To be an unassuming chronicler of life

Artists — be they writers, photographers, painters, musicians, or other – have different goals and reasons for why they create. Some claim their craft is a way of bringing fantasy to life, or of probing the subconscious.  Others say they make art to express specific ideas, to explore certain topics, or to give a voice to the voiceless. Some want to make the world a more beautiful place. And many don’t know why they create, they just know that “they must”.

I’ve slowly been making my way through the book Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. In it, I came across some words about the poet Mark Strand that really hit home for me.

“Patiently watching and listening to events unfolding around him, alternating between passionate involvement and sardonic detachment, [Strand] has found the pattern that best fits the predilections of his consciousness: to be an unassuming yet precise chronicler of life.”

“His craft” Mikkahily says “is to express in arresting and accurate language what he has learned from witnessing life”.

“Some artists get so involved in their creations that they lose their appetite for raw experience, but Strand welcomes ordinary life—puttering in the yard, having meals with the family, going on hikes, lecturing, even shopping.”

After all, “…the enterprise of writing makes sense only within the context of a broader, more mundane reality.”

Ah, to be a chronicler of life. Yes. That’s what it is.

Mundane, patterned, repetitive, unpredictable, beautiful, heartbreaking, changing, simple, complex, amazing life. I want to draw it all. Every day, forever.

Fall Walking - Crunching on Leaves

An old fall-y watercolor and ink illustration from my Illustration Friday days. It reminds me of back-to-school. Fall — such a poignant season of life!

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.


When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.


We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

– Mark Strand (Keeping Things Whole)


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Illustration Friday: Spark

The theme for Illustration Friday this week is “Spark.”

First I thought I’d draw the sparks that (I imagine) will one day explode out of the tangles of electrical cords that fill our apartment. But then I decided not to tempt fate and ended up making something a little less ominous.

So instead of exploding homes, here’s an illustration of an exploding heart. You know, like sparks flying during love at first sight!



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Illustration Friday: Twisted

The theme for this week’s Illustration Friday is “Twisted”. So here is a pen and ink illustration of some Ring-Tailed Lemurs!

IllustrationFriday_Lemurs_2According to Wikipedia, male ring-tails “will participate in stink fights by impregnating their tail with their scent and wafting it at opponents.” How…fun…

I also learned that ring-tails are very social, intelligent, and adorable. I spent a lot of time looking at pictures of them today — I just couldn’t stop! They’re so funny looking! If you’re ever feeling gloomy after too many days of winter, I highly recommend Googling ring-tails. It will lift your spirits.

Now I want to snuggle with one…

…or five or six.


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Illustration Friday: Prehistoric

This week’s theme for Illustration Friday is “Prehistoric”. I decided NOT to illustrate any dinosaurs, since I’ve done quite a few of them in my day. Instead, I made some Canada geese dressed up as dinosaurs.


What, you’ve never noticed how much geese look like dinosaurs? I used to stare out the window in high school at the geese grazing on the soccer field and pretend that they were little hungry dinos. (I guess that’s why I don’t remember very much European history!) Anyway, that’s what inspired this creation. It’s a tribute to my sixteen-year-old self, and a shoutout to Canada Geese, which are, after all, descendants of dinosaurs.

Also, since we’re having our millionth snow day of the year today, I decided to winterize my picture by illustrating the geese on a frozen lake. Hence the ice fishing cabins! Doesn’t it look cold?




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Illustration Friday: Exotic

The theme for Illustration Friday this week is Exotic. So here’s an exotic bird, perched atop my head:


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Illustration Friday: Search

This week’s Illustration Friday theme is “Search”. Here’s something I did quite quickly, just to get back into the Illustration Friday routine. It’s nothing fancy, but it does kind of remind me of the illustrations in the “Madeline” books, for some reason.


“Here, kitty kitty!”

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Illustration Friday: Spirit

December has been a busy month (what with commissioned artwork that needed to get done before Christmas, and an absurd amount of obligatory Christmas cookie baking), hence the slowdown of postings around here. Nevertheless, I did manage to make some time to do an illustration for Illustration Friday. This week’s theme is “Spirit”, so I’ve created for you a visual representation of my inner spirit.

You better not laugh!  I was quite afraid of revealing my “inner spirit” to you, and nearly backed out, but here she is:


This is how I feel when I am out in nature, particularly when I’m out at my grandma’s farm in Minnesota (I won’t ramble on about Grandma, but let me just tell you that she is the BEST!). I breathe in the fresh air and feel my spirit buoyed up by the amazing realization that I (yes, puny little me!) get to be a small part of the huge and glorious expanse of sky and earth that surround me. I feel radiant and free, whole and at peace.

But no, my hair isn’t really that long. Yet.

Stay tuned for later postings of some of the commissioned paintings I made this month!


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Illustration Friday: Shadow

This week’s Illustration Friday topic (posted Fri. Nov. 22): Shadow.

I guess I was feeling kind of old school. This reminds me of the ’80s.


I debated for a few seconds whether to make the text “Meow?” or “wtf?”, but meow won, as you can see.  I’m not really a “wtf” person, but that’s probably a more accurate way to express what the cat is thinking. I mean, his shadow IS looking at him, for cripes sake.

That’s all. Now go buy your frozen Thanksgiving turkeys.



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Illustration Friday: Tail

Hello hello!

I’ve been busy cranking out the illustrations for, can you believe it, what will be the third book I’ve illustrated this year (I’m not gonna lie, that feels pretty good to say!), but I did manage to spare some time to do an illustration for this week’s Illustration Friday topic.

The theme is “Tail”. And, just to shock you all, I did NOT do an illustration involving cats and their tails. No no, this is far better.

I give you:

Illustration Friday_Tail

Yes, yes, lest we forget, turkeys have tails too. As you can see above, Tom got his tail PERMED. Unfortunately, the ladies seem to find it unappealing. Poor Tom.

As an added bonus, I’m also sharing with you the sketches I did before doing the above illustration. Below are my trials and errors in figuring out a good way to render turkeys, both permed and…not-permed. I added some notes for educational purposes.


I bet you didn’t know that male turkeys have beards! (Or maybe you did…but didn’t). When I told him about turkey beards, my husband immediately did an unfruitful Google search to find out if you can pick a turkey up by its beard. Go figure.

The End.

Oh, but just in case you’re interested, here are links to the two books I illustrated earlier this year:

The Log House by Katarina S. Koep, illustrated by me

Spooky House by Katarina S. Koep, illustrated by me

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Illustration Friday: Secret

Happy November, everybody. Hopefully by now, you’ve all “Fallen Back” and have your clocks set appropriately.

I used to despise the end of Daylight Savings Time. My energy level seems quite in sync with the daylight. When the sun goes down, my productivity curls up in a ball and takes a drool-y nap (you know, like it sleeps with its mouth open and drools and snores). So, historically, when the sun started setting at 4:00 (actually, when I lived in Minnesota, it was more like 3:00…or 12:00…or maybe it never came up…[jk I love Minnesota, it’s my favorite]), I would spend a few days in an indignant rage towards the fools that initiated Daylight Savings in the first place. Didn’t they know they were putting all us sun-creatures at a severe handicap?!

THIS YEAR, however, I actually found myself looking forward to the time change. Because, brilliant child that I am, I realized that the sun going down earlier ALSO means the sun comes UP earlier! I love mornings. For me, they are the best times for making art, petting cats, and eating oatmeal. Yes, all joking aside, I seriously am a morning person. It is when I am most fruitful with generating ideas for art and getting started on projects. And the earlier I wake up, the better! But only if it’s not dark outside, and that is why the end of Daylight Savings Time is great.

The. End.

But not really. That was just a little ramble for you all. Now down to brass tacks. The theme for Illustration Friday (fyi: the theme is posted every Friday, and artists then have the following week to post their illustration of that theme before the next Friday, when a new theme is announced) is “Secret”. Here’s mine:


I was struggling a bit to come up with a quick idea (my projects gotta be quick these days because I’m in the midst of illustrating another children’s book) for “secret” that would be in keeping with my Fall theme but wouldn’t be centered around scenes from nature. As I’m sure you can see, most of my Fall illustrations have been about nature, and I wanted something fresh and different (even though nature is my favorite). Then I happened to come across a picture on the internet of a school bus, and my idea was born.

Fall and the school bus: they’re like peanut butter and jelly. I’ve given you enough rambling for today, so I won’t wax nostalgic about the “1 million reasons why stinky yellow buses are so meaningful to me at this time of year”. I’m sure you have your own school bus memories associated with this season, so feel free to indulge them and share in the Comments. What does this illustration make you think about?

Like I said, I’m not going to go on and on, but I’ll leave you with a morsel to tug your heartstrings and spark your curiosity:

Years ago, I played the trumpet in my high school’s marching band. We rode lots of school buses to football games and band competitions. When I was a freshman, I held hands with the boy who was the Drum Major while we rode the bus home, late one October night.

9 years later, I married him. It was October. And we were still holding hands.


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