Monday, August 10, 2015

Heart on his Sleeve

Busy, busy, busy, busybusybusy summer. But good. When I wasn't working, traveling, or shuttling kids to and from camp, I spent a metric hunkton of time making things, most of which were wedding surprises for my brother Ben and his bride Jenny. Now the wedding's all done. I'd like to show you what I made sometime soon. But tonight, I finally had the time to draw something for myself. (Imagine inner me going Aaaahhhhhhhhh.)
He reminds me a little bit of Ben -- he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve, too, and he has that tender smile, and of course he is his mom's darling... reminds me of an old favorite joke: "Oedipus Schmedipus, as long as he loves his mother!"

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Derp Toad Revelation

Spring has come in all its glory, and as I work in my studio late into the evenings, I hear a voice in the distance through my one open window. It's a one-note voice, and all it ever says is:


We've never actually seen the creature that says "Derp!" while it is engaged in the act of saying "Derp!" but it always sounds like it's coming from the neighbor's old swimming pool (unused by humans for over a decade; now more of a pond) and it sounds, well, amphibian. We do see toads pretty often and so we took to calling this creature the Derp Toad.

It's early in the season (and/or maybe the Derp Toad is just not feeling that friendly) and so there are lengthy gaps between its utterances, say a few minutes. I am tickled every time I hear it ("Derp!") and I have been growing more and more curious about the Derp Toad's true species. Last night push came to shove ("Derp!") and so I took to the Internet to find out. Bless these people who catalogue animal sounds ("Derp!"). Thanks to them, I now know that we are frequently visited by an American Toad (it has such a long, lovely tremelo song) and I now know that the Derp Toad is really a Northern Green Frog.

Sam says Derp Toad still sounds like a better name for it.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

When a drawing is like a dream come true

It was a a few months ago when I first drew the Serene Queen of the Tween Scene for my Love of Reading series, and that was the picture my daughter got sucked into, as though the picture had its own gravitational force. She requested a print for her room and began asking for her own real life bean bag chair, and she asked with persistence and consistency. Then she delivered a report card with straight A's (again), and I knew she'd had to fight particularly hard for that A in math. So naturally I was thinking YES, you may have your very own bean bag chair, my amazing child. But she didn't want a purple one, she wanted green.

We looked around some local places, and what we found was bean bag chairs that either didn't feel so great, and/or were prone to shed, and/or could only be spot cleaned, and/or they are too pink, or too navy... or the bean bag chair is almost everything you could want but they cost three goats and a kidney (and they're not green) (and they don't do your taxes or otherwise make themselves useful around the house, like, maybe they could wash the dishes for you).

Then I turned to Google, and one link led to another, and there was Jaxx. I would now like to become the unpaid spokesperson and evangelist for Jaxx. The price is right, the colors are great, the outer covers are machine washable, the inner cover is childproof, they're pretty eco-conscious, the packaging is charming (and also pretty eco-conscious), and the bean bag feels sooooo gooood. We got a four-foot lounger, and we can both fit on it very well if we're feeling snuggly. Prop it up against something sturdy and it supports your back, or let it squoodge onto the floor unsupported and it becomes the perfect napping spot. Every time I rest on my daughter's, it's such a cushiony, peaceful embrace that I feel like I ought to be meditating, which I should do, but I haven't done in years. The dog hasn't discovered it yet but I think he will think it is heaven and Christmas and his birthday.

Now I'm thinking about getting one for my studio. I'm not sure where I'd put it, though! There's a whole lot of stuff up in here. It's like Joann's and Michael's got together and had a crazy love child which was frequently doted upon by its aunt, who happens to be a high end quilting shop, and its uncle -- Dick Blick; then it got into a dodgy relationship with a shipping supplies warehouse that leaves rigid mailers, chipboard, bubble wrap and packing tape all over the place. On that note, I think I'll go tidy up some.

Monday, April 06, 2015


Together is the last in the Love of Reading series; the last to get out of my head and into the computer and from there onto paper. As I've been releasing these drawings I've enjoyed (SO MUCH) hearing about which ones different people relate to, and this is the one most personal to me. It is all about encouragement, friendship, support.

At first, the blonde girl on the right was going to be sitting with a puppy, very similar to Portal Travel. The figure on her t-shirt was going to be the molecular structure for chocolate, not a fairy octopus. I was thinking of an old friend of mine who is a chemical engineer. She worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center while I was in college (such a significant chunk of these drawings have some tie to outer space!). I like the idea of drawing women scientists, because I think we have enough princesses and mermaids to last us a good long while already. But when I had the face done, and the hair, I realized that even though the little face on the right is so much like my old friend's face, the spirit of it is more me, goofy, perky-and-quirky me.

Then I thought my little avatar needed a human friend so I lifted the puppy out and let it be all its own thing, and I drew another person symbolizing my friend Amanda.

Amanda is one of my best friends. We have known each other umpteen years. For most of this time, she's been a great complement to me: some of the ways in which I didn't have my act together, she did, and vice versa. Now that we are both all grown up, we can each stand on our own two feet very well. Each of us is strong and confident. I do, however, thrive when I have a supportive coach and boy oh boy is Amanda a great coach. She is and has been so consistently vocal about getting me to do something with my artwork, to make it more of a vocation, to share it more. She thinks I could make a living at it; I'm utterly not ready to give up my day job (I feel passionate about the software mines, too, very sincerely). But I knew I would be happy to do both, if I could just manage it, and as these few reading-related drawings started to snowball into a series I tapped Amanda for assistance. She is not an artist herself but she is an art consumer. We would go out to lunch or dinner, during which she would point me at e-courses, blogs, likely mentors/role models, places to show and sell... and of course we would dish about life and gossip too.

In the picture, Amanda's avatar is in the role of the supporter. She has her arm draped around her friend. She is present, she is gentle, she is holding the space. She is beautifully dressed in a flowery print, not too loud. It's the sort of thing Amanda would wear if she were eight or nine years old. The avatar on the right is beaming, blooming, goofily dressed. The avatar on the right can wear the t-shirt with the magical fairy octopus on it because the supporting friend makes it safe for her to do so. A true friend loves you even when you wear unconventional things, the clothes that insecure people say are dorky.

The avatar on the right is also sporting a side ponytail because I love the 80's.

As for the book, it is based on a painting I did in 2006 called Flight Lesson. How in the world did I paint in 2006, working full time plus plus (like always), with a one-and-a-half-year-old that didn't yet sleep through the night? The answer is that we do the things we have to do. I drew so much that year, and would have withered and have been miserable otherwise. A lot of artists fear that becoming parents will crush their work but for me, having a baby was THE BEST because she inspired me so much (and still does). I should also mention that having a supportive partner and local grandparents are also THE BEST.

Here is the text of the page in the picture, removed of its obstacles and presented right-side-up so you don't have to twist your head or squint:

"I know you can do it," said Moe. "Take a leap, and flap your wings, like this."
Moe sprang from the branch. Suddenly, Jet and Lucy -- followed!

It has been my pleasure and a thrill to share these Love of Readings drawings with you. Thank you for all the kind remarks, for the likes on Facebook, for the etsy shop orders... and big, big thanks to Amanda and to my family for making it easier and more enjoyable for me to bring this series to life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When Aliens Came to Daylesford

Here's the seventh of the eight Love of Reading drawings: When Aliens Came to Daylesford. This drawing got its start in 2012, like I Still Dream did, and it waited all this time.

What inspired this drawing:

1. Daylesford: It's the next town over, if you can call it a town. All it has is a train station and a whole bunch of houses. There is a Daylesford Abbey, but it is nothing whatsoever like Downton Abbey, and it's actually in Paoli (my town). I guess some could argue that the Upper Main Line YMCA (on the grounds of J. Gardner Cassatt's estate) is in Daylesford, but I'm pretty sure everybody who's actually standing or swimming or sweating there would say they're in Berwyn. So, if aliens really did come to Daylesford, it would surely be the most exciting thing to ever happen there.

When I first moved into my house I had this idea that I'd line up a few clocks on one wall, the way that fancy hotels will do, labeled so that they can tell you the current time in any number of prominent cities. Tokyo! Paris! New York! I have a bent sense of humor, though, so I was going to label mine Paoli, Pottstown, Daylesford. They would each be set to the exact same time: Eastern time zone time. I never did get the clocks set up or even purchase the clocks. That's the thing about having a house: a house is a project that never really gets done, not in total, anyway.

2. Eleanor Gigglebox: this is a pet name my colleague made up for her wee daughter. I think Eleanor Gigglebox would be a smashing children's author.

3. The alien on the back cover of the book was originally drawn for our friends' wedding in 2009. I enjoy drawing aliens a lot. Of course, I don't know what aliens really look like. I make stuff up, and I enjoy the conceptual aliens from works of science fiction/fantasy (Star Wars, Star Trek, Farscape, etc.). Every time I contemplate actual life beyond our little solar system, though, like really contemplate it, I get totally overwhelmed and I think maybe I need a piece of chocolate or a sip of wine or something, or at least a sit-down. 

I will leave you with this wonderful story about life on other planets, from Letters from a Flying Machine by Peter Mulvey.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Serene Queen of the Tween Scene

The Love of Reading continues! This one, The Serene Queen of the Tween Scene, didn't make it as a greeting card because it really wants to be square and my greeting cards aren't square, they're 5x7's. However, my daughter singled this one out as her favorite and she picked out a big ol' square print from my new printer (which still works like a dream). Do you want a print? Let me know, I'll add them to my shop. I size the prints for the IKEA Ribba frames, which are inexpensive but substantial. I like them.

The inspiration behind this drawing: pretty simple. It's got a nice rainy-day feel, with a bean bag chair (which I am told are the very best furnishings for a reading nook -- my daughter's principal said so) and a suggestion of a beaded curtain, or a suggestion of rain. Our pigtailed tween is digging on some poetry; she is growing up, but she is not all grown up yet.

I am enjoying my daughter's tweenhood so much. Every year is better than the last -- and I started out pretty dang besotted with her -- so it's almost unbearably wonderful. I'm serious. But in the tween years, there is a great pressure on kids to leap forward, to grow up already. One thing I keep telling my daughter is that this is the only time she gets to be a child. Childhood is so short. Adulthood goes on and on and on. There's plenty of time to be an adult.

Lately my daughter has enthusiastically discovered the Jackson Five. About two weeks ago I dropped some stuff off at our local Goodwill and our Goodwill guy was singing a Michael Jackson song. (The Goodwill Guy has a beautiful voice, by the way.)

Me: "Oh, I miss Michael Jackson."
Goodwill Guy: "That really touches my heart."
Me: "My little girl is really into the Jackson Five now. I showed her their videos on YouTube, and I told her that Michael is about the same age as she is, and she's amazed."
Goodwill Guy: "That's why he was so messed up, though. He never had a childhood. It's so sad, what happened to him."
Me: "You're right."

The luckiest of us spend our childhood being children.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Red Kicks

Still more Love of Reading! There are eight in the series. This is the fifth; three more to go.

This drawing was inspired by:

1. My daughter's plastic green swivel chair, which she keeps in her room, at her enormous work table. This is not an exact replica -- primarily because I do most of my drawing while my daughter is asleep. She sleeps very lightly, and so my study of her furniture would be most disturbing. I kinda winged it. The green here, with the white background, also calls up the official colors of my daughter's elementary school, which reminds me that I almost forgot to fill out her field day t-shirt order. The field day organizers will put half the kids in green, the other half white. Which color will they assign to my daughter? We'll find out on field day.

2. Speaking of the background... you may faintly see a scan of an end paper from an old book. I really like that extra bit of texture from the paper image. (But the texture of the boy's hair is heaps and heaps and heaps of squiggles from my stylus, which was delightful to do. I'm down with squiggles.)

3. The pathway in the background, curving beyond the arched doorway, symbolizes the way in which a really good book can sometimes transport the reader out of his or her everyday life for a little while. In this picture, the book I imagined is jaw-dropping and funny and full of surprises; the boy reading the book is definitely going places.

4. Some friends who got an early preview of this picture asked what the title of the book is here -- it is The Red Sneakers, and the boy's fingers are covering it up, but if you were to peel that layer away in Photoshop, you'd see the full title. I had no idea there is a movie by the same name! The plot synopsis from IMDB starts out like this: "A kid named Reggie Reynolds is a high school student who is good in the classroom but not so good on the basketball court." I can relate. However, the red sneakers in this picture don't actually have some deeper meaning and they weren't particularly inspired by anything. I just wanted to draw some cute, knock-off Chuck Taylors. (By the way, does anybody still wear those?)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Still Dream

This is the first drawing I drew for the Love of Reading series -- but I actually drew it in 2012. It's Throwback Thursday, right? But seriously, in 2012 I had this idea that I was going to draw several pictures of kids enjoying books and give them to my daughter's school, assuming her school wanted to have them. Then there were many other things that had to be done, and some things that I just wanted to do instead, and the project waited in the back of my head somewhere, until a few months ago.

What inspired this drawing:

1. The rise and fall of the color pink in elementary school. In my community, kindergarten is when pink is very much in vogue for girls, along with its BFF purple, and then pink teeters off of a precipice somewhere in first or second grade and it is considered passé (though there are some righteous individuals who wear what they like with confidence, well after kindergarten thankyouverymuch, and if they like pink then that's great). 
I notice that people have Strong Feelings about pink, one way or another. Curiously, the people who are allergic to pink tend to be okay with purple even though it hangs out with pink a whole lot. 
I imagine the kid in the picture has a fabulous closet, if not an entirely coordinated one. Her rain boots, they need not be the same pink as the other pinks in her outfit. What matters here is that a) they are some kind of pink and b) they have serious plans about jumping in every puddle from here to Punxsutawney.

2. Kate Bush. Seriously, Kate Bush. I listened to a lot of Kate Bush as a kid, because I had much older sisters who were way cool and they brought home many vinyl records of very intriguing music. If the TV wasn't on the turntable certainly was. My sisters were generally much more into New Wave than pop. Anyway, there was this song by Kate Bush called Cloudbusting that I really, really liked -- and still do -- and for decades I thought the opening line was "I still dream of Algernon," as in Flowers for Algernon. The correct lyric is truly "I still dream of Orgonon." I stayed true to my kid-self, drawing this: if you were to peel back layer by layer in Adobe Illustrator (and I often will draw almost every layer in full, despite knowing that great big chunks of almost every layer will eventually be covered up) you would see Algernon written on that book cover. Not Orgonon.

I have to say it was kind-of nice to be stuck musing on Algernon the laboratory mouse and wondering how he could connect in any way whatsoever with the government coming to arrest someone's daddy. Misheard lyrics are so fun. For example, my brother-in-law Ben used to think that a certain Stone Temple Pilots song went "feeling like a ham and roasted cheese." And a friend of a friend hilariously misheard Dead or Alive sing "you spin me right round, baby, right round, like a rented baby." Don't be afraid of little mistakes like this, kids. They can take you to such interesting places. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Feet Up

Another in my Love of Reading series! This drawing was inspired by:

1. That crossing over that young readers eventually make from picture books into chapter books, a.k.a novels -- books that are words, words, words, and more words, mostly or entirely without pictures. Most of the books pictured in this Love of Reading series have little mini illustrations-within-the-illustration and this one does not. Even though it is my dream to illustrate picture books, that crossing over into chapter books is a really great moment, because a chapter book reader is free to render all the illustrations in his or her own wonderful mind. The first non-picture books I ever loved were by Judy Blume and Cynthia Voigt. I had very clear mental pictures of Fudge, Peter, Margaret, Dicey, and the other characters and settings that populated their stories.

2. My nephew D's mop of curly hair, which was a little blonder when he was around the same age as the kid in this picture...

3. The many, many times I told my daughter, as a very little girl, to "sit with your butt." Now that she's not so little any more and her childhood is fleeting I actually find these un-self-conscious poses more endearing ... although, if you're going to stick your feet up in the air, it's really best to ensure that they don't smell bad, first. :)

4. Home decor / design blogs. I read them often, especially Design Sponge, and it's funny to me how white is such an "in" color right now. As I drew these billowing white curtains and the punchy lime green armchair I thought -- wow! How great would these things look in my home! For five minutes! I share my home with a giant dog and he is a love but he is also a dirty, muddy, hairy, beastly mess. On the whole, though, I find that there is no more perfect love than a dog's love, and it far outweighs anything that a pretty room could give you.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Portal Travel

Next up in the Love of Reading series: Portal Travel! This drawing was inspired by:

1. "I'm going to paint an eight," from Sesame Street. Eight is the only number I remember the Mad Painter ever having painted back in the 1970s, and only this very moment, through the magic of Google, do I now know that the Mad Painter painted all the numbers... not just eight. But his eight really stuck with me, clearly.

2. My friend Elena's sweet little Boston terrier, with whom I spent a very enjoyable Halloween evening last year.

3. My daughter's school colors, green and white, were the only possible choices for the t-shirt in this picture, of course.

4. All the hopes and dreams we had for outer space, when I was a kid, which for me led to a healthy appreciation for sci-fi and fantasy as well. I think I came along at just the right moment to catch what was then the peak of our society's fascination with the universe beyond our little blue planet. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center was not very far from my childhood home, and though they were never launched out of Goddard, Space Shuttle missions were a huge deal in my childhood. My brother and I were totally obsessed with Star Wars and the REALLY COOL Lego sets with the astronaut dudes and the grey base plates that had moon craters molded into them. And what's remarkable to me now is that those Legos were not co-branded at all, there were no Star Wars Legos -- we as a society were not yet neck deep in cross-marketing strategies. I think it made it easier for us to imagine ourselves in space. Pretty soon the Star Wars merchandise came along and changed all that -- so instead of imagining yourself in some awesome, far-out interplanetary situation, you would just make your plastic Han Solo action figure hop along and do Han Solo things in the appropriate Han Solo milieu. Personally, I was always into re-enacting the Luke-and-Leia-swing-across-the-Death-Star scene. We had the Death Star play set. I loved it so much. Anyway. Are there portals in outer space? Are there other civilizations we could visit? Farscape suggests these possibilities in all their wonder and danger. If you haven't watched Farscape yet, I highly recommend it, maybe for ages 10 and up.

5. Old paper -- very old paper. What may look a little bit like blonde wood in the tabletop and chairs started out as a digitized scan of very yellowed end paper from an old book. I'm drawn to its texture and wow, that pun was completely unintentional but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

6. It was my very dear friend Keri who suggested the book title pictured near the bottom left corner: A Beginner's Guide to Portal Travel. Keri is the gentlest, kindest, warmest, smartest, most unique soul, and in recent years she very often wore an X-wing pendant around her neck.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Any Two Socks Make a Pair

The huge shipment of the Love of Reading series prints arrived before the crocuses, and before our latest whopping of snow, which, like The Man, is still Holding Those Crocuses Down.

I thought there might be one really big box of prints but instead there were seven not-so-big boxes. I sank a fortune on the lot, not knowing exactly how they'd turn out, not knowing if they'd get here before the big storm, and yes, I got all nervous. Over the years I have had prints (from other services) come back where all my people look as red as boiled lobsters or as orange as Oompa Loompas. I really like Oompa Loompas, and lobsters are okay, too, but they're not what I'm going for in my work -- at least, not yet. But I've dealt with this particular printing company on numerous occasions now and, I don't know, maybe Uprinting has a special magical printing fairy who watches out for my work, and well. WOW. I opened the first box, and squee'd; and the second; and the third; and so on. In every box, the colors in the prints pretty much match the colors I drew. Can I tell you how great that is? It is so stinkin' great.

So everything is now very happily in place for me to show you the whole Love of Reading series in all their bibliophilic splendor, and if you like, you can get copies of your very own at etsy. I'll be spotlighting one piece per day over the next several days. This particular piece, Any Two Socks Make a Pair, was inspired by:

1. My buddy Ajax -- after I asked my Facebook friends to chip in book title suggestions for the series, earlier this winter. Ajax's title so resonated with what I have observed in my community's children. Mismatched socks are very much in vogue here, particularly if you're not in the fifth grade yet. You get to fifth grade, you're just way too cool.

2. My buddy Alia -- who suggested the book title on the back cover of the book (How to Train Your Adults).

3. A little girl in my daughter's class -- whom we've known since they were both in the first grade. I met her when I chaperoned the first grade field trip to the Tyler Arboretum, which this kid called the Tyler Harbor Burrito, and thus was I smitten. She's got that Snow White look, pale skin and dark bobbed hair. At the end of that school year her mom came in to the first grade poetry festival and read...

4. ... [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in], by e.e. cummings, a snippet of which is obscured some, on the chalkboard in the background. i carry your heart is one of my favorite, favorite poems,  The aforementioned little girl and my little girl are now in fifth grade, and they're still really into poems. Meanwhile, I've gotten to know this other mom some, and she's just wonderful, and now the e.e. cummings poem makes me blubber. In a good way.

5.  Reading logs. I've chopped off part of the text (on purpose) but if you were to enter the world I've pictured here, you would see reading logs due tomorrow! which is the blessing and the curse of all who attend the schools in my neighborhood. I did not have reading logs when I was a kid. What do you think of them?

More pictures tomorrow! I'm so happy to share them at last.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


(I Know Where the Daffodils are Sleeping -- a favorite from 2009)

After months of ice the spring thaw is suddenly upon us. We only have a little bit of snow left, and heaps and heaps and heaps of mud. Sometimes we have crocuses in the front yard by now. They will be a little bit late this year. I don't even see their shoots yet. They are so tiny and delicate, I worry about how they'll push their way through the matted-up carpet of fallen leaves but they always manage somehow.

The daffodil shoots are almost all peeking through -- they're tougher, they poke up early but they really take their time to bloom -- and I love to see them. I don't winter over well and I crave that little sign of hope. There's this one way I often drive to and from my day job in the software mines, past Chubby Checker's house (!). It's a beautiful, winding, hilly, puddly country road and one of the homes has hundreds of daffodil shoots lining the road, all in a massive row. I am only slightly ashamed to admit that when I drive by them, winter after winter, if I am alone, I quietly cheer them on (grow grow grow grow!) and if nobody is behind me I might even slow way down to get a much better look -- and every year when they finally bloom I am overjoyed. It never gets old for me. I hope the homeowners don't think I am casing the joint. Can you imagine? "No, officer, I'm just here for the daffodils. Which haven't bloomed yet. But they will."

These last few days of this particular winter feel so momentous, as though a great convergence is at hand. There are events and celebrations large and small, piled up together: a long weekend for the schoolkids; Pi(e) day; my dear friend Amanda's birthday; St. Patrick's day. The crocus watch. The daffodil watch. The equinox, finally. It is the same every year but maybe I'm extra-twitterpated this time because I'm in the thick of getting ready for my next release on top of it all: learning the new printer; matting and framing; picking out ribbons to tie around bundles of greeting cards; carving stamps to decorate the mailers I hope to stuff prints into. It is a very happy busy, very hopeful. The greeting cards arrive later this week. I do fret a little bit that they won't turn out quite right. I keep reminding myself that I've ordered so many different prints from exactly the same service before using exactly the same software and so far they always turn out fine in the end.

Even odds the shipment arrives the same time as the crocuses start to emerge... we'll see.

P.S. If you'd like a little sneak peek of the release prep, pop on over to instagram!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Getting it Together

(A sneak preview - just a little detail of a bigger drawing to come)

Wow. The post-drawing, pre-shop-opening work continues on my new series (all about kids enjoying books) and the pieces are falling into just the right places. The shipping supplies arrived earlier today. I set up the new printer tonight, ran some test prints, and it's a peach! This is usually the hardest part for me, and I love it when it turns out so easy.
The new printer is better on matte than the old printer was. I prefer a matte surface for most things: prints, paintings, monitors, furniture, walls, lipstick... shiny is for Christmas and birthdays, and my black patent leather Doc Martens, which I want to wear with wild abandon (because I am happily stuck in the 90s and because we in the Mid-Atlantic live in a world of slush), except they hurt quite a bit (my calves and ankles are strong, but chunky). I have tried and tried to wrestle, wring, pinch, and even clamp them into the perfect broken-in state but no cigar. Anyway: long live the new printer, much easier for me to live with than the Doc Martens. I'm so relieved.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Dreams! Commitment! Investment! and of course, butterflies in the belly

In the USA, March is National Reading Month, a very big deal at my daughter's school. This is her last year there and I wanted to do something BIG to celebrate her time there and to celebrate her school's immense enthusiasm for reading. So, last December, I set a goal to be met by February of this year: I would draw a series about kids enjoying books. Then, through a somewhat unexpected turn of events my day job turned into a night and weekend job. Since relentless toil is completely my jam, I was still able to get all 8 drawings done, if just a little bit behind schedule.
Now I am running full speed to meet my second drawing-related goal of the year, which is to get these drawings printed so that YOU can enjoy them, too, if you like; and of course the school -- which has done so well by my kid -- is going to receive a full set of prints, too. Thank you, school!
Here is a picture of what I've been staring at this evening: file prep for printing.

Years ago, I had a fancy-dancy pigment ink printer and it served me pretty well, until it broke and I couldn't afford to fix it. Sending files away to be printed by a service is also a fairly expensive proposition, and often not altogether a comfy one for many artists, as it's not always easy to guarantee that what we've created is what the printer will ultimately spit out.
Now I'm committing, and investing, and having faith, and charging ahead, with a combination of a new not-broken printer and online printing services. It's very exciting! But sometimes, I must admit, this part of the process -- definitely not the drawing, but the printing setup -- makes me feel like this:
(That's me, circa 1976. I still look pretty much the same, but now I am in technicolor!)

I will return with drawing previews and -- fingers crossed -- some very good news about a little indie print shop near you.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I Forgot Santa Lucia

I drew this three years ago when my littlun was still most definitely too little to serve her parents breakfast in bed, which certainly, certainly would have had to have been done without the ceremonial attire that includes !!!A FIERY HEADDRESS!!!.
Now my littlun is bigger, and so capable. She is a marvel. But I still don't really need her to set her hair on fire or anything; mostly I'm after the kind of breakfast-in-bed that only the sweetest 10-year-old could provide. I have not had breakfast in bed in three zillion years. Were she to prepare it, it would probably consist of a plastic cup half-full of water, and a slice of toast. She would have forgotten that I rarely eat bread, toasted or not, because of tummy reasons. But she would be proud, and I would be proud. And maybe, if luck were with me, she'd scrape a little Nutella across the toast.But the 13th came, and the 13th went, and I was so busy making things I can't show you yet, and I forgot. This is still one of my favorite drawings, though. It glows.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Free Hugs

What if we walked toward each other?
What would you do, faced with the offer of a free hug?
Would it matter, what I looked like? What you looked like?

Too often when I read the news, I think, I can't believe it's not 1968. Here it is forty-six years later, and we can land a space probe on a comet four billion miles away, but we still have to struggle for human rights.
It is 2014 and people who look like me, while walking down the sidewalk pretty much anywhere in the USA, may see a grown-up version of this boy in this hoodie, without a Free Hugs sign, and they'll cross the street.
And how, in particular, did a hoodie become such a charged piece of clothing? A hoodie: so comfy, so pragmatic. I've drawn them on my children characters time and time again. I'm wearing a hoodie right now. It has fleece on the inside. I'm full of good times with my family, featuring really delicious food, and my hoodie is a smidge too tight around my middle; it feels like a little bit like a hug.
When I drew this (feeling so troubled, late, late, late into the night) I was inspired by Devonte Hart who I assume was inspired by Juan Mann's Free Hugs campaign. I was inspired by Portland Police Sergeant Bret Barnum, too. Few people have the courage to take anybody up on the offer of a free hug. And yes, I was thinking about Trayvon Martin's hoodie.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I'm headed to another NICU benefit!

Two mini quilts (including this one), a puppy, a robot, a bunny, an owl, and a pussycat are going with me -- and my husband, who is the go-to photographer for mini quilts.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Off to another show!

My second show (all new prints, mini quilts, and nice big quilts) opens tomorrow, Friday 25 May, at the Curiosity Shoppe at 4th & South in Philadelphia. I have been toiling quite a lot, even for me. I look forward to maybe reading a magazine or just plain sitting down -- soon!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day

Mother's Day
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
I got the words wrong a little bit, but thanks to fabulous mother-daughter duo Keri and Sheila Bas for introducing Julia Ward Howe's Mother's Day Proclamation to me.
My daughter Maya, age 2, graciously colored this drawing for me.
While my husband did his level best to see that I had a wonderful day (I did), I'd much rather see an end to war than a thousand Hallmark card holidays. And I'm very sure my own mom would sign up for that, too.

Mother's Day Proclamation 1870 - Julia Ward Howe
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
Last year I did a big series of nursery prints about animals and the sounds they make. They were very much geared toward the tiniest of audience members: high contrast, very simple, and unique enough but not very stylized. Today I am thinking of how blissful it would be to design a whole nursery around this new animal-sound-related image, but I think it's maybe too visually sophisticated -- my little girl (age 2) didn't recognize this as a bird when I first showed it to her, and I like her art to be accessible to her.
Still, it's so cuuuuute and springtimey! What do your little ones think?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
We've got bunnies on the brain. My daughter was pretty wound up when we put her to bed, and among the songs she sang to herself was this:
Bunnies, bunnies, bunnies, bunnies everywhere
Bunnies in the kitchen, bunnies on the stairs

She conked out pretty soon after that.
I'm gonna take the day off Friday and we're gonna make paper bunnies that look a lot like this. Well, that is my plan, anyway. She may have a different plan. :)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Show in Progress

Show in Progress
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
Here's my part of The Curiosity Shoppe show. Some of the quilts were done using the "dryer sheet applique" method (which I feel must be spread like Gospel to every quilter on earth -- I really enjoy it and it's the least cumbersome and least kloodgey applique method I've tried and, really, I've tried them all), and others were done by printing onto fabric and then quilting the contours.

My First Show!

The final candidates
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
I've been so excited (and so not blogging much) lately because, in addition to my usual load of toil I recently added all the preparation for my first SHOW. It's at the Curiosity Shoppe, 4th and South in Philadelphia, until the end of May; we opened Friday night (a very joyous occasion for me). I also made sure to sleep pretty well this past weekend to make up for all the midnight oil!

Sunday, March 04, 2007

We drew them together

We drew them together
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
Each "tile" is a 9x12 sheet of newsprint with crayon applied by Maya and yours truly, early this morning. Maya is learning her letters and numbers -- as she colors them she tells me which ones they are. I notice, too, she's interested in coloring in faces but not often much else, which reminds me of me much younger.

A whole lot of stuffin' goin' on

Some old ones, some new ones.
I've really been learning a lot. There's sewing, and then there's sewing from your own pattern on the fly, and trying out the seemingly millions of applique techniques available. I feel like I get better with each one. It's great!
Ali -- the lambie on the left, that's your girl's :) She's waiting for me to stick a little pink flower on her ear.
Little Red Riding Hood (front and center) and the babooshka (to the left of the wizard) are coming to a shop near you this spring. (I'll blog about it when it's ready!) The monster, based on my "Nervous" illustration, was going to head to the shop too, except my daughter loves it way too much! I don't have the heart to take it away.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Bibiane (and her dog Pickle, who has one blue eye)

Thanks in large part to inkyblack I have a new gig drawing other people's adorable children. And their adorable dogs :)
I hope you can tell, by this picture especially, that I'm as giddy as a piglet in poop! This particular child is cuter than cute and her parents so sweet and gracious.
If you would like a similar drawing of your adorable child, email me (keet [dot] leibowitz [at] gmail [dot] com).
I do suffer a bit of guilt though in that I have yet to draw my own little barefoot shoemaker's daughter. So this is why, whenever I need a break from drawing, I whip her up a little something, like Miss Fluffleberry, or Mr. Floppy. She's been very happy with this setup so far.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Its fleece was white as snow

The fleece I used for this chubby lamb softie is the most wonderful fabric I think I've ever worked with. I've made a few softies out of fabric with pile to it and I'd always found I had to pin and baste the bejeezers out of them to keep from slipping. I approached this one loaded for bear but there was really no need. It was so easy and so forgiving.

I got the idea to make a lamb softie from a drawing I did a few weeks ago (Ali Had a Little Lamb). As with anything lamb-related I thought of my teensy-but-bold friend Maddie and her family. They're really into lambs. :) And now that I've made all my little mistakes with this one (for example, using fusible webbing to keep the face in place -- no need for that), I can make her one that is just perfect.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

At last!

At last!
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
So, my friends may remember that around the beginning of January I was very excited and busy working on something big which I could not yet reveal.
This is it!
Baby announcements, printed on scrumptious linen, for a scrumptious baby of Chinese-American heritage. It was the family's idea for me to draw a puppy to record her Chinese zodiac sign, and I tossed in the lily for Lillian.
I still spend many happy moments staring at her perfect pink fingers and thinking that, now that I have done the baby thing once, I could do it a second time so much more confidently (although adoption would be our best and preferred method of expanding our family). Then again, I also spend many happy moments being glad that my days of coping with an infant's schedule (or lack thereof) are behind me!

P.S. -- How do I articulate what a profound honor it is to take on the job of announcing someone's birth? All I can say is that being chosen for this project made me feel incredibly special.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mr. Floppy

Mr. Floppy
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
Thanks to server outages at work, I made a big bunny softie for Maya. She loves it!

"Doghead, you good dog, you."

Quote from a wee relative of my friend Lisa. He had a dog called Doghead whom he loved a lot.
This is my way of saying goodbye to the year of the dog! I'm sure to draw a pig for the new year soon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

One-Eye and His Treasury of Best Loved Poems

1. This is for a wonderful little boy whose parents, perhaps without knowing it or meaning to, have helped so many preemie and micropreemie parents through what is an awfully scary time.
2. I had my idea of what this was going to look like and then my husband had his. He sent me to to study some runes. It was a good idea.
3. I think I'm pretty obsessed with these misty blue-grey backgrounds. I would like to say it is the influence of winter here in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, but actually our winter is this seemingly endless expanse of grody, frozen brown. So, these misty blue-grey backgrounds are what I wish winter would look like. And then I wish winter would dump some good sledding snow on me and go away really quickly.
4. Yes, this does make me feel like unpacking flat boxes of unassembled furniture and cursing over Allen keys. We got the Sverker series of shelves when we were first married and Sverker became an expletive in our home. It's still handy.
5. I went scrounging after some Swedish music too and the best I had was a-ha (Norwegian). I loooooooooved a-ha when I was a youngun. Forget "Take On Me," the other stuff is lovely and dramatic and totally 80's and I think my friend Keri should put it on loudly and write novels to it.
6. Speaking of writing and books and best loved poems, I miss my friend Julie so much, and Julie never says no to a good book.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

shoo shoo boogie boo

shoo shoo boogie boo
Originally uploaded by relentlesstoil.
1. Nathan has taught me the love of penguins.
2. One of my goals in life is to leave many zany stories behind. Here is a zany story about my late grandmother: when it was REALLY cold she would bundle up her sons and use the term "shoo shoo boogie boo" to emphasize just how cold it was. I am not really sure where the term comes from. My uncle has a theory that it has to do with the perils of having to tinkle in an outhouse in frosty wintertime (we're Polish American and shoo shoo is a Polish kid's term for tinkle... although my generation of the family never actually used that term and I suspect my father's generation didn't, either). Who knows.
Anyway, it is for damn sure shoo shoo boogie boo cold here. I feel like it's been below freezing since 1819. We've had very little precipitation, though, so instead of a winter-white wonderland and !!!getting to sled down my awesome sledding hill!!! it's just this frozen-stiff, grey-brown BLAH out there.
If it must be this cold, I would really rather be sledding down my awesome sledding hill with all the kids. We could all use a snow day.