Wednesday, November 18, 2009

oh my cuteness!

One of my funny muses is experiencing the sublime joys of eating purple cabbage. I'd like to say she's laughing, but that would not be truthful. Lulu is merely in between chews.

Oh, my cuteness!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

rough cover

Rough! Rough-rough! That's me, barking an explanation of the illustration. It's a rough sketch for the cover of Volume One of The Nik Notebooks.

But why bark? I'm at the end of H1N1 and it's all about the respiratory system. The bark has stolen my sweet voice and hidden it away somewhere. I'm sure I'll find it later.

Nik is in a cave she has just discovered within the foothills of the Guadalupe Mountains in Guanajuato. Phosphorescence painted on the cave walls gives the room an eery glow.

Nik is startled when she sees a frightening image of Quetzlcoatl, an ancient feathered serpent diety who eats humans whole, painted on the cave wall. Many Mesoamericans worshiped a form of this diety, but the most famous images of Quetzlcoatl come from the Aztec Indians. This one is mostly silver.

And it's rough! Rough-rough!

Monday, November 16, 2009

color palette: bottom shelf

Outside a wind blows, ripping the last ragged colors from our trees, and inside — my refrigerator — on the bottom shelf, fall's perfect palette in the form black dinosaur kale, a green acorn squash flushed with fiery orange, the pale globe of a crisp green cabbage, and the cheery spears of carrots wait to be transformed from cold, earth knowing vegetables to a steamy, colorful meal.

Sunday, November 1, 2009


I have of late, but wherefor I know not, lost all my mirth.

Actually, I do know. Familial collapse and swine flu took all the words from my fingertips.

But witness this! Words issue forth!

There is hope yet, and mirth will return like birdsong.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

color palette: big leaf maple

In Discovery Park, the towering big leaf maples are still mostly mantled in green, but some leaves already let go of life, and have fallen to the ground.

I pick these up, transfixed by their intricate veins, brilliant with chlorophyll, the surrounding leaf tissue dying in a yellow haze.

Glowing gold turns dusky, before crumbling and decaying into humus; home to worms and beetles and thousands of other life forms invisible to us in their dark netherworld.

The fallen leaf is an end and a beginning. Blessed are the big leaf maples.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

writer/illustrator olympics

"You have two brains: a left and a right. Modern brain scientists now know that your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words... Your right brain is your nonverbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of 'whole things,' and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers, letters or words."

The Fabric of Mind, Richard Bergland, Scientist and Neurosurgeon

I have finished another revision. I submitted it to my critique group and am awaiting their feedback before I do more revisions. I designated the interim as time for illustrations.

Easier said than done. I'll compare switching from serious writing to serious drawing to the Olympics. After training exclusively for the figure skating competition, what makes me expect I'll ace the hundred meter crawl (even though it was my event before I took up figure skating)?

The above quote explains why. Betty Edwards, who wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, also discusses the science behind drawing and writing requiring different hemispheres of the brain, with the drawing, or visual side, being almost wordless.

I am glad to know why transitioning from one talent to another is so difficult and I'm sure it's unreasonable to think I could just step off the ice and jump in the pool and swim a graceful hundred meters. But I still find it really frustrating that I can't.

Any transitional tips out there from other athletes competing in multiple events, or writer/illustrators managing to produce within each craft?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

color monday: distillation of summer and chemistry

Chocolate cherry, Brandywine, Yellow Pear, Sun Gold, Green Zebra. All summer, the sun and soil have been interacting with my tomato plants to produce a variety of beautiful fruit with the most amazing skin

Their colors astound me. How do you talk about the way skin reflects a whole spectrum of color on close examination but looks uniformly red or yellow or pinky brown at arm's length?

I've always thought the secret of being a great artist begins in actually seeing the world. And I mean really seeing, not just that a tomato is red, but what kind of red is it made of?

Does it have a rose pallor like the Brandywine, or does it blush green on a pink mantle like the Chocolate Cherries which is impossible to capture here because that color is so dynamic. And there is such a thing as a truly red tomato, like the brilliant Sweet Million, uncompromising in its redness.

I love the names of the tomatoes and I love their colors — a vivid distillation of summer and chemistry. This palette is derived from them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

what would nancy drew do?

If Nancy Drew were still sleuthing, would she invest in the new, affordable night vision goggles, however great the risk of seriously mussing her carefully groomed, titian hair?

In my current graphic novel, our heroine Nik, who doesn't invest much effort in her hair at all, is on a ranch in Mexico. At the moment, she's in the stable, listening to an argument between two thieves. Nik is unseen — safe behind mounded bags of feed and the additional cover of a black night.

She says under her breath: I knew should have traded that first edition of _____ for those night vision goggles!

The night vision goggles she's talking about are only $80 and marketed as a toy (the photo looks super science fiction because I tweaked it — a lot).

Nik does not have a pair of night vision goggles, but that night in the barn is not the first time she's wanted them. After all, she is an aspiring teen sleuth, but I don't want her interest in them to make her seem weird or creepy. Honestly, night vision goggles are weird and creepy, even when marketed as a toy.

I am hoping for feedback on this one. Do I ditch her desire for night vision goggles or can it coexist with a the image of a wholesome teenage sleuth? What would Nancy Drew do?

Monday, September 14, 2009

color monday: hydrangeas & honeysuckle

Spring symbolizes new beginnings and green is its color. But I also look forward to new beginnings in Fall, when hot colors blaze like embers.

In the same way trees discard their leaves and gather nutrients deep inside their roots where no one can see, so do we have new beginnings in shedding what's no longer needed and turning inside to find where we will begin again.

What new beginnings to these colors suggest to you? Pruning your hydrangeas, making a quilt, taking down a jar of summer picked raspberry jam?

These colors were inspired by a fading peegee hydrangea, a still blooming honeysuckle and a maple leaf so darkly green it looks like I'm seeing it by moonlight.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

internet anonymous

The latest Bellingham shmooze, hosted by Kjerstin Anna Hayes, promised a discussion on Keeping All Hats in the Air: How Do You Juggle All the Aspects of Your Writing or Illustrating Career?

A small group gathered for a lively and enlightening journey into this tricksy topic, all of which was valuable. But the most effective commentary for me had to do with internet habits and the realization that too much of a good thing is not a good thing (Kjerstin has a nice post on the hats in the air part of the discussion).

My online habit saw me logging on first thing in the morning. Between my own blogging, reading blogs, reading email, sending email, etcetera, POOF! My morning was gone. I had invested my most creative hours online. The shmooze helped me realize my internet habit needed an overhaul. I made a rule: no more internet in the morning — I will devote these hours to my creative life. The limits I set are working for me, but some people may need more help.

Enter Mac Freedom. This software turns off interent access for up to eight hours! Harsh, but sometimes that's necessary. To read more about it, there is a good article in Salon. Unfortunately, Mac Freedom is only available for mac users. For an article from CNN Health about why moms are particularly susceptible to internet addiction, click here.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

color monday: september garden

Color tells us things. What time it is, and what season we're in. Color can warm us, then shift, and turn cold. What do these colors suggest to you, on these last waning days of summer?

These colors exist in our September garden. The coral bark maple leaves play the spectrum from
yellow-green to knock-out orange punch. The stewartia's leaves turn a brooding, russet-red, while the fuzzy leafed fucshia still invites hummingbirds to sip from its glorious, inverted cups.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

illustration friday: caution

When I focus on writing, I forget all about illustrations. I've been focused on writing for months now, and surely my illustration skills are suffering.

Enter Illustration Friday. A word is assigned, and participants illustrate the word. It's liberating not to have to think of a subject, and fun to explore ways to express the word. I am probably going to consistently use characters from the Nik Notebooks. I need to practice drawing them as much as I need to practice drawing.

There are a number of things about this illustration I'd change, if it were not intended to be an exercise, and if I wanted to retain my death grip on ideas of perfection. But I am learning how to get things done, and letting go of getting those things done perfectly. Perfection is a crutch, and I am tossing it out with the recycling.

So here, one day late, is my piece for Illustration Friday. The word is caution. That's Nik on the bridge, which is an engineering miracle. Maximo and Lulu are in the backpack.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

word count with flight 714

I am working on my third major revision, hoping this will take it up to the 100% shine required for sending with a query. The inspiration for my graphic novel, and its heroine, Nik, is the Tintin series, by Belgian writer and illustrator Herge. Pictured left, a page from Flight 714.

One of the many items on this revision's to do list was a word count. I want my book to be the same length and format as a Tintin. Sound stunningly original? Maybe not, but this is what my book needs to be, so no arguing.

First, I did a word count of Flight 714, one of the later Tintin books. Total: 10,800 words.

Then I did my own word count. Dialogue only. No stage directions or speaker designations — a graphic novel is often written very much like a script. Total: 9,300 words.

Close! That's only a 1,500 word difference. And Flight 714 is pretty wordy — see in the picture? But that is why it is so fulfilling to read a Tintin. Not only do you have amazing artwork, but you actually get to read it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

color monday: rejects

Since colors evoke feelings, and memories sometimes, I want to try a more interactive approach to Color Monday.

I'll number the posts instead of naming them after my inspiration, so as not to make this all about my experience. What about yours? Do these colors mean anything to you? Do they bring any feelings to the surface of your skull?

The story of these colors and my reflections:

These are the colors of our bathroom tiles. Rejected from several high end jobs, I gathered everything I thought could go together at a rejects sale. I'm reminded of semi-precious stones, hawaiian beaches and the sixties era swimming pool at the seattle ywca.

a.d.: new orleans after the deluge

The new graphic novel, “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” written and illustrated by Josh Neufeld, and published by Pantheon, gives us new access to Hurricane Katrina.

Josh Neufeld was in New York when the Twin Towers fell. Like millions, he felt helpless and angry. These feelings transformed themselves when Hurricane Katrina hit. This time, he realized, he could do something, and he volunteered for the American Red Cross.

Stationed in Biloxi Mississippi, Josh became a disaster response worker. He blogged about his experiences, and conducted interviews with disaster victims. Based on this extensive research, “A.D.: New Orleans After the Deluge,” follows the narratives of seven people who survived Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

The story, now published in hardcover by Pantheon, was originally self published as a web comic. You can read it here. A more extensive article about this graphic novel can be found in the New York Times.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

agents 101: this is not a cocktail party

Besides revising my graphic novel manuscript until it shines, and I am talking 100 percent wattage, I am on my quest to find an agent. I have compiled a very short list of three potential agents.

Why three? Three is a good number, and I have to read their lists (or the books they have agented). That's quite a bit of reading, but to know an agent, you need to read their list. I can't imagine getting to know more than three people through this method at a time. Because this is not a cocktail party getting to know you. This is more like researching the person you are going to marry.

Thanks to Martha Brockenbrough, for pulling my post SCBWI Conference "What do I do next?" frenzy into this one clear focus.

So I begin the next phase of my quest to find an agent. Reading!

Monday, August 17, 2009

color monday: index 4 x 6

This Color Monday debuts a new format. The original format of digital palettes were derived from my day job as colorista — designing palettes for web sites. I do love the clean numerical mixing of digital cmyk color.

But I sit in front of the computer so much already. I forget that I am an artist too, who needs unpredictability, and accidents of color to bleed into something suprising on the scrappy surface of an of index card.

I first wrote my graphic novel on index cards, 4 x 6, in tiny writing, scene by scene, before fleshing it out on the computer. Why not turn a writing tool into an art tool? I work well with parameters, and small spaces.

So I sat down in my studio. Brushes, paints, pencils arrayed before me like an artist's smorgasbord. Inspired by lunch, I painted the colors of green beans, sun gold and chocolate cherry tomatoes, an unripe green zebra tomato, and one golden plum, all on a 4 x 6. Yum.

In order: sun gold cherry tomato, golden plum, chocolate cherry tomato, green zebra tomato and green bean.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

fracking awesome

I'm back from LA and here is my report. The conference was fracking awesome. How could it not be with four days of non stop talent imparting secrets to mining emotion, finding voice and never giving up, ever, on your dreams?

All that awesomeness is still with me, even though I'm back to work, and the daily routines of life. I made new friends, who will stay with me, and my heart is different. Maybe more mature, somehow. Maybe a little more luminous.

I think I went to the conference naive, and entered a rite of passage. All that talk about finding the agent of my dreams in one long weekend. Silly, but sincere. It just doesn't work that way. I'll paraphrase Kelly Sonnack, an agent at Andrea Brown Literary, who says the relationship she seeks to foster with her creatives most resembles a marriage.

We're not talking weekend fling. A marriage is a very big deal. It takes a tremendous amount of commitment, love, faith and perserverence. Isn't this what all of our creative endeavors deserve? Frack yes.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

preparation + opportunity = luck

I am about to embark on the speediest graphic novel revision of my life, to incorporate my critique group's fantastic feedback from my last revision.

I felt I had plenty of time to work on this revision because my critique group wasn't getting together until August 17th. But then I decided to go to the LA SCBWI Conference in hope of finding an agent for the graphic novel two weeks before the conference. And if that didn't require a marathon of maneuvering, I also got a job.

While I was watching Battlestar Galactica, with no travel plans or gainful employment, I should have been revising so as to be ready for anything, in this case, the conference. A friend asked, "Are you going to have your manuscript ready to hand off in case anyone asks for it?" And because I'd been watching Battlestar Galactica, I said, "Frack!" I'd forgotten about that part.

So it's time for a little quote from Seneca: LUCK IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PREPARATION MEETS OPPORTUNITY.

I've got the opportunity, now I need to prepare for luck.

Monday, August 3, 2009

color monday: jaw dropper

We are lucky enough to live on a hill facing west, and we have a little view of the Olympics. The sunsets are always beautiful, even when subtle, and we always admire them.

But sometimes the sunsets are so spectacular your jaw drops. Velvety blue sky above dusky lavender, and orange cherry red.
I tried to capture just such a sunset, that came and went yesterday, for this color Monday: jaw dropper.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

sketch from a postcard

So we stayed with a friend and his two boys in a little cabin on the Oregon Coast, and my husband Markus wrote a thank you postcard which I was to sign. I often draw pictures of the dogs in lieu of a signature.

In this case, as two recipients of the post card are ages nine and almost seven, it was even more important I draw a picture. George and Charlie are in love with the dogs. And instead of fighting over one dog (this does happen, as Lulu is more malleable), the boys share, and take turns. So sweet! Anyway, here is the little sketch of Maximo and Lulu.

Monday, July 27, 2009

color monday: oceanshells

Markus, Maximo, Lulu, and I were invited down to Arch Cape a couple weeks ago. Arch Cape sits between Cannon Beach and Manzanita, on the incredible Oregon Coast. It's super close to Oswald State Park. It has hiking trails, cliff views of the coastline, overturned trees with root balls bigger than houses, and a surfing beach. And tidepools. And schools of slender fish flashing silver in the currents.

I picked up a few shells on the beach. A razor clam, a mussel, and a pretty, swirly-topped shell that looked like a pointy turban. The two little boys we stayed with claimed that these pointy turban shelled creatures put up sails then ride the waves.

The shells, that came from the Pacific, and now sit empty on my desk, are the inspiration for this week's color palette. Calciferous and colorful, I call them oceanshells.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

to meet the agent of my dreams

It's settled. I'm going to LA for the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Summer Conference in West Hollywood.

My mission: to meet the agent of my dreams. These dreams just started, and I haven't slept well since.

At our last critique group it occurred to me, even though I had received a personal invitation from Editor X to submit my graphic novel directly, this might not be the best plan for me or my graphic novel, though this was the only plan I had.

I saw the wisdom in representation. I just couldn't commit to the idea of an agent for myself. I had an invitation to submit directly to an excellent editor, and finding the right agent has been compared to dating. We all know how that goes. I wanted to bypass any potential pain.

But now I see the wisdom in finding representation for myself, especially as a first time writer/illustrator. An agent has your back. An agent gives you options. I don't care how long it takes, I want to enter this market like a heavyweight contender with my agent in the corner, and my work in the ring.

There are eight agents on the LA faculty. Will one of them become my agent? Stay tuned for the next installment of the agent of my dreams.

Monday, July 20, 2009

color monday: anna's hummingbird

How I came to have this Anna's Hummingbird, one of our northwest natives, is a sad story. It flew into a newly washed picture window, so the window reflected the sky. The bird died.

To assure the accident wasn't repeated, I made a long string of prayer flags out of translucent trace. It zig zags across the window to warn other birds: no fly-through!

I dried the hummingbird, and now it sits in another window where I can admire it's beautiful feathers. In different shifts of light, it's back shimmers like new leaves in spring, or green glass bottles, or the gleaming blue of an aqua sea. It's throat is studded with tiny ruby feathers that glow like orange embers at the slightest shift of light.

On this Color Monday, I am making a study of this exuberant palette, and paying tribute to Anna's Hummingbird, whose colors are take your breath away beautiful.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

puppies in the tub

Yes, it's time for a ridiculously cute dog photo.

My poor little darlings. They didn't like the bath. It was their first, and as you can see, they are desperate to get out.

Now that they are older, they don't mind bath time so much, however, they prefer being dirty.

Friday, June 26, 2009

summer revision smackdown: week four

This week, the last pledged to the Summer Revision Smackdown (phase one — there may be more to come!), I decided to focus solely on my manuscript revisions. Trying to accomplish manuscript revisions and finished illustrations in the same time frame wasn't working for me. Could be a left brain right brain conflict. Who knows!

Anyway, I just wrote. Now I have eight pages left to revise. I aim to finish by tomorrow afternoon so I can post my progress on Cuppa Jolie, where Jolie Stekly is hosting the last postings of this Smackdown session (the other amazing woman in the Summer Smackdown dynamic duo is Holly Cupala, of Brimstone Soup).

Now, back to revisioning. Go, Karen, go!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

color monday: the red sea sharks

Okay, so it's actually Tuesday. Details, details!

Today's Color Monday palette is inspired by the cover art of THE RED SEA SHARKS by Herge. The colors are bold, bright and near primary. The scene is of three men and one dog on a rickety raft in the ocean.

Color is emotional. Would we be scared for the subjects if the colors were soft and serene? Herge brings not just color to his scenes and characters, but emotional life.

Having a command of the emotional content of color is inherent in visual storytelling. I love Herge for his masterful integration of storytelling, design and color. THE RED SEA SHARKS is just one of the many books he created that inspire me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

maximo headrest

It's that time of the week when I post a ridiculously cute dog photo. Though this might not be quite ridiculously cute, but more like, super cute. Regardless, it's cute!

Lulu is using Maximo's back as a headrest. She often does this. It might be a dominance thing. Yes, she's the boss of the two. Girls! Maximo is just a lowly headrest. It sure beats being an ottoman.

summer revision smackdown: update

I got off to a slow start in spite of my ambition, but am gaining momentum now that the Summer Revision Smackdown is almost over!

I have revised half my graphic novel so far, taken out one character, changed the housekeeper to a wife (the feminist in me wishes it weren't true) and built some comic obsession into one of the character's voices.

It's going better now that I decided only to write, and to tackle the rest of the illustration sample until the writing part is finished.

Thanks again Jolie and Holly for organizing this event. I'm with Sara Easterly; are we on for next month? Summer Revision Smackdown is a hit. Ow!

Monday, June 15, 2009

summer revision smackdown: week three

Progress, not perfection, Right?

Although I haven't achieved the exact goals I set in my first two weeks of the Summer Revision Smackdown, I have achieved a fair amount. I am close to finishing the finished artwork for page one and I started the manuscript revision.

The artwork required more than I thought when I set my goal to finish page one and two within the first two weeks. Some things like Nik's notebook, and her pen, which feature often in the story, required templates to help me keep their visual consistency. And I've been struggling with the handwriting that appears in Nik's notebook. It is a cursive I designed off an Emigre font called Matrix Script. The challenge is to hand draw this cursive lettering while ensuring a legibility for the age group who will be reading my graphic novel (9-12).

I would still like to get the whole graphic novel packet finished and ready to send out to the publisher as my Smackdown Grand Finale — that was my very first stated goal — but to do that, I will have to put in twice the hours, which is possible, as the work I've done thus far has been very part-time. I think I can do this! Wish me luck!

color monday: koi

Today's Color Monday palette is inspired by koi; those big, beautiful fish the Japanese breed to all sorts of specifications. They breed fish for certain colors, markings, fin type and even reflective scales that turn a different color when the sun hits.

I love koi, and kept some small ones, no more than an inch, in a pond in my front garden. They didn't last long. Our local urban omnivore, the raccoon, went fishing every night until they were all gone. Nasty raccoon.

The pond now hosts a couple rubber fish that sit down on the rocks looking very real, except for the fact they don't move. In homage to these beautiful fish, this palette carries their name. Koi.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

dogs and lawn daisies

It's been awhile, but the ridiculously cute dog photos are back. I'll try to post one a week, because really, if you can't handle at least one ridiculously cute dog photo per week, well, there must be something wrong with you, and you should have yourself evaluated by a psychiatrist.

This photo was taken in Lower Woodland, on the georgous lemonade day in May that inspired my last Color Monday palette. Can you smell the grass? Feel the breeze? And through the trees, Greenlake sparkles like the cobalt heavens.

Monday, June 8, 2009

color monday: lower woodland

In Woodland Park, where I walk with my dogs, a color theme asserts itself, with lawn daisies, grasses and a weeping wisteria tree. The whole feeling is like a tall cold glass of lemonade with ice. How I love the park and its simple pleasures.

I apologize to any readers who have missed Color Monday. I know! But it's back, and this week's palette is inspired by a sunny May day in Lower Woodland.

summer revision smackdown: day eight

Week two of the Summer Revision Smackdown begins, with a long list of writers and illustrators who posted their progress in week one on the blogs of our incredible organizers, Jolie and Holly. It is energizing to read about other people's successes and struggles, and the goals that were announced, attained, exceeded, or not.

Whip of the week went to Helen Landalf and Kjersten Anna Hayes who both set out to accomplish a lot and then accomplished even more than that. With these examples of industry before me, I'm thinking I better get back to work!

But first, this week's goals for the Summer Revision Smackdown:

Last week, I had partial success on finishing the final art for page one of my graphic novel submission. This week, now that I'm primed, I am going to finish the final art for page one and page two, and do one read through of my manuscript before I start revising.

Okay! There they are. My goals for week two. Tick tock!

Monday, June 1, 2009

summer revision smackdown: day one

This Summer Revision Smackdown, organized by Jolie Stekly and Holly Cupala, began June first. That's today! TODAY!

On her blog, Holly wrote about her weekly goals, as the big goals need to be broken down into smaller tasks, and suggested that all of us Smackdown participants (and the region will be running out of licorice whips, to be sure) get our weekly goals established.

My big goal is to revise my graphic novel manuscript and finish the four page booklet (plus cover) so that I might finally submit it to the mystery recipient. Now for the weekly goal.

This week's Summer Revision Smackdown goal: create finished artwork for page one.

I dare not set a goal greater than this, though my brain tells me more! MORE! But I would rather err on the safe side of success, than put myself through the dispiriting defeat of over-ambition. I'm rusty! I am going to give myself all the help I can get. And that means, for now, one goal at a time.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

doggie dining 052809

Am I the only one who is fascinated by animals eating? Am I still nine? Tonight my husband had his flamenco rehearsal (he plays guitar for dancers and singers) so I ate dinner with the dogs. While they ate their chicken and vegetables, I sat on the floor and ate my chicken and no vegetables. It was so fun. For reals. And no, I am not nine. I am a grown up (that's why I get to eat no vegetables).

Earlier this evening...
Maximo and Lulu had the same old same old: steamed asparagus, chicken, carrots and oatmeal with chicken broth. Lucky dogs. They must have done some great stuff in a previous life to have gotten the opportunity to come back as these two. They are little pashas in the palace. Well groomed, well trained, well behaved and well loved.

They appear in fiction in THE NIK NOTEBOOKS, VOLUME ONE, THE SILVER SERPENT. As puppies so small Nik can hold both in one hand.

butt glue and licorice whips

I did it. I accepted the invitation by Holly Cupala and Jolie Stekly to crack the licorice whip, stick my butt in my chair, and accomplish some children's book writing and illustration goals.

I have stuck my butt in my chair lately, to simply stare off into beautiful blue sky space. Of course, this has always been a normal part of my process, but these days, due to the illness I endured and lingering after effects, I just don't get to the working part. My neural networks are atrophied. For reals.

The good news is that I had a battery of tests done this week, and have a diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Practically paralyzing in the wake of my C-difficile infection. I have medication, and I may feel better in three weeks. I hope, I pray, and I will do what I can today.

Because my heart is ready, my work is waiting, and I am ready to wield that licorice whip! Butt glue notwithstanding.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

doggie dining 052609

Earlier this evening...
Maximo and Lulu had grated raw apple and carrot, chopped steamed asparagus, and boiled chicken drumsticks (meat only) with a little oatmeal cooked in the chicken broth for dinner. They loved it (duh!). And yes, I am childless (on purpose).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

scbwi wonderland

What an exciting regional SCBWI Conference!

The Speakers! The breakout sessions! The shmoozing! The portfolio show! The chocolate chip cookies (crispy delicious)!

Oh, I was, no, I AM, inspired. I heard so may great things that I couldn't possibly write about everything, so I will focus on one thing: Grace Lin's Keynote. There are many women children's book illustrators, but not many who headline at conferences. It was fantastic to see a woman illustrator give the keynote on Saturday.

Her talk was so inspiring. I was chatting with other conference attendees on why it was so special, and we all agreed. Her talk went straight to the heart.

First of all, she projected (on the big screen) an illustrated story of her early years when she relentlessly drew pictures of herself winning the gold medal for ice skating (she drew herself as a hipopotomus, which she doesn't resemble at all in real life). Turns out when actual skates hit actual ice, drawing was a better career choice. After art school, one question begged an answer. "Why am I imitating the Old Masters? Where is my art?"

She realized "I needed to find my own voice and my own vision, and I had to stop copying other people. And I realized I was doing art for all the wrong reasons—so I could show off. But you shouldn't do art for praise, approval, or to stroke your ego." She put her classical training aside and said she would paint something to make her happy.

And that is the heart of the matter. After all her training she still had to find herself. She painted something to make her happy, something from her heart. Today she is an artist, a children's book illustrator, and a novelist. I'd say that's right up there with a gold medal for ice skating.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

color monday: lilacs

Outside my studio window a tall tangle of lilac branches bounce in the wind, conical heads heavy with tightly furled buds, curled against the cold, waiting. Waiting for a warm day when their formed petals will unfurl, seduced by sunlight, their sweet scent released, and each lilac head will be a bouquet unto itself, the sum of hundreds of tiny perfect five lobed blooms.

So every day I wait with the lilacs, for the warm day that will bring them into full bloom. I hope to bloom with them.

This is Color Monday and our palette is inspired by lilacs.

...In the door-yard fronting an old farm-house, near the white-wash’d palings, 
Stands the lilac bush, tall-growing, with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
With many a pointed blossom, rising, delicate, with the perfume strong I love,
With every leaf a miracle......and from this bush in the door-yard,
With delicate-color’d blossoms, and heart-shaped leaves of rich green,
A sprig, with its flower, I break...

Walt Whitman, When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom'd

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


My life, for those of you who know, has been challenged by major health issues since last August. I've struggled to keep up with my creative work during the wasted days of illness, and long winter of recovery. Recently, however, I let go of the struggle to simply rest. That's why my blog has been so quiet.

Now spring is here. My Doctor said I would feel better in the spring. Indeed, I do. But only in small measures. If only I were like the tree in our front garden that gloriously grew a full mantle of green overnight! There is no better time for healing than spring, when black, weathered branches become fragrant with blossoms and bright with luminous leaves.

"...This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?"

Theodor Roethke, from: Cuttings (later)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

gaudi chimneys

A friend, Kjerstin, has been posting on Spain, and the fabulousness she discovered there, like Gaudi, the blow it out of the box spanish architect. I was lucky enough to spend some time in Barcelona where his amazing church, La Sagrada Familia, stands like a beacon to brilliance. He also designed a park, Parc Guell. These watercolor sketches are of the chimneys of the caretaker's house. The black thing is an iron gate nearby, which Gaudi also designed. The brown thing? A plant! Designed by Nature, plucked and glued by me. See the artwork better here.

My regret is not filling in the pencil sketch with pen on site, as pencil doesn't reproduce very well, and when I'm no longer with the subject of my sketch, my memory fails me where details are too pale to read. I have sketchbooks full of pale pencil lines. Here, the window is in pencil. I burned and burned it to get it to show. It looks not like a graceful pencil line, but... burned!

My character from The Nik Notebooks, Nik, has a sketchbook she carries with her wherever she goes. She will draw in pen.

Monday, March 30, 2009

monday's palette: barberries

Today's colors were inspired by the front garden. I have two types of barberry, one dark and one gold. This palette reflects their colors now, as their leaves come in fully saturated and luminous against these wet march days.

Monday, March 23, 2009

monday's palettes

I love color. And I specialize in color palettes. Color is emotional, and I personally am attracted to strong, vibrant colors that are fairly bright.

To try and build consistency and perhaps even inspiration into my blog, I will be featuring a new color palette every Monday. This one was developed for some wrapping paper (see below!).

This palette is called wedding paper one.

Friday, March 20, 2009

wedding wrapping paper

Today I made wrapping paper for a wedding where the bride and groom have shown a proclivity for french flair in their registry.

So I made wrapping paper with little dogs (tres parisien) and selections from traditional french wedding vows: pour avoir et pour juger (to have and to hold), and a' l'amour et pour aimer (to love and to cherish).

The palette is inspired by a selection of napkins the couple requested from Anthropologie. I love to work with color. I will offer a palette of the swatches I used in my next posting.

Wedding wrapping paper. FUN!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

i promised

I promised myself I would post every day this week. So I am posting! I have the flu and feel ewww. Like my trachea is fighting an anti gravity battle with the contents of my stomach. Not very nice. I tried to do something creative today, but mostly laid my head on the nice soft paper I intended to draw on. Then I gave up, and took a nap.

Although I did'nt work on the Nik Notebooks today, I followed through on one thing I meant to do: blog. I promised. Even if all else failed, due to my trachea threatening to revolt, it feels good to have kept this promise.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

the fate of one peach

My cousin Freddie told me a story of how, when he was a little boy in the Netherlands, his family had a picnic at a park. A fat man sat nearby, eating a juicy peach. When he was done, he tossed the peach pit over his shoulder and walked away. Freddie's father picked it up and wrapped it in his hankie.

Freddie's father took his treasure home, dug a hole in the yard and planted the pit. Slowly, the pit grew into a tree. Freddie said that the tree produced the juiciest peaches.

I love this story, and think it could be illustrated in a book without words. A peach, eaten, pit discarded, pit salvaged, planted and grown into a tree covered with fruit year after year. This drawing is from a little sketchbook I carry around with me everywhere. The fate of one peach.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

meet mercedes

This is the first panel in which we meet Mercedes, the evil villain in The Nik Notebooks, Volume One, THE SILVER SERPENT, and the third panel in which we view Nik. Getting the collision to look sufficiently violent while maintaining the grace inherent in Mercedes (the collider) and Nik (the collidee) was challenging. Whew!

Dressing them was fun. Mercedes is all Kate Spade: skirt, blouse, handbag and shoes. Nik is a little Gossip Girl. Just because I'm creating a middle grade graphic novel doesn't mean I can't have style and sex appeal!

I still have to rough in the shirts, skirts and shoes details, but the body mass and movement is good enough to hang clothes on during finished pencils which is my next step!

Monday, March 16, 2009

page two partial roughs

Here it is. My messy process. This is a rough sketch of page two in the booklet that I am preparing to send to a publisher by the end of this month! It is amazing how easy the rough sketches arecompared to developing them to finished pencils. It seems like it takes so much longer than it SHOULD, like there are rules about how this process goes or something.

When I do roughs, I am loose and non-committal. Then, when I get down to preparing finished art, I tense up, strive for perfection, and guess what? Perfection never comes. Why do I keep forgetting finished art does not come easily? But come it will, with the application of some serious butt glue. But the roughs are fun, because they are so free.

forgive me blog

Forgive me Blog, it has been fifteen days since my last posting.

You are forgiven my child, now go post daily for one week.

Thank you Blog. I will!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

older bound books

Who knows what the cover of this book was originally like, but the title is Mexican Folk Ceramics, printed exclusively on the spine. Every once in a while I come across these older bound books. Many have cool patterns. I used to come across them more often. The library doesn't bind books like this anymore, so here I start a record of this particular craft.

Friday, February 27, 2009

poetry friday: the thrall

i journeyed from the thrall
of deep forest
hypnotic moon
shimmering leaf light
to a cottage with a butter churn
and blue bedspread
the table has chairs
hearts carved in their backs
my angel her wings
illuminate the room
i set the table
for dinner

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

big ear tan coat convention

This morning I slept through pilates. Darn! I'm making myself feel better by posting another super cute Maximo and Lulu photo. For those of you who don't know, the dogs are color coded. Maximo is BLUE and Lulu is RED.

This photo documents the brief but wonderous big ear tan coat convention.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

color palette: guanajuato

I'm working on getting my submission of The Nik Notebooks, Volume One: THE SILVER SERPENT ready to send to an editor. My goal is to have my packet finished for one final review by my critique group before I kiss it goodbye, wish it luck, and drop it in the mail. Our critique group meets again on the 12th of March!

I will be sending a four-page full color art sample, put together in booklet form — which includes a cast of characters — my manuscript, a cover letter, and synopsis. This is what the editor requested. For now, this editor and the house will remain anonymous.

This is the color palette I will be working with to color the booklet. I developed the palette by eyeballing this colorful photo of a hillside in Guananjuato, where THE SILVER SERPENT takes place, and then working with the cmyk sliders in Adobe Illustrator. The photo is by Emmanuelle Lattes.

Here you can see the photo and the palette I developed from it. I love working with color. Developing palettes is funfunfun! It is great to be back on track again after a long illness. My submission is months behind schedule, but we are nearing the finish line at last! I better get to work now!

Friday, February 13, 2009

poetry friday: coffee zombie

brain dead
i sit
typing in the dark
emails i should have sent

dim february
morning light
shines on our metal
espresso maker

i hear steam
and i succumb —
the coffee zombie

my fishies, my pretties

Did I mention I'm trained as a Scientific Illustrator? I worked at The Seattle Aquarium as a Graphic Designer and Illustrator for four years, and my latest stint in the same job description was at The Burke Museum.

Here are samples of the hundreds of fish I drew and painted. The medium is watercolor with gouache applied mostly for highlights and the cleaning up of edges for placing on a solid ground. My fishies, my pretties.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

sketchbook: birdnose wrasse

The birdnose wrasse is my favorite tropical fish. They seem very curious, poking their noses into coils of coral, and rocky crevasses. If a population of females lack a male, one female will morph into a male so they can do what they're supposed to do: make more birdnose wrasses.

I include this sketch in my blog to demonstrate what it is to study something closely, and take time to observe its many minute features. With mounting pressure, I draw to produce, neglecting to make time for discovery. An iridescent scale, a budding leaf, an unfound door, of a scale, a leaf, a door. And all the forgotten places*. The curious part of myself seems to have been shelved somewhere. I'm off to go look for it.

* Thomas Wolfe, from Look Homeward, Angel

Monday, February 9, 2009

maximo dreaming

This morning, in the wee dark hours, my boy Maximo barked to say he needed to go outside. Snowflakes fat as silver dollars fell thick, and fast. Maximo and I stood on the porch, astonished.

This morning, after the sun came up, we went out again. The luminous snow — dimmer by daylight, and crunchy underfoot — melted while the trees went drip, drip, drip. I was glad Maximo woke me when he did. To witness snow falling in the most quiet hour is magic indeed.

Here lies Maximo dreaming of snowflakes, fat as silver dollars.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

maira's halleluja

Like most in this nation, I have been wowed by the election, and inauguration of the first African American President of the United States. I painted for days trying to express my feelings. Frustrated in my efforts, I shelved the idea, for the pursuit of happiness, which is my right as a citizen of this great country.

Maira Kalman, in her New York Times blog, expressed everything I felt, and more. Follow the link to find all the paintings in Maira's 44th presidential experience. These paintings moved me to tears, I kid you not. Maira Kalman, you are a goddess of artistic expression. Hallelujah, the angels are singing.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

knotty tangle

Knotty tangle of bare black branches against a graying field of sky. This is the way my intestines feel after what I've suffered under the aptly named bacterial infection, c-difficile.

But wait! There's hope! A red breasted robin sits alone in the branches, singing. Singing! Oh, how her song fills me with certainty! This knotty tangle will soon be full to bursting with buds unfurling into riotous greenleaf.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

diving for pearls



Where did January go?

At least I'm settled into the new year. With goals, and the ability to reach them, coming quick. I have to pay attention now. I am diving for pearls.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

photo: mt. tamalpais

The reason I post this photo is because the last post, Mt. Baker, reveals the origins of my drive to ride.

This is me on Mt. Tamalpais, during a motorcycle trip to San Fransisco, where Markus and I lounged around for a few days. My leathers were purchased second hand at a leather shop that, sadly, is no longer with us. They had crazy pink, baby blue, red, and orange leathers. Mine are beautiful maritime blue, and sturdy. A woman had them custom made in the sixties, and they fit me perfectly.

sketchbook: mt. baker

This watercolor sketch was done on a motorcycle trip up to the Mt. Baker area a few years ago. It was May, and below the snowy mountainsides, a lush, spring green.

Markus forgot a precious camera at a view point. He discovered this when we got home. Miraculously, I tracked it down. He planned to ride back up to Mt. Baker where the camera had been dropped off at the ranger station. He admitted to the ride being less fun with extra weight (me) on the back. I understood. He went without me.

The following week, I signed up for the D.O.T. Motorcycle Safety and Training course, and became certified to ride anything, which is good, because my first motorcycle was an awful bear of a machine. But I rode it places. Like California.