Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Year-End Tally

2009 has been a good year for PenPets, despite the economic downturn. I drew 32 PenPets commissions, two birthday presents, two Brooksville Breeze cover illustrations, and I carved one woodcut wedding present. Here’s the tally for PenPets drawings:

29 dogs

11 cats

1 out-house
1 Victorian toilet
3 houses
1 hamster
1 still life
1 bird
4 horses

I was so busy drawing PenPets portraits that I didn’t get in much woodcarving this year, only 5 woodcuts:

2 great blue herons
1 Haflinger horse
4 pigs

Woops! I almost forgot this little fictional pup, Katya, the tiny but intrepid heroine of my yet-to-be-published children's book Becoming Katya. She's my new year's baby.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Two Tennis Ball Aficionados

5" X 7" pen and ink

8" X 10" pen and ink

I don’t often have the pleasure of meeting my PenPets subjects. Many of them are far flung. Some of them have died before I draw them. Thus, I was doubly delighted to meet both Sailor and Bear.

Sailor and I had a photo op on the lawns of the Ellsworth Public Library. He is an elderly gentleman and absolutely charming as only a Golden can be. He arrived for the shoot with his own prop, a favorite tennis ball, which he can no longer chase but which he cherishes just the same. He was cheerful, cooperative, and fabulously photogenic. I took 25 shots of him, all of them good ones, each one showing a different side of his personality. Here are a few of them:






Rita and I went with the faithful pose, hoping it would sum up every ounce of what makes Sailor special.

I met Bear, a huge and handsome German Shepherd, in the parking lot of Rooster Brother, a great kitchen shop in Ellsworth. Kerri warned me, as she swung open the back hatch of her Subaru, that some folks are afraid of Bear because of his breed and his size. But Bear didn’t live up to his ferocious exterior. He gave each one of us a sweet kiss on the nose and happily let me scratch his ears and compliment him. Bear is an oldster as well, with spine and knee problems. Although he can no longer chase his treasured tennis balls--doctor's orders--he keeps one near to paw at all times. Bear is a big-hearted fellow who talks to his people as if he were human. “He is not just our dog," Kerri says, "but a part of the extended family.”

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Three Cats

Harry, Teddy, & Dexter
10" X 8" pen and ink

Candy and I had quite a time coming up with just the right combination of cats for her son Andrew’s Christmas present. Candy took over 60 photos of the three kitties and sent me a dozen of her best. We played around with five or six arrangements, all from separate photos, and finally came up with this one. Candy also put her heart and soul into her descriptions of the three cats. Here’s the gist of what she wrote. I hope it’s enough to give you the essential flavor of each cat and I hope I've captured their flavors in my drawing:

Harry, believe it or not, is 15 years old. He's the oldest of the cats. Andrew got him when he was in 7th grade as a reward for good grades. He was an only cat for 5 years and is the one Andrew is most attached to. Harry is like a dog. He's got such personality. People who hate cats love Harry because he is so sweet and gentle. He's at the door to greet you. He's a purrer and loves to snuggle against necks. He stays rather active, but not in a bad way. He loves to drink with his paws out of the kitchen sink faucet or bathtub faucet. He knows how to tell someone to turn it on so he can get a drink. This cat is part human, I swear.

Teddy is second in age, about 12, the photogenic one. He's Mr. Easy-Guy. Not a thing bothers him. He lumbers along at his own pace, never much one to hurry. He's only a lap-cat to Andrew. If Andrew lies on the bed or the sofa, you know Teddy will be right there, either right on the pillow or between his legs. Always. I love the pix of Teddy upside down; it is so Teddy. He so often is lying on his back, sometimes with his front paws over his eyes. I'm not sure it's useable for the drawing but I thought I'd send it along just in case.

Dexter, the youngest, is about 6 years old this year. He's Mr. Rambunctious. He's a tease to the other cats. Loves to play. He's always got his snout looking out the window. If the blinds aren't open for him, he'll ruin them by putting his face right through the slats so he can see outside. He loves playing with toys, tossing and pushing fluff balls around the wood floors and up and down the steps. Harry does this too. Teddy could give a hoot.

It's tough to make bookmarks (part of my packaged PenPets deal) of three subjects. I was pleased with my solution to this particular problem -- four separate bookmarks.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Cousin David!

5" X 7" pen and ink

Holly, my cousin David’s wife, commissioned this portrait of Sadie, their yellow Labrador, for his birthday today. Sadly, Sadie left David, Holly, and their daughter Ashleigh last Halloween. I had a chance to meet Sadie at a mini-reunion of Smith family cousins in Virginia Beach in October. Although Sadie had cancer and was surely not feeling her best, nobody would have known she was suffering. She was a gracious and open-hearted hostess, sharing her toys and her good cheer with all who visited her house that day. I know she is well missed.

In this morning’s Bangor Daily News, Anthony Anderson writes about why pet portraits make such welcome presents in “Consider Maine art as meaningful Christmas gift”:

Last Christmas my wife gave me a painting she had commissioned of my dog Angus. Angus was a big, handsome Airedale terrier that loved to ride in Saab convertibles. I lost him two years ago and miss him terribly. The painting of him standing on the back deck of the Saab allows him to always be with me, and I see him every day. I was overjoyed by the gift and will treasure it always. It is also a testament to how thoughtful my wife is.

I hope David is overjoyed with Sadie’s portrait and that seeing her every day will be a treasure for him, too.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Lion in Designer Dog’s Clothing

Riley Panto
10" X 8" pen and ink

“This is our pet, Riley Panto,” wrote Laurie, Riley’s person. “A little rascal, two years old. Riley is a designer dog, ShihTzu Maltese. We named him Riley because he howled like Wiley the coyote on the first few nights. And we did not want to call him Wiley because our nieces and nephews would have trouble saying it. Riley is the perfect name. I am sending a few photos. My favorite is on the rock wall. We have seen so much of your work and are fascinated with it. Looking forward to seeing your magic with Riley.”

When Laurie and I debated a horizontal vs. a vertical portrait, Laurie chose horizontal. “He is not a very tall dog,” she wrote, “so he acts more horizontal than vertical.” Riley may be vertically challenged, but, what he lacks in stature, he makes up for in personality. He looks to me like he has the self-esteem of a lion. I hope I’ve captured that quality of supreme self-confidence in his portrait.

Laurie is well-pleased with it: “Leslie, I absolutely adore the drawing of Riley !!!!!!!!!!!!”


Friday, December 4, 2009

Victorian Toilet

I think I have a potty theme going here. First an out-house, now a toilet, and on the front page of "The Brooksville Breeze" no less! This Victorian "throne" with plumbing problems illustrates Joan MacCraken's excellent article "The Lives of the Plumbers."  We have four plumbing and heating businesses in our small town of Brooksville with a year-round population of less than 1,000. There's probably a plumber in every household!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Roman the Wolf-Dog

10" X 8" pen and ink

Brenda commissioned this portrait for Gary. I’ll let her tell Roman’s story:

Roman is 85% gray wolf and the rest husky. He and Gary have been inseparable since Gary got him as a puppy. Roman used to go everywhere that Gary did.

Roman & Gary

Roman was an incredible athlete [in his prime] and is well known on Deer Isle for both his strength and friendly, kind, but aloof nature. He has always been liked by other dogs, loves parties (cheeseburgers!), is an escape artist (has been in the Blue Hill Hospital, TradeWinds, Monroe Saltworks...), and is just generally a really good soul.

What has always amazed me about Roman is how he could walk down a 12' vertical cliff and then get a running start and run back up it - seemingly effortlessly. It just seemed like he was going to fall on his head going down but apparently it wasn't a problem for him. Others talk about how effortlessly Roman could jump up onto something  "like he just levitated himself up there."

Roman is now almost 15 years old. He can't walk any longer but wants to go on walks (he has an incredible spirit) so we take him in the wagon down to the water. We must be an interesting sight but Roman is so happy to be going.

I used two photographs of Roman for this drawing, one for his head and another for Sand Beach, his favorite spot, in the background. I think the combination has an epic quality. Roman certainly lends himself to an heroic tradition.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


7" X 5" pen and ink

I became more and more smitten with Tanner as I drew his portrait. He emerged from the blank page as that perfect combination of strength and sensitivity. He’s handsome, too! Noble even. And his steady gaze cuts right to my quick. I’ve never met Tanner, but I feel like I know him.

I met Tanner’s person, Bob, on a flight from Norfolk, Virginia, to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I was wearing a PenPets T-shirt. (I’ve been experimenting with T-shirt designs. Talk about self promotion!)

Next thing I knew, I was penning in Tanner’s bedroom eyes and feeling my heart go pit-a-pat.

Bob has since told me a bit of Tanner’s story: “Tanner is now six and a half years old. We got him at the Kennebec Humane Society a year and a half ago. He was brought in accompanied by a rottweiler. When the rotty went, Tanner’s personality blossomed. He has a huge ‘play’ gene and blasted around with wild abandon.”

I’m glad to know that my heart-throb is a fun-loving fellow as well!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


When I first saw this photo of Gypsy, I thought she was a big, yellow Labrador, the backyard, all-American variety.

I was wrong on many counts.

Gypsy is a HE, not a SHE. He’s small, only 25 pounds, not big. He’s brown, not yellow. He’s of mixed and mysterious origins, not labradorish at all. Finally, he’s from Israel, not New Hampshire.

Teaches me to profile a dog!

Regardless of sex, size, color, breed, or country of origin, Gypsy looks quite cozy snoozing in his leafy bower. The wrinkled muzzle is, as I am told, a part of his character. He must be snarling at the rabbits he’s chasing in his dreams.

7" X 5" pen and ink

Monday, November 23, 2009

Woodcut Wedding Present

Great Blues
13" X 10" woodcut

Kristin & Travis
17 October 2009
Chesapeake, Virginia

I made this woodcut as a wedding present for my nephew Travis and his beautiful bride, Kristin, after I attended their wedding last month. It was a great challenge for me. Kristin and Travis don't have any pets -- yet -- so I couldn't just draw their dog or cat for them. I hadn't met Kristin before the wedding. I knew that I wanted to carve a woodcut for them, and I knew I wanted the subject to be furry or feathery. While I was in Virginia for the wedding, I visited the Virginia Beach Aquarium with my other nephew, Hayden, and his sister, Lexi, and we saw a Great Blue Heron there. I've always wanted to carve one and I've been collecting GBH images for years. That cinched it! I carved this romantic pair on cabinet-grade birch plywood and printed it in blue, water-based ink on handmade sumi paper. Tom matted and framed it. Travis has called to report that it will be a welcome addition to their bare walls! Wew!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Out-House Ode

Tom and collaborated on this poetry broadside (or "broadsheet," as they are sometimes called). Tom wrote the poem and I drew the drawing. We gave it to Nancy, Tom's sister, for her birthday. Nancy now owns the property where this venerable out-house still stands, just down the driveway from our house.

Here's the poem for those of you who don't have a magnifying glass to hand:


When I pulled with my tractor the dead

oak limb poised to crush the out-house,

and it fell, kicking off a patch of shingles

and scarring the roof, I wondered at

that out-house, unused now sixty years,

thought of your satisfying plops and farts,

Russell, you who built it next to your magnificent

concrete bridge, you, dead now half a

century, who sailed your yawl to Nova Scotia,

old charts stashed in the main house still

bearing your waypoints and courses,

and your meadow, boat-house, wooden

row-boats, the long brass telescope

to watch, you said, yachts run aground

in the cove, all of this in the place you

gave abruptly to our family sixty years ago,

I thought of you, relieved in your

outhouse, planning projects with your

shackles and lines, your taps and dies,

your water-cooled grindstone, and I thought

of your wife reading her French newspaper,

brewing tea to serve on the fine china

that you also left in this house on the Maine

coast, a gift of high kindness by you, to us.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Best Job

8" X 10" pen and ink
I do have the best job, as one of my PenPets clients recently pointed out to me: "What a wonderful job and passion you have for putting smiles on people's
faces." --Roberta

Here are some kind words from another happy recipient of a PenPets portrait: "The package arrived this morning, and we are really pleased -- you nailed Layla! In addition to capturing her personality, the detial in your drawing is amazing. Can't thank you enough!"

These testimonials put a smile on my face as well. Smiles all around! What could be better!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

PenPets Dog Days 2010 Calendars

Cover Art

A sample page

Calendar dogs

Calendar dogs

Calendar dogs

Here's a preview of my PenPets "Dog Days 2010" calendar. As you can see, it's full of terriers, retrievers, toys, and wonderful one-of-a-kinders. It's available in my Etsy shop, or just email me at and let me know you'd like one. Both dog and cat calendars are long and thin (4" X 10"). They're printed in black ink on white card stock ). They hang nicely in a narrow spot and are guaranteed to warm your heart with a new furry face each month. ($10 + $1.50 for shipping & handling)

PenPets Cats 2010 Calendars

Cover Art

A sample page

All 12 calendar cats

Speaking of cats, I've published a PenPets "Cats 2010" calendar this year, now available in my Etsy shop. It took three years to gather enough cat commissions for a calendar. On the other hand, I had too many dogs to choose from for my PenPets "Dog Days 2010" calendar. I'll show you that calendar in a separate posting.

One Cat

8" X 10" pen and ink

After my four-cat extravaganza, drawing this little diva was a piece of cake. I can't rest, though. Coming soon is a three-cat drawing. But first, I'm going to carve woodcut as a wedding present for my nephew and his bride, who is now my new niece!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Four Cats

Malakieye, Harry, Sophie, & Buff
10" X 8" pen and ink





What a tough assignment!
Four cats.
Four photos.
And I had to fit them all in one 10" X 8" frame. I did a lot of shuffling before I decided on this design. Hope I got it right!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bird Dogs

5" X 7" pen and ink

8" X 10" pen and ink

Scout, a golden retriever, and Tia, an English cocker spaniel, are both bird dogs. They hunt duck, quail, and pheasant. I watched a demonstration by Rose, Scout's sister, last weekend, and she is impressive! She heels, sits, waits, and then fetches -- all on command. She responds to voice, hand, and whistle signals -- all with alacrity. She finds the birds (dummies, in this case), she brings them back, she releases them, and then she begs for more. It's amazing to watch a dog who is so enthusiatically committed to her work!

I should add that this working relationship is much like the one I have with my dog, Kinsey, only in reverse. Kinsey gives the commands -- voice, paw, eyebrow -- and I hop to with alacrity. I'm sure my eagerness to work on Kinsey's behalf gives her great pleasure, too.