Friday, September 28, 2012

Done with part of a big project this afternoon. Just the rough sketches of the job, but this bit is always the most draining. The weather is impossibly autumnal and lovely, so it will be nice to lounge in the sun late afternoon now. 

Here's a photo from my drawing board. It almost looks like my table is outdoors! Not a bad idea- I've thought about building a conservatory/glass studio before! In my dreams...

Thursday, September 27, 2012

SCBWI-Iowa Illustrators Show

Along with 10 other children's book illustrators, three of my originals will be on show (prints as well as the orginals can be purchased) for a few weeks at the Gilded Pear Gallery in Cedar Rapids. If you're in the area, please stop by and take a peek! An opening reception is planned for this Saturday, September 29th, at 4 p.m. 

I am honored to be part of this show, along with these talented artists listed below. We are all members of the regional chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Candace Camling
Jeni Reeves
Dorothia Rohner
Natalie Groves
Jennifer Black Reinhardt
Patty McGrane Harms
 Jane Metcalf
Becky Wirfs
Peggy Gratton and
Erin Taylor

The Gilded Pear
808 Third Street venue SE 
Cedar Rapids, IA 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ciha Fen

Billows of chalky dust kicked up through the early morning sunlight, as several cars (including mine) made their way down the loose-graveled country road. On Saturday, September 22, the first day of autumn this year, we were all heading toward an appropriate place to mark an equinox, the dedication of the Ciha Fen Preserve in rural Johnson County, Iowa.

This new conservation site is 80 acres of sand prairie, wetland and oak savannah, the Ciha Fen being the Crown Jewel. Ciha is the name of the family who most recently owned the land. A fen (an Old English word meaning mud or muck) is a rare and special wetland feature created by the actions of ancient winds, ice and rocks that carved, grinded and fashioned our part of the Midwest millennia ago.  When moving underground water bubbles up through the dense sandy matrix left by glaciers, large floating vegetative sponges of wonder are formed and a fen is born.

An incredible array of animal and plant life live here, cool critters I ache to illustrate. Blanding’s Turtle (“Looks like a ‘gater in the water” said one biologist), the (non-venomous) eastern hognose snake (with little upturned snouts for digging in sandy soil) and six-lined race runners (seeking out rooms in rotten log hotels)- have all been noted. Magnificent, fragile plants are also present in their season- Great Plains Ladies’ Tresses orchid, rice button aster, fringed puccoon and mousetail plant. The fen is fringed by a fantastic mixed canopy of white and black oak and a sand “short grass” prairie beyond. Invasives linger and alas, prosper too. A team of conservationists are making efforts to thwart them.

Friend and colleague, author/geologist Jean Prior Sandrock wrote wonderfully clear interpretation of the rather complex water chemistry that makes up the Ciha Fen. Her text is on the permanent marker installed at the site.

This place is about time. The time it took for the fen to form. The time it takes for a white oak acorn become a 40 foot high tree. The time involved in the human effort to change the land. The time we now set aside to conserve and appreciate this pristine rarity of nature.

Thank you to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation and the Johnson County Conservation Board in helping to make the Ciha Fen accessible to us. Please visit with a soft step and reverent eye; the fen will give back a deep sense of well-being and belonging.

And I hope I have TIME to create some illustrations inspired from the place! Meanwhile, here are some photos of the place.

The Ciha Fen of Johnson County, with authenic September Blue sky above. 

Friend Jackie takes in the program with the crowd

Each acorn is a thought...

Dappled light and ancient oaks

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My type of window dressing!

New Bo Books, located in the Czech Village area of Cedar Rapids, is a lovely and welcome newcomer for our regional community. Yes, I am a little bias about book shops. I love them. This one does seem special, like stumbling into a specialty shop of another era or world, akin to the thrill of entering one of the shops on Diagon Alley.  Not only can you find thoughtfully selected titles and a cozy place to browse, but the Elegance of Place is so pleasing. It's diminutive size only sharpens your experience.  There is a coffee shop and cafe a stone's throw from the door. In October, a space for a market place will be completed across the street. There are new eateries and other businesses cropping up all around. And CSPS (short for the historic Czech-Slovak Protective Society), an active arts and performance hall, shares the romanesque, turn-of-last century building where New Bo is located. The Czech and Slovak National Museum is only 5 minutes away (and right now has a couple of stunning exhibits on Alfonse Mucha's work and an international children's book illustrator show). Truly, this part of town is rising it's phoenix, after the devastating floods of 2008.

Currently at New Bo, check out their seasonal window display of much charm. Used books have been transformed into pumpkins, twists of typed pages into leaves. It's a work of art unto itself. Here's some images and please notice what picture book is poking out of the bag, being scrutinized by the paper bird!

From recycled word to pumpkin
"A Woodland Counting Book" is honored to be included in the dressings!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tea Time

So many friendships nurtured with a simple cup of tea...

Autumn time and I'm reaching for the kettle in the morning more and more. Clink! To cooler weather, to the healing of our parched grounds, to a healthy, high snow pack this year...but first, to the coming season of tea.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September Sky

A partial sky-scape, to remember lives left incomplete.

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