Friday, June 02, 2006

Eating The Hippo...One Bite At A Time!!

OK... so putting a digital camera in the hands of a visual, creative person can sometimes be a goofy and strange thing... but I hope it makes you smile. The expression usually involves an elephant rather than a hippo, but I don’t have lots of stuffed elephants kicking around the house!

My Nanny loved hippos. She had a whole collection of them kicking around the house because family and friends would find hippo figurines, toys, puzzles, magnets etc. in their travels and bring them home to her as gifts. The few times that she actually saw real hippos during her lifetime (once even in the wild), she was rather disappointed that they weren’t as charming as the ones in the Disney movie FANTASIA!!

I found this little hippo two years ago and she usually sits in her little hippo hutch area just above my mouse. I haven’t stopped missing my grandmother since she passed away almost 6 years ago, but having a hippo handy makes me remember her with a smile instead of tears.

So why do I love that expression? Basically, it reminds me that any task, no matter how huge, can be accomplished one step at a time. That expression often calms me down during a bad panic attack of “I’ll never get it all done! There just aren’t enough hours in each day!! How will I handle this???”

Flipping the calendar over to June and getting the website updated reminded me that in just over 10 weeks, I will be heading to Charlotte with my family for a trade show.... so of course, I also looked at time frames for getting each illustration done for the book project and had just a teeny, tiny, itsy, bitsy panic attack. It’s really annoying when they hit between 4 and 5 am!!

This morning, even though every single interruption possible has made steady drawing time almost impossible, (attempted delivery of a parcel that wasn’t mine and I was not about to sign for... Erin calling from school to say that she’d split the seam of the capri pants she was wearing but Nick has the van in Petitcodiac, an automated phone call to inform me that I’d won an award of travel points if I would just call this certain number to redeem them..yeah.. right... a washer going off balance as I try to get laundry out of the way before it pours rain all weekend...) I’m still really satisfied with what I got sketched yesterday and looking forward to what will still get finished this afternoon. We are looking after a neighbour’s daughter after school for a few hours until her Dad gets off work, so Erin with have someone to play with once she recovers from the trauma of having people see her underwear. I have already loaded a few new CD-ROM adventures on the purple iMac we inherited from my sister, after my step father upgraded to a Mac mini, so Bethany will be able to have an hour of playing Jump Start or ISpy and learning while she plays.

“Date night” has been put off until Saturday night because Nick has yet another retirement even to attend for staff who are leaving Petitcodiac, so I will happily stay up and draw!! You just have to tackle problems on bite at a time and then move on to the next one. CHOMP! CHOMP! CHOMP!

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Business of Creativity...

That sounds like one of those oxymorons... like Jumbo Shrimp. Creative types would usually just love more time to spend lost in the actual creating that in all the other mess that goes with trying to do this for a living.

Since I actually had the van today, my day was all about the other stuff.

I got a sample of the author’s first book to the printing company I deal with for my leaflets so that they could identify what weight cover stock and inner paper had been used the last time. I also left them with all the information that they need to quote on printing this book once the files are done to compare that to the company in Ontario.

I unpacked a box that arrived home safely after a trunk show. I dropped off some of the models from Nashville that were in that box at our local shop along with an order, then promptly turned around and spent that on stuff I need for new designs being released in Charlotte in August.

I sorted through e-mail and tried to save at least 150+ messages to the proper categories on Zip disk, paid some bills and filed away the last few pieces of business mail to come in.

I picked up two pads of drawing paper that I will need for this book project on sale at a local craft store.

I phoned Debbie at the CSNF because an e-mail that got buried last Friday asked about some class proposals that had been misplaced, but they found them.

I called another client who is late paying an invoice to see if anything had been mailed yet and got an answering machine to leave yet another message on.

I called Canada Post to check on a box that is still missing in transit.

I finally heard back from the local paper about billing for a set of stories I wrote on a RUSH basis right before the April show in Toronto. Since the stories ran in the main body of the paper instead of a separate section with advertising, the rate is half what it normally is for the same amount of words and caliber of writing. Since the work is already done, I suppose any money is better than no money, but I had the pleasure of letting them know that I would be quite busy with this children’s book over the summer.

All of this when I would rather just be at a table drawing while good tunes played in the background.

The reality of choosing to earn your income from a creative source means that you have to learn to do both. Very few of us ever grow to the point where we can have the manager, the accountant, the personal assistant and all of those other resources at our beck and call. I’m not even sure if I’d want to. I just want my desk to stop disappearing under new paperwork every time I get it cleared off. I want to keep striving for that balance between doing the creative work and finding the time to look after all the other stuff that so needs to be done.

Tomorrow is all about updating the website and then drawing because I got this other stuff out of the way today... and I can’t wait!!!

Monday, May 29, 2006

I Get To Draw A Children’s Book!!

Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Thank you SO much for all the warm wishes, karma, prayers and positive energy. I met with the author this morning and not only did she like the drawings, she would like me to do the layout and prepress work for the book too! This means that I don’t have to worry that someone else will radically alter what I draw to match her vision! Yay!

Sleep was SO hard last night. Nick had to keep talking me down and then I woke up at 4 am wide awake after dreams of taking kids with him on a field trip and having to count them over and over again to cross check things on a clipboard. I don’t even want to know any deep hidden meaning in that one! I know that it was just nervous energy. My walking buddy and I did our fastest loop of the 6 km ever this morning and she said keeping up with me was a workout and a half since her inseam is considerably shorter than mine!! I cleaned up, worked on one more drawing and then got everything ready to show the author when she arrived before lunch.

There was one hilarious moment at the beginning of the meeting when I began to walk her through the full size pencil dummy of the book. This is actual size of the final book, but just rough sketches so that you can get an idea of placement, layout and even composition before you measure and create the artwork at anywhere from 150 to 200 percent of the final size. When artwork gets scanned in and reduced, it helps everything tighten up nicely. When you draw actual size, mistakes can really show up... but it’s even worse if you draw things tiny and then enlarge them! The author got this half puzzled, half worried look and asked me if these were the final drawings before I did the colour work! I guess my burst of incredulous laughter was reassuring... but what really made her happy was when I explained the process and then pulled out 4 of the large pencil drawings for the size that I will actually create them!! She loved the detail and the expression on the main child’s face. We still need to define the little brother character to match her vision.

The layout may also change if we do a full 24 pages (6 inner pages of 4 panels each) instead of the 20 pages (5 inner sheets) that she did last time to keep costs reasonable, but that is half of the fun. I am going to concentrate on the cover artwork and the 4 panels that I know will stay the same regardless of which page number they end up on and have those drawings ready for Friday. I also plan to show her the two different mediums we could go with because her desire to use bright colours in this might be easier to achieve with a coloured pencil, marker and ink combo that watercolour and coloured pencil. Far less stretching watercolour paper onto board too!

Wheee! Yippeee! Yahoo!!! Between these illustrations, layout and getting designs ready for Charlotte in August, I am sure that my summer will be very full and satisfying. What feels the most wonderful is knowing that I finally have the chance to chase a dream and that I will hold a book that I illustrated in my hands this fall. How cool is that?

I’m glad I switched the title of the blog a while ago. This will now be an exploration of illustration, needlework and photography as all my projects progress. Welcome to the next adventure in a creative life.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Laughter, Anticipation, Perspiration and A Little Bit of Terror!

After almost 2 weeks of rain, today dawned sunny and glorious. Our minister at church has no children of her own and will be moving on to a new church out on the West Coast this summer, so our family and another offered to be her excuse to come see the movie OVER THE HEDGE with us after church this morning and refused to let her pay for her own ticket. What a FABULOUS movie!! I laughed for most of the movie except during the really poignant scenes and cannot wait to see it again or own it once it comes to DVD. I caught only a glimpse of half of the things that the animators tucked in there as inside jokes. The artist in me always likes to see a movie like that a second time so that I can look at details like how they did the texture of the fur or what quirky things they hid in the background that I missed the first time. It felt good to laugh that hard and the squirrel character had almost all the best lines. How do I know?? Both kids have been doing running squirrel monologues almost all afternoon!

Tomorrow morning, just before lunch, I have another meeting with the author whose children’s book I hope to illustrate this summer. She seemed thrilled with my style and samples when we met just over 2 weeks ago, but I want to be SURE that she will like how my style brings her story to life. I had one really hard disappointment last summer when I did a whole bunch of work for someone in exchange for royalties on a project that never materialized... so perhaps I am just being overly cautious. Perhaps it’s also because I have come so close three other times and then had things fall through or had art directors choose one of the other illustrators in the final pencils stage.

One cure for nerves in my case is always to get out and much about in the garden. There is nothing so horrid, mundane and yet so satisfying as yanking weeds from your flower beds. I even discovered that something which came up in the place of one of the perennials I had planted last year was actually just a common meadow weed. Yank! I turned all the rich soil in the raised bed where I plant vegetables every year and then Erin helped me put in our peas, beans, radishes, lettuce, carrots, pumpkins and yellow squash. In two weeks the risk of frost will be pretty much over, so I think I am safe. I’d love to have a much larger garden, but I haven’t figured out where I’d put it when the girls still enjoy racing around and playing tag on the grass. Two hours of yanking weeds out and planting things in was very satisfying!

So, now that the girls are in bed, the Memorial Cup is over here in Moncton (the Wildcats lost 6 to 2) and their lunches will be packed right after this blog, it is time to settle down with my pencils and go over what I’d like to show the author tomorrow morning. The little bit of terror and self-doubt that always seem to lurk at the edges is being kept at bay by a new visualization technique I shared with Teresa the other day. After talking with a friend about how critical she feels when she hears the CD her group recorded and listening to my sister share how writers in one class she’d signed up for kept telling everyone how they hated their own stuff, I have decided that this type of self-doubt must be almost universal to the creative mind. So I will not let this get in the way of chasing a long-cherished dream. Every time I feel an inkling of self-doubt begin to rear its ugly head, I am going to visualize a huge cartoon hammer like one uses in that “Whack-A-Mole” game and I am going to mentally WHACK the self-doubt back underground. I really am such a visual person! I may even add in a squeaky sound effect for added measure. WHACK! WHACK!