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 22, 2011

Gifts of the Magi

For the last ten years of so, I've made a special piece of artwork each Christmas to help me catch the Christmas spirit. 

This year, I chose the most famous of gifts, those presented to the Christ Child by the Wise Men.

The King James Bible version reads: 

Matthew 2: 1, 2, 11

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, 

Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east and are come to worship him.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.”

There is a lot of significance and symbolism in each of these three gifts. After a little research, here is a brief overview:

Gold – the symbol of Kingship on earth, and an item of great worth to all countries and peoples. This gift recognized Jesus Christ as Lord, King of the Earth.

Frankincense – is a milky white resin derived from tree sap that is prized for its sweet, warm, balsamic fragrance, as well as its medicinal qualities. It’s been found to benefit those with asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s diseas and collagenous colitis. Anciently, it was known to cure hemlock poisoning, leprosy, worms, snakebites, diarrhea, plague, scurvy and even baldness, as well as a treatment for depression. The finest frankincense comes from a small Boswellia Sacra tree that grows in the cool, arid areas of Somalia, Oman, Yemen and India – all lands east of Israel. Frankincense was used as part of the temple rites in the Old Testament. Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths have used frankincense mixed with oil to anoint newborns and those moving into a new phase in their spiritual lives. The aroma is said to represent life. This was a gift worthy of a Messiah, one whose life had been long awaited.

Myrrh – is a resin that comes from the Commiphora tree. Its color can be anywhere from pale yellow to a reddish hue. It is found in the shallow, rocky soils of Ethiopia, Somalia and Oman. It has a warm, slightly musty smell and is a pale yellow to amber color. Myrrh cures many of the same maladies as frankincense as well as gastric ulcers, tumors and parasites. It is also one of the most effective disinfectants and was used to anoint loved ones who had died. It’s interesting that myrrh was used when Jesus was placed in the tomb.

The gifts of the Magi were practical, valuable, and highly symbolic. There's no doubt the Wise Men put a lot of thought into them and wanted to give the very best of gifts, as do we all - for those we truly love and care about.

Have a wonderful holiday season. I wish the best for you - good health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year. 

Merry Christmas! 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

It's Been a Hoppening Year

Summer always seems to pass so quickly. This year, it was mild and beautiful. I loved it. My plants loved it.

Bees loved it.

But other things did, too. I started seeing a LOT of grasshoppers. On my plants.

On chairs.

On the tree house.


Take multiple bugs. Add one kid who is kinda bored. What do you get? Accomplices.

They came in with that 'I have a wonderful surprise for you, Mom' look and plopped this down on the counter.

I pasted on my best 'Wow, that is the coolest thing I've ever seen' look, and let them talk. Wisely, I withheld the thought that I am a girl, my skin is crawling, this has to be violating some animal rights law somewhere, and that is sitting on the counter where I prepare food. And I had to quickly remind myself that these are kids, and life is an adventure. Let them have their adventure . . . for five more seconds.

I made it.

Then I explained about how happy those grasshoppers are to see them, but how much happier they'll be back in nature.

So my kind-hearted son grabbed the jar and headed for the door.

And then I heard a crash. You know those sighs that you never mean to have, but they just come, and they last forever? Well, I had one. Then I hollered for him not to move and step in the broken glass, and hopefully not-broken grasshoppers. I grabbed the broom. I grabbed the camera. And well, this is what you get.

Yup. You are my witness. No broken grasshoppers. They seem mighty hoppy - sorry - happy just hanging out on my door step. And door post. And door mat.

And (sorry about all the 'ands') when we're done sweeping up the mess, we might just join them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

How to Cure a Moocher

Life is interesting when you have a child. And when you have more than one or two children, life tends to get more interesting. And when most of them are teenagers, let's just say, things are seldom boring at my house.

For instance, I have a child who loves food. I mean really loves food. Because of that, this child is an excellent cook. This child is also in excellent form and doesn't look like a person who loves food (which stinks, because I'm in my forties and mother nature is against my waistline right now.)

Anyhow, this child (who, for the sake of your sanity, and this child's anonymity, I shall call April) also likes to mooch food. No yummy item is safe. If a wrapped deli sandwich is left in the fridge, the owner will find it minus a bite or two. And when confronted, April gives the best apologetic grin, followed by an equally flowery apology, followed by a promise of gummy bears the next time she has any - and life goes on . . . until something else is mooched.

Every person also knows this, and has taken measures to prevent it. Little signs sometimes pop up on items. And after repeat offences, the signs sometimes read something like this: April, touch this and you die.

Sometimes it even works.

Now for the sake of fairness, I have to admit that others in the family mooch too, but 99 times out of 10 (yes, that math is accurate), the culprit is April.

So, another child of mine, whom I'll call Bert, (sorry Bert, but names aren't my thing today), came home with one of those gigantic fast food drinks that puts a 2 liter bottle to shame.

Well, Bert drank until soda oozed from his ears, and then moaned that he couldn't drink anymore.

Practical mom that I am, I advised him to stop.

"But if I do, April will get it."

To which I informed him that if he was making himself uncomfortable, that might not be a bad alternative.

And so my son went merrily off to the fridge, marking the cup at the soda line to know for sure if a moocher had struck.

Some time later, April came home. And some time later than that I heard April shriek, and then spitting sounds. And then I heard Bert laughing like crazy.

Not knowing if I should show up or not, but wondering what in the Sam-hill was going on, I made my way to the kitchen. April was at the sink, madly spitting. Bert was bent over, holding his middle and laughing so hard I thought he'd throw up.

And there sat the soda, the current liquid a good 3/4 inch below the line Bert had marked.

"Salt," April sputtered, gulping down a glass of fresh water, then coming up for air. "He put salt in that soda."

Still laughing, Bert grabbed the soda cup and offered her more. If I hadn't of been there, I'm sure Bert wouldn't still be grinning.

Needless to say, April made her retreat, Bert put the soda back in the fridge (watch out you other moochers), and I think all future drinks of his are safe.

And just to be sure, I'm not putting any drinks of mine in the fridge for a while.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The New Meaning of "Clear-minded"

I’m sorry. I’ve been bad. Very bad. Bad at blogging. But I did warn you. As my children know, maybe means never. Sporatic isn’t far behind.

If you forgive me, by all means, read on!

As a child, I often wished for the superpower to read other people’s thoughts, get a glimpse at what's going on inside their heads.

Well, the reading thoughts part is never going to happen, or the glimpse either - unless I decide to become a brain surgeon – but you know the saying that truth is stranger than fiction?

I’m here to say that, why, yes. Yes, it is.

One of my awesome art students told me about the barreleye fish whose head is transparent, showing the world its glorious internal assets. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this:

And when you’re ready for live action, check this out:

I must say, those are the best-looking ocular/olfactory organs I’ve ever seen. But why would evolution chose this particular fish and those particular body parts to share with the rest of the aquatic world? What advantage does it provide? Hm.

I guess you could ask the same of other transparent fish.

Some seem to need the invisibility factor.

Some just have warm hearts (or whatever that is) to show off:

Others are blinking neon signs that say, “Don’t touch me or you’ll spout every curse word you know and then create new ones. I am pain.”

Soooo . . . what’s the purpose of seeing the backside of an eyeball? Well, I don’t have any good answer now, and the writer in me could spend the next week creating some semi-reasonable ones – but I’d rather write on my pirate book.

I’m going the lazy route and asking you. What do you think? (No idea is too wild!) Bring it on.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Perfect Weapon

It's summer.

The kids are home.

They've been home and out of school for a month now. I should have known this was coming.

Now I have good kids - most of the time. They love their mom - most of the time. But right around the month of July, the devil in them comes out.

I had just finished a pleasant morning helping my youngest son learn how to make homemade pancakes. He asks for them every day, and he's old enough now, and I wanted to spend some time with him. It was fun, especially when all the family complimented him on his fine cooking.

After breakfast, he was soon neck-deep in his own projects.

So I snuck off to the office to write on my pirate book. And then a miniature football comes sailing in and knocks me in the head. It didn't hurt, but throwing things around computers - or anywhere in the house, for that matter - is a no-no.

I turned and gave him one of those 'mom' glares. (I'm not sure how potent mine is, but my mother's was lethal.)

"Sorry. Sorry," my son said, ducking his head and disappearing. But he was grinning.

Not two minutes later, I get whacked on the shoulder with a Styrofoam dart.

Warming up my glare, I spin around again. It must have been pretty scary, because he jabbed his finger toward the dart and squeaked, "There's a note! Look at the note!"

Sure enough, on the end of the dart was a sticky note. This is what it said:

Sigh. How can a mom fight that? I hugged him, thanked him, stuck the sticky note up on my computer screen, and asked him to kindly refrain from hitting me with footballs and darts.

He smiled and nodded and went his merry way.

Not a minute later, a plastic boomerang comes sailing over my shoulder and hits the monitor. I grab it and spin around.

He's madly jabbing and squeaking again. "Note! Note!"

I flipped the boomerang over and here's the new note:

I sigh again. No mother on earth can fight this - and he didn't throw a football or shoot a dart.

I do believe he's found the perfect attention-getting weapon.

So now, another hug, and a long explanation later (from me - describing all sorts of things that can't be thrown, tossed, shot, or otherwise projectiled), I do believe I may be able to get some writing done.

Then again, kids are very smart nowadays. We shall see . . .

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


The awesomely sweet Brenda Sills has passed on this award and I’m so flattered, especially knowing a bit about her. Last year, we carpooled to a writing workshop, and I can honestly say she’s one of the sweetest people I’ve met. She’s also amazingly versatile, talented, supermodel beautiful, and a super-mom to boot! Check out her blog here:

Here are the rules:

To claim your award:
1. Copy and paste the award to your blog. 
2. Thank and link to the person who nominated you.
3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
4. Pass the award along to 5 deserving blogging buddies.
5. Contact those buddies to congratulate them.

And here are the seven random facts.

1. I just saw the movie Super 8 last night and it was fantastic! It’s kind of a mix between Goonies and ET and Alien. I won’t say anymore, other than I was either laughing myself sick, or clinging to the back of my chair through the whole thing. You won’t want to miss this one.

2. Last night for dinner we had creamed peas, pearl onions, and baby potatoes over biscuits. I’ve only made it three times as an adult, but remember eating it as a child (minus the pearl onions.) The kids are still scratching their heads over whether they like it or not.

3. Today my family blocks actually read ‘Family.’ See post:

4. Secret book discovery: If you haven’t read THE THIEF series by Megan Whalen Turner, you are in for a killer treat! Oh my heck! It just gets better and better and better. The first book has you wondering what in the world it’s about, but hang in there because by the time you get to book two and book three, you’ll be raving like a lunatic to every soul you meet. Trust me! It’s happening right now. (Thank you, Leisha, for adding a new addiction!)

5. Last week I attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference with master teacher Martine Leavitt, and I’m in heaven! My head’s swirling with information and ideas I can’t wait to put into action. If you love to write, save your pennies, mark the week of June 11 – 15, 2012, and start watching the website like a hawk in January 2012 for registration.

6. I’m writing a pirate book right now, and, after the conference, I’m literally bursting with the story.

7. I’ve decided to become a sporatic summer blogger so I can spend more time writing the pirate book that isn’t letting me sleep. I apologize right now.

And so, we’re onto awarding 5 super sweet blogging buddies:

Chersti Nieveen

Elizabeth Dimit

Yamile Mendez

Emily Mah Tippets

Elizabeth Mueller

Congratulations all!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Lesson 35 Watercolor - Sandy Beach

I'm rubbing my hands together right now. I LOVE to paint sand. We're going to get a bit creative. First, frisket off the edge of the waves and the turtle.

We'll be painting in the sand color soon, but we want some light sandy particles to show through the final paint. We'll let the frisket do that.

Grab a dish/container you're willing to sacrifice and an unused toothbrush.
 Dribble a small amount of frisket in the pan, take your toothbrush and dip the end in the liquid frisket.
 Spritz the sand area lightly.
 Do a little more, a  bit at a time until you have a lightly dotted area. You will get some big drops or non-circular spritzes. Let them dry. You can erase each of them out if you don't want them. Wash the toothbrush in water immediately and be thorough, to get all the frisket off.
 Here is what mine looks like.
 Some spilled over into the water area.
 I'm using my handy-dandy frisket eraser to clean up the area I don't want frisket in.
 Here is what is left.
 Now paint some yellow tones in using thinned-out yellow ochre.
White grains of sand will show through when I erase them out, but I want yellow grains, too, so I'm going to spritz more frisket over the yellow tone I just painted. (Let the yellow paint dry first.) Wash the toothbrush again. If the frisket dries on your toothbrush, it's a beast to get off.
 Now that the second layer of frisket is dry, paint in some brown on the sand. I mixed brown, orange and yellow ochre for the sand color.
 Next, I shade in the skuff marks left by the turtle, and add some soft details into the background for distance on the beach.
 After letting it dry, go in and darken the tones.
Oh, boy, now you get to erase the frisket grains of sand. Make sure that all the brown paint is COMPLETELY dry or it will smear into the newly appearing areas.

Once the new grains are exposed, we'll spritz on some medium and darker grains of sand. This time, I'm covering the top part of the painting with paper, to keep any stray spritzes from going astray. Mix some light brown and some dark brown watercolor paints. Dip your toothbrush in (one color at a time) and spritz it on the sand.

 Here, I've done the the dark brown spritzes. (Click on the picture to enlarge for detail. I think you can click on it again to enlarge it more.)
 And some light brown.
 After erasing the remaining frisket from the turtle and sea, here is our sand.

Next: the hills and mountains . . .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Contest Winner

Sorry to keep you waiting. I won't bore you with how fun the writer's conference is (So fun! So so so fun!!), but let's get straight to the good stuff.

The winner of the free 8x10 Giclee print of her choice is . . .

Jaleta Clegg

Congratulations! Please contact me by email:, and let me know which print you'd like and where to send it.

Why Those Aspiring to Authorhood Should Tweet

Hi, this is Zarin, Jonene’s offspring. She wanted me to guest blog while she’s at her conference. I write a little myself and build websites for authors. I run a blog about web promotion, author sites, social media, etc at

I decided to talk about a scary topic today: twitter. I know a big chunk of writers love to blog. Not as many have caught on twitter. Maybe the 140 character limit scares writers. Maybe it’s the word “tweet”.

Whatever the reason, here are 3 reasons why you’re missing out if you’re not on twitter:

#1 – Networking
Online presence is becoming more and more important in the writing industry. You expect an established author or agent to have website. Having a blog is starting to become and expectation as well. So it twitter. You’d be surprised how many authors, editors, agents and publishers are on twitter.

Neil Gaiman, for example has over 1,500,000 followers. That means 1.5 million people see every tweet he sends out. Unlike Facebook, you don’t have to wait for a “friend approval” in order to follow someone. Search for your favorite author or agent, and click “follow”. That’s it.

Twitter is an excellent tool for following trends and news in the industry as well as building helpful connections. The more industry professionals you follow, the more you’ll be in the know, and the more will follow you.

#2 – Quick and Easy
Blogging is awesome, but it’s also time consuming. Twitter on the other hand, takes just a couple minutes of your day. All you do go to, type in your 140-character or shorter message, and that’s it!

#3 – Complements Blogging
It’s not one or the other—you should be blogging AND tweeting. Tweeting takes so little time, there’s no reason not to. When you have a new blog post, link to it on your twitter. This will increase your exposure and audience. There may be authors or agents that don’t follow your blog until they see a link to an interesting article on your twitter feed.

There are also ways to connect your blog to your twitter. You can add a twitter feed to the sidebar or footer of your blog to show live twitter updates (you can find twitter feed plugins to add it to your blog easily). You can also add “tweet” buttons to your blog posts so that other visitors can spread the word on their twitter page. You can get easy to use, copy-and-paste code for twitter buttons at

The more exposure, the better. It’s a domino effect. Imagine if someone like Neil Gaiman tweets about your blog post—that means 1.5 million fresh literary eyes on your blog.

Whether you’re published or not, twitter is a useful tool for writers. When you are published, you’ll already have a following and twitter experience. For authors twitter is an awesome way to reach out to readers and promote their work.

So register, find professionals to follow, and try it out!

You can more of the basics about what twitter is and how to use it here:
And how to promote your twitter page here:

Contest Winners Announced Tonight

Sorry, but I'm in heaven. Not really, just close. I'm attending a writer's conference. So please forgive me, but I'll announce the awesome winner of the print tonight. Have fun today! (I know I will.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Lesson 34 - Watercolor - Clouds

Contest alert:

Tuesday I announce the winner of an 8x10 Giclee print of your choice from my website. Last chance to enter will be Sunday at midnight. There's still time to enter. Go here for details:

Watecolor lesson - how to paint clouds:

Now that the frisket has been removed, we have a nice cloud shape, but the edges are hard. Most cloud edges are soft and fuzzy. Let's go in and soften them up.

 Take a paintbrush and dip it in water. Squeeze most of the liquid out of the brush, then scrub along the cloud edge.
Some of the paint will be rubbed up into the white area, or overlap the sky. If you leave it, it will tint the clouds or leave lines in the blue sky. To prevent this, after an inch or so of scrubbing with your wet brush, stop and take a dry washcloth.Tap over the area you just scrubbed. The cloth will pick up the color and any excess wetness.

 The right bottom of the cloud has been softened here.
 Now we're ready to soften the left side. I've finished the bottom cloud piece, but need to do the top one.
 Here is what it looks like after.
 And we'll do the top of the cloud next.
Okay, those edges are softened. We're ready to begin laying color in.

 This is my watercolor palette. There are many sizes. I prefer large. My colors are dark blue, sky blue, yellow ochre and grey. The middle area is where I mix them.
 With watercolors, it's best to start off light. You can always go darker. This is light grey mixed with yellow ochre that I'm using along the bottom of the clouds. As soon as I've made a few strokes, I take another paintbrush with just water on it, and go along any edges left from my stroke. This keeps the area soft, with no hard lines or edges.

We're adding wet paint to a dry area. This technique (surprise, surprise) is called 'Wet on Dry' painting.
 Next, I'm adding a little blue to the grey and creating a break in the bottoms of the clouds.
 Mixing grey, blue and a little yellow ochre, I add color into the body of the clouds, taking it right up to the area with frisket.
 The area is getting wet and starting to buckle. I stop for about a half hour to let it dry, then go back and add more color into the clouds.
 This is what my main tone looks like on my palette.
 I add a bit more color. I like the cloud shapes. After letting this dry a little, I want to add some deeper tones.
 I've added more grey and dark blue to my color mix and then lay it in on the clouds. The paper isn't quite dry, so this mixture makes it buckle quite a bit. But I'm happy with the tones now.
 After adding a light skiff of very watered-down yellow ochre along the highlighted edges of the upper clouds, we're ready to erase off the frisket below.
 It's good to step back and look at the painting every once in a while. I noticed that my upper cloud tilts and doesn't look right. I need to level out the bottom left side. Okay, now I'm happy.
See you soon for the next phase!
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