Drawing Ink and watercolor wash Painting Sketchbook Pages

Maira Kalman at Jewish Contemporary Museum

Maira Kalman at Contemporary Jewish Museum, SF
Maira Kalman at Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco (art © Maira Kalman)

If you are a fan of Maira Kalman as I am, and you’re anywhere near San Francisco, this show is a must see! It’s the first museum survey of her narrative art and it is absolutely wonderful. If you can’t get there, visit the museum’s website and click on the images on the upper right of that page to see bigger pictures of some of the treasures in the show.

The show includes many of her paintings and some of her collections of oddities like an onion ring collection (yes, literally), a box of small envelopes labeled “The Mosses of Long Island,” and other assorted¬† items including the can of “Mushy Peas” in my sketch below.

Kalman's Mushy Peas and Linen Cabinet
Kalman's Mushy Peas and Linen Cabinet (that's a very large cone of twine on top of cabinet)

I did a couple of sketches at the show and took a few notes (above). The well-meaning docent leading a group kept referring to Maira in the past tense as if she were dead. It was driving me crazy so as soon as she finished I pointed it out, mentioning that Maira was very much alive. She thanked me and said she hadn’t realized she’d been doing that. And of course that she knew Maira was alive, as she’d been there for the opening.

You can find out more about Maira Kalman on her website here or on her amazing New York Times illustrated blogs here and here. I also wrote about her process of adding words to her paintings on my blog here (she adds them on a separate transparent sheet, not on the artwork).

Animals Art supplies Gouache Illustration Painting photoshop

How Maira Kalman (and I) Create Gouache Paintings with Ink Lettering

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache on hot press paper, 5.5x7.5"
Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache on hot press paper, 5.5x7.5"

Why Flamingoes Are Pink (Hint: You Are What You Eat!)

Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache & Ink, 5.5x7.5"
Why Are Flamingoes Pink? Gouache & Ink, 5.5x7.5"

I adore Maira Kalman‘s wonderfully quirky gouache and ink illustrations. When I’ve tried to use ink on my own gouache paintings, the ink always got sucked into the paint and blurred, or the pen clogged immediately (or both). I searched every way I could on the internet and finally found this link to India Amos’s blog. India, as Art Director, was responsible for preparing some of Maira’s artwork for print. In the post she wrote that Maira creates the painting and lettering separately. Then they’re scanned and layered together electronically using Photoshop.

So yesterday I investigated this approach. I painted the flamingoes above from a photo I took at Six Flags last month. Then I tried various pens and tracing papers. I also sent a message to India asking if she’d be willing to provide more information about the process.