Illustration Friday: Protest

IF-protest-2

Another character sketch from a story I’m currently working on–seemed like a perfect fit for this week’s Illustration Friday.

I had a window of time to work on a picture book idea and knew I had to grab it, so I finally completed the first draft after three weeks of long days (and sometimes nights) and many, many pages of sketches. I’ve decided to document the progress from this point on to wherever it leads me, because I have learned so much from other artists who have shared their journeys, including the triumphs and the pitfalls. Specifically, I would like to thank both Kelly Light and Will Terry for their fantastic blogs. You have to read their earliest posts to fully appreciate their candor.

I should clarify that this story idea originated more than six months ago, and kept languishing in a journal. I would revisit it and stall, then return periodically. I finally got fed up with my procrastination and decided I wasn’t getting anywhere without putting something–anything–down on paper.

But actually this dates back further, to a SCBWI Illustration Conference in 2003. I received a business card from an editor who liked the expressiveness of my characters, and she wrote a quick note on the back: “Do you write, too?” I immediately sent a note thanking her, and replied, “Yes!” But it has taken me ten long years to finally jump off the high dive. Armed with my dog-eared copy of Uri Shulevitz’s Writing with Pictures and Molly Bang’s Picture This, I started slowly piecing the manuscript to the sketches. True to Mr. Shulevitz’s advice, it helps me to create a three-dimensional dummy so I can really experience the pacing and page turns (I’ve actually created several so far).
Drawing is easy for me; writing is much more challenging. There is always someone saying, “I can’t draw a straight line,” but there is seldom someone who isn’t champing at the bit to correct your grammar or spelling. One of my favorite quotes is from Katherine Paterson, who was interviewed by Diane Osen in The Book That Changed My Life: Interviews with National Book Award Winners and Finalists“I had a professor at graduate school who stopped me in the hall one day and said, Have you ever thought of becoming a writer? I was just flabbergasted. I said I wouldn’t want to add another mediocre writer to this world. Being a glorious failure didn’t scare me at all, but being just mediocre did. What I heard her say was, If you’re not willing to be mediocre, you’ll never be anything at all. I think that’s a very important lesson to learn, because people always want guarantees that they’re going to be wonderful. But there’s no way of knowing you’re good, if you don’t dare to be mediocre.” 

Pretty gutsy thing to admit.  Of course, it helps that she can say this with a couple of Newbery Medals and National Book Awards under her belt. All the more reason why I am so inspired  by her honesty. Unlike rough sketches, which usually have a lovely sense of spontaneity, rough drafts are awkward, humbling, and often mediocre. But you have to start somewhere or you will never get anywhere. That said, my next step is a critique from Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas. I will keep you posted!

4 responses to “Illustration Friday: Protest

  1. Congratulations! I bet there are so many of us in the earlier stages of the same journey. And so true about being mediocre. So many people put away their pencils when they are not satisfied by their results after very little trying. It’s the trying that matters! As for your sketches, they are lively and adorable and terrific!

    Now to go visit some of your links!

    • Thanks, Cindy! Yes, it is nice to know others are in the same boat. And the more I read others blogs, especially early posts, the more I recognize the same internal battles. Still tons of work to do, though! : )

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