Archives for posts with tag: black and white

One of the local galleries where I occasionally show my work is called Nails in the Wall. It is in a lovely church and the themes for the shows are spiritually focused. The current show that I’m in is called “Saints Among Us.” For this show I was asked to speak about my piece and so I thought I’d reprint some of my talk here:

I was intrigued by the idea of visually representing “Saints Among Us” so I googled the phrase to see what came up. I discovered the term “Tzadik Nistar” which was a concept in Judaism, which I wasn’t familiar with.

The Hebrew word, Tzadik/tzadekket means a righteous person (For a male it is a tzadik for a female, tzadekket.) Nistar means “hidden”. It is also where the word “Tzedakah” comes from. “Tzedakah” means charity.

According to what I’ve read the concept of “Tzadik Nistar” began with the Babylonian Talmud (Jewish law), which says that there are no less than 36 people who walk among us anonymously at any given time on earth helping to keep the world safe from destruction by their good deeds.  Although these are humble people who are not aware of their special status, one of these 36 is thought to be “The Messiah”.

There are many interpretations as to why the number 36 is significant. Some think there is an astrological basis for 36 but Jewish mysticism or Kabbalah gives significance to letters by assigning them a number. The number 36 is twice 18 and 18 is the number that represents the letter “chai”. The word “Chai” translates to “life” but there are many other interpretations as to where the number 36 came from regarding these hidden saints.

I chose to do my image in a somewhat different style for this show. It is done primarily in graphite, which I rubbed into the paper. I then pulled out highlights using an eraser, which I thought gave an feeling of other unknown saints hidden among us. I added small collage elements and limited the color to touches of yellow and blue.




I just learned of the passing of another one of my illustration heroes.

Jim Spanfeller was a large, gentle man with white hair, dark eyebrows and long graceful fingers who created very magical artwork. He used a technique called stippling which is created by making millions of tiny dots in pen and ink to create tones of gray . His pieces were incredibly detailed and intricate.

JSpanfeller lo res

@Jim Spanfeller

He taught at Parsons School of Design and he was one of the main reasons I wanted to go to school there. At the time, his class was only offered at night so as a daytime student I had to get special permission to attend. In my three years at Parsons his class was the one that made it all worthwhile.

We stayed in touch for a number of years after Parsons. He helped me create my first illustration promotion piece. His influence was clear.

Pierrot Luniere

©Janice Fried 1979


Eventually our communication faded. I tried to reconnect with him over the past several years to tell him how important he had been to me but I had lost his address and couldn’t find any recent references to him until a fellow artist and Parson alumni posted the sad news today.

He was master of the dot and line. A master in black and white…A master of pen and ink.  I was lucky to have been one of his students.

I don’t think we’ll see anything like him again.

When I started this blog, I knew I would eventually write about Maurice Sendak.

That eventually became today.

He was my very first illustration hero.

How many times did I take out “Where The Wild Things Are” from the Finkelstein Memorial Library?  Why did I want to become an illustrator?

What was the reason I wanted to attend Parsons School of Design?

The answer to all of those questions is Maurice Sendak.

When I was 16, I bought my very own copy of “Where The Wild Things Are”.  To finally own my own copy of this masterpiece was my birthday present to myself.

When I turned 18, my college roommate bought me a set of the magical “Nutshell Library “ with the tiny and wonderful volumes of “Chicken Soup with Rice”, “Pierre”, “Alligators All Around” and  “One was Johnny”.

People always gave me books by him.

As an illustration student at Parsons, I waited patiently until the year I would have been eligible to take his Children’s Book Illustration class but, to my lifelong disappointment, he decided he was not going to be teaching that class any longer.

I was heartbroken and reluctantly took a different Children’s Book Illustration class.  Maurice Sendak was invited to come and talk to our class.  He brought the proofs for his latest book, “Outside Over There” and I made sure to pack my copy of  “Where The Wild Things Are”.

He signed my book and it is one of my most treasured possessions.

As a mother, his books were the first ones I wanted to read to my child.  And read them, I did.  “In the Night Kitchen”,  “Little Bear”, “Pierre” and of course, “Where The Wild Things Are”.  We had a video tape of “Where The Wild Things Are” and we listened endlessly but joyfully to Carole King’s musical “Really Rosie” based on his wonderful stories about his Brooklyn childhood.

Maurice Sendak  has been crosshatched into my childhood,  my adulthood and my motherhood.   He will always be an inseparable part of my life as an artist and illustrator.

May Mozart play for you when you arrive.

Wild Thing  From “Teaching Poetry, Yes You Can”  by Jacqueline Sweeney (Scholastic 1993) My homage to M.S.

Back in January of this year, I was involved in a multimedia presentation at a now defunct bookstore called The Raconteur.  Alex, the owner of the store wrote a creepy story that was inspired by one of my collages.  He then asked me to illustrate the story and asked my husband to write and perform some music to go with it..  Alex read the story, while Bruce played his music and I projected my artwork on a screen.

After the performance, Alex introduced me to his friend Chris Gash, another local illustrator.  Chris asked to see my original drawings for the story and he and I immediately started talking shop.  I realized it had been a very, very long time since I talked art directors and technique with another illustrator and it felt great.

About a month later, Chris and I went to see the Editorial/Book show at the Society of Illustrators, that venerable club with the red door on 63rd St. that my favorite teacher at Parsons, Jim Spanfeller called “an old men’s club”.   True to his word, there were more men than women in the show but more interesting to me was that probably 90% of the work had some digital aspect to it.

I’ve always been a traditional illustrator who worked on paper, liked to touch her materials and get her hands dirty.  The digital world to me was like the tortoise in the race.  Slow and steady and eventually overcoming the hare who rested on the grass, rapidograph in hand, never imagining the tortoise would win.  Maybe it was more like the mouse and  the ostrich….

I told Chris about my lack of digital experience and my desire to find a way to stay in my lifelong chosen career.  He offered to be my mentor of sorts.

First up was setting up a blog.

So here we go….new work, works in progress, hopefully a fresh start.  Thanks, Chris.