It’s a Wonderful Life

Posted by on Dec 18, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 1 comment

When I learned last winter that this season’s holiday show at Portland Stage Company would be It’s a Wonderful Life, I couldn’t WAIT to see the live radio play version. Joe Landry’s adaptation brought in all the vintage touches of a live radio broadcast, with applause signs, a foley table, and period commercials for cake soap and hair tonic.

I worked on rough ideas for the theater poster last February. My first idea used a big radio as if it’s the pivotal scene on the bridge between George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence.

Another composition, with a wreath and big vintage microphone above a small trio of actors.

My research on radio programs of the times showed everyone reading from a script. They could be carolers in this idea, with a big wreath framing two actors.

More variations on the theme…

Sketch #2 got the nod. I worked in pieces, since Portland Stage uses the illustration in so many formats. Background first! Bright red pastel, yum.

Our players, George, Mary, and Clarence. Of course, I didn’t know the casting at that point. I drew on sandy colored paper, blocking out the background with white, so the figures could be silhouetted digitally.

Likewise, the microphone was drawn on a white background for a silhouette that could be layered over the other elements.

Typography? Marty Braun came to my rescue, with a plethora of choices.

It’s a matter of digitally merging the separate illustrations from this point on, playing with scale and placement of the various parts, plus adding wings and snow, some shadows beneath the type.

I saw the noon show yesterday, with family plus our neighbor, Nikolai.

There was plenty to watch before the show, as actors gathered on set, a 1940’s era radio studio. Director and set designer Anita Stewart made ingenuous use of every inch.

In this production, nobody is reading their part! The fantastic cast nimbly changed multiple roles without missing a beat, donning a prop or two, while pulling off a full range of comedy to drama. David Mason channeled Jimmy Stewart impeccably, and Emma O’Donnell played a winsome Mary AND a despicable Mr. Potter. Dustin Tucker was downright divine as Clarence, yet also agile in countless other roles. His Mr. Walsh cracked me UP, as did Courtney Moors’ Mr. Martini.

Among my crew, there was not a dry eye in the house by the end.

There are still six days of performances. If you need a bit of angel in your frantic holiday chores, this will do it. Thank you, Portland Stage!




Sweet finish for Illustration MECA juniors

Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Art Classes, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, Peaks Island | 0 comments

I last wrote about my class at Maine College of Art after the first month of the semester HERE.

So so SO much has happened since! I’ve gotten to know the Junior Major illustration students  better, their abilities and voices have grown, and it has been one blur of productivity. Project 2 finals were brought in, and the crit was quite articulate and thoughtful, regarding the success of illustrating a figure in an environment with convincing space and depth. These two used the phone as a prop.

Illustration by Stephanie Henry


Illustration by Lauren Merritt


Illustration by Carla Nunez-Hernandez

Project 3 involved illustrating one of three editorial essays for a magazine. One was from Sierra Magazine, titled The Wilderness Out Your Front Door. To warm up, we had a visit from Katie Brodeur from the Center for Wildlife, seen here introducing Zipper, the corn snake.

Students sketched while she brought out a petite screech owl, Lady Willow, and then Wilbur, a curious opossum.

drawing by Jacob Papciak


drawings by HC Elliott

Students formed groups according to what article they had chosen and then brainstormed ideas with word lists. They were asked to develop concepts that played with metaphor and juxtaposition.

Art Director Beth Taylor of Longstocking Design visited class for a sketch critique, giving each student feedback on which preliminary idea was strongest and most appropriate to develop for the story.

Students placed their finished illustration in the context of the layout for the class critique.


Illustration by Fred Aldrich

Illustration by Alice Eafrati

Another article was from The Atlantic.

Illustration by Meaghan Chandonnet

The third article was for Nautilus Magazine.

Illustration by Sarah Sawtelle

Project 4 involved reportage, the visual documentation of an event or place. It was the perfect time for a field trip to Peaks Island. They hiked up to Scott Nash’s studio where the remnants of a Halloween installation were still in place.

Scott discussed his work and professional practices and answered their questions, surrounded by his toys and scraps of watercolor blotters.

They headed down the street to the home studio of Doug Smith, because there are illustrators everywhere here. He showed the preliminary sketches for a book jacket and students marveled at his collection of vintage illustration and pulp fiction paperbacks.

We engaged in an impromptu golf cart parade followed by a hike to Battery Steele.

Illustration by Stephanie Henry

We hiked through the woods to my house, where everyone ate brownies and Halloween candy.

Illustration by Eli Cania

Students had only a little time to trot down to the low tide.

Back to Portland too soon.

Illustration by Meaghan Chandonnet

Their choices of subject matter for the reportage assignment, which required five images, ranged from the public to the personal. Emily did a series of watercolors at a local cemetery, capturing a certain slant of light.

Illustration by Emily Carlson

Elliott documented five MECA students in costume at the Halloween party and put them into a zine. This is Baby Driver.

Illustration by HC Elliott

Jenna did a series on the special objects in her relationship. Like the couch she and her boyfriend moved several blocks.

Illustration by Jenna Zammett

Hannah’s series was about comfort zones, the places that bring her calm.

Illustration by Hannah Stritch

Right before the Thanksgiving break, MECA alum Sophie Cangelosi came in to demonstrate the RISO printer, which is a somewhat vintage machine that has found new fans. It requires printing in separate colors, like a silkscreen, but with the advantages of a copier. This is my sketch of Sophie.

She brought in some of her RISO misprints to discuss the accidental glories of imperfection.

Students brought in images from their sketchbooks to try out a couple of colors, discovering the challenges of registration.

print by Meghan McDunnah


print by Owen Scott


print by Jenna Zammett

After the break, there was intense hustling to complete all things for all courses. In the final assignment, students chose their own theme for three illustrations that had to be the same size, use of media, and color scheme so all three appeared related and demonstrated a deeper connection to what drives their illustrative voice.

One student used the RISO with strategic color mixing of orange, yellow, and blue inks.

Illustration by Sam Myrdek

Another chose to illustrate edible plants, emphasizing color and pattern.

Illustration by Emily Hepler

Another student brought historic buildings alive by creating an informational graphic with her hand-lettering.

Illustration by Eli Cania

This student created three posters of performers of magic, including a self portrait as a mentalist.

He embedded images of cake and the word cake in the illustration in an attempt to persuade us all to think CAKE. It worked on me! I felt compelled to make one for a sweet ending to a busy semester.

Congratulations to the juniors who stretched their abilities and showed so much patience in our 5 hour crits! What an honor to witness your growth and discovery. May you all rest up for the next semester and enjoy merry holidays!


Full moon soon

Posted by on Dec 1, 2017 in drawing, Illustration, Luna Press, pastels | 1 comment

Calling all lunatics! This Sunday will be the last full moon of 2017. I know this because of my handy dandy Lunar Calendar, to which I have contributed since 1983 at the invitation of Nancy. F. W. Passmore, editor of the Luna Press. I worked on the cover of the 2018 edition during my trip to Ireland in May. Well, I did a quick sketch anyway.

From the cottage where we stayed in Dunquin, I saw a distant island.

Everywhere we went, it was there, like a body floating.

It’s called Inis Tuaisceart and I couldn’t get it out of my head.  Plus, there are goddess faces in unlikely places.

Upon return, I drew several versions of it with a slightly more goddess shape. After all, the Lunar Calendar is Dedicated to the Goddess in Her Many Guises.

I’ve illustrated the cover many times. This is my fourteenth! Normally I do several ideas for consideration, but on this I was really into this single idea. But I did several color studies, each featuring a crescent moon, since that’s what we saw during our stay in Dunquin.

The final pastel captures how alive the goddess can be under even a sliver of moonlight.

I did an interior piece, also sparked by our travels in Ireland. We stopped at the Celtic History Museum one afternoon, where I saw this curious figurine.

Later that day, we came upon a labyrinth behind the church in Dingle.

Some things can’t be explained. This is what I did.

In order to fit the calendar, Nancy sought poetry to be paired with this. Voila, Diana Rowan obliged, with grace! It appears in black and white in the calendar, above the informative spiral of moon phases and their daily rise and set times.

How else do I know when to wait by the ocean for the moon to perform it’s magic? Meet me back shore on Peaks at 4:30 this Sunday, if you like.


Giving thanks

Posted by on Nov 29, 2017 in Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Island Birthday, pastels, Peaks Island, Portland Public Library, Tilbury House | 2 comments

Don’t ask me how a flock of wild turkeys has been roaming our end of the island for many weeks. Leading up to Thanksgiving Day, there were plenty of jokes about them. Peaks Island is part of the City of Portland, where no hunting is permitted, so these birds were just free range.

When our daughter returned for college break, our first stop was at the delightful Dahlov Ipcar exhibit at the Portland Public Library. You can’t miss the fantastic reading nook with a mural of lively fowl! This First Friday is the closing reception, so hurry up.

Besides Ipcar’s original picture book art that dates as far back as the 40’s, there are super sweet animals hopping around.

On Thanksgiving Day, we ventured across the road to our neighbor’s house where a bunny named Mathilda holds court on the porch. Here’s my humble sketch of her bundle of fur.

The Moxhay’s kitchen has been duly represented in Island Birthday.

I could hardly do it’s wonders justice in my illustration. We walked into a cloud of yummy cooking smells.

Our dear neighbor Nicole was already there, sharing this board of goodness.

An elegant table had been lovingly set, hand-lettered place cards by Imogen.

Nikolai made hand printed souvenirs for everyone.

He also entertained us all with his nimble balloon craft. I sketched one of them later.

After a sumptuous meal, we headed to the shore just in time for the day’s end.

It took more than a few self-timed camera shots to get this one. Don’t blink!

The sky just kept getting better and better.

We earned our pie, we did!

Nothing like a dessert table, is there? Ginger tea, chardonnay, cider, and cabernet with a heady bouquet of conversations.

Thank you, Moxhays, for hosting a memorable feast!

As a family, we avoid Black Friday. All I bought was two pounds of coffee from Peaks Island Coffee Roasters during a ride around the Rock.

On Saturday, we headed to town. Big YES to Small Business Saturday! I found gorgeous hand printed wares by Pretty Flours on our way to the Animation Show of Shows at the Portland Museum of Art.

Sunday was all island time. Long walks and talks.

We walked past the horses. Daisy heard the news: these acres of island farm are up for sale, victim of a border dispute.

I drew island horses owned by Jeanann Alves years ago for her picture book, Maddie’s Magical Ride. In fact, Olwyn and Imogen Moxhay posed for this illustration when they were little.

I hope the horses can remain on island, and their story has a happy ending. I give thanks to all the creatures here and gone on this tiny rock three miles out to sea! SO grateful for family, friends, and children’s books, they all share a deep thread in my life.








Illustration MECA field trip

Posted by on Nov 21, 2017 in Art Classes, Children's Book Illustration, drawing, Illustration, Maine College of Art, travels | 6 comments

A week ago I traveled west with senior Illustration MECA majors, co-chaperoning another field trip led by our intrepid Department Chair Mary Anne Lloyd. This time we ventured in a wagon train of cars, landing at the venerable Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. While awaiting everyone’s arrival, we ate our bag lunches in the classroom, appropriately surrounded by the drawings of young artists.

Our tour guide, Patrick O’Donnell, led us through early works by Rockwell, with the eye of a professional illustrator. We saw Rockwell’s detailed studies in charcoal pencil near the classroom. Here’s my charcoal sketch of Patrick.

We sat before each of the Four Freedoms, slowing down our looking to discover Rockwell’s calculated visual strategies. I had not seen the likeness to Abraham Lincoln before, or the symbolism of the speaker’s blue collar.

He brought us down to the archives, where Rockwell’s reference photos show the story behind his authentic realism: his models, many of whom visit the museum regularly. He pulled out Rockwell’s paintbox and some of his correspondence, including a letter from Walt Disney, which Rachel Breckenridge was thrilled to read aloud.

We then roamed about Tony di Terlizzi’s exhibit, Never Abandon Imagination.  The Class of 2016 met Tony on a previous field trip, and the opportunity to see his work was a main draw for the Class of 2018.

There’s a cool display in which Tony says he is an award-winning illustrator and a thief. He traces his borrowing to specific sources in both fine art and illustration history. Perfect examples for students to dig deep!

Illustrators get a kick out of putting themselves into their work, including Rockwell. I enjoyed spying this piece by Tony of Mo Willems and himself at a table in Paris, which appeared in their collaboration, The Story of Diva and Flea.

It was a sweet surprise to come across this exhibit about the Famous Artists School.

This was a popular correspondence course launched in 1948 by illustrator Albert Dorne. I inherited the four volume set a few years ago that belonged to my uncle, Roland Hogan. What a vintage treasure of traditional methods! Nice to see the same binders and all the ephemera together.

Some things never go out of style, such as drawing in sketchbooks. I noted one of the display’s signage read:

Time and again, Famous Artists School illustrators urged their students to steep themselves in art and experiences. For Robert Fawcett, other training was just mechanical. He advised students not to worry about technique or about the development of a “style,” noting that technique emerges from a way of thinking and feeling and that style follows naturally. Drawing on location frees the mind and the hand, and makes personal exploration with no strings attached possible…”

My students know I push sketchbooks as ultimate tools of discovery, so finding reinforcement of that philosophy is a delight.

We shopped in the store and wandered over to Rockwell’s studio. It was closed, but the fresh air and expansive views of the Berkshires as golden light settled over the hills was a perfect ending to our visit.

Next stop was Northampton where we settled into our hotel. Kids wasted no time in making for the pool!

Western Mass. is a veritable Bermuda Triangle for illustrators. We headed out in the morning for the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in nearby Amherst.

Even a pile of leaves looks well-placed there.

We let our souls shine walking through the portal to the exhibit, Eric Carle: Night.

Here’s my sketch of Courtney Waring, Director of Education and our welcoming guide who walked us through the galleries.

Besides all the work of Eric Carle, we saw a fantastic exhibit, Collecting Inspiration: Contemporary Illustrators and their Heroes. Curated by that dynamic duo of Mo Willems and Tony di Terlizzi, the pairings of art that illustrators bought for their own collections beside their own work, plus the fascinating stories behind them was… downright brilliant.

Nobody could resist a drawing table, c’mon.

Let it be said, the Class of 2018 is adorable.

Left to right, back row: Jennifer Olson, Katie Steere, Michaela Flint, Cara Peslak, Veronica Jones, Kat Harris, Rachel Breckenridge, Rob Mannix, Hannah Barrett. Left to right, front row: Tyler Eldridge, Amanda Wood, Aric Gross, Kolby Senrick, Brittany Taylor, Jeremy Libby, and Sami Monoxelos.

We fueled up at Atkins Farms before returning to Northampton for one last destination, the R. Michelson Galleries. Located in a former bank, the galleries include a vault of priceless work. Students oohed and aahed at the actual prices. On the balcony, Sami and Kat were dwarfed by a set piece by Maurice Sendak from the opera, The Love of Three Oranges.

We hit the road for Maine full beyond words. It was a blast to witness so many worlds of illustration in the company of this year’s awesome class. Thanks to Mary Anne Lloyd and Maine College of Art for the infinite miles of inspiration!



Complications From A Fall

Posted by on Nov 13, 2017 in Illustration, Portland Stage Company | 2 comments

Kate Hawley’s script Complications From A Fall, triggered some heartache for me. Having walked that final episode of eldercare with my mother years ago, it touched a few nerves. I went looking for the walker that is still in the basement, don’t ask me why. That thing was a metaphor for my mother’s decline. I made it an element in all of my ideas for the poster for Portland Stage’s recent production.

In one scene, Elizabeth, the aging mother, sets fire to some old letters. It seemed very direct to visualize the walker falling in flames.

Maybe too direct. So I tried variations with people.

In this idea, Elizabeth’s son, Teddy, has arrived to take over the eldercare from his uptight sister, Helen, while she attends, of all things, an Ibsen conference. Eldercare throws everything out of whack, family roles and identities are in a disorienting suspension. Teddy spends part of the play on the couch, drinking from his flask of Scotch.

Here the walker in the foreground dominates the scene. Like Elizabeth’s care literally does.

I tried three silhouettes, of Elizabeth, of Helen with her luggage, and of Lucy, the young caregiver. Teddy’s face is in the glass.

Medications are the dominant element in this one. So much of eldercare rests on them.

Marketing director Eileen Phelan asked to see some ideas without booze or drugs. I revised a previous sketch to include Helen and Teddy in the background.

I reversed the emphasis here, with the siblings in the foreground, Elizabeth burning an old letter in the background.

This sketch made the cut.

For the final illustration, I decided to keep the center bright, like a flame in a field of blue. Had a blast just making textures in pastel.

The linear figures were digitally layered over the drawn background. Fun to see the poster appear in the New Yorker!

All the posters for this season were done in a feverish rush between January and March. Normally I like to attend the shows early in their run. But, Portland Stage has so much goodness going on. Instead we saw The Haunting Hour in late October, which was crazy creepy good.

We saw the show on Friday night, and it was deeper and funnier than I expected. That would be stellar direction by Paul Mullins and performances by Maureen Butler (a regular favorite of mine) and Erik Saxvik. The set design was brilliant, with all the touches of Elizabeth’s home tidy and ready for the emotional unraveling to come.

My theater dates clearly enjoyed it. Thanks to amazing actress Moira Driscoll for taking this photo.

Complications From A Fall hit all the still tender spots, but with compassion. The last chapter for one’s parents can be disorienting, yet so important to bear witness.

Gunnel Larsdotter wrote to me afterwards, “Staging, incredibly well done. The play also gave us things of both serious and not so serious nature to ponder. “Elizabeth” -the lead – a super star!”

Tonight is the last performance. I truly hope you saw it.










Vermont vibes

Posted by on Nov 10, 2017 in drawing, pastels, travels | 2 comments

What a gadabout autumn we’ve had. Last weekend we headed to Vermont for the first time in ages, to the rustic getaway house of my Kittery cousins, Mike and Wanda. They bought land from Mike’s brother Joe, a retired dairy farmer, Vietnam vet, and thespian. We were lucky to find the place in the remote hills of Marshfield just before dusk.

While others were upset about losing power, this is how they roll there, off the grid. Dinner by candlelight with long stories. Mike did the dishes under a solar lamp.

What a difference the sun makes!

Spied this dear painting by their daughter, the famous artist and educator Mati Rose.

We headed out under brisk skies for a long walk to nearby farms.

Joe’s barn is home to new calves.

Up and down some steep hills and then there were sheep.

After returning to the house for lunch, we then drove around the backroads, stopping at Hollister Hill Farm, where I was smitten by the pigs. In every stall there were piles of them dreaming, ignoring the cawing of this rooster.

Mike strolled around outside while we considered the farm products.

I sketched these today.

We drove into Montpelier. Outside of town, I saw this steeple.

Marty liked this stone truck.

I made Mike stop the car when I spotted a labyrinth, which I walked with contentment.

We went past Maple Corner, an old mill house, and many, many cows. Back at the house, Wanda made pizza.

I have these two to thank for introducing me to the mellow vibe of Maine, way back in the 80’s when I was madly buzzing about Boston. Thanks, Mike and Wanda, for getting us off the grid and into the heart of Vermont.

We left early Monday morning to head back to work. This scarecrow deserved a proper farewell.

I think I’ll be drawing pigs and cows and hills for awhile.



Pub Day for Ana and the Sea Star!

Posted by on Nov 7, 2017 in Ana and the Sea Star, Children's Book Illustration, Illustration, school visits, Tilbury House | 6 comments

Finally, today is THE DAY!!! My twelfth book is real.

Ana and the Sea Star by R. Lynne Roelfs is published! It is a small miracle when ideas manifest into a real book. When I first read the manuscript in July of 2016, it felt authentic, the story of finding a starfish. My photo below is evidence of that time a sea star washed into a Peaks Island tide pool a summer ago, and was gently placed back in the ocean.

First I sketched out a rough storyboard, deciding what to show, the flow of the visuals, and varying points of view.

I contacted some island neighbors to model for me. The lovely Schuit family met me at Sandy Beach on Peaks Island on Labor Day weekend of 2016. I read them the story and watched their daughter, Zoe, effortlessly become the character of Ana. With multiple photo references, I made a rough dummy to send to Tilbury House. It took two, in fact. I drew from a sea star from my collection of nature objects that also appeared in Seven Days of Daisy many years ago.

By the time I began final illustrations, I had piles of photos, sketches, and pastels on hand.

Photographs are handy, but imagination had to kick in, just like for Ana, when envisioning the sea star’s journey underwater.

I made numerous cover sketches; this one was chosen by the publisher. I mocked up the title with my own lettering.

This is the final illustration.

In early February of 2017, I shipped off the originals just as a storm was due to hit the Maine coast, crossing my fingers. When the box of books arrived 8 months later, I eagerly photographed them on a glorious October day in their natural habitat.

This past Saturday, I kicked off the 11th Family Literacy Fun Day in Windham with a showcase of other Maine authors and illustrators . After sharing a presentation on my work and process, I met some great kids curious about picture books.

I had a crew of boys very intent on trying the sanded paper I use, as well as the pastels and pencils from my stash of supplies.

Lucas-James Renaud, a fourth grader, asked me to show him how I began. I started a rough sketch of Ana, and he then drew in her legs and the entire background, with a beach, clouds, seagulls, and so much detail. Wow! Nice illustration, Lucas! He has my favorite blues down.

I managed to catch the final presenter, the wonderful book artist, Rachel E. Church. She showed us her many methods of printmaking and various forms of book binding. When she pulled out her handmade accordion book, titled The Blue Book: A History of Cyanotype and the Book, we ALL swooned. Look at the seaweed splashing across the pages! Ana would just dive in.

Thanks to Windham Raymond Adult Education for hosting me.

A celebration and book launch for Ana and the Sea Star will be on November 18 at the Peaks Island Branch Library. The event will be in their temporary home at the Peaks Island Elementary School.

Or if you can’t sail the seas, come to Portland’s PRINT: a bookstore for their Children’s Book Holiday Mingle on Dec. 10. I want to meet you!




October vibes at Moody Point

Posted by on Oct 28, 2017 in A Porcupine's Promenade, drawing, travels | 2 comments

October adventures abound. Last week we had the pleasure of staying in an antique cottage at Moody Point, thanks to Brian and Lyn Smith. It’s only a short ride from Portland but the outing hit the refresh button immediately. We stopped in to peek at the new Mothers Wing at the Graves Memorial Library and then visited the Corey Daniels Gallery. That place is full of wonders.

Being the lunatic I am, I saw moons and eclipses in this series of Portals by Harrison Walker.

No surprise I was drawn to Sarah Bouchard’s Orbs. They breathe so well next to Corey’s wood sculptures.

The Smith Cottage stands out, in charm and age. It was built in the mid 1800’s by a German fellow who was the first to settle on Moody Point.

Filled with antiques, seaside souvenirs, and homespun crafts, the warm presence of family history wraps around you.

We headed straight to the beach, smooth as glass.

Later our hosts walked down the street from their nearby house to join us for dinner. Marty gave Brian some beer that sports his illustration.

After hearing tales about his field trip with sixth graders to Mount Agamenticus, we decided to go the next day. Along Route 1, signs of the season were abundant.

As a White Mountain native, I was happy to hike some trails at last.

Remnants of old ski lifts are like surprise sculptures.

We encountered another sixth grade field trip at the top. The view went for days.

After the hike back down, we returned to the cottage, where I drew for awhile on the porch. There’s a landmark across the intersection that isn’t really a lighthouse, but provided a good challenge of form and shadow.

I only packed small pieces of paper and one box of Terry Ludwig pastels. Enough to keep me out of trouble.

Another walk on the beach in a different direction but at just the right slant of fading light…

This time we headed to Brian and Lyn’s house for wine, stories, and pizza. I spied Lyn’s corner of writing inspiration.

Saturday was just as clear and glorious. We hopped all the way out to the end of the jetty. This boy seemed to jump out of my Island Birthday illustrations!

Our lazy afternoon at the cottage was full of reading and writing and just watching the world go by. We found our way to Earth at Hidden Pond for dinner. Very cool vibe, surrounded by wood, literally and figuratively.

No sign of a pond, though. Does a groovy pool count?

Glad we had Google to guide us home past the ghouls in them lonely woods.

Sunday was less sunny but with silvery skies. We walked over to the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge where the marshes are dotted with mirrors.

I drew some more back at the cottage.

We met up with Brian and Lyn for an afternoon trek at the Wells Reserve at Laudholm. What stunning sculptures in a lovely setting! This granite pair by Jordan Smith echoes the landscape.

We all were spellbound by this towering creature of periwinkle shells. By my dear friend Pamela Moulton!

The trails fork through forests and past estuaries.

We saw where the Little River meets the sea.

photo by Brian Smith

The driftwood is natural sculpture and a fine perch for Brian and Marty.

This granite piece, Owl Rising, by Andreas Von Huene bid us farewell.

Many thanks to Lyn and Brian for sharing their wild habitat with us!

Jamie Hogan, Marty Braun, and Lyn Smith photo by Brian Smith

Next Saturday I’ll be at the Windham Primary School at 10 AM for their Family Literacy Fun Day talking about my newest book, Ana and the Sea Star. I’d love to see you there!




A slice of heaven at Haystack

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in drawing, travels | 16 comments

Haystack Mountain School of Craft’s legendary Open Door has been on my radar for awhile. This was the year I threw my name into the lottery aimed exclusively at Mainers for a three-day intensive of creative immersion and GOT IN, hallelujah! I gleefully made the 4 hour drive from Portland to Deer Isle last Friday.

I’ve visited Haystack before, just to marvel at the steep spine of stairs down to the ocean’s edge. Now I could actually stay.

Everything is rustic, with striking architecture and slanting light. I was the first to check into my cabin. I found out later in the evening that RISD President Rosanne Somerson designed the new beds, which were perfect for dreaming.

I followed a nearby trail through piney woods to the rocky shore. While the light slipped away, I sketched this boulder that looked like a frog.

The food is fabled to be the best ever. And it’s true! Every meal was like a Thanksgiving table of plenty.

During a welcome session after dinner, I learned about the founder, Mary Beasom Bishop, and the influence other schools of craft, such as Penland, Black Mountain School, and Cranbrook, had on her strong belief in creative community.

We headed to our respective studios, where this sweet stash of supplies awaited students in Christine Mauersberger’s Mindful Stitching workshop.

We made introductions, and heard what brought each of us to the table. Among us were textile artists, knitters, a middle school teacher, a potter, a painter, a therapist. All of us drawn to the word mindful.

Christine quoted the poet Mary Oliver, inviting us to “tap into the wild silky part of ourselves.” This is one of Christine’s stunning works in progress in the foreground below.

Under bright moonlight, we headed to our cabins, eager for the next day. Saturday’s studio session began with a simple drawing prompt: draw a spiral with lines as close as possible.

That opened our focus to stitch a circle. Next we drew lines that were the length of our breath. Many lines on paper, inhale and exhales, which were then transferred to cloth. Slow stitching began. As the early morning fog burned off, the sun emerged, drawing us outside. Christine led us down, down, down the steps.

Past my cabin 24.

Through the shadowy forest to the sparkling shore.

Kyra’s stretch seems to hold up the sky.

Christina read a quote by Agnes Martin: “It is so hard to slow down to the pace where it is possible to explore one’s mind.”

Walking back for lunch, I noticed a circle of moss, like a moon on the forest floor.

Maybe Pettina saw it, too. I love the striking contrast here!

This is Christina’s graceful lettering of a Rumi quote. We all slipped into our intuitive marks.

Here’s another translation of the drawn to the stitched by Christina. She said, “Let drawings crafted by your senses shape your meandering thoughts.”

Here is the magnificent evidence of Susan’s breath.

The weather changed quickly, kicking up a sudden shower.

Saturday night’s dessert was like birthday cake to infinity.

We gathered for presentations from three of the teaching artists, Holly Walker, Dietlind Vander Schaaf, and Annie Finch. All of them spoke in ideas that overlapped. Holly talked about the “tempo fluctuating” in her ceramics, and she uses “cursive surfaces” to create her playful forms. Dietlind talked about “seeking stillness” with yoga and finding the meditative state of her interior landscapes, using line and pattern to discover natural beauty amid decay. Annie performed several poems, one fragment of which I jotted down: Point your fire like a flower.

That line still rang in my head on Sunday morning when Christine gave us another drawing prompt. She asked us to draw the outline of our fingertips, then remove our hand from the paper and keep drawing whatever came to mind. The drawing on the right became the stitching on the left, as the day moved on.

Here is a bold collage with shape and pattern by Jess.

Chris stitched over gorgeous fabric she had hand-dyed previously so that her circle floats dreamily in space.

Even the gong in the dining hall was speaking to me!

Christine was ever vivacious, full of stories, inspiring words, and demonstrations of her methods. Here she is talking salt: how spilling salt on black paper can trigger intuitive marks, too.

Like on this black wool skirt she stitched after drawing with her finger in a pile of salt.

This is Andrea’s salt stitching, like comets soaring across the sky over swirling seas


The wind was wild that day. Talk about swirly seas! I visited the rocks when the high tide surged into every crevice.

Bobbi tore some white fabric, creating positive shapes against black linen. Everyone was amazing me with their responses to the materials!

Ginger used her nature studies as inspiration.

Ingrid made cool collages with fabric bits. And how about that skirt?

Jennifer made this exquisitely layered stitching on a vintage tablecloth.

Julie stitched this exuberant whimsy inspired by the fingertip drawing prompt. It pulses with joy.

Kyra was having a blast with her playful circles and looping lines.

Kelly’s stack of circles are like a goddess figure of spinning forms.

On Sunday night, we saw presentations from the remaining teaching artists: Tanya Crane, Jenna Goldberg, Aaron Beck, and Christine Mauersberger. I felt deeply full, from the last supper and their combined wisdom.

On Monday morning, we secretly made a collective stitching to offer our gratitude to Christine.

We cleared up our studio, pinned our works to the walls, and shared the highs, lows, and what we will take away from the workshop. I confess I got totally choked up by the revelations and joys shared.

At 11 AM, the open studios walk through began. Next door in Dietlind Vander Schaaf’s encaustic painting class, I saw tremendous simpatico with our class, particularly in this piece by Kimberly.

Loved this piece by Lori !

I ran into a former MECA student of mine, Erika. She was in a 2D design class many years ago, and is now the co-owner of Norway Brewing. She still has her pattern theory down, with these lovely odes to the hop in Tanya Crane’s Enamel Mosaics workshop.

These pieces by Lauren are like cairns of magic.

Clearly the clay folks had too much fun as well.

Rebecca’s plates make great use of pattern play.

I was dazzled by the Band Saw Boxes in Jenna Goldberg’s workshop. This interior by Sarah is divine.

The TA for the workshop, Aaron, made this swanky thing. I could efficiently store all my favorite pastels in here.

Even the writing students got into the visual with colorful mandalas of words!

The blacksmithing workshop focused on making chess sets, among other things. This is by Michael, a former Peaks Islander and founder of Sacred and Profane.

The whole class made a collective set, too.

The serenity of boulders and fragrant pines was hard to leave.

I went back to the fiber studio. This piece of mine began with that first circle, and kept my wandering thoughts on every stitch.

Christine’s words on the blackboard said it all.

Thank you, Haystack! Thank you, Christine! My soul feasted on your unforgettable beauty in the company of incredible artists. What good fortune to take away all the moments of play, new connections, and a swirl of inspiration.