Old Faithful


This unassuming little mechanical pencil is a very old pal. I draw with it just about every day. I have had it since 7th grade, which I can assure you was a LONG time ago. It’s a Staedtler, made in Germany, circa 1980. This is officially a well-made product- I also have about 50 other mech pencils that don’t function half as well.

It’s sort of a miracle that haven’t lost it, considering it’s followed me across the globe over the years. Do they still make good stuff like this anymore?? I mean, does anyone? Seems like everything today is designed to break or malfunction. Anyhow, it’s a fun little reminder of being age 12 or 13 and studying mechanical drawing (ew!) in junior high.

You can see my Pencil Pal with his long-time steady companion, The Squishy Eraser. And there, in the background, is The Computer. Three very important tools. Not shown, the equally important Prismacolor Cool Grey 90% colored pencil. I love ’em, and buy ’em by the boxfull.

Lunch Break

I have a decent amount of metal lunchboxes- I think they are beautiful, mainly because there seems to have been actual care taken in composing the images that went on them. At the suggestion of my illustratin’ friend Barb, I will post some of them. Today’s box is a Holly Hobbie one from 1981. This is the stuff I grew up with. Thinking about it now, I am sure Holly’s art and the general “colonial revival” that was going on in the 70’s had a lot to do with what I like today, such as my fabric obsession. I noticed recently that there is an interview with the real Holly here. Holly the character has been revived, in both her old/country form and a new, hipper form. Holly the Person looks great, and I hope she keeps making gorgeous books like Toot and Puddle as long as she can!

Illustration Friday: Red

Well, what do you know- I have actually uploaded an Illustration Friday piece on Friday (barely!). I think that’s a first! I am trying to be looser with line and color, so this is a very off-the-cuff illo. The bunny shown is clearly on the RED team, The Cortland A’s. I would add some kind of pithy football comment now, but I don’t know anything about football. I know it’s not usually played with apples, though. Go Reds!!

Creativity LOST

I’ve had a little something on my mind lately. OK, for years.

I have had the pleasure to run after school art classes for quite a few years now. Subjects I have developed classes for include cartooning, painting, fine art, animation, and drawing. Now, some children come to these classes already loving art, and others come with no real artistic leaning at all. I love ’em both! They always end up doing well regardless of how they begin.

What always surprises me though is the BAGGAGE they bring!

The kids who have had formal art classes before are often “afraid” of making mistakes. The kids who are new to art are afraid to try, or fear being “bad at it.” I always nip these fears in the bud- in my classes, there is NO right and wrong in terms of the end product, and the kids quickly learn to not worry and have fun. But time after time, I find that I must undo these insecurities.

Why? Well, I have a couple of theories- for one, art has been turned into this:


“Arts and Crafts” like these are not exactly harmful ,and are maybe better than nothing, but they do NOTHING to foster actual creativity in kids. They are too spelled out, pre-fab, and defined. The kid doesn’t have to DO anything here- the shapes are cut, the arrangement is pre-determined, the colors have been chosen for them, etc. If you want children to work on their motor skills, these are swell- but so is putting together a puzzle, or setting the table.

But wait! Here are some fine alternatives to those kinds of things!


These are open-ended items that foster TRUE creativity! Open-ended is good. Kids should NOT have everything spelled out for them in an instruction book. If that’s all they have to go by, they positively flounder when asked to come up with their own ideas and methods. I know most of the people reading this blog are creative types, but if you see yourself in any way here, fill your house with supplies (they don’t have to be expensive, dollar store stuff works fine). Real supplies and a dose of encouragement can keep a kid busy and happy forever.

Don’t even get me started about the demise of the toy business and playtime in general…another post for later.

High Five!

Check out the February 07 issue of Highlights High Five magazine!

I did the shoelace-tying art for this feature about the “Shoelace Chipmunk Trick.” This was a tough piece to work on- apparently there are a bunch of ways to successfully tie a shoe; and this was a new way to me (my husband knows yet another, euro-style way)! I had to tie my own shoe at least 50 times to draw it.

I bet it will take the average 5-year-old much less time to learn it (but then, they don’t have to draw it)!

Do YOU Know the Muffin Man?

A funny thing happened to me at the Target today. As I walked down the aisle, A DVD caught my eye. “Hooked on Baby.” It sounded familiar. Then I realized that it was the very DVD that has my Muffin Man sequence on it! That was a strange sensation- I guess I thought it would take longer for these to hit the stores, so I wasn’t expecting to see it. These film fellows work much faster than publishers!

Anyhow, I had done drawings for this DVD over the summer. It’s brought to you by the awesome people who created Reading Rainbow, together with the Hooked on Phonics/Educate Products folks. What a great job they did of “animating” it! They took my still drawings and added little film twists and turns- the muffins bounce around, the Man rotates- very cute and interactive. They also have live action sequences with real babies, and some of them have been superimposed on my backgrounds.

The most interesting part of this is that on TV the art looks big- really BIG- and happily, it holds up nicely. You can really appreciate the texture of the fabrics when they are blown up.

Got babies? I think they’ll like this! There are 3 DVDs in the series, this one is called Read, Rhyme & Clap. It’s got that Reading Rainbow feel, but for the younger set.

Coming Up Roses!

Happy New Year, everyone! I am a bit off my blog lately-been busy not only with the merrymaking, but with the triple whammy of having lots of work and being sick. Come to think of it, that’s what happened last year, too. But it’s a new year now- and I haven’t used a Kleenex all day, so things are looking up! And besides- the Tournament of Roses Parade was on today! Now, I live on the other side of the country, but I have always been obsessed with the parade. This morning, watching it with my girls, I had a flashback. I remembered being around 7 and designing my own “float” for the parade, a big upright dog that I could pull myself (I was a practical kid, I guess). I purposefully designed the float to be of manageable proportions, because my grandmother had a bunch of nice rose bushes in her backyard. I remember asking her if I could use the roses for my float. She was about the sweetest person ever, and somehow found a way of telling me that she would let me have them, but that there probably wouldn’t be enough for a whole float. I accepted that, but still remember thinking that it was somehow possible. Smart lady- somehow she dished out reality while still keeping the possiblities open. Here’s hoping that you all keep those possibilities open this year, too!