Solo art exhibit this month

I’m having an exhibit of my artwork this month at our local library. The Friends of the Needham Public Library Gallery features a new exhibit each month, and I was invited to show my work during February.

This is my largest solo exhibit in recent memory, with thirty works of art, plus some of my handmade puppets. There are a few illustrations from my published books, but the majority of works are unpublished drawings, paintings, and cut paper art (like those in the foreground above.)

It was a challenge looking back through my work to decide which images to show. I wanted to show a wide sampling of what I’ve been up to, and also works that best represent me as an artist. Most of my work is illustrative, evoking a story of some kind. I’m also drawn to nature, especially trees, and all of the works in this exhibit involve trees in some way.

The Needham Free Public Library is located at 1139 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA 02494. It is open Mon-Thurs 9AM-9PM, Fri 9AM-5:30PM, and Sun 1-7PM. The library website also features a slideshow of my work during the month of February. If you’re in the area, stop by to take a look!

Looking forward and looking back

The end of the year is always a good time to look back and reflect on recent projects. I don’t post on this blog nearly as often as I used to, because it’s faster and easier to share on social media. The drawback to social media is that it’s always focused on the moment, and once that moment has passed, we move on. Ideas get lost, and it’s hard to take the long view, to put things in context, to see the larger picture. This blog has become a catalog of highlights, to help me look back and see where I’ve come, and where I might be going.

So, here are some of the things I’ve been working on over the last half of this year.

I did more experiments in cut paper art. Here is my latest, cut from black paper with an x-acto knife, placed over a watercolor background. It measures 12 x 18 inches. I’m still developing my style and technique with this medium, but so far I love it.

Paper Art ©2018 by John Lechner

Paper Art ©2018 by John Lechner

I also did a series of nature drawings for #inktober. My personal challenge was to draw from life, using only ink and a brush (no pencil allowed.) This was very different for me, because I always do lots of sketching and erasing before I put ink to paper. I wanted to develop a more confident ink line, and explore ink as its own medium.

Art ©2018 by John Lechner

Art ©2018 by John Lechner

As usual this year, I took a lot of nature photos during my wanderings outdoors. I often try to capture the world from the vantage point of another animal or insect. Since I have a waterproof camera, I can venture outside on wet and snowy days without fear. You can see more nature photos at my Instagram page.

Photo ©2018 by John Lechner

Photo ©2018 by John Lechner

Photo ©2018 by John Lechner

This year I also built a suitcase puppet theater. This particular suitcase belonged to my great-grandmother, and I rigged up a vertical crankie inside the lid. It all comes apart and fits inside the suitcase, so I can carry it around. The photo below is still a work in progress. I often bring puppets to my school visits, and hopefully this will soon be added to my repertoire of storytelling.

Puppet Theater ©2018 by John Lechner

I’ve also been doing a lot of writing this year, revising old stories and starting new ones. Query letters have been sent out, some have even had replies, and hopefully this will all lead to good things in the coming year. It’s just a myth that once you’ve been published, all your subsequent books will be published as well. Even if you have the best idea in the world. In fact, I’m realizing that a great idea, or even a great manuscript, isn’t the most important factor in getting published. There are dozens of other forces at work, most of them beyond your control. This can lead to discouragement, but also a magical optimism, because you never know when circumstances will line up in your favor, and your great idea will make it through and find an audience.

Looking forward to the new year, I will be having a solo art exhibit at the Needham Public Library during the month of February, featuring all of my recent papercuttings and some book illustrations as well. There won’t be an opening reception (they have no room) but you can see the exhibit anytime during the month.

I’ve been posting less and less on this blog, but you can follow my creative journey on Twitter and Instagram. Hope everyone has a healthy and creative 2019!

 

Drawn From Nature – New Solo Exhibit

Exhibit Poster

I’m having a solo exhibition of my artwork all during the month of July, at the Gorse Mill Gallery in Needham, MA, with an opening reception on Friday July 7th from 6:00-8:00 PM. Entitled “Drawn From Nature,” the exhibit will feature drawings, paintings, illustrations, cut paper designs, and shadow puppets.

At the opening reception on Friday July 7th, I will also perform an original story with my scrolling “crankie” theater. Entitled The Brave Fiddler, it is a short story about a girl who sets off to seek her fortune, taking only her violin. I will be playing the violin myself as I tell the story. The performances will take place at approximately 6:30 and 7:15 PM at the reception, and all ages are welcome. The crankie stage will also be on display as part of the exhibit.

Gorse Mill is a former textile factory that was renovated to create art studios and the Gorse Mill Gallery. Among the building’s artists are potters, ceramicists, glass blowers, painters, sculptors, mosaic artists, jewelers, photographers, authors, illustrators, stained-glass artists, graphic designers, mixed-media artists, a silk painter, textile artist, and a storyteller. Several artists offer a variety of classes as well.

The gallery is located at 31 Thorpe Road, Needham, MA, and is open to the public Monday – Thursday 11-5 and Friday 10-4. Though if anyone wants to visit the gallery at another time, just send me and email and I’ll be glad to show you the exhibit.

Hope to see you there!

John Lechner exhibit

John Lechner exhibit

John Lechner exhibit

And here is a video I made walking through the finished exhibit.

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Cutting stories out of paper

Art © by John Lechner

It really is true that time moves faster as you get older. Not literal time, but our perception of time, which in many ways is far more important. So before any more time passes, I thought I’d share some recent projects.

Most recently, I finished a new paper cutting. I’ve been doing paper cuttings and shadow puppets for a few years now, and I really like the challenges and the effects you can achieve. I love how silhouettes force you to use your imagination, and this internal picture-creation can be far more powerful than any realistic image.

Here is a little bit about my process. I started with a pencil sketch, which I scanned and printed out bigger, and in reverse. This is because I would be drawing and cutting on the back side of the paper.

Art © by John Lechner

I then copied the design onto heavy black paper, and cut out the images with an x-acto knife. It was a slow process, and took several evenings.

Art © by John Lechner

Art © by John Lechner

And here is the final piece, which measures 11 x 14 inches.

Art © by John Lechner

This artwork will be on display at the Needham Library throughout the month of April, part of an exhibit for the Needham Open Studios, which I will also be participating in. You can visit the Open Studios website here.

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Also this past winter, I designed the set for a theatrical performance called I Spy Butterfly, by Faye Dupras, with music by Max Weigert (pictured below).

I Spy Butterfly, performed by Faye Dupras and Max Weigert

The show, which features puppetry, live actors and music, tells the sweet story of a young girl who loves insects and befriends a caterpillar. It weaves together themes of change, nature, and friendship, and is a magical performance for all ages.

The show was developed by Faye and Max over a period of months, where they worked out the action and the structure of the set. I came in to design the look of the scenery, which was then built by Larry Dersch and painted by Lauren White, so it was a team effort. Below is one of my paintings for the set, and also the final product. It was fun to work on such a creative project. The show will be performed again this May at Puppet Showplace Theater, in Brookline, MA.

Set design for I Spy Butterfly

Elsewhere in my life, I’ve been doing a lot of writing, revising old manuscripts and starting new ones. Hopefully that will all come to fruition at some point, and you’ll see another book from me. In the meantime, stay tuned for future developments!

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Cut paper artwork, and other projects

John Lechner cut paper art

Every year, my workplace FableVision has an art show for us to exhibit some of our outside work. Last year, I was inspired to make a cut paper sculpture to fit into a deep shelf in the wall that seemed begging for some three dimensional art. This year I was equally inspired, especially since the theme was SPACE, and I decided to create a starry nighttime scene with cut paper. My idea was to have the stars cut out, so that light would shine through from the back.

After a few sketches, I drew the final design on stiff black paper, being careful to make each object sturdy enough to stand on its own, or have some attachment to other parts of the drawing. Then I cut out the images with an x-acto knife. The whole design was about 14 inches tall and 28 inches wide.

John Lechner cut paper art

John Lechner cut paper art

Behind the layer of black cardboard, there is a layer of watercolor paper, where I painted a light blue wash, then cut out stars so the light would shine through. The whole thing was assembled into the shelf, with small lantern lights behind.

John Lechner cut paper art

John Lechner cut paper art

John Lechner cut paper art

John Lechner cut paper art

I set it up two days before the show, then noticed that the smaller shelf nearby looked awfully empty. So I went home and made another cut-out design, using a shadow-box frame that I had. This one was only 8 x 10 inches, so it was easier to cut out.

John Lechner cut paper art

It was a fun project, and I hope to do more cut paper images and puppets.

So, what else have I been doing in the last few months? Working on several book manuscripts, and getting ready for the Maine Comics Arts Festival on June 5th, where I’ll be presenting some brand new mini books I’ve been working on.  Below is a sneak peek.

John Lechner ink drawing

I will post more later. That’s all for now!

 

New art, new projects

Froggy Garden - by John Lechner

I’ve been working on all sorts of things lately, with not much time for blogging. I’ve got a novel in the works, and a few other projects brewing. Not much to show, but here are a few watercolors I did earlier this year, part of a series of monochromatic paintings I showed in the spring. They are all very small, close to the size you see here, experiments in light and shadow using different kinds of paper.

This weekend (Dec. 1 & 2) I’m participating in a Holiday Open Studio at the Gorse Mill Studios in Needham, MA. Stop by and say hello!

I also recently started playing with Pinterest, and set up a board especially for parents and teachers with activities from my books.

That’s all for now — time to get back to work!

Girl With the Box - by John Lechner

 

Raking Leaves - by John Lechner

 

Twisted Trees by John Lechner

 

New comic, and exhibit

I recently finished a new short comic, which will be coming out this month in a new anthology called Minimum Paige, published by the Harvard Book Store. This comic was a new kind of challenge for me in many ways. It was eight pages long, it was black and white, and it needed to appeal to older readers. I drew it on paper and colored it in Photoshop, which was a new technique for me. It was a learning experience, but I’m happy with the way it came out, and hope to do more projects in this style.

Below are the first two pages. You can click on the images to see them full size. I don’t want to give away the ending just yet, but maybe eventually I’ll post the whole thing. There will be an opening reception for the anthology’s release on Thursday Sept. 22nd at the Harvard Book Store.

The Prisoner in the Dungeon - Page 1 The Prisoner in the Dungeon - Page 2

In other news, I have a painting in the art show Comic Art New England, at Lesley University. It is part of the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) happening next week. My artwork is an original watercolor from my book Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril. There is an opening reception for the exhibit on Saturday Sept. 17th. More information here.

By the way, I’m still working on my Page-A-Day Flipbook, even though I’m a few weeks behind. I’ll try to post an update soon.

Books, exhibits, and what’s new

illustration by John Lechner

Here’s a little sketch I did for the Creative Juices blog, for the “What The Doodle” feature. The word this time was “roose” which means praise. See what all the other artists came up with!

I’ve been busy working on miscellaneous projects this summer. If you haven’t been keeping up with my weekly webcomic, you can check it out here. In the latest adventure, Jasper the snow moth is trying to get back to the Arctic, with the help of Sticky Burr and Mossy.

Speaking of Sticky Burr, one of my paintings from the book Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril was accepted into the exhibit “Picture This!” at the Danforth Museum in Framingham, MA, and also won an Honorable Mention. (Congratulations to Scott Magoon who was the First Prize winner!) The exhibit only runs until August 7, so catch it if you can.

Here are some photos from the exhibit, with my painting at the end.

Danforth Museum exhibit 1

Danforth Museum exhibit 2

Danforth Museum exhibit 3

 

School visit and art exhibit

John Lechner photo

I had the pleasure of visiting the Hawthorne Brook Middle School in Townsend, Massachusetts this week, where my niece goes to school. I spoke with the fifth grade students about my books. I showed them my sketches and paintings, and demonstrated how I draw some of my characters.

The students asked a lot of great questions, like when did I first start writing (first grade), how long does it take me to write and illustrate a book (about two years), which book and character is my favorite (I can’t decide), and when is my next book coming out (I don’t know.) It was nice to share my work with such a creative group of kids. Thanks everyone for being such a great audience!

In other news, one of my paintings is in an exhibit this summer. The Danforth Museum of Art is having a juried exhibit of children’s illustrators called Picture This! They have accepted one of my illustrations from the book Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril (see below.) The exhibit will run from June 12 – August 7. The Danforth Museum is in Framingham, MA, here is more information about the exhibit including a catalog of all the works.

The Arrival of Burweena, by John Lechner
From the book "Sticky Burr: The Prickly Peril" by John Lechner