Friday, March 26, 2010

Obama comes to Iowa

President Obama visited our little burg of Iowa City yesterday and gave a speech on the new health reform. I've never seen a sitting president and was thrilled to snag tickets to go. Great speech and pomp and circumstance. I was still buzzing as I walked back to my car parked downtown when, there was the motorcade with the POTUS inside one muscled-out black Cadillac! He had made a special stop at our own indie book store Prairie Lights and bought----kid's books! The president purchased three children’s books, “Secret of Zoom” and “Journey to the River Sea”. He picked up a “Star Wars” pop-up book for the 6-year-old son of White House press secretary Robert Gibbs. Double Cool if he would have walked out with Tallgrass Prairie Alphabet! In the photo above, a shot of Jan the owner and Obama, you can see an original illustration of mine that hangs in the Prairie Lights entry (above the magazine rack, the coyote!) The closest I'll get on this visit!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shakespeare this year

Happy St. Patrick's Day! I celebrated with completing an illustration for the Riverside Theatre's Shakespeare Festival poster. It involves an animal audience overlooking the lovely outdoor theatre we have here in Iowa City. Riverside is doing Romeo and Juliet and Love's Labour's Lost this year. I'll post the final poster when they're done.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A friend over-winters her geraniums. In Iowa, this takes dedicating a warm and sunny space in your house, a green thumb and a generous, caring spirit! My friend's plants are pale after the long winter, but strong and leafy. In a few weeks, she'll put them out on the porch and their gorgeous green and vibrant blooms will announce true summer. They may be common, but I love geraniums. And I'm ready for the warm weather they symbolize. The fact that I saw the first robin today caused me to scratch out something from the summer side of my color palette.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Eagle Cam

My friend and fellow illustrator Jennifer sent me a link to a great birder site. "Eagle Cam" is set up by Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. It allows you an eagle's eye view of a pair of breeding bald eagles. The camera is mounted just above the nest. You can go online for 15 minute sessions and see what the eagles are up to. Sometimes you are treated to one of the eagle's snacking on a small rodent (dead already, I am glad to say) or maybe a fish. Other times they are building up the nest- with Iowa corn husks, no less!

The best part? Now there are three eggs! So cool to watch these big raptors do such a maternal thing like egg-sitting. Both female and male take turns. I've seen them do the ol' tag-team; one flies in, the sitting bird gives the in-coming bird a slight peck ("Like, what took you so long?") then sitting bird stretches and flies off, while new bird gets comfy, adjusts the nest to his own specs, tucks in the eggs and settles in for a few hours.

You can tune in any time of day- there's an infra-red camera so you can watch at night, too. Where else would you get to see an eagle taking a cat-nap!

Here's the link and a quick sketch I did today.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Hubbs Conference musings

I attended the Hubbs Children's Literature Conference (link below) this weekend in St. Paul, MN. It's a lovely, one day event which brings in some brilliant children's book authors as key-notes. Mostly aimed at educators, a few of us illustrators and writers stray in as well. Generous benefactors- the Hubbs family- have made this gathering possible for nearly 20 years. Some Februarys, the weather is too iffy to drive up from Iowa City, but this year, sunshine all the way. Ironically, it was the key-note himself, illustrator Chris Raschka, who got stuck in New York due to snow! The very excellent John Coy ( graciously stepped in, and along with Phyllis Root (, it was an inspired morning. Root is a passionate advocate of Story, in all its manifestations. Root emphasized how children's books should invite a child to read, and "perform" in word choice and page-turn and read-aloud rhythm. Coy's presentation held more of a cautionary message of the challenges of creating readers out of boys. His theory is that current educational ways have sanitized much of the best parts of school (no healthy way to express competition; recess (if it exists at all) is too "safe"; too much testing and not enough time to move and wiggle like normal kids!) Coy also thought books with subjects boys are truly interested in are rare (which made me think and reconsider some of my own works-in-progress...) Both speakers talked of the inportance of knowing our young audience, whether we be teacher or author, writer or illustrator. And what a pivital time it is in the world of children's literature, technically and socially and culturally. Amen to that. Coy ended with a great poem to help guide us on with our passions, in whatever field we may involve our lives in.

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~

Blog Archive