Monday, May 14, 2012

Catching Up!

What a winter/spring it has been in my studio! Fiercely painting toward a deadline, I had to say no to friends, school visits, walks, gatherings, coffee breaks. I was tied to my painting wall and made it! The interior art went to the publisher for my book When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky  on time! I will write more about that book later. I am still recovering.
I am now turning my focus onto a book I illustrated Tell Me About Your Day Today, written by Mem Fox. It comes out the beginning of September, so it is time for me to update my website (not yet, don't look yet!), put together an activity guide to go with it, put together mailings, and in general, wrap my head around a book that I finished painting nearly a year ago. That is the interesting challenge of publishing for me. Unlike theatre or circus where all of your preparation and hard work are immediately appreciated with applause and bravos, there is a pause of about a year between finishing the paintings and manuscript for a picture book. Plenty goes on in that year! I receive mechanicals and proofs from the publisher along the way, as well as f&gs (folded and gathered copies of the book-- not yet bound) and my publisher is extremely busy with preparations to market the book and get it out into the world... as am I, now that I have some breathing time. So stay tuned... lots more to come on Tell Me About Your Day Today!
Cooper catching on the Flying Trape
While I have been illustrating on deadline, my family has been very busy too. Circus Juventas just finished its annual extravaganza--The May Shows, where nearly all of their 900 students, age 3 to 21, perform in the Circus arena in full make-up and costume. The hard work of students, coaches, and volunteers is put into motion to present an astounding, amazing, and beautiful show. My son rigged up in the rafters for every show and would catch Flying Trapeze in the end! With the May Shows over, it is time to get ready for Circus Juventas' summer show: SHOWDOWN. This means it is time to finish painting the sets and it is time for Cooper and all of the Summer show performers to kick in to high gear with rehearsals and practice. So glad I made that deadline!

Oberlin Spring Back, Ruby dances!
In the midst of the book deadline, I did take a quick break and drove with my family to and from Oberlin College in Ohio, where my daughter studies dance and choreography. She performed in two dance pieces. One of them she choreographed and danced a solo in. How could I miss this? It was fantastic-- we even got to view it two nights in a row in different places in the theatre. I loved seeing the dances from different perspectives. It was also great to see where she lives and meet some of her friends. 

Deadlines can unbalance one's life, but I am so glad I took some time to see Ruby dance, watch Cooper fly. This weekend I gardened. Finally I am finding time to smell the roses again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Sendak

Eating breakfast with my 16 year old son this morning, I mentioned that I had just read that Maurice Sendak died today at 83 years old. "What?" he gasped! "That's sad. Really sad." His reaction came directly from his gut and heart and mirrored mine- one of shock followed by sadness. How could Maurice Sendak die? Ever? 
How do you thank someone you never met in real life? Maurice Sendak was instrumental to my becoming a children's book illustrator. Not just because I grew up with his books, in fact his influence came much later. After I illustrated my first book, Mud, my editor, Allyn Johnston, sent me a gorgeous manuscript, Scarecrow, I went into an identity crisis. How could I illustrate children's books when my goal for so many years was to be included in the Whitney Biennial  someday? Then an artist friend of mine invited me over for a critique of her newest body of work. Large canvases with giant brightly colored babies floating on them greeted me as I entered her studio. Though the subject was babies, it had nothing to do with children or children's books. During the course of our conversation she shared with me the early influences that drove her to become an artist. From her bookcase she pulled a huge monograph. The Art of Maurice Sendak, by Selma G. Lanes. She also made a pile on her drafting table of all of her favorite childhood picture books. These beautiful books painted by illustrators were what inspired her to become an artist. She let me borrow the Sendak monograph, which I read from cover to cover and within a week the wisdom of Maurice Sendak had assured me that being a children's book author/illustrator was a worthy thing to be. I have my own copy of this book now, along with a collection of most of Maurice Sendak's books on my shelves for inspiration when I am illustrating my own books. Looking at my bookshelves, I see that Maurice is snug between the painters Milton Avery and William Blake, with books on the art of David Hockney, Rodin, Terry Winters, and Giotto nearby. He is in good company.

"Fantasy is so all-pervasive--- I don't think there's any part of our lives, as adults or children, when we're not fantasizing, but we prefer to relegate that activity to children, as if fantasy were some tomfoolery only fit for immature minds. Children do live in both fantasy and reality; they move back and forth with ease, in a way that we no longer remember how to do. And writing for children I always assume that they have this incredible flexibility, this cool sense of the logic of illogic, and that they can move with me from one sphere to the other without any problems. Fantasy is the core of all writing for children, as I think it is for the writing of any book--- perhaps even the act of living... There are many kinds of fantasy and levels of fantasy and subtleties of fantasy--- there is probably no such thing as creativity without fantasy."
-- Maurice Sendak

Thank you, Maurice Sendak.