Friday, December 6, 2013

Work in Progress

Sometimes, when I look at the shelf next to my art tables, I think, "Ack! Ack! Too many unfinished projects!"

The horizontal binders on the bottom shelf in this photo contain the pencil sketches, line art, paintings and rejects from my finished smallbooks.

The vertical ones are stuffed with unfinished projects, and they outnumber the others at least two-to-one. Years and years of work lie ahead. Sometimes the sight of it sends me into a nice little anxiety attack. Other times, I feel like patting those binders and purring. They remind me of a well-stocked kitchen cupboard: full of possibilities.

The grey boxes are old tax files, necessary but boring. No need to talk about those!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Rough Stuff

They say you have to take the rough with the smooth. I've been working on this Bonfire Boys sequence (for my Storydello blog) for months, and parts of it are still pretty darn rough!  I hope it will come together soon. I'm looking forward to taking some "smooth with the rough."

Friday, October 4, 2013

Supervisory Cat

Happiness is a messy palette, a mug of tea, a supervisory cat, and a rowdy ancestor.

The smallbook in progress is for Storydello. It's about my great-great-great grandfather, John Stanbridge. He and his brother went to prison for "riot and tumult" after a Bonfire Night celebration that got out of hand. I could hardly wait to finish the research and start painting their exploits. Those guys were bad

The supervisory cat does not approve. But I suspect there are some dubious characters in her own family tree!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bigger and Bigger

My "small books" are gradually getting bigger and bigger. Is this a subconscious reflection of my growing confidence? Or does it have more to do with my changing eyeglass prescription?

Whatever the reason, you can see the progression in this picture. From right-to-left: 1) tiny coil bound sketchbooks from the dollar store (I think they were sold as party favours), 2) "livretti"--which is my made-up name for the little 8-page books made from single sheets of letter-sized office paper, and 3) "small books," which are quarter-sheets of letter-sized paper, printed double-sided, sewn with dental floss and bound in cover stock.

Small books are my favourite, these days. But lately I've made a few "tall books" as well, from half-sheets of letter-sized paper. These were made as presents, and have been given away, so they aren't in this picture.

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Wonderful Mess

In my dayjob, if my work-space gets cluttered, my brain gets cluttered, too. I seem to have to file stuff and straighten things, or I can't think straight.

At home, my art-table creates the opposite effect. If I tidy it up, I can't work well. My brain starts trying to follow the rules, and my ideas get all tight and well-behaved, and it takes me a long time to realize that they've led me down the wrong path.

This jumble of odd-sized paper, weird brushes and crummy pens seems to say, "There's nothing to lose, and God knows there are plenty of us, so just get in here and play around." It's a good place for messing around and making a lot of mistakes. Once in a while, a good idea pops out.

And there's a big old bin underneath the table, for catching the clunkers.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Day Job

In the 15 years I've worked at the library, I've changed offices about five times. I share the current one with an office-mate fondly known as "Roomie." In this photo, her desk is behind me as I point the camera at my own desk. We feel lucky to have a window that really opens, and a view across downtown Kingston toward the Royal Military College and Fort Henry.

In addition to my three personal blogs Alphadello, Storydello, and, of course, Everdello, I manage three more at work: Kingston 1812, Presents from the Past, and StoryMe. Luckily, most of the StoryMe entries are done by my colleagues. It's a bit of a juggling act to keep all of these blogs in the air, but wow--I love it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Note to Self

Oops!  Note to self: remember to read the text.  I happily coloured my drawing of a Regal Walnut Moth and was starting to type its text for my Insect Alphabet:
Nearly all caterpillars, however formidable they may look, are in fact harmless. The fiercest one I have ever seen, that of the regal walnut moth (Ceratocampa regalis) is very large, and with horny spines stretched over the head...
I had collected the text weeks earlier, and I'd forgotten that the picture was supposed to show the caterpillar; not the moth. For about two seconds, I told myself it didn't matter. Then I looked at photos of these bizarre caterpillars and could hardly wait to draw one.

It took some tweaking and fiddling-around, though. I wanted to place the caterpillar below the moth, but there wasn't enough room on the paper to extend the drawing in that direction, so I drew the caterpillar in a separate panel, and "stitched" them together on the computer. (If you look at Monday's Alphadello post, you can see the line.)

In real life, the caterpillar and moth would not appear in the same place at the same time, so I put the caterpillar in a circle. It's supposed to remind you of a magnifying glass, but believe me, you would not need a magnifying glass to see a real one. Check this out.  Eeeewwww! And Magnificent!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bug Heaven

When I first launched into my Insect Alphabet, I was more interested in the texts than the images. I love looking at vintage books on the Internet Archive, and there were some fantastic ones about insects.

When it came to the artwork, I thought the shapes of the bugs would be interesting, and I figured I could choke back my squeamishness long enough to get the pictures done, but I never expected to enjoy the process so much.

I've actually been hurrying home from work to colour these. Who knew it would be so much fun? Here are the Owl Moth and Potato Beetle, and the line art for the first part of the Regal Walnut Moth, which changed again after the photo was taken. I'll tell you more about that in my next post.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Prisma Joy

A few years ago, I finally found the answer to a felt-pen puzzle that had been bugging me since I was twelve. I kept seeing illustrations that had obviously been done with markers, where big areas of colour were flat and "tender-looking." But mine never came out that way. When I tried to colour something, there were always streaks and overlaps, and lines between strokes. How did those illustrators get that effect?  It was a mystery to me.

One day I came across a blog where the secret was revealed: Copic markers. I headed straight for the art store to check out colours and prices.

I soon regained consciousness, and the staff showed me a slightly less expensive brand called Prismacolour. It was love at first draw--Will you marry me, Prismacolour?  Within ten months I had done more than 200 sketches. Every time I ran out of Cloud Blue, Spanish Orange or Violet Mist, I hyperventilated.

Things have settled down a little since then, but these markers are still the joy of my life. After a hard day at work, there they are, waiting for me, in their little wooden cutlery holder. It's a match made in heaven.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Summer Hat

Back in the mists of time--was it October?--I hung up my summer hat on a  conveniently placed nail. It's still there. When will I wear it again? Come, Spring, come!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting the Hang of It

Every time I make a small book for my Storydello blog, I think, "Finally, I'm getting the hang of this." And then it becomes clear that I've still got a long way to go.

Each entry takes a lot of steps, and each book is just a bit different from the others, so I'm constantly tweaking things, and getting mixed up, and feeling confused.

But three of the steps have settled into a happy routine, and you can see them all in this picture: 1) place the text on the page, 2) work the pencil drawings around it, and 3) trace the results in ink, using a lightbox.

If the remaining fifty steps would fall into a nice neat pattern, I'd be all set!

Friday, March 1, 2013

Getting it Wrong

It's annoying-but-true that it can be a good thing to screw up. For about two hours, I was satisfied with my first attempt at these bugs from my Insect Alphabet. Then I wasn't. A green grasshopper against a green background may be good camouflage in real life, but it doesn't make for a good picture. Ditto for the fly, who seemed to be floating in mid-air against a weird background--a dead fern and a stick. What's that all about? 

Getting it wrong forced me to stop and think. A plainer background, in yellow and brown, would make the grasshopper stand out more.  And if I put the fly on a plain white background, it would look as if he was crawling across the page (or screen.) Because I lead a sheltered life, this struck me as brilliant and hilarious, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing that revision. 

It just goes to prove, for the umpteenth time, the annoying fact that getting it wrong can lead to getting it right.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

C is for Creepy Crawlies

Way back in the mists of time (November 1st)  I told you to expect a new theme on my Alphadello blog. Well, it's finally up and running--or flying, crawling, slithering. . . you get the idea.  To check it out, click here--and thanks!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Minor Detail

I was lying in bed last night, thinking about my blogs (I have multiple blogs!  How did that happen?), when it suddenly occurred to me that I'd neglected to mention a little something to you. After making you sit through revision after revision, and deadline after deadline, I forgot to tell you that my book was finally published! Minor detail.

It was released on October 9 and it's in the bookstores now. The e-book version is also for sale on iTunes. The reviews have been good, for which I'm very grateful, and it was a thrill to see my name in the New York Times Book Review.

But I'd have to say that the feedback that floored me the most was this Speak Well, Read Well blog entry that described how a terrific teacher/speech therapist used the book in her classroom. When the revisions and deadlines are over, and publication day is already a distant memory, it's strange--and wonderful--that to think that my book has this life of its own, thanks to an inspired teacher and her students. Now, that makes me grateful.

New York Times Book Review  10 November 2012