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Friday, July 31, 2009


Joan and I went forth for a little nature adventure today at Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio. Flower gardens, crab-apple groves, lily-pad-filled ponds and woodland trails make it one of my favorite places. Joan had never been there, so it was delightful to introduce Holden to a friend.

We talked a lot about the importance of savoring a peaceful afternoon in the sun -- and how we both think we deserve to become independently wealthy so we can devote huge chunks of time to activities such as this.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


This is something that might've almost happened to me, if I hadn't figured it out for myself.

(And the bottle here is something wonderful in which I just indulged - in no small part because the bottle itself is so beautiful.)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Botanical gardens

Sure had a good time yesterday with Karen Blados, graphic designer and excellent sketchbook artist. We hit the Cleveland Botanical Garden for flowers and foliage, had lunch at Arabica, then explored the newly reopened Cleveland Museum of Art. I dunno about the other Karen, but this is my idea of a perfect day. Do be sure to check out her sketchblog.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Winner III!

You remember the One Sentence Love Story Contest, don't you?
The idea was to conjure a whole love story within a single, er, sentence.

Well, I got a bunch of fun entries, after which I picked the grand-prize (such as it was) winner, Janet, whose details can be viewed here.

But I loved more than one story. So I chose yet another winner, Jackie, and I'm sure you'll agree her story had its sinister charms.

I could not leave the contest behind, however, without bestowing honors on this entry here, which was written by my big brother, Eric.
What I loved about this one was his conjuring of scene, setting, characters and the sense of happiness followed by the poignant sadness that so often does in fact follow profound joy. I liked the sensitivity of the story, as well as the very-Eric hint of irony ("and then, of all the nerve, died"). The story, of course, is written on the page in the illustration above and can be read more easily if you click on the picture.

This entry was wicked difficult to illustrate, and I'm not sure I came up with a satisfying solution. Tad literal for the sophistication of the story. Well - sorry, Eric. I tried.
For inspiration I did a little tour of the work of one of my favorite illustrators, Will Eisner, who drew New York City for decades. He's my personal hero. One of them.

Anyway, enough blather. Eric wins a gift certificate to an online purveyor of books, a megastore that is decidedly not an independent bookstore, because he lives way out West and I live here in Cleveland. Please congratulate Eric - one of my other personal heroes.

Sunday, July 26, 2009


So much of her world comes through the screen and the keyboard. So much.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Breathing room

It was a question of space, really. She didn't get it. She thought it was all about his stuff, and how it fit or didn't fit in with hers. That was only half right. What she didn't understand was the part of him that needed the wide-open places, the stuffless places, the acres of air where the currents might draw his thoughts toward the horizon. He could live with her bee collection, her cosmetics around the sink, her bras hanging off the rod. What he wasn't sure about was her utter lack of appreciation for the empty landscape.

Monday, July 20, 2009

We Have Another Winner!

It's the sketchblogger's prerogative to make rules up as she goes along, which is why I am naming Jackie - maven o' real estate and genius of musical theater - as the second winner in Pen in Hand's one-sentence love story competition. As you'll recall, the first prize went to Janet and her sweet honey story. It seemed fitting that, this being called a love-story contest, we actually offer first honors to a story that embodied the hope and optimism of romantic love.

That being said, plenty of online visitors weighed in with their affections for Jackie's wicked-slash-violent turn of phrase. Indeed, I dragged the entries to Ann Arbor over the weekend to share with my brother and his sig-oth, both of whom voiced such enthusiasm for Jackie's incinerated boyfriend that I realized this entry had to come next in my look-how-talented-my-friends-are rollout.

If you're having trouble reading Jackie's sentence there in the flaming heart, don't forget to click on the picture. That'll make it bigger.
For her trouble, Jackie has, er, "won" lunch with me (and of course on me) at our favorite bookstore cafe. I'll leave it to her darkly dreaming self to decide whether that's prize or punishment.

Stay tuned, though. I'm not done celebrating/fawning.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

And We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to former (snif, snif) colleague, Janet Okoben, whose submission of a One-Sentence Love Story captured Pen in Hand's fancy. Janet seemed to nail the rhythm, sweep and charm of the whole thing, then gave her winning entry a sweet punchline to boot. (Aside: What's the origin of that weird phrase, "to boot," anyway? Ahh well.)

Janet will receive a $25 gift bookstore gift certificate, the original illustration with her words that you see here (though I must admit I cleaned up a few painterly boo-boos in Photoshop, Janet) and, no doubt, the envy of all the other contestants. There is absolutely no fame with this prize, of course, though it might please you to know that Pen in Hand has had recent visits from Canada, Sweden and Freehold, New Jersey. So, Yay, Janet, eh?

Note: To read her entry more easily, just click on the illustration above.

Having congratulated Janet, however, I must add that there were two other entries I thought rose above the pack and struck me as very winnerly. Thus will Pen in Hand be featuring those in the coming days, and slathering their creators with compliments. Though not necessarily with gift certificates.

Many, many thanks to everyone who sent in a love story. It pleased me so.
There's no doubt the one-sentence story contest will take place again in the future. In the meantime, check back later this week for more winner illos and shout-outs.

Monday, July 13, 2009

One-Sentence Love Story: Last Chance!

Hey, the contest closes at 8 p.m. EST tonight. I know, I know - the pressure is really on, isn't it?
If you don't know what I'm talking about, start here, but then read more here. I added a little gift certificate to the winner's pot, along with Your Story Illustrated By Moi.

The judges will confer tonight, and a winner will be announced tomorrow.
And thanks to everyone who has participated so far. Remember, it's OK to submit more than one entry.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

One-Sentence Love Story: A Sweetened Pot

I was having so much fun with you-all's One-Sentence Love Stories that I said to myself, "Hey, Karen - what's it worth to you?"
And I replied, "Gosh. It's at least as valuable to me as what I spent on the last movie I saw." (Which was "Hangover," by the way.)

So I decided to reciprocate. To honey up the pot.
Now included in the prize for Best One-Minute Love Story is a $25 gift certificate to your favorite bookstore or (if you're an artist) the same denomination to your favorite art-junk shop. Of course, if your favorite bookstore happens to be a place that does a fantastic job of supporting local writers, so much the better. Or, if you like to buy your pens and paints and paper and stuff at one of my favorite haunts - well, cool.

And by the way, if you're one of those people who got your brain wheels grinding yesterday and now find yourself even more inspired, feel free to amend or replace your entry, or simply to send another.
Like I said, I'm having so much fun.

All right - Here are a few entries that came in by way of Facebook.

1. FROM J.O. "Stealing a glance in his direction as she feigned interest in the gnarly potatoes and spindly asparagus, making her way toward his spare little booth at the farmers market, Vanessa told herself this was the Saturday she would finally look deeply into those hypnotic green eyes, pick up a bottle of the amber liquid and say: “Honey.” "

2. FROM N.L. "Her heart was beating wildly as she picked up the phone, knowing she was taking a chance after 8 years that he would have found another life but the three beers she consumed beforehand made it possible to take the leap and give it a try."

They met over ice cream, at Friendly's, and he melted her heart.

The manly man flexed his manly muscles while the smart lady inwardly winked, sighed and decided cougar love was hot.

5. THREE from MD:
a. Making love to you is like hitting an inside-the-park home run.

b. At nightfall I walked outside to look at the moon that I knew you were looking at too and stared into your eyes for hours....

c. Anytime I think of you my body hums with excitement and I can’t think of anything else at all.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The One-Sentence Love Story Contest

By way of this here post, I challenge you, Dear Reader, to write me the best One-Sentence Love Story you can muster. (Read mine more easily by clicking on the image.) Oh, hell, SURE you can. Really. Try it. It's fun. I swear. You, too, can be a writer.

Since it's only one sentence -- it can even be a reeeeally LONG sentence -- you should be able to fit it just fine on the comment section here or, should you choose, the comment section of my Facebook page. Or, if you really loathe the limelight, send me a private message at my AOL address, ksands7.

The best story wins (if you want it) a version of your story illustrated in pen/ink/watercolor by moi.
The only rules: Gotta be your original work, gotta be reasonably grammatically correct (borderline run-on is OK), and, yes, it relly HAS to be one sentence. No cheating on that rule, like the haiku people do with their syllable rules.
Note that brevity is elegant and has its advantages, but it's harder to be original and brief. Which is why I wrote long here.

"London is awful"

So I'm sitting at a local shopping area the other day, drawing these flowers, and I can't help but overhear the conversations of others as they drink coffee with their friends and enjoy the landscaping. The first conversation was between two smart young women in the medical profession. At first they were venting to each other about how their married-with-children friends want only to talk about their screaming spawn and who threw up on who today.
But then it got interesting.
It seems the one woman is in a position where she finds herself counseling pregnant women. So a woman comes in one day and can't figure out how she got in this position. She did everything right. She used her diaphragm every time. How could it happen?

So our medical professional - let's just call her a doctor, even though I'm not sure that she was -- is talking through it with her, very kind, very caring, from the way she's telling the story. And she starts investigating the details, like, "And did you use the spermicidal jelly?" The pregnant woman says she did. "Well, do you remember the brand?"

Then the other half of our conversational partner here anticipates the punchline. "Oh, no," she groans.
"Yep," says our doctor/storyteller. "Smucker's grape."

It sounds like an urban legend, I know, but the conversation went on from there about how in a way, the pregnant woman had used her best logical reasoning, because whoever had originally given her the diaphragm hadn't made much of a point about what exactly "jelly" means, other than to describe it as "a little sticky."
Ahem. Then the two young women continued on in their highly educated way, bemoaning the problems of poverty and the medical world. I was still stuck on the idea of the grape jelly.

After a while, they were replaced by a couple of older women, who were themselves joined by more friends. Talk turns to travel. One of them says with a kind of sunny wistfulness, "Oh, I'd love to go to London."

Another responds, "London is awful. I thought so before I went to Israel, and now I really think so."

Now. The closest I've ever been to London is Ireland, so who am I to say? And I know it's an expensive, crowded urban place. But ... "awful"? I mean, can the entire city, steeped in history and culture, really be reduced to "awful"? Even if we concede there might be an awful thing or two about London, isn't that a little like saying New York is dreadful or Paris is grotesque?

The oddest thing about the conversation is that this declaration went completely unchallenged, if you don't count the deflated little syllable -- "Ohh ..." -- uttered by the woman who had dared to wish she could visit London. It made me want to take her to the airport immediately.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Decorative Arts

My six-year-old could do that!

Well, yes. But did he?

Actually, this little exercise in flat, decorative, unsophisticated color was my attempt to evoke, if not replicate, the cheer of the paper on the walls of my childhood bedroom. This motivation sent me to my sketchbook with my pens and excellent markers, and over the course of watching a movie ("Revenge," 1993, Kevin Coster/Anthony Quinn/Madeleine Stowe) I behaved like a six-year-old.

After all, there's something to be said for six-year-olds.

Monday, July 06, 2009


I'll admit it. What I loved most about Michelle was that she asked to look at my sketchbook, and then virtually abandoned her work while she lingered over page after page. I'm just insecure enough to find that endearing.

On another note, I'm wild about a new-to-America graphic novel series by Kim Dong Hwa, as you can see if you read my review in yesterday's Plain Dealer. I do wish there was a plethora of more sophisticated, literary graphic novels to match the endless shelves of pure manga and superhero stuff. But I think I might have to wish for a plethora of likeminded GN readers first.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


A little something for the raptor center's fund-raising auction next week. Hope I don't have to bid on it myself to save face.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Hug your newspaper

"At 7:30 p.m., the trajectory of the distant, heavy weather over the lake took a hard and fast turn to the south. The giant cloud stacks, 60,000 feet high, suddenly began racing toward land. Wind speeds were building to more than 100 miles per hour."

That was the scene in Cleveland, Ohio on July 4, 1969.
I still remember it -- sort of. Fortunately, my former Plain Dealer colleague and friend Michael Heaton, has a wonderfully written story about it in today's newspaper to remind me of the day and tell me more than I never knew about it. It's a great storm story. Check it out.

Just one more loving reminder from the Newspaper Nag that professional newspaper journalism cannot be replaced.
So I hope you like Michael's story. And I hope you'll buy your local newspaper today, wherever you are, and give it a hug. And a read.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009


Before the trees leafed out in spring, I would occasionally find myself looking longingly at a nest perched in bare branches and fantasize about nicking it so I could draw it. Of course, I would never do this because it would be stealing someone's home. Or perhaps someone's future home.

But I found this on the ground during a dog-walk recently and figured it was fair game. No one was going to air-lift it back into its tree. From the size of it, I think young robins hatched here.

They're so beautiful, and such wonders of architecture. My sketch could never do it justice.