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.


Julie Clay Illustration said...

This looks like a wonderful adventure, I think your illustrations will suit that wilderness atmosphere. I'm liking the one in this post :) I'm working on 2 new books like the ones I've just put pictures of on my blog, just 9 more illustrations to go, I can't see the top of the mountain yet, it must be just around a slippery sloping corner, if I can hang on and try and do 1 illustration a day, I shall get there..... it can seem a hard push at this point :)))

Claudia said...

Excellent Julie. You can be Sir Edmund Hillary in your own studio! Are your new ones the same format as your others? They are such sweet books, what a nice collection of four! One step at a time.

Julia Kelly said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Julia Kelly said...

I'm in the "death zone" with my book and honestly am fighting the the desire to go back to the base camp and have some hot cocoa, husband says I can't. Good Luck to us all!!!

Claudia said...

Hi Julia- I hope, few days later after you wrote this, that you have made progress in the climb! How great to hear of all these books being created!

Julia Kelly said...

Funny you should ask...yesterday I revised amd wrote in "swiss cheese" sections and almost 2/3 through a second draft! Definitely sliding downhill for a while and feels good..on to the next hill!

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