Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Last Week I Took an Illustration Class . . .

Study for The White Pony

. . . And now I can't stop drawing! 

Taught by multi-published, award-winning author/illustrator, Neecey Twinem, the week-long workshop was one I had signed up for a few months ago, thinking I had plenty of time to get my life, supplies (and brain) together before class started.  I couldn't have been more wrong. Before I was even halfway organized we were at our tables, pencils in hand and working on our stories. Talk about jumping in at the deep end. 

While the vast majority of my ideas for picture book illustrations were (and still are) floating around in my mind at the visualization stage, most of my fellow classmates had pre-written stories just waiting to be turned into full-fledged books. That was fine with me; I'm not in a race, although it would be nice to have a final draft in about a year's time

Despite my ideas being somewhat ambiguous, my main goal for taking the class was to get a fresh direction for The White Pony, my proposed children's picture book based on an ancient Chinese poem of the same name. Not only did I reach that goal, I also learned some excellent points on composition, the importance of value and line, and the huge necessity of leaving enough room on the page for the story text (something I forget ALL the time). I also found out:

How to use a template for "thumbnails" and story-boarding. Rather than messing around with a ruler, T-square and a lot of erasing, Neecy suggested drawing around a small rectangle. My husband made me this nifty little model complete with a handle for easy use. I love it!

I especially enjoyed learning more about gouache, or opaque watercolor, one of my favorite mediums. For a long time I kept trying to make it work like transparent watercolor, but now I have a much better understanding of what it can, and can't, do:

Going back to my story-boarding template, one of the elements I want to add to the book is showing the pony throughout the four seasons of a single year. To get a feel for how this might look, I experimented with splashing some color into four rectangles. I liked how they turned out, also proving that you don't always have to use words or even pictures to create workable thumbnails: 

Best of all was finally being encouraged to use transfer paper, something I've avoided for no reason other than it always seemed a bit like cheating. However, far from being a "lazy way to draw," transfer paper allowed me to make a detailed sketch on a rough piece of paper and then trace and transfer the basic shape/design onto some mixed-media sheets I had previously washed with watercolor. One version includes reins for the rider, the other leaves them out. I'm not sure what I'll do with them yet, but the technique now allows me to explore possibilities without ruining a good piece of paper with multiple erasures or changes.

All round, Illustrating Children's Books was a worthwhile experience that will stick with me for a long time. Great class and a great way to spend a hot week in June! Now for the next one . . .

Tip of the Day: Support your local instructors; take a class. Writing, art, whatever you've always wanted to know more about: workshops and classes abound. This particular workshop was offered through the New Mexico Art League, but there are literally hundreds of classes offered through your local college continuing education programs, libraries, and recreation centers. Sign up, meet new people, learn or improve a new skill. What could be more fun?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Never Give Up: 12 Reason Why


"Never give up!" That's been my voice to myself this entire year and I'm glad I listened. It hasn't been an easy time (hence my absence from blogging) but now the sun is shining, I'm back in shorts, sandals, and T's and the difficult winter days seem a long way behind me.

So here's what I learned while I've been gone:

1. Whether it's your writing, artwork, or latest beaded necklace: You can't sell what you don't submit or offer for sale. Forget about fear or lack of self-confidence. Just get your work out there.

2. Creativity gives you something to do every day, in other words, a life purpose. And that's a beautiful thing when it seems like the clouds will never part and nothing will ever change. You were born to be creative. Keep going, one foot in front of the other. It will change.

3. Creativity can be an important and nourishing spiritual practice. Julia Cameron explains this well in The Artist's Way, one of my favorite books.

4. Showing up to do your work means you set a good example to others, especially those too anxious or afraid to take that first step. Encouraging others helps you to encourage yourself.

5. Creativity is fun--and who doesn't want to have fun? You don't have to be perfect, professional, or even prissy. Just enjoy yourself and make a big mess.

6. Once you embark, and stay on, the creative path, you will meet many, many wonderful people and kindred spirits. For every type of writing, art style, craft, or creative interest your may have, there is a myriad of organizations as well as more informal groups to foster your interest and motivation. Shared creativity can often be the foundation for an entire lifetime of  friendships.

7. Following your creative instincts gives you a good excuse to "people watch" and observe the intricacies and wonders of the world with more than mere curiosity. It's all great material--be sure to use it!

8. Taking your creative project(s) with you wherever you go will give you something to do while you're waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

9. And the more you practice while you wait, the better you'll get.

10. At the end of the day, and when you're feeling your most rejected, you can always self-publish, self-represent, and self-express. Take charge of your own work. There is absolutely no need to wait endlessly for permission or approval from the gate-keepers.

11. Creative people are authentic, interesting, and inspiring. What a great group to stay in touch with. Why would you ever quit or leave their company? 

12. Finally: When you work on a creative project, you have an excellent reason to take time for yourself. You're allowed to be alone; just you and your book, canvas, or beading board. A luxury none of us should ever take for granted!

Tip of the Day: Giving up on a creative project often has a lot to do with burn-out, the feeling you just can't give another ounce or minute to what you used to love but now avoid at all costs. Burn-out is natural and can be a sign you're doing too much, worrying too much, and aiming too high for near-impossible perfection. Take a creative break: write a romance novel for fun. Paint bunnies. Make children's clothes. But whatever you do: Don't give up!