Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Visual Storytelling

Storyboards from my graphic novel?


Sometimes, constraints on time are useful and good things come out of it. The past few weeks, I've been taking an excellent visual storytelling class at UBC, taught by Sean Smillie. The class is ostensibly for my "day" job to do with transmedia storytelling, but since we are supposed to have a story ready to go for the course, I've had to come up with an idea for a graphic novel on the fly. It's called True Migration. I confess, I've become somewhat attached to it.

It's kind of sci fi/fantasy, although I'm struggling with how to distinguish it from all the other post-apocalyptic stuff out there. But I have kind of fallen for the characters I created and I want to see how their stories play out. I could play it all out in my head. But maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of my long-awaited graphic novel. Long-awaited by whom, you ask? By me, my good reader. Only me.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tell Me Your Process



I get asked a lot about my artistic process. It's nice that people are interested, but I'm often confounded by this simple question. Aside from being happy that people are interested in this at all, I often also feel like I'm explaining the process to myself as well as them.

I was never one to sketch out first drafts carefully; I've always been messy and probably impatient. I remember I once had my good friend at art school tell me when I could progress from the draft to the final. "Not yet!" she'd exclaim as I'd sheepishly show her my sad sketches. I love my friend for her help, and yet this process never worked for me. The end result was always stiff and alien to what I wanted to achieve. Plus, it was just never good work.

I was always more comfortable building things. At art school, some of my best work was done in 3D projects and in painting class. I liked to feel the progress through my fingers, feel the emotions of making it, become immersed, get messy. In contrast, when I tried to create more polished illustrations, I failed in spectacular ways. A turning point for me was when an instructor told us not to fight ourselves. We are who we are, we do what we do and art school is not meant to change that. What we perceive as our weaknesses can be strengths and make us stand out. Unfortunately, this advice came a little late for me in art school, but I have never forgotten it and thereafter decided to throw myself into my messy, wild ways.

As such, I have long abandoned polished first sketches. Of course, if the client wants them, I'll do them. But they aren't really sketches. I approach them more as finished drawings. The actual sketches the clients never see. Am I tricking them or myself? No answer to that. Anyhow, if it's not required, I skip this step and go straight from rough thumbnail to the final.

It has always been crucial though, that I see the final product in my head. I must have an idea of what it should look and feel like. If not, it's like I'm flailing about in the dark. Sometimes, this vision comes to me as I sketch out rough thumbnails. Sometimes it comes to me in the shower, or as I research the topic. But that is where the process starts for me. In my head.

And then I feel it out with my hands. I prep the paper, put down layers of paint and build on those layers with more paint. I have a collection of paper I've painted on, sorted into different colours. I rifle through these, select what I want and cut out shapes. I draw on them and move them around until I'm happy and glue them down. Then I use pencil crayon, ink, and anything else I feel like. This is how I build rather than draw or paint. That's why I do collage.

Ultimately, I'd love to experiment with other media, maybe even experiment with using less types of media within one piece. And I should add that I am in now way married to this style of working. There are parts I cannot change, but if I find a better way to execute my work that also jibes with my natural inclinations, then I will use that method.

So that's it. My process. Now I understand it a bit better myself too.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Babe in the Woods

I'm so excited to have completed my first kids book illustrations. The book is called Forest Baby, written by Laurie Elmquist, and published by Orca Books.

The book is about a mum and baby going for a walk in the forest. It's a lovely story, describing the things they see, hear and feel. Strangely enough, the job came along while I was on maternity leave and my son and I would often walk by the lake or in the woods, just the two of us. So when I read Laurie's story, I felt very connected to the material. Also, I conveniently had large quantities of reference material to work from. 

Serendipity at work, I guess. Sometimes life is just like that. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

A Scary Project

Many things are not as fun after having a child. Things like drinking, staying up late and going out to eat. But other things become more fun. One of these is Halloween. At least, this is true from my point of view as the mother of a little baby. I'm open to the possibility it becomes less fun as your child ages and grows into a teenager.
But all that aside, I'm so excited for Halloween this year that I'm almost sick. To celebrate, I'll be doing one spooky doodle a day for the month of October on my instagram at Shantala_Robinson. Please check it out. I'm not promising they'll be good, or even scary. But they will be Halloween-y.
Update: I had to abandon this project due to a paying job that came in. Between that and caring for my none-month old, I dropped the ball. I know: excuses, excuses. But the job is very exciiting! See my next blog post!

Monday, September 5, 2016

When Things Just Don't Turn Out

Sometimes my artwork just doesn't turn out like I want it to. No matter how hard I try, my fingers simply won't create what I see in my mind. Like someone wasn't paying attention and a memo got lost somewhere, or someone else got sloppy on the translation. I suspect this happens to most artists, but my style of work lends itself most particularly to the phenomenon.

I never have much of a sketch in place before I start. I remember an old artist friend once gasping in shock when she saw I was about to start a final painting. "Not yet!" she yelled. And then she made me sketch some more and only let me start painting when it was ready.

I appreciated her efforts, but since then I've been taught a very important lesson from one of my art school teachers: don't fight yourself. If you have a style of working, go with it. Otherwise, it's a long and losing battle. So, I use my intuition, and go with it. I feel that I "build" my pieces more than anything. I can complete a piece quickly, and achieve a layered and textured look because of this. But it also means I do have many, many failed pieces of artwork. I'm like Frankenstein with his monster. Sometimes I keep these monsters to be used as surface for future experiments. Mostly, I just bemoan them. I had a couple of these monsters lately. Here they are.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Beast Within



If you could be an animal, what would you be? I would want to be something that flies, probably more like a bird than a fly. 

But that's really just something I think about when I look at these pieces. It was not my starting point. It's just that I spend a lot of time thinking about shapes. And these are shapes that I saw in some paintings. I like Rembrandt's hat, too, and I always wanted to copy it. There's a lot to be learner when you copy great works. Like what requires a light touch, why something was placed in a certain spot, and how subtly colours were used to create depth. And so on. 

Anyhow, I'd probably want to be an eagle.



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Oedipal Complex

I have an Oedipal complex.

Because I can't bloody finish my graphic novel about Oedipus. I keep rewriting and redrawing and choosing a new style and a new platform. And who really cares? Really. Absolutely no one except me.

Maybe I'm stalling. That's it. I need an app or something. Some large, wall-hanging calendar that I can write on and that shouts at me and nags me endlessly until I get it done. Where can I get one of those?



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