Thursday, January 24, 2008



Finding My Balance...

Slowly, but surely, I am finding my balance... even when life seems to want to make me tip over.

I am learning to say no, to lift less things if any, to listen to my body, to eat right and to hug those I love more often. This week has been a perfect reminder of why that is so important.

My Dad is back in the hospital. His last chemo treatment was so rough on his body that he can’t eat and was dropping weight so fast that they needed to get him on an IV and feed him that way. It was hard to talk to him on the phone and hear how weak he sounds. The treatments are so hard on his body. I’m not ready to say goodbye to my Dad yet!

I’m not ready to say goodbye to a friend either! I found out this week that Nanny Kay has pancreatic cancer. I will forever be grateful to this wonderful lady for her encouragement and the chance to illustrate a first children’s book. How can this be happening when she still has so many stories to tell? I spent most of the fall in terror that my own health crisis was going to reveal something horrible. While I have certainly had to make quite a few changes to my life in the past 2 months... degenerative disc disease won’t kill me!

Bethany was home sick yesterday after running a high fever the night before. I’ve been feeling somewhat panicky about focussing so much attention, time and billable hours on the book lately as we race to get it ready to publish. Doing less freelance work for paying clients means less income coming in. Yesterday, however, when Bethany was feeling so sick, I was able to work on drawings at the dining room table and get up to check on her every time I needed a stretch or she needed something. If I’d been working full-time OUTSIDE the home, we’d have run into the same chaos & tough decisions that so many working parents face.

I have been so busy working on OWEN & THE DINOSAUR and learning to draw in shorter bursts that I’ve hardly had the computer on at all. What a strange thing in this digital age!



I’ve only got 9 drawings left to complete before we do the computer layout and get the book off to the printer’s. I’d originally hoped to get it to them by the end of January, but given all the turmoil of the fall, I’m not as far behind as I feared.



Because the drawings will be scanned in on a scanner that can handle 11 x 14” sheets of paper, I’ve been batching smaller drawings onto the same page to save money. It does confuse some people when I show off the pictures...



but it certainly lets me keep the style and colours more consistent.



I love putting lots of detail into the pictures...



One of the biggest challenges was redrawing the watercolour that I’d originally sent to Nimbus Publishing (to show two different styles) along with the coloured pencil character sketches. The dinosaur had changed a bit to be more appealing and a bit less scary.



First I retraced the pencil sketch onto drawing paper and began to put the coloured pencil layers in. The composition changed a bit as we focussed more on Owen and the dinosaur.



After all the coloured pencil layers were done, it was time to add the brush markers on top to help blend things together and add more vibrancy to the colours. Here, the sky and water have already been done, but nothing else.



Once all the marker layers have been done, it is type to ink in the detail. This is the opposite of comic books or animation where the inking is done first. If I ever learn to do this in the computer, I’d probably to the line art first, but my hands still do what I want better this old fashioned way than in my computer. It is just such a slow process!!



This close-up shows how much the black pen details make Owen stand out compared to the rest of the drawing...



Ever so slowly, more and more details and outlines get added in. If I feel my hands or back getting tired during this stage, I make sure to take a break because one slip of the pen could be a total disaster!!



Finally, all the inking is done and the piece is complete. It looks very different from the bold hues in the watercolour, but it certainly matches the rest of the book much better now. I also like this version of the dinosaur much better than my original. This dino I would bring home!



I finished off the other large beach drawing shortly after to keep my colour palette the same and avoid having one pencil or marker wear out.

I also had great fun doing this cartoonish picture of Owen. It comes at a place in the book where he’s explaining to the dinosaur that he used to be afraid of the dark, so the cartoony style is to show how he’s remembering the event.



There's most of what I’ve been up to. I also put in two class proposals for the TNNA show in Columbus to see if I will be teaching during that trade show, I wrote an adorable poem for a design called “Dragon’s Lullaby” which I will teach first at the CreativFestival next fall and plotted with Teresa for what joint class we’d teach in Toronto next October. Now I just have to submit all my CSNF class proposals before the end of January.

Did I say that I’ve been finding my balance? I think I need a nap!

11 comments:

WhizGidget said...

{{{gentle hugs}}}

I love your drawings... and Dragon's Lullaby - I can't *wait* to see that design.

Shannon said...

Thanks so much for sharing the drawings and your progression with them. Absolutely fascinating. You've given me a renewed appreciation for childrens books. My aunt is a children's book author, and has always said that her books are brought to live by the magic of the artist, and without the right artist, her story is just words. She's right !

I hope you're feeling better soon. Your father, and Nanny Kay are in my thoughts. *hugs*

Lynne said...

((((Hugs)))) Thank you for sharing your drawings, I just love the pictures and can not wait to see it all put together. I hope your wee one is better today.

Rebecca (AKA - Rebel In Ontario) said...

Sorry to hear about your Dad and Nanny Kay...but happy to see your wonderful work! Looking forward to seeing the new "things" you have been working on shortly.

Anonymous said...

Jen,

Thank-you for this wonderfully detailed insight into your creative process. Truly fascenating!
Continue to listen to the promptings of your body and you will never go wrong!
Gentle hugs to you, and prayers for your loved ones in need.

Regards,
Charlie

Deb L said...

You'll definitely have to let us know when this book is published! I have boys, and one in particular is dinosaur-obsessed. :)

I'm very sorry to hear of the ill health troubles you and those you care for are going through. My prayers are with you.

Anonymous said...

First, I'm sorry to hear about your father and Nanny Kay-my thoughts and prayers are with them. And being a single mom I know the worries of having a sick child and trying to work so that there is income coming into the home-not always an easy thing.
I really enjoyed seeing your illustrations for the book and look forward to seeing it finished. You are such an inspiration to me and not just in the artistic sense. I wish you and your loved ones the best.
Nicole

tkdchick said...

Big hugs Jen!

I've given you an You Make Me Smile Award, details are on my blog!

Anonymous said...

Hugs! So sorry to hear about your Dad and Nanny Kay! I just don't know what else to say, except you know how to get a hold of me if you need to talk.

The drawings are beautiful! You are just so talented.

I hope to see you this Fall- but the way it is going I probably won't make it this year either.
Misty

Loretta said...

It's so amazing to watch your drawings come together for the story!! and looking forward to seeing Dragon's Lullaby in the future.

stitching aussie style said...

I absoultely love kids books and can't wait to see this one on the shelves. My 10 year old loves dragons as well and is always trying to draw them. I will have to introduce him to your wonderful blog.