Sunday, August 06, 2006

Question of the Week: What's on Your desk?

This week, our question is: What's on your desk? This will be answered at will throughout the week...

This is not really my desk. I have been visiting my husband's family in Montreal and have temporarily set up shop on his Grandmother's kitchen table, hence the antique chairs, plastic tablecloth and tea cup saucer palette.
I think she is secretly horrified at the mess that I create. I know she is mystified that my paintings don't reflect the chaos of my work area. She keeps saying in her half-English/half Italian how my paintings are so "delicato" and that I am like a "boom."So I think my interpretation is pretty spot on.

Right now, I'm working on Lissy's Friends, a story about a girl that makes life-size origami animals that become her friends. For this book, I've invested in piles of origami paper and japanese fabric, as I wanted all the patterns to have that flavor. I didn't even bring a quarter of my reference material so I wonder what Nonna's impression of my studio would be...

My desk has been filled for the past week with sketches for the jacket of a book I am illustrating called Priscilla and the Hollyhocks. Its a very different book for me than others I've done thus far, both in subject matter and style. Its been a nice change of pace! Usually my books feature a protagonist going through the day to day events that are important to kids. This story is about the self reliance and heroism of a girl sold as a slave to a Cherokee family, who then ends up walking the trail of tears with them. Needless to say there are no bunnies or kitties!

This is a close-up of my rendering of Priscilla. I want her to appear sad and weary, but strong and self-posessed.


I don't paint on my desk because my desk is in the living room and I want to keep it somewhat neat. My computers sit on the desk. I paint on my dining room table... and yes, it's messy. That's why I like to keep it out of view. I'd love to see an illustrator's space that is neat. If I see one, I will not trust this illustrator. It seems to me that if they bother putting all the caps back on the respected tubes and they keep a nice clear container of water by their sides and a nice holder for their brushes then they're confused as to what they should be concentrating on. I think a lot of artists become so absorbed in their work that keeping their workplace clean is IMPOSSIBLE. This does not matter whether he or she is neat in other aspects of their life... their home is tidy, their car is tidy, etc.

When it gets late at night sometimes I pull out a beer from the fridge to get me through the late early morning painting shift. Then the next day the nice green bottle sits on my desk until I bother to put it into the recycling bin. Hey, I know what you all are thinking! I love my beer! That's right! Don't fault me!


p.s - the lion painting is for the ATLAS book. That darn lion has been the bane of my existence! I've hated him for SO long! I just couldn't get him right. It took a week or more of repainting the darn head over and over and over again for me to be satisfied with him. Sigh. Sometimes illustration becomes a war... you just hope you can win it before you miss your deadline! The lion is saying "Grrrrrr" because that's what I was saying every 2 min. or so. Damn that lion!


1) 22 title ideas for my new novel from a fourth-grade class: this was from a really fun school visit. At the end the kids asked if I had written any other books, and I told them about a novel I was writing. They listened really seriously and then made suggestions:
“Does her name have to be Philippa? Couldn’t her father have a nickname for her?”
I said that he did and told them it was Flip (and why): you can see how this got translated into a title. I have this one on the front of the pile because I love the fact that this boy added:
“Don’t correct spelling.”
Someone asked what the book was called and I said I didn’t have a title, and somehow (I forget how) they said THEY would think of titles and we agreed that I would come back at the end of the day – my time in their classroom was up – and get the titles and read the rest of the chapter from Blow Out the Moon. I had tried to skip some of it but one girl said,
“No, no, please don’t skip anything! We want to hear all of it!”

2) A pebble from Jane Austen’s driveway. It may not have been there while she was alive, but MAYBE it was – and I’m glad I have it. I also have 2 English pennies from her lifetime. These I keep on the tray under my desk.

3) The rings I always wear when I’m writing my books: the sparkley pink one is from Grace. She said she saw it and thought of me. The other one I bought. I only wear these when I’m writing something I really like or when I’m seeing close friends. When I’m writing other stuff, I wear green rings: green for money!

4) a card (with a really sweet note inside) that Alvina wrote. On the white shelf next to my desk (you can’t really see it in either picture) is a card of Anna’s kittens and bunny doing ballet, and a birthday card from Anna that means a lot to me. Thank you all!

I always like to look out the window and so I’m including the current view – one of the surprising things about living the country is how short the season for all flowers is.


Currently the most interesting of my multiple desks: a stack of puppetry books, some puppets- one very old and several very new and in progress, and a wedding dress. I'll let your imagination run wild on why these particular things are here.

Man, it took me a long time to answer the question of the week! Sorry about that. My desk is not nearly as artistic as the other Blue Rose Girls' and is entirely more cluttered. But I guess this will prove one of my "how I work" points that I mentioned at my breakout session when I said "piles."

I've annoted the items on my flickr site, so you can see the photos here, here, here, and here. And yes, this is the normal state of my desk. My assistant tells me that I'm not that disorganized, because I still basically know where everything is. I'll just leave it at that.


Grace Lin said...

Hi Katherine,

Thanks for visiting! The editor's note that Alvina wrote about our friendship is only in the ARC. Maybe I'll write about it in the author's note in THE YEAR OF THE RAT.

Glad you like the blog!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Grace and Anna, thanks for giving us a peek--your stories sound intriguing.

I'm not an illustrator, but I'm afraid my desk fares no better than yours....