I am thrilled to be part of an illustrator's blog tour. By following the connecting links, you can read about many different artists who are all connected in a wonderful line! I was tagged by Stephen Ingram; here is an example of his delightful work for his current project, The Cowboy Kid.
I'll answer the same series of questions as all of the others.
1. What am I working on?
At this moment, I am juggling many different balls. I am getting ready for my first semester as an Assistant Professor of Art and Art History at CUNY LaGuardia Community College. I am working on private commissions (you can read more about some of those below, and stay tuned for more). I am finishing up my first picture book dummy, Lore and the Little Star--trying to decide which drawings to make in color!
Two more are in loose dummy mode: There You Were, and Monster Ark (Written with my brother, Josh). Another picture book manuscript is still being written. It's tentatively called Big Hair: An Autobiography. I'm always looking to add little drawings to my shop. I'm also working on some series of images for my art dealer (see post Little Lost Things, below) and am brainstorming for a big series to start in the next few months. More on that later.
2. How does my work differ from others of this genre?
Well, I am always striving to get better and to keep learning. That's one exciting thing about coming back to art: I feel as if I have infinite room to learn and grow. Facebook and YouTube are sources of so much information to keep me learning, even when I'm inactive. I take courses at school and online, as well.
That being said, so much of today's art is digital. I was trained very classically and never took to the computer. All of my work is done by hand in some sort of drawn medium. I don't paint very happily. It's too wet. I much prefer the control of dry media. I've come up with some techniques for colored pencil that I think are quite unique in picture books, and I hope some publishers feel the same. It's different from so many artists who work in watercolor or digitally, and to me, it feels very hand-crafted. I'm an art historian by training, so I like techniques that look old fashioned.
I also love to work in black and white, and sometimes with a small pop of color. I hope this sort of work will be appropriate for interior illustrations in middle grade novels.
I am happiest when my pencils are in a big jumble when a picture is underway. However, I do try to keep quite organized with my colored pencils to save time and to help with color choices.
3. Why do I write what I do?
That's a good question. My most completed manuscript, Lore & the Little Star, started as a drawing, Bedtime Stories. The drawing was my longing for so many things...friends in this big city, the woods, the rich black earth, the stars that I can't see here in Queens. And magic. So I wrote my own fairy tale. I grew up on those stories of wonder. They are not all sweet. They are not all macabre, though some are both of those. I like the archetypes and formulas there, the sets of three, the repetition. So I imagined myself back in Germany in the time of the Brothers Grimm and wrote my own. There's no magic and no fairies. But there are some pretty cool talking animals and a pretty brave little girl.
My other stories come from points of inspiration. There You Were is a sort of prayer and a love poem. Monster Ark was my brother's brainchild; we worked on it together. And Big Hair? That's real life, but not really, how a story should be. Right now I'm writing faster than I can draw. I draw very slowly. My illustrator friends think I am a perfectionist. But I'm not perfect.
4. How does my writing (and drawing) process work?
My writing process is really just me on the phone with my brother. We bounce ideas off each other. Some stories have come easier than others. I find it's been just as hard to whittle a story down to hundreds of words as it was to write a dissertation of hundreds of pages. They are completely different types of effort, to be sure, but both can seem herculean at times.
My drawing process consists of getting someone to pose for me, making sketches and thumbnails, and laying out compositions on the computer. I transfer drawings on my Light Pad lightboard to good Arches 140lb hot press paper, when I'm working in color. It's not good for graphite but excellent for colored pencil. Then I draw in many layers until I'm done. My trusty assistant, Ludo, sits under my studio as I work.
I also get really inspired by books and by artists, so I surround myself with work I love. Here's some pictures of my studio.
I'm passing the torch to Jess Polanshek, a Vermont-based illustrator whose work is very whimsical and inspired by the landscape of her beautiful home. You can find her website here.
This past month we had the pleasure of traveling for the first time to Alberta for our niece's wedding in Calgary. After the wedding, we spent three nights in Banff National Park, driving north first to Jasper, then south along the Icefields Parkway to the Columbia Icefields, and then further south to the town of Banff. The drive was gorgeous for hours in every direction. We stopped to see turquoise mountain lakes, a shade of which I've never before seen in nature (like Peyto Lake, pictured below), and pale icy glacier fed rivers.
We hiked in canyons and down stinky Sulfur Mountain. The air was so clean and beautiful in the cool, piney mountains. It was a balm for the soul.
Above: the Snow Forest near Peyto Lake.
Left: Canoeing on Lake Louise on Canada Day, at dusk.
We also saw lots and lots of wildlife: a female moose, a black bear, herds of elk, deer, big horned sheep, mountain goats, and types of squirrels we don't have here: red squirrels and ground squirrels. I knew I wanted to make a pendant piece for my Brementown Musicians, but in colors that would remind me of the beautiful Alberta landscape, with animals we had seen on our trip. So here it is!
Below: "Oh, Canada!" Pencil and colored pencil. Copyright 2014 Jessica Boehman