The OwlCat Art Studio

New York City, and where things stand

So, clearly, I did NOT update obnoxiously often (or indeed, at all) at the end of January.  Turns out all that travelling and adventuring and conferencing and travelling actually keeps a gal pretty well occupied.  First of all, it was a fantastic experience overall.  I can’t tell you how much I needed a chance to get out of town and a solo adventure to the city that never sleeps was really invigorating in a lot of ways.  I won’t go into too much detail.  If anyone’s interested, I’d be happy to devote a whole post or two to the trip in general or the conference in particular, but for now, let’s try to see the big picture.

New York City was AWESOME.  And comfortable, despite my concerns.

The SCBWI Conference was…. a conference.  I don’t regret going to it, but I also can’t say that I really got anything from it.  It was a worthwhile experience, but I don’t feel like I got any better (and certainly not any more personal) input than I’ve gleaned from their website and other member resources.  Considering the price tag, and how long they’ve been doing this, I feel a little dissatisfied.  So.  Unless they make some serious changes, I don’t have any intention of going to another one of their big conferences.

That said, I definitely still intend to pursue illustration.  And I definitely intend to visit NYC again.  Maybe regularly.  It’s pretty rad.  Illustration though, I don’t think I’m done with it.  I have a lot of problems with the whole industry, and maybe that’s not something I’ll ever be able to influence even a little bit, much less on a larger scale… but as long as I’m doing artwork that I think is worthwhile (and certainly, the process is worthwhile to me at least), then there’s nothing I’d necessarily change.  I talk (usually as a monologue, embarrassingly not always an internal one) about my conflict as to whether I should be applying myself as an illustrator or as a fine artist.  The conflict though, is that I think the two should overlap more than either industry is comfortable with.  Fine Artists want to feel high-minded about their supposedly technique and high-concept driven results, while illustration seems to cater more and more to graphic design standards.  And I’m not making any claims that either philosophy is wrong.  It’s the market, to some degree.  My problem is that they’re each so exclusive, or they think they need to be.  Once upon a time, illustration happened to be fine art.  And, even today, fine art is applied in an illustrative context.  A LOT, actually.  So I have trouble grasping why it’s so complicated to be a fine artist that happens to be applying herself in illustration endeavors. 

Well, maybe that’s neither here nor there.  My point is, I’m going to keep making art.  Maybe someday it’ll mean something to someone other than myself, but it’s enough that it’s important to me.

The conference had one illustrator-specific activity: a showcase.  You could pay some extra money and have one artwork featured (along with 200 other featured artworks) for art agents and publishers and publishing professionals to check out during some shmooze they were involved in.  Thank goodness for externally-enforced deadlines. 

I finished Empty Promises just (JUST) in time to take it along with me (miraculously it survived the entire trip).  It’s watercolor (and a few touches of gouache) on watercolor board.  The watercolor board was an interesting experience.  Dense enough that it handled what would otherwise have been some disastrous wash effects.  However the density made drying time really peculiar and letting it dry enough to do the fine (and generally drier) details was tricky.  I enjoy a challenge though, and it was great fun to work on.  I still hate trees.  And, settings in general, though I don’t feel awful about how it turned out.  It’s just not my strength.  I’m working on it.  I’m afraid the best image I have (here) is from a photo after framing.  I had to trim it down at the frame shop and didn’t have a good opportunity for photographing it sooner and it’s still too big for my scanner bed.  One of these days, I’ll unframe it to get a decent scan and maybe even do some prints of it.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve got a few projects in the “pending” file, of course.  And I like the idea of going ahead with my portfolio plan, whether or not I stick with the children’s illustration angle.  So, one of them is a sea dragon.  I had that one doodled out ages and ages ago (after reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in fact).  Also, I doodled up a lazy siren hanging out on some rocks.  I might do that one in acrylic, more as a study than for any particular purpose.  The sea dragon will be watercolor, probably on another board… possibly with ink.  Not quite sure yet.  But I like having a few things basically ready for me to sit down and work on.  Sitting down and working on them is actually one of the hardest parts though. 

But I’m not worried.

And you shouldn’t be either. 



2 responses

  1. It’s your cousin, Jenn. Hi!

    “And, even today, fine art is applied in an illustrative context. A LOT, actually. So I have trouble grasping why it’s so complicated to be a fine artist that happens to be applying herself in illustration endeavors.”

    As someone completely outside of either industry, except as a consumer, I found this really enlightening. I guess I grasped that there was a sort of “versus” mentality (I know enough people in all fields – including a friend who went to RISD for illustration and ended up in graphic design) but it’s totally outside my own experience. I would say that as someone who reads kind of an insane amount of illustrated children’s books, the ones that I have bought as an adult, for myself, (or have been bought for me) are all towards the finer art spectrum, sometimes even literally. (“Seen Art?” & “Klimt’s Cat” are two that Matt got me, maybe 5 yrs ago.)

    ❤ ya. Thanks for blogging so thoughtfully.

    February 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm

  2. khuxman

    Hi Jenn! Thanks for reading. 😀

    Ironically, I really don’t do a good job of actually staying aware of what’s going on in the industry, I really just skim off the top to see what art trends are most prevalent. I’m not aware of either of the titles you cited, but it’s nice to know that there’s at least some interest within the genre for more fine-art leaning material. Even the publishing society that my mom and I belong to, their idea of “children’s illustration” seems to be limited to hungry caterpillar variety art. And, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with that, but if that’s the only thing on the market, then I don’t think kids are getting a broad enough experience.

    As a kid, some of my favorite picture books were very much fine art styles, with some dense symbolism that I can still appreciate as an adult. One of my very favorites was “The Little Mermaid” (not Disney’s), illustrated by Edmund Dulac. I don’t know what happened to our copy, but Dulac was a big name in the Golden Age of Illustration some hundred years ago. And I just don’t see anything quite comparable in today’s market.

    Shoot, I started rambling again. Sorry. And thanks, Jenn, for the comment. I’ll have to take a look for those books you listed. ❤ !!

    February 14, 2011 at 10:36 pm

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