Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I never get tired of this:

Lovely things help soften this bitter, bitter cold!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Awkward Phase

I worked this new illustration up to its "adolescent phase" today. In my experience, most paintings go through an awkward stage at some point in their development. I always tell my students not to worry--the painting is just growing out its bangs and experimenting with eyeliner for the first time. Once it gets its braces off things will start to come together.

My own actual, physical awkward phase was exceptionally long, thanks to a continuous string of awful haircuts that began circa. 1985:
I did finally gain control over my own hair in 1990, but by then I was a freakishly gangly middle schooler, so it was kind of a moot point. But everyone grows out of that phase eventually. I can still remember that day in eighth grade when I realized that I was no longer three feet taller than all of my peers. The best part about the awkward phase of a painting is that it is much, much shorter than that of a tween.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Illustration Friday: Pioneer(s)

An imagined photograph from an imagined text, The Bird People: A History. Illustration Friday always leads me to something unexpected;) Click on the image if you would like to view it larger.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Kid Illustrations, Fears, and a Frogman for Good Measure

Here are some rather grainy shots of these illustrations I've been "working on" for my children's book portfolio. This first one is almost finished, and the second one is complete:
When I say that I've been "working on" them, as opposed to simply working on them, it's because I haven't really been working on them all that much lately. Mostly I just look at them, realize that I'm getting close to finishing the whole sequence, and find something else to do. Like this sort of thing:
Am I afraid of failure? Afraid of success? Maybe. But I don't really think so. As an artist I'm more than used to, and completely unfazed by rejection. And success sounds pretty good to me. I would like some, please. What I'm really afraid of is photography. It takes me a long time, it's boring, and I get frustrated. Skin-crawlingly frustrated. If my purple-blues come out right, my yellows are off. I shift my yellows until they're correct, and there go the purple-blues. I tear out some little clumps of hair, and re-shoot with different lighting and different settings, until (after about a thousand years) I get the colors acceptably close. I'm pretty sure that this process is what I've been avoiding. This is my first try at children's illustration, and feel like I've started to find my voice in that genre; a voice that relies heavily on fairly specific color relationships. My ultimate fear is that the work won't translate into photography. Imagine that you've written a novel in English that is completely based on words, phrases and concepts that don't translate into Martian. But publishers can only read Martian, so you have to find a way to translate it. And when you try, it turns out that every possible translation into Martian makes your novel mediocre or even bad! That's what I'm really afraid of. Metaphorically speaking;)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Hunt for that Festive Seasonal Glow

That ghastly spectre, Consumerism-on-Steroids, has really been cramping my festive feeling this year. But I've finally managed to pull through. Here's how:Our neighborhood is peaceful. Especially at night after a snowfall, dotted here and there with Christmas lights.
My mom and I spent six hours making Christmas cookies. I have my mom's hands. Right now mine probably look exactly like hers did when I was born. And hers look exactly like mine will in 30 years.
We have the best angel on top of our tree (which is really more of a bush). My husband made it when he was about nine years old.
When I bought this ornament, I also bought one for my friend Heather. Some years she keeps hers on her kitchen window sill after she's taken her tree down. I like knowing that we have the same one. Plus I have that thing for birds and nests and such.

Charley and I bought this guy in Key West. Last night, while we were decorating the tree (bush), Charley asked, "How many times do you think we'll have to glue those legs back on over the years?" And there it was at last: a full-blown festive seasonal glow. I hope you've found yours too! Peace and Hugs:)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


'Tis the season for some existential brooding.
Hamlet came all undone, which led to his further (and rather complete) undoing.

A little sketchbook drawing/cut paper experiment for this week's Illustration Friday theme. To see a closer view, just click on the image. The portrait of Hamlet is the picture I've had in my head since high school, when I first read the play. I've never noticed before, but he sort of looks like Jude Law. I completely stole the concept for this drawing, as well as some critical particulars, from this still of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet:

I couldn't help it. The play within the play is my favorite part.....of the play. It's such a rich and juicy image!

I couldn't resist including a tiny Ophelia in there as well. Once again, I'm harkened back to my teenage years--locked in my room, brooding, painting drowning Ophelias and singing along earnestly to Tori Amos' Little Earthquakes. Being over thirty is so awesome.

Friday, December 18, 2009


There's a sunny spot in my studio from about 2:30–3:45 in the afternoon this time of year. If you sit in it long enough, it actually warms your face a little bit. One cheek at a time, but still. At night the window becomes a giant mirror.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tug-of-War and Other Bits of Inspiration

~click on the image to view it larger~
This drawing has been in my head for a month–what a relief to get it out on paper! In the photo that inspired this piece, the figures are wearing "US"-emblazoned jerseys. Since I have no interest in making some sort of bizarre and ambiguously patriotic statement, I decided to give my characters snazzy blue jerseys instead;)

The little animal-headed athletes that I've been making lately are inspired by this book that Dawn gave me about the 1919 Inter-allied Games.

My copy of Uppercase's book on Swedish artist/illustrator/blogger Camilla Engman arrived yesterday! I'll spare you the hyperbolic raptures that I've been experiencing and say only this: you need a copy too. You really do. The arrangement of items above (including the Camilla book there on the bottom right) is my little ode to Camilla's own collections and arrangements. At first it was an accident that my worktable was so color-coordinated, and then I helped it out a little bit;)

Monday, December 14, 2009


Click on the image to see it bigger.
This little ink drawing (with a hint of gouache) is my submission to this week's Illustration Friday topic: hatch. I always work very quickly when I draw with ink. Each mark is so definite. You make a line and there it is: black on white, no hiding, no fussing, no second-guessing, no going back. If I didn't have such a strong aversion to cleaning out pen nibs I would draw with ink every day. Curse my laziness!

I spent the better part of today working on this illustration. I'm very happy because I successfully pushed myself over the psychological hump that I like to call, "almost almost finished." This is the stage in each painting where I suddenly see 1) how I want to resolve the image, and 2) exactly how much work will be required to do so. In that instant all of my motivation flies right out the window. So I spent today fighting against my gnat-like attention span, but ultimately getting over the hump so that now I am really, truly and simply "almost finished."

I get a lot of inspiration from my mom's and stepdad's garden. I keep pictures of their dahlias on my desk to use for reference, and to help get me through the winter months.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ordinary Things

Sage is so lovely. And fuzzy.
I spent yesterday at home while the car was in the shop. It was glorious! I can actually see the top of my desk, walk across the kitchen floor without getting crumbs stuck to the bottom of my feet, and sit on the actual surface of the couch instead of having to perch high atop mountains of unfolded laundry. I even had time to make bread. I'll have to remember to give myself permission to stay home once in a while so that I can beat back the squalor a little more often.
It's not even officially winter, and yet I am officially finished with winter. Preemptively over it. My old nemesis, "Wintery Mix" a.k.a. "Frozen Wet Muck" made an appearance this week and abruptly ended my seasonal honeymoon phase.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weekly Update

Here's a peek at the still-in-progress illustration that I've been working on this week:
This image will be part of my children's book illustration portfolio. A while back I sent little booklets of my "fine art" work out to children's publishers. I had some great responses--constructively critical rejections and even a couple of "we're keeping your portfolio in our files" style "acceptances." Several of the art directors who wrote to me said that they would like to see me create a sequence of images showing consistent characters within developed settings. Gosh, that seems so obvious. But at the time, I wanted to get the ball rolling quickly by using images that I had already created. To be fair, this wasn't the worst idea ever. My fine art has a rather illustration-y feel to it. But it was kind of an amateur move. In any case, the responses I received prompted me to create a coherent sequence of illustrations that reflects the way that I would approach a children's book. I came up with a story about two fireflies, Marcus and Petunia, who establish a friendship and have a little adventure. I've been working on the illustrations for this story off and on since September. Now that my pre-holiday teaching hiatus has begun, I'll have time to finish up the last remaining images and get everything packed up and ready to mail. My plan is to wait until late January/early February before I actually send them. Otherwise, I'm afraid that they might get lost in the post-holiday shuffle.

As I get closer to finishing this project, I've begun the absurd (but characteristic) process of stressing out over every little thing. My latest obsession is that my characters might not be consistent enough from one image to the next. I've reworked some of them quite a bit, but
I continue to freak out about it. So here are some zoomed-in details of a single character as he appears (so far) throughout the sequence. I want him to look very buggy, but also relatable. His emotions/expression are also changing from page to page. Any thoughts? Does the consistency get jarringly lost in his changes of position and expression?

Oh yeah, and yesterday was my birthday:)
There were lots of good wishes and little surprises throughout the day, including this delicious and labor-intensive present from Mary that was waiting at our doorstep when I got home from teaching. Thank you everyone! xoxoxo

Monday, December 7, 2009

First Snow

The season's first snowfall still feels magical to me.
The lacy trees.

Morning moons in the crisp, clear sky–something to like about shorter days!

And cozy comfort foods.
I know that in three months I will be sick of shoveling and freezing temperatures and streets covered in gray slush. So for now I intend to bask as much as possible in the novelty of it all:)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking?

I made this little collage at the end of the day yesterday, as part of ArtSpark Theatre's illustration challenge. Susan Sanford, who writes ArtSpark Theatre, posted the following photograph: and challenged readers to alter it. I created my collage with a graphite drawing on vellum sewn together with a few loose bits I found around my studio. I was having a nice chat with Deb while I made it, so it ended up becoming a picture about camaraderie.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Illustration Friday: Crunchy

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Illustration Friday: Entangled

This is an oldie, but I liked it better than any of the other ideas I came up with for "entangled." Click on the image to view it larger, or take a peek at it here, on flickr. I did try a little experimental drawing with some tangly thread, but it fell a bit flat:
I like using IF as an opportunity to try new things, or to revisit old media that I haven't picked up in a while. But it's also important to me to share something of good quality. This week these two aims were mutually exclusive, and my pride won out in the end. But I wanted to share my unsuccessful image anyway--who knows, it might even lead somewhere someday.

I think I'm in a little creative slump this week. I'm off to the studio soon, where I'll try to find a way out of it;)