Monday, February 29, 2016

Dreamwings

I remember only that I dreamed I was flying.  I had never done that before. But this night, I felt my body lift off from the foot of our yard and float up above the yard, the street, the house... and while there, my intent was enough to move me - higher, and farther down the street.  How beautiful, how peaceful it all looked from above, every detail of branch and leaf, pattern of roof tile and complexity of chimneys filling the hushed night scene below me.

I may never fly again.  But my body remembers how it feels, and I sigh in sympathy with every bird as it alights and folds its wings.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Drawing on Memory

Getting my work together for the SCBWI Childrens' Authors and Illustrators conference in New York this week.

I've been looking over my portfolio for the past six months, deciding what needed replacing, and looking through more recent images for connections, strong energy.

Considering which images appealed to me, and why, it occurred to me that what most tugged at me were images that drew on my own childhood memories - good or bad.

As a member of a loud and busy family, at times I was busy adding to the noise while at other times I needed a quiet retreat.  Focusing on what was right in front of me, the bustle of my surroundings would fade. I noticed how delicately beautiful the colours on an oily puddle seemed, walking down the street on a rainy day.  These same colours swirled in the wonderful changing surface of soap bubbles we blew.  And showed up again in the landscape of rich shades in an abalone shell, in the shine on a beetle, in the wings of a dragonfly. 

Taking a moment to really look at something creates this peaceful mental state even now.  And considering all that needs to get done in the next 48 hours, this is a good thing.


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Becoming Story, Uncovering Self



I draw darkness.

The 4B pencil leaves a slick glide of graphite on my paper and I feel the damp air, cool with dew not yet fallen, clammy on my thin, child shoulders.

I pause here, mind open. Behind me the infinity of dark forest, tall selves of trees shifting and whispering deeper darkness against the night sky above.

My bare knees locked, toes dig into the gravel between rough patches of grass, looking for warmth from the earth under my feet.

In front of me the paper sucks up lines and slowly becomes one with the heavy night air in my mind.  In front of my shaking child-self, the door opens. A woman's arm bars the lamplight from within as it slides across the porch and down the dusty steps.

I wait in the moon's cold glow.

I am here forever.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Growing and Idea Fom the Ground Up

When pencil hits paper, sometimes it's nice to just let the point wander, doodle aimlessly and see where you end up.  At other times, the memory of a moment or the quirk of a facial expression in the mind's eye insists on becoming more.
More tangible, more rounded - and when I spend time with that thought, I find more accrues around the point of the pencil and more still until there is a character and the pencil is tracing the line of something which - when followed, becomes story.

Here are some moments which grew out of childhood memories - of making things with zeal and determination, lots of tape and a very little idea of HOW to make the thing at hand.  - of the slope of a hillside falling away in front of me and the vista of possibilities all there, waiting to be set in motion. - of handstand competitions among siblings, of waiting, waiting waiting... (oh, being a kid involved so MUCH waiting) and best of all, the hug of someone always ready to join in and take at least half the blame.

The story and the thumbnails are all developing at the same pace, and are becoming a book dummy.
A few of the finished illustrations were entered - and accepted - into this year's CANSCAIP Illustrators Art Exhibit held for two weeks around the Packaging Your Imagination seminar day at Humber College just a week or so ago.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

A good day


Working away, developing drawings in support of a lyrical text but today I run into a roadblock. From a quick sketch that has the right feel but the wrong proportions, I redraw and redraw again. Every iteration pulls farther and farther from the vision I hold in my mind.

Taking a break for lunch.

Regardless of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back kind of day this happens to be, any day where you can find time to do something you love and enjoy the feel of the sun on your face is a good, good day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Making friends - Tiny Friends, that is. Pocket Dolls.

When I was small, I loved tiny toys.  the kind that would fit in your palm or pocket and when Kiddles were the big thing, I craved one with every fibre of my being.  My neighbour had a whole collection.  My best friend up the street had a few, but I only wanted one.  Just one.  And when one was finally mine, the sheer delight of it eclipsed everything else... and at this distance I cannot recall who gave it to me.  It was most likely my Godmother, since she was one of the few people who would ask what I wanted for my birthday and who bought me something new.  In our large family, most toys and clothes were handed down.  I had two regular sized dolls, both passed on from a friend who no longer wanted them.  Two!?  How could one properly love and play with TWO dolls, much less give them away!? I felt vaguely guilty at how fiercely I loved one when the other was tumbled upside-down among the bedclothes or blocks, and wondered if the dolls themselves minded.  I thought they might.

So when dollmaking crept in to my imagination as an adult, it was always with the idea of something tiny.  Something you could slip into a pocket, take along in a car, and where if you had three or four of them, they could all be played with at once, a whole adventure of dolls.  (I'm pretty sure if you look it up, you will find that is the term for a gathering of more than one doll.)

I began with one.  A prototype.  Loved all 3 1/2 inches of her, from her touseled blue hair and smudged nose to her tiny unformed turned-in toes.  And she was so special a little thing that I put her safely by until I could make her a friend.  My children have learned to dread it when I say I have put something they ask for in "a safe place". It means they may not see that thing again for a good, long while.  And so it is with Doll One.  Onesie is safely snoozing somewhere.  Snug and secret.  So I made Twosie.  She had no hair.  I simply could not decide what colour her hair should be.  But she had a wide, sunny smile and a bright yellow dress to match.  She seemed so HAPPY I had made her.  And although she stood beaming at me under my lamp, watching me work for a long while, eventually she must have gone off to find her friend, because she disappeared.  I know one day while turning out a drawer or unfolding tissue from around some precious thing in a box, I will find the two of them making up stories, telling dollie secrets and enjoying themselves wonderfully together.

But I was still without dolls.

And I had a craft show to attend.

So I sat down with fabric and my weensy template and drew out a whole dozen dollies of different colours.  And I stitched, stuffed, painted and stitched some more.  I took three along on the drive to the craft show, stitching their hair on the highway between Toronto and Kingston as the early sun barely cleared the dashboard, and four more the week later, who came downtown with me to an artisanal store here in Toronto where others like me have brought work together to be sold.

And again, I have no dolls.

So I'm stitching again.  Making Tiny Friends to send out into the world in their little matchbox beds to make friends and make magic in quiet hours and hushed corners - or possibly get up to zany tricks and antics in circuses they cause to happen around them.  I wish I knew.


Monday, August 31, 2015

Unfinished but not abandoned


August 31, 2015

Today's doodle, photographed and posted on Facebook bobs up in my mind.  Twirls lazily in the mental current and glints invitingly.  I know what it is about, this bottle whose contents entice and yet bring reluctance...

...it is a memory.  19 years old, of a kettle rinsed, and a boy just two, demanding both it and a tea-towel.  And rubbing industriously.  Sometimes action is needed to help thoughts gather, become solid, so I don't interfere too soon, but eventually I ask - why all that rubbing, when the kettle is clean and dry by now?  My older son replies very seriously: "It is to give the genie a chance to come out.  Like knocking on his door."

Ah.  In that flash between the boy rubbing a kettle and his words falling on my ear, a story falls into my head.  About how we become.  And how we lose some of what we could be, over time.  And possibly, tenuously, how we might regain some of what we have lost, to be our whole selves.  Or more whole selves.  Perhaps.

I said to my son: well.  That gives me an idea.  Quite a story, in fact.

He laid aside the tea-towel, kettle resting on his Osh-Kosh little legs and asks: Can I have that story?  Is it mine, because I gave it to you?

Yes, son, of course.  It is your story.

And now, 19 years later and rolling around in my mind, first draft in the back of a drawer for years already, it is more relevant and more his than ever.

And it comes out in doodles.  In flashes of memory, bits of insight where I realize WHY something I wrote had to be so indeed. 

And possibly, even, what might come next.

Although, as with most really good stories, that part is never certain until you read it.