Tuesday, November 29, 2011

PiBoIdMo Almost Over!

What a busy month for me! PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month), my birthday, going to Detroit for the Thanksgiving Day parade and general life around the Bear Track Studio den. PiBoIdMo was a blast and it all comes to a close tomorrow. I gathered many new and fresh ideas for future possible picture books. Here are a few:
The first colorful picture book character that came to mind was our new kitten who adopted us. Oskar Wilde Kat. OK, drawing him was like drawing a droplet of water bouncing on a hot skillet. Then I read about from PiBoIdMo folk how kittens and bunnies are overused in story land so I went on in my search for new, fun story characters. Ideas began to trickle in and then tumble in like crashing waves.

Nov. 11, 2011 "Pinky" Porcupine

One such idea stemmed from my birthday celebration when I spent the day with my granddaughter and son at Rain Forest Cafe at the Great Lakes Crossing.

Fortunately my granddaughter, Kyah, is full of songs and stories and made the day memorable. It began with her singing every verse of "I Got the Joy, Joy, Joy Down in my Heart..." and ended with ice cream at McDonald's because the mall had closed all of its ice cream stores and was far too crowded for our likes.

When I bought Kyah a blue-striped plush top hat with hot pink fur trim (snazzy, right?) it made her little six-year old going on seven day. She had been enumerating her first grade woes of not making many friends at her school. Ouch! That hurt my grandma heart. And so when she asked for the hat--what's a grandmother to do? She was wild with excitement and wore the too big hat in the mall making people smile at her. BINGO! Story gotten! Now I hate to use my lil grandpup's problems as a story but these are real big deals to kids her age and older. So I went home and sketched some scenes from our big, day out. I liked the idea of making us porcupines--one of my favorite animals that I've had a few run-ins with. Before I even wrote a single word the images came to mind. The hat, the day, the song.

Then along came Thanksgiving. It got me to thinking about being grateful and giving back. November was becoming an emotional month for me for many reasons and now was the time to be thankful for everybody and everything I have in my life and for who I am. So out popped, Pickles Possum.


Nov. 22, 2011 "Pickles Possum" is in the Pits
This time Pickles got more character development perhaps because the character was closer to home--me. I drew pages and pages and wrote words and dialogue and pretty soon a story was being born.

As the days went by I noticed things more, especially after reading PiBoIdMo emails and posts from other authors. From settings to unusual characters my mind raced. Which is why I haven't slept well in a month from my brain racing like the engine of a race car. Besides designing new creative art pieces for work I was doing this picture book challenge, writing the Holly Wild and prepping for an art show we are headed to on Friday--in the snow.

So I went for a short walk at Howell Nature Center in their Wild Wonders park and took photos of critters like opossum, coyote and beaver. Then went back the next day to draw the porcupine.

She and I had a nice chat on that warm day. Each of regarding the other. She hummed to me and I hummed back as I sketched. I must have bored her though as she yawned and stretched and turned her back to me. But then she looked back and gave me a nice profile. Porkies have an unusual face and oddly human eye and appearance as if she were wrapped in her quilt decorated with quills. After our session I left with sketchbook in hand to visit the flying squirrel. OK, so you can't actually draw a flying squirrel--he actually was like a drop of water on a hot skillet. Cute fellers they are.
So the month of story ideas nearly over has brought new settings;  Detroit, and weird characters; mosquito larva. Stories are buzzing in my mind and will boil over at some point--but for now I have them on paper--as sketches.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

PiBoIdMo, NaNoWriMo and AnFaMigMo--OH MY!



"I'm doing PiBoIdMo starting next week," I excitedly told Lisa (BarTraStuWoGir--Bear Track Studio Wood Girl) at breakfast. She smiled weakly into her weakly weak coffee.
"I thought you were already doing NaNoWriMo. Is this new acronym an ancient art form of self-defense?"
"AHA! PiBoIdMo stands for Picture Book Idea Month," I shouted. "NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, that's different. See, I can write Holly Wild Book 2 in one month and get picture book ideas and short stories for magazines at the same time. Let things jump out at me and sketch and write notes about them."

I merrily made my way up the hill to scoop the chicken coop when it occurred to me that last month was AnFaMigMo--Annual Fall Migration Month. All month long I noticed migratory action of many species of animals preparing to head south for the winter. There were the late-leaving Monarch butterflies flitting in a line (only thing to sip on was that noxious invasive Spotted Knapweed to keep them on their journey). Noisy cranes, geese and tree frogs. Hummingbirds long gone, but snakes were still moving to and fro looking for their wintering hibernacula (many roadkills spotted on these). But the most fascinating migration I witnessed was last weekend in TC Traverse City and Empire, home of the great SLBD--Sleeping Bear Dunes.

Marie (BarTraStuBirGir--Bear Track Studio Bird Girl) and I (BarTraStuNuClo--Bear Track Studio Nut Clown) had spent the week in TC painting a mural at the Boardman River Nature Center and planned to do a little kayaking on Saturday with family coming to town. A nice break after a looong week.
http://natureiscalling.org/river-wall-mural-at-the-boardman-river-nature-center/
We had heard that Chinook and Coho salmon by the thousands had already been harvested and many more were still in the rivers. So we got to see some in the Boardman River whilst perusing the autumnal harvest of fruits and flowers at the Farmers Market. The mix of delicious fruit and dead fish was interesting.

But Wow! What a fish! I'd never seen such a large, colorful and hideous-looking fish. And to think that we were going to kayak among them on the Platte River in the SLBD--Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park was an extra treat--especially since my daughter who has a big fish aversion had not yet arrived to the said kayking rendevous place. (Oh, this would be a treat once she realized she would be surrounded by them.) She pointed out one smallish salmon when we entered the river. I chuckled. Just you wait girlfriend...heheh.

Once on the river, schools of the large shiny hook-jawed torpedoes shot past us--and move they did--you could hear a slightly audible "swish-swish-swish" as they passed. Some leaped from the water and the water was black with them at the Fish-Thingy-Ladder-Tower-Gate. (see photo)
"Yes, my love, that is exactly where I shall flip my kayak. Yes, down there with the salmon."
This spectacle of finned and gilled nature made my daughter anxious. It also kept her in her kayak. But, not so with my son-in-law, Matt. He felt he must join the salmon on their run and promptly took a river swim after tipping his yak among them.

It was a quick bonding moment. One he will never forget. Tipping into a river in summer is shocking. But in the FALL, with chilled water, not so fun. Fortunately for him my menopausal ways found me with many layers of clothes packed into my yak. He dressed in the prickly brush on shore in a variety of clothes while the others emptied his yak. He did look like a wild man emerging from the bush after two months on the river. In my fleece shirt, jacket, and water shoes; his wife's "beaver fur hat" and socks, and BarTraStuWoGir's pants (she was wearing long johns beneath them for those of you concerned--she did look like an elf when we got out of the water at the end of the trip).

So where is all of this going? PiBoIdMo and NaNoWriMo? Ummm, notice, experience, write, record, sketch and photograph the events happening around you so you have something to share.

Life in layers (keeps you warm).

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Book is Born!

Yay! Hooplah! Celebration!
Holly Wild came home this week. What a long journey it has been for that kid--and me--and Bear Track Press!

A list of thank yous go out to Marie Rust and Lisa Ramlow--Team Taylor!
Thanks to Karin Fish--for fielding all of my InDesign questions--
and teaching me about 'em' dashes--and stuff.
To Kathleen Dougherty--thanks times ten. She has taught me much in the
nature realm for the last almost 30 years!
To my SCBWI Critter Crit group for looking over my ms. and
giving their helpful crit--times two!
Thanks to all!

So before I head off to Mackinac Island this weekend for the annual SCBWI-MI Fall Conference for Illustration Boot Camp, I've made sure that I've gotten all my ducks in a row. Holly's book has special buttons on my website to order books and here on my blog. She also has a Kid's Page with cool stuff for kids of all ages and her own Facebook page to keep you informed.
 And there will be school/libraryprograms, book signings and more in the future!

And you can bet Holly will have something to say about Mackinac Island in the future!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

HOLY CREEPS! It's A Go with HOLLY WILD!

HOLY CREEPS! Holly H. Wild is ready to go--to press that is! As we speak, her story, her games, her activities and her words are rolling along the press. In fact, she will be showing her face to the world as of next week! So there's STILL a LOT more to do to get ready for bringing her home. We at Bear Track Press are all so excited, but no one more than me.

Just who is HOLLY H. WILD?  She's a cross between Raggedy Ann and Charlie Brown with a hint of Peppermint Patty and Lil Orphan Annie thrown in. OK, so maybe not, but she kinda looks like a combo of all of those. Holly is her own kid, with her own style! A tough and tumble, redheaded geek in hiking boots and hat who likes snakes and is ready to take on the world.

She's HOLLY H. WILD and she's awesome, times ten! She's fearless, brave, creative, bright, loyal and curious and--OK, she's a bit stubborn and clutsy, but that's because she is in a hurry to see the world and tell it to others. It's a dang good thing she has a Team like Tierra and Sierra Hills to keep her on track.
Holly may trip and fall, but she always get back up.
These last few months, weeks, and years of writing, revisions, illustrations and redoes, copyrights, ISBN and Library of Congress numbers and bar codes and setting up the files of the hundreds of illustrations is cause for CELEBRATION! Whew! To give you an idea, when we started writing Holly's story, Kenny was seven inches long and now he is five feet long! It's about time Holly comes to life! It's about time to celebrate her Wild appearance.

What does Holly have to say about all of this?
"Get UP, get OUT and get Wild!"

WATCH for Holly's arrival next week by following and liking her on Facebook. She will have her own page and fun stuff for kids to do. Kids can follow Holly and can become a GeEK (Geo Explorer Kid) and learn more about the nature world. Watch for Holly's fun promotional stuff, too.
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Holly-Wild/174022782675624

HOLLY WILD:  Bamboozled on Beaver Island will be available for $12.99 at www.loritaylorart.com or Bear Track Press: http://www.beartrackstudiosllc.com/bear_track_press.html.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Birthing HOLLY WILD!


Lots of possiblilites here. Decisions, decisions!
This will be the last post before I get Holly published. Let me just say what a lo-o-ong journey it has been. A much longer labor and delivery than both of my own kids put together!

So I am putting together a scrap book of the beginnings of Holly Wild (and I'm sure that there are more in notebooks from way back). It was fun to gather these up, like putting together a baby book for Holly--which is more than what I did for my own children's baby books. Sorry kids.

But in order to develop a character and know her well and draw her with ease it takes at least 100 or more sketches and then at least 100 more times ten. Easy peasey right? Enjoy my trot down memory lane!


EEKS! Too cute--too clean.
Sketch pads, note paper, bank slips, stationery,
receipts--all held Holly Wild concepts.

Lots of paper and COFFEE!

HOLY CREEPS! A breakthrough! I was sick at the time of the coffe stain sketch when I saw patterns in the chimney bricks. It simplified Holly's look. This is the very beginning of the Holly Wild look, but she NEEDS to be more lovable.
AHA! Holly is lovable and perfect. But wait--she is too young.
Back to the drawing board.

HOLLY H. WILD 8-20-11

I can understand Holly's look as I feel the same way. We are both ready for her to be a hit and get into print. Besides Kenny was seven inches when we started this and now he is five feet long.
So back to work. There are files to be wrangled and ISBN numbers and copyrights to be wrassled. The next time I write I hope it's to say, BUY the BOOK!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Critters and Pets and Holly, Oh, My!

As the deadline for Holly Wild is looming ever closer, I've been sketching, scribbling, and drawing and redrawing on paper and in Photoshop to get this book put together. So before my hand fell off, I took a break from the routine yesterday to go to the Detroit zoo with my daughter, her husband and my granddaughter, Kyah, who was visiting them.

Even though we did the zoo early because of the heat, we still got hot and found ourselves scouting about for the next blue water fountain to cool off. But the best cooling came from visiting the Dinosauria exhibit in the shady woods. As we gladly stepped back through the mists of time (enjoyed by everyone from 1 to 91) we entered the forest of giant, ancient herps! We had a fun time moaning and roaring at the animated rubber dinosaurs and posing in front of them. It made me think of some giant herps introduced in the Holly Wild book.
Gigantic toads on Beaver Island the size of squirrels!
Willy-Nilly, a small rodent pet.
Beaver Island is much like a Jurassic Park--only not with herps the size of T-Rex--but amphibians and reptiles. Giant toads and larger than average snakes have been discovered there in the last few years.

Castor canadensis, a modern day beaver.
Speaking of giant critters, we got to see a Capybara at the zoo. They must've been hot too, because they hit the beach and dove in the water. After the Capybara, our modern day beaver is next in line as the largest rodent. However, our acient beaver relatives would dwarf them both. Those bad boys were once the size of our Michigan black bears and roamed the shores in search of soft foods, not trees. 


As we walked along we got to visit the Bush Dogs. They are tiny little scrappers that look like shaved wolverines with stubby black tails. These lil fellers had a well-traveled grassy trail in their enclosure and were running their route when we spied a small rabbit eating clover near a stump in the their pen.

We wondered how long the bunny had been in there and how long it would be until the bush dogs discovered the critter. If their sense of smell and hunger was like Hunter, the hound in Holly Wild, it wouldn't be too long. Yikes! Run bunny, run.
Queenie, a not so wild dog.
It also got me thinking about how poodles were once used as hunting dogs and are now the size of rabbits and get dressed up in sweaters.

Of course we did visit the Herp House at the zoo.
Inside, we ogled the variety of snakes, turtles, and lizards
--from big gators to a dwarf caiman.

So after three hours at the zoo, four Ibuprofen, two quarts of water and a good night's sleep, I'm back in the chair working on the book today--just to get ready to hit the road north tomorrow in search of BEARS!
And did I mention that I forgot my camera at my daughter's house and I will have to DRAW the bears and wildlife we see?! Better rest my hand up again.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

HOLLY WILD: Poking it with a STICK!

In my last blog, I mentioned that I was illustrating the science portion of the book. Simple science. No big gadgets or apps. Pure and simple Holly Wild curiosity and a good poking stick is all that is needed. In order to get in touch with nature, you need a few other good things like a good notebook and a good pencil. but that's it--anything else is mere icing on the nature cake. A hand lens, specimen collecting system (Ziploc bags and plastic medicine bottles) and you're in business.
A few tools of the naturalist trade
Speaking of getting in touch with nature and science, the "poke it with a stick" Holly Wildism has been around longer than she's been around. And since we are talking poking sticks, my editorial team would like me to touch on polite poking stick etiquette:
'Nuff said!
Science and nature study need not be complicated. Observation and experience is key. With homemade explorer kit in hand, I can't tell you how many trees I climbed, places I explored and how many snakes I tailed a kid. I grew up in a naturalist's heaven on five acres of pines, hardwoods and ponds and had a wild neighborhood of lakes and more woods--without NO Trespassing signs around. Ahhh--nature! Ahh-mothers! My mother had us kids watching out for wild snakes, wild badgers, wild cats, wild dogs and anything else wild that might harm, bite, scratch or otherwise maim us.

NEVER poke a snake, especially an EMR--just saying!
And, yes, we did grow up with Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes (EMR) and lived to tell the tail--so to speak. We knew the dangers and were careful. OK, we knew the dangers.

But in order to get kids outdoors and stay outdoors today, we need to have them out simply for adventure. Not for a specific study or learning purpose. They need unstructured time to make stick forts and eat lunch in them like explorers. OK, so explorers didn't have Kool Aid and chips, but by golly it helps add to that adventurous feel. Time outdoors for kids to collect things, dig for bones (been there--done that) and make fox traps (been there--done that and punished for it). It doesn't take much in the way of tools or cost much and the benefits are wild, crazy cool.

Notebooks hold feasther, fur, skin, leaves, and small bones nicely.
Kids (and us adults) need adventure without the push of a button or a beep of digital notes. Keep science pure and simple.
Keep it Holly Wild style and POKE IT WITH A STICK--politely! 

Monday, July 11, 2011

HOLLY WILD: The Countdown, Part 2

Even though I have been working on the "science" portion of the book right now (snake species, scientific method, tools), I wanted to introduce you to the book's lively characters. Each one is quirky, quaint and down right vibrant. These folks are the guts, the juice, the fire, and the glue--that help and hinder Holly with her adventure on Beaver Island.

Let the journey begin. And with every story and journey comes the good, the bad and ugly! First the good. Our hero, Holly needs a trusty team to help her on her adventures. Twins, Tierra and Sierra fit the bill and do a good job of keeping Holly on task. Holly's brother adds color--er--black, and ugly smell to the story. Brothers do that--proudly.
*Left to Right:  HOLLY, Boy (Holly's big bro) and the twins, Tierra and Sierra.

*Remember these faces as they are early illustrations and will change as we go along. Another clean-up act for me to do at the drawing board. Redraw the characters so they look consistent throughout the chapters.

Now, for more good. The twinkly, sparkly, nature-fairy kind. Aunt Kitty. The bigger the hair, the bigger the heart and the bigger the brain. Aunt Kitty is a sweet, smart, flower-loving naturalist with a warped sense of humor. Yikes!
"Tee-hee!" (good friends make the best characters!)
And one other good fellow who unknowingly helps direct Holly in her pursuit of saving Beaver Island--artist and storyteller, Charlie Bird.

(One never knows what kind of characters lurk behind bad art and balloons!
The lines of good and bad can often be blurred.)
And what evil are all these good folk battling? What, is right. That unwanted, unliked family who shows up like a noxious, spreading invasive plant specie that is impossible to eradicate. The Buckthorn clan. (Yes, that's where their names came from!)



Spoiled Ivy Buckthorn has been a thorn in Holly's side since the second grade. But what makes Ivy so delicious is you despise her the moment she walks on "stage". From her ponytail scythe to her sharp tongue, you can't wait until this Buckthorn specie moves on--far away.
Then there is rest of the Buckthorn clan, Mr. and Mrs. B (Fern and Alder) and their sniveling poodle pup, Queenie. Queenie is annoying and Mrs. B can be obnoxious, but it's the greedy Mr. B who is the bad seed here. And Holly must help Beaver Island
outsmart, outwit and outlast Buckthorn Builders in order to SURVIVE!


Even though no one is REALLY bad--everyone learns lessons on this adventure. And good vs. evil makes for a great tail--er tale. And everyone is needed to tell this story especially when the story has environmentally educational material in it.
The science is hidden among all the humorous antics and
adventure like a snake or herp in the grass! Which is the best way to learn.

Back to the drawing board for me. I have more good, bad and ugly species to illustrate.

Monday, June 27, 2011

COUNTDOWN to Holly Wild!

 So after three years in the making (even more if you count character development and research) HOLLY WILD:  Bamboozled on Beaver Island (a mid grade fiction) will become a reality. Rejected by Michigan publishers who I am certain only one even looked at, we are going INDY...as only Holly would like. After all, she is a do-it-yourself, explorer kind of girl. That's right. Indy (independent publisher-of self-pub). BTP, (Bear Track Press) who put out Lissy-Lost! (L2) in 2011 after she went OP (out of print) in 2010, is going at it again.

Each week I will blog on the progress of Holly Wild, the characters, the setting, the plot and how this indy book will be put together. So after twenty plus revisions, my editorial team decided to go with the new ms. (manuscript). And let me tell you how many gazillions of illustrations that girl HW (Holly Wild) has me doing.

Who is Holly Wild? Well, if you haven't heard or seen hints of her by now, she is a feisty, earthy (muddy, dirty, scraped-up), ten-year old, in hiking boots and auburn hair (she hates being called a red-head or maybe she hates it when her ultimate enemy, Ivy Buckthorn calls her that).

HOLLY H. WILD:  Curious, mischievous and always at my side. Did I mention annoying? (But, only to me.)
Holly's outlook and thoughts on life: "Just poke it with a stick and see what happens." Holy creeps, everyone knows that. This could also be the reason why she gets into jams and trouble so often.
HOLLY H. WILD:  Brave, creative, inventive and knows no danger--or at least doesn't recognize it.
Holly keeps me up at night, pesters me during the day and is more loud and needy than any BTP pet running around here. She wants kids (and parents) to know about herps, poop (scat is the polite term), and bones and gross nature stuff. She wants someone to hear her. She wants company--kids to GET UP, GET OUT and GET DIRTY--especially in Michigan's wild places with her.

HOLLY H. WILD:  Determined and focused (for maybe ten seconds)
Me. I can't wait until she gets what she wants and get this first book out. But, then I will have to start on book two, because she is already hinting at book three and wants to know where we are going for book four. Hold on Holly--one indy at a time. Speaking of indy if you the reader has ANY comments on ANYthing (the cover, design, or illustrations) please feel free to let me hear about them. I'm open to suggestions and criticism (although I'm not so sure how Holly will take it.)

Look out Michigan--this is one kid to watch for this September in HOLLY WILD:  Bamboozled on Beaver Island. She just might have your kids getting dirty, poking things with a stick and searching for "herps"and asking, "What does the H. in Holly H. Wild, stand for?)"

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Book an eBook

So after eleven years in the making, Lissy-Lost!, my first book written and illustrated by moi, has taken the digital leap to an eBook. 

"L2" (Lissy-Lost!) as my daughter so lovingly calls this book, is now available from Barnes & Noble for the mere price of $3.99. (And you can even download free eBook reader apps at BN for your PC, Android, iPad and Pod and more!)

When I purchased my Nook color I never really thought about having L2 go digital. But after getting the book reprinted I thought why the heck not jump on the bitmap bandwagon.

It started off as an experiment to see how it would go. I download books on my Nook every so often--OK all the time--but only to see how other books look:  illustrations, layout, overall feel. (OK, I love story.) But the L2 paperback book is glossy, colorful and can be flipped to pictures and passages. Pages can be dog-eared, bent and even colored in if you are six (my first book altering art pieces had coloring and signatures in them--Marie still laughs at me as I still sign my name in my books--in a family of six as a kid you had to claim your things).

So now that L2 is out there floating on the waves of electronica, how do I market it?  Any suggestions?  I have read a few blogs and such going over the same problem or challenge. Blog about it, tell folks on FB...umm I ran out of ideas. Why? Because my brain is usually in CREATE mode NOT market mode and moves on to the next shiny thing. 

I have a book signing at our Pinckney Library next week and will have books there to sign and do a small program for kids and I will mention the new "eL2". But how do you sign an eBook? Collect signatures in a drawing program? I did download a kid's coloring program on my Nook and actually thought about having Ruth McNally Barshaw of Ellie McDoodle fame sign her name with her finger and draw her Ellie at the Comic Jam in Chelsea last week.

Will my next book be an eBook? Perhaps not. I like the paper. Heck, L2 is a 30% post-consumer waste and the printer supports the Plant a Billion Trees Program. But with Holly Wild, or HW, you will be able to stick it in a pocket, it will need no batteries or charging and can get it wet in a tent on a dark and spooky, stormy night. And I want kids to draw in it, fold it, color it--interact with it. Make it personal and sign their own name in it. Afterall, reading a book is a personal experience.

Like we writers, illustrators and editors said when we met over a month ago over dinner, we (the public) won't be handing down eBooks to Grandma's grandkids when she dies or saying fondly, "Oh, that was Grandma's favorite app! Who gets it?" There will be no wear and tear and aging of these eBooks. My daughter and I collect old, old kids books and run and fight over who saw what first when we shop for them. I can't see this happening with eBooks. (AND the names and coloring of pictures in those books make them more so endearing.)

Sign my Nook drawing program?

I love my Nook because I do love books. I still use our local library (mostly for a pickup point for MEL books) and even request books from them on my Nook. I'm not right, I know. But my Nook is handy--a portfolio, email and FB at a WiFi touch and I can pull it out and jump into a book at any time--and the kid drawing program occasionally soothes my artist ADD--but give me paper or a paper book anytime for pure fun.

I still love the creating process of sketching and drawing and try to stress this to folks young and old that I meet. After I sold a book to a family last weekend at the Ann Arbor Artisan Market I showed them the sketches I did while doodling and how they became the final illustrations for the book.

I'll always like the primitive feel and smell of pen and pencil on paper. And to draw with a Nook finger is a bit like an Etch-a-Sketch. So I can't see doing any eBook signings anytime soon.




But if you purchase a copy of L2 online at Barnes and Noble, I'll email you a bookmark!


But if you want the old-fashioned paperback it is available for purchase at many fine stores listed on my website.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

People Watching at the Market

What does an artist/illustrator do when they can't hit the woods to study wildlife? They study and sketch "People Life" while sitting in a booth at an art show or artist market. People watching.

It's a fun change of pace from birdwatching. And people can be just as entertaining and colorful too, as they go about their nesting, food gathering and flocking activities!

And sometimes illustrators need illustrations of "extras" for backgrounds.  An interesting array of characters, footwear, hats, clothes and characters are set before you.
(Music making, talking, looking and watching specimens)
Varied body types, ages, cultures are all on parade. Enjoy. Get in on their fun. What are all of these people talking about? Pick up snippets of conversation. What is happening? From these sketches you can see that it is summer. Just like "field notes" in the wild, date your sketch.
(Food and art gathering activities and specimens on the move.)
What was the weather like? This was a hot Sunday. Sunglasses, shorts and sandals? Even the day of the week can tell alot about how people dress. How people carry things goes beyond paper or plastic. Backpack, belly pack or bag? How do they move. Are they coming home from church, shopping, going fishing...
(Get front, side and back shots before the flock senses danger and scatters.)
(Flashy male specimen with plumage)
...or selling their art?!

Whatever the occasion take time to take notes. As you People Watch, you may get people watching you watching others. It's a great conversation starter. People are fascinated by someone putting pen to paper.

Go to the beach, go to a fair, go to a farmer's market. Get out and people watch and draw them before they know it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Spring Memories

I was going through my sketchbook on this blustery chill morning after we built a fire in the wood stove. Ah, memories of days gone by!

One of the ultimately important reasons to carry a sketchbook anywhere. Getting down the story of the BIG in SMALL moments. Can you remember spring?

Now that the morel mushrooms are gone and the nesting bird's homeland security songs are done let's take a walk back in time and sketches to the SMALL moments that made the BIG jump from a yellow-green world to full vibrant green. It's a good rainy day (another) to put off laundry and gardening and instead dream, create and finish projects begun in the winter. So here is to spring and all of the firsts.

The first hummingbird sighting.
The first tiny mouse ear maple leaves wrapped up in shimmering spider webs. Webs that H.B. (what my mother used to affectionately call hummingbirds) will make into a tidy nest. Then there is the first dandelion and the first violet that come with the first toad trill and tree frog song. Singers who come after the first spring peepers and chorus frogs.


The BIG Spring Picture
The first blooming wildflowers along the creek at Brighton Rec Are. The first warblers in search of bugs and nesting places. Skunk cabbage and marsh marigolds poking between the scouring rush pencils. The smell of cut grass and cherry blossoms comes before the fragrant cursed autumn olive blossoms.
The SMALL Spring Picture
And the first beginnings of the first warm, green small worlds hidden in the grass. Warm. Remember warm? Time flies and lately so does rain, so take time to investigate your world and enjoy it when the warm weather does return.

Get out and draw on nature. May you make each moment a beautiful memory--to call on later.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

HERE There Be MONSTERS!

OK...so I went from a spring frolic through he woods in search of herps--to a hunt for MONSTERS!

As a an illustrator and artist, my IMAGINATION often runs amok! And this time, with the aid of my cheap microscope and pond water, my imagination certainly ran a-muck and stayed there.

Cyclops, and worms and larva OH MY!
What started off as an innocent day of exploration at the local marsh transformed into MONSTER MANIA! MANIA! MANIA! What wonders lie in a drop of pond water. Beings like cyclops, water fleas, worms and the best and most FEARED of all...mosquito larva.

Water Monsters! What a great way for kids to learn about microinvertebrates...and also an important lesson about NOT to drink pond water. YIKES! I could not even begin to count all these hairy, wiggly, swimming, twirling, darting and dashing creatures that lived in my cup of pond water. More than once I had to make sure that my coffee cup was not at hand and mistake my portable "Monstarium" (A McDonald's yogurt cup used as an aquarium) for my beverage. Despite these creature's grossness and ickiness, they are necessary and important to the health of our vernal ponds, marshes and lakes.

With my Mad Scientist Laboratory up and running I used my pink plastic dropper to place the squirming fellows onto a slide to sketch them. Ah, high school Microbiology I all over again! After every "visiting" session under the 40x objective I returned the creatures to their watery nursery. One day after the Monstarium had been in the sun, I spied a "wiggler" (mosquito larva) hopping about underwater. My little Frankenstein monster seemed happy in his home. It was after I added moss to the cup that things got kicking (Moss is the fave food and habitat for "water bears", a creature I have been hunting for over a year.) The "wiggler" got bigger and more tiny water bugs danced about.

Now, any monster that can breathe out of its butt has my vote. Especially when it transforms into a flying, blood-sucking creature feared by many and is an annoyance to all. I must say, that when I went back to the Monstarium a few days later to check on my creature it had hatched. I opened the lid and out it flew--the wiggler was now a full-grown mosquito--and out of its watery nursery. Oops! Wait til the rest of my Bear Track laboratory pals catch my hatchling buzzing their noggins at night. Now THAT'S scary.

With that experiment over I decided to put away the microscope and sketch my new pet crested gecko, "Peaches". The crested gecko was thought to have been extinct until recently. It was discovered in 1994 on the island Caledonia and has come back with such gusto that they are up on the pet trade market. This amazing reptilian acrobat has a prehensile tail like our opossum and is arboreal--and has cute "eyelashes".


As a cold-blooded, cricket-eating tree climber that eats its own skin, I say you could not ask for a better dragon/monster model. What a great model. (It does look kinda like a reptilian Chihuahua.)
Then I met a young fellow citizen scientist (age 10) in Petoskey. He had two geckos of his own--and proud of them. Their names were "Lightning" and "Strike". Dang! Now those are super-cool names. Why didn't I think of that? But I guess "Peaches" (with his side-kick "Kenny")could strike fear into hearts if he is someday transformed into a dragon. And I may even borrow the name "LightingStrike" for his cartoon dragon character name.

But for now I will continue my "water bear" search and sketch creatures big and small for creepy characters.