Last Saturday I volunteered for Somerville Up-Close, a community arts project for youth conceived of and directed by my friend Sara Argue (she strikes again!). The premise of the project she envisioned was simple: create a collaborative art project for kids who are interested in growing up to be artists, and get real artists to volunteer to help the project come to life! Sounds pretty cool, but the final product was incredible: a mosaic map of the town of Somerville made entirely by 5th and 6th graders in four short afternoons. Look at the line! the color! the energy!
I feel so excited when I look at this piece; there’s a freedom and intensity that’s so rare in work by grown-ups. And the scale of it, the hugeness of it, makes me want to do bigger work. The time has come to stretch my wings, and I give myself permission to jump!
Welcome to a brave new year! It’s a little late and it’s been a little while, but I feel great about the way the year has kicked off and there are promising horizons ahead. I’m reading some great books: Carolyn See’s Making a Literary Life (a MUST read for all of you creative types) and No More Dirty Looks: The Truth About Your Beauty Products and the Ultimate Guide to Safe and Clean Cosmetics (responsible for turning my bathroom into a salad bar), along with the incredible picture book blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. I’ve also been doing a great deal of drawing and design, and this week, of all things, I am painting a temporary mural at Dartmouth College in the Class of 1953 Commons (Thayer Dining Hall) with the talented Laura Terry (CCS ’10), Jen Vaughn (CCS ’10), Jon Fine (CCS ’11), and several Dartmouth art students. Here’s a link to some photos at Jen’s flickr account.
We have less than 30 hours of working time this week to grid, draw, paint, and finish nearly 80 feet of wall! It’s going very well and has been exciting to watch as our cartoons become life-sized drawings. If you’re in the area please stop in to say hello and take a peek at the mural; it will be up for 3-6 months as the kitchen renovation is completed. More from me soon. Happy new year!
A couple of days ago I decided to buy some valerian root extract for the first time. I’ve been having trouble sleeping lately, from the 4:30 sunrise and the stress of my to-do list, and I thought that making tea with valerian at night might help. The plant also grows naturally in our front yard, but after some internet research I wasn’t sure that it could be consumed raw.
So I went and asked at the Coop. “In herbalism, you’re supposed to ask the plant if it’s safe to eat,” said one of the natural medicine specialists. “Have you asked the plant?” I checked her expression and saw that she was being serious. “How does the plant answer?” I asked. “I guess you just get a feeling,” she said. Having never had a conversion with a plant before, I wasn’t sure that I was qualified to risk my digestive health on my cross-species linguistic skills, so I went ahead and bought the extract anyway.
But, as strange as it sounds to ask a plant a question, I think stories work in a similar way. My husband, Tim Stout, has been coaching me on stories and how they work, and there seems to be a parallel strategy: ask the story what it wants, and listen to its answer. And the story will start to talk to you. I’ve had several false starts with this next section of Hieroglyph, which has been very frustrating, but I know the solution isn’t too far away. It’s a matter of clearing my head enough to listen. And who knows! Maybe I’ll hear something new from my story today. And if not, there’s a plant in the front yard who’s probably feeling neglected. I should go out at chat at my next 4:30am wake-up.
After taking a month off from writing and drawing to complete my MFA and a trip home to see family, getting back into my work groove has proved to be a lot more difficult than I expected. Chapter 1 of Hieroglyph had me stumped for several days, whispering convincing threats that the No Talent Police would be knocking on my door momentarily. Though that didn’t happen, I DID get pulled over for the first time for having an expired registration sticker. “Golly gee, officer! This is my first time being pulled over!” Imagine the doctor and Main Street from the film State and Main, add a police uniform and a little note pad, and you will have an image of the smiling gentleman who gave me a warning ticket. All he needed was a bow tie. Golly, it would have been great if he’d had a bow tie.
Things are finally moving on Hieroglyph, though I’m not convinced the momentum will last for long. Making a book is a puzzle that needs constant attention. It’s so satisfying when something works! and so crushing when a lead goes nowhere. But little by little I know I’ll figure it out. And if not, and the No Talent Police come to get me, my only wish is for them to be wearing bow ties.
After two years of labor and hundreds of pages, my time as a student at The Center for Cartoon Studies has drawn to a close. I can’t believe how fast it has gone! The transition into life as an alumni will be a little terrifying but very exciting, and I am looking forward to whatever lies ahead.
In the meantime I thought I would share with you my final thesis project, tentatively entitled Hieroglyph, a graphic novel about an American artist traveling through Egypt. Part travelogue and part creative non-fiction, the story is based on sketches, drawings, notes, and comics from my 16-day tour of Egypt in January 2010. As part of my graduate thesis at The Center for Cartoon Studies I wrote the skeleton for the full graphic novel (about 100 pages in length) and completed a 19-page sample chapter that falls in the middle of the book. I plan to spend the summer working on bringing the writing and drawings to a more finished level so that I can more seriously explore publishing options this Fall. I’m very excited about this direction for my work; the challenges of this project have already pushed me harder and faster than anything before it, and I am excited to continue this process of creative discovery!
These drawings were done in pencil with layered watercolor beneath the line work in Photoshop. It’s been a very satisfying way to work, allowing me to maintain the immediacy of the line and adjust/redo the color as necessary.
Sorry I’ve been so delinquent about my blog in the last couple of weeks– it is crunch time at CCS, and there is much to be done yet on my thesis! I still need to design a cover and may attempt to submit a short piece to an anthology this week, but I’m finally in the homestretch for coloring my 19 page chapter and should be done by Friday. Thank goodness! It’s taking quite a while, but our movies are keeping me company. Tim and I own over 150 films, but every time one ends I wander over to our shelves and stare for several minutes, unable to comprehend how I can be looking at so many titles and still feel like we don’t have anything to watch. There’s only so many rounds of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy that I can take, as much as I love it!
Here’s a visual of the hours logged this week!