What I Am is What I Am…

Back in college – yes, this will TOTALLY date me – I listened to Edie Brickell (and the New Bohemians).  I seriously wondered if dogs could smile.  And I wasn’t aware of too many things, although like any college freshman, I am sure I thought I was aware of EVrything.

I recently dove full bore into my knitting, having made my way there after more than a decade of work as a visual artist.  It’s not that I’ve abandoned my art – it’s just that I was ready to claw my way through new challenges.

Today, I found my artwork hollering to me from across the creek of life while I was trying to pick colors for an argyle sock project for the Master Hand Knitter program.  I ended up selecting one of my paintings – here it is unencumbered by little jpegs of balls of yarn:


The painting is oil on panel, and it depicts a schoolhouse in Montana that one of my family members actually matriculated from.  I decided to match the colors of the painting as best I could with Cascade’s Heritage sock yarn from JimmyBeans.com.  Here’s what I came up with:

The top image shows the sock yarns I have selected – and the bottom image shows the black and white version of the picture and the yarns.  This lets me look at the range of values I have picked, to make sure the socks don’t appear ‘flat’ from having too many colors in the same value area on the scale.  I picked six colors because I am not sure which of the browns I’ll go with just yet.

At any rate, the art (and knitting) adventure continues…  Guess once you’re an artist you remain one for life.



Landscapes (and Life) Through Lenses

I am an artist.

That’s the answer I give when people say “What do you do?”

But, saying you’re an artist is like saying you’re an office worker.  Or a human.  It’s a ridiculously broad answer – perhaps an answer that, for my part anyway, needs some retooling.  Really, when I stop to think about it, I’m an explorer.  It just so happens that the results of my explorations are ‘art’.

For the last 12 years I have been very interested in place and identity – the ways in which the places we work, play, live, and learn affect who we are, and the ways in which we – in turn – affect those places.  I have painted portraits of people in situ, their settings and their personae inextricably and obviously bound.  I have also painted a wide range of ‘scapes’ – city, land, sky, mind.  Most recently, most of my ‘scapes’ paintings have been of urban settings – or of the odd and uncomfortable, liminal spaces between the urban and the other-than-urban.



The Edge of That Place


Increasingly, however, I’m called to consider my own ties to place rather than the nearly complete lack of ties to place I experienced as a result of my childhood in a military family that moved quite frequently.  I have begun to think about the ways in which the artwork and crafts completed by members of my family for generations before me tie me to Appalachia and, far before the arrival of my ancestors, to places beyond the shores of what we refer to presently as The United States.

What has arisen is a series of works that are initially painted in a traditional manner – oil on canvas or panel – but are then converted to stitching (needlepoint) patterns.  I’m fascinated by what happens to the ‘feel’ of the work when the very masculine form of the initial artwork is translated into what has been considered a very feminine form (needlework).  This line of exploration has led me to consider the ways in which landscapes are gendered – and the ways in which artists’ depictions of them are gendered (and empowered – or not) as well.



In addition to all of this, I’m led to think about the relationship between craft and place – and the gendered nature of craft – even in this day.  So, on I go – exploring.

The next time someone asks what I do, I suppose the best answer might be – “I explore places.”

We’ll see…

What a WEEK!

Wow!  Ok – so, I’m going to blop out a bunch of stuff!

First, I got up this morning and realized my client, the Arts & Science Council, published the presentation I illustrated for them on their blog!  How COOL!  You can see it here….

Also, I decided to publish an eBook version of my illustration portfolio on Blurb.com!  I mean – HEY – why not?  The truth behind that whole project is that I needed to update my portfolio, and I decided that actually doing it as a publishing project would be a great learning experience.  Believe  you me, it was just that…  Click on the cover below to see the listing on Blurb.com!


As if THAT wasn’t enough this week, I dug into the business side of things and started using Xero.com for my bookkeeping!  I know – ACK!  Bookkeeping?!  Yep – part of running a studio is running the business side of things.  And I actually kind of enjoy it – or, well, I enjoy having my business and if I want to keep it that way I have to make sure I do what has to be done from a back office perspective!  At any rate, if you are interested, check out XERO!  I really like it!


I found out my mural has been selected as the new Charlotte Chamber of Commerce Grand Mural to go in their newly remodeled headquarters!  I cannot believe it! I am so incredibly excited and grateful!

Here is an image of the mural, a collaboration between the Arts & Science Council of Charlotte, MetLife, and the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce.  To read about the mural selection and the mural itself, just click on the picture below:


I competed against two other finalists for whose work I have great respect, and whose entries were very interesting and powerful.  That said, I am incredibly honored to have been chosen!  Ok – back to studio work for me now!!


Single Point Perspective Exercise


Yesterday morning, as is the case nearly every other morning, I took to the drawing board for drawing exercises.  Yesterday I opted to do two small sketches.  Each with the same horizon line and perspective point.  One was intended to be realistic and the other was intended to be something other than realistic.  These are the sketches I ended up with! 

Perspective references are abundant.  Books, websites, and other artists can al give you pointers.  I happen to be a huge fan of the book Perspective Made Easy by Norling.   The book is broken out very clearly and, after marking the sections I reference frequently, it is a quick and easy way to get my bearings when doing perspective work.  

Ok…back to the drawing board!


Postcard Adventures

I’ve been working my way through the process of coming up with a new postcard, and while that may seem a simple task – or perhaps even trivial – it’s anything but that for an illustrator.  Postcards, in an age in which most things are digital, immediate, and in most ways intangible, provide the folks to whom they are sent physical evidence of the creative process, and a reminder that some things – like our favorite picture books, ice cream cones, and kite strings – make a more lasting impression when they are actually held in the hands.

Here is the postcard I’ve come up with this time:

Postcard_ArmadilloFrog PostcardBack_ArmadilloFrog

I opted to go with the smaller 4″ x 6″ (ish) postcards rather than larger ones this time.  I also opted to include some of my sketch work on this one – I am a fan of sketched, unruly lines anyway.

A note about printers:  This time I have opted to use Moo.com.  Previously I used UPrinting.com, but for reasons of flexibility in assortment (Moo.com allows you to have a different front image on every single card in your pack!) and issues I encountered with proofing and final product with UPrinting.com, I’ve wandered into the land of Moo.com!  I’ll have to let you know how the cards are once I receive my order!

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 2.40.43 PM

I also opted to get custom stamps from Zazzle – they look great on illustration postcards and offer a tiny bit more real estate on which to share our work.  I’ve used Zazzle’s stamps before and love them.  The print quality is great, and it’s really fun (although somewhat expensive) to use custom stamps.

So, that’s it for now!  I’m awaiting arrival of my 20 postcards from Moo.com and my 20 stamps from Zazzle!  I’ll show you what I got when they arrive!

Happy illustrating!

Looseness and Lostness

I have been working back and forth between refinement and looseness.  Yesterday’s sketches brought today’s concept image inspired by a fairy tale I read recently. I often love to see where an image is free and loose, and then – beyond that – I love to find the point at which the image threatens to become lost – either in its refinement or its wild freedom.


Motherhood, Vulnerability, and the Power of Poetry


Recently I was reading through bunches of material online.  Fairy tales, folk tales, fables, and then…poetry.  I was looking for something to illustrate as part of the constant exercises that are so much of the work I do in my illustration practice.  I sat on my couch, coffee in hand, and opened up PoetryFoundation.org.

On the homepage, I noticed a poem called ‘Two Men & a Truck‘ by Laura Kasischke.  I am not entirely sure what about that poem drew me in – as I certainly had no particular emotional connection with the title’s offering of the idea of two men and a truck.  But something most assuredly did pull me in, and when I read the poem I was absolutely floored.  I was moved to the very bottom of my soul.  Because I’m a mother?  Because I’ve been through divorce?  Because, like many parents who are brave enough to be open and honest, I can say that I have done some things well – and I’ve stumbled quite a few times in my attempt to raise my kids?  Probably all of those things.  And more.

I read through the poem and cried.

Then, the next day, I started working on something far less touching but equally as sob-inducing.  Taxes.

During the several days I spent doing my accounting (yes, artists have to keep their books too…) and figuring out what the final upshot of all of that number crunching would be, that poem haunted me.  The first lines crept in and out of my thoughts.

Once the tax adventure was done (don’t worry – I won’t be posting anything about the tax process…), I felt compelled to take a look at the poem again.  This time, at half past five in the morning, I printed it out, parsed it into segments.

I’d had the idea that this would make an incredible picture book.  Not for kids, necessarily – but for the countless women who have either given birth to, or taken into their lives, small human beings who for one moment thought their mothers were The Everything.

When I sat down to ask my pencil what to do about this whole emotional tangle of a poem-with-pictures thing, my pencil responded by giving me the entire storyboard set.

I cannot describe what it was to again cry – or, in this case sob – over this poem.  I watched my tears fall and run around between the lines of graphite that were laying claim to the paper.  And – when I was done – I photographed the whole thing and emailed it to Laura Kasischke, the poet who had strung together these perfect little strands of motherhood, joy, and the sort of grief that can only be felt in the long, sweeping arc that is parenthood.  I asked Laura if she would allow me to illustrate her poem as a picture book.

Her response: “Wow!  I’m incredibly flattered, and so moved and impressed by your work.  Of course I would be thrilled and honored!


I was thrilled – and excited and terrified.

This morning when I sat down to work on one of the illustrations for the second time – the first feeling like a completely abysmal failure – I got angry.  When I untangled the mess of feelings that had me in an uncomfortable place between immobility and nausea I realized the reason this first illustration was so incredibly difficult to get going was that it left me utterly


So, I’m sharing the results of this first piece – the initial spread of this picture book – because I have to.  I have to know I am strong enough to share the feelings I have – towering love for my children, thoughts about my failings as a parent, shiny and sometimes glowing little triumphs here and there – through artwork that will only dance if it is an apt partner for the incredible work given to the world of mothers by Laura Kasischke.