Saturday, April 26, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Weeks 9 & 10

"Out for a Walk"

I've been immersed in an Easter break vacation from teaching at the charter school that usually occupies my Friday mornings.  Just one more month there and I am off for the summer...whoo hoo!  By this time of year, I am ready to be free of weekly lesson planning and prepping.  I'll recharge for a couple of months and be ready to go again by September.

In my free time, I've continued to play around in my sketchbook.  After a quick flip-through of my drawings, I realized that 99.99% of my characters and creatures are in a static pose, frozen in position facing forward out of the page.  In order to tell stories with my illustrations, I've got to get those characters up and moving.  To start this fellow on his way, I quickly scribbled a shape that became his head.  Before I knew it, he was sauntering off the page, faithful hound in tow, a skip in his step and a song in his heart.  My doodles want something to do besides posing, mug shot-style.  The minute I gift them with a purpose, their story bubbles to the surface.  Something to keep in mind as I move onward with my exploration of illustration. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Week 8

"Paradoxical Delights" 

I am always intrigued by the paradoxes that reveal themselves in the studio when I take time to notice them.  For instance, I've realized that when I restrict my palette, I often feel that my muse is set free.  And when I decide to turn to "the dark side," I am contradictorily filled with laughter and light.  I am sometimes at my best when I feel my worst and when I allow myself to believe that the end result is of no consequence, I produce work that is anything but inconsequential.  Such are the delights of late, here in the warming, blooming air of spring.  I bend to my sketchbook, caught up in the quiet act of creation and from my tools, creatures are born.  They are filled with shadow and yet sometimes arrive bearing a shy smile and a pink balloon.  Hello there, wee beastie...welcome to the world.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Notes from My Sabbatical: Weeks 5, 6, and 7

"My Sketchbook is Going Dark"

As you can tell from my multi-week check-in coverage, it has been more "lost" than "post" here on the Pacific coast.  As the seemingly interminable winter yields to the slowly gathering warmth of the fairer seasons, my days have picked up pace.  The irritating spring rituals of taxes and student aid applications had to be completed.  My teaching semester is winding down (I'm done at the end of May until September) and so I am looking forward to fresh teaching opportunities in my community.  There's a show looming in May which means I'll spend the balance of April painting while trying to keep up with my assignments for "The Year of the Fairy Tale."  My days have been filled to bursting and yet, somehow, I found time to pause and really think some deep thoughts about where I'd like to take my art next.

I'm going to be forging a new path.  I have things I want to accomplish before the Parkinson's makes me too unsteady to realize the images and ideas in my head...but that's the simplistic explanation for my decision to try some new things.  In truth, these "new" things have been percolating in my brain for years, even decades.  I began setting the stage for this next phase in my art life a couple of years ago when I decided to focus more on illustration.  As I drew and doodled, I built my confidence and technical ability.  Now, with some significant time away from journaling (which, of course, opened up more time for drawing), I realize that I just might have reached that magic place where ability and aspiration meet.  Now just might be the time to stretch in a different direction...

Ever since I was little, I've been inspired by all things science fiction and fantasy.  I grew up on The Twilight Zone, Star Trek, Lost in Space, The Outer Limits, The Munsters.  I adore old-school, black & white horror flicks as well as B-movie sci-fi fare from the fifties.  Some more modern idols include Edward Gorey, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro.  Looking through my sketchbooks from the last couple of years, I realize my fascination with robots and monsters was "gateway art."  After so much time lurking around a path I've wanted to explore all along, I've finally decided to step over the threshold and let myself dabble in a bit darker palette.

I'm fairly good at "pretty" but to tell the complete truth, I've also sort of felt all my cute and pretty art was sort of safe.  I've often thought that it was more acceptable to draw cute things, more "mainstream."  I've been afraid to get a little edgy.  After all, even my "sweet" illustrations kill comments and views around here.  However, if I've realized one thing during my "sabbatical," it's that I have no real need anymore for what going on in the mainstream.  I care about what's happening in my mindstream.  I care about letting characters loose upon the world while I am able.  And I'll tell you now that many of those characters & creatures might be a touch shifty with a moral compass that's slightly askew.  I'm not abandoning cute but rather balancing that with a side of creepy.  Silly needs to snuggle in with sinister. 

There's no specific end goal, no secret project or career ambition driving this turn off the pavement and into the wilds.  I am doing this simply because I've always wanted to...there is no better reason than that.  Maybe this will be only a passing phase...maybe I'll fight my way through the underbrush and realize I prefer a more comfortable path...or maybe, just maybe, I'll forge a brand new, exciting road.  All I know for sure is that I'll never know if I never begin.     
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