Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Moon Moves Us

The moon moves the tides and tugs on the earth. Earth and Moon have an arm's length relationship. They love and need each other, but sustain a powerful tension. Lovers cannot get enough of gazing into her face. Our animal brethren and bug cousins behold with wonder the lunar waxing and waning. Moon calls our dreams out to dance with jumping and stomping, twirling slowly, then gradually faster and faster. So fast. Is that green glitter or star laughter in the deep night's cavort?

Some friends commissioned me to paint this for their anniversary. They are rabbit people. And moon people. When was the last time you held the moon in your gaze, and let the moon hold you in her's?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Jungle Variety Art

When I make art,
I'm all over the map.

Sometimes I'm down in Mexico,
Sometimes I'm in Japan,
At times I'm into wicker,
Though I used to want rattan,

In the morning I'm a peppercorn,
At night I'm more like salt,
For July I will drink milkshakes,
In August I'll have a malt,

I guess I like variety,
There's so much there to choose,
Pick this or that or them or those,
It's win-win, not loose-loose.

Perhaps that's why I can't resist
The experimental mental game
Of using odd and weirdo paint
To make fine art that's not too tame.

I duz art with ink & pen & chalk,
And water color and acryl,
Though lately I got paintly,
Went all out on all the frills,

I brought home wild jungle paper,
The oddest paper I ever brung,
It was mushed up bits of chewed up sticks,
Holy cow! It's elephant dung!

I illustrated The Boy Who Went Ape, written by my son, Ben. It was painted in Sumi ink and acrylic on elephant dung paper. The paper is super absorbent and is available in lovely colors (though some are not light fast). It was fun, challenging and weird to paint on. I had to kill the suckiness (thirstiness) of the paper with gesso where I wanted vibrant color. For soaked in color (infused with the color of the paper), I just painted right on the paper and let it drink in the paint. If you want to try this super "green" 100% recycled paper, visit Mr. Ellie Pooh.com.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Clues Along the Way

You never know what you will find on any given day. There is a book that I am gathering material for, which I won't get to for a while. Nevertheless it presents itself to me in fits and starts, bits and pieces. Or like Rosie O'Donnell said in Sleepless..., "It's like a little clue..."

I can't wait to do that book, but, alas, it must simmer. The longer it cooks, the curiouser it becomes.

Thanks to Joe Greenley for taking the photo. Check out his world class kayak company. True works of art, simply gorgeous:


Saturday, June 27, 2009

Feeding the Volcano

It is probably the same for linear people, bless em... actually I have no idea. But for me anyway, I need ebb and flow to do my best creative work. I am about to begin the final painting phase of my next book, and I will be in an all consuming state of dream-walking, brush strokes, gum turpentine, and the interplay of light and dark.

When I am in this zone, I am in a bit of a social torpor. I don't think I drool, but I do look through people. I study their anatomy rather than listen to what they are saying. I imagine them in various poses in my book while saying, "Oh yeah? That's really interesting...".

In between creative eruptions, the volcano needs to eat. So I graze with Father Time and the Earth Shapers: Wind, Water, Tide, Fire... I dance with the dryads, and fly with Icarus ("Hey, Ic, maybe not so high, how about over here instead...").

Dryad (sweet Susi) and Father Time's brother ( Father Timeless a.k.a. Larry) in Balancing Land.

My grandson, Fin, and buddy Larry, warming their backs on the sand at Fort Flagler. Fin said, "If you put a rock on your stomach, it will hold you down."

That makes sense. When you are feeding your volcano, if you are not grounded, you might just float away.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


In the movie, Ground Hog Day, Phil Conners lives the same day over and over, and goes through a full spectrum of human behavior and emotions: selfishness, pride, disgust, anger, loathing, anxiety, fear, terror, despair, slothfulness, lust, indulgence, repentance, hope, self sacrifice, humility, love.

At one point when confronted with an impassable blizzard, Phil, the weather man, yells, "I MAKE THE WEATHER!" As writers or illustrators, we too might make the weather. We create lives, homes, characters, and snargy problems for them to overcome. We might decide for our characters to go to the laundromat, to twirl their umbrella, or to be eaten alive.

One day I saw a fisherman working on a tug boat. "Man, that guy is a salty old dog," I said. Now, he didn't wrong me or anything, but I turned him into a dog. What can I say? I had to.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

When We Were Very Short

I remember those shorts. And the shirt. I can't find clothes like that anymore, with pictures of animals and firemen...
And yes, those are real cowboy boots.
I had the best sisters any kid could have had. We lived in the Mojave desert which was hotter than hell most of the time. We used to fry eggs on the hoods of cars. My best friends were horny toads and tortoises.

Being in the field of children's literature, I often return to the fields of my childhood. Not just to access memories and images, but to breathe that air. To see things for the first time again. The whole world was new. New shoes were a revolution. Gravel was to be thrown into the air with glee. And dirt clods, oh joy, they explode on impact. Bugs were emissaries from the New World. A water hose was a direct link to the fountain of youth. Booosh! Rainbows were not trite, they were miraculous. It was shocking and horrid when you skinned your knee. But was it not also fascinating? Scabs, hmmm? Pick away. I cherish the honesty of children. They tell it like it is. Chesterton is right on:

Children demand justice because they know they are innocent.
Adults hope for mercy, because they know they are guilty.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Art Angels and Positive Ions

Sometimes a warm breeze blows through your life from out of the blue. I had just such a breeze that brought six lovely and talented artists into our home and studio. This was a gift on many levels. As an artist in my cave, I am so busy hacking away on mastodon bones and grinding acorns that I forget the joys and struggles of the rest of the artistic clan.

These gals brought fresh ideas and encouragement. Look at this remarkable card they sent after our visit together, made up of their sizzling (and even some original!) art and sentiments.

This networking of other "fire folk" is essential and fuels the creative plasma of the soul.
Plasma being made of positive ions, free electrons, charged particles, which is exactly what they all brought. Thank you Kathleen Kemly, Gudrun Ongman, Susan Summit Cyr, Martha Hill, Jo Gershman, and Tara Larsen Chang, for your thoughtful expressions of friendship.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are we there yet?

They say life is a highway. When I hear that I think of asphalt, and falling off my bike and grinding off my mozzarella skin in slo-mo. Picking bits of sand and gravel out of my major owy. Yes, life is a journey. Like a highway. Or better, like a dirt road with grass growing out of the middle section of the road, between the tire-worn ruts. What if we just floated over fields of wild flowers? If you fell out of the door, you would fall on wild flowers. Flower burn. Not so bad. Kind of pleasant really. You would smell all fragrant. And have new friends. Bees. Butterflies.

I painted this "Road Trip" because I find myself floating along when I am working on a book. I am in several states at once. Joyful, melancholic, stuporishous. Where does this flower-powered back road go? It may not matter. Do I know? Seldom. My handyman/philosopher friend, Nicholas Colitses (twitter.com/AssessThyself), often reminds me,

"The journey is the destination."

Nicholas also wrote the following:

God scatters our trembling hearts
As glitter
On the darkened roadways
Of this life.
Sparkling remnants
Of a time when the world
Was not broken