"Welcome back!" the sign-in screen says as I begin to update the W.I.P. page of my site. It's been a while. A worldwide virus. A worldwide civil rights protest. A mourning in our family among so many others'. And a time to struggle forward. So the little greeting stretches a smile across my face at the same time as my eyes well up.
Silly, I know. But crying's good. It staves off depression and fuels desire for change, despite the limits of a world compressed to my mom's and my homes, phones, books, screens, walks and grocery stores. Donating what I can to causes, grieving/healing with my family, and personal work are things I can do.
So. Aside from weeding and cleaning, I'm writing, sketching, painting, scanning, designing, or researching a little, every day. Anything to move forward even just a bit.
I hope you are finding your way through this time, too.
Working on a new style for an early graphic novel has been liberating. And frightening. After all, this style seems limited to the project. But none of my old methods fit for it, so . . ..
This long initial stage already had me feeling vulnerable, but knowing the character and not being able to catch his/her/their face was completely unsettling. Should I submit the dummy and say, well, someone else should illustrate the book? There are so few words, the manuscript would be mostly illustration notes to show what was happening.
No, who would want to trust that? I’m an author-illustrator at heart, thinking in scenes. All my stories for young children are spare with the words. Character shown visually is a big part of how I write. When you do that, words need to work extra hard with strong support from the pictures. It needed to be me.
Turned out, it was a good idea to complete the 64-page dummy. It gave me a certainty about the feel and pacing of its three stories. It also clarified what I needed in the missing face (which looks suspiciously like a certain rescue cat.)
Here’s part of a sketchbook page with a possible good one. I like the innocence and playfulness plus the potential to be very catlike—which is to say at the very least a teensy bit troublemaker-ish.
The main cat’s face is starting to feel right. I’m going to try it out and see if it works.
Sometimes I wish I studied cartooning along with illustration and graphic design. I would already be used to something like this new style I’m attempting. Maybe then I wouldn’t have such pesky difficulties to struggle over.
But for my early graphic novel, I’m aspiring to a slightly cartoony style for younger children—different from the odd not-quite-cartoony style used long ago for Boston Magazine and my regular not-quite-realistic children’s illustration styles.
Going for a specific level of grunge and bad drawing with over-enthusiastic claws and tiny fangs is chancey stuff. It tends to be a difficult leap from 22 years of illustrating children's educational, trade nonfiction, and magazines . . . mostly done on tight schedules . . .. Actually, practically everything . . . except my own illustrations and writing . . . was done on tight schedules . . ..
Yep, there it is. I’m illusplaining. Making excuses. In case this doesn’t pan out.
But a funkier look seems to fit the project. For now, I’m going with a claim of “outsider’s style.” Perhaps it will be new and interesting to those jaded by good cartooning.
Got to try, anyway.
Last year, five minutes of painting/drawing, using the computer, or writing made my hand go completely numb.
I had to have carpal tunnel surgery.
It was simple surgery with a painful recovery—in two ways:
1) Pain-pain. Lots of nerves in a hand.
2) Lots of angst.
The whole year before, I’d gradually had to reduce work, until I was only doing small projects with roomy deadlines for existing clients. So by the end of that year, I’d pretty much lost my “hand” (hand-eye coordination) and finally gave in to the idea of surgery.
After surgery . . ..
Good: Absolutely no numbness.
Bad: Absolutely no numbness.
Good: Eventually, I could draw and paint again.
Bad: Needed lots of practice to get back to my skill level.
My mom and I had been going to weekly life drawing sessions. Before the surgery, I would draw five minutes, shake my hand, rest it five minutes, then draw again. After surgery, driving the 16.2 miles each way was the accomplishment. But after a month of physical therapy, I was drawing and painting again, getting used to my “new” weak, shaky and uncoordinated-but-numb-free hand.
I’m still going to life drawing. Working in my studio now, too. Getting my “hand” back—both the use of it and hand-eye coordination.
I’m working on character designs for a silly new story and just finished a week of writing, rewriting, re-rewriting query letters and a synopsis for a #PitchWars entry.
There are countless worse situations that others deal with daily, I know. This is just a little plug for the good kind of stubbornness that helps a little with all sorts of trouble.
Wishing you plenty of stubbornness, as needed, too,
Works in Progress: