Wednesday, November 13, 2013


I am still glowing from an illustrators’ retreat and kids’ book illustration extravaganza weekend, staying in the Berkshires with my fellow illustrators Hazel Mitchell, Russ Cox, Carlyn Beccia, Greg Matusic, Sean Bixby, Kevin M. Barry, and Teri Weidner. It’s hard to explain just how good it was, but I’ll give it a shot.

On Friday afternoon, I drove down a steep gravel road through woodland as early wintery darkness set in... 

...and finally found my way to an old barn converted into a warmly lit and inviting home, mere footsteps from a lake surrounded by soaring wooded hills. 

The company was inviting, too, and although I knew everyone but Teri, I didn’t know them well. But we were soon sipping cocktails and laughing, enjoying a gourmet dinner cooked by Russ, poring over the many picture books we had brought to share, and sketching when we felt like it. The boys may have flattened Teri and me at the Foosball table (sorry Teri!). Carlyn read my fortunes in the crinkles on my palms. She knows why 52 is my lucky number, but will never tell. I fell asleep to a jaunty banjo and laughter upstairs, which continued well into the wee smalls. 

Greg and Russ 
The next day, after a veritable feast a la Hazel, I enjoyed a solitary woodland walk. 

Carlyn, digital painting master, gave us a Corel Painter demo, convincing the skeptical that it is, indeed, awesome.

There might have been second breakfast, followed by elevenses, and a hearty lunch. And then a low key afternoon of sitting around drawing, with music, occasional chatting, and an afternoon tea or two. If you’ve ever quietly enjoyed making art among a group of like-minded others happily doing the same, you’ll understand the wonderfulness. And to top it off, Hazel's haunting rendition of the Skye Boat Song on some kinda wind instrument took my breath away. Perfection.

On Saturday evening, we put on our glad rags...

...piled into two cars, and went to New York State…for all of 30 seconds (I was excited), and then we turned around, returned to Mass, and the opening of the Wendell Minor Retrospective* at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. I did plenty of drooling over Rockwell’s paintings. 

...and Russ did some hard pondering.

Carlyn and I did manage to slip in some sneaky, creepy author stalking. She was successful...
Carlyn pokes David McCullough  
...but I never did find the elusive Buzz Aldrin. If I had, no doubt I would have poked him, too.

And Hazel? Well she's a networker extraordinaire!

Hazel, David McCullough, and somebody else.   
On Sunday, after another Hazelian feast, we cleaned our home-away-from-home and trundled off to the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, where we perused the Mo Willems* exhibit...

Mo Willems's progress charts. Works of art in themselves. 
heard Chris Van Allsburg speak... 

Here we (sans Greg) are waiting to hear C.VanA. speak. From left to right: Kevin, Hazel, Sean, Sleepy Carlyn, Somnambulant Russ, Teri, and me. 
...and as we had the night before, stood in a very “popular” line to have our books signed. For quite a while… Simply an occasion for more chats and bonding, and that long wait is actually one of my nicest memories from the weekend.

Sean and Chris (VAN ALLSBURG!), just, you know, two dudes hangin'. 
And from there it was onto the R. Michelson Galleries in Northampton for the 24th Annual Children’s Book Illustration Exhibit*, where we hobnobbed...

...with such esteemed book creators as Caldecott winners/honorees ChrisVan Allsburg, Mordicai Gerstein, and Tony DiTerlizzi, and where my critique partner, Dave Bird, was honored for winning the R. Michelson Galleries EmergingArtist Award in the NESCBWI 2013 Poster Competition. I also caught up with some kid-lit friends I haven’t seen in a while.

Published authors & illustrators at the show. Image courtesy of R. Michelson Galleries, Seth Kaye photography. 
It was such a fabulous weekend, and I can’t wait to do it again. It just underlines to me how important it is to find and spend time with your peoples, the peoples who are on the same journey, who “get it,” and who are in it for the long haul. It’s an effortless and frequently hilarious way to make new friends, not to mention get a lot of art done, eat, and make much merry. 

Tablecloth evolves... (I think this is Russ Cox's section)
And evolves... (Sean Bixby's section)
...and ends up like this.
Thanks so much, Hazel, and to all of you. When are we doing it again?

*Each of these exhibits are running, and are within an hour and twenty minutes of each other in Massachusetts. Well worth the trip.


  1. What a wonderful recap. Had a fantastic time! Thanks for helping me stalk.

  2. I already miss everyone and am ready for the next retreat. Great time getting to know everyone.

  3. Great time! Glad you could come and great post xxx