Friday, August 28, 2009

waves all around

The main thing that blows me away about life in general is how connected we are, whether we realize it or not.

During June and July I was working on a large assignment for Oxford University Press. I cannot share details until the publication date in January 2010. How does an illustrator three miles out to sea get a job in the UK? Why, thanks to the I spot, THE illustration internet site.

Coincidentally, Jami G, VP at the ispot, asked to buy a copy of my soon-to-be-published book, Seven Days of Daisy.

Little did she know it was idling near my desk due to some work that came via the ispot! In the window of weeks between sketches and starting final art for OUP, I revised some pieces for my picture book. The above illustration appears in the new edition, and features a real place on Peaks Island called Whaleback.

This is the piece that was in the first edition.

I decided to redo this one. In the seven years since creating the art, I have done bunches of pastel seascapes. I decided to get closer to the figures, show expression, skip the collage, and feature a cormorant, my favorite coastal bird with unflappable demeanor.

Here's the rock I visit every day and used for reference, which is not the real Whaleback, but looks like one, don't you agree?

I headed out to Whaleback last Sunday, shortly after high tide to photograph Rebecca, who writes a monthly yoga column for the Island Times. I've become her de facto documentarian. Whoa, the wild waves from Hurricane Bill had drawn a mob.

I shot Rebecca with Whaleback in the background, hoping to time my shot with the biggest wave. Not exactly successfully.

The ocean is a force of nature beyond our fathoming. I send prayers out to all those who suffered loss and damage. Now we brace for another storm, Danny.

Meanwhile, back at the ispot, Jami patiently waited for my book to be real, and buyable. It would be a gift for another Jamie at the i spot, who ALSO has a daughter named Daisy. Is that not a cool cosmic coincidence? Here is the so sweet recipient, as adorable as her name.

Somehow, having just one buyer in line kept me motivated to get the book DONE.

Thank you, Jami G!

I have been in the illustration field for almost 30 years. Hard to reckon. The need to promote one's work is a perennial issue; I have advertised in a bevy of directories over the decades, in Boston, San Fransciso, and nationally. I've been bombarded by sales pitches, phone calls, mailings, all promising me more work if I just pay a big bill (anywhere from 2K to 4K), send off art that I belabor, second guessing what single image will do the trick, wait about 6 months, receive a book weighing more than my large dog, along with an unwieldy box of 1000 tearsheets that will cost me another big bundle to mail, after buying a mailing list, envelopes, and slapping it all on while watching old seasons of Project Runway. And then, I wait for jobs that don't materialize.....

Needless to say, the market has changed. Publishing has changed. We have changed. Change is good, mostly. I have jettisoned the directories, making room in my studio for
a box of my own books.

Unlike the massive directory books that are so yesterday, the ispot offers sharp, fresh insight on trends and tracking one's place in the big pond of contemporary illustration. It's swell to know real folks are there, with families and their own waves of creation to pursue.

Friday, August 21, 2009

my mermaid month

Yay, it's my mermaid month! I was chosen by NPR last year to illustrate a page in their 2009 calendar and finally my month has arrived. Yeah, August is almost over already. Though the summer has been steamy and swift, I relish this month of mermaid friends. NPR asked illustrators to convey their listening experience and even wanted us to write about the inspiration for our illustration.

Here's mine:

All Songs Considered, literally and metaphorically.....Living on an island brings me into direct contact with the ocean, but only skimming the surface. While listening to a book review about biodiversity, I found myself drawn underwater, hearing those songs we know nothing about. An NPR emergency radio floats by, knocked overboard from a passing motorboat. NPR creates waves of curiosity so we can find meaning in our connections as species.

I was just listening to my station, 90.1 FM, yesterday and caught this quote from a poem being read, "God is poured in waves through all things..."

Is it any wonder I have mermaids on my mind? I'm not alone. Found this creation on the beach the other day.

And I just illustrated a mermaid on the phone for next year's island directory.

August has been an auspicious month. Besides co-chairing and participating in the Art on the Porch at the Fifth Maine, and launching my first picture book, I was in a recent one-night salon show at Marsha Greenberg's house. Marsha, my neighbor, is on the board of the Maine Women's Fund and hosted a fund-raiser with works by Peaks Island women artists.

I was thrilled to be in the stellar company of Jane Banquer (now showing at the Gem Gallery), Carol Cartier, Jessica George, Nancy Gibson Nash, Claudia Whitman, and Diane Wiencke.

Here is the lovely crowd at Marsha's, with my surfer goddess piece in the background.

This piece was inspired by all the Bangla reference I did for Rickshaw Girl, but with a dynamic twist. If I'm not dreaming about being a mermaid, I'm wishing I was a surfer goddess. Happily, it drew a buyer who had an immediate response to it.

So before the summer is over, and while the waves in Maine are still chillin', go immerse art, dreams, and inspirations.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

tales from the book trail

I've spent so much time producing my wee little book that the idea of actually reading it to children and selling it was a not on the tip of my tongue. Before I'd even finished redoing some of the art (originally done back in 2002) I had an invitation to Stories in the Garden at the Friends School of Portland.

I picked the very last date available so I could get my book printed in time. As an illustrator for almost 30 years, I'm used to meeting deadlines, at the last moment possible. Unfortunately, the printer's binding machine busted and I discovered the night before my reading that I'd be empty-handed. But, islanders are nothing if not resourceful. I decided to bring my book dummies (I made several) and read my unbound proof, while talking about the making of a book. Kids always want to know how and why things are done. We all do, but they are best at asking the questions that adults are often reluctant to. Who wants to look dumb asking "what's a dummy?"

I made a tiny pencil dummy in the Picture Book class I took at Maine College of Art with Judy LaBrasca. I highly recommend this course. So many of us carry around a story in our heads: this class gets it on paper, and turning the pages of a mock-up is a necessary step in making it all tangible. After doing two in class, I did another in the weeks after it was over. Then I decided to go whole hog. I wanted to get into the children's book market at the time, but had only editorial and corporate clients. I methodically did all the art and printed my own copies on my studio printer. Had them bound by a bookmaker in Portland.
My vintage dummy is faded (on left) compared to my brand new shiny proof(in the bottom right corner.)

Located on Mackworth Island, the Friends School is an independent Quaker day school for children in grades K - 8 that promotes inquiry, reflection, and action. The reflection piece is something too often missing in educational models. So much emphasis on task-oriented success and not enough on the idle moments to process all that's going on around children these days. As I drove across the causeway to the island, my jitters at being not ready for Prime Time blew out the window. I would be sharing my book for the first time on an island among Friends. Perfect!

I felt at home right away.

The weather was buggy, but not raining, a rare moment in an otherwise wet July. My audience was attentive, curious, and engaged. After the reading, I invited the kids to draw with the pastels and papers I brought. This is usually the best part of any interaction, as children have no hesitations around art materials. They grab, and they create. Just stand back in awe. Love the graphic qualities of this drawing by a young artist in synch with her palette.

And this artist made a bold statement about her favorite season and all that comes with it.

This artist really got into the materials. She was ushered to the bathroom, wearing as much pastel as she put on paper. Such gusto comes in handy in all walks of life.

I love the emphatic energy of her marks, but she didn't like her drawing, leaving it behind. How do kids become their own severe critics? Sadly, we model for them, by being a culture of perfection and success, forgetting the happy process of getting messy, getting lost, getting to have fun just making something.

I tell my students to keep their unfavorite pieces, to make mistakes faster. Leonardo di Vinci said, "Art is never finished, only abandoned." I need this lesson, one who left a book idea idling in a drawer for about 6 years, after only a mere 10 rejections from publishers!

My next reading opportunity was home base: the Peaks Island branch library. My literary guides and librarians Priscilla Webster and Roseanne Walsh helped pull together a great gathering on an evening once again threatening to rain. This time, I had books.

Then, the power went out.

Only for a few minutes.

Once again, the better part of the evening was engaging with children whose sparks have been lit. I'd made some blank dummy books for children to make their own stories to bring home. Stand back, they know what to create. The younger ones dictated their story to a parent, and dove into the pastels with a vengeance. One young artist crumbled a pastel stub in his fingers, sifting the color onto the page. Another boy, Jameson, wrote a story about Ghostie, an imaginary friend (a ghost) who keeps getting into trouble, and almost dying AGAIN! It was hysterical. His cousin, Parker, wrote about his favorite activities on the island, drawing a fantastic bonfire. S'mores, anybody?

I realized I need to build in the time to read their stories before the end. Everyone has one, and sharing them brings everybody onto the same page of making a book.

Don't know why I sat on mine for so long, but now that it's out, I'm lovin' it. It is now available at my favorite ferry stop, Casco Bay Lines.

So get on board!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

seven days is real

Hooray! At last, my picture book Seven Days of Daisy is REAL! Thanks to lots of work and island inspiration, back burner, blather, more back burner, and a recent blast of determination, my story written and (mostly) illustrated seven years ago is now for SALE.

I immediately brought a copy to the Peaks Island Library, where I was instantly invited to read and do an activity of book-making. Next Tuesday!

I brought some copies to the Gem Gallery, which is a hot spot for new shows all summer. And tomorrow I will be at the Art on the Porch, an event/fundraiser for the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum on Peaks Island.

As a member of the Fifth Maine board, I am co-chairing the event with the lovely Monica Dominak, and praying for sunshine. I will share a table with my favorite muse and daughter, selling prints of our work, and the picture book she inspired. Here we are last year. Imagine us almost the same; Daisy is about a foot taller and I am a foot wider.

I also brought a copy to my favorite book babe, Kirsten Cappy, on her way out of town.
That girl gets around: my book is just so colorful and portable, she stashed it into her groove bag on the spot!

Get your copy at Art on the Porch, and I'll sign it for ya.
Happy reading!