Archive for the ‘Illustration’ Category

Another illustrated project….

November 29, 2017

I was fortunate to fall into another book project this summer. A friend whose job concerns assessing risk and who is also a mountaineer, became interested in the death of mountaineer Kate Matrosova in 2015. She was fit, had mountaineering experience, and was appropriately equipped, yet died of exposure in an attempted February traverse of the Presidential range in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

My friend, Ty, wanted to use what we know about Kate’s last climb in a presentation as an analogy to look at how all of us asses risk and make decisions. The presentation was so successful that he asked me if he could hire me to illustrate parts of Kate’s narrative to make the visual parts of the presentation more accessible. The illustrations were challenging. Finding the balance between wanting accurately show what we know about her journey, while maintaining a level of respect for her and her family meant that each illustration caused me to ask myself; okay, how am I going to do this one?

The success of the presentation led to the writing of a book; Where You’ll Find Me, Risk, Decisions, and the uybpw4tkd2dw25s36ugcp0t9klm9hz24Last Climb of Kate Matrosova.

The book required more illustrations as well as maps, which were again a different kind of challenge since the goal for the maps was not just to show on a map where things were but to also give a sense of the kind of terrain to the reader who might not be familiar with the White Mountains, or mountaineering. I enjoyed the project and have been delighted at how well the book has been received.


In illustration from the book.

If you know someone who hikes or enjoys mountaineering, this might well be a book that they would be interested in.

Where have I been?

July 24, 2014

My loyal readers (both of you) may have been wondering what happened to this blog, since I have not posted much in the last year. The truth is I have been writing a lot, but just not on this site.

A lot of my time during the last two years (perhaps too much of my time) has been devoted to bringing out a new book.

Lasting Friendships, a Century of Friendship Sloops has been in the pipeline since November of 2012. It has been produced and Published by the Friendship Sloop Society, and I have been spearheading the project.

Part of the reason that I agreed to head the group that was putting this book together (aside from a love of Friendship sloops and their history) was an opportunity to work with Ralph W. Stanley.

Ralph has been recognized as a master boatbuilder and is an NEA National Heritage Fellow, but he is also an excellent writer and historian. Without his help the book project would have been much less interesting the finished book much less impressive.

The book also allowed me to meet and briefly work with Maynard Bray, who wrote the introduction for the book. Maynard has a long history with WoodenBoat Magazine and with Mystic Seaport. He is also one of the key figures between Off Center Harbor, a video website and collection of blog posts from some of the more influential sailors, writers, and boatbuilders from this part of the world.

When I took on this project, I did not realize how confused some of our own records at the Friendship Sloop Society were, nor did I fully appreciate how entwined the history of these sloops is with the local history of small towns up and down the Maine coast. We had terrific and generous help from Ben Fuller and Kevin Johnson at the Penobscot Marine Museum. Frankly, without their help I am not sure we would have ever untangled the origins of certain photographs. But we also had help from librarians, town historians, and many members of the Friendship Sloop Society. Without their help this book would not have been possible.

I am very relieved to have this project off my desk and am looking forward to getting some of my life back, and I might even have some time to devote to this blog too.

The book is available in soft cover from Amazon, and in hardcover exclusively from the Friendship Sloop Society.



New Children’s Book

May 27, 2009

There has been a lot going on here of late, enough so that I have not been able to contribute to this site in a while. Coming soon: some photographs and notes on the Ukuleles that were described in the last post, and some updates on the boat page, but for now; let me plug a new children’s book. Cat In the Clouds.

                This is the fifth book I have illustrated and the second children’s book. The book is about Nin, a lost cat who finds a home at the Mt Washington observatory, on the summit of Mt Washington. Nin is a real cat, he lived on the summit for twelve years, and the book’s author, Eric Pinder knows Nin well.  Nin is quite a local celebrity, so much so that when he retired from the summit, the news made CNN!

               I like the challenges presented by illustration work. I like trying to create images that catch the eye but that do not necessarily give away what is in the text. I also like trying to find a style that compliments the writing. Cat in the Clouds is, essentially, a true story, so I tried to make the watercolors true to the setting, while keeping the focus on Nin. This presented a constant balancing act between those images that were more panoramic and those that were more about Nin.

                I have worked, and do work, in a number of mediums. Watercolor has become one of my favorites. I like the spontaneity and the immediacy of watercolor, but I also like the challenges. For example, unless you are just trying to get beautiful big splotches of color (and some painters just want that) it is an extremely difficult medium to master. I think part of the reason for this is that there is a continual tension for the painter between a well thought out approach to a subject, knowing what areas to leave light and where to apply darker colors to the composition, and an ability to take advantage of those moments when the combination of paint paper and water does something unexpected. Another way to look at this is that if you just want to be surprised, watercolor is easy. If you are actually trying to achieve a specific look, it is much harder.

Front piece from the book

Illustration from page 11

In case you were wondering each watercolor took on average four hours.

            So now you know what happened to at least one month of my winter. The book is available here through, or you can go direct to the Publisher, The History Press.

Busy, Busy, Busy

December 4, 2007

What with making toys, trying to get the kitchen finished and work, I have not put up a lot of new stuff on this site of late. More posts are coming, particularly related to boatbuilding, toy-making, and creative stuff for the Holidays. In the meantime, I noticed that my friend Peter got a really nice plug for his book about his tree house (which I illustrated). You can see it at:   Casasugar

New Maine Coast Resource

August 4, 2007

In other posts on this site, I have sung the praises of my favorite magazine, Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors. If you are interested in keeping up with what is going on in coastal Maine, the magazine has just started an online version. Great photographs of beautiful boats, a “launchings” feature, architecture, art, and reviews as well as a great calendar feature, are all part of this site. If you are like me, and could look at pictures of beautiful boats all day, check out the featured photographer Jamie Bloomquist, you won’t be disappointed.
Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors -on line

Celtic Wheelhouse Construction Drawings

April 20, 2007

Several readers have asked for more information of the construction of the Celtic Wheelhouse. The construction drawing that I have from this project are too big to scan in one go, but I have scanned some of them in sections and am including them in this post. Even though some of the drawings have the scale indicated on them, I would not try to measure off the drawings but would recommend that you only use them to get a sense of proportion and scale. The basic dimensions are; outside diameter of the building is thirty feet across, interior dimension is twenty-eight feet across. Height of the stonewall from floor to the top plate where the roof connects is six feet. Foundation is two feet thick and goes down to bedrock, a depth that varies from two feet to four feet below the floor.

Section drawing of the Wheelhouse

Facade Wheelhouse

             Some of the drawings show stairs and a loft, which I opted not to build. The roof consists of a ceiling made of tapered boards, a layer of diagonal compression bands (see photo below) and an outer roof. The three layers, inner ceiling, compression bands, and outer roof, combine to make a tensile roof. The roof was then shingled in cedar.

Compression bands on inner roof

Cedar shingles

Construction details for roof

                 I will be posting some more related construction material as I get a chance, and late in the summer I will be re-shingling the roof because, gasp, it has been just about twenty years since I built this. When that happens there will be further posts, I am sure.

Floor Plan of Wheelhouse

Owner’s Manual

April 5, 2007

I was just down at the shop getting the cabin soles of the boat ready for some varnish when for some reason I was reminded that I wanted to put something on this site about the owner’s manual.
          In 2004, WoodenBoat Magazine had a great article by John Waterhouse on creating an owner’s manual for your boat (issue 176). I had been toying with the idea for a while, not because we charter our boat, but because two families own her I thought it might be helpful for everyone on both coasts to have something that they could study in spare moments. For that reason, I wanted our owners manual to be long on illustrations and short on text.  I also figured that this was the quickest way for me to get it done too, because I prefer drawing to writing and like to draw boats in particular. The article in WoodenBoat was excellent and was all I needed to inspire me to get started.
          It was a good plan, but there were several flaws in my scheme that I did not perceive at the time. One was that since I wanted this to be something that was fun to look at (so that we would all actually use it) I did not allow for how long it would take me to create the drawings for the manual. Another is that essentially we are talking about writing a book, one for a very small reading audience, but a book all the same. Further, no mater how simplistic I try to make it, in order to be of any use as an owner’s manual, this is a document that has to provide detailed information about some sophisticated stuff. In short, it has proven to be a much larger undertaking than I had originally planned. My hope is that by the end of this spring I will have the Safety section, the systems section, the Storage section, completed, and the section on Operations at least begun. The irony here is that when I took on the restoration of our sloop I had a much better idea of what I was getting into than when I started the owner’s manual.
          If you ever decide to take on a project like this, be forewarned, it is a labor of love. If we did not have such long winters up here in the mountains I never would have gotten anywhere with it.

Page from the Safety section of the Owner's Manual


Page from our Owner's Manual



April 2, 2007

I was reading with delight an article from my favorite magazine Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors. I subscribe to a number of boat related journals, as well several journals devoted to Archaeology, and History, but I think my favorite is MB,H,&H. There are several reasons that I look forward to the arrival of each issue, one is clearly the subject matter, but the writing is another. Editor Peter H. Spectre writes with a perceptive and dry Yankee wit that borders on the caustic. I look forward to his column “In the Lee of the Boathouse” and read it before I read anything else (see his blog Compass Rose Review). The clean layout and design are also reasons that I enjoy reading this magazine cover to cover. I find it refreshing, to pick up a magazine where one can actually find the contents and can tell, at a glance, the articles from the advertisements.
          In the current issue, writer John Andrews writes about “Three Reference Books for Sailors”. In the first paragraph of his piece I particularly liked a line wherein he describes cruising as;”…a personal affliction, ruinously self-indulgent and wantonly aesthetic”.
          All three of the books he champions are terrific choices: Sailing:A Sailor’s Dictionary by Henry Beard and Roy McKie, Maine Lingo by John Gould (a former contributor to the M,B,H,&H and a former Friendship Slooper) and the Sea Scout Manual By Carl Lane (He has the 1939 edition, my copy is the 1940). While it is always fun for me to see which books make it onto some one else’s “best”, or “must have” list, it is the actual writing and reasoning of the article that I find so enjoyable and typical of this magazine. I will not give a synopsis here check out the original for yourself.
          Mr. Andrews’s article inspired me to list some of my own reference favorites here.
          From the perspective of a boat owner my three favorite reference books are:
          How to Build a Wooden Boat by David “Bud” McIntosh beautifully illustrated by Sam Manning, The Sailmaker’s Apprentice by Emiliano Marino, again a beautifully illustrated book, this time by Christine Erikson, and The Rigger’s Apprentice by Brion Toss.
          In the category of sea stories, I have voyaged with writers like C.S. Forester, Conrad, Marryat, and newer writers to the genre like Dudley Pope, and Alexander Kent to name just a few, but for story telling and use of language, I think that the Jack Aubrey series by Patrick O’Brian is the best. If what you are looking for is the 18th C equivalent of a Bruce Willis movie, then I doubt these books would appeal to you. However, as a writer of dialog, for character development, and for ability as a storyteller, I put Patrick O’Brian head and shoulders above the rest. I go back and re-read books from the series from time to time because Jack and Steven feel like old friends and each read is like a field trip to the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
          For boat related periodicals, I have read WoodenBoat since the late 1970s and am still a devote, even though the magazine has changed over the years, and I repeat that my favorite magazine is Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors, always an enjoyable read.

Passamaquoddy Bay and Cruising

March 18, 2007

           As, over a decade, I got to know Passamaquoddy Bay through multiple kayak trips, I also made friends in the area, and this region of Atlantic Canada now feels like a second home. When we bought the Friendship Sloop, we started sailing to these waters, and spent four summers exploring areas that I had not been able to reach by Kayak.

Passamaquody Bay

           Whenever we could, we would invite new friends and locals out for a sail. It was not only a lot of fun, but we gained a lot of local knowledge as well. I wrote down most of what we learned in the ships log. Some of what I wrote down in those logs are observations too general to be of much use to someone else. I noted at one point, for example, that having a five-year old whose nickname is “Crash” on board is a bad idea. However, there is also a lot of good information regarding local navigation that others might benefit from. I am also prone to make little charts in our logbook, which, though not a substitute for actual charts, might prove interesting to other sailors.
           I have put up a new “Cruising Grounds” page with more information for sailors. Right now, it only has information about the Passamaquoddy Bay area. Over time, I will add notes and observations taken from my logbooks about other areas in Maine coastal waters, and “Down East” in particular. The “Cruising Grounds” page is not a cruising guide, just some notes of interest about a couple of anchorages and a few cautionary notes intended to be of interest for sailors headed into these waters, or to virtual cruisers.

A Spiral Stair for the Tree House

March 9, 2007

Somehow, writing about making toys with my nephews and niece reminds me of making the spiral staircase for Peter’s tree house.
            There needed to be a means of getting from the main floor of the treehouse up to the chess loft (see chess sets). We decided the best route to go was some sort of spiral stair. We had found a white pine tree with unusual branch formations. Peter cut it down and dragged it out of the woods, it turns out this was quite an epic, but you can read about it in Peter’s book Treehouse Chronicles if you are interested. Peter had also cut down a large dying fir tree; come to think of it, there was a story behind cutting that tree down too. Anyway, we cut slabs out of the fir trunk and stripped the bark off the white pine; the latter was a particularly nasty job. The idea was to take the naturally upswept branches of the pine and use them as natural supports for the outer ends of the treads of the stair.

Tree trunk for Stairway


Interior Tree House, from Treehouse Chronicles

            In order to get this right we had to haul the now de-barked pine tree up into the tree house and locate it, a process that created a somewhat bizarre sight and nearly caused a car accident as passing drivers witnessed the hoisting of one tree up into another. Once in place we were able to rotate the trunk of what would become the stairway to take best advantage of the support branches that nature had provided. With trunk in place, we could concentrate on the final shaping of the treads. Peter had cut up the fir into slabs with a chain saw; we now finished these off with drawknife and plane. On the inner end of the tread, I cut a large dovetail, in the trunk I then cut a matching wedge shaped socket.

Illustration from Treehouse Chronicles

Finally, the upswept branch that was to be the support for the outer end of the tread was cut to the right height and the tread was driven into place with a mallet. The ends of the upswept branches were set into sockets drilled in the underside of the treads. The finished stair is strong, simple, and to use a phrase that Peter coined; has lots or “organic funkiness”.
            While I will admit to having a general concept in my mind for the spiral stair, we had to invent a lot of the process as we went along. I think that combination of imagination and invention is what reminds me so much of making toys.
            You can read more about the tree house by clicking on the treehouse category in the right hand column of the page.