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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas Goodies

Santy Claus was beddi-beddi good to me, as you can see here by the small but significant sampling of gifts that came my way.
I cannot tell you what a difference good boots make for a dog-owner's willingness to brave cold and wind and do the right thing by her hound.
And of course the basket (with a scrimshaw top) ... and the lizard (with a light-up tongue) ... so nice.

These do not even begin to account for all the riches that have filled my year, most of which I could not address here anyway. I hope good things found their way to you as well.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

From "The Errand"

This is a selection from the Japanese album I turned into a wordless story for my friend Sally in Michigan. I had finished drawing 30 pages before I figured out that I couldn't use watercolor on the coated pages. Ahh well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

To all my friends in the flesh-and-blood world and to those I know only through their wonderful artwork: Have a very happy holiday, and thank you so much for all you bring to my life.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

O Purplebaum

If I had a certain kind of house, I would have one of those fantastically fake Christmas trees in a wild color, like this purple one I saw at a coffee shop downtown.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Ghosts in the mall

I had to brave the mall yesterday to replace something the dog ate, but it gave me time to make a page here. Drawing in the mall is a challenge, but I was figuring out some of the challenges yesterday and might have to do it again. One challenge is finding a good place to perch, which I almost did yesterday. Not quite.
The other challenge is reacting appropriately when you think you just saw someone you couldn't possibly have just seen - but wish you did.

Click on the pic to read the text, if you wish.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Catching up

I drew a bit more than I blogged this week.
And I knew your weekend wouldn't be complete without seeing the mold my dentist had made for my two new crown$$$$$.
I am very sad to report that shortly after I made this drawing, Miss Pearlie the totally orally fixated Newfoundland managed to grab the mold off a counter where I'd put it, dragged it out into the backyard and removed most of its "teeth." Very upsetting, especially since I wanted another go at the perspective.

However, I was delighted to see the delight in the dentist's eyes when I actually told him that yes, I would like to keep the dental mold so I could draw it. He's been waiting for someone to want one of these things for a long time.

Friday, December 12, 2008


We all have different ideas about what's essential in our lives.
I was talking to a friend today who spoke wisely about her discovery, over time, that her husband's exercise routines were essential to who he was -- and not just a colossal waste of time he could spend doing something she might think of as more productive.

I think maybe the purest essential elements in our lives are the activities we don't ge paid for but that we're driven to do anyway. In some cases, the weirder the better. I'll never forget a guy I interviewed earlier this year who spends all kinds of time in pursuit of knowledge and creativity around made-up languages. What good is a made-up language to most of the world? Not much, and yet it was essential to him.

What good are sketches full of thought and effort, mistakes and energy, anger and bliss? Not much, beyond their essential value to the maker. What good are naps? Not at all to the non-nappers of the world.
But a good nap is one of the absolute essentials in mine.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Go ahead - feed him

In summer, he's out running around chasing rodents and playing cowboys and Indians under the bushes.
Come fall, he begins his transformation into a one-cat sleeping and eating machine.

It was a surprise to find, on my first day as a "retired" person (not) that Elliot can sit for hours on the counter where we store the cat dish (to keep it from the dog) and the occasional wine bottle (to keep it near to us) in hopes we will forget that we already opened a can for him earlier.
Literally. Hours.
If you walk by, he meows loudly.

I figured drawing him might be a good way to make him go away; animals usually don't like to be stared at, as anyone who tries to draw a pet already knows. But he just stood there for the 10 minutes I took to draw this, and when it was all over, I felt he'd earned another morsel.

Now that's what you call co-dependence.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The joy of {not} shopping

Call it an inkling. For several years, as my materialistic self has roamed the aisles of department stores and boutiques, pulled more books than I can ever read off bookstore shelves and acquired clothing that sometimes goes forgotten as soon as I take it home, I have had this niggling worry:

What will we all do when we can no longer shop for fun?

It has just seemed inevitable that shopping for recreation was going to have to give, for one reason or another. I'm no financial expert; I never saw this recession coming, exactly. But it's fair to say I've felt something was going to come along and force Americans like me to figure out what else we might do with the time we've been spending acquiring stuff.

So here we are now at Recession Central. I haven't stopped shopping, but I have slowed the insane acquiring, and from the looks of things others are slowing down, too.
We know this is bad for the engine of the economy, but something tells me it's good for us as well.

Shopping does a fair job of mimicking joy, but it isn't really joy. It's more of a happy distraction.

So here's what I say: If you're still able to shop, shop, because the retailers need you, and the economy needs the retailers. And if you're able to shop a bit less, and you're feeling the withdrawal (see me raising my hand here), get ready, maybe, to face the things you didn't want to face before when you were shopping.
Like boredom. Or maybe do the things you thought you should be doing before but didn't, because you could go shopping. Like reading a book. (I have lots of them myself.)

I'm thinking real joy may be on its way back as well. I do. I'm hopeful.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Random page and Karen Blados

Friday was my last day of work, and I've been a bit lax on the daily sketching thing, so this humble page is all I have to offer.

But if you'd like to see some dynamite images, check your daily newspaper (in print! on paper! still! yesssss!). Or, if you must, follow this link to the online version my profile of fellow Cleveland sketchchick Karen Blados and her wonderful work.
Karen did the self-portrait just for the article. Talented, isn't she?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Fried Turkey

It pains me that I did not remember that a two-page panoramic spread doesn't fit on my scanner. Thus am I forced to offer you a piecemeal version of my entry on deep-friend turkey. Pity.

The only thing for me to add to the notations here is that I think I like to fry turkey for the sake of frying turkey. Certainly it's the tenderest turkey I've had (especially after you play doctor with it and give the bird its injections of marinade). But when all is fried and done, I just like playing with the fire and living to tell about it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Red chard and winterberries

Did this one a few days ago. I haven't cooked the chard yet, and it might be getting too old. I wonder what will happen to the red veins when it's cooked.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dueling portraits

Katy has been working on portraiture this semester in her art class, so she asked to draw me last night. I said only if I could draw her afterward.

She did a great job, I think.
Me? I tore two pages out of my sketchbook (I NEVER do that!), before settling on this final image of her. Not a bad drawing, but also not a good likeness. Which means, underneath it all, that it is a failure of observation. Better next time, I'm sure.

By the way, if I wasn't clear -- that's The Mama at the top, and The Kid at the bottom (done, respectively, by The Kid and The Mama).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Honor the shadow

I sat down to draw some winterberry branches but was captured instead by their shadow on the drawing surface. "Honor the shadow!" said my Auntie Sal (more on her later, I'm sure, but suffice it to say that it pays to keep an imaginary friend around). So honor it I did.

While I was drawing, and honoring, I was thinking about how I used to go running/jogging/loping for exercise. One of the things I didn't like about it, though it was probably good for me, was that after I'd been out alone with my thoughts and the rhythm of my feet for a while, I'd be struck by thoughts of free-floating anxiety. Recalling something dumb I'd done or said, for instance. Or thinking of something mean someone had done or said to me. I'd have to shake my head to get those thoughts to dissolve.

Lately, when I'm out walking, or maybe walking the dog, I've been experiencing the opposite of that. I'll be attacked by sudden fits of -- dare I write it? -- love. Love for particular family members and good friends, love for the dog, love for the old frail orange cat, love for people who would probably be stunned if they knew it. It's a good, healthy, wholesome kind of warts-and-all love. I don't know where it comes from.

Maybe it's a product of aging. Maybe it's a spell cast by the shadow of the winterberry bushes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Going retro

When my friend Julie in London read about my plans to reframe my focus on illustration, she posted a package to me in celebration. I opened it yesterday and spent the evening poring over two lovely little books about Beatrix Potter's life and art.

And then, because I couldn't find the Peter Rabbit collection I knew we used to own, and wanted to study the stories and illustrations all over again, I stopped in at my favorite local bookstore today and bought a big new slip-cased compilation. I hoped I wouldn't be called on to explain too much when I ran into a friend in the store.

This afternoon I re-read Peter Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin and The Tailor of Gloucester and studied the illustrations and -- well, you would have thought I was four instead of fortysomething. I'm not sure what to say about that, except that I still buy beautiful books for children whether my own kids want to read them or not.

One of the surprises of reading about Potter's life was that she and her brother, who also liked to draw, took a naturalist's approach to what they saw around them. They liked their pets, but when a mouse died, they were likely to boil it down so they could study the bones. That explains why, even when she put her mice in pinafores and bonnets, they still looked like mice and not so much cartoons.

Julie said in her note with the books that she learned to read by way of the Peter Rabbit books. That made me smile. I smiled, too, because her package was one of those perfect gifts -- unexpected and exactly right.

About the drawing: Beatrix was drawn with a photo from the book; the mouse was drawn from my experience with mice -- though I did not have a model on hand, regrettably -- and the leaf was something I'd been carrying around in my car for about a week, intending to paint it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Perfect Saturday

A little cleaning, a little dog care, a little vegetarian chili with Lylah at Joseph-Beth Booksellers, and a nice afternoon nap.
I was awakened from that nap, incidentally, by the unmistakable sound of Pearl lapping up liquid somewhere on the bedroom floor. I thought it unlikely that she'd dragged her water bowl all the way from the kitchen. And then there were the occasional sounds of chewing. Chewing and liquid-lapping. What could it mean?

When I finally rousted myself, I found her on the floor with the remains of a can of Campbell's broccoli cheese "Soup to Go!" lying at her feet. The can itself was barely recognizable. The soup was totally gone. I keep forgetting that her nose for food penetrates all packaging.

The two of us took a stroll at dusk, and when it was all over, it seemed the soup and the walk had done her in. Sweet thing.

The cabernet was delicious, the cashews were sublime and the clementine wasn't quite as sweet as I like but it was juicy enough.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


So I'm changing careers.
That's the idea, anyway.
The newspaper industry, as you might have heard, is struggling mightily, which means my beloved Plain Dealer (you've perhaps seen its cameo performance in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) is struggling right along with the rest. Contracting, like the rest.

It seemed like a good time to listen to the voice inside me that kept saying things like, "In my next life I want to illustrate children's books." Or suchlike. I didn't really think that would be possible, and maybe it won't be. But this week I finished my portfolio for my application to art school, and while I'm not officially a student yet, I hope to be soon.

Have I mentioned that I'm old? Well, you probably know that. Not as old as some, but older than most college kids. Though on any given day I feel pretty much like a college kid. It doesn't really matter, though, does it? Whether you're 17 or 47, you've only got today, and maybe next week. That's as much as anyone needs.

So, yeah, it's all weird. Journalism has been so good to me. I worry that people will discover, all too late, the value of a strong local newspaper. Bloggers are nothing without professional journalists -- don't let anyone tell you different.

On the other hand, it might be time for a different generation to take the wheel of that ship. And it's definitely time for my next life to begin.

No matter where I am, though, I'll be here, too. Whether I get paid to write, or paid to draw, I write and draw. Right? Right.

A note on today's drawing: No, I am not drinking myself to sleep. I simply woke up at 5 this morning dying to draw something, anything, and thought it would be fun to build a quickie still life around my husband's, er, classy shot glass.

Thanks for visiting today.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sorry for the wrinkles

Can't do much about them on my face, which is OK, but I prolly could have done a better job of preventing the washes from wrinkling these pages.
Ahh well. Just concentrate on the shoes, my dears.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

Close enough for jazz

I'll admit it: Sometimes I get visually bored at concerts. My sketchbook occasionally provides relief, though it can be tricky to draw in the near-darkness. On Saturday, though, we had pretty good seats at a performance of the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, and I did these scribbles in ink.
I added color yesterday with the fabulous new Tombow markers, which I bought with the good guidance of Maureen at Utrecht in Cleveland Heights. They're water-based and nice and washy.
Anyway, the concert was lovely, and I'm extra-appreciative of the keyboard and conga players, both of whom remained still-ish enough for me to render with some accuracy.
But the horn players? Forget it.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

November Sketchcrawl

We drew at the Dunham Tavern Museum, a circa 1800 former stagecoach stop on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland. I spent my time peering into the tap room, where weary travelers and stagecoach drovers (not a typo - they were called "drovers," not "drivers") drank away their fatigue.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Click on the image to read

Today I tried adding a little bit of marker. Frustrating. As you can see on Daddy's pants there, the marker bled a bit. I'm sure that could be solved with other paper, but what I really want is markers that lend a nice transparent watercolorlike wash.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Anna in color

I interrupted my regularly scheduled, black-and-white installment of Anna Banana's Notes on Life to bring you and, well, me a little colored-pencil practice.
Consider the image something conjured from Anna's imagination, and perhaps a bit of foreshadowing of things to come.

I spent a ridiculously long time on this, believe it or not, and finally quit when I decided that no amount of continued work would improve the things I didn't like about it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Who wouldn't want one?

I started amusing myself with Anna's adventures last week, as you'll see if you check out the previous post.
Anna and her wish for an owl (much like my own wish for an owl) sprang from my head one night when I couldn't sleep.
I think everyone who wants an owl should be able to have one. On the other hand, I also think owls should be able to live the way owls live. There's really no reconciling the two issues. Therefore, I don't have an owl.
But Anna might find a way.

I actually know two women today who grew up with owls in the family. One tells a story of taking screech owls under the blankets with her and her sister when they were very young. I cannot imagine such riches.

Oh, and if you'd like a better view of this installment of Anna Banana's Notes on Life, do click on the picture.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Anna is not worried ...

... about the recession, banking crisis, layoffs, credit crunch, inflation, retail collapse or global warming.
Well, actually, she is a little worried about global warming.
But anyway, she's better company than I am these days.
Click on the pic to read the first (but not the last!) adventures of Anna Banana.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Paul Newman and Portrait Help

I post here today to shout out a humble "thanks" to one on a very short list of actors I thought worth admiring. Paul Newman grew up in the Cleveland area (and if you're reading this on a date relatively soon after his death, you should be able to find an excellent obituary/appreciation by my colleague and friend Clint O'Connor, right here at this link.

But this is also a post about portraits: What I've learned (some) and what I still need to know (lots).

I know a number of virtual friends, like France Belleville at Wagonized and Mellanie at Genxsters, really have the portrait thing down. Do click on those links to see beautiful, beautiful work.

But anyone is welcome to chime in here on the question of what tricks they use to capture strong likenesses. Note that I am not really looking for a critique on Mr. Newman here. I can see what works and what I would have liked to have done better, and how it departs from the photo reference.
But if anyone has good advice on how to get there in the first place (without using a projector, of course), I'm all ears. Like all drawing, I know it's a process of seeing with more precision.

Sounds so simple, doesn't it?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I'm telling you, I'm obsessed

But I thought it might be therapeutic to draw them both.
Now, as some of you know, I'm a journalist with some obligation to distance myself from partisan politics.
So you will probably be thankful not to read political screeds on this site -- which is, after all, about sketching and drawing, sometimes badly, but never pontificating badly about politics.
Having said all that, my suspicion is that probably sketches work as a kind of Rorschach test that reveal what the sketcher may not intend to reveal.
That's all I'm saying about that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Keys to our Kingdom

I wish I were one of those people who could watch sports or political contests with fervent interest leavened by a certain appropriate detachment.
I cannot.
Which is why the current political campaign is actually, literally making me kind of sick.

On another matter, I thought I did a bang-up job on my self-portrait here, but my children say I made the hair too "thick." What they meant was that I made it look Breck-girl luxurious when in fact it's straight and fine. My defense was that when I was looking in the mirror, I had my head tilted in such a way that it was kind of poofing out there on the right. They simply reiterated that it's too thick in the picture.

The point of course is that at least I still HAVE hair. I haven't pulled it all out in a fit of political anxiety yet. But it could happen.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Boyfriend

Uh, no. Not mine. My teenage daughter's.
He saw one of my illustrated interviews and wanted to do one. Unfortunately, I didn't get nearly the amount of good interview material on here as I would have prefered. But the likeness is dead on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008


My husband's last name is Wolff (two F's - don't forget that second F).
His first initial is C.
When he was considering the name for his new business, I suggested (as if the idea were mine, and not suggested years ago by a friend), that he call it Sea Wolf Communications.

Turns out there's another person using Sea Wolf as a business name. So the lawyer setting up the LLP suggested using Seawolff.

And then there was the matter of the business cards, and the image.
Whatcha think?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


In an effort to stay in practice, I've given myself permission to do more forgettable work, even if it's a 10-minute sketch. Here are a couple I haven't posted yet.
Sketch everyday? EVERY DAY? Sure, people do it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


The best reason to draw all the time is that the more you do it, the less stuff you produce that looks like hell.
I've been reading these little books about sketching (Something like, "Watercolor in 30 Minutes" and "Sketching in 30 Minutes"), because you know that I never get tired of reading books about how to do art. Anyway, the sketching one, which actually addresses sketching in pencil and sketching in watercolor, inspired me to go pen-less for that building picture. I figured I"d be able to carry of this elegant, simple, loose stuff like the guy in the book.

Whoo-wee, baby.
The challenge now is to get over my stunning results and be willing to have another go at it.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Once in a blue bloom

My friend Evelyn recently attended a party celebrating the once-yearly flowering of a friend's night-blooming cereus plant. She wrote a little essay about it for the Plain Dealer (see tomorrow's Inside&Out section, if you're a Clevelander, or check out and I did a little painting.

I love the idea of these plants. So mysterious, almost mythical. Ev says the scent is tremendous.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mo' JoBro

Nothing quite captures the scene at a tween heartthrob concert the way video can (and for a while, anyway, you should be able to see what I mean by clicking on this link and looking for the Jonas Brothers story and video. )
But I made a feeble attempt to grasp something here. You get the idea. As usual, you can click on any of the pictures to make the image larger.