Thursday, November 05, 2015


...when you were home from college (or other living arrangement) and there were no cell phones? No way for anyone to get in touch with you if you didn't give them your parents' number....I loved those pockets of family. I'd have a cup of coffee with my mom, go to the Christmas tree farm with my dad (blue sweater, green puffy vest before they were cool, JCrew lug boots.....Great Falls), have drinks at Clyde's (In Reston) maybe bump into some old flame or other body back from University or far flung state. My grandfather declared Clyde's crab cakes Baltimore worthy. I loved visiting him going up four floors and walking all the way down the breezeway to their apartment. I'd look towards the center and see all the other balconies, wondering if twenty year olds were visiting like I was. Another spot where I couldn't be found and yet be totally loved. The check out ladies at Safeway knew my grandfather by name.

I crave those pockets now. I'm a soul needing rest. My mind has been churning and worrying and going full speed. I heard the words, I have cancer, from a loved one. We are heading down a road I've never traveled on....

Friday, October 30, 2015


So I did something scary. I made myself do something scary. I signed myself up for our regional SCBWI conference. Ok. Not scary. Then I signed myself up for a book dummy review. So so semi scary. (nice alliteration there eh?). Then I saw who my review was with, oh yeah, only the VP Creative Director for Simon and Schuster, Dan Potash. Deep breath. What are you here for Beth? You're here (and I talked myself through this on my many 7 minute commutes  this school year) to step outside of your comfort zone, to meet people, to show you're serious. (Don't get me wrong, I've always been serious about my art). And he couldn't have been nicer. Honestly, I want to hire him as a mentor. His excitement flipping through my sketchbook (scary). His candor and honesty. And he might as well have been reading my mind.

My dummy was for Big and Bert, a longneck and his buddy on the move. It's a cool little book, it's not that he didn't like it but he caught me. He caught me. He caught me, doing what I think others would like. "I've only known you seven minutes and I can see you in your sketchbook. How about you here (in books etc.)?"
He gave me homework, design some book covers. Book covers.....artists do just that? There's a market for just book cover art. It never occurred to me. What fun. Pick your favorites. You know that feeling when you're curled up with the perfect book. Get that feeling down.
I heard, loosen up. Draw again. Get back to what you do well.

I'll be honest. I'm squirming. I have feeling that I am not doing what I am supposed to be doing. Teaching 545 kids a week is taking its toll. My classes are longer, everything is more. I'm a better teacher when I'm not nervous that my 9 point lesson plans aren't/are correct. I love my students but it's finally my time. My time.
So I'm writing and drawing and squeezing it in.

Covers to come: (my favorites)
House With The Clock In Its Walls
To Kill a Mockingbird
Ghost on Windy Hill
Tuck Everlasting

What a concept.....

P.S-I'm working on my website. You can see it at  I'm enjoying Squarespace. It's easy and intuitive and NOT scary at all.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Not the Summer I Thought It Would Be

storefront in the Burg

The title of this blog post is misleading.
It's not that I had a bad summer. It's just not the summer I thought it would be. Does that make sense?
I got a lot of stuff done. Not as much writing as I would have liked but more art. Like kids, they are pushing and poking for my attention sometimes the louder one gets the worm. This summer it was more about the illustration, it got the worm.
Then there was the amazing JMU reunion last weekend. A reunion of the Freaks. Not sure if we called ourselves that or other students did. We were alternative before alternative was the norm. Purple hair? Doc Martens? Thrift store finds? All before it was cool. We made our own fun. Fun was music, expression, art, freedom, non-conforming, coffee shops before Starbucks, open mike night, poetry night, themed parties that were not Martha Stewart inspired, ink on our hands and a collective mind. Something that can not be duplicated outside the parentheses of the university setting....unless you're in a cult (I kid).

I get teary eyed when I watch the Mazda commercial about the boy with the red convertible and not just because I wanted a Mazda Miata something desperate when I was young. The line at the end "Now, in the garage something new. Taking you back to when you were you." Even though my college years (all 6 of them) were difficult at times. I never felt more myself. It reminds me of the conference I attended (see the only other post I wrote this summer), when exuberant writer Aaron Reynolds came in to talk with us, he smiled at his audience, "My kind of people!"

This year, I'm going to find more of my kind of people. They can be art people, writing people or just plain people people. There's nothing like talking about the things you love with others who understand that feeling, the feeling of waking up and wondering which little bird is going to be the loudest that day.....and gets the worm.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Summer Garden

My sister is moving. If we do the math this means I have zero sisters living close by. Yes, two hours away is not so bad. And my other sister is about 4 hours away. And now the two of them will be closer together. So lucky them. Big sister whining, me. But while I wallow, here are a few pics from the summer so far.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Tall Drink

Sometimes, something I have done years ago will catch my eye. Like this one. Tall Drink. It reminds me of colors I want to use in my illustration work. Also, the mix of paint, fabric and found media. Pulling this out of my archives.
Fun stuff.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Evening Pictures

new sketchbook-ahhhhhh

haven't looked at this piece in awhile-keeping it in my thoughts

love finding similar color

beautiful new book in my collection-love her color palette and line work

There's a Barnes and Noble in Hampton Roads that I stop by on my way back home from my sister's house.We don't have bookstores around here anymore. It's so sad not to be able to see these books in person, feel the paper between your fingers and flip through. It's inspiring. I love the evening light in my studio.So I picked up a few treasures. It was necessary right after the conference.I'm experimenting. I'm getting up early and writing. It's the summer to break habits (bad or not, just plain old habits). Okay, I think they are bad. Bad for creativity. Bad time management. This morning I already edited a few chapters and scribbled on a storyboard. Giddy Up!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Children's Literature Conference 2015

Last week, I was the student,  attending to the Children's Literature Conference at Shenandoah University.
I needed the 3 graduate credits....ENG 502.
I've taken ART 586, ART 607 and such but never a ENG 502. And I loved every minute of it.
Better yet, I get to write creatively all summer and turn it in in August to complete my credits.

I sat and drew in my sketchbook, took, notes, like a kid in a candy store among book people. These are my people. Aside from artists and illustrators. But this conference I was the odd man out, only three art teachers at the conference, we found each other like homing pigeons find....home. I wasn't there to win a prize or to make a book deal like other conferences I have been to. I listened to Meg Medina, Peter Brown, Raul Colon, Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (I want to be as cool as her when I'm her age), Jennifer O'Connell (who was in the Art in Hands Deck with me!), Mac Barnett, Kwame Alexander and many more....

Me, far left being the "cool" underpaid illustrator.
The amazing Aaron Reynolds explaining in pure storytelling fashion,
How books are made. By pure stroke of luck, I am the illustrator.
Anne my friend and fellow artist snapped the pic with her phone.

I drew and wrote and drew....

And so begins Summer 2015. Can't think of a better way.

Anne won this signed poster of Mac Barnett's latest book, Leo (Um yes, it's about a ghost, and yes, it will be on my bookshelf soon) and she gave it to me. I'll put it up to remind myself of the task at hand. Get to work! Get to Work!

Why yes, I can.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

It's That Time of Year

Teacher present 2015 (not in frame yet).

When I went back to university to get my art education endorsement it never occurred to me that I was entering a profession full of controversy. I'll admit. I was doe eyed. I'm going to teach art and see the wonder reflected off my students eyes every day. It will fill me up, reconnect me and I'll provide them with a safe place to explore, create and frankly, be themselves. This I have done. What I didn't realize was how much I would have to defend my job choice. Especially now that it's summer.

I'm always a little melancholy at this time of year. My school year is over. What have I done? What did the kids do? Was it a good year? How can I improve? Pack up the room, take down everything, clean slate. Go home. Hear this,
"Oh it's summer. You're so lucky. Must be nice."
At first when I heard this, I thought:
Yes, it is.
Yes, I deserve it.
And then:
Hey, I don't get paid for the summer.
I've got three kids, it's not like I'm sitting around eating bon bons.
Guilt (for some stupid reason).
I'm tired of defending this.

What do people mean when they say this? I know what they mean. Man, must be nice, wish I had summers off. They aren't happy with their own job. Simple.
Why do I take it so personally? Because, I'm me. And because I feel like I have to represent all teachers in saying, We work really hard in those nine months. We care about your kids (even the crazy ones), we don't make a lot of money so throw us a bone, ok, a little time off. Trust me, we are all better off for it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015


I'm getting tired of writing "it's been awhile".
I'll be honest.
I'm afraid of having a real online presence with 545 students to my name.
Sometimes its simply overwhelming.
I know them all now...every single one of them.
And unlike other schools I've worked at.
The parents are really involved here.
Which makes me happy and also want to hide.
My other side....the one that waxes and wanes and writes and draws and thinks.....
not just about what kind of glue to order next.

I've never wanted summer to come more quickly.
I've got part 2 of a book that is kicking the inside of my head to be written, leftover from my prolific last summer.

Husband, "I really wish you could make a living out of your talents."
(Teaching is one of mine, the actual teaching and connecting part).

Me too.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Sick Days

I do realize the middle is's always something.

I've been sick for the past five days.
First two days, some nasty Halloween candy chuck full of gluten spun me out. (P.S-Reece's Seasonal peanut butter cups, of course my favorites, are not gluten free, I repeat, not gluten free.)
And then congestion moved in.
I have not taken two sick days in a row, like ever. And I haven't had an actual sick day since having kids in many, many years. I laid on the couch, slept, ate soup, watched Wish I Were Here, oh so wonderful. And realized that during the school year, I am never ever home during the day. This time that I was home for for so many years, like the past eight (well at least two or three days a week I was home). I find myself envious of my neighbor across the street, leisurely walking her daughter in her stroller while her two older kids are in school and I say very loudly, "Oh must be nice." So snarky. So snarky.

But I had that time at home and then when the opportunity (perfect one at that) presented itself, I needed to go back to work full time.
These days, I realize that having a job is like the holy grail and having one like mine is hitting the lottery. It's just that it doesn't leave much room for my own creativity.

Tired feet, tired body. It's not the same at 42 as when I first started at 28. Now with three kids too.
Winter is easier for me. The boys play basketball and it's local, three miles down the road. My daughter and I kind of hibernate. When offered art classes, dance or something she might be interested in, she still chooses mom.

I wrote about two thousand words today. Pushing my rock up the hill. I'm just past halfway. It's a good thing to do on a sick day, suped up on cold meds.
The other day I was reading what I'd written so far and two things happened. One-I couldn't stop reading and two, I forgot that I had written it. I don't know but I think that's a good thing.
I'm looking forward to that other side, the climax, the drop, the resolution. I've already started my second book (it just couldn't wait). Oh to have more time, and that folks is something I have small amounts of scattered about but gathered all up makes a hill mountable. So I'm going to make the most of it and while I am at it steer clear of the Christmas Tree Reece's cups. Darn.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014


my main classroom all cleaned up
never will it be this organized again-at my 100 year old school

found this behind my smart board-hiding-love

summer reading

So, I've been writing somewhere else, like I am cheating. The cool thing about writing something, "something" is all of the fun research that goes into it. Yes, I was that kid. The one who actually LIKED writing bibliographies, enjoyed searching through stacks, the thrill of finding THAT book that would have the answer. The internet revolutionized so much but for writers, so much right? It should make one prolific with such information at the click of a mouse. Of course, some of my research will be done on location-the most FUN. But watching movies, listening to music and creating art and Instagram acct. to go with the story has been really well, cool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unexpected Day Off

(yes, I know winter is over but this was a fun winter, I've got to say)

So, popping in here. My son is home sick and so I am off today. Thought, oh yeah, I've got this blog I've neglected.....

So, figuring out how to work media into my watercolor/drawings.
Figured out that the Black Prismacolor colored pencil is the best for sketching.
That I LOVE TO DRAW so the drawing part is central.
Watercolor looks great with scribbling....drawing etc.

There's more under way. But I am pleased with my "figuring out".
The way, I like to illustrate is simple. I think picture books are great but honestly sometimes I think the really complex, fine art books are too much for kids. I love them but kids are more drawn (pun intended) to art that looks like something they could do. That's exactly what I loved about Sendak and others who had strong drawing skills. I thought, as a kids, hey, I could do this too. And isn't that what it's all about.

Teaching has been fun. My kids are 99.9% fantastic. I get to spend my time actually teaching now and I am thrilled. Every once in awhile we have a little behavior issue but it's basically like I've been given the nicest, sweetest kids ever. I am blessed.
(still looking forward to summer though:)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


quick book club get away weekend....brrrrr.....

The snow. Oh, the snow.
I know.
It's cold.
But it's given me time.
What a present.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A B C.....

In order to get better at painting in watercolor, I'm embarking on a series...the alphabet, boy's set and girl's set (with purples, pink, orange, red, green and blues). Don't worry, each will have a soccer ball-ha! Each one will get better....that's the plan, YES!. (And of course,  I've already planned on going back and re-doing some once I turn into a WC expert!) The thing is, no one has ever taught me how to paint in watercolor, ever. I've figured it all out but I'll admit, it's not easy. Well, sometimes. A few things I am learning......

1.Make it quick, don't over work, heavens it gets muddy FAST.
2. I think I'd like to take a class but can't find any in our area that work with my schedule. Like 7pm Sunday night would work. I'm actually thinking about contacting the instructor of one of the local classes and seeing if I could do like a two hour private's that or BOOKS. I get too impatient with YouTube......too many bad videos.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
4. Invest in better paint (I'm using Winsor Newton Cotman series right now and sable brushes) and brushes. Paint is expensive but not bank breaking, but oh man, the brushes! I found a $600 brush today and almost choked on my breakfast.

I've been peeking at neighbor, Golly Bard's blog to get some tips from her. I love her art and her colors. I'm of course, doing something very different for these letters but ...actually maybe I should ask her for help (she lives a few towns away) but then I would feel like I was stalking her....but I'm not, really!

So you see, I'm not going in alphabet order. The "Q" is for my godson, Quinn. And the "P" is for my nephew.
I've set up a new Etsy shop called Carousel Court (yes, I grew up in Carousel Court here in Virginia). And when I have the first alphabet done, I'm going to put prints up.

I'm on to the "B".....then "S"......then hopefully, I can get back to ABC "order". I'm excited to take a whole alphabet picture. Whoopeeee!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Review: Prisoners

I've often thought of posting "what I thought of" a movie review-y kind of thing.....I mean, I google movies after I see them, sometimes in frustration (a lot) and occasionally because it was just so amazing (rare these days), usually I am googling for the soundtrack, like the great music in Our Idiot Brother, not so good movie but this is a great song....listen, you'll love it.

Okay, back to the subject at hand. I can't tell you how many times I re-write movies in my head. I love to edit. I love to make them better. I wonder why Hollywood doesn't come to me. Because I can tell you RIGHT off, what's wrong with your movie, any genre. My husband has started to really believe me, because I can tear holes in things like nobodies business. I can HOWEVER, suspend my disbelief if the movie warrants it. Don't think watching movies with me is some type of torture. I wonder, DO they even have test audiences anymore or is it just push play. So let's talk about Prisoners.

Here's the quick Warner Brother's synopsis:
How far would you go to protect your family? Keller Dover is facing every parent's worst nightmare. His six-year-old daughter, Anna, is missing, together with her young friend, Joy, and as minutes turn to hours, panic sets in. The only lead is a dilapidated RV that had earlier been parked on their street. Heading the investigation, Detective Loki arrests its driver, Alex Jones, but a lack of evidence forces his release. As the police pursue multiple leads and pressure mounts, knowing his child's life is at stake the frantic Dover decides he has no choice but to take matters into his own hands. But just how far will this desperate father go to protect his family? 

1. Why does Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) constantly blink? Constantly. I found myself just watching his eyes, wondering when he would blink next...when.....when.....blink....blink.....

2. How is it that the father, Hugh Jackman's ready for ANYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING, EXCEPT a little ole' grandma (watch movie, you'll agree). For a survivalist tough guy, he lets a little old lady take him TO THE SECOND LOCATION, Hugh, every woman who has ever watched Oprah knows, this is a BIG NO NO. By no means, let the little old lady take you to a second location.

3. The red herring. Dumb and made the movie about 30 minutes longer than the average person's attention span. Also, when Detective Loki is chasing the red herring, he lets him jump on top of him from a tree (yes, you read that right) and get away. Maybe it was because he was blinking too much.

4. The ending. Yes, it's one of those. The credits come on and whatever you had in your hand at the time is soon found hurtling toward the TV (if you saw this in the theater, it was probably your empty Junior Mint box). You most likely know what happens, you know, but I think they must have run out of money and thought, hey, this looks like a good place to stop.

These type of movies are tough to swallow. Usually, I say no to kids in danger in movies or kids as ghosts. But I thought, this may be the kind of movie that makes you think. What would I do for my kids? I answered that question quickly, I would do what Hugh Jackman did and more. It was pretty bad but not so bad that you cringed. Well, a little. I'm Irish and although I am a very pleasant person, I've been known to push over the neighborhood bully on roller skates, yeah, that's right.
It is a good movie, it has good bones. But it's kind of like a kid wearing cashmere in an art class. Dressed up, messy and baffling.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Best Quote Ever

amazing painting at the Mandarin Hotel in DC

 OK. I know Ray Bradbury's stories. Fahrenheit 451 was one of my favorites and Something Wicked This Way Comes (I've been meaning to read Dandelion Wine). But I didn't know him, like him, him...I stumbled on this amazing (overused) quote the other day,

“If you want to write, if you want to create, you must be the most sublime fool that God ever turned out and sent rambling. You must write every single day of your life. You must read dreadful dumb books and glorious books, and let them wrestle in beautiful fights inside your head, vulgar one moment, brilliant the next. You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads. I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Picture This

I've been absent.

Major change for me is like, trying to stir really thick cake batter. Yes, it's yummy, it's work, it's frustrating and you really shouldn't eat it uncooked and not expect your tummy won't hurt later. I admit. I was caught off guard. Going back to work full time put me in a flour covered kitchen with mitts for hands. The good part is, I love my job. I just don't like actually working (the schedule, the getting up, the "work" part). Does that make sense? I mean, I love teaching but doing it every day is like eating too much cake batter. Now, now, now, don't think that I don't put in 100% every day because, I, dear friends was the best student ever, and that just puts me in line to be a good teacher, direct lineage let's say. I take great pride in my job. But my mind is always wandering.....

 I've been putting in time. I've been practicing. I've been making mistakes and throwing things in the trash, lots of things in the trash. I've been reading and thinking and writing. I have been doing things on the GOOD paper and not caring if it comes out okay (having a full time job does help with my Dick Blick bills). Because, my end goal has always, and I do mean, always, to write and illustrate picture books. Always. Since I could hold a crayon.
So, why do you ask have I not been scooting down this road before? I have. But I was busy and tired and chasing little ones around. Oh my 30's-the lost decade as one 40 something mother told me (she had on a WHITE shirt, so I took her word for it that things would get better). I joined SCBWI, I went to a few conferences, I learned, observed and promptly went back to day dreaming. But that was then....

I'm just putting in the time.
We'll see what happens.

But first, before I get back to teaching myself how to really use's one of those cool moments, I was driving to my really old school in October ( I teach one day out of the five at a 100 year old school, one of each grade, 120 kids, room the size of the janitor's closet, but it's so historical it makes my heart jump) and I was thinking about how to get better. I was remembering that about a decade ago, I saw that the Corcoran had a course on children's book illustration. I was a new mom and driving in to Georgetown on a Monday night was out of the question. So, I waited until the following semester when, of course, the class wasn't offered anymore. I emailed the illustrator/instructor, Henry Cole, alas he was moving out of the area, so sorry he said. His email was warm and kind. Perhaps, I should find another course, a class....
Later that day, I see in my work email that Henry Cole is doing a school visit at MY SCHOOL. Now, really, what are the odds? Slim to none. He was back in the area and he, in fact, grew up in the town I was teaching in. Slim to none.
The day, he came, I was ALL grins. I felt like Elvis was in building. He was amazing, charming, hilarious and INFECTIOUS. I started drawing my characters again, I started writing again. He sparked me. His story was the same as mine. The kid who could draw. The kid who won all the poster contests. The kid who wrote books about ANYTHING and everything they could think of.
I did introduce myself. He was just as kind as anything. I didn't tell him that I wanted to grow up and be just like him. My smile told it all.
I like teaching. I love working with kids. He told stories and made my students heads explode with possibility. Mine as well. It was great day. A pivotal day.
Thanks Henry.

Now back to work......the batter is turning out nicely.

frozen snow days=time in my studio

my studio, pretty neat eh (as in not messy, amazing)

letter roughs, in order to practice watercolor, I am making the alphabet, boys/girls. The "Q" is for my godson.

practice, experiment, practice-how to work in collage? yes, no, maybe so. experiment.

just for me...things buried under the sea series

title page from vintage book series

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


 I've been gone since August on here. Life has been busy. Oh yes, we hear this all of the time but going back to teaching elementary school full time was not only a great move for me but knocked the wind out of me. I think I
feel like I'm getting used to keeping all of the plates in the air. Friday night was the pivot. I'll tell more pictures for place holding:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Boyleston Street

There's just something about the first leaf inside a book where someone has laid claim, marked a date or proclaimed their love for another. I've got a series of these. So simple and fun.

P.s-I'm not a bitter person at all so this is not coming from a place of well, bitterness, but the Lilla Rogers contest winners...well, I guess I didn't get the memo about weird creepy children and foxes being the subject matter they were looking for (and nothing really new, fresh or "outstanding", except, I liked Aimee Sicuro's). Also, if you dig a little further, most of the winners are current students of the Make Art That Sells class she offers...hmmm.......I think I detect a little teacher's petness going on. Still, I've been making some things I truly enjoy because I engaged myself in the process of entering the contest so really, that sells for me.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

If You Had Fun, You Won.

how i made my marbles

my color palette came from Station Wagon Holidays (a new find!)
work on the left is something new

inside the book

one of my favorite pages

 So I loved all of the colors in the Ford's Treasury Station Wagon Living and that's where I got my colors for my marble piece.

And, since I grew up in a station wagon, Caprice Classic, white and mammoth sized, I am enjoying the book immensely. (We called her the white whale by the way.)

I also remember the way way back, our back seat that had you riding backwards and peering right at the drivers behind you. I am sure it was only a little bit unnerving to be the driver behind us.

Now for a more earthy palette:

painting on an old book binder

I'm sealing the stain and adding layers of Sap Green and Payne's Gray-oh, so nature.

after I am done sealing and layering, I'm going to draw/paint in white ink into the waves, bones, shells, flowers, coral, odd things that don't belong in the sea. In the style as the flowers above. I'm entering this piece or one similar in a juried show. Once again, don't care if I win, which be nice just want to BE A PART.

And that folks is something to live by: as a wise PE teacher says to my children. "If You Had Fun, You WON." Use that however you like. I do.
In fact, I have a huge dent in my left shin bone. How did I get this you ask? Well on the day before the 3rd of July my husband and I stayed up late watching silly scary movies and having a few libations, it was all laughs and good times like a happy couple should have. But because, I HATE, "battening down the hatches", when it was finally time to go to bed, I decided to sprint up the stairs and leave him behind to lock up (I know, HOW nice of me). I thought it was funny, until SLAM, I slipped and rammed my shin bone into the step riser....almost to the bone.
BUT, say it with me, did I have fun? Yes. So, I won....and I have a pretty big scar to remind me.