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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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.

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Into the Woods

When the going gets tough, the sensitive go into the woods…

and stoop down, look closely, listen to birds and the wind and pretend there isn’t an awful election/hurricane/refugee crisis/etc.whitemushroom

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I’ll see you there…

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Sheep

The noble profile, the slitted eyes, the curls, the baaaaa, the level gaze…

I love drawing sheep.

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This gal caught my eye this summer. When  I went looking for a subject for my cottage postcards I was drawn to her curious face. As in the past, I begin by taping off a grid of small postcards on watercolor paper.

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I make a quick sketch in pencil in each window and then use an assembly line approach to add colors.

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Each layer adds detail and the sheep emerges.

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The final touches are gold and silver ink…

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and glitter!

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Each card is the same but different, a one-of-a-kind love token for the friend who receives a “cottage card.”

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Painting Perry

I love dogs.

I have cared for dogs, drawn dogs, painted my own dogs and painted other people’s beloved dogs, alive and dead.

At this point in my life I am without a dog companion, so it was with extra joy that I accepted a commission to paint Perry’s portrait.

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Perry

I like having loads of photos to work from when I do a portrait, so I spent some snowy afternoon time with Perry, trying to get shots of her shape and markings, but she was often squinting against the glare, so her dad also supplied this soulful shot of her open eyes.

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To keep the focus on Perry I minimized the background to the snowy field and treeline.

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I like to paint in the background 1st. For this snowy scene I used resist to preserve whites in the hedgerow, then added very loose greens and dark blues in diluted gouache over that.

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In the foreground shadows, which were very crisp and blue, I tossed on some salt to create the texture of snow.

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Then I painted Perry in on top. She is 13, but her face has such a joyful, open expression. She spent a lot of her time that afternoon with her snout buried in the snow, sniffing heavens knows what.

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Fishing through the ice

Once the lake “ices in,”a whole new world emerges.

Acres of new real estate, previously accessible only by boat, become available for exploration on foot.

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Fisherman, cell phone photo

Fishing is the winter sport of choice. Whole towns spring up, populated by fun loving, hard drinking fisher-people.

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Fishing village, gouache on brown paper

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Give up the booty, gouache on brown paper

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Four fishing shanties, gouache on brown paper

Up on top there is the bait, and the fish who take it.

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bait fish, cell phone photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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land locked salmon, gouache on brown paper

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Pike and lake salmon carcasses, fillets removed, cell phone photo

But I became fascinated with what was going on UNDER all that ice.

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What’s down below,  gouache on paper

My personal goal for this winter is to walk across my lake and to drink an Irish Coffee in a pub on the other side If this happens I’ll let you know!

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Goodbye Old Year, Hello New!

Father Time and Baby New Year

The old to the new,

The beard to the baby,

the wrinkled to the plump,

The tired to the fresh.

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Father Time and Baby New Year from Frolic & Fun, 1897

What a weird, but wonderful image for the turn of the new year.

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The old is always to the left, the new to the right.

I wanted to make my own version, so I used my own Baby Bear as the New year’s baby and his older self as the old year.

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my quick thumbnail sketch

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pencil on watercolor paper, with 1st wash

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several washes-no line.

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painting with line and some photoshopping

And finally,  two older images of an infant Miss Bindergarten,

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and her grown up self wishing All Y’all

a Happy, Healthy 2016!

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Please share the joy, Y’all!