Thursday, October 13, 2011

Asking for trouble and finding it

 "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.

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