Monday, August 15, 2016

House Sketch

I have a neighbor who has a birthday very close to mine and every year we like to go to lunch and exchange a little gift.  This year I decided to give her a sketch of her house. 

¡Feliz cumpleaƱos amiga querida!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

You're Joking!

This project has been a long time in the making so I am very excited to announce the publication of You're Joking: Animal Jokes for Children.  The idea for this book began because my sister-in-law, May Farnsworth, and her 5-year-old daughter love to tell each other jokes.  They began playing a game where her daughter would tell her the name of an animal and May would come up with a joke.  When they went to the bookstore to look for books with jokes they could only find books full of text with no illustrations.  That is when May contacted me with the idea to make our own illustrated joke book.

I began work on the book about five years ago.  The illustration process probably took me a little over one year, fitting it in between my freelance work.  To me, the most interesting part of making these illustrations was seeing how my simple sketches could be worked into full color finished work.  Here are a few examples.

Skunk Sketches

Skunk outlined in Illustrator

Skunk shading in Photoshop

As you can see I start with a very simple sketch which I scan and bring into Illustrator.  Once in Illustrator I trace my sketch to outline all of the forms.  Then each leg, arm, head, nose, ear, etc. is brought into Photoshop in a different layer where I do the shading to complete the final illustration.  It is a tedious process but I love the soft, subtle shading you can do in Photoshop.

Pig Sketch

Pig sketch outlined in Illustrator

Shaded version done in Photoshop

The final book includes 30 pages of illustrated jokes and a "Did You Know" section with fun facts about each animal in the book. You're Joking features everything from hungry jellyfish to fancy flies to playful armadillos.  This book is perfect for the young reader interested in telling jokes and learning puns, and/or the budding biologist (not to mention those who just love beautifully illustrated books).  

The book is now available at or Black Rose Publications.  I would greatly appreciate any help in spreading the word about our new book.  Also, if you feel so inclined, please leave a review on Amazon.

If I have any words of wisdom out there for someone who wants to write, publish, or illustrate their own children's book, it is to "BE TENACIOUS".  Keep working at it, keep sending it out, and above all...make it happen in some way, shape or form. (Oh, and also try and have "pun" while your at it!)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016


The other day George asked if I wanted to taste the kohlrabi we got from our farm share.  Of course, my first answer was "no" and I would have continued going on about my business... but I turned around and saw him holding the most incredibly fantastic object.  This purple beauty had quite a rotund, purple body with bizarre thin arms that reached upwards creating a "cage" of sorts and ending in leafy greens.  I was so struck by it that we immediately took it outside and photographed it against the fence.  And by a stroke of luck the light at that moment was magical and streamed over the fence to illuminate this mythical vegetable.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”― W.B. Yeats

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Withrow High School Sketch

Last Friday Christina and I sketched Withrow High School.  When I first moved to Cincinnati I couldn't believe the architecture of the high schools.  They look like college campuses!  I have always wanted to sketch this one particularly because of the awesome bridge. 

As we were sketching a man walked up who worked in the alumni office.  He offered to give us a tour and we took him up on it after we were done.  He took us into the fantastic auditorium which had been refurbished.  You can see Christina's photo of it here.  He also took us into the old library which had incredibly tall ceilings and ornate plasterwork.  There were also lots of other people's sketches of the building and it was fun to see all the different styles.  You can see Christina's sketch here.

"Observation is at its core an expression of love..."  -Takashi Hiraide

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Industrial Fan Planter

Two weekends ago I went to the Springfield Antique Extravaganza and could not resist buying this industrial fan cover that had been turned into a planter.  I love the idea of a really wide, flat planter.  I was going to wait to take a photo of it in a couple weeks after the plants had grown in more but we had a slight setback.  The day after I hung the planter I watered it really well with the hose and then went to the front yard to water.  When I returned to the backyard, there was my planter on the ground with all the plants spilled around it.  Apparently the hook we used was not strong enough and had given way.  But after a trip to the hardware store we are back in business, although a bit stunted. 

Buy planter or make your own with the face of an old fan and chains.

Buy coco liner from a roll and cut a circle that fits the face of the fan.

Fill lined planter with dirt.

Plant flowers being mindful of where the chains will pull up.

Hang with VERY strong chain!

Sometimes projects like these take a little work but I can't tell you how much I love seeing the planter every time I pull in the driveway.  There is something so enchanting about the way it "floats" and turns with the breeze.  Hopefully soon we will have big, healthy flowers and potato vines hanging over the edge (and no more mishaps!)

It is now the end of July and I wanted to post an updated photo of the planter which has grown like crazy! I think the potato vine was quite happy living there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Leatherleaf Mahonia

My front flower bed has been taken over by Soloman's seal which makes it virtually impossible to walk in or weed that bed.  In the corner of this bed lives a Mahonia plant that I hardly ever notice because it is next to a dogwood and hidden by all sorts of treachery.  But a couple weeks ago I decided to try and clear some of the incredibly prolific Soloman's seal and this is what I found.

I have always loved the beautiful soft green-blue berries on this plant but I never noticed the striking orange color of the leaves.  The contrast between both color and texture of berries and leaves is a feast for the eyes.

And the red stems are also interesting.  Their shape in the above photo reminds me of a thin, red, furry spider.  And in case you thought this plant couldn't get any more showy, check out the deep blue-purple color the berries will become in a month. 

But beauty often comes with a price and, although the plant is beautiful, I just realized it is considered invasive.  I know for sure this plant is a Mahonia, but there is Mahonia aquifolium and Mahonia bealeiM. aquifolium is native but M. bealei is from China.  My suspicion is this is the invasive one. If anyone out there can confirm this leave me a comment. 

Before I realized this plant is banned in several states I had already chosen this quote because this song popped in my head when I saw these I am going to leave you with it anyway.

"Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Aah, aah, aah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe."
-Katy Perry

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Wabi-sabi Peony

I love peonies at all stages of their life cycle.  George was asking me why my top two photos (above and below) were photos of a peony when it was past its prime.  I thought about it and it comes back to the idea of wabi-sabi.  It is easy to appreciate a flower when it is in full bloom.  Everything is perky, erect, saturated and striving toward the sun.  But after that, the stamens relax, the colors fade, and the inner parts, once hidden by all the fanfare, are revealed.  And if you keep watching you realize these inner parts are quite spectacular and hide the plant's most precious cargo.  I don't believe there could be a more beautiful metaphor for our lives than that.

But to be fair...all the stages are beautiful and I wanted an excuse to post all my favorite peony photos from this year. So here are a few more, including an amazing, gigantic, yellow Itoh peony my mom bought me last year plus a few of the old standards.

As I was looking around for wabi-sabi quotes I found this one by Amy Krouse Rosenthal that I thought captured the moment perfectly:

"I was noticing how more and more I was feeling both happy (acutally, content) and sad at the same time.  Happiness always seemed to be tinged with sadness, and strangely, vice versa.  I started asking around if anyone knew a word that meant happy and sad at the same time.  ...It is feeling content, peaceful, hyper-aware of loss, in awe, perfectly, gently happy/sad.  What is the word?"

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Swiss Chalet House Sketch - Cincinnati

This weekend my friend Christina and I sketched a house in my neighborhood.  This style of architecture is called "Swiss Chalet" and there are a number of them in Cincinnati.  They were built around the turn of the century and are characterized by "low pitched roofs with front gables and wide eaves with decorative brackets." You can see some amazing examples here.  I LOVE the colorful details and when I imagine myself living in one I picture myself in the alps dressed in full folk costume swinging a bucket of freshly squeezed milk. 

My friend Christina is truly an amazing artist.  I have learned so much from sketching with her.  She was almost done inking hers when I just finished my pencil sketch.  You can see her sketch is one of my favorite sketches of hers.  Thank you Christina for getting me outside to sketch!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Spruce Pollen Cones

There is one street in my neighborhood where it has become my practice to try to be present the whole length of the street.  I do this in different ways.  I usually try to clear my mind, but more often I try to focus my attention on my surroundings.  Often I listen to whatever sounds might come my way... or I feel the wind on my cheek. 

About a month ago I was walking like this when a little bit of color caught my eye as I walked under this spruce tree.  When I looked up I was astonished to find these lovely red pollen cones at the ends of all the branches.  It was hard to take a picture because the wind was pushing them to and fro and I stood there mesmerized by their movement. 

When I found this Mary Oliver quote I thought it a perfect description not only of my experience, but of this entire blog. And I thought as long as you all will keep reading I will never tire of telling you about it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Star Wars Linocut - Max Rebo

This Wednesday I am participating in a Star Wars Tribute Show called "May the Fourth Be With You." I made a Max Rebo linocut for the show.  If you don't remember, Max Rebo was a member of a 12-person band that played at Jabba the Hutt's palace on the planet Tattooine.  If you are interested in this character there is more information than you ever could imaging on this website.  Apparently Max had quite an appetite and he signed a contract where Jabba paid the band with an unlimited supply of food which made the other band members mad.

My incredibly talented friends Christina Wald and Kevin Necessary organized the show.  You can see the details in the poster Kevin created below (click to enlarge). If you are in Cincinnati, stop by the Brew House tomorrow night at 6 for our opening party!  There will be droids!

I also took a few process shots while making my linocut.

I printed 8 copies but only had 6 turn out in the end.  I lost one to blurriness and one to my fine lines getting clogged.

One of the fun things they asked us to do for the show was to write a short summary of why Star Wars was important to us and to choose our favorite quote.  Here is what I wrote:

My childhood is filled with memories from the Star Wars trilogy.  I remember hiding small toys under the front hood of our Star Wars landspeeder, shoving action figures in the holes of our maple tree, and being annoyed when I thought I lost Yoda’s staff.  I also remember the amazing Halloween costumes my mom made us.  My brother had a full-body furry Chewbacca costume where he looked out the mouth and my sister twisted her long hair into princess Leia’s side buns.  One year my brother and I were matching Jawa’s with costumes made of itchy burlap.  The magic of those years would not have been the same without Star Wars and whenever I hear the first few notes of the soundtrack I am transported to a galaxy far, far away.

“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. “ - Yoda

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Creative Juice Spring Retreat

Last weekend I attended the Creative Juice Retreat in Adams County.  Creative Juice is a group of freelancers that meets once a week to discuss creative endeavors and last week we took a trip to the country to decompress, hike, create, and relax. 

The trip was amazing and I can't put into words how much I love these women.  As I started looking through the photos, words kept popping into my head to describe both the weekend and the women so I added them to the photos.

On our trip we enjoyed hiking and exploring the property on the farm.

It was also a weekend for crafting and creating.  Terri brought these beautiful cigar boxes to make plein air pochade boxes. 

We also made ribbon flowers while chatting about boys.  There is nothing better than having good conversation while your hands are busy creating.

On our hikes we collected specimens for still life watercolors, but  I ended up drawing Christina while she sketched me.  You can see my sketch below and Christina's sketch here.

These weekends are also known for good eating.  Below you can see the beautiful kebabs Christina made for our dinner.

I had to include this short video of the tadpoles we found.  There were so many of them and just staring down at them moving around and gulping for air filled me with awe, wonder and a sense of being alive.

We weren't sure if it was still morel season, but Margot-the-Morel-Finder had keen eyes and found two.  Terri, who used to be a personal chef, chopped them and sauteed them in butter and they were delicious!

Every time I have ever gone on a retreat I am amazed at the deep connections that are possible to make with this world, with others, and with myself. The experience can be life changing if you allow it.

“What I want is to open up. I want to know what’s inside me. I want everybody to open up. I’m like an imbecile with a can-opener in his hand, wondering where to begin – to open up the earth. I know that underneath the mess everything is marvelous. I’m sure of it.

I know it because I feel so marvelous myself most of the time. And when I feel that way everybody seems marvelous… everybody and everything… even pebbles and pieces of cardboard… a match stick lying in the gutter… anything… a goat’s beard, if you like. That’s what I want to write about… and then we’re all going to see clearly, see what a staggering, wonderful, beautiful world it is.” -Henry Miller