Friday, June 13, 2014

Dogs and Cats and Patterns and Moving and . . .

Moving day approaches--just a couple of weeks to go! I am having a terrible time settling down to anything that doesn't involve going to Lowe's or Home Depot (hence my recent lack of blog posts). Right now it seems every minute of my life is geared toward making the new house habitable, or worrying endlessly about having nowhere to live if it isn't.

Amidst all the angst, though, I have had a little respite--somehow I've managed to fit in a new art class on "Illustrating Cats and Dogs." Each of the six weekly sessions is three hours long and may very well be saving my sanity. Not only is the subject super-fun, but our instructor, Debra Klecan, is an excellent teacher, full of great ideas that a) are diverting me from non-stop moving-day nerves, and b) are helping me organize my nonfiction WIP, A Pet Owner's Book of Days, as well as a new (yes!) picture book WIP I began in March--the two reasons I signed up for the class.

I particularly like our main assignment to create a portfolio that is also a scrapbook/journal/notebook of everything dog- and cat-related we can find. Debra recommended we use a three-ring binder and plastic sleeves for storing our reference materials, including magazine cut-outs, greeting cards, and samples of our own artwork.

I've always kept visual reference binders for my novels, full of  character wardrobes and writing prompts, but this is the first time I've tried doing something similar for an art project. For this particular exercise I chose a fabric-covered binder that zips closed and has a large sewn-in zippered pouch for pens and pencils (lots of pens and pencils). The binder itself is also big enough to include two 9" x 12" drawing pads I can tuck into the back (one is newsprint, the other is a medium-quality sketching paper). Finally, in the spirit of Serious Organization, I placed heavy, reinforced card stock dividers between my various categories:
  • Cat Photos
  • Dog Photos
  • Cat and Dog Fine Art
  • Abstract Designs and Patterns
  • Color Combinations and Palettes
  • How-to Info (including our class hand-outs)
  • Notes and Extra Sketch Paper (gray card stock I punched holes in--works really well).
So far I've got a pretty good collection of magazine and calendar photos for the "Cat and Dog" sections, but my favorite category of the moment is "Abstract Designs and Patterns." Copying designs from tiles and decorative architectural borders is meditative and calming, and good for hand-eye coordination. It's also giving me some interesting ideas I can use as borders for the pages of my picture-book-in-progress, as well as any future art journal pages. 

Some of my other reference materials for patterns and borders include:
  • Wallpaper.
  • Concrete, stone, and brickwork. 
  • Fabric.
  • The natural world: insect wings, wood grain, seed pods, leaves, petals, etc. 
  • Embroidery and knitting stitches.
  • Sewing notions, trims, and ribbons
  • Junk mail and print advertising.
  • Decorative packaging, e.g. cardboard boxes, chocolate wrap, luxury bath products.
  • Gift wrap.
  • Door keys (especially vintage/antique models).
  • Piano keys, too!
  • Shelf liner: rubber, plastic, paper, stick-on (been buying a lot of that lately).
  • Book covers.
  • Jewelry.
And that's just the beginning. I'm sure there's plenty more inspiration waiting for me at the hardware store. Today you'll find me in the aisle marked "Closets."
Tip of the Day: Drawing patterns is an excellent way to spend some downtime away from your manuscript, especially when you're feeling stuck or uninspired. Add the designs right to your journal pages, or start a fresh notebook based on pure design work. It's amazing how easily you can problem-solve once you've switched gears from writing to drawing and back again. Happy doodling!