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!

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?
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