Friday, June 16, 2006

A Simple Smell Can Take You Back In Time...

It happened so quickly, so casually and so unexpectedly that it caught me completely by surprise. I was walking up the street, rushing to an appointment, when I brushed past a pale green bush covered with white blossoms. My grandmother always called them mock orange bushes and I have no idea what the botanical name for them even is. One moment, I was an impatient adult headed off to yet another task that filled my day... and then suddenly, I was 12 again. The feel of the warm sunshine on my neck was the same, but if I closed my eyes, I could feel the handlebars of my shiny green bike beneath my hands as I crossed the bridge over the railway tracks to get to my swimming lessons, the arena or my grandmothers house. I lived again, for a moment trigged by the sweet perfume of those white blossoms, the anticipation of a summer stretching before me in freedom... that giddy sense of play that my kids now await with almost breathless anticipation, far more wonderful in the imagining than the reality will be a few weeks from now when I hear the lament “I’m bored! There’s nothing to do!”

I hurried off to my meeting, but on the way back to where I’d parked the van, I stood and sniffed the bush again. If I closed my eyes, I could still wrap my hands around those handlebars and regain that sense of anticipation of the summer about to arrive. I also had the overwhelming urge to dig into my pocket to see if I had enough allowance for a can of RC cola and a Jos Louis but luckily for my adult constitution, all of my change had been swallowed by the parking meter!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Importance Of Family...

This afternoon at the bus stop, one of the mothers, who had just come from Holland with her family this time last year, announced that they were moving back. They’d recently been home for a 3 week visit and will now move back there in about 2 weeks, frantically packing and selling things to return to where all of their family is close at hand.

“Family is so much more important that anything!” she declared.

I understood. Today was my nephew Owen’s first birthday and he is half a world away in Switzerland where my brother and sister-in-law live. I have seen plenty of pictures and watched him grow up that way, but I have only held him for one brief family wedding weekend last August. I HATE being a long-distance aunt! Every time we tried to call this morning, the circuits were busy. By the time the girls got home from school and we got through the chaos of homework, it was already past his bedtime.

I had a wonderful phone call with my sister today as well, who is almost as far away in London. Being able to talk in person is just so much better than e-mail, even though I love little chatty messages back and forth. The time change between Moncton and London is a bit easier in some ways that when she and Yoshi were in Tokyo, but there are still times when I want to chat with her and it is already to late across the ocean.

I am lucky enough to have wonderful friendships with both my siblings. Though there were times when we fought or had our differences as children and teens, they have both grown up into people I admire, respect and am proud to call friends as well as family. Perhaps if we did all live in the same area, we would take each other for granted... but sometimes I seriously wish that they would invent a Star Trek transporter so that I could whisk my molecules over to see them and hug them in person more often.

It is funny that each of us wandered so far away from Quebec and each found people and places that we fell in love with. I have now spent more years in New Brunswick that I did in Quebec before leaving to head East to Mount Allison University almost 20 years ago. I love to visit Montreal or Toronto now and then, but I simply cannot imagine living anywhere else but here. This is the city in which I have put down roots, made friends, created a home and a family....

And yet, I understand that tug of family that my friend feels. That longing to be nearer to the people that you love. To ache for those moments when you could just drop over, get together for lunch or be there for important milestones. My grandmother once shared with me how envious she was of our ability to e-mail each other when she and her favourite sister had often waited MONTHS for letters to make their way back and forth from Montreal to New Zealand. Who knows what kind of technology or travel innovations my two girls may have at their disposal to keep in touch if they end up on opposite sides of this planet someday. Near or far, I hope that they appreciate that special bond that binds them together as family and that they come to care for, love and admire each other as much as I do mine!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Working With A Sick Bunny Underfoot...

Bethany is home sick today. She had a headache last night and a touch of the sniffles, but no fever. This morning, she seemed no worse but stubbornly refused to get up out of bed because her headache was still there. So Erin headed off to school alone for the second day of the Grade 5 provincial math assessment and I got ready to work with a sick Bethy-bunny underfoot.

Since about 10 o’clock this morning, she has perked up amazingly. Rather than make me angry, it has just reaffirmed why I struggled to work from home in the first place. The fact that I have a job that I can do at home, even if it is interrupted more often or done at a slower pace, is worth the smaller paycheque, the crazy hours and the unpredictable nature of freelance work. Despite Bethany being home, I was still able to do a layout for a client and send them an ad proof, put together my information sheet for the “Artists In Schools” program which I will now qualify for as a published illustrator next fall, answer a few e-mails, stuff 2 loads of laundry through the washer and dryer since rains threatens yet again, pay a few bills and blog before heading up to work on a few more pieces for the book.

Speaking of which, I got permission from the author to show of the cover teaser of the book. I still have to add the paint to the brush and shading to the paint splotch now that she’s decided what colour the cover will be. We spent about 2 hours yesterday trying almost every variation possible on the computer. That’s where technology is really amazing. To be able, once the illustration pieces were scanned in and placed, to just change background, type and splotch colours with a click of the mouse was truly magical. I think back to illustrators who had to redraw entire layouts just to show different colour options as little as 20 years ago! Then again, watching Kay struggle to decide which colours she wanted for her second book, I realized that sometimes, too much choice can be as hard as too little!

Today was just an affirmation of the choices I’ve made... now if only it could be sunny for more than a few hours!!!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Giddy With Glee...

Terrified... Thrilled...Panicked...and Giddy. I’ve run the full gamut of emotions today before, during and after my meeting with the author. After a full weekend of drawing whenever a moment presented itself to get the cover pieces done and one other large illustration finished, I ran into computer problems LATE last night when the Freehand EPS files wouldn’t export with a preview. That meant coming up with some other solutions for the book title at least to rough it out enough for the author to get a sense of what could be. Many schools plan their enrichment for the early fall in the next few weeks as they wrap up THIS school year, so she wants to get a new letter out with a teaser of the book cover included, even though the final version may be slightly different. No pressure!

I’d spent most of the weekend trying not to second guess myself. I kept wondering if my tighter, detailed style would be too much of a jump for her when it came to the detail in the people. My sister, Laurie, was a wonderful sounding board, as always, when we chatted on Friday. She pointed out that if the author totally hated the look, I could try a softer style if I wanted to keep the project and still have great drawings for a portfolio. Even Nick commented at one point during the weekend how cool it was to watch a drawing come to life from my hands “even if it’s just your style!” I knew he meant that as a compliment, especially since he cooked supper AND did the dishes on Sunday because I was in “the drawing zone”!

This morning, I went for a walk with my walking buddy, right after we got the kids on the bus to wear off some of my nervous energy and did 45 minutes rather than the hour... which was a good thing, because just as I got my glass of water before I jumped in the shower, the author showed up 15 minutes early!! Maybe she just thought the rumpled, slightly sweaty look was artsy, because she was very polite about my casual look.

I took a deep breath, led her to the dining room table and sat her down to show her the drawing of the grandmother and kids who appear in a photo on the cover. Her very first words were “Oh! I hate the brown chair!” I think I felt my stomach sink to my ankles at that point, but started thinking through options from using gouache to redrawing the whole thing, because she went on to tell me how MUCH she loved the characters. (That got the stomach back up where it belonged and the heart beating normally again.) When I pulled out the other illustration of the little girl at her easel painting while the big dog looks on, she just fell in love with the details and the bright colours.

Once we went down on the computer and began to play with the cover layout and layers of art supplies that lie on top of the “photo” for the cover, she began to understand why the chair has the dark, velvety brown colour, so she may get used to it after all. It is much easier to work with a client who has very definite tastes that one who has no idea what she likes, wants or needs... but this is probably why I was doubting myself a bit too much. I kept wondering if she’d decide that she didn’t like how the people looked, especially the Nanny/ grandmother.

Once she left with printouts of possible colours for the cover, the dummies to help her decide between 20 and 24 pages and .jpg versions being e-mailed to her, I did a little victory dance of sheer relief and giddy glee around the main floor of the house before heading up to get that MUCH needed shower!!