Illustration Iteration

The idea of being an illustrator always scared me to death. But when I recently wrote up a list of “what I would do if I knew I could not fail,” I put down “Illustrator.” I was shocked to see it written there. I’d been running from illustration my whole life. “No! I couldn’t do that,” I always said. I always thought that an illustrator has a picture in his/her head and then puts it down on paper. Flawlessly. The first time. I don’t know why I thought that, but I did.

So now that I’m thinking about it a little more realistically (I hope), why not be an illustrator? Wow, I would love to do that! I have always loved children’s book illustrations, spot illustrations, magazine illustrations. You name it. And it’s closest to what I do. Haven’t people been telling me, “Your work is really more like illustration, isn’t it? Did you ever think about being an illustrator?”

But it still scares me.

I am exploring illustration ideas now. My first idea was to illustrate poems that I like. I thought I could maybe do a dozen or so and then put them all together into a hand-made book. Might as well give it a try.

Please know before you look at these drawings that I am being VERY COURAGEOUS by sharing these. The first one is terrible. Truly terrible –and the reason why I’ve always run (screaming? yeah, maybe) from Illustration (with a capital “I”). I’m not too happy with the second drawing either, although it is an improvement. The last two are just small thumbnails to try out some color and slight composition variations. The second of these… sigh. I like it. BUT…

RoughSaturday BWStudiesForSaturday StudiesForSaturday


But what, you ask?  Well. It’s a thumbnail. And I like it. And I’m afraid to try to do it again on a full-size (or even half-size!) sheet of paper. Because how can it be as good as the thumbnail? Okay, so the thumbnail is not a masterpiece or anything, and yet I’m attached to it. I’m too attached. I can’t seem to let it go. And that’s the problem right now. I need to let it go so I can make another. (And another. And another.)

Why do I find this so gut-wrenching? Is this normal? Do you go through this?

By the way, the poem is called “Saturday at the Canal” by Gary Soto, if you’d like to look it up.

“What do you do?”

I have hated to answer this question when I’m out and meeting new people. Here’s a poem I wrote in the last five minutes of my writing time today:

When someone asks you, “What do you do?”
Don’t tell them “Mom.” Don’t stare at your shoe.
Look them in the eye and proudly say,
“I write and draw and walk and pray.”
Don’t let their looks of doubt prevent
Your smile and power; don’t explain what you meant.
Stand by your words and, loud and clear,
Display with your body your lack of fear.
Plainly express, “I am what I do.
And now –your turn– who exactly are you?”