When is art real?


Today I posted this on my FaceBook page:


I’m reading Jacqueline Winspear’s “Maisie Dobbs” books and this question was put to Maisie Dobbs in the current book I’m reading:


The above quotation is my paraphrasing of a question put to Maisie Dobbs in an interview. I like to ponder the imponderable questions in life.  Especially when the question strikes close to home in my own creative life and struggles.

As an illustrator, editors, art directors, and book designers like to see what an illustration or entire book will look like before the finished art is completed.  This is always a peril for me because once I have worked out the composition for an illustration, and can see exactly how it will look as a finished piece (in my mind), the illustration is finished.  I pretty much lose interest in the picture but still have to do the finished hands on work to create the finished illustration that will appear in a book.

So, when I came across the question as to “When is art real?” it gave me pause to understand why I struggle so much in finishing the art for a book.  In my mind once I know what it’s going to look like it’s finished.

Words to live by…


Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 2.33.35 PM.png

Four days ago six tiny baby mice appeared in the kitchen here at John’s house in Dearborn.  We did our best to feed them (kitten milk replacement formula as instructed) and kept them warm and safe.  None of the week old baby mice survived despite all our efforts.

Since I was a young boy I have always loved animals and birds.  Especially farm animals and small animals.  I cannot bear to see any animal suffer or be mistreated.  We were so hopeful that these baby mice would survive and would live out their life with us, cared for and loved.

Here are some photos of the tiny mice.

First Baby 2.jpg

Fedding 4a.jpgMilky Mouth 3.jpgMilky Mouth 4.jpg

Nest of Babies.jpg

Summer reading murder mysteries…


I’ve spent most of the summer reading murder mysteries by M. C. Beaton, Peter May, and Jacqueline Winspear.  I have become a huge fan of all three writers.  Each one appeals to me for different reasons, but the one thing they all have in common is the fact that they are all outstanding writers!   Brilliant, actually.

I read/listened to all the Hamish Macbeth mysteries over a period of 40 days or so.  Then I moved on to Peter May’s Lewis trilogy.  I took a break from these beautifully written books only because they are a bit more gritty and graphic than the “cozy” murder mysteries of Beaton and Winspear.

Here is the Lewis trilogy:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.31.34 PM

I particularly love the cover designs and artwork done for the front covers!

It’s been a while…


It’s been a while since I posted anything in this Writing Blog.  I really haven’t had much of anything to write about.  I’m still at an impasse in the studio and decided that I needed inspiration in order to break through the bottleneck.  I decided to do what inspires me most—READ!

In May I read nearly all of M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth murder mysteries.  Great stories (except for the last few).   The stories are set in the Scottish Highlands.  Naturally, I had an intrinsic interest in them.  And I have become a devotee of Hamish Macbeth and all things Lochdubh.

Here is the complete listing of the books if you’d like to give them a try.  They are “cozy” murder mysteries, not the grisly graphic violent sort.   I also listened to all the books on Audible.  The name following the title is the reader of that particular book.  Shaun Grindell was my favorite and the best reader for the stories.


  1. Death of a Gossip March 1985              Anthony Ferguson


  1. Death of a Cad February 1987          Anthony Ferguson


  1. Death of an Outsider November 1988       Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Perfect Wife November 1989       Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Hussy November 1990       Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Snob July 1991                   Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Prankster June 1992                  Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Greedy Woman April 1993       Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Travelling Man  December 1993     Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Charming Man September 1994       Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Nag July 1995                    Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Macho Man August 1997             Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Dentist August 1997             Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of a Scriptwriter June 1998                  Shaun Grindell


  1. Death of an Addict May 1999                  Davina Porter

            Note: Very bad reviews


  1. A Highland Christmas November 1999       Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Dustman March 2001               Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Celebrity   January 2002             Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Village March 2003               Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Poison Pen   February 2004           Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Bore February 2005           Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Dreamer           February 2006           Graeme Malcolm

not the best mystery


  1. Death of a Maid March 2007               Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Gentle Lady February 2008          Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Witch March 2009               Graeme Malcolm


NOTE: All the following books got really bad reviews from readers


  1. Death of a Valentine January 2010             Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Chimney Sweep March 2011            Graeme Malcolm

            Note: Bad reviews


  1. Death of a Kingfisher March 2012               Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of Yesterday           April 2013                  Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Policeman February 2014           Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Liar           February 2015           Graeme Malcolm


  1. Death of a Nurse           February 2016           Graeme Malcolm

Here are the front covers of the first two books:

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.24.23 PM

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 2.24.40 PM


To write in a journal



12973041_10208646307412429_7302323271562789593_oSTUDIO UPDATE:  The other day I came across a word in someone’s post.  This word is one that grates on my nerves every time I see it or hear it—journaling.

As a writer I do write in a journal, every day.

I keep a journal, every day.

I carry a journal with me everywhere I go, every day.

I write in my journal but I don’t journal anything.

PLEASE, I beg of you, “journaling” is not a verb, let alone a word.

Simply state: I wrote in my journal today.  It was gratifying.

You don’t have to add the “It was gratifying.” if it wasn’t.






The Tale of Hilda Louise


Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 4.11.48 AMHard to believe that twenty  years ago a picture book that I wrote and illustrated titled The Tale of Hilda Louise was published.  This is the only time in my career that I did the illustrations in oils—large oil paintings 18″x24″.  I was going through my Edward Hopper phase and wanted the pictures to have the same stark moodiness that can be seen in his paintings.  The story is set in Paris at the turn-of-the-century.  I loved this book  until my editor convinced me to rip the heart out of the story.   This will never happen again.

Hilda Louise is an orphan.  Until one day something very strange and very magical changed her life.  She starts floating.  She floats all over Paris and in the pictures you see an artist below her busily engaged in painting.  She sees him, but he never sees her.

At the end of the original story Hilda Louise starts to descend from the sky, floats through an open window of a top floor garret, and there is the painter.  He looks up, sees Hilda Louise floating just above his head and cries out, “Ah, ma cherie, at last I found you.”  Hilda Louise replies “Non, Papa, it is I who have found you.”

My editor at the time felt strongly that Hilda Louise could NOT be an orphan IF her father was to be discovered to be alive and well at the end of the story.  I argued that at the beginning of the story the reader doesn’t know that the father is still around.  After many unhappy discussions I finally agreed to change the story from Hilda Louise finding her father to finding her uncle.  NOT the same impact.  NOT the same compelling reunion.  The heart of the story was ripped out.

AND…another wonderful line was cut from the story because of this change:  Hilda Louise asks her father where her mother is and his reply is, “Ah, I lost her somewhere on the Left Bank.”

As a result of this story being so drastically changed I learned to trust my own instincts as a writer.  Never again will I let any editor tamper with the original intent of my words.

There is a great deal of symbolism in this simple story.  The most important being that Hilda Louise’s “floating” symbolizes hope.  Her hope of finding her mother and father.  Her hope of having a better life outside the orphanage.

The final ending of the story did remain intact, thank the bees and trees.  When Hilda Louise and her father return to Mes Petits Choux Orphanage to visit Mme Zanzibar remarks to Hilda Louise, “Hilda Louise, did I tell you that little Marian Lee has begun floating?”  Hilda Louise and her father look up and there, above their heads, is little Marian Lee polishing the crystal chandelier.

Again, the concept here is that yet another orphan may have a brighter future.

The name Hilda Louise is taken from two of my favorite aunts—my mother’s sister, Aunt Hilda and my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Louise.  Little Marian Lee’s name is that of my mother.

Screen Shot 2016-03-22 at 4.18.35 AM