A few months ago I started working on illustrations for a children’s book called “The Blues Owl”, written by Vancouver author Shahar Ben Halevi. It’s a completely new kind of work for me, I’d never done illustrations before, and it was also a whole new way of thinking. I hadn’t worked on art directed to kids as the audience, and I certainly hadn’t read any children’s books since my kids were little, which was quite a while ago. But when I read the story, I knew right away I wanted to do it. It was magical.
So I stepped into the magic, admittedly with some trepidation. I love doing art, but whimsy is a whole other thing. The work I normally do just doesn’t operate on this level. I’m not even sure how to describe it to differentiate it from this project. But the paintings I usually do come from another place. I’d like to say a deeper, more contemplative place, but I’m not sure the children’s book isn’t that also. Maybe they are both magic, just different kinds.
Anyway, I have one scene left to do for the book and then begins the marketing. But it’s been a lesson in collaborating with another artist. Not my favourite thing, I’ve discovered. It’s a huge stretch to listen and try to incorporate the vision of another person and meld it with your own. Not easy. I didn’t realize how much solitude had become such a big part of my work. And in the process didn’t realize how hard it had become to even see another person’s vision. Not a good place to get to, and I know now that the solitude needs some balance.
The other part of this which was a lot harder to access was the whimsy. To say that I am not typically a whimsical person would be an understatement, at least not when I am in painting mode. But like children do, making art for children forced me to access a part of myself that may have gone dormant for a while…that fun, free, lighter part of me that often doesn’t find its place in the world, and gets tucked away for reasons of survival.
But oh how good it was to discover that the whimsy was still there! The adult me had not let the inner child go completely into a coma, thank G-d. She was still there, waiting. And what a pleasure it was to bring her out to play again. I’m still going over how much this project has taught me and how much just having a little fun can open up so much more creativity.
If you’re a career artist of any kind, and you have the opportunity to collaborate with another artist, go for it! So much the better if they are not practicing the same art you are. It will stretch you, frustrate you, and occasionally make you angry. But it will also be deeply satisfying, very rewarding, and incredibly affirming that you can still step outside the box with your art and make something completely new. The variations on it are endless. And what a ride….
Thank you Shahar for the opportunity to join you on this adventure….