My Fox & Cello Notecards now on Etsy

I’ve added a few cheery notecards to Etsy, some with fun little hand-illustrated critters that you won’t find anywhere but in my Etsy store.

The first is a fox playing a cello, which is part of a series of music-themed illustrations I’ve drawn. Surprisingly, I got an order for these cards all the way from France a while back, from a woman whose daughter loves foxes, and plays the cello. A rare occurrence of me hitting the bullseye! If you’d like some to send or give to a musical friend, they are 8 cards and 8 envelopes in a box, and the ordering info is here.

For my second one below I watercolored a happy little hamster to celebrate the USA, for a notecard to use for thank yous, congratulations or any other noteworthy American occasion. The inside of the card is blank and my original artwork is in full color. This pack of 8 cards and envelopes has cardstock that is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA. Ordering info is here.

I had a request for the third one, it uses a New-Yorker-style cartoon i drew a while back, as a business referral thank you note. The outside shows 3 energetic businesswomen cheering “2! 4! 6! 8!” and on the inside a brief messages reads: “Referrals I appreciate!” with space below for a personal note.Ordering info is here.

I plan to put up a few more notecards soon – thanks for checking them out!

Artistacon Interview: I’ll talk about my art live Thursday morning

The fellows who run the terrific illustration conference Artistacon, Chris Kotsakis and Shaun Stipick, are creating a video archive of illustrator interviews to continue their mission of inspiring and mentoring illustrative art. These video interviews are tied to their ArtistaList project, an helpful online directory of working illustrators. They have asked me to participate and so I’m very happy to announce that the three of us will do a Facebook live stream about my artwork tomorrow, Thursday May 28 starting at 10 a.m.; and another live interview following just after that one, at around 10:45 a.m. on Twitch. I hope you’ll join us! And as soon as it’s ready I’ll post a link to the recorded interview. Here’s the info:

Illustrating the Maasai

Almost ten years ago I illustrated the African folktale The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel for the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project. I learned much about the work of MCEP in doing this book, an organization that helps to build wells in Kenya and pay for education of women and children. I helped frame the actual story, which involves all animal characters, by suggesting we start the story by showing a common Maasai family tradition: the grandmother gathering the grandchildren under an acacia tree to tell stories. A friend of mine asked me to make this cover illustration into a notecard for her. I’ve just added it to my Etsy line of illustrated cards, and it can be seen and ordered here.

This is pack of 8 notecards (blank inside) and 8 ivory envelopes. Printed on the back of the notecard is a description of the scene: “The artwork shows the Rift Valley of Kenya, a region of many Maasai villages. A grandmother making bead jewelry while seated on a cowhide tells her grandchildren a folk tale in the shade of an acacia tree. An enkaji – a home made of mud and sticks – is behind them. A father and son herd goats in the background, and behind them is a fence of acacia branches, which encircles the villages to keep wild animals from entering.” When I drew the illustrations for this book I had the kind cooperation of several Maasai visitors who explained specific cultural details in the drawing, so the scene is authentic.

The 8 cards (same illustration on each) in this pack are 5 1/2″ wide by 4 1/4″ high, which is a typical ‘invitation’ size notecard, taking regular first class postage. The cardstock is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA.

If you would like a notecard of this sort customized by me to include your personal message or a custom-drawn illustration, please contact me through my Contact page to discuss your ideas and my illustration fees.

I am happy to say that The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel is in schools and libraries in Maasailand, and is especially useful because the story is written in both English and Swahili. The book is available for purchase, with proceeds going to MCEP, here.

A Building that No Longer Exists

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities. I was recently asked to develop a sketch of a building in the borough, which is no longer standing today – a shoemaker’s shop and home.

Adam Dick and his wife, originally from Germany, had six children born in Doylestown and by 1870 they were living in the borough, in a building whose left half housed their boot and shoe shop. Old maps show the house on the corner of E. State and Pine Street with a one story front porch on the shoe shop side. By 1891 the two-story wood frame house now had a one story back porch with a tin roof. The Historical Society’s researcher is Kurt Spence, who has restored many historic homes, and he sent me part of an old lithograph of the town with this tiny representation of the house from the rear –


I started with a rough sketch of the basic shape of the house, with questions for Kurt.

Happily Kurt has the building experience that I lack, and so with his corrections I replaced the front porch gable with a shed roof, and added a roof gable to the house side of the building, for the second sketch. But I still had some questions.

Finally with some finished suggestions from Kurt I was able to render the version below. It’s unfortunate that the present site is now a parking lot, but we can at least imagine a fairly close version of what our borough boot and shoe shop may have looked like in the late 19th century.

In Other News

In cleaning out our basement I found this relic of my girlhood, my Barbie carrying case from the late 1960s/early 70s. Note the hot pink babydoll smock dress with pneumatic sleeves (which you’d think might get in the way when you were mixing up your glass of Tang). I would regularly tote this case – full of all the related tiny clothes, hangers, purses, shoes and hats – from my front step, across one neighbor’s lawn (no kids there) to the next house over, where two of my good Friends-in-Barbiehood lived.

Inside the case I found a slightly damaged but largely intact World of Barbie book of fashions. The drawings are so fun and colorful, I can’t help but think that this helped spark my interest in illustration. Shall we step back in time and see the groovy fashions? Here’s the fab cover:

Here’s the first page of fashion plates you could totally dote upon:

^^^ The only outfit I had on this page was the blue knit-set ‘Togetherness,’ an appropriately 1960s-branded title. It was pretty difficult to pull those tightly knitted stockings onto Barbie’s rubberized legs, and it was like a Chinese finger trap getting them off. I so wanted Extravaganza and Jump Into Lace – sheer lace sheaths were a big thing, my 10-year-old self not thinking about how itchy the reality would be.

Here’s the facing page, kind of a Hot Pink Heaven:

^^^ I think I may have owned the Snug Fuzz outfit, because i remember having the usual difficulty getting the sparkly silver tights over Barbie’s lower limbs. They were not in any way smooth fabric, very gritty in fact, a finger snagging nightmare. I thought the donut-neck wedding gown was rather off-brand for Barbie.

And then we are on to this swingin’ lineup:

^^^ Like a Lime-Green Cowboy! I bet it was hard to actually keep that cowboy hat on her head, – this was the 60s after all and head gear was fast on its way out. I wore a hat at Easter when I was young, but hats as accessories lost big ground during these decades. I wonder why did so many of these drawings depict her with basically gray or ash-color hair? Was that a thing?

I’ll be posting more fab pages from this booklet soon.

Timely Illustration for a Hotel Magazine

The topic of my monthly illustration for Lodging Magazine was updated to reflect the current health issue around the world, the corona virus.

While I did not get to read the latest article, I was briefed by the editor that the story would explain how a hotel can manage during a pandemic, including how to keep hotels clean, how to manage with a skeleton crew, what to do if a guest is sick, and what to do if the supply chain breaks down. She suggested a war room type of scene.

I started that with a rough pencil sketch –

and added tones to suggest the dramatic lighting of a war room –

The editor approved so I did a quick color sketch by printing out a copy of the sketch & using colored pencils.

After this I transferred the drawing to illustration board, redrew outlines in prisma pencil, and painted it in with acrylic washes. The finished art is below.

Poster Art for ‘The Sorcerer’ Musical

Every year I design the poster for the Bucks County Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s musical comedy and this year’s June operetta is Gilbert & Sullivan’s The Sorcerer. I love the wacky plot of this show, which is about a sorcerer in Victorian England who is asked to create a love potion that an entire town partakes of, with chaotic and comic results. It strikes me as singularly funny that instead of a cauldron like Shakespeare’s witches brew their potions in, this very proper society sorcerer brews his in a porcelain pot of tea!

I was lucky to be at an early costume fitting for the actor playing the title role, so I took photos of him in costume for reference when drawing, and they even had the large teapot that will be his prop in the show. I knew the kind of pose I wanted for the figure and started with pencil sketches –

I put some rough color on the sketched figure and placed him on the poster page, with the text that will go around him, based on previous posters, and drew in the background roughly with a digital gradation, markers & colored pencils, to get a rough design of the page.

I refined my line drawing of the figure and did more detail on the digital color –

I worked on the title logotype next, to shape it around the sorcerer’s arm & umbrella. I used a fun typeface called “Island of Misfit Toys, ” although I played with the letter shapes a bit, stretching and adding some curls, to balance things out.

I drew the cloud emanating from the teapot digitally and put the figure in place –

and then dropped in the title logotype and added some more magical swashes and particles circling the Sorcerer and the cloud, for the finished art.

This promises to be a terrific show, by the way, I recommend everyone comes to see it! Tickets go on sale April 15, through the website.

Devour a Book

Today, March 5, 2020, is World Book Day. I have a card for that!

If you buy a lot of books as gifts because you know kids & adults who love to read, you might want to have a pack of my ‘For Someone Who Devours Books’ so you can tuck a funny notecard into their gift package. My notecards are available in my Etsy shop HERE.

While you’re at it, take time to sit down and start reading a book yourself today! The last one I read was the children’s book The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, a charming read for kids and grown-ups, and I’m in the middle of a book about Ernest Shepard, who illustrated A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh books, also a delightful journey.

New Scout Card for ‘Crossing Over’ from Cub to Scout

I have added to my line of Boy Scout congratulations cards – the two I have drawn for Eagle Scouts are quite popular sellers on my Etsy page – by drawing a whimsical illustration for young boys who are making their ‘Crossing Over Ceremony’ from Cub Scouts into full Boy Scouts. I’ll add, the card is inspired by my oldest grandson, who has just completed his Crossing Over in Scouts. I’m very proud of him and his friends, who have completed their work as a Cub and want to further their knowledge and experience in BSA.

In my whimsical drawing style, I drew a friendly adult Eagle, in scout troop leader uniform, waving 3 happy little eagles across a footbridge in the great outdoors. This mirrors the Crossing Over Ceremony that young scouts go through when they ‘cross over the bridge’ from Cubs to Boy Scouts.

I first pencilled in a sketch of the scene –

I tightened up the drawing , scanned it & colored a printout roughly to work out the colors –

– and then transferred the drawing to illustration board, outlined in ink and painted it in with acrylic washes.

To see the finished card, inside message, and all other info and for purchasing, please see my Etsy shop HERE.

A fan of my cards who is a troop leader reviewed them this way: “These cards are exceptionally unique and well drawn. The messages are well thought out and brief, a good thing. I always add a personal message to the card as well, and there is room to do that. These are beautiful cards and an inspiration to the scouts receiving them.”