Friday, November 9, 2012

#PiBoIdMo & #SkADaMo Week 1 - Mad Woman On A Mission

Ask my family. I go through change kicking and screaming. Change is good. I get that.  If you aren't changing, you aren't growing.  If you aren't growing, well, then you are dying on the vine.  I get it, I get it, I get it...but I still hate going through the process.

This year's SCBWI-Carolinas conference left me clinging to the tee-tiniest little tendril on that vine.  I'd felt like I'd grown so much!  I thought I had my big girl panties on when I sat down for my portfolio review with that AD from that publishing house.  Little did I know I was gonna need a diaper by the time she was through with my work.  I wanted to go crawl in a hole.


How could this be?  Didn't I just win Third Place in this year's regional art contest?  Wasn't I proud of the work in my portfolio?  Weren't friends going ooooo-ahhhh when I posted pieces on Facebook and my blog?

Then came the agent rejections: "Although I like your children's faces I feel like the true Jennifer Bower style is still emerging.  Work on being more consistent with your characters."

And another: "Your work is nice but you appear to have several different random and haphazard styles going on. I don't really get a sense of who YOU ARE as an illustrator....................................."

So what does all of this have to do with the month of November and PiBoIdMo and SkADaMo. Writing and Illustrating are more than just about writing and drawing - but about problem solving.  This first week of participating in both challenges made me realize - I am my own problem.  As I drew daily from the PB ideas I'd written down I saw for the first time what others, in the industry, were seeing.  A SCHIZOPHRENIC STYLE!!!!!!

I had 7 days of sketches that all looked like they had been done by a different hand.  How does that happen???  I'd worked for HOURS on that horse, only minutes on the zebra, the magical golf playing princess looked like my alter-ego took over that day, and the pink firetruck at the county fair looked like I had regressed back to age 3.

I realized something...

In my race to finish - to get to that prized goal of 'full-time freelance illustrator' status I had not taken the proper time to really know me & exercise my own style of illustrating, in private, before plastering it out for all the world to see.  I've been like a middle schooler in PE trying out for every sport with a ball...only I was trying on every style of illustrating that I loved and admired in others.


So in my PiBoIdMo notebook along my scribbles and doodles I found myself writing notes. They look something like this:
1. Loves nostalgia.
2. Loves rural life.
3. Has always felt like she was born decades too soon.
4. Could live in cowboy boots if you let her.
5. Has loved more pets than people.
6. Loves watching people.
7. Has a potty mouth and a wicked sense of humor.
8. Is a very linear processor and thinker.
9. Loves asymmetrical order.
10. Is easily overwhelmed by too many choices in the deodorant aisle.
11. I am a minimalist by nature and hate knick knacks.
12. I am an introvert with a huge case of social anxiety.
13. I get too caught up in the abnormal need for affirmation from my peers...and influence by too many voices other than my own.
14. Loves old b/w movies.
15. Loves anything from the 1930-50s.

In a few simple bullet points I saw the makings of a mission statement.  By writing out the mission statement I suddenly realized I had a FORMULA to follow based on my 'passions' and my 'strengths.'  I knew with clarity how I wanted my lines to look.

AND THEN I GOT EXCITED!!!!!! And then I drew THIS...


That's 'Red', the Irish Setter my Dad had as a kid. *pets*  He has been talking to my 13 year old a lot about growing up in the 1950s. *nostalgia* I love the simplicity in this small composition at the bottom of my Moleskin notebook. *minimalism* I love the stylized geometry of shapes. *linear/asymmetrical* - [do ya'll see where I am going here?]

From my list I am able to clearly see the direction I want my work to head and begin to build the resources I need to help me succeed.  Here are some of this things I am doing (or have done):
1. Pick a singular color palette and stick to it.  I've chosen 'Atomic Age' colors based on my passion for Mid Century Modern illustration, Vintage Golden Books and the colors I tend to pick anyway. I just narrowed down the palette.
2. Deleted the last three years worth of blog posts. WHY? Remember, I don't like clutter. I need a clean slate. I need to move forward. Those posts of trial and error were like dust bunnies lurking in the corner. They embarrassed me in some weird way.  I felt the need to clean house and say, 'See. I am no longer neurotic."
3. I wrote a NEW 'About Me' statement based on my mission statements & I changed my name.  Jenn Bower.  Succinct and to the point.  Easy to remember. Easy to find.  Affirmative. Next year my website name will follow.
4. I am taking my time with my sketches because that is how I roll.  I am a processor and sloppy copies just don't work as well for me.  They make me feel too out of control.
5. I deleted out a lot of my online accounts.  What the hell is an introvert with social anxiety and an incessant need for affirmation doing with all of those online accounts anyway????  Not enough drawing, for sure.
6. I wiped out my portfolio of everything that I had even a 1% doubt about.  They are not time wasted but tenure earned in the process of creating my style.  I've learned a lot of what I am NOT ABOUT through their trial and error.

and finally,

7. I am not giving up.

*I promise that this is my last long-winded post, ever*

25 comments:

  1. Wow, Jenn. I started following you because of KidlitChats on Thursday nights. I just noticed your comment on Kelly Light's PiBoIdMo post and was going to encourage you not to go to the New Yorker (unless you want to), but yowza! you sound determined and focused. And courageous. Good for you. (can I borrow some of that?)For what it's worth, I like the retro chic above. Best Wishes.

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    1. Thanks, Joanne. I am trying to just let go and follow where ever the path leads me and listen to my own inner voice. You can borrow as much as you need. It is nice to know I somehow inspired.

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  2. I concurr with #7 - don't give up!!!

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  3. Good for you, Jenn. Sounds like good advice for anyone who is trying to figure out their style of illustration. Figure out who you are first.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I just needed to take a step back and work with myself in the quiet, for a bit.

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  4. I have been an architect, city planner, toy designer, art teacher, and now children's books illustrator. I totally understand the concept of a schizophrenic style. There was a time in my drafting days that I could draw anything with a straight edge. Then as a toy designer, my drawings became very cartoony. Now, after illustrating an entire pb, I am figuring out how all this comes together to create my style. I am hoping SkADaMo helps me figure that out. I like your lists. I may look at my drawings to figure out the consistency or inconsistency and go from there.

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    1. That is so funny. My degree is in Interior Design so I can relate to the 'draw anything with a straight edge' and you know what, that is okay. I also had to take a look at what I LOVED about my interior design. It was the space planning and not so much the decorating. It explains why I don't enjoy or tend to 'stylize' or decorate the backgrounds in my illustrations.

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  5. Absolutely inspiring...Glad to see you write this :)
    Although not a typed list, I've mentally taken note about my style and direction. It's helped me focus :) Maybe a typed list where I can see it will be even more helpful!
    Thanks...and you already know I love your work and your style!

    Deb

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    1. Thanks, Deb! I am so blessed to have your friendship. It is amazing how we are all growing together. Yes, writing it down gives it even more clarity. I can go back to a sketch and look at it and ask 'does this fit with my mission and vision'? If not, I know the sketch is not ready to take to the next level. I may not end up being as prolific, but I will eventually become more consistent.

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  6. Wow, you have really inspired me! Although there are many joys to be had, this is a tough business. So if flying in the face of the hard knocks and getting stronger, you are definitely a winner! I love the work I've seen so far, so I'm sure that whatever you evolve it to will be wonderful!

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    1. Thanks so much, Linda! It is a touch business but I am finding that I just can't 'NOT' do it. There are only (3)things I've remained passionate and committed to: my daughter, my animals, and illustrating.

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  7. Wow!!!! I am overwhelmed by all the wonderful comments. I felt badly that the post was so long and so personal. I truly didn't expect anyone to really read it all. It is inspiring to know that so many others can relate. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

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  8. I love Red! So cute. It must take a highly trained eye to be so critical. I think *thought* I could recognize your style through the illustrations you have posted! :) I love your work! Had to laugh at #5... sounds so much like me. xo

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    1. Hey, Jennifer. I isn't so much that I didn't think my style was recognizable, I just haven't felt it was marketable. It wasn't to a point where it would capture the eye of the publishing houses. You know that nagging feeling you get in you gut when you know something just isn't quite right? That is always where I am at with my work. But, I am getting closer.

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  9. I really like your mole drawing! I'm not a trained professional, but I can recognize your style. But, you go Jen, sounds like your're on a mission and determined! Great post (I like the long post), I like how you compiled a list and everything! And I love the Not Giving Up!

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    1. Thanks Missy! I think are artists were always pushing forward in some way or another.

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  10. Jenn,
    I am re-reading this post again (in between pain pills) and it really sinks in. I have been trying to ride the wave so to speak of recent conferences and a new website, social media and so many other sources that keep you going, but without continuing to learn & grow we can't float.

    I'm really hoping to attend the NY SCBWI conference in February, and signed up to take Joy Chu's class online about picture books. Also going to be working with a consultant in March to learn of other directions to branch out to like licensing as well as sending out postcards and material to publishers, etc.

    But at the same time I'm rereading 5 different books on Children's Illustration, and anatomy, form, and a couple of other great books to help the skill and continue growing. Your work is amazing and I've heard from some people that you can never stop learning and growing... no matter how talented you are.

    I hope many great things come your way and thanks for sharing such a raw view of your experience, it really made me take a second look as well.

    Good luck,
    Kelli

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    1. Thanks so much, Kelli! I've really been overwhelmed by all the responses to this post. It is not easy for me to lay it all out there like that, but wow, if it helps others along the way than it makes it worthwhile. You have a lot on your plate. Don't let it pull you away from the really important work, drawing. Can't wait to see and hear all that you learn. Hope you are feeling better every day.

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  12. Thank you for this post Jenn. I found it by way of Linda's SkADaMo challenge. Very refreshing to read such an honest account of your thoughts and experiences.

    I just wanted to quickly say that you are not alone in your endeavors. I have been thrashing around in the graphic design wilderness for years when my first love is picture making. Consequentially I grab any illustration gig that comes along which usually means adopting a style the client wants/needs (at insulting pay rates) just to feel like an illustrator so I am now so schizophrenic I have no clear idea who I am as an artist or what my personal "style" is.

    So all that to say your manifesto is very encouraging and inspiring. Thanx for taking the time to share your heart-felt thoughts. I wish you the best of luck and suspect we all will see your work in print very soon.

    Never give Up! -k

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    1. Hey Kevin, thanks for the great comment. I am glad that in my sharing others can relate. It makes the journey feel less lonely. I hope you find your personal style too!!! Best of luck.

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  13. Not to beat a dead horse but I just ran across this link you might want to check out: http://blog.jilliantamaki.com/2012/11/on-drawing-and-illustration-and-the-difference-between-the-two/

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    1. So ironic. I'd actually read that blog post a few days ago. It definitely made an impact. Thanks for sharing it here so that others can read.

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  14. This post sounds all to familiar to me...reading this is making me go back and sort through my own work and see if I can reel myself back in. Thank you!

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