Ahh, it seems that this blog may turn into a monthly event. Life is like that, time doesn’t change pace we just seem to speed through it, hopefully with the odd chance to stop and smell the daisies. As an author/illustrator this can create havoc. When do I do my day (& night!) job?
The other day my brother-in-law said to us that LIFE is a four letter word. It tickled my fancy at first but then I thought about it and was a little sad that something so full of beautiful things and people and blessings that abound us can be reduced to the same level as a swear word. Words are such powerful things, writers know that best of all and I have decided not to categorise life into the swear word basket.
Life is busy. We cram it so full of things. This month has seen Children’s Book Week in Australia and that for me is busier than Christmas (certainly helps put the craziness of December in perspective). I stayed home for book week this year, at least in Tassie. I thought it would be a quieter week but because I still had domestic stuff to deal with (interstate guests, a 60th wedding anniversary, kids and a husband who thoughtfully planned his holidays to coincide with book week, love you Michael) so it was somewhat exhausting. I love book week so the exhaustion is worth it.
And what of my day job? Well, this book (the dinosaurs) has taken a sharp turn. I have done something I have never done before (Cristina, my publisher from Windy Hollow Books, please don’t read this bit….).
I STARTED OVER! Phew, I said it. Doing it was a tough thing to do, I put it off, I fiddle faddled around until I spoke stern words to myself and just did it. I made a mistake of starting two new things in the one book and thus the learning curve became too steep. Lesson learned. I am a perfectionist, I won’t let these illustrations go until I am happy they are the best I can do. I also have an expectation that each time I do a book it must get better than those that have gone before, the art process is one of constant learning and development. My perfectionist attitude has caused me some problems in the past but this time it has paid off! (Cristina, you are now allowed to read again).
I usually draw up and then complete an illustration before moving on to the next. I don’t work in sequence as this ensures that the development that naturally occurs in a succession of related art works isn’t obvious but appears balanced and even throughout the book. The dinosaurs looked great, the little boy was ok but I wasn’t happy. I was trying to simplify the images down too much yet include too much information. Then I painted them with the beautiful ink (new medium #1) on the dark pastel paper (new medium #2) and constantly overworked it until I had muddy, dull dinosaurs and a lifeless little boy. I had to walk away and consider the inevitable, 6 months into the book I must start again. I have never done this before. Blah!
So, I sat and considered what I should do to change the fate of this book. I decided that my strength as an artist has always been my drawing skill. I am good with pencil and this is an aspect that was shining through on my roughs for the book. The dinosaurs looked great and the boy did as well. So I sat, with my newly purchased pile of replacement pastel paper and began. I freely drew in the images, leaving in my working lines, removing only a few excess pencil marks and then did my outlines in heavier pencil, created my tone and texture with the pencil and whala! It worked and looked great. Hubby returned from work to find me hunched over my desk excitedly producing pages, he cooked tea and I worked until my eyes began to fail me. I had in a few hours overtaken the point I had reached previously. I had made a few adaptions to the boy character and to a couple of pages that seemed repetitive. I HAD FOUND MY MOJO!
I am so excited about this book. Usually, the truth be told, I get part way through a book I am illustrating for someone else and begin to long to do my own work, but this time I am so excited about the illustrations and how they are working I am considering writing my own dinosaur book just so I can draw them again! Paint hasn’t hit the paper yet as this time I am drawing all the pages up first, then I will carefully wash the colours in over the top, gently and freely to avoid the muddiness that occurred before. I can’t wait. I love colour.
So, sadly for you all you will have to wait until it is done, but I can give you a little sneak peek.
LIFE isn’t a four letter word, it is a word that happens around us constantly. Sometimes it overwhelms us and other times it wraps around us and reminds us of how wonderful it is. Without dark the light would mean nothing. As I sit here and write the blog that I have frustratedly been unable to get to for near a month, I am reminded about how beautiful life is. I sit and watch a wallaby with her joey emerging from her pouch, nibble leaves through the window in front of me, I listen to two beautiful thrush birds call constantly to each other as spring begins to awaken the garden. Life isn’t too fast, we are. I am so blessed to live in such beautiful surroundings with such inspiration.
Even the dinosaurs seem to know spring is on the way.
Happy writing, reading and enjoying LIFE.