Tuesday, October 30, 2012

washing the body

I was contacted by the art director at Alberta Views Magazine back in July about doing an illustration for an essay called 'Washing the Body: I carry my mother inside me now as she once carried me' by Karen Connelly. It was about a woman's experience of losing her mother. Because I'd been doing a lot of work for the children's market, I was really excited to tackle such a different subject matter. The article was beautifully written and very moving.  I really wanted to honor such a lovely article with an image that would do it justice, something simple and thought provoking.

The title of the article makes reference to pregnancy and there's a part that talks about the similarities between the "work of dying and the labour of birth." I found the comparison to be really interesting and that's what I focused my sketches on. I wanted to find a way to show life and death in a single image.

I ended up with a few ideas that I felt had potential, but none that were quite 'there' yet. I submitted five sketches to the art director and she gave me excellent feedback.

She thought that the bottom image that showed the actual washing expressed what the article was really about and that by incorporating some of the ideas in my other sketches and by doing something with the background, I could add some subtle layers of meaning.

I took some photo reference so that I could get the hands just right and then looked to the article for imagery relating to the mother's memories for the background.

The article makes reference to the Bow River quite a bit in the mother's childhood memories and then it's where her ashes are scattered at the end. A river is also a great metaphor for infinity as well as for letting go so I really wanted to incorporate it. I noticed that a top view of the Bow River lightly mimicked the placement of the arms in my drawing so I tried to work with that. The article also mentions the Center Street Bridge and the lions that guard it so I tried to work those elements into the background.

But I still wasn't satisfied with the result. It was all too literal.

I sent my sketch to the art director and got very thoughtful feedback that sent me into a direction that I felt really good about. Gardens and gardening is something that comes up several times in the article and despite it also being an obvious visual when dealing with the subject of death, I decided to use floral elements in the background. I wanted to hint at the idea of life and death by having some of them in colour and some of them in shades of grey. I also thought it would make for an interesting visual. It would have been nice to keep the river element, but I couldn't find a way to incorporate it without it making the image too busy.

Some floral experiments from my sketchbook:
The final image in process: 
The finished illustration:
The illustration in context:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

five years after my five year plan

I was just looking through some of my old blog posts when I came upon this one. It was my five year plan and tomorrow will mark exactly 5 years since I wrote it. So let's see how I did...



In 5 years I see myself:

• illustrating full time. True, that was in the 5 year plan 5 years ago and it still hasn't happened, but I'm in a better position to do that now. I'd also love to work in a little book store part time. Something close to where I live that I could walk to. I've always liked that idea.

• I want to travel more. There are so many places that I want to see and experience. I'd like to live and work in Europe for a year or two. Maybe bring my computer and freelance from over there.

• I'd like to produce a series of paintings on a theme for an art show. It wouldn't have to be a big fancy gallery show, even something small in a coffee shop would be nice. Maybe a solo show, but maybe part of a group show with some of my artist friends.

• I'd like to write and illustrate my own children's book. I've had an idea since I was in high school but I haven't had an opportunity to seriously work on it. Maybe it wouldn't even be published, maybe it would just be for me.

• Once we've finished traveling, I'd like to pick a city (maybe Montreal) and settle down for a while. Buy a small home, fix it up ourselves, grow vines all over it. Have a garden in the back, and a patio where we could sit outside and have meals together.

• I see myself living a simple and humble life where I make time to read, cook, go for walks, drink tea with friends, take classes, learn how to make books, be part of an artistic community...

• Most importantly, I see myself still happily married to Dario :)


• I was illustrating full time for about a three years, but I recently started working full time at my day job to make some extra money since purchasing our house. Although I never did find a job in a bookstore, when we got back from Europe I got a job working in a lovely little shop that sells spices, and before we moved into our house I was able to walk to work.

• I lived and traveled all over Europe for a year and a half.

• I still haven't produced a series of paintings on a theme for an art show.

• Although I haven't written a book, I did illustrate a picture book that was recently published.

• We decided against Montreal and ended up moving to Calgary. We just bought a small house, have been fixing it up, and I'll be planting vines all over it in the spring.  There is a patio on the back where we enjoyed sitting this summer and we've set up a spot to grow small garden.

• My life is simple and humble but I must admit that I struggle to find the time to read, go for walks, or take classes. I still haven't learned how to make books.  I do, however, cook all the time and I've recently started meeting up with my sketch group again and feeling like I'm part of an artistic community...

• Still happily married to Dario. We'll have been married for five and a half years this winter.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

a cool guy from my sketchbook

Sunday, October 7, 2012

october update

I just got back to Calgary on Friday night after being away for a week. I went to my home town in north-east Saskatchewan to visit my family. It felt so good to leave the city and spend a few relaxing days out in the country. I also got to spend some time with my nephew, who's a year and a half, and that was something I really enjoyed.

Prior to leaving on my road trip, I had the occasion to spend an evening sketching at Mike Kerr and Renata Liwska's new studio in Art Central. In all the chaos of moving and renovating and unpacking and working, sketching for pleasure is something that has gone by the wayside the last few months. It felt really good to get back into it. Also in attendance were Carolyn Fisher and Byron Eggenschwiler. Mike took some photos:

I drew a bunch of little heads in my sketchbook. I was trying to play with different ways of making facial features, but in the end I fell back into my comfort zone. The only one I really ended up liking was the man in the bottom center with the handlebar mustache.

Mike has a small moleskine sketchbook where he's done some sketch paintings. You can rip out one of his if you make a sketch of your own. Mike's sketches are amazing so it was pretty intimidating, but I loved the idea of take-a-sketch-leave-a-sketch so I went for it. But first I had to practice in my own sketchbook...

Mike has photos of the swap on his blog if anyone is interested. I love the little zombie gnome painting that I ended up with :)

In book news, Bye, Bye, Butterflies! got a really good review in CM Magazine. You can click here to read it.

One more thing that I forgot to mention previously is that I'm going to be teaching in extended studies at ACAD once again. This time around I'll be teaching an illustration class. After a two and a half year hiatus, I'm really excited to get back into teaching again.