My name is Jonene Ficklin, and I'm a full-time wife, mom, writer, and professional artist. I've been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. I use colored pencils, oil paints, and watercolors. I love what I do!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Why Tropical Art?

I often get asked why I like to do tropical art when I live in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of the American west. Why don't I portray what I see here? Why am I not like my father, who as a professional western artist, paints cowboys and Indians, dramatic snow-topped mountains, and elk breathing out steam on frosty mornings?

It's a fair question.

I’ll tell you. It's a physical as well as psychological thing. I've got a problem with anything cold. I’m allergic to it. Really. It’s called cold uticaria. If you're interested, check out this link at the Mayo clinic:

So I’ll bet you want to know what happens when I go outside in the winter. Well, from the time I was a wee sprite, whenever I get cold, my fingers and toes swell up like sausages. On top of that, large white hives pop out like spots on mushrooms. Not terribly attractive. I used to think I was allergic to mittens and boots. There's a few other side effects, but this is enough to give you the idea.

The good part is, as soon as I warm up, the hives and swelling leave, just that quick. No harm done.

But the psychological damage is: I don’t like cold. I really don’t like cold. No, I really, REALLY don’t like cold.

So, when I was still a youngster, I read one of my brother’s Tarzan books. It happened to take place in a jungle. And as you all know, in the jungle, you NEVER get cold. It hit me like a category five hurricane: there are people in the world who never have to hide their hands and feet!

Suddenly, I had a new interest. National Geographic became a best friend. Did you know NG has a gazillion articles on tropical places? They have pictures, too—awesome, amazing, world-class pictures.

I’ve learned a lot about Melanesia, Micronesia, Polynesia, the Amazon, and deepest, darkest Africa. And I’d love to learn more.

Since I lived and breathed art, drawing/painting these places was a natural next step.

It was a huge high point in my life when my husband and I went to Hawaii. I shot more rolls of film than I’m willing to admit - lovely, beautiful fodder for hundreds of future art pieces. And in those peices, you can bet  the temperature will be balmy, so - even if it's only in my head - my warm hands and toasty toes can smile.

So . . . as Paul Harvey used to say: Now you know the rest of the story.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Power of a Well Told Story

Okay, I'm not going to waste much time in introductions. We all love a good story. We all love it coming from children - with their own interpretations.

If you have seven minutes and forty four seconds to donate, your time won't be wasted. Here is the story of Jonah and the Whale, and you'll never be able to hear it with a straight face again!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Today is 'Christmas Adam' (You know, since tomorrow is Christmas Eve)

All credit for today's title comes from my eleven year old son, because that is what he told me this morning.

It’s December 23rd, what do you know?

The shopping is done and outside there is snow.

But inside, oh inside, are all kinds of stuff,

That tells me I’m blessed, and it’s no holiday fluff.

There’s caramels and fudge and hot cocoa, too,

All topped with bright ribbons and red glitter glue,

There’s cranberry candles, and chex mix with nuts,

And round fancy cheeses and salami cuts.

They’re gifts from my neighbors and family and friends,

I have cards of all kinds from the earth at both ends.

These are gestures that smile, presented with love,

All witnessed by Christmas stars gleaming above.

It wouldn’t have mattered if they gave us twigs,

It’s the time that they spent, and nothing reneges,

On the wish of their hearts that fills mine with peace.

I’m one fortunate gal and life has a new lease.

So thank you, and thank you, and thank you again,

For taking the time and being my friend,

Whether I’ve known you a lifetime, or a moment or two,

Merry Christmas, and may all your good wishes come true!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Hidden Room

Memory is a funny thing. For instance, if I ask you what you remember from your early childhood, what is the first thing that pops into your mind?

My guess is either it's something traumatic, or something ultra cool.

I can only remember a few things from when I was a little tot. One memory is just bursting with detail, and I realize now that it was because so many of my senses were affected.

My father is a professional artist (you can check him out by doing a google search on Sheryl Bodily) and would often take one of his children along on his art excursions. I don’t remember the details of this particular transaction, but I remember going to a woman’s home. She was dressed very much like Mrs. Brady from The Brady Bunch – as in very 'seventies' stylish. She had beehive hair, blue eye shadow and a pale pink smile. Yup, she was beautiful. (Yup, I’m very old, aren’t I?)

While my father spoke to her husband, she asked me to sit down. On the end table was a turnstyle poker chip tower, with four lovely stacks of red and white chips. She must have let me, because I remember playing with them for quite a while - taking them out, stacking them on the table, then sliding them back into the tower. She even gave me one, which I kept in my pocket for weeks after.

Then she told me about a secret room upstairs. Nowadays, parents would have cause for concern at a stranger inviting your child alone like that, but back then? Pssh! So upstairs I went with the kind Brady lady and soon stood in front of an Alice in Wonderland door. It was tiny and had a big gold handle.

I opened it and there was a pint-sized corridor that went back and turned. The Brady lady flipped a switch and a light came on. It was a little scary, but I went back, turned and ended up in a little room.

I wish I could recall what was in the room, but I remember how impressed I was. I didn’t stay there long, and Dad and I soon were heading off. But before we left, the Brady lady pressed a small jar of mint jelly in my hands. (I sure hope I thanked her properly.)

The whole ride home, I couldn’t wait to try it, and when I finally did, it was every bit as delicious as I thought it was going to be.

Yup, sight, smell, touch, taste, and jelly and a red poker chip to boot. Now if only I could remember what music was playing . . .

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Have You Ever Wondered?

Christmas is just around the corner. Of course we get all the usual reminders, and they seem to come earlier each year. Candy canes appear in grocery store aisles the week after Halloween. Black Friday sales now come as pre-Black Friday sales before Thanksgiving. Yes, commercialism is rampant, and most of us roll our eyes at some point or other.

But then we remember the magic we felt as children. I remember thinking about Santa, and presents, and the holy story. All of them held secrets I wanted to know. How did Santa reach the entire world in one night? Would I get that one present I wanted so badly? And what would it be like if I were alive when Mary and Joseph crossed into Bethlehem?

As I've grown older and learned the North Pole secrets, the holy story has become the greater mystery. What did the shepherds talk about after the angel appeared, and they began their search for a stable and manger that held the newborn baby? How well versed were they in the Messiah scriptures? What did this mean to them?

Ah, all the wonderful questions, and so many people to provide them: the Savior, the angels, the wise men, the inhabitants of Bethlehem - some of which must have noticed the star that night.

It's fun to wonder. And so, each year, I draw a religious Christmas scene and think about it as I do. This year, it was the shepherds making their way into Bethlehem.

This is my rendition. You can see what I thought. A few lights are on in Bethlehem. If someone looks, they will see.

And I have a question for you. What would you think if you had been there?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Christmas Spirit

Yup, December is busy. I sat down last night and made my two week pre-Christmas to-do list. It was long. Very long. There are things to buy, things to do, things I don’t even want to get started on—but better. I was wondering if I'd be able to catch the spirit of Christmas with so much to do.

In the other room, I could hear my husband and kids laughing. So I hurried to print out my list, tack it up, and go join my family.

They were busy decorating the Christmas tree. (Isn’t it awesome to have older children?) What was amazing is, except for my son in Brazil, all of them were home. That almost never happens anymore.

They were pouring through the box of decorations, talking about the ornaments and the memories they held. My daughter proposed putting on some old home videos, so we did. She selected one from long, long ago. I got to see my Brazilian son on video, and although much younger, it was almost like having him there with us.

Is it just me, or do kids grow up overnight? Nothing made it more apparent than the video. They were so small and cute, with chubby cheeks and helium voices—scurrying all over like ants on caffeine.

Everyone stopped decorating and sat down. We laughed, and remembered and our home never felt cozier. Before we knew it, it was ten o’clock, and we’d just had one of those evenings I won't soon forget. I'm so glad I left my list and joined in.

But my list still sits there, taunting me - and it doesn’t matter. I'll get it done, but at least I’ve got the spirit of Christmas now - the right one. The way it came isn't what I expected. That's life. The best moments seem to come hidden inside silly things like traditions and tasksespecially when they're shared.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Beautiful Creation Called a Hair Dryer

You want to know one of my favorite modern devices? Yup, you guessed it. A hair dryer. It has multiple uses. Not only does it dry your hair, it brings smiles to your children's faces. At least it does to one of mine.

My son is perpetually cold, so winter mornings aren't the most fun to wake up to. After getting him out of bed, the next hardest thing is prying him off the heater long enough to eat breakfast. He must be related to a lizard, because he can't move until his body temperature reaches volcanic proportions.

One day as I was mulling the problem over, a lightbulb went off. I have a hair dryer. It's hot. I can direct that heat anywhere I want it to go. Bingo.

So the next morning, after rolling said son out of bed, instead of letting him zombie-walk to the heating vent, I directed him into the bathroom and held up the blowdryer with a smile.

If his eyes had been open, I'm sure I'd have received a serious "huh?" look. But instead, I pushed a little button and began waving the heat over him.

You know how a cat wears a purr? Well, within a second, so did my son. And within three minutes, he was toasty pink, wide awake and happily getting ready for school.

Now all I need is a modern device that magically cleans the house and makes dinner.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wild Dog Packs in Cities

We really don’t have an inner-city wild dog problem in the U.S. because of a famous person called The Dog Catcher. Yet, it’s surprisingly common elsewhere.

My second oldest son lives in Brazil and has had lots of adventures, especially experiencing the cultural differences. Wild dogs are one of them. They are called ‘street dogs’ there.

In his own words, here is what he saw:

I’ve decided that street dogs are crazy. This week we were waiting at a bus station and there were about three or four street dogs that would force cars to stop in the middle of the street, but staying in front of them. And the rest would bite the tires as the one in front barked. It’s pretty funny to watch, but you always cringe when you see the crazy one trying to make the car stop, putting himself in front of the car.

Now what makes this interesting is my oldest son, who lived in Russia a few years ago, also observed inner-city wild dogs doing strange things. There, they are called ‘metro dogs’ named after their train system. And there’s a reason for that.

He sent this picture. They look pretty comfortable, don’t they?

And here is what he wrote:

One of the metro dogs attacked this girl. He bit her shoe and wouldn’t let go and she was screaming and that lasted for about five minutes. The metro dogs are really smart. Sometimes we see them follow into the metro, get on a train, and they stick up their heads every time they announce the next stop. Sometimes they even transfer lines and sometimes when they get off the train there is a pack of their friends barking at the entrance for them.

Yeah, I know. Pretty crazy. Makes you wonder if those children’s movies about dogs secretly having higher intelligence might have a thread of truth?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Contest Alert!!

Do you need your funny bone tickled? Need a breath of fresh air? Looking for writing excellence? Want to enter a contest for a new book and other cool stuff? Well, you can get it all at one stop:

Thank You

I'm feeling extra grateful today. Sometimes things happen that really wake us up to how blessed we are. I'm grateful for little things like toothpaste and heaters. I'm grateful for big things like God, family, friends and home.

I know there's wisdom is just taking a moment to sit still and think. There's so much to be happy about. So today, I'm keeping my blog short and ending with a quote I love:

"We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. We move along the surface of things but there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper." by James Carroll

Have a wonderful weekend and thank you for all the good you do!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crazy Things

Okay, there are a lot of crazy things you do in your life.

Some are forced on you, like when I was a child and had to wait for the school bus in subzero temperatures--and the wind was blowing--and the reward was six hours of school. There was no choice involved.

Wait. Well, yeah, actually there was one: walk all the way (like our parents did, going uphill both ways), but I won't go there.

Instead I want to ponder the other crazy things, the voluntary ones, that on some wild hair we choose to do to ourselves. Often, we look at it in advance and think: Hey, that looks like fun. Where do I sign up?

And then reality hits and we're neck deep in a quagmire of our own making. I've done that a few times. One time in particular was in high school, when I signed up for the Junior Miss Pageant.

I know. Now THAT was crazy. It didn't take long to realize it was SO not me. But I don't like quitting and I stuck it out. I knew I stunk, but still, when they were announcing the winners, I was silently praying I wouldn't win anything because I just wanted it to stop and go away. (Just in case any of you are kind enough to wonder, I didn't win anything. It did go away. And thanks for wondering.  : )

So that brings us to now.

I don't know if you've heard of NaNo (short for NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month), but it's an online website where you can sign up to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. To do that, you either write 1,666 words a day, every day for the month of November, or you can take Sundays off and write 1,923 words a day.

The insane part of it is that people all over the world do this. Voluntarily. On purpose. And each day you input your words and it counts them and tracks it for you. They even have this cool diagram. A stats page tells you how many words you wrote that day, how many you have left, and how your region of the world is doing.

It's kind of cool. I joined the crazy people. My life, being somewhat full, demanded that there weren't enough hours in the day. So I laughed in the face of time (and sleep) and got up super early. For a month. I wrote at least 1,923 words a day. A lot of them stunk. Bad.

But I learned something. It was really FUN! Other than Sundays, I didn't miss a day. I now have a 50,198 word completed novel, which is in need of many, many edits.

I also learned how good it is to sleep in to a decent hour.

If any of you want to join the crazy people next year, here's the link:

And when you reach your goal, you can get a cool winner's badge to post on your blog, or to frame and hang in your living room, or to have embossed in gold, lit up with spotlights and placed on top of the Empire State Building.

So I'm not going to waste another minute. Here's the badge. And it was SO worth it!

So what's a crazy thing you've chosen to do?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

What Is Missing With Pumpkin Pie?

Happy Thanksgiving!

And, oh, the memories that come back, year after year . . .

My father is a wonderful gardener. He can coax life into anything, and he has a soft spot for pumpkin pie.

So we grew pumpkins. About this time of the year, the pumpkins were carried and rolled into the house, along with the anticipation of what they’d bring.

My sisters and I would go to work. We’d cut the pumpkins open and dive our hands into the slimy middle. We’d pull and rip and scoop, building mountains of stringy goo and seeds.

While we cooked, peeled, and blended up pumpkin, our brothers gleefully extracted the seeds from the mountain on the table.

What is it about boys and gross things? We’d hear whispered comparisons followed by chortles of laughter and slimy hands stuck in our faces.

Ah, lovely, lovely memories.

But then the next phase came. My brothers washed and then boiled the seeds in salt water, while we made pie crusts and pumpkin filling.

The seeds were oiled, salted and baked on cookie sheets. Sometimes we tried different seasonings. My favorite included Worcestershire sauce.

Then we’d put the pies in the oven and the house filled with a plethora of smells.

Now it was time for the feasting.

Nothing builds anticipation like several seasons of planting, weeding, harvesting, processing and baking. And on a blustery day, nothing tastes as good as pumpkin pie and pumpkin seeds.

So here I am, grown up with my own family. I still enjoy making pies from scratch, especially when the weather grows cold. But I haven't had any luck growing pumpkins. The one year I succeeded, my single pumpkin was the size of a tangerine.

Luckily, there are grocery stores.  And I laugh every time I pick up a can of Libby’s Pumpkin. The problem is, they forget to can the seeds.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Contest alert! If you like books, great blogs, and cool medical info from the doc herself, check out:

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Salt and Snow of the Brain

Help. I have salt and snow of the brain. You understand what I mean, right?

Remember the school exercise where you have to describe what salt tastes like? I remember using words like: sour, not sweet, tangy, like tears, etc. It’s hard.

We have a good friend who lives in Brazil. It stays hot all year round. He wants to know what snow is like. He knows what ice is, and that is his only comparison.

So here’s my first bumbling effort:

Snow isn’t hard like ice, it’s soft and fuzzy and freezing. It falls just like rain, but since it’s soft and fuzzy, it floats around a bit before landing. It doesn’t come straight down all the time. When the wind blows, all the snowflakes look like a lacy curtain. And when it hits your skin, it’s like soft cold spots hitting all over.

It piles up and you can run through it, kicking it up like leaves. After a freezing night, it gets hard and crunchy. It’s hard to walk through then. Your foot sinks down in with a crunching sound. The snow can get very deep, past your knee and it wears you out to walk very far. But you can wear snowshoes which are these big flat things that you strap on your feet. They keep you up on top of the snow.

People only wear them for fun, though. We use shovels whenever it snows to scoop paths to walk on. We even have machines called snow-blowers that suck the snow up and shoot them into a pile on the side.

Okay, it’s your turn. How would you describe snow to someone who’s never experienced it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lesson 14 - Drawing a Chin and Cheekbones

When you draw the chin and cheekbones, you want more than a round egg shape. So we'll take it little by little. It's not that hard. You can be a little more heavy handed with men, so I'm showing both male and female faces again.

We'll go back to Lesson 8, drawing face proportions. You have the eye-line, nose-line and mouth-line. You can fit exactly one eye in-between your two eyes. Your nose is also one eye wide, and previously, we drew lines from the insides of the eyes down to the nose line. Well, the very bottom of your chin is also around one eye wide (or wider sometimes, but this is the basic pattern to get you started.) So extend the line from the inside of the eyes clear down to the chin, like below.

Now at the bottom of the chin, where these lines come down, draw a straight line across. If you feel your chin in this area directly below your lips, the jawline flattens out a bit, some more than others. A few of you will only feel rounding, and if you look in the mirror, you probably have a heart-shaped face. Still, let's flatten this area out, like the drawings below. With men, I usually daw this flat area a little wider.

Now, following the outside of the jawline from this flat area to the mouth line, the jaw angles out. Draw a flat line angling straight from this flat area to the mouth line. (Don't worry, we'll round out the sharp areas in a little bit.) With men, I usually draw this line outside the egg shape, and with women, it usually falls just inside the egg shape.

Now run your fingers over your cheekbones as they curve from your ears into your nose. There's a hollow beneath where your teeth and jaw sit. Now feel from the curving cheekbones by your ears straight down your face. Below the cheekbone, there's a slight curve in then very slightly back back out into the jawline.

First we'll draw the curve of your cheekbones as they go into that hollow. Start just above the eye-line. Draw a line with just a very slight curve down just a little over halfway to the nose line. Notice I went just a little further with the male face than the female face, and that's because generally, the female bone structure is a little more delicate.

Off the bottom of that cheekbone curve, we're going to swing ever so slightly in the opposite direction to the nose line. Now from the nose line to the mouth line, the line straightens, like below.

Okay, now you have the basic shape. Erase the outside helper lines (the previous egg shape), reserving your new lines. Now go to wherever there is a sharp edge, such as at the mouth-line and the flat bottom of your chin and slightly curve those lines so that the jawline flows smoothly around the face. Keep working until it flows like the jawlines below. (I took out all helping lines and features inside the face so you can see how the lines go. Above the eyeline at the temple area, the lines will curve in, ever so slightly as they go into the forehead area. As mentioned in Lesson 12, the hair-line in the forehead area starts about halfway between the eyebrows and top of your egg shape. The hair will ride above and outside the egg shape going around the head, like below.

And be prepared for women to have the hair ride higher than the men's. We began with the same egg shapes, but when you finish, the woman's will look bigger because of the hair.

However, in real life, men's heads usually are larger than women's. When you are drawing a man and woman together, remember to draw their egg shape slightly larger.

When you add the features, you have a nice, flowing, natural looking face!

Future Art Lessons: Okay, I'm going into my busy season, since I draw a lot of commissioned portraits for Christmas. I'm not going to be doing any art lessons between now and New Years. If you are interested in future art lessons, be sure and comment! I'd love to hear from you. You are also welcome to make requests by e-mailing me at:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Promise of Adventure

It’s fall now. The other day, I drove past a tree-lined road. The leaves were brilliant yellow, drawing my eyes in. Then I saw the foot path next to the road. I wanted to stop and explore. And it brought back a memory.

One summer my brothers worked in a national park, hacking new trails and maintaining old ones. They had to clear trees and brush, fill in holes, dig out rocks and sometimes put planks over boggy areas. As you can guess, it was hard work.

But when they finished, people came. Some brought cameras, tourist maps and a couple of extra pounds they planned to hike off. Others brought backpacks and tents, sleeping bags and a plan to go nowhere man had gone before. Many had foreign accents and a look that said ‘we’re here.’

No matter who they were or where they came from, all had expectations of where their chosen path would lead them.

Some trails ended on a peak overlooking a vast, lush valley. Some wound up to mountain lakes so clear you could see fish swimming in the middle. Others led to high meadows filled with wild flowers. Most brought tranquility, a oneness with nature, a promise of adventure.

I’ve been up a few of those paths. I’ve marveled and taken photos and gained memories that I’ll always have.

And even now, even facing this tree-lined road in the city, I have to smile and park the car, and see where this path will lead me.

How about you? What path or trail have you taken that you remember?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lesson 13 - How To Draw Eyebrows

Let's go back to the basic proportions of the face. When you drew the bridge of your nose from the ball in the nose up to the eye line, it went straight on both sides (see lesson 10 - Drawing a Nose). But now at the eyeline, the nose line will curve up and into the eyebrows, like the example below. Now this one is female, and females like their brows tweezed and arched. I have two different levels of arches below, both of which are acceptable for females. Males, however, like their brows thick, non-arching, non-tweezed and hairy.

So, here's what I'm going to do. I'll show you how I draw male and female eyebrows and show the differences. First, they start off the same. Unless you have a unibrow, the insides of your eyebrows start straight up from the inside corner of your eye, or a 90 degree angle.

Your brows go straight back from there. Coming off the top lid of the eye, you get the next mark. This is where your brow will begin to change angles. It's the same for both male and female, and coming from the corner of your eye, it's a 35 degree angle.

Now, coming off the corner of the eye, your brow will end at the 15 degree mark, or using the iris and pupil as a marker, you will cut an angle that will just shave through the top of the pupil, or upper third of the iris. For guys, this last angle can be lower, and their eyebrow wider. Note how his line goes about through the middle of the pupil and iris.

When you put in the outlines of the eyebrows, it will look like this. Note that the female eyebrow is thinner and angles more, particularly on the under-side.

Okay, if you drew in the outlines above, erase them until just barely visible. It's time to get hairy. Look in the mirror at the bottom hairs in your eyebrow. They angle up and slightly toward the outer edge of your eye. As the eye angle changes, the hairs angle further and further out toward the corner of your eye (a little like doing eyelashes.)

Next, look in a mirror at the top hairs in your eyebrows. They angle down and toward the outer edge of your eye, like below.

It's time to fill them in. Working just above the bottom hairs, add more that angle up and out, but watch out for making strokes that are darker than the others. It's easy to do, and then that part stands out. Instead, keep your strokes about the same darkness as you work. To make parts darker, do it by drawing another layer on top of the previous one, rather than trying to push harder.

Now to finalize, add a light tone along the top and bottom of the eyebrow, to tie in the stray lines. For the male eye, add a few more stray hairs at the beginning and end of the eyebrow.

If you so desire, go back and shade in your eye. One thing of note on the male eye, notice the eyelashes. On a female eye, they curve and curl out away from the upper eyelid. On the male, they don't curve and they go out over the eye itself. Keep them light.

Disclaimer: As I've said before, this is a basic pattern, and every individual varies from the pattern slightly. Eyebrows can be quite unique, so pay attention to how close they sit over the eye, the angles at the front and back, thickness and hairiness. To get a feel for individual eyebrows, sit down and draw a bunch of them from a bunch of different people.

And there you have it! You're an eyebrow expert.

Next week: How to draw a jawline and outside lines of the face.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

What Are YOU Made Of?

Have you listened to kids lately? You never know what they’re going to say. I just learned an interesting fact. Do you remember this old Mother Goose rhyme?

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails

That's what little boys are made of !"

What are little girls made of?

"Sugar and spice and all things nice

That's what little girls are made of!"

Well, it’s wrong. Little girls are not made from everything nice. They’re made from liver. Don’t believe me? Well, here’s how I found out.

Tonight, a child told me the TRUE version of how Eve came to be. You see, long ago in the Garden of Eden, Adam was lonely. God wanted Adam to be happy, so he reached in, grabbed Adam’s liver from his side and made a woman.

No, it wasn’t a rib. It wasn’t an eyebrow, shinbone, or fingernail. C&H wasn’t around, nor were spice traders. The sad truth is: Eve came from liver. Therefore, all girls came from liver. That includes me.

But I don’t like liver. (See my blog from Friday, July 30, 2010.) Yet, here I am, liver-Jonene. Go figure.

I definitely need to get my facts straight. So, I’m going to go listen to children some more. But while I’m gone, you can get your own education from the mouths of babes at this link:

This is a sample of kid-translation:

When Terry's son was 5 they introduced him to a family favorite: sauerkraut and dumplings. He tried a few bites, then put down his fork and proclaimed: "I don't like this sour crap and dumb things!"

I think I agree with Terry’s son.

So, what’s the funniest thing you’ve learned from a child?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Lesson 12 - How to Draw Hair

This may look hard, but hair is far easier than you think. It only takes six simple steps to get hair like the drawing below, and all hair, curly or straight, long or short, follows this simple formula.

After you have your face in, the hair will sit a little above the top of your head shape (if it's straight) or more if it's curly. The hairline on your forehead usually begins about halfway between your eyebrows and the top of your head. Rough in the outer lines of the hair, and I highly recommend using a photograph or a real person to refer to. Don't just wing this. You need to see it. Here is how I do it:
Step 2: Look for natural break lines that form inside your hair. You don't need many and they don't have to go all the way through. Rough those lines in, like below.
Step 3: Now take one piece, like the lock of hair that falls as long bangs, and shade both ends of the lock in dark, as in a tone of 8 to 9--maybe even a 10 in spots. Make your lines scratchy and the ends of the shading uneven. Note how the bottom shading in the lock has an inner 'V' with the ends of the dark shading coming higher. You don't want all the shading to end in the same place or it won't look natural. Don't be afraid to draw a few dark lines a lot longer than the others. This breaks the shading up.

Step 4: Working inward from your dark shading at the ends, draw a midtone toward the center, leaving the center white. That's your highlight. Again, don't end all your strokes in the same place. Break them up, and carry a few through. Your lock of hair will now have a rounded shape and look 'hairy' because of the extra uneven lines you've put in.
Step 5: Now that you've done one lock, you know how to do the rest of the hair. Go to all the ends (except a few smaller pieces that you choose to avoid, to show extra highlights), both at the crown and at the ends of the hair, and put your dark uneven shading in.

Step 6: Again, working from the darkest areas toward the center of each lock, put in midtone shades, leaving a couple larger areas of highlights.
Great job! Not that bad, huh?

Next Week: How to draw eyebrows

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Voluntary Torture Sessions

It’s that time of year again. You know, the holidays. I don’t know many people who don’t like eating turkey on Thanksgiving and opening gifts on Christmas. The problem is getting there.

There's lots of traditions, some necessary and some not. I’m not sure how they started, and I’m sure if I researched, I’d figure it out (you know - 'Great Aunt Martha's cranberry jello' tradition kind of thing). But I don’t have time because the holidays are approaching faster than my young son can barrel down the hall (and that’s at ballistic speed.)

Over the weekend, we got to enjoy the first of the technical holiday traditions: the family portrait. I know. It’s right up there with knee-surgery, root canals and deep cleaning the toilet bowl. I have two members of our family who have a photo-count limit. Which means lots and lots of pressure to do the deed QUICK. We’ve had professionals take them, with fabulous results (thanks, N.P., you’re awesome!!!), and I tried to do the timed camera thingy with all of our family piled on the couch (note the word is tried). Didn’t turn out so good.

But photography is something my daughter has really taken up, so last year, we let her have a go. And the photograph turned out soooo good! (She was even able to convince our photo-grinches to squeak out an extra smile or two. And that was a real miracle)

We know a good thing when we see one, so this year, I asked her again. Little did I know what was about to happen when you give a kid time to plan. My casual-dress photo shoot quickly turned into something else.

The first sign was when my daughter showed up at my bedroom door dressed to the nines. She looked really good. As in, fancy dress, awesome make-up, perfect hair good. I looked like a casual middle-aged mom – and I’m going to stop there on my personal description. I’d already informed the rest of the family we’re going casual. Since she’s the picture taker, we had to change gears quick.

We only had about an hour and a half to catch the light, because it’s fall and it’s the evening. And if we didn't take the picture right then, we’d have to wait a full week before the whole family could all be available again. Might never happen. So I hurried off, getting everyone to change.

But dang, if we didn’t look GOOD in fifteen minutes flat. Well, our attitudes were a bit damaged (mine in particular), but we piled into the car and drove to the local park. The fall leaves were glorious! The light was just perfect. We tramped all over: onto a bridge, up some stairs, through a dry creek-bed.

And each time my daughter set up the camera, told us where to stand, set the timer and madly raced in to join the family.

We all smiled like this is fun, like we’re thrilled to be standing there, doing this.

Let me tell you, we could all take an Oscar in acting. Anyway, to make this long story shorter, she did it! We have not one, but TWO great family pictures! I already hold the prints in my hands, ready to send out with our Christmas cards.

So, what are your favorite and least favorite holiday traditions?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lesson 12 - How to Draw an Ear

Ears aren't as scary as you think. If the head were turned, this is how the ear would look. Pay attention to the way the skin curls around the top of the ear and goes down about halfway. Look at the area where the ear canal goes into the head. Now look at the way the fold comes out of the bottom, below the ear canal, then curves up and around and back into the ear where the upper fold is. Now we're going to take the ear and turn the head.

 Here is a face looking straight ahead. Because of this, we only see part of the ears. This is what we'll draw today.

The ear sits between the eye and nose line. That is where the top of the ear goes into the head. From there, the ear goes up a bit before curving down and around to go to the nose line.

Let's start. First, starting at the eye line, you will be drawing what looks like the flattened half of a heart. Go up and around, then angle straight down to the nose line.

Go to the bottom of the ear (at the nose line) and round out the bottom half of the ear on the lower right side. Try not to make it too round, just a subtle swell. Now erase the line inside the bottom half that you no longer need.

 Go to the top of the ear. As we talked about above, there is a flap of skin that folds down along the top of the ear. Simply draw a parallel line that goes under the top line of the ear, and comes down about a third of the way along the outer edge, like below. Next, in the center of the ear is a little curve of skin that comes away from the the cheek line. This too, is a very subtle curve, not too round.
 Now in the center of your ear is shell shaped cartilage that curves up and around. You know that little curve of skin you just drew against the cheek? We are going to make that shell-curve parallel to it. The bottom of it will start about 1/4 the way up the ear and end when it touches the top fold.
 Now we'll do the inside fold of the shell shape. Go the little curve of skin we drew against the cheek, and drop a short line straight down. Stop when you are about 1/3 the way up the ear. Now take that line and curve it out right, running almost parallel to the outer shell curve and go up almost another 1/3. And there you have it! That wasn't so hard!
Now, along with your eyes, nose and mouth, you can add ears into your face proportions. 
Next week: How to draw hair.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wonders of China

When you think of China, what comes to mind? The Great Wall? Fireworks? Chow Mein? Art? Pandas? The Forbidden City?

There are so many wonders in China: natural, cultural - and for sure, let's not forget the 2000 years they've spent perfecting the fine art of cooking. (Our neighbors are from China and I have to say, I've never tasted anything as good as their homemade dumplings, fried rice and egg rolls!)

There's little about China I don't like, but I do have one place that fascinates me.

It's the karst mountains in the Guilin Province. Like dragon teeth, they protrude along the banks of the Li River and flow inland, creating unbelievable rows of receding shapes.

Shrouded in mist and mirrored in the river, the mountains become more than rock and earth. They become legend, as shown by generations of Chinese watercolor paintings.

In real life, fishermen go out at night on bamboo rafts, without hook or line. Instead, they bring lanterns (to attract the fish) and cormorant birds (to catch them).

The fishermen place rings around the birds' necks, so they can't swallow the larger fish. The birds dive overboard, catch a fish and swallow. It stays caught in their neck until they surface. The fisherman pulls the bird in, slides his hand up the bird's neck and the fish neatly pops out into a basket.

If you'd like to watch it in action, just follow this link:

Here's the kicker. Cormorants can count. AND they hold grudges. If the fishermen don't feed them one of their prizes by the time they've caught seven, the birds refuse to fish anymore.

Yeah, like I said, fascinating. It's been a lot of fun learning about them. It's been even more fun drawing (see the Prismacolor drawing above) and painting them (seventh picture down in 'My Artwork' on top tab). I took artistic liberties in the one above, because usually it's only men who fish. But, ah, what's the imagination for, if not to add more romance to such a mystic place?

So, how about you? What do you like most about China?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Come for a visit to Scribblers Cove

Hello, just wanted to invite you to visit Scribblers Cove, where I share our latest adventure with an alligator. Be sure to bring your imagination!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Lesson 11 - How to Draw a Mouth

To draw a mouth, first you need to start with a diamond shape. A full diamond is too wide, though.
What you need is a 'squashed' diamond like pictured just above. It should look like an elephant sat on it. Next, draw a line horizonally through the middle of the diamond.
Look at your mouth in a mirror. Your upper lip has a dip in the middle of it. Draw a dip.
On the bottom of your upper lip is a bump, almost the same shape as the dip on the top edge. Put your bump in.
Now look at your lower lip in the mirror. Most lower lips have a flattened area on the very bottom. Cut a line across the bottom.
Next, we'll refine the shape where the two lips meet. Starting on either edge of the bump, bring the line just barely above the center straight line. Keep this VERY subtle - no huge roundings, just slight gentle curves.
Now take the upper curves VERY gradually under the center line. Again, keep it very subtle, as a gentle swoop.
Next, take the end of that swoop and level it back out to follow the center line to the edge of the mouth. Look in a mirror at the shape in the center of your lips. Does it start with the bump, then go up, then down, then straighten? Not all mouths do, but most will.
You have the basic shape of the mouth. Now to erase your helping lines.
Last, round out the pointed edges on your upper lip, and the squared out flattened area on your lower lip. Ta-da! You have awesome lips with great shape!
Just remember that each mouth is unique. There will be slight variations in the width of the upper and lower lips, the bumps and dips in the middle, and the length of the mouth. But this pattern will get you started.

You can plug this mouth, your nose, and eyes into the face proportions from lesson 8. All you need now are ears and hair.

Next week: How to draw ears.
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