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Tag Archives: Litkids

23 Years of Homemade Holidays

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Since the early 1990s, I’ve made it a yearly tradition to illustrate, design and print my own holiday cards. That makes me a freak, I know, but there’s a lot of joy in thinking up new ideas and having no creative restraints. The cards end up looking individualistic, sometimes clunky, or surprisingly beautiful. I love them all.

This year was a struggle, since I wasn’t feeling particularly inspired after our horrible election season. Despite the added stress, the card design came out excellent. I thought about doing a drawing based on the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol. Some inspiration came from a lovely book showcasing midcentury modern designer Alexander Girard (an anniversary gift from Christopher). Browsing the Glass Menagerie pottery on Jonathan Adler’s site crystallized the design. A rubber eraser, carved with a pear shape, completed the card.

Some of our other cards over the past 23 years are pictured below (click on each for a larger view). Happy Holidays.

he earliest, funky cards from 1993-96. The deer silhouette is a favorite.

The earliest, funky cards from 1993-96. The deer silhouette is a favorite.

The Santa Claus illustration from 1996 was modified into a LitKids print (and card) in 2012.

The Santa Claus illustration from 1996 was modified into a LitKids print (and card) in 2012.

Cards from 1997 and 2003 (the year our children's book, Mama Cat, came out).

Cards from 1997 and 2003 (the year our children’s book, Mama Cat, came out).

In the 2000s, we had cards professionally printed with mixed results. Clockwise: 2007, 2008, 2015.

In the 2000s, we had cards professionally printed with mixed results. Clockwise: 2007, 2008, 2015.

Christopher's cut-paper designs graced cards in 2013 and 2014.

Christopher’s cut-paper designs graced cards in 2013 and 2014.

Terrapin Stew and Black Bottom Pie

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One often finds neat things in used books. Prepping for an upcoming LitKids print, I ended up buying an old copy of that kitchen standby, The Joy of Cooking. This particular book was perfect, a 1952 edition with the cover no longer attached yet complete, relatively pristine pages inside. The pages will look excellent behind this print’s artwork – a saucy, lip-smackin’ cupcake.

Aside from providing great background for my print, there’s a lot more to this Joy of Cooking that reveals the attitudes of the ’50s. First off, the little illustrations that accompany the recipes are brilliant – stylized yet simple enough to convey what the instructions can’t. They remind me of Andy Warhol’s early stuff, although it’s not his (Warhol did illustrate a cookbook, once). The recipes themselves are pretty intriguing, as well, heavily reliant on fatty/rich ingredients and dishes that are meant to impress guests (including every kind of hors d’oeuvres imaginable). One fascinating part – probably not in the current edition – details how to prepare a live turtle for stew meat!

As with every other pre-owned book that I come by, I ponder the previous owner(s). Did they read and enjoy the book, or did it sit in a box, unloved for years and decades? Other than a few penciled-in notations and random stains in the dessert section (the part I needed!), there was little to indicate who had this Joy of Cooking. Somewhere along the line, however, a home cook decided to slip some intriguing bits of paper within — a couple of newspaper clippings and a handwritten list of ingredients. Not much to go on, right? But I love the little story these bits of paper tell. In 1985, somebody used this older copy of Joy of Cooking to help prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. The research included the “Better Living” section from a Rhode Island newspaper, The Bay Window, and a separate newspaper clipping with a Roast Stuffed Turkey recipe (by the way, the Window‘s ’80s food editor Lynda Rego is apparently still in Rhode Island, writing a genealogy column for a different newspaper). The book also has a hand-written list of ingredients on pink paper, for some kind of sugary dessert. Those bits of ephemera, and a few choice bits from the book, are pictured below. Bon appetit!

Carving a turkey, illustrations by Ginnie Hoffman and Beverly Warner.

Carving a turkey, illustrations by Ginnie Hoffman and Beverly Warner.

Ephemera from a 1952 edition of The Joy of Cooking.

Ephemera from a 1952 edition of The Joy of Cooking.

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Preparing a turtle for stew (yuck!); cutting pea pods.

Preparing a turtle for stew (yuck!); cutting lima bean pods.

Apple custard recipe.

Apple custard recipe page with stains.

Preparing macaroons from The Joy of Cooking (1952 ed.), illustration by Ginnie Hoffman and Beverly Warner.

Preparing macaroons from The Joy of Cooking (1952 ed.), illustration by Ginnie Hoffman and Beverly Warner.

Test print for "Tempting Cupcake" LitKids print.

Test print for “Tempting Cupcake” LitKids print.

My 2013 in Music and Everything Else

I don’t know about you, but for me New Years Day serves as a time of contemplation, a bit of relaxation from the holiday hubbub spent simultaneously looking back and anticipating the future. Unlike many recent years in which my life seemed to be in a holding pattern, I had an eventful 2013 filled with some letdowns (getting sick in February and being dogged with vaguely flu-ish feelings for the next eight months), a dose of the same-old same-old, and lots of delights. Here’s some of the accomplishments:

  • Debuted three new designs at LitKidsLittle Bo Peep, Winne the Pooh, and Sherlock Holmes. Also, I’m starting to see signs that this LitKids thing might become something other than a wallet-draining labor of love.
  • Related to the above, in August I addressed a roomful of Etsy users about the ins and outs of selling there (conquering public speaking fears = very healing).
  • Opened Pishtosh, Bullwash & Wimple, an outlet for selling quality vintage designs and kitsch. Unlike LitKids, this enterprise has turned into a quick, modest profit.
  • Read Pride and Prejudice and biographies of Pauline Kael, Flo Ziegfeld, Vincente Minnelli, and Willy Wonka actress Julie Dawn Cole.
  • Designed about a dozen manga books for Viz, another ten-odd books for various individual authors (including my spouse), a t-shirt, a personal branding logo, six theatrical playbills, and four or five projects that never came to fruition for various reason.
  • Hit ten years as a freelancer with all the ambivalent feelings about my profession intact (only now the competition is even younger!). I still haven’t designed or illustrated a Little Golden Book, Criterion Collection release, New Yorker cover, Taschen book, hip record album cover, or indie film poster, damn it.
  • Filed 90 reviews at DVD Talk. Best one: The Big City. Worst: Twisted Romance.
  • Watched five films in a theater, and 181 films (including documentaries) at home.
  • Listened to a lot of Cilla Black, Everything But The Girl and Margaret Whiting (the top three artists of 2013, according to my Last.fm stats).

Believe it or not, I also listened to a lot of current music over the past year. The stuff that caught my attention has been assembled into MRH 2013, a bloated marathon of melodic pop and retro-music of all types (videogame music, disco, psychedelic, soul, even a ’20s jazz cover from Bryan Ferry). After at least a decade of being indifferent to most new music, it came as a pleasant surprise that there was so much refreshing, unique stuff gaining popularity in 2013 – I mean, you wouldn’t find something like “Thrift Shop” hitting #1 in the immediate past, would you? When relatively tame, mainstream singers like Celine Dion come up with weird-ass tunes like “Loved Me Back to Life,” you know you’re in for an interesting year. Part of it comes from the fact that genre lines in music are blurring into each other – yet, instead of being a boring, awkward mishmash, the resulting music is kind of invigorating. This Grantland article by Steven Hyden uses the latest album by teen heartthrobs One Direction to delve into that, articulating the phenomenon far better than I could (the 1D song singled out by the author, “Little Black Dress,” truly is a fantastic blast of power pop, by the way).

Anyhow, the playlist. While some of my favorite artists are represented multiple times (Haim, Camera Obscura, Quadron), most of it is limited to one or two tracks per player. I kinda wish it was more concise, but at the very least it’s arranged by mood and feel – there’s a mini-suite of tracks produced by Greg Kurstin, for instance. Enjoy.

New at LitKids – Sherlock Holmes

After toiling away for a few weeks in our converted garage studio, I finally have a new LitKids print ready – the master detective, Sherlock Holmes! Sure, the colors are somewhat offbeat (manly shade of maroon for the outline, with yellow ochre, pinkish salmon and metallic bronze), but they came out beautifully. Like all the LitKids prints, they are hand-signed and printed atop pages from a classic book (A. C. Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) along with a random splash of gold paint for an extra touch of uniqueness.

This has been a busy few weeks for LitKids. In addition to completing the Holmes print, we have a selection of the prints and merchandise displayed at Olivastro here in Phoenix this month. Olivastro is a cool locally owned shop that sells delicious flavor-infused olive oils and vinegars. Phoenix peeps, check it out!

Sherlock can be purchased here. Through December 15th, use code SCROOGE to get 20% off on this and everything LitKids!

Display of framed LitKids prints at Olivastro, December 2013.

LitKids in the Treehouse

Christopher and I spent a few hours this morning installing a dozen framed LitKids prints at Treehouse Bakery, a vegan business located a short walk from our home in downtown Phoenix. Forgive me for tooting my own horn, but don’t they look lovely?

I’m excited about this opportunity, since it’s the first time I’ve exhibited my own art in public since about 1995. Better yet, we’re mounting these pieces again in two months, at another local, independently run business. Locals supporting other locals – a beautiful arrangement! More photos from today have been included in the LitKids flickr set.

New at LitKids: Winnie the Pooh and Piglet


It’s time to unveil the latest LitKids print: Winnie the Pooh and Piglet done in the style of the classic A. A. Milne books (not Disney, thankyouverymuch). This one came about as a special request from one of my design clients. She wanted a special gift for her co-worker who was having a baby, a huge Pooh fan. Vintage copy of The House at Pooh Corner in hand, I worked on putting it together over June and July, not the most comfortable time for working out of our unventilated garage/print studio, but nearly all of the prints (in an edition of fifty) came out beautifully. The design has a few extra layers of colors, thus they have a slightly higher price than the other prints. Also, this is the first listing to use the professional frame photography (above) taken by our neighbor. They came out great, and all I have to do is Photoshop in a scanned image of the artwork (Etsy sellers, take note).

Pooh, Piglet and the other prints are for sale at LitKids – enjoy and happy reading.