penelope schenk

Penny with Tate

Penelope Schenk grew up in Southwest Harbor, Maine, USA. Her parents, both painters, encouraged her early artistic endeavors, allowing her to exhibit with them at age three (her drawing "Hubbub" sold for $5). She attended MDI High School, and, in 1987, received her BA from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. At Williams, she majored in Studio Art, and studied with the British artist Vaughan Grylls. In January of 1986, she spent a memorable month in London as an intern in the Tate Gallery's Education Department, where her desk was directly beneath the enormous Stanley Spencer work The Resurrection, Cookham.

After graduation, Penny moved to Portland, Maine, where she continued to paint and worked at a variety of "day jobs". One of the more interesting was managing a Vietnamese restaurant on lower Congress Street, where she acquired a fondness for extremely hot food. In 1988, three of her colored-pencil drawings were selected for the Maine Coast Artists' 10th Annual Juried Exhibition in Rockport, Maine. Later that year, she showed four of her "Garment" paintings at the West End Gallery in Portland.

In 1989, Penny moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and began creating computer graphics with a Macintosh II, a 6" X 8" digitizing tablet and an early release of Adobe Photoshop. A position at Brown University's Computing and Information Services gave her access to the Internet during the early days of the World Wide Web. In 1992, her digital photocollage A Good Sport was chosen for the national September Competition juried exhibit in Alexandria, Louisiana.

In 1995, Penny created her first interactive web advent calendar for children; the next year, it earned a "What's Cool" rating from Yahoo! A later edition was mentioned in the New York Times' Circuits section. The calendar, located at, has gained an enthusiastic worldwide following. Thanks to volunteer translators, some of the calendar stories are available not only in English, but also Chinese, French, German, Italian, Swedish and Dutch.

In 2002, Penny and husband Geoffrey Bilder moved from Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts to Oxford, England. Their East Oxford neighborhood reminds them a bit of Jamaica Plain and their previous home, "The People's Republic of Cambridge" in Massachusetts. Penny works part-time at the venerable Bodleian Law Library, and is one of the city's many cyclists, dodging buses, other cyclists, and determined pedestrians. Their cat Tate, who was awaiting her pet passport in France, decided she preferred the French way of life, and now resides happily in Brittany with Geoffrey's mother.

A French Bulldog named Chickpea has been their companion (and defender against all threats, real or imagined) since 2003. Penny has recently discovered the amaaazin' (you have to say it with a Newcastle accent) Hugo award-winning podcast "Starship Sofa" and anticipates hours of enjoyable listening in the New Year as she catches up on their back catalog. Penny had her copy of "The City and The City" signed by China Miéville at a reading in Clerkenwell earlier this year, and managed not to faint or spout gibberish. You can e-mail her at penny at, read her blog at, or find her on The Twitter as @galoot.

(photo by Geoffrey Bilder)

note: painting in the background is "Dream in Arabic" by Maine artist Dozier Bell