Friday, December 5, 2008

The Umbrella Boat

Well, I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. We spent a few days with Chris' family in Arizona which was relaxing, but seemed like an unusually short vacation... I guess vacations always seem too short once they're over. We spent an afternoon in Sedona and the night in Jerome at the reputedly "haunted" Connor Hotel. I'd been to Sedona when I was a teenager and remembered how beautiful it was, but even good, clear memories (or even photos for that matter) don't do the place justice. These were taken from the vantage point of The Chapel of the Holy Cross:

Here's a drawing done while awaiting sketch approvals for my current project:
I haven't yet drawn in the rocky wall in the background, but I thought I'd go ahead and post it anyway since it may be a while before I get back to it. This is drawn up from an eight-year-old or so thumbnail and related to this painting.

Only three more weeks until Christmas and we will be off to St. Louis to visit my family. I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season! I wish everyone a belated Happy Thanksgiving and an early Merry Christmas!

Friday, November 7, 2008

SCBWI Event in Austin

Next Thursday, Nov. 13, The Austin Society of Children's Book Writer's & Illustrators is holding a celebration at Bookpeople. I'll be there signing three of my books along with over twenty other authors & illustrators. Here's a glimpse of the evening's schedule:

6:30 Social Time - Second Floor
Visit and enjoy refreshments

7:00 A Holiday Reading - Amphitheater
Join us in the amphitheater as Philip Yates (in full pirate costume) reads from his latest book, A Pirates Night Before Christmas (Sterling, 2008)

7:15 Picture Book Panel Discussion - Amphitheater
Featuring: Greg Leitich Smith, Philip Yates, Don Tate, & Emma Virgan. Moderated by Brian Anderson.

Middle Grade/Young Adult Panel discussion - Second Floor by the Stairs
Featuring: Lila Guzman, Shana Burg, P.J. Hoover, Helen Hemphill, and Jo Whittemore. Moderated by Tim Crow.

8:15 Young Adult Panel - Third Floor
Featuring: Jennifer Ziegler, Cynthia Leitich Smith, April Lurie, Brian Yansky, & Varian Johnson. Moderated by Julie Lake.

6:30 - 9:00 pm @

603 North Lamar
Austin, TX 78703

Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

I hope everyone has their candy ready for trick-or-treaters tonight! This is our first Halloween in our current apartment so I don't know if we'll have any kids stopping by or not. We live on the third floor, so they'll have to make a little extra effort to get some of our candy!

It was so long ago that I can barely remember the last time I carved a pumpkin. But this year we attended a pumpkin-carving Halloween party, so we got a chance to relive that childhood experience. Somewhere along the way our pumpkin turned into a Totoro-esque jack-o-lantern. Unfortunately, one day sitting in the sun on our balcony was enough to flatten his ears and widen then gaps between his teeth. So he his toothy smile is a bit diminished in this picture, but you get the idea:
Autumn is my favorite season and I love all of the trappings of the season - colorful leaves, gourds, pine-cones, etc. I stumbled across this "pumpkin tree" (also known as Solanum) at our local Central Market the other day and just couldn't help myself. Apparently it's a relative of the eggplant!Well, now I think I'll go finish off the last of the pumpkin pie. Hope you all have a good Halloween!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Autumn Migration

We must be in the flight path of the monarch migrations to Mexico here in Austin because I have seen so many of them over the last few weeks! A couple weeks ago we hiked Commons Ford park which is west of the city and everywhere I looked I'd spot a monarch. They seemed especially fond of one particular type of flower which were quite plentiful in the park. I've seen a a good number of the other 'big butterflies' around too, swallowtails and such. Monarchs are a real childhood favorite of mine!

Every so often I discover that my husband has, unbeknownst to me, lent his hand to my work. Sometimes his little additions go unnoticed for days or weeks until I've come back to the drawing for reworking or reference. I always get a good laugh from these unexpected contributions:
And so I continue to labor under his corrupting influence...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Sneak Peek

Well, after a blistering summer it's finally starting to cool down around here. It still gets a bit uncomfortably warm around mid-day, but mornings have actually been a bit chilly. So the past couple weekends, we took advantage of the pleasant mornings and went out for a bit of hiking. First stop was McKinney Falls - three miles on the Onion Creek Trail ending at the falls which were more of a trickle, but with very neat rock formations.

And last weekend we hit three really small parks that all happened to be in the same area. The tower in the picture was at Mayfield Park which seemed to be a popular site for weddings. A young brood of peacocks occupied the grounds. The males seemed to revel in practicing displaying their tails which were not all that grand yet since they were still quite young, but that didn't discourage them in the least.

And the last picture is a view from the top of Mount Bonnell which seems to be something of a tourist site.

Lastly, for the sneak peek of what I'm working on - a couple character design sheets for my current book projects - a follow-up to What's Your Angle, Pythagoras?:

Octavius is only twelve, but he is very big. He's a nervous, worrying type.

Amara is nine years old and somewhat bossy. Her name means "eternal."

Friday, October 3, 2008

Yet Another Orphan Works Update

For those following the issue, I received this e-mail alert this morning:

From the Illustrator's Partnership:

According to our sources


If this Bill is only meant to help libraries and museums, why did they draft it behind closed doors?

Why have the doors been opened wide for commercial infringement of the work of living authors actively licensing their work?

Why do they want to pass it when nobody's looking?

Why do they want to re-write copyright law without an open debate?

Stop this effort to give content to Big Internet firms by undermining copyright law.

Get the word out.

· Light up Washington and home offices of your Congressman.
· Contact the media.
· Deny them cover. Do not let them hide.

Tell them we will hold each of them accountable.

THE MESSAGE for your Congressman, Key Leaders, Aides, Media

· The "Dark Archive" - where infringers can register their paperwork in secret - will not protect our copyrights.

· An "Open Archive" - with orphaned work exposed to to the public - would be a come-and-get-it bank for plagiarists and infringers.

· Artists cannot monitor tens or hundreds of thousands of images every day to see if somebody somewhere has infringed their work.

· There are more than a trillion images subject to orphaning each day.

· If someone can't find me, that doesn't mean I've orphaned my work.

· An unsuccessful search for a property owner should not be a license to steal.

· Artists should not have to digitize their life's work at their own expense to comply with a law they don't want or need.

· The high cost compliance would make compliance prohibitive.

· The loss of exclusive rights would undermine contractual agreements with clients.

· We cannot sell exclusive rights to clients if others can publish our work without our knowledge or consent.

· The loss of exclusive rights would devalue our entire inventories of work.

· Small business owners should not be forced to subsidize the business models of Big Internet firms.

· No rational business owner should have to give access to their inventory, metadata, client contact information, etc. to outside business interests.

Tell lawmakers to prevent passage of this bill until it can be subjected to an open, informed and transparent public examination.

Tell them this is no way to re-write copyright law.

Tell them it will affect millions of rights holders worldwide.

Tell them you would support a true orphan works bill, but this is not it.

Tell them to to consider the amendments presented by the Illustrators' Partnership, Artists Rights Society and Advertising Photographers of America

Phone, fax, email these Congresspeople immediately

DELAHUNT Phone: (202) 225-3111 Fax (202) 225-5658
Phone: (617) 770-3700 Fax: (617) 770-2984

CONYERS Phone: (202) 225-5126 Fax: (202) 225-0072
Phone: (313) 961-5670 Fax: (313) 226-2085

NADLER Phone: (202) 225-5635 Fax: (202) 225-6923
Phone: (212) 367-7350 Fax: (212) 367-7356

BERMAN Phone: (202) 225-4695 Fax: (202) 225-3196
Phone: (818) 994-7200 Fax: (818) 994-1050

Phone: (202) 225-4965 Fax: (202) 225-8259
Phone: (415) 556-4862 Fax: (415) 861-1670

Phone: (202) 225-4131 Fax: (202) 225-4300
Phone: (301) 474-0119 Fax: (301) 474-4697

To find Washington and District Office phone, fax and web forms for your Representative
and enter your zip code

To find the contacts for your Local Media go to
and enter your zip code

- Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Board of the Illustrators' Partnership

Please post or forward this message immediately to any interested party.


For news and information:
Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works Blog:

Over 75 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators.

U.S. Creators and the image-making public can email Congress through the Capwiz site: 2 minutes is all it takes to tell the U.S. Congress to uphold copyright protection for the world's artists.

INTERNATIONAL ARTISTS please fax these 4 U.S. State Agencies and appeal to your home representatives for intervention.

CALL CONGRESS: 1-800-828-0498. Tell the U.S. Capitol Switchboard Operator "I would like to leave a message for Congressperson __________ that I oppose the Orphan Works Act." The switchboard operator will patch you through to the lawmaker's office and often take a message which also gets passed on to the lawmaker. Once you're put through tell your Representative the message again.

If you received our mail as a forwarded message, and wish to be added to our mailing list, email us at: Place "Add Name" in the subject line, and provide your name and the email address you want used in the message area. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

Orphan Works Passed in Senate

For those interested, I received this e-mail last night:


Orphan Works Opposition: Plan B

SEPT 27 Yesterday, in a cynical move, the sponsors of the Senate Orphan Works Act passed their controversial bill by a controversial practice known as hotlining.

With lawmakers scrambling to raise 700 billion dollars to bail out businesses that are "too big to fail," the Senate passed a bill that would force small copyright holders to subsidize big internet interests such as Google, which has already said it plans to use millions of the images this bill will orphan.

With the meltdown on Wall Street, this is no time for Congress to concentrate our nation's copyright wealth in the hands of a few privately owned corporate databases. The contents of these databases would be more valuable than secure banking information. Yet this bill would compel creators to risk their own intellectual property to supply content to these corporate business models. That means it would be our assets at risk in the event of their failure or mismanagement.

As David Rhodes, President of the School of Visual Arts has said, the Orphan Works bill would socialize the expense of copyright protection while privatizing the profit of creative endeavors. Copyright owners neither want nor need this legislation. It will do great harm to small businesses. We already have a banking crisis. Congress should not lay the groundwork for a copyright crisis.

--Brad Holland and Cynthia Turner, for the Illustrators' Partnership


We MUST try to stop the House Judiciary Committee from folding their bill (HR5889) and adopting the Senate version.

If you've done it before, do it again!

It takes only a minute to use our new special letter.
Click on the link below, enter your zip code, and take the next steps.
Thanks to all of you who heeded the call to action yesterday.


For ongoing developments, go to the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works blog:

Over 70 organizations oppose this bill, representing over half a million creators. Illustrators, photographers, fine artists, songwriters, musicians, and countless licensing firms all believe this bill will harm their small businesses.

The Capwiz site is open to professional creators and any member of the image-making public. International artists will find a special link, with a sample letter and instructions as to whom to write.

If you received our mail as a forwarded message, and wish to be added to our mailing list, email us at: Place "Add Name" in the subject line, and provide your name and the email address you want used in the message area.

Please post or forward this email to any interested party."

Friday, August 22, 2008

You Know You Live in Texas...

when you find a lizard in your house. Last week I found a tiny lizard skittering up the wall next to the fireplace. Fortunately we were able to catch him in a paper cup before the cat had any idea of what was going on. I tried to take a picture of him, but it was dark outside and he was rather camera shy. I think he might have been a Mediterranean Gecko. It must be lizard-hatching season or something because another baby lizard had taken up residence in my fern for a while. He was a little less camera-shy:

Well, I’m just beginning work on a new book project, so I probably won’t be posting much by way of art for quite some time. I’ll give out more details about the book when I’m closer to finishing and when the title is finalized and such. In the meantime, here are a couple of illustrations I painted for Spider last year. The (true!) story was about some beavers that found a bag of stolen money and used it to construct their lodge. I was particularly pleased with the way the water turned out on the second piece:

By the way, if you happen to be in a bookstore check out the September issue of Highlights. I painted a rooster to accompany one of the articles!

Also, for those following the Orphan Works Issue - here's the SBA Orphan Works Roundtable Webcast.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

For those of you following or interested in the Orphan Works issue, I've just received this e-mail from the Illustrator's Partnership:






To find your Senators' phone numbers go to the Illustrators' Partnership Orphan Works site:

At the top of the home page, click on "Elected Officials"
You'll find a US map:
Click on your state,
Then "Senators,"
Then click on each Senator's name,
Then click "Contact."
This will give you their phone numbers.

Please phone and fax them both."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Squirrels in Summer

We've had the most blistering heat for weeks and weeks here. So we've been pretty much confined to the indoors as of late which I suppose is just as well. Less time outside means getting a little bit more time for work.This piece was a private commission. The buyer was particularly fond of an older painting of mine, "Cherry-picking Mice," so we created a design very similar to that one. It's intended to be the first of four small seasonal paintings. How appropriate to paint a summer scene in the summer! It seems I'm usually painting Christmas scenes in the spring and summer scenes in the winter, for once I'm painting 'in season.'

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Illness, Orphan Works, & Some Flowers

Where does the time go? I just noticed that my last post was in early April - and now it's July! Where did I disappear to for so long? Well, I fell quite ill in the end of April and did little more than stay home, sleep, and watch tv for several weeks. I've never been so sick in all my life and hope that I'm never so sick again!

So, since then I've spent massive amounts of time researching and implementing a new crazy-strict diet that I'm trying out in the hopes that it will help to keep me healthy. Unfortunately (or fortunately), carrying out the diet requires a good deal of home-cooking, label-reading, and searching for obscure ingredients. This is not so bad to me since I like cooking, but my goodness, it has been a time-sink recently.

Anyway, I do have a new piece of art to post, but I'm holding it for a future post. I'd meant to post months ago about the Orphan Works Act that's currently in Congress, but sleeping on the couch seemed much more important (and unavoidable) at the time. So I know I'm really late on the subject, but in the off-chance that there's anybody left out there who still doesn't know about this - There are currently two bills making their way through government - the Senate version, S. 2913: Shawn Bentley Orphan Works Act of 2008 and the House version, H.R. 5889: Orphan Works Act of 2008. The bills set out to free up "orphaned works" (those which are no longer covered by copyright or whose copyright owners cannot be found) for use by cultural institutions, museums, libraries, etc. Sounds nice in principle, but the bills have been drafted in such a broad, sweeping manner that living copyright owners' work may be considered "orphaned" simply because an infringer/user could not locate the owner.

Most artists are upset about this legislation for many reasons -
- If someone else is using our work, without our permission/knowledge, than the exclusivity of our right to exploit the work (as set out in current copyright law) is null and void. We would lose a degree of decision making power regarding our own work. For those that don't know - it's very important to maintain exclusivity of the rights to one's works especially when licensing work to companies, as many arrangements are for specific exclusive rights, i.e. exclusive greeting card rights, etc.
- the possibility of needing to register our work with multiple (currently non-existent) databases to avoid unwanted use at unknown expense to the artist and potentially large amounts of time uploading art that would be better spent on making new art.
- the limitation on damages for unauthorized use
- violation of international copyright law
And so on.... Brad Holland of the Illustrators Partnership explains it in this audio interview. He's speaking in 2008, but referring to the 2006 versions of the bills since the 2008 versions were not available at the time. All the same, it is still relevant to the current proposals:

The Illustrators Partnership has tons of articles on the subject. The most current ones are at the bottom of the page. This one is set up as a Q & A.

For an opinion not directly from an artist, here's a letter to the House of Representatives from a lawyer who works with creative industries.

So, what to do - if you want to oppose these amendments, there are several pre-written, editable e-mail letters here. All you have to do is choose a letter, fill in your name and address and you're done.

For people outside the U.S. wishing to oppose the amendments, there's a letter here. Scroll to the bottom to find addresses where to send them. International voices are very important in opposing these bills as they will affect artists and creators globally.

And lastly, there's a petition, albeit not the most well-written one, here.

The broad manner in which these bills were written seem, to me at least, to be the product of a society and/or people that regard art & its inherent bundle of exclusive rights as something other than personal private property (which is exactly what it is - the "P" in "IP") and what artists do as something less than work. I'm all for cultural institutions getting access to truly orphaned works - just not at the expense of the living artists who create the content that will fill their halls in the future.

So, that's the last of my activism for today. Now, to happy-it-up around here with some pictures of wildflowers taken back in April pre-illness. These pictures were taken off the side of the highway on my husband's drive to work:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Road Trip!

Wildflower season isn't over yet, so I thought I'd try once more to find the sweeping fields of flowers that I'm so longing to see. I'd read that Marble Falls is a wildflower-heavy location, so we took the hour-long drive northeast out of Austin to see what we could find.

I can honestly say we did not find a shocking amount of wildflowers on the drive over, nor did I notice any wildflowers to speak of in Marble Falls - most likely because I don't really know where to look. It seemed that the best patches of flowers were along the highways right in and around Austin. But all was not lost - I planned ahead such that in the event we did not discover the desired wildflower treasure at the end of the journey, we would still have something else to explore. We drove just a little beyond Marble Falls and visited Longhorn Caverns. The picture is the entrance to the cave - all the pictures shot inside the cave were too dark to bother posting. It was a pleasant 70 degrees inside the cave - very nice respite from the warmer weather we've been having. Pretty neat place - during the prohibition years, the cave had served as a speakeasy complete with a dance-floor in a sizeable 'ballroom.'

After touring the cave, we took a hike along a short nature trail at the end of which were some old buildings. They were very sturdy buildings and looked surprisingly new for the age. One had a spiral staircase which you could climb to the top of a tower and lookout over the land.

Though I was a bit disappointed not to have found my long sought-after fields of wildflowers, I was glad we'd been able to explore yet another interesting part of Texas. But we weren't finished quite yet - just as we entered Austin, Chris noticed a side-road just off the highway that was lined with dense patches of bluebonnets. We quickly turned around and went back so I could take some pictures. It was just what I'd been looking for - lovely patches of blue dotted with the red of Indian paintbrush. A perfect end to a pleasant road trip.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wildflower Season

Here's a couple pictures we took at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center:

I was hoping for sweeping fields of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush - I didn't quiet get that since this year's only an 'average' wildflower years as opposed to a 'spectacular' year, but even so, it was a nice place to visit. It's quite an attractive facility and even features a rain collection system that stores something like 10,000 gallons - very eco-friendly. So, I am still on the hunt for sweeping fields of bluebonnets. I hear the best spots are often to be found alongside highways.

After I caught up listening to the entire archive of "This American Life" over the last year or so, I started listening to the archives of "Speaking of Faith" which I'd occasionally hear on public radio in LA. They don't seem to play it here in Austin... But I just listened to this one a couple days ago and it is just so good I thought I'd share. If you're looking for something moving, here ya go:

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Harpist

Seems I'm not yet finished with my long hair kick or maybe, rather, it isn't finished with me. This sketch is somewhat vaguely inspired by some Japanese fairy-tales I was reading not long ago:I think this is going to be an experiment in style and technique. I'm thinking I'd like to ink the line work, paint it in watered-down acrylic for more of a watercolor look and then slap in some brighter, more opaque color in the sky and flowers. Might be tricky... It's hovering between two styles in my mind's eye and I'm not entirely sure how to approach it yet. We shall see how it turns out...

We intended to hike a 2.5 mile trail last weekend, but it somehow, magically turned into nine miles! We started out at Barton Creek - South Gus Fruh Park and ended up somewhere far, far away. The trails followed along both sides of a broad, dry creek-bed (looked wide enough to be a river to me!) We were pretty tired when we hit the half-way point and completely worn out by the end of the hike.

Wildflower season is nearly upon us and I am so looking forward to it! I hear the bluebonnets are quite a sight to behold. Now I just have to find all the bluebonnet fields!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Crane's Captive Revisited

My, oh my - seems I've been a bit neglectful updating here. Has it been a month already? Well, I haven't loads of news or anything, just the usual weekend hiking and, oh yes, a finished painting. It's been more or less finished for some time, but I've been picking at the details on and off for a while and therefore stalled in posting it online:The major problem I see with this one is in the closeness of value between the girl's face and the background. They just kind of blend together when the image is small, but it's actually looking a bit better since I added a touch for color to her pale face. This was a nice, relatively quick piece for me since I managed to leave the backgrounds very washy and really only build up the paint on the characters. The scan here is looking a bit warmer than the original for some reason. The original's just a bit cooler in the grays.

I am still debating whether this piece can be a print or not since it's a rather unusual size. Maybe a magnet or sticker... Well, either way, that will have to wait until our new computer is 100% up and running! Yes, we have a new computer! We decided it was time to replace our ancient seven-year old machine after many blue-screens-of-death, full scratch disks, and myriad other bizarre behavior. "Hobbes," the computer, still clunking along even today, was a loyal machine for a long time and will enjoy a quiet retirement in our closet.

Chris has been itching for a trail with ruins and 'urban decay' these days, so last weekend we trekked over t0 Balcones Park which is a green space that runs behind and between apartment and office buildings. Hopefully his urban decay cravings were satiated with the several bridges, tunnels, and battered concrete paths we came across in the park:

There was a nicely designed path starting at one of the office buildings and trailing off into the forest to join up with the rougher paths. Seems like it'd be such a lovely way to go to work - trekking through the forest!

Well, I think I'd best be off. The plants need watering, the laundry needs put away, and my husband will soon need picked up from work!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Crane's Captive

I have a new sketch that I'm about to start painting:

I had a dream wherein I saw dozens of pink flowers drifting lazily along a stream and then an overhead view of a boat. So, that's where the idea for this started. For a while I had only the girl in the boat, but it seemed like something was missing. I thought about adding a raven to the prow of the boat, but that still didn't seem quite right. I've been reading a book of Japanese fairy tales and one of them made mention of a crane and I thought, that's it! A crane is exactly what this picture needs! I did consider other tall water birds like herons and storks also and for a while it was kind of a toss-up between a crane and a heron, but the crane won out in the end since they are a bit more delicate and seemed more fitting for the illustration. Looking at all those pictures of herons makes me want to paint one though. They look a bit mean and rather unkempt - definitely a bird not to be messed with...

The weather's been so nice lately, so of course, we took advantage of it this past weekend and got in our weekly-when-possible hike over at St. Edwards Hill. This was one of those parks where there are dozens of little trails not shown on the map and therefore very easy to get lost. We managed not to get lost, but sometimes it felt like we weren't so sure where we were going. The most interesting feature of the park was a low dam where the water cascades over in a couple spots. It's such an odd sensation to stand on top of the dam and look out over the creek - almost like walking on water!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Amongst the Mangroves

At long last I have a new finished piece of art to post:

I suppose I'm reasonably satisfied with this piece. It seemed like it went a little smoother than usual and I managed to keep the paint fairly thin on the background which helps to cut down on time spent on the piece. What bothers me a bit is this isolated pool of red-orange that is the squirrel/boat. The warm yellow of the dragonflies was intended to balance out the orange of the squirrel, but I think they are too small to be as effective as I'd like. I did push some orange-ish color around in the background, but maybe not enough... All the same I think it came out okay.
Prints are in my Shop.

Not only have I finally gotten back to painting, but we've also gotten back to our frequent weekend hiking. We had a good long walk at nearby Bull Creek this past weekend. This trail was about three miles one way meandering back and forth across the wide creek. Where in LA we could clearly see the extremely parched condition of the land in the form of dry creek-beds and trickling waterfalls, here we could see the opposite - an abundance of water. We've heard the reason for this is that the soil's quite thin and underneath lies a layer of rock, so the water can't really soak into the ground and therefore channels into the many waterways that wind around the hills here. You can see how rocky the land is around the water in these pictures:

The trail came to an end in a small dog park. I have never seen so many happy dogs together in one place at the same time. It was fun to watch them splashing around in the water so exuberantly. I think they had the right idea too - it was surprisingly warm that day and the water looked so inviting!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Post-Holiday Post

I hope the New Year's finding everyone well and that you all had a relaxing holiday season. I'm just beginning to settle back down into something of an art-routine after a pretty busy holiday season. We spent the week of Christmas in Winslow, AZ with husband's family. Since changing our plane tickets was ridiculously expensive, we ended up making the fifteen hour drive (straight through on the way there!) . As much as I'm not one for long car-trips, I do enjoy the change of scenery and seeing parts of the country that I'd otherwise never see. There's something strangely reassuring about seeing vast undeveloped tracts of land - it's nice to know that not everywhere has been paved over and built into mini-malls! Our visits to Arizona are always so relaxing. I usually manage to get in some solid chunks of reading - this year it was Urchin of the Riding Stars - Book #1 of The Mistmantle Chronicles. I'd picked it up mostly for Omar Rayyan's illustrations, but I enjoyed the story too.

Toward the end of the week we drove over to Jerome, AZ which has got to be one of my favorite places to visit. It's a tiny town situated along a switchbacking road on the side of a low mountain overlooking a wide, open valley. The town consists of this odd mix of boutique shopping and crumbling, decrepit buildings. I guess back in the day it was a booming copper-mining town. I think the mine is still there, but no longer active. Now it's a tourist attraction. The first time we visited several years ago, we spent the day just roaming around taking pictures. This time, I decided to check out the shops while Chris hijacked the camera and shot reference photos for his work. If you ever make it over to northern Arizona, check it out. It's such a truly unique place.

Shortly after we came back to Austin, my parents came to town to visit. It gave us a good opportunity to check out some of the local attractions since we still haven't done much around here since arriving from LA. Unfortunately, everyone was sick at one point or another during their visit, so we had to keep our activities low-key. We did manage to visit a couple museums and walk along the river. All in all, it was a very relaxing holiday season.

I have a traditional painting in progress right now and otherwise not much to show, but I'll post this little digital piece that I whipped up the other day:

This isn't too far off from what my usual color studies look like, although my color studies are even sloppier than this piece. I saw some trees on my drive to church the other day and noticed how extremely dark the shadow was under the trees and how bright the grass was comparatively. So, this little painting was my attempt to capture that image before I forgot all about it. Can't say I'm too thrilled with it - the color throughout is just not very unified, but it was a quicky - another minor effort to get a little more comfortable with digital media.

Oh! And I finally picked up the last Harry Potter - I know, everybody's already read it but me. I've just barely started, but just like the ad campaign, I can't help but wonder - friend or foe? Friend or Foe?!