Sunday, February 05, 2012

from the BRG archives: QUESTION OF THE WEEK: What outside influences do you use to keep yourselves focused ?

Our question of the week is:What outside influences do you use to keep yourselves focused?

What outside influences do you use to keep yourselves focused?

This is a somewhat ambiguous question--so many ways to answer it! When it comes to my job, it's all about people. I'm influenced by my coworkers and wanting to be good to work with and do a good job; by the authors and illustrators I work with, not wanting to let them down; I'm influenced by the librarians, teachers, parents, booksellers, and others who will read the books I work on; I'm influenced by the knowledge of the reader I am and the memory of the reader I once was as I child; and lastly I'm especially influenced by the child reader that I'm trying to reach, what I think they will love.

I also do have some inspirational quotations up in my office to help me keep things in perspective. One is "Follow your compass, not your clock" which is something I heard at a talk given by Andrea Jung, CEO of Avon. Someone had said this to her when she was trying to make a big career decision amd was conflicted, and I love to think about it when I get frustrated with work, or start thinking that I should be at a higher level, etc. I think, my clock might be saying I'm ready for something else, but my compass is telling me what is most important.

Another quotations is one I commented on in Grace's "Hope and Beauty" post above. "It is Simple. We are where we should be, doing what we should be doing, otherwise we would be somewhere else, doing something else."

And one last quote is from college. I think my roommate Grace (a different Grace!) penned it when we were stressing about midterms or finals. "Feel a sense of inner peace. Do your best. It's never too late!"

One thing that always brings me back to focusing is looking at work that inspires me, and reminds me why I wanted to make books in the first place. This is one of my all time favorite books. It awes me on so many levels. The quiet, perfect pacing, the understated storytelling, the somewhat unresolved, haunting ending.

This book brings me back to my desk for other reasons as well- my older sister gave it to me as a birthday present when I was applying to college. Chris Van Allsburg taught at RISD, and this was one of the deciding factors in my decision to go there to study illustration. So I guess this book also reminds me of all the hope and excitement I felt taking my first real step towards being an illustrator.

Well, I like to write when things are completely quiet with no distractions; I do have a music mix on my ipod I listen to when I paint.

But the one thing I’ve always done is make a folder for my work (I posted a photo of a couple of them to the left). I have a penchant for beautiful paper, making folder portfolios gives me an excuse to buy and use it (though I have a lot more paper than my folders need!). Usually I make the folder at the start of a project—as an incentive to fill it! The folder is a visual reminder for me to keep focused.

Here is my most recent folder made for the art of Lissy's Friends! I just had to post it because I love that bunny paper.

Definitely other people's art. I can get really inspired by a landscape, most especially skies and clouds, but often I end up feeling overwhelmed with the idea of trying to capture glorious reality. Seeing what choices other artists have made to come to their own conclusions of beauty is what gets me motivated to try my own version. I've been most certainly overwhelmed with the prospect of painting the landscapes of northern Tibet for my next book, until I found Nicholas Roerich's paintings of the same thing. His simplified paintings burst with colour, vastness, and desolation. Now I'm itching to get painting again.

Also, music. I could not work without music. Before I paint, I turn it up, I dance like crazy, I spin a baton, I get energy moving in my studio and my body, and then I sit down, and funnel it into my hands. (Did I just admit that in public?)

First published August 27th, 2006

1 comment:

Libby Koponen said...

I love this post -- I say "I am where I meant to be, doing what I'm meant to be doing" often as a result. When it first came out, I bought some pretty paper to make my own folders. This time I ordered The Widow's Broom (though unlike you, Anna, reading favorite books intimidates me -- I think mine could never be nearly as good -- I get more confidence from great authors' failures!); and love looking at Linda's images -- not the ones that inspired her, but the ones in HER book, which I think were better.