It’s been a long, long time…

I used to make it a point to get something new on this blog maybe a couple of times a week. I always felt I needed to have some kind of image to talk about before I could post. This time, though, I’ve decided the images will have to wait while I write some words.


I dread writing, but from some of the things I’ve read, that’s the attitude of a lot of people. I used to say, “I do pictures, I don’t do words.” I told my Fiction Writing professor once that, “It hurts,” and he said, “Then you must be doing it right.” Makes you wonder why anybody would want to do this to themselves intentionally.

For me, today, I’m doing it to myself to get back in shape. I have writing to do, and I haven’t been doing it. When I opened the file this afternoon I realized how long it had been and didn’t really know how to start the gears back up.

So I decided to do what everybody does (well, what everybody is supposed to do) before they go running: I’m going to warm up. And I’m going to do it by writing drivel like this that never has to make it past the eyes of an agent or editor or publisher to actually get published. As a matter of fact, the only eyes that will probably see these words are mine and the hundreds of spammers out there waiting for me to post something new so they can pummel me with their spammy comments. Apparently they don’t care that I monitor that activity, and their words will never see the light of day.

My words, on the other hand, are about to see the light of day as soon as I hit “Publish…” in three, two, one…

Autumn Rust

Autumn Rust by Nora Thompson

I needed to take a little time for myself and smear some paint around, and this is what came of it. It’s called “Autumn Rust.” I painted it with acrylics on stretched canvas, and it measures 20″ wide x 24″ high.

Art of Facts: Uncovering Pittsburgh Stories, part 2

So here’s the final illustration of the Pittsburgh H for the Art of Facts exhibit. I’ve titled it “Pittsburgh is Spelled With H” after the newspaper article in The Gazette Times with the same title. You can see the sketch for the illustration and an explanation of what we were asked to illustrate in this post from last August.

It’s also worth mentioning that this illustration was accepted into the show!

Sunrise run

I finally got a Fitbit last November for my birthday. I had never carried my phone with me in the mornings when I ran until a couple of months ago when I got the Fitbit, and I would often kick myself because of the beautiful sunrises I wasn’t getting photos of. Well, now that’s changed.

Here was a recent early-run sunrise, complete with low-lying misty fog.

I did catch a sunrise last August when I was out for a walk. Much, much pinker than this one.

Biking in unheard-of February weather

We took advantage of the beautiful mid-60s temperatures and headed out for about 15 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail. We started at the West Newton trail head and turned around on the other side of Van Meter.

The bench outside the West Newton train station visitor’s center.

Texture texture texture. You never know when it will come in handy.

Love ya, blue.

And my inevitable action shot. Going 9.2 mph, apparently.

Visual Journal

Journal Doodles: 2016-08-13

This one is actually cheating since I drew it over a two-day period. I ran out of steam the first night, and had trouble thinking of ways to illustrate what I had done that day. As it turned out, I did pretty much the same things on the day I finished it, so it worked out in the end.

For the record:

  • I did some colored pencil work on my entry for the Pittsburgh Society of IllustratorsArt of Facts exhibit.
  • I used my handy Pomodoro One app to keep me on task: 45 minutes on; 15 minutes off. The “off” times I spent cleaning the studio though, so not really off.
  • We finally got some of the rain that had been falling all around us for days.
  • I watched a little baseball before bed.
  • I’ve been spreading pumpkin butter on graham crackers for breakfast all week. Well, for a few weeks, to be honest. It’s never too early for pumpkin something.

By the way, that red mark the pencils are pointing to that looks like a little sideways heart? I didn’t draw that; it was just an imperfection in the paper. Somehow it still seems appropriate.

Zen Garden

A zen garden!


We have a new addition to our back yard, and my husband gets all the credit. He did all the work; all I did was point and nod and sit back and admire.

Zen Garden

Among other mediums, he works in clay, and a few years ago he had an exhibit showing his tabletop clay zen gardens. He hand built and shaped slabs along with little clay rocks and things to rake the sand around (he even hand built the rakes). We’ve included one of the tabletop zen gardens in our yard-sized version, but we’re letting the rain collect in it without the sand so the birds have a spot where they can drink.

Zen Garden

We did a test run using sand in our outdoor version, but it wasn’t working so well, so we bought pea gravel to use instead.

Zen Garden

We also bought stepping stones, and some local wildlife (rabbit, squirrel and chipmunk) have already tested them out. I only know because I watched them from the kitchen window, but I haven’t caught them yet while I had my camera close. The chipmunk climbed to the corner of the top of one of the tall rocks and stood as tall as he could. I think he even squeaked, “I’m king of the world!”

It was a small squeak, so I could have misheard, but that’s what it sounded like to me.


The Iron Worker by Gerrit Albertus Beneker

The Iron Worker by Gerrit Albertus Beneker

On a recent visit to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg (Pennsylvania), I found myself drawn to The Iron Worker, an oil painting from 1905 by Gerrit Albertus Beneker. Drawn to it as in, I would walk away, and then walk back and stare. Several times. I studied the brush strokes maybe a little too closely; I backed away and soaked in the composition.

The Iron Worker close up

I’m not sure entirely what it is about this one that grabs my attention. It might be a combination of things: I’m completely in love with the palette—those colors, you know? I love his brush work and the strength of the silhouette against the background and the gesture he created in the body and the shape of the hand to go with it.

The Iron Worker info tag

When I read more about him online, it didn’t surprise me to learn that Mr. Beneker was an illustrator.

Of course he was.

Gerrit Beneker tells stories; that’s what illustrators do, and that’s what illustrations do. But, to be honest, I don’t think it would matter what story he was trying to tell. This could be happening on an alien landscape or in some distant future or in a prehistoric past. Those colors are magnetic, and they’re sucking me right in. That’s the kind of feeling I want to aim for in my own work.

Sunrise walk

My ankle hasn’t recovered yet from the sprain back in June, so some mornings I need to walk my route instead of running it. I don’t bring my phone with me when I run, but I do when I walk. There’s been many, many times over the years when I wish I had my phone while I’m running to capture the beautiful sunrises that everybody else is missing, but I’m left instead with just trying to soak it all in.

On a recent walking morning the sky cooperated, and I was finally able to record that sunrise. I don’t have too many spots on my route with an unobstructed view of the sky, but I happened to hit one of those spots at just the right time to get this one:


Art of Facts: Uncovering Pittsburgh Stories

I’m a member of the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators, and they’re putting on an exhibit at the Heinz History Center in Pittsburgh sometime next year (exact dates TBD). It’s called “Art of Facts: Uncovering Pittsburgh Stories” and will showcase Pittsburgh-related stories as illustrated by our members.

We were asked to illustrate something that told a specific story that happened in or around the city, and I decided to illustrate the loss and return of the “h” at the end of “Pittsburgh.” It’s a long-ish story, and you can read all about it here. For the record, nobody actually physically stole the letter; my illustration is just being silly about it.

Here’s the sketch. The final illustration will be 8″x15½”, and I’ll be using colored pencil on this one.



While I was transferring new texture photos to my computer, I scrolled through one of the folders there and found some beautiful extremes in wood. The ones I picked to share here are wood that was made into some “thing”: floors or picnic tables or walls or railroad ties. I remember where a lot of the photos were taken and have taken even more on return visits. Every one of them has a story that will help write a kind of history behind whatever illustration I use it in.

wood01 wood02 wood03 wood04 wood05 wood06 wood07 wood08 wood09

Journal Doodles

I started a visual journal almost exactly nine years ago (Yikes! Has it been that long already?) on July 19, 2007. My intent was to illustrate my days so when I went to bed I could say I drew something that day. The sketchbook has been sitting dormant since Feb. 2013, and it’s high time I got back at it. Here’s the one I did after I met a friend for lunch, had lima beans for dinner and spent the afternoon drawing marshmallows.

Journal Doodles: 2016-07-24