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  • Writer's pictureApril Gavin

Open Studios and the Dream Portfolio

Visit these two at open studios next weekend...

The Empress's Garden, 10"x14". water color on paper

The Emperor's Garden, 10"x14", watercolor on paper

These two paintings were inspired by statuettes at Blake Gardens. My mind raced with story as I snapped photo after photo. As I studied the photos to create my drawings, I had to decide how true to stay to the photos. Does the bangle on her wrist appear to be metal and have weight? Is the light and shadow correct? These were all questions I asked myself in the drawing phase. The painting phase was different. Painting these two taught me about some of my goals for 2024 so keep reading.

Even though I consider this work complete, questions remain. The dance, the garments, the originator of the statuettes are still a mystery; but, it's that mystery that creates story. Can you imagine what it would be like to wear these clothes? What are the steps of this dance? I only think these thoughts when I'm not painting. When I'm working, my head is empty. Empty of all thoughts - positive or negative. Empty of the critical, analytical part. I step back every so often when I'm painting to ask myself: Does that look right? Is that what I want?

This emptiness is a kind of medicine, a change of the narrative. I've not thought out precisely what I want to say on this subject so I won't elaborate. But some story within me is changing: something about ability and achievement; and something steadfast and protective.

All of this is to say, please come to open studios and see my work. It takes effort and time to do it. I would also love to see you.

Illustrator Julie Downing has this exercise called the dream portfolio. I used this exercise to in an effort to help me articulate my goals for 2024. Here are three that I came up with:

  1. Linework: I will never, ever, ever be able to draw like this not matter what I do.

Blueberries for Sal, Robert McCloskey

But this level of detail and articulation of line is something I marvel at and wish I could do. How do I even begin to think and change up my linework?

Michael Rosen's Sad Book, written by Michael Rosen and illustrated by Quentin Blake

This linework is also inspiring and something to aim for. I love the looseness of Blake's work.

2. Color: I hang out with certain colors and trust them. The colors I use are so engraved on my brain that I can identify them in other people's work. How do I mix it up, get out of my color rut, and really use the minimum amount of color strategically? I'd like to be able to achieve this kind of work:

Crow and Weasel, written by Barry Lopez and illustrated by Tom Pohrt

The color here is very strategic and it fit the mood of the book. How would I know if presented with the same kind of story to really pare down to this basic level?

Annie and the Old One, written by Miska Miles and illustrated by Peter Parnall

Narrative: On top of the all of this, how do I incorporate more story into my art? Is the story I'm hoping to tell arriving in the visual? Kind of like this:

Corduroy, Don Freeman

or this:

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, William Steig

My next post will likely be in January where I will have thought out how to actually achieve these goals. Stay tuned and enjoy the return of the light...


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