Like a Lion

Despite it’s inconsistent weather, I’ve always favored March (October, another unpredictable month, coming in very close second). I’m sure it’s because March is my birthday month, and it’s no coincidence that my favorite times of year are spontaneous and unpredictable. My true Aries nature is drawn to the excitement of not knowing what to expect and the anticipation of what’s next. As I sit here typing this in 60 degrees, cloudless and sunny, March has been anything like a lion! But in it’s nostalgic past, here is one of my favorite Decemberists’ B-Sides (appropriately named):

Listen here: The Decemberists – Like A LionSomething else Spring weather brings on: Stoop sales! Free concerts! Picnics! Bike rides! And after living in Park Slope for 5 years now, a reminder to finally visit the Brooklyn Botanical Garden:
Check out my recent stoop sale score (below). All this for a whopping $5:Since lions are lacking in this year’s March weather (or entire Winter, for that matter), my creativity has taken it’s uproarious place. My sketchbook has been rapidly filling up with screaming mammals:
Getting together with ARTner-in-crime Laura Lee Gulledge for a night of “creative exorcism,” we drew our creative spirit. Mine is once again (guess?) a wild lion! ROAR!We also wrote down our fears, crumbled them up into little balls of paper, and ceremoniously threw them over the Brooklyn rooftops. Good riddance!!! Watch the video here:

And finally, the real tiger baby (who supervises all the drawing & illustrating inside my studio):
flower image from The New York Botanical Garden (and if you’re into botanical gardens, here’s a great list of other awesome gardens!)

Jugs & Capes, Bushcraft, and The Brooklyn Art Library

I have been part of an amazing NYC supergroup of graphic novel-reading ladies called Jugs & Capes since May 2010 (although I only blogged about it once here). Our monthly book club seriously rocks!!! And it’s only getting bigger & stronger in it’s third year. We’re growing in size with new members, added a Jugs & Capes Facebook Page, started a Member Bio page on Tumblr, and completely upping our game in food spreads ever since we moved the meeting time to Sunday afternoon. This month I really pushed hard for AYA, which I have been wanting an excuse to purchase every time I pass the beautiful book cover at Bergen Street Comics. I loved this book so much! While the group agreed the story felt a little light (we only read book 1 in a series of 6), the artwork is gorgeous in every way imaginable. It’s the graphic novel I have always dreamed of making. Reading AYA has pushed that dream into tangible motion, as my partner Tim & I have finally begun working on our graphic novel together, just like AYA’s dynamic husband & wife duo featured below: Clément Oubrerie (illustrator) & Marguerite Abouet (author).

Since I am also food-obsessed, one of my favorite moments is where characters Aya & Bintou convened over a giant pot of homemade peanut sauce to chat about life and love.

I swoon over anything with peanut butter in it! Making peanut dipping sauce (see recipe in the back of AYA) for Jugs & Capes was my first overly ambitious thought for a Sunday morning. And although I didn’t end up making it, what we may have lacked in Ivory Coast peanut sauce we surely made up for with peanut butter pie from Brookyn! Thanks Colleen AF Venable & Daly Pie.

After Jugs & Capes, I head over to Williamsburg to meet up with my ARTner-in crime Laura Lee and the rest of the artsy Bushcraft bunch. We gathered at the Brookly Art Library – it was about time I gave this place a visit!

Just look at all those gorgeous sketchbooks!!!! Over 14,000 to choose from! We had a such a blast flipping and sharing each of our selections, spending hours of inspiration inside the Brooklyn Art Library.

Declan Zimmerman with his Sketchbook Project doppelgänger.

Then it was time for beers, German food, and exquisite corpse drawing games over at Radegast Biergarten next door.


photography © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); drawing table photo © Laura Lee Gulledge; AYA book images © Drawn & Quarterly

Inside the Portrait Studio: Watercolor Portrait at Brooklyn Artist Gym

This Sunday I took Watercolor Portrait at Brooklyn Artist Gym (BAG) in hopes to strengthen my skin-tone skills. Although I mainly use gouache, many of the watercolor techniques still apply. Instructor Allison Maletz gave us only the three primary colors to mix with and nothing else!! This was a definite challenge for me, speaking as someone who relies heavily on white, naples yellow, and (not to mention) straight out-of-the-tube magenta. I’ve been in serious need of a palette detox and this workshop totally did the trick.

Although we didn’t complete our portraits, I ended up liking the soft & clean look of my practice round using the wet-on wet technique (left is original scan, right was darkened in Photoshop).

Afterwards I dug out my little watercolor travel set (below) collecting dust on the bottom shelf. I’m going to toss a few techniques around and see what happens!

illustration & photography © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); for more information on the art workshops, see Brooklyn Artist Gym

Geek Week

Another fun promotional poster for Housing Works Bookstore Cafe! After showing about 12 concept sketches for Geek Week, the pocket-protector idea was chosen for the final.

Above & below are my work-in-progress shots; below is the first illustration with hand-lettering (I nixed it & ended up tightening the drawings); Housing Works chose the Star Wars typeface (Jedi Rounded) over Helvetica. Font geek out, yes!!

Working on Geek Week has conjured up my own geeky past. As a kid, I was fortunate enough to have access to my older brother’s Commodore 64 and we would play some pretty no-frill games for many years (Dino Eggs or Spy vs. Spy, anyone?) until the day our cousin gave us a cracked copy of Maniac Mansion on floppy disc. We popped it on the C64 when we got home and our jaws immediately hit the floor right from the animated open (see game open here). It all seems so silly now, but for 1987 these were some pretty advanced graphics. The fact that I could control more than one character in a point-and-click game totally blew my mind! We were so crazy about Maniac Mansion that we would fake going to bed until our parents fell asleep, only to reconvene and try to crack all the codes and puzzles. This started my love (and budding geekdom) over adventure games, Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders & The Secret of Monkey Island just to name a few!

My geeky childhood (and absolute love of British comedy) probably explains my flat-out obsession with Channel 4’s British sitcom The IT Crowd. I cannot get enough of this show and usually have it on in the background while I work. I’m still hoping for a Season 5 (fingers-crossed) or at least the dvd complete series for American viewing. In the meantime, I burn out NetFlix Instant with my favorite nerds of all time.

illustration, photography & design © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); for more info on Geek Week, please visit  Housing Works Events; © 1987 Maniac Mansion screen-grabs, The IT Crowd’s poster & t-shirt (Moss)

Sugar & The Rumpus Poster Design

I have been dutifully keeping an juicy secret for months (which has now been released to the public): highly esteemed Dear Sugar from The Rumpus has revealed her identity as none other than Portland-based author Cheryl Strayed! The party is in celebration of her new memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

I designed & illustrated the poster, overseen by a team of some really great people: Rachel Syme (the host), Amanda Bullock (Housing Works Events), Knopf (publisher), and Cheryl Strayed herself! Tickets to this event also include my printed poster, along with some other awesome goodies.

“All tickets include a commemorative poster by illustrator Andrea Sparacio, and entry into a raffle to win prizes like copies of WILD, “Write Like a Motherf—ker” Sugar swag, and a chance to win a one-on-one advice session with Sugar herself. We will also have a “Dear Sugar” box on site, where you can drop your secret questions and inspire one of Sugar’s future columns.”

What goes into making a poster design? Personally, I love seeing work-in-progress photos, so I thought I would share my own. I am in the middle of rearranging the furniture; below is my little Brooklyn home art studio #2 (see my first set-up here). But already as I type this, I have since moved into studio #3, with the most surface space & natural light I’ve ever had to date. Sometimes a little bit of rethinking (and furniture shifting) are all that’s necessary to get the most out of what you already have. I’m so in love with my new art space; updated photos definitely to follow!

I hand drew the detailed trees (below) in a light 4H pencil before digitally overlaying them on a separate gouache background.

Here is the final illustration without any text added, which Housing Works has chosen for t-shirt & cloth bag designs for more giveaways. It’s going to be such a fun night; I can’t wait!! Hope to see you all there, xo Andrea (artsparrow).illustration, photography & design © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); for more info on the event, please visit  Housing Works Events

Block Printing at Brooklyn Artist Gym

Brooklyn Artists Gym (BAG) is an artist studio & gallery space in Gowanus, Brooklyn. They are literally down the block from me (7th street) only two avenues away, and it’s just crazy that I don’t frequent there more often. I have three Groupons for workshops at BAG that are expiring this month, so it’s time to take a walk over and get creative! Tuesday night I took Intro to Block Printing with Katerina Lanfranco (artist/instructor extraordinaire!) and had a blast getting messy with Speedball ink. My print below states exactly how I feel about it all:

First we got our concept drawings down together, transferred, and carved out the negative space from a rubber block.

We then inked and stamped at the inking stations Katerina set up for us with two-color choices, rollers, and baren.

Viola! My first rubber prints (above) along with some classmates (below).Then it was time to move onto linoleum, which was a little tougher than rubber-carving, but I liked the end result much better. Roar!

I really love the Brooklyn Artist Gym and will be going back for more workshops + a 10-session card for Figure Drawing Nights. See you there!

cell-phone photography © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); for more on Block Printing classes, visit Brooklyn Artist Gym & instructor Katerina Lanfranco

A Foxy Valentine’s Week At Housing Works Bookstore

Check out this foxy poster I designed & illustrated for Housing Works Bookstore. Come to these fun events during Valentine’s week while supporting lifesaving services for homeless people living with HIV/AIDS. Your heart will feel better & all that soul-cleansing good stuff. See you there! ♡

illustration & design © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); visit Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Sewing Therapy: Vogue Pattern Magazine Illustration

I’m always excited when a magazine article that I’ve illustrated a few month’s back is finally released into the wild, but this time I’m extra excited because this has been my favorite one to date! In this February/March 2012 issue of Vogue Pattern Magazine, Elaine May tackles the issue of “Fishing For Sewing Compliments, The Easy Way.” I really had so much illustrating this pretty one. Currently on newsstands, or you can check it out online here.

illustrations © 2011 artsparrow (Andrea Sparacio); magazine layouts © 2011 Vogue Pattern Magazine, photography © 2011 Amy Sly

First Aid Kit

Hopefully this is the last post about being sick, but since this has been my life for nearly a month now it’s hard to escape it. I’m on the road to wellness, so I thought I would share the healing process in it’s various stages:

I tried every over-the-counter medicine to help quick-fix my bronchitis and get me to stop coughing so that I could rest. Nothing worked. The bronchitis cough is a beast with it’s own agenda and I slathered so much Vicks VapoRub on my chest that I considered just eating it straight-up with a spoon. There were so many long nights of staring into the darkness, existentializing life’s meaning, then giving into NetFlix at 3am when sleep (and not coughing) weren’t going to happen. So many rounds of antibiotics later, I can tell you the one thing that really helped the most: patience.

Speaking of medicine, remember Heroin? I visited the amazing New Orleans Pharmacy Museum back in November and they certainly remember it (not to mention live leeches) and all of Heroin’s medicinal uses. Pre-prohabition era, people rubbed it on their infant’s teething gums, dipped it on tampons tips, and suppressed those nagging coughs with lozenges and syrups. Move over Robitussin weak-sauce, let’s kick-it 19th century style!

When the fevers were high I couldn’t do much but freeze, sweat and watch movies from behind a blanket. But once I was able to sit up, making art helped distract me from ripping my lungs out (which later turned into ribs, because who knew excessive coughing could make you bust a rib muscle!?) So I made a few illustrations (see above) and drew a few comics about being sick, while throwing myself a pity-party in the process (click below to enlarge):

For more artsparrow comics, see my comics page!

When you’re a freelancer you don’t get paid for being out sick. But you also don’t have the strength to go out job hustling with a fever either so work had to take a tiny hiatus. Once I was feeling better (but still too sick to be outside) I started working on my Apartment Therapy Home Cure. The Kitchen is a source of good health (cleanliness, food & vitamins) as well as strength (energy & nutrition). If I wasn’t in a rental I would gut this kitchen with my bare hands and start completely from scratch. But I do love our Brooklyn flat and I’m determined to work with what I’ve got, cracked tiles and all. Here’s a before & work-in-progress example of my struggle to solve (or cover-up) the issues, while cleaning and softening the overall look:


Healing of any kind always involves music. Right now I’ve been listening to The Rapture on repeat (because of TV show Misfits), but here is a song that always makes me happy no matter how crappy I feel. A Fleet Foxes original, covered by the amazing duo First Aid Kit (appropriately named). Enjoy!

photography, illustrations & comics © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow)

Art & Fear: Louise Bourgeois

I have been watching documentaries on NetFlix Instant on two of my favorite passions: food & art. I will spare you the politics of mass food production, but I will share this inspiring segment from Art City (season 1, ep. 3) “A Ruling Passion.” Sitting with Louise Bourgeois in her studio, she shows us how she draws and controls her fears. Being cooped-up and lamenting on my own, I was very moved and decided to do my own interpretation as well (above).

She starts with a circle. “This drawing that I am going to do now is stemmed from a fear. Everything is stemmed from a fear.” (Louise Bourgeois)

“So I am going to indicate my space – and I am going to put inside – what is in this space is under my control.” (Louise Bourgeois)

“I put the fear here, another one there, a bigger one here.” (Louise Bourgeois)

“Under my control, I want my fears. That means I have my fears under my belt!” (Louise Bourgeois)

I get all warm & fuzzy whenever she is on camera; something within me completely lights up. She is very inspiring to listen to and the act of drawing out your fears is very powerful (art magic!)

Speaking more on the topic of fears, the book Art & Fear (Bayles & Orland) on my bookshelf comes to mind. I keep a few art self-help books like this around when I’m working late into the wee hours and need a little boost.

The first abstract image is not the first time I have attempted to draw out my fears though. Working through some personal issues on resistance in 2009, Julianna Takacs (yoga coach extraordinaire) had me describe and physically create my fear (below) then mail it to her in an envelope. I loved the look on the postal worker’s face when she caught me “weighing” my gnarly-looking fear for postage and sending it on it’s merry way…

copyright in order of appearance: colorful circles © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow), Louise Bourgeois photo © Annie Leibovitz, screen grabs © Art City/NetFlix, Louise Bourgeois linocut (left side) © 2009 Carri Skoczek, Art & Fear book cover © Image Continuum Press, “fear root”  © 2009 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow)