Autumn adventure

So what’s been up with me? I realize I’ve been pretty lax at blogging about myself or my art recently. I (voluntarily) left my job at the patent illustration company, and since then I’ve been loading myself up with freelance contracts and other projects to keep busy. The excellent news is that I have managed to keep busy and load my plate pretty darn full, despite my lack of a morning commute. And then of course this is fall, and for some reason every fall Evan and I get itchy feet and need to get out of town. The past two years it’s been to Seattle, this time it was Canada.

Toronto from the waterfront

We split our week between visiting Evan’s aunt and cousins in Toronto and staying with my sister and her boyfriend in Montréal. Sadly I didn’t get too many photos… I was a little distracted by the scenery and the company. Here’s a Polish restaurant in Old Montréal that my parents used to frequent when they lived there 37 years ago. We checked, it’s still delicious!

Stash Polish Restaurant

I also gobbled down poutine, drank beer on top of Mont-Royal, spent 6 hours wandering the entirety of AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario), several more hours in the incredible Samurai exhibit at Pointe -à-Callière museum of archaeology, and wandered through the Marche Jean-Talon sampling delicious fruit every morning. Also, I played with a kitten named Marley.

Marley the kitten

Already we’re trying to think of excuses to go back for another visit! (For one, we have to use up this Canadian money that’s almost impossible to change here in the States…)

Anyway, that’s one of the reasons I’ve been so silent this past month! Now to get back to work on the others…

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Back to business

Hey, you may have heard about that derecho storm the eastern half of the US experienced the other night! We were pretty lucky here in Annapolis, in that I don’t believe there were any deaths or major injuries (except to trees). There was a fair bit of property damage (none to mine) and quite a few people lost power (including me). The worst was probably the heat index of 105F+ on Sunday, which didn’t combine well with lack of electricity.

The power just came back on early this morning, after about 76 hours without. Really grateful to have the AC and internet back. Also grateful to not have to look forward to another evening of reading by oil lamp (there are cons as well as pros to oil lamps, and the cons multiply the longer you have to use them).

Evan and I were up late when the storm hit and had the opportunity to watch it arrive. The night was perfectly still and quiet, almost oppressively so, though the lamps in our room had been flickering intermittently. Then a wall of wind abruptly hit the trees with speed and force akin to a massive train, causing them to whip back and forth violently. It brought copious amounts of thunder and almost constant flickerings of white and purple lightning with it, and sheets of rain.

Normally our huge, damaging storms come from the opposite direction and give us a little bit more warning. Time enough to panic and hoard bottled water and city-provided sandbags. Thanks, derecho.

(I think we actually experienced a fair bit more damage than the much-dreaded hurricane Irene produced last year. Though there wasn’t really any flooding this time, which was a nice change of pace).

The freelance mindset

One of the dangers of setting your own schedule: it’s really easy to allow weeks to slip by without noticing. I’ve been pretty loose with scheduling lately, as a follow-up to a contract that had me pretty rigidly locked in for a few weeks, and it has not done good things for my timeliness.

For one, I forgot to blog a mention about my guest post over at Inkpunks, which outlines some basics of website design (applicable even to lazy folks like me who rely upon blogs and premade themes to do the bulk of our work).

Today Evan’s guest post went live on Inkpunks, in which he talks about his struggles in finding a comfortable space he can feel creative in, even in cramped living situations.

And this past weekend, my little brother graduated from JMU! In an outdoor stadium, in the pouring rain! Congrats Warren! I’m so proud of you. I hope your celebratory 3 day, 50-mile canoe and camping trip in the pouring rain still manages to be extremely enjoyable despite everything.

And just for fun, something new from my sketchbook:

Wizard + cat

Happy agenda management, everyone!

Literary influences

Do you remember the first book that really grabbed you? The one that fell apart in your hands from constant rereading and spring-boarded you off into your career as an obsessive lifetime reader? (I’m assuming you’re a reader here, because I most certainly am and who would visit my blog if they’re not like me at least a little? Right?)

Well, mine was A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. I have no idea why my mom decided to bring it home from the library for me that day. To the best of my knowledge, she’s never read it herself (though she can feel free to contradict me if I’m wrong, or fill in the story if she remembers) and it certainly wasn’t a new release in 1992 when I was 7.

But whatever the reason, there it was. And that story, of a young and talented wizard whose life and career nearly end at the hands of his own hubris, really got to me. I remember carrying around laminated bookmarks I’d made myself, painstakingly copying out the poem and runes from the front of the book. I hunted down the trilogy, the copies with my favorite cover art of course (these ones), and still have them on my shelf to this day.

Yet for some reason, I think this might be the first illustration I’ve ever done of Ged.

Ged and Hoeg

(Bigger, better view here)

Brooklyn in the springtime

Folks who keep up with me on social media might have noticed how quiet I’ve been for the past few days. I’ve been in New York! In Brooklyn mostly, though there was a nice hike across Brooklyn and over the bridge to Manhattan.

Brooklyn bridge 1Brooklyn bridge 4Brooklyn bridge 3

Which ended in highline park just as it was closing on Sunday. What a beautiful way to reclaim obsolete architecture. Seattle? You hear me?

Highline tracksHighline underpass

Hudson sunset

I spent the weekend catching up with my good college chum Eve, meeting her cat and her local friends. Finally seeing Teresa Galus and Babette Daniels in person. There was also a very nice (though cold, and too brief!) dinner with Zelda Devon and Kurt Huggins, the dynamic duo behind Teetering Bulb studio and their gorgeous and prolific output. Also a tour of their studio, which has made me feel like a complete slacker. The illustration chops on those two! (though Zelda definitely needs to work on more watercolors and personal work… :3)

On a tangent, our respective art school experiences were a repeated topic of conversation. None of us were very satisfied with our formal illustration educations. Technical skill has been almost completely subsumed by the nebulous blanket of “concept”, which is really of pretty limited application to most of us. Perhaps I’d advise burgeoning illustrators to spend the money on illustration master classes, figure drawing sessions, and tickets to illuxcon instead. If I could do it again, this might have been my strategy. If I could have convinced my parents to endorse it.

All that aside: my feelings about New York have always been mixed. I get so easily lost in cities, and in one so big I feel lost almost by default. Yet the people there are wonderful, and the art scene so much more relevant to my ambitions than DC’s. It’s a wonderful place, and I hope I can get back there soon. Who knows, next time I might even make it to the Way station to drink some beer and see their Tardis.

Ghostbusters firehouseManhattan street

Something in the mail

I’ve realized lately that the key to productivity, for me, is to avoid turning on my computer unless absolutely necessary. Meaning I’m a little behind on things that involve scanning or photographing art to show people.

This is actually the second penpal letter of mail art I’ve received from Jessica Gowling, fellow printmaker and nature lover! The last one was a year ago, because I am terrible at responding to things in a timely manner (and maybe perhaps because I’ve been overbooking myself a little). We were also mutually involved in a traveling sketchbook project initiated by the wonderful Valeria Poropat (which I similarly forgot to blog about… or even scan before I mailed it! You can see my governess with a leashed dragon in Jessica’s photos of it).

Here is the latest envelope full of goodies:

The full array

Detail 1

Detail 2

Just look at that tiny Mot-mot card! We have several in the National zoo, and they are so lovely and inquisitive.

Even the envelope is pretty!

Jessica has figured out the important thing about me: I love birds.

I cannot remember whether I ever told her that I lived in Hungary for several years when I was small, which is when I had my first penpal. Who happened to love ducks. If not, the presence of all those (incredibly nostalgia inducing) Magyar posta stamps are just the most incredible coincidence… Or perhaps a product of the fact that Hungarians have some of the loveliest bird-related stamps ever. Though the envelope was mailed with beautiful Canadian bird stamps, too, which I sadly cannot get a good shot of without revealing someone’s home address. Alas! They are wonderful and I love them.

There’s a typewritten (as in typewriter-written) letter on the back of the brown leaf stationary also. Another odd coincidence, considering how I recently started using my own typewriter again…

I am determined to be more timely in my response this round! The truth is: I had my reply almost entirely assembled within a week of getting the previous mail art from Jessica, but dawdled because I felt like it needed one more thing. Needless to say, as Evan and I are finally getting our letterpress cleaned and put together, I am tempted to do this again. Setting myself a deadline of one month from today, or this could be a repeat!

There…but back again

I’ve been a little quiet lately. My deadline for big secret project is coming up, and in the midst of scrambling to try and fall close to it I suddenly had a week long trip to Seattle.

The view from Phinney Ridge

It was sort of business-related, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying the hell out of the scenery, the weather, the pastries and hot chocolate and library and bookstores…

Central column of the 11 story Seattle central public library

Hot chocolate (with cayenne) from Chocolati in Wallingford

Distressingly, I couldn’t bring my work with me. My drawing pad is too big and there are all those weird TSA rules about pointy things (like pens and metal rulers) and gooey things (like glass bottles full of opaque black ink). This made the trip slightly fraught… it’s tough not getting work done when a deadline’s close.

Now I’m back and somewhat recovered, I’ll be chugging ahead on that. And maybe getting some side work done, you never know. I’ll be sure to share any doodles. Once I whip out my oh-so-intimidating dip pen again…