Christmas Blast From the Past c. 1971-72

During this time of year we are reminded of friends and family. We try to honor our wonderful memories and recapture the excitement, the love, the warmth of years past. We cherish traditions and sometimes find it difficult to accept new ideas, new phrases, new notions.

Mostly we hold onto good friends if we're lucky. I'm happy to say that one of my best friends from Jr. High and High School is still a dear friend today. We don't get to visit often and we now live halfway across the country from one another, but we do email frequently and send cards.

The above photo was taken in my parents living room on Christmas Day circa 1971-72. Polaroids don't last. But through the magic of Photoshop I was able to lighten and clean it up a bit. I've left some of the hazing and patina. It is what makes it more real - an artifact - a relic - a wonder of a moment of time captured.

Holiday Memories of Game Playing

We loved board games in my large boisterous family. My brothers and I would spend many hours around the dining room table playing Monopoly. During our holidays from school we would begin a game right after breakfast that would continue until bedtime. We bought and sold and schemed and connived all day long.

When arguments would erupt (as they usually did) over who owed rent or money to another player (because we always felt sorry for the one losing and would loan from our stash) we would switch from Monopoly to Clue or checkers or a jigsaw puzzle. If the argument was too inflamed mom would make us go outside, weather permitting, and expend the built-up energy or to our rooms to be quiet for a while. We always missed one another and were playing again shortly, this time agreeing not to argue and setting up new rules for engagement.

As a result of my fond memories of playing with my brothers I handpainted a table for my sons where they could play Monopoly or chess or checkers. We own several versions of Monopoly and Clue and a variety of other games and puzzles. They too enjoyed many long hours of play. The table was my cocktail table for years. It now rests in the attic until one of my sons has children.

Then it will be placed where my grandchildren can play day-long games and learn about caring and giving and taking care of one another. They can learn arguments are not the end of the world and can be solved by taking a moment to reflect or walking away until tempers cool.

Or maybe we'll just play Elder Scrolls IV-Oblivion on Grandmumsy's X-Box360 Elite and magically dispose of our nemeses. Because while I still cherish those moments of interacting with my brothers around the dining room table and occasionally fondly wish for those simpler times, I have accepted the new, the improved and some days it is great to be able to roam the countryside in search of a goblin to challenge or a wrong to be righted.

Have a Magical Season whatever your Wishes. Blessings and Bliss for All of You. Take Care.


Paintings for "Mame" production

Paintings by Sandra Van Winkle for "Mame" in various degrees of completion.

I created the above paintings for a local production of "Mame" a few years ago. These paintings are 5'x3' and 3.5'x3'. These were part of the set for the production. During each phase of Mame's life a different painting would fly in to highlight her lifestyle changes. The paintings were painted in the styles of Raphael, Gustave Klimt, John Singer-Sargent and Picasso.

I painted these four "portraits of Mame" in three days. And as you can see all the portraits were painted using donated interior flat wall paints. I mixed all the colors from what was available. Thank goodness we had a great amount of dark wall paint as well as pastels.

In addition to the portraits were all the set flats and related items. The set designer built a baby grand piano that was sturdy enough for "Mame" to dance on. I painted the piano and the keys to look like they had been lovingly played for years. I even painted a gold name above the key board. I combined the set designer's and the lighting designer's last names.


Video Presentation of Jack the Healing Cat

Above Photo from our presentation in Nashville at the Southern Festival of Books (October 07)

For any of you who have missed signings or readings of "Jack the Healing Cat" below is a link to a RealPlayer version on UT's Libraries website.

On November 19th Marilyn, Beto, and I were honored to present our panel discussion on "Jack the Healing Cat" at UT Library's Writers In the Library Series. If you would like to watch the presentation in its entirety please go here. Please scroll down to the November 19th event.
The Writers In the Library Series is an excellent program. From UT's Website:

The Writers in the Library series began in 1999, as a venue for students in UT's graduate creative writing program to present their works. Since that time, the series has expanded to include readings by students, local authors, musicians, and renowned writers and poets.


Wishing You A Merry Christmas...

Created in Photoshop


A Christmas Angel

Copyright: Sandra Van Winkle 2005


Madonna And Child 2005

From Series of Christmas Cards 2005


Coming Home - Christmas

Pen & Ink Drawing on Bristol Board. Copyrighted


A Christmas Carol

Pen & Ink and Ink Washes on illustration board.


Father Christmas

A couple of years ago I created a series of Christmas Cards. I will place one here for the next few days. I hope you enjoy them!


Playing Dress-Up for a Whimsical Mumsy

Whaddya do when you have a mom that loves theatrical props and believes everyday should be filled with wonder and magic? Go along with it.

I've been very lucky to have sons that will (usually) go along with my crazy hair-brained ideas. Since I'm an artist, I wanted to paint portraits for our stairway landing. Not the boringly staid contemporary portraits you sometimes find today. No. I wanted to do portraits that look like something from the past. Ancestral. Scottish Castle-esque. Portraits that allow one to declare"These are my ancestors" as you gracefully waft your hand in the direction of the immense and finely detailed paintings. Plenty of chiaroscuro.

So I had the boys dress up in their costumes My twins(flanking the left and right) asked me make the costumes they are wearing for a Victorian Tea they once attended. On the left we have a Dickensian coat with vest and ascot. The hat is from Party City. On the right full Scottish Clansman ...yes he is wearing a kilt. I did not sew the Indy Jones outfit my eldest son chose. He owns the hat and the bomber jacket is one we've had for a long time. I added the whip digitally. Their props are replica swords and canes they have received for various presents.

I'm still working on the paintings. When I get them finished I'll post them. For now I hope you enjoy my wonderful adventurers. Thanks guys for being good sports.

Frosty Leaves


Upcoming Signings & Events For Jack The Healing Cat

I enjoyed meeting with everyone who attended our presentation for UT Library's Series Writer's in the Library. It is always good to hear feedback from readers, admirers, future illustrators, and to share some small tidbit of what I've learned along the way. I hope it was informative and entertaining for you.

Marilyn and I will be at Carpe Librum Books on Saturday, December 8th at 11:30 am reading "Jack the Healing Cat" and signing books.

On December 10th Midday DJ, Jennifer Alexander, of B97.5 radio will be highlighting our book on "Jennifer's Favorite Things" between 10am and 3pm. Tune in for your chance to win a fabulous basket filled with children's reading materials, including "Jack".

Sandi and Marilyn enjoying a beautiful day at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville


Arabella Comes to Live with Us

One morning in mid-September I opened the door to greet my dad. As he started to step across the threshold I halted him. I was looking at him through the gauzy fiber of a lovely web. I looked up and in the corner of the door way was this most beautiful orb-weaver spider. Dad leaned over and came inside. The web had been attached to the door near the handle and my opening it had disturbed the lower area of the web.

I had a discussion with the spider. I told her she could live there, but she must not attach her web to the door. She is still on the porch and she never attached her web to the door again. She remained in the upper right hand corner of the doorway until she laid her egg sac. She then moved the the left side of the door under one of the coach lights. I named her Arabella.

Needless to say most people think I'm nuts to leave a spider, especially a large and scary-looking spider on my front porch. I have a tendency to greatly respect the natural world around me and will live with them as long as they don't bring disease (mice, rats, roaches, etc) or are poisonous and dangerous (brown recluse, rattlesnakes, etc) or cause damage to structures (termites). Other than that I perfectly happy sharing my small part of the world with nature. So let those that can't abide Mother Nature think I'm that crazy woman living in the woods.

As a rule I don't use insecticides, or chemicals. As a result I've been rewarded with a daily show of nature and the circle of life. My trees (and I have many) are filled with sap-suckers, woodpeckers, owls, crows, Coopers hawks, and many songbirds. I have rabbits all over the place. A groundhog (whistle-pig) lives under my garden shed and has not been destructive in my garden. I have field mice, chipmunks and moles which the owls and other birds of prey feast upon. There has also been a cat hunting daily on the property. I watch as she goes trotting through the woods with a mole dangling from her mouth.

It is like a small paradise and I adore it. Everything has its role to play and here it gets played out without chemical interference. Humans are killing themselves and everything around us with chemicals. We've become hyper-sensitive to how nature takes care of itself. We will turn on tv to watch autopsies and grotesque putrid remains being found and identified, but let one owl carry off a shrieking mouse or let one cat hunt for it's dinner or one spider who chooses to live close by and we're all ready to bring in the guys spewing poisons.

As for me, I'll continue to let spiders reside here as long as they play well with others. Arabella has proven to be a great addition to my front porch. She is gracious and eats the pestier insects in a balance that doesn't irradicate them or us in the process. I created this image for my desktop. So I can always remember the importance of spiders in our daily lives.


Annual Spider Ball

Once upon a time...
...a little burg named Wandifor existed and all the inhabitants (human and otherwise) eagerly awaited their invitations to the Annual Spider's Ball. Every creature, great or small, attended this much anticipated autumn soiree. They were there to see all the newest trends, to ahh over the most exquisitely dressed, and to poo-poo the most hideously dressed. They arrived famished in hopes of sating their hunger with the finest delicacies in the land. There are still vestiges of Wandifor, and places like it, left for us to explore. They reside in our imaginations. So Come One, Come All...


HALLOWEEN! My Favorite Holiday

It is Halloween! The most magical time of the year. I know Christmas is magical, but in a very different way. This is the time of year when we can let our imaginations be free. We get to dress up and play. I know Halloween gets a bad rap in today's society. Hollywood has a lot to do with the image we associate with Halloween. Read some historical literature. Study religion and religious sects. Don't just blindly accept it is a devil's holiday. It isn't. Never has been.

Nevertheless, it is a magical day for me. It is also my wedding anniversary. I love October for it's vibrant beauty, the crispness of the evenings, the light at both dawn and dusk. And yes, it does seem as if anything is possible. Mix a little mist in with that and voila!-imaginations can run wildly amuck.

So enjoy today and this evening. Watch a couple of great Halloween movies. Being an artist I'm always drawn to the works of Tim Burton, ie "Nightmare Before Christmas" or "Hocus Pocus" or "HalloweenTown" Disney's saucy witches and dress-up fests. If you want the scarier versions, there are lots of them out there. Just remember, they are movies. But Halloween? Halloween is real and anything can happen.


Writer's In the Library Series

We will be presenting a panel discussion on "Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing a Children's Book". If you live in the Knoxville area and have been interested in the subject of children's books, please join us. We will be signing books.


Sketchbook Musings

More sketches from my "Rip Van Winkle" rework. These are graphite drawings as I was working through the characters. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do more realistic characters or caricatures. I'm still not sure. These are the caricature versions.

Rip is kinda loveable, dopey, dreamy. All he wants to do is hunt and play games with his children. Dame Van Winkle is a forceful, hardworking woman who does not have time for frivolity. She is probably bitter because she would like to tromp through the fields flying kites with her offspring, but can not because there is food to cook, nappies to change, and dogs to chase from the hearthside. Poor Rip. This is what keeps him roaming the mountainsides. For the record, we Van Winkle womenfolk are nothing like Dame Van Winkle. We have learned to let sleeping dogs lie. Berating our menfolk gets us nothing.



Another illustration sketch from my sketchbook. Pencil. This one was along a trail in the Great Smoky Mountains.


On The Promotional Trail: Nashville Southern Festival of Books

"Jack The Healing Cat" has officially launched.

Lucky me! My first book and I'm attending the Southern Festival of Books and presenting a panel discussion! But the credit for having the clout to get the booking at SFB goes to the author, Marilyn Kallet. We had a good group show up for the presentation.
My role was to discuss my methods of illustrating a children's book. Here I'm explaining my choice for the Baby Blue 1952 Chevy truck. My grandfather had one and I always wanted it. I didn't get it, but this is my tribute to that beautiful truck. Answering questions after the presentation.

Several local events are scheduled for signing and readings. Carpe Librum Books is hosting a signing December 8th at 11:30 a.m. Furry Fall Festival at Young-Williams Animal Center on Division Street will be held Sunday, October 28th, signing 1pm-3pm.

There will be other signings, so please, come back to check where we will be and when. If you would like copies of Jack for your child, grandchildren or yourself, they may be purchased locally from Carpe Librum. They are also available at Fountain City Art Center and the Knoxville Museum of Art gift shop.



Photo taken in my front yard last September. This was taken in the late afternoon, early evening.

September is here. It always seems to appear slowly through the heat of summer and is finished before we really get the chance to appreciate it. While October is my favorite month, September runs a close second. I've always loved the light and the crisping of the morning air.

Lately I've been trying to post in the evenings. Bad idea. Even though I'm on high speed cable the traffic must be much worse during the evening hours. So I've learned I need to do this early.

More to come...


The Menagerie at Drahcirardnas

I had a conversation via email the other day with a good friend. I've noticed there are people in our lives who bring out certain qualities in us that may lay dormant until these muses feed them. These particular friends bring out my humorous, playful side. I can always make them laugh and that is a good thing today. I love laughter.

We had a pleasant discussion to catch-up on the typical points of daily life, "How's the kids, how's the work coming?, how's the blossom end rot on your tomatoes?", etc and so forth. After my answer back to him I wrote, "Well, that's all the news fit to print from Drahcirardnas."

The next morning I had this email:

Google doesn't know what Drahcirardnas is. It is a beautiful word. How does it sound? What does it mean?

So, again I'm being Googled. (see first entry) Wow, twice in a matter of weeks. But I had to directly answer this inquiry as to the meaning and pronunciation of Drahcirardnas.

-Drahcirardnas: Drahh Keer Ard Nas - noun- loosely interprets as: bridge to the peninsula; according to a Scotch-Irish Gaelic translator I once met. It is the name of our house/property. I made it up. I come from a long line of people who make up words and/or who rename things. My nickname is Estermarelda. It means one who prowls in her (paternal) grandmother's dressing table and who also breaks the tail off grandma's pet chameleon. Of course, I was also called Jamie by my maternal grandfather. The only name he ever called me-"Well, there's my Jamie". This name is not even close to my actual name(s).
So Drahcirardnas is this magical kingdom on a peninsula of delectable comic insanity. Course you gotta cross the bridge to get here. And it's filled with trolls and a very confusing gatekeeper. A few goats tried a while back and some...well...they didn't make it. As long as you're willing to suspend (humankind's "normal" but obviously false) reality and believe in faeries, sprites, brownies, goblins, and other wildly imaginative creatures; you'll be safe here. Oh and for George's Sake, "Don't mess in the affairs of the dragons. For you are crunchy and good with ketchup." Wish I had thought that one up, but alas, it's on a t-shirt and wall plaques in catalogs. Anyway, they guard the Waters of Imagination which surround Drahcirardnas.-

So I try to live each day in honour of such a magical place. One where imaginations are fed wildly elaborate foods. A land where my sons were raised. To explore, believe in all possibilities and to expect anything. Where play is as important as 'real' work, where building amazing Lego structures were applauded and left up for weeks. I also have used my sons as subjects over the years. For paintings, illustrations, & just because. I will include some of those images in later posts.

For now I leave you with a photograph taken last summer. We enlisted the aid of these cute pygmy goats in cleaning some underbrush. They were so adorable and lovable. We kept them only a few weeks as they were on loan. After they left my dog decided she was a goat and now grazes everytime we are outside for any length of time. They are meeting for the first time here. Let me tell ya, it was hysterical. They played well together and I think Sarah missed them after they were gone.


Birthdays, August and Cicadas

My birthday has come and gone. I no longer get quite the butterflies in my stomach that I once did during this time of the year. When I was young I knew that shortly after celebrating my birthday summer would end and school would begin. August is usually the hottest month of the year. Every living thing seems to take the month off except cicadas.
The cicadas have been in fine form this year. The air surrounding my house is filled with their calls. I once did an entire series of paintings based on this mysterious creature. I painted the Cicada series my last semester in college. I had been working on paintings concerning time passage and memories. Memories linked with imagery. I did a lot of paintings during my college years that visually illustrated how my memories are linked to color, form, surface, atmosphere. I enjoyed the challenge of working in the abstract.

I got a lot of arguments from professors and fellow students about universal appeal. How were these paintings going to be universally appealing? I've been amazed over the years to discover when people look at these paintings they are immediately reminded of something that happened to them during the time cicadas call or their first encounter with cicadas. Most find them hideous. Some see the beauty in their color, form, wings and voice. But almost everyone has a story. And isn't that what art should be? Informing viewers. So many times we go through life hearing and seeing things, but until someone paints it and asks us to look at it from a different perspective, we may not truly understand our surroundings.

My memories of the cicada songs are forever linked with my birthday and the return of the school year. Now they are reminders to my watercolor/painting professor. I saw him several years after graduation. He said to me "I always think of you when I hear those damn cicadas." I smiled. It was comforting to know I had passed along a visual and auditory memory. Behold, the universal cicada.


Rip Van Winkle's Walk

Image: Graphite on Paper
I draw and doodle all kinds of things in my sketchbooks. One theme I keep returning to is Rip Van Winkle. It shouldn't be hard to understand why I would continue to return to this line of thought.

Growing up I was constantly being teased by adults calling me Rip. I don't think most of them knew the entire story. They just asked me if my daddy slept for 20 years. Sigh...No one mentions Rip anymore.

Every once in a while I think about illustrating Rip Van Winkle again. It would be an honor to add my name to the list of wonderful illustrators who took on this task. Arthur Rackham did the best illustrations of Rip Van Winkle. Of course, he is one of my favorite illustrators. The image to the left is one I created while thinking about Mr. Van Winkle. It depicts a dry creekbed that Ole Rip may have hiked up while on his hunting trip into the mountains.

This Blog Thing

I've got to tell you. I'm a bit nervous about this whole blog thing. I have a friend who lives several hundred miles away. He's a photog and we've known each other-well let's just say a few years. He happened to be in town the other day and said "I've been looking for your stuff online. I Googled you. I can't find anything under your name."

Yeah. That's true. All the projects I've done have obviously been under the radar. Or maybe not good enough to wind up on Google. Thank goodness nothing I've done (as of this moment anyway) has found its way to YouTube. But with all the drawings, paintings, installations, musings and ramblings I've been known to yap on about you would think one would have made Google. I was a little undone by the "I Googled you".

I'm up with the Googling. I do it a lot. I love it. I just never thought of someone 'Googling' my name. So I started thinking about how many others may have done the same thing and given up because they couldn't find anything on Google about me. Not that I'm famous. Not even in the vicinity. Not even on the block with famous. But with all the directions my art has taken me you would think someone would find something.

So I decided it was a nice time for a blog of my own. I had big plans to have an escape space of my own by this time in my life. An actual physical building to get in touch with the muses, paint, write and occasionally nap. I've called it Woman Hut for so long that it will forever be known as that even if I name it something else after it is built. But, I haven't had time to get Woman Hut built; so, for now, this blog will have to do as my place to escape. Prepare for occasional napping.

I don't plan to do daily tricks here. There may be some, but I don't plan to do them. I don't promise, to myself or anyone else, to wax poetic, be profound or do anything that will change the world. I will just play. I will sometimes be funny when I'm not trying, I will be sassy and I will most definitely be a smart-aleck. I hold that doctorate degree. Only aleck is not the word my husband uses when referring to my wit.

I will post images from my work. Photos, paintings, illustrations, pen & ink, etc. Snippets from whatever suits my fancy at the moment. I will not promise those will always be stellar either.

My friend thought my reluctance to post my work online was due to not wanting criticism. Nope. I went and got a college education. They give a whole new meaning to criticism. I think the entire curriculum was just a toughening process. "Paint it this way...haha you paint it this way...wha' you listened to me?, now why would you do that?" It all worked out somehow. No, just chalk it up to being a late bloomer. Why rush?

I'm nervous because I may not have anything to add to the already swelling masses of Bloggers out there. Oh- I have read you. I have read some really, really good blogs. I've also been witness to some very banal dreck. So I suppose as long as I find ground somewhere in the middle I won't be drummed out. And as soon as I figure out all the tags and other cool stuff to help me get found; I will no longer fly under the Google radar.