Everybody seemed eager to kick 2016 into history. Yeah, there were losses, that Election, hate, and plenty of things I want to forget. But a New Year…is a perennial place for hope. An earnest band of neighbors called the Get a Grip club gathered at our house on New Year’s Eve, armed with resolutions of change, good humor, and some hand-made glasses we will use for envisioning a better world.


Rest assured, we will keep a grip on what matters!

A few days later I visited King Middle School, a hive of young people poised to take over the world. It was my 9th outing as a visiting artist for their World Languages Art Expedition Kick-Off. Local artists of all stripes share their work and wisdom to rotating groups of students who will choose a French or Spanish-speaking artist, write a paper in that language, and  create art inspired by that artist. I’ve been participating since my daughter, Daisy, was a King student, and for the second year, she joined me as a visiting artist, too.

Fellow presenter Jenny Van West strummed her guitar before the event began, looking over my table of books, posters, pastels, and props.


I shared the dummy for Island Birthday, in which I used my neighbor, Nikolai, as a model. He’s also a King sixth grader now, and will likely do this project when he hits eighth grade.


Showed them the finished illustration. I brought some scraps of the sandpaper I use, and some of them got dirty with a handful of pastels. Island Birthday will be featured on Jan. 28 at Portland Stage’s Play Me a Story!


I brought a sketchbook, never one to waste an opportunity to promote the value of drawing. I’ve begun some of my MECA illustration classes with an observational exercise in which students bring in objects for a 15 minute session. Art students often bring in toys. This is my sketch of what Gunnar Johnson brought; it was a challenge with so many parts.


And here is a MECA student I spied in the library, looking like Rapunzel checking her e-mail.


Five rounds of students asked questions, took notes, or doodled. When it was done, kids could wander to other tables they hadn’t been assigned. Daisy had a rapt audience.


She shared her MICA portfolio on her laptop, as well as an old self-portrait from Portland High School.


Also some of her figure drawings from a MECA Continuing Studies class. She used these when she applied to colleges.


She showed a couple of commissions, too, like this cover illustration for the Island Directory. Plenty of island kids recognized it.


Daisy designed this t-shirt using similar sinuous tangles for a local cultural exchange organization.


We owe the ties that bind to Daisy’s beloved French teacher, Ms. Zack, who spearheaded the language arts project years ago.


Thanks to the King teachers and all the great students who asked the best questions, like “do you regret your choice?” Never! I asked some of them who they are choosing to research. One student is reporting on a Bolivian pastel artist, Roberto Mamani Mamani. I looked up his work; thanks for the inspiration! Another asked what I did for inspiration, and my answer was 1) taking a walk and 2) going to see art. Daisy and I stopped at UNE’s Art Gallery to see Pastels Only, the 17th Annual International Juried Exhibition of the Pastel Painters of Maine. Cool work!


Walking on Peaks Island always brings an open mind and renews my energies.


I’m working now on a new picture book for Tilbury House. Everything is on the table when I begin, the dummy, my reference photos, and my chosen pastels.


Later this week I make another school visit, to Kennebunk Elementary School, where author Lyn Smith works as a reading specialist. We will present our book, A Porcupine’s Promenade. Here’s a detail from the first page.


Can’t wait to meet the kids who inspire her, and maybe a porcupine, too! Stay tuned, 2017 promises to be full of art, learning, and travels.






  1. Yummy, yummy, yummy again! You sure get around girl and there certainly is no moss growing on you! Loved reading about both you and Daisy and all that y’all are up to. Sweeeet!
    Happy new year!

    • thank, Peg! Daisy is proud to show off your directory, and several students said, we have that!

  2. Your Blog’s are an inspiration, Jamie! Your talent is knows no bounds!

    • thanks, Lyn! What an honor to illustrate your book!

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