Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Artist's book done!

After somewhat frenzied work over the past two weeks, my artist's book of Mac and his Monster has been delivered to the MS Society. Yay!

Now I have to reverse-engineer the creative process in order to write about it and use those pieces in the final-final of Dancing with Monsters. This is one of the longest processes of my life. It looked something like this:

The Mess/Inspiration: fairy tales and the discovery that writing in that format can help me describe and resolve an issue with which I'm struggling. I knew the MS by itself might or might not be a monster, but the MS combined with what my unhealthy thinking patterns do with it IS a monster. I wrote the story and used it in my Master's colloquium and some speaking gigs. (So there's a creative process for the story inside the creative process for the artist's book.) I knew I wanted it to be illustrated some day, but by somebody good (i.e., not me).

Incubation: I waited around for the perfect artist. I made a sketch of Mac that I liked, but thought I wouldn't be able to draw him in movement. I didn't draw the monster, because what you can't see is scarier than what you can see. I talked with Alexis (then seven years old) about it. "But, Mommy, you DO have a style." More waiting/avoiding.

Technology advanced, as did my level of disability.

Illumination: Taking (eventually) Alexis' advice, I drew the Monster using Illustrator software, scanned and collaged paint textures onto it, and added the (scanned) original sketch of Mac. I still thought illustrating the story was beyond me.

Elaboration/Communication: Motivated by a comment from Jenna at the MS Society ("It'd be great if we could have a book of it."), I decided to do an artist's book. (Meaning a hand-made, one-of-a-kind production.) I pulled out a hand bound blank book I had made more than ten years previously at a book binding class. My hands are too disabled to make it now, but I decided to consider the project a collaboration with my younger, more able-bodied self. The number of pages in the book determined how the story was to be divided. I made a list of illustrations.

Then I went shopping. I am not much of a shopper, but we had to get some supplies for the puppet team at church, so we went to the art supplies store. Due to the rise in scrapbooking crafters, there are lots of cool specialty papers available in variety packs. I bought a bunch with Mac and his monster in mind.

I started working on the computer: drawing in Illustrator, coloring in Photoshop. On the computer, I can search for reference photos (someone holding a baseball bat, for instance) and use them in creating the drawing. I have dozens of scanned pieces of paintings that I can use to color parts of the piece. I decided to leave Mac black and white and have the world around him colored until the last, full-color illustration.

I made about ten illustrations for the book and printed them on watercolor paper. I also printed the text of the story. I collaged the book together, tearing the illustrations, story prints, and art papers. I love tearing. I love the textures of a tear (the torn-from edge looks different from the torn edge). I love the lack of control tearing introduces. I love that it shows where I was trying to control the uncontrollable and failed. So I tore and pasted and then painted much of it with Mod Podge. When I was growing up in the 1970's all the craft magazines featured projects with Mod Podge. It's still around and you can choose your finish. I chose Gloss-Lustré

I had counted wrong, of course, and had to make another illustration in the midst of pasting. One of the "spreads" was two text pieces without an illustration. Maybe I like to work to deadline because it helps me overcome my perfectionistic tendencies. If I had more time, I could work for perfection. This will have to do.

I am mostly happy with the product. I am thrilled to have done it. If it survives the show (it's probably the height of conceit to think someone will walk off with it), I'll get photos.

Now I have to take these notes and gussy them up.