JOURNEY TO ILLUSTRATIONWhen I was ten, I read the Lord of Rings and knew that I wanted to write my own books. By the time I was twelve, I knew I had to also illustrate them. All his life, J.R.R. Tolkien regretted that he was not more of an artist. I have worked hard on both careers, but this is the first drawing of a person i did at twelve, to begin. I kept it to mark my beginning. I erased the mouth, knowing it was wrong. I show this to people to show them that we all start in the same place.
I drew like a maniac for all my school years. I had an art teacher in 8th grade who tried to show us how to draw faces. I went wild with this, and did several hundred drawings. I kept my first drawing after this instruction and one of my later drawings done a year later. And that was it. I never received any more useful instruction for over twenty-five years!
By the time I was in my early twenties, I had achieved a kind of level of drawing through brute force. I had read some books, had some classes, but I was in an expressionistic time where few wanted representational art. I was also under the impression that you had to draw from imagination or you were only copying, which was illegal. I used no models, and very few references. I thought that you had to remember what you saw and draw it from memory. I did not know that no one did this, I only thought I was a failure as an illustrator! When I cheated, this is what I could do at this level. This was from a photo of a friend.
I want to say that then along came Elvie and David, but not before I spent years doing large work to get me out of cramped pen and ink work. I did pastel paintings when my husband gifted me with art supplies for Christmas. I started working with photos of dancers, trying desperately to overcome the anatomy problem. I did almost 70 paintings, then found I couldn't show them because people didn't like nudes. At this point, I was keeping two out of three paintings. This was more than keeping only about one out of ten from before. I would like something and then see the flaws, which ruined it for me. I met David during one of my shows and he agreed to take me into his gallery as a salesperson.
One of the girls I worked with was in an art school run by a student out of Chicago whose teacher had been a student of John Singer Sargent. We went to her student show and David realized that I was crying. He had never seen me show much emotion, and he realized that I wanted, more than anything else, to go to this school. He paid for it and let me work it off in commissions. Elvie thought I was bonkers. He rarely had anyone in his classes who was so intense or driven.
Then we had to move. We moved four times across country, finally going to Oregon where my son lived. Out of work, I tried to get work doing illustration for small press. I was doing over 30 illustrations a month and grossing about $500. But doing this much drawing got me past all my hangups. It's amazing how many hangups we have. I just had to sit down and draw, anything and everything. Most everything was in pen and ink, since that reproduced well. It was tedious to do, but most of what I did on the computer did not have the organic feel that I like in my work.
And it was published, good bad or indifferent. Finally, I'd had it. My son needed money for college and I went back to work, promising myself that I would only draw my own work. My son then challenged me to do my own graphic novels.
I could not get past the ink thing. I hated it. I would have a good drawing and the inking changed it. I began to look at graphic novel art and I saw the same thing. The drawings were spectacular, but I did not like the heavy look of the inks. Good inkers are underpaid, believe me, but the publishing process make everything look too heavy for my tastes. Even a "wash" in crowquill was too heavy unless artificially lightened.
I could not say no to clients. I began a long multi-novel project and figured out that I could not continue to do everything in ink. Even adding in mid-tones still took too long.
I had a breakthrough scanning the pencil directly into the program. It was messy and hard to clean up, but I had at last the soft textures for which I was looking. Despite the clean up, this work took almost a tenth of the time!
I found the same thing in my graphic novels, which were failing badly. I had begun three times only to finally abandon the project.
After the move to pencil and leaving the traditional comic layout, the rest flowed easily. Rather than taking three years for each comic and being unhappy with the results, each novel took nine months for 200 pages.
I'm extremely happy with the pencil.
And it works for other books as well.
The move to pencil also surprised me in another way. I could move to color without the problem of painting. If the drawing was good enough, the color would be easy.
What is the very best is to have waited all these years, tried so hard, failed so much, and at last be able to draw anything I can imagine. It is a blessing and a great joy.
© 2019, A.R. Stone