Sunday, November 30, 2014


This morning I was preparing dried beans for baking, and found amongst them a good-sized stone. "Ah," I thought, "there must some connection between a stone in the beans, and art-making." All through breakfast I toyed with this idea. Finding a stone in the beans was like...finding a mistake in my spelling? Finding a clumsy line in my drawing? No, the stone in the bean wasn't just a mistake.  It was totally out of place. It could even be dangerous---if an unwary diner bit down on it with tooth-cracking gusto. So---the stone was like a flourescent color in a painting of pastels? Or like a brand-new character suddenly popping up at the end of a story---so jarring that an editor would reject the entire project out of hand?

Bother! I couldn't come up with anything I liked. Besides which, it was time to put the beans into the oven and sit down at my drawing board. So there's no moral or piece of wisdom attached to this posting. Except...

Sometimes a stone in the beans is . . . just a stone in the beans. 

As a consolation prize, here's my mother's baked bean recipe, slightly altered by me:


Soak 1 pound Maine Soldier beans overnight in plenty of water. The next morning, drain them well, discarding the soaking liquid. Cover with fresh water, bring to a boil, and simmer until the skins of the beans split when you remove a few from the pot and blow on them. Put a peeled, quartered (or chopped up, if you wish) medium-sized onion in the bottom of the bean pot. Strain out the beans from the water and add them to the pot. Pour over the top 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Add enough hot cooking liquid to reach the top of the beans. Cover and bake for 6 hours at 300, adding boiling cooking liquid or boiling water occasionally to keep the liquid near the top of the beans. 

For Mom's version, omit the olive oil; instead lay a chunk of salt pork, fat side up, on top of the beans before you put the pot into the oven.

Monday, November 17, 2014


I've been so busy with book projects that I haven't yet had time to restock my Etsy Store shelves for the coming holidays. For now I've lowered prices on some "merchandise" that was left over from last year.  And I'm working on a few fun items that I hope to add in the coming keep checking!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


 The American author and illustrator John Steptoe was born on September 14, 1950, and died at the age of 39, in August of 1989. His birthday is not in November, obviously.  But I have been thinking a great deal about him, because I recently came across my copy of his book The Story of Jumping Mouse.

It was seeing this title when it was first published that really made me sit up and look at this author/young illustrator. I have always loved using black and white media myself; and I have a great fondness for the black and white work of other artists. It is, after all, the most basic and intimate manner in which we visual artists can communicate.

So when I opened Jumping Mouse back in 1985 and saw those gorgeous black and white images, full of energy, power, contrast, excitement---well, I was hooked. And I still am.
The fascinating thing about this artist is that he was so versatile and had so many ways of seeing. Would you have guessed that this brilliant, in-your-face illustration from the book Stevie was from the hand of the same artist?

Steptoe used another completely different style for Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters.
Yet another handling of images.

The publishing world, and sometimes readers as well, often want an illustrator to repeat him or herself in his work---to have a single recognizeable style. If Steptoe had lived longer, he might have begun to prefer one of his styles over others as he matured. Or he might have continued on his glorious path of constant change and unpredictability. It's unfortunate that his early death prevented us from following his career and work for a longer time. But we are fortunate indeed to have had him for as long as we did.