Saturday, May 11, 2013


        The Great Gatsby 3D was a big, enormously overdone, flashy spectacle, like a video game where you can't tell if the characters are actors or animation. It's F. Scott Fitzgerald's Great Gatsby on steroids.
Which is ironic, because the book itself was so slim, crisp, and compact. But it was well cast, and Leonardo DiCaprio was a perfect Jay Gatsby. His love for Daisy is what drove him to be hugely wealthy, filling a vastly oversized mansion every weekend with hundreds of people that he didn't even know. He wore the most beautiful shirts that Daisy had ever seen, was 30 years old, handsome and rich beyond anyone's dreams, and his whole life was a lie. He would never be what Daisy and Tom were, old monied aristocrats. He was a bootlegger, born poor as dirt. Carrie Mulligan was wonderful as Daisy, desperately love with Gatsby....but in the end stayed with her cheating, bully of a husband. Tom Buchanan was played by Joel Edgerton, but I think that Bruce Dern in the 1974 version of the movie defined the role. Toby Maguire was an excellent Nick Carraway, the narrator of the book, and its heart and soul. In many scenes he reminded me of F. Scott himself. There are a few changes made for the sake of story telling, like Nick writing everything down from the Perkins Sanitarium, named for Maxwell Perkins, Fitzgerald's editor. I liked this device because actual phrases from the book were typed up on the screen, including the beautiful and memorable last few sentences.
         If you're a fan, you need to see this 2013 version. It's completely over the top, like all movies are now, and there are way too many car chases and party scenes, which seem to go on forever. The houses are too big, the editing is extremely stylized, and the 3D almost makes you dizzy. The scale of it seems out of whack. But the core of the book and the movie is a great story, and seeing it just makes me want to read it again for the umpteenth time. The soundtrack by Jay Z wasn't as bad as I expected, which was a relief, and there was even some Gershwin sprinkled in. I loved the opening credits, which were from the 1926 Jazz Age silent version of the film. Below is a lobby card from the original:

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Great Gatsby

    The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, was published in 1925. It's considered to be The greatest American novel, and is truly a masterpiece. Elegantly written, it is a spare 180 pages long, depending on what edition you read. It's narrated by Nick Carraway, who spends a summer on Long Island with his beautiful cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom Buchanan. They are old monied, East Coast upper class; and their neighbor, Jay Gatsby lives a lavish lifestyle that comes from bootlegging. Gatsby, who has been in love with Daisy since before the war (WWI) buys a house across the water from the Buchanans. The green light at the end of their dock on the North Shore is an image for the status that Gatsby could never attain.
    The Great Gatsby only sold 21,000 copies when it was published, and by 1937, it wasn't on a single bookstore shelf. Currently, it is the Number 1 book on It is taught in just about every high school in the United States, an irony that F. Scott would deeply appreciate. By the time he died alone in his apartment in Hollywood in 1940, his royalties for the year totaled $13.30. He was a broken man who couldn't even sell a script.
    There have been several movie versions of the book, and the current one, which opens on May 10th is in 3D, and stars Leonardo Dicaprio, Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan. I will definitely be there, and am hoping for the best. I hope it's a dazzling testament to this brilliant book.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I haven't written in such a long time!
Last year at this time I was working on my Ruby Ritz ebook, and trying to figure out how to get it in the correct form for publishing on Amazon. Then, I had to scramble to design I was working for about 9 months on sketches and illustrations for a children's book, and now the whole thing has to be designed. And then it has to be shopped around, so we'll see what happens....
Right now I guess I'm in one of those percolating phases. The above is a page from my sketchbook. There's a left side to it, which I did first, but I like the way this one came out on it's own. I like the mix of the watercolor & the collage elements. I would love to get some illustration work, and am trying to find a representative. I'd also love to get some DESIGN work, like picnic sets--plates napkins, and tablecloths. It's so difficult to get to all these publishers and art directors and companies with one's portfolio, and it would be great to get some representation. I've never had a rep before, and have never really even tried to get one. But, it's such a VERY long shot. In the meantime, I'm going to do some new paintings, and I need to organize Ruby Ritz into print form.
Last weekend I went to a wonderful Arts Workshop, called ROC, at Drew University. It was presented by Morris Arts. My husband David gave a workshop on Writing, and I went to one on Animation. It was given by Martha Colburn, who's an AMAZING animator and filmmaker. It was so inspiring seeing her very hand done films that all had big subjects, like war and addiction. The artwork was great... she used cut outs from magazines and books that she painted and made into puppets, and she also painted her backgrounds. I had been thinking about animation for some time, and now I really want to get a camera, and just make a one minute movie. Just something silly and light and fun to watch.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Kids & books

     I'm always fascinated by what kids are reading, and lately, they're all reading The Hunger Games. On one hand, it's great that kids have a book that they're really hooked on, and that they're not just sitting around playing Call of Duty. (And plenty of kids DON'T read at all, and ARE just sitting around playing video games.)  On the other hand, they're reading a trilogy that's a very dark and disturbing, futuristic story. I can see high school kids reading it, but elementary age? 
        However, I know one boy in 4th grade named Jose`. He's very bright, and does extremely well academically. And guess what he's reading? He's devouring Beverly Cleary books, starting with Henry Huggins. So here we have a Hispanic boy in 2012 reading books that were written in the 1950s about kids that lived and played on Klickitat Street. He's basically reading about my childhood, and that world really doesn't exist anymore.
       When my son David was 2 months old, I started reading to him....or rather just showing him pictures in very simple children's books. When Ray came along, David was 2 1/2, and we were reading lots of stories, all the time. So being the second child, Ray was always along for the ride. Basically, books became something to comfort them, because reading was such a peaceful & cozy activity. We read great children's literature while they were growing up....what's wittier than A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh? What illustrations are more elegant than those of Babar? What's more exciting than C. S. Lewis's The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe? The boys loved all of E.B. White's wonderful stories, and so did I. Ray loved all of the hilarious Ramona books, even though he was a boy. (She was my favorite childhood character). And when Harry Potter hit the scene, David and Ray were right there, in line with all the other bookish kids waiting for their copy. And of course since their dad is a writer, the boys grew up going to book signings. Portrait of a Bookstore, owned by Frank and Julie von Zerneck in Los Angeles was their home away from home, and they always felt welcome to just read and browse. Now that the boys are in their 20s, they always have a stack of books by their beds, or one stuck somewhere in a backpack.
I feel bad when I see kids that have no interest in all these great books and stories....does it just mean that they were never read to, and therefore don't have that association of total bliss and coziness?
     I'm collecting vintage children's books now, and am trying to get as many different copies of Black Beauty as I can. It was my favorite book growing up, and I truly think it formed me as a child. I just got a brand new, gorgeous Penguin edition of it to add to my antique copies. In her forward, Jane Smiley says, "What I got was what every reader of Black Beauty gets: an experience of almost uncanny empathy that went so deep into my memory that even now, after fifty years, I almost cannot read Anna Sewell's novel or think of it without tearing up".
 I just think readers are lucky because they're never, ever alone. Most are always in the middle of some book, and thinking about the next one...and have a story that they're just dying to get back to. So no matter what you're doing or working on during the day, you know that your book is there waiting for you...maybe at the top of a stack by your bed or favorite reading chair.

Friday, December 16, 2011


My niece Samantha Sheehan, and her boyfriend Michael McDermott gave me a beautiful moleskin sketchbook when I was in Napa for my birthday. They're wonderful books because the paper is heavy watercolor stock, and you can paint or collage, and do whatever you want, and it really holds up. Today I was working in the art room at Morristown High School, and I brought my sketchbook with me. There's always something interesting going on there, and I get inspired just soaking up the atmosphere. The last time I was there, about a week ago, I spent a lot of time looking at a beautiful book about Frida Kahlo's journal/sketchbook. Of course, her journal was in Spanish, but it was soooo incredible. Really loose watercolor drawings and her beautiful handwriting. It was jam packed. I've been thinking about working in a new way lately, and wanted to try some stuff out. A sketchbook is the perfect place to experiment. Also, I had recently put together an online portfolio, and want to do some new samples for it. So I thought today would be a good time to fool around a little. I just found some pictures in different magazines, and did some simple watercolor and pencil portraits, and then collaged and did some hand lettering. I'm so tired of computer generated images, and really want to do some stuff that looks hand done. Now I think I may even put in a "sketchbook" page for my portfolio....

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Cow crazy

I don't know what's come over 
me! My mom & I went to visit my sister Linda and her husband Bob in Napa. There were vineyards  everywhere,  and wonderful restaurants full of organic and farm fresh everything. There are shops where you pour your own olive oil into bottles, and cork them. The labels are actually hand stamped. Everything looks old fashioned, but modern at the same time. Artisanal cheeses and chocolates, scrumptious coffee, fresh herbs in everything you eat. Petaluma has an antiques store on every corner, and St. Helena has the most gorgeous shops, with beautiful things that you just don't see anywhere else. Or do you? Everything there just looks so fresh and well designed. Letterpress cards, scarfs that look like little stitched quilts, handmade pottery....even the smallest cafes have a French kind of feel. Francis Ford Coppola's winery, Rubicon, is an elegant estate, with a beautiful view of the Napa Valley, and a wonderful collection of Hollywood memorabilia. The Hess Winery, way up in the hills, has a stunning collection of modern art. Not to mention the fact that everyone in Napa looks so attractive and a little artsy. It's Northern California. The minute you land in San Franciso and walk out into the terminal you feel the difference. Even the airport is sophisticated. There are murals everywhere, and a museum quality exhibit on the history of television! I guess the effect my visit to the epicenter of food and wine had on me was that now, all of a sudden, I really want to design a line of tableware....plates, napkins, tablecloths, the whole deal. So I think I'll start with  farm....can't you just see it, with a bottle of fresh white milk on the table? Maybe a platter of fried chicken, and a big serving bowl of mashed potatoes? A big supper to be eaten on the porch...and perhaps the stars and stripes will be hanging outside. It will be very vintage Americana, with a folk art kind of bent. Red, white and blue, or black?

Friday, September 2, 2011

Long Beach Island

I can't think of a more relaxing place than the beach. This summer our family spent a few days at Long Beach Island, right before Hurricane Irene. It was beautiful there....sunny and warm. Marie Line Noonan was there from France with her children, Edward, Tess, and Zelda; and all the cousins had a great time hanging out, lying on the sand, swimming, eating at the local places, and going to the amusement park at night. And they never stopped talking! My son Ray's friend, Patrick Chabot was there from Virginia, and he fit right into the Noonan mix. Of course, we all had to flee early because of the approaching storm, and no one had quite enough gas in their tanks....there was none left on the island, to add to the stress. Everyone made it home, and we continued the party at our house the night Irene was to hit. But for a few days it was sunny and relaxing, and luckily I had brought my watercolors with me. Barbara (top) and Marie Line (bottom) sat and read while I did some quickie little paintings of them, and we had a great time chatting. It was so windy that day that sand got in all the paints, and is stuck on the paintings. I feel so lucky to be in such a big family, and I always tell the boys how fortunate they are.