An illustrator’s life can be precarious from day to day. Getting up every day and – on command – having brilliance flow out of your head, down your arm, through your fingers, and onto the page. Right ... it does happen ... occasionally. Some days it flows like water. Other days you couldn’t extract it with a crowbar.
I’m certain that writers feel the same way. There’s nothing quite so terrifying as a blank, white page. Except maybe a blank, white page and a looming deadline ... better get two crowbars!
When the drawing does finally begin to flow, it’s not always a smooth flow ... it’s not so much drawing as it’s re-drawing ... and re-drawing and re-drawing ... (Shhh!! Don’t tell the environmentalists: I think I’m single-handedly responsible for wiping out at least two rainforests! Maybe three!) So I draw and re-draw ... get some more paper ... re-draw it one more time! I suppose most artists are never totally satisfied with every piece they create. That’s partly what keeps us prodding forward for another attempt.
But these are just those occasional “thorns and thistles” that pop up in everyone’s work. This isn’t every day ... the vast majority of my days in the studio are good! Really good!
If you’ve read my blog from August 14th, you know about the hours I spend alone thinking, figuring it all out and drawing. This is where I find joy in my work. All alone in my studio, lost in imagination, I am ...
... Creating worlds and populating them. Here is Character A and here is Character B. What will they look like? What does their environment look like? Is it based on real life? Or is it all fantasy? Are they grown ups or children? Are they related? Maybe they’re animals! How about a piano-playing mole that sings like Stevie Wonder? Or tattoo-emblazoned shark gangs that terroize the school yard? Or bees allergic to pollen! Or a dog riding a rocket into space!
... Expressing emotions visually. If a character’s mouth is covered, can you tell if they are smiling or sad? When angry, what’s happening with the rest of their body? How does sadness affect their walk? Their stance? What are the differences in the look of faces that are happy, content, amused, in love or exuberant?
... Suggesting motion with stationary images. How to keep the story moving? How to make images suggest there’s more to come? How to break the text to keep the reader turning to the next page? How to make those characters and settings live and breathe?
... Communicating abstract concepts visually. What does love look like? Peace? Danger? Heroism? Those characters ... how do they interact with each other? Do they hate each other? Are they soul mates? Complete strangers?
... Putting the whole package together. What fonts to use? How many pages to tell the tale? A color scheme? A “look”? Does the finished design and layout convey what the writer intended? Is it more than the author envisioned? Do the images complete the narrative?
... Drawing, drawing, drawing. Killing those rainforests! But, what can you do? I just keep drawing till it’s right!
... COLORING! This is the place where joy really shows up! My personal theory is that color is simply the “emotions” of the physical world. Of course, I can’t prove it. I suspect a real scientist reading that would scoff. All I know is that I can take a flat, dead, static line drawing – doesn’t even matter too much if it’s really good or just mediocre - and apply some color to it, and it LIVES! This doesn’t happen every once in a while on a random drawing. It happens every single time I do it! And every single time it rocks my world! It gets me emotionally engaged ...
Mundane subject matter is suddenly incredibly interesting!
Fictional characters become living, breathing personalities interacting with me ...
I can feel what they feel, emotionally and physically ...
I shiver when they’re cold ... yawn when they’re sleepy ... weep when they hurt ... reach for a snack when they’re hungry ... smile, frown, grimace when I’m drawing the same expression on the character!
It’s probably a good thing I’m all alone when I work! I can get a bit carried away!
But all that emotional involvement in secret times and places turns into energy that flows into the art and makes such a difference when a reader picks up a book. I’d be willing to bet the authors, the quilters and the rock hounds experience something similar. As does anyone who loves what they do!
Relish the ways God allows and equips you to serve. Never think of your contribution as too small or too grandiose. Pour yourself into that service and make our world a bit better.
And like a trusted and beloved companion, joy will quietly come join you!