Bay City’s Riverside Art Festival This Weekend!

My art fairs have been doing very well this summer, despite all the economic woes, and most of it has been due to my new book, What’s in the Woods? A Michigan Treasure Hunt, which is selling like hotcakes. I haven’t even had time to send it out to reviewers or notify bookstores about it, being a one-woman show here.

This weekend I’ll be giving away a free Woods book cross-word puzzle to the first 20 buyers of the Woods book and a free crossword puzzle What’s on the Beach? poster to buyers of What’s on the Beach?. All my Michigan nature books will be there.

Also find some dragonfly necklaces ($14.50, reduced from $25) , my Lake Effect note cards, Bay City posters (including the Bay City Bar Guide), Beaver Island Posters, and lots more!

EVERYTHING AT THE FAIR IS HUGELY DISCOUNTED!!! Posters which usually sell for $25 or $30 (even the new Lake Effects III and IV posters) are only $10 at the fair!! $15 note card packs are $10.

See you there!

Memorial Weekend at Timmel Gallery in Saugatuck!

I’ll be showing my new Lake Effects III and IV posters, beautiful Lake Effects note cards, original art for the Lake Effect series, and of course, my new book, What’s in the Woods: A Michigan Treasure Hunt. All my books in print will be there too.

And glory be, for the first Memorial Day weekend that I can remember (this is my fourth M.Day show at The Timmel Collection), the forecast is for absolutely perfectly beautiful weather.

So come and see us! Help me celebrate the completion of two huge projects that I’ve been working on for years: The Lake Effect poster series, which  now illustrates an entire year on Lake Michigan, and the new book in my What’s What Outdoors series, What’s in the Woods.

See you there!

What in the Woods, here at last!

What’s in the Woods?, a companion book to my popular What’s on the Beach has been in the works for three years. I never fully appreciated how much work goes into a book—especially a generously  illustrated book—until I did all the work of all a publishing house’s departments myself—researcher, writer, illustrator, editor, book designer, layout artist, producer, advertiser, and distributor (although Partner’s Book Distributors distributes my books too). Everything except the printing, which is done not only in the United States, but in Michigan at Holland Litho in Zeeland.

I just returned from doing a booth at the Ann Arbor Book Festival. I sold 30 copies of What’s in the Woods in just four hours, along with my other titles and many Lake Effects note cards packs. It was an encouraging start to the season.

What’s in the Woods retails at $12.50, with my usual 50% discounts for wholesale and 25% for school and library purchases, 50% for orders of 10 or more. This year I am also offer merchants a free acrylic book display holding 10 books each for orders of 10 copies of one title.

Wowsie wowsie, these are exciting times! My new Lake Effects III and IV posters are out now too. Want me to come for a show or a signing? Contact me to arrange it.

We set a date for the Beaver Island Show!

Not only will I have many new Beaver Island paintings, but also two new Beaver Island Posters and, I’m hoping, a new book too: What’s in the Woods: A Great Lakes Treasure Hunt, a simple introduction to over 150 common plants, trees, birds, critters, mushrooms, and bugs. Paired up with What’s On the Beach, a person could know 300 species already, which is lots more than most people recognize.

Wouldn’t it be fun to follow up with more simple nature guides, like What’s Along the Highway, or What’s By the River? Wow. Each books requires hundreds of little paintings, however, so they take a long time. And next on the schedule is What’s On the Beach in Florida.

It’s going to be way below zero here after today, for more than a week, so I’m going to be staying close to home. I’m spending a lot of time learning Adobe InDesign, a layout program that combines the workings of the two layout programs I already know but which are too old to work any more—PageMaker and Quark.

And don’t forget to check into my other blog, where I write a twice-weekly column.

Behold the junco, making its debut in What’s In the Woods? Juncos in Michigan only come for the winter…their absence is one of the first signs of spring!

Click on the image to enlarge it.

Mary Finally Leaps into 2007!

After finishing three Beaver Island commissions before Christmas as well as a three-week trip to Florida, I’m busy finishing a sequel to What’s On the Beach, another easy intro book to Great Lakes nature for kids (and clueless adults) called What’s In the Woods. I’ve finished most of the art and am now writing and doing layouts. With luck and a little less procrastination, I’ll have it ready by June.

The Florida trip got me started on another book idea: What’s on the Beach in Florida! I’m hoping to get that finished by Christmas. But I may have to postpone that project if I end up doing a third poster in my Lake Effects series this summer (Lake Effects I and II cover fall, winter, and spring, but not summer).

I have been sending out a few flyers to folks interested in those 36-views-from-the-same-window posters to see if someone with a good Lake Michigan view would be willing to extend me access to summer digs and a weatherproof window workplace in exchange for the 36 original watercolors that will become Lake Effects III, the last poster in the series. I’ve gotten an interesting response recently, so my artist-in-residency may dominate my summer.

Meanwhile, if you want to know what’s happening with me from the tight focus of a breast cancer survivor, pop onto my blog at HealthCentral. I’ll keep up better with this one too—a lot of art is happening that hasn’t yet been uploaded.

The painting (click on it to enlarge it) is an acrylic on paper, done for Ray and Nina Cole, owners and operators of the Beaver Island Lodge and Nina’s Restaurant on Beaver Island, Michigan.

Three Days in a Writer/Artist’s Life

Thursday: I begin every day checking my email. Today I get an order from my website for a tapestry bag, a necklace, and a fish print. I haven’t made the bag yet (I’m sold out after Christmas) so have offered to make it to spec and am waiting for a phone call. This client said she’d read my entire blog, including my breast cancer blog, and said she was moved by it. This is a wonderful way to start a day.

I spend a pleasant hour sorting a big bead order I recently bought on-line. I like sorting beads…I get to know what’s there and it has a meditation effect.

Around 10 a.m. I stop by the Mary Blocksma Gallery in the Gypsies building to hang my newest painting (Parrot Girl) in the coffee shop with sign I’d made on Word and printed out to go with it, check my mail, water the plants, and buy an oatmeal cookie from Jack, whose deli shares space with the coffee shop in front of the building.

Next I drop by the newspaper office to pick up a contract I’ve been negotiating for over a month with our local newspaper: I am proposing to write and illustrate a weekly column called “Nature in the Neighborhood.” I want to keep my rights and get paid too, so the problem was sent to the attorney’s office, a wormhole into which things apparently vanish for a very long time and emerge in a very different shape.

I still am uneasy about the rights business, so I spend a great deal of Wednesday rewriting the contract so I can keep more of my them, although not all. I drop a copy off at the paper at about 3 p.m.

By 4 p.m. I on my way to Saginaw to order two very big mats, as they are having a 50% off custom framing sale at JoAnn’s. Anyone who has had anything framed lately knows how expensive it is, so I do my own framing, buying especially large frames from yard sales and thrift shops and ordering the mats when the sales are on. While I’m there I pick up card stock from Sam’s Club, which is the only place I can find heavy enough stock with a glossy enough finish to print notecards.

I am not home long before a friend comes over unexpectly who has already seen Parrot Girl in the coffee shop. He wants to commission a portrait of his beloved holding a bird something in the manner described in a poem he has written about her. I agree to this if he’ll agree to my minimum commission charge of $300. He will think about it.

That evening, after a beer with another friend at a local watering hole, I work on a full-length acrylic-on-illustration-board portrait of a particular beautiful friend. I’ve done everything by the hair and the background–the basic layer, that is–but I can’t do the hair until I decide on the background. I try blue-green and hate it. I go over that with a springier green that I like better with her pink gown.

Friday: My website client calls and we decide on bag details and I take her order. I spend two hours making the bag, beading the strap, and packaging everything up. Suddenly I realize I haven’t paid my credit card bill and panic that I’m late and my interest rates will triple. I’m right–I’m two days late. I spend the next thirty minutes on the phone trying to rectify the situation and then another thirty minutes figuring out how to pay the bill on-line and hope that my damage control was sufficient.

I can’t remember in what order do everything but here are some things that get done:

1) I realize that I really don’t want to give up ANY rights on my column, so I go on-line and google some things like self-syndication and I find out that I can ask about half the price I was asking if I syndicate. I don’t mind giving up half the price to keep all the rights, so I call the editor and suggest this on his voice mail. He calls back later in the day and says it sounds fine but he has to check it out with the attorney. Back to the wormhole.

Meanwhile, I will have to come up with my own contract but can’t find a sample on-line so I’ve ordered two books, one from and one from the library, and although I’ve written the first column and done the art, the whole thing is on hold until a) I hear from the attorney and 2) I figure out how to write a self-syndication contract.

Persistence is what wins out here. It takes a lot of patience to see a new project through to the end, but it’s all possible with patience and tenacity.

2) I suddenly realize that Valentine’s Day is nearly upon us and I have nothing in my gallery that is remotely relevant except a few pink rose cards. I spend a couple hours designing a couple of valentines, one from a painting I did some years ago of a red rose and another from a red heart that I paint with brilliant Dr. Martin watercolors. I scan it and plan it, print it, cut the cards on the paper cutter, fold them, package a couple dozen of them in little clear envelopes.

Next I roll twenty Bay City posters to restock my nearly empty supply at the gallery. Finally, around noon, I get to the gallery with a stack of cards and a bundle of rolled posters. I order Jack’s oatmeal for lunch. Yum.

3) After a nap, I am plagued by worries about my book, What’s in the Woods, for which I have done a couple hundred small watercolors, but which I’ve been blocked on for about a year. I decide to jump in and solve the problems. I work until 10 p.m. redoing the outline and simplifying the book to be a clue-book to identification, taking out a lot of the education stuff that was cluttering it up and bothering me. I did a new storyboard for the entire 48-page book while I “watched” the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.


1) I take out all the art for What’s in the Woods and realize that I have a show here. I have been planning to do Spring Show at my gallery with at least 15 new paintings (I’ve done five so far this year), but I realize that I could frame up these wonderful little watercolor studies (the Wood Thrush is one of three images on one of the studies) and, if I had the book printed by then, I’d have a really incredible show and booksigning combined. I decide to try for early June for my show, book and all.

2) I spend most of the day working out the first spread: the book design, how I will set it up. This one involves big bright winter birds. I work for hours to find a way to hand-write the captions and notations to look more friendly than type. Handwriting is hard to scan but I’ve decided to set everything up on PhotoShop instead of InDesign, using the layers to move things and add the captions. I am pleased with the results and am ready to really hit it, now that I’ve set up the format, which is the hardest part. Fortunately, I learned all the layout programs when I did What’s on the Beach? so at least I don’t have to learn a complicated new layout program.

3) I spend an hour and a half writing this blog entry. I forgot to mention that I spent time working on this website Thursday and Friday too, adding blog news and doing other webmaster chores. Now I have to get to the post office and the gallery before they close.

Life goes on.

4) I thought my work day was over but it’s not…I returned from the post office with a Netflix movie to find an email from one of my wholesale clients. I don’t get many winter orders from galleries, gift and book shops that carry my work…there are about fifty of them now. I work all winter to have something new for summer. Over the years I’ve become very fond of some of these people who have supported me, some since the beginning of my art career about seven or eight years ago, and I always like getting mid-winter news.