Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Free Range Tea Pot of Sanity

"...To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
An by opposing end them?..."

Alright, hold on Willy. There is another option.
Get yourself a "Venti".
A Roman Empire sized coffee.
If that doesn't quite arm you against a sea
of troubles, then
Try engaging in a "Venti-Fest".
Perhaps a creative activity know...vent.

I don't seem to be able to help myself from painting these "Venti's". It works so well for me that my subconscious sometimes shoves me over and sits in the driver's seat. As it were.

I enjoy making them because I discover so much about Color. Line. Energy. Shape. Shape~Shifting. Mood. And stickin' it right back to "outrageous fortune".
It is a way for me to slay the dragons of the mind. But also to befriend some.

Under the surface of the mind thoughts convect like magma. What surfaces may be new or ancient. The image above made me remember aboriginal art that I had seen in Australia seven or eight years hence.

After I painted this I realized that it was inspired by a hike I took a couple of weeks ago with dear friends up on Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic Mountains. I added a couple of strokes to further suggest the mountain range.

Funny how things can simmer and make a nice tea. Or build in intensity for a proper and inevitable venting. What do you do to vent? How do you cope with stress, and other bogeys.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

You Can't Keep a Good Man Down

My son, Jesse, always liked to dress like a wild man, and imagined himself running through jungles in the tropics, eating weird exotic food and doing something important. Hopefully with a spear.

Jesse did indeed find himself in the tropics a couple weeks ago eating goat brains out of a goat skull. He didn't have a spear to my knowledge, but he did have a beautiful book to share which has taken on a life of its own.

When the devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit Haiti this January, Jesse wanted to help. There has been a tremendous outpouring of support from around the world, but Jesse said, " As I sat at my easel and thought about the future of Haiti, I was sure of only one thing: we will forget".

He wrote and illustrated this remarkable picture book, HOPE FOR HAITI. The story is set in the tent city which was erected inside Port Au Prince soccer stadium. I am so proud of Jesse for creating a book that is beautiful and full of compassion.

Jesse is working with We Give Books, and his publisher, Putnam/Penguin through book sales is giving a generous donation to Save the Children's Haiti Earthquake~Children in Emergency Fund.

The earthquake killed over two hundred thousand people, and left thousands injured. Here's Jesse gettin' down with his pals at a health care and education compound. These are kids at risk, many of whom are orphaned. Jesse brought over loads of deflated soccer balls and pumps for the children. Needless to say, they were stoked.

Haiti was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the earthquake. Now the battle against chaos, violence, sickness and despair is intensified in ways most of us can't even imagine.

Jesse is also working with the World Vision ADP center in Hinche, and Artists for Peace and Justice, NPH, and St. Damiene's Hospital in Port Au Prince.

Here they are distributing food and supplies spearheaded by Bryn Mooser who has put his life on the line to help the Haitian people. Check out his inspiring and heart-breaking blog, City of Dust.

Here Jess is reading his book to the youngest orphans.

Jesse said that in spite of the crushing poverty, he sees hope for Haiti in these children. You can't keep a good man/woman/boy/girl down.

"You see, love is my foundation"--Jimmy Cliff

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Left Brain/Right Brain~The Odd Couple

My friend and fellow illustrator, David Hohn is teaching a class at the Art Institute of Portland. He asked me to share with him and his class, my method of design using overlays on a few of my illustrations. Okay Left Brain, try to make some sense of Right Brain...on three, two, one...

Here goes: For this painting from The Magic Rabbit, I took the Golden Mean and shot it like an arrow from my Golden Bow. The blue splots indicate where I used numbers and the pink doinks show where I scattered playing cards. In this book I was playing with concepts of time, space, magic, The Big Bang, and The Big Bang in reverse.

This illustration from One Wintry Night was intimidating to even begin. We had gone to the Middle East to do research for this book, and I had so much reference material that I was short-circuiting. I didn't want to drown in a terribly difficult painting--every concept sketch felt too complex. My son, Jesse, saw my frustration and doodled a rough sketch for me showing the two heads in opposition. "Isn't it a power struggle?" he asked.

Yes, it was. Big time. So the "stand off" solved my design dilemma. Thanks, Jess.

In this illustration from Bronwen The Traw and the Shape~Shifter, the girl hears a tapping at her window. Her world is about to be turned upside-down.

The picture pulls in two directions--the top half flashes a play of light between the girl, the flying squirrel, and her gardening "traw". The bottom half reveals her toys falling away from her secure embrace, tumbling out of the picture itself.

In The Legend of Saint Christopher, I painted this illustration of The Dark Knight by first painting a "Rorschalk test" type pattern with black on red and red on black.

Since the Dark Knight was a metaphor for the Devil, I attempted to show his turmoil and chaos by a tearing and push/pull against the otherwise centered composition. His sword forms an "X".

In The Boy Who Went Ape, written by my son, Ben, Ms. Thunderbum is a teacher who doesn't like little boys, especially when they act like apes! I patterned her after my second grade teacher and my piano teacher, both of whom hated me, or so it seemed at the time. No they actually did hate me. And all boys. And life.

DDDZZZzzzzz≠–¡!¡!¡!¡! See the negative energy zapping the poor chimp who acts like an ape because he is an ape? Ape, boy, ape, boy, same difference. Agree? Her presence bows out the room itself.

Here is Her Royal Significance ordering the little lambs to obey her every command.

I had so much fun developing her character. She is a force to be reckoned with. Notice the black broken glass jewelry.

In the same book there is a bank robber. I first used Jesse as a model, wearing a hoody, shorts, and flip flops, and carrying an Al Capone style tommy gun. The book was at the printer, when the Virginia Tech shootings happened. The book was postponed. We decided to do a more comical bank robber. A nut-job with a plunger and bunny slippers might give one pause, but is not so much of a threat.

I used DaVinci's Golden Belly Ratio as my design format.

Friday, September 17, 2010

What? Squirrel Head For Dinner Again?

My cat is an animal. As in RAERN! Our cat, Wylie, was an animal too. She disappeared. Methinks foul play. We do have coyotes, bobcats, raccoons and on extremely rare occasions cougars. Most likely it was an owl or peregrine falcon that got her. Ah...having a nice stroll
when ¡¡¡Joink!!! Stars***then______________________∞

My friend Rick from Minnesota said a couple of his friends were walking in the snow in the woods at night, and one of the guys had on a fur hat. An owl mistook it for an animal and swooped down for the kill. It got the guy on the back of the neck and paralyzed him. I don't know for how long.

This morning my other (and last remaining) cat, Murray was having his repast on The Door Mat of Death. He was eating a squirrel. Head first. This is a weird post. Murray ate everything except the tail and some apparently nasty tasting organ that looked like a bota bag. Do your pets ever freak you out?

"Speak softly and carry a big stick."~Teddy Roosevelt

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Messing Around With Fairies

Fairies are tricky. They have a way of getting you to do strange things. Like agreeing to do an art demo in front of people. Paint on demand, as it were. So, no big deal, I've done this before. but then the fairies suggested that I do an egg tempera demo. In front of live people. In the year 2010. So... that's painting with an egg and colored dirt. While people watch.

Egg tempera is an old world medium. It can only be done slowly with millions of layers using a plethora of cross-hatchings. A whole army of plethoras. Think: fifteenth century. Doing an egg tempera demo is like performing rap in Latin.

In order to keep the audience from aging, I didn't complete the egg tempera demo painting. I merely dabbled a little to show the technique. I then brought the painting home with me from Abilene, Texas, and finished it in my studio. Then I sent it back with a couple of variations on a theme. They will reside at the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) in Abilene.

Fairies have sisters, you know. What I realized by dipping my toe in Faeryland, is that I am now a marked man. Part of me will always be there, and part here. I intend to explore these will-o'-the-wisps a great deal more.

My friend Kitty from Ireland at Into My Own, tells me that Irish farmers leave hawthorne and ash trees in their fields (they plow around them) just for the fairies. That is taking green to the next level. No wonder there are no fairies in the parking lots of America.

So, if you know any fairies, tell them I am interviewing, and when I plow, I will remember to leave green belts and a plethora of nooks and crannies. Woah, I used the word, "plethora" three times in this post. No, wait, counting that last use of the word "plethora", that makes four. Oh dear, it's actually five. Wait a second! The fairies are messing with me again~«««««

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Swallowed By Art

This happens a lot. I have trouble knowing where my art ends, and I begin. Or where my art begins and I, uh...hmmm.

This is a younger me, which I guess is true for every photo, unless it is streaming video. But even that would be a younger virtual visage because of the time it takes for light to go from image to camera to eye to brain.

Do you get lost in your work? Your art? Your passions?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Telling Image: Art Exhibit at Bainbridge Island Library~Opening Friday September 3

Spin a yarn with words and you are a story teller. Spin straw into gold and you are either in a fairy tale, or you are an artist.

As a children's book author and illustrator I weave words and images together to tell a tale. The art that I make for a book unfolds a visual narrative.

My goal is to illuminate the text but also to reveal subtleties in the story which may not even have been mentioned. My inspiration comes from dreams and from that calm land of elixir between waking and dreaming. Music, hope, and longing also seem to stitch themselves into each piece of art that I make.

This Friday evening~September 3~ from 5:00 to 7:00 during "ART WALK", I am exhibiting some of my artwork at the Bainbridge Island Public Library. I will give a short presentation at 6:00. Included in the show will be a range of work in various medium: oil, egg tempera, sumi ink and acrylic on elephant dung paper. Pâté de foie gras on Russian parachutes.

Truth in lending here, one of the above may not be true. But the rest are.

The exhibit will be up for the month of September. Love to see you there Friday!
BYOS&GL (Bring your own straw. And goose liver).

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Shape of Time

I did not have time to play with time. But time had time to play with me. So I went with the flow and ended up at Ruby Beach on the coast of Washington way far away from everything

The "haystack rocks" thrust up along the shore. And the time-worn stones beckoned to be stacked.

At first I could not get anything to balance, I guess "hurry" still lingered as my mojo. But Susi had stepped out of stress's scrunch and the stones vied for her attention. Freeze tag is one of their favorite games.

Time and tide, tide and time, time and tide, tide and time, time and tide, tide and time...

Ahhhhhh.... one must sigh first. Breathe more slowly. Let the rocks tell you their stories.

There were other players. Birds. Light. Wind. Salt.

A time to work, a time to play.

We are all larger and smaller than we think. Time will tell.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


•my art for the 826LA art auction•
based on my eye witness account
of the Great Summer of 2010 Rampage

Some artists are "out there". Dan Santat is one of them. Like, Ooo~Whoo...! Last week Dan and I were doing portfolio consultations at the SCBWI writers' and illustrators' conference in LA. I learned that besides being Lord Vader's valet, Mr. Santat has some rather unsettling super powers. He can bend a palm tree by strumming his ukulele, and he can make art that bends the mind.

Yes, bends the actual mind. For some reason, a group of artists found his new book, OH NO! exciting and inspiring. It is a (soon to go viral) little picture book for warped children. The good kind of warped. He says that his book is a sort of homage to Japanese rampaging monster movies. But I promise, it is educational too. I actually own a copy of the book. I love it. My kids love it. My grand kids love it. Maybe love isn't the right word. We eat it. We gnaw on it. We run screaming down the street with it. Yeah, that's better.

You can bid on and own a piece of the art that has been made (as a spin off from OH NO!) for the fundraiser. Proceeds go to 826LA which is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 8-12 with their creative and expository writing skills, and helping teachers inspire their students to write.

I don't think it's a problem if an artist has a few screws loose. It all depends on which screws.

Check out Dan's site and check out THE AUCTION here: Eye Witness Reports There are some seriously stellar artists who have joined the fray. First EBAY auction online August 23-27

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ding Dong The Book Is Dead

SAY WHAT?? Oh, man I hate hearing this. When Garrison Keillor announced in May that publishing was dead, a lot of people threw themselves out of ground floor library windows. Or at least threw out their cassette tapes of Prairie Home Companion. When I heard this I threw myself off the couch.

Rubin Pfeffer

When Gutenberg printed his big book back in 1450-something, a lot of calligraphers stabbed things with their quills and threw lamp black ink out their windows.

Having just returned from the SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) conference in LA, I am inspired, pumped, and curious about this quantum leap in publishing. The times they are a changing. My agent, Rubin Pfeffer, in his key note speech (which rocked the house) urged the organization to transform itself into an ebook publisher. He challenged authors and illustrators to get a handle on the fact that "the world wide market for digital publishing will be very, very large".

Rubin took pains to emphasize that the changes are, "Not instead of, but in addition to..." (the traditional book form). I love the fact that he said, "Our challenge will be to remain high above all the poor quality material out there."

This is a huge discussion, which will unfold in ways we can't imagine. Pfeffer says, "With books being reinvented, we must be innovative in creating content that can leverage the multimedia capabilities of technologies like the iPad." . Although I don't have an iPad yet, I am making one out of cardboard, tape and tin foil just to tide me over.

Going to this conference was seriously inspiring, but also provided the occasional surprise. Such as helping Jay Asher, Rachel Vail, and Carolyn Mackler into their Cupid costumes. Those wings offer up engineering challenges you wouldn't believe.

I loved being back in L.A.. So-Cal is my stompin' grounds. You never know what you are going to see, like the space age gas station (above). Last time I was here the police blocked off the street during a bank robbery in progress, with me trapped in front of the bank.

In the lobby of the Hyatt Century Plaza Hotel, with writers and bloggers extraordinaire, Jolie Stekly, Jaime Temairik, Martha Brockenbrough, and Molly Blaisdell.

Me and blog buddy, Julia Kelley.

RJW with Ann Whitford Paul, and mi hijo, Jesse. Ann's book on writing for children is one of the best I have ever found: Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide From Story Creation to Publication. Jesse has an amazing new picture book coming out in the fall, HOPE FOR HAITI.

Like musician and poet, Paul Simon said, "If you want to be a writer, find a humble pen." Or make that~find a humble digital device.

There is fo-sho a publishing revolution underway. Books will change, and books will stay the same. Both. But however we receive our content, remember this:

"Of the making of books there will be no end." ~Ecclesiastes 12:12