Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

“We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.” 
            ~ Shirley Abbot

“Families Are Forever.”  Said the sign posted over our entire wall of framed family photos.  Parents.  Grandparents.  Great grandparents.   My entire family tree smiled down on me from their wooden frames.  No matter where my family moved this collection came with us.  From city to city, state to state, these portraits were wrapped in newspaper and placed snugly into boxes with each and every move.  Whenever we arrived in our new home they were among the first to be unpacked.  Mom was of the opinion that a new house never feels like home until our pictures hang from the walls. 

Certain photographs stood out more than others.  There was one of a handsome young man in uniform with a strong chin and amiable smile that attracted my attention.  He was my Grandpa Gale.  I never met him.  My dad doesn’t even remember meeting him.  He died in a plane accident during air practice when my dad was only a few months old.   I spent a lot of time looking at this photograph as a little girl.  I used to fantasize that he was a war hero who spiraled to his death in a burst of flame and glory fighting our nation’s enemies.  I delighted showing my friends his picture when they came to our house and bragging,

 “That’s my grandpa. 
He was a pilot. 
He died.” 

But Grandpa Gale was more than a mere a heroic figure used to impress my friends.  I used to take his picture into my bedroom, sit on the bed, and trace the contours of his face with my fingers.  There was even a time when I thought, “If there was a fire, and I could only save one thing, I would save this picture.” I felt an enormous sense of love and admiration for this man.  He was brave.  He was kind.  He looked like my father.  I took great pride knowing that his genes flowed through my veins.

These photographs are my connection to the past.  They are my roots.  My Grandma Ann compiled several books devoted to the lives our ancestors complete with photographs and stories.  I grew up reading about how my great, great, great grandfather, who came from a wealthy family in Wales,  married beneath his station to a dairymaid.  I read about my polygamist great great grandfather and his two wives.  I read about how my great grandfather met my great grandmother and fell in love in El Paso.  While the stories were intriguing, it was the pictures that gave me a glimpse of who they truly were. 

One of the best compliments I ever received was that I look the most like my Great Aunt Judy out of everyone in the entire Edwards family.  I never met Aunt Judy.  My only memory of her is a vague recollection of her funeral, but I knew her through photographs in our family history books.  I thought she was one of most beautiful women I had ever seen.  I could tell she was very stylish.  Very classy. I feel an unexplained kinship with this mysterious beautiful woman I’ve never met.

I’ve poured over thousands of family photographs.  My Grandpa Heninger playing baseball in the army.  My Grandpa Farrell standing beside his faithful dog Putter.  My Grandma Jane wearing rolled up slacks and a cowgirl hat.   My Grandma Ann laying on the beach in her bathing suit staring squinty eyed at camera.  They are all so young.  So beautiful.  So full of life that you almost expect them to spring from the paper.  I love them for who they were.  I love them for who they are.   I love them because they're family.

Friday, February 21, 2014


A couple months ago I decided to enter the SCBWI Tomie dePaola illustrator contest.  The prompt was...

A Sneeze
A Sneeze
Is a breeze
In your nose.

I spent hours and hours on my submission, because this is Tomie dePaola we're talking about here, author of one of my favorite books growing up, Strego Nona.  But after messing up my fourth draft of the same illustration I became frustrated and decided not to enter.  

I regret this decision now.  I should have gone ahead and submitted my imperfect illustration.  At least I could have had the satisfaction of knowing my work passed before the eyes of one of my favorite children's book author/illustrator.

Now I've learned how to use photoshop and I've been able to go back and fix this illustration.  Even though I didn't enter this work into the contest I feel it was very worth the time and effort.  At least I now have another great piece to add to my portfolio!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Digital Illustration

I have been hesitant about going digital for a couple of reasons.
        1.  Most of my favorite illustrators haven't done a great deal of digital work.  They tend to be more traditional.
        2.  I don't want my illustrations to look like some video game or PBS kids TV show.
        3.  Photoshop is super intimidating!!!

However, I have found that most illustrators use Photoshop these days and I've been meaning to learn how to use it for quite sometime.  My mother finally sat me down yesterday and took me through some of the basics.  To my surprise I found Photoshop to be a lot of fun!  This illustration is a result of my first attempt to do digital artwork.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Childhood Sweetheart

Not everyone gets to marry their childhood sweetheart.  This illustration is for Keith, who I climbed stairs with as a baby, played horses with as a kid, and walked down the aisle with as an adult.  

 This is the photograph I based the illustration from.  I changed the scenery (a cactus just isn't that exciting) but tried to capture the innocence from the picture.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Doomed Romances

Happily ever after is great and all, but I have always been a bit of a sucker for tragic love stories.  So this Valentines Day I am sharing a list of my top 25 favorite doomed romances.

  1. Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara - Gone With the Wind
  2. Christopher and Adriana - The Sopranos
  3. Kissing Kate Barlow and Sam - Holes
  4. Gatsby and Daisy - The Great Gatsby
  5. Ben and Elaine - The Graduate
  6. Dean and Cindy - Blue Valentine
  7. Tony and Maria - West Side Story
  8. Marguerite and Armand - Camille
  9. Lancelot and Guinevere - The Once and Future King
  10. Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow - Bonnie and Clyde
  11. Emma and Flap - Terms of Endearment
  12. Oskar and Eli - Let the Right One In
  13. Ebenezer Scrooge and Isabel Fezziwig - Scrooge
  14. Michael and Kay - The Godfather
  15. Alvy and Annie - Annie Hall
  16. Anna and Jacob - Like Crazy
  17. Mark and Joanna Wallace - Two for the Road
  18. Daenerys and Khal Drogo - Game of Thrones
  19. Martha and George - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
  20. Rick Blaine and Ilsa Lund - Casa Blanca
  21. Fanny and Nick - Funny Girl
  22. Dorian and Sibyl - The Picture of Dorian Gray
  23. Jack and Rose - Titanic
  24. Stanley and Stella - A Streetcar Named Desire
  25. Rudy and Liesel - The Book Thief

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Parents are Human Beings Too.

There is nothing more daunting than the task of raising a child. Not only are you responsible for the life of your kid, who wants to eat batteries and play with butcher knives, you are in charge of helping him/her grow up to be a decent human being. The tremendous weight of this responsibility is placed on the shoulders of every parent, whether they're ready for it or not.

There is no school to prepare you for the sleepless nights with your newborn, or the floating logs of poop in the bathtub. People don't earn some kind of parenthood degree before having a baby. Children don't come with an instruction manual. And yet our society somehow expects everyone to be perfect parents the second a baby is born. A parent's behavior toward their child is scrutinized everywhere they go. People are watching in the grocery stores, parks, restaurants, public bathrooms, you name it. There is always somebody watching.

Once I pulled in to a gas station to fill up my empty tank. I didn't have my credit card and it was raining, so I left my two year old son in the back car seat for a minute while I ran inside to pay with whatever change I had in quarters and dimes. When I came back there was a woman standing outside my car.

"Is this your kid?" She asked pointing to Samuel in the back  seat.                                                                                                            

"You can't just leave your kid in the car like that. Someone's going to steal him away. It's not that hard to take him out of the car and bring him with you."

I wanted to say, "What were you doing snooping around my car anyway? Why don't you mind your own God damn business." But instead I just brushed passed her saying "Okay. Okay." And started filling up the tank.

Guilt becomes a familiar emotion when you become a parent. You feel guilty when your kid is the least well-groomed kid in the room when you drop him off at day care. You feel guilty when you admit to the pediatrician that your kid doesn't eat vegetables. You feel guilty when you leave your kid in the car. It doesn't help to have perfect strangers judging you on every little mistake.

Today I saw a picture on facebook of a newborn baby bundled up in a car with a note saying "My mom's doing shopping, call her if I need anything." Above the picture it said that the police were called and the mother was fined $2000. My first reaction to the picture was, "Who leaves their kid in the car like that?" Then my memory of the gas station hit me full force. Sure I was only gone for a couple of seconds while this mom clearly gone for a longer period of time, but I kept thinking, "That could have just as easily been me."

Then I scrolled down and read a few of the comments:

"This mother is sick."

"Disgusting. She doesn't deserve to be a mother."

"She should be jailed and the baby taken away and adopted into a loving family."

Tears of rage filled my eyes as I scanned thousands of equally hateful comments below. Each comment felt as though it were being directed at me. By accusing her they were accusing me of the worst thing any mother can possibly be accused of. Your child deserves better.

I had to stop reading. I tackled the pile of dirty dishes in our sink, scowling at each plate and scrubbing with intense ferocity. I hate doing dishes, but performing this tedious, menial chore sometimes helps me clear the mess from more than just dinner plates. I reminded myself of all the things that make me a good mom. I build my son blanket forts. I take him to the park. I sing him lullabies. We have tea parties. We play dinosaurs. We have dance parties on the living room floor. He calls for me when he's hurt, or troubled, or scared. I am his mommy and there's no one in the world who could ever love him the way I do.

I am not a perfect mom, but I love my son and I am doing the best I can to raise him right. All parents face an impossibly difficult task when they bring forth life into this world. Sometimes we make mistakes. The next time you start judging that mom who snaps at her kids in the grocery store, or father who accidently loses his son in a crowd, try to remember we are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. Parents are human beings too.

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Black Dog

Winston Churchill once described his depression as a black dog.  So many of the people I love have suffered from depression.  This illustration is for them.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Berean Winter

My writing friends and I agreed to write a little on winter this month, so I wrote this piece and took this photograph on my way to work this morning to go along with it.  

Berean Winter

Iron and Wine serenades
The dancing winter snowflakes
 Against my window pane.

Those unfortunate enough
To find themselves outside
Do not dance.
They plow
Headlong into the heartless wind,
Chins tucked,
And coats pulled tight.
They cannot hear the music.

The gazebos are empty.
The coffee shops are full.

Knitting needles click.
Bicycles lay idle beneath the snow.

 Winter has found Berea at last.