Sunday, November 16, 2014

Bad Parenting

I feel like a bad parent.

Not towards my actual baby though. His needs are fairly simple: hungry, tired, poopy. At six weeks old worst he can do is pee on me or scream at me. No back talk, no breaking stuff. No real existential choices to be made on my part, did I do the right thing, did I discipline him right or teach him the right lesson. Most days, I feel like I've got a pretty good handle on it. I'm sure it will all change tomorrow when I have to go back to work and figure out how to balance Work Lucy with Mom Lucy.

But that brings me to the biggest thing weighing on me is whatever happened to Artist/Writer Lucy?

Not having time to doodle or paint or start my next book doesn't actually bother me too much. No, it's just one project. One person. The one that got left behind.

It's been nearly a year since I've done any work on my Kevin Zombie comic. Or has it been more? I don't even know. I created Kevin when I thought I wanted to be a comic book writer. Or artist. Or both. I had no idea what I was getting into, how big his story would be and what a time commitment comic book art truly is. How naive of me to think it would be quick and easy to build a world. To make a character real. I did the sketches, the pre-work, the rough drafts, the inking, the coloring. I gave him a world, and friends and enemies, and a family.

And then I just ditched him because he was too much work.

He was my Velveteen Rabbit: he became real because of all the love and work I poured into him. And now I feel like I abandoned my real son, for the Real one I physically gave birth to. Maybe writing Kevin was a wistful longing for Rowan. I don't think I ever really consciously wished specifically for a son, but when I began to think about having children, I began to think about the type of kid I would want for a son. And Kevin was it. Funny, flawed, noble, kind, maybe a little over-given to wallowing in angst, but he gets that from his mom. This was the kid I wanted to watch grow from a child into a man.

I take a small consolation in knowing that Kevin's story is written, that is, I've written the ending, or at least a conclusive stopping point. So I know it has a happy ending, an ending that I think any parent would want for their child. But maybe my subconscious knew I would have to walk out on Kevin, because it the story I wrote (***SPOILER ALERT!****) Kevin's zombie mother abandons him too. But he overcomes the anger and the hurt and is able to forgive her and rebuild the relationship by the end. In the end, he's able to stand on his own.

I just wish I could watch him get there. See it all play out on paper in front of me, not just in my mind's eye. It seems so strange to want to give a zombie the right to life, but it was so cool not just for me to watch Kevin, which would have been enough for me, but to have even a few people on the internet rooting for him as well. It's every mothers dream to send your kid out into the world and know that they are loved by someone, especially if they aren't finished becoming the person you know they can be.

So I hope Kevin will forgive me. And my readers as well. I do want to continue one day. I believe I will, it's why I just can't bring myself to delete the web hosting account. It just might be a long, long wait.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Yule Ball

I love dances.
Or more accurately, I love the idea of them that I hold in my head.

In all of my attendance of required dance functions throughout my life, I don't really recall dancing that much. I spent a lot of time in uncomfortable plastic chairs arranged around the perimeter of gyms. Watching. Once you learn how to turn of the part of your brain that wants, not even as much to be invited by a particular boy to dance, but simply to be invited by any living person to participate in what is going on, it's like watching a living painting.

In paintings, the artist never lets on how sweaty the guy's hands are, how clumsy uneducated feet are, how bad the Prom committee's president's brothers' band really is. No. Everything is nicely arranged in paintings. We artists work hard to make it so. Perhaps because life is messy. Because we know in real life, somebody is going home with hurt feelings, or ruined shoes, or a broken heart. We know because we saw it from our flimsy plastic chairs. We heard who cheated on who. Who couldn't handle his snuck in Jagermeister. Who accused who of being pregnant with who's baby.

But with a stroke of a brush, it can all be different. The whole scene can be the golden moment trapped forever. The moment he felt ten feet tall. The moment she really knew how it felt to be a princess. Let there be twinkle lights. Let's forget we're in a gym that may or may not have had the floor scrubbed since the wrestling championship. Or the "Regal Room" at the Holiday Inn with its 1970's carpet. We're at Hogwarts now and it smells of snow and evergreens. It's Christmas. Anything can happen.

Because art is magic.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Figure study

It's strange, yet inspiring to me how art and the process of making it can help us live vicariously, or moreover appreciate a quality in a subject that we can't appreciate in ourselves.

I think I've been fairly emotionally removed from my pregnancy. It's probably a defense mechanism, because I know it will end in pain. Also joy, but notable amounts of pain. And here in my thirtieth week, in the dead of August heat in the South, all the discomfort refuses to be ignored any longer. I don't feel beautiful or feminine or whatever. People say "you look amazing!" or "you're carrying so beautifully", and I suppose I need to just take the damn compliment, but I can't help but feel it's unearned. "Oh, thank you, I've been parting it down the side," or "Oh, I decided to wear my belly 'up'" this season.".....I don't know what I'm doing differently from any other pregnant woman, so I don't know what to say. It's just interesting to see how people perceive you: They think you're beautiful when all you can think about is your brand new pair of cankles and how the baby seems 10 lbs heavier as the humidity climbs. I guess I should be grateful, either I have great self-confidence or am just oblivious. Lots of women feel this way from the moment puberty sets in. Whether hair, weight, freckles, lack of thigh-gap, etc, there's usually something about our appearance everyone wishes they could change.

Yet somehow, it all melts away when I'm drawing. I've always loved drawing the female figure. The curves and soft angles, lumps, bumps and all, there is something so soothing and therapeutic about the way the charcoal or pencil traces their paths. I feel like women just come in a greater variety of sizes and shapes than men do to, so the ever changing topography of the vast array of models is a constant source of delight and fascination. As I fill my page with studies of pregnant women the feeling is the same. "These women are beautiful!" I think. And somehow through the connection of observation and reverent study it's as though I feel more beautiful simply by taking part in that beauty by putting it on paper. 

We're all pretty familiar with the Dove ad that had an artist draw subjects based on ways they described themselves. But I think one of the magical things about art is that it can change how the artist perceives themselves as well as their subject. How different would the world be if we took the time to draw each other? 

*or draw on each other for that matter

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday: The Eleventh Hour cravings are back again. If you're craving a tasty literary treat, look no further than Graeme Base's The Eleventh Hour. It's a classic who-dun-it with a romping animal twist.

The story follows Horace and his attempt to throw himself a fabulous birthday party to be ended by a magnificent feast and the prescribed Eleventh Hour. All his animal friends are invited to the costume party. After various games and party shenanigans, the animals stampede to the dinner hall, only to discover that one of their number has beaten them to it and scarfed down the whole thing! Readers are invited to solve the mystery (or for the impatient, rip open the sealed answer pages) and retrace the story looking for clues. 

Not only will you read the story again and again searching for clues, you'll want to just soak in the marvelous illustrations of all the fantastic animal friends. The feast scene in particular has been dancing in my brain for several months now. All the tortes and cakes and fruits and treats just glisten, it's enough to make your mouth water. Anyone who loves animals, food, or mysteries will treasure this book!

Toucan study

I downloaded a demo for Corel Paint and have been messing around with it..............................IT'S SO COOL I WANT IT RIGHT NOW WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SO POOR ALL THE TIME?!?!?!? 

I'm usually so good at denying myself stuff, just because the world is so full of things I either legitimately don't want or concretely know I don't need. But this falls into the really-want-and-kinda-need-I-mean-I'd-use-it-even-though-I-already-have-Photoshop category. Insert massive whine here.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Swarms of babies

Drawing for my sister who is about to become a Certified Nurse Practitioner/Midwife. So proud!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Dudley Bakes a Cake


This baby has kicked my normally endearing-yet-controllable craving for carbs into high gear. I dream of pies. Muffins. Cupcakes. Bread. Sweet delicious croissants! (pauses to wipe drool off keyboard) It's gotten pretty bad.

So I'm attempting to fill the void with literature. Never far behind my baked goods cravings are memories of one of my favorite childhood books, Dudley Bakes a Cake by Judy Taylor.

The story itself has a sort of Winnie-the-Pooh vibe as it follows the endeavors of a dormouse to create a culinary confection that will win the county fair baking competition. The quaint charm of the story is surpassed only by the adorable illustrations by Peter Cross. Details abound of mischievous rabbits, sneaky bees, and all matter of frolicking furry field folk as they take their day at the fair. But my favorite illustrations (in addition to showing Dudley's messy kitchen that reminds me of my own) is seeing the magnificent would-be carrot cake that Dudley bakes, slathered in pink icing that looks like, as he puts it, "pink snow". However, the cake proves to be anything but ordinary, and by the time the competition is over, it's been a very interesting day for everyone!

If you're looking for a book that's sweet as pie, check out Dudley Bakes a Cake from your local library or used bookstore, as the book is no longer in print.

Somehow this image of a gigantic cupcake with its pink icing has come to represent all party-related baked treats to me. It's the first think I think of when I set out to make a cake and there's always a small part of me disappointed when it doesn't look like Dudley's cake (not to mention that it's never three times the size of me!) This cake is just the quintessential cake to me. 

Fair warning: the next few reviews will likely have a food theme. Got a book that makes your mouth water? Post it in the comments! 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday, March 10, 2014

Space Prawn

So this is the project that has been consuming me all year. Literally sucking life out of me.

I'm in the first trimester of my first ever pregnancy and a post-it of art is all I can manage. It's my interpretation of the ultrasound. Apparently we are having a prawn. That's alright. We'll name it Gerald and arrange play dates with other prawns.

I used to be able to boss and bully myself into getting work done. I released two books last year! Unsupervised! I used to be capable of setting goals and doing studies and workshopping and all those things that set the wannabes apart from the soon-to-be-professionals.

And now it's all I can do to get out of bed and go to my day job so the power bill gets paid, but all I wanna do is sleep when I get home, so the power may as well be cut off anyway. I can't seem to muster the energy to wield a pencil, let alone make progress on my artwork.

I knew this would happen. Part of the reason I pushed myself last year is because I knew I wouldn't be able to do it this year. Babies just take everything you've got for a while (sidenote: HOW THE HELL DID TINA FEY MANAGE TO WRITE FOR SNL WHILE SHE WAS PREGGERS?!?) But I feel like I raised the bar for myself and now I just feel like a major slacker! It's like I bronze medaled in track last year after training really hard and now I've switched to intramural cross-stitch. I'm playing a totally different game in a totally different field now, but still trying to hold myself to the same standards I was last year. And nothing gets done, my baby-eaten brain just looks at my boss brain and is like "Pffft! Yeah, whatever". I just lay on the floor mentally poking myself with a stick.

All my other mommy friends say it will pass.........My other mommy friends say LOTS of things. I guess I just want to feel like myself and not like I'm half dosed on cold medicine. I feel like so much of my identity is invested in actively creating, I feel like I'm not me when I don't have the physical strength to create. I know, I'm creating life, blahblahblah....I'm not actually doing  anything. I am ultimately not responsible for how any of that turns out. If he comes out with his nose on sideways, that's God's business. My job is to not drink or have sushi. Which just sucks. I feel like I've had the closest thing I had to a superpower sucked away. Like the Avatar took my Bending.

Maybe I'll try to do a post-it every day. A teeny drawing with just a teeny amount of energy. If it's all I've got, I should learn to count it as enough.

On a side note, lest you think I'm a completely emotionally dead monster, it was pretty nifty to see the heart beat on the ultrasound. It was like a little blinky space satellite, far, far away, blinking "I'm here! I'm here!" I kinda felt like Wall-E looking at the starry sky beyond his polluted atmosphere wondering "What's out there?" Only about this thing in my guts.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

WIP sketches

Some developmental sketches for an upcoming book. Meet Edward Irving.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Super Ladies

Some commission work I did for a friend of mine expecting her own little super lady in April.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Gittle List Award

Check it out, folks! Frank the Gentle Viking has been chosen as 2013's Gittle List #1 award winner! I'm so excited to have the chance to spread the word about Frank on Aviva Gittle's site. Aviva is so passionate about children's books and I'm so grateful for her support, and even happiest of all that she purchased a copy for her grandson to have as his very own. 

I can't wait to check out the works of my fellow finalists. I'm especially intrigued by Ronald J. Robledo's title Sasquatch for Dinner. How could that be anything but delightfully entertaining? Congratulations to all the finalists!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Battle Bunny

Ok, normally when I do a book review, I try to aim for one that is either out of print, or at least published before 2000. However, I had never heard of this book before I stumbled over it at my local library, and I think for anyone not to have heard of this book is a tremendous shame, and I am therefore bound to rectify it. 

I laughed my socks off at Jon Scieszka's Battle Bunny. The book is designed to look exactly like a generic, saccharine children's story that has been unceremoniously improved by a six year old named Alex. Instead of remaining a story about a bunny who thinks his friends have forgotten his birthday, the book becomes a tale of the terrible rampages of Battle Bunny against various hard-core woodland creatures, Alex, and the President (who actually does resemble a child's rendition of Obama, which I think is hilarious and makes it a unique period piece in my mind.) This book will be a welcome change of pace to both children and parents tired of doe-eyed disney rejects.

The only question this brings up for me is "What is this going to teach my child about writing in books?" I'm totally behind the imagination it takes to re-engineer a story like this. Especially for the team who put together this book because they clearly had to go through and write the lame, generic story first in a way that would translate to the butt-kicking story they would transform it into. It really plays with your brain to see what words were left in, which were taken out and re-written. But is my kid going to do this to every book in my house now? I think I'll have to specially invest in some dollar-store books that will be designated "project books".

As a child, I was raised not to write or color on my books because that's how good little children behave. We take care of our things and don't mess them up. Now as a writer and an artist, I feel like I'm profaning someone else's hard work by scratching through this and putting eye patches on that. To me, if it's in print, it's sacred! Especially now as I struggle in my quest to be published by an actual publishing house. Surely Messrs. Simon & Shuester know what "art" and what "good" is, who am I to question it.....right? 

Maybe not. 

Perhaps this is a lesson in the good that can come from controlled chaos. Maybe I should take a page out of Mr. Myers book, even if I have to literally rip it out in the name of creativity!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Elephant Aesthetics

I was inspired to doodle after watching videos of elephants painting on YouTube. I'm sure they've been trained to some degree to perform for tourists, but the expression Suda makes as she paints gets me every time! She's so focused and delicate with her coordination which seems so amazing and unexpected from such an ungainly, massive creature. When I worked in a frame shop, I had the opportunity to frame some elephant artwork and it was just too cool.
As an art literate audience, we are taught to ask ourselves what the artist might have been thinking or feeling when they were painting. It's amazing to me to think that animals might be feeling or thinking the same thing, or that they might have some abstract, emotional motivation for painting. It just adds another level of significance to the existence of art if it allows for some new level of inter-species communication.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

There you are, Magoo!

I decided I needed a prop to help me promote my children's book, Where Are You, Magoo? so I thought I'd make a Magoo doll. I'm not sure if he'll just be part of a cute vendor display, or if I could make up a game for hypothetical classroom visits.

It's kinda hard to document my process in a way that would allow someone else to follow the steps or pattern, since I pretty much make it up as I go. I've been sewing dolls since I was 7, and used to be big into soft-sculpture before I ran out of time to devote to it. But it was nice to get back to some sewing projects with my "snow days" I had off work. I used polar fleece for this project because it comes in bright colors, is washable and durable.

 I always use my drawings as a jumping off point. It helps me break the character down into basic shapes. Fortunately, a cartoon-y style has much simpler shapes than a realistic style, and fewer planes to contend with. 

 Harvey observes.

 Magoo's head is basically a sort of swoopy diamond, so that's the basic shape I have to work with. I also inserted a gusset, which is a triangular piece of fabric that creates volume in a sewn shape, under the chin so that the head wouldn't be completely flat to the body.
 Tweak models. And by models, I mean runs away.
 You can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs. The same can be said for cats.....? I did one body and it didn't look right, so I scraped it and had to really analyze how the legs came together. I ended up inserting a stomach piece that ran from the neck to the tail, and added separate pieces for leg interiors and the whole thing looked much better, and stood more balanced as well.

Add some stripes and a tail, and Voila! my very own Magoo! Coming to a bookstore near you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New Year, New Book! : Where Are You, Magoo?


New Year and a new book! My latest children's book Where Are You, Magoo? is now available on Amazon and CreateSpace!

I had a total blast making this book. I felt like writing and illustrating Frank the Gentle Viking was all about learning the process and pushing my skills as an artist. This one was just about having fun, playing with words and visual jokes.

Most of all this project was inspired by my family. My mom came to me years ago saying, "Lucy, you should write a story about a toddler who can't find a yellow cat and call it "Where Are You, Magoo?" This was back when I was attempting to be a fine artist of sorts, a serious artist. Like most children, I basically rolled my eyes and said "Yeah, mom, I'll get right on that." Surely the last thing this world needed was another friggin' story about a cat, right? My aunts and grandmothers, all cat lovers, agreed that I should draw way more cats because people love cats. Sure, yeah, great. But the idea of a yellow cat named Magoo never really left me.

I finally began to toy around with the idea of a story, but knew something had to set it apart. I really started to think about how we feel when we've lost something. The emotional center of the book really solidified when I left my local bookstore and couldn't find my car in the parking deck. I immediately thought "Oh, my gosh, somebody stole my car!" I always think this. I don't know why. It is never true. It's usually just not in the row or the level I thought it was. The same is usually true whether the missing item is a pair of glasses, your cat, your child, etc. Our minds always go to the worst case scenario. I remembered all the times my mother told me not to leave whatever designated space she set for me lest I be kidnapped by gypsies or something, which as a child I always found wildly entertaining. So I began to write a raucously rhyming story about a little girl with a wild imagination and a flair for the dramatic who cannot find her beloved pet.

This story is not only for cat-lovers, but anyone who has ever misplaced something. Adults and children alike will enjoy the irreverent rhymes and whimsical pictures. Check it out!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Zen Musings

I read on Aerogramme Writer's Studio Blog a list of advice from famous writers to those of us just starting out. One quote by by Tim Winton seemed to stick out of the pack.

“Writing a book is a bit like surfing . . . Most of the time you’re waiting. And it’s quite pleasant, sitting in the water waiting. But you are expecting that the result of a storm over the horizon, in another time zone, usually, days old, will radiate out in the form of waves. And eventually, when they show up, you turn around and ride that energy to the shore. It’s a lovely thing, feeling that momentum. If you’re lucky, it’s also about grace. As a writer, you roll up to the desk every day, and then you sit there, waiting, in the hope that something will come over the horizon. And then you turn around and ride it, in the form of a story.” ― Tim Winton

This seems rather incongruous to much of the other advice on the page, much of which boils down to "Writers write. Writers work at it every day. Writers write till their fingers bleed!"

I found myself on the beach this morning attempting to mentally sift through things. I grew up on the water and like Tim, I'm familiar with the concept of waiting on the wave. There were no waves today. The sea was a silken elvish grey and so flat and still you felt you wouldn't have to be Jesus to walk across it. A wait for a surfable wave on a day like this would be a long one.

 I feel like for the past three years at least, I've been waiting for something. And all my accomplishments in the meanwhile have just been a way to keep myself busy until that mystery thing presented itself. I was terrified that if I stopped I would feel empty, ineffective, and useless in a world where my work boiled down to something as inconsequential as a wave on the shore. But then in that moment I was filled with an appreciation for the vast stillness of that "place between the waves". It wasn't that sort of fruitless, abandoned, lonely sort of emptiness that I felt connected with. It was an active emptiness. An emptiness that wasn't simply waiting, but was at once anticipatory and content. An emptiness that knew it's place, a void with purpose.

Really it wasn't empty. And perhaps that's the joy of it. There were seagulls, and plovers, and starfish. Lots of little creatures going about their little creature lives. The feeble winter sun shone as best it could. The wind was soft. Perhaps it was because there were so few things on that shore, I was really able to appreciate them for what they were and why the were there.

So often my brain is so packed with schedules and goals and hoarded thoughts. It just adds up to clutter. But when I merely try to ignore them for a while to give myself a break, they're still there when I come back with the added guilt that I neglected them. I need to do more things that actively and purposefully empty my mind. Like dumping out your pencil box to get the crud out and put the pencils neatly back in. I know I need to take breaks during the day, but without the proper mindset, those just feel like indulgences instead of productive necessities. Watching tv on my lunch break, I feel like a procrastinating child who doesn't want to do homework. Going for a run, I just mentally run through all the things I need to do when I get back and chastise myself for not doing them that very moment! It turns out I'm not really emptying my mind, I'm just filling it with more things that are themselves inherently mindless.

I need to stop. I need to rest in that place between the waves and empty myself into it. When wave watching, it's so easy to be so focused on one nebulous point on the horizon that you forget where you are in the big picture. You don't get the sense of where to place yourself, so when the wave is upon you, you're not in the position to take advantage of it. But even in that there is a beauty: once a wave passes, it's gone, unreclaimable. You can only watch, and feel it under you, and then turn your eyes to the horizon again. Rest in the waiting. Connect with the waiting. Wait positively. Wait actively. Have patience with the thing you are waiting for, or working towards, but also patience with yourself.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Flipping Pages: From Animation to Children's Books

I've always been fascinated with animation. I pursued it as a career for a while before switching to children's books. And although my name hasn't appeared on any rolling credits (...yet), there are many professional contemporary animators who have also slid into children's books. Here's a look at a few of them.

Jon Klassen
  Jon Klassen already has a handful of children's titles under his belt, in addition to work on Kung Fu Panda and Coraline, but it was his recent book I Want My Hat Back that rocketed him to the top of the booklists and made him a household name. I Want My Hat Back follows the drolly understated quest of a bear to recover a stolen hat. But with a surprise twist at the end! In addition to animation and children's books, he somehow finds time to do editorial work and teach an illustration intro class at CalArts. I would certainly trust a book about hats from a man who clearly wears a number of them.

Uli Meyer
   Uli Meyer self published his book Cuthbert Was Bored last summer. He even animated the trailer himself. Cuthbert Was Bored is the story of a little crow who is tired of being a crow. I haven't gotten a copy yet, but if it's anything like his animation, it's bound to be a hit!

Lorelay Bove
   One of the famed "Ladies of Animation" Lorelay can now add her No Slurping, No Burping! to her list of accomplishments, in addition to her other work on Disney features. This book gives us a lesson in manners, where in a role reversal, two children attempt to curb their father's terrible table behavior! Bove's illustrations remind me of the old mid-century titles Disney used to release illustrated by Mary Blaire.

Mike Yamada & Victoria Ying
    The power couple of animation have published a title of their own via their private art & production company, Extra Curricular Activities. The book is called Curiosities: An Illustrated History of an Ancestral Oddity. It explores a mysterious old mansion along with the two young siblings who have just inherited it. I can't figure out how these guys manage their own projects will also working for Dreamworks and Disney, respectively. They make it look easy and fun at the same time.
Frans Vischer
   I didn't hear about Fuddles until the sequel A Very Fuddles Christmas was out. Veteran animator Frans Vischer, who has worked on a slew of my favorite Dreamworks films, has written and illustrated these childrens books following the activities of an adorable pudgy cat. I wish I could order a book that came with a plus Fuddles for my very own! Guess I'll have to make do with my own cat.