Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An update and some little sketches

I've been patiently working on my bluebird story, molding the plot and thinking through structure before getting too much into my favorite part--playing with words and other little details. I find that good ideas come in bursts, with a burst every day or two. I used to say "I'm not good at plots," but now I realize I'm just slow about it. This podcast and its sequel have been helping me to think carefully about the story I want to tell. If you want to tell stories too, give it a listen.

On another note, here are some two-inch by one-and-a-half inch colored pencil sketches I've been doing in odd moments like visiting friends and waiting in the car to pick my husband up from work.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Just keep swimming

I'm feeling panicky, anxious, blocked. I want to drop my Loula and Hampton story. I'm afraid it's just not worth doing anything with.

I am afraid of landscapes. I imagine the most uninspired children's illustration landscapes I've seen and think that is what mine will be like.

I am afraid of drawing street scenes and interiors (all those straight lines).

Unlike Hampton, I prefer the open-ended to the finished and closed. I don't much like making decisions. Independently completing a children's story with illustrations seems to mean independently making five million decisions mostly right now.

And to top it off, the most reasonable part of me, the part that is not subject to my predictable cycle of idea and discouragement, is fairly certain that my little tale is not going to shake the publishing world, but that nonetheless I should complete it in some fashion because each thing we finish provides grounding and education for the next thing, and I do want there to be a next thing.

The most reasonable part of me is also fairly certain that if I try I can make pretty landscapes, charming interiors and cute birds pushing vacuum cleaners and making music.

So here goes.

(But not yet. First this bit of loveliness, from India, 1700, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I do love pretty trees.)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Two more birdy sketches

Loula with a stack of music under her wing.

Hampton pausing on the way to his vacuum cleaner shop.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I went for a barefoot walk in the woods this morning. The air was so sweet and mild.

I saw deer tracks; fox tracks; raccoon tracks; a small, slow daddy long legs; glossy new grass, wispy like fine hair; black and white woodpeckers with red caps; silvery, wide, gently rippling water; thin white sunlight.

I heard silence, embroidered on the edges with the distant, variable hum of traffic; a single pure note from an unseen bird; a stirring in the underbrush.

I felt sharp, cold tingling in my feet; unexpected warmth in a sandy, creek-side hollow. I felt alive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A new observation about discouragement

A few years ago I read a book on the four classical temperament types that gave me a new and liberating understanding of my tendency to be easily discouraged and dissuaded from persevering in long or difficult creative projects.  I realized that I often would not completely follow through with a good  idea because I would misinterpret the discouraged feelings which always followed my initial exhilaration as an actual sign that the path I was taking was somehow not right for me, and I would feel weirdly guilty until I quit. If I had an obligation to someone else to follow through, I would, but if I did not, the project would be left behind with relief followed by wistful regret. When I learned that this tendency was simply a weakness of the phlegmatic side of my melancholic and phlegmatic temperament combination, I was empowered to stick with things better than I had before.

And yesterday, I am pleased to realize, I had a new insight about how unrecognized discouragement decreases my productivity. I was carving a new crucifix design in wax smaller than the ones I have made so far. I was thinking about anatomy and design and the technical requirements for making a sturdy wax model. I had my computer by me with lots of crucifix images pulled up, but I just wanted to check my personal Facebook, so I did and took a few minutes to answer a comment. Then I found just the right music to listen to. Then I shared it on Facebook. Then I changed to a podcast with a couple of successful artists talking about their process. The wax was looking worse and worse, so I put the music back on. Then I checked to see if my friend had responded to the comment I had put up in response to her comment. Then I told myself to stop wasting time and went back to the music. Then my six year old daughter came down and crowded in the chair with me and messed with my stuff and accidentally hurt herself with a hot wax tool, Then, to my relief, she was invited to my friend's house to visit some cute ducks, and my absurd, wasteful cycle of distraction started all over again. I wasted a couple precious hours I had worked hard to free up, and probably went backwards in my project.

I am a little embarrassed to share this, but it seems likely that I'm not the only one who does this sort of thing, And I did gain a useful insight: yesterday's ridiculous distractibility had to do with discouragement. My task seemed daunting, but I've learned enough now to know that I really want and need to finish it, so I didn't run away from it in a big and final way. I just dawdled.

Now that I recognize what is happening, I want to train myself to stay focused longer when I am doing something that feels hard. I'm going to try setting a timer for forty-five minutes, during which time I do not look at anything on the computer but the images I already set up to use. I'll let you know how it goes!

Here's something pretty just because.  The artist is Becca Stadtlander

Monday, December 7, 2015

Meet Hampton

Hampton is a practical, down-to-earth, tenacious bird of deep but usually unspoken feeling. He repairs and sells vacuum cleaners for a living, and his hobby is gathering and organizing complete collections of things such as porcelain tooth-pick holders from every state and match-boxes with pictures of the presidents. What he starts, he finishes. He does not easily fall in love.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Meet Loula the bluebird

I've had this little lady on my mind for awhile, and this evening I took a stab at designing her character. I think she needs a fancier hat.

She is a music teacher, cultured and kind, but too busy for love. The bluebird Hampton, owner of the vacuum cleaner repair shop, is determined to win her hand in marriage. I'll do a picture of him soon.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Some pictures by Ota Janecek

I'm out of the habit of writing blog posts, which means that I think about it a lot, but don't let myself get any actual ideas. Instead, I start making up rules about what I can write about. (It has to be outwardly focused and of general interest, whatever that means. It can't just be about me not being able to think of anything to write about. It has to contain and relate to actual new art made by me. It has to be brilliant.)

Those rules, of course, shut it all down. So as I lay awake tonight, wondering when I will ever blog again, I decided to get up and write about how I can't think of anything to write about and share some art by somebody else.

These illustrations are by Czech artist Ota Janecek, 1919-1996. This one can be found here.

 And this one here.

And this one here.

I love the lines of the leafless trees. To me winter trees seem to have distinct personalities, benevolent and actively protective,

I intend to be back soon, pushing perfectionism and unhelpful rules to the wall.