Saturday, December 11, 2010

Esperanza Means Hope...

The Books arrived yesterday just in time for the Arizona Historical Society's Book Fair. I signed for 2 hours.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Esperanza Means Hope...

I had a nice surprise yesterday afternoon. My latest book "Esperanza Means Hope" is finally available for purchase. The wait is always too long—but the payoff is sweeter beyond all imaginable proportion. I've already shown some of my artwork from the book, but there's nothing like seeing it in published form. Here's the jacket and publishers blurb.        

ESPERANZA IS HERE! The historical fiction book, Esperanza Means Hope (written by Gwen Harvey, illustrated by Guy Porfirio, and published by AHS) has arrived. Join us at the Arizona History Museum in Tucson for a book signing on Friday, December 3, 2010 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Meet the author and the illustrator in person. Books will be for sale for $17.95--all proceeds support AHS education programs.

I just got word—a little wrinkle has appeared in my book signing scheduled for tomorrow. Delivery of the books is delayed, therefore, my book signing will have to be rescheduled. Gwen Harvey, however, will still be presenting at the Arizona History Museum, well worth seeing. Gwen did an amazing job with the research and writing of this story. More later.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A little new work & a lot of snow...

I painted 3 new portraits. Here is how one of them turned out.

Detail of
the face.

I painted this holiday scene for the Duluth Trading Co. back in August.

I like to think that I'm especially equipped to handle snow scenes because of all the time I spent shoveling it as a kid back in my Chicago days. Believe it or not, I have very fond memories of shoveling snow. There's nothing like shoveling a sidewalk or a driveway late at night, especially if it's still snowing, which, of course, played a major role in supplying the inspiration for this piece. It's nice to know that all of that labor finally came in handy for me. I wonder if that would work with my kids. Well, one can only hope. The next time I have them do something around the house, I'll just say that I'm supplying them with inspiration for future use. Yeah, that's it—inspiration for future use.

Well as long as I'm on the subject of snow... Here's a piece I did back in 2001 for my book "Clear Moon, Snow Soon."

Here's one more...

And one from "Papa's Gift"...

And one from "Junk Man's Daughter"...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

New Work...

Finally got back to that portrait painting I was working on.

Here's my original sketch.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Back To The Drawing Board...

I had a lot of fun painting this portrait of Mike Stoops (Head Football Coach at the University of Arizona.) This portrait was to accompany an interview with Mike Stoops for an article running in the fall issue of BizTucson magazine. Unfortunately, the interview with Mike was cancelled, and consequently, my portrait will not be published; In BizTucson anyway...

I hate it when that happens.

Sure, I can post it on my blog, facebook, and web page — but not just not the same. There's some real credibility gained when an entity such as a publisher invests a little ink and some precious magazine real estate in a piece of art. it's, the official stamp of approval. It says, "We liked this guy's art so much, we actually paid for it." Don't worry, I did get paid for this piece, I just didn't get all the accolades; the emails, the phone calls, the pats on the back that usually come from being seen in print — or TV for that matter. Oh well, waddya gonna do — it happens.

I once had a whole book linger in publishing limbo for a little over 2 years before the publisher finally decided "not to publish." Now, I admit, if it had been my first book, I'd have been a little more than slightly dissapointed. But it wasn't. And I got over it... eventually.

I'm working on a very promising book at the moment, but I can't talk about it right now... So, instead, I'll show you another piece from "Esperanza Means Hope."

The Plot Thickens...

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Moment of Truth...

Ladies and gentlemen... My latest book. 

I kid around about spending too much time in my studio, or not getting enough sleep, but when it finally comes time to unveil the fruit of all that labor, everything else goes away. 

This book was great fun to illustrate, which is usually the case with great stories. It's jam packed with history, and takes place in Tucson, Arizona in 1876.

Here's a few more illustrations from 
Esperanza Means Hope.

Bowler Hat & Red Beard

From a Distance


The Rescue

Esperanza Means Hope
Coming this Fall
Illustrated by Guy Porfirio
Written by Gwen Harvey
Published by The Arizona Historical Society

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Defining Moment in life #10...

It's just not possible to sum up my Mazza experience in a few words. You really had to be there. Much like the difference between a photograph of the Grand Canyon, and actually standing on the edge of the north rim at sunset—not even close... My week at the University of Findlay's Mazza Museum, along with many other incredible moments in my life, will live on, burned into my memory forever. Maybe it will be made into a movie someday! "What can I say, sometimes a guy just wants the impossible," (to borrow a line from Tom Hanks).

It's all about the pizza...

To have come this close to Chicago without stopping by for my all-time favorite pizza in the world, Gino's East, would have been a crime. So we did. My son was with me on this trip. It's always nice when I can impress him with something I think is "cool." I'm happy to report he agrees with me on that whole deep-dish versus thin-crust thing. He comes from good stock.

Then, on to Findlay.

This is Benjamin Sapp, Director, Mazza Museum; Instructor,
College of Education, and a very gracious Master of Ceremonies.

I was the first speaker presenting at the Mazza 2010 Summer Conference, so of course I was feeling no pressure (in opposite world, maybe). I'm always a little jittery about speaking until the first sentence leaves my lips. But, short of falling off the stage, or fainting, I couldn't really make a mistake here.

I can't tell you what a joy it is to talk about my artistic passion for visual storytelling to an audience who has that same passion and appreciation for the fine art of picture books. These people get it. Many of them artists and writers themselves. By the end of my short 45 minutes, I wanted to take this whole room, and all of the people in it, home with me so I could step back in and once in awhile get a little enthusiastic boost.

As you can see, it went well.

This is my view of Mazza's reaction to my presentation. I just happened to have a camera handy. It is a moment that will last me a very long time. Incidentally, that's Jerry Mallet, Professor of Education and Curator of the Mazza Museum on the left, and the famous author/illustrator Judith Caseley in the black on the right side of the picture. Now, if any of you are familiar with my earlier posts, you'll remember reading about my disappointment over never getting "The Wave" from my family after finishing a tough book project. Well... in a stunning show of empathy, these wonderful Mazza people took it upon themselves to give me a first class "Wave" just moments after this picture was taken. Definitely, my kind of people.

Left to right: Robert Sabuda, Patricia Polacco, Suzanne Bloom, Brian Lies, Ian Schoenherr, Me, and Carol Heyer.

I was in very good company.

Unfortunately, this wasn't everyone at this year's Summer Conference. Because of individual schedules, many of the artists were only able to commit to just enough time to make their presentations and break-out sessions, and then head back home. Calef Brown was one who had to leave early. He's not in any of these photos, but his presentation was incredible. Also, Steve Bjorkman and Matthew Reinhart spoke on Friday. I, on the other hand, was the guest who wouldn't leave. Too many times in the past I've made the mistake of not staying long enough to really soak up the essence of such an event. I'm glad I stayed this time.  

Here is Brandon Dorman giving his spirited demonstration.
Very inspiring.

And Patricia Polacco with the real "Keeping Quilt."

Patricia Polacco seated in front. Back row, left to right:  Suzanne Bloom, Carol Heyer, Brian Lies, Jackie Urbanovic, Me.

Something I don't get a chance to do very often is get out of my studio and spend some time talking with my peers. As it turns out there are quite a few similarities in how we approach our work. Every now and then when I'm working on a tight deadline and spending a lot of time in the studio, I start to feel like the guy in that old Twilight Zone episode who walks out of a cave one day and all the people are gone. Is there life outside these walls? There is, right?

As my week at Findlay was beginning to fade, I still had one more honorable Mazza Museum tradition to perform...

And there's only one thing better than drawing for a living, and that's drawing on someone's wall—someone else's wall! Which is something I haven't done since the first grade. But, just when I thought it couldn't get any better, the museum asked me to draw something on their wall... in ink too!

You betcha!

My preliminary sketch...

I thought this was good use
of corner space.

All in all, a great week. And hey, look! I'm still smiling, and sporting my new favorite coffee mug to boot! It doesn't get much better than this folks.

Now back to the drawing board...


Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Venturing out beyond these studio walls...

On the morning of June 19, 2008, approximately 35 people from The University of Findlay's Mazza Musem (the world's largest museum devoted to literacy and the art of children's picture books) stepped off a very large touring bus in front of my house, crammed themselves into my humble studio, and listened to my articulations on the subject of telling a story visually… illustrating children’s books. Something I’m very passionate about. Good thing they didn’t ask about my views on deep dish versus thin crust, or they’d still be here… I am, after all, a Chicago boy. 

                                         Note the cameras        
I’ll never forget, during the course of their visit, being asked to say a few words in welcoming them to my home and studio. That was their first mistake. I don’t do “few words,” just ask my kids. (Incidentally, their second mistake was having me sign every copy of Grandpa’s Little One, Junk Man’s Daughter, The Legend of St. Nicholas, and The Day I Could Fly, not to mention a few of my earlier books that I can’t recall at the moment, that I had in my inventory... I love to sign books.) Can you say rock star? Which of course was my first passion in life. More on that later…

                                                            Note the hair

But, to my delight, these wonderful, picture-book people gathered in my living room for what could have easily turned into days, had I not run out of ways to say the same thing over and over at least 5 or 6 times. If at first you don’t succeed re-state your point…that’s my motto.

Please understand, the majority of my work happens inside of my head while sitting at a drawing table or in front of a computer within the four walls of my modest, yet comfortable, working space, 7 days a week. I don’t even want to know how many dog-years I've racked up in my studio since graduating art school. 

                                                          Note the bare feet

Therefore, when a large group of people who are extremely interested in what, and how, I do what I do, travel over 1,000 miles just to meet and hear me talk about my passion for illustrating and writing children’s books… I will answer the door, believe me. “Come on in, have a seat, there’s plenty of room. Let me tell you about the time when I was 7 years old, fell out of a tree, and when I finally came to, decided to devote my life to the writing and illustrating of children’s picture books.

                                                          Note the long line

Well, this fine group of people from the Mazza Museum invited me, right then and there, to travel to the University of Findlay and speak at their 2010 Mazza Summer Conference. How did they know I had more to say on the subject of writing and illustrating children’s picture books? These are very smart people, folks!

I will have the honor of being one of the keynote speakers at this year's Mazza Summer Conference on July 12th and various sessions and workshops lasting the whole week. So, if you are "at one" with the fine art of picture book illustration, love to hear a good story, or just want to challenge me on that whole deep dish versus thin crust thing, stop by. Here’s the link  The Mazza Summer Conference

The whole thing makes me smile.
                                                      Note the smile

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The half-life of a great idea...

 Did you ever wonder what happens to unfinished manuscripts? They get put in the darkest part of your brain, buried in an old steamer trunk under a mountain of useless information like your old bicycle lock combination from 3rd grade, secret Batman hand shake, and the log-in password to that new facebook account you set up last week. Go figure.  There they sit, hoping against hope that someday they get the go-ahead to move on to the next plane, or drift away and evaporate forever. It's so sad. Hang in there story of mine, I'll break you out of that place as soon as I can.

A great story trumps a pretty good one every time, and I can always tell when I have a pretty good story. There's just a little something about it that's not quite right. It's like a bump in the road that you've become accustomed to after running over it so many times; you almost forget that it's there, but there it is. Same with an illustration. I could swear that it's the second Mona Lisa... except for that, thing, over there—that, kind of disconnected thought that doesn't really make any sense... Maybe no one will notice. Or maybe I'm just over thinking it. Yeah, right. It you see it, everyone sees it. It's an all or nothing game folks. It either works, or it's just a pretty good rough draft. 

So therefore, I decided to ignore my little writing obstruction (if you ignore it, it'll go away) by painting a portrait. One of my favorite things to do. I've told you how much I enjoy telling a story with my artwork... Well, this is the same thing. The story is in the facial expression. Here's my sketch.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

What's this Guy been up to?


Painted another portrait for BizTucson magazine. This
time Greg Byrne, new athletic director at the University of Arizona. Lots of fun. It will appear in the next issue of BizTucson.

Here's the preliminary sketch.

Very quick, just enough to show my intended composition before I got started. You can see how the final painting changed a bit from this sketch.


Painted for an article highlighting
C-path's ability to streamline
the process of the development
of new medical products.                                              

A Tee shirt design for a local swim team.

Me—circa 1987

My good friend John Edwards, also an illustrator, and also featured in the same article on freelance illustrators, recently posted this clipping of me at my drawing table. I’m happy to say that I finally did somehow manage to find out-of-town work. I remember how important it was to me in those days to become a nationally recognized illustrator. But don't you like the phrase "out-of-town?" Tucson wasn't that small in 1987.

Monday, April 5, 2010

I’ll be right with you…

Recently, inspiration hit me over the head with a really great book idea. I spent the last two weeks writing and sketching. I’ve already sent it to my publisher… 

Now back to our regularly scheduled blogging…

This is an illustration I did of Sean Miller 
for the winter issue of BizTucson magazine.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mr. Microphone…

A couple of weeks ago I did a phone interview for a small local newspaper promoting the Tucson Festival of Books, which took place this past weekend, and my participation in it. No big deal. I’ve done this kind of thing before. The nice thing about doing an interview over the phone rather than in person is that you can do other things while talking. I pace. If someone had opened a door while I was on the phone, I may have ended up in Indiana before the conversation was over.

“Hello Mr. Porfirio? I’d like to ask you a couple of questions about your work and life as an illustrator.” “Fire away!” (Thought bubble), “I’ve got this guy right where I want himheh heh heh.” I’m always in control. Unless, of course, I’m feeling a little stress, uncomfortable, in the middle of a high fever, or under anesthesia. Other than that, I’m solid, a regular secret agent man. “What’s that? The plans for the new inter-planetary space transporter? Sure thing; behind the credenza– top left hand side–hidden panel. Tap it three times and slide it to the right. Here’s the key. Just leave it under the mat on your way out.” I’m pretty sure I told this unsuspecting reporter my shoe size. Not that he or the reading public needed to know that bit of information or even what my favorite pizza toppings are for that matter, sausage, onions, and green peppers just in case your wondering. See what I mean? But for some reason, that came out too. Ask me no questions and I tell you no lies, but if you do ask me a question I’ll start at the beginning. 

This is one of the highlights of my drawing workshop.
I call it... The Chair Guy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Moving toward the light…

Working on a book project is like navigating though a long cave-like tunnel. I like this analogy for a couple of reasons, but the main one would have to be the amazing similarity of navigating through a dark treacherous cave, to finding my way from sketches to final artwork. I told you this was a dangerous business! Believe it or not, it’s the in-between stuff that’ll get you. The darkness of a cave and the many detours that branch off of the main cave work perfectly for this analogy. Even though I have a clear vision of what my final paintings will look like, I could easily take a wrong turn or stumble down a unforeseen tunnel and then suddenly my painting doesn’t work in the context of the story I’m illustrating. I typically get about 6 months to do a 32-page picture book, give or take a month. So, theoretically, I’m in that cave scenario for quite some time.

Three weeks ago I emerged from the cave-tunnel. I finished and delivered all final artwork for a book project that I started back in August. What a feeling! What an achievement! What am I going to do now? I went from “yes!!!” to “alright then, what’s for dinner?” It’s always the same, sort of quiet and anti-climactic. I did just emerge from that scary cave. Did anyone notice? Hello? I guess I expected a brass band or something, a standing ovation maybe. The wave perhaps. And why not? How many people does it take to do the wave properly? I’m guessing three. And as it just so happens, I have three people who could have done it for me. But no. “Could it kill you to do the wave for me when I finish a book?” Just once, I’d like to step out of my studio after completing a very demanding book project and see a halfway decent attempt at the wave. “I don’t ask for much; a little fame and fortune, and the wave from time to time. That’s all.” These people are too used to me. “Oh look, someone let dad out of his studio. Mom do you know about this?” Oh well. I’ve crossed the finish line. I’ve made the cut... I’m going on through to the next round. (A little American Idol lingo there, and very apropos I might add.)

Thumbnail Sketch © Guy Porfirio

Final Painting © Guy Porfirio

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Buddy System…

Never go into your studio alone. Always let someone know where you’re going to be, and stay close. So, just in case you don’t come out, we’ll know where to look. Dangerous business. You’d think someone would have mentioned that little tidbit back at the Academy. “Listen up guys, this is powerful stuff we’re learning here, nothing to play around with. We haven’t lost anyone in 35 years, and we’d like to keep it that way.”

If you spend enough time forcing yourself to see a certain way, you're going to end up seeing a certain way. Take it from me. I seem to have misplaced the off button. “Oh, what a beautiful sunset… Not bad... but I would have moved that mountain peak over to the left just a bit and then the clouds on the right are a little busy. Yeah, I would lose those. Now the focus becomes the treetops in the foreground and how they catch the orange light just the right way directing your eye back up toward the glow coming off the mountains. Ta-Da! Next.

I could be at a gathering with friends, completely caught up in the conversation and before I know it, I'm not hearing a thing. I’m completely focused on thier facial expressions and body posturing. It’s fascinating. “Hmmm…” I ponder.  “Look at how even in the darkest shadow area under the jaw there is still enough detail to define the form. Make a note of that.” Or “Look how that subtle dip in the corner of the mouth changes the expression from amusement to sincerity.” Luckily, these are good friends and they make plenty of allowances for me cuz I’m one of those artist types. 

The payoff? Ideas! Pure gold in my world, and they come fast and furious. Being observant, knowing yourself and how you feel about things is the key. It’s the artist’s vocabulary.

"The Day I Could Fly"

 Endsheet thumbnail sketch

And  the final painting

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here goes...

As an artist, it is my duty to over think things, and then do my best to blow them all way out of proportion. This skill is particularly useful around 11 PM the night before all final artwork is due, although it also works well at the dentist’s office. Has this tooth been giving you any problems? I don’t know… should it be giving me problems?? Maybe it has, only I’ve been too busy to notice. Does caffeine have anything to do with masking the body’s natural pain mechanisms? Is this going to cost a lot? Can I leave now? You get the point.

Back in art school I once heard a classmate say that the artist’s job was to find beauty in nature, re-arrange it, and then simplify it. Pretty lofty stuff. I still believe in that simplifying thing though, and do my best to live up to it. But I’ll tell you. Every now and then one gets away from me, painting that is. And before I know it, I’ve blazed right past the simplifying part and straight on through to the over-baked, complicated part. Over thinking rears it’s ugly head again. Tragic.

Enter, the thumbnail sketch: the artist’s best friend. The great, cut-to-the chase, right-to-the-point, flawlessly executed, enough said, equalizer. Embedded in this little monochromatic masterpiece is an idea that came straight from The Gut. (Listen to your gut, it knows what it’s talking about!) Right from the gut, I say. Free of all the second-guessing, which can only turn a good idea into just pretty picture without a point. That’s so sad. (That’s where they get wallpaper, you know.) A quick thumbnail sketch makes it easy to be bold and daring. And it doesn’t cost much, either. It only took me about 30 seconds to get this idea down, and truth be told, I was already on to the next one before this one was finished, and then the next, and the next. And the next, until… I just can’t leave this one alone. Eureka!

I love thumbnail sketches almost as much as I love painting, sometimes more. They’re what my paintings aspire to be when they grow up… a worthy goal.

       Here's one of my favorite thumbnail sketches from a book I illustrated titled Papa's Gift.

And then the final painting.