: Texting after shopping. (on the platform at Eglinton West station)

Favourite Art Supplies

I have been asked how I do my illustrations and thought I'd post my favourite art supplies.
I prefer to draw with pen and ink. I really like using my very cheap calligraphy pen with a C-4 nib. Love the thick and thin lines, the little splatters and the happy accidents. Almost all of my work is done with this pen on rough 90Ib watercolour paper, using cheap india ink (as the final work will be scanned and manipulated in Photoshop).
When doing an illustration that I may want to frame/keep/giveaway I will use a better grade of paper (Arches).

Canson 90Ib cold press, Arches 90Ib cold press, Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes

Canson 90Ib cold press, Arches 90Ib cold press, Winsor Newton Series 7 brushes

I use Winsor Newton Series 7 paintbrushes when I paint in watercolours. They're the Cadillac of brushes, hand-made in England of Kolinsky Sable, expensive as heck and sheer joy to use.

When drawing in my Moleskine journal I like to use a Pelikan M200 fountain pen, or a Pilot V-pen.  The Pelikan M200 requires a good ink to ensure it doesn't clog so I invest in Carbon Ink. The V-pen is a great (cheap) alternative to an expensive fountain pen.

Carbon ink (for Pelikan M200 below); cheaper ink for calligraphy pen with C-4 nib

Carbon ink (for Pelikan M200 below); cheaper ink for calligraphy pen with C-4 nib

Pelikan M200 Fountain Pen

Pelikan M200 Fountain Pen

Pilot V-pen

Pilot V-pen

I scan my drawings using an Epson scanner. My computer is a Macbook Pro. When not using pen and ink I draw directly on the computer with a Cintiq. I use Photoshop for all my illustrations.

MacBook Pro, Cintiq 13" HD Touch, Epson V370 scanner and Artograph LightPad 940

MacBook Pro, Cintiq 13" HD Touch, Epson V370 scanner and Artograph LightPad 940

Photoshop

Photoshop

Of course I could list many more fav supplies but those are the main ones.

Art Exchange

Life has been busy but I am now finding the time to do some art. Yay!
My class (MFA, Hartford, 2015) has started an art exchange which means that twice a year we send off a piece of art to a former classmate and in turn we receive work. Below is my piece for Susannah, inspired by the waffle maker at the Avon Residence Inn, Connecticut (our "home" while at school) and my love of cephalopods.  It was fun to do.

Pen and ink on watercolour paper, Photoshop

Pen and ink on watercolour paper, Photoshop

At right is a quick cartoon in support of Ali (aka "Eaten Fish") a 25 year old Iranian cartoonist who, in 2013, sought asylum in Australia and is now incarcerated in an immigration detention camp on Manus Island.  Ali’s case has caused much concern as he is subjected to repeated assaults, bullying and is in need of medical care.  Story here: CNRI and online petition.

More Lost and Found Art

I have just installed a gallery-type hanging system in my place. It's great, I can switch art around easily and never put another nail in the wall. I have hung some pieces and also unearthed a huge pile of old art. I have a lot of old oil paintings and not sure what to do with them.

I found studies that were done years ago from my "Media of Art History" class (University of Guelph- undergrad). We had to choose an old master's work and reproduce it using their techniques.

Pisanello's "Portrait of Princess" (1435 - 1449). My reproduction on left.

Pisanello's "Portrait of Princess" (1435 - 1449). My reproduction on left.

Above, and on the left, is my reproduction of Pisanello's "Portrait of Princess." The original is on the right. It's an egg tempera painting using a traditional gesso which included rabbitskin glue. The paint is made from a powdered pigment with egg yolk added to it. Then it was painted with tiny brush in short, many layered strokes. Tedious but I recall I enjoyed doing it.

From the same class, my reproduction of Rembrandt's "Girl with Broom" (Rembrandt's painting at right) using an oil glaze method:

Rembrandt's "Girl with Broom." My reproduction on left.

Rembrandt's "Girl with Broom." My reproduction on left.

I have a pile of paintings, or more accurately, "studies" and have no idea what to do with it all. Here are some early "studies", all from live models, when I was studying oils/portraiture:

Oils

Oils

Drawings: vine charcoal (from life)

Drawings: vine charcoal (from life)

It's interesting seeing all this "old" art especially as it's a reminder of my past training, mostly classical techniques mixed with the not so classical. I feel lucky and happy that I was able to study art. Now I mainly draw cartoons (as I always did), and am more fond of bright colours, sketchy drawings than I am of realism.

One of the advantages of being digital is storing files takes much less room than big bulky canvases. Even though I rarely paint (I have gone back to pen and ink) and I love my Cintiq, I like knowing my box of paints is close by for whenever the spirit moves me.

Lost and Found Art

Detail from a bowl I painted years ago. Just found it in my locker.

Back to the Drawing Board

My home renovation is done so I am setting up my studio once again and starting on some new ideas for kids books.  Feels great to draw again! Also got a new scanner as my old one died. This seems very boring but without it it's difficult to do my art.

Recently joined United Sketches, an International Association dedicated to supporting freedom of expression for cartoonists. Tried out the new scanner and produced the cartoon below. I'm back in action.

Another #draw4atena cartoon for Nowruz (Persian new year) and to let Atena know she's not alone. To see my first #draw4atena cartoon go to my Dec. 31, 2015 blog post.  Info on Atena here.

Another #draw4atena cartoon for Nowruz (Persian new year) and to let Atena know she's not alone. To see my first #draw4atena cartoon go to my Dec. 31, 2015 blog post.  Info on Atena here.

Museum Of The Street

Painting by James Hill for the Canadian Opera Company’s 1979/1980 season poster

Painting by James Hill for the Canadian Opera Company’s 1979/1980 season poster

Yesterday I was feeling down about the recent loss of Murray and Carol Tinkelman (HAS MFA program) and so I headed to The Museum Of The Street, an illustration show at the John B. Aird Gallery (Queen's Park). I had heard about the show, which features the work of some of my former teachers at OCA, and had wanted to go check it out. Now seemed like a perfect time.

It was really refreshing (and oh so familiar!) to see a show of T.O. illustrators (how rare is that???), as I have been focused more on illustrators south of the border for the last few years (which has been wonderful I might add). 

The show features the work of some pretty big names in the world of Canuck illustration such as: Will Davis, Anita Kunz, Huntley Brown, Julius Ciss, David Chestnutt, Tak Bui, Ken Dallison, Blair Drawson, James Hill, Barbara Klunder, Jerzy Kolacz, Roger Hill, Joe Salina, Maurice Vellekoop, Gerry Sevier and more.

When I left my mood was lifted, I was inspired and thankful to have met (and been taught by) so many superstars in the world of illustration, both at OCA (OCAD Uni) and more recently in the Hartford MFA program. However of all the superstars I've had as teachers, Murray Tinkelman is definitely at the top of the list.

illo2.jpg

Top: Tom McNeely (love the Expo '67 ad!) and Ken Dallison
Middle: Anita Kunz
Bottom: Barbara Klunder (poster from "The Bamboo," a fav hangout of mine) and Will Davies

Hello 2016!

2015 was a good year for me. Great actually.
I received my MFA in Illustration (University of Hartford). I could write on and on about how wonderful those 2 years were but for now I'll just say that it simply amazing, inspiring and reignited my passion for illustration. Big time.

Joan Armatrading cartoon. Was fascinated by the many guitars she used during her concert (Toronto, October). Joan saw the cartoon and asked for a copy.

Joan Armatrading cartoon. Was fascinated by the many guitars she used during her concert (Toronto, October). Joan saw the cartoon and asked for a copy.

I am happy that we have a new Prime Minister. I was also shocked by events in the world and drew cartoons as a cathartic outlet.
Two cartoons found their way into papers such as the Washington Post, The Guardian, Ouest France and a few others.

I've become a member of a group of cartoonists that draw in support of freedom of expression. I love being able to add my voice in solidarity with other cartoonists.

Also in 2015 "Grace", my first children's book, was published.
"Grace" was my thesis project and ended up being picked up by a publisher and the rest is history! I will write more about that in the future. In the meantime I have been working on new book ideas.

My 2016 kicks off with a new job and at the same time I embark on a major renovation (kitchen/bathroom). So there are many changes right around the corner! 

My art deco apartment is not without it's charm however it's survived almost 80 years without a renovation and I am looking forward to a functional kitchen and electricity in the bathroom (they didn't always have that in the '30's!).

Right now I'm in Virginia for our annual new year's party. We're getting ready to usher in 2016 in style, martinis in hand, laughter, lobster and good friends.

Happy 2016 everyone!!

Happy Holidays Kitty

Quick update to my kitty animated gif. Merry Christmas and Happy 2016!

New Year's wish

Lots of great stuff happened in 2015 and hoping 2016 is even better!

Happy Holidays and a wonderful 2016 to everyone!

 

Trying out gif animations in Photoshop

A primitive animation in Photoshop. I knew you could use Photoshop for gif animations but never tried it out (until tonight). Fun and easy. Will attempt something more complex next time...

New Toy

Quick cartoon, and first try with a Cintiq.

Mystical Mystic

Right after graduation I went on a road trip to Mystic Connecticut with good friends (see below).

Loved Mystic! Had lobster rolls and celebratory champagne and generally ran amuck. Had a fabulous time!

Here are a few photos (above) of the view from a historic 19th century lighthouse at Stonington Harbour, the Mystic drawbridge, the beach at Stonington and a photo taken at Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer's house (he discovered Antarctica).

We wandered into a bookstore and on a whim I asked if they had the book GRACE. The store clerk looked it up on the computer and then turned to us and said "yes", then led us to the children's section. They had it!!!

OK the reason for my excitement (and my friends can attest to my unbridled joy!) was that this was my first GRACE sighting in a store! It's available online (Amazon, Chapters etc) and in some T.O. stores however I have never actually seen it in a bookstore!

MysticBookstore.jpg

So when the store clerk realized I was the writer illustrator he ran off to get those "signed by the author" stickers. Meanwhile there was a couple standing in the general vicinity of our commotion and to make this longish story short they have a 6 year old daughter named Grace! What are the odds?? So they bought the book then sent a photo of their daughter reading it! (many thanks if you're reading this!!). It was all so coincidental and a lot of fun!

Graduation

I graduated!!!
I'm not sure it's sunk in yet.

Graduation - MFA in Illustration, University of Hartford, Class of 2015

Graduation - MFA in Illustration, University of Hartford, Class of 2015

Graduating Soon

Two years ago, I started on a journey to pursue an MFA at the University of Hartford. I wanted to go after my artistic dreams and goals, immerse myself in the world of illustration, and create a body of work that would push me forward and reignite my passion for the field.

I graduate in less than a week, it went by very quickly. I may write a bit (later) on all that those two years have meant to me, however for now I'll just say that it was absolutely wonderful. I will miss it a lot.

That's my work (above) in the Joseloff Gallery.
I have defended my thesis and it's now been signed off.  I created some self promo items (see below) that are also displayed with my work.
And soon, on July 24th, I'll graduate.

I Left my Heart in San Francisco

Below is an illustration inspired by our recent school trip to San Francisco.  Reminiscent of the song "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" I drew a girl (loosely based on Grace, the character from my children's book) riding a cable car.  I had fun experimenting with the background sky and the colours.

I may do more illustrations based on the trip however right now am focusing on the last bit of work for my thesis paper (it's is back from my editor and once I make the changes it's just about done) and preparing for my summer graduation. Busy.

Friend, and fabulous illustrator, Carol Schwartz (class of 2014), is receiving the University of Hartford's Regents' Honour Award which is apparently one of the highest recognitions of accomplishment that the university bestows on graduate students!! Yay Carol!! Congrats!!

On top of being incredibly talented, she's also one of the kindest people on the planet. And fun. I love when great things happen to great people. This award is well deserved!

Carol grew up in Kansas City, Missouri and attended Kansas City Art Institute and the Rhode Island School of Design. She has illustrated over 50 books for children!

One of Carol's children's books.

One of Carol's children's books.

As you can see from the illustration (above), she always paints gorgeous, bright colours, and her love of nature and researching is reflected in her work. Check out her website.

Congratulations Carol! So happy for you. See you in July!!!