Common Core Standards

Monday, December 13, 2010

Forces to Bring Change!

Art is the child of Nature; yes,
Her darling child, in whom we trace
The features of the mother's face,
Her aspect and her attitude.


I just had to share this quote that I got from an email last week as I work with ideas of symbol as story. I have been working on a manuscript that deals with Michigan's Sanilac Petroglyphs (pictures etched in stone) and their interpretation and also rereading some Rudyard Kipling stories on how symbols as a written language tell their own story.  
Snow Runes in the Trees

I wanted to finish up what I started in this
blog with the last set of the runes. As you
look outside I'm sure you will see a few of
these without much trouble!
After our snow and ice gift yesterday we
were left with beauty and treacherous
conditions (beauty and chaos).
Here now are the 2nd Aett of runes, the
Forces to Bring Change.
Hagalaz - "hail", the seed of ice, is disruptive and causes change. Protect home and barn with this one as it staves off astral attacks. I imagine ice and hail sliding off the slanted roof, and being safe and sound down below.
Nauthis - "need", go within and bring forth personal inspiration. A rune to stop incoming attack or a warning that maybe something unacknowledged needs to be attended to. (As the letter Y it reminds me to ask myself Why? in help in remembering the meaning here.)
Isa - "ice", frozen a time to slow down, to stay the same, freeze things or another's actions means to stay in the present situation, but can also be destructive by not allowing needed movement. (I think of this one as an icicle-which also brings caution while walking under!)
Jera - "year", harvest time, cyclical rune of reward, a gentle flow of change (year) not a fast pace. (I see the balance of the seasons in this one, almost like a chain link or two hands holding the year.)
Eihwaz - "yew" the tree of life, eternity, world without time. A rune that says GO FOT IT! The rune of the Hunter, searching for person, place, thing, job, home. (To me, this runic tree branches at the top and roots below createing balance.)
Perth - "dance", secrets and hidden knowledge. Rebirth and childbirth. Evolutionary process. A GREAT changes is about to take place. (I see this a a bowl, pot or cauldron where cooking takes place.)
Algiz - sign of negation, the protective rune is the elk staghorn and shield. Need I say more?
Sowilo - SUN! inspiration from divine source. Message needed to accomplish a goal. Kind of a light bulb going on, Aha! moment which can be a slap in the face or wake up call. (Looking like Harry Potter's scar this lightning bolt could be a ZAP! in the right direction.)
Pictures tell stories and the letters of the alphabet and runes are no different. Especially after reviewing sketches, notes and past writing on the petroglyphs I have found wonder again in those ancient drawings. Who made them and what were they trying to say? Much is left open to interpretationa dn imagination.
We all leave our stories whether in rock, tree, paper or electronically to pass on meaning.
In Kipling's story where Taffy and her father create the first written language (they illustrate a story as a message that gets them into trouble), they they take those early drawings and simplify them into symbols which hold sound. The story is one of sweetness and imagination as they work out each sound.

Often just trying to interpret my grandaughter's drawing is pretty much the same. Sweet, imaginative and pure in meaning--even with rhinestones!

Books and art are windows that take us into another world and illustration is the universal visual language that helps us understand customs and people!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Forest Speaks to Those That Listen

Preparing for the winter storm that is supposed to hit--meaning keeping a sketch journal handy and doing a little pre-holiday shopping. The wind is blowing through the pines out my office and it's beginning to rattle the window. Ah, Michigan winter, how vital. A good time to reflect and to reacquaint myself with the first runes.

With my last post having to do with this mystic "air mail", I thought that I would go ahead and drop in the 1st Aett of the runes. These ancient divination runes are called the Elder Runes or "futhark".

This past week the rune, Gebo, is an 'x' that marks the spot. Coming to me at different times throughout the day, I thought I should review this message from my creative unconcious! Gebo, the gift rune, is that of balance and partnership. Use to enhance an exchange of data, ideas, or feelings, whether between two opposing or agreeing forces. As an air element, it moves swiftly in many situations. Honor self-sacrifice (give and take) to have harmony. The crossed twigs do give a feeling of balance and also partnership.

Fehu - is the female rune. The cattle goddess of fertility meaning new beginnings, wealth and possessions. (I have a sketch of this rune with a woman raising her arms to the sky to help me remember its message.)
Uruz - the auroch rune symbolizes the glacier and ice, a rune of determination, fertility and strength. (If you look at this rune it does look like a glacial wall of strength. And I must say that a glacier would be determined in its movement.)
Thurisaz - Chaos! a rune of forces of oppostition. Negative balance in the scales of nature. The shadow self of each person or deity. A rune of fire. (A good way to remember this one is perhaps a guillotine sliding downward--just a suggestion :)
Ansuz - wisdom and occult knowledge and god rune. Known as Odin's rune (the All Father of Scandinavian folklore who hanged from the world tree, upside down, and gained the knowledge of these runes, this language of the forest). This air rune signifies sacred breath and highest vibration.

"Green Man" (Odin-The One-Eyed Norse God) by Lori Taylor
Raido - makes things go, a rune of movement and horseback. In charge and in motion to control particular situations. A pathway to travel. The fire element of the beginning of new projects. (Another rune that has made it to the forefront lately.)
Kenaz - is the fire pit, the torch or bowl of light. (Pretty easy to see the symbolism here and light is pretty easy to interpret.)
Wunjo - Joy! Pleasure, fertility, gifts and light. (One can imagine this rune design as a torch or light or perhaps that triangle-like blade at the top before it falls and becomes the rune of chaos, Thurisaz :)

It's been fun to find these runes and drag out my old sketchbooks and recall the pictures I drew of each to help me remember their meaning. I find that with chaos comes balance (see above), something that has hit home closely with me and my family lately--let's face it, that dance of chaos and balance never ends! Yet, through this season of decreasing light, we still burn brightly as we make or purchase gifts to lift hearts and spirits. So it's only natural that Gebo has hopped into my mind and re-minded me of that give and take in order to stay in balance.

And so it is with light, joy and fire we go inside to stay warm recharge our batteries.  We have loaded up the groceries and the firewood and now we wait. (There is an excitement to this first real snowfall!) After the snow begins to cover the brown of the past years growth, we know that that brown will compost and fertilize bringing new life in only a few short months.

May you keep your fire burning through this energy consuming time and enjoy the quiet moments!
(Rest up, next week's runes are the 2nd Aett, forces that bring change!)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Language of TREES! Going Within

'Tis the season--to go within. Nature does this going within--naturally! Animals migrate, hibernate, or adapt to the winter season, so why don't we? At a time to conserve our energy and go within, most people are stepping out and the holiday shopping, cards, baking and general running around has folks in a dizzy spin.

This is a time, especially after our first snow, that I slow down and go inside. Because of this going within time it becomes a time that I get air mail, or himmelsbrief ("letters from heaven"). The black and white, or I should say, the gray and brown and white world outside is silent and stark. Trees bare of leaves are interesting and form interesting shapes. It is easy to see how Germanic folks saw runes so readily in trees, especially in the winter months. (I recently saw an art exhibit in Canada where the artist used twigs to spell words.)
Because of my love for language and art, it is easy for runic signs and symbols to catch my eye during the day. I draw down the ones that seem to speak to me. For years I have tried learning runes and it seems every winter is when I am drawn to them. As an artist and writer, I am drawn to the stick shapes, meanings and the idea of a magical alphabet and language that the subconcious mind delights in taking note of. Runes have an interesting history and there is lots written on them. The runes above are the 3rd Aett that deal with human nature and conditions.

Lately, Dagaz and Ehwaz have popped into my mind as I kept running into them during the day. What was my mind trying to tell me? Dagaz (Day) is the rune of the end of a cycle or era, a new day's promise of something better or new by bringing light and transformation into a situation. And Ehwaz ((horse) is the horse or warhorse rune that can bring people together (or split apart) but means you better take control of a situation and create links of goodwill.

To me, runes are the language of trees especially if you look outside. This week I began work on a boreal forest wildlife series of paintings, a large boreal forest piece in addition to a Avian Alphabet/Rune Card set. At a time after book manuscripts were sent out I finally got to play with some creative projects that had been set aside. Hopefully, I will have time in the next few months to complete these. During this quiet time, I review the past year, I create and I listen, to the subject, the medium, the message as it comes out in word and symbol.

During the holiday hustle and hubbub, watch the frozen outdoor world around you for messages in shadow and symbols that appear from nowhere. Collect them in a sketchbook or simply take note of them. They are fun greeting cards from within!

Tiwaz (Tyr the sky god) -Justice! Invoked for courage, honor, bravery in a difficult situation.
Berkano (Birch) -Maternal rune, patron of mothers, children and women's mysteries. Emotional and physical security.
Mannaz (Man) -The people rune. One of cooperation between people for beneficial end.
Laguz (Lake) -Sorcery or sending thoughts. Visualize some in dream time to talk with on an issue honestly and lovingly.
Inguz (Ing god of fertility) -Vessel of creation, doorway to astral world.
Othala (Possession) -Traditions, values, the light of knowledge is carried on.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Critter Thanksgiving Stroll

Day before Thanksgiving and out to Howell Nature Center for animal sketching and creative blockbusting. I wanted to get over to see the coyotes this frosty morn and thought the animals would be a little more active.

It was early and my nose alerted me to the fresh pine scent of a shipment of Christmas trees. It was quiet, too. A few birds and little activity. Entering the Wild Wonder Park I saw that the deer munching on a pile of pumpkins as the coyotes paced their pen. 
A young coyote I called Little Big Head, with an injured forepaw, ran the loop of his pen on three feet before stopping to nibble on a bone. The other bigger yote with her face and snout poking out from her thick winter coat seemed interested in the Christmas tree goings on and nibbled from a bucket every so often. Both were different and interesting characters to sketch. Each with their own personality.

Then off to see the rest of the animals. When we come out here to cage clean we seldom get a chance to see the rest of the animals so this was a fun and relaxing stroll with just me talking to the animals.
The beaver who had been active last week was nowhere to be seen this morn. The wild turkey pair dined quietly. The bobcat sat staying warm and its head would snap around at the crunch of a leaf. The motionless female fox stared out from her curled body wapped in its warm fluffy tail.

But the curious male cocked his head and following me about posed quite prettily. He seemed to be enjoying the crisp day and gave me plenty of photo opps. Gray squirrels rifled through leaves looking for acorns as I waited to see if the porcupine would come out. Today, even the beaver slept in and must have been in his hill condo and not his usual place.

Everybody was sleeping in or staying snug--which sounded good to me--an animal holiday, a critter day off. Then it's back to performing for visitors when they come to pick out their Christmas trees. 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crossing Borders

November. Thanksgiving. What does this bring to mind? Falling leaves, frost, winter? Turkey, family, eating? Now add to the end of those pyschopompish words-school kids. Ah! Pilgrims and Indians (American or Native Americans or First Nations). Why is it that it seems at this time of year Native Americans are mentioned most? Does it have to do with that first Thanksgiving and stereotypes?

I attended the Crossing Borders 33rd Annual Mary Calletto Rife Youth Literature Seminar on Nov. 5. (See last post) and was interested in what the guest speaker, Cynthia Leitich Smith, a tribal member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, had to say and how that relates to my work as an artist, author and illustrator. The focus of the seminar was helping readers undstand, appreciate and relate to others--the crossing of borders--from racial ro cultural to economic and more.

The final speaker of the day, Debbie Reese, who is tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo in northern New Mexico, gave us all valuable information regarding American Indians in children's lit. For more information see her site:

This talk not only interested me as an author/illustrator, but as a Michigander, long influenced and inspired by Michigan Native tales. As a child, I traveled to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park. The Odawa or Ojibwa legend, depending on who you talk to, sparked my 5 year old imagination as my brother and I posed in front of a gift shop next to a man in Plains regalia. (Notice that I said, "man", not warrior or brave, and "regalia" not costume.)

"Sleeping Bear:  The Legend" (detail) 2007, Lori Taylor
Since then, I have spent my life studying, reading, going to powwows, and talking and sharing with people about the Great Lakes Peoples and their stories. Heck, I grew up right here and spent my life running through the woods and waters of Michigan, how could I not try to understand the voices of the People and the land that I was raised on.

From artist, Frank Ettawageshick, to writer, Simon Otto, to a healing lodge in Ann Arbor and Ziibiwing Center of Anishinabe Culture & Lifeways, and more I have gleaned understanding from native teachings. Debbie gave us a great list of kid's books to read by Joseph Bruchac and Louise Erdrich and recommended the PBS, "We Shall Remain", for us all to understand their stories better.

I have studied the Sanilac Petroglyphs (I love the art there) and crawled across rock walls with Lake Superior at my back to see pictographs in Canada. These are images that speak with powerful emotion reaching out to touch others that witness them. As an artist, all art that speaks is art to be shared.

"Wisdom of the Elders: MAEOE Conference" 1993

Yesterday, I crossed the border--to Canada, to visit the Art Gallery of Windsor to see the Group of Seven exhibit of Canadian painters. Inserted in the exhibit was a piece from Canadian artist, Emily Carr. As I sketched her work, Yan Mortuary Poles, I realized that here was a Canadian artist, like me, with a strong desire to preserve the history or her home and the stories of its Peoples, as well as her love of the deep, dark coastal forests.

As a storyteller, I will continue to learn and tell these stories of my Michigan home in art and word. If these stories inspire and fire our imaginations for us to do great things for each other and care for our home--our land and waters--then is that not what those stories were preserved and intended for--to make a better place for all? I have learned alot in the past 30 years and I am thankful for the sharing of all Native stories of their home--which is my home and my grandchild's home.

November? Curling up at home--all of our homes, with good books and good stories!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Kalamazoo Conference with Kids, Cows & Coyotes!

Is it any wonder that we illustrators and artists are the way we are? While attending a seminar in Kalamazoo's Western University last week for children's books, I saw the eight-year old school girl, Lori, come out. The topic of cultural diviersity was fascinating and helpful for us all--writers, illustrators and librarians, and gave us all much food for thought.

But as words rolled from the speakers, thoughts rumbled in my head. You know--that "Never-ending, Story Telling, I'm-Bored-Kid" voice that shouts--"Doodle!" As the librarians reviewed the books--alphabetically, I began sketching in my notebook margins--instead of listening and taking notes.  (Mind you, I was there to hear the key note speakers and gave them my full--OK, semi-full attention, of which I came away with much appreciated and valued thought.) And I did get some notes taken. Book titles, key meaningful phrases that jumped out at me and the like.
But it was my doodling that carried me away in a pen and paper canoe!
Kids, cows

and coyotes filled the pages.

Suddeny--a new story idea hit me! I began sketching that out and came up with the skeleton of that tale. It's amazing how creative you can be when it comes to the droning white noise of a speaker speaking. I'm not dissing the speakers, the others there got a lot out of the review, but I was thankful for the time spent letting my mind go. A rare treat these days.

The only problem I had, came at lunch. Having lunch with SCBWI - MI members: Ruth McNally Barshaw, Leslie Helakoski, and Jennifer Whistler and others was great fun. We laughed, we shared, we discussed the topic.

Then Jennifer, who puts together the SCBWI-MI "Mitten" newsletter asked me if I was sketching and taking notes. I answered YES! excitedly and rather proudly. Then she asked if I could put them in the Jan.'11 newletter.

Yipes! Double Yipes!

I was sketching things that had nothing to do with the seminar. Once again, eight-year old Lori got caught red-handed and red- faced! I could hear, "Would you like to share your notes with the class?"
Oh well, at least I got a story to work on--and January is a long time away!

*Notes I took:
Books are windows that take us into another world.
Illustration is a universal visual language that helps us understand other customs and people.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Autumn Zoo Sketches

Heading to the zoo for a pre-Halloween photo shoot and sketch. What better way to practice sketching than on moving animals! This puts your patience and hands to the test.

Elk pair resting.

Brown bear looking around.
 Gesture sketching is the only way to capture these scenes. I don't even have to tell you how valuable the sketches are later on. You can capture resting and not so resting animals. Your hand records the movement as it happens.

Fiesta fun--wolverine and pinata.
While watching the wolverines, Marie had to reload a camera card while I sketched the playful pair wrassling a pinata. She missed that shot--I sketched. Of course, later on, I was quite thankful for her photos for wolverine details. But there is no replacing that attitude and gesture when it comes to illustrating animals.
Needless to say, the wolverines were the highlight of my day.

Restless weasel--try sketchig a wolverine in motion.
All in all, it was a lucky day for me. For all the times I had been to the zoo, I'd never seen this duo so animated. This dynamic Gulo gulo duo were a pure delight to watch and LISTEN to. From grunts and groans, to snarls and happy snapping jaws as they ripped apart pumpkins.

Full of spunk, the beautiful wolverine.
So grab your sketchbook, drop everything and draw. Any season will do. The more diverse the better. Visit the zoo or local nature center, your subjects await!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wild Field Notes and Sketches

After returning from Canada's Lake Superior Provincial Park I went through my notes and sketches. Whew! I needed a tutorial in note taking. I have always taken field notes and stressed the importance of them in every class I ever taught to young and old!

I later found a Tutorial on line to refresh myself. It discussed the Grinnell (as in Joseph Grinnell, one of the dedicated fathers of our national parks) system of field note taking through Notes and Journal and Species Account and Catalogs. But I was impressed with the simplicity and importance of the simple act of the Field Notes in a Field Notebook. Here is what I gleaned from the article.

Carry a notebook everywhere. That's super. I can do that. My problem was though, I took FOUR notebooks to Canada, actually FIVE if I count the one I carry in my purse. I had sketches and notes scattered everywhere. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a pretty blank book. So I need to limit my sketching to at least TWO when I go out. A small pocket notebook and 8.5 x 11" spiral bound to put those notes in (stapled or glued) and any map, text or travel guide, etc.

STATE, DATE, TIME the Field Note author suggests--(I do the who, what, when, and wheres)I failed to put dates and times in my Canadian sketches. Maybe I was smitten with the wild Canadian scenery or the thought of being surrounded by wolves in the mist that I forgot this essential data. I added it later to my scanned sketches and realized then that the date was wrong. A matter of a day or two, but this could be bad if it was something of vital importance. So, add DATE, TIME of DAY and weather in your sketch.

I did quick, quick sketches that caught the moment. "I'm not writing it down to remember it later, I'm writing it down to remember it." was a quote I found online. Later, while looking at photos, you may not catch the moment like you did with a sketch. The lake sketch was a simple and quick contour outline. Without words, it tells the weather. And this was a quick sketch because the drifitng kayak and scene kept moving!

The other sketch of the fallen log shows life and time of day and weather and season by the plants and animal activities. (The log had 4 trees and 1 shrub specie growing out of it) How cool is that? When I see the sketch I am instantly reminded and sent back to that day of the dragonfly laying eggs in the water, the smell of joe-pye weed and the small sparrow foraging on shore and the sound of the kayak bobbing in that cove. HOW COOL IS THAT? All from a sketch.

DRAW WHAT YOU SEE!!! Oh, so important. In the evening resting at a picnic table I noticed "v's" in the water moving across the lake. This sent the camp into a scramble for binocs and cameras! "Beaver!" I shouted. "Otter!" Lisa shouted. "NO! A sea monster!" I corrected myself. What looked like a brown beaver head suddenly turned into THREE lumps on the water. What the heck!
The brown thing(s) swam for the shore and I headed for my journal and spotting scope. I needed bigger guns now to see what crawled out! Marie and Lisa walked/trotted/ran down the shore with camera and binocs. I set up my scope. The mysterious brown beings crawled out onto shore. Two brown lumps--or rather two brown butts climbed over a log and into the brush. I drew what I saw. (*Sketch what you see before consulting a guide book! This will prove your sighting more accurately.)
Afterward, we compared photos (some blurry and the others really, really blurry) and my sketch. Hmm. Beaver or Otter. Then we discussed behavior. Beaver do not roll onto their backs and play. Otters do this. This was the "sea monster" pose that I saw (before I found binocs). I was convinced. Conclusion: Otters x 2.

These sketches become vital for future illustrations, discussions, stories and art. At the time, they are great fun to do. Later, when you reflect upon them you truly see their value. It's time to go get another sketchbook. For more info, Google--Field Notes and Joseph Grinnell.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Summer Time and Bitten By the BOOK BUG!

It's been a long time since last I wrote---my blog that is. However, I have been writing. Stories, snippets, words, phrases. And drawing many characters and character sketches. It's summer time and I have bitten by the BOOK BUG!

It all started...when I went to Hartwick Pines State Park for a solo camp. Me a tent and pens, paper and books. I read and wrote for two days. From the moment I started my engine to the time I tore down camp and hit the road for home, I was writing, formulating and concocting stories. It was a great time---not to mention the sweat lodge heat. I wrote and fed ground squirrels, my only camp-anions! I had no idea what this trip would bring, but it brought it on. The happily dreaded Book Bug. And I haven't stopped yet!

I am bringing out old stories and polishing them to make them new. I am writing new stories and polishing them for publishing. Old books will get a new face. And new faces keep popping up. Writing and illustration is my focus now. As summer swings into a silent pre-fall, I am excited with new work and new experiences and new faces.

October 8-10, I am attending the Society of Children Writers and Illustrators Fall Conference in August, MI. This is a mouthful to say the least, so I merely refer to the group as SCBWI (pronounced-"skib-weeee"). I am excited to participate in workshops and critique groups and to be immersed in a weekend of creative writing and drawing. The theme this year is "magic". I am decorating my "magic wand" for the conference as well as turning my "Magic" portfolio into a magical tome---much like a magical Book of Shadows.

With this renewed, refound writing quest, I have attended NON-SCBWI events, such as an Official Shutta Crum Schmooze in Ann Arbor and met writer and illustrator kindred spirits.

This past Sunday Artisan Market, I met folks who wished to attend the SCBWI conference and talked writing talk and who we knew. This is all very exciting, walking this new, old path. Pop in a Canadian WILD vacation and it will be fun to see what happens in the month ahead.

I will be hitting the book trail again by taking my new, old book, "Lissy-Lost!" to Ann Arbor's BookFest and PerryFest in September. The adventure, begins...again!