Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Watching a video on a computer of a video of a TV broadcast video of a crackling fire... how surreal is that?

I may pop in between now and the New Year, or maybe not, but I wanted to wish everyone Happy Holidays! May they be safe, warm, and real. (Or surreal, if you prefer!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Manic Monday!

No map today. My sense of time is all thrown off by the snow we got over the weekend. It was beautiful! But now it's time to play catch up with holiday preparations that didn't get done, on account of shoveling all that snow.

Of course, nothing stops our pet deer from coming around...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Fun: Favorite Song of the Season

I love this version! Does anybody remember Brian Setzer from the Stray Cats back in the 80's?

(Snowstorm update: No school today, and it hasn't even started snowing. So much for us hearty New Englanders! But the kids are happy. Me too.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sled Ride!

Well, Monday's supposed storm brought nothing but a little freezing rain, but I think we're really going to get it tomorrow. They're talking 4 to 9 inches around here. Whee!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

How Many Maps Could A Map-Maker Make if a Map-Maker Could Make Maps?

A few weeks ago Christine asked how many maps I've created. Wow-- good question-- I'd never stopped to count them! (It's a funny sensation-- you spend years with your nose close to the drawing board and when you suddenly look up at the big picture it dawns on you how much you've accomplished.)

So I pulled out my handy dandy pencil, pad, calculator, and accounting book. This is what I came up with:

I started my business almost 16 years ago, in mid-1993.

In the beginning I did a lot of design work for my former employer and others. The map illustration work grew slowly for the first few years, until it finally took off and I was able to do it exclusively.

And in 16 years I've created:

508 maps!


That's a roughly accurate number, and it's probably higher, since in the beginning I did a lot of samples for my portfolio. (And some assignments were for multiple maps, which, silly me, I didn't record.)

Some stats:
The least amount I've done in any one year is 9 (not counting 2 the first year-- but that was only a 6-month period.) That happened twice-- in 1994 when I was still starting out, and in 2003. A lousy year.

The most I've ever done in one year is this year-- 66!

It averages out to 33.5 maps per year, since I began.

The number of maps doesn't necessarily correlate with how much money I've earned in any particular year, since they've been of all different sizes and complexities-- not to mention the depressing fact of falling illustration budgets over the last 10 years.

But I've survived-- through babies being born, house moves, heart attacks, bursting economic bubbles (and faulty appendixes, oh my!) It's been an interesting ride, and right now it looks even more challenging than ever. But I'm an optimist. I think you have to be, in order to attempt to make a living as an artist. (Or maybe I'm just delusional. Either way, it keeps me going.)

I have to say that when I quit my full-time job I was terrified of the uncertainty of freelancing. But I was fortunate to have a lot of supportive freelancer-friends to go to for advice.

And at some point, after a few years, it dawned on me that I'd really learned how to navegate this crazy juggling act of a life from the best-- my Dad-- who loves what he does for a living and who'd always managed to keep his own business going, though all sorts of ups and downs. We were as happy and normal kids as any, despite the pressure that he was under. In my opinion, that's what success is all about. (Thanks, Dad!)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Fun: Rolling Hamsters Eating Popcorn on Pianos. Or Whatever.

Yesterday Barbara mentioned the spinning wheel that hamsters love (especially in the middle of the night.) We also bought one of these ball-thingys. Drives the cats crazy.

And Julie reminded me of this video... which my daughter has made me watch about a million times... just when I finally got the song out of my head... uh... thanks... Julie...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday Map: San Francisco to Oakhurst

I'll bet it's warm in California right now. It was 15 degrees here this morning...BRRR!!! But there was spectacular sunrise-- a beautiful way to start the week.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Listy List: Things I've Done

I love lists. They lead to ideas.

Alicia did this one over at her blog. I've done the things in bold. If you want to play, copy the list, bold what you've done, and let somebody know you've posted. (Oh, and delete my comments!) This got me thinking to things I wanted to add...

1. Started your own blog

2. Slept under the stars

3. Played in a band (for about 5 minutes)
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland (does Disneyworld count?)
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo (not very well, but with a guitar!)

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (from the beach.)

14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France

20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort

25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (some of them)
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (Depends. No, only because I'd like to not worry about paying the bills. But yes, because I know people with a LOT of money, and it seems they'll never be satisfied. I don't understand that.)
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant (Gave pizza to a homeless man in NYC.)
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
(Damn appendix!)
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (Snorkeling in the Virgin Islands.)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud

54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma

65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial

71. Eaten Caviar (Yum!)

72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square (Just last week!)
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job (Lunatic restaurant owner, really!)
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone (My thumb, on a trampoline. How silly!)
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle (Once was enough, oh brother-of-mine!)

79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club

93. Lost a loved one

94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a lawsuit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Wednesday Noir et Blanc: Happy Cow!

I'm playing around with black and white images. And, of course, Blogger has a mind of it's own when it comes to tones and color...

I forgot that black and white is tricky! This is pencil and wash on paper, so the wash part handled differently than on the watercolor paper I usually use. It felt looser. Maybe a good thing? I'm still pondering...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday Map: New York to Newport

For the last few years we've made it a tradition to trek in to New York City on the day after Thanksgiving (along with about a million other people.) Not to shop, but to walk around and sightsee and have lunch (and bargain with the street vendors over scarves-- such deals!) This year a few more family members joined us. We had a blast.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nose to the Grindstone

It's hard to stay positive about the book-writing-illustration world when you hear news like this. But as my agent said recently, look at a market downturn as an opportunity to grow, to try different things, to reinvent yourself. Great advice to keep in mind.

Last night I doodled while we watched Antiques Roadshow. It took my mind off bad news and also, doodling makes TV more interesting. I'd call these blind-contour ramblings. The show cut between headshots and items being discussed-- I was focusing more on the heads.

There was one woman who just would not stop interjecting while the expert was telling her about her find. In the bottom right corner I scribbled what she said. I wanted to yell at her-- Stop talking, and listen, puh-leese! You'll learn something! (I can't even remember what they were talking about, she was so distracting!)

Anyway, it felt good to keep the hand moving, and good to keep drawing.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Doodly Heads

Not a whole lot of art to post this week. I've been working on the writing and planning stages of a few projects-- a brain-shift from drawing to thinking more verbally. It's a bit disconcerting at times.

But I have been doodling heads during the in-between times. I'm playing around with facial variety-- expressions, ages, different ethnic groups. It's nice to daydream when you're doodling. Sometimes good ideas pop out when you approach them sideways.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Body of Art

A favorite cousin of mine had this snippet of an e.e. cummings poem tattooed on her backside. It says:

bird by snow and stir by still
anyone's any was all to her

(Read the entire poem here.)

This cousin happens to be funny, sweet and smart as heck. (And cool, too.) She teaches at an alternative high school in Colorado with kids who haven't always been valued by society, and she works passionately to instill the love of words in her students. I'm not sure if she encourages them to tattoo literature on their bodies, but hey, here's to creative teaching methods. (What's next, sweetie? War and Peace??)

So here's a big shout-out to you, K!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Little Joyful Things

Abstract patterns in the season's first snow flurries:

The sound of a babbling brook on a cold, clear morning:

A birdhouse bursting with last spring's nest:

Loads of dry firewood neatly stacked:

Ragweed, frozen at last!:

What makes you feel joyful?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday Map: Los Angeles to San Diego

I can't imagine what people in California are going through right now with those wildfires. So incredibly frightening.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thinking Ahead

When I used to work in magazine publishing it was normal to plan months in advance. It gave one the sense of time passing quickly. Of course, the older I get, the faster it seems to be passing, too. So I might as well go with it and plan new illustration samples ahead of time.

I've got a whole stack of final art to work on!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

We're All In This Together

A really rough sketch from last week.

Think of how many problems we can solve if we all work together!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Fun: Feel Like Dancin'

Some pure fun and silliness.

Napoleon Dynamite was one of those movies with a weird sense of humor that people either loved, hated, or just said- huh? I'm in the love it group. (If you ever felt like a misfit in high school, you'll love it. Really.)

Now who doesn't wanna get up and dance? An appropriate way to finish off the week.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

One Happy Donkey

Artists and fellow bloggers Frank Gardner and Christine Mercer-Vernon created donkeys this week in celebration of our right and responsibility to vote for what we believe in. They invited everyone to take part, so here's mine. Yep, she's a happy gal!

I'll second what Frank said in his post, "...here's to a better future for ALL of us."

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Notes From Rabbit Hill

Two field trips in two weeks is a cool thing indeed.

This past Saturday I joined two of my writing group buddies again, at the Rabbit Hill Festival of Literature, where we were treated to presentations by a group of awesomely talented authors and illustrators.

I took sparse notes, preferring rather to look and listen. Plus I forgot to bring my reading glasses, so I couldn't see what I was scribbling. (But you can make out the pigeon that Mo Willems taught the audience how to draw):

Some brief notes:

Steve Jenkins was interested in science at a very young age. His love of the natural world influences his art.

E.B. Lewis calls himself an "artistrator," and considers himself a documentor of life. For him the joy of making art is more in the process than the final product. He approaches illustrating a book like making a movie, but without the motion picture camera.

Barbara McClintock doodles a lot in her sketchbook as a way to inspire ideas. When she was just starting out and living in North Dakota, she phoned Maurice Sendak in New York to ask his advice on how to become an illustrator. And he graciously talked to her for 20 minutes!

Grace Lin's stories and art are inspired by her Chinese heritage. She wants to create art that has important personal meaning for her.

David Wiesner is a visual storyteller who uses unique points of view in his artwork. Much of his imagery is inspired by his childhood in New Jersey.

Mo Willems thinks of his audience while writing. As an author he wants to get out of the way and let the reader bring something of themselves to the story. He considers himself a craftsman rather than an artist. He spoke about the power of words, and also about the importance of encouraging kids to draw. "Drawing is physical empathy," as he put it, and the individuality of each person's drawing is important. (He is also quite possibly the funniest person on earth.)

For more detailed notes, click here. (Thanks, Julie, for the link!)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Fun: Still Undecided?

Okay, I'll change my vote if John Cleese gets to be Minister of Silly Walks.

I'm thinking Monty Python just might be able to save the world. At least we'd all have a good laugh.

(Thanks, Sue L-W., for making my day!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Field Trip!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting my writing group buddies at the Chappaqua, N.Y. library to hear Leonard Marcus speak to a group of librarians. Leonard is probably the top authority on the history of children's literature, and has written and edited many books, including Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, and A Caldecott Celebration: Seven Artists and Their Paths to the Caldecott Medal. (Oh, and he's an awfully nice guy, too. We had a chance to talk with him. Of course my "shy" gene kicked-in. But at least I managed not to drool on myself.)

His presentation was based on his most recent book, Minders of Make Believe: Idealists, Entrepreneurs, and the Shaping of American Children's Literature. (Whew-- these are some long titles!) What can I say-- it was fascinating. I love history, so when an author can take a specific subject such as children's lit, and weave it together with what is happening socially and politically in the wider world, well, I'm hooked.

His book covers a huge span of time, from the very first children's books imported from England to the Harry Potter phenomenon and beyond. Plus just about everything in between. (Did you know there was a time when books were hand-colored, usually by women and children, each person in charge of a single color as they passed the book around? Or that there was basically no copyright law in colonial times. If a printer/publisher saw a book they liked, say, in Virginia, they could copy the book and reprint it in Massachusetts. Interesting stuff!)

I wish there was a crystal ball to tell us what the future will bring for children's publishing, especially in these scary economic times. But learning about the ups and downs, what survives, what changes and adapts, and figuring out where you fit in the grand scheme of it all-- still leaves me an optimist.

(And here's a big thank you shout-out to Jody, my writing-group-librarian-buddy, who told us about this event. Go hug a librarian today!)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pre-Winter Sketch

I'm getting a bit ahead of myself with the seasons here. This is from that page of messy doodles I posted a few weeks ago... can you tell which one it is? I'm still trying to decide how to crop it-- a silhouetted edge? Or perhaps a cropped square would be more dynamic? We'll see...

There are more in the works, but maybe I'll do some ghosts and goblins first.

Today I'm going on a children's-book-related field trip-- will post more tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Pictures from this past weekend...

Some autumn color-- the trees have already started dropping their leaves.

Some old house chores-- cleaning and putting up storm windows. This corner looks so quaint. But when the wind blows hard, we get little puffs of blown-in-insulation inside the house. Somebody added it the '50's in a futile attempt to keep out drafts. (The mice appreciate it, though.)

So much for color IQ tests-- I like messing with my reds.

Everyone found their little spot in the sun and relaxed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Monday Map (A Day Late): Denver to Aspen

I spent the 3-day weekend outside in the mild air and rich autumn colors, away from the television, the radio, the internet, politics. It was a refreshing and much needed break.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Friday Fun: Cookies!!! (And Poetry)

When my son was very young, nothing could make him come running faster than the cry of-- "COOKIES!!!" We still laugh about that. And not surprisingly, he loves to bake. (Which is wonderful, except for when he goes off to school and I'm here at home with the... cookies...)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mary & Samuel

These are a few small pieces I did over the summer for Weekly Reader. They look kind of funny here, silhouetted in space, but the Art Director was placing them into a background with color and lots of photos.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What's Your IQ?

Your color IQ, that is. This link was posted on an illustrator's list that I follow. Challenging, no?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Itsy Bitsy

While going out to the car the other morning, I almost walked into this:

Yep, I shrieked. (A small one.) But then I got to studying this little guy's web. It was a masterful design. Delicate, strong, and catching lots of critters. He must have seen me too, because he scooted off to the side.

The web looks huge in the pictures, but it really wasn't all that big. I'm just glad I didn't walk into it face-first! (It was up high, attached on one side to a clematis trellis and on the other to the house gutter.)