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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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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Sleep

It’s late November here in Vermont ~ the time of year for hibernation.

Who hibernates? Bats, Bears,skunks, bees, snakes, and groundhogs to name a few.

Since moving from a mild California climate to the stricter seasonal progression of northern New England, I’ve become much more sympathetic to the concept of hibernation!

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On the last day of Baby Bear Counts One, Mama and Baby Bear are ready to curl up and sleep the winter away.

Showing the process of sleeping is relatively easy, but showing dreaming was a challenge in Only The Cat Saw.  When I was a child I often dreamed of being near the ocean or swimming when I really needed to get up to urinate!

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Enter a caption

Holly Taylor modeled as the sleeping Amy, way back in 1984

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Amy, dreaming in Only The Cat Saw. Acrylic on paper

Of course, we sleep all year long, and humans enjoy it as much as animals. Mostly sleep happens when it is too dark to draw, but sometimes a nap overtakes us, and when it does I seize that moment of daylight stillness to draw.

Since the late 70s I’ve drawn people and creatures I love while they were sleeping.

Here is a selection.

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watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine, asleep on the couch after wisdom tooth removal..

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watercolor sketch of my sister Peregrine.

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this drawing of Rowan reminds me of Amy’s pose. Colored pencil on brown paper

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Brennan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper

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Rowan, asleep. Colored pencil on brown paper.

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Sabin, asleep. Marker on brown paper.

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Tula napping. Watercolor on brown paper

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Nutkin, sleeping. Acrylic on paper.

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Wildridge kitten, sleeping. Gouache on brown paper.

The Christmas Trees of Yore

Everything seems BIG when we are small.

But my childhood Christmas trees really were VERY tall. For scale, I am almost three years old in this photo and I am lost in the bottom branches.

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Unlike other families, we didn’t put up our tree until Christmas eve.

Many years we drove up Breadloaf Mountain and cut our own trees on Middlebury College forest land.

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We waded through the snow, Mommy carrying the loppers and Daddy carrying the same saw as this dad in my 4th picture book: A Year of Beasts.  Back then it seemed we always had snow at Christmastime.

bigsnow'62Then it became the 70s. The trees were still tall and sparse, my mom was more beautiful than ever, my dad still put up the train set, I was always sulking and Peri was always sick in bed on Christmas eve!christmas72

Wild trees are not full and bushy. Dad figured out a way to ‘hang’ the tree from one of the beams in the 2nd floor gallery. The trunk dangled in a bucket of water. I used that idea many years later for this crazy tree.

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One California Christmas I collected and sorted found wood into a tree shape and my elf drilled a hole in the “balance” center of each piece. We found a long piece of fresh kelp and used it as the “rope”. Once all the pieces were strung, we tied a knot at the bottom and hung the tree. It can hang flat like this or in the round. It was fine with lights, but hard to hang with ornaments.

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Now that I’m back in Vermont I must break with tradition. The long, dark nights are too long and dark for an adult to endure without the cheerful glow of a lighted tree. So I’ve compromised. The tree is in a bucket of water and she has lights, but I will wait to add ornaments until Christmas eve.

Brightly shining, for a brief period, in the darkest days of the year.

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Snow!

As a Vermont Girl, I know my snow.

I’ve been figuring out ways to draw and paint snow, in all its shapes and forms, my entire life.

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There are lots of kinds of snow.

The 1st snows of autumn, that slowly cover the still-green grass, frost bitten plants, and leaf strewn ground.

December snows, that slowly fill up the woods~until we trudge through it to find a perfect Christmas tree,

Or February snow, deep and light enough to race a sled through,

Or use as a smooth, white, picnic blanket for the birds.

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A Year of Birds

I’ve painted snow as the natural habitat for Polar Bears,

And gray wolves.

And painted it in totally unexpected places, like a usually sunny day in Jamaica!

I’ve sat in my car and drawn a snowy scene from life.

And I ended my new book, Baby Bear Counts One, with 10, big snowflakes, falling slowly enough for a surprised bear cub to count them.

But turn the page and watch as the snow picks up, swirling in curtains across the mouth of the den,

And finally, the flakes are falling so fast that there are…

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Baby Bear Counts One

 

Too many to count!

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Finding Nemo in Vermont

“Superstorm” Nemo bore down on the North East last week, accompanied by some truly scary hype. In the end Connecticut and other coastal areas did get hammered, but Central Vermont got away with a mere 6 inches. During the storm I ventured out to the old farm on South Street Extension where I learned to ride and care for horses back in the 1960s. Back then, it was owned by a rather odd woman named Doris Eddy. She taught everyone everything and was a very no-nonsense sort of person.

Doris is gone now, but someone runs the old farm and lots of horses are still there.  They were all out in the pastures near the road, covered in coats and eating hay, while the snow quietly piled up on every flat surface.

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