Thursday, August 31, 2017

Noteworthy Updates

Fred Kaplan has a new book, Lincoln & the Abolitionists: John Quincy Adams, Slavery, and the Civil War". Fred will be speaking in Kansas City on 9/13/17. About Fred Kaplan website

He was my guest for the exhibit, Dickens, A Celebration In Pictures. Read his Interview from the exhibit.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017


Dave Kopka engages in books, story boarding, comics, and pre-production work, but is fascinated with exploring a wide spectrum of illustration and being a creative force in visual narrative.
site and contact:
an exhibition showcasing the literary work of Edgar Allan Poe
 interpreted by contemporary illustrators Dave Kopka, Nancy Doniger, Donna Miskend, Carol (Klio) Burrell special guests: 
Michael Patrick Hearnauthor of the forthcoming An Annotated Edgar Allan Poe, James Armstrong, playwright, Charlie Vazquezauthor and director Bronx Writing Center
DM: Talk to me about your interest in, and influence of fantasy art on your work.
DK: My work currently revolves around representational elements mainly, so I'm always looking to find ways to create the kind of imagery that a camera might have a very difficult time in replicating, visually or viscerally. I always look forward to the challenge of doing so, to create these worlds and scenarios that might not otherwise exist the same exact way in someone else's mind, and a prevalent effect is that the work has elements of the fantastic in it. I've always been a nerd about old and new school fantasy though (trading cards, scifi/fantasy novels, comics, table top games, etc), so I'd be remiss if that didn't have a strong influence on the work as well.

The Premature Burial,©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DM: Who are the artists you admire in the fantasy genre? 
DK: Interestingly enough, I try to expose myself to as many, if not more artists working outside fantasy themes. Artists include (but certainly aren't limited to) Diego Velázquez, Alberto Breccia, Degas, Mikhail Vrubel, Donato Giancola, Frazetta, Victor Vasnetsov, William Heath Robinson, Bernie Wrightson, Scott M Fischer, Goya, William Renner, Greg Manchess, Van Gogh, Ivan Bilibin, Jeffrey Allan Love, Edmund Du Lac, Harry Clarke, Kay Nielson, and most particularly Käthe Kollwitz. I am always looking for a good combination of current artists and ones from past-eras, and finding out who took or had influence in both groups. The list grows everyday. Indeed, we stand on the shoulders of giants! 

DM: Some of your illustrations for Edgar Allan Poe Illustrated has a distinct fantasy style element. What was it about his writing that moved you in that direction, or did something just click like an image that popped into your head?
DK: The way that Poe writes conjures up shadowy and spooky imagery. There's something elemental and passionate woven within the writing, utilizing a powerful sense of commonality (to me at least), and that was important to try and capture visually. Aiming to retain that energy guided most of the decisions made throughout the entire process. From this, some of the stories or poems lent themselves to be more interpretive than others, and allowed me to introduce an otherworldliness that I felt suited the written piece(s). It was a challenge I had so much fun being engaged with, so hopefully that shows through as well.

DM: Tell me about your illustration process. (All artwork,©Dave Kopka 2016/17)
DK: I don't currently have a traditional studio set-up, so I have been cultivating my process according to limited parameters, which I've found works out better in the end as I LOVE experimenting with many different mediums and approaches and find it difficult to decide what to move forward with. 

For the Poe illustrations, the process started with various rounds of thumbnails before settling on a composition. 
A slightly bigger sketch is done, solidifying all the design elements. That's scanned, scaled up slightly more, printed, and transferred to drawing paper. Artist-made reference photos and additional research for props are made and utilized throughout the rest of the process.

Refinements are made and the loose blown-up sketch is turned into a more finished preliminary drawing. 
A final high-res scan of this drawing is made to-size, and the paint is all applied digitally (after a series of greyscale and color studies are done, to keep the composition unified), with the preliminary drawing serving as a solid guide underneath.
El Dorado,©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DM: Did you discover something new or interesting while doing your research for this exhibit?

The Pit And The Pendulum, ©Dave Kopka 2016/17
DK: There was a lot of new territory to explore while looking through Poe's written works. Something that struck me while reading was that many of the stories present themselves for so much interpretation; the poems even more so. For instance, throughout the cast of his characters, we don't necessarily always have a solid grasp on who they are/what they look like specifically. Much of their image is made up of what we project onto them (another reason why I think Poe's writing was so good, it tricks the reader into doing a lot of the work in creating a visual image). This is fantastic, because it allows me as an artist to conjure up something that might look different than someone else's vision of the same story, and opens up a dialogue - visually or otherwise - to learn from folks with different perspectives. There's a lot of potential space to explore creative freedom too. Whether or not it was intended, Poe really lets illustrators take the writing and make it their own. 

DM: Do you have any upcoming events? 
DK: Some story pitches and a small line up of paintings are underway. A few smaller personal projects are on the docket as well, not to mention my continued exploration in sequential art. There's always something in the works! Feel free to follow me on Instagram (@drawkop), Tumblr (@davekopka), or Twitter (@DaveKopka) for updates and developments on current projects. 
James Armstrong  more to come
For more information call the visitor center 718.365.5516 or visit their website calendar under Poe Park Visitor Center.
Nancy Doniger, artist
Carol (Klio) Burrell, artist
Charlie Vázquez, author and Director, Bronx Writers Center  
James Armstrong, playwright
Michael Patrick Hearn, author and literary historian books
Donna Miskend, curator, artist news

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Due to family issues, this blog has been on hiatus. I am pleased to return with interesting interviews and some catch up posts here and on my general personal blog. A new post appears July 12th. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Illustrations by the Children's Book Illustrators Group 
On view in the Youth Wing at 
10 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn  tel: 718.230.2100
June 11 - September 25, 2015 
exhibiting members:
Angelique Anderson, Lisa Cinelli, Deborah Cuneo, Maria Madonna Davidoff, Diana Ting Delosh, Nancy Doniger, Laura Goetz,  Amalia Hoffman, Melissa Iwai, Yuko Katakawa, Kitty Leech,  Marie McCann, Virginia Law Manning, Jennifer Merz, Donna Miskend, Christine Mix, Annie Raulerson, Roberta Rivera, Karen Romagna, Vicky Rubin, Wallace West
guest speaker: Michael Patrick Hearn
Ugly Duckling, Yuko Katakawa
DM: Why did  you choose this fairy tale to illustrate?
I like both stories: The Blue Bird and The Ugly Duckling were telling us, “ Be true to yourself, Look no further, an answer is right there with you.”    -Yuko Katakawa
The tale of Snow White is gruesome but sweet, heartbreaking but hopeful. And who hasn't felt like a wicked stepmother is out to get him or her? It's cathartic. I wanted to capture that sorrowful moment where Snow White feels that all is lost, right before seven little saviors prove her wrong.- Wallace West 
I'm a devout animal lover and in reading through potential fairytales to illustrate, I found a story about animals that were "cast away" by their owners, because they were old. Since all my pets have always been shelter "castaways" themselves, I immediately connected with the story. - Deborah Cuneo
I chose the Balinese version of the Hansel & Gretel fairy tale because during one of my
Hansel and Gretel, Maria Madonna Davidoff
regular visits to Bali, I became fascinated and inspired when I discovered that there was a Balinese version of the Hansel and Gretel fairytale. - Maria Madonna Davidoff 
I chose to illustrate a tender love scene of Beauty embracing the fallen beast, because her compassion for birds and animals also resonates within my heart. - Laura Goetz
I decided to do The Spider’s Thread because it was one of my favorite stories to translate when I was a student of Japanese in college.  It was the first story I ever translated and it stuck with me.  - Melissa Iwai 
I have loved this fairy tale since I was a child. The animals who, being too old to be useful to their owners anymore, leave home in search of peace and happiness as musicians in Bremen. - Jennifer Merz
 DM: Did you have a favorite fairy tale as a child? 
The Princess and the Goblin. Christine Mix
The Princess and the Goblin, by George McDonald was one of my favorite fairy tales growing up. As a young girl, I read the story over and over, captured by it's magic. -Christine Mix
I'm partial to anything with a little gore and a lot of outsmarting of adversaries. Hansel and Gretel was always my favorite (an affinity made stronger when Joan Collins played both the witch and the stepmother in Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre).  - Wallace West

Cinderella was my favorite. I had two different Cinderella books. The most beautiful I saved well into my adult life. The illustrations were exquisite.  - Marie McCann

DM: Do you still read fairy tales? 
Yes, I like the re-imagined or fractured fairy tales based on the original stories. I’ve also written a few that I’m hoping will find a publishing home.  
- Donna Miskend
Absolutely and I collect fairytales from different countries.- Maria Madonna Davidoff
Yes. I recently was reading some of Hans Christian Anderson’s tales and fell in love with the story of the The Beetle Who Went On His Travels — another extremely rude character, a dung beetle! He has many adventures, thinks everyone else is disrespectful, when in fact he’s very self-centered. The end of the story made me laugh out loud! - Marie McCann
I may not always read them but I am perpetually referencing their archetypes.Wallace West

Thumbelina, Donna Miskend
DM: Tell me about your illustration process. 
It depends on the medium, but I make rough sketches to choose a composition. I also take thousands of photos of nature and animals for reference. I might make a color story to keep me on target for consistency and flow, especially If I’m working on a full dummy.  If I need to adjust the size I'll scan my drawings into Photoshop for the layout. I work traditionally in watercolor: redrawing on paper, laying on a foundation color like burnt sienna to enhance the colors layered over it, a process called glazing. This technique adds depth to the colors.  - Donna Miskend

I usually create 3D environments but have decided to experiment with 2D imagery.Angelique Anderson
I first do a lot of preliminary sketches and think about the color I will use. Sometimes I make a "mood board" of the color swatches and inspirational images. I make thumbnail sketches of my composition, then blow them up and refine and do color studies in Photoshop. Then I paint pieces of my illustration in ink and paint and scan those in and then assemble in Photoshop. For more on my process:
 - Melissa Iwai 

I read the text with an open mind, jot down character attributes and begin sketches based on those notes. I do a very rough sketch of the page layout and fine tune bit by bit with gestures and expression. I am bananas for texture and patterns so am always on the lookout for textiles, carvings, tile and woodwork that I can inject into my work.- Wallace West
I start my illustrations as rough  pencil sketches.  Then I draw a few sketches for the same image, developing character and composition.  Once I get a strong drawing,  I scan it, ink it and paint it with watercolor. - Christine Mix

DM: What else would you like people to know about you or your work? 
I think of my work as a reflection of my experiences living and producing art in Asia, Europe, and the United States. My hope is to expose children to a global, multi-cultural view of life through my illustrations and my books. - Maria Madonna Davidoff
I am also passionate about Fashion Illustration. I draw in a completely different style, but I enjoy to explore different subjects and medium. - Yuko Katakawa
I am developing children’s book apps and virtual environments for mobile devices coming soon to an iPad near you. - Angelique Anderson
Look for me Sundays this summer at the Morgan Library and Museum where I will be reading to kids from Alice 150 Years in Wonderland during their celebration exhibit of this classic tale. Days/time will be posted on my blog:        - Donna Miskend
HOURS mon-thurs 9am-9pm Fri-Sat 9am-6pm Sun 1pm-5pm
event: Saturday, September 19 at 2pm: The Magic of Fairy Tales, a conversation with Michael Patrick Hearn, children's literary historian and curator, Donna Miskend
Free and open to the public
Thank you to the Brooklyn Public Library for hosting us. And a special thank you to Barbara Wing, Mgr. of Exhibitions! 
This exhibit is underwritten by the Brooklyn Public Library 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

UPDATE re guests June 2015

MASTER STORYTELLERS EXHIBIT has been extended through June 27, 2015.
read the interview with the artists here on this blog click HERE.

Michael Patrick Hearn, guest speaker for the show is scheduled to speak at the Brooklyn Central Library for the show I curated on Fairy Tales, Sept. 19. Fairy Tales, a CBIG group show will be on view June 11- Sept. 25, 2015 in the Youth Wing.

Elizabeth Sayles, children's book author/illustrator co-curated an exhibit that included her father's artwork for the WWII Ghost Army. The exhibit The Ghost Army of WWII, will be on view at Salmagundi Club in June click here and read my interview with Liz on this blog here.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

ART - Artists from the Master Storytellers Exhbit

illustrations inspired by Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Kenneth Graham, Shakespeare and more master storytellers. Curated by Donna Miskend.
On view at 
Poe Park Visitor Center
2540 Grand Concourse, Bronx 
through May 30, 2015 EXTENDED THROUGH JUNE 27, 2015
CLICK here for a schedule of events or call the gallery 718. 365.5516

Yuko Katakawa 2015, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

DM: What story did you illustrate and why did  you choose it?
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. I thought it might be fun to show this popular story in a different cultural context (Japanese).                         - Yuko Katakawa

Humpty Dumpty. I grew up with Mother Goose rhymes and this one was fun to add a twist to. Humpty is an egg who had a great fall, so he should be covered in yolk!     - Clare Pernice

I chose Red Riding Hood because there is just so much drama and tension happening throughout the story. As a child reading this story, it's impossible to forget the moment when you realize this little girl in red is about to be eaten by a wolf. The color red is also so intense and iconic (Good marketing strategy on whoever chose the colors) that it just becomes extremely memorable.    - Hyo Taek Kim

The story I did my illustration for is The Nose by Nikolai Gogol, because it's such a strange, memorable, and inspiring story. It's sad, but it's so funny, too. For this, I was thinking back to graphic artists who did satire, such as England's William Hogarth, who lived in the 18th century, and New York's Thomas Nast, who lived in the early 20th century. The story of the nose pokes fun at corrupt bureaucrats and shows great sympathy for the poor.Those artists did the same thing. Artists and writers have been doing that throughout history, and continue to.  - Vicky Rubin

Sonnet 147, Dave Kopka 2015
I chose The Dead Wife from The Yellow Book by Andrew Lang. Despite the clearly morbid title, I really enjoyed that it was about a man and woman who worked together and existed as irreplaceable partners for each other that they could each rely on. I always felt that small stories such as the ones from Lang's fairytale books had a hint of something quietly magical about them, where strange things happened in a world not unlike our own. The Dead Wife had something poignantly sad that reminded me of a Greek tragedy, and it was this simplicity that I wanted to convey.  - Candace Lee

I illustrated The Reluctant Dragon, By Kenneth Grahame. In the story the little boy was able to communicate and understand the dragon. I chose this because I used my imagination to create my own pictures.  - Robin Meeks

The Dark Lady Sonnet 147 by Shakespeare. I felt that this particular sonnet of the series would present an interesting and engaging challenge if I were to reinterpret the words. The man who is writing the sonnet is no longer the victim of this woman's taunting allure, but rather the victim of his own poorly-chosen actions. - Dave Kopka

DM: Did you read the story as a child, in school or as an adult? 
Hyo Taek Kim 2015, Brazilian Red Riding Hood
As a child growing up in Brazil, then as an adult here in the states. In fact, I always thought it was a Brazilian story up until a few years ago, but I guess not.
- Hyo Taek Kim

I read (or was read to) the story as a child. I remember being puzzled by the tale of not so friendly animals, with their absurd designs and schemes, as they are trying to arrange Thumbelina's future for her. - Delphine Hennault

I read Jack and the Beanstalk as a child, over and over again - the giant's world always fascinated me.  - Candace Lee

I actually hadn't heard of either story until my second year in college. There was a History of Illustration course that had exposed me to a good number of fantastic old school illustrators. With that came some of the stories that they had illustrated for, and that's how I happened across Wind in the Willows. The Shakespeare sonnet was apart of another assignment, but the imagery for both stories became sharp enough for me to want to try and make my own pictures for them. - Dave Kopka

DM: Who are the artists that influence your work?
Donna Miskend 2015
How The Leopard Got Its Spots
There are many, but Matisse is one of the most influential. His work is about line, pattern and most of all color. I haven't done collage in many years, but after seeing Matisse's cut paper collage show at MOMA I was inspired to return to it. This series is simpler with a more graphic quality to it versus my earlier collages which were layered with symbolism.  - Donna Miskend

Growing up in France I was most influenced by caricaturists like Honore Daumier, and comic book artists like Claire Bretecher or Herge (the author of Tintin). - Delphine Hennault

I have been influenced by the artwork of Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Faith Ringgold, Ezra Jack Keats, and Eric Carle, among many others.
- Nancy Doniger

There are so many artists I find inspirational, but to name some: Arthur Rackham, Harry Clarke, Kay Nielson, Amy Reeder, Winsor McCay, Greg Manchess, and Diane & Leo Dillon. Though a few approaches are similar to each other in appearance, in all the work the differences are very noticeable and I find each artist's work moving for its particular reasons. - Dave Kopka

I currently am enamored with Emily Carroll's style of work: she can convey genuinely haunting tales from her comics, and they all seem to have this rich history she creates with her words. Also, in the more traditional vein, Stuart Immonen is an amazing Marvel artist whose characters are so expressive and well-rendered that I hope to absorb some of that in my own work.   - Candace Lee

DM: What else would you like people to know about you or your work? 

Nancy Doniger 2015, The Peacock and the Crane
Sometimes I work with pieces of cut paper, but in this case I chose to work digitally so that I could focus of the relationship of the birds, tweaking the expressions and positions to make their relationship it clear.  I was able to create and change shapes and positions easily while still having 'cut out' type shapes. Next I plan to make a version of the image in paper collage, and also one as an etching with mono print.  
 - Nancy Doniger

I make prints, pillows and other things on my spare time, they can be found at  . . . and my website is  - Hyo Taek Kim

The first book I illustrated, Write Out of the Oven! by Josephine Waltzis a collection of letters and recipes from more than 50 well-known and award-winning children's authors.   I also have one non-fiction short true story, Standing Up, that has been published, in Chicken Soup for the Child's Soul, Character-Building Stories to Read with Kids Ages 5-8, May 2007.  When I not illustrating or writing, I am a teaching artist with the Vermont Arts Council and the New England Foundation of the Arts 
Visit    - Christine Mix
My first book, Circus Girl was released recently in 2014. It is a story of make-believe and childhood dress up. Currently I'm working on a companion book, Adventure Boy. My second book of fractured rhymes in the same style as Humpty Dumpty is The Real Mother Goose and will be published soon. - Clare Pernice

I have been working on a rhyming picture book written by my uncle, Steve Kopka, a writer currently working on his own YA series ( I am also involved in private commissions ranging from poster art to portrait paintings, but my main focus has been on building up my portfolio.  There are many projects I am excited about enveloping myself in and even more I am itching to start. - Dave Kopka

The next show I am curating, Fairytales, will be at the Brooklyn Public Library and run throughout the summer. News will be on my blog along with more exhibit and illustration info. In addition to writing and illustrating, I am also a teaching artist on the rosters of Arts Westchester and recently accepted to Lifetime Arts. I work with children, adults and seniors through these programs and in independent workshops. Thank you to all the artists who participated in Master Storytellers, and sharing their thoughts about their work here. Join several of the artists from the show for an artist panel on April 11 at noon, followed by a conversation with Michael Patrick Hearn, children's literary historian about the stories illustrated in the exhibit and our opening reception. 
- Donna Miskend, curator