Friday, March 27, 2009

Erase the Shame of Infection

If you follow me on Twitter, you'll know that I've been pretty sick this week, knocked off my feet by a shadowy and anonymous illness that seems to have attacked everyone I know in southeastern Virginia.

Now that I am feeling a bit better, I'd like to draw your attention to a related subject. Infectious diseases, by their nature, can be very scary and frightening things, leading to the shunning of their victims, who are often isolated and quarantined. I feel that it's important, in our society, that we remove the shame and stigma from certain near-unavoidable conditions.

Such as the Travel Bug.

The Travel Channel has put together a public service announcement to help bring awareness to this common affliction, but unfortunately, the PSA is so new, it's not up yet on their YouTube channel.

Still, if you feel you've been infected, you can take a step toward the treatment you need by visiting this site - - to answer a few questions and undergo a proper examination. The result will be a more tailored diagnosis, such as this one:

Best of luck to you. And remember, there's no shame in admitting that you're infected. It could happen to anyone.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

In Ireland, You Believe in Magic

When I was 13, my Dad called me on Saint Patrick's Day, from a business trip to Ireland, to ask me if I also wanted to visit Ireland, the next year.

Well, of course! I'd wanted to go to Ireland, like, forever. The first time I decided I wanted to go to Ireland, it was because I heard a ghost story. (Lucky you, I found that ghost story for you to read, here, although I don't recommend it if you have to ride in a lot of elevators).

Now, I hate ghost stories. I don't react well to them - I grew up with nightmares and night terrors (although I'm finally starting to develop a taste for ghost stories at about the same pace that I'm developing a taste for spicy food: slowly, very slowly, but noticeable, nonetheless).

So it is strange that, at a time when I regularly woke up frozen with fear after a scary dream, such a story would make me want to go to Ireland, but I think it was the fact that the story was so interesting - and interesting it is, undeniably - combined with a few other things, especially the fact that I was just at that age where I was figuring out my identity, and my family history and Irish heritage seemed to be a crucial part of that.

Regardless of how it happened, I fell in love with Ireland, deeply, passionately in love, long before I ever arrived. And I was not disappointed.

Ireland is a place where you can believe in magic.

This past Thanksgiving, my Great-Aunt Anne informed me and my mother that my Nana's insistence that she was almost 100 percent Irish (making my Mom, with two Irish parents, also almost 100 percent Irish, and me almost half Irish) was not the truth. That Nana and her siblings, including Aunt Anne, were, in fact, only about 50 percent Irish. Maybe a little more. This makes me not half Irish, but just a bit more than one-quarter Irish.

In fact... even the "almost" part, the part that wasn't Irish, wasn't completely true, either. Aunt Anne insisted we do not have any Native American heritage, either, which was also disappointing to me, because I always envisioned my ancestors traveling all the way around the globe, in opposite directions and meeting here in North America. (She did say that the the family legend that we are descended from Charles Carroll of Carrollton is true. Whew. My whole imagined bloodline did not come crashing completely around my feet.)

But just as we discovered that we're not as Irish as we thought, she added that we're actually part French, and also Spanish, being descendants of Queen Isabella and, I assume, Ferdinand. This is fascinating for so many reasons, not least because nobody expects to find out their great-great grandmother was responsible for the Spanish Inquisition, and because it adds a whole new dimension to watching The Tudors. I mean, dude, that's my aunt. Treat her with respect!

But does it mean I'm a princess? Hee. I can deal. I've already got some practice hanging around castles, see:

I do not, nor have I ever had, any skill in dressing like a princess, however, as evidenced by this photo. That shirt, I think, had mathematical symbols on it. Not princessly at all. I think the actual term is bluestocking. Fitting, as you can see.

I was beyond nerdy at 14. I still am, in many ways, although I'm much more comfortable with it now. Sometimes proud of it. But at 14, just about to enter high school, it was an excruciating part of my existence: the fact that I was good in school, that I loved to read - no, had to read, that I loved stories of fairies and kings and queens and leprechauns and green hills far from the dry, dry desert of Nevada. This was not how I thought I was supposed to be, but I couldn't not be that way. It was who I was. And am.

And in Ireland, I found a place where it was okay to like those stories. And even believe them. I felt like I had found a place where I fit in.

So, half Irish, or quarter Irish, full Irish, or not Irish at all, it doesn't matter.

It's the magic that matters.

On this 21st anniversary of that wonderful phone call, let me wish you a very happy St. Patrick's Day. May you always find places that feel like home. May the luck of the Irish be with you.

And may you never stop believing in magic.

(And hey, Dad? Thanks!)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Illustration Friday: Legendary

Lands of Splendor, 5" x 7", ink and watercolor

I have subscribed to Illustration Friday for two or three years now, but this is my first submission. The topic is "legendary" - how could I not participate this time? (I'm still kicking myself for not participating in the "Tales and Legends" theme last January.)

In fact, I have so many maps and illustrations that fit this topic that I had a hard time deciding, but I finally settled on this one for two reasons: I am pretty sure I've never featured it on this blog, although it made a brief appearance during its creation, here, and I think it fits the topic in more ways than one.

Happy travels, and happy Friday the 13th (may it be a lucky day for you)!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aye, ye Scurvy Rascal!

Rascal's Island Treasure Map, 8" x 10"

I have been working hard on new maps, and this is the first of a few that will be listed over the coming weeks. The print is up in the shop now, and the original will be up very soon, after I've matted it.

I am striving to tell stories with my maps, and I am pleased with this map, not just as a painting, but as a story as well.

Happy treasure-hunting!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Great Book Giveaway

Actually, this is just the start of the Great Book Giveaway, which is a fancy and more efficient name for the "Alison Needs Space on the Studio Shelves so She Must Part With Some of her Eight Million Books" Giveaway, and may or not be so great: right now, there are just 13 books in the giveaway pile, which I've put together in a few batches, but there may be more (I didn't say this would be easy for me!).

And since most of them are books I acquired while working on a how-to show, what better time to start the Giveaway than National Craft Month? This first batch of books, all three of which will go to one lucky winner, might look like decorating books, but are packed with crafty projects.

Print Magic: The Complete Guide to Decorative Printing Techniques
by Jocasta Innes & Stewart Walton

From Print Magic

From Print Magic

From Print Magic

Simple Trompe L'Oeil: 20 Stylish Projects Using Stencils and Faux Finishes
by Mary McCarthy

From Simple Trompe L'Oeil

From Simple Trompe L'Oeil

From Simple Trompe L'Oeil

The 30-Minute Decorator
by Eaglemoss Publications

From The 30-Minute Decorator

From The 30-Minute Decorator

From The 30-Minute Decorator

So enter a comment below and I will randomly select a winner for this first batch (and because I always miss giveaways, because I am always behind in my blog-reading, I'm going to leave the entries open until the end of the month - that is, 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on March 31).

Blogger won't send me your email address, so please leave it in the body of your comment, or if you prefer, send it to my gmail account (paintandink), so I can reach you if you are the winner.

Also, I know that so many of you, my blogging friends, live outside of the United States, but unfortunately, because of the prohibitive cost of shipping books internationally, I have to limit the book giveaway to the U.S. I'm sorry! But I plan giveaways of lighter things in the future, so you will be included at some point, I promise.

And in the meantime, everyone, happy crafting, decorating and artmaking!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Summer at the End of Winter

What stops me from posting so often is the time involved in creating or transferring images to my blog, so let me tell you about this day with words alone.

It is a beautiful, glorious day here in southeastern Virginia.

The sun is getting low in the sky, but thanks to Daylight Savings Time, it is still far from dark. (How I love Daylight Savings Time. Almost as much as I love cinnamon and chocolate.)

I rolled over in bed this morning and marveled at the sun coming through the neighbors' pine trees. (Does this tell you that I slept in? Well, so did the sun...)

The birds are singing, and they don't sound nearly as crazy as they did a week ago, or will again in a few days. Same birds, I imagine, but now they sound a little smug instead of a little out of place.

There is a warm breeze washing over my bare arms.

I read on the couch this morning, with that same breeze blowing in through every window in the house (days like this, I don't regret the exorbitant amount of money we spent on new windows, because I can open them all in the time I used to struggle with one), and I heard a lawnmower going. Such contentment, I have not felt in a long time. Although I cannot imagine what those people could have possibly been mowing.

Later, I sat at the drawing table next to another open window, painting some new maps, while I drank in the breeze like water, and Gus the cat joined me in the studio, and sat in the other open window.

Now, I am sitting at our patio table - I hauled out the umbrella this afternoon -- and am basking in gratitude that this reminder of what a day can be came just in time, on exactly a day when I really, really needed it. And also, gratitude that Al made me promise that I would sit outside today, since he has to be at work and I have a tendency to forget to enjoy good weather.

But today, I am savoring every minute of it.

So if you are somewhere where it is cold today, or rainy, or even too hot to enjoy the day, I am cupping this lovely summer breeze in my hands, and holding it out to you. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Just When I Thought I Didn't Travel Much Anymore...

... well, I still don't travel much, compared to my 20s, when I traveled so much for work I stopped getting jet lag. And not only that, but I never quite knew where I was when I woke up each morning.

No, now I get jet lag without even leaving the city limits. Sad, sad, sad.

But my mom is picking up my slack, and, having just returned from Buenos Aires, is now planning a trip to London and Dundee, Scotland, and has invited me along (just for the record, she invited me to go to Buenos Aires too, but it wasn't the right time, so maybe next year, because she has the travel bug, bad, and I sure hope she has signed up for frequent flier miles, and by the way, did I mention that she just got her passport? Bravo, Mom!).

Photo courtesy of

Anyway, back to your chief mapmaker's next expedition. It's a trip that actually revolves around an event for a friend of my mother's; the event will be in Dundee, but we will start out for two days in London, then take the train up to Dundee, then wrap up the trip, most likely, with jaunts to Loch Ness and Edinburgh.

I have been to these places before, except for Dundee, but only briefly, so I've seen the super-touristy things, but not much else, and Mom has not even seen those, so we'll probably go see them again.

Photo courtesy of

But even though we probably won't be left with much extra time, we're still looking for must-see recommendations, especially places that are easy to get to, but still off the beaten path.

We both like bookstores, live music, and yummy food. We're not big into shopping, unless it's for unusual, offbeat things. And I, obviously, am crazy about maps and historical sites and museums and mythology and things-that-might-or-might-not-exist and most definitely castles, although I am not so much into dungeons.

We would welcome suggestions, and offer our gratitude in advance.

Map from 1653 edition of John Norden's 'Speculum Britainiae'