Margaret Walker, African American poet

Margaret Walker (1915-1998) was a highly accomplished woman. She was at college student at the young age of 15 when she begin writing poetry. In 1936 she joined the Federal Writers’ Project in Chicago, befriending Richard Wright. BA from Northwestern 1935, MA and Ph D U of Iowa 1945. Her dissertation was published as a novel, Jubilee 1966.

margaret walker portrait conte
Dr. Margaret Walker, Conte pencil, 32 x 50 cm/ 12.5 x 19.5″ on gray pastel paper

Walker was the first African American poet to receive the Yale Younger Poets Prize, penning For My People 1942. She published This Is My Century: New and Collected Poems , October Journey and Prophets for a New Day .

In 1949 she joined the faculty at Jackson State College. She returned to the University of Iowa for her doctoral studies and received a PhD in 1965. In 1968 Walker founded the Institute for the Study of the History, Life, and Culture of Black People at Jackson State College.

As what became the Margaret Walker Center, she organized the 1971 National Evaluative Conference on Black Studies and the 1973 Phillis Wheatley Poetry Festival.

In 1979 she published On Being Female, Black, and Free, a collection of personal essays, and Richard Wright: Daemonic Genius.

Umberto Ecco

umberto ecco conte
Umberto Ecco, Conte pencil, 32 x 50 cm/ 12.5 x 19.5″

Umberto Ecco (1932-2016) was a medievalist, philosopher, semiotician, novelist, cultural critic, and political and social commentator. He is best known for his popular 1980 novel The Name of the Rose, made into the movie with Sean Connery playing the leading role. The novel is a tour de force of intricacies of medieval theology. Foucault’s Pendulum pokes fun, again intricately, at conspiracy theory, while Prague Cemetery revisits the plots of the Risorgimento. Another of my heroes. He taught at the University of Bologna, which we visited along with the Focault pendulum then swinging in the cathedral. Portrait in Conte.

Portrait of María Eugenia Ignacia Agustina de Palafox y Kirkpatrick

María Eugenia Ignacia Agustina de Palafox y Kirkpatrick
María Eugenia Ignacia Agustina de Palafox y Kirkpatrick, 39 x 50cm/16 x 19,″ Conte pencils in white and sepia on gray pastel paper

This is an updated version of this Conte drawing. Eugenia married Napoleon Bonaparte in 1853 and was the Empress of France from 1853-1870 when Napoleaon was deposed. See my article about her at

Portrait of Dame Judi Dench

Judy final
Dame Judi Dench, actress (b 1934), conte pencil drawing 30 x 50 cm/ 12 x 19.5″ on pastel paper

I’ve watched Judi Dench perform since the 1990’s in the BBC comedy ‘As Time Goes By.” She’s a natural on the stage. I am not alone in singing her praises. She has been awarded an Academy Award, a Tony Award, two Golden Globe Awards, four British Academy Television Awards, six British Academy Film Awards and seven Olivier Awards. She appeared in eight James Bond films. Starting in 1968 she had a long run as Sally Bowles in ‘Cabaret.’ Her accomplishments are almost too long to list.

Frank Zappa – portrait

Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa, Conte on mat board approx 24″ x 36″

Frank Zappa  (1940 – 1993) was a a composer, musician, songwriter and bandleader. Most of his music was rock, with a strong note of heavy metal. His lyrics satirized American cluture. He composed classical pieces and had them performed. He also wrote jazz and pop pieces such as Valley Girl.

He produced most of his 60-plus albums and is the one of the most innovative of musicians.