Follow by Email

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Remember the butterfly project?

This is a little illustration that goes with the butterfly page I was telling you about a few weeks ago. If you want to see the whole page (which can't be reproduced here on the blog because it's too big), check out this link:

Monday, May 28, 2007

Small miracles

I was moments away from going on a solo sketching excursion when I decided to invite my children along. They used to be somewhat agreeable on the subject, then for a while decided it was boring. This morning, though, they both said yes - which required them to get out of bed and get moving.

We went to North Chagrin Reservation, one of my favorite parks, and did small sketches in our books. (You might get a look at theirs, too, this week.) At one point we went into the woods, where we heard a big bird racket. I gazed up to see, at the top of a tall tree, a pileated woodpecker hammering away, then taking time out to chatter. They are amazing creatures, the punk rockers of the forest.

We were content to draw in silence in the woods, sitting by Butternet Creek, until we were done with our sketches. Then we walked back toward the car, which took us across the boardwalk at Sunset Pond, where we caught a little green heron catching a fish that was a bit bigger than its beak. I'd been feeling sorry for myself all weekend, heartsick about my dog, but it was hard to stay in that place today. I felt lucky to be with my girls - a teen and a tween - on a lazy holiday, catching sunlight on water and dragonflies on reeds.

Sunday, May 27, 2007


Change is awkward in almost any species. Observe: the kestrel. Half-covered in baby down and half feathered like the fledgling he's about to be, this bird - found wandering alone outside the newspaper last week - resembles, we all agree, a Muppet. Specifically the character Beaker. It's the eyes on the side of the head, for sure, but also the fuzz. There is no better artist's tool than a pen for depicting a creature like this, because it allows a kind of running-amok of the lines that accentuate the feeling of fuzziness. Makes me smile on a weekend when smiles are not coming so easily.
Question for watercolor artists: How do you handle background washes? Mine usually stink. I guess I should have put it in before the bird, so I could lay it on more freely. I put it in after I'd drawn the bird. Any thoughts?

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Great and Wonderful Momo 1997-2007

The cat is not an incidental part of this picture, or of our family, but direct your attention to his accommodating back-rest, if you will, for one last time. Notice that the dog was dozing. Notice that the dog was content to be a backrest to a cat.

She was content almost all of the time, and accommodating almost all of the time. And if she was not always self-disciplined, I'm sure she was only reflecting the sins of her keepers. And we forgave her - or I did, anyway. Even after the incident involving 3 pounds of chocolate. Even after the demolished 10-CD boxed set of John Coltrane or Thelonious Monk or whoever it was.

One of my core values is gentle-heartedness. It is not always found in human beings, as we know. It is certainly not always found in yours truly, though I try. Most of the time.

And though it is more often found in dogs, it is not even the hallmark of every dog.

It was the hallmark of this one. So forgive me my maudlin words. And thank you for admiring my friends here - both of them.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Sketch break

I liked the process of making this sketch better than the result. I was on a break from work. It was sunny and warm, and the details of the tree were fetching, I thought. I liked the architecture, and especially the chunks of brick revealed where the plaster of the wall had crumbled off. I did most of the sketch on site, but had to finish some of it back at home, where, of course, I added the color. The palette is ess unified than I would like. Something to work on. But the memory of making the sketch will be there whenever I see this, and that's a nice thing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

A leftover

This hasn't been such a great few days of sketching, so here's an older post that I never showed you. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

I Can Explain . . .

This is a drawing of a basset hound drinking from the toilet.
Yes. I stood and watched long enough to sketch it. Didn't interrupt at all.
But I can explain.
Several weeks ago, our dear, glaucoma-stricken, one-eyed Momo had an "ocular crisis" in her remaining eye and was stricken completely blind very suddenly. Rushed her to the doggie hospital. Drugs-drugs-drugs. Then the pressure in her eye went back to normal, and eventually she regained some of her vision in the remaining eye. But for a couple of days, we watched her remain quite still, because when she didn't she found herself walking into closets and bumping into furniture. So she wore an easy-to-remember path between two rooms. Sometimes she slept in one. Sometimes she slept in the other.

As her vision got back to normal (or, sort of), she started wandering around more. And one afternoon I heard the familiar sound of her lapping cold water out of the toilet bowl, which of course we wouldn't normally let her do. But in this case it meant she'd found her way there, which meant she could still see a little (the vet verified this), which made me feel celebratory about it rather than punitive. So tonight when she did the same thing, all I could bring myself to do is watch her and draw her. After alll, she's 10 now. She's half-blind, and could be completely blind, permanently, soon enough. Got arthritis. There just aren't that many pleasures left to her. Hope you understand.

And don't worry. If you come to our house, she is unlikely to try to lick your hand anyway. ;-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Last week I was tagged by Lin at View from the Oak to list seven weird things about myself. A while back I was tagged for five weird things, at which time I tagged five friends, so I won't tag again per se. But if you feel inspired to tell us seven weird things about yourself, I would be more than happy to read them. Here, in no particular order and with no redundancies, are seven more weird things about me.

1. I am the kind of person who would steal away at lunchtime and draw eagles at the natural history center .
2. I am the kind of person who would post very poorly done bird studies just to show up on the blog.
3. I have a small collection of contemporary pop-up books, including one about celebrity disasters. It shows Michael Jackson dangling a baby, in 3-D.
4. I retain a small collection of children's picture books just because I like the illustrations. It is not out of the realm of possibility that I would buy another one if I liked it well enough, even though my kids are too old for them.
5. My picture was in the newspaper three times when I was a child. The first was in kindergarten - finger painting at an easel. The second was around second grade; I was pictured holding a kitten at a library program. The third was in sixth grade or seventh grade - clearly a shot set-up by the photographer. Two classmates and I were pictured "putting the finishing touches" on projects for an art show. Today I work at a newspaper, do artwork for fun and surround myself with animals - including but not limited to cats - as much as possible. Eerie, isn't it?
6. I occasionally get horrible migraines, several of which have sent me to the hospital. I hate migraines but I have begun to be interested in them as a literary metaphor.
7. My friend Lisa from the raptor center is traveling this week. Lisa loves eagles. So far, that makes this not exactly a weird thing about me, except that I figured it would be fun to send her off on her wonderful trip out West with a few badly done eagle drawings, just to remind her that the wind is always beneath her wings.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Look into my eyes

Look into my eyes.
Past the handsome gold globes, past the reflection of yourself making the "aw, kitty" face.
See the real me in all my fury: for every time you passed by and failed to pet me; for every offense in which you stroked the dog six times to my five. Such incredible disregard you've given me when I have made it clear that I. Don't. Like. Fish.

Yes, see the rage that lies behind my calm exterior, and quake in your boots, you absurd little bi-ped.
As you have known - from the moment I left the barfed-up mouse carcass on your sheets - I don't just get mad.
I get even.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mother of the sick

Was it strep? Was it mono?
No, it was just a sinus infection - nothing a little antibiotic can't cure.
I was remembering, though, how when the kids were little, any time they were struck by illness I was struck by a dark cloud that made me feel as if everything were wrong. Their pediatrician had this thing against taking babies' temperatures - he thought that it unnecessarily freaked mothers out even as it kept them from noticing the more organic signs of illness. That didn't stop me from taking my babies' temperatures, of course. I suspect he doesn't stop any mother from doing that. We can't help it. When our kids are sick, we become like owls with all our tremendous senses trained on this creature.
Unlike owls, of course, we are willing the creature to thrive.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The right to add detail

Had a little epiphany the other day, when I was struggling to capture a tiny chunk of city architecture during a lunch-hour sketch. Here it is:
You earn the right to add detail.
By that I mean that it's better to draw five main lines and have them well-positioned than it is to drawn the thing cock-eyed and go crazy on putting in all the little windows. I arrived at that realization after screwing up my first attempt at what should have been a fairly simple composition: telephone pole foreground, train overpass in mid-ground and strange modern building in the background. It's so easy to position things wrong, and no amount of clever detailing will fix it. Well, that's not entirely true. Lots of really scrupulously done detail will distract the eye.
But right now I'm going to concentrate on trying to get the big lines in the right place. I did a better job with this attempt, though twice I screwed up the width of the support structures and didn't leave the right amount of space for those very cool arches.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Reading corner

This is a perfect chair. It sits next to an imperfect reading lamp, which C likes for its full-spectrum light, but which lists to one side because of the weight of the light fixture. I should add that the chair itself (a glider) is perfect. My depiction of it here suggests that the left arm rest is significantly higher than the right, which isn't true. It looked higher because of the angle from which I drew it, but then I exaggerated things a bit.

I added color with colored pencil, by the way.

Saturday, May 05, 2007


May recalls February.
It still remembers icy winds and tire tracks in slush, the question of whether to shovel or let it lie, the choice between jacket and parka, between soup and tea, between staying in bed and standing upright.
Even the tulips, already fading, dropping petals, have heard the stories of relentless cloud cover and lake-effect flurries. Blades of grass crouch a little, you know - just to be ready in case - well, it happened in April, after all. It could happen again.

And yet it won't. It won't snow again now until October, maybe later.
It'll rain like crazy, and July will bring the kind of humidity that makes a city boy want to wring out the clouds. There will be at least one scary storm.
But snow is done with these parts for a good four months or more. The cats are outside and the rose bushes are yawning and the blind dog's mistress is so happy she could cry.

Restless lake

I did this one a few weeks back. When I look at it, I can still feel how cold it was that day. But I made use of the fingerless gloves I bought for just such an occasion.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Consumed by butterflies

Rather than continue the silence I figured I'd post a page from a series in my sketchbook, which has become a temporary home to notes for a project that's been really fun but also consuming. It has to do with butterflies, as you can see, and after I'd gotten four-fifths of the way done with what I thought was going to be the finished product, I realized I needed to re-do it. I recently got a close-up look at actual butterfly mounts, which were the source of these notes. I quickly realized that I didn't have to draw the whole butterfly to get down the information I needed to take back to my, uh, "studio." Half the butterfly looks like the other half. I did, however, need to sketch both the forewing and the hindwing. The pattern detail of these creatures is still amazing to me. I will never again see them as just floating color.
All of which is to say I'll be back soon with regular content.