My upcoming show, The Deep Green Sea, opens in October at one of my favorite Portland places, Land Gallery.
A Sea Monster Carriage 14"x11" Acrylic on wood
Land hosted my last big solo show (Lost on the Midway) and this time I'm trading the sideshow for the sea and returning with all new work featuring mermaids, krakens, sea monsters, tattooed sailors, and all things watery & mysterious.
I'll be previewing it here (but not every single piece - I want there to be some surprises for those who can make it to the opening.) But, of course, eventually everything will be visitable & viewable online.
There is still some framing & finishing to do, but it has all come together in its melancholy, rather wistful watery way & I'm excited to share it.
See you soon with more seafaring mischief!
I know things are sleepy around these parts and all my dispatches are just little bits of process and/or odds and ends. But I am working so hard behind the scenes (much of it semi-secret), bits and odds and ends are all I can muster.
This is a little peek behind the curtain of work for my next picture book. I love looking at things like this, love looking at sketches next to final art, or in this case, pencil sketch next to color sketch.
Usually, I just make a pencil sketch and then transfer that to my painting surface and start painting. Since working on picture books, though, I've started using a middle step - color sketches. While they aren't necessary for every single illustration, they come in handy at all sorts of times. For instance, if you want to be sure everyone's on the same page about the feeling (dark? chipper? dreamy?) the color will impart to the illustration. Or sometimes, it's just difficult to show what you're imagining in grey shades alone.
They also come in really handy to experiment with and plan colors ahead of time on a small, quick little practice run (this is probably the best and most useful reason.)
See you soon!
My all-time favorite tote bags, the Fox & Hare, are one sale for a mere $10.00 each today. I don't know how long the sale will last, but I used it as an excuse to buy some back-ups! It's no exaggeration to say that one of these is on my arm every single day of the warm-weather months. To me, they're perfect in every way.
Made my one of my favorite girls for her shop, Lawrence. Click over to see the totes & some really lovely vintage clothes!
In my matchbox of a studio, there was recently a pretty serious clean-up and move-around. This was all begun to stuff a (miraculous) seventh piece of furniture into this tiny place - a new/oldie chest of wooden drawers in extremely useful sizes. I love the classic old card-catalogues but I can't use all those tiny drawers to flat-file original art or store big bottles of paint or hide away boring paperwork.
During this rigamarole, I tried to do a bit of a ruthless purge of unwanted books and nicknacks and old supplies, but it ended up (unsurprisingly) more timid than I'd hoped. So easy to gather things, so hard to banish them. Still, I can see all my toys and things nicely in this new arrangement, though my toy piano is sadly hidden behind the tiny couch.
I like these funny little planters (on the left) to hold pencils and small brushes and things. And on the right, you can see all my Alices on the top shelf (the Golden Book stack is there, too) hanging out with an unintended mini-collection of swans of varying sizes (and a white bobble-head rabbit.)
My favorite three wind-ups (Monkey, Seal, and Goose) have a place of honor on those old green file boxes, next to some current particular favorite book covers. And my monkey lamp is just where he belongs, glowing while I paint and draw, never shall we part.
A wispy little sketch on my wood panel, ready to be buried under lots of paint and varnish. I think of the sketches as the bones of the painting, the structure holding everything up from underneath.
So many times in art school, one of us would turn to a painting professor and say, forlornly "What's wrong with this? Why isn't it working?" And they would say "There might've just been something wrong with the drawing to begin with." And this is the most heartbreaking thing, when you realize that something was just structurally un-sound from the beginning.
The way I work, I almost always have a pretty well-realized sketch underpinning each painting surface, and since I have my little working methods down, I can usually tell how things are going to go. But once in a blue, blue moon I don't, and sometimes the result is thrilling and sometimes it's awful (and that is the price of playing it fast and loose.)
Right now I'm working on my Sea show and my next picture book at the same time.
Iiieee! So much to do!
PS: Thank you for all the nice words about my dress-sewing!
It's been uncharacteristically toasty around these parts lately, and it has put me in a very stitchy kind of mood. I always get a bee in my bonnet to sew in warm weather - I don't know why that is?
I guess sewing Summer dresses seems much more easy and breezy than sewing heavy woolens for Fall (and it is) so that's probably most of it. This year I really wanted a few extremely simple little 60's-inspired shift dresses with elbow-length sleeves. That's been the bee in my bonnet.
I'm so particular and get such specific ideas in mind, sometimes it's easier to just make things yourself, right? Right. So armed with cold, milky iced coffee, that's been one of the things I've been up to lately.
I promised myself if I would actually sit down and draft a pattern for this dress and test it and test it (and test it again) I could buy a few yards of Liberty fabric. I picked Claire Aude in the goldens and pinks and jadeite green, because it's always been one of my favorites of all their prints.
After it was washed and pressed, even though I'd already made a muslin and two other mostly-successful dresses from my pattern, I had the worst time getting the nerve to cut it. It's such truly lovely and excellent fabric that I felt terribly outclassed, but I crossed my fingers and went to work.
Somehow I managed to sew the whole dress (tricky to do with my fingers crossed) and it turned out just liked I hoped. Perfect for the hottest days, when we get them, and easy to wear with some little old sneakers or worn-in flats.
And the best part?
I have my share of sewing-heartbreaks, so when something turns out like I'd hoped, it's so gratifying. And besides, when you make things with your hands for a living, it feels extra-special to make things for yourself, for fun.
Have you done any Summer projects (sewn or not) (pocketed or not) you're particularly happy about?
I have a weakness for tiny books - anything less than 3" tall (it almost undoubtedly began with the Nutshell Library, but microscopic bibles, teensy flip books...I'll take it.) So a few weeks ago, when I brought home all those nice moldy oldies from the book fair, this 1940s box of the Tiny Nonsense Stories (from the Tiny Golden Library) was one of my prized finds.
These little books are written by Dorothy Kunhardt and illustrated by one of my very favorites, Garth Williams (Little Fur Family, forever and ever.) I already have the 1980 boxed edition, and though the books are the same, the little production details on these boxed sets are so incredibly lovely (and the prices seem to creep up steadily every time I see them) I'm so happy to have this older and more beautiful set.
Everything about these books is perfect...the colors, the type. Everything. Each of the books is about some little misfit animal-child - they are featured on the thumbelina-sized cover, and their parents are illustrated on the back. The whole thing reminds me of Wes Anderson in the nicest way (just look at that squirrel papa above with the caramel-colored suit!)
The design of the box/slipcase is a little apartment building and
neighborhood, with enough tiny details and little implied narratives to
make you crazy - every inch tells a mini-story, from the sunbathers on top of the box (one of my favorite things) to the little bandit cat and bow and arrow-wielding mouse facing off on the left and right corners.
Again, Wes Anderson, do you own this? If you do not, you need one. And I know you can get your mitts on the most pristine copy around.
When you remove the books, this is what you see. Naturally, Garth Williams didn't leave just regular ol' white space here or a simple pattern.
No, it's a corner grocery store with a rabbit family perusing the produce section and a bear cashier!
The endpapers of each book show a playground scene with all the tiny protagonists playing...just another perfect detail among dozens and dozens.
There is another little box from the Tiny Golden Library called Tiny Animal Stories. I had the 40's era set of that one in my collection already - perhaps that one needs a post sometime soon?
I hope you have a nice week! It's (uncharacteristically) hot as blazes here, which isn't good. I need my 60 degree days and grey sky/coffee afternoons to best get my work done.
(Photo of me & my wayward hairpin swiped from the BEA recap on the RH Buzzers blog)
I forgot to ever post about this!
A few weeks back, I traveled to NY for Book Expo America festivities with my publisher to start sharing Dream Animals with everyone. As a bonus, I got spoiled spending several days visiting my (lovely & beloved) editor & book designer, and another day or two to do a little non-work-related gallivanting, too. I'm going to do this in list-form, because I'm coming off one of my marathon headaches and it's all I can muster.
Itinerary & Highlights, Mostly Out-of-order
- Signed things (prints and postcards) on Thursday morning of BEA at the very well-lit and enormous Javitz center (the photo up top was taken there.)
- Arepas at the East Village Caracas, not once but twice.
- Found myself among wildly esteemed company as one of the featured authors at the Random House Cocktail party (photos & nice recap of that here). This led to surreal scenarios like posing, prom-photo style, between my author dates, extremely cool Chris So-Many-Caldecotts Raschka and lovely Steven Luminous-and-legendary Kellogg (both of these gentleman were very kind to this clearly bewildered whippersnapper).
- Walks and wanderings and lunches and dinners with my darlin F and a rascally Westie pup.
- Favorite place in the world, not for as long as I'd have liked, but still. If I'm in the city, I can't not go.
- Dinner followed with several editors, designers, agents, my own Josiah, the gentle Mr. Kellogg, and funny and irreverant Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall (!). She and Steven created a special & poignant picture book (full of children in beautiful sweaters) called Snowflakes Fall, which is a tribute to Sandy Hook, CT.
- Bagels and more bagels.
- Visited the missing-the-point-entirely Punk show at the Met
- Utterly destroyed my feet by wandering Soho late into the evening with my companions and ended up at the drugstore crying pitifully for bandaids. Worth it to peer at the glow of fancy shop windows and witness a friend very excitedly inspect the discarded shipping boxes heaped outside the Chloé store.
In short, it was a good little trip.
We are all really, really excited about Dream Animals, and really excited about our next book (which I'm working on now.) Mainly, though, I just spent a handful of days getting spoiled in the company of NY people I love and work closely with and that time zones keep me from. Any time I have a chance to visit them (and/or the Natural History Museum and/or the bagels)
A good little stack I brought home from the Rose City Book Fair this weekend. My favorite old book dealer was there, and he had a beautiful copy of The Sea Fairies (I'd been wishing for one for a while now) waiting for me. That link will take you to the Archives, where you can page through the whole strange & beautiful thing for yourself (one of the wonders of the internet!)
I'm really excited about the new-to-me Edith Davidson titles (little foxes in pinafores!) and maybe most of all about boxed Tiny Golden Library...I have a newer edition and, while it has its charms, the 1940's version has the best box. The whole shebang deserves a post all its own.
I have collected so many dozens and dozens of old children's books with no rhyme or reason - the only common denominator is that I love each one. I always think it would be nice to post about some especially favorite or especially oddball ones, but (a classic tale) then I never do.
More soon - I forgot to ever post about my BEA trip a few weeks back!
Later this week, I'll be signing (real, bound, & very early!) copies of Dream Animals at Book Expo America. And now that it's feeling like a very real, fully grown book, I started thinking about what the book was doing this time, last year. I checked my email archives just to be sure, and my feeling was right: This time last year, the book was just a handful of pencil sketches.
Even though sometimes a year seems like a very long time, it's still astonishing to me what can happen in one set of twelve months. From nothing, a book can come true, an entire person can come true.
These are just ramblings that come on when I look at drawings like this, these wispy things trying to become something and the way some of them grow and some of them don't. Ramblings about the magic of time, and something where there was nothing.
You're tuned into the flower channel, didn't you know?
Today it is my wonderful Amy's birthday.
I made her a ramshackle bouquet from my garden (possibly, no, certainly with a few small bonus bugs included.)
I also made her my favorite lemon poppyseed cake.
It's nice little loaf, very much a little cake-baby when it's all bundled in waxed paper.
I use Mark Bittman's recipe from How to Cook Everything (I checked around online for it, but I wasn't able to sleuth it out.) I make a few changes, like subbing oil for half the butter, mainly because I just can't bring myself to use two sticks in something that ends up so small. I am also very heavy-handed with the poppyseeds & the lemon.
One of the best things about liking to bake is that (given the ingredients) you always have the wherewithal to bring someone something nice.
Growing flowers is that way, too, if the time is right. They're similar that way. Both humble things, cakes and flowers, and the kind of things you bring to someone to make their day a little nicer. I wish it was blooming season all year 'round just for that reason, but we then we'd lose pumpkins and snow flurries and it really wouldn't be right.
Very lucky for us, then, you can bake someone a lemon cake any time of year.
Right now, it's barely an exaggeration to say that my flowers and my drawings and paintings are my whole life. They run my days and rule my mind.
I think that's just the month of May, for me.
These roses were so heavy, they were threatening to snap off a whole cane of my best and most favorite rosebush. (I'm resisting, with everything, saying: mo roses/mo problems. But now I guess I've said it.)
The best problem to have! They're budding and blooming like gangbusters, almost all of my flowers are. Enough to fill all my bottles and jars for days.
I finally feel like I finally have a little foothold as a gardener. It makes the Mays (and Aprils and Junes) so much nicer. For the first few years, I was scrabbling and scrambling just to get a little start, with no understanding of how things grow, gauging shade & sun, finding the plants themselves, tending them. So I've been building them (the garden and my understanding) a bit at a time. It's a lot. But as Josiah always reminds me/reassures me: "You can't figure out everything at once."
Some things have to wait their turn, and even when it comes, it takes a while. Then, days go by and months go by and years go by, and you find yourself with a foothold.
A tiny one, but all your own.
More flowers, more of everything soon!
I've realized that an awful lot of my work is about improved & more spectacular modes of transportation (Dream Animals is about this, in a big way.)
And I've been thinking about what my impetus is to make pictures and stories, and I never come to anything more elaborate than the simplest reason:
"I just wish this (person/place/thing/Sea Monster Carriage) was real."
But that's why we make anything, right? Besides necessity, it might be the only reason.
And even if it doesn't conjure up the wished-for thing, it's the next best consolation prize to have a picture of it, or a story about it.
The souvenir, rather than the visit.
I wish we could travel by bear rather than bus. I wish we could sail in a sea monster carriage instead of putter down the street in a station wagon.
Until we can, I'll keep stealing snapshots from the better place.
One of the things I am working on right now are paintings and things for a Seafaring show in October with my friends at Land gallery. I wanted to scan a few pencil sketches, something I hardly ever think to share (because I generally consider them a preporatory step and hardly ever think to scan or photograph them.)
I've been drawing wistful girls and tearful mermaids and even with a nice dose of sea monsters, it's shaping up to be a most melancholy series of work. The ocean is like that, isn't it? It thrills us so much to be close to its endlessness & mystery, but it's the same vastness that feels so lonely.
I hope you have a nice week ahead! I plan to spend mine tangled up in coral branches and handsome sailors and swimming monsters and nudie mermaids.
(There are worse things.)
The new postcards sets are back from the printers & in the shop.
I *love* this set, with all its bats and bears and whatnot, and I'm so happy it's here!
The variety of the images really struck me as we were putting these together. I think that's one of the things I like most about them.
New postcard excitement aside, I know it's been a bit sleepy around these parts lately.
It's one of those odd "I'm-doing- things-but-they're-not-things-I can-immediately-share" times. For example, this last week (in addition to putting together the new postcard sets!) I was sketching for my next picture book, painting for a still far-off show, and illustrating the cover for Oddfellow's paperback. It's coming to paperback early next year!
There are bits and pieces here and there that I certainly can share (and want to share) and I will try my best to scan or snap those things so they can find their way to this little corner.
I hope the Spring (or Fall) is treating you well, whever you are.
I've always really, really wanted one of those little blow-mold plastic lamps - a rabbit, maybe, or a pair of glowing red mushrooms. These lamps, sold here, and here (and often spotted in beautiful French children's rooms) are a little bit pricey and also hard to come by in the U.S., so I'm still without one.
But when I spotted this swan at the antique mall last week (with a very small price tag) a little flash went off in my brain. I could have my own blow-mold lamp. A big one! A swan!
And you can have one, too! These swans are just planters, and they are still being manufactured by Union Products.
You only really need two things to make it:
- The planter, which you can order via Amazon or elsewhere online (you might also check your local home and garden store - they might carry this kind of novelty planter.) There is also a goose, a penguin, and other things, if one of those is more your speed. Or maybe search Ebay for old blow-mold curiosities?
- A cord kit, the kind used for those hanging paper lanterns. There are lots of them here (again) or maybe you have one already? Just pay attention to what kind of light bulb it takes - some take candelabra bulbs, some take 40 w bulbs.
Since these are planters, they will probably have a hole (for drainage) somewhere near the backside. If the hole isn't large enough to pass the pronged end of the cord through, I found it was easy to enlarge it with a long lighter and a screwdriver. I warmed up the plastic, and it was easy to make the hole as large as necessary (although I did feel a little bit horrible brutalizing the poor swan with the screwdriver.)
I nestled the light in a glass jam jar, so the bulb wouldn't rest against (and likely melt) the plastic. You could also just pile a string of white fairy lights in there. That's what I did at first, and it looked lovely - I just wanted a bit more light.
So happy to finally have a little glowing animal for company in my studio.
A swan is not a rabbit, but I love them just as much!
*** Updated: There was some concern raised in the comments about my ramshackle lamp-making, and I want to encourage everyone to tinker with their own lighting particulars (for instance, in V.2 of my own lamp, I think I'll use a wooden block secured to the light's base to suspend the bulb in mid-air.)
Most importantly, whatever route you go - never use one of these (totally unapproved-by-safety-commissions) lamps unattended!
An important thing to consider, definitely.
If one decides to make this little experimental project, there are many items you might use to shield the plastic mold from the light, ie: you might build a simple base for the bulb so that it doesn't come in contact with the surrounding plastic.
As glass is a relatively poor conductor of heat, it seemed like a good place to start in my tinkering.
Regardless, I will never use it unattended, and I certainly suggest everyone else do the same!
Just a little note to let you know that the new prints are now available in the shop! There are two originals yet-to-be spoken for mingling with all the new print images.
Oh! People have been asking about Out of the Woods postcard sets, and they should be available in 2-3 weeks.
I'm wishing I had an egg hunt or a surprise basket in my future, but (cruelly) grownups usually have to make their own magic & treats. Maybe, at the very least, a coconut cake is in the cards for me? Or a reading of The Country Bunny?
However you spend it, wishing you a lovely Sunday/bunny-day/Eastertide!
On Monday, March 25th (at 3 pm Eastern/12 pm West coast) all fifteen of the new original paintings will be posted for sale in my shop! Each is framed in one of my very favorite golden frames. And they're all so at home together it'll be hard to split them up.
The way my updates work is this: I'll post all the new paintings at the time above (here's a time zone converter, if you want to check what time that works out to be for you.) My original work often sells within hours or days - sometimes minutes! I can't reserve original work, so if there's one you have your eye on, it's best to come at the time of the update.
I hope this is helpful! And please feel free to email with any questions.
Thanks for all the kind words about this work. And thank you (always) for visiting here.
This is the last little painting to sneak into this collection of pieces.
A dapper little beekeper!
I'm nearly done framing all the paintings, and nearly ready to announce a time & date for the update (when all of the originals will be posted for sale.) I've been getting so many inquiries about this new work (thank you!) so watch right here for the update announcement in the next day or so. If you're not familiar with how I post my original work for sale, I'll let you know exactly how it works.
And thank you also for the awfully kind comments about Dream Animals! It's so nice to start talking about the book and to see excitement start building beyond the small team of us who worked on it.