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Monday, April 11, 2016

Museum Visits! Maine Jewish Museum and Isabella Stewart Gardner

One of the most articulate speakers I have witnessed in a long time, Ashley F. Bryan (born July 13, 1923) is an American writer and illustrator of children's books. Most of his subjects are from the African American experience. He was U.S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006 and he won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Award for his contribution to American children's literature in 2009. 

I hope to have to the opportunity to visit his studio this summer on Cranberry Island.

Ashley Bryan speaking at the Maine Jewish Museum in Portland, Maine

I've finally had the chance to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and found it to be an interesting, beautiful and eclectic experience. I loved the glassed-in atrium and was in awe to see her portrait, painted by the one and only John Singer Sargent.

Indoor atrium at ISGM

Isabella Stewart Gardner, painted by John S. Sargent

Portland Show opening at Greenhut Galleries

The "Portland Show" at Greenhut Galleries was a wonderful success. I am so honored to be one of the 48 artists exhibited in this biennial show. What a great turn out!

Check out the review of the show at and what an amazing front cover/center spread coverage of the show in the Entertainment section in last week's Portland Press Herald!

Thursday April 7, Portland Press Herald

Portland Show opening

Portland Show opening

My painting "Boyd Street Gardens" pictured on left

Thursday, March 24, 2016

8th Biennial "Portland Show" at Greenhut Galleries

My most recent (and finally completed) endeavor- an oil painting! I haven't made an oil painting since foundations classes in grad school over 3 years ago.

I had a blast with this. Then I just needed to be done with it. I finally forced myself to walk away from it and this is what I got...

Boyd Street Gardens, oil on canvas, 30x20 inches

"The Portland Show" will be displayed at Greenhut Galleries in Portland, Maine April 7-30th, Opening reception Saturday April 9, 1-3pm. There is a huge roster of talented artists this year (many of whom will be at the opening), and I am honored and excited to have my work hang in the mix. Hope to see you there!

Updates of the past few months in Art, in Life

It's been a lovely whirlwind of art, travel, and personal life. To start, my most recent show, the 10x10 show at June Fitzpatrick Gallery in Portland, was a crowded two-day event and quite a lot of fun! I sold the window piece and was invited to participate again in next year's show. Additionally, we have a writer for Artscope Magazine interested in writing an article on the show.

We hung the exhibit the week after I returned from a trip to Costa Rica with my [now] fiancé. Suffice it to say, it was a lovely trip and a busy return home as I had not had time to frame my ten pieces for this show prior to leaving the country!

Two of my favorites from this show I am also submitting to a juried show at Harlow Gallery in Hallowell, Maine. Paintings pictured below...

Canopy Tales

Whale Stories

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10x10 show at June Fitzpatrick gallery

I was recently invited to be one of the thirteen artists to participate in the 10x10 show, an annual show that takes place in Portland at June Fitzpatrick gallery on Congress Street at the MECA building.

I'm looking forward to it and have been working hard. The show will be held Friday February 19 from 5-8pm and Saturday from 10am-3pm.

It's been a fury of art (an art marathon!) in my studio recently. I've put a children's book project on hold while I prepare for the show at June's and the Portland Show at Greenhut Galleries in April. My trip to Costa Rica is coming up at the end of this month - I can hardly wait!

But I must wait... and thank goodness for that. So much to do before I leave...



Cave Interior
History of Colonization

Rainforest Book
Kelp Forest Bedtime Stories

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Gallery opening at Vestibule 594

Hello bloggers,

It's been a busy couple of months since my last post. We opened FEATURED SHOOT: A Group Photography Show at Vestibule 594. You can also check us out on Facebook! The opening went great, thanks to the help of volunteer, Kristina Curtis. I'm thrilled to be able to put together a show displaying the works of early career artists, giving them an opportunity to show at a great location in the heart of the Arts District in Portland, Maine.

Here are a few photos from the show:

photo courtesy of Kristina Curtis

Opening reception November 6, First Friday Art Walk

Opening reception November 6, First Friday Art Walk

Opening reception November 6, First Friday Art Walk

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Photos from my show at the Children's Museum

Such an imaginative space! I'm so happy to have my pictures hang here... hopefully catching the interest of a few tater tots. A big thank-you to the folks at the museum for their kind words and for the hanging of the show. Thanks for choosing my artwork :)

reproductions on the walls at the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine

The stairwell looking nice

 I'm pleased to have my work up at the same time as Christopher Van Dusen, an incredible children's book illustrator based out of Camden, Maine. He's also a UMASS Dartmouth alumni like myself.  Shout out to the professors of Group 6!

exhibit by Chris Van Dusen
"Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee"
splashing with whales

Thanks for taking a look!

Book dummy beginnings

Hello! I'm emerging from the depths of the sweet summer ether, shaking off some rust and beach dust and throwing myself into the next project.

And what a summer. In Maine, the heat is a blessing shed on little more than 3 months out of the year and I have done my best to soak up every bit. I'm fully moved into the studio and fully at home, ready to dig in...

The sketches and storyline come first for the concept Izzy in the Sun, a children's book project I began with the intent of being part of my thesis for grad school that I just recently returned to. The story is about a naked mole rat- a horder, a hermit, a grumpy old lady rat- who comes out at nights from her burrow in the woods to collect random junk and "treasures" that she stores in her home.

One day Izzy is discovered by a traveling stranger who takes notice of her sadness and gives her a very special gift. The touch of kindness opens Izzy up (like a flower waking up in the sun!) to love and friendship.

Join me on my updates of this project that I am very excited about!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Show opens at the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine

Today marks the opening day for my exhibit at the Children's Museum in Portland, Maine. The work is a mixed show from a few different series: the troll series, book illustrations for And So Are You, My Child, and a new series inspired by imagery out of Native American legends. There are a few outliers in there as well...

This summer has been a particularly beautiful one for Maine. And when Maine is beautiful, you go out there and experience it- because of course, winter is coming and does it certainly howl in this northerly state! Admittedly, my mind has been little on my work and body seldom in the studio, but there is a book that's been percolating. A couple actually, but the one I'm going to land on for the moment is titled Izzy in the Sun. It's a story that I started in grad school about a friendless naked mole rat who angrily hides away in her dark burrow until one day, when a friend leaves her a sunny gift.

You'll see!

Manuscript must first be fleshed out, and then the book dummy will follow.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Cosmic Crow - complete

This one feels done... Cosmic Crow, based on a Native American legend (lenni lenape tribe) about how the crow brought warmth to the earth.

Cosmic Crow - digital illustration


Thursday, June 11, 2015

New studio!!

I can now call Mayo Street Arts my creative home. Located in a historic church built in the 1890s, this building is bursting with activities, community outreach, and programs for children and adults alike. I'm very excited and very fortunate to be a member and working artist within the organization.

My Instagram photo of a corner of the studio (follow me! @jmacathy)

photo of Mayo Street Arts courtesy of Corey Templeton

Cosmic Crow and Museum Show: updates

The Tribal Tales series continues... and I believe I'm coming up on the finishing touches for the following illustration entitled "Cosmic Crow". This is loosely based off of the legend of how the crow brought warmth to the earth (a story from the Lenape Tribe).

Cosmic Crow created digitally in Photoshop
The illustrations from this series will be on display at the Children's Museum and Theatre of Maine (in Portland) beginning the third week in August.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Digital Painting Complete!

This illustration feels like a turning point. I'm looking forward to the story that results from this :)


Sunday, May 24, 2015

"A Girl and Her Dog"- Inuit tales

Exploring indigenous culture excites so much inspiration in me. So far, the concept of creating a children's book based on native people of the polar region is most visually appealing. The tundra is a stunning, barren, and dangerous place... it seems like a very quiet life to live on the world's edge, chasing warmth and food, at the mercy of the elements.

The image of this girl and her husky came to me after only a few revisions. The girl, I imagine, is a fiercely independent young woman, with courage, who is used to the loneliness of the cold landscape. Her dog is her protector, nearly a ghost, a silent image of strength shadowing her on her daily adventures. 

In my illustrations I hope to convey a sense of spirit and divinity, something that shines through the drawing, without this having to be stated in the text. 

drawing scanned to Photoshop

progress in color

Monday, April 20, 2015

Completed "Dancing Bears"

What a rainy, rainy day... and I love it. Rainy days are the best for getting work done at home. Give me a rainy day over a sunny day any time that I have a deadline to make.

Lately, my days are filled with gallery work- my day job at Greenhut and my part-time project at Vestibule 594. In assistance to the team at P3, I've been helping curate their tiny gallery on the street level below their offices. We are full up until the end of October with talented artists of different styles, mediums, and varying stages in their career. I'm planning a special group show for November and December and will tell more about that as it develops. Also exciting... We have been approved to train interns with Maine College of Art at the gallery, so they can earn credits while working in a gallery setting. Now, to find the best person for the job!

Thankfully, I had plenty of time this weekend to get artwork done... though still lagging considerably behind where I had hoped to be at this point. I need 9 pieces for the Children's Museum... below is one of TWO. Yikes!

Dancing Bears digital media

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sketching out new ideas

 Pictured above is the rough sketch for a new illustration I am working on. This one is loosely based on Native American folklore about how the crow saved the sun- but I added a child because how could you miss out on an adventure to the sun on the back of a friendly crow? If only in your imagination...

Below are some sketches for an illustration of dancing and musical bears. I like the simple, sweet look on the bears' faces that I've achieved. I'm hoping to keep that feeling in my completed drawing, of serenity.

Monday, March 2, 2015


I worked on this illustration all day and feel as if it's almost done. There is quite possibly more to add, but I'll have to look at it another day to figure it out. It's been a long one! Goodnight.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

New Work

I realize I had never posted the final image of The Dream Maker! Another job for me tonight will be to get this up onto the website as well...

The Dream Maker completed
I was planning to create a whole series in this style. The process usually begins with an image in my head that I have a desire to create. Often, I skip the thumbnail stage and go straight to sketches to nail down the layout of this image quicker. I sketch to scale on tracing paper and make many variations with the sketch, sorting out the problems and details of the image through the layers. Once I have achieved a pretty tight drawing that I'm pleased with, I can then transfer to final board. From there, I watercolor the whole image to get a basic value sketch and fill in the recesses of the fine-tooth board. Watercolor gives the image richness in color, and in some places I choose to leave watercolor showing for variety and depth of field. The final stage is colored pencil- a sometimes long and arduous process.

This style I do adore for the final product. I think when done correctly the image shines with texture and color. Using colored pencil to apply color also keeps me close to my first love- the act of drawing. Applying paint, mixing paint... it has always been a more foreign approach for me.

One of the wonderful opportunities that I took away from SCBWI New York was the invitation by art director, Elizabeth Parisi at Scholastic Books, to contact her with a link to our website ("our" being those who participated in her workshop). She urged me to push the line drawing and the shapes in my work, and to possibly find another way to colorize my work. Taking that advice, I decided to return to digital illustration.

I said I wouldn't return to digital anytime soon, but this is a great opportunity to try my hand at art creation that might be faster and reproduce well for print. My show at the Children's Museum will be all reproduced images anyway- printed on cotton rag paper adhered to foam core... a far less costly mistake if sticky little hands were to touch them! Below is the line drawing for "Creation Story", based off of an Iroquois folktale about the creation of earth.

Photoshop line drawing for Creation Story


Sunday, February 15, 2015

SCBWI in review, and what's to come...

The annual New York City Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators was a wonderful event held at the Hyatt Grand Central in Manhattan. I had a great time meeting writers and authors, fellow illustrators, agents and art directors. I made it into the portfolio showcase by the hairs of my chinny chin chin, not realizing that I had been waitlisted. It is a great opportunity to get noticed by all the important agents and publishers in New York. Hopefully a few took my tear sheets- fingers crossed!

Some of the speakers were particularly excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed Kwame Alexander's speech, new winner of the Newbury Award for his collection of poems called Crossover. His most defining quote of the night was "Do not let everybody else's 'no' define your 'yes'". Charismatic and encouraging, I took much out of his talk and even bought Crossover for him to sign.

Kwame Alexander and I at his book signing

Alexander reads from his award-winning book, Crossover
Panel discussion by representative publishing companies

Displaying my work at the Open Portfolio

The conference event felt like a great way to make connections and get more involved in the world that I am trying to break into. It also felt reassuring- in some ways. People within the industry confirmed over and over again how difficult it is to break into children's book illustration. Even if you do achieve that goal, a small disrupt can derail your career. I did recognize within myself however, that I am on the right track, doing what must be done to put my work under the noses of the most important people I can, and always updating my portfolio.

That said, I have a new show coming up! My work will be exhibited at the Children's Museum here in Portland sometime in late spring, early summer. I meet with the director of the museum next week to pin down an exact date. So much work to do before that time! I'm looking forward to this push and filling my portfolio with some new and beautiful art.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

SCBWI Winter Conference in New York

Tomorrow morning I leave for NYC to participate in the annual Society of Children's Books Writers and Illustrators winter conference held at the Hyatt Grand Central Hotel in Manhattan. My flight arrives with just enough time to bolt over to the hotel with my portfolio- kudos to the kind folks over at Bayside Print Services- and submit for the Portfolio Showcase. Hopefully, my work will be liked well enough to win the attention of the art directors, agents and publishers that will be judging the event. The winner gets an all-expense paid trip back to New York for a meeting with top art directors and publishers.

Saturday will be loaded with events and workshops ending in a gala dinner with golden networking opportunities. Thrilled and humbled to be a part of this event, I look forward to the connections I will make and the experiences I will have. I'm also looking forward to having dinner with old friends and being hosted by new ones and their brandy-new beautiful baby.

I'm looking forward to my weekend and feeling prepared!

Tearsheets, portfolios (large & small), and business cards

Sunday, January 4, 2015

SCBWI annual conference- signed up!

I am so excited for my upcoming trip to New York for the annual Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conference. I feel it will be an eye-opening trip and I have the opportunity of adding many relevant contacts to my growing contact list. Not to mention- I could potentially be discovered by an agent or a publisher interested in my work and/or win an award if chosen for best portfolio!

There is much to do before this trip! I have to create a whole new portfolio to have printed as no original illustrations can be submitted for the contest and dimensions must fall between specific sizes. I also need to finish my "Elephant God" illustration to submit to the Spectrum Magazine competition which deadline is at the end of January. Then of course, I need to be armed with throwaways and business cards.

In other news, today has been a great day for computer work- who wants to go outside in this icy snow? Not me! But this gives me the opportunity to update my contact list, though there is much left to do. A mountain of an ongoing project this is... researching publishers, agents, and other illustrators, etc. Thank you notes have been written to my art buyers from my past show at Vestibule 594- a fun project. Lastly, I've updated my profile for the SCBWI site, registered for the conference, and bought plane tickets- the days off of work are already secured;)

And of course, to leave you with an image. Here is my progress for "Elephant God"...

watercolor & colored pencil on illustration board