Thursday, March 11, 2010

Too Long

I must admit that there are many other things I should be doing right now, but sometimes you just have to write. I've been working on a project for some time now, a retelling of a Norwegian fairy tale, and while I think I have a good handle on the written part, even though it's still not completed, I've struggled with the illustrations. I keep going back and forth on how I want the story to look.

This is something I tend to do. If I have an external deadline (somebody wants it from me) I have no problem deciding on an idea and pursuing it. That's fortunate I suppose because otherwise I'd constantly be in trouble with the people who expect me to produce things for them. But, if my deadline is internal, for some reason I feel comfortable with extended the deadline, sometimes indefinitely. Well, maybe "comfortable" isn't the word, it's more like I have thought in the past that it's okay to extend my own deadlines, because I'm the one setting them. And I justify it by telling myself that I haven't decided the direction I really want to go in, I need to do more research, it's not quite there yet, blah, blah, blah. What I've been trying to do recently is to create the same sense of urgency for my internal deadlines as I do for my external deadlines. And artistically this means choosing a direction and going in it, full on.

To that end, I finally started one of the illustrations I've been envisioning for Tatterhood for some time. One of the key elements of the story is that she and her sister embark on a journey. It is a journey of salvation and restitution and I've chosen to make the ship they travel in more than just a means of transportation but also a symbol of who Tatterhood is internally. The ship represents her own need to move outside the bounds of her defined role, and also her ability to do so. With all that riding on it, I really wanted the ship to represent this in a visually cool way.

Pretty big order. And this week I started the ship. Whew. It's not ready to show you yet. Still looks pretty odd. But I'll post some pictures soon. And the process of creating the ship has been really interesting for me. I'm exploring a lot of my own ideas about making things.

Even though I've been thinking about this story for so long, living with it, if you will, I'm only just starting to feel like it's becoming real as I create the miniature version of Tatterhood's ship. It's as though the physical act of building the ship is helping me to see her character even better, and making it easier to write her actions and thoughts down in the pages of the story. The two are becoming more closely tied together, something I didn't anticipate when I started to work on this story a year ago.

I probably should have begun this process long before now, realizing this today, but we learn what we learn when we learn it. I am very excited about the prospect of seeing this through to the end now and seeing both the words and the images on paper. It's quite empowering to be working on something that is my own, start to finish, idea to execution.

I love the process of creating design work or illustration to make other people's ideas visual. I always have. It's one of the reasons I did so well in school. I can take an idea and run with it, and I love the interaction with the client. I think one of my particular strengths has been to find out a particular angle or idea unique to that person and create something that speaks to that idea. But with Tatterhood, I'm starting to really get a taste of what I can do when I combine my own ideas and talents to that same end. And it's exciting.

In the art world they call this "finding your own voice." And it makes sense because it's when your art really starts to show you, as opposed to showing the myriad of images and ideas that have influenced you. I know that some artists never really do find their own voice. And I know that I've felt close to finding it for years, but never really felt as comfortable as I do now with this direction.

We'll see where this goes. Maybe Tatterhood's ship will be the thing that helps me break through my bad habit of shortchanging my own work. That would be really cool.