Monday, December 29, 2008

file away

Here is a color study from a book I've been attempting to write for a year or so.
I've got so many paying jobs keeping me busy now that I'll have to shelve this project for a while.
I hope I'm able to come back to this book, I've become somewhat attached to my young heroine. She needs her story told.

Monday, December 15, 2008

no truer words

"Daddy..." began my daughter when she was about 5 years old.
"Yes?" I asked.
"It's all about me." she said.

Friday, December 12, 2008

take a moment

A Barred Owl lit on a branch just outside my studio window a few days ago. Probably the guy who's hoots I've been hearing late at night for several years now. My daughter has become wonderfully adept at imitating his call.
I feel pretty lucky to be living where I do. My house is perched on the edge of a ravine. I've seen fox, coyote, and all number of strange and beautiful birds.
I don't stop and marvel at the view from my window as much as I'd like. Too focused on my deadlines usually. The Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggests creating mindfullness prompts to help us return to a consciousness of ourselves. To be aware of living.
Perhaps I will try using the little 'ding' that sounds when I get an email. Whenever I get an email (and I certainly get plenty of them), I might just stop and take in the view before clicking to see what new calamity hath arrived.
Who knows, it could be that I'll get less grumpy over all my emails.

Monday, December 8, 2008

indulging in life

Another resolve for next year: Get outside more. Paint more. Paint outside!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

resolution revolution

I'm beginning my list of things I want to include in my life next year. The first is working more from life. Illustration is great, and exercises your imagination, but it must have a foundation.
Figure drawing has always been something I truly love to do. The immediacy of the moment, honing your powers of observation and action. Messing about with soft, buttery charcoal and those impossibly rich blacks. Pure pleasure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

add to the list

It's a habit now.
And not a good one.
I rush through everything. Even if I don't need to.
When did life become a race?
I realize the faster I go, the more I miss.

I've had harbor seals play with my kayak.
People who zip by on their jetski's won't experience that.
I know this.
Yet still I rush.
Perhaps it is the detritus of parenthood. Too much to do all the time.
Perhaps it is striving for too much. Wanting it all, the disease of an affluent society.

If just for two or five minutes.
Without aids, such as TV, or the weekend beer.
Doing nothing. Maybe breathing.
Deliberate awareness of time.

Sounds like a good thing to fit in to my already full life.

Lao Tzu admonishes:
"Do enough, without vieing,
Be living, not dying.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

recession proof

"The feast of life is before us, the only question is what appetite we have for it."

Lin Yutang

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a few of my favorite things

Some of the illustrators who inspire me.
Munro Leaf
W. Heath Robinson
Lisbeth Zwerger
Gennady Spirin
Chris Wormell
Carl Larsson
Gary Kelley
Ivan Bilibin
Andre Francois
William Nicholson
Ronald Searle

Simply the best.

Sunday, November 9, 2008


An ultimately rejected concept, but a nice sketch nonetheless. I wanted a feeling of insular narrow mindedness. (We could call it Palinbourg.)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

good news


I've received a great offer from HarperCollins for the manuscripts of two picture books I've written and will illustrate.

I'm thrilled of course, but I really believe in the 2 stories, and they're going to be loads of fun to illustrate. I'm raging to get started!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

money advice

Quote of the day, featuring my one-and-only scratchboard drawing:

"It is easier to rob by setting up a bank than by holding up a bank clerk."
Bertolt Brecht

Friday, October 10, 2008

fixing a hole

Although there are over 200,000 of them, there are still some missing.

Words, I mean. I just can’t find proper ones for describing what I mean when I’m trying to describe that thing that happens when I’m doing that thingy kind of thing. Or getting that thing I’m striving for.

Art and the process of creating art lacks many necessary words. With 200,000 of them flying around anyway there should be no compunction in creating a few more. So here are a few suggestions.

For instance, When you’re in the groove so much you lose track of time while drawing or painting.
Let’s take the Latin word for time: vicis, and another that means quite a few things: postponed, spacious, loose, relaxed. That whopper is laxus.
Put them together and you get Vicilax. Sounds like a new drug. Let’s make it easier on our tongues and just say velax.
Let’s see how it works in a sentence.
“On that painting, I velaxed so deeply I forgot to eat lunch.”

And what about that groove? A more exact word is needed.
Some word for that zen-like state when you’re working and entirely focused but in a relaxed way.
Calm: sedo
Aware: conscius
Consedo. Brevity being the soul of clarity, let’s do Conse. Consed being past tense.
As in: “After an hour of drawing I was conseing big-time”

How about when you are drawing or painting and you are not just drawing or painting but putting a healthy helping of yourself into it. And the result is something you can FEEL. The work has vitality and substance.
The Latin Ars for art. Ego for self and Serere, meaning to link together.
Arserego. Lets go a bit shorter with Arsego. Shorter? Arse. OK, maybe we’ll stick with Arsego.
As in: “I need to stare at the canvas for an hour or two before I can start arseging.”

Daydreaming in a focused and deliberate manner to solve a creative problem or generate ideas: Somnium: Dream. Facundia: Productive.
Faculumnium. A mouthful. So we shorten to: Flum.
Therefore: “I’m not staring out the window; I’m flumming, so buzz off!”

A work of art that appears well done, but lacks soul or substance.
Patina for surface.
Non for not.
Profundus for deep.
Patundeef. Patundid. Pundid. Pundy. Poondy. Poondie. That's the one!
“That’s a very poondie sculpture in the corner.”

There are more needs to be met out there, surely. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

optimism cream pie

A few encouraging words at this time of universal gloom:

It is not what we have, but what we enjoy that makes happiness.

The character best able to enjoy life is a warm, carefree and unafraid soul.
Lin Yutang

Possessions possess. Paul Eldridge

Chin’s Thirty Three Happy Moments

Friday, October 3, 2008

waiting stinks

Patience stinks too.

I'm waiting to hear about an offer from a publisher.

Time expands in direct proportion to the contraction of patience.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

cat scratchings

My daughter has written a story from the perspective of a pet cat. We're going to work on it together to see if it can be turned into a book. Here's my initial sketch of the hero.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

working, waiting, working

I've written a little story. Sent it out. Hoping to hear from the recipient whether or not it is a worthy endeavor.

While awaiting, here's something to mull over:

"The person who is waiting for something to turn up might start with their shirt sleeves."

OK, back to work.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


An ancient (and my favorite) Chinese saying:

"Man stands for long time with mouth open before roast duck flies in."

Friday, September 12, 2008

pins and needles

So the whole joke for me is that happy little porcupines with balloons will soon be sad little porcupines.

But I'm not sure how convincing this drawing is. Do you immediately know it is a porcupine? There should be no doubt or hesitation.

I've been looking at it too long. Any opinions out there in blogland?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

reflecting on reflection

From a work in progress.

It reminds me (in a barely related way,) of what Joseph Conrad had to say on the subject: "Reflection is a destructive process; a reckoning of the cost. Great achievements are accomplished in a blessed, warm mental fog."

As my wonderful editor Maria put it to me more directly: "Don't overthink it Paul."

Friday, September 5, 2008

oldie but goodie

Dug this up. It's intricate, curly line work contrasted with the flat, bright colors still makes me happy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Monday, August 18, 2008

r and r

Spent a week with my family at our shared cabin on an island in south Puget Sound. Did plenty of eating, swimming, napping, painting and kayaking. This time of year the harbor seal pups come right up to me as I'm paddling around. Cute little buggers. Didn't have the camera with me for the seals, but here's a sunset shot.

I'll scan one of my plein air oils and upload it as soon as it's no longer greasy.

Back to work!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ho, ho, hrumph

I spent a number of days creating some samples for a possible new project with HarperCollins. I worked up color indications with Adobe Illustrator, and provided two samples of final-style art in colored pencils.

The result was that although the art director and author liked my efforts, the sales department wanted to go in different direction. (I take that to mean another artist.)

I was very pleased with the work I did for the project, but I did take chances in what I sent them, leaning towards a rather daring simplicity.

The way I see it, your work must stand out --or risk getting lost in the crowd.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

growing vs. growing up

From an interview of the great Jules Feiffer I've culled some of his thoughts on letting your work grow and develop:

"What happens, happens, and it happens outside the brain. Over the years, I discovered over and over again that once you lose control, you have a chance of getting good at it. And once you’re controlling the work, it’s not going to be very good, or it won’t be as good as it should be."

He continues:

"I was floundering, but I was happily floundering. I felt no sense of crisis. I was in my playpen. Throwing around stuff, and happy as a clam. Each week, it seemed for a while, I was trying something else."

I've been aware my unwillingness to get a style and stick with it, but for me the journey of experimentation and discovery provides much of the satisfaction I get through my work.

... And of course I AM in this for the fun.

Monday, July 28, 2008

up, up and away

When I was 3 or 4 years old, with all the boldness that the innocent possess, I dashed into my closet, donned my Superman outfit, and jumped out of my bedroom window.

I don't remember now, 40-some years later, how I dealt with the disappointment I must have felt along with the bruises.

This morning I sent to HarperCollins some sketches and a layout for a prospective book. I don't think there's a whit of difference in how I felt sending off that email than the trepidation, elation and confidence I had leaping out the window.

(That my email makes the same noise when sending that Superman made while flying was not lost on me either.)

I like my rather bold and daring efforts for this book, and would absolutely love to get the project, but until I hear back from the art director and editor, I don't know whether I'm really flying or not.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

challenging serenity

In Tran Anh Hung's quietly disturbing film, 'The Vertical Ray of the Sun' one of the characters, a photographer, speaks of seeking tranquility in his work. That sounds nice, doesn't it? Tranquility?

The American artist Wolf Kahn warns us to resist getting too serene though, saying: "The moment you know how to do certain things, you should stop doing them. you would be ceasing to search and starting to perform... your art will become an exercise in self-congratulation."

I think of this now as I push my work to new boundaries for me. I would love to have the process of creating be calmly satisfying. But I know I would get bored rather quickly without challenging myself.

And perhaps agonizing and uncertainty are inseparable from the satisfaction that comes of conquering difficulties.

Besides, tranquility sounds a little too much like tranquilized.

Oh, well.

Friday, July 18, 2008

idle thinking

Otium cum dignitate, wrote Cicero; leisure with dignity, believing that the condition of not being insanely busy was necessary for producing art and literature.

Currently I'm insanely busy producing art and literature.

I've been given a commission to create some exploratory art for a new children's book. The revisions I'm working on for my current book are due at the same time. I'm also trying to write 2 books of my own.

Not a trace of the idle time required by that Roman fathead for making great art, so my brain has found it for me. I've been waking up at 2 in the morning for the last few nights (when my brain should be idle,) with all sorts of ideas for this latest book. Scrambling around in the dark for a pencil and paper, stubbing my toe, making noise, loving the ideas.

Friday, July 11, 2008

sweat from my brow

Years ago, as I picked up my tired little daughter from pre-school, I asked her how her day went.

"We did art," she sighed. "It was tufficult."

I remember that now as I'm working on revisions to the 80 page book for HarperCollins I'm illustrating. I'm embarassed to admit it, but sometimes drawing cartoons can be tufficult.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

good advice not followed

A beautiful day here. My daughter is being a cat in the garden and I am inside working.

Another quote from the incomparable Lin Yutang:

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

Thursday, July 3, 2008

happy birthday

Time to celebrate the birth of our Granfalloon! Have a sane, safe and happy 4th everyone!

In case anyone was wondering how old I was, here's a picture of my brother and I during the Revolutionary War. I'm on the left.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

and so...

More thoughts from George Carlin:

"If it's art, it should mature. Entertainers and artists — although I am a little of each — are not the same. Entertainers are fairly static. An artist is generally in motion, on some sort of a journey, if you'll pardon the expression, some sort of a path to something that they can't really define. So they're never really satisfied. They're always looking for the next thing inside themselves or the next thing outside to spark them. And I think the artist in me woke up about halfway through the game and said, Oh, this is what we're doing. It's not just showing up and pleasing people, it's getting some stuff out of your head and off your chest, out of your heart, whatever you want to call it"

"... artists are never finished, they're never satisfied. The great cellist Pablo Cassal, from the last century, he was a past master of his instrument, he was the virtuoso of the cello. In his 90s he still appeared at the occasional recital. But more to the point, he practiced every day for three hours. And someone close to him asked him one time, "Maestro, at your advanced age, you're already a past master of this instrument, you're 93 or 94, why do you practice three hours a day?" And he says, "Well, I'm beginning to notice some improvement."


The late, thoughtful genius George Carlin seems to have one answer to the question of the source of our art:

"The first reason to perform any art or entertainment is to get it out of your system. The second is to be approved for it and told you're pretty good. And thirdly is that they put you up in a good hotel room."

"... to get it out of your system..." so true!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

for yourself? for others?

From an interview (in the NY Times) with Andrew Stanton, the creator of the new Pixar film 'Wall-E', comes this bit to chew on:

"I never think about the audience, if someone gives me a marketing report, I throw it away."

I have other quotes on creating art that are in the same vein:

"Ignore everybody."

"The best way to get approval is not to need it."

This is an appropriate time for me to meditate on the idea of creating work for yourself versus trying to aim for the approval of others. I've handed in my sketches for my current commission and am awaiting the detailed response from my editor. I am also working on writing two other stories that I hope to shop around at some point.

I firmly believe that truly innovative, original work comes from within, without trying to please anyone else. But will that put food on the table, or gas in the tank?

I guess it boils down to the risks we are willing (able?) to take, and the courage needed to believe in our own vision.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

kicking back

Delivered my sketches for the 80-page kid's book I'm doing for HarperCollins. My very smart and perceptive editor loved it all, so I'm gonna laze for a while. (Well, laze while I try to write and work out sketches for two other books...)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

death and life

Haven't been blogging lately, too busy with work. I did manage to sneak in a quickish sketch of a dead chipmunk my daughter found. Both of us sketched it (an odd little family thing we do.) Made me realize how seldom I work from life, most of the art I create is from my imagination. I get so much out of drawing or painting from life, very challenging. It uses so much of the brain, and of course there's the pleasure from it's difficulty. OK, back to work now.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

feeling better now.

Mo Willems spoke of not falling in love with your drawings. Right-e-o! I took a good look at my sketches today and there were several spreads that, although good by themselves, just did not fit with the flow of the book. So I dumped 'em. Adios. There are about a thousand solutions to every problem, so it's just a matter of keeping bum on chair, drawing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

still drawing

Reaching the stage on my book where it's just not good enough. As I always do at this point, I look at other artists work. This of course gets me even more discouraged. There are too many talented artists out there!!

The only cure is to keep drawing. Keep pushing.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

some news

I attended a conference last weekend of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Had a fine time meeting people and attending sessions with greats like Mo Willems. Nicest bunch of people in this business.

AND, my portfolio was the grand prize winner for the conference. Wa-hoo!

Friday, April 25, 2008


My daughter turns 11 next month. I've only got a few years left before this happens.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

blacker, and grey too

This is an old illustration I produced for an article on computer piracy. I'd love to do an entire children's book in just charcoal. (Any takers?) The medium is so fluid. And the grays can become gorgeous if done right.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

the beauty of black

I vividly remember certain events as a boy that drove me to become an artist. The first time I pulled N C Wyeths 'Treasure Island' off the library shelves. Visiting Chicago's Palette and Chisel Club with my dad and feeling submerged in that lovely smell of oil paint.

Another powerful influence was seeing a reprint of an old Shadow pulp novel from the 40's. The simple, dramatic ink drawings were well designed and drawn. The two qualities I still must have in my own work before I am happy.

I was lucky enough at The Seattle Times years ago to illustrate a serial story in their Sunday magazine. For about a year I provided my own dark and dramatic pulp-inspired art each week.

Black can be lovely.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

on not taking the easy way

A man is crawling around under a lamp post late at night.

A friend passes by and asks him what he's doing.

"I dropped my key," says the man, "and I'm looking for it."

"Let me help you" says his friend.

The man and his friend search for the key for almost an hour, but can't find it. Eventually, the friend says, "it doesn't seem to be here. Are you sure that this is where you dropped it?"

"Oh no," says the man, "I dropped it in the garden."

"Then why are we looking under the lamp post? asked the friend.

"There's more light here" answers the man.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

heavy burden, light heart

From the playful mind of Lin Yutang: "Only he who handles his ideas lightly is master of his ideas. Seriousness, after all, is only a sign of effort, and effort is a sign of imperfect mastery."

I'm thinking of this as I'm trying to create a comic masterpiece. To remain spontaneous, yet aim for greatness. As my editor tells me: "Don't over think it."

Can one aim for spontaneity?

We'll see.