Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This post may not be suitable for vegetarians....

My absolute favorite slow-cooker recipe is Pork and Sauerkraut. I know, it sounded really icky to me too, when I first heard of it last December from Charley's aunt Pat. But since I trust Pat implicitly, especially when it comes to recipes, I decided to give it a try. Since then I have become the world's most ridiculously fervent pork-kraut cheerleader. And unless it conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs, you too should be eating pork and kraut. My favorite recipe is one that I've adapted from Carol Whaling's recipe in The Fix-It and Forget-It Cookbook. I skip the potatoes and onion and get right down to the porky-krauty goodness. The original recipe calls for a 2.5 lb. boneless pork loin roast, but one of my greatest joys in life is finding the cheapest, gnarliest piece of meat possible, and slow-cooking it into something magical. Therefore, I recommend going with a 3lb. pork butt. Not only is it delicious and fabulously cheap ($1.39/lb this week!):
But it also gives you an appropriate occasion for saying "Butt" at the supermarket. My inner eight-year-old giggles every time I approach the meat counter.

3lb. pork butt (tee hee!)
32 oz. bagged sauerkraut, drained
2 medium sized tart apples, chopped
2 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 tsp. caraway seeds
3 cloves garlic, pressed
A few liberal shakes of salt and pepper.

Mix all of the ingredients, except pork, in a large bowl. Place half of the mixture into the slow cooker. Add the pork. Top with remaining sauerkraut mixture. Cover, and cook on low for 7–10 hours.
The result looks a bit like gruel, but it tastes like pure awesome.

Imagine that this sentence is a smooth segue moving you fluidly through an otherwise jarring topic change.

Yesterday some advice from the very wise Cat B. saved me from myself. I arrived at the studio determined to restart the illustration below. I thought it was too intense, too gloomy for my book. I wanted to alter the scale to make the image less confrontational, and change the palette to make the colors more appealing.
What Cat said (in kinder, more diplomatic terms) was, "Stop dithering! It's good! It's what the publisher asked for! Send it out already!" And she's right. I get a little OCD when it's time to clear ye olde finish line. So I made up my mind to keep the image as it was. O.K., so I did end up tweaking the colors a bit...aha!..sort of like I tweaked the apple-kraut ratio in my Pork and Sauerkraut recipe! I may not be able to deliver a segue, but will you accept this back-referencing metaphor!?
Anyway, I DID finish this pair of images after all. My plan is to storyboard the rest of the book, photograph the 8 pages I've completed so far, and send it out!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Thinking. And thinking.

I've been meditating over this illustration.I like it but I just don't love it. It's a bit too dark, emotionally. And the palette is a bit too dull. It lacks a certain levity that I want to maintain throughout the book. So I've been thinking and thinking. And spreading the earlier pages out on my studio floor:
And thinking.
And thinking some more!

Friday, September 25, 2009


I like building up my painted worlds layer by layer, and using all kinds of watercolor techniques to create depth and texture.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Treasures and Reworking Things

My drive up to the school where I'm teaching this semester is a bit long, but it's also very pretty. It's hard to beat New Hampshire in early fall. The best part about my commute is that it takes me through the town of Derry, where I found this treasure trove. I could have spent hours combing the shelves and pawing through boxes of postcards and old photos. I made off with these fine items for only $14:
I am also the proud new owner of this peacock feather headband from this Etsy shop. I spent the day reworking the characters in my book. Their faces were based too closely on actual firefly anatomy, and it made them difficult to read.
And After:
And here's the reworked detail of this:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I've finished my page 2-3 spread. Blogger absolutely murders the colors, but you can see a more accurate representation here.

I've had the best animal-filled week ever–a truly fantastical menagerie.

On Wednesday I spent time outside with "Mischief" a very friendly little cat who lives in our neighborhood. I don't know his/her real name, but Mischief definitely fits.

On Friday I had a lovely time drawing Tiger the guinea pig with one of my private students. Tiger was a fabulous model who sat fairly still, uncaged, in the middle of the dining room table for the whole hour-long lesson.

And yesterday, while I was working at my studio I had the opportunity to meet a very cute goat. Apparently the goat performs some role in the current New Repertory Theater Company Production, Mr. Roberts. Our studio hallway serves as a backstage area for the theater, and during the production the little goat was bleating VERY loudly now and then from the confines of his/her crate. I hung out with the goat for a bit and the company seemed to cheer her up considerably. I was told that she is a 4H animal being raised by a girl, and that she is therefore comforted by female voices.

Yesterday afternoon, when Charley and I arrived at our yoga studio, we were greeted by our instructor's ridiculously adorable Pomeranian puppy, Ollie. During the entire 90 minute class Ollie waited patiently outside the glass doors of the studio, watching all of us gasping and sweating all over the place, and striking his own super-cute postures.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Progressy Progress

I recently discovered Miki Sato (lovely!) through Pikaland (also lovely!), which was also recently introduced to me by illustrator and fellow moleskine exchanger, Gaia (once again fitting with the lovely! theme). I know. It's a lovely overload. But I'm confident that you can handle it.

I've been working on this second page spread for my story, Marcus and Petunia. In this scene Petunia is showing off her dancing skills.
At first the swirls were going to be simpler like this:
But as I started delving deeper into the actual writing of the book and developing the characters, Petunia became more and more hyperactive, and a more frenzied, over-the-top swirling pattern fit her much better. Here she is, only sketched in so far, but do you see what I mean? She's a little bit crazy. Delightful, but crazy. I'm officially in L.O.V.E. with Marcus and Petunia and their little adventure.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Watch out for this Scammy Scam!

It seems that internet scams are targeting artists now; a friend of mine received a version of this email as well.

Good day to you.
I am so excited that I came across of your work on internet search,I am interested in purchasing these creativeartworks from you.....................

Midsummer dreaming sparrow II,V,Offering,The bird menace series:Cedar and Of all her suitors

Let me know their various prices.and how much discounts are you going to give?I will be happy to have these selected artworks hanged in our new home in South Africa. As well, I want you to take out the shipping cost.I have been in touch with a shipping firm that will be shipping other house decoratives.

We are traveling from our Dallas home to our new apartment as soon as possible.On Paying for the artworks,I will be glad to pay you with a Money Order or Cashier`s check in US funds that can be easily cashed at your local bank,please let me know on how to proceed for the payment of the creative artworks.

I will await your advise on how to proceed.Have a wonderful day.
Take care,
Joan Morgan

This email immediately raised my hackles. The combination of broken English, overly complicated shipping "request," and of course, the tacky art-buying faux pas request for discounts, seemed suspicious. I figured it had to be one of those Nigerian scams. But I know lots of upstanding people who speak broken English. And I've been asked for discounts before. Also, there is a consistency and particularity to the specific pieces she requests that seemed almost legit. And anyway, who steals small pieces of artwork from little-known artists? The theft of the actual art doesn't seem worth it--how would a person make money from such a transaction? This "Joan" might be a real person. And wouldn't that be awful of me to slight someone simply because her English is poor? So I played it safe and replied with a polite but terse email saying that I do not sell my work over the internet myself, and that if she wanted to buy the work she could do so through my gallery.

But ha HA, Joan isn't real, after all. Today as I was chatting with a friend, she mentioned that she too had received a similar email from the same sender. We double-checked with someone else and confirmed the email's scammy status. Apparently these fake buyers send a fraudulent check to the artist for an amount far greater than the actual sale price of the art. Along with this check is a request for the difference. Super lame. But still, it is an interesting strategy to target people through their art websites. There are certainly times when I'm feeling eager to make a sale. No matter how careful you are when it comes to limiting the amount of personal information on your site, you've still posted images, and very likely titles as well. Which is enough information to create a relatively personal-seeming email.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

See How it Beckons?

Our guest room, recently dubbed "the cozy corner" is the best napping spot in the universe. The best!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Water Tower Travelog

I counted water towers all the way to Baltimore to visit my sister-in-law. If I don't find some way to occupy myself on long drives I sleep the whole way.
The great tragedy of my life is that my husband is allergic to pets–especially cats. The upside is that when we visit cat-owners it gives us a reason to sleep underneath the trees and the stars.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Scavenging and Illustration Introspection (revised)

Note: as I reread this post last night, I discovered that I had offered you naught but a wordy jumble. So I took a few minutes to refine it a bit.♥
Look what I found–a heart-shaped piece of honeycomb! I like to pretend that I found it while I was walking in the woods. In Sweden. Specifically here. But in truth I found it while I was hauling our recycling out to the curb. But that's OK too–a little reminder of the wonders all around us.

We have a new neighbor living downstairs. She moved in this past weekend, and she seems very nice. I met her a couple of months ago, when she came to view the downstairs apartment and rang our bell by mistake. She seemed like the sort of person who could love this old, quirky house as much as we do, and I hoped she would be the one to move in. I wonder if the honeycomb heart belonged to her. Maybe it was accidentally dropped or discarded while the movers struggled with her furniture. That scenario would fit thematically with the fact that I also scavenged a little table from her trash.

Yesterday I finished this first illustration for the children's book I'm painting/writing:
I can't believe how quickly I completed this image. I'm usually an extremely slow worker. I was so stunned when I realized that the picture was finished that I wasn't sure what to do. Was I being unwittingly lazy? I got out some of my larger fine art paintings and made quality comparisons. But the illustration held up against them. So I ran and got Cat for some good, honest feedback. And she agreed (with very, very kind and encouraging words) that it was, indeed finished. Huzzah!
The actual execution of this image, from character studies and initial sketches to cutting it off the board and spray-fixing it, took me two days of work. That's only about 15 hours. Of course, that doesn't include the preceding two weeks of thinking and percolating. But still. One of my "fine art" paintings of the same size, similar look and equal amount of detailed rendering might take me around 80 hours from start to finish.

This discrepancy is obviously based on the differences between my fine art and illustration processes. When I create work slated for a gallery wall, my process is all about experimentation, and covering new, unexplored territory. And let me tell you, it can be pretty time consuming. It's a bit like getting yourself lost on purpose, and eventually having to find your way out again. In more concrete terms, I begin with a part of an image or a gesture (a figure, a setting, a strange phenomenon) with no clue about how I might develop or resolve it. As I work I respond to my initial imagery, adding more subjects, taking parts away, cutting, tearing, sewing, painting, until a new, intuitively generated story emerges.

Making this illustration was a different story altogether; I simply used the skills and techniques that I've developed through that slower "fine-arty" process, to create a narrative image that already existed in my head. What surprised me the most was that this process was just as lovely and juicy and interesting to me as that other, bumpier one. But they are dramatically different ways of working. Simply stated, it's easier/faster to find something when you consciously know what you're looking for. But isn't it delicious to wander and explore, and just see where you end up once you get there? I am mindful of the fact that for me and my work, neither of these two processes would exist without the other. And this gives me a happy sense of balance.