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.