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26. 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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27. 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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28. 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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29. 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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30. 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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31. 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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32. time to go shopping....


holiday weekends are perfect for shopping...and sales! :)


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33. illustration friday~pet

slow and steady
11x14 acrylic on canvas
©the enchanted easel 2014
an adorable little sea turtle...the perfect pet for a beautiful pink haired mermaid.

{this piece, a commission for last year and one of my favorites to date. it's the pink hair...;)}

PRINTS (AND OTHER GOODIES) FOUND THROUGH THE SHOP LINKS HERE.

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34. mirror mirror on the wall....

©the enchanted easel 2015
so, i'm a little excited for these. ok, maybe a little *too* excited. but those who know me know i LOVE me a good mirror...especially when it's pocket sized and has a pretty picture (or in this case, a painting) on it! :)

ordered a few of these and will be posting them FOR SALE as soon as they arrive!

{so, the pink haired mermaid....kinda love her. such a girl...;)}

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35. Learning Patterns and Colors with Books

Learning patterns and colors with three kids books about color and patterns.

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36. i "heart" gingers....

©the enchanted easel 2015
and this little beauty, in progress.

red heads/gingers...always my favorite. ever since i was a little girl, i have always been fascinated with red hair, strawberry blonde, gingers, etc, etc, etc....

this beauty, named lily, with her macaroni and cheese colored tresses (i know, it's late and i shouldn't be thinking about mac and cheese...;)) and her beryl green colored eyes well, i "heart" her...already. :)

{fingers crossed she comes out great in the end!}

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37. SDCC and San Diego Public Library announce the Art of Comic-Con exhibit

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While the San Diego Convention Center expansion looks to be dead in the water, Comic-Con International isn’t stopping on its moves to expand the footprint of the convention by expanding to other venues. Last year a couple of SDCC events were held at the San Diego Public Library, and this year the library will host an art show called The Art of Comic-Con that will showcase original art by more than 60 artists from the CCI archives including work by Sergio Aragonés, Howard Chaykin, Cliff Chiang, Michael Cho, Colleen Coover, Rick Geary, Gilbert Hernandez, Jim Lee, Dave McKean, Frank Miller, Marshall Rogers, John Romita Jr., Bill Sienkiewicz, William Stout, Babs Tarr, and others. The art was created for souvenir and program books for Comic-Con, WonderCon, and APE.

The show opens on Saturday, June 20, 2015 witha public reception from 12 to 2 pm and runs through August 30th 2015, so plenty of time to go see it during the con. It was jointly organized by Kara West, the Library’s Arts and Culture Exhibition Manager and Gary Sassaman, Comic-Con International’s Director of Print and Digital Media. The show will be held at the Art Gallery on the 9th Floor of the San Diego Central Library @ Joan Λ Irwin Jacobs Common.

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38. RIP: Glen Orbik

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Artist and teacher Glen Orbik passed away yesterday after a battle with cancer,. He was either 51 or 52 (Wikipedia says he was born in 1963.) Orbik was well known for his modern-day pulp-styled covers, and some striking work on several Marvel, DC and Vertigo titles, including the original run of Howard Chaykin’s American Century.

Orbik was well regarded as a teacher at the California Art Institute, where he himself went to school, studying under Fred Fixler. I have a big soft spot for pulp art and I was always a fan. Orbik’s covers were throwbacks to a less subtle era, but added elegance. You can find much more of his work at his website.

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39. Art is about to happen.

Here are some children. Here is a basket of colourful pencils.
Art is about to happen.

The children know exactly what to do with this big basket of colourful pencils: dig with both hands. Dig right to the bottom.
The rattle of pencils is the ritual that has to come before the concentrated frowning and the murmured incantations: This is a lion. This is a lion. This is a lion. This is a tree. This is a tree. This is a tree.

Have you ever used one of those pencils?
Did you think: it's a wonder what a child's imagination can do, I can't draw a THING with this?
No one can. We all tried. Some of us thought it was our fault and stopped trying.

Those are fake pencils.

The reason these children are digging through them with so much energy is because they are looking for one that works. They know to go for the shortest nubbins at the bottom of the box. Ignore the long ones, no one else got anything out of them.

They are foraging, with great determination.
Imagine what that determination could do.

When a child makes art, it's not a case of playing pretend. It's not like playing brain surgery with a spoon and a pudding. It's not like feeding a plastic doll. They are not playing artist. THEY ARE ACTUALLY MAKING ART.

They use what they are given. They scratch faint lines, they rub puddles of chalky water across dissolving printer paper with splayed brushes. They powder fat snakes of glue with scales of confetti and glitter.

What would happen if someone gave you a bowl of confetti and some glue and told you to make art?
You might refuse. (I would.)
Children are generally good-natured enough to at least give it a try. But even the most loving guardian and the children themselves may look at the result and find it hard to see if, in fact, somehow, art has happened.
You stick it on the fridge, and you can tell what it is and everything... but is it art?
Well, it’s creative.
“Creative” often means “Wow, I’m glad I didn’t make that”.
Would you ever wish you’d made something that a child made?
Yeah... this is definitely very creative.
Maybe one day, if those children keep being creative and try very hard, some of them might even become artists...

But - who cares if they may be artists one day? What's the point in telling them they may be artists one day if they work hard? What's that got to do with anything? Is this whole confetti business some sort of test? Are we trying to trick them into law school or something?
It simply doesn't matter what they will be one day.
Art is not just for artists. It's for humans. It's not a privilege. It’s a way to think with your hands (or your feet or your voice or your whole body, depending on the art, but we started with children and a basket of colour pencils, so pictures are trying to happen right now).
Art lets you have a good look at your thoughts, and show them to the world if you want.

You don't need a license to make marks. You just need something that makes marks.

The joy of making pictures is more than an act of imagination. It's physical. Your gestures made visible and permanent, the marks you make, belong to you alone, like your own body. They come before communication, before expression: they are the basis of all those things.

Give them things that leave marks. Try them out yourself. Are they enjoyable to use? Can you get a range of different marks out of them? Are they the marks you expected? Do they surprise you?

In short, do you feel like you are making something - or do you just feel like you are using something up?
Keep trying out materials. You'll know them when you find them.

You don't need to buy whole sets of expensive tubes of paint - or sets of anything, or anything expensive. You don’t need many different colours. Every good piece of art material unlocks endless possibilities. By good I mean anything that readily creates or receives a mark, which may include beetroot juice or a particularly well-charred stick, and the lovely white rounded cards that are used to package tights. Do professional artists paint with their breakfast tea sometimes? Of course they do, if it's nice and strong!

Some good art materials command respect: you must wear clothes that you don't mind staining, and you must handle them carefully. A bottle of red ink could spoil a whole carpet.
You may be surprised how much respect children can show for a powerful substance like that. Being careful for a good reason is fun, and using something that requires your supervision is exciting and memorable.
Those children like to see you deal with important substances, you know.

Art materials often need some care. Brushes need to be washed and stored carefully. Maybe the children have pets, or toys that they care about. Can they look after those? Then they can look after their tools, if you teach them.


You can give them a load of fake colourful toys that don't make a mess because they don't actually leave any traces at all - or you can let them make art.
A real brush costs no more than a pack of toy ones. A box of decent watercolours costs more than a pound shop set – get one with fewer colours. Find some bright colours that mix well, and you’ll suddenly have a whole range. Or pick just one single colour, but one that leaves a mark. Get to know that colour. Ask that colour what it can do, and you will be surprised.

By all means and of course: check if the paints are toxic. If they eat paint, they aren’t ready for paint that must not be eaten. But don’t underestimate them as they learn. If they can learn to deal with boiling water, and learn to deal with cleaning products, they can learn to deal with art materials. You'll be there to help them with the messier ones, and find ones that are safe enough as long as the area is covered against smears and splashes.
You may well find that as soon as they are actually making marks that are meaningful to them, the children won't be anywhere near as messy as you fear because they won't have to make up in dramatic performance and make-believe for what the material denies them in actual experience.
They will WANT to make something beautiful rather than just have a play-time with colourful sticks that are better for throwing than drawing with.

Maybe you don’t have a budget for art materials. Don't forget about all the good stuff you can just use for free. If you have a pair of scissors and some paper glue, anything colourful in your paper recycling may be a collage picture waiting to happen. A felt-tip pen and some scrap paper is better than that whole basket of useless crayons.

One last thing: Don't just hand everything over to the children. Why should they have all the fun and education? Make some art together. And I mean: each make their own piece. If the materials work, you probably won't need to help them to make it look good any more. Of course you can also collaborate on things, that's part of the fun. But above all, respect each other's art: you make your thing, they make theirs. You will find that you can teach one another a lot.

It’s amazing what a child’s imagination can do - but don’t let them imagine that they can’t make art.
Make those fake pencils into a tiny fence for a herd of amazing beasts painted with tea stains and thumb prints, pink highlighters and ink.

Art is about to happen.
Don't miss out.

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40. throwback to last week....

"pocket protector"
©the enchanted easel 2015
8x10 acrylic on canvas
and these two!

this commission, which i appropriately titled "pocket protector" (for obvious reasons) is NOW AVAILABLE AS A PRINT (and can be found on some other goodies....) through the shop links found HERE!

if you would like something custom created for that special child in your life, please email me here and i will surely accommodate you. 

{...'cause every little boy needs a good "pocket protector";) }

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41. All-New By Its Cover #4 (Covers For April 2015)

ALL-NEW-BIC

The column that judges a book by its cover, focusing on the month’s best-designed comic covers. For the month’s best-illustrated comic covers, see Best Comic Covers Ever (This Month).

 

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Deep State #5 by Matt Taylor

There are a lot of things working really well in this cover. The core image is very simple, while the complex red lines add texture. The color scheme is solid. But the thing that really grabs my interest is the realization that the gun to the back of his head looks like it could be his own, disappearing off to the side and coming out the other. Depending on how well the comic was trimmed at press, you could line them up side-by-side and create a repeating image (except for the texture that doesn’t quite match up).  It’s a fun concept.

 

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Ghosted #19 by Dan Panosian

I always enjoy seeing clever attempts at integrating the logo into the image. Filling most of the cover with the logo, dwarfing characters placed in front of it, gives the image an epic feel. Unfortunately, the other text elements seem like afterthoughts in comparison. Also, while I noticed right away that the logo was part of a fence, it took me awhile to realize that the “O” was a door opening.

 

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Outlast #8 by Paul Azaceta

I love the color palette of this image, except that the darkest black seems a little too loud. It could’ve been just a little more subtle. I love the mood of the cover, which reminds me a little of the indie game Kentucky Route Zero, but there’s something goofy happening with the perspective of the figure in relation to the background. He’s towering over that car. I like the placement of all the text elements, but every time I see the logo, I think it says “Outlast.”

 

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Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier #7 by Mike Del Mundo

The only problem with this cover is that it disappoints me by being for an issue of Bucky Barnes: The Winter Soldier, a series that is very clearly not about a boy flying a kite with his robot while death looms overhead. Unless I’m wrong, and the series has been transformed into a quirky indie book?

 

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Ms. Marvel #14 by Jake Wyatt

I love the idea of integrating the logo in this way, but I think the composition would be much stronger if it was all moved up and to the left a little, kind of like this (please excuse the sloppiness of the edit).

 

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Adventure Time #36 (2nd Printing) by Jay Shaw

This might be the most epic Adventure Time cover I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the text placement on the printed cover kinda screws it all up. One AT fan I showed it to didn’t even realized it was Jake at first due to the way the logo interrupts the image. It might’ve worked better to make the logo smaller and move it to the lower right corner above the barcode.

 

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Howard The Duck #2 by Joe Quinones

The bottom is so cluttered with randomly placed elements, but the illustration made me smile, so it gets a free pass.

 

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Convergence Variants by Chip Kidd

I was tempted to be a smart ass and just copy/paste the text from my very first column, where I talked about concept dilution. Instead, I’m going to be a smart ass by linking to that installment, so you can see just how similar these covers are to the original example I used.

Apologies to Chip Kidd — I do enjoy your work a great deal. :-)

 


Kate Willaert is a graphic designer for Shirts.com. You can find her her art on Tumblr and her thoughts @KateWillaert. Notice any spelling errors? Leave a comment below.

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42. "green eyes,

©the enchanted easel 2015
yeah, the spotlight shines upon you..."
{Coldplay}

this beauty, named Lily, is what's on the easel for the next week.  i "heart" her.
{couldn't resist the Coldplay lyrics, of course ;)}


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43. Tuesday - A Week in the Artist Studio

Monday officially sets the week in motion, and by Tuesday, I feel like I can best determine what kind of week it's going to be. Granted, things unexpected always happen, but this week Norah has a cold, which means a lot of play and a lot of snuggles. I need to keep my to do list simple and not expect to get everything done.

If she has a cold, I'm not too far from one, so self care (napping when she naps, eating well, etc) is just as important for me too.


Today I'm excited because I get to paint three lovely ladies sipping tea. I was going to do coffee (since I'm a coffee fanatic), but I wouldn't have been able to draw the wee tea flags that I adore so much. ^_^

Tuesdays are a day for creating. I do my best to reserve this day for painting or drawing. Sometimes if I am able, I will paint or draw Monday night to gear me up for Tuesday. Somehow that works for me.

Last night I was able to put 4 hours in (!!!) and got some Christmas art finished, and today is the reward by painting something fresh and new!


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44. A Nest is Noisy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

A Nest is Noisy Written by Dianna Hutts Aston; Illustrations by Sylvia Long Chronicle Books. 2015 ISBN: 9781452127132 Preschool on up I received a copy of this book from the publisher. They’ve done it again!  The award-winning duo, Dianna Hutts Aston & Sylvia Long, have added a fifth title to their informational science picture book series. (An Egg is Quiet, A Seed is Sleepy, A

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45. Japanese Craftsman Restores Old Books

Some bibliophiles like to sell their old books. Others transform them into gorgeous artistic pieces. One Japanese craftsman restores them beautifully.

According to RocketNews24.com, Nobuo Okano, a Tokyo-based craftsman, has the ability to “make even the most decrepit book look like you just pulled it off the shelf at the bookstore.” BoredPanda.com reports that he has “spent 30 years perfecting the art of restoring old books.” The video embedded above showcases Okano working on an old Japanese-English dictionary with his iron—what do you think?

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46. finishing touches....

©the enchanted easel 2015
on these two commissioned cuties.
that's what's going on tonight!

©the enchanted easel 2015

{will be selling PRINTS of this painting SOON! :)}

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47. Five Family Favorites with Margarita Engle, Author of The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist

Margarita Engle, author of The Sky Painter, selected these five family favorite children's books.

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48. Klutz Activity Kits | Book Review

Klutz’s book based activity kits are exceptional for providing inspiration and convenience and for allowing children to explore and uncover new interests and talents.

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49. IF-Wiggle

The word of the week is Wiggle…So what comes to mind?

Well, when I was a kid we would drive to my grandparents house in Cleveland. It wasn't a long drive, although when you're 10 or 12 it felt longer than the actual half hour or so that it was. On one of these drives I decided to let my pencil wiggle about my paper on the drive home, just to amuse myself I guess. I remember just relaxing the pencil on the paper and letting the road do the drawing. It looked something like this
It was more jaggedy than wiggly. Looking back I think it was an experiment in self control--could I keep the pencil on the paper the whole way home? And also the curiosity to see the final outcome. Nerdy artist even back then.

As I think about this word, and look over my art, it seems that my art is just filled with wiggles…



I have wiggly castles, and wiggly trees.




...and more wiggly trees, along with strange rooster creatures and wiggly haired cave women.



And here is one of my favorite wiggles, this cute little snake basking in the sun. I could go on and on with my wiggle art.

Doing fun kids art makes me happy. I go into a zone that I really like. It brings memories back of days that felt lighter and simpler. Days when you would play outside with friends until the street lights would come on. Days of chalk on sidewalk, or whirling finger paint onto large sheets of paper, just for the joy of how it felt and the colors it made. Warm summer nights filled with catching lightning bugs, or piling into a station wagon to go to the drive-in-movie.

...Or times when you did funny things, like holding your pencil to your paper for an entire car ride just because.

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50. Illustrator Shadra Strickland Takes Us Behind the Art of Sunday Shopping

shadra stricklandSunday Shopping, our new spring title released this month, is a whimsical and fun-filled story of a young girl and her grandmother who use their big imaginations to go “shopping” through the Sunday paper. We asked illustrator Shadra Strickland to take us behind the scenes for creating the art work used in Sunday Shopping.

Making the Art for Sunday Shopping

Making the art for Sunday Shopping was almost like making two different books. The two art styles were distinctly different. The illustrations of Evie and grandma in bed were painted in watercolor, much like the paintings I made for Bird. The second set of images were made with a combination of line drawings, acrylic paintings, and assembled digitally.

The most challenging part of making the art for Sunday Shopping, was making sure that all of Evie and grandma’s “bought” items were consistent in all of the small paintings. I had to draw the same small bits of paper in every scene as the wall of items grew and grew.

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Once the watercolors were done, I drew all of the Evie, grandma, and cat characters on pieces of Bristol board. They were all painted in the same week to make sure that the clothes and skin tones were consistent. Even then, some colors had to be adjusted after I scanned them into the computer.

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Once the characters were all done, I made drawings of the imaginary world with a wax pencil (also known as a China Marker). I drew on sheets of smooth plastic like drawing vellum. Those drawings were then scanned into the computer.

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Next, I painted different pieces of newspaper in different colors based on all of the elements I needed in the book. Some colors were adjusted digitally, but not many. Most of the paper was used as it was painted.

sunday shopping illustrations_5After everything was scanned in, I began to “cut” shapes out in photoshop and compose them within the line drawings.

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The last step was digital retouching. I had to go back into a few faces and digitally paint over some faces to make sure that skin tone was consistent throughout.

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My wonderful editor checked all of the art for consistency, and after a few passes back and forth, we made sure all of the elements were lined up throughout.

Once all of the art was assembled, I worked closely with our designer to discuss page color and type design for the book. My favorite thing about making books with Lee and Low is how truly collaborative the process is!

You can learn more about Shadra Strickland and her creative process on her website.

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