September 2006

I remember, some years back, reading a wildlife artist–he painted mostly birds–who said something to the effect that “People ooh and ahh over paintings of the exotic birds–toucans and hoatzins and cock-of-the-rock*–but what they buy are the birds they recognize from their garden.”

This struck me as probably true, but I didn’t think all that much of it, since I don’t paint all that many birds.

Then today I was over at the Wild Bird Company, buying a 12-pack of suet (I run through suet like water since I had to stop using the hot pepper stuff) and they had a rack of bird ornaments, and I found myself looking over them with delight–belted kingfisher, downy woodpecker, goldfinch, chickadee, white-breasted nuthatch–birds that I know. And I turned around and there was a rack of bird earrings, and of course I zero in instantly on the goldfinches and the woodpeckers because I know those birds.

I did not buy either, but the goldfinch earrings tempted me sorely, and if I ever wore yellow, I might have broken down.

The exception to this, I’d say, are cardinals and hummingbirds–at least ruby throated hummingbirds. Cardinals and hummingbirds have flocked with the lawn flamingo in the ranks of cliche birds, and now I don’t think they register in quite the same way. I would succumb to downy woodpecker earrings, while I have passed over innumerable hummingbirds, and I have no idea how you’d breathe life into a cardinal-on-snowy-branch anymore, without giving it tiny sacrificial sickles and vestments and having it sacrificing a chickadee or something along those lines. On the other hand, I doubt we’d have such a glut of cardinals if they didn’t sell, so perhaps those people know something I don’t.

*I have no idea if he used these examples, but the name of the cock-of-the-rock is just too good not to type, and not just because it’s faintly dirty. They’re amazing looking birds, too–go google them. They look like they’ve got an orange wedge taped to their foreheads.


Okay, actually my agent sold it, to Harcourt Brace, and the lovely editor there.

I…err…I got nothin’. Dude. Sold a book. Dude.

I think I may actually be, like, a writer now or something. I may have to get over my “no, no, I’m an artist,” denial and just deal. I could cling to my belief that Digger and Black Dogs were just flukes and Sofawolf was publishing them out of kindness, but now I’ve sold a book to a major publisher who I don’t know personally, and it’s all over.



All else being equal, we’re looking at at least a year before you could see it in stores, and I have no idea of the exact time, so don’t ask. It’ll be hardcover first, then paperback a year later, probably in a format rather like the Lemony Snicket books.

We got quite a nice advance for a first-time children’s book, by which I mean “Almost as much as I net in a year on art.” (Granted, that’s not a huge number.) I get half on signing, half on delivery. I could get to like this whole writing thing.


Elf vs. Orc, Part 1

People wanted to see the meeting between Sings-to-Trees and Celadon Toadstool. This might not have mattered, except that I wanted to see it too.

I cannot say that it is a good story. It rambles badly. I cannot even say it will be a finished story–y’all know me and my perverse muse by now. I can say, with some confidence, that it would be a love story, which is most of the problem, because I have little experience with writing such, and I suspect anything I came up with would be tacky and awkward. And also that my buddy Deb has a lot to answer for.

I am willing to take a stab at it, so long as my muse lasts, because most of my memories of falling in love were actually that it was rather tacky and awkward. But I can’t promise much. This feels less like writing a normal story and more like writing fan fiction about my own characters, if that makes any sense. So expect something rathered hackneyed, because this is ground I do not know well enough to avoid the obvious.

My agent says it’s fine to post writing on-line, and won’t make trouble for us in the future, so hey, what the hell. Besides, this isn’t likely to ever be something a publisher would want, unless the previous book–the as yet unfinished goblin one–saw print, and even then, I don’t know.

I don’t promise it’ll be good. I don’t promise it’ll be finished. I especially, and absolutely, cannot promise it’ll have a happy ending.

You’ve been warned.

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Just a reminder, today is the last day for the EMG T-shirt sale. Order now, or forever hold your wallet!

And, speaking of T-shirts… I contributed a sketch of Digger & slug to a T-shirt design, along with a couple of other furry artists back at ComicCon, which is being sold by Team Xoflow for the 17th Annual Silicon Valley Coalition Walk for AIDS. If you’d like to support this cause (and god knows, it’s a worthy one!) you kin mosey on over to their contribution page.

Painting of magnolia warbler, with collage and splotch background. Nothing particularly extraordinary–looks kind of like a particular sort of greeting card!–but I’ve been wanting to paint a magnolia warbler since I saw one for the first time.

I occasionally get the grandiose notion of painting every bird on my life list, but since we’re hangin’ around a hundred and forty, it usually passes quickly. Eventually there may be a point where I gather lifers much more slowly than I paint, but we’re not at that tipping point yet.

Every now and then, I get this urge to do collage.

Generally, I confess, there’s a tendency on my part–and a few other artists of my acquaintence, who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty–to mutter “I don’t need to do collage, I know how to draw.” Which says more about us being bad people than about collage as an art form, but there you are.

Still, the stigma’s there. You can paint, why are you foolin’ around with paste?

But occasionally I get these urges. And I hate that, because the dire truth, like abstract art and cartooning, is that it’s incredibly easy to do badly and bloody hard to do well. And I’m not terribly good at it. I like some of it very much, there’s at least one abstract painting on the wall, and I’d buy more if I had the income to burn, but I am admiring it through the bars–whatever makes it work is locked up tight, and I don’t hold the key.

There may come a day, ten or fifteen years down the line, when I am middle-aged and much more accomplished an artist than I am today, and I’ll crack the secret of abstract art. It’s possible. I have my doubts. Abstract art requires an ironclad sense of composition, and that I don’t have.

Plus, it’s hard to write an amusing story about bright red blobs and a newspaper clipping.

My compromise, in this day and age, is flailing, random abstraction as a background for a more detailed painting. Which is probably what I’ll wind up doing with this thing I’ve been poking at. Or else I’ll throw it on the heap with the other confused canvases that never quite got anywhere.

Every now and then, I glance through this stack and have a crazed urge to draw cartoon chickens on the lot of ’em. Which is probably as good a use as any, come to that.

T-shirt Sale!

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls!

Ever wanted one of my paintings on a T-shirt that I don’t offer? Well, now, for a limited time, you can probably get it! The incomparable Ellen Million is offering a fabulous deal where any of my designs can go on any color shirt available! (Bear in mind that white backgrounds will carry over and still be white, though. These may still look good on a cap-style, which has black sleeves and a white base.) Lots of styles! Lots of art! You want Azezaelbunny on a T-shirt, it’s yours! You want happy trolls, we got happy trolls! You want Balthazar disdaining the lemon, it can be done!

Yes, we can do the rugged tampon one.

This is a VERY LIMITED time offer! It closes Friday, crack ‘o dawn, because she has to special order the T-shirts. So now’s your chance, but grab it quick!

Prices vary between $18 and $22 or thereabouts–click the links to show the price, I think!

Today’s been fairly productive. Got some work done on a painting, slathered down an abstract background on another piece that might get a critter on it, generally amused myself. Plus I bought some art supplies, and that’s always fun.

Spent an hour at Lake Crabtree this morning. It was a good morning for birding–cool, overcast, rained last night. The Confusing Warblers are out in full force, of which I managed to identify male common yellowthroats (a very easy one) and snagged the palm warbler, a common enough warbler, but a lifer for me. You can identify those mostly by behavior–they pump their tails up and down constantly when they’re sitting. Presumably they stop to sleep, but I can’t swear to it.

Other than that, the herons and egrets were out, the kildeer flock is back, a red-headed woodpecker went up a tree and I watched a belted kingfisher lurking around the water’s edge, plus the usual array of wrens and cormorants and whatnot.

And now, back to work!

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