"First, stand up!" - Maurice Sendak

It's staring out plainer than ever
Brighter than all the fool's gold that gleams
It's simply now or never
Putting flesh on the bones of my dreams

                               - David Gray, "Flesh" 

Any chance I get to use David Gray's lyrics to illustrate a post is a good day for me ! 

I've been a bit quiet here the last few weeks but I apologize... I couldn't find my computer keyboard under the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates when I am chin deep into a project. And I have indeed been chin deep into the Make Art That Sells course, Children's Book Illustration course with Lilla Rogers and Zoe Tucker these past four weeks ! What a wonderful experience it has been for me. Some tears, as there are always tears when I take Lilla's courses. All my buttons get pushed and my ego tries to bully me. However, I am getting much better at pushing right back. I've been reflecting at how very far my work and my knowledge has come in the past three years (since taking the first MATS A course Lilla offered) and really, that's an opportunity to celebrate not fill tissues with tears! 

I'd like to indulge you, if it's ok for just a bit,  and share the lifespan of this dream I have of creating beautiful picture books for children. 

 That's me in the fashion forward dress 

That's me in the fashion forward dress 

Drawing, coloring, painting on the wall of my second grade classroom (shhhh...) have always been my activity of choice. My first studio was in my bedroom where I set up a private space in an unused large closet to research, draw and paint. I would collect my favorite picture books and study them intently in that little closet lit by one bulb hanging from the ceiling. I recently purchased a second copy of one such book that I was intrigued by: "Debbie's Dollhouse" illustrated by Pat Paris.

 "Debbie's Dollhouse" was a Hallmark book. The author (Barbara Kunz Loots) and illustrator's names weren't even included on the front cover. 

"Debbie's Dollhouse" was a Hallmark book. The author (Barbara Kunz Loots) and illustrator's names weren't even included on the front cover. 

Other illustrators that I was intrigued by were Holly Hobbie, Arthur Rackham, Maurice Sendak, Jan Brett and 1930's illustration in general. The blocks in the photo above were my mother's. Her mother, my grandmother, whom I never knew wanted to be a children's book author/illustrator. I am told I look just like her and we have quite a bit in common leading many to believe I am her reincarnated spirit. It is eery how much we have in common but that's a story for another day...

In college I bounced around a bit within my studio art major at Skidmore College but always held up the intention to be a children's book illustrator. One of my drawing professors was married to illustrator, Lorinda Bryan Cauley. Pat and Lorinda invited us into their home where we could view her studio and ask her questions, etc.. I remember being tongue tied because this life of illustrating stories while raising small children was the very dream I had imagined for most of my life. I think it scared me to view this glimpse into the very life I wanted so closely. It doesn't make sense now but that's what I felt. 

During the summer of my junior and senior years in college I was fortunate enough to work at The Main Street Gallery in Nantucket, MA. The gallery showed Jan Brett originals and I would stand transfixed in front of her work, studying every detail just as I had as a little girl in my studio closet. I was thrilled to meet her and to talk to her about my dream of developing my portfolio to approach publishers after graduation. She was so encouraging and even said I reminded her of herself at my age. Again, I felt more fear than encouragement at her open and kind spirit. 

So, for reasons I can't really nail down, other than a lack of confidence in my own voice, I lost my way after college on the path to pursuing that dream. I won't go in to all the twists and a turns my career took since 1987 (including an advanced degree in a non-art field) but to suffice it to say, "what a long strange trip it's been!" Along the way, I met another one of my illustration heroes, Maurice Sendak , when I embarrassed myself by kneeling in front of him to ask for his advice. His response? "First, stand up". I think that's pretty telling. Yea Jane, stand up and take your place in the world would you for crying out loud !? 

So, here I am. I started painting again professionally in 2006 and ever since I have worked toward developing my voice and honing my skills. I illustrated my first children's book this past year, "Gracie Brave" to be published soon. The authors' hired me privately so it's up to the winds of fate and their efforts to edit and pitch it to the right publisher so, fingers crossed! 

So, "enough about me, what do you think of me?" wink wink

Here's some of my progress in the class:  

Lilla gives us daily warm-up assignments. This was my "hats" practice. 

 I did apply some embroidery to the main character in the story...

I did apply some embroidery to the main character in the story...

 I used french knots in his beard and hat as well as his coat (not shown). I think the presentation was too small to have such detail show through. 

I used french knots in his beard and hat as well as his coat (not shown). I think the presentation was too small to have such detail show through. 

 some preliminary pose sketches

some preliminary pose sketches

 full color poses. I'm working on redoing the lower left example. 

full color poses. I'm working on redoing the lower left example. 

 some supporting characters

some supporting characters

 a little mood sketch 

a little mood sketch 

 The true hero of the story: the tiny mouse

The true hero of the story: the tiny mouse

 The Sea Cucumber Farm: setting for the story I imagine. 

The Sea Cucumber Farm: setting for the story I imagine.