Tag Archives: crayons

A Collaborative Piece


Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Our family’s present to Mom and Dad for their 50th wedding anniversary (it was on Christmas, but I’m just getting around to posting it now because the last 2 weeks have been crazy).

For my parents’ 40th anniversary, my sister presented them with a quilt made up of a squares decorated by pretty much everyone they knew or were related to, interspersed with family photos. She just reminded me that the project actually took 5 years from start to finish. My sister-in-law had knitted a square that represented her being pregnant for the first time, but by the time my parents received the quilt, there were photos of my 2 nephews included.

So I had this idea that I wanted to do something like that—collaborative art, a group effort that would create something personally meaningful for my parents—but would not involve herding cats and would be completed in 6 months. I asked my sister for ideas, and this was the one she came up with. You just take a photograph, divide it into a grid, and assign each person 1 or more pieces. All the different art styles and media come together to create this cool gestalt art.

Amazingly, we managed get all the pieces completed and to the framers within the deadline (granted, The Man was still working on his an hour before I went to the framer) and nobody spoiled the surprise, even though a goodly portion of the people involved were small children.

This piece is based on a photograph I took of my parents in a local rose garden. The square I spend the most time on (the enlarged segment on the right side of the photo) is mostly fabric, but the hands are made of leather, and the zipper pull is a real one cut from a discarded pair of The Man’s jeans. I also did the blue sky piece that says “50.” That one is all tissue paper, using the same technique I do many of the little animal cards in: just torn paper and matte medium. I also did the flower bit, far left, second from the top, in crayon. My sister’s pieces are all gouache. Her husband did his part (third from the top, third from the left) all in wood and The Man did his (right side, second from top) in metal. Other materials include oil pastels, colored pencil, and acrylic. My brother-in-law facilitated the process by creating the individual black and white pieces for guidelines, and by cutting all the 6″x6″ squares so everything would fit together perfectly.

Cookie Cookie Cookie Crumble Mandala

It's a pentagram of deliciousness!

It’s a pentagram of deliciousness!

When I look at this mandala I see a plate of artfully arranged ginger snaps, and little pink frosted cookies, and some other cookies, as well as cookies broken up to make symmetrical non cookie shapes. Also, I see cream. Or possibly custard. It’s like a very upscale version of one of those mud cakes that are made out of chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreos with a few gummy worms sticking out. You serve it in a plastic bucket with a shovel. But this five sided display of decadence belongs on the dessert table of an autumn themed wedding banquet.

A Candy Colored Mandala

Sweet and sour

Sweet and sour

This color palette reminds me of the sour gummies the kids like. Apparently I am too old to understand their appeal. Even though I would not eat the colors in this mandala, I I love its complexity, the combination of circles and triangles, the way the (almost) straight lines intersect. It’s a really successful design.

Today was a pretty emotionally taxing day for me. We thought we would blow off steam with some storm chasing, as towering cumulonimbi surrounded the city in the early afternoon, but they had all dispersed against the mountains, which happens sometimes, so we walked by the river instead, and then ate West African food and then got baklava, and then watched a cute anime called A Letter to Momo. Other than that I have no update.

On Thursdays We Get Mandalas

This mandala is on point.

This mandala is on point.

Yesterday was Monsoon Day, otherwise known as the Dia de San Juan. It’s a local holiday, I guess. Maybe it rains on June 24 in other parts of Arizona, but in 11 years in Tucson, I’ve never known a real storm to come down before the 5th of July. Instead, it just gets really hot and muggy. I went out to lay down some pre-emergent on the front yard to prevent the desert weeds from taking over the property when the rains do come, and I was dripping with sweat when I came in. Still, we haven’t swapped the swamp cooler over for the AC, which means the humidity still isn’t high enough. It’s not yet monsoon.

It was another ineffective day for me; mostly just reading. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get my act together.

Thursday, Take Me Away!

For your consideration, a brief gallery of potentially enlightening or confusing images.

Hissteria, a confounding dragon. I suspect that Hissteria mesmerizes you, and then eats you.

Hissteria, a confounding dragon. I suspect that Hissteria mesmerizes you, and then eats you.

There is something very pleasing to me about this dragon’s dimensionality and weirdness. I can see her twisting in the wind, like those flying snakes that turn their bodies into sails, except Hissteria is more of a corkscrew. As you squint at her spiraling form, asking your spouse, “What is that thing? Do you see it? What is it?” Hissteria strikes, devouring you headfirst. Or maybe she’s just misunderstood.

A well-formed mandala

A well-formed mandala

Here’s your weekly mandala; this is a fairly regular one, with hints of traditional quilt design along with some of the crystal theme that I examine more later.

A small percentage of the mandalas in this collection were pieces I worked on a bit but never felt satisfied with. I never threw any out, but there are some that certainly feel unfinished, and also at a dead end. This is one of them:

Actually, something about it feels kind of subatomic to me. This mandala is not as disappointing as it originally  seemed.

Actually, something about it feels kind of subatomic to me. This mandala is not as disappointing as it originally seemed.

Substance is what you make of it

Before the Wacom tablet, when I was just writing novels, an extra four hours a day working on the computer didn’t really affect my brain, because I touch type, fairly accurately, at around 70 words per minute, and didn’t have to actually look at the screen. When I first started learning digital painting, staring at the monitor for hours on end gave me constant headaches. Eventually, my eyes seemed to adjust to the strain (plus, as I improved my control over the stylus, I didn’t have to work on the pixel level with the screen 8 inches from my eyes.

I’m starting to wonder, though, if staying up all night on Photoshop is contributing to my insomnia. It’s been pretty bad for the last couple months.

That is my excuse for not having anything really pithy to say about art, beauty, creativity, or writing at this time.

I do however, have your weekly dose of mandala and fanciful dragon, all rolled into one!

This dragon looks like she would make a good friend.

Wyndolyn, a cheerful, airy dragon, looks like she would make a good friend. She would totally take you on magical rides to fantastic lands, or, if you were just looking for a sympathetic ear, would be willing to listen to all your problems. She would never even complain about the fact that she was born without arms or legs.

That is a good-looking dragon.


This mandala was drawn for Rabbit, who, in addition to kale and organic carrots, is also fond of textiles and cottage industries associated with women. For example: quilt making. This design is based on common quilting designs. I have tried my hand at quilt making in the past, which resulted in 5 broken sewing needles and very lopsided, unsymmetrical blanket, which fell apart in a couple years. Rabbit made me a quilt once as a graduation present and the angles are brain-breakingly perfect. Some people just have talents and skills.

And that is a pretty mandala.

Honestly, I did have some pseudo-pithy words about art, but I put them all into next Monday’s comic, so no need for redundancy. All I need is regular sleep. Which I can’t have.


It’s Friday. I have inadvertently snapped my cherished prescription sunglasses in two. There’s a large blister on my left ankle. The universe continues to aggressively overlook my sublime genius. My husband is blasting pop hits from the ’70s through his speakers. So it’s looking like a 3-mandala kind of day.

Sometimes, things get very crazy internally.

Sometimes, things get very crazy internally.

These are old mandalas, and I don’t remember drawing then, or what was going through my head when I did, but they’re all pretty exuberant and cheerful. Sort of expansive, as if they wanted to encompass all the generative power of the universe.

Sometimes a single piece of paper cannot contain the intricacies of the mind.

Sometimes a single piece of paper cannot contain the intricacies of the mind.

They’re also all very free and unrestrained, drawn without the squawking voice of the inner critic complaining about an inherent lack of perfection. If these mandalas were people, they’d be participating in the Body Love Conference.

This one is pretty pleasing and pleasant.

This one is pretty pleasing and pleasant.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling much more centered now.

Stories Start with Characters

Got 3000 words written today, and hope to get another 1000 before bed. Also finished reading Will Eisner’s Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative, which is among the most delightful instructional manuals I’ve ever read. Eisner had an intricate understanding of not only drawing and writing, but of human psychology, and this last was effective to two ends: it allowed him to tell compelling stories about believable people (even if those people were caricatures of regular people, or more amazing than regular people), and it allowed him to tell those stories in such a way that readers remained interested in the work.

Eisner's "Contract" with the Reader

Eisner’s “Contract” with the Reader

Above is one of my favorite panels from this book, illustrating the contract with the reader: the artist may safely assume that the reader lives in the same reality and shares many of the same basic understandings of the world. This allows the art to work as a form of shorthand: i.e., you don’t need to explain to your reader that a coconut released from a tree will descend in the direction of the earth’s core, or that coconuts grow on trees, or that trees drop seeds.

This book has vast quantities of things to recommend it, and even if you’re not interested in drawing or writing or storytelling or human psychology, some of the reprints will certainly be worth your time: Eisner’s beautiful new ending to Franz Kafka’s bleak The Trial, and an example of “compression” by R. Sikoryak comprising Dante’s Inferno retold in 10 Bazooka Joe comics were my favorites.

If you’re here for my art, and particularly if you’re here for my dragons, never fear. I’ve got a couple of compelling characters for you right here:

Sophia Violetta Regalia, a heraldic dragon

Sophia Violetta Regalia, a heraldic dragon

Obviously, there need to be as many, if not more, girl dragons than boy dragons.

Pentalara, a serpentine dragon who could probably benefit from some orthodontia, if she could find an orthodontist willing to work on a dragon's mouth.

Pentalara, a serpentine dragon who could probably benefit from some orthodontia, if she could find an orthodontist willing to work on a dragon’s mouth.

These lovely ladies certain exude personality.

Too Many Words

There’s a roster of webcomics I adore because they’re smart and funny, and Subnormality, by Winston Rowntree, is high on that list. He subtitles his comic, which mixes fantasy, science fiction, slice of life, and true storytelling, “comix with too many words.

The cursed eyeball plant

The cursed eyeball plant: late 90s

I think I write comics with too many words. I’ve been reading books about graphic storytelling and trying to understand how to create images that do the work of words.

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

The fiery glowworm; late 90s

I drew these comics for my little cousin while toying with the idea of creating an illustrated zoo of imaginary animals, but ultimately, I figured that what came out of the crayons was probably a bit too creepy and esoteric for a 3-year-old.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it's just increasingly wrong every year.

A clownfish. Why, why, why? This image is so wrong. It was wrong when I drew it in the late 90s, and it’s just increasingly wrong every year.

Still working on it.

Getting Centered


This is a case where drawing a mandala really did serve primarily as a centering exercise.

It’s not easy to get me angry, but when there’s something to get really angry about, my brain gets obsessive. My husband and I received some upsetting news the day before we were scheduled to go down to Florida to visit my grandparents, and we agreed that we wouldn’t talk about it until we got back. Of course, we were both thinking about it the entire time. When we returned, we both had to deal with the situation, which I did by writing a 2000 word email. It took about 2 hours. The words had been brewing and stewing in my brain all week, and by the time I finished, I was in a massive state of agitation. Drawing this mandala helped me regain my composure. I deliberately used rainbow colors to lift my mood, although the skewing of the pattern shows to me how off-kilter I was at the time.