Sunday, June 20, 2010

Reaffirming my calling...

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who won a big contest and then decided that she was going to draw pictures for her job when she grew up...

33 years later, I am still trying to find the balance between creating art and earning a living.  For 16 years, while my kids were smaller, I designed counted cross stitch and ran a business from home, but about 3 years ago it became increasingly apparent that what I created was too easy to steal.  Of the 98 designs I published and sold, at least 57 of them are out there as illegal scans on websites that a dedicated group of stitchers and I try to get removed on a weekly basis.

Two years ago, I made the decision to jump back into illustration and have been steadily building up local clients as well as working on illustrations for a third children’s book.  I also began working as a substitute teacher to  help cover some of the bills and discovered that I truly love working with kids of all ages.

I thought I had this year under control in terms of finding the balance between working and illustrating until life threw us a few curve balls.  Losing my father to cancer in December affected me more deeply that I first realized.  The past 15 weeks have also seen my own mother hospitalized briefly and my mother-in-law undergo treatment for a medical mystery that has involved at least 2 surgeries and a few close calls.  With our biological fathers no longer living and our mothers getting older, Nick and I both had to wrestle with that perception shift that happens as you realize someday you will be the trunk of your family tree instead of one of the branches.  While his mom seems to be on the mend at last, her recovery will still take some time.  

Through it all, I worked on a major illustration project and spent 51 out of the last 85 teachable days in classrooms around the city, but I found it all too easy to get caught up in the busyness of life instead ot taking time to sketch and look inwards to that internal compass that keeps us on the right path.

Most days, I wasn’t sure I had anything worth saying to my family members, let alone the world, and so my blogs fell silent.

In this era of global communications, tweeting and instant messaging, letting your blogs go quiet for over 2 months is almost unheard of.  Media talks to us about branding, market share, exposure and other top-of-mind-awareness terms that lead many of us to believe we should be constantly wired in to the wider world. Promote yourself on YouTube and you  might be discovered!  Put your illustrations out there everywhere and publishers are sure to find you!  Every time I went browsing the Internet to look at other illustrators, it only made me want to crawl back into bed and hide.  There are SO many talented artists out there all struggling to do the same thing. 

Wrestling with the mortality of two women I love and realizing that my daughters are growing into young women who will go off and start lived of their own over then next 10 years provided a major  opportunity for self-examination.  What I discovered is that my style is my own because I am the only one who can draw like me.  I need to stop worrying about how it compares to other illustrators and just be myself.

What do I really want to do with my artistic talent?  You’ll be seeing a lot more pictures and posts on this blog now because after all the soul-searching, I have rediscovered where my compass truly points.  
It points me right back to an empty page full of possibilities.

So what have I been doodling?
Here is a peek at a few of the line illustrations from the Ambulance NB colouring book that is in every ambulance around the province and used to explain how an emergency works to children.

Here are two of my favourite illustrations produced during an enrichment day with Author Paul Burns at Magnetic Hill School.  

Groups of kids wrote collaborative stories which I then sketched out on the smart board with my tablet and took home to re-ink.  Each child then received a copy of the line illustrations to colour and make their own.

My latest project was an illustration emergency to help a friend who’d been left high and dry by some students who’d promised to illustrate her children’s story for a Master’s level Education class.  I had 2 days to complete 11 illustrations, so they were quick, down and dirty illustrations done in Photoshop Elements with my tablet. 

 It was much better than clip art for her and a great practice session for me.  I did make her promise that I could rework them at a later date if she does anything with the story in the future.

So there’s a peek at what I’ve been up to during my absence.  Get used to seeing a lot more!