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"

Thursday, May 3, 2012


This one goes out to my dear friend Nat, a.k.a. Rince1Wind. 

(See her comment on Jumpy if you want to know why.)

Bilateral symmetry is highly overrated if you ask me. I often wear mismatched earrings (okay, I also lose earrings at a frightening rate so this is in part a practical habit) & since I do most of my shopping at the flea market, not much in my house matches either. I know quite a few people who truly can't stand mismatched lamps or candlesticks or end-tables. It's almost like a physical repulsion for them. Where do you fall on the symmetry question?

p.s. It's not that I dislike symmetry--I often find it absolutely beautiful-- I just like asymmetry too!

p.p.s. This song by Jane Siberry has been running through my head the whole time I was writing this. Clearly she is in the pro-symmetry camp, although to my ear her music actually sounds rather asymmetrical much of the time. Curiouser & curiouser!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I admit it-- I'm a nervous type. At the best of times I startle ridiculously easily. And it has been a stressful couple of weeks lately, so yes, I've been more than a little jumpy.

Much like this poor fellow. He's also in the painting, or perhaps it's his less-anxious twin, because he looks a lot happier there.