Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Cancer Post

Have you ever noticed how most of the people your own age go through phases at the same time?

The marriage phase.  The kids phase.  The divorce phase.  Then the illnesses come creeping in.

Now, before I continue, I do not have cancer.  But I have two friends who are both in remission and another writer friend who's in the midst of treatment for her cancer.  So, when I got an email from another cancer survivor asking me to spread the word about mesothelioma and Lung Leavin' Day, I said "Sure!"

What's Lung Leavin' Day?  Well, I'll tell you.  But first, this is Heather Von St. James and her lovely daughter.

When Heather was 36, just after her daughter was born, she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a form of cancer caused by asbestos.  She was told she had 15 months to live.  Can you imagine?  You're holding you first little baby and they tell you you won't live to see her turn two?!  Ack!

Heather underwent surgery to have her lung removed - her sister named the day Lung Leavin' Day.  The name stuck.

Heather is still with us and still being an awesome wife and mother.  And although there are always fears in everyone's life, she uses Lung Leavin' Day (on February 2nd) as a way to express those fears and overcome them, by writing her fears on a plate and smashing it.

 Check out her site at
(It's a very cool site.) and join Heather in smashing your fears away on February 2nd.

I'd also like to use this post to introduce you to Cynthia Jaynes-Omololu.

 In addition to having a last name that's totally fun to say - Omo-lo-lu- she is a fabulous writer.  (She used to be in a critique group with me - that's how I know her.)  She has three Young Adult books previously published:  Dirty Little Secrets, Transcendence, and Intuition AND one picture book, When It's Six O'Clock in San Fransisco, and her fourth YA THE THIRD TWIN is coming out shortly.

Cynthia is a warm, funny, brilliant woman with a husband and two teenage sons, and she has brain cancer.  Yup!  That sucks! 

It's hard enough promoting your book without brain cancer - but since she can't focus on that right now, a bunch of her writer friends are trying to promote the hell out of it for her.

Here's the Kirkus write-up:

Could an identical twin be a killer without her sister knowing it?
It all began as a joke when Lexi and Ava were little: The identical sisters would imagine they had a “third twin” named Alicia. Now in their senior year of high school, the girls have reincarnated Alicia, using this persona to dress up and date boys they normally wouldn’t. They’ve even gone to the trouble of creating a fake ID and social media site to build a back story for this fictitious sister. The fun ends when Lexi, out as Alicia, is the last known person to have seen Casey, her date and would-be rapist, alive. Told from Lexi’s point of view, the mystery continues as more of “Alicia’s” dates turn up murdered. When the evidence and unusual coincidences all point to Ava, Lexi feels like the person she’s always known best is suddenly a stranger. And because they share DNA, Lexi also becomes a person of interest. As she races to find the real killer, she must also contend with moving on from high school to college, finding her own identity and trying to save the boy she really loves from meeting a deadly fate. Although the resolution may be more out of Hollywood than reality, the dramatic suspense will keep mystery fans entertained.

I love Cynthia's books.  They have rich characters, great plot and tension, and they keep it moving.
THE THIRD TWIN launches Feb 24th! 

I love YA - so I'm getting it for myself.  But if you're not into it, buy it for a teenager in your life.  Pre-order here or at your local bookstore.

So let's break some plates, buy some books, hugs our people, and be kind to one another.

Thanks so much for stopping in!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Snow Days

Hi all -

If you've been watching the weather forecasts and you know that I live in Connecticut, perhaps you are wondering how much snow we got.

Not much.

I mean, it definitely snowed overnight, and I guess the Eastern side of Connecticut is up to about 20", but I think we (in the Hartford area) got closer to 6".  So, yanno, a nice snow.

Mike went out and shoveled this morning, but since I have yet to venture outside (it's only 8:17am) I'm just going to post some of the snow shots that I took on Sunday after our first good snow of the season.

After two months of brown, dead grass and leftover leaves, it's so nice to have a pretty winter house.

Magoo is twelve now, so - being the manly man that he is - he went out and shoveled the walk and driveway with me.  But he's still a boy, too, so he also made a snowman.

Later, when we all went sledding, it was fun to see the other snowmen in the neighborhood.
(It was really good packing snow and everyone was excited to finally get some.)

And it was good sledding snow, too.

We have a lovely little hill in our neighborhood, so we inflated the new sleds, trekked over, and had a great time sledding in the sunshine.  The snow was fresh, the sun was out - it was a perfect winter day to go outside and play.

Today... not so much.  The wind is mighty bitter.  But I'm happy to have pretty white snow in winter, to have a cozy snow day in my little house with my menfolk, and to have electricity.

Hope you're all cozy wherever you are!
Thanks for stopping in!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Color Series: Green Frog

Green Frog                  2015                j. c. phillipps

I have a show coming up in March in the Children's Department of our town library.  I booked the show before I had a single piece of art I wanted to display.  Sure, I could have popped up some stuff that I have lying around, but it's one wall and it's all mine.  I wanted a brand spankin' new collection that was fun for the environment and cohesive.

After some brainstorming, I decided to do another color series.  Only this time they are BIGGER and they will all feature animals.  (This is the previous color series.)

If nothing else, I just love how these things look on a wall.  So bold and colorful.  But that's me thinking about the collection as a group.  Each, of course, has to be a stand-along singular piece of art.

I was most inspired by a green frog, so I started there.  Actually, I started with a completely different idea for a green frog, but then I did some frog research on Pinterest and came across this...

Untitled portrait (frog man), 2007, by Japanese artist & illustrator Akitaka Ito (b 1979). via the artist's site

... painting by Akitaka Ito.  I thought it was so great and I got so excited about it, I changed my original sketches and reworked the collage to what it became.

So, in addition to all the pieces featuring animals, I think all the animals will be anthropomorphic as well.  Fun, fun!

Thanks so much for stopping in!  I hope you're having a good Martin Luther King Day!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing Workshop at Webster Hill

Today I had the lovely pleasure of starting my 3-day Artist-in-Residence Program at Webster Hill School.  My main focus was to help the students learn some techniques to build teeny crumbs of ideas into big meaty ideas with good structure and potential.

I started the day with a whole-school presentation and was thrilled to get to wear one of those pop-star microphone headsets.  (You have to love the little pleasures.)  After that, I did two writers' workshops with the fourth grades.  The kids had A LOT of really great, creative ideas.

I also worked in a drawing class with the First Grade.  They wowed me with their fabulous Monkey Ono portraits.

And I squeezed in a reading time with the Pre-K's.  So, so cute.

One of the fourth graders was working on a story idea about a monster, and I spied this fabulous drawing she had done.  Isn't it great?

I had a wonderful time today and I learned a lot about the workshops from my unknowing guinea pigs.  Now I must make a couple adjusts and go once more unto the breach!

BIG THANKS to all the parents at Webster Hill who helped raise money for my visit!  You rock!  Your kids rock!  And BIG THANKS to all the teachers and staff at Webster Hill who are so gracious and supportive and awesome!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Adventures in Printmaking: Winter Tree

Because I liked how Magoo's collagraph armadillo turned out, I thought I would try one too.  One thing I didn't dig on his was the background color.  It came out kinda sparse. I figured if I printed the color separately, then I could just ink the collagraph in black and print it on top.  Win-win.

I made a tree design - with glue - on mat board (If you want to learn more about making glue collagraphs, go here) and I cut a piece of foam the same size.  I then applied water-base printing ink with a paintbrush to the foam and pulled some prints.

I did 7 or 8 of them.

Then I inked my tree and made a print.
Pretty freakin' awful.

I'm not sure why this one was so much worse than Magoo's.  I used a different glue.  (He used Elmer's) And I have a slightly lighter touch.  But I think that was part of the problem.  The lines were too think.  Anyway - what a disappointment.

So I got to thinking, Hmmmmm, what can I do now?

I had more foam, so I redid the design in with a flat sheet of foam.

I cut all the negative space out with an X-acto knife and made some wood patterns with a little wooden pointy stylus.

Here it is inked.

This worked out much better.

I'm not saying this is a brilliant print or anything, but I think it's a good enough beginning.

I ordered a book on carving wood block prints and that arrived and didn't really inspire me.  I'm currently on the fence.  I constantly see prints that I love on Pinterest and I want so badly to be able to make my own, but I also know that printmaking is a whole other ball of wax from what I'm used to.  One part of me is always saying, Why don't you just focus on what you're good at, while the other says, It's good to learn new things, while a third me chimes in, Let's eat pretzels and watch TV.  I try not to listen to that third voice too often, but when something is new and challenging, Inner Voice #3 gets pretty loud.

But that's it.  That's my start. 
Will I continue?  
Who knows!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Adventures in Printmaking: Armadillo Collagraph

It started with a Pin. 

I usually have Magoo make some art for his aunts for Christmas and I had just seen this Pin (below) on Pinterest.  I have always loved Printmaking, although I have very little experience in it.  So I thought this would be a good project to start with Magoo.  If it worked out, I would try one of my own.

You see, they made the design with glue.  I have glue!

Magoo settled on an image of an armadillo and drew it on a piece of spare matboard.  Then he "traced" the pencil with Elmer's glue.

We let that dry completely - 2 days.  Then I coated it with varnish and let that dry.
Then he painted the background and armadillo body with water-based printmaking inks and we rolled black ink over the top glue design.

Here's a shot of Magoo pulling the print off the "plate."  He wasn't able to pick up most of the color within the body of the armadillo, but he got some nice texture in the background.

The directions from the site where we got the Pin stated that the artists filled in the collagraph with colored pencil after it had dried, so that's what Magoo did too.

This is the end result.  (He did three prints in total.  The other good one is at the top of the post.) I think they turned out pretty nice.

NEXT TIME on ADVENTURES IN PRINTMAKING.  I try this technique with a simple tree design.  Spoiler: It does not go well.

Happy 2015!