Bistro in the Buttes

I have a nephew who was born with some physical, ocular and mental challenges. The medical thinking is that he may have had a stroke in utero, I doubt we’ll ever know for certain. He gets a lot of assistance with daily living, both to him and his family, and this is the second year I have had the opportunity to contribute in some small way to the community of parents who have children with these attributes.

I offered the One Fat Hen series for this, because I think it has charm. I got the idea from a campfire game we play at camp, it’s assonance, consonance, sibilance and alliteration and memory in a call-and-response format. I stopped where I did because the version we do at camp gets really difficult to picture someplace between Six and Seven, and as an illustrator, I simply cannot draw what I cannot see! I went to a temple in the mountains of Japan nearly twenty years ago, and one of the fabulous things I was shown there were the carvings made by monks based on third party descriptions of elephants. These carvings, over a thousand years old, look nothing like elephants, they carry a number of characteristics of other animals with large ears, like rabbits, for instance‚Ķwith that in mind, I didn’t barrel out of my comfort zone in this series, but it doesn’t mean it’s over.

Here is a short list of things I am GOOD at: I can cook food that tastes and feels good on the tongue, but I’ll be a monkey’s uncle if I can plate it, present it and make it look really good on top of that. Also: I can make art, but unless it’s an embellished garment, I fail when it comes to the final presentation. That’s why we have frame shops run by people with taste, an eye and basic understanding of math.

First, I tried to square up the paper the prints are on:three baby brown bears

I’m still not sure that’s right.

Five fat fidgety frogs

One Fat Hen
So many decisions!!! Do I go with the outside edge of the print which sort of runs up hill? Or do I continue the line the eye creates by extending the lines inside? Does this make sense? I spent hours out there in my studio, laying things out and trying to figure out what worked, what looked best, what, exactly, it was that I was trying to do.

This sort of work makes me bitey and I feel defeated. I feel cornered. I often enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone, because I am often surprised and pleased by what I can actually accomplish. Framing is not one of these challenges yet.

It sort of saddens me: I love the angled razor blade that gives those lovely bevelled cuts, and I love the feeling of slicing through the mat with the right angle razor, but I hate the feeling of wasted effort and resources when I make the wrong cuts. Cutting is irrevocable: It cannot be successfully undone. Oh, MISERY!!!

Fortunately, John has a mechanical aptitude and an engineer’s mind and a commendably predictable eye. He was also willing to take HOURS from his paying work to help me find the raw materials within easy reach of our suburban home (I wanted to go to Sacramento and buy materials from local shops, but I couldn’t be sure they had what I needed, and it would have been hours in the trip and time. There’s never enough time). He sourced everything and brought it home and did the lay-out and the measurements and the cutting.

squaring the edges


What is done cannot be undone.titled, signed and numbered

Titled, signed and numbered: I remembered all the little bits!

thin blue line
This is me trying to find a straight line to lay out the pictures along…


My layout was 45 inches long. This is going to be a really awkward frame. 45″ x 9″?

determining gap spaces

or this?

In the end, John laid out the pictures and measured them and suspended them off the top line, and I’m waiting for the glass people to call and tell me my 40 inch by 12 inch piece of glass is ready. Then I will post one more picture, of the final work.

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