Just Thinking: January

Something to celebrate: Several pieces of lost art where found in 2021!

Hearts to the Best Comics of 2021!

Fun to see that Rock Hill, South Carolina is #12 in the country of "Boom Towns" according to the New York Times!

My friends at Cold Nose College have a new website and online dog training options! (They're awesome and world-renowned, so I highly recommend them!)

I love the New York Times' "The Year in Illustration" - the most memorable of the year. There are some really interesting pieces in there!

I love this quote: “Don’t forget, a human’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr. Imagine how different the world would be if everyone operated on the basis of this awareness.

I think this definition of humor by George Saunders is clever: "Humor is what happens when we're told the truth quicker and more directly than we're used to."

Check out this cool map at Atlas Obscura of all the crazy and wonderful things in the world.

I happen to think that Graffitti is one of the most underappreciated art forms; so I was happy to see this post from Atlas Obscura sharing stories of communities that were changed for the better by graffitti.

LOVED seeing a fellow University of Edinburgh classmate doing something so cool for the community with her art!

IAIA Gallery Show!

I'm thrilled to have been invited as a founding member of the newly formed International Association of Illustration Academics, the IAIA. To celebrate our launch into the world, we put together a gallery show... a virtual gallery show, framed around the importance of speculative research in all fields, including illustration. The show was put together by professors at the University of Newcastle Australia.
It's a hog of a program to run (works best in Chrome), but it's worth your time to experience a very cool show in this innovative new way.
There are two halls, one based on Practice-based work, and the other based on Speculative and Practice-led Research. A quick cover page shows you how everything works.
Keyboard buttons help you navigate through the spaces. It really does look like a real gallery space...
with a few differences. For intstance, you can look at artwork like you do in a gallery. Here is work by Ellen Weinstein.
When you zoom closer, the artist's name pops up and you can click on it to read more information about the artist and the work.
Some panels appear black at first glance, but when you zoom in closely on those, they are videos.
Of course, being a virtual show opens up a world of possibilities. This shiny, glowing orb (on the right) is representative of an atom. On the far wall are pieces by my dear friend M.J. Begin's picture book, Ping Meets Pang.
One over, I shared my protest poster turned children's book, My First Protest.
These are just a few peeks at the amazing and important works in the show—
There is so much more! CLICK HERE to experience your own "walk through" of this incredible show!

P.S. Some of the illustrators participated in a virtual discussion for the launch. Check it out on Youtube at: https://youtu.be/PhC1SN46kDU .

Video: Bad Seeds

This Best Animated Short by Claude Coutier is masterfully done and will make you think! Click the image to watch on Youtube:


Whaaaaaat!? Such a lovely surprise to awaken to snow today! Well, it's actually more ice than snow, and freezing rain. Not something to play in, but still pretty. And Stan spotted what has to be the state's only snowplow earlier! Wow.

Rebekah Lowell's THE ROAD TO AFTER

Rebekah was a student of mine at Hollins University and I'm thrilled to share that she is now publishing like crazy. I get to help share the love for her debut novel, called THE ROAD TO AFTER. She stopped by to tell us more about this important and personal story.

Creative Healing
by Rebekah Lowell

Living creatively is an act of bravery. It asks you to look at something differently than your first glance. It asks you to ask questions and look again, to look closer, to look deeper—to see if there is another way to see. Another way to think. Another way to feel.

As a child, I carried a sketchbook around and drew plants from the surrounding fields and gardens, then later, would ID them in my Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Wildflowers, and write their names next to their drawings. I spent more time in the woods, and in books, than any other place. I drew the landscape, its flora and fauna, and wrote stories in my head. When I arrived at RiSD years later, I found myself sketching those same stories out, about a girl near the river. The only time I thought I would do anything else other than become an artist and writer was when I considered being a horticulturist. Now I feel like I’ve combined my love of nature with my love of art and the written word, and I get to do the best of everything! (If I had been a horticulturist, I would have painted the plants, too.)
I realize now, that when I began this story at Hollins University in 2016, I was not only finding a way to process my own trauma (ten years of captivity and domestic abuse), but that girl at the river of my childhood was trying to find her way onto a page. She wanted her story told. She was here with me at the water again, only now she was at a creek in Virginia—Tinker Creek, and she paid attention the way water finds its way around the jagged edges. Water is creative and she knew this. She showed me this. She also showed me seeds are creative, as well as birds, storms, and skies. To live creatively is to live bravely, to live resiliently. She knew this and she needed to share it with others.
In The Road to After, Lacey is met with the challenge of resiliency straight on as she and her family rebuild their lives after trauma. Living with PTSD is not easy for her, and in this new world her creativity is stretched as she tries to move forward. She leans into nature to help her heal because nature is a gentle teacher. Lacey looks at a cicada and relates to the parallel of the insect shedding their exoskeleton. This way of seeing helps in her healing process and she wonders if she can become a new creature too, just like the cicada. She learns to look at things differently than her first reaction to them.
Healing from trauma is a creative process because it’s different for everyone who walks the road to recovery. No one path will fit another. For Lacey, nature and her nature journal were her healing grounds to process her past, and healing is ongoing. For me, writing this book was part of my path and healing is also, still ongoing. I wander outside and ask nature how to heal, how to live creatively, and there on a path of wildflowers near a winding river, I find answers.

ParentSmart KidHappy Series still going strong!

I was thrilled to see Dr. Nerissa Bauer is still using the ParentSmart KidHappy book series written by Stacey Kaye, that I illustrated for Free Spirit many years ago: READY FOR THE DAY, READY FOR BED, and READY TO PLAY. She did a video about them - click the image to go have a look on Youtube!

Doris Abernathy R.I.P.

My dear friend Doris Abernathy (on the right) passed away just before the New Year at the age of 94. My novel, A Bird on Water Street is dedicated to her and her sister Grace Postelle (on the left), who sadly passed before the book was published in 2014. I wasn't going to let Doris leave us without reading the story, so when she broke her hip several years ago, I drove to the Blue Ridge Mountains and read the book to her while she healed. I was honored to be one of the few guests she let see her, let alone hang out with her, when she was bed-bound. As I read it and we shared the story, I was reminded how integral she had been to the creation of the book. Truly, her own stories were woven throughout A Bird on Water Street. When the book was finally published, Doris was with me for almost every book signing from Benton to Copperhill. (You can see fun photos here.) She lived an amazing life and I was honored to know her; but it's always sad when our world loses one of its brightest stars.

     Dear Doris, rest in peace, kind soul, and know that you left lots of ripples of love behind you.

     There was a lovely piece written up in the Copperhill Facebook group, written by Harriet Frye (shared with permission):
Doris Quintrell Abernathy, 1927-2021

In the early hours of December 30, 2021, with her son Chip at her bedside, Doris Helen Quintrell Abernathy passed peacefully into the next life. She was 94.

Doris arrived in this life on November 27, 1927, the third child of William Henry Quintrell and Nell Fry. She claimed that it was so cold at the time, her father had to break up the ice on Fightingtown Creek so that they could boil water for washing her diapers. It was a good story, like so many of her stories, and she stuck to it. She always referred to her childhood as “growing up at Number 20,” the inactive copper mine on Fightingtown Creek where her grandfather, John Henry Quintrell, had worked as mine captain in the late 19th century.

By the time she reached her teens, Doris had already become imbued with the sense of civic duty, combined with an unconquerable sense of adventure, that would define the remainder of her life. During World War II, she and her older sister Grace left home to take jobs at the Bell Bomber plant in Marietta, where one of Doris’s duties was to show visiting dignitaries around the site. Yes, she did that, at the age of 16. And she came home with Bob Hope’s autograph to prove it.

On April 15, 1945, with the war winding down, she embarked on a new adventure when she married Carl Otis Abernathy Jr., who would forever be known to his family and local friends as Little Carl to distinguish him from his father, Big Carl. A few years later, she gave birth to their only son, Carl Otis Abernathy III, who would forever be known as Chip – not because he was a chip off the old block, but because the nurses at Kennestone Hospital had dubbed him “Chipper” due to his bright and sunny disposition. In that sense, he actually was a chip off the old block, because “chipper” was also a perfect way to describe his outgoing and ever-optimistic mama.

Not long after Little Carl’s death in 1986, Doris embarked on yet another adventure: She bought the little house on the Toccoa River that had been built by her father in the 1930s and later owned by her in-laws, Carl and Louie Abernathy, and started making plans to sell her longtime Atlanta residence and move back home to McCaysville. When those plans were disrupted by the devastating flood of 1991, which rose more than waist-high inside her newly renovated home, she rolled up her sleeves and got busy renovating it all over again. Her favorite addition was the wide, screened back porch overlooking the river, which was also a favorite with the friends who loved to gather there. And they were many.

Doris hadn’t come home to retire. She had come home to be an active – and activist – part of the community she loved. As a great-granddaughter of one of the first Cornish emigrants to the mines of the Ducktown district in the early 1850s, she had a deep love of local history and a passionate determination to make her own contribution to the positive continuation of that history.

In 1991, she and her sister Grace were instrumental in helping visiting senator Al Gore understand the reasons why federal flood relief, which had been granted to the afflicted parts of McCaysville, Georgia, should also be granted to the equally afflicted parts of the adjoining town of Copperhill, Tennessee. The state line, they pointed out, was a concept that needed to be discarded in this instance. The same year, she and her friend Ann Williams almost singlehandedly organized a parade in honor of the returning troops from Operation Desert Storm – complete with paratroopers, a helicopter, and a special appearance by local hero Major General Edison “Eddie” Scholes, who had been in command of the first troops on the ground.

When whitewater teams from around the world began converging on the Copper Basin in preparation for the 1996 Olympics, Doris became a one-woman booking agent, opening her own doors to provide lodging and encouragement to the young athletes and prevailing on her friends and family members to do the same. Some of those athletes became her lifelong friends. So did several of the Hicks babies, who were taken lovingly under her wing when they arrived in town the following year in search of answers.

Doris was a lifelong Republican who cherished her friends of every political or philosophical persuasion. She was a true Southern lady, kind and gracious, but she was also a no-nonsense country girl with her roots planted firmly in the Appalachian soil. As her many friends could attest, she was fiercely independent; when she “took a notion” to do something, she did it. If she wasn’t in the mood, she didn’t.

Doris lived in her little house by the river until April 2021, when she moved into a little apartment at Blue Ridge Assisted Living. She loved it there, always praising the quality of the food and the kindness of the staff. But, then, she always loved being wherever she was. Which, in fact, is an almost perfect definition of who she was.

Doris was preceded in death by her parents; her husband and the love of her life, Carl Abernathy Jr.; her brothers John, Tommy, and Roy Quintrell; and her sister Grace Postelle. She is survived by her son Chip and his wife Margie; her grandchildren Sam and Callie; her great-grandson, Sam’s son Lakota; her sister, Sandra Finch; her brother-in-law, Lowry Abernathy; numerous nieces and nephews and their families; and the countless friends made throughout her lifetime who were always treated like family, too. (In this regard, if we failed to mention Dr. Stephen Treon, who was her trusted physician and friend for the last two decades of her life, she would almost certainly come back to haunt us.)

Due to current concerns about Covid-19, a memorial service for Doris is planned for sometime later in the year. The family has asked that donations in her memory be made to the charity of your choice. Rumors that she celebrated New Year’s Eve with Betty White cannot be confirmed. But it would surprise nobody if she had.