Friday, June 09, 2006

Normal Rockwell Moments...

Last fall at Dragon*Con, Teresa and I sat in on quite a few lectures by fantasy artists about how they approach their profession. Much of what we heard was really helpful, but the one story that stuck with me was about American Illustrator Norman Rockwell. This incredible illustrator was rarely given the credit he was due for his incredible talent during his lifetime by other artists and the art community. One story that one of the artist’s at Dragon*Con shared was how each time Norman Rockwell sat down to start a new piece of artwork, he would be charged with excitement of how THIS piece was going to be his masterpiece. Then, as the work progressed, he would invariably reach a point where he was sure that he had ruined the work completely and that it was beyond redemption. He would work through the frustration and finally by the end of the work, he would decide that, considering how badly he’d felt about the piece at one point, it had turned out OK... but the NEXT one was going to be his best work ever!!

Wednesday, I got 4 pages of the pencil drawings traced onto the drawing paper and then began working on the one that will be part of the book’s cover. By late Wednesday night, I was still only about halfway through and my hands were very sore. I’d realized that I had accidentally traced all 4 illustrations onto the ROUGH side of the drawing paper rather than the smooth side I prefer! Not only did this eat up the colour pencils much faster and leave more flaky bits, if meant more layers to build up a smoother surface look. No wonder I had almost 8 hours invested in a drawing that looked only half done!

Nick talked me into giving up for the night and getting some rest. Yesterday morning, I dropped the girls at school with the cakes for the Family Fun Night Cake Walk and then drove home to start fresh. I retraced the cover illustration onto the smooth side of the paper and began the mix of coloured pencil and marker brush that I’ve used for a client in the past. This gives a wonderful look, is much more vibrant and, best of all, is much faster. Once all the colour is in place, I then add the black ink outlines where I need/want them. Kind of the opposite way that Teresa works! :)

I was thrilled with how everything was going until I picked out the very lightest skin tone marker and worked over the shading and detail I’d put there first in coloured pencil. Suddenly, my people looked like they were made out of fake, pale pink plastic!! “I’ve RUINED it!!” I thought in despair and almost had a good cry right there until I remembered how soggy tears can make paper. I also remembered the story about Norman Rockwell and decided that if a master illustrator could feel like that and work through it, then maybe I could save this picture. So after a tiny break to restore my breathing to normal and pace about the living room a few times, I jumped right back in.

Guess what? Once all the other details such as hair colour etc. and the inking were done, the faces looked pale by comparison again. Now the half finished pure colour pencil version looks wimpy and anemic! I was also able to get that drawing completed in a day... so we shall see what the author thinks on Monday. It may take her a bit of getting used to all the colour and detail after the soft watercolours in her last book, but she DID say that she wanted a change!!!

So here’s to perseverance and not giving up. I did rip up the other 3 illustrations that were on the wrong side of the paper and retrace those this morning, so I’m ready to dive into the next one. If the author has no objections, I might post some sneak peeks on the blog so that you can see what I mean!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Soggy, Groggy With Sunshine Before More Rain!

Well, about 10 minutes after I finished posting the last blog entry, the next band of heavy rain swept through Moncton and tipped the balance. Suddenly, I couldn’t keep ahead of the water rising with the bucket and had to switch back to the shop vac. Then, I discovered that I’m not as strong as Nick when it comes to dumping a filled shop vac into the toilet, so I started splashing water all over the basement bathroom floor!

When I went up for more dry towels around 1:30 am, Nick heard me and came down to help stay ahead of the game. Just when it seemed that we would lose the battle and have the water flood into the office, we figured out that it wasn’t the pump that had been giving us trouble, but the end of the hose not letting the water out. Out into the dark and stormy night I stomped in my rain gear with a gleaming serrated kitchen knife to lop off the offending head of the hose. I then dragged the slippery, slithery mass of hose and pump to the doorway where Nick took over and got it down into the office while I stripped off gum boots, rain pants and now totally soaked windbreaker. We got the pump set up in the window well and ran the hose out into the pipe where our washer drains.

That did the trick. We ran the pump until the window well was dry, timed how long it took to fill, ran the pump on and off until around 3 am then stumbled off to bed with a time set to wake us up in 45 minutes to check the situation again. Luckily the rain eased off and it was fine for the rest of the night.

We both survived Monday on very little sleep, though I did break down and have 2 cans of Pepsi during the day to wire me up. I can’t do coffee at all, so Pepsi is a cold form of sugary caffeine. I used to drink about 2 litres a day, but that was a long time and over 40 pounds ago.

Today, the sunshine is brilliant and the lawn no longer squishes or squelches as badly as it did yesterday. Moncton ended up receiving 104 mm or 4 inches of rain during the weekend, flooding many parts of the city. We got off very lucky considering the possibilities. Tonight and tomorrow should bring a further 10 mm or rain, but that’s small potatoes compared to receiving a month’s worth of rain in 2 days!!!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Pain In The Neck And Rent Me An ARK!!

This has been a horrid, horrid day. I went up to Halifax for our annual Weight Watchers meeting yesterday leaving Moncton at 7:30 am and getting home about 12 hours later. It was a fun, inspiring but very tiring day. I went to bed around 11 pm and must have slept far too soundly at one point because I woke up suddenly at 6 am barely able to move my neck and almost unable to swallow on that side!! I had this happen one many years ago at my mother’s place, but then it was strep throat and a gland was pressing on things. This time I had no sore throat (other than swallowing), no fever, no explanation!

I tried a hot bath, a warm cloth, a Magic Bag, Ibuprofen, a muscle relaxant... and was only mildly better by the time I had to leave for church. Nick and I were supposed to serve communion today and I had two complicated anthems that we’d been practicing for choir. We got to church and discovered that the couple in charge of getting the altar, the bread and grape juice ready had been sick all week and nothing was done... there weren’t even the supplies at the church!! Our minister decided to reschedule that part of the service for another time. I practiced the anthems with the rest of the choir and had a bit more mobility (plus lots of sympathy) by this time, so I decided to stay and sing. On the way home, I did visit the medical clinic in our area and he was just as baffled as I was. The only thing that he could recommend was treating the pain and using some of the deep cold rub which I asked Nick to apply as soon as we got home. Other than making me feel and smell like a menthol cough drop for a few hours, it did seem to help.

Somewhere this afternoon as I hunched over my colour pencil drawing to show the author tomorrow, it suddenly went from being a dull ache to being gone. We had a wonderful turkey soup/stew for supper which had been simmering all afternoon as the rain continued to pour outside. Our backyard had quite a few deep puddles, but the terra forming we’d done over the last 2 years to keep stuff away from the house seemed to be working... at least it was until 9 pm tonight!!

For the past 3 hours, Nick has been bailing out the window well that leads into my office, while I was outside trying to create an alternate path through one garden to lead out to the front yard and digging a little trench to lead the water elsewhere. We’d tried to hook up our little outdoor pump but nothing would come out of the hose!! I finally took a sharp, serrated knife and lopped the metal pressure end off the hose... and VOILA!! Water was able to come pouring out and down our driveway. With the pump working outside, the window well isn’t filling as fast. It just that with somewhere between 50 and 80 millimeters (2 to 3 inches) of rain today alone and us being one of the low spots on Highmeadow, there just isn’t anywhere for all the water to go and it is falling too fast to soak into the ground that has been saturated by 2 days of heavy rain!

Nick has finally gone to bed. I’m blogging and keeping and eye on the window well, bailing twice during the writing of this blog, but it seems to be filling more slowly each time. The heavy rain is supposed to tapper off around 2 am, but I don’t think I will stay up THAT long! I will bail once more before bed and just hope for the best. We have already moved stuff off the floor or out of the office...

So how on earth would you not go crazy with 40 days and nights of this??? After Hippos on Friday and Arks today, I sure seem to have animals on the brain!