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Baby steps

I’ll admit that I was floored by the quality of  the essays turned in for our “Epiphany” contest.

The deadline was Wednesday. Contestants were asked to compose an answer of no more than 400 words to a rather broad question, “What’s the major discovery you’ve made or the biggest insight you’ve learned this  year in drawing or painting, or marketing yourself as an artist in the children’s publishing field?”

The winning essay would net its author a terrific video course by illustrator and teacher Will Terry,  How to Illustrate Children’s Books.

Collectively the submissions gave me fresh insight into the readers of this blog. I already knew that many of you are illustrators or artists and love children’s literature.

I didn’t know that so many are writers — good,  analytical, thoughtful — eloquent in several cases — and practical-minded language handlers. These pieces were a pleasure to read.

The answers were so good that I can hardly wait to publish them all here.  I feel a pushing sense of urgency to get them out to you. But it will happen steadily over the coming weeks.

Tonight we’ll publish the winner, by Maya Scharke of Quebec, Canada with its theme of doing, but doing bit by bit.

Epiphany by Maya Scharke

A glimpse into the mind of an artist…oh how quickly the wings flutter, perhaps as  fast as a hummingbird hovering  around gooey artificial red syrup. It seems to churn in the middle of the night, in the early morning, over granola at breakfast, during quick skis in the woods, and most often in front of a warm fire with a glass of wine.

The flurry of activity in my mind is analogous to that of a newly filled bird feeder on a cool crisp day, it scurries, dips, dives, spins and circles. I have often found myself looking into my mind, or that blank canvas saying, “Wowza, what should I do next? I have so many things to do, so much to learn!

Do I develop my story ideas through gesture drawings, do I practice my perspective skills, do I work on character design, or value painting, or brush up on my figure drawing, or, or, um, or…oh boy, Wowza, what shoooould I do next?” I suspect these feelings of confusion that stem entirely from sheer excitement to ‘do’, often overwhelm many of my fellow artists in the same way. I have found it often translates into blocks of anticipation rather than productivity.

This can be stifling, especially when life doesn’t produce many windows of time to deliberate! This type of activity in my mind has forced me to step back, re-evaluate how I quantify my productivity, or should I say qualify my productivity. I mean doesn’t it all contribute to the ultimate goal?

The spinning and thinking and especially the heartfelt, ‘deep in your belly’ emotions experienced for loving the creative process, it has to count for something!?! It must, I really do believe it does! Therefore, in hopes to  practice what I preach,

I have made a pact with myself to approach my expectations of productivity differently, to focus on the overarching aspiration and contribute to that with baby steps.

Open my sketchbook every day, try out new techniques, plan time to move my creative projects along, engage in discussions about art, and really make the ENTIRE creative process a part of my everyday life.

So, that’s it, my epiphany, my insight, lift the pressure and just create! I encourage others to do the same. We don’t know what will come out of it but you can  guarantee satiation, sheer satisfaction, and contentment from fulfilling such an intrinsic desire.

About The Author

Mark Mitchell

Award-winning children's book author-illustrator Mark G. Mitchell teaches classes in watercolor and children's book illustration at The Contemporary Austin Art School in Austin, Texas. He's the founder of Marks & Splashes Learning.

4 Comments

  1. Marta

    Maya, your essay resonates with me. The only reason to create is joy. Even if no one ever sees my art, it has filled me with love and a passion for life. What more does a human need?

    Reply
  2. Dawn Blair

    Maya, a very good essay. I often encounter the plague of “What next?” too and yes, if I just jump in and start doing rather than thinking about what to do next I’m much more productive.
    Congratulations.
    Great pick.

    Reply
  3. Ben

    I am unable to subscribe to your feed. I think your RSS may be having trouble. Would you kindly email me when it’s fixed? Go ahead and delete this comment, too. It was my quick way of contacting you. Thanks!

    Reply
  4. Amy Burrell

    What a beautiful essay! I am an illustrator and to be author. I am diving into the world of writing and illustrating my own book something I think many illustrators look to do at some stage in their careers. Follow my blog and see the steps and resources I use. http://childrensbookcreation.blogspot.com/

    Reply

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