“Acorns and Twigs” Watercolor and Ink Painting

Acorns and Twigs

Back in September, I went out one morning with my camera to look for the first signs of Fall. The leaves hadn’t begun to change yet — it still pretty much looked like summer (except that the playgrounds were empty because everyone went back to school). There were no sights, yet, that gave me that “mind-blown-by-fall’s-intensity” feeling that I had hoped to find.

So I decided to swap out my eyeballs for a pair more attuned to spotting the subtle things. Then I looked down and lo, I found the beginning of fall’s bounty, scattered everywhere beneath my feet.

Here’s my watercolor and ink drawing/painting that came out of that experience. It’s my celebration of the unexpected beauty I found on a dirt path one morning in September.

(And hey, if you want to celebrate, too, you can buy this at Society 6).

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Watercolor Leaves: For Sale at Society 6!

Watercolor Fall LeavesHi Friends! Happy October!

You might remember this painting from March, when I posted it for the first time. Now it, along with some of my other work, is available as a print here:


I just started with Society 6, so not all my work is up yet. Be sure to keep checking back to see what’s new as I continue to add more stuff! (And spread the word to anyone you think might be interested).

Hope you enjoy this beautiful season. I love October, and I’m determined not to let a second of it pass me by :)

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Poles and wires: Illustrating what gets overlooked in day-to-day life

Telephone Poles
I’m not sure why, but telephone, cable, and electricity poles really fascinate me. I was snapping photos of them all summer because they kept grabbing my attention and screaming “DO SOMETHING WITH ME”. When I see them, my imagination runs wild.

Maybe I’m bemused by them because they seem more “organic” than other parts of our modern day infrastructure. Nature, it seems, won’t allow the power companies to overtake it. Instead, she incorporates the wires into the environment by tangling them in vines, covering them with trees, and spangling them with birds (yes I DID just say “spangling”, thank you!).

Yes, I take notice of these things – or rather, they FORCE me to notice them. Take a walk with me in town and I can show you the stretch of wire where all the pigeons like to gather. And I can take you to the one where, at approximately 5 PM each day, the mockingbird sits and talks to himself. Then there’s the spot where a tree trunk is literally ABSORBING a wire into its expanding girth. It’s great.

Well, after a nonstop summer, I finally found a moment to harness my obsession and make a careless illustration about it. While I was hoping my doodle would turn out more “whimsical” looking, it is, at least, a start.  I’ve learned that when I’m approaching new subject matter, I tend to start out with a more “realistic” drawing before I let loose. I guess that’s how I familiarize myself with things. It’s an exercise in observation through which I find my jumping off points — it helps me find the creative elements that I want to extract and play with later. So this might just be step 1 in yet another, lifelong side-project/distraction. (Add it to my restless desire to document all of life’s plants, birds, and cats, forever and ever, Amen). Woo, a mission! I shall, one day, bring the Telephone Pole to the forefront of artistic coolness!

But, lest you think I’ve wandered off the deep end, don’t worry! I haven’t really let the telephone poles take over my brain – I’ve got other projects going on, especially now that it’s FALL! But like my husband constantly reminds me, life is long. Goodness knows the telephone poles aren’t going anywhere. So for now I’ve calmed down (yeah right) and am, as always, carrying on with my creative endeavors. The telephone poles will be nearby when next I have time to rendezvous with them.

Whew! What a relief.

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Today’s Illustration, Brought to You By the Letter “L”

L Things Illustration

Here’s the front of a birthday card I made for a certain sister of mine whose name begins with “‘L”. It was just a quick illustrated tribute to all the “L” things that I could think of (and was willing to draw) in one short afternoon. The inside of the card said “There are a lot of things in the world that start with ‘L’, but they ain’t got nothin’ on you!” That’s right, sister. I love you more than Leonard Nimoy!

Illustrated alphabets are always fun. I did a quick Google search this morning to find other artists’ versions of the ABCs that I could share with you, but (it’s no surprise) — there are so many! Thankfully, I stumbled upon Maria Popova’s list of unusual alphabet books (she’s the genius behind Brainpickings, a great blog for people who like art, writing, and exploring the depths of human creativity) and will leave it to her to show you some of the best.

That’s all for the moment. As always, thanks for stopping by!

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Watercolor and Ink Sunflower Paintings and A Theme for Summer

If dandelions and dandelion puffs were my inspiration this past spring, then it’s only fair to say that my summer has been all about the sunflowers.

Now, unlike cats, vegetables, and pickled things, sunflowers don’t immediately come to mind when listing off “Things Jacque Loves”. I always thought sunflowers were “meh, you know…fine…” but my appreciation for them didn’t extend much farther than being nostalgic for the fabulous sunflower-printed denim shorts I had when I was 5 and my monthly habit of roasting sunflower seeds to make into nut-butter (yum). But this year…THIS YEAR…they’ve certainly won a place on my list of “excellent things”.

What’s so great about sunflowers? They are BRIGHT and YELLOW! They are HUGE! And they are oh so delightfully SCRAGGLY! (Hm, this sounds an awful lot like a description of Big Bird). Their bulky blooms demand attention and seem to grow anywhere and everywhere. They’re so chunky that I want to take a bite out of one, but they’re so dynamic that if I did, it would probably whomp me on the head with its big ol’ flower. I can see where Van Gogh was coming from when he painted all his sunflowers. They are real characters, and this summer they took over my brain.

It started with these guys in May:sunflowers

And some cupcakes I made for my sister’s baby shower:Sunflower Cupcakes

Then there was the sunflower tree:SunflowerTree

And some sketchbook experiments:

Ink and Watercolor Sunflower Sketch

Sunflower Sketch from Lake George

And it culminated in this (the “real” project, if you will, that spawned out of those other little “studies”):

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

A tribute to the sunflower that was in our summer CSA share

So now I will say “farewell” to the Summer of Sunflowers and forge ahead. I wonder, what will Autumn bring?

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Whale Illustration: Keeping Warm in the Arctic (in Style)

Who doesn’t love a good whale illustration? The idea for this guy came out of no where one morning while I was stalling on getting ready to go to a friend’s wedding. Beluga Keeping Warm

You never know when a good idea will strike! (Maybe I was predicting that the wedding I was headed to would be nautical themed…). Anyway, thanks to this guy, I was almost late to the wedding. But waking up with your head full of ideas for whale illustrations — is there any better way to start the day?

Prints of this guy and others are available now at my Etsy shop!


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Sunflower Tree

SunflowerTreeA few weekends ago, a dear friend and I went on a sketching adventure in Boston. We sketched here and there while wandering around enjoying the summer scenes of the city. Near Chinatown, we stumbled upon a community garden that was so extraordinary that we had to pass through it 3 times to fully soak it in. People were growing all sorts of crazy vegetables I’ve never seen before : 3-foot-long beans, GIGANTIC gourds, warty-looking melons…

…and then we saw the sunflower tree! It’s stalk must have been as fat as the trunk of a fir tree. It even had a woodpecker pecking at it. My friend and I marveled at the sunflower tree like tourists visiting the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. In retrospect, it seemed like the perfect symbol of summer’s glory.

Since we were on our way to lunch (walking through tunnels of veggies makes a woman HUNGRY!), we didn’t stop to sketch in the gardens, but my friend snapped a photo of our tree and sent it to me later. I used it as reference for this illustration I did at home. Now it’s in my “sketch journal” to memorialize a summer day well spent in the delightful company of a kindred veggie-loving soul.


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Beyond Inspiration: What it REALLY Takes to be an Artist

The Essential Ingredients for Making Art

The Essential Ingredients for Making Art

I talk a lot about inspiration. Being “inspired” is a powerful experience – it’s what kindles the need to make art (at least, for me). So it’s easy to believe that inspiration is the primary ingredient of art making.

Van Gogh was inspired by the colors of the landscape…
Tolkein was inspired by mythology…

Well, here’s the rub. Excluding the times when I’m sleep deprived, worn out from too many social events (we introverts gotta recharge, y’know), or stuck indoors for too long, I’d say I’m basically always “inspired”. There’s LOTS of stuff that gives me that hot-skinned, frenzied urge to make art. But am I always making it? Does every inspiration lead to a tangible creation on my part? No.

It’s a real coming-of-age experience when you grow up wanting to be an artist, only to realize that, just like everything else
it’s a lot of work.

Inspiration is a fine ingredient, but it doesn’t make art. It’s really only the first step.

Then comes the planning, the choosing of materials, the mastering of materials, the focusing (and re-focusing…and refocusing some more), and the entire process of getting it done.

It takes willpower. Willpower is the determination to get it done despite difficulty, unexpected turns in the process, and distractions. It’s having the persistence to practice and develop your skills, to force yourself to grow. It’s being committed to seeing it through, no matter what.

It takes purpose. There has to be a reason for why you are putting in the effort at all. If there’s no reason why the art should get made, then why not just stay in the comfortable, no-effort-needed state of inspiration? Inspiration itself is not a purpose, but wanting to SHARE what inspired you is. Knowing you have something you can give to the world is a purpose. (So is knowing that if you DON’T make it, you’ll lose your paying client. But that’s another story…). Connecting to people by sharing the way you see the world – that is a worthy purpose.

Being an artist also takes confidence. Throughout the process, you’ll have your doubts. You’ll think you’re doing it wrong, or that you have NO idea what you’re doing at all, or that you’re wasting your time. The process will start going differently than you expected, and you’ll start to worry that it’ll kill you in an inferno of fiery embarrassment. But if you know your purpose, then you can at least have confidence in your voice. And then you can decide, despite all doubts, to at least pretend you feel confident in your abilities. You SHOULD be confident! Skill-wise, you are where you are. You’re not perfect – you’ll always be learning – but for now, you’re exactly where you need to be in your development. For me, deciding to just be confident, regardless of how lame I actually feel, is the key to keeping unhelpful thoughts from convincing me to give up. It’s a way of prioritizing what self-talk I’m going to allow myself to listen to. I don’t have time for Mr. Brain’s negative propaganda. I’m only going to pay attention to the critiques that are constructive.

And finally, it takes faith. Faith that your project will turn out, even if you aren’t sure where it’s headed right now. Faith that your art will succeed at communicating something when it’s finished. And faith in art, period. You have to believe that art is worthwhile, that it is an essential part of being human. Believe that your contribution will provide something valuable to people.

It will. (But only if you share it!)

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Brought to You From Green Meadows Farm: Beets and Radishes!

My husband and I have been enjoying the first few weeks of our summer produce share from a local CSA, Green Meadows Farm. This week’s share featured various greens, a handful of garlic scapes, a pint of organic strawberries, and a stoic cucumber. All were delicious, but I have to say, it was the beets and radishes that stole the show. Why? Well… (excuse my shallowness)…because they are BEAUTIFUL!

This week’s share also brought with it a miracle. That’s right friends, a miracle! Here’s how it played out:

Rewind to a few weeks ago, when I bought some beets from the grocery store and roasted them for dinner. Upon sitting down to eat, I discovered, to my shock and dismay, that I could not STAND the taste of beets anymore! Thus ensued an identity crisis in which I was forced to grapple with some big existential questions. Who was I without beets? What monster had I become? Was it possible that I…Jacque…the SUPREME Lover of Beets, would henceforth have to be called Jacque, Supreme Lover of All Vegetables EXCEPT Beets? Oh the turmoil. It was tough.

Then we got this week’s vegetable share from the farm, and my heart broke when I saw the beets. For 4 days I avoided eating them, choosing, instead, to commune with them artistically. Finally, this morning, a revelation came down from the sky (it WAS thundering, after all):

Put the beets in your oatmeal.” 

So I washed one, shredded it with the grater, and cooked it into my morning porridge (along with some other good stuff).

And — joy and jubilation — my heart of stone was made alive once more. For it was delicious, and beautiful to boot.

The end.

Beets_Sketch(And just for kicks, here are the radishes):


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Ink and Watercolor Sweetgum Tree

The other day, I was gazing out my studio window, looking for things to feel cheery about, when a sweetgum tree caught my eye. The sun was shining intensely through its leaves, making them glow like green paper lanterns. It struck me, then, that during both night and day, the sky is filled with visible stars. The day stars just happen to be green, herbaceous ones.



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