Christmas

A is for Armadillo

Two of my artist friends inspired my resolution for 2020. There’s this thing I do where I get a great idea for a Christmas or birthday card, but when I go to draw it I get all bogged down in details and the pursuit of hyperrealistic perfection. Then it stops being fun and I wander off and never finish it. The last card I managed to finish was this one in 2017. I spent way too much time on it, and when it was finally done I realized that I liked the cheerful storybook simplicity of this card better anyway.

So for my 2019 Christmas card I planned to keep things nice and simple. I would draw a cartoon-style armadillo next to a festive little yaupon tree full of winter berries. Easy peasy. Except I seem to have forgotten how to draw simple shapes. No matter how many times I started over, I couldn’t figure out how to depict a card-worthy armadillo without obsessing over all the little details that make armadillos so adorable.

I didn’t feel too bad about my unfinished card. Mailing out Christmas cards seems to be falling out of fashion anyway in these busy times.

But this year we received a hand-drawn card from a young family friend. And it brought me so much joy.

She made it look so effortless. And I know it wasn’t effortless at all, or if it was it’s only because she works on her art constantly, all the time.

I have another friend who challenges herself to draw something almost every single day. She shares the images online. She’s been doing this for a couple years now, and I’ve watched her artistic skills develop pretty dramatically in that time.

So on Christmas Day, as I stared enviously at the handmade card from my young artist friend, I resolved to follow the example of my other friend who draws something every day. Except not literally every day, because then I’d have to give up some other hobbies that i like. The best I can realistically commit to is one completed sketch per week. Still way better than my current average.

The goal is to learn how to quickly draw images that capture the spirit of the subject without a lot of unnecessary details. The rules are simple: I will post one sketch here on my blog every week. If my sketch isn’t finished I will post it anyway, even if all I have is a rough outline. Hopefully I will improve with practice.

For my first sketch I wanted to finish that armadillo. I grumbled to Luke and Elizabeth that it’s basically impossible to draw a cartoon armadillo, because they’re too…textury.

They both immediately drew cartoon armadillos.

Luke drew this one:

His first draft only had three vertical stripes down the middle. “This is Texas,” I said. “We have nine-banded Armadillos here.” So he added six more stripes and the ballcap, because Texas.

Elizabeth drew this one:

“It’s not nubbly,” I said. “It has no nubbles.”

“I might color it later and add nubbles,” she said. “This is a cartoon armadillo.”

I went back to my drawing board, and eventually produced this:

I like it, but it took too long to draw. Maybe a year from now I will be able to draw a simple armadillo without spending a week on it. That’s the goal, anyway.

Happy New Year! 2020 is going to be an exciting year, I can feel it!

Categories: Animal Alphabet, Animals, Artwork, Christmas, Friends, Holidays, Life, Weekly Sketch, Wildlife | Tags: | 7 Comments

Merry Christmas!

The secret to getting hand-drawn Christmas cards designed, assembled and mailed out on time when you work in retail is to start them around June and have them finished and ready to mail by Thanksgiving. I think I need to start doing my gift shopping/making that way too.

Merry Christmas!

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Celebrations, Christmas, Holidays, Life, Uncategorized, Wildlife, Winter | 1 Comment

Grapevine and the Stockyards

The kids have been wanting to see the Fort Worth Stockyards, and this week I finally got the magical combination of a Saturday off and nice, non-rainy weather. In the spirit of “little experiences tucked in wherever we can fit them,” we decided to drive to Grapevine and travel by rail to the Stockyards. Grapevine has held a special place in our hearts ever since our first December in DFW, when we were searching for local holiday cheer and found it on Grapevine’s Main Street in sparkly abundance. This is one town that loves Christmas.

So we booked tickets for the Grapevine Vintage Railroad’s round trip to the Stockyards, and got there early enough on Saturday to do a little wandering.

Grapevine has just begun to deck its halls.

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We stopped at the Blacksmith Shop, and Luke had fun pumping the bellows while the smithy did his thing at the forge.

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Saw this guy crafting something out behind the glassworker’s shop.

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At 12:30 it was time to board the train. We pulled out of the station at 1pm, powered by a 1953 diesel locomotive named Vinny.

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The cars were looking festive.

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The scenery was nice, just turning to Fall. I saw a few parks and trails that I’m looking forward to exploring on foot.

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We arrived at the Stockyards Station at about 2:30.

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The kids wanted to try out the Cattlepen Maze, so that was our first stop.

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There was more going on in the Stockyards this time than the last time I was here (on a Tuesday). More people, more carriages, more attractions and performers.

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There was a mechanical bull this time, and of course the kids had to ride that.

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Took a detour though Saunders Park. What a pretty little place.

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We checked out the Station shops, bought some yummy fudge and explored the old livestock chutes, and then it was time for the cattle drive. Elizabeth staked out a spot up front on the curb…

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…while Luke and I found a comfy perch on a wall behind the crowd.

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My one complaint is that we didn’t have time to see everything at the Stockyards before the train came back and it was time to leave. An hour and a half isn’t long enough!

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Goodbye, Stockyards.

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It was getting dark when we pulled into Grapevine Station around 6pm.

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It was a fun trip. One of these days we’ll drive out to the Stockyards and explore the whole area at our leisure. And, of course, we’ll be heading back to Grapevine at least once more this year, after all the lights are up and the Singing Christmas Tree has begun its nightly performance. They say December is the darkest and brightest month, and that’s especially true in the Christmas Capitol of Texas.

Categories: Animals, Artwork, Christmas, Family, Holidays, Horses, kids, Life, Travel | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Merry Christmas!

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Categories: Animals, Artwork, Christmas | 3 Comments

Home For the Holdidays, Part III: Geocaching

I’ve been curious about geocaching for a long time, but until recently it was mostly a theoretical interest. A few weeks ago it ocurred to me that DFW might have more to offer geocachers than Anza did, so I checked it out and sure enough, the whole Metroplex is teeming with caches. During the week before the kids and I left to spend Winter Break in California, we went searching for four nearby geocaches. We only found one of them. Since I don’t have a real gps unit, I just use an app on my iPad that pinpoints the location of the cache; unfortunately my iPad only connects to the Net via wi-fi, so it can’t always pinpoint my location with much accuracy when I’m out and about. If I’m looking for a cache in the woods, for example, the app can’t really tell me where I am beyond just guiding me to the right general patch of trees.

When I mentioned my interest and troubles on Facebook, a couple of my California friends who are active geocachers offered to take me around their own stomping grounds and show me some tips and tricks for finding caches. I happily agreed.

Brief tangent: by the time I got to California the Saturn was overdue for an oil change, and it had also developed an unsettling steering wheel shudder whenever I used the brakes. So two days after Christmas I took it to my regular mechanic in Temecula to have it looked at. I got there bright and early, but they were already having a busy day, so all they could tell me is that my car would most likely be ready to pick up by the time they closed at five. I left them to it and walked the three miles to the Temec library, where I settled in to work on my book.

I had only been there for an hour or two when I got a text from my friends, asking if I felt like going on a geocaching adventure/tutorial. Whoot!

They drove up from Rancho Cucamonga to pick me up. They had never done any geocaching in the Temecula area, so we decided to search out a few local caches until my car was ready and then head back to Rancho Cucamonga for the advanced class. In their basic geocaching tutorial I learned about lamppost caches and “boogers” and magnetic “stickers” and the ubiquitous popularity of ammunition boxes and Altoid tins. Somewhere in there the mechanic called to tell me that my car was suffering from a case of warped rotors and that they couldn’t get to the repairs until the next morning. So I left the Saturn in Temec, rode back to Rancho Cucamonga with my friends and embarked on a geocaching adventure extrordinaire.

Without revealing any actual locations, here are a few of my favorite caches:

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There was a trackable in the gauge, so I brought it back to Texas to place in a local cache.

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The weather has been cold and dreary since I got back to Texas, but the kids and I managed to go on one small geocaching run the day after we got back. We found two out of three that time, using the tricks I learned in California. As soon as it warms up I’m looking forward to devoting more time to it.

More California pics to come!

Categories: books, Christmas, Friends, Geocaching, Life, Travel | Leave a comment

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