my first illustration project + umbrellas of big ideas

We are on Day 9 of the New Year and I am falling farther and farther behind in my blogging. I am sure you are thinking that I am full of empty promises when I say that I intend to blog more. Of course, I do but so far this year I have been very busy. But I have finally wrapped up MerriMail Issue Six, planned my upcoming workshops at Paper Source, and even cleaned my work space (physically and online). It feels really good to finally catch up from holiday projects, travel and work. So now, it is time to move on to my January goals, which includes my blog.

When Lia and I talked about my blog while holiday shopping, she suggested a craft day, a book review day, etc. That is great in theory, but it is just way too much structure for me. Honestly it sounds like a plan that will fail pretty quickly. I tried really hard to blog everyday after our shopping trip. And I did for two weeks. But the last week before Christmas got a little rushed. Like most crafty/creative/artsy people, Christmas is my time to shine. This year I put together four books, finished a painting and made New Year’s favors for my friends and family in hopes of a year filled with abundance. A blog entry just never made it past the draft status. And from my past blogging experience, if my thoughts land in the draft pile, they never leave.

Last night, after receiving a final review of MerriMail, I felt pretty satisfied. I love the interdisciplinary approach to the newsletter. Each issue is based on a gift. Besides receiving a surprise gift, which is pretty exciting in and of itself, there are about a dozen ideas that go along with our theme. We always talk about the gift, the company, what to do with the gift, some facts related to the theme, artwork, non-profit, books, etc. Pulling together a bunch of different ideas into a coherent piece is just incredibly satisfying. I especially love the excuse of calling up amazing artists and talking to them, like I did with Jeff Scher for our upcoming issue.

So why not apply this same idea to my blog? I need some structure, but it has to be very loose. I kind of see this as living an idea for a month. I am not sure if it will work out on a calendar month or just when it feels complete.

A couple of weeks after giving into being an artist, I tried a trick I had read about in all of these “live-your-dream” type of books. Right before bed, I said to myself “I need a focus for my artwork.” To say you want to be an artist is just way too broad. I mean, the idea just seems insane. Just like all of those books claim, in the middle of the night I hear a voice. Not once, but twice. The first time it said “Illustration.” I woke up. Then again I heard, “Illustrator.” Wow! I was quite amazed the first day. But then again, I was back to “What does that mean?” I thought about what being an illustrator means for a few weeks, read some books about illustrators from the library. I finally decided that I illustrate stories – mine, my family’s and my community’s. That is a nice loose focus that feels comfortable. And this focus has helped me with my painting projects in class and my book projects I created this Christmas as gifts.

This fall, I was talking with Amy about the fact that I want to focus more on my art. Without going into the entire illustration story, somehow it came up that this artist never responded to her request for artwork for the Advent booklet. I volunteered my services for my first illustration project. She needed a painting of Jesse’s Stump, which I really hadn’t heard of before. I wasn’t really sure where to start. But as the weeks passed, I found that little references were everywhere, a lot like Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49, (a memorable requirement in Undergrad). It was almost as if I began to live my art, as well as, my spirituality. It arose everywhere – in a personal conflict, my morning walks, a song on my favorite Christmas box set, and even as a small sign in the landscaping of the church. I think that I was most taken aback when Jesse’s stump, a reference I was completely unfamiliar with two months prior, was the publisher’s logo for a book that I was reading. Finally, I got it. I created a collage of objects, which created Study for Jesse’s Stump. Time to move on to the next chapter in my life.

That’s what I am hoping this new loose structure will be like – incorporating my life into many interests and experiences contained under umbrellas of bigger ideas. Except I really really hope that this new approach will be a lot less dramatic than my first illustration project.

The remainder of January will be “Show and Tell.” This past Sunday, I spent the day photographing tons of projects and items around my apartment that I want to share. Maybe I will find a new idea for February by the beginning of year. That’s when I am starting my first art class at the Corcoran, as part of my attempt to create my own art school.

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