This past weekend I attended the SCBWI Western Washington conference for writers and illustrators. I have attended several in the past including the New York winter conference but never have I come away so inspired by others. I have a renewed faith in my chosen career and a desire to shake things up. Part of this excitement came from seeing the great illustrator Dan Santat talk about his career path and renewed commitment to picture books. We were all moved by his inspiring speech including Dan. His talk was that memorable.
During his presentation he mentioned a pivotal moment early on when he decided to change up his painting style. This is something I have been toying with myself for several years but was too afraid. I have been illustrating kids books for 10 years now working hard at getting better with my chosen medium (oil paint) . With my recent book "The Can Man" I was beginning to feel I was getting closer to the style I had envisioned for myself when I started out. I am not going to throw overboard my realistic, painterly style but I am ready to develop a second parallel track. During my downtime in between jobs I am commiting myself to taking some of my older oil paintings (as well as some new images) and reworking them in a new looser way aimed at younger audiences.
This isn't a crass stab at a bigger more lucrative market but a heartfelt artistic yearning to express myself in new exciting ways. I have always been drawn to this style of work and used to paint this way with watercolor in the past. Change and growth will feed my soul. After all I am in the book making business not the painting realistic at all costs business. Watercolor, pencil, gouache, and maybe some pastel and ink will be my new mediums. Mixed media in other words. Wimsy, freshness, looseness, simplification, line work and engaging characters (both human and animal), is a small part of what I am after. When I became an oil painter N.C. Wyeth and Gregory Manchess were a few of my inspirations. Now I am looking at among others, Trina Schart Hyman and the wonderful Amy June Bates for guidance on how to loosen up my line work and depiction of people.
Below is my first attempt at taking an older painting and playing with these new themes at the sketch phase. Now its time to shut up and put paint to paper. If I like it I will share it soon. If I don't, well I will just try again with something new. Its supposed to be fun after all!