Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Rockford Illustrating Company

This is what was The Rockford Illustrating Company at 317 Market Street, in Rockford, Illinois. From the website Rockford Reminisce I learned this site was built and occupied in 1899, and the Rockford Illustrating Company went great guns for decades, churning out postcards, maps, illustrating children's books, advertisements, and anything that needed to be drawn for their extensive list of Rockford clients, and the rest of the world. That building still stands, but The Rockford Illustrating Company is gone. However, there are still many talented artists and illustrators working in Rockford. People like Jesus Correa, Jenny Mathews, Corey Hagberg, Andy Whorehall, and dozens of others. Just yesterday afternoon I left the Zombie Logic Press headquarters on The Holmes Block here in lovely Downtown Rockford and saw Corey Hagberg putting a great deal of detail work into a series of murals of classic muscle cars for the car museum that will be opening shortly.

It's my very great fortune to work with the best of the lot, Jenny Mathews. One of my favorite projects we have worked on together is Tiny Drawing Poems, where we combine my poetry with her illustrations, sometimes starting with the poem, sometimes with me writing a poem after I see one of her Tiny Drawings. We've done about twenty of these. Batphone seems to be the favorite of a lot of people. 

This is the Dowager Sturgeon from her latest project, Freshwater Mermaids of North America. I asked when I saw her scrunching up her face and examining pictures of our local species of fish in an effort to make them as accurate as possible, why she didn't just color them digitally. I guess she just likes to draw things by hand, and color them with real paint. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rockford Artist Redefines Mermaids

Quick. Close your eyes and imagine what a mermaid looks like. Did you imagine a a curvy figure with long, flowing hair and blue or green eyes? 

I wouldn't blame you if you did. After all, that's how mermaids have been depicted from the beginning of the human experience. Alluring and sexy, yet capable of transforming into terrifying monsters. I'll leave it to the Freudians among us to advance a hypothesis about that. 

But one Rockford artist sees it differently. Jenny Mathews, of The Rockford Illustrating Company, has created a bold and original new collection of hand-drawn mermaids that represent women in every shape, form, age, and personality you can imagine. These drawings challenge the age-old stereotypes of the female form, and what is considered desirable. The mermaids depict fishes indigenous to rivers, lakes, and streams in the Midwest. 

The maiden bluegill 

The Walleye Crone

In all Mathews has cataloged seventeen different mermaids. Done in the style of classic fish illustrations, this series of fun psudo-scientific field studies, depicts seventeen freshwater mermaids such as the "Lass Perch", the "Maiden Bluegill" and the gregarious "Mississippi Queen Catfish". Great for any mermaid lover or fisherman.