Friday, November 30, 2012


Oh how I wish I had as much balance, flexibility & steadiness as this fellow! He's from one of the AWAD curiotypes from last year, but I realized I'd never posted his finished incarnation.

In-progress versions are here & here.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wassailing Woodworkers

This is another curiotype for A.Word.A.Day. It was really challenging (but fun) to paint because of all the teeny-tiny tools. I cribbed them from Joseph's workbench in Campin's Mérode Altarpiece.

'Tis the season for maximum mess-making around here. I love making gifts, but as always when I'm in the midst of an interesting project, I seem to develop a severe case of mess-blindness. Between all the crafting, Etsy packaging, card-making, decorating, gift-wrapping & artwork, my studio tends to build up quite an alarming residue of tools & materials as Christmas approaches.

By Christmas Eve I always feel exhausted, overwhelmed by the surrounding detritus, yet giddy with some sort of seasonal magic. I figure Santa's elves must feel the same way. Also, I think a little celebratory beverage can make clean-up time a lot more bearable, don't you?

Good Wassail to all of you lovely oddment-hunters!

Acrylic on text (scanned from an old dictionary) on canvas, 6" x 6"

Monday, November 26, 2012

That Old A.Word.A.Day Magic!

Last November I had the great good fortune to illustrate a week's worth of words for Anu Garg's brilliant A.Word.A.Day. It was so much fun that I asked Anu if I could do it again this year & to my extreme delight he said yes!

If you're a friend/follower of Oddments & have never been to AWAD, hustle right on over there & subscribe-- it's an amazing resource of word lore, as entertaining as it is educational.

Of course if you're coming here from A.Word.A.Day, I don't have to convince you that Anu is a genius! Welcome to Oddments-- I hope you'll have fun browsing through my blog. You'll find plenty of words & letters playing with the paint around here.  And perhaps you'd like to see some in-progress versions of last year's AWAD illustrations, or have a look at my Etsy shop, Curious Art Lab, where I have prints & some originals from both years.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Cosmic Cats

Another piece in the series I mentioned in the last post. On Monday my secret will be revealed...

(And no, I'm not pregnant, ha! I can see why some of you thought that, though.)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bouncing Baby B

AlphaBooks may be over, but my obsession with letters & text is still hopping right along! This is the first in a series of five illustrated letters that will make its proper debut next Monday. If you have been visiting this blog since around this time in 2011 you can probably guess what it's for. ;-)

I took some extreme liberties with the "B" (not to mention marsupial anatomy) in order to illustrate the word "bursiform"-- meaning shaped like a pouch.

I'll likely make some further tweaks & will post the other four images next week, but until then, I hope those of you who will be celebrating Thanksgiving this Thursday have a delectable holiday. I'm thankful to all of you who come this way!

Acrylic on text (scanned from Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary) on canvas, 6" x 6"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Z is for Zaphod Beeblebrox

AlphaBooks has finally come to an end! *sob* And I'm sure I won't be the only one to ride into the sunset with Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed (and also tow-headed), three-armed, flashy-dressing President of the Galaxy in Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. 

In this scene, the maniacal Zaphod makes his entrance on a semicircular leather sofa floating within a 20-foot transparent globe. In case you can't make out the text: "His fair tousled hair stuck out in random directions, his blue eyes glinted with something completely unidentifiable, and his chins were almost always unshaven."

I won't say what happens next, because I hate spoilers.

But for those of you who have read the book, you'll know why the page number was particularly pleasing to me. ;-)

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1979 Pocket Paperback, ~ 7" x 4.5" In addition to the "zequined" jacket, I attempted to manhandle his two right arms into something resembling a zed.

And with that, AlphaBooks is over! Goodbye, & thanks for all the fish! I still hope to fill in a few gaps to complete the alphabet, but you can see what I've done so far here. And some of us AlphaBooks regulars are currently planning a new project to begin in the new year. In the meantime I have a personal series underway that I'll be posting soon, so stay tuned!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Y is for You!

My penultimate entry for AlphaBooks is a bit of a departure from the usual format. It comes from Italo Calvino's If on a winter's night a traveler, one of my all-time favorite books. In essence it is a book about books, about reading, about the way fiction intertwines with life. Every other chapter in the book is written in the second person, making you, the reader, one of the main characters in the novel.

Once I hit on this concept, I was stumped about how to illustrate it, until it occurred to me to make the book itself the focus, essentially a reader's-eye view. It may take a little imagination to see a "Y" shape in the hand position, but it's the best I could do!

Acrylic on scanned image of a 1979 Harcourt paperback edition, ~ 11" x 8"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I do love Halloween-- after all, it is the oddest of holidays! To paraphrase Dickens, I honor Halloween in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. But especially today, of course!

I'll add an illuminated nocturnal view of the JackOWLantern tonight, once I get home from a Halloween Hoop Jam in the park, with costumes. Oh boy, I just can't wait! What are your plans for the evening?

Happy Halloween to all! Oh, & check out ArtBizBlog today-- along with some great advice about artists' fears, you may see a familiar skeleton monster creeping by! :-)

Edit: As promised, the JackOWLantern in its nocturnal glory. :-) Sorry, no photos from the Hoop Jam, but it was great!

Monday, October 29, 2012

X is for Xaphania

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is the leader of the rebel angels, from The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman. I love Pullman's trilogy (His Dark Materials-- my series "Her Odd Materials" is a tribute of sorts). I'm especially grateful that he created an "X" character so I could squeeze this in before AlphaBooks ends! Xaphania is both ancient & young, radiant & forbidding... she plays a pivotal role in the book, but it would be something of a spoiler to specify.

I have to say this one was quite a challenge, & I'm not really happy with it, but at least I tried to work in a few "X"s with the wing forms & crossed limbs & digits. And yes, in case you were wondering, all angels appear naked in this book.

Acrylic on text ~5" x 8" with some Photoshopical tweakings. The text is mostly obliterated, but here's a pinch of it that I particularly like:

And if you help everyone else in your worlds to do that, by helping them to learn and understand about themselves and each other and the way everything works, and by showing them how to be kind instead of cruel, and patient instead of hasty, and cheerful instead of surly, and above all how to keep their minds open and free and curious… 

Monday, October 22, 2012

W is for Walter Mitty

This week's entry for AlphaBooks & IF is the protagonist of James Thurber's classic short story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. The quintessential daydreamer, Walter goes about his daily tasks in a mild-mannered, dutiful, non-confrontational way, but in his head he is the bold, dashing hero of countless exciting adventures.

I've always loved this story, despite its mildly misogynistic slant, because it captures so well the double life (or multiple lives, really!) of the daydreamer. And yes, I am one of that breed, in case you couldn't guess. Not quite in Walter Mitty mode, but still I'm a firm believer that dreams of all sorts make any life more interesting!

Acrylic on text imported from Zoëtrope, where you can read the entire story online, ~5" x 8"

I can't believe we're so near to the end of the alphabet! I wonder what will be next. Here are all my entries to date-- there are still a few gaps I hope to fill at some point.

Monday, October 15, 2012

V is for Violet Beauregarde

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is one of the anti-heroes of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In this scene her gum-chewing jones becomes her undoing as she greedily chaws down on an experimental product, & the blueberry flavor turns out to have a serious glitch...

No, I didn't do this in blueberry ink! Once was more than enough for that experiment. This time I used artificial blueberry in the form of acrylic. ;-)

I had a hard time figuring out how to work in the "V" until I realized I could just play up one garment feature. Do you see it?

George Washington Zombie

I'm running late again with AlphaBooks because I spent too much time fooling around with this horrible little Oddment! It's a ceramic doll-head of GW that I picked up at the Fleam some time ago, and, inspired by CreepyGlowbugg, I decided it was high time to zombify him.

First I did a little deconstructive surgery with Sculpey to give him a bulging eye & drooping lip.

Then I gave him a base coat of acrylic. I thought the green back of the greenback would make some pretty sweet zombie skin, so I scanned one & tore it to bits to collage nearly all of his skin. (I especially like the way his chest ended up reading "One Doll.")

I let all that dry overnight before adding the finishing touches with acrylic.

I wonder what GW would make of the current election process if he really did rise from the grave this Halloween?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

U is for Urquhart McVarish

This week's entry for AlphaBeasts stumped me at first-- not too many "U" characters out there, & I have a personal rule for this series that I'm only going to do books that I've read & enjoyed. But then I remembered Robertson Davies' The Rebel Angels, featuring the devious Urquhart McVarish, manuscript thief & all-around nasty schemer. The book is a dark take on academic life, part of a trilogy on themes of art, music & letters, religion, skepticism & tarot-reading, along with many other philosophical musings. I found it quite entertaining, although my favorite Davies novel remains Fifth Business.

In this scene Urky has stolen a manuscript by Rabelais & I tried to suggest the master's signature, very loosely based on a letter in which he signs his name in the Latin form, Rabelesus (obligingly including a "u"), but please don't try to make sense of my Latinoid scribbles otherwise! Also, I couldn't really remember Urky's physical description, so forgive me if I'm way off-- I just didn't have time to reread the whole book.

I did my best to make the whole figure (including ms.) form a certain letter, though... do "u" see it? ;-)

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1983 Penguin paperback.

Monday, October 1, 2012

T is for Toad

If you are here from Illustration Friday, you may not know about AlphaBooks, the group drawing project run by Rich Barrett, Andrew Neal & Ben Towle.

AlphaBooks is the name of the game. We will be drawing ficitonal characters from books every week - one for each letter of the alphabet. On the first day (Monday, May 21), everyone will draw characters whose names start with the letter “A.”  The following monday, we’ll draw characters whose names start with the letter “B.” And so on! 

If you'd like to submit your own artwork to the project, please join us! It's loads of fun. You can jump in late with any letter you like so long as you don't go ahead of the game.

My entry for AlphaBooks this week is one of the main characters in Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows. This is a classic children's tale that tells of the gentle, rural pursuits of Badger, Mole & Ratty... & then there's Mr. Toad. A bit of a spoiled-frat-boy type, he's obsessed with the latest must-have technology, which at the time was the motorcar. His headstrong ways lead to all sorts of misadventures, but his loyal, patient friends always save the day.

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1969 Yearling paperback, ~ 5.5"x8.5" Do you see all the "T"s?

Friday, September 28, 2012

Book Preview!

For a long time I thought I might not live to see the day that this book finally became real, but I have an advance copy on my desk, so I guess it is happening! Below it is the original acrylic painting for the cover.
It should be available sometime in October!


This is an older painting (created for my local library), but I haven't posted it on this blog before, & by a curious coincidence, I just added it to my Etsy shop yesterday! (Prints of it, that is, by special request.)

Once again Illustration Friday seems to be reading my mind. ;-) Although, come to think of it, nearly any of my paintings would fit the "book" prompt-- especially the AlphaBooks series!

Acrylic on maps & text on canvas, 12" x  24"

Monday, September 17, 2012

R is for Riddley Walker

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is the eponymous hero of Russell Hoban's Riddley Walker.

This is a highly original book, not so much for its post-apocalyptic plot, but for its language, a unique dialect (& spelling) of English that takes a while to get used to, but once you do, it works its way into your brain & never quite lets go! Many many years after my first reading of Riddley, there are phrases from the book that still pop into my head at unexpected moments. (Arga warga!)

That first reading was a magical thing, by the way: I read the entire book by candlelight during a power outage caused by a hurricane. I'm sure the serendipitous setting contributed to the power Riddley holds over me, but even if you read it on a Kindle in a fluorescent-lit room, I think you'll still find the mysterious, smoky, quasi-medieval world Hoban creates to be an absorbing place to spend your time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Sneak Peek

Guess what this is? Those of you who have been following Oddments for a while may recognize some of the elements... more to come soon!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Q is for Queequeg

This week's entry for AlphaBooks probably needs no introduction, but in case you haven't gotten around to reading Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, Queequeg is the tattooed Polynesian harpooner who befriends the narrator (a.k.a. Ishmael) in the opening chapters of the book. Though at first Ishmael is fearful of the "savage cannibal," he quickly comes to admire & trust him, as well he might, because Queequeg is definitely a mensch!

Given his strength as a character, his striking visuals & the fact that there aren't a whole lot of "Q" characters to choose from, I'm betting there will be a slew of Queequegs in this week's AlphaBooks! I'm looking forward to the Queequeg parade.

I actually remembered to throw in a few "Q"s in the illo this time-- last week I was so rushed that I completely forgot to "P"! ;-) I'll have to go back & tweak that one when I fill out the alphabet.

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1992 Modern Library edition (with the wonderful Rockwell Kent illustrations), ~ 5.75" x 8.75"

Sunday, September 2, 2012

P is for Percival Bartlebooth

I'm back in the AlphaBooks game after yet another lapse. Apologies to all for my recent spottiness-- I will fill in the gaps one of these days! This week's character is the somewhat maddening figure at the heart of Georges Perec's Life A User's Manual. 

I have a weakness for novels that knit together many concurrent threads of a certain time & place, capturing seemingly infinite subtleties from multiple angles, & Life is like that-- & then some. A puzzle of a book in many respects, it tells the story of an apartment block in Paris, including all of its rooms & residents, & though the plot doesn't proceed in the usual chronological fashion, it has a logic all its own.

Today's character, Percival Bartlebooth, can't decide what to do with his life & wealth until he hits on a curious & deliberately useless scheme: he will first spend 10 years learning to paint, then travel the world for 20 years painting watercolors at every port, which he will have converted to jigsaw puzzles by his neighbor in the apartment block. Then he will spend the next 20 years working the puzzles, removing the images from their backing, returning to the place where he painted the original painting, & washing off the paint to reveal once again the blank watercolor paper.

His odd & obsessive life story is but one of many that weave through this prodigiously inventive book. I urge you to give it a read. It's certainly not for everyone, but in me it provokes a very particular sort of mad fascination.

Acrylic on reversed jigsaw puzzle pieces & text (scanned from a 1987 Godine paperback, translation by David Bellos-- a revised edition is now available) ~6"x9"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

N is for Nemo

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is a little fellow with big dreams: Nemo, the star of Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland. Yes, I know this is stretching the book definition a bit, but I first encountered Nemo in a Dover book (from which I scanned these panels), so there you go. It might have been more kosher to do Captain Nemo, but I'm not nearly as fond of him as I am of this guy. Nemo truly has magnificent, bizarre, dramatic, one might even say cinematic, dreams, & McCay makes them all look spectacular.

I'm afraid I rather obliterated McCay's gorgeous scenery here, but I was aiming for an effect of the dream fading as Nemo awoke. And of course I completely changed the small panel below (although I left the original text).
His bed doesn't really look like an "N" (though if it did it would surely explain his troubled sleep)-- nor was he quite so N-ishly contorted himself in the original panel. I threw in a few more dreamy "N"s for good measure.

Acrylic on 2 panels of a page from the aforementioned Dover book,
~4" x 9" (The book is out of print, but apparently still available, by the way!)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

M is for Mathemagician

A thousand apologies for the long silence, folks! It has been a hectic Summer... I missed last week's AlphaBooks entirely, & I'm late with this week's, but I hope to be back on schedule by next week. Always depending on what free-lancing & family life throw at me in the next couple of months, I do plan to fill in the gaps (F & L) before the alphabet ends!

The Mathemagician is the number-obsessed ruler of Digitopolis in Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth. I first found this book in the school library in 5th grade, & I remember very distinctly the sensation of joyful recognition I felt after reading the first page or two. I knew at once that this was going to be my kind of book: full of deft wordplay & deep philosophical musings, playful & serious at the same time. It didn't let me down!

Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for this alphabet-oriented project if I'd chosen to illustrate the Mathemagician's estranged brother, King Azaz the Unabridged, who is as obsessed with words as his sibling is with numbers. But A had to be Alice... A will always be Alice for me...

I wish I had had more time to do this character justice! I was so rushed I almost forgot to work some stealthy "M"s in there. Of course there are some in his robe & hat, but do you see the others?

Thanks to my math-whiz son, James, for providing the actual equations & formulae for the robe. I hope I didn't mangle them too badly in my haste. There are also a few silly word-puzzle ones thrown in there, just for fun.

Acrylic on text scanned from this modern paperback version, ~5.5" x 8.5" I couldn't find our original copy so I had to buy a new one! Yet another reason for the delayed post...

Edit: Once again, I seem to have mysteriously illustrated the Illustration Friday topic before it was announced! Although I had some real interest in math as a child, most of my math teachers were nothing like the Mathemagician, & I found the classes dreary & repetitive. But I had a great geometry teacher in 10th grade, Helen Compton (who went on to teach at the NC School for Science & Math). Thanks to her enthusiasm-reboot, I got as far as college calculus, which I enjoyed despite the endless homework because it really seemed to explain things, but after that class other interests prevailed. I still have a sort of sideways fascination with math... especially stuff like fractals & chaos theory, studies that apply to patterns in nature... but I'm far too lazy to get back into it in any serious way. I'll leave that to James!

Monday, July 30, 2012

K is for Kinbote

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is the amorphous co-hero/co-author(?) of Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. Ostensibly, Kinbote provides academic analysis of a 999-line poem, also called "Pale Fire," written by his neighbor, John Shade, & included in the text. But the book is a curious knotwork of digressions, mysterious recollections, mistaken identities, unexpected connections, and misleading interjections-- it is utterly engrossing & often hilarious, but difficult to describe, & equally challenging to illustrate!

For a while I was completely puzzled over how to portray Kinbote. But then it dawned on me that, according to Kinbote, Shade's manuscript is written entirely on a series of index cards, so I decided to base the composition on 5 of these... I found some blank cards in an old recipe box, wrote out a few samples from the poem, & scanned, reduced & printed them. Then I scanned a page from the book, sketched out the face of Kinbote as I imagined him, & painted the features onto the cards in acrylics, then collaged the cards to the text in the shape of a "K," & mounted the whole on the cover of an old stenographer's notebook, ~6"x9".

Whew! I think this was my most complicated & time-consuming AlphaBooks character yet! But I do like the way the incomplete portrait echoes the uncertainty of Kinbote's identity, & the way the notebooks unraveling binding seems to continue K's beard...

p.s. While painting this I thoroughly enjoyed listening to an Audiobook version of Pale Fire, via Audible, narrated by Marc Vietor. I don't always like multi-voiced/deliberately-accented readings, but in this case it seemed quite appropriate, & well done. But I hasten to add that it's not a substitute for the printed version-- you will want to refer back & forth from poem to commentary, which isn't really possible in audio. What would be really amazing would be an iPad app with both text & audio, fully linked & annotated. Hear that, app developers? ;-)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

J is for Jumblies

This week's entry for AlphaBooks (& Illustration Friday) is not one character but many: the Jumblies, from Edward Lear's Nonsense Songs and Stories. Some might see the poem as pure silliness, but like much of Lear's work it carries undertones of deeper meaning-- I think it's a wonderful anthem for dreamers & the stubbornly impractical.

Green of head, blue of hand, & intrepid of spirit, these rare & dauntless creatures set sail in their sieve, ignoring a chorus of naysayers. They overcome difficult obstacles in inventive ways, find adventure & delight, & eventually return in triumph. And they do it all in such exquisitely playful & lyrical verse! 

Edward Lear himself loved to travel, despite daunting challenges. He suffered all his life from epilepsy & serious depression, among other ailments, yet he relished exploring other counties, routinely walking many miles of difficult terrain in search of scenes to paint. He was also an accomplished wildlife painter who specialized in birds (particularly parrots), & of course his poems & their accompanying illustrations have brought giddy delight to generations of children-- & to adults who haven't lost their taste for inspired nonsense.

Acrylic on text scanned from a Dover edition of The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear, ~5" x 7.5"

Do you see the "J"s?

Edit: For those of you who aren't familiar with this poem, here it is! Bon voyage!

The Jumblies
They went to sea in a Sieve, they did,
  In a Sieve they went to sea:
In spite of all their friends could say,
On a winter's morn, on a stormy day,
  In a Sieve they went to sea!
And when the Sieve turned round and round,
And every one cried, 'You'll all be drowned!'
They called aloud, 'Our Sieve ain't big,
But we don't care a button! we don't care a fig!
  In a Sieve we'll go to sea!'
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed away in a Sieve, they did,
In a Sieve they sailed so fast,
  With only a beautiful pea-green veil
Tied with a riband by way of a sail,
  To a small tobacco-pipe mast;
And every one said, who saw them go,
'O won't they be soon upset, you know!
For the sky is dark, and the voyage is long,
And happen what may, it's extremely wrong
  In a Sieve to sail so fast!'
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

The water it soon came in, it did,
  The water it soon came in;
So to keep them dry, they wrapped their feet
In a pinky paper all folded neat,
  And they fastened it down with a pin.
And they passed the night in a crockery-jar,
And each of them said, 'How wise we are!
Though the sky be dark, and the voyage be long,
Yet we never can think we were rash or wrong,
  While round in our Sieve we spin!'
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And all night long they sailed away;
  And when the sun went down,
They whistled and warbled a moony song
To the echoing sound of a coppery gong,
  In the shade of the mountains brown.
'O Timballo! How happy we are,
When we live in a Sieve and a crockery-jar,
And all night long in the moonlight pale,
We sail away with a pea-green sail,
  In the shade of the mountains brown!'
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

They sailed to the Western Sea, they did,
  To a land all covered with trees,
And they bought an Owl, and a useful Cart,
And a pound of Rice, and a Cranberry Tart,
  And a hive of silvery Bees.
And they bought a Pig, and some green Jack-daws,
And a lovely Monkey with lollipop paws,
And forty bottles of Ring-Bo-Ree,
  And no end of Stilton Cheese.
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

And in twenty years they all came back,
  In twenty years or more,
And every one said, 'How tall they've grown!
For they've been to the Lakes, and the Torrible Zone,
  And the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
And they drank their health, and gave them a feast
Of dumplings made of beautiful yeast;
And every one said, 'If we only live,
We too will go to sea in a Sieve,---
  To the hills of the Chankly Bore!'
      Far and few, far and few,
            Are the lands where the Jumblies live;
      Their heads are green, and their hands are blue,
            And they went to sea in a Sieve.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I is for Ignatius

Ignatius J. Reilly, that is, hero/antihero of the hilarious A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. Ignatius is insanely self-righteous, dishonest, filthy, impatient, gluttonous, egomaniacal, loud and lazy. And he's even mean to his mother. And yet, he possesses such a singular personality and voice (something like a cross between Don Quixote and Gargantua) that he manages to win a surprising amount of sympathy as he attempts to reconfigure the world according to his own peculiar standards. Long may he wield the avenging sword of taste & decency! Acrylic on text scanned from a Grove Press paperback, ~6"x 8.5"

Friday, July 13, 2012


Again, IF's timing seems almost uncanny. I'm feeling rather lost at the moment! With both my year of Oddments & my multiple-year children's book finished, my seemingly-eternal painting commission almost completed, & yet way too much assorted stuff going on in my life... I'm having a hard time staying pointed in one direction.

I'm actually used to getting lost, but mostly it happens on the road. Even though on paper I test well on spatial reasoning, & I can read a map relatively well, put me out in the real world & it is all too easy for me to get completely turned around. I think a big part of it is that I hate driving, so I tend to daydream in the car. Sometimes I blink out of some reverie & feel like I've suddenly landed on another planet, when probably I just missed a turn while thinking about some current obsession... I really should invest in a GPS. It would probably save time, gas & anxiety.

This is quite an old piece-- in fact, it was one of the first experimental pieces I did when I was exploring the paint-on-print style that is now my usual modus operandi. Looking back, that was another time when I felt very lost artistically (hence the subject!) but in fact I was finding myself in a big way. I guess I should take comfort in that!

Acrylic on text from The Automobile Green Book, 1921-- a fascinating document actually, detailing road trips around New England when road trips were a very different experience! ~5.5"x5.5"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

H is for Harold

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is a fellow who inspired continual torments of envy when I first encountered him as a child. Harold's purple crayon enables him to create whatever he can imagine, & he inhabits his drawings as real environments. I longed fiercely for this magical ability when I was little (& still feel residual pangs now & then, to be honest!) but I've since come to understand that in a sense, all artists live at least part of their lives in the imaginary worlds they create. I'm sure that's one of the reasons we do what we do!

I still love Crockett Johnson's Harold and the Purple Crayon. It is a perfect, simple, brilliant little gem of a book. The art is so pure that it made me a little sick to interpret Harold in my own style, much like the way I felt when Hergé's ligne claire was mangled into 3-D/motion-capture for the recent Tintin movie... (shudder)... 

So Harold, I owe you two heartfelt apologies. For my endless daydreams of getting hold of your magic crayon when I was little, & for messing with your gorgeous clean lines today. Please forgive me!

Acrylic on text scanned from Harold & an ad for Milton Bradley crayons scanned from Primary Education magazine, January 1923, ~6"x3.3"

Oh yes, about the "H"s-- this one is rather like those brain-teasers where you have to find all the overlapping squares in a geometric drawing. You have to imagine some lines out of the way. And in this case, imagine one line segment in. ;-) (Confession-- even I didn't bother to count them!)

Monday, July 2, 2012

G is for Gregor Samsa

Sorry for the long absence, folks-- a family emergency and major book deadline led me on a not-so-merry waltz for the last week or so. Whew! Luckily everyone came out of it alive & well, except for my poor neglected Oddments. I'll try to catch up with the missing AlphaBooks, but for now I'm jumping on to this week's model. Gregor Samsa is the protagonist of Franz Kafka's novella, The Metamorphosis. The poor fellow wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a hideous insectoid vermin. The ensuing events make my crazy week seem comparatively benign!

I couldn't find my copy of The Metamorphosis, nor did I have time to hit up the library or bookstore, so I was delighted to find the full text on Project Gutenberg. I printed out the opening passages in book-esque form, (~5"x8") & took it from there with the usual acrylic assault.

Do you see the big G? There are a few more tossed in for good measure.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

E is for Eeyore

This week's character for AlphaBooks is the ever-despondent Eeyore, from A.A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh books. The text selection is from Chapter One of The House At Pooh Corner, & features the depressive donkey struggling mightily to simulate optimism.

I had to twist the poor fellow around quite a bit to form any semblance of an "E"-- do you see it?-- but he seems to be bearing it bravely with only a few deep sighs & doleful glances.

You might find more "E"s here & there if you look closely. And if you are flaky enough to count Morse code . . . . . . . there are lots of 'em! ;-)

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1988 E.P. Dutton edition, with some PS tinkering, ~5"x7".

p.s. Did you know that the Pooh stories were based on real toys owned by the real Christopher Robin Milne?

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Announcing the winners of the first ever Oddments Giveaway! *drum-roll*

1st Prize: Jim Doran
2nd: dosankodebbie
3rd: Creations By Mit

Please e-mail me (via my profile) with your mailing address & let me know which oddment print you would prefer. :-)

(All entries were written on slips of paper, folded up, & picked out of a paper lunch bag by my son.)

My heartfelt thanks to all who entered, & all who have followed, commented, & visited Oddments during the first year! It has been so much fun getting to know you all.

p.s. About the art: okay, this wasn't technically a sweepstakes, but hey, it's close enough for Oddments. :-) In fact, I just found out that there is something called an odd entry sweepstakes. Hmmm.

I sketched out this oddment a good while ago for IF's prompt "Swept," but something came up & I couldn't finish at the time, so she has been patiently waiting in the wings for her turn in the spotlight. And now it turns out that she's so shy, she's trying to sweep it up!

Photoshop with text from a vintage dictionary-- I've forgotten which one I used.

Monday, June 11, 2012

D is for Don Quixote

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is Don Quixote, the delightfully eccentric knight from the eponymous novel by Miguel de Cervantes. Not only was this one of the world's first novels, it occurs to me that it may also be the first recorded example of medieval cosplay.

I love this passage near the beginning where Cervantes describes the Don's descent into madness due to excessive book consumption. "...and so from little sleep and much reading, his brain dried up and he lost his wits." Let this be a lesson to you, readers! ;-)

Acrylic on text scanned from 1976 Penguin Classics edition, translation by J.M.Cohen, ~4.5"x7.5"

Click to see all the sneaky D's!

Also folks, don't miss the giveaway drawing! Entries end at midnight on 12 July!

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Do any of you remember these oddments? They arrived for the very first post (in digital form) & now they've returned (in acrylic this time) for the anniversary party.

And in honor of the occasion, I'm having my first-ever giveaway drawing! There will be three prize-winners: first prize will win this original painting, plus a signed, archival oddment print of their choice. Second & third will each win  a signed, archival oddment print of their choice. The first prize will be chosen from my pre-existing followers, while the other two will be from anyone who follows the blog, even if they join on the last day of the drawing. I'll choose the names one week from today (12 June 2012), & announce the winners on the 13th.

In order to be eligible for the drawing, just follow (if you don't already) & leave a comment below. And thank you all from the bottom of my heart for following, commenting, & making this odd year of oddments so much fun! 

I still can't believe it has really been a full year. When I started, I gravely doubted whether I'd make it this far. (I was reminding my husband of my opening post, when I said "Because it's my birthday & I'm allowed to do as I like, I'm daring myself to post an odd little creature of some kind on every odd day until my next birthday, or until I go completely mad, whichever comes first!" His response: "Define completely!") :-D

I didn't manage to post on every single odd day-- computer trouble & other impediments held me up from time to time-- but I came a whole lot closer than I'd feared, & I enjoyed the experience even more than I'd hoped!

For the next little while, I'll be easing up on the schedule a bit, but I couldn't possibly stop altogether. In fact, soon I'll be announcing a special new project. I can say no more! ;-)

Acrylic on text scanned from A Thousand Ways to Please A Husband, 1917 (much less racy than it sounds-- it's essentially a recipe book with stories), ~5"x 6.5"

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Speed Demon

Although I'm a fast walker, I'm a very slow painter. This blog has largely been an exercise in speeding up, letting go of some of my perfectionist & horror-vacui tendencies, & getting out of my own way. It's been a struggle (& to be honest, I'm still struggling) but I have learned an awful lot & had loads of fun.

And I can hardly believe it, but I'm coming down the home stretch! My next post (7 June 2012) will mark one year of oddments.* My, how those days hurried by!

Acrylic on text scanned from The Complete Instructor in Boxing, Swimming, Gymnastics, Pedestrianism, Horse Racing, Prize Fighting, Boat Raceing (sic) and Other Sports, 1881. The title is almost longer than the book. ;-)

* I'll be doing something special for the anniversary. Stay tuned!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

C is for Charlotte

This week's entry for AlphaBooks is everyone's favorite spider, Charlotte (from E.B.White's Charlotte's Web.) I've always been fairly severely arachnophobic, yet I still fell utterly in love with this character. She is one admirable arachnid.

Sadly, I don't feel this painting does her justice, but I've gone completely cross-eyed putting highlights on all those tiny dewdrops, so I give up!!

Acrylic on text scanned from a hardbound edition of uncertain date-- 1962 is my best guess-- with Photoshopical adjustments, ~ 5"x8"

p.s. I did try to throw in a few "C"s-- some clearer than others-- how many do u C?

Friday, June 1, 2012


When I saw this week's IF prompt ("hurry") I thought about traffic jams. I don't enjoy driving, least of all in heavy traffic. Also, I think modern cars are needlessly boring. Wouldn't it be much more tolerable to be stuck in traffic if there were interesting vehicles to look at instead of a sea of clones?

Acrylic, ink & white gouache on c.1950 mileage report form, ~4.5" x 7"

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Do you remember the glory days of the Hi-Top Fade? For this guy they never ended!

Acrylic on used paintbrush, ~1"x 8"

Sunday, May 27, 2012

B is for Bloom

Continuing the AlphaBooks project, another of my very favorite books: James Joyce's Ulysses. This passage is from Chapter 17, Ithaca. The entire chapter is in the form of a scholarly catechism. It's that sort of playful, inventive use of language that makes me so crazy about this book. You might say it's a grown-up version of Carroll's wordplay in Alice. Oh, I could go on & on about it, but if you've read it, you already know, & if you haven't, just read it & find out, okay? :-)

In this scene Bloom discovers that he has forgotten his key & decides to scale a fence to get into his house without waking his wife. I had to contort poor Bloom quite a bit to make him into an admittedly  wonky "B". But I imagine he had to contort himself too, to get over that railing!

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1961 Vintage edition, with a few Photoshopical interventions, ~8"x 8"

p.s My Bloom was loosely inspired by Joyce's own sketch.

Friday, May 25, 2012


When I saw Illustration Friday's prompt this morning, I thought of yesterday's gardening session-- not only the faded flowers I was deadheading, but the faded way I felt after excessive stooping, pulling weeds in the hot sun!

At first I thought it would be fun to do a stencil over colored paper & leave it in the garden to fade, but I realized that might take too long, so I decided to use bleach as my "ink" so as to fade the paper more quickly.

It was strange drawing with bleach, because the marks were almost invisible as I made them, developing over time in a mysterious & somewhat unpredictable way. It was almost like drawing "blind" actually, only I could see where to put the next line, if I waited long enough. Definitely not at all like drawing with white ink, despite the similar final effect.

If you try this, DO NOT use a treasured brush or nib, because the bleach will wreak major oxidative havoc with it. Even in the short time it took to do this sketch, the brand-new nib I'd loaded rusted out shockingly, & I had to keep wiping the rust off it to keep the lines light! Luckily I buy Hunt's 108 nibs by the dozen so I have plenty to spare.

Also, I'm pretty certain this process is not at all archival! But still, fun for an experiment.

Chlorine bleach on colored paper, ~2.5"x5"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blind as a (Mole) Rat

This oddment was (very loosely) inspired by the naked mole rat, everybody's favorite, cuddly-cute pet, right? %}

I first learned about this curious species in the movie Fast, Cheap & Out of Control-- an entertaining documentary about four unusual & obsessive fellows, one of whom, Ray Mendez, studies the nearly-blind, tunnel-dwelling, hive-social, queen-dominated NMR.

Acrylic on found package of Tonetex Opthalmic Lens, ~2.25"x3" (open)

Monday, May 21, 2012

A is for Alice

Today marks the inauguration of AlphaBooks, the new weekly challenge by Ben Towle, Andrew Neal & Rich Barrett.

"AlphaBooks is the name of the game. We will be drawing ficitonal characters from books every week - one for each letter of the alphabet. On the first day (Monday, May 21), everyone will draw characters whose names start with the letter “A.”  The following monday, we’ll draw characters whose names start with the letter “B.” And so on!"

I decided to do a series of illustrated letters whose only restriction is that the book has to be one that I have read, preferably one that I've loved. Of course my A had to be Alice! How appropriate that she came first, since the book is one of my earliest & longest-lasting obsessions-- I still love reading it to this day.

I first encountered Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as an audio recording when I had a series of blinding headaches at the age of six. My mom would put me to bed with a hot cloth over my eyes (the treatment our doctor prescribed), then put on Alice to keep me company. I would drift in & out of a semi-hallucinatory state (which I now know to be a feature of migraines), absorbing Lewis Carroll's astonishing story. Painful as it was, it was a curiously appropriate way to experience Alice...

When deciding which scene to illustrate, I thought of Illustration Friday's prompt "sight" & remembered Alice's first sight of the garden, through the tiny hidden door. There are 3 "A"s in the picture... do you see them? (Click the image for a closer view.)

Acrylic on text scanned from a 1946 Random house edition given me by my dear friend Nat, ~5"x8"

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Sometimes I really think Illustration Friday is reading my mind! Lately I've been experimenting with drawing under various constraints, a series I call Oddbody Exercises. I've already done one post on "blind" drawing, & inspired by IF's prompt "sight" I think I will keep at it. We'll see if I improve over the course of the week. :-)

Again, it's obvious how much easier calligraphy is than actual drawing. The only clear result of writing "blind" is some occasional unintentional crossing/connecting (the "g" & "e"  & the small "s"s), an uneven baseline, & slightly wonky spacing between the "g" & "h". Once again, muscle memory did much of the work.

The little critter, on the other hand, fully reveals my faulty mental map! In my mind those wildly divergent lines on the back & butt were connecting perfectly. Ha! Also the shading lines were intended to fall right along the belly.

I think I'll try using my left hand as a frame next time, to try for a more accurate spacial sense. Stay tuned!

Thursday, May 17, 2012


You can probably tell from my profile icon that I have a thing for horse-chestnuts. I usually have a few hanging around the house, & it suddenly occurred to me that I should paint one for IF's kernel prompt!

Acrylic on horse-chestnut kernel, ~2" wide

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


For the past few days I have been working non-stop on a series of illuminated certificates... hand-lettered names & countless tiny golden leaves... & even though I used a magnifier for the tiniest bits, by the time the job was done, my eyes were really very tired. So it actually felt good to continue my Oddbody Exercises with "blind" drawing & calligraphy.

I've drawn & lettered with my eyes closed before & it always strikes me how much more "normal" the writing looks than the drawing. Calligraphy seems largely a matter of muscle memory for me, while drawing requires far more eye-brain-hand communication. I find that whenever I lift the pencil, it becomes a near-literal stab in the dark to put the next line where I envision it in my mind's eye. I have a feeling that if I did a lot of this, I'd probably develop a  more accurate mind-map, but I don't have the energy to keep trying right now.

Oh yes-- I had to do the calligraphy with a felt tip pen, because I couldn't tell when the dip pen had run out of ink! This is my 5th try on the lettering, by the way. Third try on the drawing... maybe I'll do more later, once I've had a little of the REAL shut-eye!

p.s. The ever-inventive Ted Blackman sent me this amazing & hilarious (virtual) tool for behind-the-back mirrored mouth-painting!!!! (If you missed the Mouthy post, check out his comment there & this will make more sense. Or rather, its senselessness will be slightly more understandable. Maybe.) Thanks so much, Ted, this made my day!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Fructus Reborn

I don't usually like to show older pieces here, but with Mother's Day & IF's "kernel" prompt coinciding, this oddment insisted it belonged here, & it just wouldn't shut up! So I spoke with the crazy lady who makes the rules for this blog & she said I could do it just this once.
;-) I've actually made some (slight) changes to the piece since I last posted it on Curious Art, so it isn't 100% old, anyway. Can you spot the tweaks?

Acrylic on text & illustrations (from 19th c. botanical textbooks) on canvas, 6"x6"

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! And happy kernel week too!

Friday, May 11, 2012


I promised Ces I would do it, & here it is! Yes, it's a mouth drawing. I knew this wouldn't be easy, but I wasn't expecting quite so many challenges.

I found out right away why most mouth artists are painters, because when I tried to use a pencil, I could barely make a visible mark, even with a 4B lead. It was almost impossible to put enough pressure on the pencil without losing control of the line entirely.

A Sharpie might do the job, but rather than breathe too many of those nasty ink fumes (& potentially do more harm to my brain than good!) I decided to try using my Pentel Pocket Brushpen, along with some diluted purply-brownish ink applied with a Chinese bamboo brush.

Another unexpected challenge: it was hard to focus clearly on what I was doing when my face was so close to the paper. I suspect most mouth artists use long brushes for this reason-- some, like Ben Nevis, use special rigs to extend the brush. I had to stop & sit back frequently to make sure the marks I was making weren't completely off-target. I think it would probably be better to work a little larger too, to minimize wobble issues.

Silliest unexpected challenge: drool! Several times I came close to an unintended bleed wash. :-P°°°  Afterward I realized that most people do mouth painting with an easel, which would help a lot. Would probably save on neck pain too. If I ever try this again I'll definitely tweak my technique.

Ink on paper, ~5"x4.5"

p.s. I'd planned something completely different to mark the 150th oddment, but once again time did not permit. :-( Still, this is Oddments & Curiosities' sesquicentoddical!

p.p.s. Ces, before you issue any more challenges, I must preemptively state that this is the one & only orifice I will offer to my Oddbody exercises!

Edit: If you haven't seen Ted's contribution (hinted at below) to my virtual Oddbody toolbox, please have a look at the Shut-Eye post!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Don't worry, folks, you are not watching a Louis-Wain-style breakdown take place before your eyes! I'm just on a momentary sidetrack, playing with odd drawing restrictions. (I'm calling this series Oddbody Exercises.) This one was inspired by Ces's comment on my last post. I doubt I would have thought of foot drawing otherwise, but once she put the idea in my head I just had to try it!

Wow. I thought non-dominant hand drawing was tough! This was my dominant foot, if there is such a thing, & it took three tries to come up with something that was actually recognizable as some sort of drawing. My first efforts resembled bird tracks, or perhaps something generated by a drawing machine. I had to slow waaaay down to have any control whatsoever. Even so, I couldn't draw a smooth curve to save my life! I doubt that a career as a foot artist is in my future.

Pencil (held between the toes of my right foot) on paper, ~4.5"x6.5"

p.s. Although this is roughly (& I do mean roughly!) my idea of what Bigfoot might look like, I suspect I was also subconsciously influenced by Sendak's Wild Things. Speaking of which, if you haven't seen Cory Godbey's Sendak-inspired site Terrible Yellow Eyes, you should do it right this minute!

R.I.P. Mr. S. <3  If there is an afterlife, let the wild rumpus start!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Out of Left Field

I guess that's where this critter & my recent urge for non-dominant drawing came from! I had rather a long & stressful day today, & found it strangely comforting to draw something quick, messy & pointless tonight. :-) It still intrigues me that my left hand has so little control-- everything is wobbly, lines veer off in completely unexpected directions, & it's also much harder to regulate pressure. Come to think of it, that pretty much describes my day!!

Pencil on paper, non-dominant handed, ~2.5"x3.5"

Saturday, May 5, 2012


When I saw Illustration Friday's prompt this week the first thing that came into my mind was the expression "a hitch in his giddy-up." (Maybe I've been listening to too many episodes of Sparks Nevada, Marshal on Mars? No, one can never have too much Thrilling Adventure Hour.)

That phrase together with last post's musings on balance & symmetry & the brain got me thinking about non-dominant-hand drawing again. Have you ever tried this? I'm thoroughly right-handed, but now & then I like to give Lefty a turn. And Lefty is mighty wobbly! Originally I was just doing this for fun & planned to proceed to my usual Photoshop rendering, but I changed my mind & decided to post the left-handed sketch instead. Look at all those shaky lines! I found I had to put down at least 3 marks for my usual one to get to the line I was after. There is definitely a hitch in Lefty's giddy-up!

But I know it is possible to improve non-dominant co-ordination. One of my many obsessions is hoop dance, & it has taught me a lot about side-dominance in all sorts of movements. Most people naturally hoop in a certain direction, for instance, & find going the opposite way far more challenging. And once you get into the tricky stuff using multiple hoops, you really have to work to get your non-dominant hand up to speed. In my case I thought Lefty would never catch up, but with enough practice I've become nearly hoopidextrous. Or would that be ambihoopstrous? Anyway, I'm a fervent believer in training both body & brain via play, so maybe I'll try sketching left-handed for a while & see where that gets me. (Not into the loony bin, I hope.)

Actually, some scientists propose that working with the non-dominant hand stimulates & protects the brain from future dementia. See? Acting a little off-kilter could be good for you! (If so, I'm in luck!)

Scanners, however, should be thoroughly, even boringly, balanced. I'm distressed to see how asymmetrical the color is on this scan. Anyone know how to remedy that problem?

Pencil on paper, non-dominant handed, ~2"x4"