Monday, April 25, 2011

Congratulations. . . it's a flower

Right off the bat I'll just say I've decided to stop titling every sketchbook sunday post with "Sketchbook Sunday"..... since Sunday (or Monday night) is usually when I post at all..... um..... I'll just think of a witty headline and leave the Sketchbook Sunday part in the tags.

There, thats pretty good for spring cleaning.

Since it is spring around here, that means one thing in the Fabulous Illustrator's house: yard work. Last year we moved to a house that had a smaller yard than our "starter house," and this yard had absolutely no landscaping of any kind. While I thought this would be easier, alas I was mistaken. For the last 12 months I've looked out at our barren yard in frustration so now the planting has begun in earnest. Right after moving in a year ago, Jim Dear gave me a white peony for our anniversary. I had had a peony at our old house that I'd coddled along... it bloomed once and then disappeared for 3 years. Nevertheless, the year we put the house on the market, out it came with two buds - but we sold the house before I ever got to see it bloom again. So when I planted this new peony, I fully expected to enjoy it for a few months and then not see it again, except as a few tiny stalks, for several years.

The peony had other plans.

Much to my surprise it sprang forth from the ground practically overnight and is now sporting two large fat buds. A princess with child could not be watched and clucked over as much as I've fussed over these two round blooms in waiting. Last year it was in full bloom on our anniversary in May so I'm expecting to be a peony parent any day now.

NO, a chocolate green cupcake, Mommeeeee!Baby Sprout is a lot of things but dainty and retiring she is not. As I mentioned in this earlier post, she is a big fan of cupcakes, even when she has to imagine them. Last week, while I was cooking dinner, Sprout was "making" cupcakes and bringing them to me to taste. First she made a blue cupcake, then she made a pink cupcake, then she made a green cupcake. When I suggested she make a chocolate cupcake, Sprout was less than ecstatic about my taste preference.

"NOO, no chocolate!" she bellowed

"But chocolate is good, Sprout."


"ok," I replied quickly, "just green."


Believe me, I ate it and I kept my mouth shut about having a pink strawberry cupcake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

America's Favorite Past-time on Sketchbook Sunday

Parents of future little leaguers beware: baseball is the All Encompassing Past-time. Little did we know 6 weeks ago when Small Fry started that our schedules would begin to revolve around a dusty patch of ground off Hogan Road in Creive Hall. Now we have practice two nights a week, games two nights a week plus tacked on scrimmages in the back yard to help the Fry connect bat with ball and ball with glove. It seems to be working, at Saturday's game the Fry got a hit and actually got on base. Fry was up at bat and I was distracted with Baby Sprout in the dugout when a solid "konk" sounded across the field.

I looked up in time to see the Fry drop the bat - stunned - and stare at the coach.

The ball coasted to a stop in the dust two inches from the pitcher's toe.

Then everyone in the dugout including Baby Sprout started yelling "Run! Run!"

Small Fry made it to first base and later the coach gave him the game ball for getting his first hit in the season.

We actually won that game, though we parents tell ourselves that winning doesn't matter as long as the boys have fun and learn how to play. The boys certainly don't seem to care: at tonight's game the scoreboard wasn't working so our guys didn't even know who won until the game was over. The news that we'd pulled off another win was second rate compared to the sight of Star Wars gummies and chocolate chip cookies for after-game snack. With snacks and bats and hats and whiney baby sisters we packed up the van and headed home.

On the way, Fry asked "when do we play again?"

"Practice is Wednesday," I answered.

Soon enough.

Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My HorseFor several years now I've tossed around the idea in my head of writing a book called Everything I Need to Know I Learned from My Horse. Mostly I get these ideas in the bathtub at night when every idea, even the lame ones, seem good and completely accomplishable. Notwithstanding the fact that this series would be interesting only to me and therefore completely unpublishable, I decided it would be fun to illustrate them as part of Sketchbook Sunday. To begin, a little background about the Fabulous Illustrator for the uninitiated: For the first 14 years of my life, all I wanted was a horse. I was the typical horse-crazy girl: collecting pictures of magnificent prancing steeds and lists of the names I would give them like "Mary's Jubilee Star" and "Princess Silver Blaze."


All up until I finally convinced my parents to let me buy an 18 month old Welsh filly named Lady Lee. She was scraggly brownish gray with a white stripe down her face and I promptly rechristened her Kala. From the start I had to train her to do everything. She wasn't even that crazy about coming up to me - until I repeatedly showed up with food. That was the beginning of my education about how to use common sense. I am a firm believer that horses are the perfect animal from which to learn about humans. They have both the best and worst traits of human personality: courage, loyalty, and a sense of humor as well as stubbornness, meanness and greed (just try to hide a carrot from one.) If you can get a 1200 pound animal capable of putting you in the hospital without much effort, to, not only do what you ask, but actually like you in the process, then you are also a good ways along the path towards getting along with their human counterparts.

So to the first lesson I learned from my horse:
Rule number one, Don't Panic.

When Kala saw something strange like stick that might be a snake, she didn't mess around. Like lightening streaking the wrong way, straight up off the ground came her front feet. Since in the beginning, after having spent my money on said horse and what was left on her upkeep, I had no funds for a saddle, I was often riding bareback. In this split second of vertical incline I was left clinging to her mane and sides with two choices: panic and be left hanging in mid-air when her feet returned to earth and she bolted, or figure out how to stay calm, calm her down, and show her - there, there - it's just a stick.

Happily, I learned this lesson quickly.

The notion of Don't Panic has stayed with me over the years. Two weeks ago, bad storms roared through middle Tennessee bringing tornados with them. In the middle of the afternoon with wind banging on the house and the weather people telling us to get to our "safe place" I went under the stairs with a cordless phone and a laptop.

It was a damn sight more scarey than being dumped off a horse.

But, on cue, years of horse-borne common sense kicked in and Don't Panic prevailed. While I might have been pretty scared I thought clearly enough to keep a phone conversation going with Jim Dear the whole time I was crouched under blankets with a flashlight, hitting reload on

Don't panic means carefully steer around the deer that just jumped in front of your car, or listen to what your spouse says before you start the fight, or calmly ask your child to put the spider down. Don't panic was the first of many, but possibly the best, lesson Kala taught me on a hot spring day more than 20 years ago.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - dispatches from Sin City

This week the Fabulous Illustrator visited las Vegas for the first time. It was a business trip and yes, I did sleep and no, I did not incure any mob gambling debts. I'd heard it described as a "Disneyland for adults" and I'd have to agree, not only for the anything goes mentality but also for the sheer volume of manufactured reality. I walked through miles of hotel and casino with false sunrises, airbrushed clouds, and engineered rivers. The last night was the best night I had to draw and I wandered through two casinos pausing to sketch and watch. For a place that is basically not a city, there was quite a bit of restless energy. Everywhere, people had somewhere else to be; either a show to get to, dinner, a better section of slots, and most of them were on their cell phones.

I was trying to capture the true ostentatiousness of the place with sketch of a child and her father in a hallway of boutiques.

While the adults had other places to be, the few children I saw were dwarfed by the size of the architecture and didn't seem to understand why they couldn't stop and look at everything. This little girl is actually a composite of all the kids I watched trying to climb in one of the fountains in Caesar's Palace. The giant stone figures, pouring a waterfall over her head, cast disapproving looks at the children below but this didn't stop every parent I saw from pausing by the fountain to take a picture and then holler when the subject attempted to climb the sides.

I drew this poster sketch on the plane ride home. Maybe I'll do it in the same style as the 1930's WPA posters I mentioned in this post.

Finally back home over the weekend, I got to relax again and do a little planting. Also on the plane ride, I'd read an article about the continuing demise of the printed word in favor of iPads and whatnot. I couldn't help but think that if I were teaching the Sprout and Fry how to do a garden, I'd much rather drag a $15.99 book out into the dirt than a $500 iPad.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sketchbook Sunday - Granbery bound

Well that was a fast 5 years.

This week I have only one sketch to share and it's to commemorate an important occasion: we registered the Small Fry for kindergarten. He'll be attending a school of 600 kids, with eight kindergarten classes. This seems just enormous to me though I've been told it's not. All in all he took registration and the tour in stride. When asked about his favorite part of the school he says "the stage", meaning where the parents can some eat lunch with the students in the cafeteria. I think this is mostly because during this part of the tour he was jumping off the stage with another kid while I hissed furtively in front of the PTA president-mom.

When I sketched this, at first I planned to make the school quite large, looming over the Fry. Then I realized that is not a very positive portrayal of Fry's next step. So I changed to this, a bravado packed boy, backpack slung at the side, facing confidently into his future.