Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Frigid Benefits

Such a frigid winter. Kitty must stay indoors. And she gets bored. And she gets cold. Where is there warmth and attention? Ah yes, the surface of my drawing board! On my sketch pad! Good thing she's not a labrador.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Reference research via computer chair

The wind is wuthering outside, kicking up fine snow in all directions. We are due again for another blast of bone-chilling negative temperatures. School is already cancelled for tomorrow. It seems very appropriate to be working on a book set during an Alaskan winter, although I think we have that state beat on arctic climates this year.

On extreme weather days, my mind wanders. I often get mired in researching a visual detail. Like a saber-tooth tiger caught in the La Brea tar pits, the internet's endless resources sticks me fast to this computer chair. But today, because of this intenet digging, I am grateful to know (and be able to show) more accurately how my characters might have dressed. What kind of snowshoes did they use? Thanks to a great website (and it's director) that preserves, collects and sells vintage snow sport equipment, I now know the sinew-laced, unique pattern of an historic snowshoe.  And what style of cold weather boots might a lady wear in 1918? After a visit to an antique clothing website (with a serious boot affectionado on staff), I have a better idea of what my female counterpart, circa 1918, would have been tromping Hickory Hill park in! Not a bad day in terms of searching through "the stacks". Now to put this knowledge to the pencil.

Early 20th century Women's boots with a "walking heel".

Native-made Athabascan snow shoes, used turn of  the last century.
Elders talk of these craftpersons making shoes unique as snowflakes. 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Climb Every Mountain

I'm working on a new picture book this winter, to be published by Sasquatch Books (Seattle) in Spring 2015. It's a book I've wanted to make for a long time, about a boy and his artist father who live an adventure on a remote Alaskan island in the winter of 1918. The best part about a story you love is the anticipation of being able to share it.  I'll have more details later, but enough to say I am excited to see the finished product in a year or so.

At the risk of sounding melodramatic (for how much drama could there be in an illustrator's life?), making a picture book is a bit like climbing a mountain. Many parts of the book illustrator's process parallels a physical attempt to summit a peak. Both can be measured in disciplined steps. There are months, even years of training, planning and preparation (that's the research, the writing, and the technique honing).  There is acclimation and adjustments to be made (fitting rigorous deadlines into a family and social life accustomed to more flexible schedule). There is reaching certain camps and weigh stations along the way, for a mountain can't be climbed in a day. Base Camp I (storyboarding fits in here, the visual planning of a book), Base Camp II (detailed sketches to size next) Base Camp III (cover art perhaps) are all stages for each endeavor. There may also be necessary repeat trips back and forth from the camps, due to a number of unforeseen situations (edits, the flu, a broken boot cleat!). The journey to the top of  Mt. Everest includes the notorious Death Zone, where the summit can be seen so tantalizingly close but slippery slopes still a hazard. It is hard work to stay focused. I'd apply this with final art making, hoping each stroke made is true to an initial vision.

And then to finish the set of pieces that, bound together, make a book. It must be akin to standing at the summit, taking in the sweet view and enjoying deep satisfaction of completing a long journey.

It won't be perfect, the climb. And it will take a lot of sustained effort and teamwork. And chocolate. But I'm an experienced "climber" and will take on the challenges. I have the right equipment. The weather is good. And I'll try to share- and enjoy- the climb in progress.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Happy 2014!

January started off bright and white this year. Ever so cold though. This pic was taken during a woods walk on one of our recent more "balmier" days of about 35°! But anyway, good days to be at the drawing board all snug and warm.

I've some exciting projects on the drawing board right now and big fresh New Year ideas floating around in my mind.  Plans to have a small, brick and mortar retail space locally here are in the works and I hope to expand my Etsy art shop offerings as well.  Please visit my Facebook page and say hi, as I tend to be more spontaneous with postings there. And, one day, I should make a website...

I wish you all creative and enriching and satisfying endeavors for 2014 and the health and focus to complete them!

Hickory Hill, in Iowa City, Iowa

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