For Better, For Worse; In Art, In Writing

Jonathan is really, really supportive of my writing. He’s given me time, space, encouragement and the occasional dry-your-eyes pep talk our entire marriage concerning my writing dreams.

That’s why my two novels are both dedicated to him. Without my husband, they would not exist. I mean that most sincerely.

We usually work on separate projects but over the past few years, we’ve melded our artistic brains together on occasion. Fat and Appy Modern Art for Children is probably the biggest effort. But we also joined forces for my middle grade manuscript, MAGICAL RAINTREE DAUGHTERS.

Our newest project is a picture book—my first one ever! I thought ideas for picture books only flowed to one Fenske in the house, but a story popped into my head this summer. I was kind of shocked. Then, I wrote it down. Pages and pages overflowing from my pen. I handed it to Jonathan, sure he would connect with the text and bow low before me. (Just kidding on that last part.)

 

Illustration by children's book illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a boy jumping on a couch.

“Before lunch, a boy rode past with his dog. The boy jumped high. He jumped hard.” Illustration by Jonathan Fenske

He read it right away and then handed it back, saying kindly that I needed to get it down under 300 words. In other words, I needed to slash oodles and oodles of text. Words. Phrases. Helpful adjectives. You know, my stuff. 

Jonathan was completely correct. So I edited. Cut. Cut some more. Argued over word choice with Jonathan. Described some illustrations to him. Daydreamed about others that might come into shape once he started drawing.

It’s still a work in progress, but Jonathan has given me a rough illustration style he’s going for to match the sparse (now 199 words!!) text and the (I hope) evocative feeling of the story.

More details later. But I wanted to post this illustration because, to me, it represents love and dreams.

Purple Man, King of the Suburbs

Do you have sign spinners where you live? You know, those people who twirl signs at street corners advertising local businesses. Jonathan and I had never seen so many until we moved to Colorado. They are everywhere: signs flipping and spinning, earbuds shoved in ears, jug of drinking water on the ground nearby.

The BEST sign spinner worked the street in front of the Thornton Fazolis a few years ago. Our eldest daughter dubbed him “Purple Man.” He was majestic: animated sign style, flowing cape, masked face. This is no overstatement: Purple Man rocked the ‘burbs.

One day, we pulled over. You might say we were compelled to. Who was this guy? Jonathan asked him if we could take a picture and we expressed our sincere admiration. THIS IS WHY THE WORLD IS AWESOME. Of course, Purple Man posed for us.

Later, Jonathan made this illustration. Purple Man, wherever you may roam, we salute you.

An illustration by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske of a sign spinning Purple Man

The Purple Man worked the Thornton streets. We chatted with him near the Fazolis. He was awesome. 

Thanks for visiting I Love Your Work, Jonathan Fenske. If you like Jonathan’s illustrations, you can see more at www.jonathanfenske.com

Hatched to Run

Jonathan just finished an illustration for the Westgate Community School “Run Wild” 5K that will be held in September.

The school has begun to work with chickens, starting with tiny chicks that lived inside until they were able to make it on their own in their brand-new chicken coop.

Look carefully: do you see the prosthetic leg on the chicken? That’s a tribute to one of the Westgate chickens who apparently had a leg amputated. Brave chick.

An illustration of a chicken running by Denver illustrator Jonathan Fenske

Giveaway Winner & When Things Break

Congratulations to @beingkeri for winning a copy of Jonathan’s children’s book Woodward and McTwee! Keri, just send your address to Jennifer (jennifer AT fatandappy DOT com) and I will send a hardcover copy to your attention. Thanks to those who shared, followed and tweeted!

On a completely different topic…

Are you experiencing broken things? We feel you. We know your pain.

A few months ago, we unwittingly entered a season of broken things. And we’re not talking about small items. In no particular order, this is what failed, broke or burned in the last few months:

> Car AC (our mechanic broke it when he repaired something else but we still had to take the car back to be fixed, gratis. This involved Jonathan biking forty miles back and forth from the repair place in Denver in one day since we car share.)

> House AC. Not even kidding. This is a BIG expense. Currently, we are saving to replace the unit. So, this summer, we enjoy the great outdoors, indoors. All of our windows look like this:

An open window in a suburban house

This also means we buy allergy medicine. Having a lot of open windows is actually kind of fun; it’s not too hot here in Colorado and you can hear the kids playing outside. You can also hear your neighbors discussing trimming their hedges; yelling at their dogs; and jumping on trampolines. This part is a little weird.

As a southerner, not having air conditioning seems like not having a lung. Or a dinner table. It just feels like a major THING is missing. But once we realized that saving up for the replacement compressor unit was really the only option, well, I just kind of accepted it. And cranked open sixteen windows.

> Garage Door. The torsion springs were apparently put in by the neighborhood builder using the cheapest product available. So, along with all of our neighbors, our garage door broke down like an old donkey.

> Dryer. When we moved into this house almost seven years ago, we purchased a very pretty middle-of-the-line Whirlpool washer/dryer combo. At some point, the heating coils overheated, tripping every fail safe inside the dryer. Melting ensued. Jonathan YouTubed the heck out of that thing and then ordered $125 worth of parts online. After watching videos over and over, he was able to get the dryer back on its feet.

> Dishwasher. Again, another nice Whirlpool appliance. Something plugged and whatever…I stopped listening. A few dollars online, another YouTube video and Jonathan had the dishwasher up and running again.

I know these are all first-world problems. I know I am blessed to have a newish house filled with modern conveniences. I know all of this. And hopefully, things are about to stop breaking down around here. 

But when you are facing hundreds or thousands of dollars of repairs you weren’t expecting, it can get a little panicky. So, if this is you, take heart. We’re going through a Season of Broken Things. It’s not fun and it’s not cheap. I hope that your brokeness passes quickly. And I hope our story encourages someone, somewhere.

Also this: if you stop by for a visit, dress in layers.

Cover Art and a Giveaway of Woodward and McTwee

Jonathan is gearing up for edits on A Pig, A Fox and A Box, his fourth easy reader that will be published by Penguin USA next summer. Part of this work involves mocking up a cover. We can’t say if this will be the final piece of cover art or not, but it’s one idea. I am digging the colors, especially the light blue, a favorite of mine.

An image of the cover of A Pig, A Fox and A Box by Jonathan Fenske

 

 

An illustration by Denver artist Jonathan Fenske

An interior set of illustrations from A Pig, A Fox and A Box by Jonathan Fenske (Publishing Summer 2015)

A Pig, A Fox and A Box is a completely fun romp between two friends, the snarky Fox and the gentle Pig. We think if you like Woodward and McTwee, Jonathan’s most recent young reader (and one that features a devious bird and sweet rhino,)  you’ll love the new book. Come on, Summer ’15!

To celebrate summer, reading and pranking good friends, we are giving away a hardcover copy of Woodward and McTwee. To be entered to win, just share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Then, come back here and tell us you shared it by posting a quick comment below. We’ll draw one winner on Monday, June 15, 2014. We can ship to USA addresses only, please. 

The cover from Penguin Young Reader Woodward and McTwee by Jonathan Fenske

Thanks for reading and make sure to share this post! Good luck!

Girl Nursery + Guest Room Budget Makeover

I redid this room a few months ago, but I could never get really good pictures, so I put off writing about it. I still don’t have great snaps (sorry!), so I’m just going to throw it out there. Ya’ll are crazy understanding and super supportive, so I think it will be okay. Let’s dive in!

Here is what we were dealing with: a combination guest room with queen bed and nursery space + crib for our third daughter. (Third kids don’t get fancy nurseries….life IS unfair, I know.) We had the green wall color for about six years and I was over it. I had replaced the duvet cover with a Target sale duvet cover but it really wasn’t the right choice. It was high time for a redo…something that our little girl could grow into when the crib was removed and she would sleep in the big bed.

Nursery_Guest-Makeover

I usually start with a color “feeling” and in this case, I wanted strong, intense colors like aqua, raspberry and perhaps yellow. But in recent years, I have been dialing back the saturated wall colors in favor of more neutral tones. (I did this with our family room makeover last summer. Gray was the word of the day.). So, I decided in this room, I would go for a neutral wall and then turn up the volume on the bed covering and the accessories.

Here is the “After”:

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I went with “Pink Cadillac” by Benjamin Moore color-matched to Valspar Ultra No VOC on the walls. This delicate paint is almost cream with a hint of pink. I love it and it gives the room a warmth that was unexpected. Jonathan painted the butterflies on the wall. I have seen a lot of 3D paper butterflies tacked onto girls’ walls on Pinterest, but I have to admit that my girls are rough. They would tear down paper thingies in seconds. Plus, I figured I would be forever sticking butterflies back on the wall once the adhesive wore off. So, I asked Jonathan to paint some butterflies and he agreed. Love my man!

The art is from Michael Mabry and it’s actually cover art from Land of Nod catalogs. Michael designed LoN catalogue cover art for about ten years, Google tells me. We found these beautiful, professionally framed prints in a thrift store for $10 each.

The curtains are pretty polka-dot cotton panels that we had in the linen closet from our last house. I love reusing things and it saves money!

A closeup of the modern bed with pink pillows and artwork

The quilt coverlet (Overstock.com) really set the tone for me to jazz up the room with fun pillows and art. The monogrammed pillows are from my friend Laura’s Etsy store, which she has since closed. The gray pillow is from HomeGoods and the flower and butterfly pillows are MudPuppy from Target.com.

Monogrammed by SimplySweet by Laura on Etsy

I was able to add a pop of yellow color with the lampshade (Threshold from Target) which we simply affixed to an ancient Martha Stewart lamp base we have had forever. The art is from my middle daughter and is framed with a Target frame. Chair is vintage.

A picture of a nursery and guest room painted with Benjamin Moore Pink Cadillac paint color matched to Valspar No VOC

 

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Jonathan painted the Fisher Price race car above the BabyMod crib. You can purchase a canvas print of the car on our Fat and Appy store. The rug is from Angela Adams–we have had two of them for a long time.

A picture of a Fisher Price race car by illustrator Jonathan Fenske

That’s it! The room is bright, cheerful and has a young sophistication that will grow with our sweet babe. Plus, we can still host overnight guests (and the baby can bunk with us).

If you liked this post, you might enjoy the True Tale of the Millionaire’s Chandelier, stuff you can decorate with for just $6 and our Family Room Makeover.