Category Archives: colored pencil

Mickian Fantasy Art

There is a reason why anything in my artwork starting with a rabbit is assumed to be autobiographical. I raised rabbits as a 4-H project from about the age of 10 and we kept rabbits in pens until I was finishing my undergraduate degree. (Rabbit chores fell to my little brother when I was away from home.) In many ways, I was a rabbit-man. My personal avatar as a school teacher was Reluctant Rabbit.

The panda known as Mandy in my cartoon world is an avatar of my wife, an immigrant from the Pandalore Islands.

There is often an exaggerated sense of adventure in my cartoonally weird Paffoonies, the very name of which is a fantasy word.

I have been known to actually believe gingerbread can be magical enough for gingerbread men to come to life once baked. It is the reason I bite the legs off first, so they can’t run away.

I have been known to see elves, fairies, and numerous other things that aren’t really there. In fact, a whole secret hidden kingdom of them inhabited the schoolyard in Iowa where I attended grades K through 6. They were all mostly three inches tall. The biggest ones, like dragons reaching only about six inches tall at their largest.

Of course I am afraid of death, evil, and… (shudder) mummies.
I think of art and story-telling as a form of music. I am a troubadour whose songs (like this one) are often completely silent.
My fantasy art tends to be more “comic book” than “art gallery”.


Filed under artwork, autobiography, cartoons, cartoony Paffooney, colored pencil, humor, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life, surrealism

Seeing Through an Artist’s Eyes

It is not an easy thing to explain. Artists don’t see things using only their eyes. The brain intrudes in the process. For instance, you are welcome to interpret the picture above any way you like. But the way I see it will be nothing like what you thought this picture is about. You probably see two very different girls here. There is actually only one. I know because, as the artist who drew both parts of this picture, I actually know where the ideas came from. There is only one girl in the picture. Dilsey Murphy, in front and wearing her Carl Eller Minnesota Vikings’ jersey, is based about 33% on the older of my two sisters. On the outside she is pragmatic, no-nonsense, and focused on living a family life that is as normal as possible. But the inner Dilsey is the African leopard-princess. She dreams of going on Tarzan adventures in the movie-jungles of the mind with a handsome male hero. She is fierce, loyal, and completely independent, not even needing the hero she adventures with. In fact, she often saves him.

This picture is about the idyllic parts of my childhood. The mother figure is doing a ritual dance. She is in tune with the music of daily life. She is closely attuned also to her responsibilities of stewardship in her society. Both children are nude. I cropped this picture so that it is not rude and showing Smiling Boy’s penis. But both children are bathed in nature and sunshine, not just because I am pro-nudism personally, but because clothing covers up innocence and joy.

This one is easier to interpret. I was an ESL teacher. I had students who spoke Spanish as their first language and students who learned to speak Mandarin Chinese as their first language. It makes for a classroom that becomes a cultural mixing bowl. You have to learn how to deal with people who are very different than you,, but are benefitting from learning English together.

Every picture the artist draws or paints has its own weirdness embedded inside it. The way the artist sees it is probably never the same as how the viewer thinks about it. And that is as it should be. But as a viewer of art, it is hoped that you will at least try to think about what the artist means to say..

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, coloring, commentary, Paffooney

Small Town Inspirations

Pesch Street

I grew up in a small rural town in North Central Iowa.  It was a place that was, according to census, home to 275 people.  That apparently counted the squirrels.  (And I should say, the squirrels were definitely squirrelly.  They not only ate nuts, they became a nut.)  It was a good place to grow up in the 60’s and 70’s.  But in many ways, it was a boring place.


Yes, there were beautiful farmer’s daughters to lust after and pine for and be humiliated by.  There was a gentle, supportive country culture where Roy Rogers was a hero and some of the best music came on Saturdays on Hee Haw where there was a lot of pickin’ and grinnin’ going on.  There were high school football games on Friday nights, good movies at the movie theaters in Belmond and Clarion, and occasional hay rides for the 4-H Club and various school-related events like Homecoming.


I lived in a world where I was related to half the people in the county, and I knew at least half of the other half.  People told stories about other people, some of them incredibly mean-spirited, some of them mildly mean, and some of them, though not many, that were actually good and actually true.  I learned about telling good stories from my Grandpa Aldrich who could tell a fascinating tale of Dolly who owned the part of town called locally “Dollyville” and included the run-down vacant structure the kids all called the Ghost House.   He also told about Dolly’s husband, Shorty the dwarf, who was such a mean drunk and went on epic temper tirades that often ended only when Dolly hospitalized him with a box on the ear.  (Rumor had it that there were bricks in the box.)

And I realized that through story-telling, the world became whatever you said that it was.   I could change the parts of life I didn’t love so much by lying… er, rather, by telling a good story about them.  And if people heard and liked the stories enough, they began to believe and see life more the way I saw it myself.  A good story could alter reality and make life better.  I used this power constantly as a child.

There were invisible aliens invading Iowa constantly when I was a boy.  Dragons lived in the woods at Bingham Park, and there were tiny little fairy people everywhere, in the back yard under the bushes, in the attic of the house, and building cities in the branches of neglected willow trees.

Donner n Silkie

I reached out to the world around me as an artist, a cartoonist, and a story-teller and plucked details and colors and wild imaginings like apples to bake the apple pie that would much later in my life feed the novels and colored-pencil pictures that would make up my inner life.  The novels I have written and the drawings I have made have all come from being a small town boy who dreamed big and lived more in stories than in the humdrum everyday world.

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Filed under artwork, autobiography, colored pencil, dreaming, fairies, farm boy, goofy thoughts, humor, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, strange and wonderful ideas about life

New Photos of Old Art

I spent some time this last week taking photos of artwork. You see, I bought a new phone a year ago, and the camera installed in it was of much better quality than I had before, even in my digital camera which I mysteriously lost more than a year ago. But, though I played with it a lot in the last year, I only started using it to photograph artwork recently. It makes better digital images of my art than I had before.

The new camera can capture the subtleties of a pure pencil drawing better than any camera I have ever used.

I love this picture… even if Disney sues me over it.

I love this one too. Remember it from yesterday? This is the same digital image made on Wednesday.

Here’s one never seen before. Nude studies of Dionysus and Athena (Made from photos and statues and fauns… Oh, my!)
Another faun, this one in acrylic paint.

Here’s a nude faun to celebrate getting kicked off Pinterest a second time (though this time there was no actual nudity in the picture I got kicked off for… and it was not even my own picture.) (Is there something wrong with cartoon furries?)

This is ironically a portrait of Mark Twain.
A Dickens picture of Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim.
Macaulay Culkin as Johnny Clem.

Valerie Clarke and her Daddy Kyle.

Yes, I used to draw strange things. Still do, in fact.

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, drawing, oil painting, Paffooney

Drawings Made from Real-Life Models

Yes, one of the two models in this painting is me.
He was wearing a Royals Little-League shirt, so I changed it for a better one. The ’85 Series was decided by an umpire!
He was actually a she, wearing a bikini top, and Asian-American, not Native-American.
You probably guessed already that she was not actually blue.
The dog was real too.
From a Yearbook photo, but Sasha wasn’t wearing a hat. She thinks I made her look like Charlie McCarthy.
Only the girl in front wearing her Carl Eller Vikings jersey was real.
The people were real, but the flag was photo-shopped behind them.

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Filed under art editing, artwork, colored pencil, Paffooney, self portrait, studio

When You Don’t Have Enough Color in Your Soul…

The world is not all black and white… at least, not since the late 1960s.

But many among us would rather have it that way. In fact, they think life would be simpler if white was always right and black was always wrong. The good guys wear white hats. The bad guys wear black. The good guys shoot the guns out of the villain’s hand. The villain ties the lady up on the railroad tracks, and then he explains in detail his evil plan, whilst the guy in the white hat unties the lady… or stops the train.

Then in the 1970s, everything started to be in living color on the television. Children and their teachers began to think the world was full of vivid color. Many shades of both the primary colors and the secondary colors differentiated red-headed Ronald MacDonald from blond Farrah Fawcett and blues-singing Diana Ross.

Luke Skywalker starts out Star Wars looking at the twin suns wearing white clothes, and Darth Vader wore only black. But the Storm Troopers all wore white and they shot poorly like bad guys while Luke was wearing black by the third movie and Darth Vader was saved from the Dark Side by the end of the trilogy.

It seems to me it is really up to us… each of us… to make our own color in life. We can limit ourselves to easy black-and-white living, or we can reach for the yellow stars, red hearts, green clovers, and blue horseshoes… if the Leprechaun doesn’t try to hoard the Lucky Charms for himself.

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Filed under artwork, colored pencil, coloring, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, humor, poetry

A Colored-Pencil Drawing of Music

I now have the ability to scan an artwork with my phone. And this is significant because I do have a number of artworks too big to scan in my current scanner/printer. But I really don’t have anything more to say about this particular picture. I will not tell you what it means. That is for the viewer to decide.

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Filed under artwork, classical music, colored pencil, music, Paffooney

A New Day Art Day

So, how do you follow up a thing like starting a new religion like Quackatoonity? Should you follow it up?

I mean, this is Art Day. And I need a theme for Art Day. How about, “Art with no ducks in it?” Well, Ducks are always watching from somewhere. So, I guess that’s a no-go.

Of course, I could always try to prove the “toon” part is real. I am a cartoonist. I do do cartoons. (Haha! He said, “doodoo!” Shows you the level of humor he will sink to.)

This cartoon is a bit creepy and definitely surreal. This was done more than a decade before I even met my wife. But the two boys seem to be four years apart in age, just like my real-life sons. They do not, however, have visible horns on their heads. This is supposed to be surreal, not photographic.

So, there’s a weird cartoon story for today’s Art Day post on a New Day. And nowhere in sight will you find a duck in it… OH, NO! THERE’S A DUCK IN IT!!! How does Donald do that?

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The Secret Gallery in Grandma’s Closet

After years of being stored away, I discovered that my mother had hidden a hoard of my old artworks in the upstairs closet in Grandma Aldrich’s house (now my parents’ house).


This oil painting was done on an old saw blade at the request of my Grandpa Aldrich.  He wanted a farm painting on it, like the one he’d seen in a restaurant during a fishing trip in Minnesota.  I chose as the subject Sally the pig.  Sally was a hairlip piglet that had to be bottle fed and raised in a box by the stove until later in life she became a favorite pet.  Believe it or not, pigs are smarter than the family dog.  She became a pig you could ride.  And Grandma had taken a precious old photo of my mother and Uncle Larry riding the pig.  I used that photo to make this painting.  It was also the painting I wanted to find on this trip to Iowa.  Searching for it led to finding all the others.

These two are among the earliest paintings I did.  They were both done on canvases that I stretched over the frame myself in high school art class.  The purple one is a scene from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The blue one doesn’t have a title, but you can see what it is.  It is an ancient shibboleth water monster lurking under a dock, fishing for young boys to eat.


This drawing was done on the front porch in the house in Rowan.  It would be years before mom framed it.  It is another example of what I could do as a high school kid.  In fact, I composed it from art-class sketches I did my senior year in school.


The Boy in the Barn was painted on the remains of an old chalkboard that my sisters, brother, and I had used in grade school.


Grandma Aldrich asked for this picture to hang over the sofa in the farmhouse living room.  It stayed there for many years.


Great Grandma Hinckley passed away in 1980.  I created this portrait from a combination of photos and memory.  It was too good.  It was never hung anywhere because it always made her daughter, my Grandma Aldrich, tear up.


This pencil drawing won a blue ribbon at the Wright County Fair in the late 70’s.


This picture is called First Years are Hard Years.  It was painted in 1982 after my first year of teaching at the junior high school in Cotulla, Texas.   I painted mostly the good kids.  The girl on the lower right would later go on to become a teacher for our school district.  I can’t claim to be the one who inspired her, but she did make straight A’s in my class.


This is called Beauty.  It is done in oil crayon on canvas.  I did it for my mother to hang in the hallway in the house in Taylor, Texas.

So, it turns out, I unearthed art treasures by searching for the one painting.


Filed under artwork, colored pencil, homely art, humor, oil painting, old art, Paffooney

Crayon Addictions


A simple, black-and-white drawing done in pen and ink.  Elegant. Easy to understand.  At least, if you can get past the weird little kid inside a birdhouse who has apparently saddled a mutant pigeon-sparrow. The black and white is the essential underpinning.  The bones of the idea.


So, adding color makes things a little more complex.  I started with the girl’s face. Here is where I establish the basic color-theme.  And give more character to the surprised face peering through the portal of the bird house.


Much of the work in coloring this little articus projecticus is a matter of pattern.  I like doing wood-grain patterns in colored pencil.  It looks good when it’s finished.  But it also takes time to do line after line.


The last step is to color the bird-riding fairy-kid. Here I am completing the color-echoes and the pattern-making.  More lines.  More care with giving the shapes volume by using light and shadow.  And now we are at the final destination.  The picture is complete.

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Filed under art editing, artwork, colored pencil, coloring, drawing, humor