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A few more rescue scans of stuff headed to the recycle bins.

I often really like a small, quick sketches on a page of a sketch book. Sometimes it wasn’t even the focus of what I was doing on that page.

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I like ‘rough’ art. The mistakes, the signs of struggle. The coincidence. I’ve always like the improvisational aspects of work in a sketchbook.

 

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Below are rough page layouts and character designs for a counting book I did. This never sold, but I created a dummy from it that I showed in my portfolio until I had published work.

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ideas

One of the most common questions an author, cartoonist or illustrator receives is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

This is somewhat straightforward to answer when you are contracted to illustrate a manuscript. I literally was handed a story to illustrate. Granted all the visuals must be created, so you are definitely generating visual ideas that must come from somewhere, but you have the architecture plans in hand – the manuscript.

John Cleese has lots of great quotes about creativity and ideas.

“We get our ideas from what I’m going to call for a moment our unconscious — the part of our mind that goes on working, for example, when we’re asleep. So what I’m saying is that if you get into the right mood, then your mode of thinking will become much more creative. But if you’re racing around all day, ticking things off a list, looking at your watch, making phone calls and generally just keeping all the balls in the air, you are not going to have any creative ideas.” ~ John Cleese

I recite an answer to the question of where I get my ideas when I give talks, which sounds much like every other author’s answers I’ve ever heard. And I think I began to believe it. It makes it sound likes it’s a discipline. Like you can take Idea Generation 101 at a university where you practice and develop and study and craft creating ideas. NO. You craft and refine and revise a manuscript or a sketch – which is based on an idea that comes from…????

When looking back on things it’s easy to think we see dots connecting to create an outcome. I think we mostly create those dots to fulfill a preconceived notion of ourselves. For those very same ‘dots’ could produce an infinite number of different outcomes. That they resulted in any particular event is simply a product of odds. So the looking back and pretending to know where an idea generated from is a comforting fiction we tell ourselves so that the world continues to unfold in an orderly action-reaction state.

A few weeks back I was sitting in the waiting room of a local athletic club. I was tired, a little bored, thinking about what I was going to make for dinner while I waited for my daughter to get done with swim team practice. And I was writing/doodling in my sketchbook, which I do all the time. And a story simply developed from a few sentences and a quick sketch.

I have NO idea where it came from. And of course no idea if it’s any good. But if I continue to revise it and if it is submitted to editors one day, I will follow up on this post.

But the fact is – I see no logical reason for that story to have appeared in my head at that moment. I hadn’t been working on it. It doesn’t have to do with swimming… it was totally random.

So much for knowing where ideas come from.

You read that headline right. Here in the US, National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day is May, 15th. 

cookies_monster

I’m a big fan of cookies, especially chocolate chip cookies. I spent many years working in a bakery. The 4:30 AM shift wasn’t bad when I was 19 years old. I can’t quite imagine it now. I made crosisants, breads, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls and lots of other stuff, but my favorite item to prepare and bake were cookies. I made many a cookie in those days (usually in huge batches of 5 or 6 dozen, monster size cookies) and still do (but now in far smaller batches).

Of course there are lots of recipes online for variations of the standard chocolate chip cookie. But I am partial to the old Tollhouse one, sans the walnuts.

I created a special illustration for the day. I might make a few t-shirts too.

Oh, you’ll be hearing more about this as it apporaches!

And here is a little background on the infamous cookie from ABC news last year.

A few more drawings that I scanned as they are on the way to the recycle bin.

More character designs for a show that never made it on air.

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Sometimes it’s just a page from a sketchbook with odds-n-ends that I like and it’s hard to get rid of.

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hair

Anxiety dogs me. Will anyone like my work, why are my drawings so tight/or too lose? You’d think I’d be a better speller by now, will anyone like my new manuscript, will I need another root canal soon?

Much of my anxiety is about work. Maybe its the same for you. I guess it’s an issue of control.

I don’t feel like I control much. Even my hair on my head. I mean, it’s MY hair on MY head. But it pretty much does as it pleases.

True I can resort to extremes when I need to – I can have it cut. That’s how I wrestle it under control.

When I comb it – it just laughs at me. I can put Dapper Dan in it. That may work for a short bit. But my hair still does what it wants. Everyone who knows me is used to seeing me and wondering if I ever comb my hair. I do. I try to get it to behave. But short of shaving it all off, it will do what it wants to do. So if I can’t even control the hair on my head, what hope do I have in controlling ‘real’ issues?

Many times it’s best to just go with it.

And that’s how to keep anxiety at bay.

I’ve been cleaning out my studio. And filling the recycle bin. Filling and refilling the recycle bin. Wow.

Animation timing sheets and countless reams of old drawings have been collecting dust for too long. I saved a few things and scanned a few others. I spent hours going through character designs from old animation projects, odds and ends from sketchbooks (I was keeping way too many old sketchbooks for some reason), life drawings and random pieces that were no doubt the start of something great, 18 years ago…. I pulled out a book dummy or two. But I must have thrown out at least 80 pounds of paper. It will take two or three weeks to get it all in the recycle bin.3

You can’t keep it all. You just can’t. As I finish all my work digitally now the only physically tangible aspects of a project in progress I have are sketches and roughs. These past 10 years I have held onto way too much.

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I’ll post a few scans of stuff along the way.

 

hmikb

Are there REALLY hidden, deep messages in kids literature? Are they intentional or are they brought to the work by adults accustomed to looking for meaning? You can read the article on hidden messages in kids books by Hephzibah Anderson online at the BBC.

It seems to me the more explicit the intention of a kids book the less intriguing the book is. And yet everyone LOVES a kids book with a message. Tastes change through the years and the overly moralistic tomes I ran across as a kid are definitely out of favor. And yet the vey best books in kids lit can always be read on multiple levels. But that’s not just a sign of a good book. It’s a sign of great art.

When it comes to fantasy books another interesting question is how important is the delineation of good vs. evil? How much real world nuance does a reader of any age want? George R.R. Martin (decidedly NOT a children’s book writer) enjoys setting his characters up to face decisions where there is seemingly no RIGHT choice and the results are always unexpected (impossible to clearly foresee) much like the twists and turns of our lives – although these days our life decisions usually involve less swordplay and dragons (unfortunately).

Check out the article. It’s a short read and interesting read.

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