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Happy New Year, Roosters!

2017 is the Chinese Year of the  Rooster.

When I lived in San Francisco-a very Asian city, Chinese  New Year was a festive and LOUD time of year: think firecrackers, bell ringing, lion dances and exotic parades.

This is a Fire Rooster year. Fire Roosters are traditionally trustworthy, with a strong sense of timekeeping and responsibility at work. The other types are Wood Roosters, Earth Roosters, Gold Roosters and Water Roosters.

On the whole, Roosters are active, amusing, popular, healthy, outspoken, honest, loyal, talkative and charming. Many of my dearest friends are Fire Roosters.

Happy New Year, Roosters-

Cockadoodle~Doo!

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a Fire Rooster, painted with gouache on paper

Since Roosters are also chickens, this post will celebrate these fascinating and delicious animals-among my very favorite to observe and draw.

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A hen and rooster painted with gouache on brown paper

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rooster painted with gouache on paper

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a variety of poultry breeds drawn in colored pencil on brown paper

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Buff Laced Bantam Rooster painted in gouache on paper

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“Bless each wren, each rooster and hen” painted in gouache on black gesso. From the book: Home Sweet Home by Jean Marzollo and Ashley Wolff

 

 

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Taking to the Ice

In the summer my front yard is a huge body of water, a playground for boats, swimmers and fishermen.

In the winter that water gets a hard shell of ice and becomes an entirely different playground, a brand new piece of “land” where we can walk, skate, and even drive snowmobiles and pickup trucks. Fishermen set up their shanties, forming cozy little villages.

As children we skated here with our mom and dog Lumpy.

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When I illustrated my 1st book in 1983 I remembered times spent skating with my dog.

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Cardinals in February from A Year of Birds by Ashley Wolff

During this Christmas break we got some lovely light snow and my sister and I set out to make this our new front yard.

We walked across the lake, following coyote tracks, and noticing where a bird landed, leaving wing and tail marks in the snow.

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We made snow angels ,

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built a buxom snow maiden,

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did donuts,

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drank cocktails,

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and lost our balance!

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Happy New Year.

Keep the wine handy.

We’re going to need it!

 

 

 

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We Are All Book Lovers

I heard a radio commentary this morning. It was about searching for good news in a dark time. The commentator, a former journalist, looked in all the usual places, but finally found her cheering thought in a Pew Research Center story about reading.

73% of Americans read a book this year! And they actually seem to prefer reading on paper.

I found cheer in that too, and continued work on my Baby Bear Reads a Book ornament series.

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As with other multiple image projects like summer postcards, I grid my paper with painter’s tape. This time I measured out small 1 3/8″ x 2″ rectangles and drew Baby Bear reading a big, fat book in each opening.

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Then I paint them-layer by layer, one by one.

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Each one is kind-of the same and one of a kind.

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Then I cut the sheets up,

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Stick them in little silver frames

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And hang them from the evergreen tree.

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I’ve made a few extras and, if you’d like one, or a different Baby Bear 2016 ornament, I’m selling them in my Etsy shop

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Little Things?

When I moved back to Vermont I wanted to get involved with my community so I volunteered my time to a small group that aims to make Middlebury more Merry during the month of December.

Nothing fancy or noble-just little, fun things to create community and get people outside, downtown and into local businesses.

There are cut-outs around town for kids to pose in,

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Hot cocoa for 75 cents,

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and Santa arrives on the firetruck.

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You can bring your presents to be wrapped at a local bar,

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Ride ride around town in a horse drawn cart,

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and do an I Spy search for 10 little ornaments, hidden in the windows of downtown shops.

My job has been to make the ornaments and arrange for them to be hidden. The 1st year I painted little reindeer

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The next year was little snow children,

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And this year I decided to paint little Baby Bears in Christmas garb.

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I know-it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas–but I had to.

Then the election happened and it’s been hard to concentrate and harder to smile.

I found myself painting very pensive Baby Bears, with safety pins like the one on my sweater in their fur.

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I know wearing a safety pin is kind of lame-especially out in the sticks where I live,

and I know I live in a practically all white state, with loads of privilege and 1st world problems,

and I know it is just a little thing to offer as resistance, but I am offering it with all my heart.

I will put my money, my voice and my body to stand up for everyone’s rights and civil liberties.

You are safe with me.

 

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The Importance of Ophelia

As a Picture Book Month Ambassador I was invited to write an essay explaining why picture books are important to me –and how they can change the lives of child readers.

I chose to talk about my favorite book from childhood

The Story of Ophelia by Mary Gibbons and Evaline Ness. The straightforward prose is long by today’s standards, but tells the story clearly. What I found most thrilling were the pictures of the one-eyed, ravening fox. Those really scared me, and seeing Ophelia survive his attack and prevail were very satisfying to good little  girl me.

Please enjoy my essay and tune in every day during PiBoMo this November to read the essays by the other ambassadors.

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Once upon a time I was a good little girl and picture books helped me express my inner, rather blood thirsty heroine.

Whenever I hear an editor or art director caution “ You can’t say/show this or that—that’ll give children the wrong idea. They’ll want to try it themselves,” my favorite childhood  book: The Story of Ophelia, by Mary Gibbons and illustrated by Evaline Ness, comes to mind.

As a child I identified completely with Ophelia: a skinny, rebellious little lamb, with six, fat, goody-two-shoes lamb siblings and a wise, tolerant sheep of a mother.

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When cautioned not to, Ophelia disobeys, enters the dark woods, is chased by the hungry fox, and with the help of the friends she made outside of the sheep paddock, escapes the fox. He is killed by a big bird right there on the page—a thing that never happens anymore in picture books. And surprise-she is not scolded for being naughty. Instead, she is rewarded with 4 new, red socks and a reputation as a fox killer!

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Adults devour thrillers and adventure stories, and, if I was typical, so do little children. I craved that large, heroic, adventurous life that was nothing like my own, and, at various ages, I found it in stories as varied as Blueberries for Sal, Puss in Boots, and The Little Red Lighthouse and the Big Gray Bridge.

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Picture books give young children a safe taste of other worlds: travel to distant lands, peeks into the past, or future, and the satisfaction being able to find their heroic self in a book. Through Ophelia, a human/animal character, or as I call her a ‘humanal,” I had a vicarious adventure that was far more exciting and life threatening than anything I’d ever experienced.

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Please comment and tell me the book that most influenced YOU as a child.