A popular meme depicting T1’s generation as iPhone-addicted idiots found its way into my Facebook feed tonight among the countless photos of his peers peacefully marching and calling for an end to violence.
I’m a member of the generation that, defined by John Hughes movies and political disengagement, came of age with the MTV and PacMan. At our high school most of the focus for seniors was on the goals that would improve our own lives.
By contrast, this generation of high school seniors has engaged with the world (and they did inspire people around the world), starting the work towards their vision of a more positive future for their peers but also for the kids who will follow. They are indeed fixated, but technology seems to be the conduit for their passions, not the objects of it.
Remembering that the idea for the march was instigated by teenagers, it occurred to me that while my generation has been deriding the attention they lavish on smartphones and tablets, T1’s generation may have been using them to acquire and share ideas and make loftier plans than anyone has given them credit for.
Thanks to T1 and his girlfriend (thinking SuperGal will be her secret identity since she has demonstrated some superpowers which are fodder for future posts), I do hear about kids making plans for futures defined by civic engagement, so when I see memes mocking their cohort, I tend to roll my eyes. It’s not enough, though, to just ignore an inaccurate stereotype. Today’s marches made me rethink how I should be talking about this generation, beginning with talking about and to them with respect .
Learning to draw on the iPad has been easier than I thought. It’s just different sensation from drawing on paper but no more different a sensation than painting.
I spent the first few weeks experimenting with the first page of a book I’ve been working on over the last six months. I still sense this new tool will ultimately speed up my workflow, but as I tried different variations, I’ve noticed an unpleasant quirk creeping back into my work.
In the past, whenever my creativity has felt stunted as it was during a very busy autumn, I’ve gone back to basics — a pocket sketchbook and a black pen. The pocket sketchbook reminds me that The only pressure is to get something down on the page. Indelible, ink ensures that corrections are impossible. Mistakes will happen, and the only thing you can do is to move forward. Freeing oneself from any expectation of perfection is like prying the lid off a mason jar filled with fireflies that have been waiting to get out all night. Suddenly you’re in the darkness. The results are irregular and uncontrolled and surprisingly beautiful.
Drawing on the iPad lets you correct mistakes; it lets you anticipate and try to prevent them. Being able to create images with a different layer for every section means being able to edit one section without accidentally disrupting another. It’s a wonderful safety net when digitizing a final version of a rough draft, but it does take some planning.
That detail is where the devil lurks. You focus on the final image, but instead of letting it flow organically, it’s easy to get caught up in figuring out the steps through the maze and even easier to begin worrying if the image is good enough. Could it be better if you removed this layer and replaced it with that?
I didn’t realize I’ve been doing just that until the second day of my kick starter when I wanted to copy a photo of Thing2 snuggled up with Jim-Bob. Deciding that tracing the photo would be too constricting because of changes I wanted to make, I started a rough sketch with the pencil tool. This is the point in my sketchbook, where I get lost in my subject. On the iPad, however, I was thinking about how I would do the next layer and what style it should be. As I began focusing on potential mistakes instead of just creating, my devilish inner critic stirred, and the firefly light flickered.
I started the second layer, determined to focus on progress, not perfection. The result was something new for me along with the recognition that discovering when not to use each tool in your art kit can the most important thing you’ll learn.
One of the facts of country life is that other critters live in the woods with your pets. Snoop, our fat black feline god of pleasure found out in August that fishers weren’t as easy to escape as bears, and we saw him no more.
We all mourned him – especially Thing2 who spends more time on the floor with the animals than anyone else in the family.
The house mice tried to feign sympathy, but there was no mourning period in the nooks and crannies behind the walls. We knew we needed a new mouser.
Thing1’s girlfriend’s (yes you read that right) family owns a few barn cats who, in addition to being excellent mousers were prolific breeders this summer. So a few Saturday ago after I got off work, we decided to see if any of the kittens could be coaxed into the slothful life of a housecat.
We had two semi-willing takers (bribed with a bit of catnip) and named them Lady Jane (because she was so grey and seemingly dainty) and Gentleman Jim who seems more like Jim-Bob now.
We got them home and Jim-Bob promptly swatted Katy-the-Wondering-Dog’s nose, confirming her opinion that cats are freaking crazy and making us wonder if a barn cat could be happy as a housecat.
It took them less than an hour to convert.
Jim-Bob unlocked the age-old wisdom of cats that tells them that humans are bad hunters but excellent servants and sampled every lap and couch. Jane — not sure if she or Katy would be the bigger wimp — held back a bit, waiting until bedtime to snuggle up with the human of her choice (Thing2 in this case).
There’s something magical about an animal that can live in the wild but still prefers to occupy the laps of very unmagical humans. I don’t know if it was magic or just the vibration from the purring, but it didn’t take us more than an hour to realize how much we had missed having cats, even if only for a month or two.
It’s December, and school is out. I have homework over the break, and work never stops. Still, this is close to recess as I normally get. And recess is time to play.
I used some of my December bonus to buy an iPad Pro and a pencil, thinking it might be faster to trace illustrations and to scan them in and clean them up in Photoshop. In the long run, it will probably be faster. In the short term, however, it is been an excuse to play just for the sake of playing. I have generated five or 10 iterations of the first page of my book, not making any progress and yet, making tons of it.
After three months where every moment of my life was defined by functionality, sometimes being able to make art just for the sake of art is progress.
I had paid my booth fee for the summer so it was free to setup my tent with my notecards at the summer market yesterday.
There were a few bigger events in the area so our corner of Vermont was quiet for this stage of the summer tourist season. It wasn’t the most profitable morning, but as I sat across the street from the Episcopal church in Arlington, I was sure I could see the leaves of the maple tree in front of the churchyard cemetery changing color.
It marked the first official day of autumn for me — an unexpected and pleasant little bit of something that cost absolutely nothing.
One of the fun things about self publishing a children’s book is that in addition to the many hats you get to wear (I love hats) as writer, illustrator, layout girl, and official chocolate tester, you learn a lot about the rules that govern the creation of many books your own kids read.
Did you know, for example, the standard length for children’s books is 32 pages? The standard was established by Beatrix Potter and her publisher Frederick Warne as way to get the most pages out of a single sheet of paper. It was an economic decision that stood the test of time.
As a writer, illustrator, naturalist, and well-known rule-breaker, Beatrix Potter has been an idol of mine for some time, and as I’ve been laying out the Truth about Trolls, I had to decide whether or not to follow Beatrix’s guidelines, or make my own rules for the modern world. Remembering that my own kids never argued about a story lasting longer, I ended up deciding it was better to stretch the text over a few extra pages and pictures.
I’ve read many books to my kids over the years, never thought to check the word count. The modern word count is about 250 to 1000 words depending on the age of the kid. Many of the classics such as The Giving Tree or Sylvester and the Magic Pebble are much longer, settling on a word count was a tough decision. In the end, I trimmed it down to as close to 1000 words as possible, and, as the illustrations take shape and help tell the story, the word count continues to shrink.
Ultimately, walking the line has been less about following or breaking rules and more about listening to the story. Hopefully it’s what, in 2017, Beatrix would do.
We’re vacationing this week in southwestern Michigan along the great lake. I had big dreams of spending the week painting the water and the weather which never fail to inspire. Thing2, however, was also inspired. The absence of glowing screens combined with an abundance of immediate and extended family helped Thing2 rediscover the joy of corralling parents and grandparents into card games and rounds of Monopoly highlighted by rules he makes up as he goes along. When we finally got down to the beach, I was happy just to soak up the surroundings. I did a few quick studies and photos of things that may become paintings later. I’m starting to think, though, that the most important part of painting the landscape may be actually experiencing it — and the rest of life — while you’re in it.
I finally caught a glimpse of high summer as I sped home from craft fair yesterday afternoon. The crops at Earth Sky Time community farm in Manchester, VT are thriving but also reminding me how quickly the summer is getting away.
I love to stop and ponder the headless statue whenever I go over to Bedlam Farm, the home of bestselling author John Katz and artist Maria Wulf.
This weekend I was there to participate in their semi-annual Open House, celebrating Rural Art and the creative spark that lives in all of us. I love the Open House because you can’t get up the driveway without running into an old friend and fellow art junkie, but this year there was something deeper to love, and it gave me a clue as to what might have happened to the pilgrim’s head.
As happens with every Open House, people from all walks of life and points of view came together to enjoy the art. Throughout the day I overheard people praising the work of others. Sitting under the apple tree on a wicker love-seat, I heard one visitor contemplating reviving her creative life as another enthusiastically encouraged her. We watched sheep herding and listened to kids relatively new to this country sharing their musical talents with a damp-eyes audience.
This weekend ended up being, for me, about nurturing the idea that the things we have in common–the things that bind us–are more beautiful and powerful and than those that divide us. There seemed to be a mass mutual recognition that our creative sparks are worth fanning and when we come together to encourage people’s gifts, we are all better.
That thought kind of carried my head into the clouds as I sat on that love-seat on Sunday, and I realize that’s probably what happened to the little pilgrim statue at Bedlam Farm too. I think he found himself at the altar of creativity (featuring a recycled art sculpture by Ed Gulley) and, keeping his feet on the ground, let his head get lost in the clouds as he chased his own creative spark.
It’s a worthy pursuit, and I think all of us who had a chance to sit near the altar this weekend went home full of sparks to nurture and share.
What started as an exercise in learning to storyboard a kid’s book for The Truth About Trolls has morphed into it’s own project–a way for me to laugh instead of cry about the eternal black hole that is T2’s room.
I’m almost done inking the drawings for “Dweezil’s Perfect Plan.” T2 has been happy to contribute his Defcon 5 messy room — one of the perils of encouraging creativity in your kid — for me to use as life model.
The plan after the inking is to convince T2 that it’s time to move to Defcon 1, but as the past few weeks have shown, even the most perfect plan can produce unexpected results.