Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Little House for the Library

Noble House
7" X 5" pen and ink

I'm on the Board of Trustees for the Brooksville Free Public Library. Every summer we host a fund raiser so that we can keep the library open two-and-a-half days and one evening a week. This year it's a house and labyrinth tour and I'm in charge of designing the invitation and publicity posters. Thus, a house drawing instead of a dog!

Here's the design of the labyrinth which is cut into a hayfield next to the house.

It's a little house this year, in keeping with tough economic times, designed by a local architect--Bob Knight--as one of his Lucia's Little Houses. Living in a little house myself, I like his philosophy: "I have been designing houses of all sizes since the late 1960’s but the house type I find most satisfying and challenging is the good small house. Here on the coast of Maine the demand has increased steadily for the little and efficient home that takes advantage of sun, site and design to reward people with modest housing needs." Here's the same house from another angle on the cover of his book. You can check out the house plans on Bob's website.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Kinsey & Kids

Bear Hunter Extraordinaire!

Kinsey sounded off a boisterous alarm at about 5:00 yesterday morning and insisted that SOMETHING was outside our bedroom window MESSING with our bird feeders. Sure enough, we found the sunflower seed feeder and the thistle sock on the ground, the squirrel-proof wire that supports them broken. The sunflower seed feeder was empty. The thistle sock was untouched. The suet feeder was nowhere to be found. Kinsey was right! A BEAR has been MESSING with our bird feeders!

Needless to say, I did not let Kinsey out to become a tasty dessert for our early morning visitor, even though she insisted—all 12 tiny pounds of her aquiver with righteous indignation—that SHE IS IN CHARGE OF HOMELAND SECURITY. Later that morning, when the sun came up and we all ventured outside into bear territory, I suggested to Kinsey that she could go find the suet feeder. Lo and behold, she did! There it was, under a hemlock tree, still full of its fat cake of suet. Obviously, Kinsey’s ferocious bark attack had terrorized the bear so much that he didn't have the time or the temerity to devour his high-fat treat. Atta girl, Kinsey! She got an extra treat that morning and is still basking in the glory of her heroic acts today. All in the line of duty, thank you!

Later yesterday morning I spent a happy hour photographing kids at a neighbor’s farm. That’s baby goats, not children. Becky had nine kids this spring and they are a bunch of cuties. Here are a few shots. I feel a woodblock print coming on!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Lily & Daisy
8" X 10" pen and ink

Wew! What a challenge this trio posed for me--each dog with her distinctive physical properties and her definitive personality. I've spent days on this drawing and have suffered all sorts of doubts as to whether I chose the right photographs, whether I arranged them in the best grouping, whether I should have moved one dog a smidgeon to the right or to the left, a tad up or down. I could have spent many more days fussing over it, but I've decided that it's done. I've got to stop some time! Enjoy!

Friday, May 8, 2009

A PenPets Puzzle

Here’s a fascinating puzzle for me to put together in the next few days. I have a PenPets commission for three dogs—Sappho, the Bloodhound, Daisy, the Yorkie/Terrier mix, and Lily the little Dachshund—all in one 8” X 10” frame. Here’s a photo of the three of them together to give me an indication of their respective sizes. Sappho dwarfs her little sisters. She’s a benevolent giant, I suspect. Note that Daisy stands a tad taller than Lily.

It’s not a bad shot of Sappho, but I’ll choose different shots of Daisy and Lily. These choices are easy.

Here’s the shot of Daisy that I like. She's wide-eyed, tress-tossed, and shows a hint of terrier assertion in the set of her mouth.

And here’s Lily, the little imp! Who can’t imagine her getting her way with her bigger siblings? I think she must have her whole household wrapped around her paw!

Sappho is the tough one. She’s so photogenic! I love every shot in her portfolio. If I were drawing her alone I’d choose this side view. It’s so Bloodhoundish—the doleful eye, the drooping jowl, the glistening lip, the folded ear.

But I can’t figure out how to include Daisy and Lily in this pose. So I start playing with my options. I print out all the photos in black and white, I size them, I cut them out, and then I start piecing the puzzle together. Here’s Sappho from the group shot above with the two little cut-outs inserted. Notice that I've reversed Daisy's picture.

I don’t think the three dogs are integrated in this combination, perhaps because both Lily and Daisy are looking at the camera while Sappho is looking off to the side. There’s a disconnect between the big and the little dogs.

Here’s another go at it.

I like this one, but the picture of Sappho is pretty fuzzy. I’m afraid I won't find the telling details I need to draw it well enough.

Here’s another combination.

This one works for me. There are a lot of connections between the three radically different dogs. All three sets of eyes are looking directly at the camera, all three sets of ears are doing their thing—drooping, cocking, pricking—all three girls have their dog tags on, and all three personalities shine forth. Finally, their combined shapes form a nice triangle on the page. I’m going to go with this one. I’ve already completed a rough sketch and will spend another hour or two penciling in the details before I take up my pen. Wish me luck, a clear eye, and a steady hand!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

"The Importance of Being Earnest"

7" X 5" pen and ink

Both Labradors and Oscar Wilde know "The Importance of Being Earnest." Here's Simon's second portrait, a study in earnest Labradorishness. The eager ears, the furrowed brow, the watchful eyes, the inquisitive nose, the soft mouth--it's all there. No subterfuge in this fellow. Simon is as open and as honest as, well, a Labrador! Can't you just hear him wondering, "When are you going to throw that ball--again?"

Monday, May 4, 2009

Spring Colors in Downeast Maine

Although my artwork is predominantly black and white, I do love colors, especially in May, after a month of mud puddles and piles of dirty snow. Here's what has blossomed in our garden just this week.

Kinsey & Daphne





Friday, May 1, 2009

“A heart-beat at my feet”

Sleeping Simon
7" X 5" pen and ink

When Edith Wharton described her dog as “A heart-beat at my feet,” she could have been describing Simon. I love this pose! For me it is iconic—a symbol of all our faithful friends who have ever slept soundly and serenely at our feet. I also love the way the two feet—one human, one canine—frame Simon’s sleeping face. Notice that I inked in both sets of toenails in the same shade!

Simon, a yellow Labrador Retriever, is not always so serene. “He was a fiend as a puppy,” says Tracy, Simon’s “Mom,” the one who is attached to the human foot on the left. “He has grown into a dog with a great zest for life. I adore him completely and he has inspired me to become a professional dog trainer and allow my nutty passion for all things canine to blossom. We participate in Agility and Rally together, and hike all year together in any type of weather.” Simon is lucky to live on Mount Desert Island, Maine, where he has all the spectacular mountains in Acadia National Park to choose from for his daily hikes. In this shot, he is returning from a day trip to Schoodic Peninsula by boat. “After a day exploring Schoodic,” says Tracy, “the vibration of the boat lulled him to sleep.”

This is the first of two portraits Tracy and I have planned for Simon—so far! The second will be a puppy pose that I hope will capture Simon’s zest for life. “He still is a fiend at heart and I have grown to love and admire him for that!” says Tracy.

Sweet dreams, Simon!