Tuesday, December 27, 2005

travel blog

Thinking we might not score another hotwired hotel for a while, I uploaded photos of the trip so far to a new blog: stonepoem. Not enough time for commentary.

Monday, December 26, 2005


Here begins the start of a mon- umental trip. Karl and I flew to Vegas and are driving back home over two weeks. So far internet access has been sketchy, so blogging won't be so easy as I thought.

As well as camera, laptop, credit card, and 14 days of underwear, I've also brought 21 small stones lettered with French and Latin sayings that I'm dropping across the country as we go, something I used to do with great pleasure in art school. We've made it to the Grand Canyon where I'm working on a spot for #3.

Photo: the first stone, AB OVO, in front of the Golden Nugget on Christmas day where it was discreetly deposited. And my new Cirque du Soleil shirt which I'm very taken with. Another blog to come for these.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

fortune cookie #2

Advice to self, as I spend the night packing for a 2 week drive cross country: calm the hell down.

I've been terribly negligent for months. I've been maniacally chasing after new experiences like a hound for a fox, while not looking around on the way-- something I know very well not to do. It's been a fantastic year, I've done tremendous things, met wonderful people, and let many moments of profundity and mystery and love pass by without noticing them until after they were gone. I stopped looking and listening and missed the grandness in small gestures, the significance in silent pauses.

I'm not ready for this trip. I am filled with anxiety as we send our animals away with friends, as I try to squeeze shampoo into a travel bottle, as I agonize over a package I forgot to mail. But once we're out there I'll look for a new pace to cure this problem.

An eloquently thoughtful gift, torn in a rush, but now carefully taped back together: "You will always be surrounded by true friends."

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


I used a little free time between book signings and a holiday trip west to go to Vermont this weekend. Every time I reach the southern border on I-91 where the hills that are unlike hills anywhere else begin, I remember believing that I could never live away from this state. Yet it's 10 years since I moved to Connecticut.

My mom and I spent an afternoon driving north from Putney to Bellows Falls and Weston. It was beautiful weather, a bright sky of fast moving clouds reflected on the snow and made me think about paint the way I used to all the time when I lived here. Connecticut has its own beauty, but there is something specific about the soft angles of Vermont landscapes that stirs me.

We spent the evening going through old little boxes of things belonging to my father, who I've had much cause to think of lately. I didn't know him well other than what I've been told, that he was an artist, he loved skiing and planes, and was an extremely gentle person.

I found many small clues to the details of his life; his Air Force ring, a carved pipe, pilot's license, foreign coins, appointment cards for radiation treatment, and pictures of my mother and me. Photo: the back of an emroidered jacket he commissioned to commemorate his time with the Air Force which I'm finally beginning to understand.

Friday, December 02, 2005

hallelujah! hallelujah!

Today I went to NYC to drop off the last few pieces of a picture book I've been working on for a long time, What Could Be Better Than This.

I hand deliver as much of my work as I can now since FedEx lost my last book, and that adds to the stress of a job. Not just the cost of trains and taxis and a good full day of time, but I also can't bear having an editor open up a package of my work in front of me. I always try to pass as a messenger, drop the package and run before I'm caught. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

I've got a ritual of listening to Handle's Hallelujah Chorus as soon as the last art from a book leaves my hand. The moment I left Penguin Putnam's 345 Hudson Street building today I got out my iPod, ran ecstatically back to the subway and celebrated my victory on the wrong train.

Here I am in one of my less attractive moments. This is what illustrating a 32 page picture book does to me. I need a vacation.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Master Peter

A couple of stills from a video of Master Peter. First photo: Kenton and I with Don Quixote in one of his more somber moments dreaming of Dulcinea. Second photo: Becka as the monkey on the shoulder of Master Peter, operated by Garrett and Corrina. Thanks, Bob!

Thursday, November 24, 2005


I love watching theater. Sometimes when a show is just right, the audience and actors in accord, something happens and it feels like all boundaries fall away, that it's no longer two seperate groups of people, but one, hovering in the space between the house and the stage. It's transforming, exhilerating, and wonderful.

I've only just crossed from audience to performer, and my fondest hope is to feel what that's like from the other side. I haven't really so far, my mind is always preoccupied with worries and mistakes. Though there's been a few very brief moments of something that I think is close.

In the hours before the show, a view from that other side of Don Quixote and the Terrace Theater house. Angel the conductor and Marcela the designer talk in the shadows.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kennedy Center

Saturday morning rehearsals. Everyone is tired from a long Friday of travel and puppet preparation. The Terrace Theater stage has different dimensions then the Wesleyan stage we've been working on for months, and there are dreadful wheel-catching grooves in the floor. Turning the cart takes on new dangers. Every move by puppet and puppeteer must be re-figured.

First photo, Bob Bresnick (director) and Jack Carr (lighting designer) in the house while students readjust to the stage. Second photo, Johann and Jess with The Boy. Third photo, Garrett, the muscle behind the heavy Master Peter.

puppets arrive

The puppets unpacked and waiting for re-assembly backstage at the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater. Leslie Weinberg the designer works with tech crew in piecing the puzzle back together.

Below, Master Peter and The Boy still in their travel wrappings without their heads.

Washington DC

On Friday myself, 17 Wesleyan students, and 7 faculty and staff members drive from Connecticut to Washington with a truck load of puppets and set pieces from the Master Peter show. Here, through the van window, the Kennedy Center where we'll be performing.

studio in chaos

The messiness of my studio directly corresponds to the number of projects I have going. A partial shot of some record breaking chaos last week between the Wesleyan and Washington performances of Master Peter when I was trying to catch up with painting work.

On my desk a children's book cover I've been struggling to finish for longer then I want to say. Beyond: a box of books sent to me to sign, abandoned dance shoes for a show I had to bow out of, and my faithful studio cat MoJo enjoying an aviation map bound for the next series of collage paintings I'm eager to start work on.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

the show at last

Months and months of work by so many people come to such short little stretch of time. I've been rehearsing and working a few days a week on the three puppets assigned to me since August, but the Wesleyan students, Leslie Weinberg the puppet designer and Bob Bresnick the director have worked themselves to the bone for this 25 minute show.

I am unspeakably grateful for the trust Bob and Leslie put in me to build puppets, and for another opportunity to perform, which I love so much. And my part as Don Quixote's right arm lets me be fantastically physical and dramatic.

The first show, Friday night. I and my wonderful and very strong partner Kenton try to take advantage of opportunities for great sentimental reveries and violence.

opening night

I've added a mane and tail to the horse at the last minute. Anna, one of the student puppeteers who operates it, practicing before the house opens to see if she can make her passes with the new adjustments. She does it beautifully.

puppets await

In the Wesleyan scene show Friday night, a few hours before the first performance of Master Peter. The puppets have miraculously all come to be in working order, I have time to wander and take pictures.

Top, Corrina, a student, puppet maker and new puppeteer, tends to Don Quixote in front of the puppet stage cart. Below, monkey hangs with the puppets of the puppet show within the puppet show.

Friday, November 11, 2005

dress rehearsal

Tonight Master Peter's Puppets opens at Wesleyan. The week leading up to this has had me so immersed in puppet making and puppet rehearsing I haven't had the mind to take pictures. There are many lovely scenes backstage as puppets await their entrance, but last night this was the only puppeteer I could get to stand still long enough in the light for a photo.

Three of the audience puppets and to their right, low on the wall, a mysterious appartition.

Monday, November 07, 2005

sic itur ad astra

I live for flying. Everything I love to do most simulates the feeling of flight in some way-- driving, puppeteering, dreaming, trapezing, and ice skating. But on Friday I had a rare opportunity to do the real thing when a generous friend offered to take me up in a small plane, which I have always wanted to do.

I've been on plenty of passenger jets but this was completely different. I've never seen places I knew well from the air before. We flew over roads I drive daily, the nuns' retreat, the place we fire spin, the river boats I used to work on... from above everything looked so much closer together, and everything was beautiful beyond belief. I did not want to land. I still can't say all that it did to me. I left somewhat diminished for now knowing what an earth-bound being is missing.

No small part of the wonderful-ness of the trip was the pilot, one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. He kindly banked the plane so I could pick out where things were and take pictures. In the photo, the Mercy Center below, where I spent hours on the deck of the tower watching planes above, day dreaming about what they could see.

fortune cookie

One I found on my kitchen counter this morning, from where it came I knew not but I ate it anyway. It says: "Love is the affinity which links and draws together the elements of the world." I can see that.

Friday, November 04, 2005

leaving earth

And then, I was here.


Thursday night, at the Locco Ritoro gallery, Boston. This was the official opening for Robert's Snow, the fundraising auction run by my friends Grace Lin and Robert Mercer, to benefit the Dana Farber Insitute.

We started this project last year, not knowing if we'd break $5,000, and ended up with $100,000. This year things have become far bigger and more serious from the start. Over a hundred people came to this little gallery, from as far away as Virginia, just for the snowflakes.

Here, visitors looking at 200 tiny pieces of art painted by children's book illustrators from all over the country.


I don't know where I think the world is going, but I've been racing around trying to eat up every bit of it as if it's about to disappear.

This month has been beyond anything I can recall, with so many projects, events, and coincidences happening all at once. Thursday, on very little sleep I raced to Boston for the grand gallery opening of Robert's Snow, which goes on auction this weekend, and found myself with nothing to do for a few minutes as I waited for a friend, who suggested I walk to this park. I did, and seeing the fall leaves, water, and benches I suddenly recalled what I'd learned at the Mercy Center so dramatically-- all these wonderful, life changing experiences come to nothing without the time in between to absorb them. The rests between the notes in music are as important as the notes themselves.

I didn't have a lot of time to stay in this beautiful spot, but it was an important reminder.

Sunday, October 30, 2005


City Wide Sunday again. Many books got signed. Here friends Susan and Jessica momentarily distracted by the camera as they wait for me to make drawings in their new copy of One Riddle One Answer.


Sunday afternoon in swing. The room was less full then this only for a few brief moments all day. It was a good year for City Wide, people came out in droves. The key for keeping them around: dill havarti cheese.

still hanging

We opened at noon on Saturday, here at noon on Sunday I still haven't finished setting up. Book Museum is done, but more paintings arrive to be hung. I spend a lot of time on the ladder. My mom takes over as documentarian.

a room of one's own

New Haven City Wide Open Studios alternative space 2005: Olin Metals Factory. CWOS has become an important annual event for me in the 4 years I've been doing it. I usually make some good money, but I also inevitably make new connections with people who become great supporters, mentors and friends.

This year I volunteered to be a site coordinator so I could be more involved with the organization, and also so I could score a sweet space. I got this lovely little room to myself, which gave me the opportunity to turn it into a mystical chamber of fairy-tale-esque ambiance. Sort of!

Photo: Friday, mad rush to get everything hung. A very bare space that needs to turn into a gallery and book museum within a few hours. I've brought in my mom and worked her butt off. She thinks to take a picture of the space in progress. Here I'm working on the Book Museum, a 21 foot time line of the progression of a book, or at least the illustration part, from first tiny doodles to final painting. Ambitious.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

puppet progress

Two student puppeteers surrounded by an army of puppets, and Charle- magne, at an early rehearsal of Master Peter at Wesleyan University on Friday night. These are the smaller puppets of the puppet show within a puppet show. Outside the picture are the life sized puppets looking on.

It's so good to finally see these characters starting to take life on stage.

Friday, October 21, 2005

our town

A view from my porch of a news truck in our troubled neighborhood, through the plants and Tibetan prayer flags I always keep here.

This morning I gave an interview with News Channel 8 about the massive police raid in my neighborhood last night. My street was blocked at both ends, I walked home through a sea of police, ambulances and DEA.

Our house is directly opposite the entrance of an infamous dead end street. I've never felt in any physical danger here, and I know many of these people personally. But now my downstairs tenant is shaken from hearing gun shots, which is one thing we've never had before. The news crew told me it was the police shooting my next door neighbor's dog 5 times in their living room while the kids were in the house.


The donkey head for Sancho is still slowly progressing layer by layer. This was him last night at the costume shop, with a new foam neck and wet celluclay ears. He'll get a paperclay skin next.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Amidst these pursuits of multiple wild geese, I attempt to maintain a career as an illustrator. This is not easy when jobs scheduled months in advance get moved, canceled, and added to while I'm under contract to several companies at once. No amount of planning can ward off all-night painting marathons now and then.

A spot of the Sorcerer's Apprentice, for a classical cd insert. Makes a good self-portrait for this particular moment.

Monday, October 17, 2005

doll club

On Saturday my doll club, Original Doll Artisans of Connecticut, went to speak and show our dolls to another doll club, the New London Doll Club, at the Groton Public Library. Our doll club makes dolls, their doll club collects them.

The best thing about this was hearing my fellow ODACT sisters talk about their work and why they make the kinds of dolls they do. This group has really made me consider why I've always tended toward floppy, moveable dolls; while they for the most part all make posed dolls with beautiful set gestures that stand on their own. I've made two of these since I joined the group, and found my instincts fighting it all the way.

It finally occured to me that for years I've been making puppets without knowing it. Seeing as I grew up in my grandfather's puppet theater, and made and played with puppets through my childhood, kind of makes a lot of sense. Amazing the things we don't notice about ourselves that are as clear as day.

The photo: the lovely ladies of the New London doll club taking a serious look at our dolls. The most enthusiastic and critical viewers of our art form. I was nervous.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

the metal factory

Ah, the mysterious smells and bio hazard signs of an old abandoned New Haven building. It's October, and City Wide Open Studios season again. Last year I was stuck in a tidy little school, far too appropriate for my work. I prefer decay and grime and lab equiptment to juxtapose against my fairy tale paintings.

This year 300 of us will be exhibiting all kinds of visual and performance art at the gigantic Olin Metals Factory building off Dixwell Avenue. It's terrificly run down and full of contraptions. October 29-30, food and festivities will be there too. This will be my fourth (!) year with City Wide, my first year as a site coordinator.

At the factory, fellow coordinator and incredible artist whose work graces my own house, Tony Baloney.

Monday, October 10, 2005

lost horses return

Being a freelance illustrator, overnight FedEx shipping is a large part of my life. In 10 years of making original art full time for companies all over the country I got very accustomed to the idea that paint drying in my studio one day could be in California 24 hours later.

Then an overnight package FedExed to my agent in Boston went missing. It contained 1/8 of the paintings for Magic Hoofbeats I had just completed, and the cover art for The Water Gift that was to be shown at Society of Illustrators in NYC.

There were weeks of agony as I scrambled to finish the rest of Magic Hoofbeats which was late, and navigate FedEx's astonishingly poor customer service phone ring. The lost art was months of work, and work I'd been unusually happy with. I couldn't fathom repainting it all. A month went by, FedEx admitted the loss, said they'de done a "hub sweep" search at its last known location (Stamford, CT), and they were giving up.

Very luckily, I'd made scans on my little home scanner at a mere 300dpi. Unbelievably Barefoot Books was able to fix them up to print quality and use them in the book. If you look at the Lone Boy story, it's a little fuzzier then the rest, but utterly miraculous considering the source.

I kept imagining that eventually Tom Hanks would show up at my door with the package and a story about a plane crash and a deserted island. But a couple of years have passed and no Tom Hanks.

Now Peaceable Kingdom, a delightful company I've had the pleasure to work with on greeting cards for several years, has taken one of the same scans and made an edited version of the painting for a large poster that's coming out in January. It's not the original, but my wild horses have come back in a form I'm very pleased with. This is one of three posters with PK that will be my first large editions.

winter doll

The beginnings of a doll. ODACT is taking over the front window of a Westport store for the holidays, I need something large to contribute. This head, an experiment in sculpy over apoxy, has been kicking around the studio for a year, too heavy for the cloth body it was intended for. The new body is a 2 foot core of chicken wire under newspapermache.

As usual with my dolls, she is evolving between other projects, one step at a time without an overall plan. Next I'll probably add layers of batting and felt to the torso and arms before finishing with an air-dry clay. Costuming will be fun at this scale. I was expecting her to be the Snow Queen, but not sure she's going to comply.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

spirit horses

I've run out of batteries for my camera, so I have no picture to put in my blog. It's all been puppets, puppets, doll, puppets, paintings, and more puppets for the most part.

But here's a Robert Bly poem my friend Lois sent me.

Every breath taken in by the man
who loves, and the woman who loves,
goes to fill the water tank
where the spirit horses drink.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Glass in the park

My friend Bob pointed out that Philip Glass (far right) was a fellow audience member at the Tompkins Square Circus Amok show. I love Philip Glass, so I took his picture. He looks confused by what he's seeing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

fire hooper

When I saw Maria, the beautiful circus and fire artist dancing with her fire hoop the first night of WildFire, I was entranced. I never imagined I'd care to take up a hula hoop but this was a whole different kind of hooping I've never seen before.

I took Maria's beginner class the next day. The hoops we used were huge and heavy, 12 feet of 1 inch irrigation tubing in a ring. This gained me a lot of bruising, but the heavier hoop is oddly far easier to keep going on any part of your body then the usual light toy hula hoops.

So now I've got straight up hoops in the making, and all the supplies to turn them fiery once I'm up to speed. In the meantime I paint pictures.

fire toys

These were the collective communal toys we had full time access to play with at WildFire last week. Fire staffs, fire poi, fire hoops, fire fans, fire clubs, fire fingers, fire whips, fire darts, fire devil sticks! This was too much for me to take. Not only did I get no rest over a weekend I'd hoped would be relaxing, it also renewed my awareness of how easily distracted I am by new pretty things, a trait that has kept me a jack-of-all / master-of-none sort of person.

Of course all these fire dancing disciplines inform each other. Poi has given me a new feeling for staff, and staff has helped me get my brain around poi. And for me all of them are about overcoming fear and developing an intimate relationship with this beautiful wild element that is so inspiring. But it would be nice to focus on one thing and become proficient at it. I imagine that would come with some amount of relief as well. It's exhausting being in love with everything everywhere all the time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

fire head

This painting was inspired by my friend Brett who set fire to his forehead while spinning poi at WildFire. I was so mesmerized by the site of it, I watched in stunned silence rather then jump to help (sorry Brett). Luckily spotters noticed before too much damage was done. It was spectacular though.

Brett also knows clouds (my favourite things to paint) like nobody's business.


This morning was my last one at the seaside retreat run by the Sisters of Mercy. I can't think the last time I saw the sun rise, and I got two rounds of it from the Tower where I spent 48 hours in solitude.

I don't think I would have chosen to do this at this point, being still something of a recovering recluse, but my friend Meg who booked the room couldn't use it, and I was interested to see what it would be like painting there.

WildFire, just a few days before, was very intimately about earth and fire, and very close community. The Mercy Center was its polar opposite in every way: being about water and wind, and apart-ness. There are other people there, but it's understood you don't intrude on the privacy they've come for, so most of the time people pass you without so much as a look.

This was very strange at first, but with nothing else to do I just painted and painted, and with no one to talk to I found myself being able to absorb all that had occurred in the last week. I got a lot of good work and meditation done.

nuns on the beach

Within just a few days I went from a fiery tribal drumming in the woods, to gritty street circus in New York City, to total seclusion with nuns on the shoreline. I don't think I've ever had such an ecclectic week.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Sparks from Wildfire, in Deep River, CT this past weekend.

Circus Amok

Jennifer Miller, bearded lady and founder and star of Circus Amok, with her troupe in Tompkins Square Park yesterday. Fabulous.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Artifax collage

My friend Anne had no idea what she was in for when she asked me to teach a collage class at Artifax, the wonderful international hand crafts shop she owns in Milford. The mess that is forever following me in all my endeavors took over the back half of the shop on Friday night, while we made art and a few curious shoppers picked there way over buckets of water and piles of paper.

Here is Anne and her daughter Aimee very engrossed in the process of chaos-making, which is of primary importance to every kind of art I do, mostly because I simply can't avoid it.

horse phase 2

Here is the horse again, now slightly redesigned, cut from corrugated plastic, and contact cemented together, with Don Roldan (excuse me-- NOT Charlegmagne!) trying him out. The next phase is finding a way for Roldan's hands to quickly attach to reins so that his arms move with the horse's neck motion, and putting a low relief of celluclay on each side, though it is highly debated in the shop whether or not this will work. The first of the clay was administered to one side on Thursday of last week, I have not yet heard the results....

I think this horse is tired of being called Horse. Though for some reason I feel that Monkey enjoys being called Monkey.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

fiery queen

Lately I've been really enjoying Mexican folk retablos painting thanks to reference books at the Wesleyan costume shop. Also early Spanish medieval manuscript illustration- their angels have some great wings. This is a bigger little piece of bad art then the previous ones.

Monday, September 12, 2005


These have been all reds, oranges and pinks because it's harder for me to physically see subtleties in the warm side of the color spectrum. I hope playing like this might help overcome that irritating weakness.

cardboard horse

A cardboard sketch of a horse puppet for Master Peter, in progress. This is not the first working puppet I've made, but it's the first that's had to work properly for other people to operate, and fit the design of the rest of the show, which is hard.

The final will be about 30 inches tall, out of layered corrugated plastic with a shallow bas relief of celluclay. The head, neck and front legs pivot together at the shoulder, moved by a rod, as the rest of the body is held from a stick underneath. At least I think, but it keeps changing. The Charlemagne puppet will be riding this horse to rescue Melisande.