March 13, 2009 · pensive penning


So…. I’ve been toiling away here till all hours of the night lately. work, work, work. Which is all good, but I’ve been grateful for a bit of break the past two days… if only because I desperately needed to do some laundry and other assorted, seriously banal household stuff. And you know, just take a break from sitting in this chair for hours and hours on end. I’m hoping to get a couple of hours today to work on personal work (um, yeah, so you think I could possibly work the word “work” in here any more?! possible?)

Whilst (whilst!) I’m toiling away, there are usually a couple times a day when I hit send and have 15 minutes or an hour while I wait for client feedback or approval. Often I use these breaks to do things like, well, you know, pee and eat dinner and stuff… but sometimes I just sit here and draw, waiting for the mailbox ping that tells me my client has approved the design and I can get back to it . This is one of the sketches I did last week over the course of a couple of days. I don’t know where the Japanese influence came from, though I suspect it was from my exhaustive searching of the net for paper lantern examples. I was actually looking for Mexican Fiesta lanterns, but inevitably came across lots of Japanese paper lanterns. And I got into this feathery line thing that was just fun to practice, though once again, true to form, I overworked this sketch and should’ve stopped and put it away about an hour before I did. But whatever. I still sort of like this, or the idea of it, and am filing it as an idea for future personal work. (sketch is ballpoint pen on bond paper)

Happy Friday all! Don’t work too hard!

5 Comments so far
February 4, 2009 · fanciful fabulous Megan Bogonovich


It would be practically impossible to overstate how completely besotted I am with the ceramic stylings of Megan Bogonovich. I completely understand why all those beskirted women are trying to wiggle their way into her ceramic wonders. When I look at them, I am absolutely overcome with the mad desire to climb inside and set up home. I cannot thank Susan of Artstream Studios and Art Esprit enough for introducing Megan’s whimsical wonders to me. Or thank Susan enough for introducing her exceedingly wonderful self to me at Squam Art Workshops 2008 last September. Susan has a magical way of making my every day just that much brighter, lighter and hopeful.

More photos of Megan’s work on Susan’s Flickr site here and here While you’re there, make sure you check out Susan’s own wonderful work here

6 Comments so far
December 9, 2008 · december delivers


wow. Something happened today that almost NEVER happens. I scanned in a painting I wasn’t completely sold on and actually ended up liking the on screen version of it better than the actual painting. hmmm. Interesting, very very interesting. I’m thinking it’s probably the nature of the screen (being backlit, of course) Anyhoo…

Something has switched on inside me in the past three weeks and all I want to do is paint. I mean I am FULLY jazzed about it, 24 hours a day. I am bursting with ideas and the energy to try them out. I haven’t felt this way in… well, I don’t quite remember ever feeling this way. Maybe back in art school. Problem is that, of course, there are like 900 other things for me to do right now, none of them having to do with painting. sigh. But I’ve been carving out the time whenever I can (and stealing time from other areas of my life ie: laundry which explains why I am wearing the same sweater I have been wearing for the past three days. Same socks too) and just pushing the paint blobs around. Because I’m afraid if I don’t act on this energy now, it’s going to fizzle out entirely and I’ll miss the opportunity to get my inner artist on.

I have this plan to paint a representation of every month of the year. This is December. There may be another December in the works too, as this painting was not what i had pictured in my head at all. Rather, it was the picture that I felt I had to get rid of before I could do the “real” one. See, I have a major tendency toward overworking and over “decorating” everything I paint/illustrate and I’m trying to break that by using reverse psychology on myself and going full bore (boar?!) and completely indulging my tendencies instead of battling it, thinking that I can work it out of my system. It’s kinda backfiring though because while I’m not 100 percent satisfied with the results (I’m hovering around 72 percent on this one) , I’m having a BLAST painting this way, trying out new stuff (like I’ve never painted a horse before. I’ve drawn a couple, but never attempted painting one). so hmmmm… I dunno. Maybe I will just go on indulging myself and see where that leads.

so what do you think? I’m asking for honest feedback here. Please don’t just tell me it’s pretty. Tell me if you think it’s too juvenile, too overworked, too cliche. I can hack it. Promise. I really want to know what you think… and I don’t care if you’re an artist or know anything about illustration/art at all. I’ll give you my own thoughts about it after I hear yours. Here’s a detail (the actual painting is about 18 inches wide by 13 inches high and I had to scan it in in four parts and tile it together in photoshop. My kingdom for a huge flatbed scanner). It’s painted with acrylics on illustration board by the way and really cheap paintbrushes because I completely savage paintbrushes so there is no sense in buying the good ones!)


14 Comments so far
November 13, 2008 · shameless self promotion


You know, for someone whose job it is to design/illustrate stuff that promotes events, products and people …. I really sort of suck at self promotion. I don’t know why that is exactly, but my friends**, I have got to change that! Over the next couple of months, I’m really going to focus my energies on that. I’n hard at work now on creating a new portfolio, stocked with my (air quotes) new style (end air quotes) and I’m going to start featuring more of my design work too.

But today, I’m going to flog myself in book form. About a little over a year ago, Danny Gregory, a creative genius I’ve admired for years and years, asked me to participate in his new project An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators, and Designers. The book is about to be released and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here. I was flattered and flabbergasted… and looking at this short film (click here) Danny made to promote the book, I am even more humbled and honored to be included with such incredible talent.

The book features the work of 50 artists of all walks of life, including big guns like James Jean and R.Crumb, plus pages from some of my lovely artist friends like Penelope Dullaghan, Rama Hughes, and Rama’s charming wife Christine Castro Hughes.

And if all THAT, doesn’t completely sell you on the book, perhaps my dulcet tones on this my first EVAH! podcast will. Warning: I was nervous and so my responses are uber-long and rambling as I am sadly wont to be. But endlessly fascinating, I assure you (ahem!). And Danny sounds like a smooth Jazz DJ and that’s a always a plus.

3 Comments so far
March 27, 2008 · ketchup


So, yeah. I’ve been sort of blah on blogging lately. I find this happens to me when I get very visually focused… the words, they evacuate. Sometimes they tip out my ear when I sleep or drop out a pant leg as I’m shuffling around, a jumble of random letters and broken up words lying on my pillow, collecting on the floor. I look at them and I think “o, pretty. Collage!” and then I sweep them into a corner where they get all wound up in a cyclone of dog hair and dust and hoovered up by Johnny Clean, the man who lives to vacumn his Saturday mornings away.

The result is, of course, that I have a major backload of stuff to tell you. Like, I am now vegetarian (well, almost, I still eat fish and seafood). And have been for nearly a year. Forgot to tell you that. And yoga, I’m big on that too. Been doing lots and lots of yoga. For more than a year. And all sorts of other miscellaneous stuff that I keep meaning to tell you, but don’t. Because the words fall down my pant leg and vanish.

But the big thing is: I have somehow found my style. The style. wow. It sort of just arrived one day a couple of weeks ago and it’s been sticking around and feeling so awfully good. It’s still shifting a bit as I work through various projects and at first I was reluctant to post about it, all superstitious that it was gonna up and vanish on me the minute I did, but no… I think I’ve found the knack. Above is the first absolutely complete illo that I’ve done in this new vein. I am working on three other illos in the same style with plans for more, more, more, but they are in various stage of completion and progress has been interrupted a tad by paying design gigs that rolled in this week.

A bit about what I mean by style: for quite sometime I’ve been looking for a way to keep my drawing up front in a way that I can take from drawing board to computer screen and back again and still have it feel fresh and spontaneous and consistent whether I’m working in traditional media or digitally. And I needed to find a way to do it with relative speed and ease. And I’ve found it, at last. It’s sort of been there all along, I just needed to recognize it and apply it with more intention than I had been doing previously. And figuring it out was mostly about just relaxing and trying to let my own way of seeing and drawing speak for itself, just be. And most importantly, stripping back to basics and not over thinking it, overwhelming the line work. Let myself do the things I do well and jettison the rest.

This is a portrait of one of the greatest influences in my life these days, my darling friend Penelope Dullaghan who has been crucial in supporting my development as an artist, encouraging me on my way, celebrating my little victories on the path and making me laugh when I have tripped and cracked my tailbone. Thank you, Pen, for being there so consistently for me, for always knowing what to say and for making my days lighter, brighter, better always.

sending powerful good thoughts to: Tara, Ali, Kate, Bob, and Louie the dog. Wishing each of you health, healing, and happiness.

10 Comments so far
February 22, 2008 · pen to paper


It never fails. as soon as my thoughts start drifting and circling around art again, as soon as I start feeling that tickle of excitement and inspiration in the pit of my stomach, as soon as I turn with real earnestness to my drawing table, the space above my head opens and an unanticipated deluge of design work swamps me good.

It’s a difficult balance. Design work is pretty much my bread and butter and I enjoy it. I do. I’m never going to set the world on fire with my design prowess, I’m never going to revolutionize the industry, I’m never gonna be David Carson or Saul Bass, but I have a knack for producing reliably open, user friendly design that makes my clients happy. I am fortunate enough to have some fun, talented and connected clients that I really enjoy working with and through them, I have done projects for Target, Loreal, Olay and the like.

But I don’t get the same rush from design that I get from illustration. Design isn’t a personal process. It’s all about finding the right visual solution, interpreting someone else’s vision in a way they may not be able to do for themselves. Sometimes, I really love the end product but ultimately, it’s not about whether it’s to my own taste or not… it’s whether it communicates the clients’ desire and hits their target audience, delivers their message. I work hard at it and I am delighted when my clients are pleased and the piece I designed really delivers. It is challenging and rewarding and it certainly keeps me occupied, but not the way art and illustration do.

Design is just not as deeply personal for me as illustration, it doesn’t fill me the same way. Or torture me the same way either. Illustration demands something completely different from me. I can’t quite figure out how to explain it, other than to say that design is all about how other people think while illustration is about how I think. And feel. Illustration is much more about feeling than thinking. I tap into a whole different part of my brain when I am drawing or painting than I do when I’m designing. It’s like the difference between solving a math equation and writing a poem (although that analogy is a little weak too because again, I find the process of writing and the process of illustration/art entirely different again).

The fundamental challenge of problem solving is the same, but the route you take to get there is entirely divergent. Design is an express train straight to the target destination with clearly defined markers and clearly legible signage pointing the path whilst (whilst!) Illustration is a careless meander through the countryside, with unscheduled stops to peer into the knots of trees to spy on roosting squirrels and to look under footbridges for evidence of trolls and the Billygoats Gruff. Illustration takes naps, gets pollen and chocolate all over her clothing, takes back alleys (blind alleys too), trips and stumbles a lot and very rarely arrives on time. Design finds that sort of thing pretty much horrifying.

blah, blah, blah, blah… it’s doubtful that this makes much sense to anyone but me, but there it is. My as-per-usual long-winded way of telling you that this year I am really trying to make some real headway with my illustration career. I’ve been making noises about that for quite some time now, I know. And I have made some real forays into the back room. I have made some real progress there. Not the truly measurable kind of progress, to be sure, but things are beginning to tumble into place for me in terms of what I want to do with illustration, in terms of what works and what doesn’t. And what I’ve discovered is in order to make serious progress with my illustration, I need to stop taking it so damn seriously.

If we’re laying it all out on the table, I have to tell you that I really got my panties in a bunch about it this past fall. I flopped and floundered, threw a right wobbly and kicked over paint pots and stuff. I swore up a storm and pouted in the corner and flung myself sobbing across the bed. I spent a lot of time thinking big, v. serious, v. angsty Capital A Artistic thoughts, frowning and stroking my chin and generally carrying on as if it was The Only Thing That Mattered. Sometimes I thought for a moment that I had it by the tail, other times I was sure I had lost it forever.

And then January came a long and knocked me completely sideways and for a good 5-6 weeks there, I had not one real thought about illustration or anything to do with it. So imagine my surprise when I woke up this week to find myself doodling about and feeling quite comfortable and merry and absolutely, spectacularly friendly towards the subject. January was a horrible month for me and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it in any way, but one thing is for sure… it certainly righted my perspective and somehow paved the way for me to open up to the simple joy of creating again simply for the fun of it, the ease of it. And that, folks, is the essential ingredient that I lost last year with all my writhing about. In the twist and shout of trying to do Very Important Work Of Impeccable Taste, Talent and Originality (or VIWITTO), I totally smothered the one thing that keeps illustration alive for me. Joy, Simple joy.

I think I’ve got it back, at least for the moment. Joy is fluttering prettily around this room, morphing into shapes various and sundry, trailing dog hair and cookie crumbs and little silvery sparklets. And for once, I’m pretty sure it will still be here when I get finished with my unexpected pile of math problems.

* The above is a little self-portrait I did the other day for Rama Hughes’ Portrait Party. The Portrait Party is an incredibly inspired idea and if you enjoy drawing or painting on an level, I really encourage you to check it out and pass it on.

5 Comments so far
September 12, 2006 · The Night Nest

I am ever so pleased with myself because I actually managed to finish a painting last week AND get it in the mail, a 10 inch x 10 inch acrylic painting that I soon discovered is mucho hard to photograph accurately or scan because of the unusual colour palette and the layers upon layers of satin varnish I coated it with. It actually looks a lot better in person that it does in this photo, but this is the best reproduction of it I could get. The color is really off here and the texture of it is completely lost. It’s called “Night Nest” and has a kind of ethereal, autumny mood to it in reality. Note that I said “finish a painting last week”… I did not say “START and finish a painting last week”, because the painting was actually mostly completed last summer and I just put on the final touches last week. But regardless… I did it. Yay me.

The painting is actually a donation for a charity auction for the Rehabilitation Centre for Children Foundation in Winnipeg to help children with disabilities in purchasing wheelchairs and special equipment. I hope it fetches something!!!

It felt good to get out the paint brushes again. I desperately need to restock my paint drawer. I’m horrible about recapping my paints and my paint drawer is littered with the stiff corpses of dried up paint tubes. Occassionally, I’ll unearth a tube with a small squishy bubble of paint in the center and will slice it open with an exacto knife to get to the viable stuff, but those bubbles are becoming scarce. But in keeping with my new “no excuses” mantra, I will make it a point to go get more this weekend so I can make like Prudence Heward and coat my world with colour and paint. I wish we had a decent art supply store closer, but we don’t. Probably just as well actually… art supplies are frighteningly expensive and I find it hard to control myself when I’m faced with shiny rows of squishy new painty potential. I’d bleed our bank accounts dry in no time if it wasn’t such a pain in the arse to go to the store I frequent (though perhaps “rarely” would be a more apt term than “frequent”!). But as I keep telling the hubby, it could be worse, I could be into jewellry or shoes or ponies or first edition books or something. He lucked out in that my obsessions are art supplies, acorns, toadstools, and magazines.

10 Comments so far
August 26, 2006 · Post #78

Last night, almost accidentally and well after midnight (if 12:30 qualifies as well after midnight, which I realize now it probably doesn’t, but things always sound more profound and romantic if they happen well after midnight) I stumbled on a documentary about Canadian Women Painters, particularly Prudence Heward and the women of the Beaver Hall Group.

It’s horrible, but true… there’s something in me that generally revolts against anything too overtly Canadian. And I’m not alone in this kind of typically Canadian self-loathing. As a country, we have much to be proud of… Canada has produced a staggering array of important artists and we have a mostly (but not entirely) honourable history. But there’s an odd kind of deadly earnestness the Canadian government (and most particularly The CBC) employs whenever they attempt to promote Canadian culture or Canadian content that makes me squirm the way you did during the sex education unit you were forced to endure in 7th grade. I blame those awful Heritage Minutes . And Anne Murray. There is a limit to how much one person can be subjected to “Muskrat Love” and maintain only benevolent feeling about Canadian Content rules, and I think I surpassed my own personal limit around the age of eleven. (aside: I have just discovered the term Cultural Cringe which sums up the phenomenon beautifully. What would I do without Wikipedia?! )

But I’m meandering off on a whole ‘nother tangent here. Let me correct course. Suffice it to say that when I realized I was about to voluntarily subject myself to a bout of Canadian content, I almost changed the channel. But then the painting below flashed across the screen and I put down the remote. I knew I was tuning in for the entire duration.

Years and years ago, my mother gave me an address book featuring paintings by various Canadian women artists and this image was my favourite, Rollande. How fierce and striking and powerful she is in her pink apron. Look at her strong posture, her capable hands browned by the sun, planted on her hips. Look at her face, defiant, almost scornful, full of thought and humanity and maybe a bit of sadness. An honest, handsome face. A face that never failed to stop me in my tracks every time I flipped through that address book.

It shames me, frankly, that I never looked beyond that page in my address book. I never looked up Prudence Heward, i never investigated the artist, sought out more of her work, read her bio. Truth be known, even though this image is indeliably tattooed on my brain for all time, I never even made note of the artist’s name. Sickening really, appalling. I fill my brain with useless, anaesthetizing crap like how many times Suri Cruise’s mystery mug has been retouched before debuting in Vanity Fair magazine and the latest banal trials of Lindsay-Jessica-Paris-et al, but I can’t be bothered to research a painting that takes my breath away.

Ultimately, the entire film shamed me. To explain everything about the film would take too long, so I’m going to lift liberally from the good old CBC and this article to tell you that the Beaver Hall Group was an exclusively anglophone group started in Montreal in 1920 which eventually devolved into a group of nine women (Prudence Heward, Sarah Robetson, and Anne Savage were the primary focus of the documentary I watched.) What was most intriquing to me, most enlightening and most… well, shaming… was the fact that these women pursued artistic, creative lives in a time when women weren’t really encouraged to forge such bold and courageous paths….“Many of the women came from Montreal’s WASP ascendancy, with family houses in Westmount, summer homes in the Laurentians or on the Ontario lakes and art lessons at a posh girls school called Miss Edgar’s and Miss Cramp’s. Others scraped by in genteel poverty, particularly once the Depression hit. All of the women more or less conformed to the levels of propriety expected of their sex and class. When Prudence Heward studied in Paris at the Académie Colarossi, for example, she felt obliged to stay at the fashionable Hôtel Lutetia, far away from the bohemian garrets of her fellow students.”

And yet their art was nonethless provocative, daring and modern, even while they continued to conduct themselves with the decorum demanded of the age. Again, I borrow heavily:
“Though they might have conducted their private lives with strict rectitude, the women took risks in their work. In an atmosphere still generally hostile to modernism, they often used dark, heavy lines and patches of pure pigment. In 1926, the Montreal Daily Star’s Morgan Powell — clearly the Quebec equivalent of Toronto critic Hector Charlesworth, who liked to bear-bait the Group of Seven — denounced paintings by the Beaver Hall women, saying they were “marred by crudity of colouring, harsh tones, and neglect of drawing.”

Now that the shock of post-impressionism has worn off, it’s hard to reconcile this kind of scorn with these gorgeous, gentle landscapes. Walters points out that the Beaver Hall artists were never drawn into the Group of Seven’s nationalist obsession with rugged and remote nature. They held more to the Quebec tradition of painting inhabited environments, often depicting streets, houses, farm equipment, at least some trace of human presence…. The Beaver Hall Group also excelled at figure painting. Heward’s At the Theatre focuses on the pale backs of two women who are obviously more accustomed to heavy wool coats than revealing evening dress. They look endearingly vulnerable — so exposed, so chilly, so Canadian somehow. The group often expressed these kinds of Anglo-Saxon attitudes, painting with emotional astringency, tact and reserve.

Occasionally, the members dallied with more scandalous subject matter. Lilias Torrance Newton’s Nude in a Studio, which depicts a woman wearing nothing but green, open-toed shoes, managed to get itself banned from the Art Gallery of Toronto (later the Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1934 — 69 years after Manet’s Olympia caused a fuss in Paris….. While the nudes grabbed headlines, in hindsight it is the group’s portraiture that seems the most revolutionary. Psychologically incisive and emotionally generous, particularly in the treatment of women, these paintings are not ingratiating society portraits but specific descriptions of character and social circumstance. The subjects are often guarded, bored or defiant. They can be disconcertingly direct (Torrance Newton’s Martha) or so inward-looking they’re scarcely aware of the viewer (Emily Coonan’s Girl in Dotted Dress). Several of the Beaver Hall women also offered rigorously unsentimental paintings of children. The youngsters in Heward’s Sisters of Rural Quebec exhibit spooky, Dakota Fanning-like self-possession.”

“Their lives as unmarried women were in one sense constricted — it was considered improper for single women to travel alone, so the artists’ close alliance was as much a professional necessity as a personal choice. In another sense, the Beaver Hall women gained the strange, subversive freedom of spinsterhood. Often unnoticed themselves, they were free to notice others. This quality of observation — partaking of the same tart but empathetic tone that animates Jane Austen’s novels — is perhaps what made them such astonishing portraitists.

Just because these women didn’t enter into traditional marriages didn’t mean they were free from domestic responsibilities. Lockerby helped run a household of sisters; Henrietta Mabel May delayed her education to care for nine younger siblings; Sarah Robertson looked after her difficult, domineering mother; and Collyer kept house for her father and brother. These women studied, taught, volunteered and still managed to create landmark Canadian art works.

It is probably this staunch hard work that inspired the passage on Walters’s dedication page. She quotes from a book on successful dairy-farming written by Heward’s doughty grandmother, Eliza M. Jones, in 1892: “…to my sisters in toil, the tired and over-tasked women, who are wearing their lives away in work which has little hope and less profit.”

So here’s the shameful part… these women persevered and succeeded against all sorts of familial obligation and societal restriction, forging ahead with clear minded intent and determination, making their vision known while squat in the center of 2006, I flop about moaning about how busy I am, making all sorts of lame excuses to myself about various (largely imagined) impediments to my progress as an artist, knowing all the while that these excuses are all the worst kind of B.S. and almost entirely self-imposed and yet letting myself believe that because I regularly beat myself up about this particular grave fault, that that somehow absolves me of the crime I regularly commit against myself.

Because, let us be clear… any limitations on me are entirely self-imposed. I have every advantage… I have the education, the encouragement, the freedom, the support, the talent, the tools, the everything I need to forge forth and make capital A Art…. I just don’t. I hold myself back, I limit myself, I squish myself into teeny little boxes no one expects me to fit into. I make excuses. I blame my denist appointments, my committments to my clients. I blame the weather, my studio floors, my horoscope, small Polish men invading my house with carpet and staple guns. I blame time, I blame a lack of inspiraton, I blame the general ennui of living in the blank ‘burbs of Toronto.

That I do this to myself comes as no surprise. I’ve known this for a very long time, have lamented at length to anyone willing to listen wondering WHY, why, why I do this to myself, hold myself back like this, fail to live up to my potential. Maybe some of it is societal, maybe some of it comes from some deep-seated need I have to blend into the background, whatever. Maybe I’ve simply become complacent. No, I know I have simply become complacent. When I was younger, I was bolder… more willing to take a risk, reach out, explore, dare to be different, to be seen.

A lot of it comes from the fear that I am maybe not as good as I imagine I am, the fear that I have nothing new to say, nothing of value to contribute. It’s easier to interpret other people’s stories than lay out your own for all to see (and critique), it is easier to interpret other people’s ideas than to harvest your own. It is easier, safer, quieter, less challenging, less provocative to clothe yourself as a humble children’s illustrator than to express ideas that are dangerous… or worse, reveal yourself to be someone who does not have any dangerous ideas… just bland, overwrought whimsies that are neither original nor challenging nor even particularly interesting.

The thing is, I can wring my hands all I want, asking why, why, o, whywhywhy do I do this to myself time and time again, why am I holding back, what am I afraid of and I can go on doing this forever and ever amen… but in the end, it really doesn’t matter why. Continual exploration of all that is not going to get me anywhere, because really, there is nothing deep and dark and traumatic to reveal and solve here and I know that already. Everyone should be as fortunate and blessed as I have been thus far and honestly I wish they were. None of this agonizing matters at all. It just doesn’t. It’s really just more excuse making.

What I need is to just get over myself already and just bloody DO IT.

And last night, that was made more clear to me than ever.

So… you know that voyage of self-discovery i’ve been yammering about for the last forever? Well, last night, the ghost of Prudence Heward handed me my ticket.

10 Comments so far
July 27, 2006 · chrysalis

Yesterday, shuffling through the debris underneath my drawing table, I came across this quote scrawled across the back of an old envelope. I have no recollection of writing it, but the handwriting is indeed mine and it seemed a magic sort of serendipity that I should find it just now, that it would find this moment in my life to resurface.

As I plow toward the end of the comic I’ve been toiling on for the last forever, as i wrap up the myriad of smaller design projects i’ve been working on, the only thing keeping me motivated is the promise I made to myself a couple weeks ago, the promise of taking a month off. A month off to devote to myself. A month off to devote to “the work.”

For years, I’ve been circling around the same issue with my illustration, trying to define my own personal style. I know I have lamented at length about it here, but I don’t know that I’ve ever truly been able to articulate what I mean by “style” exactly. Yes, i have a way of working with a particular medium, yes there is continuity in the way that I draw, but the truth is I have rarely, rarely felt that my illustration work expresses who I really am, deep down. It rarely, rarely reflects ME.

I guess in some ways, it’s not suppose to. Illustration, like design, is largely about expressing someone else’s story, using your skill to define your client’s image, express their vision. That is what separates illustration from fine art.

But the illustrators I admire most, the most successful illustrators, manage somehow to do both… express their souls and yet tell the story in a way that is universally appealing and understood. People come to them because of their particular vision, their particular way of telling the story.

That hasn’t been happening with my work. Largely, my clients come to me with their own distinct vision of how something should look and rely on me to make it happen, make it real. And you know, that’s okay. I’m proud of the fact that I can do that, that my skills are flexible enough that I can step into their heads and make it come to life the way they see it.

But there’s a big part of me that’s being denied in that process. I’ve been so busy telling everybody else’s story, that I haven’t figured out a way to tell my own. I haven’t done the work that I need to do to figure out my own visual language, define my own vision. And the time has come for me to do that.

Which brings me to this announcement: i’m taking a break from blogging. I’m not sure for how long, but for at least a month. For the first time ever, really, I am going to seize the break coming up in my schedule to turtle inward and try it figure out just what it is my heart wants to say with my gifts. For awhile I thought maybe I could go through this process and document it all here for you, but then I realized no. NO! That sort of negates the whole point. I need to spend time with myself, my own voice, and listen to what it has to tell me without running it through the grand internet filter, without submitting it all for review and comment. It needs to come from me and me only. I hope you understand.

Of course, I reserve the right to change my mind and post whenever the energy is right. Of course! I am a woman, i am tempermental, I may change my mind at any moment and that is my right! But if it’s quiet here for awhile, don’t be concerned. I’m okay, I’m just swell, and I will be back. Eventually. But it’s time for this caterpillar to cocoon up in her chrysalis and try to morph into the butterfly she secretly hopes she was meant to be. Of course, me being me, I may well emerge a giraffe or a dolphin or a many tentacled octopus, but at least I will be confident that it will be 100 percent unfiltered me.

16 Comments so far
June 29, 2006 · fancy free

So this is not even remotely NYC related. Oh, wait it is…. remotely. It’s the intial illustration I did for a recent project from my one regular client in NYC. It changed dramatically from this… went somewhere far more flat and graphic, but I myself far prefer this illo. I wanted a real sort of fashion illustration flare to it… loose and quick and impressionistic. Parts of this really work for me (other parts not so much… the energy kind of dissipates as it moves upwards, if you know what I mean… it looks a little stiff and blocky in places. But I love the shoes and the flare of the left jean leg.) Anyway, I just thought I’d post it as a reminder to myself of sorts. What I’m reminding myself of, I’m not entirely sure… I guess just that I can break out of the box every once and a while and do something footloose and fancy-free.

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April 26, 2006 · breathtaking birch

In my (currently much diminished) downtime, I’ve been persusing many a most spectacular craft blog. Wow! Suddenly there is a tremendous explosion of them out there, ripe with the most wonderfully creative, whimsical imagery. I find them both inspirational and distressing… o, the pangs of knitterly envy I suffer! The inferiority complex these things can generate in me. Argh! I can draw, yes, I am reasonably good with my hands… but the whole artisan crafter thang eludes me completely. I can barely stitch on a button and I’ve been known to tape and even staple jean hems (and at 5 foot nothing, there are ALWAYS hems to be taken up, even with petite sizes) out of sheer desperation and a powerful desire to avoid reliving any of my 7th grade Home Economics debacles of which there were many. In fact, Home Economics was the closest I ever came to failing a class that wasn’t math-related. If it weren’t for numerous extra credit projects (with much, much help from my genius mother) that boosted my grade to a middling C, I would have indubitably failed the semester which involved sewing and such.

Last night I stumbled upon Ullabenulla which led me to Kari von Wening and her most spectacular metal sculptures. The moths are fabulous, yes, but it’s her birch bark sculptures that have my jaw scraping the ground. I have a major thing for birch trees and these sculptures evoke the incredible texture and ghostly magic of birch trees like nothing else I’ve ever seen before. I’m spellbound. My kingdom for one of those magical structures.

But birch trees are a rather wintery species, I think, and I am wearing my spring fever like an extreme caffeine buzz, circling my little landscape and busily mapping in my head what I should plant this year. My plans are grand (and my backyard really kinda sad) and involve passionflower vines, larkspur, delphininium, magnolias trees and peonies. Lupins, lavender, lilies and lilacs. Russian sage and clematis. Complete renovation. Finny J. is also experiencing a rather rampant bout of spring fever and has decided that every step she takes should involve a dramatic pounce or bounce. This is causing Johnny Wincealot no end of nervous rigours as the broken leggedness severely restricts pouncing and bouncing, particularly front end pouncing and bouncing. I think all three of us are missing our long rambles in the park. Hopefully, we only have two more weeks of this completely restricted activity left. We’ll see….

sigh. Okay… Finnister is whinging away at the bottom of the stairs, demanding I feed her lunch and come hang out in a generally companiable way, plus my in-laws are arriving on Friday and I have much, much work to get done on the comic before that (not to mention grocery shopping, laundry, and frenzied cleaning), so I’d best jet. Til next time….

Because who knows when I’m going to get back here again, updated to add a bit of Ontario Spring for the irrepressible Breana who specifically blogged about it… a snap of the maple tree blossoming brightly in my front yard right now:

And to prove I’m not completely without crafting skill and because I’m all lame like that with the people pleasing and stuff, but mostly because I am convinced you are all about to abandon me in favour of tantalizing craft blogs… a snap of my most recent adventure in crafting, a paper blossom project I tackled from Martha Stewart’s Living (April 2006 issue) that of course is not nearly as resplendid as hers, but pleases me nonetheless. Now gracing my living room:

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