Sketchbook: Loose Park Rose Garden

I’m going to go out on a limb (pun intended) and make a statement that some may find controversial: Kansas City has an under-appreciation of its park space. Sure, there are parks scattered here and there, but stop by on a weekday afternoon and you will find most completely empty. I think there’s a very good reason for this. Many of us have our own personal green spaces. Many folks have yards. Even in our modestly sized yard we have three garden beds and a patch of grass. What a luxury! Sometimes I look around at the outdoor space I have at my fingertips and think about how jealous the New York City me would have been.

However, there is one park we, as a whole, adore. Loose Park! Loose park has a little something for everyone—a playground, a pond with ducks, a walking path, tennis courts and of course, everyone’s favorite: the rose garden. Formally named the Laura Conyers Smith Municipal Rose Garden, it was dreamed up in 1931 by the Kansas City Rose Society. It’s one of the most coveted outdoor wedding venues in KC. The 150 different varieties of roses bloom throughout the summer, so no matter when you visit, you’re likely to take in some good smells.

Last Friday was absolutely gorgeous here in Kansas City, so I treated myself to a morning of sketching. As I sat there drawing and sipping my coffee I realized that I’ve unintentionally made this a biennial tradition. Posted below is my sketch from last Friday, one from 2017 and another from 2015. It’s interesting to see my style evolve. While I do appreciate the techniques used in each piece, I find it interesting that over the years I’ve grown to appreciate the interaction between the flowers and the structures in the garden more than just the plant themselves. Roses are such a beautiful flower, but I love how they have their dark (and pointy!) side as well.

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Sketchbook: Andy Goldsworthy's Walking Wall

I can’t recall the first time I discovered Andy Goldsworthy. I know I was young, possibly a high school student pouring over a heavy art book my mom brought home from work. I remember seeing his brightly arranged collections of leaves and thinking—I get this. This was the kind of “art” I would make in the wooded, creek-lined backyard of my childhood home. Collecting and arranging. In college, I gave a talk to my Drawing II class about his works and was mesmerized to see him in action while watching Rivers and Tides at the arthouse movie theater I felt cool just stepping foot in.

So I was obviously thrilled to find out that Mr. Goldsworthy would be creating an installation practically in my back yard. Franklin (my dog) and I have been wandering over to the Nelson-Atkins every few weeks this spring to check the progression of the Walking Wall—the title of his current installation (you can read more about it on his web site). Yesterday was a rare sunny day in a month of almost torrential rain. While my days have been busy and my nights sleepless, I knew I had to jump on the opportunity to go out and capture my version of a Goldsworthy original. I owed it to my high school self.

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To Blog or not to Blog?

Welcome kindred spirit. Welcome person who has not given up on blogs—human who is interested in reading more than a caption. Many years ago, like way back, like 2006 way back (please know I’m joking), I used to have a routine. I would get into work, turn on my cozy lamp shaped like a teapot, pour myself a cup of coffee and settle in for a good 20 minutes or so of blog reading. I followed my blogs through the major life events of their creators—marriages, breakups, changes of careers. They were my internet friends before that was a thing. But slowly, things began to change. A daily blogger would start to only post weekly. Then monthly. And then I’d see the inevitable: THIS BLOG IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE. And, POOF, just like that, these very real people had disappeared from my morning routine—from my life. But I went along with the flow. I quit my job that necessitated such a morning routine. I moved to New York. I scrolled instagram or twitter on the subway and got my content in short bursts. I developed internet ADD along with everyone else and went on with my life.

But I still missed my blogs.

It’s not as though there is a lack of outlets for people to share their work. Besides the obvious instagram/twitter/facebook triad, we now have newsletters for the more verbose over-sharer (I use the term lovingly). The problem I see with newsletters is they they come to you. With a blog you seek it out yourself on your own terms. I don’t know about you, but my email inbox is basically one giant to-do list—necessary, but not for fun. Blogs are fun.

So what do you think if I started blogging? I have terrible grammar and I overuse parenthesis to an absurd degree. I cannot be relied upon to post daily or even weekly. I will likely repeat a lot of what I’m already sharing on instagram but with more details. There may even be a post or two about my child (SORRY NOT SORRY).

That said, I’m gonna do it anyway. I thought I might start with sharing a few images from my sketchbook from a little trip I went on with my family last week. We took a 13 hour road trip from Kansas City to Dauphin Island, Alabama. The occasion was one of my first and best friend’s wedding. Dauphin Island sits on the Gulf Coast and is connected to the mainland by a very tall and scary bridge. Many of the homes sit on stilts to shield them from the area’s frequent hurricanes and rapidly eroding coastline. But for the two days of our visit the weather was positively perfect. And as an added bonus—my child slept! He was a champion napper and wasn’t too shabby at night either. It was a vacation miracle. I took advantage of the situation by drawing. What a treat.

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I collected this driftwood just off the North end of the house we were renting which overlooked the bay side of the island. A really good bonus that comes with drawing the junk I pick up off the ground is that I don’t feel the need to bring it home with me. I also saw two dead fish. But I didn’t have time to draw them, unfortunately.

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This was the view out the South side of our house on the West end of the island. These houses overlook the gulf. Our house was across the road but we kept joking how it would be beach front property some day (actually we weren’t joking).

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Here is some junk off the ground I did manage to drag home with me. On the left side you can see how my sketchbook pages start out. I’ve been painting every other spread in my sketchbooks with random colors that please me in the moment. I never know how they are going to work out with the things I choose to draw. Sometimes, as in the case here, things work out.

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And because one of my favorite things about reading a blog was the personal touch, here are a few photos from the trip. From left to right: the bride and bridesdog getting their hair and makeup done, said scary bridge, J experiencing the beach for the first time, said dead fish.

THE CAT WHO LIVED WITH ANNE FRANK

Yesterday marked the publication day for my most recent book to hit the shelves: THE CAT WHO LIVED WITH ANNE FRANK. It was written by David Lee Miller and Steven Jay Ruben and published by Philomel. Click here for purchasing info.

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The story of Anne Frank and of the Holocaust is a serious and difficult subject to broach to a child of picture book reading age. I entered into this project with great reverence for the serious nature of this subject matter. The main character, a cat named Mouschi, lived with Anne and the other eight hiders in the secret annex in Amsterdam. Unlike the hiders, Mouschi was able to roam freely from from attic to the streets of Amsterdam and narrates to the reader what he has seen. In addition to being our narrator, I believe that Mouschi brings hope and kindness to a story that is quite bleak. Animals can be an amazing source of love, comfort and humanity when little of such is to be found in humans. As this is a book for young children, is does not go into detail of the atrocities of the Holocaust. But I believe serves as a solid starting point on a difficult subject that may be elaborated on by parents and teachers when a child is ready.

Below is a little previous of a few of the pages just until I can find a moment to get my website updated.

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If you know me personally, you know that I may have also been drawn to this text because I, myself, am the owner of a wily black cat. I dedicate this book to him, my Harry, who has many a time been a comfort to me in difficult times.


Praise for "I Dissent"

I'd like to end this weird year on a high note. I thought that it would be a great time to share with you some of the press we have received for "I Dissent." People are quick to congratulate me on these honors, but I really just feel lucky to be invited along for the ride. Those of you in the book biz know it takes a team to put a picture book out there in the world. "I Dissent" would not have been possible without the unique and clever manuscript written by Debbie Levy, editor/dreamer, Kristin Ostby (who's highly intelligent daughter is wearing the RBG onesie down there) and the rest of the team at Simon & Schuster. 

For posterity, here is a link to some of the more notable reviews for "I Dissent": Washington Post,  Newsweek, Huffington Post, A Mighty Girl, School Library Journal, Kirkus, Elle, Publishers Weekly, NY Magazine, The Picture Book Review, Wink Books,  Cultress, Curbed, Bustle, Washington Parent, All The Wonders

And lastly, I'd like to leave you with this video. You can skip to the 25 min. mark to hear Justice Ginsburg talk about "I Dissent," but I really recommend watching the whole thing.

Color Me Kansas City!

Hey Look! I made a book! While I don't necessarily find coloring in coloring books relaxing, I DO find drawing the line work for them extremely therapeutic. I was in need of a big meaty personal project after finished a big project this summer (details to come) and so the Color Me Kansas City coloring book was born! Take a look at a few pages from it below and if you like what you see hop over to it's very own shop and purchase a copy for yourself

Oh Hello Intaglio

I love etching! I first discovered this type of printmaking during my 5th (and most fruitful!) year of undergrad with Michael Krueger's intaglio class. Then I became a graphic designer and didn't make any prints for many years. I was reunited with printmaking again in grad school when I audited Bruce Waldman's intaglio class at SVA. And then, once again, work and photoshop took over and I didn't make any prints for about 4 years. Then this spring I got the itch! I had a fever and the only solution was more etching. I signed up for Amanda Maciuba's intaglio class at the Lawrence Arts Center. It was such a great experience. Amanda had an answer for my MULTITUDE of questions. Seriously, this girl is an encyclopedia. The LAC facilities are AWESOME. I highly recommend a class there if you ever get the chance. In fact, I just signed up for another. Silkscreen coming late spring 2016. 

This is the main result of this session's class. I've been working on some projects that are taking some major brain power, so for this class I wanted to turn it all off and just make a print of my cat, dammit. So I did. I was even able to make a small edition. I put a few of the prints up in my shop if you are interested in one. 

Spring? Spring!

I have a confession to make. I actually really like winter! I like doing inside things. I like eating comfort foods, watching basketball and piling on the layers. I feel cozy and comfortable and it's nice. There's a little part of me that get's a little sad when the sun stays out later. And March? Please. What a tease. You can take March. 

But once we hit mid-April, it's ON. Spring seems to be in town to stay and I'm ready to embrace it whole heartedly. For instance, earlier this week I took a detour from my usual running route to stop by the Kauffman Memorial Garden and I was BLOWN AWAY. The tulips were in full bloom. I almost couldn't believe my eyes. The very next day I said to hell with all deadlines (and other projects I can't tell you about yet) and took the day to visit the garden with my watercolors. 

Now I just want to ENVELOP myself in these yummy colors! And, thanks to the weird glorious site that is Society6, I can! I put my paintings on a whole bunch 'o crap so you can too! 

Summer State of Mind

While we're still quite a few months away from barefoot weather, a brief break from work and slightly sunnier days have put me in a summer state of mind. I'm hoping to take part in a few sales this summer and would love to start including some original paintings (a throughout studio clean out has emphasized the necessity of this). I've always wanted to revisit a quick plein air painting I did during "The Big Pic-Nic" at the Nelson-Atkins a couple years ago. Instant summer!

It's a book!

I finished wrapping up all the little bits and pieces of "I Dissent" last month. Now I must wait wait wait to share my hard work with you. But first, a cover reveal!

This was originally shared on Debbie Levy's (the author of this amazing story) web site. You should probably check it out because she is going to being all sorts of useful RBG stories and tid bits until our much anticipated publish date in September. 

Hot Stuff!

I got a piece in Society of Illustrators this year! Neat. Here is the piece, lovingly titled Endless Summer. You know, that point in the summer, usually mid-August where the pool water is just a little too warm, the days a little too long and everything a little too saturated? It will be on display in NYC in early January, so yes, basically the furthest point from that time of year. 

I won't be able to attend the reception as I will be reenacting this scene in Hawaii at that time, so if you make it, snap a picture for me won't you?

On Location: Kansas City Zoo

I took my class to the KC Zoo today. Between hunting them down and bugging them about their drawings, I did some sketching myself. This is the old Ape House that will be torn down tomorrow (as I was informed by a groundskeeper as I was drawing). Our zoo's primates now live in much more comfortable, natural habitats, which is fantastic. But it's still a little sad to see this old relic go. My students, most of whom are not from Kansas City, didn't have any memory of it. They all said it reminded them of Jurassic Park.

The Notorious RBG

I am leaping out of my seat excited to announce that this fall I will be illustrating the biography of Ruth Bader Ginsburg! I'm already finding out so many wonderful deatails about this great woman. Did you know she wears a special collar JUST for dissenting? Love it! I'm very excited to get up close and personal with the Notorious RBG for the rest of the summer and into the fall. 

Volkerfest Redux

I had such a fabulous time at Volkerfest yesterday selling my art and drawing portraits! Thank you to everyone who came out to support me. If you weren’t able to make it and are interested in purchasing a print, my shop is stocked with all my leftovers (and if there’s something you aren’t seeing please do email me).

I loved drawing the portraits so much that I would just love to do more. If you would like your portrait done, or maybe one of a loved one, I can also work from photos. I’ll work on getting a listing in my shop, but until then, please feel free to send me an email!