Saturday, July 28, 2018

Shout Out Saturday: All Is Assuredly Well

Checkout this great convo with Professor Gore and illustrator Angie!

Professor Gore: Good morning, my beloved Artist Angie.  It’s 3:00 in the morning, an hour or two before I usually wake up, but about the time you’re going to bed. Our radically different biorhythms have been one of the interesting things for me about our working together.  I head for bed at 9:00 pm, just when you’re getting cranked up for a night of work. I know you don’t get 'coffiefied' and awake until around 11:00 am, and that’s the end of my prime working time.  But we can talk about that later.

Let’s start at the beginning.

After months and months of looking through artists’ galleries in Hot Springs, Arkansas, searching for THE ILLUSTRATOR, and finding beautiful work but nothing that fit what was in my head- pre-Raphaelite illustrations that looked like stained glass- I walked into the Arkansas Episcopal Diocesan Convention in Little Rock and saw you.  A tiny, elfin woman with a huge pit-bull/mastiff-looking therapy dog.  You were surrounded by a tri-fold display wall of pre-Raphaelite illustrations that looked like stained glass.

Joy by Angie

I was terribly ill- you’ll remember that I lost my entire colon six weeks later in emergency surgery- but I froze in my tracks when I saw your work and whispered a prayer, “God, now I get it.  You sent me- sick as a dog- to this convention not to help raise money to send prisoners’ children to camp, but to meet our book illustrator!  Thank you!”

Mesmerized by your work, unable to stop staring, I stumbled to a chair and sat down out of the way while you talked with customers. I continued to stare at your work.  I think I was drooling on my tweed jacket.  I waited until the vendors’ hall cleared. Then I walked up to you.  I said, “Please sit down.  I want you to read something.” You looked a bit frightened but sat down.  Your dog glared but didn’t aggress at me. Then I handed you my computer and said, “I want you to read this story.  It won’t take long.”  

You furrowed your brow in apparent confusion, but read it, handed my computer back, and said, “It’s beautiful.”

I handed you a check for $500 and said, “It’s a children’s picture book.  I want you to illustrate it for me.  I’ll pay whatever your fees are.  I have inherited some money and can afford it.  Here’s a check to apply to the last picture you paint but go ahead and cash the check now.  I’m giving it to you now so that you know I’m not some sort of flake with big promises that she can’t keep.”  You looked stunned when I handed you the check.

Then I said, “I’m not asking you to work for royalties that may or may not ever materialize.  I will assume all the financial risk.  I want to own all rights to the paintings, and I will pay you when you finish each one by return mail as soon as you send me an invoice.”

You looked at the check in your hand and then up at me.  You said, “My daughter is a gay and is legally married.  They have a new baby.”

“Then you’re in?” I asked.

“I’m totally in,” you said.

What was going around in your mind as we talked?

Illustrator Angie: The year I met Millie was the second diocesan convention that I had participated as a vendor. I wasn’t sure if I could make it through because of my chronic complex migraines which makes me at my best an unreliable participant.  On a good day, I have approximately 3 to 4 hours a day that I am functional.  I wasn’t sure that I could make it through an 8 plus day then another partial day even with my service dog to help me. Since light, barometric changes, temperature changes, loud sounds or strong smells can make my headaches much worse, I wasn’t even sure that I would be able to handle being around people. 

I had noticed Millie looking at my artwork several times, and I began to think that she might buy a piece of artwork.  So when she came over to my booth with her computer and asked me to read her story, I was very surprised.  I think said something to the effect of “of course.”  I looked at her and said, “This is beautiful and reminds me of C.S. Lewis’s work.”  I think that surprised her, but not as much as she surprised me when she told me that she wanted to hire me.

We discussed my concerns about my erratic health as well as my artistic abilities.  My headaches can cause me to lose the ability to think, speak, draw or many other things.  The year before I met Millie I had lost the ability to draw any type of object that requires recreating an object with any realism.  In fact, I had to relearn how to draw the human figure.  A skill which I still struggle with; a skill I may never completely regain.  Millie was and still is very understanding of my ever-changing life and artistic abilities. 

I have found that working with Millie very rewarding even when I labor to recreate what we planned, changes discussed or 

remember what symbols I used in a picture – lol.   I have and do enjoy our ever-developing friendship.

  Two of the artworks that I had at the Diocesan Convention, the Annunciation of Mary, and Joy (above):

Annunciation of Mary

Professor Gore: Angie, one of the first things I learned working with you was that you couldn’t see the pictures in my brain.  I had nebulous, yet definite pictures in my head of what things looked like after living with this story for years.  The Blue Star, the landscape, the sky, the outside of the castle and the king’s throne room.  Of course, I had clear pictures of the king, Don Carlos, and Milliflora.  

First, before I made the first-weekend trip to stay at your house, we hammered out the three people.  King Phillip was first, and you got him right on the first try.  You used your husband as the model, and his face was perfect.  I saw the king shorter and heavier in my mind, but the King that you produced was perfect, and I was able to make the height/weight adjustment in my mind.

Then we went into our protracted period- maybe two weeks, maybe three, with you sending me sketches several times a day- trying to get Don Carlos right.  I wanted him to look a great deal like Maestro Wilson (although my husband says he looks exactly like Arnold Palmer!), yet not be the maestro, and I sent you photos of the maestro and other men to blend with his features.  You did rendering after rendering before you had him nailed, and I think I called you and hollered, “You’ve got it!” 

I could sense your frustration sometimes over the phone.  I felt like you wanted to throw in the towel and quit.  I wanted you to know that I believed in you, and I knew that eventually, you would be able to create the face that lived in my head.  My heart wouldn’t let me compromise on this because Don Carlos was so dear to me.  

Then we started on baby Milliflora.  Once again, she lived so clearly in my mind that I couldn’t compromise until your illustration matched it.  You had me get a Pinterest account so I could send you pictures of babies like her.  Seems like I looked at hundreds and hundreds of babies, and you tried over and over to match what I had in my brain without being able to see in there!  

Then one day, you nailed her.  And you made her even more wonderful because you put blue and purple in her hair.  I’d told you that when she had a strong emotion, her hair changed color, and since her mother was the Blue Star, it would go in that direction.  You told me that she needed to have blue and purple in her hair from her creation.  How right you were!  

I don’t remember at what point I came to Blytheville to spend two days with you so we could rough out the page layouts.  Getting to spend time with you, and then again when I came later for two more days, helped cement our bond.  But we still had so much work to do.

I remember being surprised but delighted when you sent me the various stages of the first painting, the landscape with the marvelous sky and the darkened castle.  The star, sky, landscape, and castle were all different from what I had always imagined. 

I remember that you made a blueprint of the inside of the castle.  I was surprised but delighted.  I thought, “Of course she’d want to know how the castle was laid out inside!  She thinks in pictures!” 

I quickly realized that your mind’s visual images as an artist were always going to be superior to my mind’s visual images as a writer.  Maestro Wilson and I wrote the story, but you brought it to life by your illustrations.  Once the three people were true to what I imagined, I had to let you illustrate the book with your vision.  

I also remember that I had told you that I wanted Jan Brett-type borders on every page, yet I imagined the same border on every page; I didn’t know what the border would look like, only that it would be there.  You, of course, gave every painting its own different border that perfectly complemented the illustration.  I was delighted.

What I’m wondering is, what was it like for you when I would say about Don Carlos or the baby, “No, that’s not what he/she looks like.  This is right, but that is wrong.  I like this, but that’s way off.  Can you make this more like that?”  

You never lost your cool with me, and I knew that as a professional, you knew that I was your client and I was paying you to make illustrations that were what I wanted for the book, and yet, it must have been frustrating for you.  Can you tell our blog readers about that?

Artist Angie:  Millie – I remember feeling being blocked by the loss of my drawing figures plus that skill had never been my strong point.  When we were working through Don Carlos and Millieflora, I had begun to think that this project might be beyond my capabilities; and yes, I had wondered if I should refund your money.  I also recall contemplating that at least I had made a good friend because we seemed to think so much alike.  I don’t make friends easily; in fact, I have a few close friends.  I do have many friendly acquaintances.  I was of course very relieved when we initially captured both characters’ likeness. As for not losing my cool, I have always believed that my art is important to me; however, I have also maintained that it is not who I am.  I was always more frustrated with my incapacity to translate your works and/or vision into an artistic rendering.

I also, as you know, have believed that my art skills are guided by God.  Subsequently, each picture I create is a free-flowing ever-changing; and that I never really know where it will lead.  You have always been most gracious concerning that aspect of working with me.  I start with a general conception then let the piece develop.  I am sure my process must have caused some angst for you.  I also remember being astonished that we were able to do this all by email and phone calls whit only 3 face to face meetings.

I also remember our surprise when we realized that using metallic inks I use created a challenge for scanning the original drawings.  It never occurred to me that the glass and “glitter” would reflect light back causing the illustrations to be blown out in places.  Wow, what a learning process that turned out to be. It has also created a search for a new non-reflective drawing medium this summer.

Professor Gore: What Angie is referring to is that she used ground glass paint for the complexions of Don Carlos and Baby Milliflora.  We didn’t know that the super-powerful scanner at the printing company would see right through the glass paint or else reflect the light back in some way so that what we ended up with gave Don Carlos and Milliflora the same complexion as King Phillip.  We were stunned when we got the short-run of a hundred books to send out for reviews and the faces were all the same color.  We went ahead and sent them out because we needed reviews to put on the back of the book, but we were in shock. 

Finally, I told the printing company what the problem was.  I sent their graphic artist photographs of Angie’s paintings of Don Carlos and Milliflora and asked if she could correct the color of their bodies throughout the book.  She was able to, and  Angie and I both breathed a sigh of relief.

Angie sent me her renderings every day or two, and here they are with the exception of the correct final cover and the wrong one.

Here is what we got on the first run when the scanner obliterated the glass paint.

Here is what Angie created, and we had to have fixed to return to the original coloring. 

So that’s our story.  You may have heard the term Anam Cara.  It means Soul Friend, someone you have known and loved in spirit since the beginning of time.  Angie’s and my story is one in which author and artist found each other under the unlikeliest of circumstances, discovered they were Anam Cara, and embarked on a Hero’s Journey together.

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