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 Lion

Something 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):photography & illustrations © 2012 Andrea Sparacio (artsparrow); except for flower (above) from The New York Botanical Garden

Jugs & Capes, Bushcraft & 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.

In honor of Geek Week, my next Inside The Portrait Studio will be portrait paintings of IT Crowd characters. Cavort!!!

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)