MUDDY is here!



MUDDY: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters, written by Michael Mahin and illustrated by me, is finally out in stores! Check out the trailer above (with music by Michael!) and a few snippets of some wonderful reviews so far.


“Lyrically told with a lilting cadence by debut author Mahin. . . . Turk’s mixed-media illustrations leap off the page. . . . The soul of the blues sings out through the pages.”
School Library Journal

"This poetic celebration of Muddy Waters' musical truth is lifted still higher by Turk's extraordinary art.”

“Mahin’s text is engaging, rhythmic, soulful, and written to reflect the blues that influenced Muddy Waters. . . . Turk’s expressionistic mixed-media illustrations, many of them double-page spreads, aptly convey the emotions associated with Muddy Waters’s music.”
The Horn Book
 “Like Waters’s music after landing in the Windy City, Turk’s artwork is electric—wild strokes of marker and oil pastel vibrate with energy. And Mahin’s equally vivid writing will almost certainly send readers after Waters’s catalogue.”
 
* "The words and pictures here mix exuberance with melancholy. Mahin’s words have a beat all their own, capturing the  lows and highs with poetic verve. Turk’s watercolor, ink, and collage artwork fills pages, exploding with a neon intensity— the equivalent of a dynamic guitar riff . . . Read the book, then get kids the music.”

 * “Turk’s mixed-media and collage artwork roils with waves of darkness and explosive color, even as it models compositional control, and Muddy is always defined with an electric hue that keeps him in sharp focus. . . .  Mahin’s lyricism and rolling cadence make the text a readaloud delight.”

"All along the way through the book, beside those sweet and longing words of the author, are Evan Turk’s amazing illustrations that take your breath away...one of the most extraordinary picture books we have seen this year. Muddy is a wonderful introduction to the life of a legend as well as an inspirational and evocative experience of art so well matched to the man and his blues that you can almost hear the music playing."

So if you haven't already, go pick up your copy at your local independent bookstore or at one of the following links!
And if you do love it, don't forget to leave a review!


Muddy: Behind the Art

I'm so excited about the upcoming release of the next book I worked on,

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

, written by Michael Mahin! It won't be available until September 5, but here's a sneak preview and a little "behind the scenes" about the creation of the art for the book.

Research drawing from Clarksdale, Mississippi

With every new book comes a new research process! You can read more about the research for this book in two blog posts I wrote last year about my trips to the

Mississippi Delta

, where Muddy was born, and

Chicago

, where Muddy created his signature sound.

"Muddy Mississippi" Blog Post

"Chicago Blues" Blog Post

Research drawing from Chicago

Another part of my research is always to look at artwork to help create a visual style and language that is specific to the topic and the story. Whenever I do school visits (more info

here

), I like to talk to kids about this step. I hope that it will inspire them to take a look at artists and art they may not have known before.

For this project, I was very excited to get to take a deeper look at some of my favorite artists, including Ben Shahn, Matisse, Picasso, and particularly Jacob Lawrence, Romare Bearden, and William H. Johnson.

I also looked at quilts by the

Gee's Bend Quiltmakers

of Alabama, a group of African American women who have been creating unique, varied, and innovative quilts for decades and generations. Many artists of the Harlem Renaissance (including Lawrence, Bearden, and Johnson) looked to the African American quilt-making tradition and African art for study and inspiration, as well as contemporary European art movements.

The incredible composition and rhythm of their quilts inspired the design for the artwork in

Muddy

. If you look at the small color thumbnail pagination I made while planning the book (below), you can see the influence of the blocks of color of the Gee's Bend artists.

Color pagination of thumbnails for

Muddy

I wanted the illustrations to show the journey of Muddy and his music from his roots in Mississippi, the electric explosion in Chicago, and his synthesis of the two. I showed this in a few ways:

One was in the newspaper collage. In sharecropper cabins, like the one Muddy grew up in in Clarksdale, Mississippi, they only had newspaper to wallpaper their walls. So I collaged newspapers from the local Clarksdale Daily Register from 1918 on the walls.

In progress collage

You can see what it looked like here before I painted on top of them. Here the headlines are mostly about small town things like the cost of cotton or stories about World War I.

When Muddy moves to Chicago, he is surrounded by the headlines of the Chicago Defender, a legendary black newspaper. Here the headlines are about African American triumph and struggle, and civil rights issues of the day. And once Muddy becomes famous, he finds himself among the headlines of African American heroes in the Chicago Defender.

Preliminary sketches for

Muddy

I also used color and a style shift to signify Muddy's journey.

Final art scenes from

Muddy

in Mississippi

In Mississippi, Muddy is surrounded by warm, rich colors: the yellow, red, and brown of the earth and heat; the deep indigo of the Mississippi River; the yellowy green of crops; the black and white of the cotton fields; and the vibrant purple of his grandmother's dresses.

Final art scenes from

Muddy

in Chicago

But when he arrives in Chicago, he is surrounded by the clashing neon colors of the city. The green is no longer earthy, but slick and electric. The blue is not deep and powerful, but bright, cool, and modern. The bright red halo of Muddy's country roots makes him stand out among the city slickers.

But once Muddy begins to let his true self out in his music, everything begins to come together. There is the electricity and intensity of the city, but also the richness, and depth of the Mississippi River, the cotton fields, and the memory of his grandmother. Everything pieced together like a quilt.

 The illustrations themselves were pieced together like a quilt as well.

I drew out the composition, and then cut out each of the shapes to make stencils. Then I filled in the shapes thickly with oil pastel on top of a watercolor/gouache background. 

Then details and patterns were created by adding more oil pastel, or scraping it away with a palette knife to make textures and different effects.

Muddy learning the bottleneck slide from his hero, Son House

The whole progression of art throughout the book was to show how Muddy grew and changed with his music, but also how he always stayed true to himself.

Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

will be released on September 5, 2017.

More information and pre-order links here:

 Muddy: The Story of Blues Legend Muddy Waters

100 Views of the Hudson River Valley



It's been a while since my last post, but I've been busy drawing! Since moving up to the Hudson River Valley, I've been somewhat compulsively making pastel paintings of our new surroundings.


It began with a few small thumbnails, and then grew, day by day from there.



It's amazing what living surrounded by nature allows you to notice.


And on the river, the changes happen minute by minute.

 


Sometimes it's hard to stop drawing because by the time one drawing is finished, there's another one waiting outside! This is a small selection of the pastel paintings over the past few months.




There's a freedom that comes with being able to observe the same general scene over and over. It allows for abstraction, naturalism, and exaggeration to come and go.


I'm looking forward to seeing where this new inspiration takes me.


And now that spring is finally here, everything changes once again!



To see more, follow me on Instagram: @evanturkart

"We see our movements in intersection!"



This Saturday I attended the LGBTQ Solidarity Rally at the Stonewall Inn in the West Village with a few friends to draw and show support. The event was originally organized in response to a pending executive order from the new White House administration that was said to dismantle anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people across the country. Trump ended up not signing this EO so the Rally morphed into a solidarity rally for all disenfranchised groups amidst the new Trump administration. People were not just going to sit back because the President decided *one* time not to illegally infringe upon a minority's rights.



This, I think was an even more powerful show of strength. People came together, not because they personally were under attack (although this one order not being signed should not be taken as an "all clear" for LGBTQ folks under any circumstances), but in support of those that are. The LGBTQ community knows what its like to be under attack.



I was heartened to see that, more than any other Pride event, rally, or march I've seen from the LGBTQ community, this one embraced the diversity of the community. Often, the gay movement tends to center on wealthy, white men. But there are gay Muslims, queer immigrants, trans Latina/o/x, queer black women, and all different combinations of identities that, because we are all threatened, have the opportunity to intersect.


The Muslim community and the LGBTQ community would seem to be, pardon the term, strange bedfellows. Trump himself has tried to co-opt the LGBTQ community by saying his exclusionary anti-Muslim policies will make gays safer in response to the Orlando PULSE shooting this summer. But I was so proud to see that this community would not be turned away from fellow Americans, and those striving to become Americans, in a time of need. Fear will not divide us. I was again heartened to hear speakers from various Muslim and immigrant community centers and organizations come to speak in front of Stonewall, a symbol of the LGBTQ rights movement.


The speeches began with Louis, an immigration lawyer, who was working to protect a Syrian refugee and green card-holder of 10 years who became separated from her family during the travel ban. He was once a refugee himself, from Ecuador, where he fled anti-gay persecution. He was a living embodiment of the intersections of all of our communities and how we are in this fight together.


We also heard from Oliver, a Nigerian refugee who fled because his position as a gay rights activist in Nigeria became unsafe. He spoke of how now was the time for him to roll up his sleeves and fight for freedom again. He implored the crowd to not just preach to the choir, but to speak to those who support Trump's policies. We heard from many supportive politicians, including the only openly gay member of the NY State Senate, Brad Hoylman. He is also Jewish, and found swastikas drawn on his apartment building after the election in November.



Ishalaa Ortega, the first of several trans speakers of color received resounding applause as she described herself as Mexican, Transgender, Refugee, and American and that "WE ARE NOT GOING ANYWHERE!". Corey Johnson, gay New York City Council member and an organizer of the event, spoke passionately about our need to push ourselves to keep fighting and to not become complacent.


Several speakers referenced the black and Latina trans pioneers of the LGBT movement in NYC, Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, and their immense bravery. Others referenced the ACT UP movement during the AIDS crisis and its slogan "SILENCE = DEATH", stating "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT!"



Each speaker gave their own personal story of why they were there. There was a gay man who was also Syrian, Lebanese, and Mexican: a melting pot of Trump's targets. Khalid Latif, of the NYU Islamic Center echoed the refrain that "An attack on any of us is an attack on all of us." Olympia Perez of the Audre Lorde Project, a trans woman who identified herself as Afro-Latinx, Dominican, Brazillian, Puerto Rican, and South Asian eloquently said "I cannot divide the pieces of me." And these two ideas became the common thread between all the various speakers. Whether black, gay, trans, Latinx, Native American, Asian, queer, white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, rich, or poor, we cannot separate the pieces of ourselves and we cannot separate these pieces of our nation.

We are Americans because of our intersections, not in spite of them, and that is what will make our resistance powerful.

#artistsfordemocracy



The last of 2016!


It's almost 2017 and this year has been quite a crazy one! Chris and I recently moved up to the Hudson Valley, so it's been a great period of adjustment getting used to the new house. With not quite as much time to draw, and no scanner hooked up until now, I decided to condense the last few months into one big finale for 2016!


This timeline also chronicles our slow descent into winter...These first drawings are from a lovely day of drawing with Audrey Hawkins back in September.



For the next couple months, each warm day felt like the last warm day we would ever have, so everyone, including me, was out trying to take advantage of the sunshine.



The city always feels so full on these warm days.


I loved this grouping of 2 mostly naked young people sunbathing next to a nun, all enjoying the park.


It still felt like summer until the sun went behind the buildings and everyone started putting their coats on over their sleeveless shirts.


A couple weeks later, as fall had begun to set in, Audrey, Chris and I had another nice day drawing out in Central Park.


The colors were beautiful, but the day not quite as luxurious as it had already started getting dark depressingly early.


Up in Croton-on-Hudson, I decided to grab a few hours on a warm day, in between renovating, to draw the new house before it got too cold. A huge and exciting project!


 In the Hudson Valley, summer was fading, but the fall leaves were just getting started.


It was so magical getting to see the leaves change and fall over the weeks, and watching how the light and colors changed.


Our friend and fellow artist Julia Sverchuk came up to visit and we went out to Fishkill Farm to enjoy a not-quite-so-warm fall day.




It was chilly, but people were still out and about, stretching their legs before the looming hibernation.


Chris and I went out for a brisk day up north drawing at Staatsburg State Historic Site, where we got married last June. The wind got a little intense on the river, so we made it a short day.


November brought the harrowing election (you can read more about my thoughts here) and less time drawing out in the cold.

And finally winter came with our first snow in the new house! The whole neighborhood looked like a Christmas card.


So now the year is almost over, and we have a strange new 2017 to anticipate. 2016 was definitely a year of change, but I am still hopeful for the new year.


Best wishes to all of you for the new year! See you in 2017!

Stronger Together


Trying to process everything with the election...decided to do a little drawing while thinking. I drew an enormous oak tree in our back yard that has lost most of its leaves. The oak is the National Tree of the United States. It is a symbol of strength, endurance, longevity, and patience. 

The results of this election are appalling. The rhetoric and ridiculous pandering to hate has made a large segment of our population (although not the majority) free to indulge their most hateful fears and thoughts. The media has been hideous in their exploitation of this hate and bitter divide to produce ratings. It has been ugly. And it will continue to be ugly. 

I thought about this as I made the drawing of the oak tree, because often in drawing, you go into it hoping for something beautiful. But when the drawing reveals that it won't be what you want, it is up to you to make something beautiful out of something ugly. It does not always work, but you are always left understanding more than when you began.


I mourn Hillary Clinton's loss, and our loss, not as the loss of the lesser of two evils, but as uncommon brilliance, grace, and dedication being stomped under the boot of ignorance, fear, misogyny, racism, and importantly, opportunism. Whether or not Trump really believes his hateful rhetoric will come to light in the coming months, but the damage done by it is already growing. 


For gay people like myself, the LGBT community, women, Muslim Americans, African Americans, Latino Americans, immigrant Americans, the hate is a very real daily fear, not just an abstract notion.

For those that are happy about the election results, please keep this in mind as you go forward. We are your fellow citizens. I have to hope that what Clinton said in her campaign is true: That we really are stronger together. This means all of America, not just the ones we agree with.


I don't know if anything beautiful will come out of this ugliness, but I hope that we understand more about ourselves as a country after the next 4 years. Let us hope that we can be strong, endure, and be patient.

Behind the Scenes: Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story


I am so excited to announce the release of the companion book to Grandfather Gandhi, Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story. I was so thrilled to go back into this world and illustrate another beautiful lesson, this time about how our actions have repercussions and our power to change things for the better. Arun, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, lived with his grandfather for 2 years in adolescence, and these two books have been "crystallizations" of lessons he learned during that time.


My first step for a new project is always drawing people, so I went to the South Asian part of my neighborhood, Jackson Heights, to draw people and observe their body language.



It's always exciting for me to be able to try and transport myself to another place and time for a project, and nowhere is better for that than the many different neighborhoods of New York City.


I had a fun time chatting with this boy and his sisters from Bangladesh, who reminded me of Arun and his sister Ela in the book.

Since I was working in a similar style to the first book, I wanted to find a way to introduce new symbols and visual elements that tell this particular story.


Much of the book focuses on Arun's confusion regarding his grandfather's lesson that "waste is a violent action." This confusion comes into the illustrations in the form of the swelling black monsoon clouds that begin to dominate the pages. As his grandfather begins to illustrate the lesson, the monsoon clouds burst.


For the teaching scenes in the center of the book, I used a surreal, swirling background and color palette to emphasize Arun's dawning understanding.

Images from Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur

With the flooding of the monsoon, this sequence in the book was inspired by Indian miniature paintings depicting the infinite cosmic ocean.


As Arun begins to comprehend the lesson, the colors begin to return to normal. And as Arun and his grandfather return to the ashram after it has been renewed with the monsoon rains, the bright colors return. The whole book follows this arc of color, which you can see in these thumbnail sketches I used to plot out the color palette.

Preparatory thumbnail paintings/collages

Another aspect from the first book that I wanted to continue and build upon was the idea of thread. In the first book, the thread became an example of raw cotton being turned into something useful, in the same way that anger can be turned into useful energy.


In this book, I expanded upon that idea by using the thread more and more as the book progresses, embroidered into the illustrations, as a way of showing how that channeled, useful energy begins to permeate everything around you.

Kantha Quilts (Images from University of Nebraska, LACMA, and Honolulu Museum of Art)

Inspired by the Kantha embroidered quilts of Bengal, I machine embroidered the pages with intricate patterns. Sewing the paper like cloth, the images become more and more embroidered as the book progresses.


Once you realize that your actions affect everything around you, you can see that we, like patterns in a quilt, are all pieces stitched together in the same design.

Be The Change: A Grandfather Gandhi Story is available wherever books are sold! It is a beautiful story, and I am very honored to be a part of it. Please check it out at your local independent bookstore, or use one of the links below.

Italy: Venice

 

Venice! From the minute we stepped onto the water taxi at the Venice airport, it felt like we were wandering through a fairytale. It is a city so beautiful and improbable that it feels like it could have only been designed by artists.


Every view, archway, bridge, window, and pattern, is worthy of a painting, and becomes even moreso as the evening light begins to hit. Once I sat down to draw, I found it hard to focus on the reality of one view. The whole city felt more like a montage, with layers upon layers of beauty.


We decided to indulge in the romance of the city and stopped to have a cocktail in St. Mark's square at sunset, while a string quartet played behind us.



The whole city begins to feel like Venetian glass, where everything is reduced to layers of color, light, and pattern. As I was pondering the extravagant beauty of the scene, a seagull dropped a half-eaten pesto sandwich into my drawing bag. Ahh romance! Nice to be reminded that this place actually exits in reality.


People complain that Venice is touristy, but if anywhere deserves to have millions from all over the world come to visit, it's here.


And nothing captures the romance of Venice more than the gondolas. The tourist trade is a far cry from the days when the dramatically shaped boats were the main method of transportation. But the elegant sweep of black as it glides across the water is still a miraculous sight.




---------
This week central Italy experienced a devastating earthquake. If you appreciate these drawings and the beauty of Italy, please consider donating to help the relief effort:
Italian Red Cross
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This post is part of a series of travel illustration from a three week tour of Italy. For more of Evan Turk's travel illustration, check out the link below: 

DisneyWorld with Dalvero Academy!


I just got back from another great workshop in DisneyWorld with Dalvero Academy and instructors Veronica Lawlor and Margaret Hurst. It was 5 days of drawing, experimenting, and working all day on-location in the Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and EPCOT. Can't get enough!

Below are a few drawings and thumbnails:


The Victoria Crowned Pigeon in Animal Kingdom 


 People around the Magic Kingdom


EPCOT China


EPCOT Morocco


Harambe Village in Animal Kingdom


EPCOT Italy's Flag Throwers


Eating lunch in Animal Kingdom

New York Classical Theatre: The Winter's Tale


I recently went to see the New York Classical Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale" in Battery Park in Lower Manhattan with my good friend Julia Sverchuk, who is an associate artist for the Theatre and does brilliant drawings of all of their productions. (See her beautiful drawings for A Midsummer Night's Dream here).

I had never seen The Winter's Tale before, but it was a fun and silly soap opera that I really enjoyed. The story begins with two kings who are childhood friends. King Leontes of Sicilia tries to get his friend, Polixenes of Bohemia, to stay longer, but is unable to convince him. When Leontes' wife, Hermione, is easily able to convince him to stay, Leontes begins to suspect that they are having an affair.


His suspicion and jealousy balloons and he orders Camillo to have Polixenes killed, despite his protestations.


Camillo instead warns Polixenes and the two escape together to Bohemia.


Leontes discovers their escape and is furious. He accuses his wife of the affair and that the child she carries is Polixenes', not his own, and imprisons her.


Hermione gives birth to a baby girl, and her friend Paulina, tries to convince Leontes to free Hermione, hoping the sight of his daughter will soften him against her. But he is not convinced, and instead orders Paulina's husband to exile the baby and abandon it somewhere.


Hermione pleads with Leontes, proclaiming her innocence, but he cannot be convinced.


Hermione faints upon hearing that their son has wasted away because of the stress of these accusations. Paulina then lets out a cry offstage and comes back to report that Hermione has died as well. Leontes laments his decisions and resolves to atone for his crimes.


Meanwhile, Antigonus goes to abandon the baby in Bohemia, naming her Perdita. He leaves her in a basket with trinkets suggesting her noble heritage. He is then eaten by a bear! Two shepherds then take the baby to raise her.


The character of "Time" is played by a bard, who announces that now sixteen years have passed.


We find out that Polixenes' son, the Prince Florizel, has fallen in love with a shepherdess, also named Perdita (!!).


Polixenes and Camillo conspire to stop the Prince's wedding to Perdita, but with Camillo's help, they flee to Sicilia in disguise.

"Time" switches his clothes with Prince Florizel, and posing as a nobleman hears how the shepherds are going to prove that Perdita is of noble birth by showing Polixenes the royal trinkets she was abandoned with in the basket.


Everyone ends up going to Sicilia, and after everyone's true identities are revealed, everyone is friends again and all is well.


In even more exiting news, Hermione has apparently been pretending to be a statue of herself for 16 years, but is actually still alive! So, that worked out well! She also forgives Leontes, I guess. And now everyone is reunited and happy. Except for Paulina's husband, who was still eaten by a bear. But she gets together with Camillo in the end! Hooray!

It's an absurd story, but it was so wonderfully brought to life by the actors and the production of the New York Classical Theater. It's so beautiful seeing these plays staged against some of NY's most beautiful backdrops. The expressive actors always make it so satisfying to draw! Definitely go check out this production, on through August 7 at Battery Park, and from August 9-14 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, Dumbo. 

More information below: