Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A fishy story

Had an opportunity to draw a brook trout recently- here's one during spawning time. Could fish be as cool as birds to draw? Hmmmm....

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Rochester Cemetery

A recent visit to the Rochester cemetery reminded me of how important it is to gather inspiration away from the studio.

Yesterday, I found myself on the scenic back highways of Cedar County, Iowa, on route to this very special site. Not only is it the final resting place of hundreds of pioneering Iowans, it is also a unique ecosystem, an oakland savannah. Huge, century old bur oaks- about 15 in all- stand guard over time here. The low understory and the surrounding wide open spaces provide a perfect place for an abundance of wildflowers.

Each season, there is a stunning new show of color dotting the sandy hillsides. Many classic Iowa summer songbirds hang out here, too. Eastern bluebirds were making a nest in the metal piping of the main entrance sign. My friend Jackie and I also saw waxwings, indigo bunting, orioles and hummingbirds.

 Mowed pathways lets one wander the whole area and reflect on prairie life, past and present. We followed one swath and found a few new-to-us gravestones. One was for Mary "Granny" Sterret, born 1770, died 1871! What stories she must have had. A fairly elaborate marker told of mother and father sharing the same death date. Did some pioneer illness take them swiftly away? Did they perish in a prairie fire? The stone letters did not speak further. And why did people of this era mark the death age down to the day? Perhaps time measured mostly by season meant something different then, their 65 years, 3 months and 14 day of life worth noting so precisely.

We had coffee under one of the big oaks. The other Iowans there didn't mind. Maybe they were wishing we had a nice slice of rhubarb pie to go with it, just as they may have delighted in, on a picnic a century and a half ago.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summer Oak

An illustration for a wine label design...this is from a Burr Oak, Iowa's state tree.

Thursday, May 17, 2012


My personal almanac said it was time for the first sighting of fireflies. The "mean" over about a decade of observance is May 17th. Last night I saw one! It was such a wacky, early, warm spring it's nice to know at least these guys have their calendars straight. There is nothing more magical than a firefly in May. There is nothing more lonely than a single firefly in September.
Here's an illustration by the masterful Barb Cooney from the picture book "Letting Swift River Go", written by Jane Yolen. Find out how the story uses this image of childhood to symbolize coming to terms with life events beyond ones control. How powerful and instructive observances of nature can be!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Coffee and kids books

To round out Children's Book Week, check out what I saw today at the coffee brew bar at the Eastside Java House. I had sent this suggestion in to manager Sam and he made it happen! A nice reminder of living in the City of Literature. I love how some classic titles of my kid days are still favorites with the young barristas there. Time to go get your favorite coffee and reminesce!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Board Book honored!

The little baptism book I illustrated last year- written by my friend Anne Ylvisaker
and published by Augsburg Fortress- won first place in the Children’s Picture Book category of the 2011 Midwest Book Awards given by the Midwest Independent Publishers Association. Always affirming to receive an award; this one is a sweet surprise.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak 1928-2012

"And now," cried Max, "let the wild rumpus start!"

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Children's Book Week!

All this week is dedicated (by the Children's Book Council) as Children's Book Week. I plan to spend some extra time celebrating my industry, reading, writing, learning, sharing.

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