Friday, May 28, 2010

Self-Portrait As An Illustrator

I received my BFA in Illustration in 1985. Then moved to NYC and took classes at the Art Students League of NY with Marshall Glasier, a very brilliant and talented artist who did not see illustration as art.

Not to scandalize all my illustrator friends, whom I admire and respect, but I understood his point. Art is where you can make anything you want in any way you want. Illustrators work within parameters: of the text or the concept or whatever your client is looking for. Of course lots of amazing art happens within those parameters (Beatrix Potter! William Steig!) But there is a difference.

I gave up on being an illustrator so I could be a 'real' artist. I painted in the lonesomeness of my studio, which was usually just a corner of my bedroom. I took lots more classes. Did alot of figure drawing and self-portraits. Morphed into an abstract painter. And had a kid.

And rediscovered picture books. Drew my kid. Decided I'd like to get paid for what I do well (instead of working as a secretary, teacher's aide, jeweler's assistant, and on and on) So I bought a new set of rapidographs (and they did look beautiful to my eyes) and put together a portfolio. Starting to get some work. Featured on the wonderful Pen & Palette. Have several illustrations in the SCBWI Bulletin.

So what am I now? A painter who is delving into illustration? An illustrator who used to be an abstract painter? A little bit of both, I guess. I have to admit, I do miss dripping and throwing paint onto canvas (I suppose I could do that in my illustrations, but it's not the same-- art serves its own purpose, unlike illustration)

You might disagree with me. That happens sometimes. You may believe there is no difference between fine art and illustration. I think there is a difference-- for example, most illustrators I know who've been working for a good number of years and have talent, get paid for what they do, at least sometimes. Unlike most of the painters I know.

So go ahead and tell me why I'm wrong, if you want. Or you can just enjoy the picture.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Why I Love My Cat

There were many adorable kittens, tabby and orange and black, at the shelter that day. Myrtle was three years old. Not what you'd call a beautiful cat, with a coat we didn't know what to call (somebody suggested 'brindle' which does not sound very nice)

She did not say a word. Just looked at me with these big eyes that said, "I do not want to be here. Take me home and I promise I'll be a very good cat."

Myrtle has been true to her word. She's cuddly and sweet, sleeps with us and curls in your lap when you call. I think she even knows her name (unlike some cats I know!) She lets Madeline pick her up and carry her around the house. And she never says, "Hey, Constance, have you heard from any agents or editors yet?"

I know I'm not the first to say this, but I could learn alot from Myrtle. How to laze around. How to do some lovely stretches (even down dog!) How to look at people with big irresistible eyes so they'll take you home and feed you.

What have you learned from your cat (or dog, if you're that kind of person?)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Why I Love Mermaids

I love the ocean. I grew up on Long Island and going to the beach has always been my favorite thing to do. Jones Beach, Brighton Beach, Coney Island and all the lovely (cold) beaches in San Francisco. I miss the ocean, now that we live in the mountains in Asheville.

Maybe I was a mermaid in a former life. Communing with the dolphins. Wearing a shell and seaweed bra. Shooting through the waves like a non-human cannonball.

When I was little, I had a book of The Little Mermaid with one of those covers where the mermaid changed as you tilted the book one way, then the other, then the other way, then back again. Which I spent alot of time in a mermaid-induced hypnotic trance doing. Plus it had ridges to run your fingers over.

So now I've written a tween novel about a girl who becomes a mermaid against her will. My character is her own person. What? Of course, she's not me. I was never a mermaid. Not in this life, anyway.

A friend asked me which Disney princess I wanted to be when I was little. Why do I hardly remember any of those movies (and why don't any of those princesses have noses?) Maybe because we hardly ever went to the movies (too expensive) We went to the beach (free) Hooray for my childhood!

And, of course, The Little Disney Mermaid came out when I was all grown up. And even now, I don't want to be her. I want to be Hans Christian Andersen's Little Mermaid, beautiful and tragic and turned to sea foam in the end.

So what kind of princess are you?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Some Things Are Too Hard to Blog About

Mother's Day is a difficult day for so many people. My mother died in 2001. Losing your mother is the world falling away from under your feet. I was 38 when she died, but I was also a child. Because it doesn't matter how old you are, we all need our moms.

This is a print I did several years ago of my sister-in-law, Jehan, and her baby Serena. It is so solemn, which was not my intention. But it suits this post. Because the mother-daughter connection isn't all sweetness and light. But boy is it intense.

The best thing that happened to me this past Mother's Day is a book from my daughter with art and poems. They've been studying acrostic poems in school and this is the one she did for me on LOVE:


That's right.

Thanks, Madeline. For giving me happiness on mother's day.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Self-Portrait As A New Mom

How dishevelled I look! How worn out! Almost fading away, like the wicked witch at the end of the W of Oz. This drawing is dated April 2004. Madeline was one year and two months old.

When I was pregnant, so many parents said, "You'll never sleep again." Of course I thought they were exaggerating. Well, my daughter is now seven and she still often wakes me up at 6:25 with a loud, "There were aliens in my dream, mom!"
At least she's no longer nursing. And she's almost sleeping through the night.

I miss sleeping until 9 or even later sometimes. Such a foggy happy memory from the distant past.

So should I look forward to the teenage years when she'll sleep more? Or will I be lying in bed awake with other worries?

Parenting is quite an adventure, isn't it? What are you struggling with? How do you express your creativity around those issues?