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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Sometimes I Get Frustrated ... the difference between what I'd like to do as an artist and writer, and what my skills and brain seem to allow me to do.

Still, I'm having a lot of fun this year.

Last week we had three projects due. Do you know how often an art-school project is declared perfectly successful? Never, that's how often. Well, almost never. That's the nature of a beast I'm still trying to understand.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Hot Mess

Well, these little piggies were a hot mess, which is why they're in the bathtub -- and they are, alas, still a hot mess. Especially that one on the left holding what you were trying to figure out is a watering can. My excuse is that I'm still getting used to the wonders of gouache.

By the way, give yourself a cookie if you thought, "Those pigs look familiar. Indeed they do. I was inspired to draw them after coming across last year's epic watercolor, "Last Fling for the Bourgoise Pigdogs." You can see that one right here, and look closely at the art on the walls.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Me and My Shadows

Do a Google-images search on yourself and see who you come up with.
I happened upon this trick today while Google-image-searching someone else, and was amused to see who the other Karen Sandstroms are. What's strange about this is that, while we don't actually LOOK alike, there's something similar about us all, I think. Well, OK, for one thing we all have good chins. Then, too, there's a certain Caucasianness about us all. Perhaps we're all of "a certain age."

Yes, I'll agree. This is kinda the height of dig-age navel-gazing, and now I'm done with it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Through the wonder of, I stumbled upon this fantastic cabinetry company. If I built furniture, this is the kind of furniture I would like to build. That picture up there is actually the Little Black Dress cabinet. Ooh-la-lah.

The company is called Straight Line Designs. Think they were going for irony here.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

People Like Books

It's true, right? We like to read. :D

Well, this is one of four pin-up style creatures I created as part of a class project that will eventually become a deck of cards. We had the class critique on all the images yesterday. Seems most of us still have quite a bit of work to complete. I would say this one needs very little, though some of my boy classmates want me to put a shirt on her. I guess that just goes to show you that people really DO think that a little peek of skin is sexier than stark nakedness.

So I'll put a shirt on her and I'll probably improve her face, which isn't working for me right now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

What's She Been Doing With Herself?

Click on the picture to get a closer look.

Homework. She has been doing homework.
Fortunately, she likes to draw.

In my fantasies, of course, I publish illustrations in the New Yorker. That's why I chose David Sedaris's recent hilarity about the horrible people (um, you and me) he encounters during his frequent air travels for this project.
The illustration published with the actual article was a little cartoon of an angry airplane. I tried to do something a little more elaborate but still, I hoped, amusing.

Tomorrow is our class critique. Some of you know what that means. It means this is the last time I will actually like what I did here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Try Something New

If my age were calculated like this --( Chrono Age - Time Spent Worrying And Being Afraid = New Current Age)-- I would be approximately 14 right now.

Now, when I say "worrying and being afraid," I'm calculating big, sort of rational concerns (like my daughter driving on an icy road at night), the tiny, dumb worries (like whether this necklace makes me look matronly) and everything in between.

Somewhere in the middle, you'll find yourself, I'm sure. You'll find me, too.

Take for instance my gouache hesitation.
For years, I've been comfortable with watercolor, but hesitated to try gouache -- which is, really, just a different kind of watercolor -- because I thought I might not like it. Then I'd have wasted money on a set of gouache paints that would just sit there.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to get an up-close-and-personal look at an original gouache painting by Maira Kalman, one of my favorite illustrators, who uses gouache to great effect. I couldn't stand it anymore. I WANTED THOSE COLORS!

Ahem. Here, then, is my first time out on the playground with gouache. I can see that we're going to be good friends. Moreever, I can see that my hesitation to try gouache has been, like pretty much all my fears, unfounded.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

In between reading about avant-garde film and planning my attack on a couple of illustration projects, I managed to get Lylah over for some personal groom and then -- da-da-DUMMM - her temporary license test. She passed on the first go, and managed to take the best driver's license picture I've ever seen.

The fun begins.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Johnny Kilbane

Johnny Kilbane was a featherweight boxing champ sprung from Cleveland's old Angle neighborhood. That's where they stored the Irish here in the days when being an Irish immigrant was a little like being a Mexican immigrant today.

Anyway, Johnny had quite the career. He was a world champ the year my mother was born -- 1923 -- and a couple years before that as well. After he hung up his gloves, he went into politics, and served in various local and state offices. If politics then were anything like politics now, it probably served him to have a good left jab at his disposal.

I found out about Johnny sniffing around the Encyclopedia of Cleveland history, which then prompted me to go on a drawing and snapshot tour of Cleveland's old Irishtown. You can read and see more soon at Ohio Authority, the great online guide to Northeast Ohio. OA publishes my series, Sketchbook Cleveland.

By the way, if you're near the radio around noon today, I'll be on with writers Michael Salinger, Erin O'Brien and Judith Mansour, talking about the Lantern Awards -- which are happening this Saturday at Playhouse Square.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Paying Attention

Jane Scott, long-heralded rock critic of the Plain Dealer, used to carry a point-and-shoot camera with her wherever she went. Thus, she had lots of snapshots of herself with famous musicians.
But even for those of us who don't hobnob with the Grateful Dead, this is a good idea. And photo technology has allowed for so much power to be packed into such small devices.

I have a great little Canon Powershot that goes with me in my purse -- along with my sketchbook, of course. And I always have my iPhone, which takes pretty darned nice photos for a phone. My phone goes everywhere, even on dog-walks. This has proved to be useful on several occasions, like when I scooped up the kitty who had been hit by a car; I could then call my daughter to come pick us up.

And I noticed, while out walking Pearlie this morning, that the early-day sunlight was casting interesting shadows. I have a school assignment involving the noticing and depiction of shadows. I'm not going to use this photo for my project, but I liked it well enough. It's a reminder that as long as I'm out walking the dog anyway, I can stop and notice things like shadows and other art projects that the natural world and the manmade world serve up all the time -- whether we notice them or not.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Mary Had a Little Coat

I'm reading a terrific new book called "Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat," and will review it, so stay tuned. It's kind of a long essay on the completely irrational and inconsistent relationships humans have animals.
This is something I think about a lot, because I live with animals, sometimes work with animals and, yes, still eat animals.

We all draw the lines in different places, of course. One of the lines I've drawn, clearly and easily as time has gone by, is at baby animals. Don't eat 'em. Don't wear 'em.

But I used to. I've eaten veal. And one of my favorite coats, before it wore out from years of wear, was made of lamb leather.
Now it strikes me so odd. I never would've felt comfortable wearing a fur coat, yet I wore lamb leather for a long time without a twinge of guilt.

Of course, my veggie/vegan friends are saying, "Oh, so it's not all right to kill baby animals to eat and wear, but it's OK to kill their parents?"
To which I say: Yes, I know. I am full of inconsistencies. And I am working on them.

Thursday, September 02, 2010


Now that I'm back in school, the sketchbook collection grows by one. This is what a lot of artists mean when they talk about having a sketchbook: a place to work, to think out loud, to try ideas, fail, try again. It's an absolute necessity if you're on your way to creating a finished piece of art.

Most of what you see here at Pen in Hand is a different approach to sketchbooks, where the page is sort of thought out ahead of time. Attempts have been made to make each page (or most of them) intriguing or attractive. There IS a warts-and-all quality to any sketchbook, but the ones I use here have to meet a higher standard for interest, as one turns the pages.

My workhorse, on the other hand, is generally pretty ugly. And still, I thought you'd like to take a look. I might do that from time to time.