Illustration! Breaking through

I cannot tell you how long it’s taken me to dive into a life as an illustrator. What I mean by my ideal: to take time each and every day to draw and paint, to have projects in motion, and projects I complete. To have a vision of what’s pulling me to create and to express what I can of it each and every day. To make time to follow unexpected inspirations. Some of you may be shaking your heads — those of you who decide and do. What’s the fuss? Just do the thing!

I don’t really know why I couldn’t just do the thing, or when I did, why every picture was so precious (meaning: few and far between, and thus taking so much more space in my psyche). But one thing I’ve learned is that you have to do a lot of something to reach the place where you can let go. Making up and telling stories to children once or even twice weekly for the past eight years (sometimes even daily!) means I don’t need to spend a lot of time working up or reviewing a story. I don’t stress about it. I just do it.

And I guess I just needed to build up a critical mass of illustrations, including and especially illustrations that I complete in short amounts of time. I’m absolutely grateful to my friend and fellow artist, Anne Cotter Moses. We have been meeting most weeks (in cafes, outdoors, and via Zoom) for the past three years, sketching, painting, and completing our illustrations in 1 1/2 hours or less. I’ve learned to just let the illustration be what it is, and to allow it to surprise me.

Illustration from a photo of Lucy Bertram, c. 1900, Kittitas Tribe displayed on the ferry to Fauntleroy. I completed this one during the short ferry ride — in about 15 minutes.

But even with our weekly art dates I still wasn’t making daily time for art. I just couldn’t make myself schedule time for that, much less keep to that commitment with myself. Why not? And what would it take for me to break through my own version of a sound barrier?

One day, while writing in my journal, I engaged in a good talking with myself, pen to page. You have to know that I am a writer — at age seven I decided I’d be a writer, and at age nine I started keeping a diary (one of those Five Year Diaries), and I have been pretty much journaling nonstop since then. It’s something I do every morning as I drink my cappuccino and settle into the day. I notate dreams, wonder about things, fret, imagine, jot down interesting things I’m studying, and make occasional illustrations in the margins, either of a dream, my musings, or of the hens, deer, or the land and weather outside.

I realized that I needed what amounted to a rewiring of my neurology. I’d be writing mountains of text for the rest of my life,with few folks reading any of it, and never get down to creating what I truly longed to create at this point (basically what amount to illuminated manuscripts) unless I did something drastic. And frankly, I don’t need to write mountains of text (although I seem to be doing so right here!) — certainly not text sans art.

Right then and there, I began drawing my journal — my entries became illustrated text, and then full blown comics. I “draw it all” — attempting to render everything that springs to mind — including impressions of, say, plant energetics or even Reiki. “Mistakes” and “inadequacies” are a fantastic way to learn, and when I head into my day, having attempted to render something in my journal that didn’t quite capture what I wanted in the way that I wanted, I find myself paying more attention to things like anatomy or perspective or whatever it was that eluded my hand. But I also find that I don’t mind the imperfections in my art, just as I don’t mind them in my harp playing, storytelling, or writing. I see the life they are attempting to express.

I have more to say about my adventures in illustrating — about how I’m bringing illustrating into my herbal study (I’m enrolled now in an herbal practitioner course, yay!), and how illustrating is helping me to live my magical life in its next expression (Magical Life, v. 4.0?), and how I intend to bring illustration into my musical life too. But I’ll leave off for now with some art. Enjoy!

Three Works in Progress by Jane

Left: the beginning of an illuminated page on Italian Cypress as magical plant
Center: A glimpse of a journal page
Right: Illustrations for my forthcoming book, Paloma and Wings: an Herbal Comic

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