Thursday, December 23, 2010


I hope everyone's having a great holiday season so far. I just thought I'd make a quick update while I'm on vacation since an interview (my first!) I did for Something We Like just posted today. Check it out if you're interested.

Well, I'm off to wrap some more presents and eat entirely too much!
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Mexican Hats & Indian Blankets (Applied)

Drawing inspiration from photos I took a year ago of wildflowers in Austin (see previous post Mexican Hats & Indian Blankets), I drew this little guy who is modeling his Mexican hat and Indian blanket poncho. I love how the common names of so many wildflowers evoke such very specific images:
I mostly just wanted to get the idea down on paper, but I also thought these simple drawings would provide me a good opportunity to play with digital coloring since I am still just barely dipping my toes in the great big digital pond. Something else I did with these drawings that I almost never do was to complete the initial shading in pencil. In my current technique, the painting stage consumes so much time that I never bother to establish lighting in the sketch phase. I'll often work it out in a color study if I can't visualize it well enough to go straight to final. If you notice a difference in texture between the two drawings it's because one I drew on graphics pad paper and the other on bristol paper just to get a feel for how the different media take shaded pencil drawings.

I think this little character is begging for a story. Maybe I'll dream something up for him some day...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thanksgiving in Prescott

I might be a little late in saying so, but I hope everyone had an excellent Thanksgiving holiday! My in-laws recently relocated, so we had the pleasure of visiting a new town for the holiday this year. I'd spent one night in Prescott, AZ several years ago, but hadn't really had much time to explore. Four and a half days for this vacation gave us a good chunk of time to check out the area and we rapidly discovered how rich the Prescott region is in hiking opportunities!

We first climbed (and conquered!) Thumb Butte, so named as from the distance it looks rather like the tip of a thumb:
The trail sort of disappears in a jumble of rocks and brush as one nears the top, so we had to do quite a lot of scrambling to make it to the top. And make it we did, but not without facing some harrowing obstacles on the way.

Less than a five minute drive from the my in-laws new home was Willow Lake and the Willow Dells Slickrock Trail Loops.Probably my favorite of all the hiking we did last weekend, these trails involved a great deal of boulder-hopping with stunning panoramic views of the dells and the lake.We finished off our hiking Sunday at Granite Mountain, taking a trail that wound up a lower hill and offered nice views of the mountain catching some late afternoon sun.We'd been feeling a bit starved for good hikes since our move to Dallas, so this vacation was just what we needed. I'm not sure how many miles we totaled, but it certainly felt like a lot. We came back from our vacation feeling pretty exhausted, but for all that hiking it was definitely worth it!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Taking Shelter

Continuing my string of autumn-themed paintings, here is yet another:

This illustration is another private commission and installment in the "Little Lost Squirrels" story. Here they are mid-journey taking shelter from the storm. We carried a couple details from previous "Lost Squirrels" illustrations over into this illustration to hint at the continuity - the little green beetle has been observing the unfolding events through several paintings as has the watchful owl. I always think it's fun to find these kinds of extras details in artists' work - kind of like you're in on a little secret!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


I thought I'd try out a different venue - hopefully one that sees a little more traffic than my usual little corner of the web... so I went and opened an Etsy shop! Several originals from my website and all but one of the prints have been relocated to the new shop. A few new originals have been added to the listings as well.

What's even better is that many of the originals that were previously listed on my site have been deeply discounted for the holidays! Come visit and check out some of the offerings:

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Cricket & the Ant

I have yet another autumn-themed painting to post appropriately enough during autumn, however I'd completed this one many months ago. This piece is the second of six paintings illustrating the fable, "The Cricket & the Ant."
© Editura Eduard within Romania
©Phyllis Peacock everywhere else
You might notice the colors are quite a bit brighter than my usual palette and for me this was a big challenge. I made the colors as bright as I reasonably could using my traditional media and then after scanning, I did A LOT of color adjustment in Photoshop.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spring Creek Forest Preserve

After our punishingly hot summer, the weather over the past two weeks has taken a sharp turn toward very pleasant. Not wanting to miss the opportunity, we trekked over to Garland and hiked Spring Creek Forest Preserve this past weekend.
The trail mostly followed along a high-banked creek with many short off-shoots where one could reach the edge of the bank and catch a glimpse of the water. In only a couple places could we actually climb down to the water. The white rocky banks reminded me of the beautiful hill country we recently left behind in Austin. We're hopeful that the nice weather will continue for a while...

Onto the subject of reference from life and nature's little treasures once again... The management at our apartment complex recently decided to repaint everything, including the covered parking. The thorough cleaning required before painting also meant the removal of all of the bird's nests that had been built in the tight spaces between the support columns and the roof. And there were A LOT of them. I found this one on the ground and couldn't resist bringing it home with me:
I have yet to decide if I will actually keep it or just study it for a while before throwing it away. You can't see it in the photo, but under closer scrutiny you can see small bits of man-made objects wound throughout the nest - a length of red string and a fair amount of what looks to be a fine plastic net, possibly for fishing? I think there's a story here...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trick or Treat?

It's almost officially fall now. Although it's not quite time for Halloween, I think it's almost appropriate for me to go ahead and post my autumnal painting today. I did see a very diverse selection of pumpkins and gourds on display at the grocery store this morning, so if they say it's okay then it must be okay:
Halloween might possibly be my husband's favorite holiday. Every year he looks forward to checking out the local haunted house offerings and I'm sure this year will be no different. One thing I will always remember about our years spent in LA was the enthusiasm with which some of the locals celebrated Halloween. 'Yard Haunts' were not uncommon and were often incredibly elaborate, frequently rivaling and surpassing some of the more commercial enterprises. The most impressive one I remember was "Hallowed Haunting Grounds" which sadly had its "final manifestation" in 2005 after an amazing 33 year-long run. A list of LA 'yard haunts' can be found here.

I wonder what Halloween goodies our new city will have to offer.....

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Visit to Wisconsin

Summer in Texas lasts a very long time and finding that by September we've had quite enough of it, we departed for a short trip over the holiday weekend to southern Wisconsin in the hopes to escape the heat. I'd been to Wisconsin once when I was very young and hold almost no memory of it, so with little idea of what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful rolling hills and generally bucolic landscape. Not to mention the perfect weather!Our vacation turned into something of an architectural tour of southern Wisconsin as we visited Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin, the Pabst Mansion, and The House on the Rock, the last of which I suppose is more of an incredibly bizarre experiment in sensory overload than a representation of any particularly well-regarded architecture, although still fascinating in its own unsettling way. Check out the photo gallery on their website to get a better idea of what the place is about - it is so strange and random that I really don't know how to describe it.

As we've been rather hike-starved for months now due to the heat and we lucked out with the beautiful weather in Wisconsin, we made sure to spend a significant amount of time outside. We visited Pewitt's Nest near North Freedom, WI which is a short, but stunning slot canyon in the Baraboo Hills.And for a more rigorous hike we visited Devil's Lake State Park and hiked up the very steep Balanced Rock Trail and back down the equally steep CCC trail.

We had never seen rocks quite so purple on hikes we had done anywhere else. Perhaps this is what "purple mountains majesty" refers to? Although I think our "mountain" would probably be more accurately described as a very grand hill.

We have only to wait a few more weeks before the Texas heat dissipates and we can get outside and explore our new city. I'm looking forward to it and I think our little adventure in the north will tide me over until then.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Reference from Life

While I work from my imagination a great deal, when I need reference for something very specific I often work from photos. However, the chance to work from life is always welcome and so I'm often on the lookout for nature's little treasures - acorns, pine cones, feathers, etc. My husband fished this exquisite dragonfly out of the swimming pool the other day in the hopes that it was still alive and just needed a helping hand out of the water. We were too late though and this little guy had passed on:
I wanted to preserve the dragonfly properly, but when I read that the standard method involves using acetone which is "volatile and explosive" I had second thoughts and went with the 'stick him in a shadowbox and cross my fingers that he doesn't rot' method. I took a bunch of pictures of him as back-up in the likelihood that my method doesn't hold out for very long.

He did lose a little bit of his luster after just one day and his iridescent eyes faded to opaque, but I think he is still a little jewel. Dragonflies often work as a nice extra detail in paintings, so it'll be nice to have some first-hand reference.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Halloween in August

With the adjustments to the sketches for my book dummy now complete, I thought I'd take a short break before starting the painting phase to work on a promotional piece. Continuing on the theme of cats, I added the last details to this sketch this morning:
This piece is actually a re-make of a painting I did back in art school. If I remember correctly, I believe the assignment was to illustrate a cover for Cricket magazine either on the theme of Halloween or possibly for the month of October. I had been fairly pleased with the original composition, but have had it in mind for some time that it would be nice to revisit this image and put more time into the final art than I was able to as a student. I remember back in school I had originally drawn the little mouse to the far right much more plainly and it had been the excellent suggestion by one of my classmates to dress the mouse up for Halloween and have it trick-or-treating. I think that simple suggestion really helped to make the painting.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Picture Book Dummy

I've been illustrating for a while now, but I've long wanted to both illustrate and write my very own picture book. I had jotted down a simple story a couple years ago, poking at it now and then whenever I had some spare time. Pulling it back out this summer, it seemed ready for the next stages - layout and sketches. This drawing will be the spread for pages 4-5:All the sketches for the book are nearly complete with only minor adjustments yet to be made. Oh - and I still have the cover left to design. I always leave the cover for last when illustrating a book so as to maximize the amount of time I have to ruminate on it. Once the sketches are complete, I'll need to paint two or three finished illustrations before it will be ready to submit to publishers. I'm contemplating dabbling in media different from my usual for this project - possibly digital or perhaps try out some the textured gel that's been sitting in my closet waiting to be cracked open....
For all my previous books I faxed or e-mailed sketches to the publishers, so this will be my first time actually assembling a physical book dummy. It should be quite a learning experience and I'm looking forward to it!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Four Seasons by the Stream

I love doing seasonal paintings drawing on the characteristics of a particular season and/or holiday. I think it's a great way to maintain a lot of creative freedom while still setting some parameters within which to work. This painting falls neatly into the category of seasonal and I'd say is something of a mega-seasonal painting with all four seasons flowing one into the next:
This piece was another private commission. I had anticipated the blending between the seasons to be very difficult, but as it turned out, so long as I worked with very light washes for the sky in the background and the water in the foreground, the blending went pretty smoothly.

My husband and I decided the little squirrel swimming in the foreground had the right idea as to how to spend the summer months and we spent some time over this past holiday weekend cooling off in the pool. Even though we're only half-way through the summer I am so looking forward to the fall - although I don't think we'll be collecting acorns like the mice in the painting.... Ice-skating in the winter, however, is a possibility...

Wishing a slightly belated Happy 4th of July to my fellow American readers!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Water Taxi

Here's a sketch I started a while ago between projects and just recently finished up:

This is one of those images that just 'popped' into my head one day, but I have no doubt there's some very heavy influence from two of my favorite artists P.A. Lewis and Jean Baptiste Monge in there. The bird is an egret and the bird's saddle is based on a camel saddle - like this one for example. They are beautifully vibrant in their patterning and colors and I'm not quite sure how to approach the color for the saddle in my sketch since I was picturing a rather pastel-y color scheme for this piece. I'd thought I could possibly use this image for a promo card once it's finished, but looking at it I realized it's awfully similar in terms of setting to one of my recent promo cards, so I think this sketch will have to be put aside for the time being while I dream up another image to use as a postcard. Hope that I'll be able to get back to it soon...

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Around the Campfire

Here I am again posting winter-themed paintings in the middle of the summer. Perhaps it's more wishful thinking on my part. I'll have to see if this trend continues over the next few years...
This piece was another private commission which came together in an interesting way. We started with about five loose thumbnail sketches all quite similar and based on the idea of a winter campfire. My client picked out the characters she liked best and then we arranged them into one cohesive scene. Amazingly, all the chosen characters fit together quite easily and required only minimal adjust to make the scene work.

I really enjoyed painting the snowy background in this painting. One thing I especially like to paint is moonlit clouds. Somewhere along the way I began referring to moonlit clouds, both real-life and painted, as "Buehner clouds" as I think illustrator Mark Buehner is the master of moonlit clouds.

Getting back to summer and a brief update on our swallow neighbors (see previous post) - the pair successfully raised five baby birds all of whom have since left the nest. We feel so privileged that we got to watch them grow up:What's really surprising to us is that almost as soon as the babies left the nest, the mating pair started on a new family. The nest is up too high for us to peek into, but with the use of a mirror we could see the new eggs:
Looking forward to watching the new family grow up!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

All Settled

After our first couple weeks in Dallas, our boxes are all unpacked and our new place feels pretty much like home now. My studio's all set up and I was able to get back to work last week. I'll have some new work to post very soon, but not quite yet...

We discovered just before our moving day that a pair of barn swallows had constructed their nest just above our little kitchen window. They picked a nice sheltered spot out of the wind and rain, but unfortunately for them, they are right next to our front door. Our comings and goings do seem to upset them a bit, but I am hopeful that once they realize that we aren't a threat they'll calm down and no longer feel the need to flit away every time we open the door. The female seems to spend nearly every moment on the nest (except of course when we've disturbed her) and her mate often sits nearby on the railing, almost as though he's guarding the nest. I didn't think I'd be able to snap a picture of them without upsetting them, but last night I managed to shoot a quick one while they were settled in for the night:

You can't tell from this picture, but they have beautiful blue feathers and of course the classic forked tail. This is their usual night time habit - sitting together on the window frame. They are such fun to watch and naturally I've added them to my list of animals to paint some day. I'm looking forward to the day their eggs hatch!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Moving! (again)

After a relatively short bout of unemployment, my husband has landed a job in Dallas, which means, of course, that once again we'll be moving very soon. And so, the whirlwind of frenetic activity inherent to moving has fallen upon us again. With his start date looming only two weeks away, we drove up to Dallas this past weekend to search for an apartment. As I've mentioned previous years, springtime in Texas proves to be an excellent time for long drives as the wildflowers burst into their full glory from March to May. This year's wildflower season appears to be the best of the past three, most likely due to the heavy rains last fall. This picture was actually taken along the highway right near our home, but fields like this dotted the highways along the drive up to Dallas.

As with most moves, I both dread and look forward to it at the same time. I love exploring new places as well as the feeling of a fresh start in a new home, but aside from the hassle of moving, there's also the sadness of leaving a familiar place. We've only been in Austin a little over two years, but I am really going to miss it. Ah, well, looking forward...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pythagoras Translated

I just brought in my mail and much to my surprise found a copy of What's Your Angle, Pythagoras? (Charlesbridge Publishing) translated into Arabic! I knew there was a coming translation, but I didn't expect to receive a copy since an overseas company purchased the sub-rights and handled the translation. I can't read a word of it, but from what I can discern the publisher that issued this version appears to be Al-Balsam Publishing. The book opens back to front and all the illustrations have been flipped to read right to left. Very exciting! I guess I can now say I'm internationally published!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Goodwater Trail

It's crazy to think it was warm enough for short sleeves this past weekend after it had just snowed the Tuesday before. I was grateful for the warm weather though. Between work, chilly weather, and allergy season, it seems like forever since we've spent any meaningful time outdoors. So taking advantage of the pleasant weather before it changes again, we got in a long-desired and much-needed hike this past weekend, this time at Good Water Trail in Georgetown.

The trail is apparently a whopping 25 miles long and encircles Lake Georgetown. Being much out of practice with hiking and in far less than tip-top shape, we did only a very short segment of the trail. The trail follows along the edge of the lake, but at enough of a distance that we couldn't see the water during most of the hike which we found a bit disappointing. Even so, the weather could not have been more ideal for a hike. I'm hoping for more of this perfect weekend weather in the coming months...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Snow in Austin!

It's been so long since I've lived anywhere that gets regular snow that I can't help but get excited when we have even a little. Yesterday I sprang out of bed when my husband said, "Hey, it's snowing!" I threw on some clothes, grabbed the camera, and ran out into the cold to take a good long walk around the neighborhood. For the first hour or two, this snow-storm was pretty steady with those big tissue-paper flakes. After it tapered off we had a sprinkling of flurries throughout the afternoon.

The unusual weather seems so strangely appropriate to me since the painting I'm working on at the moment happens to be a snow scene. I'm grateful for the reference and inspiration (and that I didn't have to drive anywhere in it)!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Pythagoras & the Ratios

I'm very pleased to announce the release of my most recent book, Pythagoras and the Ratios from Charlesbridge Publishing. I posted a couple interior illustrations in a previous post - you can see them here. You can see another interior page if you visit this image viewer at Barnes & Noble and a couple more also at if you use the "Look Inside" feature.

If you have/know any kids learning or struggling with ratios then this is the book for them. Here's a excerpt of a review from the School Library Journal:

"Gr 4–7—This picture-book introduction to ratio and proportion also explains the connection between math and music through a story featuring young Pythagoras and his family......."

".......The story is amusing and offers a glimpse into life in ancient Greece. Acrylic and colored pencil cartoons depict the clothing and lifestyle of the period in a pleasing palette. A historical note and an experiment in which readers are challenged to use Pythagorean ratios to create a musical instrument with six glasses of water in varying amounts are appended.—Barbara Auerbach, PS 217, Brooklyn, NY"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy 2010!

I hope the new year is finding everyone very well and I hope everyone had a very peaceful and relaxing holiday season. We had a good visit with Chris' family in Arizona. Our excitement for the trip was during our drive up from Phoenix to Winslow, when we hit impassable snow in Payson, AZ and ended up having to stay the night in a hotel. It was quite strange - there wasn't one bit of snow on the southern approach to Payson, but as we passed through the town (which really isn't very big), we came into steady snowfall and positioned at the northern departure of the town were several police who were discouraging drivers from continuing on. So, we stayed the night, bought chains for our rental car in the morning and made the very slow trek toward Winslow. It was a very beautiful, but somewhat nerve-wracking drive.

As with most gift-giving holidays, I usually receive a good number of children's/art books for my ever-expanding collection, but this year I was also able to add some original illustrations to my collection. My husband gave me two original paintings by Omar Rayyan, of whose work I'm a huge fan. You can see these paintings here and here. I think he is just brilliant with watercolor!

The new year also brings with it a new video game project (to be disclosed in the future) for my husband who spent the last several months of 2009 working long and hard on the environments for Darksiders which just came out in stores today! Tons of video clips here.

As for resolutions for the new year, I think I'm just going to recycle last year's resolutions and give them another shot considering the only one I can say I really succeeded at was gaining some weight. Maybe I should add to that list to try to update here more frequently!