Memory Sketch Challenge - or - "No Drama on Christmas"
My husband and I went to our favorite little town, Calistoga, for a pre-Christmas overnight getaway yesterday. We had a nice dinner to celebrate his birthday and the next morning (today) it was still dark when we awoke. We were both antsy to get out of our hotel room. He, to get on the road back toward home and the cats, and celebrate his real birthday. Me, to get to the local coffee shop, while it's still dark, to see the holiday lights of the sleepy town on a quiet morning. We got to the Calistoga Roastery, purchased our coffee and scones by 6:30 am, still dark. I started into my coffee, sat down at the counter facing the street, and admired the view with my childlike mind. “Oh Goody, I have time for a 10 minute watercolor sketch to capture the moment,” I thought.
I reached in my bag and realized, no watercolor kit, no sketchbook, and no super expensive iPad either. So while I sank into the pit of self loathing, I began the hard but necessary task of telling hubby I had left my stuff in the room, along with our keys, and we needed to go back and try to find and attendant before 7:00 am on Christmas eve morning. It took about 10 minutes to break the news to him, who really did not want to hear about it on his birthday. So while I hemmed, hawed, and mentally chanted “I will not leave my iPad in the hotel room ever ever again,” I also managed to save a piece of my dim brain, to admire the beautiful scenery, and in particular, Cafe Sarafornia, across the street, that happened to also be open and seeming like a very cheerful place to be, at the moment. But I was too mad to take a picture with my phone, and had to use my mental energy to figure out how to get the iPad back and make it seem like no big deal.
I remembered the wise words of a college illustration teacher, Bill Sanchez, from the Academy of Art. “You can draw with your mind, you know. You don’t always have to have a pencil.” He had spent 4 years in Vietnam without the opportunity to draw or paint. But he said he practiced in his mind the whole time, so by the time he got back, it was as if he had been painting the whole time.
Which brings me to the topic of my blog…
Drawing from Memory.
Well, we got the iPad back, and my watercolor kit too, but birthday boy was in no mood to hang around town while I tinker with my craft. So we drove directly home to the Bay Area, and the whole way out of the Napa Valley, I imagined the well lit cafe. When we arrived at our house, nearly 2 hours later, I pulled out my sketchbook, pen and watercolors, and I forced myself to sketch the moment as I could remember it. "10 minutes or less," I challenged. Here is what I got…
No photos, no reference, this is what I did from my memory.
Well, then I googled some real images of Cafe Sarafornia, CA, to see how I did. It turns out I took some large artistic liberties, and there are some serious gaps in my memory. I have never claimed to be good at memorization, and that’s partly why I went into art, not history. Alas, but I shall riff off of this moment, and challenge myself to make a portfolio piece.
Memory Sketch Challenge:
Hold on a minute. Shouldn't one of these "agonists" need to be the "ANTagonist"?
Hm.. there may be something in that.
Give me a little time, and I will see if I can come up with something worthy of my kidlit portfolio.
It’s holiday time, and you might be in the thick of it…signing cards, stamping envelopes. Maybe you’re decorating the house for a party, or making reservations for a festive meal out to spend down your profits and claim those year end tax deductions. Maybe your baking cookies for a family gathering and trying not to burn them, or eat them all before the guest arrive!
However we find cheer, the end of the year is also a good time to reflect on the year’s activities so we can be ready, come January 1, to make goals and resolutions for the next one.
So I say, the holidays are a time to stop, take a breath, relax a bit. Order an eggnog latte get our your journal and reflect…
What did I do this year?
What was it about for me?
In a nutshell, for me it was about reaching out and making space.
On the never ending journey of writing and illustration, sometimes it feels like I am going no where, especially with all the other things one has to do, like make a living.
But here’s what I came up with and I’m proud of it…
SCBWI - Not only did I maintain my membership, but I volunteered and met lots of wonderful people. Same time last year, I felt like an outsider peering in. Now I have lots of friends and I feel part of the community.
CRIT GROUP - I am blessed to have co-founded a solid author/illustrator critique group. We meet twice a month, and are all, creating, sharing, learning, and growing together. May mates are awesome and I’m grateful.
SOCIAL MEDIA - Not an easy thing for me to put my voice out into the digital ether, but I did it. I’m starting to use instagram and twitter
and now, a blog! How’s that for an breaking free of shyness. I still have much to learn, but I’m starting to catch on with all the pound signs and where to put them.
GETTING OUT THERE - I forced my self, to attend workshops, conferences and retreats….as much as I could fit, afford and manage. For an introvert, its not always easy to be around lots of people all striving for success in a tough business. But I keep showing up, and I call that success.
EDUCATING MYSELF - I am happy to say I participated in some wonderful online resources, webinars and groups. I joined SVSLearn, and The Complete Picture Book Submission System. I have learned loads about the children’s book industry.
ON CRAFT - I love to read non-fiction, so I meandered my way through these wonderful books on writing…
How did it impact my work? Well…
PRODUCTION - A silly word, but the right one. I produced some new work with all the inspiration I got from these activities and books. New illustrations, new stories, reworking old picture books with fresh eyes. I even secretly started writing a novel! Are they perfect, and published? Well, not yet, but I’m working at it and that’s what this is all about.
Those are my brags. What are yours? Big or small, every little thing counts.
I invite you to have a cookie and order up your favorite beverage, and think upon all that’s going well in your creative journey.
Have a happy day,
Michelle Rodes is an author/Illustrator in Walnut Creek, CA.