"Of all the questions I have been asked as an author of children's books, the most frequent one, without doubt, has been 'How do you get your ideas?' Most people seem to think that getting an idea is both mysterious and simple. Mysterious, because inspiration must come from a particular state of grace with which only the most gifted souls are blessed. Simple, because ideas are expected to drop into one's mind in words and pictures, ready to be transcribed and copied in the form of a book, complete with endpapers and cover. The word get expresses these expectations well. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
"It is true that, from time to time, from the endless flow of our mental imagery, there emerges unexpectedly something that, vague though it may be, seems to carry the promise of a form, a meaning, and, more important, an irresistible poetic charge. The sense of instant recognition with which we pull this image into the full light of our consciousness is the initial impulse of all creative acts. But, though it is important, it produces no more than the germ of an idea. Each book, at the birth of its creative history, has such a moment. Some are fortunate enough to have, from the outset, a strongly identified hero, one with an inescapable destiny. Others are blessed with a promising beginning, or perhaps with the vision of an ending (which means working backwards to a surprise opening). Others stem from a clearly articulated conflict situation. Sometimes, I must admit, the motivations of a book may be found in a sudden, unreasonable urge to draw a certain kind of crocodile. And it may even happen that in the dark of our minds there appears, out of nowhere, a constellation of words that has the bright, arrogant solidity of a title. Only last night I was jolted out of a near-slumber by the words the mouse that didn't exist. I am sure that, temporarily tucked away in my memory, they will eventually become the title of a story for which as yet I have no idea.
"To shape and sharpen the logic of a story, to tighten the flow of events, ultimately to define the idea in its totality, is much like a game of chess. In the light of overall strategy, each move is the result of doubts, proposals, and rejections, which inevitably bring to mind the successes or failures of previous experiences.
"Inspirational raptures may happen, but most books are shaped through hard, disciplined work. Creative work, to be sure, because its ingredients come from the sphere of the imaginary. But the manipulation of these ingredients requires much more than mere inclination or talent. It is an intricate process in which the idea slowly takes form, by trial and error, through detours and side roads, which, were it not for the guidance of professional rigor, would lead the author into an inextricable labyrinth of alternatives.
"And so, to the question 'How do you get your ideas?' I am tempted to answer, unromantic though it may sound, 'Hard work.' "
I'll be selling books and prints once again at the RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale, this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. As always, the sale is a great place to do your holiday shopping- I love to stroll the aisles and pick out handmade goodies for my xmas list. Come join us! The sale is from 10:00-5:00.
Tomorrow is the We Art Boston event at the Rose Kennedy Greenway from 11-3:00! There will be watercolor, collage, and bookmaking activities for kids, illustrators on hand for book-signing, stuffed animal portraits, kid's music and more. You will be able to view all the original artwork for sale. More details here. This is going to be a REALLY FUN event! And it's all totally free.
I will be helping out at the book making station from 11:00-12:30 and drawing stuffed animal portraits from 1:30-3:00. Come get an original drawing of your favorite stuffed animal to take home! I'll be drawing alongside some incredible talents: Barbara McClintock, Kelly Murphy, Scott Magoon, David Biedrzycki, and Julia Denos.
The Fall RISD Sale was bustling and fun. It was a full day that started early and flew by.
But there was one sweet moment that caught my attention. In the early afternoon, a small girl sidled up to my table and looked through a bin of prints. She picked out an image of a bird in a nest and asked how much it was. Then she plunked a little pouch onto the table, and with her mother's help began to count out dollars and coins to pay for it.
"Is that your allowance money?" I asked. "Yes," she said, and kept counting. I was tempted just to give her the print, but then I remembered the pride and feeling of independence that goes with buying something yourself. I remembered saving up my money and carefully deciding what to buy, contemplating the many different ways it could be spent. Though I don't remember wanting to buy things like artwork at that age, I think I would have gone for a toy or game. I was really touched that she wanted to buy my print, and impressed that she was bringing home something that couldn't be played with or worn or quickly thrown away.
Thanks for the lovely moment, and to everyone who came out on Saturday!
I'll be selling books and prints of my work next Saturday, October 12th, at the RISD Fall Alumni Sale. It's always a lot of fun to do the sale (and a major temptation to blow my earnings on all the beautiful hand crafted goodies)- come by and say hello if you're in the area!
ps. I'm on the card, woot! Check out this guy below...