Karin & Oliver's Blog

Words, pictures, photos, updates & links from Karin Mesa, in Oliver Anole’s Garden. An artist’s view of childhood and life with the help of an insouciant lizard, a kid’s advisory board and a bit of humor.


Illustrations are becoming suncatchers & mobiles


The weather has been cooler and Oliver moves a little slower in the cold. Many of his pals have little hideouts under flagstones, flower pots or leaves. And they only come out when the sun has warmed up the garden.

My new hot glass studio is up and running. And Oliver & I have been spending time painting and fusing glass. Images from the book are becoming suncatchers and mobiles.


I am loving it and Oliver can see what I'm up to from a sunny window sill near the kiln.

Oliver comments: A win- win situation even without factoring in occasional bugs that also seem to enjoy the sunny window. A snack and a show…kind of like dinner theater!

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Tortoises & Tortoises…...


This is a page that I'm painting for the new book. My grandson has been sitting on my lap as I paint and last week he met a tortoise on his way to school.

a note from Oliver…

The grandson was going to school. The tortoise was eating grasses. (see photo below)


An "Oliver's eye view" of painting the pages for the new book


Hi, it's Oliver Anole here.

There has been a lot of rain in our Garden lately. The tadpoles have hatched in the ditches, bromiliads and flower pot dishes. Their parents, the tree frogs, are celebrating with songs every night.

One of my favorite things to do after a busy day of exploring, sunning and eating mosquito larvae is to sit on Karin's shoulder and watch her paint. This is how the paintings look from my point of view. I lean on her collar and whisper ideas in her ear now and then. We work well together, which I understand is rare between species. This seems odd to me. Although some humans are sort of large and clumsy, others really do appreciate gardens and colors and these are important qualities for me.

It just started to storm again. I think I'll just sit here and watch the lightning with my friend, Karin!

The story of Oliver Anole and the Wild Grasshopper Rodeo is coming to life in watercolors!

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We're really lucky, Oliver & I, to live in a large garden. It's full of life and activity and inspiration for both pictures and stories. I mean really, move a leaf and find an adventure. They're everywhere!

This is a scene (see above…picture with boots)I set up for the new book, Oliver Anole and the Wild Grasshopper Rodeo (page 8). The story is all done and people of all sizes that I've read it to seem to really like it. So, with Oliver's helpful comments as he wades in my brush water and swirls them clean, I'm painting away on the pages.

Oliver is out at the moment visiting his friend Bright Green, who lives in our new organic garden area. He's not as talkative as Oliver but seems pretty friendly. Oliver tells me so many stories when he comes back from his travels that I am thinking he should write them on the blog. The garden through his eyes is quite amazing.


Oliver's paint water and some finished pages

Oliver and I have been learning about the wide world of anoles from the Anole Annals Blog!

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A funny thing happened several weeks ago.

Part of doing the illustrations for a book is finding reference material. I take a lot of photos in our gardens. I also look at photos on the internet and although I am not searching for "the perfect photo" I need to see a lot of angles to be familiar with the form of my subject. I do take quite a few liberties with anole illustrations…you might have noticed. But it takes a lot of looking to be able to do this. So, I was scooting around Google images of anoles when I stumbled upon a picture from my book!!!!! I bleeted, squeeked or gasped and then my granddaughter, who was visiting, and I just started to laugh. We looked to see who had posted this picture because it hadn't been me! And then we had a pleasant surprise. The illustration was posted by Jonathan Losos on his blog, Anole Annals,http://www.anoleannals.org Professor Losos is the curator of herpetology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. He says "I've spent my entire career studying anoles and I have discovered that the more I learn about anoles, the more I realize I don't know". If you visit his blog you will be amazed as I was by the richness of information. My first thought was that he did know everything about anoles. This blog is an excellent resource for media specialists and teachers. I've subscribed to it and highly recommend it!

Then, a funny thing happened again!

I got an email notification about a new blog post from Anole Annals, like I said, I had subscribed. And there it was, a generous post about Oliver the Overachiever! An expert on anoles has kindly given a nod to my insouciant Oliver, who inspires a spirit of play and adventure by being himself. I hope you'll click on this link and enjoy the post about Oliverhttp://www.anoleannals.org/2013/03/30/oliver-the-overachieving-anole/

Oliver & I are busy painting the illustrations for our 2nd book!


This is where Oliver & I have been spending a fair amount of time these days working on the next story. The view from the windows is into our Gardens where the carved glass is displayed. I had gotten a little sidetracked for several months and for a few "reasons". The goofiest reason is that I couldn't imagine that it was fair to my husband-glass artist partner, Julian, that I should get to spend hours a day doing something that is SO much fun for me while he takes on more of the heavy lifting and sandblasting of glass to allow me the time. This is how much I love illustrating…when I've painted the night before it is the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning. And the first thing I do is go out to my painting space and see how the pages look in the daylight. It was Julian that made my drawing space for me. And it was Julian who encouraged me to get back to daily hours of painting by telling me he knew this was our future. He mentioned it in a lot of ways, some sweeter than others, all appreciated. Anyone who works, with their heart on their sleeve, at something they love must realize the value of such a friend. I'm grateful and I'm painting!

A NOTE FROM OLIVER… I just wanted to mention that until my pal, Karin, got back to painting everyday, living in Florida as we do, with doors left open a lot, some mosquitos hatched in the cup full of painting water (see cup above left under birdhouse). They were delicious!

The Mom's Choice Awards! Oliver won the Gold Honor!

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Actual date of this post was Thursday April 5, 2012

While I was visiting Nandi last week I knew that the decisions were being made by the Mom’s Choice Awards judges. This was an award that I really respected. It was easier to be away for the week and not constantly checking my email, but my attention was on the decision being made. The Mom’s Choice Awards acknowledge works that “help families grow emotionally, physically and spiritually; are morally sound and promote good will; and are inspirational and uplifting.” I am honored to have had Oliver the Overachiever chosen for a gold award. And I am proud to now be a member of this fine group!

To check out the Mom’s Choice philosophy, members and award winning books and products go to...



Oliver and I are delighted with this win. And we're working together on our new book, Oliver Anole and the Wild Grasshopper Rodeo, and scheduling visits at schools and libraries.

Going to visit an elf, make her part of a story, and be part of hers


Actual date of this post was Tuesday March 27, 2012

Oliver and I have just come up for air. There’s been so much to do and learn in this new storytelling, picture drawing adventure. We’ve been very productive and very busy and it’s a great life! We’ve also made a lot of new friends. But it’s time for a visit to the elf, Nandi, to recharge on zaniness.

Oliver has packed his velvety wisteria pod suitcase and we’ve got two books in mind to buy for Nandi. We want to get her “Stars”, with illustrations by Marla Frazee and “A house in the Woods”, with illustrations by Inga Moore.

Nandi is the inspiration for the elf in my new story “Something the Cat Dragged In” and I’ll be taking some reference photos for the illustration paintings during our visit.

Well, must go, back soon!

Title- Today is World Read Aloud Day!

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Actual date of this post was Wednesday March 7, 2012

I was thinking today about my GOALS as a writer/illustrator...they all radiate out from something very simple, changing reality for the better with a story and pictures.

A simple storyteller goal on this World Read Aloud Day is to create a safe and inspiring space, a created world a little removed from day to day life. It’s a space with an agreement to communicate as a book spans at least 2 laps.

Your voice forms and shares ideas before a child’s eyes recognize symbols. I think that caring for the children you read to transfers to them caring for reading as they grow up.

Reading to young children is such an important step towards literacy. And literacy is the key to one’s dreams. Oliver Anole and I are real advocates of dreamers!

Here’s the website where you can check out the activities celebrating World Read Aloud DayWWW.LitWorld.org

1 Comment

Laura Sherman

Wow, what a great article! I never considered any of these points. I have read to my children a lot over the years, but know that I could do more. They LOVE it when we cuddle and read together.

Thank you for the inspiration!


Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 11:56 AM

Is grasshopper riding scary?


Actual date of this post was Wednesday February 8, 2012

Hi there,

It’s Oliver again. I can see Karin from here at her drawing table. She’s painting pages 3 &4 of “Oliver Anole and the Wild Grasshopper Rodeo”. She’s smiling and busy so I am dancing around the keypad tonight to send some news from our studio.

We had a question this week from Sara & Izzy. They asked if grasshopper riding is scary. Karin asked me about it and I told her the truth is at first it was, a little. To start with, the grasshoppers weren’t exactly interested in talking. They just kept crunching on the lily leaves. And, of course, we fell off a few times. But every time we fell we learned something not to do. For example, don’t wave at your friend Peasly with both hands while you’re flying. Remain seated until the hopper lands. Probably you get the idea.

The more we practiced the better we became and the more fun it became. Karin is always using the word “competent”. And that’s what we become, competent with practice.

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So Sara & Izzy I have to tell you it was so worth it to practice and practice. I wish you could try grasshopper riding. It’s really fun. Watch for pictures of it in the next book. I going over to sit on Karin’s cup of paint water, splash my feet a little and watch her painting.