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Saturday, December 31, 2011

The last day of 2011 finds Cleveland wearing its gray fur sky.
I woke up early, fed the herd, then got around to finishing up the handmade sketch journal I started a few days ago.

Faithful follower(s) will have picked up on my restlessness surrounding the choice of a sketchbook. I keep trying to be a good Moleskine girl, for all the reasons to love them. But there are enough reasons not to love them that I keep wandering off into other territories.

Lately I've been loving my leatherbound sketch journal from the art fair, but decided to close it down as we close down the year.

So I greet 2012 with a new kind of book created in a new kind of way. And the point anyway is less about the book form than it is about fealty to the visual journal. I will do my best to remember, as the last semester of school sweeps over me, that even a thoughtful five-minute drawing can capture a moment worth capturing.

Happy New Year to you, and may you also be more true to the activities and people you love the most.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The more time I spend in the room in the first image, the less I feel like the nutcracker in the second image.

Hope you have a happy Christmas.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Red Scarf and Inflatable Fish

I think I will let this spread just speak for itself. If you have a burning desire to read more, click on the image and it will all become easier.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tourist in My Town

Visited the market neighborhood and the botanical gardens today in Cleveland. Care to read about it? Double click on the images.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Catching Up!

Hello, Darlings -
I've missed you. I've missed my sketchbook, too, which has been mostly a repository for boring writing and illustration thumbnails -- too ugly to post. But today I reacquainted myself with a little spontaneity. Also probably too ugly to post, but, y'know ... keeping it real.

I think I might have to revisit old sketchbooks and try to remember who I was before I turned all my attention to illustration, which is a different animal than the illustrated sketchbook. In the meantime, stop back again soon. I'm using my break from school to fill some pages here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Happier Gouache

The other day I had the illusion of having a few hours of free time, so I used it to play, again, with gouache.

I probably should've been preparing a paper that's due Friday, or working on my Project. But I was painting a blue owl instead.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Re-runs


Been working on a number of things not yet ready for sharage, so I decided to take a cue from the television world and offer up a re-run.

This here's called "Last Days of the Bourgeois Pigdogs" and I sold the original at a fund-raiser a couple years ago. Regrets. I always felt I knew my pigdogs better than anyone else could know them, and that also the piano-playing duck had an important backstory. Now I worry that they're all stuck in some guy's garage, being not merely misunderstood but completely silenced.

Now I'd like access to the part of my brain that produced this, but I believe the roads have been closed because of construction in another part of the city, so to speak. That's all right. This is a reminder that even if I amuse no one else, I entertain my own strange self.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Like my mud?

Ahh, muddy waters.
It can happen to us all. Especially those of us who work on manila-colored paper and dip our brushes in dirty water and don't take care of how colors are mixing on the palette.

By the way, it's not your eyes going bad here. I did in fact blur the text on this page. There were no deep dark secrets, but I had an uncharacteristic bout of sketchbook brooding, and I just preferred not to display that side of myself in public.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oh, Hell: Gouache

I love gouache, but -- like onions and yoga -- gouache doesn't like me.

Many artists through the ages have used this opaque watercolor to terrific effect. One of my favorites is Maira Kalman, whose quirkilicious illustrations you've seen on the cover of the New Yorker and, perhaps, in her own books.

Ditto for Roz at RozWoundUp, who is super-duper at birds and dogs in gouache.

Well, so I play occasionally, and try to get into the groove of opaque media (my brain does transparent more better). And when it doesn't quite work out, I just put notes to myself over the sketchbook page.

But I will not be defeated! More gouache to come, for sure.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

More (finally!) from the Handmade Book class

Four of my artist colleagues gave me permission to reprint the work they made for our collaborative book with a theme of Distance. (See my last post if this is confusing.)

Isn't it cool how different they all are? Yes, I think so too.





Monday, October 31, 2011

The Handmade Book (class)


The latest project in my handmade book class (perhaps you'll remember the first one, which I posted about here) is a collaborative effort. Each of 10 students in our class, plus the teacher, created a two-page spread inspired by the theme of "distance."

Each two-page spread had to be replicated through a printing process of the individual artist's choice. Then each of us created enough prints of our spread so that everyone could bind their own book containing a spread from everyone. Get it? It's really simple, actually, but my articulation makes it sound complicated.

Today we bound the pages. Thus, I now have an entire book. The images are all wonderful -- and so different. The one here is, probably obviously, mine. (You can decide whether it's wonderful. It's a little chilly, that's for sure.)

I thought about scanning the others but it seemed like stealing to put them on this blog, so I'll just have to describe. Most weren't as illustrative as this; many were abstract. There was some photo montage as with my classmate Lucy's spread depicting trains from her many travels.

Adam M. recently set out on a Sunday afternoon walk -- well, OK, it took him like 7 hours -- of what I'm estimating was maybe 22 miles. His spread was a really cool gel transfer of a photo he shot when he was rewarded by a beautiful vista.

Lisa, a runner, inked up her running shoes, ran across craft paper laid out on the floor, then scanned her footprints and shrunk them down to itty-bitty images on the page. Amber laid out letters and images from her upbringing, when her military father bridged the distance between himself and his family with short, sweet letters.

And on and on.

Collaboration is almost always a good thing. I feel like I've spent a lot of my life resisting group activities -- perhaps wanting to rise or fall on my own, in a very ego-centric way. But part of what I love about this book is the same thing that I loved about the pain book: it tells a lot of stories at once. Also, while I have what is probably a brief relationship with most of the people in this class, it's material proof of a moment in time when we did this cool thing together.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Food Around Which I Cannot Be Trusted


1. Pepperidge Farm Layer Cake.
2. Candy Corn
3. Peanut Butter
4. Candy Corn
5. Brownies
6. Chef Boyardee Ravioli
7. Cookies of Any Kind. Any Kind.
8. Candy Corn

What, you were looking for 10? This is an honest list, and it amounts only to 8. (Depending on how you're counting, of course ...)

So what's your list, anyway?

Happy Halloween, boys and girls.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


So the senior project is, as you might've gathered, a book. I did a version of it a few years ago that was not ready for prime time, and am now aiming to create a prime time version. I have written and rewritten, and gone through the lengthy and lurching start-up process, where one can get overwhelmed by the many initial decisions that must be made before taking the thing forward: What size? Black and white or color? Hand-written text, designer font? Panel layouts or free-form? The questions are far more numerous than that and I have answered them mostly to my satisfaction.

One of the cool things, though, is that as much as the logic-brain wants these questions answered, there's still room for new decisions that come out of the process of making the thing. This is especially true if one is the author and the illustrator. The author creates the story that the illustrator then interprets, but in this case the illustrator can give a few orders back to the author.

I don't mean to be coy here, and to not tell you exactly what today's sketchbook image has to do with all of that. The point is that yesterday, while I was on a long drive, I had a eureka moment (smallish eureka moment, hence the lower-case "e"), and it led me in a couple of directions. One of them was to the Squonk.

Those of you from the Classic Rock era will be aware that the Squonk shows up in two, count 'em TWO -- rock songs from the 70s. One was in the self-titled song by Genesis on "Trick of the Tail." The other was in the very fine "Any Major Dude" by Steely Dan.

That's all for now.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Drawing In Class

Two things about art college that are different from regular college:
1) You don't spend astronomical amounts of money on books. (Corollary: You DO spend astronomical amounts of money on art supplies.)
2) No one gets mad if you're doodling in class, and many, many people doodle -- or just outright draw in their sketchbooks -- while teachers are lecturing.

Why is this OK? I haven't surveyed anyone on this, but I suspect it's because the smart teachers know that drawing is such a basic instinct for art students that it would be hopeless to discourage it. But also, we learn by way of drawing. We learn TO draw by drawing, and we anchor what we're hearing by the act of putting something on the page.

This sketchbook page -- with digital color added, of course -- was part of a spread I drew while listening to a guy lecturing our professional practices class about bookkeeping and taxes. I could have written notes on what he said, but the chances of me remembering key details of his advice are much better because the part of my brain that usually gets bored was taken up with the task of drawing the line of students in front of me.

In art history classes, I take notes and draw. The pages with the most vigorous drawings coincide with the best-remembered lectures.

So if you are a teacher of any kind, and your students are doodling, stop before you scold!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Word Voodoo

Word voodoo: It's the harm we do to ourselves and others when we're not careful with the kinds of labels we attach. For instance, if I were to call my waistline "revolting" in its out-of-shapedness, well ... word voodoo. Terrible ramifications.

Decades ago, I quit smoking. I quit dating boys who weren't worthy of me. I have quit buying every piece of jewelry that makes me salivate, and I've quit thinking someone else will walk the dog. Now I just walk the dog.

Word voodoo. Tryin' to quit ...

Saturday, October 01, 2011

I Ate a Big Bowl of Sea

Raise your hand if you've ever taken the bouillabaisse shells home to draw.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Samples from an Artist Book

This is the front exterior of "Hurts Like Hell: Reports from the Democratic Republic of Pain," an artist book and compilation project.

Inside the book you can see that I stitched the pages in. What you can't see, but happens to be true, is that I used medical sutures to sew them. The paper lining the inside of the book is something I made on Photoshop.

If you can love something like Jack's description of his post-surgery pain, I loved it.

During class critique, this page drew an audible gasp.

I loved this page for its honest appraisal of something many divorced or separating parents have experienced.

The project here was to find an object -- preferably something that wasn't already a book -- and consider how the form might be used to inspire a book. But it doesn't stop there.

Form and content were supposed to mesh. All details were to be considered.

This is one of those conceptual practices I think of as Very Art School. Out in the real world, where non-artist types dwell, the object can become confounding or ridiculous. I'm always vaguely aware of the no-nonsense nature of my journalism background when I embark on a project like this. I lean toward literalism. I like for things to be functional, and kind of regular (though truly regular people would probably dispute that).

And yet I grew pretty passionately in love with working on this.

Without taking you through every last decision and what-all, I'll just make a couple of points. First, I landed on the idea of using a Band-Aid brand box of bandages that was decorated with a cartoon character. I bought several, and at first I wasn't sure that it mattered which character. What mattered most to me was the cheerful message the box was sending to those in need of a Band-Aid. "Ouch! You hurt yourself!" it says on the side of the box -- as if to imply that everything will be fine soon.

That got me thinking of the fallacy of Band-Aids -- which really do very little, even with the kinds of wounds they're intended for. And of course when we're talking big hurts, a little bandage like this is darn near useless. So in a way, the project is about the unkept nature of the implied promise.

I knew I wanted to catalogue different kinds of pain, so I sought stories from friends. Each wrapped bandage contains a sentence or two on some epic physical or emotional pain they've experienced. Obviously, I'm not showing all of them here, but you can get a little taste. It was an awe-inspiring thing to work on this book, and contemplate the person and what he or she went through. Without getting too dramatic, there were times when I got a little tear-y.

What I ended up loving about the process was how it made me think about the nature of pain. Which is harder, splitting up with your husband or being in junior high and finding out you were the only one who didn't see the big summer concert? Knee surgery or a burned eye? These things cannot be compared, most of them. In the moment, for the person experiencing the pain, each trumps everything else.

I should say that the formally, the project appeals to the fetishist in me. I love books and I love special little boxes of all kind. I really thrilled at transforming the Spongebob packaging here into something sinister, and figuring out how to turn the Band-Aids into pages, and sewing them all in.

One of the great luxuries of an art-school education is that it takes you places you wouldn't have gone otherwise. It takes you places you might not feel you want to go -- like it did for me the first year, when I explored the wonderful world of band saws. "I'm a two-dimensional person!" I wanted to say. "I like to DRAW!"

"Ahh yes," they might've said. "But you'll draw better if you do something strange every now and then."

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Is This "Real World" You Speak Of?

If I had one suggestion for the Cleveland Institute of Art, it would be to expand its expectations and attitudes regarding the so-called "non-traditional" student. Art college could be a viable second act for more mid-career folks than currently take advantage of it. On the other hand, the setup of the school -- no night classes to speak of, no weekends or summer scheduling to speak of -- make it tough for anyone who wants a transitional experience. It's rather an in-for-a-penny place.

That has all worked out for me pretty well, and for a tiny handful of other middle-agers. But there's one kind of funny thing several of us are involved now: the mandatory Business and Professional Practices class. It's actually a quite well-designed class aimed at getting the heads of students who will soon graduate into the world beyond art school.

So ... what about those of us who have spent more than half our lives in the alleged real world? Well, I would hasten to add that none of us has yet lived life as a working artist. In other words, it's certainly not the case that we know it all.

On the other hand -- well, you can read my sketchbook here if you like.

By the way, I was pleased with my little in-class drawings here. That's one of the teachers on the left, and a guest speaker on the right.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Flutter By

Click on the picture to read the text.

A mere 6 days ago, we were getting a late-summer blast of heat and sunshine and the monarchs dallied a bit before their big autumn migration. Today it's cool and cloudy and feels very autumnal indeed. It'll be another year before we see big swarms of butterflies.

I scanned this so you could see the chunky loveliness of the inside of the fantastic leather-bound sketchbook I got this year at the Ann Arbor art fair. The paper is made in India. The leather tie can be wrapped different ways to close the book. There's actually a video on the bookbinder's website that shows the fancy way to do it.

The book now has our Cape Cod trip in it, as well as the little watercolor portrait of my classmate Kelsey.

Here's a photo I shot right after I bought it:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Senioritis: Kelsey Cretcher

This is Kelsey. She's part of my Senioritis series, documenting my senior year as an illustration major at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Check back for other interviews and observations on art-studentry.

My classmate Kelsey Cretcher and I were talking the other day about our mutual affection for illustration. I mentioned how tiresome I find the perennial discussion about the supposed superiority of fine art over illustration. (As if the line between them is always crystal clear, by the way.)

We agreed that one of the beautiful qualities of illustration is how democratic it is. Illustration gives everyone access to art through newspapers and magazines, games, book jackets and T-shirts. That's part of why Kelsey loved it when, for class assignments, we had to design wine bottle labels and cereal boxes.

She has been known to reject a purchase she would otherwise make because there were bad drawings on the box.
"Packaging sways me," Kelsey says. "I DO judge a book by its cover."
This, then, is one of the things I like about Kelsey. (Note: To see Kelsey's wonderful art, visit her website.)
Like me, she arrived at the Cleveland Institute of Art as a transfer student in spring semester of 2009. Unlike me, she was fresh off a stint at Kent State, where, at the urging of her father, she had tried majoring in art education with the idea that it was practical choice.

She suspected this was a wrong path when, during the first session of a Methods & Materials class, the instructor lectured heavily on strategies for persuading principals and school boards that the art program was necessary and should be continued.

It wasn't that she'd been all that interested in art-ed anyway. As Kelsey says, "We were learning how to teach Picasso to 4-year-olds. I was more interested in making macaroni pictures with 4-year-olds."

Having found her rightful place as part of the CIA Class of 2012 Illustration majors, Kelsey now revels in making her own art. She's a ravenous reader who has been known to own more than one copy of a favorite book -- one for reading and one that must be in pristine shape. She finds art inspiration in the pulp magazine illustrations of the early- and mid-20th century, though she wants to add a 21st century sensibility.

And she's got a killer work ethic. Having arrived at CIA without any formal Photoshop training, she taught herself this complex software and has become someone who works almost exclusively in digital media, though she often starts with hand-done work.

Anyone who knows Kelsey also knows at least a little about her boyfriend, Harry. He's an engineering student at Case Western Reserve University. Together they get lost in fantasy and sci-fi movies and games, and once a week they go somewhere to try a new boutique beer. Harry has sensitized Kelsey's palate for the brew, she says, while she has introduced into their relationship a growing collection of books featuring images of beautiful women and pinup girls.

Get a few beers into Kelsey, and she's likely to go on about her habit of immediately analyzing the aesthetics of other women: what makes them beautiful, if they are, and or what about them makes them unattractive. She eyes them up in terms of things like proportions, and how certain features work with or fail to work with other features.

In fact, she says she objectifies other women in that she regards them, at first, as "walking pieces of art."
How does this affect her sexual preference?

It doesn't, she says. "I'm probably as straight as you can get," she says.
If you are a woman, and you find Kelsey staring your way, the question running through her mind is, "Do I want to draw you, not do I want to do you."

Kelsey spent 5 years as a part-time worker at Jo Ann, the fabric and crafts store. She credits the job for helping her develop a stronger sense of color, since she was surrounded by material and liked studying the palettes.
And she loved helping customers work out their plans.

"My favorite was when someone would come in with a (craft) idea, but they didn't quite know how to do it."

Saturday, September 10, 2011

All State Barber College

I visited this Cleveland landmark back in summer (you remember summer, don't you?) and did reporting in anticipation of a Sketchbook Cleveland page. Unforeseen delays boggled things, however, but I've decided to give it some air.

By the way, Carlo tested the waters at Allstate a few weeks ago and got a not-bad $4 haircut!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

So ... What did you?

In describing the keys to becoming better at drawing, especially drawing from life, one of my illustration teachers often falls back on the phrase, "You have to become more sensitive. "

I love that reminder. However sensitive we think we are, we can be more so, improving what we notice so as to represent it on the page.

And indeed, two of the blessings of an art-school education are that if we're doing it right, we become more sensitive, and we also begin to see things in ways that are both subtlely and radically different than before. Color class makes you notice the difference between maroon and magenta, or purple and violet. You delight in combinations of hues. Art history makes you think about lower-case art ("I draw because I love to draw") and upper-case Art ("I draw because I have something to say about the world").

What am I learning in art school? The same thing, though in a different way, that journalism taught me: Remember to keep toggling between big and small, to not get stuck on the forest or lost in the trees. Remember to notice, and -- for me -- to record the noticing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


This gentleman functioned as a life-drawing model during Spring semester of 2009. I saw him once at a restaurant, where he was wearing clothes. It confused my eye.

I used to have vivid, difficult dreams about going back to college.
The details changed, but the plot always had to do with feeling excited about the classes I could take while also feeling troubled because I couldn't figure out what to do with my children if I went and lived in the dorms.

Into my waking life as a working journalist, what remained of the dreams was wistfulness. I knew I had not taken full advantage of college as a young person, and that I had so much to learn. I'd wonder whether the dreams were a metaphor for wanting to do something new and adventurous, or for wishing I were more intellectual.

Now I can see that the dreams were telling me simply that I wanted to go back to college. And I did.

Through a series of fortunate circumstances, I left the workaday world and became a "transfer student" at the Cleveland Institute of Art. I have to put that in quotes, because it strikes me funny that you can be considered a "transfer" student when the last time you walked the university green was in the era of big hair and shoulder pads.

My first day of classes was Monday, January 12, 2009. My first class: Drawing II. The school had generously given me credit for Drawing I based on my portfolio, which made me feel pretty good till I walked into the room with perhaps 15 teenagers and a teacher who looked like one. We set up our work areas and practiced drawing from a still life, concentrating on line, proportions, perspective and composition. We had to draw standing up unless we had a medical excuse. I silently wondered whether being ancient counted.

Where were the other nontraditional students? This was one of the many thoughts that bounced
around my head as I drew and drew and drew. I flinched as the teacher gazed at my work, occasionally offering straightforward suggestions. She was gentle, actually, though in weeks to come, when she caught me being rather vague in some spots as we drew from a nude male model, she instructed me sharply, "You're going to have to be a little more specific than that." I burst out laughing; she wasn't kidding.

But what I remember about that first day, and the weeks to come, was being reacquainted with the awkward middle-school kid who never felt like she belonged. Although I'd been to college before, my first degree was in journalism; I didn't know how to be an art student. Suddenly I had to draw and think while people watched. This was very distressing.

And then there was the obvious difference between me and the other "kids," specifically: I was literally old enough to be their mother. In a design class the first week, one of the 18-year-olds asked, point-blank, "So, are you, like ... here for the whole four years?"

"That's the idea," I told her. I was sure she was wondering, "Do you think you'll live that long?"

Truly, it was very, very difficult for me to stop obsessing about my age, and wondering how I was viewed by other students. I felt obliged to be smarter and better than they were, by sheer weight of years, yet it became clear from that first day in Drawing II that this wouldn't be the case.

I wondered all sorts of things about how to be with my new peers. Should I talk about my decades as a journalist or not mention it? Should I do the "mom" thing or attempt to sound like an extraordinarily hip fortysomething? Maybe I should just be mute.

What I hoped was that at some point, somehow, I would find my way as a student among students. I longed for a time when there would be an easiness, at least with some of them, who would understand that I knew that I couldn't be their peer, exactly, but that I didn't want to be their mother.

This week, as the first days of my second senior year in college got under way, I attended a class called Professional Practices. It's a study in preparedness for making a living as an artist. The class is required for graduation.

When I walked into Professional Practices the other night, I looked around and saw what seemed to me was practically the entire class of 2012. This is not technically true; there are lots of seniors, but far from all of them, and there were a number of juniors.

Still, there were students who I'd had Foundation-level classes with and then hadn't seen much of after we all split off into our areas of concentration as sophomores. They had all changed physically. Some had lost teenage baby fat. Some had filled out. Almost everyone had gained something of an adult face in the intervening years.

For the second time in a week, I was surprised to feel pangs of nostalgia and a sense of moment. As much work as we all have to do between now and May -- and it's tremendous -- it'll all be over in about 15 minutes. That seems to be how time functions these days.

Then I had another thought. As I found a place to sit (near Clare and Judy), and waved as others filed in, I knew I'd learned a little something. At some point when I wasn't looking, I figured out how to be an art student with other art students. I stopped worrying -- mostly -- about how I was different from the other kids. I have a little posse of friends, mostly illustrators, who come to dinner at my house once or twice a year. We've figured out how to talk to each other, and joke. If they find it tiresome where I say things like, "When I was your age ...," they graciously keep it to themselves.

Oh, and they are tremendously, ridiculously talented -- though in some ways I think we're still all trying to figure out how to be artists.

As this year of Senioritis moves forward, I will introduce you to some of them. I'll chime in with other related topics, too. I'll let you know whether, as actual college is ending, the old college dreams begin again. I bet they won't. I suspect that those dreams were trying hard to get me to where I ended up -- and that the dreams, once answered, will be content simply to be fondly remembered.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And So It Begins ...

Of all the strangeness that has surrounded me since I left my newspaper job to go to art school at the end of 2008, this time seems the strangest.

Tomorrow begins my (don't laugh) senior year. That means it's also the beginning of the end of this weird, sweet interlude that I've been very lucky to enjoy. And it's the start of the earnest reworking of a project done in half-baked form a few years ago, which I am reviving for my bachelor of fine arts project. All seniors have one; mine is a book.

So anyway, I've gotten to a bit of boot-shivering, because there'll be lots of work, some of which, if watching previous students is any guide, will likely drive me to distraction. This would be a good year to be more confident. I'll see what I can do about that.

Stay with me, will you? I don't know how much blog-posting there'll be, but I promise to check in from time to time if you do.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Calm Thyself

In some circles, they believe that one outgrows the coloring book at around age 8.
As you can see here, my college sophomore doesn't run in those circles.
It's one of the reasons I love her.

There's definitely something calming about all those waiting outlines and a box of crayons, isn't there?

That's what she bought as a souvenir in Cape Cod ...

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shave and a haircut - two bits

Here's a little taste of a Sketchbook Cleveland edition to be published soon on Ohio Authority. A while back I dropped in at the Allstate Barber College in Ohio City. Such a cool building, and the business itself was born the same year I was.

By the way, if you haven't seen my other Sketchbook Cleveland installments, go visit Ohio Authority now! You can type Sketchbook Cleveland into the search window and a whole buncha stuff will come up.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Unyielding Desire

Doing our Tour of Endless Vacation Gift Emporiums last week in Cape Cod, Carlo said to me, "Did you see Stuart Little in the case?"
I had not.

He led me to a curio filled with knicknacks, including a series of winsome mouse figurines, all about the size of a nickel. Cute, but nothing special, I thought -- till I zoomed in on what looked like Stuart Little in his roadster. Having just done a blog post about Stuart, which reacquainted me with one of my favorite childhood stories, I squealed with delight. The case door happened to be unlocked, so I pulled him out, turned him over to see the price, and squealed again, "I must have him!" After all, he was only $11.

Carlo and I admired his snazzy red car, and we agreed again that I should commemorate our vacation with this small token. "I can't believe he's so cheap," I declared. And then Carlo, sensing retail danger, took Stuart from my grasp, turned him over to doublecheck, and said, "Karen -- he's not $11. He's $110."

End of squealing.

There would, of course, be no spending $110 on a figurine the size of a nickel, however cute. We shared our dismay and disbelief. If $11 seemed a tad low for something of this nature, well-crafted and winsome as it was, $110 was clearly absurd. Twenty-nine-ninety-five seemed like about the right price.

Days went by, and we made several return trips to our souvenir emporium, which happened also to be a splendid ice cream shack and candy store. But each trip for me was more bittersweet than sweet. I'd visit Stuart, see if the price had changed, notice that it hadn't, then look doubtfully at the teenager manning the cash register in the gift section. She simply did not look like someone with whom any dealing could be done.

We did other lovely vacationy things together, though I was unable to forget Stuart in the red car. In downtime from whale watching and ice-cream-eating, I hopped on the internet to find Stuart in his car on eBay. I'd show that overpriced souvenir shop! Everything is available on eBay, right?

It seems not. Not only did I fail to find him there, he went unrepresented even on the website of the figurine manufacturer, which offered, literally, hundreds of other miniature mice doing winsome things in fetching garb with tiny little accessories. There were even two other mice in cars, but both were, sadly, girls wearing dumb flowered hats. They did not remotely put one in mind of Stuart.

Stuart was nowhere, not even in the category of "retired" figurines, some of which were selling for upwards of $300.

Well, I told myself, this is what being a grownup is all about. Sometimes, however much we want something, and feel not merely entitled to have it but that we were MEANT to have it, we must acknowledge that we cannot have it.

And then, one afternoon when Thing Three and I had a hankering to nap, Carlo seemed still full of energy and in need of an errand. "Why don't you to go the candy store and talk them into giving you a deal on Stuart?" I said blithely.

This was probably a cheap shot, and certainly not in the spirit of the lecture I'd given myself on self-sacrifice. Unlike me, Carlo relishes the act of bargaining -- even when such endeavors seem fraught or unlikely to succeed. He loves to shop, he lives to ask for a discount, and he's usually at least nominally successful. It should be a lesson to us all, really, but somehow I don't have the same verve when it comes to purchases. I assume when a shopkeeper writes "$11" on the ticket -- or $110 -- that's what she means.

Anyway, Carlo charged off with Thing Four, and they returned about 90 minutes later with rock candy on wooden sticks and a plastic bag. The teenage girl at the cash register was, as I expected, unable to make a deal. She was, however, willing to phone someone with authority, who eventually called her back and agreed to a modest discount on Stuart.

The discount did not put the mouse in $29.95 range, but it did represent a kind of success from which Carlo was unable to retreat. Stuart came home wrapped lovingly in tissue paper inside a box inside a plastic bag, and now he sits on a little shelf in my dining room, doing nothing but making me happy when I gaze upon him.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just a few more pages from my sketch journal and its trip to Cape Cod. Click on each picture to get a more readable view.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Want To See My Vacation Pictures?

Last month I visited the Ann Arbor Art Fair, where I bumped into Iona of Iona Handcrafted Books. You might've seen me swooning on Facebook over my purchase of a red leather sketchbook, based largely on viewing what one of Iona's friends had done with his -- she had it on display.

I finally dove into mine for our vacation to Cape Cod this year. I have several pages filled, but haven't had a scanner. Used the macro setting on my Canon Powershot to offer you this spread. I didn't crop it because I wanted you to get a sense of the tasty hand-ripped edges of the paper.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Stuarts and Cascading Style Sheets

I've been neglectful here these days, mainly because I was laboring in a summer class that included learning, among other things, Adobe Dreamweaver. You can see the result here, and let me know what you think. I was pretty vexed by the HTML/CSS thing there for a while, but then I started catching on.

Now my thoughts have turned to other projects, including my attempt to cook up an idea for the fall exhibit by the Northern Ohio Illustrators Society. The theme is Rock, Paper, Scissors -- which sounded so good many months ago, when it was named. Anyway, I have merely a half-baked idea that needed more somethin'. So my head turned to "Stuart Little," and you can read a bit about him and me here.

There are other great Stuarts, too, by the way. There's Stuart MacLean, host of Canada's "Vinyl Cafe," a far-superior-to-Garrison-Keillor radio show with "Prairie Home Companion"-like qualities except that I like to listen to Stuart MacLean and I don't like to listen to Keillor.

Then there's Stuart from MAD TV. If you've never seen him, you can catch an episode here, but let me warn you he's an acquired taste.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


Meet Maurice, the Italian greyhound who captured the hearts of our friends Ivan and Sarah. Like you, I have met Maurice only in a virtual sense, and still his winsome nature comes through.

Ivan and Sarah adopted Maurice many months gone by now. Since then, we adopted our sweet Roscoe. Well, OK -- he's sweet and a little vicious. Or perhaps sweet to us and guard-dog-like with anyone he perceives as threatening us. We're WORKING ON IT, OK?

Anyway, unlike the wonderful Pearl, who in her all-blackness is at best a drawing challenge, Roscoe has a wider range of tonal values and therefore is more fun to draw. Though it should be said right here and forever more that Pearl is The Best Dog, and will forevermore be The Best Dog, except for another dog who also was the Best Dog.

Which brings us back to Maurice, whose nickname is Momo. That's right, you read correctly. And Momo was also the nickname of our sweet and most-dear Ramona (please don't cry when you read this post).

Anyway, all this is just an excuse to say that while I will probably never capture dog energy like Roz, I do love to draw them. I used to draw Momo all the time. I draw Pearl less, and now, with Roscoe, I find that I want to draw all kinds of dogs. I have started to stalk my Facebook friends' photo albums for pictures of their dogs.

All right, but now it's time to get back to work. Have a pleasant Sunday, will you? With that I like your face.

Friday, July 29, 2011


Fell into computer software this week, but my little storytelling dog says hello.