Progressions

A Winters Nap

Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting.
I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.

In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.

Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning. 

That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?

I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.

I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.

Rules to be Broken


One of the great things about DIY publishing is that you get to break rules when you feel like they need to be broken.

One of the rules in traditional publishing it’s the children’s picture books should be 32 pages. There are a few exceptions, but not many. The irony is that those exceptions often tend to be exceptional.

As I’m perusing books pilfered from Thing2’s bookshelf, some of the most dogeared titles — The Giving Tree, Where The Wild Things Are — break rules with regard to page length. 

As I dig deeper, I also notice that the books that still stand out for us are those that may not have perfect “story book” endings but are somehow still satisfying. They may hint at a darker side of life but enlighten their readers. 

They do something truly exceptional. They trust children.

As I’m whittling words and laying out spreads, I’m keeping in mind that there is at least one rule I don’t want to break – and that’s to trust kids.

Save

Save

Something for Nothing

I had paid my booth fee for the summer so it was free to setup my tent with my notecards at the summer market yesterday.

There were a few bigger events in the area so our corner of Vermont was quiet for this stage of the summer tourist season. It wasn’t the most profitable morning, but as I sat across the street from the Episcopal church in Arlington, I was sure I could see the leaves of the maple tree in front of the churchyard cemetery changing color.

It marked the first official day of autumn for me — an unexpected and pleasant little bit of something that cost absolutely nothing.

Here and Now

high water, 5×7

We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire. 
Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along.
When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it. 

Thing2 seems to agree.