embracing her stories

penelope dullaghan - Hollins University Lee Smith

Hooray! I can finally share this new illustration with you! I made this for Hollins University to accompany an excerpt from alumni Lee Smith’s new book “Dimestore: A Writer’s Life”. The excerpt is about the author’s time at Hollins, and how she learned to embrace and tell her stories of her childhood in the mountains of Virginia.

The last lines are: “…the stories that present themselves to me as worth the telling are often those somehow connected to that place and those people. The mountains that used to imprison me have become my chosen stalking ground.”

It’s a great excerpt that you can read here: https://www.hollins.edu/magazine/?p=6771

By |May 26th, 2016|illustration|0 Comments

edible ground cover

strawberries - edible ground cover

Two years ago I planted strawberries in our front yard as ground cover. I put in as many as my mom gave me from her garden, which was about 4 garbage can lids full. And it was enough because they spread and filled in beautifully. I actually have to beat them back – they’re very tenacious and like to take over when you’re not looking. (Hence why they’re good ground cover.)

And now Veda and the two girls we carpool with go on strawberry search parties every morning before school. I tell them they can pick as many as they want… they just have to find them before I do because they’re delicious and I can’t help but eat them right away. I mean, what’s better than a dew washed strawberry that’s warmed in the sun? Kinda nothing.

They also make for great art studies with Veda. :)

veda's strawberries painting

penelope dullaghan strawberries pattern

By |May 23rd, 2016|everyday things, illustration|Comments Off on edible ground cover

yurt dreamin’

First off: Thank you all for your kind comments on the special post about this blog. I honestly had no idea so many people were still reading. Hello!

* * *

How to start back in? I think the best idea to begin is to share what I’ve been dreaming about for some time now. I’m not exactly sure how long I’ve been thinking about and refining this idea, but it all started with a yurt.

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

Yurts. Do most people even know what they are? I posted a note on Facebook last week that we were staying in one for the weekend, and Colin’s aunt said she’d better google what that was. Hmm.

So just to save you the time of googling, a yurt is basically a circular living structure first utilized by nomadic Mongolian herdsmen who needed to pick up and move their dwelling with the seasons. The original yurts were basically big tents with accordion lattice walls, radial rafters leading up to a central opening at the top (to let smoke from the fire escape) and covered with felt or animal skins. Today yurts are a lot more sophisticated in design and materials and, here in the states, are usually set up on a pretty permanent deck structure with lots of options depending on your application (permanent home versus camp ground offering, for example) – in some cases they even have wood or drywalled walls, shingled or metal roofs, double doors, etc. They can be really well made and beautiful.

And like I said, I’ve been dreaming about them for a long time.

So what is this dream? Well, you probably already guessed it, but I’d really like to live in a yurt. When the time is right to sell our lovely stone house in mid-town and buy a large country property. I envision this homestead being somewhere close to Indianapolis because we love Indy and our families are close, but far enough out where sirens and traffic noise are replaced by crickets and the call of red-winged black birds. I’d love to be surrounded by hilly groves of trees and wild grasses instead of mowed lawns and paved lots.

My dream includes one big yurt for my family to live and work in surrounded by a wooden deck, chairs for lounging and a pretty fire ring. And a couple of smaller yurts tucked into the property to offer as quiet retreat spaces for artists, writers or peace seekers. (Because passive income is always a plus, and because I really think other people would love the opportunity to unwind and take a break from the hustle and bustle in order to hear their own thoughts.)

There are two big reasons why yurt living is appealing to me. The main reason is that they are affordable – really affordable. I love the idea of having a house that is paid off – no longer being tied to a 30 year mortgage. That would free us up so much – especially to travel as we’d love to do. A while back we decided to ditch the car payment by getting a much cheaper car and paying it off. Then we pared down even more by selling our second car and just living with one. It’s made a big difference in our finances, and there have only been two times where having two cars would’ve made life easier (but we got by). I picture not having a mortgage a lot like that but a million times better.

And the second reason is simplicity. Yurts are small, so there’s only so much stuff you can put in them. I love that idea of only having a few beautiful dishes that I love using. Only having a tiny selection of clothing that I wear and repair. A few beloved books. The necessary shoes (hiking shoes, comfy sandals and maybe one pair of dress shoes). etc. Only having what we truly need. It would feel so good to not have so much stuff to care for and clean and store.

So that’s my big dream. It’s fun to think about as it evolves and becomes more clear with time. Last weekend we stayed in a yurt for a few nights to see what it was like – and we loved it. It felt kind of like camping because you sense your connection to the outdoors more, but it had every luxury like indoor plumbing and electric lights and a full kitchen. So it felt like a home, too.

There are a few hang ups to this dream, of course. The biggest being Veda’s schooling. We *love* the school she’s in right now. It’s really the perfect educational fit for her, and she’s surrounded by a close classroom community, which we think is super important especially because she’s an only child. And I don’t know how well I’d do at homeschooling. I love my work and worry that I’d not have as much time to devote to it as I’d like. And, let’s be honest, I’m not the most patient person on the planet and have a hunch that after two weeks of homeschooling I’d be done with it. So there’s that.

So we wait. For something to inevitably shift. I think there will come a time when the circumstances line up a bit better. And things fall into place to make it possible. That’s not to say I’m sitting idly, wishing. I’m deep in the process of research and we’re talking about starting the (probably) long search for the right property. I’m also selling a lot of our stuff and paring down possessions, which feels good even if this dream is to remain a dream. We shall see.

Here is a picture of the yurt we stayed in last weekend. This is the view from the front door when you walk in and look up:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure - looking up

And my sketchbook view from the front deck overlooking the mountainside:

penelope dullaghan - sketchbook yurt deck

The surrounding area – Natural Bridge State Park, in Kentucky – is just lovely. Miles of trails. Woods. Mountains. We took the ski lift up to the top of the natural bridge and hiked our way back down. Veda led the way – she was so proud of herself for finding the best paths and helping guide our footing.

Here’s Veda and Colin crossing the Natural Bridge:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure natural bridge

View from the top:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure natural bridge

And the hike back down:

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure hike

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

penelope dullaghan - yurt adventure

By |May 21st, 2016|everyday things|4 Comments

a special note about this blog

* * * Special note: this blog, in the last year (couple of years?) has shifted in the direction of primarily sharing only my work and less of my personal life and stories. I thought this was necessary as the tidal wave of Facebook hit and virtually everyone was sharing their thoughts (and lunch photos and daily rants) on the regular. I felt bombarded by so many stories suddenly appearing in the interwebs and wondered if my voice could no longer be heard – or even if it mattered anymore.  And of course, I got very busy with being a full-time mom and thought more about protecting the privacy of Veda and those closest to me. There were other factors, but I think the other biggest one was that I was seeing so many young illustrators sharing random tidbits in the form of social media pics only – with no stories attached (very vague, and intriguing in a way!) – and I wondered if I should do that too – stop sharing the person behind the art because it wasn’t “cool” anymore. (I know, I know…)

I’ve actually been on the fence about closing this blog altogether and just doing a tumblr page, when out of the blue last week an emailed popped into my inbox. It was from a lovely reader named Sarah who said she missed my stories. She missed hearing what I was into (even as it’s shifted over the years) and what was informing my days, and therefore my life. And she ended with this line: “Sometimes reading other peoples words and seeing their thoughts laid out helps put words to our own thoughts and wishes that we hadn’t quite become conscious of yet.”

And that pretty much stopped me in my tracks. I felt like her brave email was a clear sign that my story-telling (and sharing my thoughts and little bits from my life) wasn’t over yet.

So here I am… back to writing in this little draft box on my blog and hoping that I’m not too rusty.

Thanks to everyone who is still out there reading. I hope to be here more intentionally again starting now. * * *

xo, penelope

By |May 18th, 2016|everyday things|13 Comments

Canary of Hope

canary_art_penelopedullaghan canary_penelopedullaghan

Friends, I have a new illustration to share – and it’s available as a print! This little canary illo was inspired by the idea of the bright yellow bird being a beacon of hope and light in dark mines. This brave bird is spreading its wings and escaping all that is dark and holding it back – depression, anxiety, fear… it soars and overcomes!

I have a few people in my life right now who are dealing with some difficult times… I’m sure we all do. And we all have experienced hardship ourselves. I hope this piece will inspire them (you!) to have hope, to keep being brave and to keep taking the next step that’s in front of you.

If you’d like to purchase this print as a gentle visual reminder, you can here:https://www.etsy.com/listing/280680628/canary-of-hope…

Use code HOPEISACANARY for 15% off anything in my shop.


By |May 17th, 2016|illustration|Comments Off on Canary of Hope

Communication Arts award

penelope dullaghan , communication arts award for illustration

So honored to have my work recognized by the esteemed Communication Arts!

By |May 13th, 2016|illustration|Comments Off on Communication Arts award


penelope dullaghan daffodils

The last of the daffodils. And playing more with dark backgrounds!

By |May 11th, 2016|art, illustration|Comments Off on daffodils

The Observer

penelope dullaghan - the observer

A new illustration based on my most recent river walks and quiet meditations. I tried to capture the idea of noticing and observing without getting involved in a personal narrative. Just being.

By |May 11th, 2016|illustration|Comments Off on The Observer

Spirituality & Health Magazine cover – Finding your North Star

penelope dullaghan, spirituality and health cover illustration - finding your north star

Hi friends! I’m so excited to share my latest project with you! AD Sandra Salamony asked me to do the new cover for Spirituality & Health Magazine. The main feature is about Finding your North Star – and it’s a good one. I did the questionaire in it and got surprising results (was not expecting that!). The whole issue is so yummy. Chock full of beautiful illustration.

The idea behind this illustration is that the woman is made up of the universe – full of stars… possibilities and directions. But at her heart center is the biggest, most beautiful one – her north star and her path. Once she gets quiet and centered, it’s more clear and easier to follow.

I love how it turned out. Thanks so much to Sandra for the beautiful direction, as always!

penelope dullaghan, spirituality and health cover illustration - finding your north star

penelope dullaghan, spirituality and health magazine illustration - finding your north star

penelope dullaghan, spirituality and health magazine illustration - finding your north star

By |April 28th, 2016|illustration|1 Comment

Mini Documentary

A few months back, film maker John Burkett of Red Tide Productions did a mini documentary of me and my work for an artist project he was doing. In the 4 minute film you can see my studio and watch me work, walk with me by the river and hear me chatter about stuff and whatnot. I hope you enjoy the little glimpse!

Thanks, John, for your beautiful eye!

By |April 27th, 2016|art, video|2 Comments