Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

The final illustration to this year's Christmas cards. I hope you enjoy it!

Unfortunately I didn't make it out of the house this year for Christmas, I was stuck in bed with a 101.1 fever that only just broke. So for Christmas supper I will be enjoying a mini frozen pizza and one of the chocolate creme brulee I made for today.

Here's to hoping yours was more exciting and festive!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

To all the geeks out there.

Tomorrow I will post the finished illustration for this years Holiday card!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Book Review. The Temeraire Series by Naomi Novik.

I want to begin by expressing how much I HATE alternate history books. I despise them with a deep passion unknown to most lovers.

Knowing that, you now know how much I went out on a limb to read these books and how decidedly turned around this aversion became.

I was blown out of the air, so to speak. This series truly is a combination of Jane Austin's formal,clever prose and O'Brian's adventure. Yet wholly unique and fresh.

What hooked me was the hatching of Temeraire. On my first Borders visit to find new reading material, I had left off before this momentous event and thought, how dull. The second time I picked it up and read where I left off, I ventured into the dialogue after the lead dragon's hatching and was instantly hooked.

Within three weeks I read all 4 books, and now I am waiting with extreme impatience for the promised excerpt of book 5 that was supposed to have been sent to me upon signing up on www.temeraire.com.

Ms. Novik is very clever indeed. The plots are well thought out, the dialogue sparkles. The dragons are dear. A stinky mushroom for lunch that was insignificant in book 2 becomes dire by book 4. This shows a very deeply thought out continuity of plot.

The battles are frequent and exciting.

I loved them and I recommend them highly. And I am dieing for at least an excerpt from book 5.

Luckily, Ms. Novik is a fast writer. It seems like she produces one a year, possibly because they have all been under 400 pages, unlike the current trend of 1,000 pages or so. The next is due out July 2008, thank goodness. I much rather like the nice, neatly packaged book under 400 pages if there is a promise of one a year.

If my oppinion mattered I would give this series a 5/5 star rating.

Until then I am at a loss of what next to read that could possibly compare.

Friday, November 30, 2007

A leaf from the LooseLeaf Sketchbook

I began a practice of going to Borders on Sunday mornings to enjoy a bagel and coffee and to draw a bit a few months ago. I started out by drawing tons of figures in various poses. Mostly quick stick drawings, but a few I fleshed out because they just seemed to want it. Here's a peek of something I did during one of those sessions.

I don't know what to say about the fascination I have in drawing tree stumps. I have been drawing them since the age of 12. But they are great seats for the fey.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Sleeping Lessons—The Shins

Glow, baby glow.

And remember, you don't have to swallow anything you despise.

This song can reprogram your thinking if you listen to it over and over for 4 months.

Brought to you on Theraputic Thursday.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A peek at this years Christmas Card

During my week off, I successfully completed the drawing and nearly the entire coloring of this years Christmas Cards. Hooray! I am early this year. Though how I am going to put it together remains to be seen.

After sending the drawing to my best friend, an art teacher, to get reassurance that her head isn't to big for her body, I began work on the painting. I choose to go with the Polar Bear in honor of the up coming movie The Golden Compass.

The books themselves are fabulous. But I refuse to listen to them again for fear of having the same reaction when I saw Stardust. Sorry Niel Gaimen, love you and your work but I ruined a perfectly great movie by compairing it to the book.

I am thrilled about the movie, but unthrilled that some of the more controversial elements, the meat and bones, might be taken out. Please don't let me get started on them. If you think people had a field day trying to ban Harry Potter, the voracity of sentiment in trying to get the His Dark Materials series banned will be like a wild and crazy Holiday Party where someone spiked the punch and everyone was thirsty.

On the movie site my Daemon is the Snow leopard, the same as Lyra's father. Try it out!

And if you wish to be on my mailing list this year, just email me!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

LATE: The Victoria Magazines Hazelnut Cake for Thanksgiving

At any rate, it's better late then never posting.

It's been a crazy week for being on vacation. But it's been heavenly so far enjoying a week where all you have to do is entertain yourself and not anyone else. It's been a highly productive week also, even with nearly cutting my finger off with my jewelers saw.

For Thanksgiving I decided to resurrect a cake from the far past. This cake was found in a Victoria Magazine when I was in High school. This cake is so delicious I used it in my senior year speech class as a demonstration cake. But over the years I lost the recipe and had been hunting it down on the Internet ever since Google has been around. I could not find it. So I went on eBay and bought back issues of Victoria until I finally had the recipe. And now I will post it here, hoping it will never get lost again.

The Hazelnuts after toasting:

The three bowls mixed into one bowl of goodness:

The DISASTER of no Wax Paper! Take a lesson from me kids, wax paper is your friend in this. I had to use the metal mallet to wack out the cakes:

The $30 worth of expensive chocolate:

The delicious slice of goodness:

Hazelnut Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons backing powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1.2 cups finely ground hazelnuts
6 eggs
3 cups of sugar
4 teaspoons kirshwasser (I forgot to buy some, instead I used a shot of Cointreau left over from my party that was used in scrumptious sangria and some vanilla)

Raspberry Filling

1/2 cup of seedless raspberry jam ( I hate jams of all sorts. I hate raspberries too. But I will use it in tonight's recipe for the heck of it.)

Chocolate Icing (more like a moose and I made extra and iced the whole cake in it.)

12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate cut or shaved into small pieces.
1/2 cup unsalted butter cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 3/4 cup heavy cream
2-3 tablespoons of kirshwasser (A German cherry liqueur)

Chocolate Glaze

6 ounces of bittersweet chocolate cut or shaved into small pieces
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons of light corn syrup
3 table spoons sour cream

To Make Hazelnut Cake

1Butter and flour 4 deep 9x2" layer pans. Line bottoms of pans with waxed paper. Flour and butter the waxed paper. (Do not skip this part. I forgot it for the first time ever and am regretting it) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Shift together flour, baking powder and salt into a medium bowl. Stir in nuts and set aside.

3 In large mixer bowl, LARGE, beat eggs with electric mixer for about 6 minutes until thick. Gradually add sugar, beating until the constantly. The mixture should be thick and yellow. Add the kirshwasser. Beat well. Set aside.

4. Wash beaters thoroughly. In another large bowl, beat3 cups of cream til it holds it's shape.

5. Fold the flour mixture and whipped cream alternately into the egg mixture. Divide between pans. (I used three cause that's what I had, and ended up making a few cupcakes) Divide batter into pans smoothing the tops.

6. Bake for 30 to 35 minuted until cake pulls away from sides and pick inserted into center comes out clean.

7. Cool on rack about 10 minutes. Remove cakes from pan. Remove waxed paper. Cool cakes completely on racks. Before icing clean off crumbs from the cakes with a feather or a pastery brush.

To Make Chocolate Icing.

1. In top of double boiler, combine 12 ounces of chocolate, 1/2 cup butter and 2 tablespoons of corn syrup.

2. Melt over simmer water, stirring often. Remove from heat. Mix until smooth and set aside.

3. In a small mixer bowl, beat 1 3/4 cups of cream a medium spread until medium peaks form. Beat in 2 to 3 tablespoons of kirshwasser.

4. With mixer running at low speed, slowly add chocolate mixture. Continue to beat at low speed until mixture is a chocolate mouse like consistency. About 2 minutes.

To Assemble Cake

1. Place first cake later on serving plate. Spread with 2-3 tablespoons of jam and 3/4 cup of icing. (work quick or icing will become soft.) Continue layering cake, jam and icing. Spread remain icing on top.

2. Refrigerate 1 1/2 hours until set.

To Make Chocolate Glaze.

1. In top of double boiler, combine 6 ounces chocolate, 3 tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons corn syrup.

2. Melt over simmering water, stirring often. Remove from water. Mix until smooth. Cool 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream until blended.

3. Spoon over cooled cake and spread around sides. Refrigerate until set.

4. Serve cake at room temperature. Decorate how you wish. I know I will use the glaze as a decoration instead of anything else...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Banning Welsh?!

How archaic!

Thomas Cook is a travel agnecy, and although this is old news, it's really cool to hear the Welsh Accent.

I believe the company wanted to stream line communications thus requested that welsh would not be spoken by their employees.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cutting away...I wish!

Sorry, dear readers, it's been a busy few days. I am currently finishing off another bear, this one requested by my brother so he can put it in an auction this weekend at a convention. Lucky Lia Bear will be auctioned off. I feel like an over-protective mother and I am trying not to get attached. But I am curious to see how well she will do.

I would much rather be cutting copper or making new designs for my jewelry, but there you have it.

I have include a picture in this post of my jeweler's saw in a sheet of copper. I will print out the design from my computer and adhere it to the copper with rubber cement. Then I will begin cutting away the design. Messy, but fun!


Thursday, November 8, 2007

It just kinda happened....and I couldn't stop it.

So I have been reading a wonderful book bought for me by my best friend for my birthday called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. But the other day I needed a fairytale or two to get the creativity flowing.

So I began reading a most lovely short story collection called The Ogre's Wife, by Richard Parks. Tonight I was reading the third tale when I stopped in the middle of it and drew this scene.

This where Mordhu, a pooka, seeks out Stone the oldest of the Fey. Stone is sitting in a waterfall to block out the noise of the threat to the fey kingdom. "The water is noisy, but always the same. After a time it fades, and the Voice stays muffled. I do not think I will leave here for awhile."

The scan didn't turn out so well so I took some quick photos...it's to late tonight to mess around with perfection.

Close up:


Click on the image and it should take you to flickr where you can see them larger.

You would have thought I would have choosen the part where the Fey Queen gives Mordhu the task of finding out what is wrong with the land...but no...I choose a goblin and a stone fey.

Mark A. Nelson—My College Professor and Illustrator

I found this a few weeks ago when I was browsing for new literature to read. You can easily spot a Mark A. Nelson or any of his students work. I think almost all of us carry in our hands and heads a little bit of that man's knowledge which ends up on the page like a red flag to other students of his. This long list of students includes, R.K. Post, Micheal Sutfin, Thomas Baxa, Neil Klemz(Neil, correct my spelling and add any other students you remember), Mike Giba, Mike Heliker, Theresa Brandon, Fred Hooper, Chris Sabatino and the not so illustrious me.

Currently, Mark is teaching at the Animation Department of Madison Area Technical College in Madison, Wisconsin. If I had a million dollars I would drop everything here and move up there and enroll. I sware, for all his tough teaching love, you can learn a lot from him. I took him at NIU where I was lucky enough to have for his last few years of teaching illustration, later he went up North to work for Raven Software. I wonder how he moved his ginormous library. He had a room devoted to skulls and skeletons of various animals. A young illustrators dream, it was like a tiny museum. I know I wanted to be just like him when I grew up.

In these past few months of reconnecting to art, I have been trying to hear Mark's voice in my head. Remembering the things he taught. I have been considering breaking out those old squares and circles that he made us cross-hatch for weeks on end and starting over from there, I even have been contemplating drawing ten things of the same subject matter each week.

Instead I drew a dragons head last night. In get this, a tiny moleskien sketchbook.

If I ever see him again, I will razz him for not having a website.

The book by Tad Williams is sold out and was $200. The small illustration to the right is from the Unearthed Arcana resource book published by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Thanks Neil for all the links the reminders!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Lily Bear — Bear in a Box #3

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A little history.

These bears-in-a-box come from multiple sources of inspiration. The primary inspiration is the Anano Bear which is made by a woman from Japan. You have to see them to believe in their cuteness.

Another place was the Blog of MollyChicken a marvelous crafter out of England, I believe, who I first saw because she had put one of her gorgeous Bears on eBay for charity. Without her patterns for a dress and a coat, I wouldn't of made these bears for my nieces. I mostly made my own bears because I couldn't possibly afford one of hers, they are made of mohair, I use fleece. And well, I like to make things, my way.

I took the pattern for the bear, pets and bags out of a great Japanese craft book I picked up from a place n Arlington Heights called Mitsuwa which has a full service book store now. The pattern for the bear wasn't exactly what I wanted, so I enlarged the head quite a bit. The pattern for the Beret I made up.

These bears remind me of the dolls I used to have as a child, the ones in a traveling box that came with clothes and hangers. I loved those dolls and I wanted my three youngest nieces to have the same experience. After the success Lacey Bear (#1) had pleasing a niece, I decided to make more. I created a Bear Questionnaire for my other nieces so I would know some of their favorite things, as they change constantly. Strangely enough, both Girls choose "L" names for their Bears, Lisa and Lucy. Thus the "L" series of bears were born.

Lily Bear was made for a woman I work for and it will be a gift for her Granddaughter on Christmas.

Without futher ado, Lily Bear's fashion show:

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The whole inside.

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Taveling outfit for fashionable bears.

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The vet is in!

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Super-Star Lily! With Oscar!

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Walking the cat outfit.

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Summer Dress!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

All it takes is one mindless doodle...

In the beginning, I didn't think of it much. I sketch often in meetings, it helps keep my mind alert, amazingly enough. There are times when I draw something that becomes a painting later on and times when it only is chicken scratch.

I don't generally use sketch books. Using loose copy paper for my initial sketches, makes me feel less bound. Sketch books are bound, and being bound in any form stifles my creativity. Sketch books aren't for everyone. I do wish they were for me, in college I would lust over the richly packed books of my fellow class mates. But as it turns out I go into spasms of panic over sketch books. It's something I am working on.

In the absence of loose leaf paper, I use my daily planner form work. Two years of planners, full ideas drawn out subconsciously waiting for future reference.

In this post are the sketches that began the series of jewelry I am doing on etsy. I think I intended later for these scribbles to become a vector illustration. It didn't work out like that.

So as you can see from the shear multitude of sketches, you can take an idea and redraw it multiple times before you are finally satisfied with the results.

Getting it right the first time is not necessary in art. What is necessary is letting your idea breathe, recreate itself and mature.

I began with the idea that wire would be the perfect medium to express these designs in. But it didn't work out that well. One of my electives in college was Jewelry 101 and I recalled the technique of cutting metal to pierce out a design.

I had a jewelers saw and some metal, namely copper sheets, from past projects painting miniature figures. A hobby that turned out to be an utter waste of time and money. Aside from impressing gamer boys with my mad painting skillz gleamed from my college education, it had no real-life application and didn't give me the satisfaction art did. Creating something from absolutely nothing.

It was this realization that finally woke me up. My hobbies and my art, up until now were ones meant to please other people. What I consider my best art was beyond that sphere. So let this be a lesson to you ladies. Do what YOU want to do, and you will be truly happy.