Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Here's a little thank you to my family, friends, and followers! I must've worked at Hallmark in a past life; I am so fond of making cards. If you haven't already gotten one of these in the mail, send your snail mail address.

I am grateful for all blessings, big and small, especially the folks in my various circles of life. May each of you have happy and safe travels today. Any journey whose destination is the welcome arms of loved ones is worth it. We normally travel on this day, but with no Nana destination, we are staying put. A relief given today's weather, but bittersweet nonetheless.

While I was (still) waiting on a response regarding sketches, I did a piece commissioned for a retirement gift. I am always thankful for clients who know original art makes a fitting gift for momentous occasions!

The client sent this, since my art would accompany the gift of a chair crafted in Maine.

The required elements of a Dickenson poem, the chair, a nest, and a robin needed to be integrated with a dedication. Whew! Lucky for me I like a challenge.

While drawing the Shaker chair, I decided to make time to see, and hopefully sketch, at the current exhibit at the Portland Museum of Art, by all accounts a stunning display of Shaker craft.

I also recalled an illustration I did years ago, for the Boston Globe, of a chair and desk. It's a piece I framed and gave to my mother, and is now back in my possession. Something about the blank paper, the used tea bag, and the draped coat make for a certain melancholy. And maybe a bit about an absence, of a writer gone to check the tea pot, stalling in the face of that blank page. 

Oh how I know that feeling.

Right now, as the wind howls and the ice thickens, we await the delivery of a new couch. Furniture does not quite last a lifetime. The simple couch that was our first married purchase has more than reached the end of it's duty. Our daughter and dog will be upended, but at least I've documented their moments upon that couch.

Time now to bake, and ready for tomorrow.

I am thrilled to have my new copy of Balloons Over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet. Haven't seen her since June, when a crew of lady illustrators gathered to catch up in Portland, sharing our current projects at the time. You can see Annie O'Brien's mouth open in awe here, looking at the proofs that Melissa shared, for her story about Tony Sarg, puppet maker and creator of the balloons for Macy's parade.

We were all blown away, and knew this book would be a big hit. Indeed, it is! Watch the parade tomorrow and be glad, for the curious eye of Melissa to bring forth the wonders of how things came to be. Bravo!

Happy Thanksgiving to all! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

learning moments

I've never met a library I didn't like. When I arrived at the Patten Free Library in Bath, Maine, I knew I was in for a marvelous time.

It was too good to be true: a model of a boat from Time of Wonder, by Robert McCloskey, begged to become the backdrop for a slide show of my illustrations for Ice Harbor Mittens, shown while author Robin Hansen read the book, to a small but appreciative audience.

Robin led an orienteering activity, in which pretend sailors could find little lobster trap clues throughout the room.

Her brother, Scott, shared some knot-tying techniques.

 The library is situated within a lovely park that includes a pond with a sculpture by William Zorach.

William and his wife Marguerite were pioneering modern artists who spent many years in Maine.
Their daughter, Dahlov Ipcar, is a renowned artist as well, still making art in her 90's.

A lively mural by Ipcar lines the children's room.

This is clearly a library that treasures the worlds of story books, and I found much to my delight. Look at these favorite characters waiting to be held while a leopard whispers a story.

There are child-sized cubbies for curling up, with a view of the magnificent Winter Street Center beyond.

This very still owl watches over everything.

I had just returned two mounts, one a great horned owl, to the Maine Audubon on my way to Bath. Did you know they have quite a collection of taxidermy that can be on loan, two items at a time, for a week? I brought the owl and a red fox into my class at Maine College of Art, for a session of nature studies.

Caitlin Alger (foreground drawing above) always brings personality to her illustration.

Ali McCahon (below) added some of the marine specimens from the science room to keep her fox company.

Bridget Dunigan added subtle watercolor to her ink drawing.

I lugged these critters back home, for a family drawing session.

Marty used the opportunity to draw in his Sketchbook Project.

Daisy drew a very cool owl. Hoot!

Here's my pastel rough of the very engaging fox.

I was sad to bring them back. Even though these animals are long gone, their spirits are very present.

How fitting that the advance copies of A Warmer World arrived! I enjoyed drawing animals for this book about how climate change affects wildlife.

 Let's hope this book engages young readers to honor the planet, and the habitats we share with all creatures.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

fiber & fashion

I think I started drawing girls in clothes in junior high. I thought I'd be a fashion designer right up until touring the apparel design department at RISD and noticing the sewing machines. Sewing? Me? I don't think so. I didn't have fond times in home ec.

And yet, the fervor of Project Runway caused me to buy fabric, thinking I would retrofit an old coat, um, about two years ago. Finally opted to show this battered sketch to Susan Hanley, proprietress of the renowned Peaks Island Fiber Arts Camp.

Repurposing is all the rage, so why not update a dolman-sleeved coat bought at the Esprit warehouse in SF in 1986? Susan was very up for it. I found a bold pattern at Joanne's that looked like an overblown doodle. Makes quite a contrast with the composition book pattern of the original coat.

What I need now is a slimmer silhouette. 

We're lucky to be enjoying rather mild November weather. While Marty has been out battening down the hatches, I've been doing sketches for Storey. Uncanny how art imitates life and vice versa. Right after doing this drawing:

I ran into Sheila on the ferry, showing off a cool hat knit by her mom. 

Speaking of knitting, I will be at the Patten Free Library this Saturday at 10:30 AM, to talk about Ice Harbor Mittens with author Robin Hansen. There will be orienteering with a compass, drawing imaginary maps, and other fuzzy fun.

If you're out and about, you can also stop in at the Gem Gallery, where Laura Glendenning, co-founder of the Peaks Island Fiber Arts Camp, has installed Artery, "half article, half art."

Here is Laura and fellow fiber artist, Janni Peterson, considering the goods.

Yes, that's a deer skull doubling as a jewelry display. Islanders are a resourceful lot. I already posted the sketch I made from this, but my inspiration here involves a pair of antlers found near the compost pile, truly.

Mainers know winter's coming and well-worn knits will keep us warm in woolly style.

I'll be back to sketching girls in clothes. Here's one I did of Judy Paolini, designer, author, and publicist who lives down the bay on Long Island, yet still manages to look ever so groovy.

And if fashion is your thing, check out the benefit for HomeHealth Visiting Nurses. I donated signed copies of my books for a silent auction, all part of Runway: Fashion for Life.
So much style, so little time...

Monday, November 7, 2011

sacred and profane

Should anyone think island living is without it's adventures, here are recent happenings on Peaks that have shined with mystery and magic.

This lovely installation by Alicia Eggert was part of the recent Sacred & Profane event, an annual art celebration within the tunnels of Battery Steele on Peaks Island, around the harvest full moon. The Peaks Island Land Preserve graciously allows the property to be taken over by pagan howlings that echo into the depths, which were about 4 inches deep with fresh rain. The above neon piece flickered, with the word "on" going off sporadically, to reveal multiple meanings.

S & P has been quietly taking place for I think 15 years, unadvertised and unfunded, and often uncredited. Alicia's work took the cake, as it were, for mirroring a certain reality often taken for granted. I heard she came last year, loved the environment, and got a grant to create the above for this year's event. She teaches at Bowdoin College and recently gave a lecture at Maine College of Art. 

Peaks Island painter Diane Wiencke installed a wooden tower, ringed by votive candles, to greet the throngs.

Booster Signal was at the ready, carefully photographing auras of the willing.

Your photo declares on the back: "thanks for the loan of a piece of your soul, as nothing is sacred we will take our toll."

There's always a bit of nonsense and grunge, too. I enjoyed a glass of unfiltered cider, pressed on site, at Cafe Derelicte.

A few days later, I was offered spice cake by my neighbor Susan, who occupied Welch Street in a different kind of installation.

By then, Halloween was in the air. Our daughter was inspired by a character spotted in Dr. Who.
I like the metaphor here, of seeing with your hands.

We had to get in the act, too.

Leave it to fellow illustrators Scott and Nancy Nash to annually outdo themselves with their seasonal performance. Every year, they and a crew of hooligans transform their property into the must-see destination on Halloween. Hello, Helloween, in which everyone was asked to sign a contract with the devil to get their candy.

And then you could toss a soul into the ring of eternal damnation!

Not easy to come back to earth after all the fantasy. I began by walking in the woods, and documenting tree houses on the island, for the Sketchbook Project.

I chose tree houses as my theme, hoping to make progress on a book idea. Now I am noticing them everywhere.

Both Marty and our daughter are doing the Sketchbook Project, too. We all sat down this weekend, and broke the ice. With Prismacolors. Marty is starting "uncharted waters" by drawing from life.

Daisy is practicing here, for "time traveler"....

Here's one of my sketches, of a tree house found on the Indian trails...

Sketching is a sacred act, allowing one to stop in a moment, and drink in the reality.

Time to get back to the drawing board and finish another illustration for Maine Magazine. This ones' in the current issue. It's about your skin being the wrapping of an inner glow, a gift that glows from within.

I've always believed that age is but a costume for the soul. 
Shine on!