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Sue Bush
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Gallery 51 Illustrator Trio

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Friday, March 03, 2006

Illustrators Howard Cruse and Emily Daunis
North Adams - The illuminated, cream-colored walls of Main Street's Gallery 51 appeared almost alive with color, form, fantasy, and sharp social commentary inked out in black-and-white during a March 2 "North Adams Illustrators" opening reception.

The exhibit features the work of Howard Cruse, Emily Daunis and John Shamburger. During its' first opening hour, the exhibit lured about 70 people to the gallery. Cruse, Daunis, and Shamburger mixed and mingled with reception guests.

Just Cruse-in'

Illustrator John Shamburger
Cruse's work has been published frequently in many magazines. His graphic novel "Stuck Rubber Baby" has been translated to several languages and was named one of "The Best 100 Comics of the Century" by the Comics Journal. His resume includes work for the Birmingham, Al. -based "Birmingham Post-Herald" as writer/artist of a "Tops and Bottom" daily cartoon. He is the founding editor of "Gay Comix," which appeared as an underground comic in 1980.

Cruse was a cartooning instructor at the School of Visual Arts in New York City from 1996 to 1998, and he plans to teach a cartooning course at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts during the fall 2006 semester.

Cruse, a Birmingham native, and his partner Ed Sedarbaum came to North Adams from New York City in 2003. Both are pleased with the move, Cruse said.

"It's a comfortable area," he said. "Eddie and I really like the mountains. This was a big change for a Southern boy, but so was New York."

The "North Adams experience" has been more positive on several fronts that the "New York City experience," Cruse said.

"The New York experience is one of not getting stuff into a gallery for one thing," Cruse said.

A growing city artist population is beginning to connect and communicate, Cruse said.

"The artists community is getting to know each other, and that's good."

While there are those involved in the fine art world who snub cartooning as an art form, most people embrace the expression, Cruse said.

"Cartooning has long been considered an arts 'step-child,' by those in the fine art world" he said. "I've been 'cartooning' one way or another since I was six years old; cartooning is irresistible. It's just fun and everyone feels that they are welcomed in."

Cruse said that for many years, he "shied away" from color because most pigments weren't suited for use in a small apartment. He has brought color to his work, and said that much of his color is done using a photo shop computer program. Computer technology has helped cartoonists in several ways, Cruse said.

"It's nice to be able to use the programs, to enlarge things, to be able to get in there like a little ant and touch things up," he said.

And the Internet has allowed artists to leave the big cities and live and work in less congested, chaotic regions.

"We are enjoying the quieter pace up here and it's possible because of the Internet," Cruse said. "Otherwise, it would be foolish to be so far from the center of publishing. [The Internet] is very empowering; I was a little suspicious at first. I thought it was less human, but it has turned out to be very empowering."

The Daunis Factor

E-mail, PDF files, and other Internet features have proven helpful to Daunis' Northern Berkshire-based career as well, she said.

"The Internet makes it possible to live anywhere," she said. "Why live in a crowded city when you don't have to?"

Daunis most recent illustration appears on the cover of "Essential Manners For Couples," a book written by Peter Post, a grandson of the etiquette authority Emily Post.

Her Gallery 51 exhibit includes large, colored drawings of parts of North Adams as well as drawings of women in various settings. Her work appeared to draw enormous interest and Daunis was surrounded by reception guests during most of the event.

"Illustration is typically not shown in a gallery," Daunis said. "I'm excited to be in the show here with Howard and John, especially because they are actually quite famous."

Shamburger's art is scrutinzed by Gallery 51 opening reception guests.

Daunis moved to the city from New York City to manage Papyri Books for her parents Michael and Lois Daunis. The couple purchased the Main Street book shop from former owner Karen Kane. Her parents plan to return to the area in the future, and her father, who spent his youth in Pittsfield, is especially eager to return to his roots, she said.

"The town is picking up steam and we'd like to help it along," Daunis said. "We work in the downtown and we want to be part of the downtown. It's all so beautiful. We'd really love to be able to stay."

Emily Daunis grew up in Belchertown, Mass., and majored in illustration at the Art Institute of Boston. She has created a series of illustrations based on impressions of the city.

Shamburger Finds "The Kid In Me"

John Shamburger's gallery pieces include large, colored artwork that reflect his passion for the surreal.

"This is based on the fantasy game and these particular pieces take on a surreal tone," he said. "I've always been drawn to science fiction and comic books. To me, it's the ultimate of imagination and it keeps me in touch with the kid in me. I try to put a realistic spin on whatever nonsense my mind creates."

Shamburger has earned two degrees in Scenography, which is the study of painting theatrical scenery. He has created illustrations for magazines, book covers, and posters. His more "mainstream" work benefits from computer technology, he said.

"Most of the work I do in illustration is more for marketing purposes and a lot of it is computer-generated," he said.

Shamburgers's Gallery 51 exhibit hosts all hand-drawn illustrations, he said.

"My paintings lean toward illustration with technique as well as subject matter," he said.

Shamburger has created a book cover for a book written by "up and coming" horror writer Scott Nicholson, he said.

Shamburger's wife Dawn Shamburger said that her husband does have favorite illustrators, among them, Michael Whelan, whose illustrations are included in author Stephen King's "Dark Tower" book series.

The exhibit has proven a genuine treat for Shamburger, he said.

"This is so exciting for me, to be able to show my work," he said. "Art is something I've always done and the marketing hasn't always been my strong point."

Art inspired conversation at Gallery 51's March 2 opening reception.
"And the exhibit shows the community what John does," said Dawn Shamburger.

Shamburger spent his childhood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and admitted that even though he is a native of the Deep South, the weather there did not agree with him.

"I've acclimated here very well," he said. "I've never been drawn to the heat. Rarely, very rarely, down in Louisiana, we'd get a little snow, and that was a big deal, a huge deal. I have to say I love it here. The mountains, the snow; everything is so beautiful."

The North Adams Illustrators exhibit will continue to April 23. Gallery 51 is open Thurs.-Sun., 11 a.m. to 6 p.m..
Additional information about Howard Cruse may be acquired at a Internet website. The site has a link to Cruse's blog.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at or at 802-823-9367.
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