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Saturday, November 30, 2019

One of My Favorite Pieces, and Why

I created this piece a few months ago. It never got a title, but I intended it to be the diploma given to the pair Reynard the Fox and Phillipa the owl on the occasion of their graduation from first form shaman school. Reynard is the future shaman and Phillipa his future familiar. These are actual characters in my book Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor, (which you can find on or on by searching either the title or my name - or follow the link to the right) but they are much older by the time that story begins.

The text is in Theban script, first published in 1518 by Johannes Trithemius in his Polygraphia where he attributed it to Honorius of Thebes. Sometimes it's referred to as a 'witches' script,' but I just like the look of it. It's an alphabet, so to use it you transcribe the letters in whatever language you're writing in. Here, I used the script to record the details of the diploma.

In collage, I really like the look of script that the viewer probably can't read. Sometimes - like here - the script has actual meaning relevant to the piece (in which case I should probably record the meaning on the back). Other times, the meaning is not relevant to the piece - like the ancient Greek text I tore from one of my books and used in the collage background. I most often use relevant script as a starring elements in the collage, while irrelevant script is usually just there for visual texture.

The three major elements of this collage are the fox drawing, the owl drawing, and the diploma text. I completed a few layers of background collage before I added any of the main elements. Once they were glued on and the glue was dry (actually, not glue, but Liquitex matte gel medium) I colored the fox and owl with acrylic washes. Then I added more collage, more washes (sometimes including washes of white gesso to push things back, detail pencil work, and, finally, the glass cabochons.

Speaking of the glass cabochons, actually using the big cut glass piece on top was a real challenging decision. I've had it for a few years and I can't get another. So I had to assure myself that the piece was worthy of it and, after some thought, it passed that test.

So what do I like about this piece?

Well, first the concept because the meaning is special to me, being connected to my book and starring one of my very favorite animals, a fox.

Second, I really like the drawings of the fox and owl.

I'm very fond of the pale colors and the palette itself. This is a piece with colors I don't use on a regular basis.

I like the spiritual feeling of it,

and the composition of values.

I like all the fussy tiny pencil detail, especially around the edge of the colored part, and it was really fun to do. I love that stuff!

And - I like the silver paint I used. I've been convinced for a while now that I didn't have a good silver paint. But I used by Golden fluid silver and found that I liked it. That splotch below the owl and to the left of the fox is a smear of silver. I also splattered silver here and there. And the edge of the piece is a finger smear of silver. ('Finger smear,' you may ask. Yes, I dip the tip of my finger into the paint then run my finger along the edge of the painting.)

That's a long list of things I like. And I guess that's another reason in itself. I like that I like so many things about it!

Doing a piece of collage that I really like sometimes makes me wonder about my decision to focus on writing and illustrating. But focusing doesn't mean doing something exclusively. I treat the week days as my work days so spend that time on writing and illustrating. Often it spills over into the weekends. But if I have another art project that I really want to do, I just work on it on Saturdays and Sundays. It seems to work for me.

I'd love to hear from you, dear readers. Perhaps you can share your favorite piece. I'd love to see it!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Back to it, and Glad of it!

It's been many months since I last posted. I had committed to focusing on writing and illustrating my book and was into the writing stage. Somehow, I just couldn't figure out what to say about writing! In the past, writing about doing art came naturally, but without an image to write about I was lost. So I took the simple route and gave up!

But now I'm back, and determined to post regularly, once a week. I'm on Facebook more often (links in the right margin). But I plan to go into more depth here. So I hope you'll find your way back to me - as well as following me on Facebook - and enjoy what I have to share. And please know I'm really interested in hearing from you. One-way conversations can be pretty boring!

The image is the cover of my book, Tales of Love and Courage from Milkweed Manor. Just last week I finished it and listed it on both and It's a series of 9 stories about the same group of characters - animals living in a forest community behind an old English manor house. It's 46,000 words (about 150 pages) with 34 illustrations. It took me nearly a year, and it's an accomplishment I'm proud of. I'm proud of the story and the illustrations, but also that I was able to stick to it and get it done and out there in the world. The writing was the easiest. The illustrations posed some challenges. But the self-publishing was quite an ordeal - an ordeal that will be less so next time!

As far as the writing goes, joining an on-line writers' support group, the Author Transformation Allance (Facebook) led by Audrey Hughey, was indescribably helpful. Thank goodness I was already in the group when I realized there was so much to know. Audrey and the group were there to support me. Through that group I began to truly realize how much help there is out there if one just reaches out for it.

There's kind of a lot to say about the illustrations,, so I'll save that for another time - or, more likely, many more other times.

Now that I've been through the mechanics of self-publihsing it doesn't seem that mysterious, but at the time it had me stumped time after time. I made so many mistakes and took so much time correcting them. But I'm glad I went through the process. I learned so much and now I can do it again. Many self-published (also called "indie") authors hire out much of the process, including many levels of editing, cover design, book formatting, uploading to the print-on-demand companies (like the Kindle Direct Publishing division of Amazon  or Lulu), marketing, and so on. I made the decision early on to do as much as I could myself. In fact, the only thing I hired out was line editing and, of course, I had five volunteer beta readers to whom I am most grateful. The benefit is having more control over both the process and the timing.  

I've already started on the second book in the series, as well as a Christmas book for next year. Writing and illustrating just feels right, and it's very exciting!

PS To see my book, select the link on the right to my books on Amazon (the top image, the one of my book cover), or go to and search for Kaaren Poole. For the next month or so, Lulu is the only place the hardback version will be available.