Thursday, April 3, 2014

ALMOST A YEAR

...since I first sat outside in the sun and commanded myself to write words down on paper in a spontaneous short story exercise. It was the first and only time I have ever done anything like that. It was exciting, invigorating, unpredictable. And it was the beginning of something that has become the focus of all my creative pursuits for the last 11 months. Who would have known?

Within the first few minutes of that exploratory exercise,  I found myself watching characters emerge out of the darkness of my own imagination, fully formed with names and faces so familiar to me it was as though I'd known them all my life. Everyday since I've found myself thinking about them, my friends with secrets and stories to tell only me. Somedays they feel like beautifully mysterious strangers whom I don't really know yet, but desperately want to...

I have been having so much fun learning - reading - thinking - plotting - imagining...it's truly been the fastest year of my life. Ideating eight hours a day. Researching science topics, taking pages of notes in my journals - heck, entire days have been spent just Photoshopping and creating images of the characters in my mind so I can see them more clearly as I write. Everyday is a new thinking adventure.

I haven't illustrated anything for myself in a year. My last freelance project was 5 months ago. I've never been happier or more fulfilled. 

And I've barely even begun. 

Attempting to conceive a YA/new adult sci-fi fiction trilogy with high level, big picture concepts and thematic undercurrents is a pretty daunting task, particularly when done by someone who hasn't a clue how to do it. And yet I forge ahead...not for myself or for vainglory..not even for my own delusions of grandeur....but because my imaginary friends so very much want to be real. Only I can fulfill that wish. 

So when the voice in my head belittles my ambitions with taunts of You're not good enough!, I close my eyes and strain my ears, and I hear them.

Softly calling. Patiently waiting on the other side. 

I hear you...I tell them. 

Soon





Tuesday, January 14, 2014

GRAVITY

I've been browsing Pinterest a lot recently, collecting typographic quote posters with the intention of switching out some of the artwork hanging around the house in favor of inspirational words instead.
As a side effect, all that pinteresting got me randomly wondering if there were any super cool graphic posters floating about that I might also want to display around the house... Particularly for the movie Gravity (one of my new all-time favorite films). After some searching of the interwebs, I found a cool poster or two but nothing that is (in my opinion) very definitive of the movie. So for now I decided to take and use a pre-existing poster which I already really liked on its own---except that I want to be able to see stars and the earth alongside that awesomely lonely floating figure. So with a bit of adjustment and editing, I tweaked my way to my ideal version of the Gravity movie poster.  See below.

Note: I intend no copyright infringement by sharing this customized version with you, I just wanted to share my excitement and enthusiasm for the film (which if you haven't seen...you are truly missing something mind bogglingly beautiful and important to the progress of cinema). So go see Gravity and enjoy.

That is all.





Monday, January 13, 2014

1.13.14

New year means no better time than today to keep living the dream. The dream may be changing (i.e. probably no more freelancing for the foreseeable future) but I'm more excited than ever to have the chance to chase my passions for the next 365 days.

Tasks at the forefront:

MORE DOODLES! Goal: Expand my body of work to include larger (and pricier) doodle paintings so that I might be able to join TurningArt.com some point soon. [Yay potential passive income!].
PROGRESS towards goal: FIVE new doodles have begun. I will focus on them exclusively until they are done so I can get the ball rolling while I turn my gaze towards writing.




MORE WRITING! Goal: Pick back up where I left off on my book project, start developing the characters and story further... working towards completing the crummy first draft by the end of 2014.
PROGRESS: Still excited to pursue this, but it's sidelined until I finish the new doodle paintings.

MORE PAINTING! Goal: Expand into the fine art market (hopefully in collaboration with my husband). Up first is clouds. Lots and lots of giant cloud paintings!
PROGRESS: Gathering inspiration. Going to start the first soon.

Happy days are where you look for them!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

WINTER IS COMING

It sure has been a whirlwind fall. I have no idea how it's almost half way through November---the last two months have been a complete blur. Working, and playing, and working some more. I'm anxious for the break that awaits me around the end of this month but it will be a hard push until Thanksgiving to meet my self-imposed deadline for my current freelance project. I really can't wait to be finished with it so I can focus on creating some gift paintings for Christmas, collaborating with my husband on new art endeavors, and FINALLY getting back to my book. I can not wait to have the time to get back to thinking about my story and getting to know my characters. It is just too much fun and I miss it. December can't come soon enough!

But for now, I'm keeping pace with my project. 19 illustrations, 5 of which are finished, 12 are well under way, and the final 2 drawings are almost there, too. This is going to be the last project I take on for a little while. I should have a better grasp of where I'm heading once the new year rolls around.



Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"WOAH. COLORS."







The Scituate Art Festival was a success, thanks to the many friends, family, and strangers who stopped by the DoodlePaintings booth to chat. But the absolute best part of any art festival is interacting with children. And when I can tell that certain kids really connect with my doodles, I try to let them choose a small print for free. It makes me feel good to see kids embrace abstract art and I hope they find it inspirational. Many times they are the most eager to look at each one and say what it makes them think of or imagine.

Two clips from kids I heard this weekend:

(Young girl to her mom):
"They just stopped my eye. I was like 'WOAH. Colors.'"

(Little girl): "These are magnificent." (Her little brother, shyly): "Yeah, I like them, too...

I know my doodles aren't for everybody. But it's really rewarding when I can literally watch people stop themselves from 20 feet away, walk directly towards my booth, and generously share such nice thoughts about my work with me. Typical positive responses involved adjectives like "awesome/thoughtful/cute/wild/neat/beautiful/gorgeous/fun/cool/different".

But I have to say, my favorite comment of the weekend was "They just make you happy!"

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

SCITUATE ART FESTIVAL

This weekend is the awesomest fall fair of all: The Scituate Art Festival in Scituate, RI!
I was a vendor last year selling my doodlepaintings and will return again this year selling 5x7, 8x10, 11x14, and 14x16 prints (and will have originals onsite for those interested). I've made some simple foam display shelves to hold everything and I think it will make for a fresh, clean presentation. If you're anywhere near RI this weekend, stop by. You won't regret it! The whole main street section of Scituate is devoted to the event, with many great vendors, food, and fun.



Monday, September 9, 2013

MIND & BODY

For the past two months I've been working heavily (and steadily) planning and exploring my YA/New Adult sci-fi trilogy story idea. It's still evolving of course, but so far it has already been the most fun, fascinating, and exciting creative endeavor I've ever attempted. But more importantly, it's been a catalyst for some personal change, conquering of fears, and overall general sense of enlightenment. Here's why:

1. I HAVE AN IMAGINATION AFTER ALL!
I've already learned a great deal about myself with regard to what it takes for me to unlock my imagination. I've always been afraid of not being able to think up interesting things. You know how every kid who has ever asked an author a question probably began with: "Where do you get your ideas?"  Yeah, well...me too, kid. 

As an illustrator I know how to generate ideas by doing research and collecting all sorts of visual references and inspiration. But until very recently I felt completely mystified by how authors come up with their ideas. Not knowing any other way but my own habits, I began applying the way I work visually to generating ideas for a written story. Research (LOTS), books on writing, lots of reading, building a photo sheet of my cast of characters, illustrating some characters, etc. I'm also creating a music playlist of songs that key me into mood/tone/atmosphere/pacing and sometimes directly inspire the action of a scene. All this thinking and immersion has lead to original ideas! Who knew?

2. CONQUERING ONE FEAR HELPS CONQUER A LOT OF FEARS
Attempting to write is currently alleviating many fears, because I am staring them in the face everyday:
- fear of thinking of ideas
- fear I am stupid 
- fear that I am unimaginative
- fear that I am supposed to be an illustrator but don't want to be
- fear that my only value is in what I produce/create
- fear that I have nothing to say
- fear that I will never express myself 
- fear of disappointing myself
- overwhelming fear of aliens. (Yup. Imagining a sci-fi novel about aliens is forcing me to deal with a lot of my issues.)

3. I AM ADDICTED TO CREATIVITY, AND IT NEEDS TO STOP
Three important things I need to reiterate to give this proper context:
1. I have been dealing with Lyme disease for 3 years
2. I do not eat well (I would live on bread & water
3. I do not exercise enough

My good friend John is a personal trainer (though if I were to give him a more accurate title it would be something like "holistic health and fitness guide"). He came to his career through practice rather than formal education, and his passion for his work primarily concerns bringing awareness to how our daily behaviors (our diet & movement) play a massive role in not only our long term health but also our potential as human beings. So much of what he says inspires me and hits very close to home. It's like I'm finally in a place where what he's saying is getting through. Because I'm ready now in ways I wasn't before. (Because I happen to be writing a book about human potential.)

I've never been fit, or especially healthy, but I'm also not significantly overweight. And I've never cared enough about my looks to motivate me to the gym based on appearances alone. But I have always wanted to feel healthy and alive. This whole time I thought my biggest hurdle in improving my health and getting over Lyme disease was my reluctance to change my carb-heavy food addiction (which is partly true). But in undertaking this new huge storytelling project, I've realized that there is a much, much, larger addiction controlling me. And it probably has been for my whole life. 

It's an addiction to creativity and productivity. 

I put so much value on using my time for "creative" purposes that I will choose that over anything else every time. I should not have to tell my Lyme doctor that the reason I don't exercise is because I can't pull myself away from my art long enough to fit it in. Like a drug, art makes me feel good. And I do it all day, every day, for at least 12 hours. Why can't I make 30 minutes to take care of myself? And why is it that (on the rare occasion) I do go a long period of time without creating that I feel so depressed? 

Because I have a dependency. 
The only part of myself that I have viewed as having any value or worth is that which produces. In focusing only on the part of my being that makes me feel good about myself, I ignore and neglect the parts of myself that make me feel badly about myself (i.e. my health). 

Putting creativity above all else is actually destructive to the other parts of myself. 
I need to find a balance between mind and body. I can not be a complete person without tending to all parts of my well-being. 

And that's what I'm learning from trying to write a book. 
Who knew?



Wednesday, August 7, 2013

CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF FEELING



If you've ever wondered where inspiration for my cloud paintings come from, here's a good example: A quick photo snapped while driving last week lent itself to this painted version. Rarely do my photos capture what the clouds truly felt like, so it becomes my need and job to paint in the memory of that color and feeling. This piece is called "Sanctuary".


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

SUMMER COLDS ARE NOT MY FAVORITE

I've been sick with a stupid summer cold for the past few days (courtesy of my husband - womp womp). I haven't had the ability to do much creatively as my brain's felt a bit melty as of late. I had a really good few days working on my novel prior to contracting this snot-inducing head cold. Not much writing just yet, but a good deal of research and plotting and character generation. Things are moving along and it's all rather exciting. 

But in my spare time in between sneezing and feeling yucky, I've been trying to finish up four doodle paintings that have been lying around the studio waiting for a rainy day (or a sick day, I suppose). This is the first of the finished paintings: It's called "Lonesome Dreams".  


Doodling can be a rather comforting process for me. I start with random colors and build the foundation for the drawing, but once I get going it heads in its own direction. I can't plan what it will look like, and I only know I am done when I get that feeling - the voice that says..."That'll do, Pig...That'll do."
In this particular instance, I really wasn't happy with the way it was turning out. But thankfully, the doodling process is a loving one. I don't ever give up on a doodle. I've done over 75 of these paintings now and never once have I scrapped one because I didn't "like it". In fact, I think part of what makes this such a meaningful outlet for me is that there is no stopping until I like it. I have to keep working at the whole painting until I feel like it's reached its purpose. And I take great comfort in knowing that with enough work and determination, anything can be turned around into something worthwhile.

In art, so as in life. Or so I like to think, anyway... 
That's all for now. I need my rest so I can get some art done tomorrow!


Friday, July 12, 2013

COME CLOSE, AND I'LL TELL YOU A TINY STORY

Yesterday I spent time building up my boards on Pinterest, including one board called "Say It With Style" which hosts myriad inspirational quotes in lovely typography. I came across a darling little graphic which reads "The universe is made of tiny stories" (by Jo Klima), which just so happens to perfectly align with my own perspective on life.


It inspired me to seek out the source of the sentiment. Turns out it originates from hitRECord.org, the successful collaborative media endeavor by Joseph Gordon Levitt. I then discovered the first two printed volumes from the site's "Tiny Stories" collection. Tiny stories are collaborative pieces in which a person can author a tiny story, create a tiny illustration, or do both. People then "remix" the content submitted, either by pairing a text with a image of their own or writing text for someone else's image. The result is fun and surprising, at times beautifully poetic and insightful, as well as funny and bizarre. These little books arrived today, and I can tell you from experience that they are delightful.



I decided that crafting tiny stories of my own might be a great exercise to get the word juices flowing. So I grabbed a fresh notebook and began writing freely in what felt very similar to stream of consciousness. Here are a few of my favorite tiny stories that emerged:

Sometimes I look up at the stars and wonder, who's looking down at me?

A shiny copper penny rolled under the refrigerator. 
"What a waste," it said to itself. 

For one brief, shining moment, the cloud saw himself as he truly was. 

Lazy Kitty waited patiently for the ball of yarn to bat itself.
The ball of yarn was not pleased. Not pleased at all.

"But we don't have a map!" she exclaimed.
"Follow your heart," he replied with a wink.
They were never seen again.

The toilet seat never quite warmed to his choice of career.

Every story has a beginning. But not every story has an

The potato was very self-conscious about perpetuating stereotypes, so he only watched PBS and The Discovery Channel. 

The book waited quietly in the corner of the shelf for the day to come when he was needed again.

She didn't know then that a simple 'hello' was just what he needed to hear.

Evidence of her happy life lay in the geography of her face; rivers, canyons, and tributaries carved deep by constant use.  


Feel free to leave your own tiny story in the comments!

Monday, July 8, 2013

SO IT BEGINS!

I've finally begun on the first bits of what will hopefully become my first full-fledged writing endeavor (it happens to be a YA sci-fi novel series in three planned installments). It's been an interesting experience so far, and probably the most exciting and intriguing creative project I've yet attempted. As an illustrator I've never thought myself much of a storyteller. Sure, I can grasp the kinds of storytelling cues to consider when bringing images to a text, but I never really feel like I put much of myself into my work. There is always a disconnect. A barrier that separates the satisfaction of creating something from the personal pride in imbuing it with some bit of my true self. I never feel like I'm illustrating for me. Because I'm not. I'm serving another author's words. A story that is not my own.

Writing allows for boundless freedom to express myself through my own ideas. But what if I'm not a good storyteller? This question plagues me beyond all others.

For now, I'm ignoring that self-doubt and replacing it with curiosity and the thrill of trying. Trying something new, something that scares me, something that allows me a level of self-expression lacking in my other creative outlets.  Perhaps I will turn out to be less of a storyteller than I wish I were. But for the first time in my life I feel like I have something to say and I must push through my self-imposed fear and limitation in order to serve that voice. The voice that tells me that there is something worthy in this struggle. That it just might be what I need to become the person I've known I was all along.

We shall see.  



Thursday, June 27, 2013

CREATIVE FLOW and DREAMS


So I was painting this yesterday and it triggered some thoughts I wanted to share.

Whenever I get into a deep creative flow (usually while painting or drawing) all conscious thought fades away and is replaced by a quiet, meditative void. While in this state, my hands and brain are deeply connected, working independently from my conscious mind. As they do so, my mind is free to think about things other than what I am doing with my hands. This state of detached thought is why I love what I do. It's FLOW. Time passes without noticing. Productivity increases. My body and mind essentially remove "ME" from the equation altogether. After a particularly deep flow session, I'll come away from a drawing or painting not really remembering having done it. Of course, I was there the whole time but it was a different part of my brain that was in control and making decisions. 

Recently, I've noticed that random memories from past dreams have been popping up into my mind while I'm in this creative flow. (I'm talking about images, places, and events from dreams from years and years ago that I haven't thought about since - crazy stuff that I didn't even know I remembered!). 

It's believed that your brain does not distinguish dream memories from actual memories. Which is fascinating because they are obviously very different experiences. So I started to wonder: Why is creative flow triggering dream memories far more often than it is actual memories? And furthermore, why are these dream memories virtually inaccessible except while in the meditative state facilitated by creative flow? 

My answer: Perhaps FLOW and DREAMS are the same process, utilize the same brain connective power, and access the same portion of the brain's hard drive.

Think about it: 
- REM sleep creates dreams. 
- Dreams are experiential manifestations of disparate subconscious stimuli, accessed and assembled by your brain while you sleep. 
- It is suspected that dreams act as a training program for your mind, forging connections and confronting challenges/fears/etc, and creating insights you didn't know were there. They provide lessons meant to be carried into your waking life. Essentially, dreaming is a meditative state where you learn through randomly generated experiences. 
- Remembering these dreams after waking creates dream memories
- The brain stores dream memories in the brain just as it does actual memories.
- Dream memories tend to stay hidden until triggered, yet readily surface while in a state of creative flow. 
- Creative flow is a subconscious state that transcends your normal thoughts and unlocks capabilities otherwise hidden. Essentially, it's a meditative state where you learn through doing. 

So I suspect that creative flow is essentially the same unconscious process triggered by REM sleep. In both instances, the brain is randomly accessing subconscious thoughts and memories to forge new connections between them. It's like your brain goes into super computer mode, unlocking powers you don't have in your waking life, making you capable of things you didn't know you were. 

CREATIVITY and DREAMS come from the same brain space.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

KEEP LOOKING UP


Went for a 10-lap walk around the neighborhood (I think it's a little under 2 miles maybe?). On lap 8 I saw a falling star directly ahead of me. Considering all the directions I could have been walking in that moment, it must have been meant just for me. I sketched it to remember that beautiful surprises will find you if you're looking in the right places.

Friday, June 7, 2013

THE WRITING NOOK


I think if you really believe in something, you must do as much as you can to eliminate the barriers preventing you from taking it seriously. Even if it means converting the spare bedroom closet into a quiet place to write. Which is exactly how I spent yesterday afternoon.

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading and I find myself consistently retreating into the second bedroom to do so. It's bright, cheery, comfortable, and sparse, with a lovely big window that gets great daylight--the complete antithesis to my basement studio. I've definitely been craving the ability to work in a place that's a little less like a cave--- and it was high time to create a place where that can happen!

Little did I know that perfect place would be a closet. I was cleaning it out when it occurred to me that the small folding table already set up in the bedroom would probably fit in there rather perfectly. Turns out it totally does. (Though I had to fold it up and open it once it was in the closet). I can even close the doors and hide the whole thing if need be. But I like to think that the doors will always be open, encouraging and inviting me to return day after day...(yay symbolism!).

Once I got the desk set up, I brought in my writing books and clipped two super bright LED lights to the shelf--and VOILA! Suddenly it became a bright, clean, inspiring little workspace. I picked up a white shadowbox mirror from Target and hung it so that I can stare straight ahead into the reflection of the windows behind me. Almost as good as having a desk by the window. Most importantly, I pinned up some inspiring quotes from my favorite authors so their words can guide me through this exciting but wholly unfamiliar territory!

Today was the first day really using the space, and I must say, it was quite nice.  I pinned up a couple of illustrations to inspire me as I write, along with dozens of handwritten notes with important key words and phrases that I want to keep in the forefront of my mind while I write. Today was also Day 1 in attempting to follow "The Artist's Way." I'm hoping to use it as a way to sort out my priorities, overcome my fears and inhibitions, and open my mind to new learning experiences.  

I flew through my three written "Morning Pages" and could have gone on for hours, but being that I've got 84 more days to write my heart out it's probably best to save some for the rest of the 12 weeks. Writing things down is just so darn cathartic. I'm truly hoping that all this free writing will evolve into free thinking, which in turn will feed the idea generator... At the very least, it gets me into the habit of sitting in my chair with pencil in hand, putting thoughts into words. That's writing, right???

Monday, June 3, 2013

WRITING YOUR FIRST PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT IN 5 EASY STEPS

STEP 1: OPEN YOUR MIND...THEN CLOSE IT
First you need a great idea, and anything and everything can be turned into a great picture book, amIright?

Noooooope.

If you answered otherwise, you might want to take some more time to better acquaint yourself with the children's book industry. Inspiration is everywhere, but good ideas take hard work and proper filtration. It is essential that you feel completely intimidated by your own high standards before you even attempt to latch on to a potential picture book idea.

STEP 2: LET FEAR TAKE HOLD
Ponder your ideas sporadically for at least two, maybe three years. Write NOTHING down. You must earn the right to write by spending as much time as possible being terrified and mystified by the entire writing process. DO NOT attempt to alleviate this panicked state by trying to actually write something. That would be highly logical and therefore completely detrimental to your irrational fear.

STEP 3: CRUSH YOUR EGO
Continue to overwhelm yourself with feelings of inadequacy by reading so many books by authors you admire that you feel like you could never, ever, never ever in a million years actually create something worthy of being read by other people--especially those small humans called children.

STEP 4: GIVE IN
If, after all your self-confidence-diminishing reading and research, your original sprout of a kidlit idea STILL continues to haunt your thoughts like that neglected plant on the window sill slowly withering to death, you might actually have a decent idea for a children's book. And against all odds, you may just have to succumb to writing it down after all.

STEP 5: FORM SENTENCES
Spend one fine spring day in May (but no more than 2 hours) at your computer typing out the first draft of your first manuscript. After all, it's only 500 words - it shouldn't take you all afternoon...

VOILA! Two years of thought and two hours of actual writing and you've finally done it. You've written the first draft of your first ever picture book (apart from that one in college, which doesn't count).  Now, whether your manuscript is good or embarrassingly bad remains to be seen. But you did it!

Congratulations!
You may now proceed to STEP 6:
Creating Your First Picture Book Dummy In 150 Agonizing Steps

TO BE CONTINUED....


Friday, May 17, 2013

BREAKTHROUGH

I've been wanting to write for a very long time now. And I don't mean blog pots---I mean actual writing-- as in a story of my own. I don't think you can read as much as I do and love reading as much a I do and not eventually, somewhere deep down, start to think that maybe you, too, have a story to tell.

The urge to write is a funny thing to a person who doesn't write. It's like a lifelong vegetarian suddenly getting a craving for pot roast. You've never eaten it before, so  it's pretty freaking strange that your body (or imagination) is telling you that you want it.

Writing has always been an awesomely cool idea to me. But having never done it before, it remains a Schrödinger's cat of mystery. If I never open the box I'll never know if I'm a good writer or a bad writer. Of course it's a defense mechanism to protect the gee-golly hope that maybe I am a good writer! This is a problem. Because unless I actually try it, my writing will not just be an unknown neutral, it will be both good AND bad, as both exist as true until proven otherwise.

But how do I try? How do I begin? Writing a story is so unbelievably daunting. How do authors know where to begin and where they want to end up? How do they craft the plot? How do they imagine all those beautiful little moments that reveal character or move the story along? How do I write a story if I don't know exactly where I want to go with it? There are so many unknowns and that is SCARY.

It was then, in this moment of panic-- that I had a moment of clarity:

Writing a story is and always will be infinitely intimidating.
So stop thinking about it that way, and find a new way to look at it:

Think about writing as taking a trip. 

When you go on vacation, you know where your initial destination is, you know who you're traveling with, and you know when you expect to return. The rest of it---the unplanned, the unknown, is THE REASON you take the trip. You'll see a new place, and have new experiences. Things will happen. By the end of the vacation, you will have amassed a story to tell. It could be dull, it could be thrilling. Either way, you will have a beginning, middle, and an end.  If you knew every detail that would unfold before you took the trip, you probably wouldn't feel the need to go anymore. The mystery of possibility makes the trip fun to live through. The same is true for the one writing the story, and the one reading the story.

We're both embarking on a trip with my characters. We know where our journey begins but we don't know what we'll go through together before we get back. We'll see new places, meet new people, be thrown into unfamiliar situations. The way we handle ourselves will inevitably reveal character. The things that happen will become plot.

Write, and things will happen. That's all there is to it.

So yesterday afternoon, lead by a force deep down in my gut that I could no longer ignore, I tried IT. Pencil to paper. Excited by possibility, terrified by expectation...

And lo and behold---
WORDS CAME OUT.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

LIONS AND TIGERS

Yesterday I had a vivid, cinematic dream in which I was more viewer than participant.

It began with a montage of old sepia toned film clips-- one of which featured a lion tamer on stilts in a darkened circus ring. The tamer has his back to the lioness. He loses his balance and begins stumbling backwards towards the lion, sitting calmly on her pedestal. In a flash the lioness lashes out her paws, swiftly and effortlessly snapping the tamer's neck before he even realizes he's fallen within her grasp. 

The montage stops. A new scene opens on a wide expanse of green field. I am outside, it is warm and bright under the midday sun. In the distance, I see a lion in the field. Slowly, the camera pulls out, revealing a tall chain link fence enclosing this field. The camera pans along the fence perimeter. A figure is standing on the outside of the enclosure. It is an aged (but not ancient) buddhist monk, clad in saffron robes. He is expressionless, yet somehow comforting. The camera pans to his left, and I see that directly in front of where he is standing, the chain link fence is broken in a four-foot gap of twisted metal. I gasp. Instantly I realize there is NOTHING separating the lion in the field and this solitary monk. I scream inside my head: "RUN! RUN! GET AWAY FROM THERE!" In my mind I envision the distant lion bounding towards the man. I panic. Can't he see the fence is compromised?? Why isn't he running away??? Yet the monk stares back at me, unconcerned. 

Calmly and slowly he walks away from the fence towards some grass nearby. I'm overwhelmed with anticipation that any second that lion will emerge and there will be nothing to stop what may come. But the monk carries on, seemingly oblivious to the impending danger. 

He takes out a deep blue blanket and lays it on the grass. 

The final scene of the dream is in the form of an illustration, as if from a book.

White background. Birds eye view of the blue blanket and the peacefully sleeping monk. Curled up beside him is the sleeping lion (which has become a tiger). Together they are Yin and Yang. 
______________________________________

I awake, the image lingering in my mind's eye. 
This dream is so odd. So abstract and yet specific. I can't shake the feeling that it is trying to tell me something-- that encoded within the imagery and loose narrative is a message I need to hear.

The message I have found is this:
The monk was not unafraid. He knew the natural danger and threat presented by the lion and the faulty fence. But he also knew he could not control what may or may not happen to him. He acknowledges the existence of his fear, but behaves despite it. In so doing, he has mastered his fear and attained inner peace.

Only by accepting the existence of lions (or tigers) in our world can we find peace within it, and within ourselves. 


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

NESCBWI RECAP: MY 5 KEY TAKE-AWAYS

What a weekend! This is the first moment I've had to properly collect a few of my thoughts about the NESCBWI conference held this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Springfield, MA.  It was a great experience, filled with kind people, informative workshops, and new friends. Thanks go out to NESCBWI for putting it all together!

Here are my personal take-aways:

1. I know more than I think I know. 
Generally, during and after each workshop, I found myself thinking...gee...I already know most of what was said. That doesn't mean the workshops and information weren't valuable---it just serves as a reminder that over the past seven years, I've done a lot of researching and gained a lot of experience on my own that I've either been using or have filed away for future use. Bottom line: I'm not a newb. That much is clear.  

2. I still need to work on self-confidence issues. 
While I do take pride and feel good about my overall craft and presentation, when it comes to the content of the work itself I'm always pretty self-conscious. I do work hard and try hard to make smart decisions, but I still feel like I'm pretending to be an illustrator. I doubt my own drawing/painting abilities, I doubt my compositions, I doubt my own imagination/creativity (or lack thereof). I compare myself too much to those I admire. If this weekend has shown me anything, it's that I should believe in myself a little more. My work is polished. My portfolio varied. Throughout this weekend I felt a lot of support and encouragement from strangers who offer a more objective view of my work.  It left me feeling like I will get to where I want to go if I just stick with it. I'm already headed in the right direction and I have experience to back me up. I have the tools I need, I just have to figure out what I want to do with them.

3. I depend on external validation more than I'd like to. 
That doesn't mean that I only want compliments--in fact the opposite is true. I sincerely appreciate constructive feedback that guides me to ways to keep improving. Throughout the weekend I had generous, positive interactions with fellow illustrators about my work. Yet that positive reinforcement did very little to elevate my self-worth. Instead, I allowed the disappointingly dispassionate two minute  critique from the small panel of industry reps to make me feel rather lousy about my work. It left me second guessing deliberate decisions and confused about how to fix what they didn't like. But I'm smarter than that--I should be able to take it by now! I ought be able to swallow criticism and not get overly dejected that easily. Not everybody has to completely embrace my work. I can't please everyone. I can only take all the feedback in and trust myself to know what I want to do with it moving forward. 

4. KidLit can be a very friendly industry. 
I met a lot of very kind, very awesome, very talented people this weekend. It was wonderful to make new connections with strangers who share a common love and respect for children's literature. It really is all about networking and establishing a supportive community. We're all in this together, pulling for each of us to succeed, or at the very least, to keep pursuing our passion. Whether it's connecting with those just beginning their journeys, sharing common experiences with a fellow published illustrator, or getting the chance to meet the author of the book I illustrated, everyone was so darn nice and generous with their time. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.  

5. I want to succeed in this industry. 
I want to illustrate. I want to write. I want to make books that express who I am and how I see the world. And I want to be able to share these books with the children for whom they are intended. Sharon Creech and Grace Lin's uplifting key notes in particular reminded me of that. Life and art are intermingling at all times, and it's up to us to open our hearts and minds and allow those moments to flow into our creativity. It's not about making pretty pictures or telling pretty stories. It's about capturing an idea and contributing a very human part of ourselves.

Sometimes when I'm in the trenches pulling my hair out over an educational project I don't want to be doing, I question whether I want to be doing this at all. But so many times this weekend my heart panged with overwhelming hope, skipped with a jolt of inspiration, and beat with a constant sense of purpose that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the place I want to be.

So I'm going to keep at it, and start listening to what's on the inside, waiting for its chance to come out.

So---did you attend the conference, too? What were your take-aways?
_____________________________________

Here are the only two shots I snapped this whole weekend. I guess I was too busy making friends to spend time behind the camera!












My entry for the poster contest for Jane Yolen's poem Infirm Pachyderm.  





Monday, April 29, 2013

Three...Two...One...

In these last few days before next weekend's NESCBWI conference, I've been putting the finishing touches on my portfolio book and trying to decide whether I have any dummies in good enough shape to include. I certainly don't want to put sub-par work out just for the heck of it, but I also don't want to miss an opportunity like the conference can provide. Hmmm... probably not enough time left to get everything I hoped to finished. Ho hum.

In other news, I had a booth at Sunday's Craftopia event in Pawtucket. 9 hours of work and I just barely made back the cost of the booth. I gave out a lot of cards, and like every other time it was nice to interact with people directly, but when the highlight of my day was a very old lady randomly telling me about another vendor's painting of a beach that she loved but didn't to buy want because it turned out it wasn't of a Rhode Island beach...well, that's when you know it was a pretty dull day. At least my superstar husband was there to people watch with me.

Actually, the most redeeming part of the day was selling some prints to a mother and her two children. That's always a really nice feeling. Sometimes I should just think of my booth as a tiny travelling museum, free to the public, hoping a handful of people enjoy what they see.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

POSTCARD PROMO

The NESCBWI conference is approaching quickly. My new postcards arrived just this afternoon. (250 is a larger number than I anticipated!) I'm hoping to give some out at the conference and maybe do a small mailing of my own a little later. Overall, very pleased with these cards. I used Modern Postcard and the color accuracy is the best out of any tried thus far. Well worth it, especially for the oversized card --these are 8.5 by 6 inches. 

It feels good to have created a piece that I feel plays to my strengths--people, animals, landscapes.

I really want to get more work with older characters. I also want to illustrate stories NOT set in the here and now. Give me fantasy, sci-fi, historical fiction, fables, fairytales, animal stories, etc. I don't think I'm particularly suited to the sort of picture books that are trending right now. (You know- super fun, colorful, strong shapes, scribbly line, looks-like-a-child-could-draw-it kind of picture books.)

And I don't mean that to sound snarky. I am so glad there are illustrators out there for those types of very young picture books. I think simplicity is genius. Gestural, expressive imagery is integral to children's visual literacy. I think it's important that there be artwork that directly relates to children and visually parallels their child-like essence. But I've never been that kind of artist. And although I find it amazingly fun to look at, those kinds of images are not fun for me to create. So I'm just trying to get better at doing what I do...and being who I am...whoever that may be. And for what it's worth, I think there will always be some kids out there who prefer illustrations that don't look like something they could draw themselves. Because I was that kind of kid. So I guess in more ways than one, I'm drawing for myself...


Friday, April 19, 2013

EBOOK ENDEAVORS

My husband, Adam, decided that he's going to add ebook cover design to his growing list of art/business/design ventures in the making. After throwing some ideas around, I started to take him seriously and began to see how realistically viable this would be for us both to take on as a team. We both work jobs as web/print designers, and with our combined skills and areas of interest I think we could totally do this thing.

We are currently in the process of pinning down a name for this emerging ebook cover business and have begun to put together some sample cover designs. Thankfully, there's no shortage of public domain stories ripe for the picking. Adam's been pulling references and inspiration and knocking out the first round of designs. I'm then taking his designs/ideas and bringing them to finish. Our goal is to get at least eight covers mocked up and then build a simple SEO website that can start catching client leads. Over just a couple nights we've created six sample eye-catching ebook covers that I think rather successfully scale down so that they can be read easily on websites like Amazon or in the App Store.

I've requested to be the company Art Director and Adam the designer. He's definitely an idea man and I love tweaking and refining other people's hard work. Haha.

...but seriously. I love it.

The six on the left are the finished versions, those on the right are Adam's first passes. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

THE WANDERING MIND

My mind has been preoccupied with the tragic and heinous event that occurred on Monday. I've found it difficult to focus on the work at hand, and although I am getting what I need to done, my thoughts have surely been elsewhere as of late. Checking the news every 20 minutes. Or leaving it on, anxiously awaiting the moment I hear something new. Not because I think I'll ever come to understand why this happened, but because I CAN'T understand why this happened. Sometimes I live contentedly in my peaceful bubble and forget that the world can be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad place. 

I lived in Boston for three years and was a spectator at the marathon twice. The Life is good office where I worked is at 863 Boylston, a hop skip and a jump from the second explosion. I walked by the finish line and 755 Boylston every week day for two years. It's impossible and overwhelming to wrap my head around something like this happening in such a familiar place. And after the relief of knowing all my friends and former coworkers were safe, came the continued disbelief that this actually happened. So many lives will never be the same. And it's not fair. 

We, the helpless onlookers, join in their pain. Because we have humanity. Because we have imagination enough to fathom even just a tiny bit of that pain and become overwhelmed by the injustice of it all. Empathy is the greatest quality we have to offer the world. 

I can't fix the world, but I can feel for it. And find reasons to love it despite it all. I contribute a little of my own color and my own happiness, and try to fight the dark with a glimmer of light. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

RETURN TO RON MOR SKERRY

As a child, I was completely captivated by the John Sayles film The Secret of Roan Inish. It was somber, moody, atmospheric, mysterious, moving, charming, and oh-so-very IRISH. It was beautiful in both its mythic fable-like story, as well as its muted, lustrous cinematography. Essentially everything I loved in a story then and even more so now. As an adult I discovered the book upon which it is based, the Scotland-set The Secret of the Ron Mor Skerry. The story concerns a young girl, Fiona McConville, who returns from the city to live with her grandparents on the coast of Scotland. All of her family had been living on the nearby small rocky island of Ron Mor for generations until they all evacuated four years prior. On that day, Fiona's baby brother Jamie was tragically swept out to sea in his little cradle boat, never to be seen again. But Fiona believes her brother may still be on Ron Mor, and begins to suspect he's been protected by the seals that inhabit the island.

Originally published in 1950s, it has been out of print for a long time, apart from the straggling copies of the 1994 movie-tie in book, which is what I have. But this version of the book has always bothered me. It's the exact same text as the original Ron Mor, but just its title on the cover has been changed to Roan Inish. The original book also featured lovely black and white line illustrations by the author herself. For such a magical story, my lackluster printed copy simply won't do.

For several years (ever since I tracked down my own copy of the book via Ebay), I've wanted to revisit the story with my own images. Almost 20 years after seeing the film, I'm finally doing it! I've begun here with the cover and would like to continue on with creating black and white chapter illustrations as well. I plan to play direct homage to Rosalie Fry's original vignettes in addition to adding some of my own imaginings.

But for now, here is the cover in process form.

1. Quick color/compositional sketch.


2. Pencil drawing.



















3. Refining color sketch to align with pencil drawing.









4. Black and white rendering.



5. Color version. 



6. Final version, adjusting placement of elements and position of figures.



7. Overlay of book jacket elements. 










Saturday, March 30, 2013

I Was Made For Sunny Days

Today was the second morning in a row that I took my breakfast outside to enjoy some beautiful blue cloud-free sky. Is there anything better than soaking up some vitamin D in the warm, unobscured sunshine? 

I'm sure the clouds rolled in a little later. I was in the basement studio all day so who can say?
Perhaps the afternoon looked like this.
I imagine it did. 


Monday, March 25, 2013

Rabbit & Coyote

It's getting to be that time when work I did a year ago can finally come out of the closet! It's a bit of a bummer that I can't share my work as I do it, but thems the rules. I did this back in January of last year so it ought to be quite safe to post now. These are from the folktale "Rabbit & Coyote," which features an overly self-assured coyote and some tricksy rabbits.







Wednesday, March 13, 2013

CINDERELLA T2 PROMO

My agent, Nicole of Tugeau2 requested all her artists to submit a new piece for a character mosaic promo she is sending out to contacts. I didn't quite know what I wanted to do for it but I sat down with my sketch book and a Cinderella-esque figure began to emerge. So I took the sketch into Photoshop and started painting.

Here is the final piece and a bit about the process I've been using to create my work lately. It involves sketch > to black and white painting, color conversion > to evolution to the final full color. Working in black and white first is helping me to focus on form, composition and lighting without muddying around with the color. My recent work has been improving with this process (I'd show you but I can't since they are freelance projects--I'll have to wait!).




Friday, February 22, 2013

IMPERFECT CIRCLES

Here are the first four new doodles of 2013. Made some time between all the illustration stuff I've been busying myself with to finish these up. But that will probably be enough doodling for a while--I've got pressing matters to attend to until the NESCBWI conference!

I must say, I'm quite happy with these color palettes.






Friday, February 15, 2013

ILLUSTRATION FRIDAY: WOOL

As soon as I saw this week's Illustration Friday topic I knew had to do something for it. Sheep are my favorite animal and yet I find them very difficult to draw.

I began with a simple sheep drawing and went from there. Originally I just wanted to do something iconic, with a lot of texture and no story. But I find that even when I try to create a story-less image I always end up craving some kind of indication of a possible narrative, so I turned it into a book cover and did one variation to expand its storytelling possibilities.



Thursday, February 14, 2013

HAPPY LOVE DAY!

Happy Together 
Valentine's promo for my agent, Tugeau 2

Thursday, February 7, 2013

NESCBWI REGISTERED!


My husband and I will be attending the NE SCBWI conference in Springfield this May. After much deliberation I was able to finally select my sessions--it was a lot of back and forth trying to figure out what overlapped with what. I'm a little disapointed that so many illustration workshops overlap. It means I can't take everything I want to and it also leaves me with chunks of time where I'm forced to take a writing-focused workshop. Eep! Scary. I am essentially a total novice and very intimidated by that whole thing. Hopefully I'll learn a
lot while I'm there, but I wish they had spread out the illustration
courses so that there was always at least one to choose from...

Anyway, it should be fun and informative either way! Here's what I went with
My selections are in blue, my husband's picks (Adam Hunter Peck)  are in green.
I tried to get a variety of things within what is applicable to my career, and Adam went with a lot of business/marketing sessions since that's his thing.

If you're going, too, let me know and keep an eye out for us!
My picks: A7, B6, D4, E5, G1, H2, J3, K3, M1, N2
Adam's picks: A6, B1, C4, F5, J3, K4, L3

FRIDAY

A7 ~ The Element of Story: How to Develop a Compelling 
Children’s Illustration Portfolio with Teri Weidner 

B6 ~ Learning to Live with Rejection: Navigating the Long 
and Winding Road to Publication with Christine Brodien-Jones

A6 ~ Keyword By Word: Create a Plan to Brand, Sell, 
and Promote Your Novel with AC Gaughen and Hilary Weisman Graham

B1 ~ Situational Time Management with Gail Gauthier


SATURDAY

D4 ~ Line by Line: Inside the Agent/Author Relationship 
as they Make a Manuscript Submissions Ready
with Stacy Barnett Mozer and Linda Epstein

E5 ~ Eye Candy: Creating a Compelling Piece of Sample art with Sarah Brannen

G1 ~ First Look: Your Single Best Piece Critiqued with Christina Rodriguez

H2 ~ Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition: 
A Picture Book Writer’s Three Rs with Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

C4 ~ Scene Structure with Laurie Calkhoven 

F5 ~ From Picasso to Pixels with Carlyn Beccia


SUNDAY

J2 ~ Writing Outside of Your Cultural Box: 
Creating Multicultural Characters Outside of Your Culture with Natalie Dias Lorenzi

K3 ~ 7 Animation Concepts Every Illustrator Should Steal with Gaia Cornwall

M1 ~ The Craft of Early Readers with Dana Rau

N2 ~ The Yin and Yang of Character Development with Kami Kinard

J3 ~ Facebook Strategies for Authors with Michelle Fontaine

K4 ~ All About the Blogs: Everything You Need to Know 
About Reaching and Working with Influential Book Bloggers with Kellie Celia

L3 ~ Why Every Writer Needs to Be Creating Video: 
And Why It's Much Easier Than You Think! with Katie Davis