As a writer/illustrator who doesn’t want to bore my dear blog readers I tend to focus on the illustrating party of my work because if I wrote about writing all you’d see is …
… yeah, that: Me sitting around thinking.
For the record, I have never ever chewed on a pen, pencil, quill, or crayon. Ew. Ew. Ewwwwwwwwww. I mean, if I were oblivious to the germs that accumulate on writing instruments I’d just lick the surface of my desk for oral gratification.
But getting back to writing, in this past week there has been a big development in my writing career that I will take a moment to tell you about before we get back to the fun and pix of illustrating.
Last week I got some wonderful negative feedback from both my agent and my editor, who both identified the same weakness in the manuscript of the Damn Garden Book. They are both very smart readers (naturally, since it’s their calling in life to read and make books) and they both zero’d in on the same blind spot, a fatal flaw that I had been oblivious to, about what was not working in my narrative. I am ever so thankful that they were honest enough to point it out to me.
I won’t go into what the criticism was. You’d have to have read the first three chapters of the manuscript to get it and I’m sure you don’t want me to go into that kind of detail but here’s a promise: When I do a book event for the Damn Garden Book in your town and you come and sit in the front row, you can ask me what the fatal flaw was and I will hold up the visual aid (the Damn Garden Book) show you book, chapter, verse how it could have gone oh, so wrong. We’ll laugh and commiserate and think deep thoughts about the mystery of the writer’s craft and then go out for a glass of Pinot Grigiot.
As a result of this fine negative information that was gifted to me last week, I have to reboot the DGB. Here is a picture of a writer, thinking very hard about her reboot:
Come to think of it, that pose — with pen/pencil/quill at the mouth — is probably just illustration shorthand for “thinking really hard”. So yes, this past week I have been gleefully tearing apart my manuscript, putting pages in a new order (which is why I always use a loose-leaf notebook to hold my manuscript: makes it very mutable) and deleting great swaths of text and writing new bits of exposition…
…which would be very dull to write about almost impossible to photograph. If I wanted to bore the dear readers of this blog I might as well blog about unpacking from that road trip to the Delaware Bay that I took two weeks ago:
Which I have not yet actually fully un-packed from. Yes, when I go on a car trip I haul out my biggest, ugliest suitcase and pack it with my own comforter and pillows because I do not use hotel blankets and pillows. Ew. Ew. Ewwwwwwwwww. (See: above, re: chewing on pens, pencils, etc.). As you can see, when Penelope decides that this un-packed suitcase is her new favorite place to nap well, then, that suitcase stays un-packed until it becomes a hazard to life and limb (I’ve already tripped over it once, in the dark, when I forgot that there was a big stonking suitcase in the doorway between the dining room and the living room).
And we all know that as long as Lickety and/or Taffy and Cindy are hovering nearby, dying to take their own turn on this amazing new fabulously comfortable napping hot spot, Penelope will never, never relinquish control of the big stonking suitcase, which will probably rot in this corner of the livingroom before I have the heart to take it way from her. (See: nice Empire-style chair, above, re: how I let these cats re-purpose every object in this house including, now, suitcases.) Which reminds me:
I want to take this opportunity to apologize to the universe for the six doses of Frontline I use every month in May, June, July, August, September, and October. For two tablespoons-worth of Frontline (approx. equivalent to a tea bag’s worth of tea), I generate this much trash, most of it plastic:
This ought to be a crime. This is excessive packaging and I hate it..but what can I do? Fleas are nasty and disgusting and germy and give my cats scabs (See:above, re: chewing on pens, pencils, etc.).
Universe, please forgive me.
And now, without further ado, let’s paint!
I had already painted most of the rock face before I thought of taking photos.
But Step One was prepping this picture with masking fluid:
And here’s how to paint small falls of water (I’m using a combination of light blue and greenish-blue):
First, I brush in strokes of clear water:
And then I drop the paint into the water:
I like the effect, very watercolor-y. I’m just letting water and paint do what they do when you put them together. (I also leave small areas of dry white paper showing.)
I had intentionally left some of the rock face unpainted so it would make a soft boundary to the water:
When I paint rock (which, by the way, I LOVE to do), I paint one rock face at a time. Here is how I do it: I brush in clear water on an area (let’s call it a “cell”) that I have drawn as a surface:
I am using my beloved cheapo Grumbacher paints here because with all the chalk filler in them, they blend really well (that is to say, they don’t really blend well at all, which is what I like) when I drop them into the “cell” that I have prepared for them. I mix four color right on my little bitty brush — blue, black, brown, and grey/flesh:
Here is what happens when you lightly drop your brush, which is loaded with paint, into a “cell” that is full of clear water:
I go back a dab in some black on the edges, and then I let dry. Where I used a lot of brown to paint that bit of rock (above), here I am going with more of a blue-grey color:
You never know what you are going to get! Well, sure, you can control the areas that need to be light or dark, blue or brown (so that the whole rock face makes sense), but within each “cell” you ever know how it’s going to dry — look at all that texture and interest that is in each rock:
And yes, you can see that I had to write “ROCK” with arrows on this drawing so I didn’t get confused as to what was rock and what was waterfall. Also, you can see that I have now lifted of the masking fluid that I had previously put down…I changed my mind on how I wanted this main section of waterfall to look.
Truth is, I had never painted a waterfall before I did this picture, so I did some preliminary sketches:
I tried out several different ways of painting a waterfall, and I cut out bits so I could hold them against what I’ve already painted to see how it would look. In the end, I decided to go for a much loser effect that did not require masking fluid:
And then I painted the rest of the picture:
This is one of the best things about re-booting the Damn Garden Book…
…I can open up the scope of the book, thanks to the wonderful negative criticism I got last week.
And to answer a dear reader’s question last week…no, the title of the Damn Garden Book is not The Damn Garden Book. I call all of my books-in-progress the Damn [fill in the blank] Book because most of the time that’s how I feel about all my books-in-progress. They are such a damn pain in the ass to write, and I wish they would write their damn selves,but they are, in the end, the best pain-in-the-assy things I’ve ever done.
I have a totally different working title for the Damn Garden Book which my agent and editor use. I don’t make them say “Damn Garden Book”.
And, to answer another FAQ, no, Top Cat does not take these photos. I take them myself. I use my right hand to hoist the camera, point, shoot, and hope I catch something useful. Half the photos I take are useless.
I was very happy to paint this new illustration because this is one of the most delightful consequences of receiving that wonderful negative criticism last week and opening up the narrative …
I get to add Seattle to the Damn Garden Book!!
This is the famous and beautiful Waterfall Garden Park in downtown Seattle. (I had to leave empty space for text, TBA.)
Dear Readers, I hope that you are all making it a point to head out to a local garden park to experience these last fine moments of Summer 2013. Top Cat and I spent a fine Saturday evening at Morgan Park here on the North Shore of Long Island:
I rarely take a vacation from blogging, dear readers, but between this Damn Garden Book re-boot and these final perfect days of Summer, I must call Time Out.
I am taking the next two weeks off, dear readers, to both get stuff done and do nothing. I forgot to tell you that in spite of the things that my publisher wants fixed about the Damn Garden Book, the DGB is a GO and the sooner I write the damn thing, the sooner it will appear in stores and libraries. I also want to hang out with men in kilts (the Long Island Scottish Games are this weekend), and re-boot my brain.
I will leave the Comments section open until Sept. 6 so please feel free to leave a comment or question about writing, illustrating, cats, or tea, or whatever. Because I will check in often and use my spiffy new Reply function to answer any and all queries; as for the future of this blog, I have a tutorial all about painting cats already planned for Sept 13…
…and a new tutorial called Why It Is So Hard To Copy An Oil Painting In Watercolor:
But, as there are only so many Summer sun sets until Autumn, I must bid you all a fond See You Later, and hope to see each one of you back here on September 13.
Now get out there and goof off!