Thursday, January 31, 2008

No Big-Screen TV? You'll Be Okay...

... And while a hundred civilizations have prospered (sometimes for centuries) without computers or windmills or even the wheel, none have survived even a few generations without art.
– from Art & Fear, Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking, by David Bayles & Ted Orland

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Fine Art of Negotiation

My, my-- the things we'll do to appease our children! Though sometimes you just have to admire their spunk... I posted a sketch for this piece a while ago.

A question for all of you illustrators who participate in Illustration Friday-- if you're creating a new piece rather than using one that already fits, how do you schedule it in to your week? What sort of time do you leave yourself for sketches, finish, etc.? Do you always post an image to the site, or do you just use the prompt as an exercise? (Okay, that was a few questions, but I really am curious!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Monday Map: Yearning to Dig

This is the time of year I yearn to be back out in the garden. I miss digging and planting and watering and that feeling of tearing a weed clean from the soil knowing I've gotten every bit of root.

Outside my studio window I can see the remnants of plants that I should have cleaned up in the fall. By then I was too tired. But now I'm re-energizing, for yet another season.

Have you noticed how the quality of late-afternoon light starts to change toward the end of January? Spring is coming!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Writing & Running

(This is me and my baby brother a few years ago before the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot-- 5 miles. I still slog my way around the block. This past fall my brother finished the New York City marathon-- his first!)

This week Sara at Read Write Believe and Liz at Liz in Ink have been doing a great series of posts called The Exercise of Writing. (If you haven't been following along, here and here are the places to start.)

Yesterday Sara asked- How is writing like your favorite sport? Here's my list of answers. Once I got going it was quite hard to stop- kind of how it is with writing and running!

Writing is like running because:

  1. It helps to warm up.
  2. Some days it's good to get it done early.
  3. There are slow runners and fast runners. (Different abilities, creative processes.)
  4. If you slip and fall it's good to just get up and keep going. (Rejections.)
  5. Except for the times it would be good to take a break. (Rest, relax and re-inspire.)
  6. The more you practice, the better you'll get.
  7. A long shower feels great when you're done. (Sense of satisfaction.)
  8. It helps to have goals.
  9. Hills are hard, but good. (Challenges.)
  10. Some days you'll catch that lovely high and coast along.
  11. Other days it's okay to just walk. (Perseverance-- you're still moving.)
  12. Be wary of cars-- they can be dangerous. (Critics. Nay-sayers.)
  13. Sometimes you'll get an annoying pebble in your shoe. (Doubts about a story. Or your abilities.) You could stop your momentum and shake it out. Or you could bear with it and fix it later.
  14. Whether you have the fanciest high-tech gear or just a ratty t-shirt and an old pair of sneakers, you still have to put one foot in front of the other.
  15. And finally, there will always be other runners who are faster, stronger and look better in spandex shorts. Are you going to let that stop you?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Running From?

This has turned out to be a week for working on sketches. The one above and yesterday's are for new samples. I usually don't do this much shading for a sketch, but thought it would be fun to try something different.

I'm also working on a dummy for a new story. The drawings are a bit more complicated than I expected, and so are taking longer. It's a little bit frustrating-- I feel like time is slipping past! I've been writing and revising, and once I finish the pictures it will lead to even more revising. I'm approaching this project with baby steps. Every day. It will get done.

Perhaps, she's running from time...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Snow Dogs

This is a rough sketch. I'd say it's pretty true to life-- here's my model:

(Yes, she runs really fast. She smiles, too!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Are We Done Yet? (A Roundup of Your Comments)

Here's the roundup of comments to my question-- how do you know when you're finished with a piece of art, or writing, or is it ever really finished at all?

Eric Orchard posted a link to this post a few days ago on his blog and a few people responded over there. With his permission I've included their responses. (Thanks, Eric!)

I intended to comment on the bits and pieces that I personally found helpful, but it became like when you're about to highlight a book and then you realize that it's so good that you'd end up underlining the whole thing. So I'll just say that for me, something from each of your responses hit home.

So-- enjoy, and thanks to everyone who participated! You've affirmed my belief that artists and writers are some of the most generous and helpful people on the planet- not to mention, nicest. (Tear! - as my daughter would say, a la Austin Powers. ;-)

at Through the Studio Door:
I don't always know when a piece is really done either. Sometimes I over work things. I really think there are times when we don't want to stop working on a piece because we've become attached to it. (I know on a recent piece I went back and re-did her eyes even though I thought they were finished long before.)

I also think we need to get used to the work being done. If I can set it aside and come back to it later and it still feels done, then it's done!

And then there are deadlines. :) They can make you decide a piece is finished real quick!

"...are they ever really finished..."
I think in most cases we can always look back on a piece and find something we're not happy with or we would handle differently. But I think that's a good thing! It's what helps you grow as an artist.

Rima at The Hermitage:
Ahh, the eternal dilemma :) I can easily over worry a painting.. but I find the gut feeling of knowing when it's NOT done is always clearer than knowing when it IS. I guess I just keep going until the "not done" feeling goes away :)
Very hard to put your finger on it. Deadlines are helpful because then it HAS to be done! :)

Frank Gardner
at My Paint Box:
I am a painter not an illustrator, but we all have the same issues sometimes.
I always say it takes two people to make a painting. One to paint it and the other to tell them to stop.
I'll often set a piece aside when I think I am about 90% done. When I look at it with a fresh eye, more often than not, what I thought I could keep going on is not necessary.
I tend to want to keep going and make it perfect, but I am learning that there is no perfect and what is left out can be just as important in art.
I know with illustration you are expected to reach your signature "Look" so it can be different. I can stop at any time or look I want.
Great question, so I thought I would ad my two cents for what it's worth.
I see that a lot of people set a work aside for a while to look at it fresh.

at Read Write Believe:
Writers struggle with this, too. I find that I want both clarity and mystery in my poems, and if I overwork them, I get neither. For novels, it's tougher, because there are so many places you could polish and polish, but I think I'm still looking for the same two things: the story line runs clearly through the book, but it has a layer of mysterious otherness---beauty, if you want to call it that.

I also think of it like music---a clear theme with enough overtones to make it full and rich.

And yes, a deadline helps. So does an editor/agent combing over it until you're both sick to death of it.

And one more thing---a feeling of detachment, as if I didn't really write the work at all. My words look slightly alien, independent, as if I've let them go and they've become something true and alive.

Liz Scanlon
at Liz in Ink:
Answer #1: Never. Still want to tweak things that are in print. But Answer #2: when I go back to the most recent version BEFORE the one I'm working on. Usually then I've wrung all the goodness out of it and I need to inject some back in...

Little Willow:
This sounds very odd - rather, looks very odd, when just reading instead of hearing me say it out loud - but I just know when it's done. I know my endings in advance and work towards them. I'm my own worst critic, but I just know.

Alicia PadrĂ³n:
Hmmmm... that's a good one. I think all artist struggle with that. I guess it comes down to when are you willing to stop (or how tired you are ;o) Sometimes less is better so is very hard to find a balance. I try to give myself permission to stand up and leave it for a while.. and then when you comeback to it, is usually easier to tell if it needs more work or if it is just right.

Tic illustration:
She's got lots of good thoughts and comments on this one. Others had already said it, so I didn't bother, but for me, it is done when it's due. I guess it's good we have deadlines or maybe we'd never quit working on pieces.

Viviane Schwartz:
I think it's done when you say so. Except if you change your mind next day. Sometimes it's done when someone else said so and you had a big argument about it and then put something more on just to spite them and then say it's done.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Trouble in the Garden

This is a detail from a larger piece.

On another note-- there are wonderful comments coming in on yesterday's post - Are we done yet? I'll post them in a round-up tomorrow. (And if you're late joining in, don't fret-- I'll do a follow-up!)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Are We Done Yet? (An Informal Poll)

Yesterday Eric Orchard posted a wonderful step-by-step on how he creates a painting. (Check it out-- his work is gorgeous!) I was curious about how he knew when a piece was finished, because that's something I always struggle with both in my illustration and my writing. Here was his answer:

I can't say specifically when I'm done with a painting. I think it has to do with contrast and tone. The composition looks done to me when the forms jump out and are distinct against the negative space and when the tone/shading looks convincingly three dimensional.

I love keeping thoughts like this in mind when I'm working (thus my addiction to art/writing/creativity books...) It's a great way to keep your work evolving.

So-- here's my informal poll: How do you know when you're done with a piece of art? Or writing? Or are they really ever "finished" at all? I'd love to hear your thoughts-- I'll post them all later!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The View from Yesterday Morning

Waking up to a fresh blanket of snow reminds me of a new page in my notebook. Or a new piece of watercolor paper. Or even a blank computer screen at the beginning of a new story. Full of so many possibilities...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Things That Make You Go "Ahh"

The work of art moves you like a sailboat heading into the wind; you move forward only by tacking back and forth.
– Eric Booth, The Everyday Work of Art

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Fun with Sharpies

This reminds me of when my kids were little-- washable markers were just not good enough. Yup-- they had to use my permanent, black, you'll-never-wash-this-out-in-a-million-years Sharpies. And they drew on... everything. (But I love the idea of drawing randomly to different music!)

(Thanks, Drawn!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Step Away from the Artwork

Have you ever thought that the colors in your artwork look too bright and garish one moment and too dull the next? Or you think they are awful at the end of the day but the next morning, miraculously-- gorgeous? Perhaps it's time to give your retina cells a little break.

Friday, January 4, 2008

How to Stay Warm

Not good:

Good (A couple of cords of seasoned wood, ready for the stove):

Really good (Twinings English Breakfast tea):
Really, really good (Handmade warm poncho/favorite Christmas gift):
The best (A room full of art and writing supplies):

Thursday, January 3, 2008

List of Three

I've mastered the art of making lists:
  • Books-I-want-to-read lists
  • Idea lists
  • Art and office supply lists
  • Check-out-on-the-web lists
  • Plants-to-try-in-the-garden lists
  • Remind-the-kids-and-hubby lists
  • What-to-cook-for-dinner lists
  • Paint-colors-I-have-and-need lists
  • And, of course, an endless variety of To-Do lists
I guess these lists give me the illusion of control-- or at least of making life seem more manageable. But lately I've been thinking that maybe they're not working as well as I'd like. They lead to a sense of failure if I don't accomplish enough every day (whatever "enough" may be.)

So for this year's New Years Resolution I'm going to start a daily List of Three. The three top items that I must get done every day. Whether it be a job deadline or planning a new illustration piece or doodling in my sketchbook. Because after the three are done I can go back to the other lists and just have fun, without that sense of feeling at loose ends by the end of the day. We'll see how it goes!

Here are some posts about resolutions that I've found inspiring (and yes, I'll admit-- I've started a list...):