I can’t believe it’s 5:22 pm and I haven’t blogged yet. Usually, I have this thing up by mid afternoon at the latest. But not today. All apologies.
I find myself still wrestling with how to do the illustrations for this book proposal. Every time I think I’ve figured things out or found a clear way forward, something pops up and I’m back to square one. Needless to say, it’s very frustrating.
The biggest issue is what medium to use for the illustrations. Each medium has its advantages and its drawbacks. Where I gain a little of this, I lose a little of that. Considering I’ve spent the last decade doing one thing, living with a well established set of advantages and drawbacks, suddenly having to discover and then evaluate new media takes me out of my comfort zone. Of course, we all know that getting out of ones comfort zone is a good thing, but it’s a serious pain in the butt when things remain unresolved.
Take today for instance. I’ve been working with the black and white acrylic paint on gray paper, trying to make it do what I need it to for the panels on the illustrated page. While things continue to look good, there’s stuff that paint simple can’t do. A good example would be small figures as background elements. Once a figure gets to be about an inch or inch and a half tall, it’s too small for the paint because paint is a thick, globby medium. That means I can’t design any illustrations with much going on in the background, which limits my vision of what I can do. It is frustrating. I have to re-imagine everything. That’s not a deal breaker, but it does take time and energy.
I decided to try another experiment, taking a sheet of Dura-lar, which is a clear plastic, placing it over a drawing, then tracing the image with an etching needle into the plastic, then filling the scratches with ink so as to give the appearance of an ink drawing without actually laboring to do so. In the world of printmaking, this is called intaglio. In the world of my illustrations, it is called another failed attempt.
Being frustrated, I made a few paintings, which got a little closer to what I need but were still not there. Being ever more frustrated, I decided to try pencil again, though this time instead of scanning it, as I have done in the past but with poor results, I tried photographing it and then Photoshopping it. The results were better, but still not good enough. Plus, it still took too long. So I went back to the drawing board, this time with ballpoint pens which I knew weren’t good enough to work but I was so desperate to move a single inch forward… Another twenty minutes spent, another failure.
One of the aspects of my personality is that once I get a project in my sights, I’m pretty much going to hammer away at it until something breaks. Usually, the break is a breakthrough and I can bound forward knowing I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing. This time around, I wonder if I’m the one who is breaking.
There’s a line in the Tao Te Ching that keeps popping into my head. Now, like all good Taoist philosophy, it lives in a gray area, where today’s correct interpretation is tomorrow’s grave mistake. But it goes like this “When two great forces oppose one another victory will go to the one that knows how to yield”. So, I’m sitting here wondering what the forces are in this struggle with illustration and how I can be the one to yield, because after all the time I’ve put into this thing, I’d sure like a victory.
Clearly, I need to spend sometime with that quote in mind as I survey all the crap I’m doing for this project. With all the changes coming to my world: the daily paintings, Box Books, having a social life, looking for fulfilling employment, etc., the battle I’m fighting with this book is different than the ones I’ve had in the past. If I’m to win this battle, I’m going to need to know when to strengthen my resolve and when to give in. Lately, despite all my experimental failures, I’ve maintained a pretty stiff upper lip but it might be time to let some things slide, to yield a little, and see where that gets me. It’s not like I have anything to lose.
With that, it’s time to end today’s post and today’s time spent banging my head off the drawing board. I put in my time. Whether it seems like I’ve made progress or not is hardly important. Progress was made and tomorrow there will be more.