March 13, 2009 · pensive penning


So…. I’ve been toiling away here till all hours of the night lately. work, work, work. Which is all good, but I’ve been grateful for a bit of break the past two days… if only because I desperately needed to do some laundry and other assorted, seriously banal household stuff. And you know, just take a break from sitting in this chair for hours and hours on end. I’m hoping to get a couple of hours today to work on personal work (um, yeah, so you think I could possibly work the word “work” in here any more?! possible?)

Whilst (whilst!) I’m toiling away, there are usually a couple times a day when I hit send and have 15 minutes or an hour while I wait for client feedback or approval. Often I use these breaks to do things like, well, you know, pee and eat dinner and stuff… but sometimes I just sit here and draw, waiting for the mailbox ping that tells me my client has approved the design and I can get back to it . This is one of the sketches I did last week over the course of a couple of days. I don’t know where the Japanese influence came from, though I suspect it was from my exhaustive searching of the net for paper lantern examples. I was actually looking for Mexican Fiesta lanterns, but inevitably came across lots of Japanese paper lanterns. And I got into this feathery line thing that was just fun to practice, though once again, true to form, I overworked this sketch and should’ve stopped and put it away about an hour before I did. But whatever. I still sort of like this, or the idea of it, and am filing it as an idea for future personal work. (sketch is ballpoint pen on bond paper)

Happy Friday all! Don’t work too hard!

5 Comments so far
November 13, 2008 · shameless self promotion


You know, for someone whose job it is to design/illustrate stuff that promotes events, products and people …. I really sort of suck at self promotion. I don’t know why that is exactly, but my friends**, I have got to change that! Over the next couple of months, I’m really going to focus my energies on that. I’n hard at work now on creating a new portfolio, stocked with my (air quotes) new style (end air quotes) and I’m going to start featuring more of my design work too.

But today, I’m going to flog myself in book form. About a little over a year ago, Danny Gregory, a creative genius I’ve admired for years and years, asked me to participate in his new project An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers. The book is about to be released and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here. I was flattered and flabbergasted… and looking at this short film (click here) Danny made to promote the book, I am even more humbled and honored to be included with such incredible talent.

The book features the work of 50 artists of all walks of life, including big guns like James Jean and R.Crumb, plus pages from some of my lovely artist friends like Penelope Dullaghan, Rama Hughes, and Rama’s charming wife Christine Castro Hughes.

And if all THAT, doesn’t completely sell you on the book, perhaps my dulcet tones on this my first EVAH! podcast will. Warning: I was nervous and so my responses are uber-long and rambling as I am sadly wont to be. But endlessly fascinating, I assure you (ahem!). And Danny sounds like a smooth Jazz DJ and that’s a always a plus.

3 Comments so far
February 22, 2008 · pen to paper


It never fails. as soon as my thoughts start drifting and circling around art again, as soon as I start feeling that tickle of excitement and inspiration in the pit of my stomach, as soon as I turn with real earnestness to my drawing table, the space above my head opens and an unanticipated deluge of design work swamps me good.

It’s a difficult balance. Design work is pretty much my bread and butter and I enjoy it. I do. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my design prowess, I’m never going to revolutionize the industry, I’m never gonna be David Carson or Saul Bass, but I have a knack for producing reliably open, user friendly design that makes my clients happy. I am fortunate enough to have some fun, talented and connected clients that I really enjoy working with and through them, I have done projects for Target, Loreal, Olay and the like.

But I don’t get the same rush from design that I get from illustration. Design isn’t a personal process. It’s all about finding the right visual solution, interpreting someone else’s vision in a way they may not be able to do for themselves. Sometimes, I really love the end product but ultimately, it’s not about whether it’s to my own taste or not… it’s whether it communicates the clients’ desire and hits their target audience, delivers their message. I work hard at it and I am delighted when my clients are pleased and the piece I designed really delivers. It is challenging and rewarding and it certainly keeps me occupied, but not the way art and illustration do.

Design is just not as deeply personal for me as illustration, it doesn’t fill me the same way. Or torture me the same way either. Illustration demands something completely different from me. I can’t quite figure out how to explain it, other than to say that design is all about how other people think while illustration is about how I think. And feel. Illustration is much more about feeling than thinking. I tap into a whole different part of my brain when I am drawing or painting than I do when I’m designing. It’s like the difference between solving a math equation and writing a poem (although that analogy is a little weak too because again, I find the process of writing and the process of illustration/art entirely different again).

The fundamental challenge of problem solving is the same, but the route you take to get there is entirely divergent. Design is an express train straight to the target destination with clearly defined markers and clearly legible signage pointing the path whilst (whilst!) Illustration is a careless meander through the countryside, with unscheduled stops to peer into the knots of trees to spy on roosting squirrels and to look under footbridges for evidence of trolls and the Billygoats Gruff. Illustration takes naps, gets pollen and chocolate all over her clothing, takes back alleys (blind alleys too), trips and stumbles a lot and very rarely arrives on time. Design finds that sort of thing pretty much horrifying.

blah, blah, blah, blah… it’s doubtful that this makes much sense to anyone but me, but there it is. My as-per-usual long-winded way of telling you that this year I am really trying to make some real headway with my illustration career. I’ve been making noises about that for quite some time now, I know. And I have made some real forays into the back room. I have made some real progress there. Not the truly measurable kind of progress, to be sure, but things are beginning to tumble into place for me in terms of what I want to do with illustration, in terms of what works and what doesn’t. And what I’ve discovered is in order to make serious progress with my illustration, I need to stop taking it so damn seriously.

If we’re laying it all out on the table, I have to tell you that I really got my panties in a bunch about it this past fall. I flopped and floundered, threw a right wobbly and kicked over paint pots and stuff. I swore up a storm and pouted in the corner and flung myself sobbing across the bed. I spent a lot of time thinking big, v. serious, v. angsty Capital A Artistic thoughts, frowning and stroking my chin and generally carrying on as if it was The Only Thing That Mattered. Sometimes I thought for a moment that I had it by the tail, other times I was sure I had lost it forever.

And then January came a long and knocked me completely sideways and for a good 5-6 weeks there, I had not one real thought about illustration or anything to do with it. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this week to find myself doodling about and feeling quite comfortable and merry and absolutely, spectacularly friendly towards the subject. January was a horrible month for me and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it in any way, but one thing is for sure… it certainly righted my perspective and somehow paved the way for me to open up to the simple joy of creating again simply for the fun of it, the ease of it. And that, folks, is the essential ingredient that I lost last year with all my writhing about. In the twist and shout of trying to do Very Important Work Of Impeccable Taste, Talent and Originality (or VIWITTO), I totally smothered the one thing that keeps illustration alive for me. Joy, Simple joy.

I think I’ve got it back, at least for the moment. Joy is fluttering prettily around this room, morphing into shapes various and sundry, trailing dog hair and cookie crumbs and little silvery sparklets. And for once, I’m pretty sure it will still be here when I get finished with my unexpected pile of math problems.

* The above is a little self-portrait I did the other day for Rama Hughes’ Portrait Party. The Portrait Party is an incredibly inspired idea and if you enjoy drawing or painting on an level, I really encourage you to check it out and pass it on.

5 Comments so far
September 12, 2007 · tree spree


ha. you totally thought this was gonna be a nude didn’t you? C’mon, admit it. Well, nope. It’s a tree hurling itself thru space. And I drew it (in ink) a couple of weeks ago when I was looking at the full moon and suddenly thought ‘what if once a month, during a full moon, all the trees in the forest voluntarily uproot themselves and spring into the sky trying to catch the moon?’ a romantic thought, no? But alas, probably not a very realistic one. You would think that if all the trees in the world spontaneously uprooted themselves and flung themselves into the sky once a month, we would have heard about it by now. Scientists, lumberjacks, fairytale trolls… someone would have copped on to that by now and spilled the beans. ‘Cuz think about it…it would be a pretty noisy affair. All that ripping of roots and kerthumping of earth and swish of branches. Imagine the collective crash they would make when they came to earth again. Yeah… LOUD! Ad think about all the angry woodland creatures… squirrels and owls and turkey vultures and raccoons ( one c or two? I can never remember.) That would be a right rude awakening, wouldn’t it? Imagine your house tearing itself from its foundation and shuttling into the sky once a month. Though, probably after centuries of this kind of activity, the woodland critters would have hatched some kinda contingeny plan. Involving parachutes and bungee cords, I’m sure. And maybe little padded astronaut suits. But instead of NASA patches sewn over the breast or sleeve, they would have little acorn emblems or something. You’d see the little woodland creatures suiting up, pulling their suits over their little furry bods, stuffing their tails out special vents and you’d know… oh yeah. Full moon coming up. Looks like the trees are getting ready for their monthly howler. yeah, I know. I’m a little strange. But good strange. Friendly strange. Completely non-serial killer strange. I swear!

Anyway, it’s kind of a cool image. I likes it.

And whoa! Get a load of me! Posting three times in one week!!! will wonders never cease? well, what can I say? I’m a feast or famine kinda girl.

14 Comments so far
September 10, 2007 · Lisa Rinna’s prom dress


another recent sketch. For some whacked reason, the women I’ve been drawing lately keep coming out lookng like Lisa Rinna, but moderately less botoxed/collagen injected. Not sure what’s up with that since all I know about Lisa Rinna is that she is married to Harry Hamlin and it’s not like I’ve ever been a fan of either of them. But whatevs.

Okay… so I have an urgent question to pose to you readers (all three of you!) I’ve decided to do a weekly life drawing session at the community art center starting the third week of this month (supposing I haven’t missed the registration deadline! I keep forgetting to call. Note to self:First thing tomorrow! ) There’s no instructor. I don’t really need an instructor at this point (though i could always learn something I’m sure), just more practice. And I was thinking I would post some of the results here. But I’m not sure how you would feel about that. ‘Cuz life drawing… that means nude models you know. And I’m not sure if some of you would be offended by that or not and have avoided posting any life drawing of the nude sort in the past for that reason .

I don’t think I have any kids (under 18s) looking at this blog, but I don’t know for sure. Do I?! If you are a kid, speak up now or forever hold your peace. (or is it piece?! Both make sense to me) Now, I personally have no problem with nudity in art and if I had a kid, I would have no problem with them viewing artful nudity. But that’s me. Others may feel differently and I know some parents are more concerned about that kind of thing. Though personally, I think Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and Bratz dolls are more of an affront to childhood innocence than say Degas’s bathers or the Venus de Milo or whatever. Not that I’m putting my work on the same level, mind you. I’m just saying!

And though I am working to move my portfolio and art in a more grown-up editorial/fine art direction, I am aware that most of the work you know me by is for the children’s market. So there’s a bit of a fine line there.

So please… if you have something to contribute on the possibility of me posting artful (tasteful) nudity on this blog, please speak up. That doesn’t mean I won’t still post it, but I will look into a way to post it more discretely. Maybe it’s not even an issue of underage viewers. Maybe it’s a matter of being work appropriate (although I imagine that if you are viewing this site at work, you are viewing it covertly anyway. Or else it’s already been blocked by the powers that be!)

So anyway, please let me know what you think. It’s an interesting issue all around I think.

6 Comments so far
September 6, 2007 · sailor’s valentine


okay, wow. Who knew cabbage would prove so popular?! Well, it ain’t cabbage and it ain’t a photo, but I hope you like it anyway… here’s a doodle from my sketchbook. I was just goofing around, absent mindedly, and off the end of my pencil came this mournful lass. I’ve decided her name is Valentine McMurphy and she’s awaiting her sailor sweetheart’s return from sea.

4 Comments so far
March 14, 2007 · the coyote ate them


I don’t know where my words have gone. maybe the coyote ate them. maybe they have evaporated like the snow leaving gravel and goo and snow mold in their stead. I dunno. I feel kinda guilty about it… like I should have something to say, something to tell you. But I don’t just now. All i have are drawings and graphite dust and a deep yearning to have the kind of gorgeous spring they are having elsewhere, the kind sewn about with pretty pink petals and delicate new leaves. And a mango hurricane smoothie.

5 Comments so far
March 11, 2007 · story girl

story girl

Another february page from ye old sketchbook. Have no idea where she came from, but she looks like a girl with a story of some sort, don’t you think?

5 Comments so far
January 9, 2007 · phoenix rising

Hello and no… despite evidence to the contrary, I have not fallen off the edge of the earth. Although I was nearly devoured by wolves earlier today. And by wolves, i mean coyotes and by nearly devoured I mean glared at and generally ignored, but you know, close enough.

Such a strange winterless winter we are having here. No snow, the temperature rarely dipping below freezing, the skies constantly shifting from azure and spring-like to wet and wild to mopey and grey. The grey predominates. The local news is rife with reports of bewildered beasties burning off their winter fat stores much too soon, of apple blossoms bursting forth in January, warnings about the rampant breeding of mice and rats and wasps.

Today, the park seemed full of great anticipation, as if it was about to storm. But only the flimsiest of flurries is forecast for tonight. The possibility of real snow is no where to be found. Finny and I were wandering about looking for deer as is pretty much a daily habit. I was bent down in a nest of leathery oak leaves, inspecting the parchment carcass of something big and beetleshaped (do beetles molt? It was the strangest thing… completely hollow, dry and brittle, like a husk made of onion skins, a perfectly articulated mould of a fat round beetle) when Finny made a sudden dash toward the yellow tipped shrubs. I stood up expecting to see the white brush of deer tail hopping delicately but instead I caught the sinister sooty shape of a large coyote evaporating into the scrub.

I hissed Finny’s name and she wheeled around immediately, coming instantly to my side. I leashed her up and we stood there, panting slightly, listening to the saber rattle of skeletal trees in the wind. Another shadow slithered through the saplings to my left, not far away, and we saw two more coyotes eyeing us with a kind of bored yellow menace. One paused, blinked and scratched itself against a tree trunk. The other smacked its lips, looked away, and crouched low, sniffing the air. Then they both slunk away, weaving soundlessly between the narrow saplings. As if disappointed. As if they found us excruciatingly dull.

I wasn’t really scared, but the sight of them made my heart pound faster. I wonder if we had interrupted them in the midst of a hunt. I wonder where they live and whether they have a den nearby. I wonder if the pungent, musky-urine smell stinging in the air was a scent they had deliberately left behind to mark their territory. Or perhaps that’s the smell of deer? I don’t know, but it was thrilling.

You’re probably hoping the events that prevented me from updating this journal were/are thrilling too, but sorry to say, you’d be wrong. The new year has begun slowly for me. I feel as if I have just woken from a long slumber, like I’m still rubbing my eyes and blinking mutely, feeling around in the not quite light of it for what I’m going to wear. December was so incredibly busy and full and the holidays clipped by at such tremendous speed, that the moment my parents left, the three of us collapsed on the bed and essentially didn’t move for three whole days. It was lovely and dreadfully indulgent and I devoured two mighty tomes of literature (Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which is a thumping great read, all dark and gothic and teeming with dangerous Victorian characters plus I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith which was delicious and wonderful, wonderful, wonderful, all light and crisp and golden and is now one of my all time fave books EVAH!) and consumed all things chocolate and sinful and about forty bowls of oatmeal with raisins. When on the third day, I rose again… my limbs felt creaky and heavy with disuse.

Gearing up again has been an effort. My motor is revving, but I’m still in the driveway, still rooting around in the glove compartment for the map, still trying to determine my route. But I feel good about 2007. I feel completely confident that wherever it takes me, it will be exactly where I want to be.

So here’s me waving a turqoise scarf out the window, yelling “Happy New Year, my lovelies!” and not caring how stupid that sounds nine days into it!

11 Comments so far
February 22, 2006 · February Fancies

For the past three weeks, for whatever reason, I’ve been besotted with all things girly and romantic. Pink things, lacy things, things which are swiss dotted or full of pin tucks, elaborate letterforms, Rackham faerie pictures. Maybe it’s a hangover from Valentine’s Day? I’m not sure, but my sketchbook has been reflecting my romantic leanings of late. Seeing as how there has been a real dearth of images here lately, I thought I’d share a page (left). This is sort of my take on Mary Lennox from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. In truth, I much prefer F.H.B’s A Little Princess (both the orginal novel and the 1995 movie by direcor Alfonso Cuaron, both immense favourites of mine). I always found Sara Crewe to be a much more sympathetic character and as a kid, absolutely relished the harrowing prospect of being locked in an attic by someone as evil and pinched as Miss Minchin only to be rescued at the very last minute by a wayward monkey and his finely outfitted Indian master.

I was about nine when I first read A Little Princess and one of my favourite things to do was re-enact this passage, over and over:
“For several days it had rained continuously; the streets were chilly and sloppy and full of dreary, cold mist; there was mud everywhere– sticky London mud–and over everything the pall of drizzle and fog. Of course there were several long and tiresome errands to be done– there always were on days like this–and Sara was sent out again and again, until her shabby clothes were damp through. The absurd old feathers on her forlorn hat were more draggled and absurd than ever, and her downtrodden shoes were so wet that they could not hold any more water. Added to this, she had been deprived of her dinner, because Miss Minchin had chosen to punish her. She was so cold and hungry and tired that her face began to have a pinched look, and now and then some kind-hearted person passing her in the street glanced at her with sudden sympathy. But she did not know that. She hurried on, trying to make her mind think of something else. It was really very necessary. Her way of doing it was to “pretend” and “suppose” with all the strength that was left in her. But really this time it was harder than she had ever found it, and once or twice she thought it almost made her more cold and hungry instead of less so. But she persevered obstinately, and as the muddy water squelched through her broken shoes and the wind seemed trying to drag her thin jacket from her, she talked to herself as she walked, though she did not speak aloud or even move her lips.

“Suppose I had dry clothes on,” she thought. “Suppose I had good shoes and a long, thick coat and merino stockings and a whole umbrella. And suppose–suppose–just when I was near a baker’s where they sold hot buns, I should find sixpence–which belonged to nobody. SUPPOSE if I did, I should go into the shop and buy six of the hottest buns and eat them all without stopping.”

Some very odd things happen in this world sometimes. It certainly was an odd thing that happened to Sara. She had to cross the street just when she was saying this to herself The mud was dreadful– she almost had to wade. She picked her way as carefully as she could, but she could not save herself much; only, in picking her way, she had to look down at her feet and the mud, and in looking down– just as she reached the pavement–she saw something shining in the gutter. It was actually a piece of silver–a tiny piece trodden upon by many feet, but still with spirit enough left to shine a little. Not quite a sixpence, but the next thing to it– a fourpenny piece.

In one second it was in her cold little red-and-blue hand.

“Oh,” she gasped, “it is true! It is true!”

And then, if you will believe me, she looked straight at the shop directly facing her. And it was a baker’s shop, and a cheerful, stout, motherly woman with rosy cheeks was putting into the window a tray of delicious newly baked hot buns, fresh from the oven– large, plump, shiny buns, with currants in them.

It almost made Sara feel faint for a few seconds–the shock, and the sight of the buns, and the delightful odors of warm bread floating up through the baker’s cellar window.”

O… the thrill it gave me to pretend to be utterly famished, to have icy, muddy London water squelching through my broken shoes, the heartstopping moment where I spy the coin. I could feel the hunger pinching my middles so strongly, smell the warm aroma of hot currant buns so vividly that my mouth would fill with saliva. And when I re-enacted the part where Sara gives the coin away to the little urchins who are even more bedraggled and ravenous than she? I would practically pass out from the heady mixture of regret and righteousness that overtook me. (Uh…yeah. what can I say? I had rather an over-active imagination as a child.)

But the Secret Garden? Just didn’t snare me that way. Nobody was on the verge of starving to death in the Secret Garden. They were just rich and neglectful and let’s face it… a rather whiny crew. That Colin kid? The sickly boy in the Secret Garden? Well, he was just insufferable. Just a big weenie. Even after his dead mother’s garden worked its curative magic. I know, I know… he was all sickly and sallow and his dad was all like embarrassed by him and his mother was dead and all that, but still… I couldn’t work up the appropriate amount of sympathy for him. He needed to suck it up like Sara, he needed to be courageous and noble and stuff to earn purchase in my stern, nine-year-old heart. And he just wasn’t.

But I always loved the idea of the garden itself and now as I yearn for the sight of leaves on trees, blossoms on bushes, this is the image that presented itself to me. So there you go. Hopefully now I can divest myself of romantic flights of fancy and immerse myself in the fantastic and superheroic world of comic books which is where I really need to be while I’m working on my book for Scouts Canada.

P.S. the more I learn about Climate Change (that’s the subject of the comic book I’m working on), the more alarmed and depressed I become. Also, I really do not think “Climate Change” is an apt name for the horrificness it encompasses. Too namby-pamby and passive. Global Warming doesn’t cut it either. Sounds almost cozy and gentle. How about Climate Catastrophe? That seems to me to be far more descriptive and accurate. yikes.

8 Comments so far