SOCIAL MEDIA

15 March 2017

Continuing to Learn: Artistic Pursuits + An Announcement

One of my resolutions for this year was to learn well--and one of the areas I especially wanted to learn and gain skills in was the area of art. Not necessarily fine art or art history or color theory but, plain and simple, learning how to use a pen or a paintbrush to create pretty and funny things: decorations for parties I host, cards for special occasions, posters for my house.

Do not underestimate how difficult it is to take a pursuit like "learning about art" seriously when you come from a family of engineers and doctors. Guys, I took AP Physics, AP Chemistry, Trigonometry, and Calculus in high school. Those sound like natural preparatory courses for a girl who went on to get a B.A. in Mandarin Chinese and a cosmetology license, don't they? For someone like me from a family/culture that values science and math, it's easy to assume that art isn't something I 'ought' to invest a lot of time into...but really, should there be an 'ought' when it comes to creativity and art?

In addition, being left-handed, I always kind of assumed that the pen and pencil arts weren't a good field for me. Pretty handwriting doesn't come as naturally when you can't write in the direction and angle the language was designed to be written (BTW, shoutout to Beka, who has sent me SO many resources and links to left-handed artists. Thanks for making it your personal mission to show me that being left-handed is no excuse!).

 Personalized, and very non-traditional, Valentine's for my three siblings in the USA.



But enough excuses! Seriously. The first few months of this year have become, for me, an extraordinarily fun experiment in challenging myself to learn more about something that I never thought I ought to try learning before. I always watched the art students at my college sketching the library on gigantic drawing pads and thought that it was a good thing I wasn't in their class because I'd never be able to get an A. haha! Practical considerations, you know...

So, funny story...my sister joined a clown troupe. She goes by the clown name of "Pip Squeak" and her clown troupe visits schools and puts on shows and does anti-bullying campaigns. I drew her in her costume.

Formal art education isn't what I'm after right now, but rather, the practice of different techniques and creating--sometimes creating things I can display in real life or give away as little Valentine cards, but other times, just creating even if I know that page of my notebook will always stay inside the notebook. Youtube tutorials are a great resource for learning how to try out new things.

As we've heard many times, creativity begets creativity, and I've found that to be very true in my case. At the beginning of February, I wrote a story to entertain my youngest sisters, and was reading it to them at night while our parents were away. I found myself falling in love with the characters I'd created, and found myself writing a series of adventures involving the same main characters.



These new stories, together with my newfound interest in art...brought me into the dream of creating my own illustrated story book.

But how do you even do that? How can you draw, and then get the drawings to be part of a text document on a computer? That sounds very technical. Of course you can use a scanner, and I experimented with that at first, but wasn't too happy with the results, it wasn't quite the look I was imagining. In my research, I came across the idea of using drawing tablets (like Wacom's tablets) to create digital art using software...and then using Adobe InDesign to put text and images together to create the book.

Only I didn't have a drawing tablet and I don't have or know how to use InDesign.

Should I let that stop me?

Somewhere along the way...I decided that if 18-year-old Rachel was brave enough to self-publish The Random Writings of Rachel (a collection of short stories and sketches, in fact, the book that led to the creation of this blog some time later. I printed a very small run of 300 copies and sold nearly all of them, thereby making enough money to put gas in my car for my sophomore year of college), then how is it possible that 25-year-old Rachel might be too scared to attempt to publish an illustrated storybook?

In the past seven years, I hope that I have learned a great deal more about the art of writing, and about the necessary processes that go into publishing a book...but I also hope that I have not let age and wisdom make me too fearful to put the work into accomplishing a dream.

So, I let myself do it. I bought the drawing tablet. I've studied page size and pixels per inch and watched Adobe InDesign tutorials. I've got a goal of having the book ready to release by the end of April.

And I've got a lot of work to do before then. I haven't settled for sure on the title, so I won't share it here yet. The story is inspired by the jungle-meets-civilization way of life here in Malaysia. It's a picture book meant to be read aloud, peppered with visual and verbal jokes that only the adults or bigger people will get, but the stories are created with the child in mind.

It's not a beginner reader book. I use words like diminutive and world domination in the story. I don't enjoy the style of books that use small words for small children, so I didn't use that style. For independent readers, I'd say it would best target about a 7-11 year old age range, depending on their individual reading level. My 10-year-old sister is a very reluctant reader and this is the right reading level for her (perhaps not surprising, since she was my initial audience). I, on the other hand, was a voracious and young reader and read Little Women independently when I was 6...this is quite a few steps below the complexity (and length!) of Little Women. Little Women was not intended for 6-year-olds.

I'm excited. I'm working hard. In fact, I'm largely neglecting my pens and brushes because spare time is being devoted to the book for now. And I hope some of you will be just as excited when it's complete and you get to see it. It really is a fun story, and I'm not only saying that because I wrote it. I read children's books aloud to children every day--you need a good mix of fun for the child and fun for the grown-up in a book like that. And I love being able to set the story outside of the West, to give glimpses into the Malaysian environment. Here's to being brave and learning new skills!

What are you challenging yourself to learn this year? Any exciting projects in the works?

20 comments :

  1. That's so awesome, Rachel! I think it's so cool that you decided to do this. I love your drawings. You definitely have some skills, especially for a leftie. I wish I could draw, but my talents for art are the same as my ability to speak Swahili. Meaning, nonexistent. I'm also shocked you read Little Women at 6!

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  2. This is so cool! I'm so excited to learn more about your book! I think it's awesome that you aren't just using tiny little simple words-I'm all about exposing young children to large and awesome vocabularies. Man, you got me beat though-I don't think I read Little Women until I was 9 or 10!

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  3. Ohhhh best wishes on the book!!! That is so awesome!!! Art is something I'm terrible at so I have lots of respect for you for trying to learn more about it!!

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  4. This is awesome and you are very talented! Way to go for pursuing more creativity this year!

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  5. Oh wow this is so cool! You are amazing!!

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  6. How exciting! It's fun to keep learning as an adult. Also, all the sketches in this post are adorable.

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  7. That's so cool and exciting! Best wishes as you release your book! You'll have to write a blog post about the publishing process.

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  8. How exciting - I can wait to see the book! I love your lettering, you've got talent, lady!

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  9. This is so cool! I love that cactus one! And it's so cool that you're pursuing this creative endeavor. :)

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  10. This is such exciting news! Love that you're following your passion!

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  11. I love that you challenged yourself this way - it's unique and also seems to be quite fun. Can't wait to see more illustrations you come up with

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  12. Good for you, Rachel! That's awesome! I also like that you aren't doing the typical "little words for little kids" thing. Kids are more capable than we give them credit for.
    Ps- That cactus is just completely adorable!

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  13. I love love love that you're doing this! Looks so great! And one of my favorite friends who happens to be one of my favorite artists is also left handed :)

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  14. Awesome! I love to see others really go for it! It can be hard to put yourself out there sometimes. Looking forward to the final project.

    Chelsea || www.binkiesandbaubles.com

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  15. this is awesome! so glad you are going for it!
    and that "hugger" drawing is adorable!

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  16. I love this! It's so easy to feel like we aren't good enough to do something, but often the only thing stopping us is ourself, so I love that you bought the drawing tablet you were considering and are moving forward on your book. I love your cactus watercolor too.

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  17. I love that you are so careful about considering the age range and audience for this. BELIEVE ME, people do not take this into consideration enough and I've edited some books that were just beyond (or not advanced enough) for what the author was going for. Sounds awesome!

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  18. Wow! What an awesome project! I'm so excited to hear more about this as you continue working on it!

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  19. This is awesome! I am excited to check out your final product! Children's books are so fun. Also, I think challenging yourself to do new things is so important. I am all about challenges! :)

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  20. I think this is really exciting! I read this post while on vacation but I didn't comment on any blogs. Learning new things is hard but it is also really fun to push yourself and it's really rewarding when it's done. I'm glad you like all the links I send. I didn't know if they were helpful or not so glad to hear that.

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