Thursday, August 20, 2009

Quick Sketch

This butterfly is a side character in the story I'm working on. It's funny, I can think and think about a character, but sometimes it's not until I draw them that I understand what they're really like. Maybe it's just the act of doodling- messing around and sketching different scenarios allows my mind to wander, and sometimes something just clicks. I read something interesting about Leonardo & his viewpoints on doodling recently... of course I couldn't find the book I read it in just now, but by googling "Leonardo da Vinci doodles" I tracked this down (from a website called Archimedes' Droodles):

When Leonardo da Vinci needed to get his creative juices flowing, he sat and stared at clouds or rocks... "If you look upon an old wall covered with dirt or the odd appearance of some streaked stones", he once wrote, "you may discover several things like landscapes, battles, clouds, uncommon attitudes, humorous faces, draperies...". Da Vinci heartily recommended this 'new method' of invention as a practical technique for "opening the mind and putting it upon the scent of new 
thoughts". The abstract, organic forms embedded in crumbling walls and hunks of stone, he believed, could be put to work as "terrestrial batteries for jump-starting the imagination

Inneresting, no?
Ok, and late add... After I posted this entry, I scanned a bunch of my first-draft sketches so I can put together a dummy. I'd like to really concentrate on composition & light in this book, so I did some photoshop mock-ups of lighting situations... Here's one. Like I said, I was getting kinda itchy 'cause I couldn't share what I was thinking for a while (like, physically couldn't share), so -- this is what I'm thinking!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Look What I Found in the Park the Other Day

Hey, look what I found in the park the other day:

A fairy flute! No unicorns have been summoned yet by playing it.

In other news, work on my latest project is going well!

Doesn't that picture look creepy? Like I'm looking at my sketchbook with those weird "Silence of the Lambs" night goggles?

Anyway, I am at the frustrating yet enjoyable stage of being excited by how things are going, but completely unable to share this excitement with anyone. I can't show anyone my drawings- they all look like the scribbles you see above. I can't really talk about the story... "And then the fly says- get this, he says, 'It doesn't help'. Believe me, it's a GAS." No, it's all in my head for now. I think that's why I feel a sense of urgency at this point- in my head it's a good story with lush and interesting illustrations, but it won't do anyone any good until I get it down on paper. And, what if the things I put down on paper don't match up with what's playing in my noggin?

Another interesting thing about working on this project has been this: This is the first project I've worked on as a real, honest-to-goodness full-time illustrator. My other two books I developed while I had a full-time job. I worked on them at night, during my free time- my hours to do with as I pleased. Now, I get to work on this during regular work-a-day hours. Like, instead of heading to a meeting at 10 am, I'm in my PJs watching "Fame" and calling it research (and it most assuredly was). Believe me, I am not complaining about watching musicals in the mid-morning; it's just an adjustment in thinking from "This is something I am doing in my hours of leisure" to "Holy shnikeys, this is like, my JOB". Which means, I am also a leeeetle bit more worried about how it will be received ("Will my agent like it?" "Is this a good idea, or have I been wasting my time?" "Can I please please PLEASE keep doing this full-time and not have to get another day job?"). 

The only thing I can do is to try & push those concerns out of my head as much as possible, and throw myself into the project whole-heartedly... and hope for the best!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Daytime Ravings of a Possible Lunatic

Friends- I do not like to hide anything from you. And thus, I am presenting a glimpse into my creative process for my current project, despite the fact that I'm pretty sure it will make me look like a raging lunatic. Like, in movies when a sexy investigative team breaks into the apartment of the suspected killer and they find all sorts of crazy newspaper clippings papering the walls, the floor covered with photos of eyeballs cut from fashion magazines, and books with every 43rd word circled in red. 

First up, when the saucy female investigator looks through the pictures on my camera, she'll find that I like to photograph scenes from movies that I watch on my computer:

(ahh, the incomparable Julie Andrews! Did I ever tell you the story about when I saw her in the lobby of HarperCollins- she looked like an angel- and when I went upstairs & told my boss, I started to cry? Remind me to tell you sometime- it's a classic.)

As the detective-ess is trying to puzzle out the connection between Julie Andrews, A Chorus Line, and random photos from Broadway documentaries, her thoughts are interrupted by the deep rumble of her partner's voice.

"Suzie", he growls, "You'd better come take a look at this". 

"Pages and pages of insect drawings... notebooks filled with incomprehensible scribblings... and most troubling of all, this toy stage and creepy make-shift bug models. We're either dealing with a highly unstable character, or..."

... and then they'll turn around to see that I'm actually sitting in the living room, since I don't like to leave the apartment all that much when I'm at this stage. They'll take one look at my funny headband, my shabby housecoat & the bowl of cereal clutched in my hand, and they'll high-tail it out of there... and leave me to my musings.

Monday, August 3, 2009

So This is Love

I am a happily married woman... but I think I may be in love.

And love, thy name is... Chicken Dance.

This is no puppy love, either. Sure, it's everything I'm initially attracted to on a surface level... Funny, check. Heart and gumption, check. Generally pleasing appearance, check. But what really moves this book beyond the level of mere infatuation for me is this:

Much like a good relationship, this book makes me want to up my game.

The characters and books I write tend to (attempt to be) funny. Dan Santat's illustrations are that, and more... he also manages to make each page beautiful. And strikingly composed. With interesting & engaging light sources. And a real sense of setting and atmosphere for this story. In short, he didn't stop at making each picture simply funny- he made each one a pretty stunning work of art. And oddly enough, the fact that the illustrations are beautiful only seem to make them even MORE FUNNY.

These images are screen shots from Dan Santat's Flickr portfolio. Or see his website here.

As an illustrator, I am usually drawn to the artwork in a picture book first. But Tammi Sauer's text is top-notch. I may be biased, though, because I love nothing more than a good pun, and her text is full of them. When the chickens run out of time & have to "wing it" at the talent show... well, consider me chuffed.

Oh, and there's even a website! Besides being a fantastic book, Chicken Dance is a fantastic example of a thoroughly modern picture book. By that I mean, it reaches beyond the rectangular corners of the book form. The book has a website. The website has music videos & dance lessons. The author photos take the form of CD covers, complete with playlists. For authors & illustrators looking for publicity venues for their books, Chicken Dance is a great source of inspiration in thinking outside the coop.

Alright, my love-fest is over. Time to hit the hay and dream of Elvis Poultry...