You know how when you're a kid you get to dream big dreams? Like 'when I grow up I'm going to be an astronaut' or I'm going to sail around the world or, in the case of my five-year-old son, I'm going to be the third Wild Kratt brother... All those, let's call them "low probability dreams." When I was younger, well, I was going to be on Broadway for one thing. But another "big dream" I've had, would be to write and/or illustrate a children's book. I've always loved books and I especially love picture books. For the most part I've given up on that big dream - lots of "I'm not good enough" going on there along with some pretty real-world based practicality about the likelihood of breaking into the children's book market. All that aside, the Week 3 theme for MATS was children's books and I was excited about that. I've been meaning to give myself little illustration "assignments" just to get my brain thinking in that way more often. How would I create a character? What kind of a style do I want to work in? Mainly I want to just have fun with it and that's how I tried to approach this week's assignment.
Needless to say, fun quickly turned into frustration as I found myself totally overwhelmed. We were to create either an inside 2 page spread or a book cover for The Three Billy Goats Gruff folktale. GOATS?! I started sketching goats and worked on some lettering but I struggled a lot with creating characters. I know how important that part is if you're illustrating a book for kids and it was not coming naturally for me. I've had more practice drawing people and I've worked a little harder on how to create character people, but animals were a different story. I was getting discouraged because I knew this wasn't going to turn out how I wanted it to. But at some point I decided to let go of my expectations for my work. Sometimes you just need to do something strictly for the practice, even though you might suck at it (embroider that on a pillow!). My assignment became that: an exercise to try out illustrating a book cover. That kind of approach helped me not feel so inadequate - and it was helpful to know that other classmates were having similar experiences, even though some of the people in this course are published book illustrators.
I took some inspiration from a couple of my favorite Little Golden Books. Mary Blair and Alice and Martin Provensen are some of my favorite illustrators. In the end, I drew my little goats and put them into a pretty green meadow and was happy with where I ended up after only a week of work. I would definitely re-visit my little goats and work on creating characters. Now I know that's something I can work on in my sketchbooks. But I was pretty happy with my lettering and I enjoyed working on the layout and background of my cover. I layered in some painted textures and that worked really well, so that's something I can tuck away for another project. And in browsing through the class gallery of everyone's final projects it was really easy to pinpoint styles I was drawn to and I think that will help give me direction when I'm working on similar projects.
I do really hope to continue working on this aspect of my portfolio. I've kind of left it by the wayside recently and it will be fun to keep dabbling in that area. Who knows, maybe I don't have to give up on that big dream - it still might be low probability, but I've always favored the underdog.