Friday, July 21, 2017


In my last post, I mentioned that my family recently had the chance to head back to my home town and spend time with a handful of different friends.  It was great to see everyone.  On one occasion, we sat down with a group of great people at The Pie Pizzaria (one of Salt Lake's best pizza joints), and my friend Terri looked at me in a dead-pan manner, and refreshingly, yet candidly said, "So, what does someone have to do to get an envelope from you?"  I had to laugh, but was grateful for the inquiry.

Little did Terri know that I had already begun thinking about series of envelopes for this very group of friends to thank them for how richly my young life was enriched to have been permitted to be absorbed into such a fine group of people.  Recognizing that I hadn't been vocal enough about my gratitude to each of them, it seemed appropriate to send out thanks via envelopes.

I took a picture of a handful of these good gentlemen (see below.).  They made a profound difference when I was teetering on some rather foolish decisions, and trying to find myself.

This first envelope for that group goes out to Mike P, and his wife Terri.  Great people!  Great examples of approachable, down to earth, honest and deeply interesting people.

Here's the envelope I did for them shortly after we returned from the trip.  This is done in gouache, with a small hint of pen and ink, with an acrylic background.

Here's a shot of the gents that have surrounded me for a long while, and that I am deeply grateful to call friends.

Sunday, July 16, 2017


Today my family and I returned home from a trip to Utah to drop off our son at the Missionary Training Center for our church, in his continued preparation to serve a two year, full-time mission in Colorado Springs.  We are very proud of him for his decision to dedicate two years of his life volunteering to help others, something that seems less and less common in this world of selfies, immediate gratification and "what's in it for me?"  Aside from the neat experience going to the M.T.C., we also had a bunch of time to spend with great friends and catching up after some extended time apart.
Recognizing the importance of friends in the life of my son, and the influence they've had on him, I reflected on the power of friendship and how relationships from my youth played and continue to play such a profound role in my life.  Among many friends that we visited, were Brian and Elaine, who invited us to come and visit and spend time with their amazing family.  I doodled this envelope to them for their kindness and goodness, and for the impact that they have played in my life.

And here's a quick selfie we did on their porch just as we were leaving.  What beautiful people!

Since I am on the friendship theme now...there are a few more envelopes in the works to thank others for the influence they have had on my life.  Stay tuned for those....

This is done in gouache with a hint of pen and ink .

Tuesday, July 04, 2017


Over the past few months, I've done some sketches of various fruits and veggies...In an attempt to make myself feel better about the ice cream that I've indulged in today, I spent a few minutes knocking out this cucumber.  Anyone ever hear of nutrition through illustration?  Hope it works.


A few months ago, while working in the yard, I happened across a bird that had recently died and was being consumed by all the little critters in the dirt that opportunistically seize such meals.  The image of the bird, once able to soar and fly, once so fleeting and difficult to catch, just laying there accessible to everything on the land, left an impression.  This morning, I decided to do a little sketch of the image (since it is too hot to go out and work in the yard today.)
There is just something unsettling about seeing a fallen bird.  It happens daily, yes, but it is sobering to see. Yet, it is also beautiful to see up close! The magnificence of the wings, the little talons and the precision of the is fascinating.
While sketching this, I was reminded of some personal writing that my father penned before he passed away.  I thought it was profound, and I'll share it below.

                                                               Mark J. Monson

Melvin stalks the sparrows with his Winchester-cock-style bee-bee gun.  I follow right behind him watching his prey hit the ground.  Now it’s your turn he encourages me handing me the gun.

Another flock circles and lands unaware of Melvin and me and the bee-bee gun.  I aim, my heart pounds...the gun discharges.  The leaves flutter and all the birds fly.  I’ve missed.

Melvin is much better at this than I am.  I think it’s because  he’s practiced with his dad.  My father died before he taught me to kill birds.  I wonder if he would have taught me had he lived...    probably  not.  Melvin is lucky I think.

Don’t worry, you’ll hit one next time Melvin assures me.

We continue our hunt.   I carry the gun.  Then I see it...a yellow canary perched on a sun flower.  The yellow image, posed against the blue sky, blazes in my eyes.

Melvin sees it also and whispers Quick or it’ll fly.

 I look at it through the “V” sight of the gun.  It’s beautiful...

Shoot! Melvin insists.  I do.

My ears hear a dull thud and the canary falls back and down.

Melvin is elated and runs toward the sun flowers.  I stand dazed, not moving.  Holding the gun.

My trance is broken as Melvin shouts I can’t find it in this darn grass.

I move toward the sun flowers looking down at the red-splattered, flaxen-colored grass.  Following the trail of blood, I see the canary looking up at me.  It appears confused and frightened.  I wonder what I’ve done.

The bee-bee has punctured the canary’s throat.  Blood and air bubbles ooze from the opening.  The bird labors to breath.  Within moments there is no movement.  The yellow is matted with red and is lifeless

Melvin is patting me on the back, for how long, I don’t know.  When I turn to face him, he’s smiling.  I hand him his gun and walk away.  He calls to me What’s wrong?

I stop and turn to face him.  The experience replays in my mind.  I walk away and he questions Don’t you want the bird?

No,  I hear myself say, still seeing the red splattered yellow, I’ve got to go home now.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Olive Tree

After the time devouring map that I recently finished, I have decided to go back to the more familiar territory of doodled envelopes for people that might need a little "pick-me-up."  Recently I discovered that a friend had been diagnosed with cancer, and I decided to spend a few hours designing something for her.
There is something intriguing to me about the beauty of trees, and the unique character that each of them have.  I've doodled a few others over the years, as can be seen here, here, here and here.  But I've never done an olive tree.  Olive trees are unique in that they can grow in the roughest terrain and undergo severe pruning, dunging, forming and cutting and yet still thrive.  In fact, it is the constant and watchful eye of the Master of the Vineyard, and his ever present arboreal husbandry that continues to push the tree to yield a desirable crop.  I think there is meaning and significant symbolism in that.  Sometimes the very pruning that we undergo in this life that come in the form of disappointment, challenges, adversity, are the very things that push us to produce our best selves, letting the unimportant stuff slough off, leaving what matters most.
Here is the envelope that I sent off today:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Insect Map, Finally Complete!

Wow!  Undertaking the map project was enlightening in a lot of different ways.  First, I didn't realize how much time it would take to produce something that large, with that much detail, especially when trying to capture something from my youth.  I'm happy to have done it, but happy that I can move back to something a little smaller and more manageable through a couple of hours.
I also learned that drawing a map of a place you once knew brought back a lot of memories, transported me back in time to almost reliving some of the things that occurred there.

When painting this map, I remembered being chastened once for not watering Dad's garden the way that he showed me, but also how he rushed to me in the garden after that reprimand when he noticed that I was tearful at the rebuke.  I remember him kneeling in the soft, dark soil and asking him to forgive me for hurting my feelings.

I remembered laying under the massive cherry trees we had in the yard and playing with my dog, "Pepper" and watching the birds come and eat the cherries that were in abundance.

I also remember tying strings in a 45 degree angle to the side of my house, staking it to the ground, and then finding tomato worms in the garden and having races up those strings as the worms slowly crawled from the bottom of the string to the top.  GOOD TIMES!

Anyway, I hope you get as much enjoyment out of the finished product as I have had making it.  It's clear that I love painting insects, studying them and finding out what makes them tick...but I think I'm going to take a pass for a while on the little critters.  I also learned that when you do big projects, its harder to document.....I couldn't really scan anything, so I just had to take pictures of various details.  Sorry about the poorer quality on the photos.

Here's a few close-ups of some of the insects:

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Insect Map, Day 2

Today I continued to hammer away at the map project that I addressed in my last post.  Maybe because it is Father's Day tomorrow or maybe because I am feeling nostalgic, I decided to do a map of the place where I first remember becoming fascinated with insects; my childhood yard.  This challenge has proven more time consuming than I expected and I haven't even started in the insects or labels yet on the map, nor have I made it to the front yard.  Hopefully o can find some time in the next couple of days to keep plugging away at it.  There's lots more I want to add!
So far, this has been done largely with gouache.  I added just a hint of ink to pop some colors off of the darker paper that I'm using.