"Emu test drive" by Lynne Hurd Bryant
I don't know if being 50 has given me more wisdom about my shortcomings or merely a stronger desire to try to bend myself in new ways. Sometimes, as when I dove into oil painting this summer, I am successful, while in others ways I am not quite so successful.
Enter a tempting offer to illustrate a book for an Australian author. Am I game? Sure...knowing full well that I am not an illustrator, that I was taught to paint what I see and to leave imagination out of the equation. Illustrating a children's book requires an imagination and a skill I don't believe I possess. My imagination, artistically speaking, has been painstakingly subdued in favor of a "clean eye." As for the skill of drawing anthropomorphized animals from angles I can only see in my mind's eye, it is not subdued, as it is not a skill I have felt I ever I had, or would need.
Add into this something that never crossed my mind: The animals in question are ordinary for an Australian child, but quite exotic for this middle-aged Western artist...echidnas, emus, wombats, platypuses and kangaroos. Like most of Americans of my generation, the closet we got to a kangaroo was a zoo or Mister Greenjeans. An emu is an easier prospect as they are raised, with ostriches, in my part of eastern Wyoming. I see these foreigners frequently, but I had never even seen a photograph of a wombat!
To top off my anxiety about this project is an embarrassing factoid: I have not made any art since the end of May owing to job scheduling, financial stress and illness. Graphite pencils have always felt strange to me, because I am so much more comfortable with color than pure value. I don't see life's issues in shades of gray, and likewise I can't see lifeforms in shades of gray either. The preliminary work has to be done in graphite.
I am out of my comfort zone on every level here. If the publisher moves ahead, all this work will need to be done again, but this time in colorful watercolor where I am much happier to work. Time will tell if this was wisdom or a desire to bend in a way I am incapable of bending.