Category Archives: illustration

Tough Broads – Joan Trumpauer Mullholland

At 19, Joan Trumpauer Mullholland found herself incarcerated on death row in a prison notorious for its ill treatment of inmates and the occasional “disappearance.” She had been disowned by her family, shunned by her community, and had undergone psychiatric evaluations .


Her crime? She was a young, educated, white, southern woman who fought doggedly for civil rights.


She had participated in a dozen sit ins, had ridden with the Freedom Riders, had been dragged from a protest at the Jackson Woolworth counter by her hair, and had left Duke University to enroll in the all black college, Tougaloo. Despite spending two months in prison, receiving innumerable hateful letters from strangers, and even being hunted by the KKK, Joan refused to give in. 


She had made a promise to herself at only 10, when she began recognizing that the morality she had been taught in church was in direct opposition with the way society treated black people, and when, on a dare, she had walked into the African American side of town and seen the fear and the economic disparity there. She vowed then to do what she could to help change things. Joan has spent her life doing just that.


At 72, she continues to speak and to fight for equality. A foundation in her name works to educate youth about the civil rights movement and to train them to be agents for positive social change in their own communities.


Let nothing stop you.

Tough Broads – Emma Gatewood

In effort to practice my portrait skills, I have been working lately on a series of inspiring women and sharing them on Instagram.  Along the way though, the project has become about so much more to me than I ever imagined.

Learning these women’s stories, joys and struggles, defeats and triumphs… Paying close attention to the lines on their faces, and knowing both the smiles and the tears that traced them… They really move me. They are all just so damn beautiful. So strong. So absolutely themselves, whatever may come.

Wether or not I ever get any better at doing their beauty some justice, wether or not my drawings ever mean a single thing to a single soul, it is enough, more than enough, that each day I find new evidence that human beings can be such luminous things. Even when it seems that the darkness is overtaking us, there are glowing, immutable, incandescent souls inside all those fragile bones and scarred skins that you pass by each day, each of them fighting their battles and carrying on. Notice. Be kind. Take heart. There is light all around us.

I’ve decided to take photos as I draw, so that if you would like to follow along, you can see the drawings take shape as the stories unfold. I hope you enjoy them!


Emma Gatewood left her family’s farm at 19 to marry. For the next 30 years she endured life with a hard man who frequently beat her, until the night that he finally brought her near death with cracked ribs and broken teeth.


When the police were called it was she who was arrested. The mayor, however, stepped in to release her and she was given a, then rare, divorce. After raising the three of her eleven children who remained at home, she embarked on an adventure, as she said “because I could.”


With only a knapsack, ordinary sneakers, a blanket, plastic shower curtain, a few tins of Vienna sausages and boxes of raisins, she set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. With no compass, no map, and no hiking experience, she became, in 1955, the first woman to ever hike those 2,050 miles of terrain all alone. She was 67.


Two years later, she became the first person, male or female, to hike that trail twice.


Let nothing stop you!

The Traveling Homebody

SwedenIs there such a thing as a homebody who loves to travel?

I like to be home. I’m content here in my world. My things, my people, my rules. I smile when I want, talk when I want, say what I want, wear what I want. I am me, fully, and completely, and without any veneer of polite civility when I am home.

I like it that way.

Oh sure, I enjoy myself when we go out for dinner, or attend our regular weekly classes. I’m sincerely happy to run into old friends at church. I like to say hello to Ray, and Floramene, my favorite checkers at the grocery. All in all though, I’d rather be home.

Unless, that is, you’re talking about going farther than the 10 mile radius that makes up my usual public domain.

If it involves a long highway, or better yet taxing down a runway…

If it means a complete change of scenery and perhaps even language, then I am in. Fully in.

San Antonio? Yes, but let’s go further…


San Antonio

Hawaii? Oh much beloved, pink palace, yes. Or… further…


Royal Hawaiian

London? With your old architecture and double decker buses and history and tea and “mind the gap” bellowing from the underground PA system. Yes! Now we’re talking. Or perhaps… further still…




Sweden. Oh Stockholm with all of the above plus a whole different language, water at the end of every street, the scent of waffles in the air and oh, just every little thing the same, but different.

StockhholmStockholm 2


Or maybe Tokyo. Or Kyoto. I could get lost there and be so happy.

KyotoEach of these places I have known and loved. In each one, I felt most assuredly at home in a way that I do not only 5 miles down the road. What is that? What is it, that makes this hermit’s heart fill with wanderlust? I don’t know.

I suppose it has something to do with being a woman who was once a little girl  who preferred  her room to just about anywhere else. She only wanted to sit on her bed for hours and hours – home, yes, but far away in the pages of a book.

There is a kind of adventuresome aloneness  in being far away.

Something to think about.

While I’m thinking, and until I manage to put another stamp in my passport, I will be home as much as possible, but also imagining new worlds with pen and ink.


Tiny Green HouseFlower Shop Close upEm's City(this little work in progress is a drawing is for my best friend, Emily. She has a new office in which she diligently works each day at paying the people who build buildings. I thought she needed some pretty ones to look at when her eyes get tired of numbers)


Birds and Winter Weeds

Bird and Winter Weed Doodles


Doodling birds and winter weeds today because those are the prettiest things around right about now. They’re both so full of anticipation for spring, don’t you think? All those little seedy things just waiting for growing, waiting to turn from gnarled brown bits to vibrant green and blossoms? All those little birds fattening up and beginning to think about love and nesting and such. We’re on the brink.

Winter Weeds  Winter Seed Pods House Finches  Birds on a Wire colorful birds copy

(*these little birds are available as a print in my shop, here)


I’ve always had a thing for containers.

Flowers in Bottles McCoy

Jars. Pots. Vases. Bowls.

As a little girl my great grandmother, my Momo, used to send me to the tub with empty butter containers, spice jars, cups and spoons, and I’d happily sit, filling, swirling, stirring, pouring until I was well and truly pruned and the water was frigid.

I don’t know what it is about putting stuff in containers, but I haven’t grown out of it, and I don’t intend to.

McCoy Red McCoy Blue McCoy Yellow McCoy Green

(*these collections of containers are available in my shop as prints individually here: turquoise, jade, poppy, and sunflower, or as a set of four, here. )

Healing Garden

It’s that time of year.

When the wind shifts, and the skies clear, and the air warms, and the birds sing and… the cedar trees reduce us all to coughing, aching, eye-watering, sniveling wretches.


Out come the steaming bowls of thyme.

Thyme Tent

And again, I daydream about the granny I’ll become one day. The sort with an ever-green garden of magical healing things.








And… well, that’s all I’ve managed to grow thus far.

But that’s cool. I’ve got some time until I’m a granny. I’ve got some time to figure out how to grow all the things that nourish and heal.

For now, thyme, lavender, honeysuckle and… Nyquil.

Healing Garden

An original drawing by Stefani Austin, available as a print here.


There is a little drawing on my wall, and a dusty container of lye in my garage, and both are telling me it’s been far too long since we’ve made soap.

Spring is coming, friends.

It’s time for the hippy in me to make a flower crown and get her soap on, yo.

It’s time for some calendula and honey, some basil and lemon, some goggles and rubber gloves.

Oh yes it is.

making soapcutting soap  carefully cutting soapapothecary in progressbreakfast and the apothecary

apothecary 2

“Apothecary” – an original illustration, available as a print in my Etsy shop

Outside Inside




There’s just something about fresh flowers in the house, isn’t there?

Every now and again, I tell myself that I should do that more – pick a few along my walk, buy a bunch at the grocery store.

Because really, what day isn’t made better with flowers?


daisies and coneflowers

I’m going to be honest with you. I’m not real thrilled about the end of winter.

I love winter I do, with all it’s cozy, sitting by the fire, baking, layers of blankets gloriousness.

And yes, I do love spring too. Open windows, bare feet, pie and fiddle music.

It’s just that here, spring lasts about two days before it’s hotter than seven kinds of hell for way too dang long.


Here it comes.

roses and lavendar

I think I’ll buy some flowers today. I think I’ll draw some flowers today. I think I’ll make spring last just as long as I can.

Because really, what season isn’t made better by flowers?

Kitchen Window

(This piece, Kitchen Window, is available as a print in my shop here)

Hello Postcard


A Little House In A Field of Flowers

Sunflower close up country roads

I live in the suburbs.

That used to really bother me. I longed for land, an orchard, a barn, woods in which to ramble, soil in which to plant.

It’s not my season for that. My boys ride bikes to their friends’ houses, to the movies, to get an ice cream. Their music lessons are nearby. Their classes and scout group and church functions aren’t far. Their lives are full, rich. Their lives are here, in the middle of it all. The suburbs aren’t all bad.

And me? I have my little cottage studio. I have a front row seat to boyhood. I’ve got coffee shops and books store and the nearness of my own friends.

Still, sometimes my heart longs for a little yellow house surrounded by fields of flowers.

One day, maybe.

sunflower studio

Country House


*to see more of this little house and order a print, visit my Etsy shop here.

Winter Woods

I think winter is my very favorite time for rambling in the woods.

The woods are simplified in winter. Everything is stripped away – everything but the lovely bones of what remains.

horsemint wafer ash cocleburs



No snakes!

Bare trees giving up all their secrets – little hollows and woodpeckers and nests that were once hidden.

winter curiosities

If I had my way, I’d have a little winter cabin in which to hibernate. A little cabin for sleeping and cooking, reading and dreaming, drawing and writing. A little cabin where there is always something simmering on the stove, always a fire in the fireplace, always the love of someone dear.


LIttle House in the Winter Woods*this little house in the Winter Woods is available as a print in my shop.