Archive for the 'Artists' Category

Ashley’s Island


I checked two major items off of my bucket list last week – driving to Maine, and visiting Ashley Bryan on Little Cranberry Island. When Deb Taylor asked if I wanted to drive up with her, it was a no brainer. Prior to our departure, a large hurricane had barreled up the east coast causing minor damage to the island but briefly leaving people without power and water. The day that we drove up was perfectly sunny and calm.

The farthest north I had ever driven was to Boston back in 1999 when my mother took me on a college tour. BU was one of my choices. I had never given New England much thought outside of that. Looking back now, I don’t have any real explanation for my disregard of the great north, other than the fact that I didn’t personally know anyone from the region. In my mind, New York City was the edge of the world.

The first thing I noticed when we reached Maine was a purplish tinge that hung on the bare bark of trees lining the highway. I thought I was hallucinating from having been on the road too long with too little sleep, but when I asked Deb to confirm what I was seeing, she agreed. The trees were purple!

MaineHouseWe spent the night in Ellsworth and then headed out about half an hour east to catch the ferry in Bar Harbor the next morning. Bar Harbor was the picture of Maine I carried in my head from Time of Wonder. Our little ferry (a.k.a. the mail boat) carried us across to Islesford (a.k.a. Little Cranberry Island) in about fifteen minutes.

Robin and Dean waited for us at the dock with a small wheelbarrow-like carrier for our luggage. Our tour of the island began at “the mall” a restaurant, art gallery, tourist shop and rest stop all in one. There at the dock restaurant, I ate my very first Maine lobster roll. Heaven. I also caught a glimpse of Ashley! Deb and I went over to make our presence known and Ashley immediately invited us to come over to his house after lunch.

The house we stayed in was a larger late 19th century rusticator. It was a five bedroom country house that sat near the water and slept ten people. There were eight of us in the house for the week – two librarians, three teachers, a teenager, an artist, and a family friend with a wicked sense of deadpan humor. The wood was exposed, very much like Jonathan’s family treasure from Building Our House, and the house was decorated with lovely island accents and old family photographs.

I could barely wait to get to Ashley.

His charming island house was about a ten minute walk from where we all stayed. As with most houses on the island, it remained unlocked with a “come-on-in” policy. Deb and I headed over on our first day and were given a preview of his latest book, a collection of Langston Hughes poems (I won’t be more specific in the interest of publication privacy). Seeing the cut paper illustrations up close was a gift. The week we arrived was the week of his opening. Due to the hurricane damage, the big event had to be postponed. A tree fell near the museum that housed the work, but did not do any damage to the building, thank goodness.

DebAbbyThe rest of my days were spent reading and drawing. I woke each day around 8AM to a breezy 74 degrees or so. We would have coffee near the window while Abby worked on her 1000 piece puzzle. Robin would knit, and the rest of the house would quietly read. In the evenings we played trivia and card games. After breakfast, I would head out with my sketchbook to explore and spend time with Ashley.

paontingashleyOn my first day alone with Ashley, we compared sketchbooks. I shared my drawings from Africa and he shared his drawer full of sketchbooks from Germany and France. He shared his cut paper collages and I showed him my digital ones. His entire house was a museum. The walls were lined with books, toys, weavings, prints, and paintings. Airplanes hung from his ceilings. When I arrived, he was preparing a canvas to paint in the garden. We collected his morning materials and headed out. I drew. He painted.

A few hours later, we came in for lunch and I was able to meet Ashley’s nieces and nephews. Ashley graciously prepared bread, cold cuts, and cheese for us to lunch on. The big treat of the day, cranberry soda mixed with orange juice! We discussed the Kara Walker sculpture and the insensitivity to things misunderstood along with education and family. It was a lovely afternoon.

My observation of the day was that all of Ashley’s relatives had the “ey” sound at the end of their names. No doubt stemming from his famoly’s love of music. Once the table was cleared Ashley brought down the work from his latest book to which he exclaimed “Gather ‘round children!”. It was time to hear some poetry. And all of us “children” obliged and sat to listen and admire the vivid cut paper collages.

RopesBouysWe got a call after lunch saying that the museum was open briefly and we could head down to see the exhibition. I gathered Robin and the crew and we all bounded over to have a personal tour of the exhibit from Ashley. What a treat. The walls sung with color and art. There was a timeline of Ashley’s art and his 92 years of life, many selections from his hundreds of sketchbooks, a fantastic display of his handmade puppets, his amazing sea glass windows, and of course, original art from many of his popular books, including “Beautiful Blackbird”, “Let it Shine”, and “The Dancing Granny”.
The next day, after breakfast and reading (I made it through half of Octavian Nothing), I said goodbye to my friends and struck out to draw on the island. The docks were full of activity, so I plopped myself down and began a drawing of the Cranberry Isle Fisherman’s Co-op. It was the end of the work morning, so most were packing up and heading home. While drawing I met Stephanie Alley. After a bit of conversation I realized she was a famous Captain on the island and gave lobster tours on her boat. The next morning, I grabbed Abby and headed on down for a lobster boat adventure. Robin had mentioned Stephanie’s tours the night before and serendipity brought us together.

After our morning adventure, I found myself back at Ashley’s house. I hadn’t planned to bother him that day, so I sat outside on the curb to draw his home. No more than fifteen minutes had gone by when he and his dear friend, Suze popped out of the house to head over to the museum and greet fans. I was still drawing when he returned home an hour later. Being extremely hospitable, Ashley didn’t just disappear inside his home. He came out to make a few notes from the painting he began the day before, which ended up being my cue to come on in for a spell. Knowing that he had already had a long day, I excused myself shortly after he settled inside.

My last day on the island, I was itching to make a strong portrait of Ashley. I struck out to his house mid day and let myself in to an empty house. Though his door was open to me, I still felt strange hanging out in his empty home. I went outside and finished an earlier drawing and by the time I was done, Ashley appeared. It had been another long day for Ashley and he was expecting more guests, so I didn’t force myself. We had dinner plans at the house that evening, so I headed back to read more of Octavian, which turned into a delicious nap in the sun next to the picture window.

Dinnertime came and we all rallied around Ashley. Dean prepared a wonderful brisket that he had brought over by the mail boat. We had been all abuzz over it throughout the week. Ashley sat and announced, “okay, draw me!”. No pressure there. I made three miserable attempts at a portrait and gave up. During dinner, when the plates were cleared and dessert was brought out (Robin prepared a delicious lemon ice box pie), I grabbed my drawing book and began again, finally capturing Ashley’s spirit.

AshleyhandDeb and I said our goodbyes the next morning and headed back to Bar Harbor, passing along the boat ticket to Robin and Dean’s daughter, Julie. What a treat. “A Visit with Ashley Bryan” will be on display until September 20th on Little Cranberry Island. If you can head over, I highly recommend it.



Amy Sherald – HelpHOPELive

Before I moved to B-more, I searched for artists to reach out to. I came across Amy Sherald’s work and was immediately in love. I harassed her via facebook and e-mail and once I moved, we became friends. One year and counting! Not only is she an amazing painter, she is also an amazing person.

‘Grand Dame Queenie’
On view: Baltimore, MD | Gallery Myrtis

“They Call Me Redbone, But I’d Rather Be Strawberry Shortcake” (Collection of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Steven Scott)

Nine years ago, Amy was diagnosed with congestive heart failure while training for a triathlon. Despite taking meticulous care of her health Amy’s heart has weakened and she is now in urgent need of a life-saving heart transplant. Currently she is in the cardiac care unit at Johns Hopkins and will stay there until she receives her new heart.

Although Amy has health insurance, there will be many expenses related to the transplant that must be paid out of pocket. Some of these are co-pays, deductibles, and Amy will be on a life-time of expensive anti-rejection medications. Her friends and family have set up a public fund through HelpHOPELive

Thanksgiving 2012

December and holding

On December 7, 2012, Amy’s younger brother, Michael ended his battle with lung cancer after a long two year fight. He was in good health and was not a smoker prior to his diagnosis.

Michael Sherald
April 13, 1976-December 7, 2012

Please help Amy in her time of need. ANY amount that you can spare will be greatly appreciated. You can also help by sharing this with others who may be willing to help. Thank you~

To help alleviate the financial burden of transplantation, a fundraising campaign in Amy’s honor has been established with HelpHOPELive, a nonprofit organization that has been assisting the transplant community for 30 years. All donations are tax-deductible, held by HelpHOPELive in the Mid-Atlantic Heart Transplant Fund, and administered by HelpHOPELive for transplant-related expenses only. Please consider making an end of year contribution today.
Make checks payable to:
Note in memo section:
In honor of Amy Sherald     
Please send to:
2 Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100
Radnor, PA 19087
You can also donate electronically at:

Kingsland Printing and Nadirah Iman Films

Kudos to two of my SU friends for this collaboration! Sara Gates, owner of Kingsland Printing in Brooklyn, NY, shares her work and love of the craft with film maker, Nadirah Iman. At Syracuse I knew Sara as a painter. We met in our foundation year and remained friends throughout. When I moved to NY in 2003, she and I reconnected and then later we found we lived in the same neighborhood in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where her studio is located. Nadirah and I met through Sara and have been close friends ever since. Nadirah and I began as graphic designers at SU and from there she studied animation at SVA and then earned her M.F.A. in film making at SCAD. Nadirah is also the editor and producer of two of my book trailers, BIRD and OCCS.

Live the dream, ladies!

Leo Dillon 1933-2012

My heart goes out to the children’s book world today as we say goodbye to one of the most beloved and respected illustrators of our time. I only met Leo a few times in NY, but it was enough to share a hearty laugh and let him know how much he and his wife’s work meant to me…to all of us. Condolences to his wife and illustration partner, Diane, and their son as they say goodbye. Let’s raise our pencils in tribute. To all of his friends and longtime colleagues, I am so sorry for your loss.

Rollin’ with the homies

Last week was senior portfolio week at MICA. By a strange stroke of luck, four of my SVA homies all ended up at MICA to participate. Though we didn’t get to see each other at once, it was great getting hugs and catching up with everyone in small groups. Taeeun, Lauren (MICA graduate), and Nora reviewed portfolios and “The Bean” spoke to my advanced book illustration class. Here are a few pics…

Lauren and Tae spelling "hi" for the camera

We girls had a great time catching up over desert at Cafe Hon. I will spare you the sordid details of our little slumber party. When picturebook artists get together, there’s no telling what will happen! I’m still scraping paint off my ceiling ;-)

Tae giving advice to Hannah (

After saying farewell to Lauren I ushered Tae over to MICA for a day of portfolio reviews with our seniors. Tae is seen with Hannah Trieb here, you can see more of her work at Hannah has also been my teaching assistant this semester for advanced book illustration. Here is one of her thesis pieces:

from "The Anti-Love Potion", written and illustrated by Hannah Trieb

After a day of portfolio reviews, we picked up Jonathan Bean. On Thursday, Jonathan spoke with my advanced book illustration class about his work as a college student, why he chose graduate school, his evolved style, and how he got published. It was so good to re-live those days at SVA and to see years of hard work pay off so greatly.

Jonathan guiding us down publication lane

we are all wowed

My lucky students had a chance to have their work seen and reviewed by Jonathan after his presentation. In the meantime, I had to sneak away for about twenty minutes to visit with Deerwood Elementary via Skype in my office (I had completely forgotten about the appointment). Thanks to the Auburn Avenue Research Library, and the Ashley Bryan Traveling Exhibition, my work is still traveling throughout schools in Georgia. Since I can’t be in Atlanta to visit with each school alongside the work, Skype is as close to cloning myself as I can get.

the "giant head" visit with Deerwood Elementary

When I ran back downstairs (literally), Jonathan was in the middle of talking with students about their work. My independent study also had a chance to share the book that she has been illustrating all year. Having him and Tae join my class was such a treat. Nora Krug reviewed senior portfolios that day as well. We weren’t able to hang out with her, but we did sneak upstairs to say hi.

"The Bean" sharing his wisdom


after a beautiful lunch at the Ambassador

Sadly, our week had to come to a close. It was a whirlwind adventure and I am looking forward to seeing everyone again very soon. Thanks to all of my homies for supporting the students at MICA and thanks to MICA for supporting the homies. For those of you who are interested in sharing your work with the MICA community, feel free to e-mail me at sstrickland at mica dot edu. Congratulations to the graduating class of 2012!!!

African American Chidren’s Book Festival Recap

Last Saturday was the African American Children’s Book Festival created and organized by Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambatti. It was a huge event with a fantastic turn out. This year veteran superstar picturebook makers, Jerry Pinkney and Walter Dean Myers were in attendance. I sat in between Floyd Cooper and Jerry Pinkney and was able to get a little overflow book business because of it. I tell you what, sitting next to Jerry Pinkney during a book fair is a sure way to gauge your own work, and from the look of his line in relation to mine, I need to step my game up! lol

Jerry Pinkney and Me

“Shadra, you sound like a bit of a hater”. No, not at all. Jerry is one of the nicest and hardest working illustrators I know, and one of my favorites (aka, I have admired and respected him since I was in college). His work is so well loved because it is full of love and discipline. Talking to him during the day only reminded me of my own responsibility to art making and what I should be putting into the work.

On the other side of me was Floyd Cooper, who is another one of my favorite illustrators and probably one of the funniest I have talked to. We talked shop most of the day and shared tips and trade secrets. What a great afternoon. Last but not least, I bought a copy of Marilyn Nelson’s “Beautiful Ballerina” for a friend. For those of you who have beautiful ballerinas in your lives, this book is a must have.

Marilyn Nelson and Walter Dean Myers (hiding behind her)

See you again next year!

Traveling Art & Material Girls

Wow, it’s been a minute since I’ve blogged, but I’ve been busy, busy, busy. WHITE WATER debuts in 3 days! I’ve been working on a promotional material for that, including a shiny new trailer for my youtube channel (coming soon) ;-). School starts in a week and I’ve been obsessing over my syllabi, meeting people on campus, and getting to know more and more about my new city (which I adore). It’s going to be a great year! In awesome news – The Ashley Bryan Traveling Exhibit of Illustrated Africana Children’s Literature is now on display in the Barrow Media Center! This exhibit is provided through a collaboration between the Auburn Avenue Research Library and the National Black Arts Festival. The exhibit will be at Barrow until September 27th when I will visit the school.  To support the exhibit, Barrow has copies of six books that accompany the exhibit, a curriculum guide to inspire lessons using the texts and artwork, and a school-wide subscription to Literacyhead. Woot Woot! You can read more about Barrow and the exhibit here:

Chakaia Booker and The Fatality of Hope

I visited the Reginald F. Lewis Musem today to see Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists and was blown away, specifically by the work of Chakaia Booker (New York, NY) who sculpts using old rubber tires. Equally inspiring was the work of:
Sonya Clark (Richmond, VA)
Torkwase Dyson (Brooklyn, NY)
Maren Hassinger (Baltimore, MD)
Martha Jackson Jarvis (Washington, DC)
Joyce J. Scott (Baltimore, MD)
Renée Stout (Washington, DC)

AMAZING. Sadly, I wasn’t able to buy a copy of the catalog because the gift shop was closed…on a Saturday afternoon *sigh*. It’s worth another trip to collect the catalog and see the museum again. There’s so much to take in from the permanent collection. If you are visiting B-more, I highly recommend seeing the exhibit. A huge THANK YOU to Dr. Leslie King-Hammond for recommending this.

Ashley Bryan Honors and NBAF

Ashley Bryan @ Library Lions 2008

I’m a little slow….

After receiving an e-mail last month about speaking with Ashley Bryan at the Auburn Avenue Research Library it wasn’t until I spoke with my friend, Jan Burkins ( this morning that I realized I am being honored next year by Ashley Bryan in collaboration with the National Black Arts Festival!

Each year in collaboration with National Black Arts Festival and renowned illustrator Ashley Bryan AARL honors an illustrator for their commitment to the authentic and sensitive representations of people of African descent and Africana culture.

We would be honored to have you (Shadra Strickland) as the 2011 honoree. The event is schedule for Thursday, July 07 at 6:30 p.m. Honorees are asked to facilitate a discussion about their work and participate in a conversation with Ashley Bryan. This event would also include a book signing.

We would also like to exhibit your (Shadra Strickland’s) artwork in our small gallery during the month of July.

Yeah, don’t ask me how I missed that. They had me at “conversation with Ashely Bryan”. WOO HOO!!!!!!! What a tremendous honor!

Many thanks to Ashley Bryan, the National Black Arts Festival, the Auburn Avenue Research Library, (and Jan Burkins for making me go back and read my e-mail slowly). See you in July!

Art Crush – Wycliffe (Linc) Bennet

When Renée Watson and I had our book signing at the Shrine of the Black Madonna, the walls were filled with paintings from Linc Bennet. Most people would categorize his work as collage, but he uses fabric as paint to describe shapes and model form. The paintings are absolutely striking. I have fallen in love with one and will be purchasing it as soon as I have enough money saved. In the meantime, here is a video about Linc and his work.

Oddly enough, listening to Linc talk about panic and not having enough time to make all the work he would like to, is so familiar. I don’t know any artist who works on a project without conceiving of five more in the process. Without further ado, here’s Mr. Bennet’s beautiful work. Enjoy~

Watch The Art of Linc Bennett in Entertainment |  View More Free Videos Online at

OH NO!!!!

I love original artwork. When I fall in love, there is no greater thrill for me than to be able to own an original piece that I can cherish always and forever. Years ago when I was gainfully employed as an art teacher, I stalked admired Kadir Nelson’s work (still do) and wished that I could afford one of his originals. One day, there was a painting that appeared on his web site titled “Rainbow”. It was a smaller painting, but was within my budget at only $1000 and I loved it. It spoke to me (cue the wind chimes). The image was a close up of a woman’s face with a rainbow painted across her eyelid. I waited and waited to buy it, debating whether or not I could make that type of investment. When I finally mustered up the courage to purchase the painting it was gone. To this day it is one of my biggest regrets. Now it haunts me (cue the weepy violins).

Since then I vowed to seize opportunities to purchase original art when I can.

That being said, 826LA held an OH NO art auction with Dan Santat back in August. I saw that Sean Qualls (who I also stalk admire) had a piece up for bidding and I jumped at the chance to own it.  A few days went by and I won the piece! Happy Day!!!

Not only did I get to add a new piece of art to my (modest) collection and a signed copy of Dan’s awesome book, OH NO! (Or, How my Science Project Destroyed the World), with a signed limited edition print, but I was also supporting 826LA, a non-profit organization that provides free literacy programs to thousands of students living in underserved neighborhoods in Los Angeles.