Friday, November 30, 2018

Storyteller's Journey

Santa Catalina Arch - Antigua, Guatemala
Inspiration from Locations; Inspiration from Illustrations

While I was in Antigua, Guatemala, an idea for a middle grade novel began rattling around in my brain. (Most of my inspiration comes from a specific place.) I wanted to document my experience not only in photos, but in some sort of creativity. And since I was on a tour with a group of artists, I decided it was about time I try my hand at a watercolor!

As I got into painting the clock tower, I could see right away how boring my painting looked. So, I decided to try the technique made famous by Georges Seurat - painting in small dots of color. It was a good idea, but Seurat was a wizard at creating patterns and textures. Oh well...

Here's the thing: It's not about how well you can paint, draw, or sketch; it's about your rendition of the place you want to remember. Especially if it's meant as a reference for a future story. In that sense, my watercolor was a success. I remember much more about the clock tower & arch from looking at my painting. Because I labored over it, studied the subject, and remember that white cloud that was behind the cross. I feel much more connected to that spot than if I'd just snapped a photo. (Don't get me wrong, I love taking photos!)

My point is, whenever it's possible, attempt to create a sketch, drawing, painting, etc. that will help you connect to a person, place, or thing that is significant in your story. Remember: this exercise is for you, to help you connect with your story. You need not share it with anyone else.

In September I had the most magical experience that ties into this subject. While I was at the SCBWI Fall Retreat in Silverton, OR, several illustrators in attendance were kind enough to sketch or draw a small snippet of stories written by the writers who were also in attendance. The talented artist that sketched a scene from my MG novel, Livvi Biddle - The Secret at Stonehenge, was Erin Hourigan.

Illustration by Erin Hourigan - 9/20/18
What Erin created brought tears to my eyes. I have worked on Livvi Biddle for seven years (I'm now sending out queries), and never seen an actual sketch or drawing of any part of my story. I love what Ms. Hourigan sketched! In fact, she somehow captured the feeling I was hoping to create by the words on the first page of my book. Thanks again, Erin! (Click here to see her work.)

So, whether you create a sketch, drawing, or painting of your story - or you're lucky enough to have a talented artist do it - having a visual rendition of a person, place or thing is invaluable as you work through your manuscript. Besides, it's a great way to take a break & have fun!

Good luck!