Monday, January 27, 2014

Drawing Details, and One Poem

Made very good progress this week on the book. Completed a few more illustrations and scanned more of them in for layout. Some of the drawings are very small, some of them will take up a whole page, and other larger ones will be across a two-page spread. Most of them are black & white, but a select few (for the longer poems in the book that cross over several pages) will be in color.

Here are some "teasers"....just some selected details from some of the larger drawings. Maybe I will reveal more of them in the future, or maybe you'll have to wait.

Some of the poems do not have illustrations at all, as they are either more abstract, or the images are better left in the readers' imagination. Here is one of those...I guess it's one of the "deeper" ones. I was actually asked by my good friend Linda to recite it in church one Sunday morning.

THE BOX  © 2013 Ken Priebe

I put all my tears,
My failings, my fears,
And anxieties into a box.
I sealed it real tight,
And shipped overnight
To the post office down by the docks.
For once I was free,
I giggled with glee,
And danced in brave joyous surrender,
Until the postman
Put the box in my hand,
With a label marked ‘Return to Sender.’

Monday, January 20, 2014

Inspiration Monday: Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in.
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer . . .
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax golden tales to spin.
Come in!
Come in!

Once a month on this blog, my plan is to take a break from showing my own progress on the book, but rather post about something or someone who has inspired me to create it in the first place. It seems appropriate to start with Shel Silverstein. When I try to describe verbally to people what kind of book I'm writing, I usually end up saying "You know, a Shel-Silverstein-type-of-book."  ("You know, for kids!")  At times this comment is met with a reassuring nod, but also, more often than I expect, this comment is met with a blank stare that says 'who?'  It seems at times that less people grew up with his books than I ever realized, which is surprising and unfortunate.

I was probably about 6 or 7 (the same age my daughter is now) when my mom first introduced me to Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. She loved these books and knew I would love them too. I also have a specific vivid memory from this time, of sitting on my front porch and asking my friend & neighbor Lydia (who was only a few years older than me) to read some of the poems with me, and we both had some great laughs. Those books stayed with me until they fell apart, and it wasn't until the last few years that I have managed to re-claim fresh new copies of my own. Now I am reading them to my own kids, and that experience is so wonderful I can hardly describe it.

What I love most about Shel Silverstein's work is that he is so diverse...from page to page, each poem and drawing presents a surprise. All at once he can be clever, silly, sad, dark, cynical, hopeful, heartfelt, and oftentimes downright naughty. (He did hang out with rock musicians, after all...)  As a whole, Shel Silverstein is fearless.  He's not afraid of disturbing you or unsettling you, and he's not afraid of writing, on many occasions and always with a great dose of poignancy, about God. I come back to his work again and again, to be humbled, re-ignited, and inspired. No matter what he wrote about, you always got the sense that he was inviting you into his world and to participate in his creative process, that he was speaking directly to you, as a true storyteller and a friend...a friend who was a little rough around the edges (the photos of him on the back of his books always freaked me out a bit), but someone you could trust to walk with you into the dark.

After I had already started working on my book, I picked up a copy of his latest posthumous collection, Everything On It, and was rather struck by the challenge that his last poem presented to me:

When I am gone what will you do?
Who will write and draw for you?
Someone smarter - someone new?
Someone better - maybe YOU!

I don't even want to pretend that what I'm doing holds a candle to what this gentle giant achieved with his artistry, but this kind invitation gives me faith that I am, at the very least, in good hands when I stand on his shoulders.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Status Update: Scanning and Drawing

As an overall status update on where things stand with the book at this point, I have 30 illustrations which I have deemed more-or-less finally completed and I scanned them all after work this week. I scanned them at 600dpi so they can retain the detail of the ink lines and be scaled back to the 300dpi needed for the actual pages of the book. This weekend I spent several hours putting the drawings into rough layouts along with their accompanying poems to create the final pages. It was an absolute joy putting them together. (But there are still many more drawings to come!)

Throughout the process, I could relate to a wonderful quote by Maurice Sendak: "All my life I have been in the fortunate position of doing - creating - what came naturally to me. What could be more wonderful than a dream of childhood coming true?  As a small boy, I pasted and clipped my bits of books together and hoped only for a life that would allow me to earn my bread my making books. And here I am, all grown up - still staying home, pasting and clipping bits of books together.

One of the drawings I completed, I will post a small detail of here, as a little "teaser."  The whole drawing is a two-page spread, so this is mostly the left-page side. Perhaps I will post the rest of it another time...or perhaps you will need to wait for the book to come out. For now, I will let your imagination try to fill in the blanks as to why this barber is laying down behind his chair. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sketches: Professor Stitch-Wicket

One of the longer "epic" poems which I've written for the book is The Great Epic Journey of Professor Stitch-Wicket, about an elderly professor who lives in the woods and embarks on a quest. The poem itself will likely be spread over several pages along with its illustrations. These scans of my sketchbook show the process of his character design. (Click images to see larger)

My earliest drawings here show him as being a bit too Gandalf-ish, and more like a wizard than a professor. I like the guy on the far right a lot, but decided he looks too urban. He might be a great character for another story that takes place in a strange city, but doesn't seem like he would live in a forest.

Exploring further in another direction, this guy on the left is leaning too close to a Sigmund Freud-type....once again, might be good as a city-dwelling professor, but not someone close to the earth who talks to animals.

I continued playing with different outfits and hats, but still too much like "Gandalf in the City."

Upon further playing and sketching, and the advice of my friend Luke who suggested a "wool elbow patch sweater and hip waders, more like a biologist," I ended up with the guy on the bottom right, who seems to fit much better. I haven't done any final illustrations of the Professor just yet, only sketches, but when the time is right, he will be realized into fuller form for his "epic journey."