Thursday, April 28, 2011

Book Mark Done!

The statue was finished and picked up yesterday. Yeah! The studio seems bigger now. Lots of work, this project- I estimate painting took about 50 hours. After it gets its protective clear coat, the statue will then be installed at the Coralville Library in June. About 30 other wonderful designs will join it around town.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Audubon, my Ancestor in Art

I heard the former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky speak here in Iowa City Saturday night, part of a wonderful City of Literature event. He said to the students of poetry in the audience "Know your ancestors". He wasn't just referring to their real family ancestors- although he did talk about ancestoral memory and how most people can't give the full names of all eight of their great-grandparents. Pinsky was speaking more of the ancestors of his craft; of Elliot, Keats, Yeats, etc. And it got me thinking, who are my ancestors of craft? One is John James Audubon. A naturalist, painter of birds extraordinnaire, he was born 226 years ago to this very day. And I honor and think of him as I paint in a wild turkey in my book mural!

Incidentally, my great-grandparents were, on the English side: Kate Talmadge and Norton Jones; William Hine and Laura Hall. On the American side: LuluBelle Johnson and Rush McHargue; Michael South and Hannah Keenan.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Update on Big Book

Thought I'd share the progression on the big statue. I've had to think in layers. Detailing now. Nearly done. And no spilled paint on the carpet. Yet. No colored paw prints either!

Thursday, April 21, 2011


...This fragile earth, our island home.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Still life with coffee and white noise

I go to a local coffee shop some mornings to do a little writing or an easy scratchboard piece. I like the white noise. Seniors talking politics, mothers and pre-schoolers with matching seal coughs, a cheeful Vivaldi on Musak mix together in harmony; it's all part of my process.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

first wild flower

The bloodroots are out now in eastern Iowa woodlands. They've pushed up through the leafy, muddy crust of winter to offer us hope for warmer, gentler days ahead. Sturdy, well-built little blossoms, their roots "bleed" red if cut, thus their name.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


There's an elephant in my studio, and it's shaped like a book! I'm participating in a community wide art project developed right here by our City of Literature. These 5-foot high book sculptures (akin to the cows of Chicago and the Herkys of Iowa City) will be placed all over the area, celebrating literature in all forms. I'm honored to be creating one for the Coralville Public Library. The book's concept is "Discovering nature through picture books."

The book arrived in my studio a couple weeks ago. I've stenciled in the outline of the images, and now, Boyd Crosby, an area builder, and his team cut me a "window" (part of my design) that will provide an added dimenison to the piece! Here's the window being cut out. You can also see the tracings of the design. More updates later. Sculptures to be finished by late April.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Metcalf's sky

It was windy and gray all day today, until about 4pm. Then the clouds became distinct and ordered, like quilting on an old coverlet. Sunlight, dark cloud and white all mingled together. Made me think of a long ago spring afternoon in art school. We were all busy at an assignment, working in our room that was banked with a row of glorious windows. The instructor, a skilled watercolorist, suddenly said "Have a look at the sky right now- it is the perfect color of violet." 30 heads all turned towards the windows. We were collectively, youthfully casual at the sight. But mysteriously, that moment has stayed with me. And a sky like today reminds me of that time of learning, of learning to see.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

SCBWI Spring Conference 2011

Back at home after three days of refueling at our annual Iowa Chapter SCBWI conference. So nice to see familiar faces (this is my SEVENTH conference) and to bask in the collective community of children's book creators. Great and small wisdoms were tranferred and I hope everyone- even staff!- came away fulfilled and renewed.

Lin Oliver, one of the founders of the Society, was there with us for the weekend as well. She gave a brilliant talk at our banquet Saturday night. Her enthusiasm for the children's book world is infectious. It was special to be with this remarkable and accomplised woman.

I was honored to prepare a framed piece of art that was presented to Lin commemorating her Iowa visit. Some attendees said they didn't get a chance to see the piece, which is called "Tallgrass Sunrise", so I'm posting the print here. It's a little bit of Iowa for Lin to take home.

More later on some conference highlights, but a big shout-out to all I met at the conference. I enjoyed every encounter and may your keyboards, writing spots and drawing boards hum with activity this week and beyond. A special greeting to those I had the pleasure to dine, imbibe and hang out with. Please keep in touch!

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