Fifty Words for Snow

A Thousand and One Words

What came first, the picture or the caption?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

Though everything here started out as a painting, you may prefer to think of them as full-color cartoons. Or grayscale, in the case of the movie references. Sometimes the picture illustrates the caption; other times the caption explains the picture.

The original paintings were made in the Art for Life studio, based in Eureka, California, at various times from 1999 to the present. Most of them were done in poster paint (“tempera”*) on paper. If you are inter­ested in buying a painting—or a smaller print or card—use the contact information on the studio’s site.

* I don’t know how or why poster paint got to be labeled tempera. It’s got a lot more in common with gouache (opaque water color). The traditional tempera paint, now called egg tempera, can’t be bought in stores. You have to make it on the spot, using egg yolk, a base, and one of a group of pigments that range from moderately toxic to outright lethal.

Sweet Dreams

Rats I Have Known

Some animals draw themselves. If you can’t whip out a cat in three penstrokes, you’re just not trying. Turns out rats are the same.

Pictured: Miranda and Winnie, my first two girls, curled up in their straw ball dreaming of . . . well, what would you dream of if you were a rat?


Boys’ Life

Rats I Would Have Liked to Know

Here, by contrast, are rats that have never been reduced to cages; their only job is to illustrate the human condition.

Pictured: Boys’ Life. While female rats are active and outgoing, males tend to be sedentary couch potatoes. Any resemblance to human nature is, of course, purely coincidental.


Aunt Tillie

Rats on the Road

Pictured: Aunt Tillie . . . where you might never have expected to see her.


Class Picture

The Educated Rodent

Pictured: Class Picture. There’s always a wiseacre, and there’s always someone caught blinking.


The Pen(cil) is Mightier than the Sword

Proverbial Rats

Pictured: The Pen(cil) is Mightier than the Sword—a lesson learned too late by St. Cassian when his students stabbed him to death with their pens.


Citizen Rat

Cinematic Rats

Pictured: Citizen Rat, displaying the classic pair of newspaper headlines Ratatouille Sweeps Oscars and Fraud At Polls.


Birth of Venus

Referential Rats

Pictured: The Birth of Venus, sans Maria Vespucci.


Canta y No Chilles

Singing Rats

When you think of songs and singing, do you think of rats? Well, maybe you should.

Pictured: Canta y No Chilles, a useful bit of advice in any language.


Joy to the World

Harmonious Rats

What do you mean, you’ve never heard rats singing in close harmony? If nothing else, it gives me a chance to disgorge some of the more arcane information—or, at least, the more obscure links—I’ve picked up over the years.

Pictured: Joy to the World . . . at Christmas or any other time.


Sno-Cone Mix

Northern Rats

Pictures to go with Of Duct Tape and Hovercraft. Shown here: “I did it with sno-cone mix.”



On the Tundra

Pictures to go with We Have Silence. Shown here: “If it comes any closer, we will have to kill it.”



Mice and Other Critters

Pictured: Plumpy Meets the Bagel, a scene from life. In this encounter, the bagel was the clear loser.



Cats and Rats

Not every interaction has a winner and a loser. And even when there is, things may not come out quite the way you expected.


Fine Fat Cat


Pictured: A Fine Fat Cat. Dixie may or may not have qualified as an American Primitive, but in her prime she was definitely fine and fat.


So Near and Yet So Far


Pictured: So Near and Yet So Far, or, what happens when a bird gets into the apartment and can’t quite figure out how to get out again. As far as I remember, there was no lasting property damage.


Maggie locked out

And, finally:

Maggie’s Story

The true story of a cat who found a home. Like Dixie, above, Maggie is no longer with us. But she, too, made one person happy for very many years.