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26. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 11 and 12

Dharma words and stamps from our monastery stay.

Here we are at the end of our trip. I've been dragging these posts out in the hope I'd never reach this point. But, yes, all good things must come to an end (I've never really known why) and we were sure to cram as much fun into the last two days as possible. Starting with breakfast at The One and these coffee cups. I loved them so much I had to buy a set for home:




I don't think my husband is as impressed with them as I am, but I thought they were cute. And they're definitely a fine example of "splash ink" technique.

After leaving The One, we headed back up toward Taipei and a village famed for its ceramic work. We were running a bit behind schedule so we decided to forgo a sit-down lunch in favor of exploring what the street vendors had to offer. They were especially plentiful thanks to the ongoing national holiday. My choices included a steamed spinach-green onion-and-cheese bun, a fried doughnut, and a huge cup of iced lemon tea that lasted me most of the day.



Loved this tunnel kiln! I need one at home.

Bought chopsticks for home, too. 
Finally learned how to use them, LOL!

The afternoon took us further into Taipei:


Taiwan's "White House."

Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial
(unfortunately covered with
scaffolding.)

. . . and the National History Museum. I thought this little pagoda was perfect painting material:


Before studying any artwork we needed afternoon tea in the museum cafe:


The view from the cafe windows:

Someone actually gets to live in this building.

These beads date from 403-221 BC.
Still so modern. I'd buy them!

After the museum we found ourselves in a busy part of downtown where I had the opportunity to investigate some of the backstreet shops. Thanks to having bought the pig teacups I needed a larger carry-on. I found just what I wanted in a small suitcase store: bright pink canvas and made in Taiwan. A great souvenir for future travels.


Which store first??



Dinner that night was once again "family style" when we met up with some of Ming Franz's cousins, former high school classmates, and teachers in a downtown restaurant. It was a genuine reunion for them all, and wonderful for us to be part of such a special evening.

Then we were back to The Grand Hotel for our final night. By now we had traveled in a huge circle, seeing three coastlines and parts of the interior too. We also arrived back in time for  the start of "frog season." Right outside our windows: croak, croak, croak all night. As I noted in my journal: "These frogs are VERY disagreeable!"

A grand entrance, indeed.

Accompanied by the frog serenade, our packing lasted well into the early morning hours. We had become so spoiled in our big bus, a vehicle designed to sit 30-40 passengers when there were only 10 of us, that our daily habit was to load up the empty seats with our purchases from each stop and then forget about them. Now was the night of reckoning and everything had to find its place or get left behind. First to be discarded were all the beautiful shopping bags--so lovely but way too bulky. 

The next morning, packed and ready for our night-time flight, we still had a full day to spend in Taipei. First stop was a visit with Welsh paper artist, Tim Budden, now a Taiwan resident, who led us to his studio through this interesting neighborhood:

Hot spring water flows right through town.



Mr. Budden explaining the
intricacies of paper art.

Following our studio tour, we were off to Taipei 101, regarded to be the world's highest completed building. We were booked for lunch on the ground floor at an Anthony Bourdain-recommended restaurant specializing in xiao long bao, steamed soup dumplings. Yum.





Before lunch we had 30 minutes to ride up to the 89th-floor. 






Next and final stop: The Eslite Book Store. The best bookstore in the whole world. Several stories high, filled with treasures I'll never see here in the USA, I could have moved in permanently. I bought more brush pens (black, forest green, gray, and rust red), a book on painting cats in the Chinese style, and a book on French shabby chic. In Chinese. Don't judge.

And then we were off to the airport. Our superb and talented tour guide gifted us all with special little items to remember our trip. For me it was a wooden key-ring carved into the shape of horse complete with saddle, bridle, and tons of intricate detail. She told me she had chosen a horse so that I "may keep traveling, and go far." She also gave me a postcard of a Taiwanese kitten, "Because you love cats!" 

On the way to the airport . . .

After dinner on the plane I think I slept more soundly than I did at the monastery. I don't remember much about the flight home except for the movie I watched before falling asleep: The Crossing--a recent film set in Taiwan during the Chinese Civil War. It was excellent, and a real tear-jerker, but then it suddenly ended with the words 'To be continued." Apparently Part II comes out this summer, but I wanted to keep watching!

Along with two of my travel companions, I had decided earlier to stopover in San Francisco before going home to Albuquerque, and I'm glad I did, but it sure seemed strange (and lonely) to be on our own without the group or my roommate.

A room of my own.
New pink Taiwan travel bag in the back there.

My version of my cat postcard:
"This kitty is sad to leave Taiwan."

And then we flew into Albuquerque, and . . .  that's all, folks, 12 unforgettable days of Taiwan. I hope you've enjoyed reading my trip diary; I certainly enjoyed sharing it with you. May you one day travel far and wide, too!

(Next post: A review of my travel sketch supplies, what worked, what didn't. Stay tuned.)

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27. HeroesCon Interview: Kevin Wada Talks Style, Process, and the Future

by Harper W. Harris

Kevin Wada has been one of my favorite cover artists since he started on She-Hulk; it was one of those rare but wonderful circumstances where the cover artist seemed to really play a key role in the creative team, and his unique style was part of what made that book such a standout. Since then he’s gone on to provide covers for many series and continues to become more and more of a fan favorite. HeroesCon 2015 kept him busy and his commissions list full, but I got a chance to have a brief chat with him on Sunday about his interesting path to comics, his process, and what to expect in the future.

 

Kevin Wada HeroesCon Comic Artist She-Hulk

Kevin Wada at HeroesCon 2015

Harper W. Harris: We are here with Kevin Wada, one of my absolute favorite artists and the cover artist of some of my favorite books. How is your con going?

Kevin Wada: I am doing great, I feel re-energized and I’m ready to end the con on a strong note!

HH: You have a really interesting story about how you came into comics from outside of the comics industry, could you elaborate a little on that?

KW: I had done this series of X-Men as fashion illustrations and it went viral. Because it was popular I continued it, making more ambitious projects. When the new X-Men team launched and it was all women, I did an illustration of that. I think this is what happened: Brian Wood bought a print of that from my store and I tweeted to him like, “Thank you!” and I think he passed my name along to editors at Marvel. Then I got my first X-Men variant and then the editor that I worked with who was amazing really wanted to get me on an ongoing book and that’s how She-Hulk happened.

HH: Have you been a fan of comics your whole life? Were you an avid reader or did you come to it from more of the art side of things?

KW: I always say I was sort of orbiting ‘planet comic’. My cousin was really into comics, and he was like my best friend growing up, so I always had this very loose handle of superheroes and all that kind of stuff. I loved it–I loved it aesthetically, I loved the drama of it all–but I wasn’t a hardcore reader, it was very, very casual. So I have this nostalgic affinity and it kind of makes me feel very comfortable. But I’m not going to know the history of every single character.

HH: You have a really unique style. Can you talk a little bit about what your process is and what your materials are?

KW: I work in watercolor, but other than that it’s a pretty straightforward process. It’s pencils to either colored pencils or pen on top of that, and then I use the watercolor to flesh it all out. Often, but not always, there’s some digital editing going on. It’s not unlike retouching a photo–I’ll correct colors, I’ll correct like if an eye looks a little wonky I’ll fix that. One thing I usually have to correct in the computer is my sense of value, my sense of value is horrible. I’ll push my lights, I’ll push my darks, and really make the image pop.

HH: You work primarily as a cover artist with some of the most talked about covers in the industry. What is your creative process for coming up with an idea for a cover? Do you typically know a lot about what the content of the issue is going to be before you start?

KW: That really depends on who you’re working with and what their schedule is, and if they’re on top of things. I’ll often get a one sentence synopsis and a one sentence concept that they want me to push, and then you kind of just have to go. It’s kind of scary because you have this really horrible idea of what the story is or what the themes are, so luckily it’s just one issue and then you’re on to the next one!

HH: One of the things I love about your covers is that you’ve got a great ability to tell a story with a single, wordless image. Do you have an interest in pursuing that kind of storytelling in interiors, from a panel-to-panel perspective?

KW: We’ll see, it’s a totally different beast. I haven’t flexed that muscle since college. I don’t know how good I’d be at it–I’m down to learn, I know it’ll be a lot of work and that’s scary because I’m very lazy (laughs). So I don’t know, we’ll see…time will tell.

HH: Where can people find your stuff, and what are you working on now that you’re excited about?

KW: You can find me @KevinWada everywhere, Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, I’m on Facebook but I don’t really use it. Coming up is a lot of Catwoman covers and a lot of DC variants, they’ve been throwing tons of work my way. I have an A-Force variant for Marvel, some character designs coming out…that’s about it!

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28. The criminal enterprise of stealing history

After illegal drugs, illicit arms and human trafficking, art theft is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. According to the FBI Art Crime Team (ACT), stolen art is a lucrative billion dollar industry. The team has already made 11,800 recoveries totaling $160 million in losses.

The post The criminal enterprise of stealing history appeared first on OUPblog.

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29. ... or Something Like That


Son Marc and his good buddy Travis are working together on an awesome and gigantically ambitious project. And guess what? YOU CAN HELP! Watch this video and then click this magic link - http://tinyurl.com/q529x4g

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30. SUMMER (time) = SALE (time)....

on what else? mermaids, of course! :)

ALL things MERMAID are ON SALE in my shop....ALL SUMMER LONG!!!

{sale includes any CUSTOM MERMAID commissions between now and labor day!}

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31. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 9 and 10


I'm coming to the end of my Taiwan trip; just four days left as I continue with Days 9 and 10. In many ways, these last days were amongst my favorites, but then I say that about every day in Taiwan, so it's difficult to know if there was anything I didn't enjoy to the max!

Day 9 started in Kaohsiung with a visit to the famed Dragon and Tiger Pagodas, both overlooking a stunning lotus bed and lake.


At this point of our trip we were also poised on the cusp of a national holiday weekend, coinciding with Easter, and so there were lots of  local tourists and food trucks to keep everyone happy.


After climbing to the top of the pagodas and wending our way back "out of the mouth of the tiger" (sounds like a kung fu movie), we next went to a modern art museum. I thoroughly enjoyed the innovative installations including a life-size street scene made from dried banana peels (it was amazing!) and a variety of art videos (which also gave me a chance to sit down for a while).

We left Kaohsiung after lunch in a Hakka-style restaurant (read more on Taiwan's Hakka population here), and headed for our next major stopping point: the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist Memorial Center.

Prior to our arrival at the monastery, I had no idea what to expect other than a night of austerity: gruel for dinner (if we were lucky), lights out at 7 PM, compulsory meditation, and pre-dawn rise-and-shine.

I couldn't have been more mistaken. The monastery was a beehive of commercial activity filled with hundreds of visitors, an art museum and up-scale galleries, a shopping mall, plenty of individual specialty shops tucked away into various hidden corners, several top-notch restaurants, a 7-11, and of course a Starbucks right in the main entrance! In other words, it was paradise. And that was just the small part I was able to see. Apparently there's also a university, conference centers, and all kinds interesting visitor and educational facilities.  


It was also very noisy. As well as finding preparations underway for an outdoor concert to be held sometime that weekend, a construction project prevented our tour bus from dropping us of at our dorm-room accommodations:


Despite our difficulties getting up the hill and into our rooms, we were encouraged at all times to look on the bright side:


And they were right: tune out the noise and confusion, and the grounds were magnificent, the main feature being this enormous Buddha:


The theme of spiritual living extended into our dorm lobby . . .


. . . leading to our rooms: simple, clean, and cozy, and designed for students with strong backs. The mattresses were comically rock-hard, probably the only austerity we experienced in the place, but mine also provided the best night's sleep of my life. Maybe I should get a piece of plywood to sleep on here in Albuquerque!

Sketchbook reminder: Do Good Deeds . . . 

Banners and signs placed throughout the walkways reminded visitors to"Do good deeds, speak good words, think good thoughts." A worthy sentiment and one that was very different from what I discovered when I unwrapped a throat lozenge halfway through our tour. I wasn't getting sick, I just felt like I needed some Vitamin C. The lozenges I brought from home were packaged in what the brand called "positive affirmations," and the one I picked on this occasion revealed the statement: "Inspire envy!" Whoa. What a contrast to "Do good deeds." Give me the lessons of the Buddha any day.


That evening we gathered in one of the mall restaurants for the best vegetarian dinner to date (vegetarian cuisine being the only one available, and just right for me) followed by yet more shopping. I was able to purchase more beads, this time ones inscribed with little spiritual symbols and writings (none about envy, I'm sure), and a couple of brush pens I totally fell in love with.

Morning proved to be far more peaceful than the day before, the machinery turned off and the air humming with the sound of nuns chanting while others walked in silent procession or worked in the gardens:



The only catch to the day was the complete absence of coffee in the breakfast room. I need coffee in the morning, as in, I really need coffee in the morning, and I've already mentioned how good the coffee in Taiwan is. In my desperation I remembered the Starbucks, but I also remembered it being a long way to walk and I wasn't sure when our tour bus would be leaving.

As I stood alone in the middle of an empty courtyard, contemplating what to do, a party of nuns and monks led by a tall German greeted me with a hearty, "Good Morning! Where are you going?" Immediately I thought this was one of those trick koan questions, and that I was supposed to have some brilliant reply such as, "To find enlightenment, O Master!" Instead, all I could weakly croak was, "Starbucks?"

The monk's reply: "Hahahaha! Then I wish you luck! They are closed!" Drat.

However, thanks to my quick-thinking roommate, I was able to avoid a caffeine headache when she surprised me with a can of iced coffee from a vending machine. Yay! The day was saved. I thank her with a thousand Buddhas:


Even after we left the monastery, monks and nuns seemed to be following us. Lunchtime in a village known for its wood-working artistry let me snap this photo:



And then we were on our way to: THE ONE. Oh, my goodness. Oh, my. THE ONE really is, The One. (That's what it's called, The One. The One what? Just. The One.) Now a luxury spa, resort, hotel and restaurant, it was originally the playground of a Taiwanese newspaper mogul. Built in the 1980s in a traditional and palatial style (no nails were used in its construction), it is gorgeous. I took dozens of photos, mainly for art references, but here are just a few to capture the ambiance:






Really, I could live here forever.

Highlight of the Day: Before dinner at The One (which was. what else?, a multi-course extravaganza) I had a chance to sit and dream with my sketchbook in my own private alcove. The area I found was decked out in pale lavender silk, embroidered cushions, antique Chinese furniture, and dimmed lighting. 

While I was luxuriating upon the divan and pretending to be an eighteenth-century empress, I thought I would experiment with one of my new brush pens. Wow--where have these pens been all my life? It was like painting with silk. Another unforgettable moment from Taiwan.


(Side note: the stamp in the upper corner on this sketch was from our visit to the King Car Whisky Factory where they make--and we got to taste--Kavalan whiskey, judged to be the world's finest. In an interesting coincidence, King Car was founded by the man who developed "Mr. Brown Coffee," the canned coffee that saved my life at the monastery. Thanks, Mr. Brown!)

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32. RIP Earl Norem

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Prolific cover artist and painter Earl Norem has passed away at age 91 as reported on Facebook by family members including his daughter:

As my son has so eloquently posted, it is true that my father, Earl Norem, a member of the greatest generation, has passed on. He was a true super hero to me and to all who knew him. A kind gentle, modest soul, his legacy will last a lifetime. We thank all of his fans far and wide who have meant so much to him throughout his career.


Norem’s work best known in comics circle for his work on Marvel’s magazine line of the 70s and 80s, including Dracula Lives, Tale of the Zombie, Savage Sword of Conan, Hulk,  Amazing Spider-Man: The Big Top Mystery, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu,  Moon Knight, The Silver Surfer and many many more.

Norem attended HeroesCon a few years back, as shown in this photo by Denny Caswell, and definitely enjoyed meeting fans of his work. Although retired, he was said to be working on some new Mars Attacks paintings, a subject particularly suited to his style. While Norem was’t as well known as some of his fellow pulp cover artists, its hard to think of anyone who attacked the boomer obsessions—aliens, robots, monsters and scantily clad girls being menaced by the same—with such vigor.

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If it was possible to be cheerful and lurid at the same time, Norem had the patent on it. His understanding of color theory may have lacked subtlety, but served to burn images into your brain, like this classic Planet of the Apes piece. While color grading today likes the relatively discrete aqua/tan contrasting color scheme, Norem went all the way with acid green on orange, which also worked on a bunch of Hulk covers. Here’s just a few examples of his work/

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33. The Friday Countdown: The Week’s Best Panels & Pages from Comics Released on 6/17/15

Every Friday, Alex counts down the top five panels & sequences in comics released this week.  

Spoilers follow, obviously.


5) Prez #1

Did you know that, if you live in the San Francisco Bay area, this is a real thing?

tacodrone

4) Harley Quinn and Power Girl #1

Chauvinist alien prude had it coming.

fc001 fc002

 

3) Ms. Marvel #16

This is more or less how I imagine a meeting between Abed and Dani Pudi’s character from Captain America; the Winter Soldier.

IMG_20150619_165601

2) God Hates Astronauts #9

Frankly, I have no idea what’s happening here.  I’m fine with that.

godhatesastro

1) Wayward #8

I am…*uncomfortable.*

fc003

 

 

Did I mention I was uncomfortable?


 

What are you favorite moments this week?  Comment below or tweet @waxenwings

 

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34. Small


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35. Nice Art: Chris Ware tackles Minecraft

CoverStory-Ware-PlayDate-876-1200-12140455.jpg

Or rather, his 10-year-old daughter Clara does. In commentary on his cover for this week’s New Yorker the Building Stories master—and the graphic novelist whose name is most often connected to the word “genius— discusses the game the way any parent over a child in the 4-14 range does.

Clara has spent hours, days, weeks of the past two years building and making navigable block worlds fuelled from the spun-off fizz of her accreting consciousness: giant ice-cream-layered auditoriums linked to narrow fifty-foot-high hallways over glass-covered lava streams, stairs that descend to underground classrooms, frozen floating wingless airplanes, and my favorite, the tasteful redwood-and-glass “writer’s retreat.” (It has a small pool.) She made a meadow of beds for my wife—a high-school teacher who craves unconsciousness—and a roller coaster to take her there. Though Clara mostly “plays” Minecraft by herself, the game allows her friends to drop into these worlds, too, and I’ve even spent some strange virtual afternoons as a floating block-self, guided by my angelic block-hammer-wielding block-daughter, zipping around a dreamscape that feels, really, less like life and maybe more like death, but in a sweet sort of way. If architecture somehow mirrors the spaces we carve in our memories and make in our minds, then something pretty interesting is going on here.


Given Ware’s affinity for architecture, invented worlds, and environment as psychology, I’d guess Minecraft is more in his wheelhouse than, say Resident Evil. Anyway if you read the whole piece you also get to see a lovely drawing of Clara playing Minecraft in a style much different than Ware’s usual one.

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36. Ella Doran

Isabelle Pink Wallpaper for web © Ella Doran

Ella_Doran_Isabelle_Pink_Wallpaper_Ella_Doran

ella_doran_cushions_mugs_trays_and_table_mats_at_maison_objet_2012_ella_doran

Bikes flat wrap side a for web © ella doran

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Ella Doran is an award winning designer and entrepreneur who fuses art and design for the interior, creating photography based images and patterns. She pioneered their application onto everyday objects when digital printing technologies where first developed. She has collaborated with The Tate, vital Arts and Surface View to name a few.

To see more from this designer visit her website and blog

Posted by Jess Holden

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37. Art Journaling – A Summer Holiday Writing Idea

Are you worried about how much learning loss in writing will greet you after the summer break? Has your idea bank of ideas to gone dry?

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38. Taiwan Trip Diary: Days 7 and 8


Okay, I'll cut right to the chase: Taiwan Trip Day 7 will forever go down in history as: 
DAY OF THE MONKEY 

Long story short: my poor roommate was attacked, MUGGED, by three of the little devils. (And they weren't all that little.) 

I have never been so stunned--or frightened-- in my whole life. Monkeys might look cute and innocent on the surface, but wow, can they get mean. I was thoroughly impressed at how my roommate stayed so cool, calm, and collected as she divested herself of the creatures, talking to them in a quietly authoritarian voice (even whilst getting a huge bite in the process!), but it was a terrifying moment. 

Personally I would have had a complete nervous breakdown. The worst part was that we were on a bridge stretching a deep ravine. One false step and . . . well, we won't go there. All I can say is, if you ever get the chance to see monkeys in the wild: run. (Needless to say I made the above sketch from an image on my camera at a later date. No way was I going to stick around for longer than it took to snap a photo or two.)

Before monkey madness, the day started out quite peacefully in this coastal village where we stopped for lunch and some sightseeing:


The restaurant we ate at was what they called "chef cook style." Instead of customers choosing meals from a menu, lunchtime clientele simply got what the chef made that day. And of course it was delicious!

But then it was back on the bus to monkey territory. If I seem a little obsessed, it's because a) I was really looking forward to seeing the monkeys, and b) then I was traumatized by their antics. I can't even look at monkeys on TV at the moment. However, for your enjoyment, here they are again:




Me, before witnessing "the attack."
Hurrying back into the bus to resume traveling (and making sure my roommate was okay (She was. No puncture wound, thanks to the thick weave of her shirt, but there was a large bruise.), we then carried on in a state of exhaustion to an organic tea plantation. 


Here we tasted (and purchased) a variety of fragrant teas, the most-prized and expensive being a type known as "honey oolong." This particular tea gets its sweetness from cicada secretions. Yes. (By now nothing could faze me.)


Next stop: a "Buddha's Head" fruit stand. Each of these interesting little fruits is an exact replica of the tight curls atop the head of the familiar representation of the Buddha. Or this is at least what we thought. There seemed to be some difficulty in translation because sometimes they were called "Buddha's Hands." But to me they look like Buddha's head. Whatever they are called, they are wonderful, kind of like apple and pear custard.


And then our hotel--a lovely family-style hot springs resort owned by a friend from Ming Franz's high school days. What a treat! The sulphuric water scent was strong, but, oh, so healthy. For me it was pure nostalgia reminding me of my teenage trips to the hot pools of Rotorua in New Zealand, always with that smell hanging in the air at every turn. Here at the resort we could get the spring water in our rooms too, so naturally I took advantage of a long soak before bed.

Resort koi pond. I fed them, too.

Day 8 continued our up-close-and-personal portion of the trip, getting to see a side of Taiwan most tourists rarely see. After leaving Ming's friend's hotel, we next went to visit her former high school where one of her classmates is now the principal. (They were a very dynamic group!)


These kids were the lucky ones. The rest of their classmates 
were busy cleaning and mopping the hallways.
Wish my school had been this pretty.

After a short tour of the school grounds, we then assembled in the library where Ming gave the school one of her books and we were all presented with official school tie pins and a morning snack.

And then we were off for lunch and adult beverages at the Tsingtao Beer Factory:

Dragons love beer too.

Where I discovered this poster:

And had to know who these bad boys were . . . 

Before I could find out though, we then had the very special opportunity to visit with some of Ming's family living in her grandfather's one-hundred-year-old house. Parts of the home are still maintained just as they were in the past, and it was a unique privilege to be invited inside. I was especially taken with the family pet:

It took me forever to realize this kitty
didn't speak English, and that  it was useless
to repeat, "Kitty, look up! Look at me, Kitty!"

Ming's family owns a nursery in the town, and they graciously next took us for a visit there. The plants were exquisite, nothing like the dry specimens we have here in Albuquerque.

All that lovely mist . . . 

Cooled and refreshed, we then took off for Kaohsiung, Taiwan's second largest city, an architectural mixture of London, Barcelona, New York, Paris . . . It's beautiful! Here we stayed on the 39th-floor of a luxury hotel atop a posh department store with late night shopping. Dinner in the building's restaurant continued the family theme as we met with our tour guide's mother, sister and her husband, and their two adorable little children.

And then my solitary adventure began . . .

Remember the guys in the poster? I had the bright idea that I would try to find some of their music in that downstairs department store. Except I didn't know the name of the band, or anything else about them except they like Tsingtao beer.

So under the universal heading of "heavy metal" I bought what I thought would be some good old Taiwanese rock'n'roll. Carrying my daintily-wrapped package, I went in search of tea-towels, thinking that would be a nice thing to bring home. Except I couldn't get anyone to understand what I wanted. I even demonstrated what I thought "towel" looked like if you were playing charades. All that happened was the sales clerk started imitating my extremely strange movements until we were both doing this weird dance in the aisles and I had to shake my head, say, "Sorry, but thank you so much," and run away. 

I ran so far I then got lost and couldn't find the exit to the hotel. To make matters worse, the loud speakers came on: "The store is closing in 1o minutes." In English, nonetheless. For which I am eternally grateful. Otherwise I would have had to have slept somewhere between women's fashion and men's shoes. I think I got out of there with 30 seconds to spare. Whew.


Grateful to be back in our room with a view.
More exciting than New York!
Good night, Kitty!

Highlight of the Day: Say it isn't so. Discovering that the CD I had bought was this:

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39. The Friday Countdown: The Week’s Best Panels & Pages from Comics Released on 6/10/15

Every Friday, Alex counts down the top five panels & sequences in comics released this week.  

This week was fantastic, featuring some really outlandish scenes, comedic throwbacks to classic Batman, and a moment that made me laugh, gasp, and shout in awe.  I might have peed myself a little with glee.

Spoilers follow, obviously.


5) Spider-Gwen #5

Spidey senses take on hyper-aware-blind-man-senses and produce a colorful spectrum of bloody awesome

Spider-Gwen

4) Batman #41

Series artist Greg Capullo and writer Scott Snyder are two of the most outspoken critics of the half-page Twix ads running throughout DC books this month:


batman

They’re very proud of themselves.

gregscott

3) Chrononauts #4

drool…chrononauts

chrononautsgif

2) All Star Section Eight #1

AH, I WONDERED WHICH WOULD BREAK FIRST!

sectioneight01 sectioneight02

1) Saga #29

When I saw this on the bottom right of a page, I knew I was going to have an aneurysm…

saga2901

and I totally did.

saga29Comics, right?  


What are you favorite moments this week?  Comment below or tweet @waxenwings

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40. Huckisms

The younger kids and I have started spending the hour after dinner having family art time at the kitchen table. They mostly paint while I practice sketching, or Huck grabs markers and continues his mission to saturate every page of his beloved Angry Birds coloring book. I’ve taken to jotting down the funny things they say in my sketchbook alongside my (mostly very bad) drawings of them at work. A few choice Huck remarks from last night:

“When I was one—I mean zero—I swallowed paint. It tasted really good, like marshmallows.”

***

Rilla: “I know three people named Kelly.”

Huck: “I know Kelley Jones*. He likes jelly.”

*They’ve never actually met, but he’s seen Kelley’s name when he calls Scott to talk about the project they’re working on. I’m unclear on whether he does, in fact, like jelly.

***

“I bet all the kids with this coloring book are doing this with their moms right now, too.”

(Yes, I melted.)

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41. Dip Pens

dip pen

About once a week I bring my fountain pens to the kitchen tape for refilling. My reason for making this rather quick, benign chore a public affair is to take advantage of the great parenting truism: If you do it, they will copy. Huck isn’t the kind of kid who would be too keen on formal handwriting practice (does that kind of kid even exist?), but if I get busy with some nifty writing utensil, he’s at my side in a flash, begging for a turn.

Fountain pens are awesome enough, but dip pens? There’s nothing better. A bottle of ink, a nib with just the right amount of skritch…there’s a happy kid. I didn’t suggest the alphabet practice; he filled up the page as he chose.

That’s my beloved metal brush pen he’s holding, the $1.49 treasure acquired during my surprise trip to the art supply store on Mother’s Day. (The plastic Speedball pen holder was another buck fifty. We live large.)

(That’s an Amazon link to show you what it looks like, but as you can see, you’re much better off buying local for this one. That’s some markup, eh?)

I tumbled to the metal brush pen (aka my new best friend) in Jonathan Twingley’s rather amazing class at Sketchbook Skool. It was swoon at first site. You get a broad line from the flat nib, or you can turn it on its side for a fine line. It’s on the messy side—likes to spatter ink if you change direction midstroke—but for me that’s part of the appeal. I use it when I’m in the mood for rough, bold lines and a bit of ink spray. Jonathan Twingley likes to fill pages and pages with large drawings and then cut out selected images and collage them together into a new piece of art—really quite magical to behold him at work.

And this post offers a quite detailed look at what a steel brush nib can do.

We also have a pair of glass dip pens that my parents gave me years ago with more typical pointed nibs. You can see Huck’s page of orange squiggles on the table. I know somewhere in my archives I’ve talked about the magical powers of colored chalk and a little slate, or a whiteboard and dry erase markers, for transforming otherwise dull writing into fun. Dip pens are the same principle times a hundred.

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42. Illustration Submission :: Alice Pattullo

By Chloe

book7_1000

 

 

CL2_1000

 

pride_1000_1000

 

breakfast_1000

Alice Pattullo is an illustrator based in East London. Her work is inspired by British folklore, traditions and superstition. This has created a distinctive vintage style within her work with a handmade quality. It is full of character and texture. Her work depicts a variety of subject matter from food to whimsical scenes of people and animals.

To view more of Pattullo’s charming illustrations, please visit her portfolio.

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43. The latest 'bear update'

And of course everyone is waiting for the latest 'bear update' - well here it is. As you can see if you scroll down through a little, the figure began in a swirl of vague forms driven by the gesture.  But now it's coming right along... taking care not to lose the spontaneity of the rough sketch.

My secret sauce will add some rough splashy color to increase the spontaneity. 

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44. David Beronä, In Memory


It is with tremendous sadness that I share news I received this morning from my friend David Beronä's family: David passed away peacefully at home last night. He'd been fighting a brain tumor for about a year and a half, and so while the news is not quite a surprise, it is a blow.

I interviewed David for Colleen Lindsay's blog The Swivet in 2009, where we talked about his Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels, which had recently been published by Abrams. I knew very little about graphic narratives before meeting David, and he gave me an extraordinary education over the years, as his knowledge was vast and his passion was thrilling.

Eric Schaller and I had the honor of publishing what David told us was the last piece of writing that he completed before getting sick, the essay "Franz Masereel's Picture Books Against War", which appeared in last year's issue of our magazine The Revelator. David, Eric, and I did a bunch of work together, beginning with the Illustrating VanderMeer exhibit at Plymouth State University, where, until he got sick, David was Dean of Library and Academic Support Services.

The last time I saw David was at a retirement reception for him where the University dedicated a gallery wall of the library in his name. It was a bittersweet moment — so nice to see David being celebrated, so sad to have to say goodbye. Soon, he and his wife moved to Ohio to be closer to David's family. I didn't do a good job of keeping in touch, though I've thought of David frequently since he moved (which is no excuse for not being a better friend, but is the truth).

This past term, my last term of classes as a PhD student, I took a marvelous seminar on graphic narratives, and so David was constantly on my mind, and again and again I found myself returning to things he'd taught me, writers and artists whose work he'd introduced me to, ideas he had shared. I presented at the Dartmouth Illustration, Comics, and Animation Conference, a conference David always attended when he could. That I had any confidence at all presenting in front of a bunch of comics scholars and enthusiasts was very much because I'd been able to talk about so much with David over the years. It would have been fun to have been there with him.

In the short notes he was able to send out to friends after beginning treatment, written against the aphasia the tumor imposed, David exhorted us to cherish our health, and especially our brains. (His life had changed completely over the course of a single weekend.) He spoke of the anger he felt at first when he realized how much he'd lost, and then the peace he found in accepting the vagaries of life, the good and bad, the love of friends and family, the little things and the everyday moments — the things that, in the end, linger longest. (The irony was, I'm sure, not lost on him that he was a man who'd written much about wordless books, and then had lost his words.) He returned to painting, and he was glad to find a good comics shop in the town he moved to in Ohio. He went for long walks in the woods. He spent his last year with family, and he knew that he had friends around the country and, indeed, around the world who were thinking of him.

He lives on in the knowledge he shared with us and the joy that he inspired. My life has been tremendously enriched by all he taught me, but, more than any of that, what I will carry as a memory of him forever is the memory of his smile. He never lost some of the wonder of childhood, and you could see it in his smile.

It's hard to smile today, but for David, I will try.

Lynd Ward, from God's Man

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45. Taiwan Trip Diary, Days 5 and 6

Into the mountains!

I've been sick--flu, cold, allergies, whatever you want to call it, but instead of blogging I've been stuck in bed reading (and finishing) Paul Scott's The Raj Quartet for the last couple of  weeks. My particular copy of The Quartet contained all four volumes in one door-stopper of a monstrosity, and my shoulders and wrists are suffering the consequences, LOL! Anyway, I'm much better now, have moved on to some lighter reading, and am ready to continue sharing my Taiwan trip, Days 5 and 6.

So . . . by Day 5 I had devised a sketching routine for my bus rides. I decided to divide some of my sketchbook pages into grids of six and then whenever we stopped at the traffic lights, or just slowed down, I would draw as quickly as possible in one or more of the squares. Some of the drawings are a bit esoteric, for instance:



At other times, however, the scenery was so consistent I was able to use a full page and go for some color, such as when we were following the coast:


They're funny little drawings, I know, but they mean a lot to me--and I now have some good references for larger work later this summer.


Other than drawing, the main focus for Day 5 was the National Center for Traditional Arts, and perhaps one of my favorite places on the tour. The idea behind the winding streets and specialty shops is to give visitors a sense of "old world" Taiwan while demonstrating how the various items for sale from puppets to paintbrushes are made. I found it utterly charming and ended up buying incense (complete with history lesson and a chance to sniff a wide variety of sandalwood shavings); preserved kumquats; dried "squid" cheese (a stringy cheese snack guaranteed to have not harmed any squids); and my most extravagant purchase to date: handmade lampwork glass beads for yet more jewelry-making. (I’m going to have to open my own shop at this rate.)

At lunch, served in a building that had once been an old kiln, one of our group members asked an interesting question: What have you learned about yourself so far? At first I seemed to have so many answers I couldn’t concentrate on just one, so I think I said something inane, like, “A lot!” But later that afternoon I wanted to examine the question in more depth. Here’s my reply straight and unedited from my journal: 

“I’ve learned that I don’t need to go on my dream-vacation to Japan. This trip is enough and even better. For years I thought I was “Japanese” in spirit. Now, after this trip, that no longer rings true. I have learned that I am more complex: for instance, in the Palace Museum I read that everything in Chinese culture and life holds meaning and symbolism. And it all has to add up and create the ultimate state of harmony. I have learned that I want that too. And that I want to use my five senses in my art and writing much, much more than I have in the past. I guess I've learned I am hungry for life. I want to keep learning."

Time Travel!

After lunch my quest for more "art and life" came to vivid life when I got caught up in a street theater performance—letting me believe I had been transported to another world and  century.

Then it was back on the bus for our next destination: our hotel and such a steep drive into the mountains we had to be calmed (i.e., distracted) by watching a spectacular movie on Taiwan's geographical wonders. Refreshments for the ride were what our guide referred to as “donkey tongue cookies.” Although I think something may have been lost in translation, they were very good, about ten inches of pastry filled with cinnamon, and I suppose they do look like donkey tongues (not that I'm any kind of expert on the subject).

And then . . . we arrived at our hotel, a wonderland of a resort owned and managed by the local Aborigines. I had NO idea we would be staying here (or anywhere like it, for that matter):

Magical morning.

My "10-minute" version of our cabin.

The dining room--great for early morning
journaling and sketching.
 

Using our hotel as "base camp,"  Day 6 took us hiking into the marbled cliffs of the Taroko Gorge:




Helmets were compulsory in this section--not, in my opinion, to protect us from the falling rocks, but because of the narrow walkway along the highway where buses, cars, and scooters whizzed, I mean whizzed by. Add to that my general fatigue from reaching the halfway point of our journey, and it's a miracle I didn't fall over the edge or in front of a speeding Porsche.


Taroko Gorge also provided my first monkey sighting in the village where we had lunch, followed by cold beers in a scenic garden setting while waiting for a few of our more-adventurous explorers to return. 


Beer finished, it was onto the bus and off to  a marble factory where we were able to take a peek into the high-security jade jewelry vaults. These star-fire gems (there is no other way to describe them) were unlike any pieces of jade I'd ever seen before--highly lustrous in shades of green, blue, and lilac, quite expensive, and guarded by uniformed girls straight out of a James Bond film. And, boy, did they keep their eyes out for sticky fingers. Once we'd had our look-see the cases closed with a bang, bang, bang and we were quickly ushered into the next room. Very quickly.

Marble chunks perfect for home or garden!

Back on the bus we had a lovely surprise waiting for us: our bus driver had bought us all porcelain pendant necklaces while we were admiring the jade. Mine was a miniature Blue Willow plate on a deep blue cord which I wore for the remainder of the trip. (It's currently on display in my writing room as part of my "Taiwan Memories" grouping.)

Necklaces in place, we then set out for another Aborigine village, this time with a lively dance show followed by a "hot pot" cook-your-own-dinner restaurant. As was often the case, I was given my own special vegetarian items to cook, starting with this amazing lotus flower:

 
A small lotus bud placed in  boiling soup water turned into . . . a 
genuine Kodak moment.
(And yes, I drew it in my sketchbook too.)

Highlight of the Day: Our Luxurious Leader Hotel. We were lucky enough to stay two nights in this beautiful setting and I don't think I'll ever forget a single moment. 

P.S. The dialogue in the video is in Chinese, but I thought that would provide an accurate example of what it was like to be there, rarely able to understand a single word anyone said! One difference between the video and our own stay is that the the grounds are shown to be more crowded than they were for us, but otherwise it's exactly the same. I even recognize some of the staff and  performers. So please turn on the sound, sit back, and enjoy.


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46. Joslyn Art Museum Hosts Allen Say Art Show

Joslyn Museum 200 (GalleyCat)How did acclaimed illustrator Allen Say forge his career path? The National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature has organized the “Journey of Memory: Allen Say” exhibit.

This art show shines the spotlight on 80 pen and ink and watercolor illustrations. These pieces were originally published in 22 books.

The Joslyn Art Museum will play host to this program. A closing date has been scheduled for August 9th.

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47. Every Face

branches in blue

I’m midway through a long rhapsody about pens but I’ve scrapped it for today because of this excellent post by Danny Gregory. Danny, as you probably know, is an artist and writer whose books include Art Before Breakfast (a treasure) and the empowering, inspiring The Creative License. He is also a cofounder of Sketchbook Skool and teaches week-long lessons in most of the SBS courses. (He also interviewed me about keeping kids creative for SBS’s “Q and Art” video series.)

In today’s post, Danny writes candidly about a struggle that is not unfamiliar to many of us who make art for a living.

Inevitably, Sketchbook Skool was morphing from a pure passion project into a demanding business. We had to bring on a raft of advisors to cope with the ever-shifting matrix of requirements for operating a global online business. It became clear that if we didn’t want to raise prices, we had to increase sales — so we added a bunch of marketing consultants. In order to grow, we had to address the emerging limitations of our existing platform which just couldn’t handle so many students so next we brought in a team of developers.   I was working for a company again. How the hell did that happen?

It’s funny—just last night I said to Scott: The thing about drawing is, I will never be good enough at it to do it for money. It will never be my job. That’s what’s so great about it. I think I would go mad without a creative outlet that is utterly unrelated to income—all the strings and catches that income involves.

I love writing so much, and I can’t not write, but it’s my job. And I’m lucky to have it, I wouldn’t change it, but there is no denying it altogether alters the experience of writing. I love making books, I love telling stories. Oh, how I love having written. But writing is what pays my bills. Writing for a living brings many layers to the experience of making up stories and writing them down. Deadlines, of course, but also—the whole business/marketing side of the job.

Nowadays more than ever. You have to promote your work, you have to get the word out. Everyone hates doing it. Every writer I know hates that part of the job. It’s embarrassing. It feels needy. But if you don’t do it, you watch books you spent years laboring over quietly disappear. (Years back, when I broke the news here that my Charlotte and Martha books were going out of print, dozens of readers left dismayed comments vowing to run out and buy them right away, while they still could. And I thought: Oh! If you guys hadn’t already bought them, then no wonder.)

I’ve made my peace with the business side of the business by drawing some firm boundaries. I accept and expect that certain administrative and promotional duties go along with publishing books—thus it is, and thus has it ever been. I allowed my career to slow down in order to write only books I’m burning to write, which has meant turning down projects and opportunities now and then. I accept very few speaking engagements that involve travel, because it’s important to me to spend most of my time at home with my family. That, too, is a decision that doesn’t always work to my books’ advantage. I’m okay with that. You have to find your balance.

Of course that means taking on other work in order to pay the bills—I do a lot of freelance work behind the scenes to support my fiction. Again, almost every working writer I know does. They teach, or they have a day job, or they spend a lot of time on the road doing school visits and conferences. For the past six months, I’ve been writing grants (and learning. so. much!—which you know charges my batteries) as well as editing for Damn Interesting and doing website maintenance for a local yoga studio. Oh, and teaching my writing class! Lots of busy, feeding the art.

One of the boundaries I drew eight or nine years ago had to do with blogging. I had the opportunity to take this blog in a direction that would have brought in decent money (for a while, at least; the days of monetized blogs do seem to be waning), but I passed on it. Didn’t feel right; I didn’t like the idea of turning my family life into a business. I know some folks have built beautiful blogs doing exactly that, but the idea has never sat right with me. Even my short stint as a ClubMom Blogger left me feeling uneasy—I was getting paid to blog about a topic (homeschooling) that inevitably crossed over into family stories. I love sharing about our learning experiences here—it’s one of the main reasons I still blog, the joy of sharing the adventure—but I didn’t like the blurring of the boundary I was trying to protect. I was glad to let that gig go, although of course I missed the paycheck. (Boy, don’t we all. They don’t make paychecks like that anymore. Nowadays, people want you to do it for ‘exposure’. Calls to mind the cartoon about the artist who died of exposure—couldn’t pay the rent, you know.)

***

prince

Danny addresses a blogging conundrum in his post, too:

I’ve also been thinking about why I stopped blogging. Busyness isn’t the whole reason. I have written even at the busiest times over the years. I think the issue has been honesty, honestly.

I’ve always tried to be painfully straightforward when I write here. Similarly in my books and when I teach classes. I try to be myself, warts, carbuncles and all. As a writer, an artist and person, I can be flawed and vulnerable. This works less well as an entrepreneur. As person taking credit card payments, I need to project an unimpeachable face.

It’s interesting to hear his take on that. He’s in a different position as the face of Sketchbook Skool, and I think he’s right. If you’re going plunk down your money to take a class, you want to feel confident about the platform and the teacher. I can imagine that he has felt the need to project a positive image in order to reflect positively on the business. I so appreciate his honesty in this post (do read the whole thing, not just these excerpts).

It’s not a face I’m unfamiliar with. I wore it for years, in board meetings, client presentations, job interviews and staff briefings. The authority. The decider. 100% sure. But it’s just not me. And it’s just not my voice, especially not the one I use here, among friends. But increasingly, as the face of Sketchbook Skool, when I came to write here on my blog, I felt I had to be the shill, the Mad Man of Mad Ave, always upbeat, bringing the most awesome! things.

I used to have a thing in my sidebar about how this blog deliberately focused on the positive, the funny, the happy experiences in our family adventure. “The truth, and nothing but the truth—but not the whole truth,” I wrote (and yes, Prairie Thief readers will hear how that idea echoed its way into the novel, whose working title was in fact Not the Whole Truth), “because some parts of the truth are private.” That’s why, I explained, you hear a lot about all the fun we have together—every word of it true—but nothing about, say, tantrums or bad habits. Because ick, how awful must it be to have your mother writing about your worst moments on the internet? In another post, I discussed how I feel free to write about my own flaws and failings (and I do; you know all about my wretched closets and my chai tortilla soup), but I won’t discuss anyone else’s. Okay, maybe the grumpy anti-pinecone guy at the post office that one time. But you know I kind of loved him, too, for the way his grousing brought the rest of us together.

But Danny is talking about something a little different, not about the question of where to draw boundaries in blogging in order to protect other people’s privacy. He’s talking about feeling inhibited about expressing his personal state of mind, his candid take on things, while at the same time representing a business. And there is so much fodder for discussion in that quandary. I’ve thought a lot, these past few years, about the blurring of the boundaries between our public and private worlds. Facebook makes total hash of that boundary, for starters. Sometimes I’m mortified at the awkwardness that arises when one’s professional contacts and one’s most familiar friends co-mingle. Here on the blog, I’ve wondered, from time to time, whether my enthusiastic homeschooling posts might seem offputting to teachers and school parents, and might make them feel like my books aren’t good fits for their kids. I certainly hope not. There are other topics I keep a polite lid on because I find it too great a drain of time and energy to field vituperative comments. I used to get all het up, SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET, and dive into the fray, I’ve mellowed. (“Someone is wrong on the internet—possibly me” is the phrase you come to in your forties.)

And yet I admire it so much when people are fearlessly frank. Sometimes when I’m reading a book that annoys me, I’ll think: imagine if I blogged about things I didn’t like? It’s so much easier to be articulate when critiquing a book’s flaws than to praise it. The only way to praise without sounding saccharine or surface (“It was awesome! I loved it! Two thumbs up!) is to take the time to write thoughtful analysis of what’s working, what’s wonderful. Which takes longer…and can begin to feel perilously like work. Work, I have enough of. And yet I LOVE analysis—reading it and writing it. Some of my best writing on this blog is literary analysis. It just takes time.

Besides, the writer in me—tremblingly placing stories before the public—has too much sympathy for the writers of books I don’t like. They’ve got enough woes to contend with; they don’t need me to point out everything that’s wrong with their last year’s (or years’) labor. And anyway, their book is probably outselling mine. 😉 I always maintain that I’m not a reviewer; I’m a recommender. I want to spend my few snatched moments of blogging time writing about things I love.

***

dowager

And yet, there’s a part of me that would love to tackle fraught topics with gusto. If you know me in person, you know I’m like that; I love discourse; I get fired up; I like to scrutinize ideas and assumptions. My poor husband knows that best of all. I can be pretty snarky in person, too, but I deliberately avoid snark in public writing because I think it shuts down discourse. It’s so easy to crack out a witty one-liner—but it isn’t always respectful. To the topic, or the other voices in the conversation.

As with so much else, the key is balance…being candid without being cruel or glib, being frank without breaching privacy. And when it comes to personal doubts or worries or slumps (to get back to Danny’s topic, from which I’ve meandered far), I wonder if we are all learning how to recalibrate our expectations of writers and artists and actors and others whose work has a public aspect. The internet has decreased our degrees of separation. People want contact with artists they admire. The trouble is, then they want to like them. And let’s face it, we’re not all going to like each other. I’ve felt it myself, now and then—that pang of disappointment when someone whose work you admire has said something truly disheartening on Twitter. Can you keep the work separate? Do your feelings about the book change because you now suspect the writer is kind of a jerk?

I’m a wizard at compartmentalizing, but even so I sometimes have trouble separating the biography from the novel. There’s a thing or two I wish I could un-know. But there are so many books in the world; I don’t need to feel the same degree of rosy about them all as I did when I first read them. As for everyone else—the non-jerks; the anxious, the fumbling, the angry, the laying-it-bare—here again I come back to what I have learned from sketching, from my clumsy and dogged and rewarding attempts to make drawing a daily habit these past eight months (a journey inextricably and profoundly informed by Danny Gregory and Koosje Koene and their Sketchbook Skool adventure)—that line that jumped out at me way back in college when I first read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. (And why didn’t I listen to Betty and start drawing daily back then?) I’ve written about it here before in other contexts. One of Betty’s students, after spending some time drawing portraits, remarks that now every face she looks at seems beautiful to her.

I think about that all the time. It’s true about drawing; you do start to appreciate all the uniquenesses (advertising would have us believe they are flaws), the bumps, the lines, the crooked features. “Warts, carbuncles, and all” is how Danny put it, speaking of how he used to blog. And oddly, these ten years of immersion in blogs and social media have reinforced the lesson. That devastatingly handsome actor who smolders on my screen is actually kind of a nerd, and it’s endearing. That brilliant writer whose prose leaves me breathless…has a bad back, is inordinately proud of her ill-mannered dog, and her roof needs replacing. She’s a person now, not a name on a spine. And she seems beautiful to me.

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48. Notebookery

On my mind constantly of late: notebooks, sketchbooks, art journals, and combinations thereof. Conversations are swirling in several of my circles—

• at Sketchbook Skool there is always lots of chatter about what people prefer to draw on and with;

• over at Wisteria & Sunshine, Lesley has been revisiting the topic of daybooks (especially handmade ones);

Kortney is posting wonderfully enticing things about right-brain planning;

• Amy Ludwig Vanderwater is hosting a summer “Sharing Our Notebooks” project that I plan to participate in, soon as I get a chance…

Once a week I meet a small group of teenaged girls (one of them my Beanie) at a coffee shop to discuss literature while their younger siblings take piano lessons in the studio upstairs. This is hands-down one of the best hours of my week: meaty stories; lively analysis; word-collection; chitchat. A couple of weeks ago we ran off on a tangent of comparing one another’s notebooks. The conversation coincided with a similar thread at Wisteria & Sunshine, so I was primed. I’ve been using graph-style spiral-bound steno pads for the past year or so, with a modified bullet-journal method. (Chiefly the use of an index page at the front of each notebook—that was a game-changer for me.) But I was hankering after something less utilitarian-looking, and one of my lit girls had a new kraft-brown Moleskine that set me swooning. Back at home, I looked it up and it was exactly what I wanted. Slim paperback in the size I favor (Moleskine calls it “large” but it’s only 5×8), and—this was crucial—they offer a “squared” (graph-style) version.

I’ve used Moleskines before but mostly the Volant model with the bright solid-colored covers. So pretty on my shelf but you can’t really fold them back on themselves, and I don’t like writing on a double-page spread. That’s why I’ve mostly sighed and made do with spirals. But Moleskine’s Cahier model with a heavy paper cover is flexible enough for me to fold back. And I love the pocket in the back, such a nice touch.

Kraft paper is one of my favorite surfaces for decorating, so of course the cover cried out for some decoration. I started on the back in case I messed up. Still haven’t decided what I want to do on the front.

notebooks

gridded steno notebook, kraft brown Moleskine Cahier journal, Canson Mixed Media Sketchbook

I love a skinny notebook not only because it fits easily in my bag, but because it fills up faster. I am mad for the fresh start. I had a few pages left in my May steno book but I craved a clean slate for June, so I’ve been using up the steno pages with hand-lettering practice.

I use my daily notebook for list-making, idea-sorting, story-outlining, note-taking…basically anything that involves words. Words + doodles, really: my “work” pages are always margined with crosshatching and basketweave and spirals and mushrooms…whatever. I used to try to keep things compartmentalized: one notebook for current book-in-progress; one for medical & insurance notes (I always seem to have volumes of these); one for quotes/commonplace book entries; one for to-do lists…but they always wound up melded together, and then I’d have three or four mishmash notebooks going at once, which was ridiculous. So I gave up and embraced my brain’s clear need to dump itself onto a page, melting-pot style, and now I let all those channels of thought intermingle. (Messily, much like the mingling of metaphors in that sentence.)

april page

And these days my word-notebooks are overrun with drawings, too. I have a separate sketchbook—two, actually; a smaller (5×8) hardcover Moleskine that fits in my bag, and a larger (7×10) Canson mixed-media sketchbook that is my place to experiment with drawing techniques and paint. That’s where I do my Sketchbook Skool assignments—it’s my it’s okay to screw up place. Consequently, it sees way more action than the Moleskine sketchbook, which I pretty much only use when I’m 1) away from home and 2) feeling unobtrusive enough to draw in public. I don’t mind kids looking over my shoulder but I’m way too shy about my work to want adults eyeballing it in progress.

Interestingly, the Canson Mixed Media Sketchbook is the one that got a thumbs-down from Roz Stendahl (THE source of in-the-field info on all things art supply), and when I read her review I had a major light-bulb moment: Ohhhh, so you mean the paper isn’t supposed to buckle when I paint? This Canson (I’m in my second one now) is the only sketchbook I’ve ever painted in, so I thought that’s just how it went, unless you bought one with watercolor paper. Roz’s report clued me in to the possibility that the book I picked (entirely because it was on sale at Michael’s) may not perform as satisfactorily as other brands. I’m nearing the end of this one (you guys!!! I’ve filled two whole sketchbooks with drawings!!) and may take Roz’s recommendation and try a Strathmore Journal Series’ Mixed Media book next time. Does Michael’s sell them, I wonder? Got another coupon burning a hole…

sundaypage

bad phone photo; can’t be bothered to scan

Okay, so I was saying that in theory I have the sketchbook(s) for, well, sketching, and the notebook for all the word things, but the truth is that ever since I started working on my drawing skills last fall, I’ve got rough sketches running wild all over my word-notebooks. Again, this is something I’ve just decided to be at peace with. So much of my work involves a rigorous process of polishing and structure, and I think perhaps my mind really needs a place to be messy and unfiltered, a place to set itself down in raw form. It’s like a test kitchen for my thoughts, I guess. This is where the index is so invaluable: it allows me to quickly locate the notes from that Very Important Phone Call without having to hunt through pages of nonsense. I try to update the index at least once a week—just a mild leaf-through to note down the page numbers on which I have recorded important information. I number the pages of my notebooks in the bottom right corner, about ten pages at a time. I like to write my to-do lists on a Post-It that can travel from page to page. As each task is crossed off, I jot it down in the notebook for a record of what I’ve done.

Since the ugly steno books all look the same on the shelf, I would run a highlighter down the sides of the pages, a different color for each new book. But so far the kraft Moleskine is serving beautifully, and I doubt I’ll go back to the steno grids. I might use a bit of Washi tape on the spine to differentiate the Moleskines on the shelf, once they’re filled.

***

Back to my coffee-shop girls. We had so much fun that day, comparing notebook preferences, that we decided to all bring our sketchbooks the following week. Which was truly delightful—what a treasure, this look at the outpouring of creativity from these girls. Beautiful design work (I mean really breathtaking, some of it), whimsical drawings (much more skilled than mine), and illustrated quotes, and just so much wonder, so much evidence of curious minds sifting the world. I felt really honored to have this work shared with me. We are nearing the end of the topics we charted for our class, but the girls begged me to keep going through the summer. So we’re thinking of spending a few weeks on sketching and notebooking. I have all sorts of ideas for things we can do together—heavily Lynda Barry-influenced, naturally, because who better to guide you through an exploration of all the things a sheet of paper can become?

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49. crazy week. multiple projects....

and, i've been under the weather (hence my lack of blogging). with that being said, let's play catch up, shall we? ;)

ok...first things first. with some commissions going on, there is still beautiful little lily who i have been working on for what seems like forever (no complaints though because i have fallen in love with her) and i am happy to say...she is just about DONE! another day or two and she'll be ready to be scanned and ready to SELL! :) here'a peek at the lovely flowers that gave her her name....

©the enchanted easel 2015
next up, we have some thumbnails of a couple of commissions i am currently in the process of taking on. one being a very personal and sweet portrait of an adopted mom and her daughter (and ex student of mine, actually) and her birth mother. looking forward to this one as it is chinese and we all know how much i LOVE asian art...from kokeshis to the anime influence. love it all.
©the enchanted easel 2015
commission number 2? baby jungle animals. right. up. my. alley. cute? baby? animals? yeah, i got this ...especially when it involves and ELEPHANT...my other favorite thing! :)
©the enchanted easel 2015
{and the thumbnail below? just some doodling because i am the eternal snow bunny and in my world, well it snows everyday and it's always pink! ;)}
©the enchanted easel 2015
so, now that we are all caught up, i'm going back to my easel with the help of some kleenex and the cough drops i have been sucking on like candy all week. :(



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50. Powell’s Q&A: Chip Kidd

Describe your latest book. Judge This is a book that evolved out of discussions with the TED Books team, chiefly my editor Michelle Quint. It is a meditation on first impressions in design and life, and when design should be clear and when it should be mysterious. And then what can happen when the two [...]

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