Necessary things

  "Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas." -Henry Ford
 What if we all took a minute to ponder what feeds our enthusiasm for our own work...
Go ahead. Do it.

Now ponder what kills it? What leaves us feeling half-there when we show up and sometimes drains us to show up at all?

Consider it.

And what about those things that do both?

Like parenthood.

Or striving to be the best.

Critique comes to mind.

How do we embrace the lovely tension of wonderful things that both feed us and drain us?

These are things I delight in and wrestle with as I approach my own artistic work. They haunt me and heal me. They usually feed my enthusiasm but sometimes they dull it.

They also all seem completely necessary to my life.

 What about yours?

Bookshelves bookshelves bookshelves

Show and tell time.

These are my family's new bookshelves:


I LOVE them. 

Please note all the picture book shelves. And the face-out picture book rack on the wall to the left of the shelves. I am a proud picture book hoarder. I feel that this is a very fine thing. I have a five-year-old afterall (or maybe, yes, that 's just an excuse...).

Also! These awesome bookshelves do not stand alone.

How about some bookshelves just for all our handmade journals and photo albums?

Are two shelves too many? How about three? How about one for the wall? Face out!

Or maybe four?

Aren't these shelves AWESOME?

They are like half-tables stacked on top of one another.


Now, how about some handmade shelves by yours truly (and my crafty sister):

Patchwork bookshelves for the nook at the top of my stairs.

 Because every crafty lady should try DECOUPAGE at some point.

 Here's the shelves right after I hung them, before I filled them up. My son helped me. He loves helping mommy with projects.

 As long as said projects don't involve trips to the craft store.

Is it embarrassing to realize that this little list does not include the bookshelves in my studio? Or my bedroom? or the one downstairs for cookbooks? I mean, is that too many? Too many bookshelves?


In fact, how about I just add pictures of those shelves too. Why not?

Studio shelves, complete with flying pig light

Cookbooks under the T.V. Wouldn't we rather be reading anyway?

This one houses journals I'm still filling.


"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves."
-Anna Quindlen (from an article in the NYT)

Alright. Enough already. Go read a book.

Don't these trees look like cheerleaders?

Maybe you don't see it.

Picture a cheerleader holding a pom-pom high.

And here's a cheer -- HOORAH! -- for any who need one.

"When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and the time that the tide will turn." --Harriet Beecher Stowe

Staying open to surprises

Twelve years ago I was traveling around Europe for a couple of months by myself, taking everyday to look at art. I lived on a small budget, spending money I had saved in college (I was lucky to leave college without debt -- the nerve to be an artist would have been a lot harder to bare, had I not had that gift of a no-debt college education from my mother). Anyway, I spent 8 to 12 hours in museums everyday. I stood or sat in front of paintings sometimes for up to an hour. I filled 4 huge spiral notebooks full of notes on the backs of postcards.

I was in heaven.

Then, one day, I met my husband.

No joke. He was staying at the hostel I was staying at in Rome. He was traveling around for a month watching bike races. He had just left a job in Seattle (where I was moving home to when I returned) and he was planning on moving to New York. He had also gone to school in Colorado. We had lots in common. But he really caught my eye because he was reading James Joyce in the common room of the hostel. I knew I could talk books with somebody who was reading James Joyce. We talked about reading. I was enamored. We didn't have a date or anything that evening, just great conversation.

Then we both left Rome the next day. I've met hundreds of interesting people traveling. I don't usually expect to ever see them again.

Only I ran into Bryce again in Venice. Then we met up on purpose again in France. Our first kiss was next to Claes Oldenburg's Buried Bicycle Sculpture in Paris. So to make a long and pretty interesting story a bit too short, after he returned from adventures in Europe, my now-husband took a crazy 4-day long grey hound bus ride back to Seattle (bringing back only one bag of clothes, his bike and his electronic keyboard) and begged for his old job back for a temporary basis. We were engaged a year later and married a year after that -- 10 years ago last Thursday.

What a surprising outcome from my dreamy trip to look at art.

Happy 10th Anniversary, Bryce! Thanks for a magical decade.

"Then we sat on the edge of the earth with our feet dangling over the side and marveled that we had found each other" -- Erik Dillard

Weaving Garlands

"To possess ideas is to gather flowers; to think, is to weave them into garlands." ~unknown
Yesterday I sat down and dove into a writing idea I've had for a long long long time. In one hour's time I had written the whole thing out and I loved what I had come up with. I'm sure it will need revision, but now I have an actual piece to revise rather than a floaty idea I scribble notes about now and then.

Why did I sit on that idea for so long? I guess it was simmering on the back burner, or quietly incubating while I tended to other projects, or maybe it was gaining passion like a snow ball gains snow by rolling around a bunch.

Anyway, something my son said made me think, "I'm just going to sit down and write this out a bit -- for him, not for my real writing." But now it's real writing. I love when play brings out the best in work.

So I thought I'd post a bit of a dare. I dare you to dive in. Just give yourself one hour and no pressure to do anything good, this is just for play. Dive in to that idea you've been sitting on for awhile and see what it feels like to start.

P.S. those who are struggling with a stuck spot on a different project -- this is not a dare for you! You need to glue your butt to your chair and dive into your stuck spot. It won't get unstuck on its own, and a sexy new project is just a distraction for you. You know who you are.

Reading. Excessively.

My husband and I have been reading to excessive amounts in our free time lately. Especially on the weekends. I mention my husband as well as myself because this little pattern isn't necessarily the best for keeping a nearly-4-year-old occupied (unless we are reading to him, which trust me I also do to nearly excessive amounts). Ah well. Umm... we're setting an example, right?

"I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves." ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991

"There's nothing to match curling up with a good book when there's a repair job to be done around the house."  ~Joe Ryan


This is one of my favorite pictures I took in Sri Lanka, just because it caught such a serendipitous moment of color -- the kind of serendipitous moment of color I'm constantly on the look out for and love to find. I just love the stripes of the guys shirt with the stripes of the tree and the red hat and the shorts that match the tuk-tuk perfectly. It may not be fine art or whatever, but it was a happy color moment.

My wish for you today? To dwell upon any happy accidents -- fortunate accidents. They happen more often than we notice. Or maybe someone who needs it most can have a little happy accident today. Is that a strange thing to hope for? No one hopes for accidents. But what about happy ones? Those surprises in life that are unplanned. If we never had happy accidents, we might never fall in love. So I hope for a little happy accident for someone who would appreciate it today. A good one. A moment of serendipity.

"Serendipity is putting a quarter in the gumball machine and having 3 pieces come rattling out instead of one -- all red" ~ Peter H. Reynolds.

I'm in Sri Lanka as I post this

Thought I'd post these pictures I took from the Seattle Flight Museum over the holidays as a way of saying, "I'm off!" Again.
This time I'm spending a little under two weeks in Sri Lanka with my husband and Son. I'll post a few pictures when I get back in a couple of weeks.
Until then, regular posts should keep coming -- I've scheduled a few things to go up ahead of time (including the Monday Caldecott series I've been doing). Hope you are having adventures, too, wherever this finds you!
"The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page." -- St. Augustine

Seeing things in a new light

 "One's destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things."
-Henry Miller
 "The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car... a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little."-Ben Sweetland

The Beautiful Unfamiliar

 "Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey." -Cynthia Ozick
 "There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." -From Hamlet by Shakespeare.*
*Please note I first found this quote (even though, of course I'm familiar with Hamlet) when I saw that it was Joni Sensel's favorite quote on a blog interview she did awhile back for writer, Angelina Hansen. It's such a perfect quote for the books she writes too. Thanks for alerting me to the great Shakespeare quote, Joni. It's now one of my favorites, too.


"Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space. It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe. It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished."
-Michael Strassfeld
"Sunshine is my quest."
-Winston Churchill

Like a tree

"The only way most people recognize their limits is by trespassing on them." -- Tom Morris
Sorry for the lack of posts. I suppose in the last couple of weeks I've dropped into the studio abyss. Or, forgive the cheesiness, the a-bliss? I'm hard at work, nose to the grindstone, with samples for a dummy -- some new collages that are just the right kind of harder-than-heck challenge -- and I'm loving every God-blessed minute of it. Sometimes life is difficult. Just the right kind of difficult.
Hey, on a similar note, I think it's fascinating to hear how long artists spend on any given piece. I know full well that I have many a practical peer who won't spend more than one day on a final piece (I've tried it -- I like it. But. The work I'm doing now calls for something different). I heard from an art director that one artist he knows only spent an hour on an award-winning cover. I've also watched a video of Eric Carle at work whipping out those fun and spirited collages he makes in a similar amount of time. How long does your art take? Are you fast? Or are you slow?

Me? With the work I'm doing now, I'm a bit of a glacier, or a redwood tree, I confess. I just finished a collage that I made while listening to 3 audio books, 11-to-14-hour-long audio books. That's right. Thirty to forty hours. And that doesn't even involve the prep work -- making paper, taking photos for the photo elements, painting the painted parts, drawing. Nope. That only includes cutting everything out and gluing it down. It's a rather embarrassing amount of time that, I'm certain, many people would chastise me over (including my family). But, whatever. It is what it is. I wasn't wasting time or anything. It's just what this particular piece called for (I use a surgical tweezers for small bits -- there were hundreds of small bits in this collage). It is what it is.

Some novelists write an entire draft in November (Nanowrimo anyone?) and others take years to finish a draft (even working constantly). And some of the results of both variety are amazing. And some of the results of both variety suck. It's just the way it is.

What works for you? And have you tried the opposite? What were the results?


The quote of the day page I sometimes follow summed up a big task I took on this week:

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so the necessary may speak." --Hans Hoffman.
This week I spent quite a bit of time de-cluttering and cleaning up my website. And I love how the stuff I like best (mostly) is what's left. I could definitely go farther and be pickier but I think I've spent enough time on it for now.

Less stuff does make the good stuff stand out more.

It's a good reminder of something to do with my drawings too.
Not to mention my schedule.

(P.S. The photo above was one I took in Mexico on the trip I took with my Grandma in March.)

When usually I'd be at a conference instead I'm setting up my studio

...This weekend is the Western Washington SCBWI writer's and illustrator's conference!

...I'm not there. Sad! I hope none of my writing pals back home are reading my blog and everyone's there.

I think I've attended that conference for nearly a decade (hey, pat on the back for me -- that's what not giving up looks like). So it's kinda strange to be on the other side of the planet, feeling the results of three months taken off from my current work-in-progress while I prepped to move and while my studio stuff crossed the ocean in a big container ship.

But now, finally, and fortunately...
...My ship's come in! Literally.
So I'm calling out the marching bands in my heart because my stuff has arrived and I'm finally setting up my studio. Hooray!And I'm super excited about it because
Whew. I needed to get that out.

It's not that I haven't been doing anything worth while. In the past couple of months I have done amazing, fantastic and difficult things. I have:
  • Visited my in-laws in their winter-wonderland of Upstate New York.
  • Made my 87-year-old Grandma's dream come true by taking her on a cruise through the Panama Canal; we traveled together, her, my son and me.
  • Kissed my beloved home, friends and family good-bye.
  • flown across the ocean to Malaysia with my 3-year-old in tow and no one else to relieve me of Mommy duties until we arrived.
  • Nursed my son back to health after a very scary week-long bout with Rotavirus (including a couple of nights/days in the hospital) when we first arrived.
  • Been being Mommy, Mommy and more Mommy while my husband's been working around the clock and while I'm also trying to find childcare and figure out the ropes in an entirely new setting, city, country, building, temperature, world.
  • And eaten glorious food.
So: good times. BUT! You know, to tell the truth, I just really long to be doing my work. Desperately so.

Ach, would you listen to that? That's the sound of an ungrateful wretch wretching. But so be it. (Still, note to self: go count 10 blessings before you turn into a whiner.)
"When I'm not doing something that comes deeply from me, I get bored. When I get bored I get distracted and when I get distracted, I become depressed. It's a natural resistance and it insures your integrity." -- Maria Irene Fornes
This quote isn't quite right, but it kinda captures what I'm talking about. Perhaps if you've ever felt pulled from something close to your heart, no matter how wonderful whatever is pulling you away is, you've felt it too.

For me it's my art beckoning.

The only cure is to get at it. That and a little dose of counting my blessings so as to not turn into a full-fledged whiny wretch. So here I go, to count my blessings and dive back into that pile of boxes.

And cheers to everyone at the conference this weekend!


I found this quote yesterday on a Quote of the day website I check out every now and then. It felt like it fit into my goal setting for next year. Thought I'd share it:
"One Thing is Clear to me. You can't know everything you'd like to know. You can't do everything you'd like to do. You can't read everything you'd like to read. You must hold onto some things and let go of others. Learning to make that choice is one of the biggest lessons of this life." --

(The Photo is of my son from last summer)

Making a list and checking it twice

"No trumpets sound when the important decisions of our life are made. Destiny is made known silently." - Agnes De Mille

It's the end of the year. A natural time for review. It's around this time of year that I start checking my goal lists from last year. And I make new lists for the coming year.
A couple of nights ago I looked through my goals from last year. Last year my goals weren't as quantifiable as I usually make them. I guess they were more about attitude and approach. But they were big, brave and bold for me at the time. And I'm proud to say I think I met them. Every one of them! That was a surprise. So yay for me.
I have only 5 main goals for the coming year. They are simple, straight-forward and quantifiable. I like this. I'm trying to de-clutter my to-do list in the coming year so that the things closest to my heart can find focus.

How do you keep track of your goals? Do you make lists? Make notecards?
Please tell me you have a dream journal. I love hearing about people's dream journals (I mean the kind where you plan and dream big -- not the kind where you record your sleep musings, although those are interesting too).
"Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - Brian Littrell


Recently I filled up the gratitude journal I'd been using for 11 years!
I had filled it sporadically. Some years I'd put 10 entries in. Some years I'd put 50 entries in. Usually an entry consisted of a short list of 5-10 things I felt grateful for that particular day.

A few months ago I started adding an entry every day.
You notice things when you are looking for them. If you look for them daily, you notice them daily. I started looking for blessings daily. So I started noticing them daily. It's kinda life changing to consciously notice your blessings on a daily basis.

So now I write in my gratitude journal every morning after I do 15 minutes of yoga. Combined, the two practices bring me to my center, they put things in perspective, and they help me start my day off right -- with a grateful attitude. It's hard to whine or procrastinate if you are feeling grateful (It's still possible -- just harder).

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this habit.

When I filled my old beloved book up (it filled up fast when I began writing in it everyday!) I stayed up late one night and made myself a new one.
I used some beautiful marbled papers I bought in Italy years ago and was saving for something special.
It's like a little shrine or church -- with a labyrinth ribbon.
How do you count your blessings?
Do you have any habits that keep your heart feeling grateful and your mind focused?
I'd love to hear about them.
"The unthankful heart...discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." -- Henry Ward Beecher
Happy Thanksgiving!