Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Many Moods of Pine Nut

He's bold. He's brash. He uses bad grammar. He's Pine Nut, yet another red squirrel character in my upcoming picture book, tentatively titled "Flying Dudley."

This looks like some sort of weird album cover, doesn't it? "Pine Nut and the Shirelle Heads," or "The Many Moods of Pine Nut," or "Pine Nut: Can I Borrow A Feelin'?"

But Pine Nut, as with the other squirrel puppets, has interchangeable heads with varying expressions. In the past I've varied puppet expressions digitally, but I didn't like the vague feeling they were creeping into Uncanny Valley territory. This time I've decided to fabricate the damned things.

* * *

In other news, my dad, who just turned 93, is not doing well.

Last December he had his gall bladder removed, but has had trouble regaining his strength. On top of that, he's had vascular dementia for the past 15 years or so. He's been relatively stable for all of that time, and has managed to live at home under the care of my sainted mother, various siblings, and a home health care nurse. But the last couple of months he has lived in a nursing home.

And, every minute or two, he asks "When am I going home?"

In the last week, he has not been eating or drinking much. We have called hospice in. He may not last much longer. My heart is breaking, and the sorrow comes in waves.

I debated whether or not I wanted to talk about this here. In the end, I decided to let you all know the situation and why I disappear from time to time. I don't feel like burdening you with my pain.

But now you know. Say a prayer for our family as we go through this journey with our beloved dad.

Quips from Dad:

1) My dad told the physical therapy nurses he's going to the Olympics. He said he's going to have a kissing booth and it'll be free. My sister says she can see the headlines now: 93 YEAR OLD MAN MEETS PUTIN AT OLYMPIC KISSING BOOTH.

2) When he was in the hospital, I stayed with him one night trying to keep him soothed and comfortable. At one point when I pulled his blankets around him and added another, he said, "Hey, you're all right. I don't care what everyone says about you."

3) My sister: "Dad, I want to tell you something. You know, you and mom did a pretty good job of raising us kids."
My dad: "And I want to tell you something."
My sister: "What, Dad?"
My dad: "You have nice teeth."

And this, my friends, is where my family gets its sense of humor. God help us all.

Monday, March 31, 2014


Things learned while fabricating squirrel puppets:

1) Squirrel puppet heads bounce


2) Squirrel puppet heads are close to the same size as those cat mousie toys. You know the ones—the peach pits covered with fuzzy fabric. 

Our cat Mickey has discovered the similarities between the cat mousies and the squirrel heads, and has brought it to our attention…after batting one of the squirrel heads around for his amusement.

One day, years into the future, someone is going to find all of those toy mousies we bought for our cats, the toys they've batted into the old furnace vents (probably). 

Eight more heads to make for the book.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Big, buggy eyes

Sadly, a page has been cut from the upcoming squirrel book I'm working on.

Here's the page sketch, in which three nasty red squirrels harass our hero:

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A meeting of woodland creature minds

They just showed up one night, these woodland creature heads. No bodies. Just heads.

This one appears to have Pink hair.

These three seem content to perch on spools of thread, telling assorted squirrel/nut jokes.

You have no idea what it's like, hearing them chatter while I try to get some work done.

One of them is always telling a dumb squirrel joke. It's like they're running a vaudeville act.

And they laugh at their own jokes. Abominable.

They don't seem to be going away any time soon, either.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let There Be Pi(e)

(From Gracie Goat's Big Bike Race by Erin Mirabella, illustrated by Lisa Horstman)

And another thing found in the archives, a sketch for a proposed book:

This book is tucked away for now, waiting for the story to ripen. It will reappear one of these days. Sometimes it takes a while for stories to crawl out into the sun.

Meanwhile, the squirrel book is ramping into high gear. Squeeeeeee!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lost and Found

We've been clearing out an upstairs room, with big plans to turn it into a music room/library of sorts. As a result, I've come across all sorts of treasures. Like this:

My mom gave me this years ago for whatever reason. I think it was a party favor or something, and once held a Hershey's Kiss inside. Its weird charm made me laugh.

I had taken it home with me and repurposed it.

Squeeze the thing's sides and its mouth opens.

Enough time had passed that I'd completely forgotten what I'd put in there. A treasure box!

But what's inside?


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

When it's a slow day, here's what you can do:

Preliminary sketch for my upcoming book, which will be illustrated with squirrel puppets and other assorted troublemakers. Look for it this summer.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Oldies but goodies

I will be posting erratically while I work on the illustrations for the new picture book. Unfortunately, I'd much rather be at the beach.

In the meantime, I've dug through old archives and will be posting random stuff for your mild amusement.

Like my old illustration of Nigel the pastry chef:

Or this old card once carried by a deaf salesman:

Maybe it was carried by this fellow:

(photograph by Frank Hohenberger)

How about an image of my cat, Mickey, looking like a nun with her hands tucked in her habit sleeves?

Oh, Internets, you're just too fickle.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Not quite the cabinet of Dr. Caligari…

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine was clearing out her father's house and asked if I wanted this little wall cabinet he'd had, along with some 78 rpm records. So I brought them home, not sure what to do with the cabinet or where to hang it. Until now.

Ta-daaaa! A display for various puppet heads.

Vaguely disturbing, but funny, too.

* * *

In other news, I'm looking into setting up an online store by this summer, possibly on Etsy. It will mostly be prints of my work, but on occasion I may offer up original art and perhaps other types of merchandise. I'll post a link when it's ready. Stay tuned!

* * *

And work on the books continues. First, early thumbnail sketches of the squirrel book. Two of the squirrel characters supervise:

Second, an art panel, sans text, from the graphic novel I'm working on:

I can't image two more opposite worlds: one of fluffy squirrels who talk, the other a gritty adult world during The Great Depression.

I can't write happy books ALL the time (not that the graphic novel won't be funny. It will be. Darkly funny).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

At least he has nice-smelling curls

Work continues on one of the two books. The deadline for this one, a picture book about squirrels, is in May. The deadline for the other, a graphic novel, is within my lifetime.

Here are some test shots for the squirrel book. 

Boomer the red squirrel decides to intimidate Dudley the flying squirrel. 

The one nice thing about Boomer is the smell of his curls, which are coated with a styling gel made by Lush called The Big Tease. Having no squirrel-sized curling irons available, I had to heat a small screwdriver with a butane blow torch and then wrap the wool strands around it.

Boomer is quite vain over his curls, all two of them.

This is what poor Dudley saw:

This is what Boomer saw:

It doesn't look so good for Dudley…

…and there's a pack of red squirrels on their way.

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