The beginning stage of creating a book is such a delightful time for me. Lots of unanswered questions of course, and yes, many doubts, but it's also the high octane exciting time of creating. Knowing which idea, from hundreds that occur to the one that becomes the main focus of a year's work, can be a bit of a mystery as well.
Some of my books have come from true life events that I wanted to record, or consider more deeply, or share with others. More and more my stories are completely fictional, growing out of my own imagination. But these still have true life experiences and emotions that rest close to the surface. I find for me the most important thing that allows me to "notice" or "grow" a story is just to be open to the beauty around me. To do this I carry a sketchbook just about everywhere, recording life through drawings and writing. I try never to judge the work when writing in a journal, just record. More often than not, I'm so completely overwhelmed by the beauty of the thing I'm recording, there's no time to judge. Later is the time for thoughtful contemplation and a "going over" of these ideas. That’s when the "one" rises to the top and becomes a full fledged story.
I've just begun a new story for a picture book that bubbled up from one of my journals – one I kept on a trip to Paris last spring. My journals don't just hold memories of things I saw or did while traveling. The cluttered pages filled with sketches and watercolors hold daydreams and musings recorded during that enchanted time away. I used to paint only what I saw on travels, trying to capture architecture, nature, or every beautiful note of light. But on this trip, the daydreams I indulged in as I looked out over the rooftops of Paris, or walked the halls of museums were just as important to the experience as what I was seeing. I painted a lot from my imagination and a new freedom and experimentation danced into the pages of my journal. I also painted characters that came to my imagination while walking the streets of Paris. Now two of these little characters, born from such a treasured trip, are coming to life in this story.
I've always encouraged kids in classrooms to keep a journal – keep filling them up, and remember to go back and look at them later. I'm thankful for this practice I started so many years ago. Stacks of journals line my bookshelves keeping memories alive, and books have grown directly from their pages. I'm thankful too that I have a husband who loves to travel with someone who spends a lot of time with her nose in a blank book. The time I put into it can be "somewhat" intense. But Dave happily explores and daydreams himself, and treasures the journal of memories that grows during our time away. He doesn't mind holding brushes and paint pallets when I setup in cramped spaces makes it difficult to spread out. And he's been known occasionally to leap heroically after brushes that are about to float away on the waves of rivers. I'm lucky in my travel companion. And this trip to Paris was one of our best trips ever, so I'm lucky to get to create a story from it!!
Here are just a few of the paintings done on that trip – a varied range of musings from life and imagination. I'll share more of the story itself when it is further along.
Cypriot painted terracotta, Louvre
Painted on a brown bag from Shakespeare and Company, Paris