16 July 2017

Alternate book cover

As people who know me know, I have been a fan of the Regency romance novels of Georgette Heyer since I was about 13 years old. Far from outgrowing them, I have read them again and again over the years, and even though I know some of the stories quite well, I never cease to be entertained by her ingenious plotlines, smart, witty dialogue, and charming characters. (Someday I want to write a comparison of her books to those of P. G. Wodehouse. Cousin Ferdy in this one particularly reminds me of Bertie Wooster.)

Periodically I go on a Heyer jag, usually when I am either craving "comfort food" type reading or when I have made a series of dull reading choices and need to cleanse my palate with a little light, sweet, cold sherbet. Sometimes I also end up reading one because I have managed to arrive home from the library on a Friday night not having had the time to walk to the stacks and pick out a book to read. That's what happened to me this weekend, and when my dismay over this was compounded by a dead battery in my Kindle, rendering me also unable to check out an e-book, I turned to my shelves and picked up one of my favorites, Friday's Child.

The story begins thusly: Lord Sheringham has been mooning over the beautiful Isabella Melborne (along with half of the beaux in London), and has decided to ask her to marry him. He fancies himself in love; but his extra motive is that his money is tied up in a trust to which he won't have access for three more years unless he marries, at which time control is transferred from his two miserly trustee uncles to himself. Isabella, however, turns him down, and in a fit of temper, he swears to marry the next woman he sees, so as to get control of his fortune. That happens to be his childhood friend, Hero Wantage, who he encounters, as he drives by in his phaeton, perched on a fence, in tears. When he stops to find out what's what, she tells him her evil relatives are forcing her to go be a governess, a patently absurd plan, given that she's only 17 years old and lamentably ignorant. So Sherry, in a fit of pique, decides he will scotch everyone's plans by marrying Hero. She, having worshipped Sherry since childhood, is thrilled with this plan, especially because it will get her away from her disagreeable aunt and three condescending cousins, plus she'll get to go to London, go to balls, wear beautiful clothes, and, best of all, be with Sherry. Sherry, however, doesn't know what he's getting into, bringing a 17-year-old bride to the capitol and turning her loose on Society...

Although I am a fan of the books, I have never been a fan of the covers. The re-released versions in trade paperback (above) have more charming paintings of Regency misses on the front (although they are not always chosen so as to complement the particular story), but the older books (of which this is one, because I have a discarded library version from the 1960s) had pretty dreadful art (left). So today, when I finished the book with my usual feeling of satisfaction, I decided I would try out an illustration that picked up on some of the elements of the book, and give it a different look.

I did this pretty spontaneously, and therefore didn't think ahead to design a space for the title as part of the illustration (which is bad cover design, but oh well), so I had to cram it in at the bottom, willy nilly. But I had fun finding and duplicating the ormolu clock that Gil presents to Hero as his wedding gift, the canary in a cage that is Ferdy's contribution to her happiness, a Queen Anne hall table that could have been part of the furnishings that Hero and Sherry chose for their new house on Half Moon Street, and the chubby pug dog belonging to Gil's aunt, which takes Hero on a fateful walk that precipitates the French farce of an ending.

Friday's Child, by Georgette Heyer
Uniball pen, watercolor

12 July 2017

"Silly Sheep"

That's what I googled, looking for an image to use as a reference. I don't think this guy looks so silly, though—a little more on the side of wistful, perhaps?

When I am stumped for something to draw and paint, I often turn to whatever I'm reading for inspiration, for a couple of reasons: First, I often dislike the book cover of whatever it is, and occasionally have the impulse to try to do better; second, if it's a book I'm enjoying, then chances are I'm going to review it for the library blog, which means that I can either put up the book cover with the post, or I can put up something more interesting (i.e., custom created art by me!).

I've been on a science fiction reading jag for the past few days, specifically perusing some of the stand-alone books of John Scalzi. I really got a kick out of Redshirts—it was a satire that was a combo of Star Trek, Galaxy Quest, and The Truman Show, if you can imagine. So after that, I decided to move on to another, and chose The Android's Dream.

The title is, of course, an homage to the famous novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by the inimitable Philip K. Dick, that was the basis for the movie Blade Runner. This book is not really like that one, being partially about literal sheep (or their DNA), but it's smart, funny, and entertaining, nonetheless. I'm not finished with it yet, so I won't give a final verdict until I am, but I felt confident enough, halfway through the book, to make an illustration to go with my book review.

The Android's Dream
Uniball pen, watercolor

11 July 2017

Catbird Caboose

My Facebook friend Kim, who is a birder, says her favorite is the catbird. When I called up a few pictures from the internet, I wasn't really sure why—it's kind of a drab-looking little bird, mostly shades of gray and dull gray-brown.

Maybe it's the catbird's call? It certainly is varied, cheerful, and entertaining. If you want to listen to it, here's a link to Cornell Ornithology Lab, where they have some recordings. The "song" didn't sound cat-like, but if you click on the "mew call," you'll get the idea for where it got its name.

But then she posted a rare photo of the catbird showing off his "caboose," and a whole new facet of the catbird's personality became apparent! It was like Mammy in Gone With the Wind, pulling up the hem of her faded old housedress to show off the scarlet satin petticoat, a gift from "Mr. Rhett," hiding underneath.

I didn't really do justice to this guy—he needs to be painted "for real," a little more painstakingly on watercolor paper without black lines (and not as a direct copy of the photo)—but it will do for a fast impression. Maybe I'll attempt him again when I have more time, but here's my quick sketch for today—"Catbird Caboose," in honor of Kim Denise!

Uniball pen, watercolor

08 July 2017

Urban sketching at the bookstore

Today I had a wholly delightful treat—I had the opportunity to reconnect with Lorilyn Parmer, my good friend from high school. Although we are recently Facebook friends, and have kept in long-term tentative contact for all these years, I haven't actually seen her since her wedding day, more than 21 long years ago, on a clifftop in Marin County! She let me know that her husband had to fly into Burbank airport to do some business in neighboring Glendale, and wondered if I would like to meet her for breakfast, since she was accompanying him and then they were going down to Orange County to visit with some friends from their years in Singapore. I said an enthusiastic yes, and when I found out that Allen's business was just a few blocks from Foxy's and the Americana mall, I suggested we meet up there.

We had a wonderful five-hour interlude of playing catch-up and reminiscing, and also sharing some of our dreams and plans for the immediate and long-term future (both involving our artistic expression, interestingly enough). It was cool to have a conversation with someone who has known me since high school—different perspectives. It was not cool, however, in terms of weather (99 degrees in Glendale and 110 at my house in Van Nuys today!), so once we deserted our table at Foxy's and walked over to the mall, we took refuge in Barnes & Noble and shopped, compared reading tastes (including the recent preferences of her son, Quinn), and chatted some more.

While Lorilyn looked for board books for a little Afghan refugee girl she knows, who needs to learn some English, I found a bench by a window and sketched a couple of fellow refugees from the heat. I filled in the background of the store's façade later, and then decided to add the Foxy's sign, since I am always delighted by the "crystal chandeliers" part. It's there because there is a chandelier store across the way in the same strip mall, but the first time I saw it, I thought, "Oooh, fancy coffee shop if they're advertising that they have crystal chandeliers!"

LePen #3 and watercolor.

Quick sketches

Yesterday was a full day of preparing for and running the next-to-last Little Free Library session for our teens at the library. They have finished the drawing stage and are just beginning to paint on the decorations to which they have agreed, which are so full of character and so creative. While watching them work, I pulled out my sketchbook and made a couple of quick drawings. I'm not great at people—I need to do this more often.

I started the first one with LePen, but it ran out of ink, so the rest was done with a Uniball pen from my purse. I didn't know if it would run or not when I watercolored, but blessedly it did not. I might sketch with that more often—it gives a nice, fluid black line.

It's the weekend! Maybe I'll get some more complex work on paper.

06 July 2017

Montrose Car Show

I went to breakfast with Carey and Hubert on Sunday at our favorite place in Montrose (the Black Cow Café) for Hubert's birthday. Montrose always has little surprises on Sundays—there is the weekly farmers' market on the Old Town streets, but sometimes they add a pet adoption day, or a bunch of kiddie rides, and this week the surprise was a six-block-long auto show, with a plethora of cars from the early 1900s to the present! We wandered around reminiscing about cars our parents and grandparents had driven and wondered why we hadn't held onto them, waxed sentimental over the 1973 Corvette driven by our teenage crush or the El Camino that we coveted because that was what all the cool kids were driving in high school, and took some photos.

I drew this yesterday, but ran out of time to paint before work, so I got up a little early and did it today. It took longer than I thought it would, as it usually does, so I may go back and add some more detail later tonight. (I see a few bits I forgot to paint!)

I had a few proportion problems when it came to the cab of the truck, but I think I managed to camouflage them and pull it off pretty well. I aspire to someday draw cars as well as Nina Johannson, but it will take a lot more practice!

Turquoise Pick-up Truck
LePen #3 and watercolor
July 5-6, 2017

04 July 2017

Red, White, and Blue

That was today's prompt. After the past six months, forgive me if I'm not feeling like expressing patriotic feelings towards the government that has betrayed us, the people who voted for an inept, crass, deeply stupid megalomaniac, and the media who enabled it all in the name of ratings.

So, where do you go when you're feeling like this? My answer is usually comfort food, and since making my famous German potato salad is something of a tradition for the 4th of July, I decided to illustrate the "fixins'" for that as my expression of red-white-blue. The potatoes and vinegar are red; the mayonnaise is white; and some of the packaging is blue. Close enough!

"Red, White, and Blue"
LePen #3 and watercolor

(You may have noticed that I already skipped a day. I have a plan. I hope to catch up by doing another painting this afternoon.)