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Art vs. Illustration October 22, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I’ve been drawing seriously, or at least trying to, for the better part of thirty years now. While it hasn’t been my only, or even necessarily primary, method of creative expression, I’ve done a lot of it. My artwork folder on my computer, which consists only of pictures I have at one point deemed worthy of sharing, has over 500 files in it.

Most of those pictures are more or less portraits. The character(s) might not be looking at the viewer and they might be doing something interesting, but the whole point of those drawings is just to show off a character. I’ve drawn my share of scenes, pictures showing a clear story, but they’re still one-off images. I have considered and even scripted comics and/or graphic novels, but I haven’t taken the time to really attempt it yet.

Now that I have been drawing for the chapter book I wrote, however, I am starting to understand the particular challenges to actual illustration, particularly now that I have started colouring my illustrations. Up till now, it’s mostly been fun: determining visual quirks of characters the first time I draw them and extending those to subsequent illustrations, designing characters’ clothes, hair and accessories, setting the scenes I’m trying to convey. There was a challenge in keeping characters consistent, of course, and I had to consider things I’d never dealt with before, such as height of characters relative to each other, but it wasn’t all that different from what I was used to.

When I coloured the first character in the first illustration, however, I suddenly realized that I should colour all instances of that character to keep their portrayal consistent. And then as I worked further, I found myself needing to consider things that even backstory for the book itself didn’t prepare me for. Take this drawing, for example:

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All went well enough, I was enjoying the way it came together as I coloured each character over the course of a few nights, and then I got to that breakfast bar. What colour should the counter and the cupboard be?

I hadn’t put much thought into it at that point, but suddenly it became a crucial issue. I knew what colours the characters may favour, but they live on a space station. What would the counter and cupboard even be made of? An aluminum counter top is easy enough to decide upon, but what about the cupboard? Trying to answer that question only spawned more. Are these characters the first ones to live in this apartment? Because there wouldn’t be wood or drywall on a space station, and I don’t think repainting would be likely on a space station. How old is the station? Because that’s going to determine whether this is a new apartment or if they’ve moved in to someone else’s design choices. What would the walls be made of? Because that’s going to affect their colour, and so the design elements in the kitchen.

I hadn’t even considered these things while developing the story. I probably never would have if I hadn’t been trying to answer a simple question regarding a background element to a single illustration in the book. And this is only a taste of it; I have several more illustrations to go. What other issues may crop up as I work through the rest of the drawings? What else might I discover if I went on to write and illustrate more books?

It certainly makes for an interesting, and fun, challenge. In a way, I’m also a little saddened, because I have to, and I want to, focus entirely on Sisters of Chaos book 2 after I’ve finished with this book, even though I already have some ideas for another book. I’m also enjoying creating the art for this book, as time-consuming as it might be, too much to consider letting someone else illustrate for any possible future books. This has been a very fun process, weaving art and writing together in a way in which each affects the other, and I hope to get the chance to do it again before too long.

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Never ending stories August 24, 2018

Posted by thejinx in art, writing.
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I have some news to announce. The good news is: I’ve written a new story.

The bad news, of course, is I’ve written a new story.

Followers might wonder, so recently after I announced my intention not to write other books until I finish the Sisters of Chaos trilogy, why I suddenly wrote an entirely new book.

In short, I wanted to write a story for my daughter.

I’ve been wanting to write a story for her for years. But, as a SFF author of 100,000-word novels that lean more toward the grey side of the grimdark/noblebright scale, I found picture books just a bit too far outside my normal scope to attempt. Now that she is reading chapter books, however, I find an opportunity to write a story for her much more accessible.

I also made a realization recently. I hadn’t even considered writing a kid’s book before finishing with my trilogy, but it occurred to me that if I wait until then, she might be of an age when she can just read my regular work, and I’ll have missed the opportunity.

So, I sat down and wrote her a book. World, meet Mia:

mia

She’s nine years old, Hispanic, and lives on a space station.

Chapter books are still barely longer than my standard short story, so I was able to write out the entire book in a couple weeks. I still have some editing to do, but hopefully, the story won’t take much longer to finalize. The real holdup will be illustrations. Much as I would love to have someone else handle them, I just don’t have the budget for it, and I think my daughter would appreciate me drawing them myself.

Soon, I hope, I can share Mia’s story with the world.

To Boldly Go July 28, 2014

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As a mother of a now 3-year-old daughter, I tend to watch a lot of movies aimed at young girls. And my daughter fits the trope perfectly – her favourite things are princesses, faeries, and My Little Pony. She more or less came into these interests on her own; I didn’t really let her watch movies or TV shows until this year, and when I let her sit in front of the TV, she has pretty strong opinions about what she wants to see. Yes, we might have been the ones to originally introduce her to these things and allow her to continue watching them, but I try to offer her a well-rounded selection to choose from. And I’ll admit it, I just don’t want to let her watch something I can’t stand.

Oh, sure, there are exceptions – she likes some gender-neutral things like Winnie the Pooh, she has seen and enjoyed Thomas the Tank Engine, she does have a particular interest in Disney’s Planes, and she loves watching me play Mario Kart – but primarily, she likes the girly things. In fact, when it comes to Mario Kart, she insists upon me playing a princess as driver.

I don’t think Disney princesses are bad role models. Nor do I want to try to mold her into liking the things I prefer; I would rather she decide on her own what she likes. (Yes, this means I do not believe that putting Star Wars or Firefly costumes on kids far too young to be watching those is “parenting done right.”) But after watching so many of these movies and shows targeted to young girls, I find myself yearning for some variety. Why can’t we have a simplistic, kid-friendly story with a happy ending that takes place in present day, or the future?

So the bug bit me. I want to write one. I want to write a middle grade or younger story about a space princess. Or something like that. I want the main character to be female, because there’s not enough of that out there and I want it to be someone my daughter can relate to, and I want her to be independent and the hero, but not at the expense of her femininity. I want little girls like my daughter to read/hear this story and think that girls can do anything.

But beyond that, I didn’t know where to start. I got stuck trying to think of the theme or message of the story. I don’t want it to be about the girl learning that she can do anything, because then the conflict would center around the assertion that she can’t, which is not the message I want to send. But then, what should the theme be? I tried looking to my daughter for inspiration, but – fortunately for her and unfortunately for the sake of a story – I just don’t see any problems in her that might help to be resolved through another medium. Maybe I’m just overthinking things, but as someone who tends toward dark endings, complicated conflicts, and villains that are more grey than black, a story like this is quite a leap.

Then, my daughter gave me an idea in another way. I was listening to music and she asked me what song was playing, as she tends to do. It was an arrangement of a track from the Metroid video games. I immediately saw this as an opportunity. I showed her one of my Metroid game cases and told her about Samus Aran, fearless and strong warrior for justice in space – and female.

And I was overthinking things, because that’s all I need for this story: a space heroine. I’ll just go to a new galaxy and let the girl save the day. The rest is just details.

It’s still going to be quite a challenge for me to write, especially if I want a story I can read to my daughter. But just as I believe there’s too much stagnancy in speculative fiction for adults, I think too many kids’ stories are the same, and the best way I can combat that is to write something new.