Monday, December 29, 2014

Sunday in Advent

While attending a Christmas concert on the third Sunday of Advent. Sketching the luminous stained glass windows, a brilliant rose window with the afternoon sun streaming in. Unearthly voices singing ancient Carols echoing perfectly inside a turn of the century Neo-Gothic stone church in St. Charles, Illinois. *Drawing with my cell phone app, Samsung for Galaxy Sketchbook Pro.* 

Let all mortal flesh keep silence, 
And with fear and trembling stand; 
Ponder nothing earthly minded, 
For with blessing in His hand, 
Christ our God to earth descendeth, 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

inner eye

"To me, to paint is to practice the "Presence of God" in the process of creating. Whether I have a market for my work is secondary to the practice of the "art of seeing" that is fundamental to my being. I urge you to do the same: whether your "art" be painting, writing, theatre, dance, music-or being a first responder, or a nurse, or an engineer-develop your "inner eye" and create with faith."
Makoto Fujimura  Toward Culture Care: 

*update here is another link to Makoto Fujimura's writing.

Sunday, November 30, 2014



Besides the autumn poets sing,
A few prosaic days
A little this side of the snow
And that side of the haze.
Emily Dickinson

Saturday, November 29, 2014

pale yellow peeking

It is early evening, the sky has been heavy with dark grey clouds all day. As the sun is setting, a brilliant burst of yellow light peeks out from beneath the dark blanket.

The scene reminded me of this poem by T.S.Eliot and as I reread it, I discovered that the time of day is not only the same but it is also October.
The Love Song of J.Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot
LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
And then there is this part:
The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,        
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,   
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep.

Friday, November 28, 2014

smoke and flames

All of this past week the sky has been heavily hung with clouds that look like dryer lint. Ashy and sooty, gloomy and grey, the cloud cover never lifts.
In spite of all that, the autumn trees are blazing fires, shooting sparks high into the dark sky. The lower levels of goldenrod and sumac are busy providing hot coals glowing against the shadows. On a rainy fall day, the contrast made by the nearly black tree branches and trunks against the bright cadmium reds and yellows is redeeming the gloom.
One of those moments recorded in the sketchbook from a few weeks ago.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

and this is what we have been waiting for

We can eat after the "Better Homes and Ovens" editors and photography crew  arrive to document the perfect pie I made. *family joke

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

a view of distant mountains

The sun is rising as I drive to work pouring a milky peach yogurt sky. Along the horizon, the autumn trees are wispy purple. Indistinct tiny rows of arms lining the flat corn fields. Above the flat line of midwestern trees appears to be a row of distant dark grey mountain peaks. An illusion made of remnants of  clouds left behind by the stormy night.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


The little old sketch book is full of landscape impressions from October and November. I have a rare quiet morning to myself today and am loading up a few new pages to share. October is such an exciting month for me. I see so much beauty, I rush to the sketchbook or phone app to briefly record the vision. I am out running, walking, driving and there are emotional connections, moments that I can't forget.  November has been more contemplative with more struggle to get used to the temperatures and the light changing.  I'll be sharing a few of these connecting moments in the following days. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

80 promises

A lot of promises for a chilly November morning with a constant rattle of rain on the windows. I ducked out between rainy spells and planted 40 big yellow daffodils and 40 big red tulips up and down the driveway and all across the front of my house. A lot of color to look forward to next year. Perhaps I will reprise the frenzy of painting that I did a couple of years ago when I was on a daffodil-a-day kick.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

glowing light

I don't even want to talk about how November's early cold has made me feel.
This sketch should say it all. This is a follow-up sketch to the previous sketch which I made right after returning from an invigorating run on the Illinois Prairie Path on a brilliant October day. I was flushed, full of ideas, and energy and made that sketch from memory. Later with the glowing memory still warm, I used my watercolors  and put this all down. It is a poem to the day.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

where I get all my best ideas

I go for a 4 mile run on the Illinois Prairie Path which has a stretch right near my home.

Friday, November 7, 2014

cold wind

The North wind doth blow and we shall have snow.
And what will poor robin do then, poor thing?

He'll sit in a barn and keep himself warm

and hide his head under his wing, poor thing.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

pleasantly shocked!

"Hello Janice, Your illustrations are breathtakingly beautiful! I followed the link thinking I would come upon the illustrator to be a black man. I was pleasantly shocked!! You captured african facial expressions so well! I so wish i had your talent as i love to write for children. No reward can be more fulfilling than the smile of an entertained child. Please can i use the attached illustration of the story teller and two children as my faceboook cover picture? I intend to use the page to promote story telling.  Wether your response is positive or negative, i would still like to know if you also do commisioned  illustrations for pay and an idea of your charges.  I eargerly await your response. Kind Regards,"

What a pleasure it is to be appreciated and to get a fan letter. I enjoyed this person's inquiry very much. Surprise! I am not a black man, but a little white-ish-gray-ish (maybe kinda yellowish, pale pink-greenish, depending on the day) woman. I would like to say that what is inside my heart is the really most important thing that comes out in my work. Sharing love for all kinds of stories and all kinds of peoples.

Monday, November 3, 2014

true vine

Drawing during the church service again.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Saturday, November 1, 2014


Where there is no imagination there is no horror. ~Arthur Conan Doyle, Sr.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Gazing out the window

Window gazing on a Sunday morning in October (while sketching on my Samsung Galaxy phone using the Sketchbook app).

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

all the selfies

I teach part-time at a private classical school. This means I get to make up a lot of art history lessons and other fun stuff. We recently tried a fund-raising project. Every child in the school from Pre-K to 12th grade made a small self-portrait. The portraits had to be in a certain size and format so I had to resort to giving them templates and pre-cut panels. All of the art was sent to a fund-raising company that is reproducing the art on mugs, calendars, cell phone covers, magnets and more for the grandparents to enjoy.

The company sent each child a page of stickers to use as proofs and I took one of each to make up a collage of everyone in the school. I used rainbow tissue paper to make up a background. Which worked out because I had made each grade group paint a background on their selfie in a co-ordinating color.  I have also scanned the entire picture and made digital copies for the school to use for the yearbook or a poster. This is why I am everyone's favorite teacher!
I gave the middle-schoolers (Logic School) the option of painting over a photo. Some chose not to. Either way they came out charming.
And I gave the Rhetoric School (9th-12th grades) an extra challenge; to paint their portraits in black and white using a posterized version that I printed out from photoshop. 
       Of course the cutest results came from my Kinders and 1st graders.

And my fifth grade girls made a sophisticated personal style page out of theirs.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

best bits and pieces

I have posted before that I go to a life drawing group every Saturday (or as many Saturdays that are possible with my big family around). Sometimes my favorite work is the result of the five-minute warm-up poses when we get started with a session.  We then set up our model for a two and a half hour pose (they get breaks every 20 minutes, don't worry). I challenge myself to paint the long pose using acrylics.
I like the shadow falling across this
model's thigh and body.
I toss out 75 percent of my work from these sessions but keep the few where I can see a bit or piece that I like. (I'm running out of space to store them in my studio so probably more tossing will happen.)
Often the bit of the painting I am interested with is not the figure work but the painterly effort to surround the figure, give it a ground, an edge to present against.

This figure study was from last Saturday, I was happy with my handling of the figure but really loved how the background looked behind the flesh tones. In fact I think that background is the best part. She was posed against a gold toned cloth, I added the shadows with some cobalt blue.

This model is also a belly dancer! She posed with hand-dyed silks that she had made herself. The colors were irresistible.
I liked how just a bit of her hip shows against the brilliant fabric.

And her knee peeking forward wrapped in swaths of color.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


October is my month, I claim it for myself. The rest of you people can have the other 11 months.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

the dinosaur room

I painted this mural in my youngest son's room nearly 20 years ago. It is now a beloved family treasure. At one time or another everyone in the family and many, many guests have slept in this room over the years under the gaze of these benevolent dinosaurs.

When I painted this, my son was still in diapers, he is now about to graduate from college. Although he still enjoys this room, he moved into a larger room when his older brother left home. Now we have two grandchildren and more on the way. Our 15-month-old granddaughter has decided she loves dinosaurs and this room was her first introduction.  We keep a crib in here now and when she wakes from a nap the first thing we do is walk around talking to all the dinosaurs.
They all have different voices and only she can understand and talk back to them in her special baby language.
It is the smallest room in this house, a baby room, tucked under the eaves of a little Cape Cod style home in the Chicago suburbs. We hope to keep the happy dinosaurs in here forever to continue to delight new generations of small paleontologists.
I painted over the switch plate for the room light with a smirking parasaurolophus. 

A mother dinosaur and her newly hatching babies.

 I tackled the whole project without much preparation. One day at home with my toddler, inspiration hit and I began to sketch out the entire wall with images out of my head. I referenced our large collection of dinosaur books frequently but it was mostly a free association fun sort of composition. Our very-most-absolutely favorite dinosaur author is James Gurney writer of  "Dinotopia" and other stories. 
After I had sketched all the creatures and vegetation out with a soft prismacolor pencil, I painted in the line work with a brush and a grey-brown mixture. I then washed in loose areas of light color. I was going to keep the whole thing that way, very loose and not too high contrast or detailed. With the encouragement of my little boy, I got interested in detailing a few of the dinos. This spinosaurus, the velociraptor on the facing wall, and the parasaurolophus by the door. And then we decided that we liked it just the way it is. Not too overdone and finished but just enough detail.