On November 11, 2019 I began a 100-weekday illustration challenge titled Love Is. My hope for was to help me (and anyone following along) see and remember the good in our world. Here are my favorites (many of which I have reworked since then):
The relationship between pets and their people is beautiful. This illustration is inspired by one of my younger brothers and his bird, Kudoo (and/or Willie). They loved each other so much, and Shane would often take Kudoo into the shower. When it was time to towel off, the two would move in nose-to-beak and Kudoo would warble a quiet, but absolutely happy song. Such a wonderful memory!
I also once knew a man who worked as a trash-dumper—which pretty much summed up his life—he’d lost so much. But the one thing that kept him going was coming home to his dog, Bonny, who always knew when he needed a snuggle and an extra dose of love.
Some people wonder how much a prayer really can help, how much God listens, or cares, or does to help. Regardless of whether or not you believe God exists, knowing that another human being is thinking about and praying for me or someone I love is a beautiful thing. And a family that circles together every day in the hope to keep their love strong is especially wonderful.
My parents read to me, my husband and I read together, we read to our two boys, and I will forever treasure these moments. Knowing the impact is the reason I write and illustrate for children.
This is for all caretakers who joyfully tote little joeys around all day. And, since I didn’t get to see Autumn colors this year (thanks to an early snowfall), this illustration is also for anyone who loves Fall.
I’ve always wanted to do an ocean scene, and who can say no to a dolphin?
In my research for this illustration, I learned that symbiotic relationships are not always beneficial to both sides. For example, oxpeckers (those smallish birds you always see riding on their backs) do keep rhinoceroses clean of ticks (thus benefiting from a meal and a ride). But they also become parasitic partners by feasting on bacteria in the rhino’s open wounds—making it painful and difficult for the rhinoceros to heal. In this illustration, I chose to feature the cattle egret symbiosis instead. Not only do these egrets feast on ticks alone, but they provide warnings whenever they spot danger approaching. (Rhinos have poor eyesight.) Though my husband did pose the very good question of what kind of animal would really be looking to cross paths with a rhino. Also, I’m pretty sure there are no lily ponds in a rhino’s natural habitat.
And I wish our nursery could have been this put-together before my first was born! (Or at any point afterwards . . .)
The day you take home your living, breathing bundle is warm and magical—no matter how sleep deprived you may be!
I have more than 60 cousins (!!!) and always loved it when we had a chance to visit. (I also loved listening in on adult conversations). My kids don’t have quite as many cousins as me, but they enjoyed meeting up with them a month ago. And since my dad loves chess and has kindled the fire in generations after him, it had to make an appearance.
I once read a friend’s blog post about how her grandma let her great-grandchildren make cookies—and the kids weren’t just “helping.” My friend said her toddlers were dipping measuring cups into flour, cracking eggs, dumping in butter, and spreading everything everywhere. My friend protested, knowing what it takes to clean up. But her grandmother knew they were making more than just a mess and said, “They’re having such fun.” I wish I was willing to be like her!
Wishing you a warm, happy, and tasty Thanksgiving!
Tomorrow our family will decorate our Christmas tree. (My husband and kids all asked, “But where is the Michigan/Ohio State game?”—something that often plays in the background, as well . . .) This illustration also features a few other traditions, like all the Christmas books I’ll wrap up to read each day, the nativity we’ll set up, the music we’ll listen to, etc. You might also notice the special stockings that my Mother-in-law hand made for each one of us, decorated with fun trinkets that showcase our personalities.
Years ago, my kids had been playing together all morning. The youngest suddenly decided he was done and lugged his stool (which made him tall) over to the window to look at the snow. My oldest—not wanting their playtime to end—said, “OK, now we can look at the snow!” He tenderly put his hand on the small of his brother’s back. My youngest wasn’t thrilled by the gesture, and I’ve never forgetten that moment!
I appreciate everyone—especially those who are Big—who lends a listening ear to those who feel small. My husband is really good at this, and it’s something I strive to perfect!
I know one mom with many daughters who is very personally acquainted with daily hairdos. Two sons and buzzed haircuts mean I’ve done none, which is a blessing in some ways (though I would have welcomed the opportunity had it come my way). This illustration style is a break away from how I normally paint—and it was fun! (And much faster.)
Love is a Chore. Thanks to all parents who let their kids help out! My oldest loved mops so much that we bought him his very own. He dragged that thing along everywhere! These days I don’t much hear the pattering of little feet ready to help out, but it sure was cute when they were!
Music is what I love most about Christmastime. I absolutely love caroling (except for being cold!) and feel that singing and music have an amazing way of bringing people together. Not everyone is quite as enthusiastic about it as I am, but I’ve felt the magic of blending voices so many times. It connects people and warms the heart in such a special way.
I was probably three or four years old when someone adopted our family to be the recipients of a 12-days-of-Christmas surprise. I don’t remember everything they gave us, but I do remember a glow-in-the-dark Disney calendar (I love glow-in-the-dark things!), a large box of clothing, and a doll. Even more than that was the anticipation of what we would find on our doorstep each night.
Years later, my family did the same for another family, and it was just as exciting to be on the giving end as it had been to receive. On one of those nights, my mom mentioned their TV was pretty bad and suggested we give up our TV—which wasn’t amazing, but was better than what they had had. My friend and I were chosen to lug the huge set up to their door and sneak away. It was a memorable night, for sure!
(which looks different for each one of us)
Love is a Performance. Music and visiting have been on my mind a lot lately—hence all of my illustrations about them! Years ago, my mom volunteered my brothers and I to play the violin at a rest home one Christmas morning. I wasn’t super excited about it at the time, but now I think it’s a great idea! (And you’re right if you’re scratching your head, saying, “Those mice aren’t playing the violin?”) Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, I encourage you to consider one person who may be feeling forgotten and lonely and make time to do something kind for them. If it is a moment one where your souls connect, the both of you will be better for it. The number of lonely people in our world is overwhelming, and it’s sad that Christmastime often exacerbates these feelings. Remember that it’s not just the sick and elderly who feel alone, and that though your effort may seem small, that one person is worth it.
Our family always loves it when grandparents come into town! Hopefully you have some fun in your forecast!
. . . and YOU are the best one. Merry Christmas!
Love is a Celebration. And to be clear, they are drinking sparkling cider. Wishing you all a wonderful New Years Eve!
All you last night partiers might need one-a-these today—and hopefully you’ll have someone just as cute to share it with! Happy 2020!
This was my life 10+ years ago. My oldest loved the zoo, and we visited it at least once a week—which included a lot of lifting for a better view! His favorites were reptiles—particularly Komodo dragons. My youngest? He always appreciated the red Exit lights. *sigh* I really miss those days . . .
I love all things warm, and send you the warmest feelings today—especially if you are in need of a hug!
I guess I’m on a Fatherhood kick! If I had thought harder, I might have saved these for Father’s Day. I wish everyone could have had the kind of dad and husband I've been lucky enough to have!
Love is a Sibling. Some of my favorite memories are of my boys playing together with their stuffed animals (hence the stuffed animal theme you often see in my work). Keeping these critters healthy was a favorite pastime. (That, and tossing them high!)
As I worked on this illustration I kept thinking about Raffi’s song, It’s Mine, but You Can Have Some. (Raffi was once a staple in our home!) Sharing isn’t always easy, but it feels so good when you do!
Taking the time to count blessings has always benefitted me. It has shaped the way I look at and approach my life, and it’s something I hope to instill in my family. I’m not quite as good at expressing gratitude to others, but I want to do better!
It’s hard to feel alone. (I’ve been there!) Thank goodness for those rare souls who notice and extend compassion toward anyone who struggles to find friendship. If you are feeling alone today, I hope this illustration lets you know that I see you.
. . . even when it isn’t. I’ll let you decide which of these kids has messed up the dressing routine.
It’s determined, brave, bold, powerful, memorable, visionary, and kind. It sets a pathway for others at its own expense.
Every Wednesday (give or take) I go grocery shopping. Many cashiers through the years have gone out of their way to be kind and friendly to me, and it makes a huge difference in my shopping experience (and day)! I used to always shop with cute kids in tow, but now it’s just me. I’m a little shy, and sometimes I get so focused in rushing through this chore that I fail to smile and let the cashier know how much I appreciate them, and how important I value them as a human being. Society has sadly become less neighborly these days, and there’s a better way. So though it’s rarely easy, I push words out of my mouth to ask how their day’s going. I admit that I sometimes chicken out, but I’ve never regretted being kind.
It communicates warmth and power when words aren’t enough. Hugs aren’t always easy or natural for everyone—they definitely require a little bit of vulnerability. But when given from the heart, they are beautiful.
It’s believing that whoever’s hand (or tail!) you’re holding will take you to wonderful places.
And wow, let me say that drawing kids holding hands in a circle is not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. What you see is Round 3 of refining sketches, and it could have used one more. Ah well . . .
I apologize if this looks a little dangerous! But at least the kids are having a great time? (Not so sure about their stuffed animals, though!)
It warms my heart to see an older child reads to a younger someone. This happened with my kids every now and then—particularly in this very chair, which no longer exists since it had been handed down several generations and was falling apart. I did take liberties to alter its colors just a bit, however (though there is a possibility that mustard yellow and burnt umber will be making a comeback one of these days, right?).
I’ve often thought about all the things my kids and I did together when they were little. These memories are beautiful, and it’s kind of sad that they don’t remember most of the things we did together the way that I do. One day I had the impression, however, that these moments are perhaps more for the parent than for the child.
I should also admit that it wasn’t always easy for me to play with my kids. I preferred to read with them or go somewhere, but they were always excited when I spent time doing something they loved.
Love is Work. What feels like not many years ago, tiny feet came running whenever I started making dinner or washing dishes. I wasn’t always thrilled with that help, especially when my youngest slammed the pantry door every time I plucked something from it. It had a baby proof handle that was beastly to open! But now I wouldn’t mind going back to enjoy another day like that.
One Saturday morning at a park long ago, we saw a young boy and his very new, very curious puppy. The boy patiently and lovingly let him climb, sniff, and explore everywhere, and the boy also made sure to point out all the wonderful things the playground had to offer. I think he’ll make a good parent some day!
One of my sons really struggled learning to ice skate (and has worked so hard to improve). On the hardest days when he could barely stand on the ice, let alone move, most everyone passed him by. But in the arena one day, a coach was working with her students. She noticed my son and his struggle and offered words of encouragement along with a few tips. Soon after he started to catch on. It meant so much to me to know that someone cared enough to share a few moments that made a huge difference for my son.
When my oldest was not yet two years old and still went to nursery at church, our congregation was lucky to recruit some wonderful older people to watch our kids. They were amazing because they truly cared and treated our kids like they were their grandparents. The kids LOVED them! My favorite memory is when I found them in the gym, pretending they were airplanes.
Basketball is probably my favorite team sport to watch. I’m not much good at playing it, but it is exciting when teams are well matched and at their best. My youngest prefers baseball (which has grown on me a little, I admit), and absolutely loves it when my husband takes him to see a game.
And yes, this is also an homage to Kobe and his daughter.
If this looks familiar, it’s because it’s a remake of something I did a few years back. There were things I wanted to fix—particularly the boy in front, a few expressions, and to make the kids a touch more childlike. I also wanted to see how it would look with less muted tones. It helped to have a template from my earlier version, but I redrew and painted everything. There is a mood in the original that I’m not sure I’ve fully captured this time around, but with a few more hours I bet I could figure it out.
It’s willing to try something unfamiliar with hope that it will take you somewhere special.
I know not everyone’s kids have crushes at a young age, but mine sure did—complete with promises, “love cards,” and sweet nothings. Super cute, super sweet.
I have a thing for pairing up burly with girly. It amazes me every time I see how children soften the toughest hearts. And maybe it’s because I had such an attentive, loving dad willing to do things like dance with me. Special thanks to these wonderful fathers!
. . . a gentle prodding to emerge from one’s shell.
I think we all can work harder to fit more into our bus.
This illustration is also inspired by imagination. I love watching a child’s imagination at work. My oldest certainly had one—still does!—and I wish I could play with that same kind of inhibition.
As I researched pictures of people with Downs Syndrome and other disabilities, I was reminded of their amazing ability to feel—particularly exuberance at achievements for themselves and for others. We would all be better off with this mindset!
I love umbrellas for so many reasons. They magically pop open from something small into something large enough to protect you from the rain. And I loved walking beneath the rain while listening to it patter off the umbrella and on the ground. I have fond memories of a pink, polka dot umbrella with a ruffle around the edge that my mom bought me when I was in Kindergarten. It was the perfect size, and it was a sad day when I broke it!
I also love the idea of sharing an umbrella with someone. If you haven’t yet read it, I recommend the book The Big Umbrella (Amy June Bates/Juniper Bates).
Love is a Surprise. Some people intuitively plan amazing surprises for those they love. Sadly, I am not one of them, but I aim to try better!
While contemplating this idea, I decided on an animal party but unsure which animal. Without hesitation, my oldest said it had to be penguins. What he didn’t expect was that they would celebrate in an igloo, and he was pleasantly surprised. So maybe I’m on my way to making better surprises?
Thank goodness for all daddies who offer their shoulders for a better view!
As I’ve said before, I have such fond memories of the zoo. My family spent hours annoying amazing animals when my kids were younger. Hopefully this summer my boys will still want to visit with me at least a few times.
Hopefully you can turn to someone when life gets dark and scary!
My family doesn’t hike a ton, but it’s always fun when we do. Unfortunately, we don’t have a shaggy dog to accompany us . . .
Some of my favorite hiking destinations include Yosemite (Half Dome, anyone?), Rocky Mountain National Park, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Saguaro National Park, and Mount Timpanogas. There’s a lot of variety out there! Where does your family like to hike?
There are always times when we need a willing friend to walk by our side and at our pace—and who helps us find the finish line. Hope and love are powerful things. May we strive to be that kind of person!
For this illustration, I decided to push myself out of my traditional color palette. It’s hard for me to think of painting things a different color than is natural, but I was recently inspired by Mini Rabbit is Not Lost (John Bond). If this piece shows resemblance to that cover you now know why!
I’ve hinted to this before, but wanted to underline once again the compassion of a pet—particularly dogs. One of my friends said that humans take years to learn to love like a dog. Their intuition inspires me!
I’ve also wanted to do this illustration for a long time—it is a scene from one of my stories—and today I was happy for a reason to do it! I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.
Every Mother’s Day Eve, my brothers and I would plan to create a special breakfast in bed for our mom—complete with burnt toast, which we always tried to scrape into better shape. My mom always expressed appreciation for these acts, but years later admitted some apprehension each year in knowing the state she would find the kitchen. I hope to have captured some of these emotions—our pride and excitement, her mixed gratitude and apprehension.
I unintentionally scheduled a lot of food-related topics for this week! I thought about pushing this illustration to a different week, but my son liked the idea of making this a Food week. So here you go!
. . . and each little follower. I know right now things look a little bleak for our world, but spring will come again—bringing with it sunshine, health, and new life! Just this week, some daffodils popped out in our backyard. I hope at this time that we can all remember to take deep breaths, to look for the good things happening around us (not everything is bad!), and to show kindness to those in need around us.
For those who can’t get out as much, having a chance to be outdoors in beautiful weather means so much. You may currently live in an area where this visiting the elderly isn’t allowed at this time, but hopefully you can find a way to bring spring to those less fortunate.
Years ago I served an 18-month mission in parts of Belgium and the Netherlands. The mission has a yearly tradition to visit Keukenhof, the inspiration for this illustration. Keukenhof is an absolute wonderland of a park carpeted in blooms and greenery—and perhaps my favorite place on earth! If you’re ever in the area, I hope you don’t miss the opportunity to walk its grounds.
Not sure where life has you at this point, but if you are feeling trapped and afraid, I hope that through the rain and darkness you can see or hear or feel something that brings you light, love, and hope.
I hope we can all be generous in whatever way we are able—whether that means sharing our time, our food, and maybe even our toilet paper.
My kids often offer their thoughts about my illustrations, and my youngest thought I should make it clear that the family receiving these goods was visibly poor. I had considered doing that, but consciously decided not to because it isn’t always obvious who needs our help. What is most important is our willingness to give. While creating this illustration, I asked myself that question. (I can’t send a message I’m not willing to do myself!) The answer to that question will be different for all of us, but in the end I think that it’s always best to give to an extent where it hurts a little. That’s not always easy for me, but I’ve learned from experience that it is definitely good for the soul.
Although the coronavirus is forcing social distancing for many of us, it’s an opportunity to spend more time with family. I wish you the best of luck finding relaxing ways to do this!
My name is Angela, and I love how Masterpieces make me think about people painted in time. Hopefully MousterWorks will get you thinking too!
All images © Angela C. Hawkins