A friend of mine is putting together an “art show,” in her friend’s backyard in a couple of weeks. What a great idea, too. Just like a garden party with good drinks, good people, art, and a beautiful backyard setting on one of the rare warm, summer nights in Portland.
She asked me to design the Facebook cover photo for the event and to make a little flier for her, because I’m the “illustrator” in the group. I felt inadequate to say the least, as all of my drawings are cartoons and some of the artists are incredibly accomplished, dramatic painters. Wouldn’t a painting be better than a cartoon drawing of a backyard? Or of a cute, cartoon rat painting in the backyard? Omg, I actually have a little illustration like that somewhere! I’ll have to dig it up, scan it, and make a t-shirt.
Anyways, as my house is filled with commotion at the moment and free-time is limited at best, I had to repurpose some of my other illustrations and work with them. Nice, because I finally scanned them and can use them now for other things. Also nice because I did do a little drawing and sketching for this, which is good for the soul.
Here are the two cover photos that I gave her to choose from. The bird image is from the Henri Dribbles project I’ve been working on for two years, and the lady with the bird in her hair is a drawing of my mother. Though she doesn’t know that and it really doesn’t look like her at all? But the spirit is there. It’s like a dream where you see someone you don’t recognize at all but, in the dream, you know they’re your brother, or best friend, or close whoever to you. In that way, and as I drew it, I knew it was her.
It’s about Love. About my friends, and other beautiful women like them, loving themselves and feeling loved and appreciated. That’s what it’s about.
Aside from Valentine’s Day being my absolute favorite holiday. I always passed out Valentines to my friends. I didn’t care about the “romantic” aspect of the day–I cared about my friends feeling loved. So in high-school, college, and beyond… my friends got Valentines from me, telling them that I love them.
And while filling out a questionnaire about the future, and what I want in the future, two important concepts kept circling back to me.
The question was asked several times in different ways: What two things are important to you?
My answers: Animals and My Friends Loving Themselves
Which felt silly. My friends loving themselves? What kind of answer is that? And what can I do about it?
Well… Valentines. I can make reminders of how awesome they are. And I can make a collection of these love tokens. Tokens to reflect back at them how beautiful they are, how creative they are, how stylish, filled with life, etc. I can make and send them valentines.
And… projects like these help you gain practice in the arts. With this, I’ll get some good hand-lettering practice. I’ll learn more about watercolors, guache, different papers, pens, etc. I’ll be posting on social media. And, hopefully, I’ll have some beautiful prints to share. Beautiful tokens to give out. Some Valentine’s packages to use and give to my friends. Things for others to purchase for their amazing friends, too, to share the love. I’ll have something more to offer to the world.
So, yes, Valentines. And I’m loving it.
I love the process. I love encouraging more love in my life. And I love thinking of my girlfriends as I make these. It’s a win-win-win all around.
Why am I writing, illustrating, and watercoloring a book that’s meant for the Kindle? I mean, shouldn’t all things creative, that have to do with books, be for the Printed Page?
Great question, and one that I feel like I really want to share. Sure, I’d love to print this myself and sell a stapled together, zine-type version in my Etsy shop, but the original function of this piece is for the Kindle, and every time I think of the reason, I see this scene:
A mom, reading to her three year-old daughter on an iPad, in the hospital.
I used to be a volunteer at a children’s hospital, and by stroke of fate I volunteered on the floor for kids with cancer. I was supposed to be a baby holder. That’s right–they need people to hold babies at hospitals, and you can volunteer for that! Just as the coordinator was signing me up for my shift, her parter signed someone else up for the same slot–like, a half a second before she put my name in, someone else got it, and there were no more baby-holder positions available. So she asked… How did I feel about kids with cancer?
And thus my life changed in a radical way, and I spent some of the best times of my life in the hospital halls and rooms, entertaining very sick kids. Very sick kids who played baseball in the halls (we did), who were sometimes stuck in their rooms (and we had to wear gowns, gloves, and masks to visit them), and kids who were going in for major surgeries, or carting around giant IV poles with, sometimes, 5 or more different bags going into their arms… and kids experiencing very uncomfortable side effects from their chemo.
These kids couldn’t leave the hospital unless it was because a) they were finally well enough to walk out, or b) they were so sick that they would go home, spend time with their families, and join a spiritual realm. On occasion they could leave for a day or two between weeks, or months, of chemo. Those were always exciting trips for them, and reliefs for their parents (usually the moms, who also spent days/weeks/months in the hospital).
They couldn’t go to a book store. And no used books were available to them (germs). So iPads and computers became portals to other worlds.
So when I think of putting my books online, I think of these kids. Maybe I can reach some of them and give them something a little entertaining, a little different, a small diversion. They’re the first goal, and all the other goals follow behind that one. xo
I love this interview in Nerdette with Felicia Day, which wasn’t only hilarious, but insightful: she talked about the incremental development of progress. How she, as a child, would practice the violin out of sheer boredom, and learned the lesson that in order to master something big, you first have to break it down to the little parts and learn those. There is no “become a virtuoso in three seconds.” Instead, it’s “let’s learn this move over and over and over again,” until it becomes real; until it becomes muscle memory, and then you add it to your repertoire.
Thinking about that, it feels like mastery is really mastering a bag of smaller tricks. Like, marbles. Masters of the craft have simply filled their marble jar of tricks, and you’re just beginning. don’t worry about being a master; just focus on the marbles. I’m kind of learning that with Poi. Every move is composed of figuring out a lot of smaller moves, then eventually putting them together.
That’s how I feel with drawing. Only, with drawing, I also like the aesthetic of noviceness. I like my drawings to look hand drawn and imperfect. Because there’s play and freedom in that. If I work too hard and something is too realistic, then I don’t want to use it. That’s why I love drawing the Henri series: because it isn’t perfect, and I’m being so far far from well-drawn, it lets me try to draw anything without fear. Because it’s SUPPOSED to look messed up.
Like, I drew this picture for The World’s Best Auntie Book and couldn’t use it. Why? It was trying to be too realistic and perfect, and there wasn’t enough play. It wasn’t messed up enough, silly enough, etc. And when it starts to look too life-like (for me) then it’s also easier to compare with reality and to see where it doesn’t pick up.
But if it’s a silly drawing/cartoon where messing up is part of the whole shebang, then the expectations are totally different. That’s the freedom of play. This picture is way more fun and was way more fun to draw.
However, drawing over and over and over kind of naturally leads you to a better drawing place. You figure out how to draw an arm going one way, or a head turn, or ruffles, or whatever. and then you’re leading yourself into the more realistic and out of the place you want to be. And then… you’re intentionally deciding if you like that or not and you’re developing a style, and choosing a way to draw. That’s where Im kind of finding myself, which is a weird position to be in–one I’ve never been in before.
Also, I’m kind of in love with Katie Daisy right now. Aren’t her illustrations old-world and beautiful? They remind me of my childhood favorite, The Golden Egg Book. Where is that beauty? Lost, lost, lost… ah, the tragedy! 😉
Michelle and I were discussing children’s books today when I gave her an armful of ones left over from my nieces, and she said “I really love the pictures. I love them more than adult books, actually,” in an apologetic kind of tone… but I totally agreed! They’re AMAZING. Stunning. Visually pleasing. A lot of hard work goes into them! They’re beautiful and silly and graceful and works of art. And they’re hard to do.
Little things, like drawing the same person over and over, can be hard. Drawing it once? Easy. Drawing it twice yet different? Whole New Story. Or drawing, say, a bunch of kids and making their proportions all match? No head too big or body too small? Hard. A challenge. So now, when I look at children’s books, I REALLY appreciate all the work that went into them. It’s talent and design. It’s practice, practice, practice.
I remember listening to an interview of an illustrator who became one in her thirties (or was it forties?) who said that she had to get good, first. She had to learn how to draw! And Kelly Rae Roberts kind of says the same thing in her book Flying Lessons. She wasn’t an incredible artist at first. She had to learn and develop her craft, and it took years.
All of this to say… starting something helps you appreciate those who do it well in a deeper, more satisfying way. You’ll love it. And, at the same time, starting something means to master the little marbles and add them to your jar. Don’t worry about all of them–they’ll come. Just go for the one-by-one for now. Eventually, your jar will overfillith…. it just takes a lot of fun practice.
Both: drawing for the children’s book, My Favorite Auntie, and the Betsy & Iya Garage Sale! Where I got a ton of jewelry making supplies–yay + f un!
You know, when you laugh aloud while drawing something, then it’s a success. And I think all of my practice drawing is finally paying off! As in, I can finally start to draw. That, and learning that even if it’s not perfect, it’s great the way it is. I had to learn that because so much of my drawing wasn’t and isn’t perfect, and that’s what I love about it. I think I learned that from Kate Bingaman-Burt, as her drawings are just that–drawings. They’re not realistic re-creations, they’re whimsy, filtered through her hand. The imperfections are what make them perfect. Anyways, that’s how I justify continuing to draw and create, and how I let myself create.
It’s imperfect and that’s what makes it unique! Uniquely mine! Perfect in its own way. 🙂
Part of what lets me create is… well, this YouTube video with Steve Jobs and Alan Watts was REALLY inspiring, of late. Especially the part by Steve Jobs about connecting the dots. Looking back, we can see where they all connected. But looking to the future, we don’t know yet where or how they’ll connect, but we can trust that, based on history, they will. So follow your bliss, as they say. I’m finally giving myself permission to do that.
And that saying that… the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago… and the second best time is now.