Pick a card….any card

I’ve been playing with the idea of making note cards from photos I’ve taken and things I’ve drawn and I think I’ve come up with some nice designs. I’m breaking them into groups to be offered as sets or pick-n-choose. As a lateral from that I’ve created some computer wallpaper in 1920×1080 pixel size. Here are some examples. What do you think?

Isolation has it’s benefits

Princess Theatre March 2020 Princess Theatre in the ghost town formerly known as Edmonds March 2020

I have always felt that I am an extremely lucky guy. Not because my draft 1969 classification was 4F resulting from a nearly fatal car accident, or making it through several illnesses, near-drownings, and badly broken hearts. It’s because I have something that I can do anywhere, anytime with minimal requirements…drawing. It has eliminated boredom from my life since elementary school. All it requires is a pen, or pencil, or chalk, or a stick and some dirt, or a dusty surface, or even just a piece of ice plant and a sidewalk. Learning techniques and tools helps but it’s more like the oft-quoted directions to Carnegie Hall “Practice, practice, practice”.

So when Shelter In Place came along and my wife was kept so much more than busy as an Essential Worker at a retirement community, I simply retreated to my home studio and burrowed in. So far the result has been a growing collection of note cards and computer desktop backgrounds that are a combination of photos I’ve taken and drawings I’ve made.

The days are going so quickly ! First, there’s a leisurely breakfast and then the arduous 20 step commute to the drawing table. I start up the computer, break out the paper and pencil, and when I pick my head up again the day is over, my essential worker essential wife is back home, and all is once more well with my world. I am so incredibly lucky and thankful.

I’m continuing to create until I have enough designs to begin selling on Etsy or a similar outlet. The note cards are standard size on nice heavy stock and will come in sets of ten cards with envelopes. I will set it up so that I can personalize them with your return address and such The backgrounds are 1920×1080 pixels ( for the popular larger screens). Some have quotes or inspirations, while others are simply the artwork. The desktop/backgrounds will be an easy download or come as a set on a thumb drive.

I’m sure as time goes on more will be added but here’s a slideshow sampling of some of them I’ve completed so far. Let me know if you are interested and I’ll keep you posted on where you can buy them. Until then stay home. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Please enjoy the slides and comment below!

Kevin

 

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A look back…

End cap display topping for Jingle Belle by Stephen Cosgrove

I was talking with an old friend recently and the subject of how fun it was to work together came up. It made me look back to what truly seems like another life… I was living in Southern California, working days at LAX, and Daddying my two little ones while my wife worked nights. In the time left over I was trying to be a commercial artist. I loved almost every minute of almost all of that time. Flashing a few years forward, I was living in the Pacific Northwest and still plugging way at commercial art. My focus was changing to artwork more aimed at the long held desire of illustrating for children’s publications. I had sold some things to Highlights Magazine and other small sucesses and kept “pounding the bricks” with tons of self promo going to art dirctors, authors, and editors. That’s when I first stumbled on Serendipity Books by Stephen Cosgrove. Everybody in the PNW already knew who he was and loved his books.

After I sent a few promotional pieces and letters his wife saw my work and like it…or just took pity on me. She began sliding one particular piece under his nose. Soon we were working on all sorts of projects. One project was a series of books titled Earth Angels. As with most of Stephen’s books these teach about our shared values in the most Un-preachy way I’ve found. During our conversation I thought immediately of one of my favorites – Jingle Belle – The Value of Giving. Jingle was sent to earth to update the book of Miracles with all of the gifts given from the heart. It is a great story especially considering we’re in the midst of the holiday season.

Jiungle Belle

If you get the chance check out the book and while you’re at it you should visit Stephen’s website stephencosgrove.com . While you’re there download his gift to everyone. It’s an audio production for his upcomming KidTalk Radio. Your kids will love it. Look for Prancer on the right-hand side of the page and enjoy.

Maybe not just kiss the cook?

I remember my Grandfather , R. B. McCarthy, as a loving and fascinating man. Despite my Mother thinking of him as dashingly handsome, when I compared to the men in advertisements and movies he was more , shall we say “average looking”. So when I began reading his journals and all the stories of the exotic women with whom he was “intimately involved” I wondered. Did he have some secret the rest of us mere mortals missed?     It wasn’t long before my research began paying off. The biggest answer was what I was learning to do and what this blog is all about. Cooking! It seems to be a well documented fact that women find men cooking a very sexy thing. There is something sensual about cooking, even if it is simply creating a drink or a cup of coffee. Perhaps that’s why bartenders are so sexy to women? Many of the articles I read said things like  “Men in the kitchen is super sexy…It’s hard not to fall in love with the man watching him cook for you! 

 While there are still some women out there who prefer the kitchen duties and don’t want a man in the kitchen, most women now find a man who can cook pleasing in many different ways. Developing new skills makes you more interesting, and cooking is definitely one of the skills. A man who can cook can add something new and positive into a woman’s life. So, when she can see that you can cook, and that you enjoy doing it, she knows her future with you is going to be anything but stereotypical. Romance is important. It’s a big part of what this blog is all about . Men who can cook have the ability to create a romantic dinner with a romantic atmosphere at home. Like I say, why simply create a great meal when you can create a full blown fantasy evening? While going out for dinner can be nice, staying at home can help you be as sexy as romantic as you want.    It’s been my experience that every romantic situation begins with good conversation. Everyone likes talking about food so cooking can be a great conversation starter. Bragging about your cooking skills can be dangerous but talking about bad experience often means that you can make her laugh (which is super important for attraction). Moreover, you can develop a sense of connection using one of the most fundamental elements in everyone’s life – food. So, unless she doesn’t like to eat, talking of your experience with cooking can help you connect with any woman on a deeper level.  If a man cooks incredible things ( like you can lean here) he can always set up a budget-friendly date like a picnic or dinner at home. It does away with not dating because you’re broke. If you just started dating, then there are plenty of places you can go to have a picnic, and if you know each other a little, and feel comfortable inviting her over, then the date becomes even cheaper. One of the articles said it nicely : “I do know that watching a man use his hands to delicately create something turns my mind towards what else his hands can delicately do!” I rest my case.

How I learned to love homework

I have a tiny studio in my home that is my workspace, refuge and factory. A place where occasionaly incense floats through the air only to be replaced by the smell of paints, and music permeates it all. Working from home I have produced artwork for numerous children’s books, commercial art like business cards and corporate logos, plus more self promotions and speculative projects than I need to list here. It is where I am the most relaxed and by far the most creative. So it always cracks me up when I hear people tell me they “don’t have the self discipline to work from home. “

Admittedly I may have some advantage because most of my school years were under the rule of Catholic nuns to whom discipline, self reliance and responsibility were imperatives . But setting that aside It still makes me wonder about some people. First of all being incapable of working unsupervised isn’t something I’d want to broadcast about myself. Secondarily, and much more importantly, I feel sorry for you if you don’t have something in your life you truly enjoy doing. Something that is wonderfully totally utterly consuming. For me that is art. It makes me feel alive. I crave new projects, new challenges, new outlets and typically spend much more time with each project, and at a much higher focus rate, than I would ever invest in a conventional 9 to 5  “Real Job”.      The self discipline they talk about is an attitude, a way of approaching things. It starts with viewing Artwork as a job… as work. Otherwise we’d be calling it Artplay.  Artwork is what I do to make a living. It is my job. I create something for others to use. What the client wants, or the Art Director dictates is what I produce. It is why they pay me.  Art is something I do for myself. It is an expression or a statement, a release or fulfilling of an urge or a thought. if I earn money making art it is an unexpected bonus. I rarely begin an art piece with the idea of selling it. While I get a great rush from illustrating a book or creating a logo, in the end it is a pleasurable means to making money. I admit that it took some work getting past my Hippie mindset telling me that making money from creating art was somehow distasteful , but now it is easy to keep Art and Artwork seperated and that other side of me is satisfied. 
               Where the Muse leads me to is Art. It is mine to share. Of and from me.  I knew at a young age that being creative for a living was my path. The life of an artist suits me very well. I’ve worked many “Real Jobs”  for small companies and large corporations. All the while I learned my craft on the side and learned just how business works. It also allowed me to fully experience why working for someone else makes no sense to me. With all that said I feel incredibly fortunate to be able carry on through this life doing what I love and possibly making a memory in some little person who sees my pictures.

And now to make sure it continues, you will excuse me while I get back to work, right?

Grandpa’s Nutz !

Spicey Boozy Christmas nuts

grandpas nutz

    Christmas is a time for remembering. One of my favorite holiday memories is the fun of singing our family version of Deck the Halls Drink the rum and lets’ be jolly” and my little sister and I shouting out the last line “Grandpa’s nuts! Grandpa’s nuts!”  According to our parents, Grandpa was magically, wonderfully, lovingly, totally nuts and we cherished him all the more for it. So in the back of my head I thought it was odd that we would make fun of him.
As the holidays approached every year we anxiously awaited the mail anticipating our yearly package from him. It always contained amazing handmade gifts lovingly crafted for my sisters and me and special treats for our parents. I can still see them dancing around the room with the package singing   “Drink the rum and let’s be jolly. Grandpa’s nuts! Grandpa’s nuts!”
  Time passes and so do loved ones. I am now the adult they were back then. Another calendar page had turned. So many memories filled my heart as I retrieved a seemingly ancient box of decorations for this years’ holiday season. Slipping from under the box, a small piece of aged paper floated slowly to the floor and rested at my feet. Across the top was written “Grandpa’s Nuts”. As I picked it up the realization of what I was reading made me laugh out loud and reach for the phone to call my sister. It was a handwritten recipe!
   Suddenly I knew Mom and Dad were not commenting on Grandpa’s sanity…they were celebrating his treat! Every year he would create these amazingly delicious savory-sweet little pieces of heaven called Granpa’s Nutz. They are sweet and savory roasted nuts with a wonderful rum flavor that works really well with the salty tastes. He made them to share with those he loved. I was lucky enough to be one of those. In his honor I carry on his tradition to this day. Now my loved ones anxiously await the delivery and dance around the room singing                                                                                              
                            “Drink the rum and let’s be jolly. Grandpa’s nuts! Grandpa’s nuts!”
 
 CAUTION!
   These treats are highly addictive, always the first thing gone at parties,  and make very cool and mich welcomed gifts ( see story above for evidence ). Grandpa sometimes found cool little containers to use like Chinese take out boxes,  or sometimes simply wrapped them in colored cellophane tied it with a ribbon. Be creative with the wrapping but keep an extra batch handy for yourself.
 
 

Ingredients

3 cups toasted mixed nuts

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons dark rum **

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon ancho chile powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon salt

**  I have tried this recipe with both Cruzan Black Strap and Bacardi Black and they tasted great. Unless you are hooked on a particular brand, I’d steer clear of the spiced rums. Often their spices and tastes don’t play well with others.

Preparation

Melt the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add the rum

Add the toasted nuts and cook over medium heat until the liquid is gone and the nuts are glossy.

Mix the curry powder, chili powder, cinnamon, cumin, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Dump the nuts into the spice bowl, and toss until evenly coated. Spread onto a cookie sheet to cool. 

Serve, share, enjoy! 

While you’re basking in the well deserved glory showered on you for creating these treats

leave me a message about your experience…

Chocolate Mousse with Irish Whiskey Carmel Sauce and Whipped Cream… Or How Mary-Margaret learned to dance

     It was the perfect Autumn afternoon. The sun, slanted so low now in the sky, made it’s way over to shine directly through my studio window. I had been out late with friends the night before celebrating the Equinox and telling old Irish stories so today was being lived at a slower pace than usual. Thoughts of ancestors and memories of visits to Ireland mixed so close to the surface that I could almost smell the peat fire. This called for a toast honoring the light that has passed and facing the dark to come. As I raised my glass in salute I paused to appreciate the sunlight woven through the whiskey. That’s when I noticed a face in my glass. Snapping back to realityville I realized it was actually my sister smiling through the window.
    Pegeen had a habit of appearing out of nowhere. This time she held an invitation in hand. There was to be a traditional family Christmas this year and we were all bringing something that would trigger memories of our shared Christmas Past. She’s the youngest and has always presumed she was in charge. Consequently, invitations from her were to be taken as instructions on when and where to be. Truth is she is fantastic at remembering dates and organizing the logistic of our gatherings. Her older sister Laura excels by being the world’s best hostess. She truly has the golden touch when it comes to parties and especially holidays. These two are the ones you want planning anything where family, love, and fun rule.
xmas mcc

Continue reading “Chocolate Mousse with Irish Whiskey Carmel Sauce and Whipped Cream… Or How Mary-Margaret learned to dance”

Olta Siolta Shamna Drunken Pumpkin Seeds

     Halloween was tonight and I had been assigned to bring apples. I noticed her as I was about to enter the local grocery and she, wearing a tall pointed hat, was about to load a very large pumpkin into her car. I was drawn to offer assistance. As I got closer I saw her long black hair moving like liquid around her pale face. When I walked up to her our eyes met and what could only be called a wicked little smile grew on her lips. Suddenly the draw I felt doubled. It was quickly joined by a whisp of mystery and a vague feeling of wonderfully unavoidable danger. Through the introductions and my offer to help, her eyes never left mine and her enchanting smile worked its’ Halloween magic. It surprised me when I reached for the pumpkin and it was already in the trunk which was slowly closing by itself. I could swear I heard her turn and whisper “Thank you” as it snapped shut.
      Looking for something to say that would prolong this moment, I mentioned that I had a great old recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds and could probably be persuaded to share. The smile widened as she accepted, on the condition that we’d meet at her home and use the “ancient secret recipe passed down mother to daughter in her family since before time”. It all sounded Very Halloweeny and we laughed easily. But it was the way she said it. Her words carried some distant ancient accent filled with unspoken memories of Halloweens older than I could imagine, and magic I could not resist. I was hooked.
       The address she had written on my hand was easy to find. Evening had set and the huge full moon played it’s part well by darting behind clouds scudding quickly by. The anticipation of a “Real” Halloween skyrocketed when I saw her standing in the doorway backlit by the glow of firelight dancing across the room and sparkling in her hair like tiny flames. Celtic music softly filled the scene of her welcoming me standing there wearing a long black form-fitting dress and pointed hat, the perfect Halloween witch.
       Conversation came easy as she moved about the room lighting candles and offering goodies. Preparing the seeds went quickly and the rhymes she taught me to say while making them added another layer of seasonal fun.
 Sowain seeds are magic things
Love stirs them round and round. 
With rhyming words our spell we sing
Our magic to them bound.
    Time was suspended as we sat in her kitchen enjoying absolutely the best treat I had ever tasted. The seeds were completely irresistible and soon seemed to bring a sweet wave of desires that she warmly encouraged. As we carved the jack-o-lantern I listened to her tales of bewitched castles, love spells cast, and Halloweens long past. I loved the feeling as the spell she was casting washed over me. My memory gets pretty fuzzy about that time but what is clear was the warmth of her soft touch and her whispering in my ear. Spinning in my head were visions of gossamer clad women floating in circles around a huge fire. I remember feeling the heat from flames that climbed into the sky trying to reignite the dying Sun. Their chants blended with her words…
Call upon the past and celebrate this night
The spirit veil has lifted, the bonfires’ burning bright.
   When I awoke I was back tucked safely in my bed feeling amazingly refreshed with fleeting memories of a fantastic evening somehow removed from time. My car was not in its space so I presumed I must have taken a taxi home. Still in a wonderful haze, I set out to retrieve my vehicle. The thought of seeing her again was thrilling.
   I was sure I was in the right place because there was my car in the same spot I had left it, but something was very wrong. Nothing was as it had been just hours before. The warm, inviting, quaint home was gone. The chanting, the fire, and the seeds were all gone. She was gone. It had all vanished like it had never really been there at all. Fallen leaves swept across a vacant lot hurried along by the chilled November wind. It cut to my bones as it swirled around me like my confusion. The wind carried whispers of magical otherworldly nights faintly remembered. Voices almost heard with messages nearly understood that somehow brought back the warmth of the glowing fire…and her. Standing where her kitchen should have been, perched on a tuft of grass, sat the jack-o-lantern we had carved. To it was pinned a note. It was the recipe, well actually more of a spell, for the magical seeds we had shared. My knowledge of Irish language is slight but I later found the title translated out to something like Enchanted Halloween Seeds. To this day I make those seeds on Halloween, Sowain, in hopes she returns… yet harboring a slight fear that she might.
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup dark rum ( spiced rum will change the taste. She used Cruzan Black Strap
1 Tablespoon dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
2 teaspoons salt ( plus more to taste )
Directions
Preheat oven to 275 degrees
   It sounds odd, but for crispy crunchy pumpkin seeds, you need to boil them first. In a medium saucepan add the pumpkin seeds and one teaspoon salt then cover with water and boil until you can see a darker seed inside of the husk. Drain and pat dry on paper towels.
    Stir boiled pumpkin seeds, rum, bacon drippings, brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons salt together in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the seeds and spread them onto a baking sheet in a single layer. Season with salt. Then roast the pumpkin seeds in the oven, stirring frequently until they are crisp and golden.
Rhymes, spells, and incantations are optional
  but it is, after all, Halloween!
                                                           Please comment below

Jan The Relentless​

 

It has been a long time since I haunted the halls of publishing houses. I walked away from that world with good reason. There is so much that comes with it beyond creating artwork. It can be a world of constant selling to and negotiating with corporations.     That ain’t me. My new course was sailing full-on towards other creative outlets.
Then came Jan. My wife introduced us so I might blame her. Jan is exactly who you might picture in a fantasy for your child. Let me set a scene: A tiny, loving, older woman with glasses, shortish grey hair, and a voice that smiles is sitting in an overstuffed chair reading a story to your child. Her soft English accent almost makes you long for the next word. Both you and your child are so into the story you hope it never ends. I double-dog dare you to resist that woman, no matter what she asks of you.
We met up at a local cafe to talk. She wanted my help with something, or maybe just some advice on a project.  I had no idea Jan’s totally disarming, utterly friendly exterior hid a relentless negotiator. Not only do I find out she is an author, but she has a book. Not only a book but a children’s book. Not only a children’s book but a good one that needs illustrations. Man, she is deadly. Any dream that I had any sort of negotiating skills, or any ability with “handling expectations” went right out the window. The campaign went from “Please read this story and give me your feedback” to me agreeing to illustrate it without my even noticing. All before her tea even got cold. Now there’s talk of a series of books. I know what could come of this and I STILL agreed? Something is wrong with me. Isn’t this where I came in?
Anyway, here are some sketches I’m working on for Jan’s book. It needs to be in the mail to the publisher shortly so I’ll be sitting here drawing if you need me. Let the process begin!

 

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