Little Owl Card

Why did this owlet fly into my mind this summer?

Every summer I wait for the right image for my cottage card to occur to me. Often it is obviously related to life here on this serene lake. Sometimes it comes from the Vermont landscape. And sometimes, fantasy sneaks in.


This year I began with lots of pigment applied wet on wet to my watercolor paper. Then I divided the sheet into postcard openings, and drew my owlet into each opening.


The different colors behind each owl affected how they came out, making each card even more distinctive, one from another.


I make quite a few of these cards and send them to my loved ones.



I think I’ll keep this little fellow to help warm my new home.


Ghosts in the Sheetrock

Using only a carpenter’s graphite pencil line and a finger to smudge it, one evening I discovered a little fox face peering out of a mudded, sanded seam in the sheetrock. He said “Hi.”


After him ran a cocky hound with a stubby ear,


Followed by a bear who ate all the brownies.


Two birds admired each other,


and a stork drank lemonade, while a mouse preferred harder stuff.


For a brief period my new home progress included vast areas of gray sheetrock and joint compound. Every evening, after the workmen left, I discovered new characters on the walls. Some were rather grumpy.

This fellow’s hat made him feel important,

youdon't say

and this fellow didn’t like his neighbor.


This gent was more genial–


He tried to soothe the worrywart.


But someone was always suspicious or


feeling put out,


Until Molly appeared and told everyone to


“put your lips together and B L O W !”

Finally I discovered myself, holding my new home in my two, cupped hands.


I can’t wait to go home and enjoy it.

I know all those ghosts are still there, under a fresh coat of Marscapone cream paint.


Hay Season

That smell is in the air.


Hill farm hayfields,gouache

Especially at dawn and dusk I smell fresh cut grass. Along the highways and back roads the fields are striped with swaths of it, lying in fluffed, pillowed rows.


In my Champlain Valley neighborhood the flat bottom land allows for long, easy to mow hayfields.



Cornwall Farm/watercolor

Freshly cut, the alfalfa, trefoil and grasses lie flat, but before this grass become hay it is handled many times. It is wuffled by the tedder, raked into windrows, and finally baled or rolled or stacked for storage.


Hay rolls/watercolor

Is it Home Yet?

I hate moving.

In the past 16 months I have moved my mother twice and myself five times. One would think I’d gain mad organization skills and each move would be easier, but no.

Somehow I managed to get everything mixed up and scattered and actually bought a few new things to add to the pile. Now I am moving from a rental into my new, not-close-to-done, year-round house in Vermont. I’m not going to share current pictures of the chaotic process.  These vintage watercolor paintings from 1988 will have tell the story.


The End of May…sigh

Another school year is skipping, ambling, screeching, and wildly cheering to a close. Everyone is restless and eager for release. Erasers are worn to nubs, and so is patience, but, as much as I look forward to summer, I love being in school…

especially on Author Day!


“School” for me might be in Vermont, or California, in Wisconsin, Michigan or Ohio. I’ve been to schools in Utah, Texas, Alabama and far away in New Delhi, India.

I have been to rural schools and urban schools, big and small schools.

I am always excited to arrive


Because now I get to share how I struggled to read, to understand math and to achieve what my 5 year old self really wanted to be–an artist!

ash age 8

When I explain how the words Passion, Practice, Patience and Perseverance became my 4 Ps, I’m hoping every child can think of their own passion; that activity or thing that makes work into fun.

More than talking about books, I talk about where stories come from.

My books grow directly out of who I am: a daughter, a sister, a mother, an animal lover, a reader, and, most important– a child at heart.


When we’ve talked about where stories come from, we make up our own. As I draw animal characters based on their names and ideas, I explain how an illustrator works.


We discuss ideas such as forward momentum, attention to detail, setting, mood, time of day and point of view. They learn to merge text and illustration and how to use the whole page to tell their story.


I arrive early and I leave after all the students have gone. I sign books and pass out bookmarks.  I marvel at how the work in school happens every day, even if I just get a one day glimpse. How do teachers muster the energy to come back every day?  I need a huge latte to recover for the ride home, but I always have a good day in school.


Click here for information on inviting me to your Author Day.


On Illustration Notes, By Liz Garton Scanlon

Wow! No wonder I love her books!

Liz wrote this post for Eastern Pennsylvania’s SCBWI blog.

On Illustration Notes, By Liz Garton Scanlon.

It is about a subject close to my heart. As a writer as well as an illustrator, I hope I see this issue from both points of view. Every summer I teach picture book writing at Hollins University. My students are mostly “just” writers, and I feel their anxiety about trusting an illustrator with their words.

Will an illustrator understand what they see as they write?

Will the illustrator do the proper research and be accurate enough?

Will the illustrator make it into  HER/HIS book and leave the author behind?

These are all real worries and I am sympathetic, but listen to what Liz says:

“For me, one of the best parts of being an author is receiving the artwork for one of my books. And that thrill isn’t because it looks exactly like what I dreamed it would look like, but because it looks like something beyond my wildest dreams.”

I am honored to have illustrated a new book with Liz, In the Canyon, due out in August 2015.

I can report that we had a real give and take over the text and illustrations that resulted in what I think is the best book possible.

Here is a sneak peek at my favorite page16-17