Monday, May 9, 2011

Why It Takes So Long: Mistakes!

My mistake-o-rama starts with this sketch of a scene from an opera called The Tender Land, by Aaron Copland. The editor has written on the layout "show more of the SOUND, instead of the literal crowd and stage."

First I have to transfer the measurements from the printed layouts onto my computer screen. The editor uses inches. I use centimeters. My software uses a grid that is neither one nor the other. Let the mathematical mistakes begin! (Dad, stop laughing.)

Next I have to figure out how to show SOUNDS. Write words onto the picture? Make swirly or spiky marks? I don't love those ideas, and I don't think they would fit with the rest of the book. I decide to zoom up close to the argument, show the characters shouting, and put as many noisy elements into the picture as possible.

I draw for nearly an hour before I realize I don't know what I'm doing. Exactly how do people stand when they're arguing? What do they do with their hands? Mistake number two--trying to draw without reference photos. I stop and do some research, and make a collage.

The photo of the kid covering his ears is a nice surprise. It strikes me as a great way to convey SOUND. In the opera, the men are arguing about a girl, so why don't I put her front and centre, with her hands over her ears?

Back to the drawing board. Mistake, mistake, mistake. Erase, erase, erase. Start again and again.

I'm drawing like mad when an awful thought hits me: does the girl really appear on stage in the argument scene? It's been months since I did the research for the original drawing. I remember the argument, but not the girl. Maybe she's not even in that scene!

Pause for opera-viewing. Luckily, there's a version of The Tender Land on YouTube. Unluckily, it's divided into twelve sections. I finally find "my" scene about halfway through section 8. And...tah-dah! Yes, the girl really is there. Whew. Mistake narrowly averted. I add a crowing rooster and barking dog for good measure. Here's the sketch I'll submit:

Will this picture will even make it into the book? Or will it be cut in the next round of revisions? I'd say there's about a 50-50 chance. We'll see!

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