Saturday, September 27, 2003

Floss Patters Anonymous

The new colours of Waterlilies Silks arrived from Caron Collection yesterday, along with the specialty silks that I bought to go in the kits I am making up for the CSNF in Toronto next month. I just had to run them over to our local shop and spread them out on the counter... because very few people would understand the incredible urge to fondle and drool over small skeins of “string”. Just looking at some of the colours actually made me want to design something so that I could use them. One new colour just begs to be the tummy scales on a baby dragon... another is just perfect for something dark and mysterious like the inner wings of a dragon perched on some cliff looking down at her pile of treasure.... and some of them just make me want to pick them up at pat them like there are little tribbles. (any others out there who were kids during the airing of the original Star Trek episodes who wished they could have tribbles of their own?? My mom found me a bit of fur off an old coat or muff... but it wasn’t the same!)

Now the rational part of my brain understands that handling these fibres with dirty oily hands or even hands that are chapped and rough will do damage to the delicate silk fibres... but I just want to make a pile of them and pat them all... or rub them against a cheek to feel how soft they are...

Ok.... I’ll behave. But I never had the urge to do this with watercolour paints. Stitching is such a wonderful tactile medium!!

Friday, September 26, 2003

Knowing What You Want To Be When You Grow Up

I was reminded today, in conversation with a neighbour, just how early in my life I decided to “make pictures” for a living. I was 11 when I won a contest sponsored by Jack and Jill magazine and got to travel down to Indianapolis, Indiana from Montreal to visit the Saturday Evening Post Publishing Company with the 4 other illustrators and 5 young writers who had also won. The part of that whirlwind 4 days that I remember most was walking into a room where 2 grown men were planning out the order in which the drawings should appear for a colouring book. It was like being struck by lightning between the eyes. The light bulb went off... “Grown-ups can DRAW for their JOBS!!”

In some ways, it was very hard to know so early on what I wanted to do. I wasn’t sure how or where or when I would accomplish that. I certainly never dreamed that the magic and sparkle of needlework would captivate me when it did. I wasn’t sure that my dream could come true living in a smaller city like Moncton compared to Montreal or Toronto....

My neighbour said, with a somewhat wistful smile, “You are so lucky to be able to do something you love!!”

I smiled back as I headed in from hanging the laundry and back to the computer to slog away at this huge graphics project that has consumed so many hours of this week. “This has more to do with hard work that Luck!” I muttered to myself as I began to mouse and click... but then I stopped and a slow smile spread across my face. She had been right about how fortunate I was to be doing something that I loved, even if it was grueling.

I think that sometimes it is a lot like being a parent.... It requires more work that others may ever understand when they look in from the outside.. but one sudden hug or “I LOVE YOU” makes all the work worthwhile.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Captivated By Limited Colours...

It’s funny how Art imitates Life... actually the parallel today was more between my graphic design work and my current fascination with Illustrative Blackwork. I have been working on a few projects for the Dairy Farmers of Canada-Maritimes. The newsletter for Elementary Teachers is designed to be printed in only two colours- a blue and black (I didn’t want to say black and blue because I always think of those “black and blue and red all over” jokes that I used to tell and that Erin finds so hilarious now... but I still said it!) Working with a limited colour palette really makes you pay attention to shade and tone as well as how you can combine just a few colours to create more. I had the pleasure of seeing the client’s reaction to the first proofs as well which made the VERY late night last night feel a bit more bearable.

Then there is the Illustrative Blackwork. I blame it all on Linn Skinner for starting the addiction by showing me her incredibly lovely work in Nashville almost 3 years ago.. and to the nimble fingers and amazing talent of Leon Conrad for keeping me fascinated with how much can actually be accomplished using tone and pattern and density in a single colour.

With the changes in technology, it is easier than ever to produce full colour illustrations and brochures and images at a fraction of the cost. Moving fonts and images around today with a client seated at my elbow made me very glad that I am designing in THIS age instead of when mockups were drawn by hand and a single colour or word change meant a whole new drawing. Yet I also thin of some of those older children’s books that did SO much with just a few spot colours and I marvel at the Mastery involved.

Isn’t it interesting that sometimes putting limits on something actually inspires us to be more creative... I shall ponder that one as I head off to bed... perchance to dream. Will I dream in just a few colours or patterns tonight??

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Caught in the Whirlwind

There really is no other way to describe it. A whirlwind.. a supernova.. a tiger by the tail... a dragon perched on your shoulder with claws slightly dug into your skin... an ultimate rapture of creativity that almost transcends time....

Sometimes... on those very rare and special moments, a design springs forth in this kind of maelstrom and completely seizes me. It is as if I cannot stop until it has been brought fully into this world from the intangible swirl of the imaginary and anchored into the preciseness of the grid-lined paper before me. I have read about writers who have the characters in their stories take them to places that they never expected to go... and I think that during from very brief moments of my life, I have understood what they are trying to share.

The funniest thing is, although the very act of creating (or is it just helping to birth?) such a design is always an unforgettable high, it is in no way a guarantee that this new design will be any better a seller from a commercial point of view. Some designs that have taken a long time to perfect and craft can sell as well as designs which come in a creative fury. There is certainly a satisfaction in both ways of different as the two experiences are. Perhaps it is like relationships. Some friendships take time to grow and other times you sense an incredible connection with another “kindred spirit” within minutes of meeting them. Either way of designing brings me joy... but there is a certain regrettable sweetness to stepping back from the page or computer screen once the storm has calmed and the whirlwind died... to look at the page and know that this is how that design was “meant to be”. Moments like that sustain me through so much of the everyday business and busyness that may come with being a designer and business person.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Back into the FULL swing of things!!

Yikes! No wonder today’s blog is so late... the after school and evening activities are in full swing and I am not sure if I am a designer, mom or taxi driver!! Nick and I have been doing aerobics together every Monday night for the past 3 years together... but as our baby-sitters grew up and developed lives in the later years of high school, we were down to one wonderful set of sisters who lived much closer to the Gym than to our home. It somehow seemed wasteful on gas to drive all the way there, pick up the sitter, drive her home to be with our girls, both jump in the car to head down to one hour of aerobics, drive home, one of us drive all the way back down there to drop off the baby-sitter at her house and then return to our house for the night. For the past 3 weeks, we have tried taking the girls along with us and having the baby-sitter spend time with them there in the family lounge.. but 8:30 is just a little too late for Bethany to handle and still function properly the next morning at 6:20 am. So, we’ve decided to spell each other and take turns with that workout while the other one will go Sunday night.

Tonight was Erin’s first Brownie meeting for the year. Her group almost folded for lack of leaders since one was transferred to Halifax and the other got married and went back to school. One of our best friends volunteered to be the Brown Owl to keep the 8 girls from heading off to other troops on other nights. I got a few of those “you used to be a Guide” looks and comments from some of the organizers... but I just don’t have the hours to squeeze that in!

Tomorrow night Nick has to be at school late for Home and School elections, then Thursday night is the Meet the Teacher (Meet the Creature as Nick calls it) night at Erin’s school... so we will take turns covering home base while the other is out.

With the Creative Sewing and Needlework Festival now less than a month away and some very big graphics project on my plate right now, (I even have to voice some demo radio commercials tomorrow with Bethany in tow!) I just have to hunker down and concentrate on family and work... but I know how many other parents out there are feeling as frayed and frazzled at some of the schedules we make ourselves keep. No wonder we long for the lazy days of Summer!

Erin was actually asking about other activities to get into when the Cross Country Running is done and I very firmly said “NO”! Kids need to have downtime. Adults need to have downtime and balance... and that is about all that I will write on the matter for tonight so that I can get to bed at a reasonable hour myself tonight. I wish that I could really just flap my dragon wings to get places quickly... wouldn't that be cool??

Monday, September 22, 2003

Tell Me Why.... I DO Like Mondays...

As someone who went my tweens and teens in the late 70s and early 80s, I remember that catchy song “Tell me why I don’t like Mondays” that had such wonderful music with such sad lyrics about shooting the whole world down.

I actually quite like the silence of Mondays, especially the morning. Not that the alarm going off in the dark now at about 6:10 doesn’t feel jarring compared to the blissful sleep in of Sunday mornings (it is amazing how luxurious it feels to sleep in until 8:30!) Nick and Bethany head out the door around 7:20 and I walk Erin up to the bus for 7:50. Right now the walk home is crisp but still pleasant and I return to an empty, quiet house to make myself a mug of tea and get the day underway.

Even on weeks such as this, when there seem to be far to many projects to handle than the hours will allow, there is a certain serenity to getting my day and week underway. I take the first half and hour, with my claws wrapped around a warm mug of tea, to set our my priorities... and then dive in to many tasks at once. I have checked e-mail for the morning and as I write my blog on one computer, the second is printing out covers for an order to the UK which needs to ship out tomorrow. The first load of wash is finished and I will take a stretch to get that on the line before coming back down to invoice a client for a translation job I wrapped up on the weekend. Once that is done, I have 3 projects on my plate for our local Milk Marketing board. I draw Moo-Moo the cow and am doing the graphic design work for the teacher’s newsletter, the parent piece which goes home to the kids and the poster to promote a new nutritional program for middle school students. Of course there are also the kits to get ready for the CSNF in Toronto in just under 4 weeks and a new design for a hard cover book that I have been invited to submit a design a few other projects I have my tail and claws into.

Mondays also hold that “clean slate” feel to them for me, because you just never know what fun the week will hold and right now it is all about possibilities... including the very real possibility that it is time to stop musing and get my dragon butt in gear!