I made these little Emily-cartoons to illustrate the short talk I gave this past weekend at the XOXO Conference here in Portland. The day I spoke was all about the stories of creators who had built something on their own terms, and these little drawings served to help me illustrate the beginning of my story.
Clockwise, we have (briefly):
1.) Fresh out of art school, I assumed I'd have to work in the service industry.
2.) And I did. But I also worked on creating The Black Apple at night.
3.) When, at last, I was working for myself, I was able to wander where my heart desired and make anything my heart desired.
4.) The only problem is, sometimes there are too many things I want to make!
Gathering up all my courage to give the talk to hundreds of XOXO folks was tricky, but I'm happy I did. And giving a lot of thought to how things began and how things have grown and changed since I graduated from art school in 2005 was a nice reminder that I've been doing something with my time, lo, these past seven years!
We spent most of Saturday afternoon at the festival, where ebullience and enthusiasm very nearly shimmered in the air. People were very kind and excited to be there, and the warmth with which Andy & Andy organized the whole shebang reverberated in everyone's good spirits and up into the rafters of the beautiful old brick building that housed it.
I think all of the talks will be online eventually, and I'll be sure to post when they are. I'm pretty certain the talk went smoothly (I hope it did?). Also pretty certain I'm the only speaker to refer to both Art School Confidential and The Velveteen Rabbit, which will scarcely surprise you.
This postcard set is off at the printer and I can't wait for it to come back to me!
I'll post here when the sets are made up and in the shop.
I loved the little lists of happy-making things people left in the comments on the last post. You have to take your happiness where you can...I think that might be the secret to, well, everything.
Any other books, shows, etc. you'd like to recommend, please do!
I wish it was due to some kind of Rip Van Winkle-ish, hazy Summer's end reason, but it's really because every bit of my thought and energy has been going into the picture book I'm working on. I wish I could share it - the hardest part of book-making is how solitary it can be. I'm all wrapped up in it and it's all I can do to think of anything else - this happens every time! Besides, my plans are ambitious, the original paintings are big, my art deadline is creeping closer, and this all makes for a very Tim Gunn, "Make It Work" moment in my neck of the woods.
Even in single-minded worker bee mode, there are simple things that come along and keep me happy. I try to recognize these little things and be grateful for them.
- Martinelli's Sparkling Apple Juice, which feature my favorite drink label ever.
- Unkempt stems of wildflowers in bottles from a shabby late-Summer garden
- Pining after sweet dotted blouses
- All the Fall clothes tumbling in, coats and soft woolens and tweeds
- The light on walks just before the night falls, all brilliant gold
- Listening to favorite Knitters songs
- Watching Season Two of Boardwalk Empire with Josiah (ieee! We just finished it!)
What little things are currently brightening up your day-to-day?
I don't like being this quiet, so I'm going to try my best not to vanish this completely again any time soon. Besides, my favorite time of year is waiting just around the corner!
Expect more peeps soon!
What have you been reading this Summer?
For me, it's ended up skewing fairly funny:
- I'm almost finished with The Family Fang, and I hate for it to be over! It's funny, for certain...maybe veering toward the tragicomic. I resisted it at first, because it seemed too obvious a choice for me (Julie Morstad cover and all.) What a dumb reason to avoid something. I've loved it. The art-within-art in the book (the family's performances, of which there are many, but also paintings, short stories) is so incredible, and gives the novel this wonderful nesting-doll quality. There are lots of marvelous things within the shell of the novel, within each particular Fang.
- I re-read all of my favorite David Sedaris books, and (on my third or fourth readings) I think I fully appreciated what an outstanding writer he is. I've always considered him an excellent storyteller, capable of spinning marvelous things out of little strands he plucks from his life, strands uncommonly hilarious and poignant. Most funny memoirists/essayists just don't have such a knack for finding those strands, the ones that lead to heart of an anecdote. This time reading his books, I was bowled over by those same things, but also by his clarity, word choice, just everything.
- I read Let's Pretend This Never Happened at the beginning of the Summer, which probably set the tone for the Summer and sent me digging through my shelves for the above books. It's really funny, raucous, and almost gratuitously self-effacing (but still light and zippy). The perfect thing to bring on a trip.
(For anyone who's read it, two words: Raccoon Jams!)
- I spent the last few nights up late with this book of interviews, Daniel Clowes: Conversations, which, like their subject, are wry and smart and sincere (and funny.) A few months back, when his beautiful monograph, Modern Cartoonist came out, I dragged the big thing into bed with me and pored over all the interviews included therein. This little paperback of interviews has even more to read, and was much easier to hold. That Mr. Clowes is such a hero of mine is a little funny - my work isn't very much like his in tone or aesthetic. But something about his technical perfectionism, wary sensitivity and grouchy beauty just kills me.
This Summer, reading-wise, has been a far cry from the dark delights of the 2011 Summer of Angela Carter, but I'm sure I'll be heading down that path again soon.
I'd love to hear about anything (funny or otherwise) you've read and liked lately!
I've been on a bit of a caramel kick for a while now.
Mostly the homemade kind, but I have also been known to buy a bag of Rolos in a moment of weakness. And after I made homemade Twix bars a little while back, I got a bee in my bonnet to try caramel brownies.
Here's what I did:
- Prepared the brownie batter (I included lots of walnuts), divided it in two.
- Baked one half in a parchment-lined 8"x8" pan (let the parchment overhang on all sides) for about 15 minutes
- Remove brownie layer and await caramel application
- Meanwhile, cook caramel on stove
- I cooked mine to semi-solid...somewhere between sauce and chewy candy. I did this by sight, and tested dollops via cool water test 'til it was right
- Remove caramel from heat, pour over baked brownie layer
- Add remaining half of brownie batter overhead, smoothing & swirling as you like
- Bake for remaining time (15-20 minutes, maybe more!) I forgot to add this when I first posted - whoops.
I have to warn you that these are easily the single richest thing I've ever baked.
I'd wager a modest 2" or 3" square of this confection will knock out even the most hardened sweet-tooth. Also, I didn't wrap them tightly enough, so after a day or so, the caramel crystallized a bit and they became something like a brownie/praline bar (which, really, there are worse things.)
If you're feeling caramel-crazed and also a little bit wicked, highly recommended.
I'm having a Silly Symphonies moment right now, especially King Neptune (1932).
So much so, I made you a gif of my favorite part, the sweetest whirlwind of animated mermaids. I wish this was my own personal aquarium.
I got crazy about the Fleischers a few years ago and my Ub Iwerks DVDs have seen lots of use, but I really hadn't spent that much time poking around in the post-1930 Disney vault 'til now. There's so much to see!
I've spent most of my time looking at slightly earlier cartoons, and it's amazing to see the jumps in fanciness a year or two made in those formative days. I guess that's like anything, right? The beginnings of things happen in leaps, not hops.
If you're interested in this kind of thing, I highly recommend Of Mice and Magic, Leonard Maltin's book about American animation. My friend Devlin (who has pointed me in the direction of lots of excellent old cartoon tomfoolery) recommended it, and I wolfed it down. It's a fascinating book - I especially loved the long bit about the trials & triumphs of Walt Disney, about his working philosophies, etc.
There were a handful of brilliant men obsessed with craft and cleverness in the 20's & 30's, when animation was still quite young. Moving treasures that sprang from hundreds or thousands of drawings - I just feel lucky that so many have been preserved and/or restored and are so easy to conjure up any old time.
Anyone who has ever seen my tiny crackerbox of a studio knows that my wind up animals are some of my most prized possessions.
I recently got this rosy-cheeked monkey from a junk box at an antique fair - he is missing his drum, but (as you can see from my #1 favorite toy, the gentleman goose) I have a soft spot for the mussed up misfits of the wind-up world. I always think about this when I watch American Pickers, and Frank says some variation of "This piece isn't perfect, so a serious collector wouldn't be interested, but I think I can sell it too a beginning collector."
I know what he means, but I just don't have the gene (or the pennies) to be the kind of collector obsessed with pristine things. Of course, I love getting to see exquisite toys, perfect, in-box, and have real admiration for collectors who act as archivists and preservationists. But I loved the dinged-up things too, and truly, I love them more...all tarnished and threadbare with age or love or both.
Lucky for me, I'm happy just to see a scrappy monkey with a chunk of metal protruding from his old-man trousers have a conversation with a dingy-feathered goose who is down on his luck.
"Say, can I buy you a drink? You look like you could use one."
"Thanks, pal. Ever since my drum fell off, things haven't been the same. But I did hear there's a girl. They say she gets stars in her eyes over the likes of us."
There's an nice little write-up about me in the newest issue (August) of Inked Magazine. If you click to enlarge, I think you should be able to read it (if'n you'd like to.)
Even though my own skin holds no pictures thus far, my love for the illustrated men and ladies of the world is strong and I was happy to be included! I had ink on the brain even before this interview and now, more than ever, my mind is percolating about more tattooed portraits I would like to do.
I am working hard behind-the-scenes on my next book (a picture book) and I wish so much I could share the paintings here and there as they come along. I am so happy at work on this project. We'll all have to wait 'til 2013, when I can show you, but (I hope!) it will be worth the wait.
Hoping your week is off to a nice start! I will be squirrelled away in my studio with coffee and podcasts and Netflix instant in the background for company.
I made this small lady for another small lady who recently turned five.
I found the girl-sized corduroy elephant purse at Black Wagon, a sweet children's shop in N. Portland (especially nice for baby & toddler gifts.) The purse started it all - once I had that in hand, I wanted to make a doll...and then once I made the doll, I wanted to make a doll-sized matching elephant purse. I used some scrap felt and a bit of yarn for the strap, and voila! Tiny purse.
Making dolls only occasionally & for gifts is so much fun, but sometimes I do wish I could find a way to design and/or create a line of stuffed things for purchase. The problem is, that would be a full-time endeavor. Finding a way to do it that fits with my art & book projects is a pickle & a mystery I haven't cracked so far...I hope one day I will.
I spend most of my time hoping there's time enough for all the things I'd like to do/bees in my bonnet!
I know it's not just me, it's probably the commonest of wishes.
The paintings will be are now available in the shop!
Here is the final flower-lady in this series - the truest fairy flower, Foxglove. I was re-reading Jane Eyre recently, and there's a part in which she talks about looking for fairies among the Foxgloves, and deciding, since she couldn't find them, they must've left and gone somewhere more wild. Just perfect.
The ones in this painting are a lot like the gigantic apricot variety I grew this year, which I liked, but I'm looking for some dwarf varieties for next year, too. I think it would be really sweet to have some towering five feet high and then have some little ones barely up to your knee.
There are lots of flowers that were left out of these portraits (Hellebore, I couldn't figure you in, somehow!) so perhaps there will be more in the future? I'm sure, by hook or by crook, blooming things will find their way into lots of things I make for the foreseeable future.
Now that all of the portraits have been previewed, the shop update with the originals will take place soon. I have gotten quite a few kind emails asking about when they'd be up for sale - I am thinking about this Friday or next Monday. I'll make up my mind and announce the exact time & date soon!
Happy Monday to you!
Second to last flower girl! I know little white strawberry flowers aren't the showiest, but they gladden my heart every June, so I thought there should be representation with the flower ladies (plus, a twining bunch of little red-gem berries never made anything worse.)
Next up, early next week...Foxglove!
Happy weekend to you!
I hope everyone in the U.S. had a nice Independence day!
Ours was wonderful and quiet (except for the explosions that send Miette the cat spiraling into a mania I'm convinced is related to his previous life as a WW1 soldier.) I wore this same worn, stripey 30's dress last year, so I think it's my official July 4th dress now. Josiah grilled some really tasty things and we lazed in our backyard, enjoying the flowers and dinner and using our sparklers to pretend we are wizards.
More Instax garden snaps!
I don't think there's a better way to spend four dollars than a big packet of wildflower seeds, like these I threw out (with a few packets of Shirley Poppy seeds) in March. The simple splendor of these wild, wiry-necked babes! The element of surprise!
I cleared a ramshackle bed for them early in the year (meaning, I ripped out most of the weeds and grass but didn't really do much else) and since my mini-meadow started blooming a few weeks ago, it's a highlight of my afternoons to see what's sprung up that day. At first there was mostly a lot of Five-spot, Sweet William, Dwarf Snapdragon, and other pretty mystery things, but now the poppies are such hams that it's hard to notice anything else.
Some are double, some are less an the size of a dime, some two or three inches across. They make me just crazy. I think I'm going to plant about 10x this many next year - they'll be the perfect thing to fill in the empty spaces left by dearly departed Spring bloomers.
See you soon with the few last flower girl paintings, and I hope your week is off to a nice start!
Though I'm not sure Wild Rose really "matches" the other flower girls as far as color, mood, etc., I couldn't imagine her any other way. It's fine - they don't all have to fit together perfectly. She and her bright scarlet blooms and little squirrel friend are company enough.
Although, I have been wondering: if I make a postcard set of these images and edit the designs down, which flower girls will belong there?
There are two more paintings left to share, for now at least. And then all the originals will be released for sale (I will, of course, post the time & date here, in advance.)
I hope your week has been going along nicely!
Back with more, soon.
I am excited to finally add magnet packs to the shop! Made in collaboration with my pals, the button & magnet wizards at Badge Bomb, there are two sets available in my shop, Kitchen Party and Kitten Pals. As the box promises, they are indeed excessively strong and cute to boot.
They also manufacture and carry my carnival button box and other assorted officially licensed goodness illustrated myself and lots of cool designers & artists. Love Badge Bomb, love these magnets!
This fair-haired miss is one of the two rose-girls that will round out this group of flower paintings. This one (inspired by my favorite roses, David Austin's Carding Mill rose) is very quiet and gentle and so very graceful. The next one is a very different sort of rose. More on that front soon.
I'm excited it's the weekend, even though I usually work straight through them. I think we'll go see Brave tonight or tomorrow. Little rough-and-tumble archeress and bears? How could I resist?
Josiah read a review that said the film was a step back for Pixar, artistically (meaning, it's not as innovative.) But isn't it a not-insignificant step forward that it is their first film in thirteen total that has a female protagonist? I nearly cried when I put that together. They make such clever movies, but they couldn't get it together 'til now to make a clever movie about a girl? So I want to support it for that reason alone.
Well, that and the bears.
Primrose was very persnickety for me to grow, and so here, too, she is demure and lovely but also (I think) a little persnickety. Their quaint little rainbow blooms are so sweet, but when I had primrose plants, I couldn't find the right conditions to keep them happy.
I'm getting close to wrapping up this little series of work (at least, for now!) There are three or four more paintings in various stages of completion, though, so there's more to see here before the series is up for sale. It's also entirely possible/likely that I will make more like these in the future, after I've had a break.
Summer is officially beginning (or Winter, depending on your whereabouts.) Noontime of the year and there's so much I still want to do! It feels like the seasons are speeding by. I know it's a cliche to ask "Is time moving faster?" but really...I think it is.
There's a girl I am very fond of.
She has long, golden hair and rosewater in her veins, but she isn't too fancy for Coney Island hot dogs or corner-store sour candy. Her name is Francesca. You might know her from her heart-achingly lovely blog (and matching shop), The Snail and the Cyclops (r.i.p.). Or maybe you know her from her new, just as lovely journal/shop/photo archive, Lawrence?
If you don't, please acquaint yourself. Her haunt since last Fall, Lawrence, is a place you'd like to visit. It's mostly a place of silk blouses, cotton dresses, and perfect woolens. But it's also becoming an emporium of sorts, with other kinds of bits and pieces, things like the world's most perfect brass barettes. I've heard murmurs of other things to come, but I don't want to get ahead of myself.
A collector/stylist/photographer extraordinaire, she documents many of these treasures in editorial series of photographs (viewable in the Gallery.) To see all the beautiful things that've passed through Lawrence since its inception last year, have a look around the Archive, where everything is handily sorted by decade. Above are some favorites of mine from poking through, but just a small sampling of all the beauties Francesca has collected, curated and dispatched to customers via this beautiful shop.
With shops like this, full of one-of-a-kind things, I think it's best to check them frequently, so you can pounce when the perfect treasure(s) come along. Or you can follow on Twitter (she is pretty fastidious about posting when she adds new things.) The things below are some of my favorites currently available (that polka-dot silk blouse, the pink, pleated sun-dress!)
Looking around Lawrence is like looking around the world's best-lit, most beautiful attic - with boxes of old wonders that attic-elves have cleaned and pressed and mended for you. Have fun poking around - there is a lot to see.
And keep checking back, because more loveliness is always forthcoming.
Friday's flower girl: my favorite of them all!
English Rose is a close second, but I just adore Geums. Also called Avens and Grecian Rose, and documented here (and elsewhere on this blog, I know) they are, to me, the perfect flowers. Furry leaves and slender, strong little stems. Sweet (but not fussy) blooms in lovely colors of red, yellow, peach, gold.
They are perfectly suited to informal (ahem, slightly wild and overgrown) gardens like mine. And that's why I love them - they're not a wildflower, but they their pretty, tumbling blooms seem almost as unfussy and beautifully unassuming.
Oh! Yes. I've been getting inquiries about these new paintings (thank you!) and how to purchase them. They will be available soon, all posted at once. As I usually do, I'll post the exact time and date these flower girl originals will be available in my shop, so if you've got your eye on 'em, you'll know exactly when you can purchase them.
I hope you have a nice weekend ahead of you!
I'm not going to say too much about Moonrise Kingdom, because, well, it has been so spectacularly well-reviewed and universally loved that my own ambivalent feelings seem completely irrelevant. The tidiest way I can explain the way I feel is: the film was sometimes too much of a good thing, if that makes sense. And that's not the worse problem to have.
One of these numberless good things, among dozens (hundreds?) of special objects and visual wonders Wes Anderson crowded into the movie, are these wonderful imaginary books: six strange, funny fantasy/sci-fi library books that Suzy, the bandit-y heroine, lugs around in her suitcase. With plastic sleeves protecting the winsome, naive covers he commissioned from various illustrators, the books sport titles like the Francine Odysseys and (my personal favorite) The Return of Auntie Lorraine. And they're not just for looks - Suzy reads from the books throughout the movie, and now there are animated short films to accompany each story.
Even though they are just one small bit of his generous, effusive approach to creating films and creating words, they were my favorite thing in the movie. They remind me of books I lugged home from my own elementary school library (and maybe you did, too?) but just a little different. Like Moonrise Kingdom itself, they bear a passing resemblance to something real, but they are utterly unreal - pasted together from half-memories and nostalgia and scraps of paper or felt somewhere in the heart of its creator, a place that will never stop trying to build a new world - prettier and more clever than the real one - from the ground up.
Anemone! Anemone, anemone. Say it, sing-song, with me.
I like the white blooms, especially - like a fancy, perennial daisy. One of the common names for Anemone is Windflower, which I think sounds so lively and nice (maybe less fun to say than its proper name, though.) This Spring I planted some Japanese Anemone, like the ones in this girl's hair, and I hope I have some tousling on slender necks in the late Summer breeze.
We had a big trip to the plant nursery this weekend, which only made me more excited about keeping up work on this series. Also, while we were out and about. Josiah kindly snapped a photo of some window-love for Oddfellow's at Powell's.They are true friends of O.O., indeed.
Happy Monday to you!
This is a little jar full of things from my garden I brought to a friend on her recent birthday. Mostly I just had roses, because it was a funny, transitional time for the garden. But there are some other things in there, too: ghost fern, cranesbill, a little furry pre-foxglove shoot, and then these delicate, crepe-paper, peach flowers I love, but couldn't remember the name of. Luckily, I try to save most of my plant-markers, so I managed to find out it is Helianthum.
Helianthum peach! I love you. I want a million more of your fairy flowers twining everywhere.
Some little bits of randomness:
- I made homemade Twix bars, also for the aforementioned friend's birthday. I had been waiting for an excuse! They were wonderful. The shortbread is quite sophisticated - I used hers, though I used my regular Bittman caramel recipe. I'm starting to think I can only judge the done-ness of caramel by color. It goes from buttery brown to dark toffee so quickly! I made it much too firm the first time (nobody wants to break their tooth on a Twix.) The second time, I was careful to leave the caramel quite soft.
- Continuing my odd mail-order candy habits, I discovered you can order 1 lb boxes of single flavor Dum Dums directly from Dum Dums HQ. I realized we really don't eat about two thirds of the assortment bag (bubblegum, butterscotch, blue raspberry, among other culprits) and I got kind of crazy about their fruit punch flavor. Josiah's a root beer man, so he got a box of those.
- We are going to see Moonrise Kingdom this weekend, and even though I've been assured by everybody, everywhere that it's wonderful, I'm trying to keep my hopes from getting away from me. But I am so excited!
- More flower girl paintings are coming soon.
Happy Friday to you!
I have a soft spot in my heart for pansies and violas.
Their petiteness, their ubiquity, their bright eyes...
I imagine a girl named Pansy would be quite prim, but with a little mischievous je ne sais quoi. And, you know, wear her hair hair like a raven-haired version of Jean Seberg in Breathless and wear a blouse covered in tiny polka dots.
I hope her primness pleases others as much as it does me. Thanks very much for all your extremely kind and thoughtful notes re: the new paintings, and I hope your week is off to a nice start!