Recently I needed reference photos of mice. I’ve snapped bighorn sheep, pocket gophers, praying mantis, flies, fish and salamanders. Rabbits by the bucket. Squirrels by the tub. Not one mouse.
Be careful what you wish for.
My husband and I were having dinner on our porch when I heard him say “what the heck is that?!?” He’d spotted a mouse gathering spilled thistle at the base of the bird feeder. We spent the next few nights photographing and counting mice. We may have to think about a relocation plan. Or at least a little tightening up around the foundations before fall.
But how nice to have the universe respond in a moment of need. In fact, it’s been a season of serendipity. When I attended the annual conference of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators in July, I lucked into the perfect experiences.
I learned about advocating for tiny members of our ecosystem in a talk by Marla Coppolino. Her presentation gave me ideas for raising awareness of Colorado native bees and pollinators. I took home an incredible piece of artwork sculpted by Karen Johnson. I want to wear it everywhere!
Linda Feltner taught a workshop using the principles of notan – creating a balance of lights and darks, warms and cools in a composition. I’ve taken a bird workshop from Linda, and love her teaching style and her depth of knowledge about painting the natural world. Her GNSI workshop was an eye-opening exploration of composition for natural science subjects. I gained an understanding of how to situate the birds and insects I want to illustrate in their environment. I can’t wait to get started.
Leon Loughridge (Dry Creek Art Press) also demonstrated notan principles in his field sketching workshop. Leon showed us how to see the lights, darks, warms and cools in the landscape and to shape them for good balance. Something else I’m anxious to practice.
Recently, I needed some raven photographs. There are ravens just up the hill, but they are cagier than mice. I may need more than serendipity.
Today is “two-for-one” day in the studio. I’m doing two posts – one to celebrate finishing a dummy book for Noodles and the Magic Sock, and one that I intended to post back in July. July became the “month of Noodles,” and many tasks went unfinished.
Before I started the the SCBWI Carolinas Picture Book Dummy Challenge, I had a decent idea of what goes into developing a picture book. I had taken a wonderful workshop at the Denver Botanic Gardens from visiting artist and children’s book author/illustrator Dorothea Rohner. Through Dorothea’s patient teaching I learned how to direct the action in the story and how to pace the illustrations across the book. I also learned how creating the images can shape and tighten the manuscript.
The Dummy Challenge, brilliantly led by children’s book author and illustrator Bonnie Adamson, spanned 25 weeks, which seemed like an age at the outset. Bonnie’s resources and posts kept us going, as well as the perfectly timed webinars. Somewhere in the middle of things, I had that “aha” moment that comes from struggling with a project. I realized that I needed to kick it up a notch in terms of the drawings and as a result, almost didn’t finish. But there’s the final art on my desk – and a dummy filled with pictures of Noodles in various stages of adventure. I managed to work in three of my favorite Rocky Mountain animals – a raven, a bighorn sheep and a mountain lion. No more Noodles for a while – but it was fun!
Welcome to the inaugural post of chubbellart.com. This month I hope to finish the latest in my series of bird portraits. These blue jays are done in mixed media, but primarily water color. I’m building up layers of grainy colored pencil and water color in the background. I’ve used water color pencils as well. I’m working on Arches 140# hot press, and it seems to be holding up to all the scrubbing and lifting I’ve been torturing it with.
My long journey to learn the craft of children’s book writing and illustrating continues. I’m participating in the SCBWI Carolinas Picture Book Dummy Challenge. It is truly challenging. After working on character development, setting, and composition, we’re finalizing dummy sketches and creating finished artwork. My story is about a cat named Noodles who must tame the magic sock in order to get his heart’s desire. I’ve got Noodles taped to the back of my studio door. I’m using the cats as models when they can be bothered to pose. I’ve got a week to finish the dummy sketches, a month to get the final art ready, and my primary goal is to not embarrass myself when I submit everything at the end. Assuming, of course, that I’ve checked in at all stages of the challenge and finish on time. We’ll see how it goes!