Thursday, November 22, 2007

Sara Varon, part 2

Last week I had the pleasure of an evening of Crafts and Snacks with Sara Varon. She's very organized and has already conceived of and silkscreened her 2008 New Year's pack for sending to clients and friends. I admire Sara's orderly approach to her work, and it was satisfying for me to watch her assembly-production line. She's very careful and focused with what she is doing, and I could see that she approaches all parts of her process-- even repetitive tasks like folding and sticking adhesive goo in her cards-- with the same care that she puts into her illustration work.

(click on photos to see expanded and in detail)

Having a cozy craft night with Sara made me feel like we were a pair of friendly creatures doing a project, which is often a theme in her work. She and I are from a similar gene pool (see photo), and so in this case we have an intra-species friendship.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The World of Sara Varon

Sara Varon is a comics artist, illustrator, printmaker, teacher, boxer, creator of delicious baked goods, and friend, to name a few of her talents. I have been a fan of her work for about 6 years, and my admiration continues to grow with her work. Her most recent graphic novel, Robot Dreams, published by First Second Books, is my current favorite, with her previous book, Chicken and Cat, a close second.

According to me, Sara's specialty is exploring interspecies friendships-- a relevant theme for all of us on this planet.
Her work often conveys a sweet and peaceful space that can exist between two (or more) creatures when they are having a regular daily experience, or an adventure, or are making something together. Often there is a project to be accomplished, and I love how Sara visually takes the reader through each step: having a sense of Sara's methodical and organized approach to her art-making, I appreciate how she conveys step-by-step processes in her work. I also appreciate (re: love) the expressions of her characters and how she shows their reactions to new, interesting, or upsetting things that present themselves on their paths in life. Here are some examples of this, from a series Sara did for the Walker Art Museum:

But in her world, interspecies relations are not always harmonious, and Sara is not afraid to explore conflict:

In her book Robot Dreams, Sara shows a range of what can exist between two creatures. it is the story of a friendship between a dog and a robot and how their relationship goes through an estrangement-- it is completely pictorial and one the most emotional stories I have ever 'read'. Not having explored too far in the genre of comics and graphic novels, I can't say this with authority, but I feel that with Robot Dreams, Sara has plowed new ground in how she shows the complexity and depth of feelings that can occur on both sides, when a relationship goes through big changes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Continuing with the theme of the Children's Museum of Art, there is a wonderful children's book publisher in Hungary- Móra- which has been putting out books with gorgeous and inspiring illustrations for many many years. When I was visiting the beautiful town of Pécs, Hungary, in 2002, a sweet antiqvarium (aka: antique bookstore) owner gifted me this likewise sweet book,
published by Móra: while can't read Hungarian, I do know that this book is about the Weather and its many forms. The illustrations are fresh and modern, and from 1971. I love their simplicity and directness, and the cheerful feeling conveyed that any kind of weather is okay to experience. Looking through this book is a refreshing break from worries about climate change and imminent environmental meltdown. But moreso, it's time spent enjoying simple, thoughtful, stylized yet direct visual communication.
Here are some more samples from the back and inside, to enjoy:

Stay tuned for more on Móra... there are many beautiful books from them to celebrate.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Very Inviting Children's Museum of NYC

Last week I finally checked out the CMA--New York's Children's Museum of the Arts and saw a bunch of really great work such as this swim scene above. It's a hands-on museum with work stations throughout the space-- each station is hosted by an
artist/staff person who is there to guide children and parents through different art-making processes. I was only there for a drive-by, but was tempted to sit down and make something because the atmosphere there was so open and inviting: each table had supplies laid out and chairs waiting around the perimeter, waiting to be occupied. At some of the tables sat a kid and a parent, or a few, but the atmosphere was calm and nice. Artwork populates the whole space as well, so it's a combo museum/studio. They also have classes for kids, which sound very appealing.

(Especially interesting to me as a teacher of animation is that they have lo-tech animation classes here.)

Here some photos of artwork that I especially admired, from the museum-- however, and unfortunately (with the exception of the apartment building below) they don't have the artists' names displayed...

Some nice, big portraits:

An apartment building with interior:

Jump roping:

Big Puppets:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Electric Garden

Hello Again after a long bit away. This post is to let you know about a show opening tomorrow night in Portland, called Electric Garden, which features the artwork of the very special Peter Hamlin. Peter is a Painter, Illustrator, Designer and Animator, as well as the creator of my website. It is from his mind that sprung the idea for this blog. In Electric Garden he is showing paintings with intricate detail based on the theme of the show, whose info can be seen here at (this link is not hot for some reason)
Betsy Crawford and a dynamic duo named APAK will be showing as well-- if you are in the area, tomorrow night is the opening- 7pm!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Ceramic Art of Saya Moriyasu

I've been wanting to spread the word about the wonderful world of Saya Moriyasu's art for several years... and now I finally have a place to do it. Saya makes beautiful, sweet, soulful characters in clay (and sometimes in 2D) that embody spirit and story. Her clay forms often have a dual function: besides being characters, they are often also lamps, containers and vessels.

Pictured here are two of the members of my personal and prized Saya Moriyasu Collection. The mustachioed trumpet player, when you remove his head, is also a bottle form into which one could put something with a stem. The Lady, whose head is an open vessel, can hold small things that shouldn't be misplaced. She's a nice reminder to me of how we contain needed items in our heads (if we should be so lucky...).

Saya and I became friends in Seattle, WA, in 2002, and I was lucky to spend time in her studio, visiting, and sometimes making small clay works too. Her studio has an atmosphere of positivity, hard work, and constant creativity + productivity. I loved being there. Saya comes from a family of Artists and Engineers, and I see both of these powers carried on and at work in her artistic approach. She has curiosity, can-do-it-ive-ness, and an Experimenter's ability to try different solutions until she finds the right one. Saya recently began a new series of miniatures, which are for sale. Here can see a fun animated showcase of these miniatures. And here you can visit Saya's website to see it all.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

The Bird Machine

Last week I visited my pal Jay Ryan at The Bird Machine. Among his many talents as an artist, Jay designs and prints silk screen posters here at the shop where he works with fellow Artist and Printer, Mat Daly. They are sometimes accompanied by Jay's Dad, Jack Ryan. Here are some photos I took during my visit.

I love to visit The Bird Machine because the atmosphere there is friendly, full of humor, and is buzzing with possibility. Since I've known Jay (from high school Art class in the late 80's) he has had a strong, graphic approach to the marks he makes. It's rewarding to see how he has developed this sensibilty, and I marvel that he created a place- the well-oiled The Bird Machine- to manifest this vision and approach to his work.

I've only discovered silkscreen printing for myself a few years ago, and love the inks, the flatness and texture of the color on the paper, and the process of printing itself. At The Bird Machine, it's exciting to see this process so alive and relevant to every day. And it's inspiring to see how the Bird Machine Artists (which also includes not-picture-here-artist/illustrator Diana Sudyka) use this medium with very appealing results.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Embroidery, cut outs, and childhood

Here is the prime example of an inspiring item around which I grew up, about which I wrote about in the first blog: a Hungarian embroidered pillow. This black pillow has always been a happy site-- I love the drama of the black background with the bright colors and shapes floating on top. The complex pattern is visual entertainment to me: there is movement, mystery and personality in these forms and how they relate and fit into one another. In this photo, the pillow is upsidedown: please twist you head to see it from how its creator meant the motif to be seen.

Growing up, I was also lucky that a kind and smart person gave me this craft/game called "Fuzzy Felts". It had a black piece of felt-on-board the same size of the box, that was the stage for placing these different shapes of colored felt on top. You can see that the effect of a Fuzzy Felt composition was similar to the pillow. The drama of the bright colors on the black, the strong forms, and the fitting of shapes are, to me, an invitation into an animated world similar to that of the pillow (but without the Hungarian flavor). Taking the photo of the interior of the Fuzzy Felts box, it struck me that the way the shapes are sitting in the different compartments of the box is just like how I store the pieces of painted paper that I cut out and keep for the next collage. Let this be further proof of the beneficial influences of childhood play!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Artist Andrea Dezsö

To continue the Hungarian theme: last week I went to a show at the Hungarian Cultural Center here in New York City, to see the work of Romanian/Hungarian artist, Andrea Dezsö.

In two very Hungarian words I will describe her work: TOTALLY AWESOME.

This is a show of tiny sewn embroideries, illustrating the superstitious belief system of the artist's Mother. They are a brilliant combination of funny, dark, clever, and beautiful. The work is intimate in subject matter and scale. I suspect that anyone with a superstitious mother, of any nationality, will feel a connection
to this work.

Andrea is an accomplished artist in many media, and an educator. You can her other work, and more examples of these embroideries on Andrea Dezsö's site.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Welcome to Nina Frenkel's Art Blog

Greetings and welcome to my site, and to this blog, where I will be writing about
and sharing the visuals of that which I find inspiring to me, as an Illustrator and Animator.

There are many artists past and present who have influenced my work, and I
will tip my hat to them in this blog, as well share my new discoveries.

To start things off, I'm going to answer a question about my work, which sometimes arises when people see pieces like this:

"Why the Hungarian theme?"

I grew up in a house full of Hungarian folk art and the graphic design work and books of my Hungarian-born Mother's family, the Kners. Embroidered pillows, ceramic pitchers, beautifully bound books printed from the Kner Press, the original book cover illustrations done by my grandfather, Albert Kner (more on these in a future blog), all populated the house. The shapes and colors of the folk art have influenced my work on a formal level: but my experience in this family, the family stories, and the atmosphere surrounding these many pieces around which I grew up, are all important parts of the engine which drives my work.