Monday, December 31, 2012

Magoo Turns Ten

It's been hoppin' around here.

One might think, Hey, it's Christmas time.  Kick back and relax.

But the days after Christmas are usually spent cleaning and preparing for Magoo's birthday on December 30th.  And this year was a big one.  This year Magoo turned the big ONE - OH!  10!

It snowed!  Yay!  Snow!

We like a good snow, because we love to SLED!  So it was a wonderful birthday treat to hit the hill.  Now, what you may not know is that although there are only 3 people living in this house (and one cat) I believe we have eight sleds.  Why eight?  Well, different types of sleds perform better on different types of snow.  Let's say it's a thin, icy snow.  Well, the runner sled is going to fly.  What if it's a fluffy snow?  Purple Nurple will do the job.  What if you want to do a lot of jumps but don't want to hurt your butt?  The inflatable tube is the ticket!

And whenever we all go, it's always good to take the toboggan.

(Althought you can ride it solo too.)

Magoo had requested a sleepover party.  So we started off with pizza dinner.  And then presents.
Yanno, no matter how good a gift is, a Hoops and YoYo card just makes it that much better.  Magoo LOVES Hoops and YoYo.

Magoo requested my famous honey cake, and that's what he got.  Honey Cake with ten candles.

Then it was slumber party time.  The boys had the disco ball going and listened to music and told flashlight stories, but I have to admit, they went to sleep at a decent hour.  I was mentally prepared to have to go in and sush them several times, but nooooooo, not once.  Lucky me.

I think Magoo had a wonderful day and THANK YOU to all the family and friends that helped him celebrate with phone calls, cards, gift cards (OH the gift cards - he's rich, I tell ya) and warm wishes.

He's a pretty awesome guy, that Magoo.  It's been an absolute joy to spend my days helping him grow.  I look forward to another eight years before I kick him out.  ;)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Scenes from Christmas

We've been busy doing last minute crafts, baking Christmas cookies, and cutting paper snowflake: all the good little things one does at Christmas.  In fact, I have some baking to do today, so instead of a wordy post, I'll leave you with some scenes from around the house.

Magoo is BIG into holiday specials this year.  Is there any better place to watch them than in a sofa fort?

I added a couple houses to my holiday mantle. 

Java LOVES hiding under the Christmas Tree.

Happy Holidays to you all!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Post with No Good Title


I live in Connecticut and as I'm sure you've heard by now, a terrible thing happened not too far from here.  Newtown is about 45 minutes away.

Whereas I don't personally know any of the families directly effected, our community feels the ripples.  I'm sure every person that hears about it, feels it in some way.

My goal over that last few days was to try to keep the story from Magoo.  I can't imagine why he needs to know about this.  There's nothing he can do.  There's no lessons of stranger danger to be learned here. 

Everything that I have heard about the story of Sandy Brook School is that they did everything correctly - followed every protocol - there just wasn't anything they could do to stop it.

But today is Monday and I'm sure that other children know the story.  Will it come up in school?  Probably.

I'll be there later today to volunteer in the library as I usually do, so I'll get a sense of what's entered Magoo's ear then.  I imagine we'll have to have a talk tonight.   But wouldn't it be lovely if I didn't have to.  Wouldn't it be lovely if his mind remains consumed with excitement for next week - and only that - as it should be.

I apologize for bumming anyone out.  Life is basically normal for us - with maybe a little more awareness, fear, and gratitude.  Magoo is terribly excited for Santa's visit.  We spend every night watching some holiday special or another.  I'm actively trying to figure out what to make for Christmas breakfast that is gluten-free, yeast-free, sugar-free, tasty, and easy.  I just ordered a cookbook with recipe for GF YF Cinnamon buns.  We'll see.

In the meantime, if you're looking for something you can do to help the Newtown Community, the United Way is building a fund:

or you can send a check to:

Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Illustration Friday: Explore

Explore                              2012                           j. c. phillipps

The topic for Illustration Friday this week is EXPLORE.

This is a great topic for the new style I'd been wanting to try out: a mix of vintage clip art, my normal collage style, and text.

I was inspired to use the vintage art from a poster a saw that had two ships (vintage ink drawings) being attacked by a giant cartoon-like octopus.  It was too fun.

And I'm really getting into illustrator Melissa Sweet's style. 

This is from her book on William Carlos Williams.  I LOVE IT SO MUCH!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Christmas Crafting: Peanut Snowmen Ornaments

I saw a very cute photo on Pinterest of little peanut snowmen and knew I had to make a few myself.  THEY WERE SO CUTE! 

Mine are a little different from the originals, but they are really easy to make.  Here's a short step-by-step.

I knew I'd want to hang the peanuts to dry, so I made putting the hooks in STEP ONE.  I drilled small holes in the top of the nuts, added a drop of hot glue, then twisted the hook eye in.  If you're worried about the look of the hot glue and have some tiny pom-poms around, you could always add those.  That'd be super cute.

STEP TWO:  Then I strung them with colorful embroidery thread and painted the bottom 2/3's white (I used acrylic gesso) and hung them to dry.  (A branch in a pitcher makes a great drying rack.)

STEP THREE:  When they were dry, Magoo and I added faces (using dots.  You can try to use lines, but it's a textured surface so the lines won't be smooth.  FYI.)

STEP FOUR:  I was concerned about people with peanut allergies, so I coated the whole peanut in clear nail polish.

STEP FIVE:  When that was dry, we cut tiny scarfs out of felt and tied them around.  Then I added a wee bit more hot glue to tack the scarves in place.

All done and super cute!

We saved a couple for our tree, but the rest I will give out with Christmas treats to the neighbors and with teacher gifts.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Turkey Barn Photographs

There's a stretch of road I go down whenever I go to Simsbury.  I always pass by this big field with a run down brick barn.  I always, always wish I had my camera so that I could take some pictures of it.

Well, it was very misty on Sunday and the barn looked really, really cool.  I had my camera for the author visit, so on my way home, I decided I'd stop and be a good little photographer.

The shot above is taken from the car.  I didn't have any cars behind me, so I was crawling along the country road with my window down and my camera out.  Then I pulled over into the driveway of the 4H farm and got out to get a couple shots.

Check out that rafter of turkeys!

I played with some of my color filters, making the top photo a little cooler and the bottom photo a little warmer.

Then I had to pull in further to the 4H farm to turn the car around and I came across this scene.

Doesn't it look ominous?  Like, if you go to buy a tree a zombie will eat your brains!

That actually would be kind of funny, if zombies set traps.  It's be like this Far Side cartoon:

Anyway, when the opportunity hits, I've been trying to take more artistic photos.  And since I have another art show this summer, I think I'll paint some of the barns.

In other news: I saw a really cool movie last night THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  It's billed as a horror movie but I'd say it's only 25% horror.  Most of it is a kind of awesome, layered, meta narrative on the horror movie formula.  It's by Joss Whedon, so if you liked Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, or Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog, I think you'll really want to see this.  I loved it!  

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ninja Party!

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of visiting the Simsbury Library for a ninja party!!!  And by "party" I mean I read the book, talked about making it, and we did a craft.  So it was really an author visit with a peppy spin.  But I think calling it a "party" is brilliant marketing b/c I had a lovely group of kiddos to talk to and play with.

And I had a very lovely room to be in with two full sized murals.  What a great background for photographs!  (Photographs by Cheryl Donahue, Librarian/photographer extraordinaire!)

This was a slightly younger group (well, not all of them, but I had some 4 year-olds in the batch.)  I had read Wink and I was in the middle of my short-version power point presentation when this boy in the front row raised his hand.

Me:  Yes, Ian.
Ian:  When is this part going to be over?  I'm so thirrrrrrsty.
Me:  Do you need a water break?
Ian:  Yes!
5 other kids:  Me too!
Me:  OK.  There's a drinking fountain right outside, go ahead and get a drink.
(Insert stampede.)
Ian (as he's running out)  But I don't want to miss making ninjas!

And he didn't.

I really love making ninja collages with kids because the shapes can be altered so easily.  If you get older kids with good cutting skills, they can cut individual fingers.  Young kids can make "hot dog" arms and legs. 

They all made lovely ninjas.  And since it's getting cool outside, we added some hats and mittens.

Thanks so much Simsbury Library!  I had a FABULOUS time.  Yahoo!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Illustration Friday: Whiskers

After the art show I needed to take a little break from Illustration Friday.  But I'm back, baby!

Actually, I booked an art show in August which means I need to have 15-20 pieces framed to show.  You may think, "Julie you have plenty of time!"  But if I get busy with picture books and Spring school visits and Monkey Ono marketing, I'll have little time for art, and deadlines always come up fast.  So I'm jumping in.

The topic this week is WHISKERS.

Java                  2012                  j.c.phillipps
Usually when I find out what the topic is, I try to think about what the common image will be.  Like, if the topic was reflection, there might be a lot of mirrors.  Then I try to brainstorm three or four ideas beyond that.  Well, when you hear whiskers you go to cat, right?  I do.  But I love cats.  I've always owned cats.  And, maybe most importantly, cats sell.  I always sell my cat art.  So I figured, What the heck!  Let's cat it out.

(Above) I had recently taken a photo of my little Java kitty, back lit, with the sun highlighting her whiskers.   Since Magoo had just drawn that lovely black and white charcoal picture of the skull, I took a page from his book and did a charcoal Java.

And I like it.  I do.  But it didn't seem very me.  (Maybe because I haven't done a charcoal drawing in years.)  And I heard that little voice in my core say,

Little Voice:  This isn't it.
Me:    Cram it, Little Voice.  It's fine.
Little Voice:  Eh.
Me:  It's only Illustration Friday.  It doesn't have to be perfect.
Little Voice:  I guess.  If you want to be that way ...

Then I started to image how I would do whiskers in collage, so I went ahead and did this:

Whiskers                     2012                    j.c.phillipps

This feels more like a J. C. Phillipps collage to me.  I like the charcoal drawing too, mind you, I do.  And I think it will look great in a white mat and black frame.  But I love the white whiskers in the collage above.  They pop a little more and I also really like the texture of the papers.  I guess I'm satisfied with this because it turned out exactly how I envisioned it. 

So my Little Voice is happy now and I can move on.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Monkey Ono and an Awesome Skull

About two months ago I bought some fabric to make a Monkey Ono doll.  I used to be into sewing BIG TIME but lately not so much.  So it sat and sat.  Then, Sunday, I said "Today is the day!  Today I make a Monkey Ono doll." 

It's not perfect.  I had to fiddle with my homemade pattern a bit.  But all in all I think it looks like my little monkey.  And because my cat Java is also a character in the book, I had to pose them together.  So there they all are: Monkey Ono, Java, and the book which features them both.  (Due out March 2013.  Pre-order on Amazon.)

Moving on...

Magoo brought this home last week.  They were studying the skulls of Georgia O'Keefe in art class.  This is a charcoal and white chalk drawing Magoo did from a skull in the classroom.  I was blow away.  I think it's GORGEOUS!  I love the slight distortion and the strong contrasting black and white.

And I loved it so much I broke 2 panes of glass before I could get it successfully framed.  (D'oh!)
Yeah, that's right, my clunky Hulk hands shattered not one, but two panes of glass.  Clearly I'm not used to working with such large pieces of glass (it's a big piece.)  But I had two frames lying around in the basement so, technically, I only had to buy the third frame and - bonus - I cleaned out the basement a bit.

I love it.  It's definitely worth three frames.

I have it hanging in my studio right across from my drafting table so I can look at it all the time and beam proud Mama vibes at it.

In other news:
It's snowing.
The Honda is in the shop.
I'm making chili.

Have a great Tuesday!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Holiday Happenings

It's been a BIG weekend.  Lots of holiday stuff going on.  I'm going to give you the highlights and some of my better visuals.

Thanksgiving is a big pie holiday at my in-laws.  And OH how I love pie.  But my husband and son do not love pie (crazies) so I made them a honey cake.  To be festive, Magoo located a dark chocolate turkey at Whole Foods, so we popped that gobbler on top.  Ah, cake toppers, what would we do without you?

Thanksgiving is also the BIG family holiday on my in-law's side.  The majority of the family gathers: grandparents, cousins, aunts & uncles, a whole bunch 'o folk.  And some day I would love to attempt to get a huge group photo, but until then, I am certainly thankful that the kids gather for three minutes every year so that I can snap one of these.

And, of course, there's the trampoline.

It was so great to get to see everyone and catch up and see how the kids have grown.  Lovely B ended the evening with a beautiful violin concert.

The next day we were back home and welcomed our good old buddies (formerly from down the street) the Metcalfes.

You know how when you have a baby, how it's super important for your sanity to have another adult with a baby to talk to.  Well, that was Sara.  Her eldest, N, is 5 months older than Magoo, so it worked out great.  They moved away about 3 years ago, (sigh) but since they have family in West Hartford, they come up for holidays.  (Yea!)

Magoo and N had a great time reconnecting, and they even did a little concert for us.  (N is a singer.)   

(It was a very musical weekend.)

Then, because we like to whip that tree up ASAP, on Saturday morning with dug out all the ornaments and got decorating.

The breakdown of the ornaments goes: 40% from my childhood, 40% handmade by Magoo and myself, 20% store bought or gifted.  And it's so nice to go through them one by one because when I make ornaments, I make them topical.  There's a little Magoo baby ornament.  There's one I made of our old cat Dizzy.  There's karate Magoo with his yellow belt and a Thomas train from when he loved those.  Oldly enough, I don't have a ninja.  And maybe I'll make a Monkey Ono ornament.  But I think I NEED to make a Java ornament - poor Java get's no love.  And since Magoo is a swimmer now, I definitely need some kind of little dude in a Speedo.  :)

But since Magoo made a little clarinet ornament - I suppose we're good this year.

Hope you all had a lovely holiday!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Holiday Crafting Has Begun!

The other day, Magoo and I pulled out the polymer clay and started crafting.  I have a goal to make 5 Monkey Ono magnets to send to certain folk.  As it turns out - these are a little challenging to make.  For one thing, they are small.  They are magnets - so, yanno - small is good.  But the real challenge is cutting the curves about the blue face.  Not easy to do!!!  But I'm happy with my two little monkeys so hopefully, gradually, I'll get a few more out.

Magoo made a fantastic little clarinet out of one of my gummy erasers, so I requested a clarinet ornament for the tree.  I like to add at least one ornament per year and a Magoo-made clarinet is WAY better than anything I could buy in the store.

I asked him to make a second one for the lovely young lady that gives him lessons.  I think she'll really like it.

Welp, tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  There's much to do.  I have to find an outfit that is flattering and will allow for an expansion in my waistline, make a honey cake and carrot muffins, and make my pack-up list.

Java is ready for left-over turkey.  Keep dreaming, cat!

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wintery Clip Art & My Busy Week

It wasn't until this morning that I realized that I hadn't blogged all week!  That should give you some indication of how busy I have been.

I'll break it down, but first here are some visuals:

I have a couple new collections of clip art in the NinjaWoman Clip Art Studio on Etsy

I'm also happy to report that I made my first clip art sale last week!  Woooo!  I'm well on my way to becoming a Clip Art Millionaire!  And if that doesn't pan out, I just got a letter from Publisher's Clearing House that revealed that someone in my area with the initial JP will be a winner!  You guys, my initials are JP!   It's so exciting!  Ack!

I'm having fun with the clip art.  My goal is still to get about 12 - 15 collections up and see where things go.  I have 5 up now.  Magoo suggested I do characters like Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk.  I think that's a great idea!  Now I have something to work on at Magoo's swim practice tomorrow.

In author news:
I've been super busy this week working with my agent, Scott Treimel, on a new picture book project.  I'm not going to tell you anything about it, because I am super afraid of jinxing it, but Scott's excited about it and I think it could be so much fun.  So that little baby is out in the world of editors right now.  I certainly hope it charms someone.  Or there's a bidding war.

But if that doesn't pan out, once again, my initials are JP.  So one way or another, I think 2013 is going to be an awesome year!  ;)

Have a great weekend!  Sorry I've been away!
I'll do better next week.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Open Studio Hartford: Update

It's Sunday morning.  One day down.  One day to go.  Some years it's a very slow Saturday and then Sunday is great, but I'm happy to report that I had a very good Saturday.  The sun was out.  It was nice but not too nice.  And the place was hopping.

(Below)  See that big crane painting.  That was the second thing that sold.  Yanno, when you sell the big painting right away, you can just relax and have a good time.

The collages have been selling pretty well.  I sold two zombies (American Gothic Zombie & Zombie Descending a Staircase.)  I am very happy to welcome the zombies back into my house so it's alright with me if I don't sell the other two.

 I sold the collage with the red cat that was inspired by Magoo's poem from third grade.  He was pretty psyched about that.

But the abstracts are not attracting much attention from this crowd.  It was a gamble, and some of them, I can say I think are quite good.  But I'm not surprised that Open Studio audience isn't really going for them.  And that's OK.  I used really nice bamboo frames for them so I'm totally going to use those next year for something else.

This is my friend Stefanie posing, pointing a the red cat collage for Magoo's benefit.  It was the only shot I had where you could see more of the hallway.

I'm hoping to be able to get out a little more myself and explore the other floors.  There's really a lot going on this year but the artist's have a little more space, so it's not as crowded as last year, I feel.

It's tons o' fun.  $5 parking at the train station.  We're open from 11 - 5pm today.  Come on out if you're in the Hartford area.

555 Asylum Ave.
Hartford CT

Friday, November 9, 2012

Open Studio Hartford

Hi all -

Just wanted to remind local folks that the art show is THIS WEEKEND.  I'll be at the Artspace building at 555 Asylum St.  Hartford, CT.  Validated parking is across the street at the train station.  I'll be up in the 3rd floor hallway with my: watercolors, collages, cards, postcards, prints, t-shirts, and books.  I think that's it for the merchandise.  The show runs Saturday & Sunday, 11am - 5pm.

Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Baking Bread and Falling Snow

We're having a bit of a snow storm* here today.   It's early, of course.  There usually isn't snow until Thanksgiving.  Except last year at Halloween.  If it happens again next year, I think we know there's a shift in the weather patterns.

And even though I knew this was coming, it caught me a little off guard because I thought it wouldn't snow until late afternoon.

That's why Magoo went to school in a hoodie and vans.

I lugged his winter coat and boots over to the school for pick-up so the poor monkey wouldn't freeze his tail off during the walk from the school to the car.  And good thing I did, because boys in the first snow of the season... come on.  You know they HAVE to run around in that.

Tomorrow is Magoo's presentation for International Day and Breakfast at his school.  He'll be doing a presentation on Ireland.  All the kids in his class have their own country.  Then the kids and parents will retire to the cafeteria for a sampling of tradition foods.  Thus, Irish Soda Bread.  Actually, it's called Spotted Dog because there are raisins in it.

I made two loaves of that and then one loaf of Magoo-friendly bread.

So it's pretty outside and smells wonderful inside and this is where I plan on staying for the rest of the day.

* We're only supposed to get a few inches.  Nothing to get worked up about.