Monday, May 6, 2013

On Keeping Control of your Creative Properties

Good morning! Let me tell you a tale... I am finally happy again, which means that at some point there was some unhappiness going on. It's strange how unhappiness, like pain, is an indicator. If you are running and you are in pain, you stop running. You figure out what is hurting. Physical therapy. Ice. Gradual work-back-up. It is much easier to be in physical pain with a clear cause. Unhappiness can be a little more subtle!

I have been on a long journey with my Surfside Girls project. There have been ups and downs. It is, however, my baby and it always makes me happy. Through a bizarre series of events I lost a little control of this project. I didn't realize it at first, but I started feeling anxious. The kind of anxious like when someone has your kid and they're late getting back and not answering their cell phone. It got worse and worse until I started getting depressed. Ooof! Not a good place to be! And so the lesson got learned and it got learned good. Stay in control of your creative properties.

Let me say before I go any further that this doesn't mean don't take editorial advice. If you are on a project and the art director points out that your composition is a bit lacking, take another look. It probably is, and why not improve your art? But I had the good fortune of going up to the CTN Roadshow a couple of weeks ago. CTN, the Creative Talent Network, is a collection of creatives who have mostly worked in animation. The Roadshow was kind of a farmer's market meets ComiCon. Totally fun. Anyhow, I ran into an old buddy Mike Kunkle who I have worked with on various animated films. He has been doing his own thing for a while- a company called The Astonish Factory. He does books and a comic called Herobear and the Kid. ( I went to his booth because his artwork is great and always happy. I told him of my troubles and he had some great advice: when we work in entertainment, we are always working on someone else's thing. Making changes according to how they want. When we work on our own thing, therefore, it should only be for us.

So I made some tough decisions. I am going it alone on this project. It will be finished in a year and a half. I am painting four pages a week until it's done. I am not looking up. When it is done I may approach a graphic novel publisher like First Second, or I may not. I may self-publish. And then I will try to sell it. The process I have been through with children's publishing is slow and wearying. I have made the decision that done is infinitely better than not-done, or changed to the point of non-recognition. Wish me luck, people!

By the way, you may have encountered this kind of sadness when you have felt out of control on a project. I don't know what you did to get out of it. I put it in a box in my brain and did other stuff. I drew Lois, the fat dog. I distracted. It doesn't hurt that my yard was in full bloom, and my husband had gone abalone hunting and put on a great ab feed. I counted my blessings in other arenas. Once I got to the true source of the unhappiness, though, I knew what I had to do. I have been infinitely happier since.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The "I'll Wait for You 'Til You're Ready" project

Hi again.

So we creative types all know that to some extent we're a little ADD. Squirrel! Am I right? The trick is to harness all of that scattered energy. I am using that theory right now... I am at a bit of an impasse on one project, waiting for another project to come through, and trying to make myself useful in the downtime. Do you have that one project that you always come back to in your downtime? I have had this project sitting in its little shelf for FIVE YEARS. I love it desperately, but it is my back burner project. I'm beginning to feel a little guilty about that. I was raised Catholic, and I know how to infuse guilt into just about anything. But honestly, I kind of feel like it's that boy that you dated a couple of times in high school, who was nice and all, but you really only called him when you had your heart crushed by that other guy, and you needed to go hang out with someone nice and solid. And then, inevitably, someone else would come along who was a little wilder, sexier, more dangerous, insert your own adjective, and you'd be off. The nice guy would wait for you forever. Like a golden retriever.

This is what happens when a guilt-ridden writer starts anthropomorphizing a project.

This project is roughly titled Col. M. C. Chaucer Gets Invaded. It's a picture book. I adore Chaucer. He's a capybara- one of my favorite animals- and he's extremely British, and I am a total Anglophile. He is gruff, inflexible and self-righteous, at least at the start. It is my goal to have my dummy, or as my illustration group is now calling it, a b.i.p (book-in-progress... don't call me dummy!) ready for the SCBWI Summer Conference.

I have attached his model sheet, done in animation model sheet style. I will do one for Roselle, his wife, God rest her soul, and the invader.

I have waaaaaaay too many things I could talk about in this post, but if I don't get something out there now nothing's going to happen. It has turned into one of those days where I drive in circles. It's okay. It helps the... squirrel!

Have a lovely day.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Penelope and the Quilt Show

Well it's done. Penelope is unveiled! I spoke last post of playdates and how loosening up is so good for the art. It is not, however, good for the office. I tell you, people, if my normal process is messy, mixed media has taken the mess exponential. I am adrift in a sea of buttons, thread, fabric, metallic paint, water-based oil paint, scissors, newspaper, a drill (?!) and wood. Ouch. I SWEAR that after this blog post I will clean my office. I have no choice. I teach tomorrow, and if I don't I'll never be able to find my stuff!

So I also wanted to talk about being open, and how the universe- God- however you call that loud voice that directs you- puts you on a path when you're open that you never expected. For example, I went to a quilt show. Now, I have never been exactly the quilty type. Not that I don't appreciate quilts, they have just not really ever been on my radar. Then I experienced a really weird sequence of events that ended me up at the Road To California quilt show with some amazing women.

First signpost was Judy Coates- Perez's blog- Check out the Making of the Eight Cups. I was google-searching images about a year ago for an illustration I was working on and came upon this piece. I was blown away- I thought she was an illustrator but she is a quilter. The kind of work she does is the kind of work I see being done in Photoshop right now, lots of texture and layering. She does it in a tactile way though, and I was really intrigued. She paints, stamps metal, draws, layers and sews. I am not a good collager, so I have been looking at her work as a source of inspiration. signpost- I needed vacuum cleaner bags last week. I went to my local Sew-Vac store and went in the Sew side as opposed to the Vac side. Oooooh. Pretty fabric! I stopped to admire it, and was greeted by the sweetest quilt shop woman you will ever meet. By the time I had the vacuum bags I was signed up for a quilting class. Final signpost, I had to assist at a funeral at my church the next day, and one of the women who was helping me told me she was going to a quilt show. I found out that Judy Coates- Perez- this woman whose blog I've been following- was going to be there. It was settled. They let me tag along to Ontario.

I took a bunch of pictures because I was so blown away by what I saw. I love stories, and so many of these quilts told stories. There were also amazing quilts made the traditional way as well and the genius was in the color choices and the meticulous crafting. But the quilts I took pictures of were all different from this. The three quilts I am posting here are:

Midtown A by K. Velis Turan of Earlton, NY

Bird's Eye View: New York Avenue, Beach Haven, Long Island Beach by Sherry Davis Kleinman of Pacific Palisades, CA

Climbing to Higher Ground by Rodi S Ludlum of Oak Park, CA

I am really enjoying being back in touch with sewing skills, with fabric, with wood. I don't know where all of this will lead and I don't know if it matters anyway. Creativity flows where it's allowed to. Now to clean my office...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Success and What That Means

Welcome 2013! I'm back on the blog, after a bit of a hiatus. I have new thoughts and a new approach to this whole blogging thing. The economy as of late has been less that fabulous and I have noticed how much this has affected my creative friends. At first I was taken by surprise when my amazing friends, with many books published and giant fan followings, started calling and confiding how they were barely making money, how they weren't sure who they were anymore, how they were questioning themselves and what they were doing. First one, then two, then it seemed most of my creative friends were in this funk. From the outside, they appeared very successful. They had homes, they were published, they were in magazines, they lectured or taught. It occurred to me that this couldn't possibly be coincidence, and I don't believe in coincidence anyhow. I thought I should perk up and pay attention to this. Especially since I teach college, and it is my job to encourage brilliant young people to go out into the world and do this creative thing. How could I be responsible for sending them out into the universe knowing this climate?

So onto the new approach. I started to realize that we are delicate creatures by nature, and our egos, as my good friend Marilyn would say, could be held in a teaspoon. I think perhaps those decades of the 80s and 90s, where money was flowing, got us used to something that hadn't existed for a while if ever and that we needed to redefine what exactly success was.

I am going to attempt to encourage you the reader, if you have felt this funk, to have yourself a little paradigm shift with me. I have a good clue where this dialogue is going but not sure completely how it will unwind, so I am excited at the prospect of the journey. I just know that we creatives are certainly delicate, and if we have to measure our success by the amount of money we have brought in over the last year, we may teeter on the brink of giving it all up and getting a job at Home Depot. Not that that is a terrible option. I sometimes fantasize at the prospect of watering plants and ringing people up in the garden department, with no creative decisions to be made. Even Roark in The Fountainhead saw the sense in "a working man's job."

After my funk about a year ago, I started having Artist Playdates at my house. My amazingly talented friends came over, we ate and drank and drew on cardboard and wood and collaged and knitted and busted loose without editors or deadlines. I have emerged from these sessions a different person, and this is what I'm going to start blogging about. If I never made another dollar at this (no, universe, this is not what I want!) would I still be able to feel good about myself being in the presence of such wonderful people, creating art and having shows? What exactly is success?

The art I'm putting up today is for a show that will hang in the La Habra city gallery for the month of February with the OC Illustrator's Group. It is a direct result of the playdates. It isn't done and it's an experiment, so let's keep our fingers crossed that it works out. Next week I will blog about quilting, and how I am too dumb to take subtle hints on where my future lies. Until then, enjoy the process of Penelope and her butterflies.