Friday, May 22, 2015

Blank Cards, Hidden Meanings; Imaginary Friend to Rescue his Person?

Baby turned two months this week and I feel like this new life is taking shape a bit. As everyone tells me, each time I get used to what seem to be daily patterns, they will morph into something else, so we have the grand exercise of learning to let go with ease. I can't say it doesn't make me cranky*. I have lived too long with free time to surrender it easily, or consistently, now. But I will learn, kicking and screaming, most likely.

A couple items from the present week:

1.) Dropped off a new batch of woodblock cards at favorite local bookstore Literati:

The houses are borrowed from the design page in Cakeasaurus project wherein we learn "Cakeasaurus could smell cake batter in the air like sharks scent blood in the water". The birds are pulled from the "Birds Don't Like You," one of my favorite prints overall, but which proved divisive -- people either liked the menacing quality or were discomfitted by it (design and process shots here). It lead one older man to say to me at a show, "You have a weird little mind, don't you~~," which managed to be insulting and pleasing simultaneously. Robbed of context in wee cards, the birds don't strike people as hostile or judgy, and  so they sell nicely.
Cake is excerpted from "No Cake is Safe"; again no whiff of danger, without context
I always enjoy gathering decorative papers to complement the woodblock designs; it's a great way of seeing your own work from a new angle. I have really been grooving on the colorful flower paper (above, on left two cards) -- so happy, so jaunty!

And the happy is exactly why I bought a few sheets within a selection for nursery buntings (Hollander's, natch). The triangular banners were about the only thing I felt compelled to do to make baby-to-be's space cozy and welcoming. What with her early arrival, I didn't get them assembled and hung until she was a few weeks old, but heyyyyy, her field of vision fell way short of the ceiling at that point. How conveeeeeeeeeenient. I think she actually started noticing them this week! They can't hold a candle to the mobile, but still a festive touch:

delightful felt mobile made by Dundry Hill
I ventured into JoAnn Fabrics, first time in a decade, to scare up some curtains
*Disclaimer: outside of being smitten by baby and wanting to watch her breathing, kiss her baby skin, yadda yadda yadda etc.

great image gallery here
2.) Finished The Imaginary by A.F. Hoffman, illustrated by Emily Gravett. If you're into off-kilter intermediate books (think Matilda, subtract a bit of the nastiness, add fantasy-based menace) and are fan of illustration and design, it's a fine book to check out.

As I often do (even with adult reads, sad to say), I got sucked in by the cover art and packaging. Illustration facing the Introduction is a black and white drawing in the shape of a young, outstretched hand, giving us glimpses of a park, a clocktower, dark tree limbs. I tend to love this treatment anyway (Chris Keegan springs to mind as a favorite, in a much more layered, slick photoshoppy way).

Successfully intriguing here, and the opening text is equally promising: by the end of the second page, we learn that Rudger, an imaginary friend is afraid his human friend is dead -- and what then, will become of him? He fears the fading away which would result from being forgotten...Great conceit, right? And how many children's books begin with death? Perhaps way more than when I was growing up, for it seems overall, fiction for youth is permitted to be edgier/grittier. In any case, a good almost-ending to hook the young reader: a mournful and contemplative couple of pages, before an unexpected voice cuts in...and we are brought back to the proper start, with adventurous Amanda Shuffleup meeting her soon-to-be partner in crime standing inside her wardrobe. Naturally there's a nefarious character plotting evil deeds involving imaginaries, and he, too, has a similarly evil imaginary himself. And that's all I'll say about it.

At heart, the book is a celebration of creative power and imaginative play. Fittingly, The Imaginary is filled with great design elements: a bird flies from abstracted flower to butterfly among the page numbers, tiny feline silhouettes separate paragraph sections, and running characters are stamped into the black hardcover surface beneath the dust jacket. It's the kind of book I'd want to create, with so many wonderful details that it takes subsequent pass throughs to appreciate all the cleverness. A thorny garden branch snakes from a house drawing on its left-facing page to become a floating astronaut's lifeline on the right; an imperiled imaginary is seen multiplied-but-faded beneath the story text, as the evildoer's silhouette is shown, darker and towering above him. Suspenseful and satisfying!

You can see brief videos of the processes of both author and illustrator midway down this page; Harrold's video doesn't shed much light on his process, though I get that it's difficult to depict the largely internal act of writing in a compelling way. Based on the video, he simply writes something in pencil and then writes over it in pen, thus making it publisher-ready -- and then he walks to the mail box to send it off. Watching Emily Gravett's creepy imaginary girl emerge is much more fun (though also un-narrated); another publisher page also feature her discussing her approach to creating images for the Rabbit Problem (great title! look forward to seeing that; she also did the spare, pleasing Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear). One last link, if you're still with us -- a longer interview with Gravett here.

Hope all is well this Friday in May. A beautiful day and quiet night to close out a full, eventful week. Numerous adventures await us!

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