Current projects: Fall bounty

Last Sunday was cold and snowy here in the high desert. I didn’t need much encouragement to spend the day in the studio drawing and painting.

I love decorative gourds and Indian corn. They are so colorful, and challenging to draw, what with all the knobs and kernels and twisting leaves.

Three decorative gourds on tile, a watercolor and colored pencil on paper botanical art study.

More of a still life than a botanical painting. I decided to place these gourds in an environment, rather than floating in empty, white space.

The simple round and elliptoid forms of winter gourds look odd to me when composed with a blank, white background. Placing them on colorful Talavera tile gives them more gravity, plus it lets me play with differing degrees of rendering vs. impressionism. After some washy watercolor layers, I began defining the gourds with colored pencil.

Pencil drawing on layout paper of decorative maize. A work in progress in Wren Allen's studio.

At some point, you just have to grit your teeth and render every kernel!

We drove through Española a couple of weeks ago and picked up some Indian corn and gourds at a produce stand. I’ve been daunted at the complexity of the challenge in drawing the ornamental corn cobs, with their multiple colors and the textures–and of course, their wild head of hair! The cob leaves dry into all manner of twisting ribbons and forms. Also, as the corn is fertilized, the seeds grow in unruly rows and spirals. No neat grids or tidy Fibonacci spirals here!

I stopped this drawing when I realized that with each progressive row, I had decreased the height of the kernels, leaving a gap between. Yikes! Time to pull out the eraser and try again. :-)


My PiBoIdMo routine

A diary or journal for keeping writing notes in.

I’m not much of a regular diary keeper. This pretty cloth-bound diary came from Heal’s in London about 8 or 9 years ago, and still has plenty of space in it.

My writing routine this month has been straightforward. As soon as I’ve made my first cup of coffee, I pad into the studio and open up the blue and silver blank notebook shown above, and jot down the title, or character or situation I thought of during the 3-5 am wakeful period I go through each night. The caffeine starts to kick in, and some further ideas or questions occur and I jot those down, too. Questions to research, sources of conflict, maybe even an alternate idea.

Having a nice little book to tuck the daily notes in is really good, as it makes it less likely I’ll be distracted by the online noise that is a constant dull roar when I work on my laptop. ;-)

If you’re working on the PiBoIdMo challenge, what writing routine have you set up for yourself?

Groovy Link of the Month: PiBoIdMo and Tara Lazar

2014 PiBoIdMo logo courtesy of Tara Lazar and Vin Vogel.

Picture Book Idea Month is a 30-day writing challenge created by children’s author Tara Lazar. Logo designed by Vin Vogel.

This month is Picture Book Idea Month, or PiBoIdMo, an online writing challenge created by children’s author Tara Lazar, whose blog is called Writing for Kids (While Raising Them). The Twitter hashtag is #PiBoIdMo and Lazar’s Twitter handle is @TaraLazar.

Lazar created the challenge as a response to the NaNoWriMo challenge, in which participants are encouraged to write a 50,000 word rough draft of a novel and upload it online. She felt that the 50,000 word project had little relevance for aspiring children’s authors, so was inspired to create a participatory goal-setting event that could kickstart emerging picture-book writers’ work habits.

The concept is simple: after signing up, participants agree to take some time every day during the month of November and jot down a storyline or concept for a children’s picture book. The challenge is run on the honor system and participants are not obligated to divulge their brilliant ideas online or publicly. At the end of November participants return to Lazar’s site and sign in to certify they completed the 30-day writing goal.

Every day this month, guest authors are posting inspirational essays and/or writing and drawing tips on Lazar’s blog. There will also be prizes distributed at the end of the month. Prizes include fun items like mugs and signed copies of guest bloggers’ published picture books.

Image Credit: Vin Vogel designed the 2014 PiBoIdMo logo/banner for use by Lazar’s blog and challenge participants. Be sure to check out his site, which features lively pen & ink work and flat-color vector illustrations.

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