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Archive for December 2013

7

Home and Studio: A Creative Space

I finally did it - I decided at long last to check out pinterest a few weeks ago and I have to say, I like it. It's a great way for artists to store reference and show creations. And even better, a place to discover the work of other artists. So I just thought I'd mention it here today. I just created a new board (here's my pinterest link) sharing some images of my home and studio and how I set about creating a space in which I find inspiration to work and live. I'm a novice at this new pinterest platform, but finding it fun.

Working from a studio connected to home presents both challenges and luxuries. The down side is that escaping work can be difficult, it's so easy to sneak into the studio at all hours of day and night and feel the pressing need to work on projects in progress. But it's also a luxury to go to work simply by trotting down the hall with your favorite birdie and puddy cat as companions. It means having a lot of discipline and focus to maintain sane hours, but I really love it and feel fortune to have worked from home most of my adult life. But I didn't always have such surroundings in which to paint. I spent years working on kitchen tables of cramped homes, painting in poorly lit spare bedrooms, or in the middle of living rooms. Our early house was cluttered with paintings, frames, easels, crates, panels, and the smell of wet oil paint stifled the air. The scent of baking bread never had a chance over turpentine. Now I'm spoiled, I have a spacious studio filled with light and beauty (and I dropped the toxic oil paints for the lovely soft scent of watercolors). I saved for years for this studio, feeling in my heart that creating a space to work in was an important part of the act of creating. And not just the space became meaningful, but all the totems and art objects that fill our home and studio. Today, as I start a board on pinterest that'll focus on the home and studio, I'll share a few photos of where I work and the art totems it holds.

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Beginnings

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.

Notre Dame, Paris

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Recent Paintings/Studio Musings

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Done, but not quite

I was very excited this Thanksgiving when I finished ALL the final art for the book – GOOD MORNING TO ME - that I've been working on this past year. It features my beloved parrot, Beatrix, and kitty. I started it last Thanksgiving. I spent a quiet morning in my studio packing up each painting, wrapping them in paper and sealing them up safe and tight in layers of cardboard to be shipped off to my lovely editor and art director, all the while dreaming of the feast I would make for my husband later that day, and thinking how we would kick back and savor the feeling of finishing another story. So then why the weird feeling when I tried to kick back that night? And why the next morning the desire to open up the package?

Ah done… but not quite.

I poured everything into this story. I scrutinized every sketch and revised countless times over the past months. I did color study after color study and painted up a storm to finish this book. The first few hours I chalked it up to that age old feeling that it's really hard to let go of a project after a year of work. But by mid afternoon, I knew it wasn't just that feeling--there was more to do. I ripped open the package and spread the paintings out one last time. Then I had to break it to my husband that I needed to revise and keep painting through the weekend. He's always awesome about this kind of thing and knew the regret of not pursuing this idea outweighed the lost weekend.

Students of writing and illustration always ask me, "when do you know when something is finished?" I think with creative pursuits you can never really know. One always looks at a work and thinks I wish I had done that or this differently. And sometimes in the pursuit of perfection we go sailing past the point of DONE and venture into over-baked, over-thought and over-worked. It's heartbreaking at times to know you've gotten to that point. But I want to strive to the point where there are no regrets. That you don't get to the end and wished you had tried one more thing. And so I'm painting away on these last few spreads and my heart is already telling me they're an improvement.

I was asked today to teach at a writers conference later this spring. Unfortunately it conflicts with my schedule and I can't, but it inspired me to want to share one little kernel of something I've learned working on these stories. Students often share paintings and dummies of picture books with me and ask if I think they're finished. No one can tell us this except our own hearts. Characters and stories grow up very slowly for me. Layer upon layer of understanding comes to me as I sketch and re-sketch and paint and repaint. I have friends who work much faster and I envy them that. But then again, I love the fact that I have so many happy hours with my characters as I create them. They are good company!

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Red Sledge

RED SLED is in England! It took me a moment to adjust to it being called RED SLEDGE but I'm excited that the book will be a new addition to family Christmas reading in the UK!

Here are a couple of recent reviews for Red Sledge...

Love Reading 4 Kids

The Book Bag