Alan Mackenzie

We look before and after, and pine for what is not;

Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught; 

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

~ Percy Bysshe Shelly

Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.

~ Aristotle

His name is Alan Mackenzie and while still living his human life he faithfully served as Quentin the Vampire Botanist’s valet and butler. Later he was promoted to Estate Manager, but regardless of title, he was always and ever Quentin’s good and true friend.

Quentin’s parents were hardly ever around and when they were, they weren’t. His mother far too busy socializing, his father much too engaged in gambling, together their parental sense combined could not fill a buttercup. The lonely, odd, and somehow lost little boy was often left in the care of Alan. He was one of the very few people that could make Quentin laugh and became the only man that Quentin ever trusted.

As many of us can attest, Life can throw us bitter curves and wrench our hearts with twisted luck. We all have regrets or sadness to bear. Quentin’s deepest grief came from the fact that Alan Mackenzie saved his mortal life and lost his own while doing so. He wasn’t even given time enough with his friend to thank him or say good-bye. Yet to have become a Vampire he could do nothing to bring Alan’s sweet and brave, funny and smart soul back to this world. Like only we mere mortals can, helpless to do otherwise, he grieved the loss of his friend.

Many years later, when Quentin began conducting his plant experiments he knew that though his plants were fierce and each had their own special defense, he needed a protector for them. Someone he could trust. Someone not a vampire. Someone who would watch over them all day and all night. Someone or…something.

He could think of no one more valiant and trustworthy than Alan. He exhumed Alan’s body and in a macabre ceremony, removed the rotted, earth-bound flesh and imbued Alan’s bones with plant and Vampire essence.

Alan is glad to once again be of service to Quentin and now sits at the garden’s gate, watching over the PlantVampings and occasionally regaling them with stories of Quentin as a boy or entertaining them with his jokes, which are always of the most moldy and cornball variety. No one cares though and everyone always laughs, because somehow Mr. Mackenzie has a special way of making a bad joke sound very humorous, indeed.

It was a true delight to sketch Mr. Mackenzie. Running an estate as vast as Quentin’s can keep one very busy. Although from what Quentin imparted to me, no matter how busy he might be, Alan always had time create laughter. He’s even more lighthearted now. As did life, death suits him. It doesn’t suit everyone, you know.
I drew Mr. Mackenzie in pen, scanned and uploaded him onto my laptop. I then printed him out on 100% recycled stock (Quentin would approve) and painted him.

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How much do you love Halloween? It’s the no-pressure-just-fun-candy-and-costume holiday! Come check out the Halloween Artist Bazaar‘s Trick or Treat Giveaway. Sign up is free and painless. Click on the picture below and sign up today!

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The Wintery End of Terrence

His name is Terrence. Terrence Mackenzie. Ringing any bells? No? He’s Alan Mackenzie’s younger brother.  Alan being the faithful valet and butler to Quentin the Vampire Botanist (and sometimes Fairy Gothfather…what can we say? Quentin is the wearer of many hats).

Younger siblings seem to excel at being thorns in their older siblings’ necks (or pains in their asses, whichever body part they can reach first). In the case of Terrence? He was what is politely referred to as a ne’er-do-well. Not a bad man, just not a very good one. He fancied himself to be a musician and he went off to the great City of Lost Dreams to make his fortune. Sadly, there was no fortune made; leastways, not by Terrence and certainly not in the City of Lost Dreams. Don’t waste any sympathy on him, as you’d be more likely find him tipping back a whiskey or two than picking up his fiddle.

Life never turns out well for ne’er-do-wells (the clue is in the expression) and Terrence was no exception in this regard. He hung out with all sorts of less-than-savory characters, but it wasn’t any of them who caused his accident. Jackie the barkeep warned him not to use the back door of The Scot’s Tide (which despite the name was no where near the ocean). Jackie knew that the lights in the alleyway were busted and no one had got around to replacing them, yet.

Unlike his brother, Terrence was a poor listener at best. Attempting to skip out on his tab, he went straight out the back door, slipped on a patch of ice and landed on his head. He lay in the alley until morning. This was nothing new for Terrence. He often passed out and slept in the alley; however, this time it was winter. The coldest winter the City of Lost Dreams had ever seen, before or since. Slowly freezing until his heart stopped, Terrence never woke up to a hangover again.

Although Quentin thought little of Terrence, he knew that he was Alan’s soft spot. After they received word of his death, he traveled to the City and brought his body back with him. Once safely back home, Quentin went to work using his Vampire magic and Botanist science, melting flesh off bone and imbuing Terrence’s skull with plant and vampire essence. This is not a pleasant process, but the end result is impressive.

Off the booze, Terrence has become quite responsible. You’ll often find him patrolling the estate’s perimeter and thoroughly enjoying giving a fright to anyone foolish enough that gets too close.

It was quite difficult to get Terrence to hold still for his portrait. Perhaps he has ADD. That would explain a lot, actually. Eventually I decided to jog along with him while he patrolled. I’m proud to report that I only ran into a tree once (it wasn’t hurt).

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How much do you love Halloween? It’s the no-pressure-just-fun-candy-and-costume holiday! Come check out the Halloween Artist Bazaar‘s Trick or Treat Giveaway. Sign up is free and painless. Click on the picture below and sign up today!

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Breakfast with the Skulls…

I scurried up to the garden today,

Afraid I’d receive a surprise.

Don’t bother to follow me,

You’ll surely seal your demise.

For every skull that ever I’d drawn will gather there for purpose unknown,

Because today’s the day for pancakes and crumbs, it’s Breakfast with the Skulls.

 For entire lyrics, please click here.

~ To be sung to the tune of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”

It’s not as strange as it sounds, and it ended up to be far more genteel than I’d ever imagined.

The skulls of friends long past, the Guardians of the Garden, decided it was time for a meeting…with me. As soon as I received the invitation, the heart palpitations began. Yes, I had been hanging around Quentin’s estate for the last few months, but my manners are impeccable, aren’t they? I’d either been introduced or introduced myself  to everyone. I never drew portraits without asking permission, and so far, no one had turned me down. Was there rivalry among the skull ranks? Had I spent more time with one or the other? Did they dislike their likenesses? I had tried to explain that I’m not a fine artist. Was it the boxes I’d begun to paint? I got a notion in my head to paint their portraits on boxes. Do they disapprove? I should have asked. Why didn’t I ask?

I realize how this all sounds. None of them had actually given me any reason to think I’d offended or angered any one of them. That doesn’t stop me from making up reasons. Guilty conscience, I suppose.

Turns out they want to make me an honorary member of the Guardian Garden Skulls. At least I hope it’s only “honorary.” I am pleased, of course. I had no idea that they thought this highly of me and I’m touched.

My only concern now is the Swearing-In Ceremony. I have no problem swearing. I can do that from dawn to dusk and barely have to stop to take a breath. It’s the ceremony part that has me anxious. I just hope I get to keep my hair. None of them have any, you see. Hmm…perhaps I should be more concerned about keeping my skin? There really are drawbacks to being the lone human in household filled with immortal (and dangerous) creatures.

In preparation for Halloween and Dia de los Muertos, I’m actually painting skull boxes for breakfast and lunch (and sometimes dinner). The idea of being invited to Breakfast with the Skulls wouldn’t leave me in peace (so to speak) and I had to write it down. One of my Demon pals has been calling for me, too. What can I say? It’s Grand Central Weird around here.

Breakfast with the Skulls: The Lyrics

I scurried up to the garden today,

Afraid I’d receive a surprise.

Don’t bother to follow me,

You’ll surely seal your demise.

For every skull that ever I’d drawn will gather there for purpose unknown,

Because today’s the day for pancakes and crumbs, it’s Breakfast with the Skulls.

His name is DeLarge, of Clockwork Orange fame, and a relatively new addition to the Guardians of the Garden Skulls.

Every skull who’s been in a mood is sure to find I’ve not understood today.

They’ll sit and brood and eat lots of food: syrup and corn and gin alá mode ‘ole.

I’d better join them under the eaves where they sneak and peek ‘til I buckle my knees.

It really is Breakfast with the Skulls.

Her name is Bertie and she’s “just good friends” with Alan Mackenzie.

Breakfast time with the Skulls

The airy scary Skulls are plotting a diabolical deed today.

Scream it, shout it, show your hand and know they breakfast on a yoga mat.

Watch them madly roll around.

They love to flip and dance,

Don’t you wish they’d slip away?

At nine a.m. they’re stylish and ghostly

While goo crawls away into a pile of stew.

They’re wired up and letting you know it. Skulls.

~ To be sung to the tune of “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic”

Crooked Elf

 There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile.

He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together in a little crooked house.

~ English Nursery Rhyme, There was a Crooked Man 

There once was a Crooked Elf who went by the name Kwissp E. Ceen. Not crooked in mind or deed, but in the spirit of the Bent, Slightly Twisted and Extremely Strange. He enjoyed many activities: walking crooked miles; finding crooked pennies to spend on smooshed glazed doughnuts or other irregular sweets; cataloging, archiving, and photographing all things crooked, bizarre and outlandish; getting lost in gardens and hothouses; and most especially playing hide-and-go-seek with his honorable friend, the most crooked and fluffy cat, Mimsy Poole.

Being a great appreciator of gardens, of course Kwissp tended to get lost in them. While rambling down some road or another he’d come across someone’s garden or hothouse and would be so enchanted by the sights and scents that he’d forget everything else. It always fell to Mimsy to find and bring him back home in order that he could get her supper and on occasion, a bit of catnap. This arrangement suited both of them. On one such day of rambles, Kwissp happened upon the garden belonging to Quentin the Vampire Botanist. And of course, he had never seen the like!

Magnificent flowers burst out of the ground in such a variety and a multitude of colors that Kwissp eyes crossed with delight. And what interesting flowers these were! Many of them had tiny vampire teeth or tiny vampire claws and some had both. How completely unexpected! How wonderfully, amazingly peculiar! And oh! He spotted a large conservatory. Imagine what might be growing in there! Like cream to pudding, he found himself deliciously drawn to the structure. Though he knew it was horribly impolite, he couldn’t help pressing his face to the glass and peering inside. Luckily Mimsy came to his rescue, for although she did share Kwissp’s admiration for gardens (what better place to take a well-deserved nap than under a lavender bush?), she couldn’t bear to see such an egregious breach of courtesy. Doing her cat best (which is infinitely better than a human’s), she urged him to knock on the owner’s door and gain permission to photograph, document, and classify each wondrous flora.

This could have turned out badly and may have even been the end of Kwissp. Quentin isn’t a social vampire, by any means. At best, he’s a recluse. At worse? Well, at worst let’s just say one should count themselves lucky indeed should they manage to even crawl away (with most body parts intact) from an encounter with Quentin. The only company he enjoys is that of his plants. Anyone or anything else is merely a nuisance…or lunch. Most fortunate for our crooked elf friend, it turned out that Quentin took a liking to him. This might be explained by their mutual affection and respect for plants. However, it didn’t hurt that the elf’s complexion was green as the leaves on the medicinal herb Groomwell. This could also mean that the Vampire Botanist may have devious (are there any other kind?) plans for Kwissp’s future.

I met Kwissp while sitting on a bench daydreaming in Quentin’s garden (I too, am allowed entry. Long story). He startled (nearly) the life out of me popping his little green face out of the orange, pink and golden tangle of some licorice vines (a new experiment of Quentin’s and exceptionally pretty). After I managed to get my heart out of my throat and back into my chest where it belongs, I asked if he minded that I sketch him. “Not a problem,” he says, “just so long as I can continue documenting these plants.” Since this bothered me not in the least, I sketched away. I think I captured his creepily soulful eyes quite well.

Contrary Mary

Mary, Mary quite contrary,

How does your garden grow?

With silver bells, and cockle shells,

And so my garden grows.

~English Nursery Rhyme “Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Contrary Mary loved her garden and never wanted to be parted from it. Unless she was eating supper or sleeping, everyone knew that if they wanted to see Contrary the only way was to tromp around behind her cottage where they’d find her amongst the ferns, freesia, and feverfew. “Plants are much better than people and flowers far more beautiful,” she could often be heard to say. Her neighbor Quentin could not agree more.

Contrary did not care if it were a rainy a day. She would still spend hours in her garden, tending and babying her flowers, lucky ladies that they were. Far too busy snipping, trimming, mulching, and talking, she never bothered to protect herself from the elements. Daily her mother cried and wrung her hands while her father railed bitter warnings that she would catch her death. Contrary gave not a hoot and did as she pleased, day after day. Her parents should have known their counsel would be to no avail. They named her, did they not?

On that gloomiest of mornings when she fell quite ill, no one was really surprised it had happened, though it was sad none-the-less. The worst was to hear Contrary begging, “Do not part me from my garden, I care for naught else.”  No one could figure out how to get her bed out into the garden, so they settled on moving it to the back door, which they left wide open. Not the best of plans, leaving her exposed in this manner, but her pleas were so tearful. Contrary made all of them promise: father, mother, and older brother to bury her in her garden after she died. Her love was too great to be parted from it. It was her last wish and of course they could not refuse.

All fine and good, but Contrary happened to be admired quite secretively, by Quentin the Vampire Botanist who lived just down the road and across the way. He had long loved and admired her from afar. Viciously, he cursed his lack of fortitude, which caused him to delay and now never to tell her how he truly felt. If he had, she could be by his side, as his “Bella Vampress il Fiore” (when in a romantic mood, Quentin always thinks in Italian).  Unwilling to let her go, Quentin came up with an idea. Beware of ideas, my friend, for although some of these are quite grand, others can be just as easily quite tragic.

Utilizing his botanical science and his vampire magic, he infused her spirit with the fertile soil of her garden.

Now amongst all Quentin’s creature creations Contrary Mary’s ghost sprouts up in various guises and incarnations. She seems fond of changing her ectoplasmic outfits, as well as her hairstyle on a daily basis. What’s a lady ghost to do? She no longer has need for shoes.

As her name suggests, although she now can spend eternity with her beloved garden Contrary is, to put it mildly, annoyed with Quentin’s arbitrary decision to trap her essence this way. She expresses her annoyance in the only way available to her: by sprouting tiny thorns all over her stems. No one dare pick her, not even Quentin.

You may well wonder, if Contrary is a ghost why hasn’t she escaped? She can’t. Not yet. But if you witness the various expressions that move sometimes violently across her tiny ghost face, it’s not difficult to imagine that she’s working on it. And when she succeeds, which could be any day, I really wouldn’t want to be Quentin. Would you?

Inspired by the nursery rhyme, I drew Contrary Mary with a fine-tipped, black marker and then painted her using acrylics. Her story? After I finished painting her, she told it to me.

Doodle Framed!

Be still your rapidly increasing pulse. My doodles have not been set up nor are they in trouble with the law. As far as I know no one even has it in for any of my doodles. The title of this post refers to the action of placing one of my doodles in a frame. Big whoop, eh? It IS a big whoop! I’ve never framed one of my doodles…ever. I’ve framed photos that I’ve taken, but never a doodle.

I even painted the frame. Oh get me!

Without further gibberish, here’s my Step-by-Step Tutorial of Framing My Doodle:

1) Start with a frame. So far, so good.

Unfinished and very inexpensive (sounds better than cheap) wood frame. Poor little frame. It had no idea what was going to happen to it.
Note: I think calling this frame “unfinished” is misleading. What exactly is unfinished about it? It’s not like it’s in pieces and I had to put it together. I believe that undressed is a better term. Without your clothes are you “unfinished”?? I think not.

2) Beat up the frame a bit. Let out some of your aggression and it will give your frame that cool, distressed look. Distressed=beat up. I (lightly) used a butter knife and the opposite end of my artist brush. Note: Photos of this process were edited due to the graphic violence. The frame was indeed harmed, but only slightly.

3) Get some paints. In this case I chose silver, black, and dark teal. I use airbrush inks. I like their translucent quality. Plus they were on the clearance table at my local art shop. $0.99 each! Whoo-hoo!

Airbrush ink: translucent black and dark teal, and opaque silver. Part of my scattered workspace lies behind. Aren’t you glad you don’t live here?

4) Make sure you have one of these. Although, painting with one’s fingers does have its merits.

Yeah, I use airbrush inks without an actual airbrush. Why not? They’re just acrylics.

5) After removing the backing and glass insert, I generously painted the entire frame with the silver and let it dry for about an hour or so. I then lightly applied the black, some of which I used at its full inky strength and some of it I thinned with a small amount of water.

While I was painting, I imagined that the frame was actually made of silver. Pirates stole it from a lovely lady’s cabin. Originally, it held a portrait of the lady’s fiancé, who she was sailing out to meet. Of course the pirates had no use for a sentimental portrait, and after cutting the portrait from the frame they took it and the lady aboard their vessel. Their plan was to ransom the lady off to her fiancé. Only they never had a chance to do so. Ironically, these pirates were attacked by another band of pirates. After the looting and pillaging, they burned and then sank the ship. This frame is small, only 5″x7,” and it was missed during their raid. Sadly, it ended up at the bottom of the sea for over three hundred years.*

To give it that its-been-sitting-at-the-bottom-of-the-sea-for-over-three-hundred-years look, I used the teal ink thinned with a little water and a tiny amount of the black ink. Overall, I’m pleased with the results and for me that is huge.

My dressed frame. Not to be confused with a dressed salad.
I like how I managed to get that somewhat charred look about it. This whole distressed (beat up) thing is cool. It’s sort of organic and real. Even though it’s completely fake.

6) Get to doodling! Yeah, some might advise creating your art first and then framing it. I’m sort of a build-it-and-he/she/it-will-come sort of gal. So, I did the frame first and then decided on what to doodle. Did this add to the pressure while I doodled, knowing that a frame was awaiting its completion? Sure, but if we don’t challenge ourselves, where’s the fun?

7) Ta-da! Finished product.

Ta-da!

This particular framed doodle will be added to the Halloween Artist Bazaar’s Trick or Treat Giveaway, coming soon for (duh) Halloween. Now that I’ve opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box, I’ll be venturing further into my madness and dressing up more frames, filling them with doodles, and finally posting them to my Etsy Shop, Cards for a Gloomy Day.

Thanks for tuning in. You may now return to your regular program.

*But how did the frame get here when it was at the bottom of the sea? Obviously someone found it, but who? And what happened to the lady?? I’m working on it.