A tale of career choices. A vet? An Illustrator? and Snowy the hamster....
Since I was a child I have dream't of being a children's book illustrator; well,....that ....and a vet. I spent most of my childhood drawing in my bedroom or painting at the dining room table or making sculptures out of sticks or what ever I could find in the garden.
I was also lucky enough to have a very tolerant mother, who allowed our house to be taken over by a menagerie of animals ....two dogs, 3 cats, two tortoises, six fish, 3 syrian hamsters, 16 Russian hamsters - 14 of those fall into the miraculous birth category (initially we had two and the man at the pet shop swore they were both females!!), two spiny stick insects, lots of fish, and a rat. As you can see, art and animals made up a large percentage of my childhood. It was small wonder then, that they became my dream careers. Sadly, the vet dream never materialised - I chose my subjects at school from the heart and although I loved all my pets dearly, the truth is, my heart was always much closer to the arts than the sciences.
At the tender age of eight however, the vet dream was at it's strongest - my pet hamster "Snowy" was on his last legs and I wanted to make a difference to all the eight year old girls who were about to lose their hamsters!! I remember confiding my future career plans to my mother. She did not hold my enthusiasm and was quick to throw a bucket of reality over my dreams of being the new Joy Adamson (only for hamsters and not lions). "You'd never make a vet Denise!" she remarked in her Northern lilt "Your too soft! You'd never be able to put anything down!"
And, of course she was right and I knew it. I still wonder if it could have been - but I think the welfare of hamsters belonging to eight year old girls is probably in safer hands without my veterinary skills.
So, why have I shared that with you? Well just to give you some idea about where this compulsion to draw comes from.
At the moment I am trying to get a portfolio of work together which I think is good enough/original enough to show a children's book publisher. It's something I've wanted to do for....well...... - let's just say - too long! I am trying to find my style of drawing so that I can get work illustrating children's fiction. That's the plan anyway. With this in mind, I am filling sketchbook after sketchbook with my scribbles. Fast gestural drawings, based on a character I invent in my head. Finding your style, it's an inherently difficult thing to do. I think I've spent many years trying to cultivate it - to no avail. It has recently occurred to me that I am trying too hard to capture this ever elusive style. Turns out, what I should have been doing is just drawing, and drawing and not thinking too hard. Analysing is paralysing.
I find the best way to do this is to draw a mindmap about them - giving me some background on the character. Then I set to work and draw...and draw and draw. I don't want a finished article - just a gesture or movement to store and use at a later date in something more finished. I draw with mad flourishes, pen rushing across the paper... Loosely, quickly, keeping that mindmap to hand.
A year ago I would have been embarrassed to show you these sketches. I have found new confidence in sharing work recently after taking Stephanie Levy's course Creative Courage. I liked it so much I've signed up again! But I see now that even though the sketches are roughs its all art in process. So I'm taking a big leap and putting some on here for you to see. I think it's getting me somewhere, although there's a long way to go before this transforms into a portfolio - but for now the hamsters are safe!