Hopalong Hollow....

Hopalong Hollow, where the Blueberries grow sweet, and the moss feels soft beneath your feet.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thawing out the chipmunk..

  This was the week I thawed out the chipmunk... Seriously, I really did.( Check out my  post " The Unfortunate Demise of the Chipmunk" dated Nov. 9, 2009)
      He has been in my freezer for over a year, along with the bluebird, cardinal and wren. All victims of my wicked pussy cat, Claudette. Taking a cue from the beloved artist Tasha Tudor, who kept little frozen mice in a freezer, I decided that this little fellow need not have died in vain and now, he has become a model of sorts for a book illustration, chock-full of nut gathering tree folk.

  I love drawing from life, but sometimes it is difficult to get, say, a Moose to hold a violin whilst you scribble away.. or, a field of dancing bunnies. That is when a vivid imagination and  lots of photographs come in handy. But this week, I have some REAL models to help me out. 

       I figured, as long as I was "defrosting" critters, I might as well pull out the deceased birds as well. 
   I hope I am not grossing you out. 

Please do not think me morbid... I am so far from that. I would be much happier if these little creatures lived a full, long life. But, as an artist, to get a chance to hold a little wild bird, examine the feet, feathers and wings carefully, the patterns on the face and feel the smoothness of the little beak, well, it really helps to create a more accurate picture.
 Notice the lay of the feathers, the wonderful little "hair do" and the shape of the beak.
 These little birds will all have a special place in this illustration.

 It didn't take long for the little chipster to become "thawed out" enough to be pliable...
  Just look at his darling little feet...
 I wish this little guy (or is it a gal??) had been able to marry, raise a family and push his little grandchips in a tree swing, but alas, such is the way of nature. When you live in the country, you become used to the ebb and flow of life.

Although I love realism, and actually started out as a wildlife artist, realism is not my goal in illustrating storybooks. I want these figures to be physically accurate  like REAL chipmunks. but with a hint of fantasy and whimsy.
Normally, in my books, most of the critters are dressed in 17th and 18th century clothing, but not on this page. I only left my 2 main characters in attire, and thought it a better idea to concentrate on what these little figures are doing, rather than what they are wearing.
They range in size from 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inch and you can clearly see WHAT they are doing.


   Those long thin fingers can easily grasp any size acorn...

 Little squirrels look so similar to chipmunks in the head shape, fingers and toes.

 There are 39 tree folk in the artwork, I hope to finish this drawing tomorrow. It is a full page illustration of a fairly large size, 12"x24" and very busy.
My little chippy has gone back into the freezer, I will retrieve him when I am ready to paint this piece.. And everyone will receive a proper burial.

Hoorah!  I am only 3 pages away from finishing my drawings for this book. Because of the detailed drawing, the painting atop will take much less time.
 But it is a good thing I have some dvd's to keep me in the house, doing my job, instead of out in the beautiful weather poking about in my garden.

 I "listen/watch "  these as I draw. I highly recommend the 4 on top if you want to drool over some of  the most wonderful gardens in the world! 
 Back to the  drawing board.
Sweet tweets to you, till next time!


  1. Hi Jeri
    Well, the title caught my eye..teehee.
    Ahhh, poor little thing.. Well, I agree, he did not die in vain. I love Tasha Tudor's work..
    The amount of detail on this full page illustration is amazing Jeri.. You have really been busy at the drawing table.

    I am going to see if I can find the three dvds, I would love to see them. I could spend days in my garden working with the soil. Good for the soul.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  2. What an interesting post, Jeri. At first glance, I'd thought you'd rescued a 'frozen' little guy from the icy cold outdoors, but I agree it makes a lot of sense for you, as an artist, to want to examine, 'up close' all the intricate details of the little characters you draw, so using one of Claudette's 'captures' (she obviously kills her prey very gently, as there's no evidence of butchering) is an admirable way to approach this. Besides, how else would the botanists, zoologists and medics of old have learnt about the 'workings' of creation unless they'd had access to real material.

    You are such a gifted artist, Jeri - I envy your remarkable, imaginative, creative mind! Visiting your blog transports me to a magical world...thank you so very much for sharing it all with us!

  3. I'm so glad your drawing is going beautifully!

    I don't dare to even think of flowers and gardens until this current cold spell warms up to near 70 degrees. I hope I don't have to thaw my Bombshells tomorrow morning :)

  4. Dear Jeri ~ How wonderful that you are bringing these sweet little critters back to life. So glad you are almost done with drawing the pictures for this book. Adding the color will be such fun and a delight to behold.

    You are such an inspiration.

    Have a wonderful day ~ FlowerLady

  5. I don't think it is morbide...I am used to have critters in my freezer...My hubbie is a great fan of dermatology!
    He also collects shells and minerals!
    I love animals, they are wonderful... no matter if there dead...but I prever them to be alive ofcourse...
    you're drawings are always so wonderful and lovely....I am also a great fan of Tasha!
    even Her way of living..
    have a magical sunday!
    xxx love from a cold and wet holland!

  6. sorry wrong translation...I mean Taxidermy ofcourse and not dermatology....hihihih that something different...hihihhi

  7. My precious friend, I am so impressed with the beauty of these specimens and how well maintained they are! You must have rescued them IMMEDIATELY, for LIFE still shines in them. In fact, that first chipmunk, I thought he was ALIVE! What a wonderful way to examine the full beauty of them. You are a blessing. I consider you, Penny, The Dutchess, Pat and a handful of other artists my absolute favorites, for you painstakingly examine your models and FREEZE in time, their beauty, sprinkled with your whimsy and love...have a fun day drawing and how I envy your time to be able to spend drawing!!! LOVE YOU, Anita

  8. Loved this post...& no, it wasn't morbid. I have always been interested in collecting specimens of all kinds...Victorian taxidermy is an interest of mine. Your work is so detailed & the little furry lives you portray in your stories have to start somewhere. Looking forward to seeing these painted. Cheerio, Susan

  9. Wow...loved this post..Isn't the color blue from that sweet birdie the most beautiful blue you ever did see....Amazing pictures...Miss Moussie says Thank You for doing this..you have great respect for all creatures great and small..Happy day to you:)

  10. Dear Jeri,

    I'm so glad you were able to save the little critter and birds and use them in such a sweet way! I "cayenne peppered" a fresh-caught bird once and gave it back to one cat we had, and he didn't catch birds after that!

    I can't wait to see the finished book, and I can't wait for "Hopalong Hollow" to arrive here for Frankie's birthday.



  11. If you need some bigger models come to my son's freezer (his game freezer) he sometimes has coyotes, bob cats, racoons, and minks.
    The Bob Cat he had mounted last year is beautiful!
    Have a great week!

  12. You know? I was just looking at "Mr. Marshal's Flower Book" and there was a painting study of a dead bird(I think it was a Starling)(looking very dead)! and it made me ponder on Beatrix's, and other artists of times past, studies of dead animals...which made me ponder upon Tasha freezing animal studies, but she was making them very much alive!And here you are doing the same thing ;-) You are indeed honoring these little animals!I am amazed how well preserved they are!
    Thank you for sharing all your stages of intricate art and devotion to your work with us fans!!
    Your amazing!! We will be looking at your new book (and the others)with a personal love and appreciation!!! Yep!:-)
    Blessings and warm Hugs, Linnie

  13. An artist does what an artist must! I take pictures of the little friends who die here in my garden and then bury them but I had not thought of freezing them and keeping them for reference for awhile. Should the opportunity present itself this year perhaps I will do that next time!
    Have a wonderful creative Sunday!
    Tina xo

  14. Close observation always pays off Jeri, as your delightful illustrations go to show. Your hard work is a good example for us all. x

  15. I applaud your dedication. I was a tiny bit grossed out but I was raised by a research biologist and we had quite a few "visitor" in a spare freezer from time to time.

    The drawing are divine.

  16. this truly is a wonderful and unique way to learn to draw a creature with honor. death is an interesting thing for people to make peace with and most would rather not talk of it. I love that you shared with us one way you learn to draw and find inspiration in your art.

    Congratulation on 3 more drawings,,, they look wonderful!

  17. Good evening Jeri
    Thank you for visiting Bebe and your kind words. I am happy you enjoyed her..

  18. What a wonderful idea! I think you are amazing!

  19. Hi Jeri
    Just had to come back and look at your beautiful illustration.. It is just amazing the amount of detail you put into your work.
    Just beautiful..
    Enjoy your week

  20. Hello Jeri!
    Yay! Only 3 Pages More! Can't Wait to see your Book! It looks absolutely Magical!
    You Know I must have a Terrible Sense of Humor because all I could think of, after Observing Chipmunk behavior while Camping, is that at least he is Holding Still for you! With that being Said.. This little Fellow will be forever immortalized in your Wonderful Drawings and Story. I don't know another way really to get such Detail. As for my Sense of Humor..I Blame my Dad!
    Still sorting through the Studio! And yes it is very Nice to have a Home for Everything! It has taken Longer than I thought It would though. After all My Full time job is Mom. I only Moonlight as an Almost Artist!
    Hope this Finds you Well and Thawing out in Hopalong Hollow! Lets do the Spring Dance to make it it Hurry Up! Lol!

  21. Ps.. Its Me Again! I Meant to give you a Link to a Wonderful Collection of Children's Illustrations and other Beautiful Works of Art. I Believe Sofi is from Kazakhstan so her Collection has many Russian Artists. It is truly amazing! Grab a Cup of tea !
    Hugs Jill

  22. Oh Jeri! It is so good to see you come by! Thank you for your well wishes; we had a splendid weekend and really, we always are celebrating something with something simple. A good movie at night, a dessert, a walk around the lake, SOMETHING!!! How are the creatures? How are you? Oh how I am looking forward to my spring break so I can draw again!!! Love to you all, Anita

  23. Good Morning Jeri;
    I am sure you are very Busy Finishing the Pages!I am Sure the Kettle for the Tea has been Boiling quite a Bit Lately. Can't Wait to see the finished Product!It must be a Bittersweet Ending when you complete your Work.
    Today I get to See my Girl Dance in a Ballet. The Last time I saw her Dance was 4 Years Ago and I really thought the it was the Last time. She is Taking Ballet in College and is Really Enjoying it. I am excited just to See Her Dance again.
    Have a Happy Tuesday!

  24. Hi again, Jeri,

    Yes, the book came today! I'm sooo excited, I can hardly wait for Frankie's birthday on the 28th. :)

    Thank you so very much,


  25. hi jeri,
    well, as an artist and gardener i completely understand you gathering these little creatures. i don't find it morbid at all, in fact i believe you are honoring these little friends and giving them life in your intricate drawings. i am your newest follower and look forward to more of your beautiful art.

  26. Oh, my FAVORITE post!!! I have a stray little friend or two in the freezer, too. I wish we all took a zillion photos and shared them because we artists need reference so much.

    May I also say I admire your work greatly. I'm so glad I stumbled across your blog and website. Wishing you more and more success and all good things. And I am so sorry about the Grand Dame's demise. I saw a beautiful bench made of a split log last week, and a wonderful teeter totter made of a fat branch and a section of log as well. If you want pictures, let me know and I'll take some of the teeter totter at my neighbor's house.


  27. Dear Cousin Jeri,

    We can see how the little critters assist you in your wonderful, detailed drawings! You should consider having the little critters, that unfortunately met their demise, mounted. We had Elsbeth's first husband Reuben the Peacock mounted when he unfortunately passed due to natural causes. (We have had several Reubens, it is the name we always use for Elsbeth's husbands.) We took Reuben to a taxidermist with instructions that he should wait for my photographs before mounting him because I wanted a majestic peacock stance. The taxidermist got tired of taking Reuben in and out of his freezer everytime he wanted to remove someone else. Reuben had a full, majestic tail, so we can see how it would have been an iritation taking him in and out of the freezer but he should have told me before he went ahead with mounting him and I would have gotten the photographs to him immediately. Unfortunately, Reuben ended up with more of a turkey stance, instead of his head and neck proudly up! From some angles he looks better than others, but suffice it so say, I didn't have to pay anything more than the down payment, as I was not very happy with that taxidermist!

    Your Cousins,
    Diane and daughter Sarah at the Corgyncombe Courant


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