05. December 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: art, fangirl, toadbriar

One of the habits I’ve developed in the age of instant information is to run ideas through Google or Etsy, to ensure that I’m not unwittingly catching a second-hand bolt of inspiration. It’s no fun to find out someone already shouted your Eureka, so it’s always good to check. At worst you’ll evolve your idea into something else. Ideally, you’ll find that you’ve really got something new. Either way, the process of looking nearly always delivers some interesting stuff. Occasionally you even turn up something wonderful.

That’s how I found Cricket Press on Etsy, and I knew I’d have to post about their work.

Bikers Only - Cricket Press

Bikers Only – Cricket Press

Based in Lexington, KY, Sara and Brian Turner have adeptly applied their talents to a diversity of project types – posters, logos, packaging, and not least of all, illustration. Their event posters in particular capture the same spirit that appealed to me in their screenprinted illos. The world they depict is a place of friendly community spirit, where you can pedal your Schwinn past the local movie house to the farmer’s market, spend your weekend at the arts festival, and enjoy the offerings of your hometown craft brewery before taking in the concert at the bandstand in the memorial park downtown.

In their screenprinted illustrations they deliver scenes viewed through the same lens of fond nostalgia, but their subjects spend more time in shadows than in sunshine.

Dead End Trail - Cricket Press

Dead End Trail – Cricket Press

Adult fears are flatly prosaic; they can be photographed under fluorescent light, authenticated with documentation, diagnosed with lab testing. We tiptoe down the cellar stairs not because we’re afraid of skeletal fingers grasping our ankle, but because we don’t have health insurance.

No surprise really that we might regard the bony hand with some degree of fondness by comparison.

Children navigate the edges of the adult world as explorers in a land that’s simultaneously familiar and strange, that continually discloses new mysteries and contradictions. Everything is unverified, and if grownups made up that stuff about Santa to keep you happy, maybe they’re telling you that vampires aren’t real for the same reason.

Night of the Owls

Night of the Owls

Anything is possible. There can still be monsters in the shadows. There is still magic in the moonlight. This is the childhood landscape that Cricket Press captures.

The Gate

The Gate

The actors are intrepid aventurers, cautious and canny. Their world is familiar: woods, meadows, that one house with the ominous atmosphere. It’s a realm of intensity, where good and evil are stark and simple, unmuddied by blurry greys. Relationships are uncomplicated by conflicting obligations. Quests, blood-brother oaths, and steadfast loyalty are the rule. Friendship really means forever because how could it possibly not? The line from Stand By Me comes to mind: “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, does anyone?” Cricket Press gets that, and even pays homage to the film with a print.

RIP Ray Brower

A Dead Body – Cricket Press

The prints manage to evoke a sort of meta-childhood nostalgia: not just by reflecting the viewer’s personal experience, but in their ability to decant the sweetness of the best childhoods from literature. They recall the flavor of Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and Something Wicked This Way Comes…

Fall Nights - Cricket Press

Fall Nights – Cricket Press

Of Jem and Scout and Dill, casting uncertain glances at Boo Radley’s house…

The House

The House

Of the Losers’ Club in 1958 Derry, Maine, or the Three Investigators, or the Hardy Boys, or Nancy, Bess and George, or any number of old friends.

Jack O Lanterns - Cricket Press

Jack O Lanterns – Cricket Press

The artworks’ charm is enhanced by the style of execution. The prints are perfectly respectable vignette illustrations which would be right at home among the pages of juvenile fiction – all they’re missing are page numbers and captions.

Campfire Conversations - Cricket Press

Campfire Conversations – Cricket Press

Each print is like a postcard across time and imagination. But it’s even better than that, because these are new pieces being created by contemporary artists. It’s a delight to be reminded that even in the grown-up world, there is still magic to unearth and treasure to discover.

Thanks Brian and Sara, for making wonderful art and doing it so well.

Visit Cricket Press at http://www.cricket-press.com/. See their Etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/cricketpress and follow them on twitter at https://twitter.com/cricketpress.

15. May 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: rumination, toadbriar · Tags:

toys

When we’re little, we join our friends to play with our toys. Legos, animal figures, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. Race them, hold them up to see which is taller or rounder, try fitting them together in different ways. We learn to share and play nice.

Once we’re big, we play with ideas. We bring our best ones, our pretty-good ones, and even some really clunky ones that we still like for one reason or another. We join friends on a porch, around a fire, or over a meal instead of hunkered on the floor, but we play with the ideas just like toys. We zoom them around, compare them, and share opinions about them. We race them, we hold them up to see which one is taller or rounder, and we try fitting them together in different ways.

And we Play Nice.

It’s like this.

I’ve gotten some shiny new ideas and I just can’t wait to show them to you. I’m carrying them around with me everywhere lately. They’re great, look!

You pick one up and heft it. Good and solid! It’s not fancy, but it’s sturdy – definitely a classic.

You hand me a cool new idea you found. Interesting concept! As I handle it, a panel comes loose in my hand, and you look stricken – have I broken it? No, it seems to be designed that way, it has a compartment inside – cool!

I grin and hold out a really flashy idea. You’ve seen the commercials, amazing to see it up close. So shiny! Look at the colors! And the lines – irresistibly sleek, almost seductive – it feels so perfect in your hand. Wait, look. You turn it over and show me: It’s bristling with sharp edges, pointy and jagged. Safe for whoever holds it, but downright dangerous for others nearby. And you point – there’s a crack – something is leaking out, something nasty with a toxic smell. Yuck, I hadn’t even noticed. Turns out this one’s not really a nice idea at all.

 

We Play Nice. That means: If someone presents an idea, it’s okay to look at it, turn it over, and see how it works.

It’s not okay to get upset if someone points out that it has sharp corners, or that it may make your hair smell terrific but it’s made out of endangered kittens and maybe that’s kind of awful.

 

Our ideas: we race them, we hold them up to see which is taller or rounder, and we try fitting them together in different ways.

Some are going to be lumpy and crooked or poorly made. That’s why we play with them together: to share, compare, improve and build better ones. To see if you catch something I overlooked. To see if I perceive it as you do, or in a new way. To get recommendations or suggestions: you showed me some problems with mine that I missed. Is there something better?

We share our ideas to show that they’re not flimsy cheap things made to look impressive, but that they can actually withstand scrutiny and heavy use.

Playing Nice means you understand that sharing an idea is an invitation to others to offer their own impressions of it.

If you only want unquestioning admiration for your ideas, that’s not Playing Nice. You’re asking people to provide a service, and you need to pay them for it.

If your idea is too precious for others to touch, leave it at home.

Engaging your idea, playing with it, inspecting it: It’s an invitation to join in, be included. You brought something, let’s see, let’s see. Show me how the doors open, and how the hood pops up. If I say I really like the color but I don’t think it’s as aerodynamic as it could be, the message is not your thing sucks and you suck. The message is We both like little cars, some have cool stuff and others have stuff that isn’t cool, let’s go into detail about what we each think about those things. We enter a dialogue, and because we Play Nice we understand that judging ideas is not to be confused with judging people. Running your idea through an obstacle course is the equivalent of running your Matchbox car through a racetrack with lots of loop-de-loops and switchbacks and jumps. If you don’t want to do that, then why did you bring it out? How do you know what it can really do, how do you know the limits? Don’t you want to play?

Playing Nice means questioning ideas is okay, but judging people is not okay.

Playing Nice means trusting each other’s sincerity. It means trusting that people don’t love us less and aren’t ‘being mean’ if they engage our ideas with anything short of endorsement. It also means that we don’t do that to others, either.

Playing Nice means good faith: that if we debate, we do it sincerely: not playing dumb, not pretending to misunderstand, not to deflect or distract or escalate to ‘win’. It trusts that ‘I don’t know’ is perfectly respectable. It understands that ‘Because I Said So’ or ‘Because God Told Me So’ are too arbitrary to be valid justifications for anything.

Playing Nice means we can trust the sanctity of mutual respect and honesty, accept one another but still safely disagree when we have to. We can rely on one another for intellectual vigor and candor, and embrace an attitude of always trying to learn more, understand better, and develop a greater capacity for empathy.

Every time I put eggs into the incubator, I scribble a progress sheet so I can keep track of the hatching schedule. Rather than continue drawing it new each time, I’ve decided to make and share a downloadable printout. You’re welcome to use it and share it as long as you keep the attribution intact and keep it free.

The temperature settings are particular to forced-air incubators. Make alterations on your own sheet if you’ve got a still-air incubator. Everything’s a guideline, I’m not an expert, and you ought not rely solely on this sheet as your source of information.

hatching-calendar

Duck Egg Hatching Calendar

Happy hatching!

23. April 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: birds

The turkeys on the Art Farm are Narragansetts – a heritage breed built for strolling around a farmyard, a little sleeker and more old-fashioned than the broad-breasted birds produced by the industrial facilities for our supermarkets.

They’re pretty.

The legit turkeys

The legit turkeys

Right now we’ve got Tompkins, Cameo, and Honey. (And two of the three American Buff geese – looks like Murphy and O’Hara.)

Resplendent Tompkins

Resplendent Tompkins

Tommy will be a year old in June. But he’s already quite certain that he’s a very big deal. Before I had turkeys, I thought that people always took photos of the toms displaying because it was a picturesque opportunity. Actually he spends most of the day strutting.

Not to diminish the ladies – they tend to be a little more clever and agile.

They’ve all been enjoying the newly-bare earth cleared of snow. Throughout the entire winter, they didn’t get to enjoy a dust bath. Now they’re mad for it. So it was no surprise to see the girls rolling and fluffing in the dirt. But oddly, one looked a funny color through the kitchen window. Wait – there’s an extra hen.

Hey, what?

Hey, what?

A wild visitor had dropped in. She hung out all day.

ridiculous

…and appeared again, the next day.

Made friends with the goats. And Kateri duck, of course.

Made friends with the goats. And Kateri duck, of course.

That evening, there was a loud commotion. A lot more gobbling than usual. That’s saying something. A leaf falls, Tommy gobbles. I tune it out. But this was ongoing. Only the males gobble. The hens talk, but the gobble is a boy thing. And I was hearing quite a bit of it.

Wouldn’t you know it? Her ex came looking for her.

I think he was drunk

I think he was drunk

A wild tom! A mature guy – see the hairy ponytail sticking out of his chest? His beard. It’s a trophy thing that turkey hunters keep. Like an antler growing out of his chest. Very masculine. It’s Steven Seagal’s ponytail. made of chest hair, growing out of the chest of a creature that isn’t even a mammal.

Nevertheless… Miss Wild Thing wanted to hang with her domesticated buddies. She was roosting in a nearby tree overnight, and hanging out all day.

Turkeybro didn’t like it.

RAWR

RAWR

He and Tommy have been kicking it up. Yesterday both wild turks were inside the fence, and the boys took it up again in the afternoon. I didn’t see it, but there were a lot of bronze feathers on the ground. Turkey guy ran from me, but couldn’t figure out why he couldn’t walk through the fence. Turkeys don’t get fences. They can fly to roost on stuff, but the complexity of flying over a 48″ fence for the purpose of getting to the other side is apparently beyond their capacity.

The wild tom paced the fence on the far side of the pond, but the hen was living it up hanging out with her girlfriends.

pastoral

It’s odd to me that she’s been so persistent in hanging around. She’s not getting fed. The birds have to squeeze through a (goat and horse-excluding) gate to enter their overnight pen, and that’s the only place where they have access to feed. I’m quite certain she’s not going into the pen, it’s very enclosed and very near to the house.

It’s not legal to raise wild turkeys in captivity, in MA. They’re as common as whitetail deer, and seem to acclimate to human proximity quite readily. I imagine she’ll move on when she feels like nesting, or when a new band of wild birds comes through.

diggin 1

But in the meantime… they’re playing. Digging holes.

diggin2

Really fascinating, if you’re a turkey, apparently!

turkosaurus

If we didn’t enjoy the neighbors, we’d have picked somewhere else to live.

Can you pinpoint a moment when something crossed your path that would leave a lasting influence on your creative expression for the rest of your life?

For me, that moment happened in a discount bookstore (Northtown Plaza, Buffalo peeps!) sometime around 1986, when I encountered Leonard Lubin’s whimsically illustrated costume history book, The Elegant Beast.

Leonard Lubin - The Elegant Beast - 1981

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast – 1981

Who could resist the cover?

Leonard Lubin - The Elegant Beast 1981 - title page

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast – 1981 – title page

 Not 12 year old me, that’s for sure. The title page nailed it.

lubin-illo1

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast -1981 – Afghan Hound Cavalier!

 The text is extensively detailed, but the lush watercolor and pencil illustrations on each facing page are where the real magic is to be found.

lubin-illo4

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast – 1981 – Directoire period

 Les Incroyables et Merveilleuses – so glam! so fabulous! My love of zebras and dandies traces its genesis to this exact source.

lubin-illo5

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast – 1981
Romantic Era – 1830-1840
Hares

I still think of this gentleman when I draw a jacket with that slope-shouldered silhouette. The hare head is the natural accessory, certainly.

I’ll always be grateful for how Lubin’s work used naturalism, caricature and expression to illustrate an accurately detailed reference work. I had never encountered something that was both scholarly and comical. Reference material was educational, not frivolous. Learning could be playful? More shockingly, teaching could be playful? This changes everything. It changed me for good, and for the better.

lubin-illo2

Leonard Lubin – The Elegant Beast – 1981
Baroque – Louis XIV – 1680-1700

What charmed me in particular was what I might today fondly call naturalist geekery: Lubin went the extra mile. The models for the late Baroque entry aren’t just birds – they’re specifically a Eurasian black vulture and a lesser sulphur-crested cockatoo.

I’m sure he just wanted to draw fun stuff in the form of an accurate costume history overview. I wonder if he expected to engage a kid’s imagination and teach her that smart and accurate could play just fine with fun, weird, and unconventional. It was a life-long lesson for which I’m forever grateful.

The book is readily available for purchase online. If you like my work, you ought to get a copy to enjoy. I’m afraid I don’t lend mine out!

09. January 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: art, toadbriar
The Beauty of Old Dogs  - available as a print on etsy - https://www.etsy.com/listing/175147281/the-beauty-of-old-dogs-signed-print

The Beauty of Old Dogs – available as a print on etsy – https://www.etsy.com/listing/175147281/the-beauty-of-old-dogs-signed-print

18. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: toadbriar

christmas 2013

12. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: art, news, toadbriar

The Houndton Tabby series gets covered in the Daily Mail! With quotes from me, even!

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2521859/Downton-Abbey-characters-painted-pets.html

And I’ve finished a new portrait:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as blue or lilac point Siamese and orange tabby, respectively.

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson as blue or lilac point Siamese and orange tabby, respectively.

print on etsy!

03. December 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: toadbriar

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/gallery/2013/dec/03/pets-as-downton-abbey-characters-gallery

And Laughing Squid – http://laughingsquid.com/houndton-tabby-portraits-of-downton-abbey-characters-as-cats-and-dogs/

And Refinery29 – http://www.refinery29.com/2013/12/58368/downton-abbey-cats-and-dogs

27. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: art, events, toadbriar

Been busy with commissions and autumn art shows! But I snuck in some silly fun..

A Hound Insane – Kim Parkhurst

https://www.etsy.com/listing/164189574/a-hound-insane-bowie-greyhound-portrait

Some sculpture pieces –

Christmas sculptures

Christmas sculptures

Foxy - sold

Foxy – sold

 

We’ve got two shows left this season – if you’re in New England, consider coming out and saying hi!

The second annual Living Local Art Fair is in Peterborough, NH at the UU on Nov 30.

The Winter Craft Fair Benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of Hampshire County is at the Northampton, MA high school on Dec. 7 & 8.