This is my November hedge a gram, the time I take every
month to keep you posted on my book progress, and to reflect on the creative
side of my life.
As I write this, I'm holding Little Snowshoe, our young
bunny. He lives inside, nearby my studio and I visit with him many times a day!
His pen is at waist level and he has a good amount of space to dash around and
hop up on his towers. I was told too much sugar from carrots can cause rabbits
to get diabetes, so he doesn't get too many treats. He loves the cardboard
oatmeal container that he zips through like a tunnel. I give him dandelion
leaves almost every day, but we had our first snow today, and the dandelions may
have died off. I'll know tomorrow! He’s ready to go on my book tour with me.
Traveling back from a poultry show in our rig, I mused
about what I would write about in this month's letter. I am working on the
jacket art of THE TURNIP and adjusting the sky color. Right now it is a light,
sky blue and I'm going to add a grey-lavender cast. One of the reasons I wanted
to illustrate THE TURNIP is because it is a uniquely colored vegetable - purpley
magenta on its top fading to cream into a light marigold yellow. The other place
you can see that color combination is in orchids. I have three or four large
books of orchids. There is also a tropical saltwater fish that displays those
two colors. Not only are the turnip's colors stunning, but the green of its
leaves is especially striking. The scenery of rural Russia during harvest season
is marked with wild flowers that are white, golden yellow and purple. Halfway
through my book is snows, and the colors become ever more vibrant.
About twenty years ago, I went to an art exhibition at the New York Metropolitan
Museum of Art of Henri Matisse's work. He used very unusual color combinations
in a subtle manner that caused a strange effect. After spending an hour or so at
the exhibit immersed in his unique sensibility, my perceptions were imprinted,
so when I went out into the street, I would keep noticing "Matisse" like colors
and combinations of colors that appeared like a ripple effect. It was like when
one spends time with someone speaking with a foreign accent, after a while we
are influenced by it.
Getting back to my book, I not only used the turnip colors to create a visual
effect, but I kept in mind the vibrant colors I saw in the traditional clothing
and folk art I saw in the Museum of Ethnography in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
Here's a fun game to play with children. Find different color swatches, perhaps
cut from magazine, or paper color swatch booklets you can buy at craft stores.
Have the children choose two colors they love, that work together and then maybe
another third color. If they do a drawing using those colors in important roles,
it might spark their creativity. Colors are fun when you are working on a flat
surface because they can cause interesting effect, making objects seem to come
forward and be noticed or fade away. I have had a turnip on my desk for several
weeks and it inspired me every day!
One of the tricks or secrets I use in my watercolors is
to layer one color on another. Because the watercolor paint is not applied
evenly the variances make objects seem more alive.
The fascinating thing is, like musical notes, combinations can be
conjured up that are fresh and new. Every artist has the opportunity to mix
their own world of color. It keeps illustrating exciting and alive for me and I
hope you will try it yourself.