Hours of writing

Okay, “hours” might be an exaggeration, but seriously. Have you ever written and re-written something, trying to make it look really good, but definitely hand-written? I thought I’d throw together a little quote poster. I saw one in a book I was given recently: Fifty Years of Illustration by Lawrence Zeegen and Caroline Roberts. It was by artist/illustrator Robert Massin. It intrigued me. (I started searching for it online so I could share, but it’s not coming up immediately and I don’t have the time to keep looking right now.) Anyway, I wrote the text over and over and over and was never satisfied. In fact, I gave up and then tried again days later, er… today that would be. So finally, in frustration, I just wrote and scribbled and wrote and scribbled. Not sure if it’s a look I’ll go for in the future, but it certainly is a breath of fresh air after what I’d been aiming for.

Thoughts about What Should Be vs What Is

Two things: writing like you think writing is supposed to be and creating artwork like you think it’s supposed to look. It is very hard to catch yourself being inauthentic, because really, where is the line between trying to make it good and making it in your own way? I suppose some people call this your voice or, in the case of visuals, your style. That is a very complicated thing, isn’t it? Because when we share what really sounds like us, or what really comes from us visually, it is imperfect, just like we are. Who wants to show how imperfect they are? And yet, I’m just beginning to see that those imperfections are what makes it interesting and unique and here we are struggling and struggling to make things perfect before we share our work with others.

I don’t have an answer as to when to share. I mean, there is that quote —who said it?— about a painting never actually being finished, but just stopping in interesting places. I’m beginning to understand this.

Now design —that’s a different thing. Or is it?


Black and White – back to basics

Sadly I’ve been neglecting my Wacom tablet. Part of the problem, I think, is that I was so jazzed about all the things Photoshop could do.

What is it that reminded me that limits are good? I believe it was Learning By Heart again. (Corita Kent and Jan Steward) A hundred ideas is just about as bad as no ideas at all. At least, this is true for me.

So, here I am, returning to some basics, working with the simplest of lines and shapes in black and white.




Significant Object Project

I read a book (I forget which) a while ago about de-cluttering your house. The problem of objects with sentimental value was discussed and the author suggested taking a picture of them and then getting rid of them. (The ones you can, anyway.)

I liked the idea of having the picture, and I don’t know if it was my idea or the author’s to write the story of where the object came from and why it was significant, but I decided that that’s what I should do with the things in my house. Well, as good as the idea was, I didn’t do it. Then recently, I had a mini-revelation: I could draw the objects. That way, I get some drawing in and I have something to share with my children about the significance of the objects around us. (I have not gotten rid of any of them!)

I’ve just finished Object #13.

handmadebird steiffanimals

What to ask


I’m sure I’ve mentioned lynda.com before. It is my favorite site for learning software, but it has even more. I just finished a course called Foundations of Color taught by Mary Jane Begin. I took a course in Color & Design in college, and I remember we had a lot of assignments and I enjoyed them, but beyond learning that some colors “vibrate” when put next to each other, and that context can change a color dramatically, I have just discovered through this course that I really didn’t learn what I needed to learn.

I wonder if this is because I was not a good student, or if the class wasn’t effective in conveying the point of all the assignments we did. Either way, I have been using color in my artwork for all these years, choosing them by what seemed like a good idea to me, but with no better understanding of why.

This came to light when I was doing the color week of the Coursera class on Graphic Design. I found that I was choosing color pretty much at random —only knowing that certain colors did not look good together— and I was unclear as to what the point was. I didn’t even know what to ask.

After taking the Foundations of Color course, I realize how much there is to learn about color. In fact, I’m going to have to re-watch several of the lessons because I know I am still not grasping it completely. But at least I now know what questions to ask. And that is a very good feeling!

Drawing and Writing

Part of the 21-Day Drawing Challenge was this “doodle” on cardboard. I don’t consider this a doodle. For me, a “doodle” is not something I do on demand. But anyway, I made this drawing of Jackal Man, one of the main characters in the book I’m writing.

This illustration reminds me of an illustration of a fox I’ve seen somewhere before. I don’t recall what story it was from, but it is reminiscent of it, so if it looks familiar to you, don’t worry –it’s sort of familiar to me, too!



I was catching up on some 99% Invisible podcasts. I love the crazy buildings and colors of Hundertwasser, so it was really cool to hear a whole podcast on him. Here are three pieces inspired by the podcast and by Hundertwasser himself. (I just looked up the podcast to make sure I had it right and it looks like my inspiration has a tiny mistake in it: the tiny detail of a simple article. Sigh.)

The first two are pen and watercolor brushes. The third is a playful experiment on Adobe Illustrator.




Baba Yaga illustration

I love children’s book illustrations, so I’m working on that rather than illustrations for random poems. I opened my anthology of children’s literature book at random and it was Vasilisa the Beautiful, a Russian folktale, which I know and love. In it is the famous (to Russians, at least) Baba Yaga. So here is my first illustration, colored with some awesome new watercolor brush pens from Japan. But I’m still learning how best to use the pens, and I was not completely satisfied with the composition nor the scariness of Baba Yaga.
This morning I sat down to make another iteration of the drawing and once I had it inked, I decided that those watercolor pens would have to wait for a different project. This time I used my Prismacolor pencils. Also, I found out that the watercolor paper I’d used on the previous drawing was poor quality, so I decided a dry medium would be better.
I’m much happier with the second one. Also, my study of the human head and body is really making a difference.