A new year rolls out ahead, ready for us to make our mark on it. I’ve been making fresh tracks in my studio using charcoal to draw the chatty neighborhood crows, the reclusive rabbit in the hills nearby, and the acrobatic backyard squirrel who hangs artfully from our grapevine in August, his cheeks stuffed with grapes. I made a print of each of the animals, and painted textured paper for an imaginary snowy landscape. Then I went on an adventure, mixing all these elements together. Voila! Fresh Tracks. Where are your mark making adventures taking you?
Dancing and twirling to the music of a choral octet, and then falling down with glee, the children in my illustrations got into the spirit of UC Berkeley’s Free Fall All – musical venues around the campus free to the public. I was waiting in line to see the free concert by The Alexander Quartet. Cal students suddenly showed up and entertained the waiting crowd by singing a cappella. These kids showed up too, and were wildly enthusiastic, getting into the music with abandon. Their “in the moment” shenanigans inspired the illustrations, which started as chunky charcoal drawings in ocher, and evolved with color and collage.
Recently, I gave a presentation of my picture book, Smelling Sunshine, at the wonderful Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley. It’s hard not to fall under the store’s spell with quotes like this on the walls,
and when the staff make you feel so much at home.
The night before my presentation, I read this reflection on public speaking by Terry Tempest Williams from her book, When Women Were Birds:
“…and in those few minutes before a group of people, my instinct says, Bolt now, there is still time to escape. But then I pause, look around the room, find whose eyes are present, and orient myself like a compass, remembering that words are much stronger than I am. I take a deep breadth and sidestep my fear, and begin speaking from the place where beauty and bravery meet…within the chambers of a quivering heart.”
That insight, some preparation, support from friends, and a wonderful community audience made the talk so much fun.
Smelling Sunshine: book release!
Smelling Sunshine, the picture book that I wrote and illustrated, published by Star Bright Books, has just been released! Smelling Sunshine is a story that creates a path through various cultures by describing one world doing an ordinary chore of hanging laundry that becomes extraordinary in its personal nighttime comfort. Kirkus Review said, “…when it comes to domestic chores, hanging laundry is about as universal as it gets, and the activity is presented here as an intimate, positive experience for parent and child to share.“
So check it out! And think about supporting your independent bookstore; indie bookstores build community in your community http://www.indiebound.org/ You can also order from the publisher http://www.starbrightbooks.org/details.php?id=411or from amazon http://amzn.com/1595726365
Find out more about how Smelling Sunshine was made by clicking on The Next Thing Blog Tour, here on this blog page.
If you live in the Bay Area, join me:
· Saturday, November 9th, 12:00 PM at Depot Bookstore in Mill Valley, 415-383-2665 for a booksigning http://www.depotbookstore.com/
Saturday, February 1st, 11:00 AM at Mrs. Dalloway’s Bookstore in Berkeley, 510- 740-8222 http://www.mrsdalloways.com/for a presentation and book signing.
Discover the difference between a rough sketch and a finished illustration, and find out more about how a picture book is made. Listen to a reading of Smelling Sunshine and pick up a free bookmark!
Hope to see you soon. Happy reading.
I recently asked subscribers to my newsletter to draw a cat, suggested the line and shape method of drawing for those who mistakenly think they can’t draw, and promised to post the cats on my blog. So here are those fantastic cats. Some people used the line and shape approach shown on my Fun Stuff page, and others made up their own. Herding cats has never been so much fun!
Manar Hassan drew her “Grumpy Cat” on her IPad.
Tristan Volpe’s cool cats.
My cat running amuck.
Thanks to everyone for tangling with your inner cat(s) and showing us your wonderful drawing skill!
You can find information on the following cat owners who are artists/writers: Kieren Dutcher, cat in moonlight kierendutcher.com, Kathy Wills, the thinker kwillspaint.com and Judy Clement Wall, friendly cats www.judyclementwall.com
Drawing is a performance –
It is one time then and there
Of the moment
As an act of creation is.
Charcoal is a medium I’ve used for years, but never with such abandon until recently. I draw with willow and vine as well as compressed charcoals in stick and pencil form. Last year I picked up compressed chunky charcoal measuring 3” by 5/8”. That’s when the fun started.
All of the charcoals have varied tonal ranges, allow for a variety of line, and feel like an extension of my arm. This is especially true of the chunky charcoal which, because of its size, insists on grand sweeping gesture. I find myself drawing with my whole body. It feels like a dance when I draw this way.
Using various sides of the chunky charcoal, I make marks that express the movement or gesture of the subject I am drawing. Gesture drawings are done quickly without attention to detail. Precision is not the nature of gesture drawing. Capturing movement is.
Many finished drawings start as gesture drawings. The two charcoal drawings in my last blog ( Aimless Love, The Wideness and Wonder of The World) each began as a gesture drawing.
Leaving a track of the act of drawing is a story in itself; the stops, starts, and restatements (draw overs) add energy to a drawing. Whether musical or otherwise, performance is one time, then and there, of the moment*. So begin your performance: find a subject, some chunky charcoal, and make your mark.
The epiphany of the everyday: chunky charcoal.All drawings: © Constance Anderson