Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Conducting a Picture Book

When I pick up a book it is usually because the cover has invited me.  With colour and words, mood and promise the cover has called and I have answered.  Once open in my hands, though, a picture book turns into music. 

I first became aware of this while at the Bologna Book Fair many years ago.  Overwhelmed by the visual noise, the candy-shop quality of books at every turn, I wandered, found quiet corners and book after book after book.  Every one of them had appeal.  Strengths.  Serious quality.  But one after another I put them down.  Over and over again.  I had come to the ultimate book lover's feast and I intended to carry home with me only the irresistible. 

Books from other cultures in other alphabets and scripts, some in more familiar languages, even those in English, as I turned the pages my mind began a melody - a tinkly version of twinkle twinkle little star, as if played on a music box, or the whole shebang, cannons and all, of Beethoven's Eroica - a lilt, a whoosh, a quiet whisper of lullaby - they all sang in my hands.  And yet...

...some books were ALL cymbals.  One or two were missing the whole Bassoon section, all twiddly flutes and basso profundo but like a doughnut without a filling.  And so it went.  I carried my little map everywhere and filled it with symbols for each booth visited: What was the mood, the tone, the feel of each one?  And everywhere I opened the books and heard music.

Now, many years later in my sunny studio I open a folder and pull out a page of thumbnails.  I've read the text many times, made notes and scribbled numbers in the margins.  The thumbnails on my desk now are a map of the music the words are making in my mind.  Do I hear inviting themes echoing playfully in different registers? (Thank you Mozart, Bach and Clementi). Are the voices all represented, supporting one-another - or have I left someone home with laryngitis?  (Handel, you rock!)  Is there room for the reader to chuckle, a sense of play? (Queen, definitely) Does everything come together meaningfully toward the end? (Ah, Stan Rogers and his White Squall!)...and does the ending leave you at a pause, a breath, and ready to open it at the beginning and start the music all over again? (Lhasa da Sela, you are now star music yourself, but your Con Toda Palabra still plays in a sure and steady loop...)

These are greats, and in their context my drawings feel more like a fife and drum duet or a playground chant but still, as long as I hear the melodies made by words and images telling a story, so long I will work erasing and adding lines, experimenting and failing and trying again... until something I have made is exactly the right melody for the words.  Until the closing of the last page invites the book be opened from the first page again.  And again.

These above are opening thumbnails for an exercise I did recently.  I enjoy their musicality, their promise.  At the moment the thumbnails I am researching and developing are a different kind of music altogether - the music of moonlit ripples on a night pond.  The echoes of memory as they weave themselves into a future.  The promise of eggs as yet unhatched.  When the images on my table in front of me looks like the music I hear in my mind, I will know I am done.

Cue the conductor...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

So Much To Do

So much to do this time of year, once the dust settles, hard to tell how many of these come from the heart, how many are duties pressed upon us by custom.  So when one more thing to do appears on the horizon, it might be that, minds already occupied with things grabbing at our attention and for our time, we are less open to possibilities than we might otherwise be.

I believe this character needs to grasp something lovely with every bit of the mind, and, in a more open state of mind see what that is that is catching up and asking for attention.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sketchbook - Music Sweep

Music heard invites us to step into the landscape it creates as it unwinds, unrolls, explodes...

Making music takes the mind on a wander, half our senses involved in the technical, adding to the waterfall of sounds.  The other half responds, the conscious suggesting new directions, the unconscious making connections to memory and imagination, opening doors and windows to a sweep of fresh experience in the mind.  

Improvisation multiplies the inrush of experience, and improvisation in collaboration with others makes for an exponential explosion in which musician as creator and listener is danced away to places he might otherwise never reach.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Sketchbook - Shame


First lines on the page seemed inward-facing, reminded me of how much sometimes as a teen one just wants to be invisible, to pull one's being away from the visible world and disappear from view. 

This girl is wishing it so hard she's beginning to disappear at the edges.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sketchbook - Hammerhead

I'm so very thankful that I can draw... because if I were to try and put this thought into words, well...  

Even now, long after completing this in my sketchbook (and earlier than that, it was a loose ink doodle in yet ANOTHER sketchbook) well...  

That's kind of where words run out.  At... well...

When you look at this image and something specific you're doing comes to mind, well.... ...stop.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sketchbook - A Sea of Eyes

When I  draw without a preset theme, the drawing comes out of an inner space and brings something of that with it - but I have found over the years that the reverse is true also:  while drawing, the surrounding scene with its noises and energies is somehow captured intensely in memory, and each sketchpage and doodle, when opened, opens those snapshots as well - here what is visible is an ocean of impressions and observations - a question: what will fit?  What will become? and memory fills in a sunny afternoon on a neighbour's back porch, children coming and going, the sun searing the blank page a blinding white. 

I have doodles on lined paper squeezed into the margins of notes taken years ago. They  bring to mind the dim upstairs feel of Mr. Baxter's gr. 12 French class.  The colourless tiled floor.  Joe on one side, Wayne on the other.  Good friends.  Worth remembering. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Developing Idea - Sketchbook pages

Picture      I had kept a sketchbook, lugging it from class to class in high school but the habit had lapsed when I acquired other duties and things to carry and ran out of hands for the sketchbook.  It dawned on me that I missed the process.  So a few years ago I picked up the technical pens and pen and ink I had used for the earlier sketchbooks and creaked open the cover of a new book - not knowing what direction it would take. 

I decided only one thing, to begin with: that I would continue working on each spread until it expressed a unified thought or theme - no matter how obscure.  New pages were unnerving, at first.  A sweep of line would break the page and then - ? I began to approach each page with the same general thought:  Now let's see...  and I was hooked. 

I began to feel pulled by a work in progress, left on the table, pen beside the open book.  Whatever the mind was chewing over, seems that was somehow being digested on paper.  I began to savour  the way a drawing developed slowly, dragging thoughts with it, developing a mental space internally as the drawing emerged on paper over days and weeks.  Some drawings didn't seem worthy of further work - a doodle, the moment, not needing digesting or developing.  Others were left unfinished for days or months - I had no idea what to do next with them - and may be in that state today, still waiting.  Others, when I flipped open a page, suddenly I could see just what was needed next - and the pull returned. 

I'll post them in the order that they appear in the sketchbooks, but undated - as they have grown over a hopscotch of timelines, some images surging to the page in a rush of hours drawn from a busy life in the course of a few days, others developing almost despite me, across years.

I enjoy comments and questions and look forward to hearing from you