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.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Chasing Ideas and Characters All Over the Place

So I'm off to an illustration workshop in Petoskey, MI tomorrow given by Matt Faulkner. Our assignment was to illustrate a pencil sketch of a dream within a month of the workshop. OK, I have colorful dreams. But let me tell you, when someone says, "Drop everything and Dream!"...I can't!

Oh how I tried. I drank lots of water before bed--that just brought about lots of midnight trips. I tried eating spicy foods--nope, nothing. I tried to fill my mind with crazy images and read before sleeping.
The result was a silly cat dream, a mastodon and a raging buffalo. Nothing to write home about or illustrate. It was the toughest homework ever. So while chasing this dream across the land and through the swamps, an image and story struck me like a hammer blow.

Chasing this dream all over was the work of The Trickster. And this time it was not Coyote who called me. Images poured in and sketchbooks came out. Rabbits! Tricky rabbit. My favorite story, The Adventures of Great Rabbit, an Algonquin Tale. It was perfect. It made me realize that sometimes we chase our dreams, our ideas, our illusions and our anger all over the land. And during this focused chase, we lose a bit of ourselves and always seem to come back full circle. We end the chase where we started it, get frustrated and continue the chase again and never let it go.
Rough sketch of "Muchabig Rabbit"
In the story, Wild Cat lost his tail chasing his enemy, the Great Rabbit with biggish ears. So I pulled out my sketch from when I had actually seen Rabbit in the tree above whilst riding north on M127. I had sketched the scene as we zipped by. Ah, the beauty of quick gesture sketches. Then last week on our way to Petoskey we hit that stretch of highway and I started sketching plants and trees along there to go with the tale.
Pencil sketch of  "SpitFire Cat"
Coming up with an interactive scene to illustrate, I was reminded of memories of sitting around a campfire and smoke annoyingly wafting into our faces. A friend told me that when that happens, just say, "I hate rabbits!" and the smoke will change direction. Ever since then, it has been a silent chant of mine around a bonfire. I don't know where he got this idea from, but it works and it works for a story illustration.
A scene where SpitFire Cat is about to be tricked again!
So now I have my homework done. It was more than a pencil sketch. And hey, it was a day dream and not a night dream. It got me to rewrite the tale in a colorful way and something to illustrate for a magazine story or portfolio piece. Now I am ready for the class and excited to see what Matt has in store for us on Wednesday.

Like wildcat, if you sit still long enough, the bunny will run down the trail right to you!