Ever a story... waiting to be told

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Storyboard vs. Story Bored

8 x 10 Graphite
By Katherine Thomas
 The journey IS the destination.
I don't know who actually said that, or if it's even a quote, but that's my mantra and I'm sticking to it!
The story of the two adventurers is coming together, little by little. I learned how to make a storyboard, and I've got everything planned out according to the guidelines for children's books guidelines I've been reading. 
The storyboard is like a checklist for me as I go along. It helps me to see how far I've come and how far I have left to go, and reminds me that I'm moving forward, however slowly. 
My fear is that I'll get tired of these two before I finish all the illustrations. I might have to take a few breaks and work on other things in between... which will delay the completion of the project. But it's not like I have a deadline anyway!  
We'll just keep plugging away at it. It's the process of creating a children's book that I've always wanted to experience... and I'm doing just that, enjoying the process, rather than focusing on the finish line... (which is so far ahead that I can't even see it, anyway!)

Something's Afoot
(rough draft for Colored Pencil piece)

Monday, January 11, 2016

New Finished Work: ALOFT

18 x 24 Colored Pencil
By Katherine Thomas

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."
Leonardo Da Vinci

This piece represents a journey, in so many different ways.
The two companions are sailing off on a journey together, and every viewer will identify with that mixed feeling of anticipation and apprehension that is reflected on their faces.
Creating this piece was another journey. It's almost a chronicle representing my own life. Every subject in the scene: the map, the bookbag, the boat, the grasshopper, the girl... All have personal meaning to me. 
Artistically, this piece was a journey because I've never put clouds in the sky before! I've been afraid of clouds, until now!, but they're as much fun as trees and rocks! Who'd have thought?
8 x 10 Graphite By Katherine Thomas
Finally, this piece has started me on an excited journey into the world of these two little adventurers. I can't stop thinking about all the different settings and predicaments I can draw for them. 
Hope your new year is off to a good start, everyone. :)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Shipping and Handling: An Exclusive Behind-The-Scenes Look!

16 x 23 Colored Pencil
Almost finished with this piece... maybe another week at most!

But today I took time out to get a print ready for shipping.
Every artist has their own way of preparing prints for shipping, and there is no single right way to do it. Lots of different things will work just fine, I'm sure. But my preferred method for shipping prints is the Paranoid Perfectionist Method. It works as follows:
Step One: The print, business card, and one piece of foam core are sealed inside a cellophane sleeve.
Step Two: Another piece of foam core is laid over top, and the whole thing wrapped with waterproof bubblewrap: bubbles facing outward so as not to risk denting into the artwork through the foamcore. (I did use the word paranoid, remember?)
Step Three:  Corrugated cardboard on top and bottom, taped tightly.
Step Four: Wrap the whole thing with heavy-duty packaging paper, and secure all seams, corners, and once or twice around the girth, with clear packaging tape.
Step Five: Ship via Fed Ex, because it's quickest and has the best tracking.

I've shipped to Denmark, Great Britain, and all over the US with this method, and this one is off to Florida tomorrow. You can bet I'll be tracking it's progress three times a day until it arrives!
Happy New Year, friends!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Between Artist and Viewer

Work In Progress
Final Friday again.... the gallery is open for the evening, with live music and food and festivities galore... crowded rooms full of artists displaying their work, while visitors browse and chat... and once in a while, somebody buys a piece to take home with them. 
I love Final Fridays.
I dread Final Fridays.
Final Fridays are exciting.
Final Fridays are draining.

This past Friday, toward the end of the night, when things had slowed down a bit, one of my studio mates observed that the artist renting the space next to mine had not sold anything, even though his work always seemed to draw a lot of attention and compliments from visitors. 
"His work doesn't sell because he doesn't attend Final Fridays," someone said.
"Right," agreed another, "People want to see you and talk to you when they buy your artwork."
"They're not just buying an item. They're buying YOU."

I was sitting nearby, just listening to this conversation as I drew in my notebook. Afterward, I couldn't get those words out of my mind. 
They're buying YOU.

In a sense, that is exactly what somebody is buying when they buy your artwork. It's more than just an item, like a pair of shoes, or even a pretty decoration. When somebody stops in front of a particular drawing out of hundreds of others on the walls, it is because that piece holds some sort of connection for them. They are looking at a visual expression of something that is within themselves. Maybe it's a very simple connection, like their favorite colors. Or maybe it stirs a memory, or a feeling that they strongly identify with.  Whatever the connection is, they want to meet the person who created it, in order to make the connection complete. 
Most times when visitors want to talk about a particular drawing... it's not just to find out what I was thinking when I created it. They mostly want to TELL me what's on their own mind as they look at the piece. Whether they realize it or not, they've made a connection to the piece, and also to me as the artist, because I created a visual expression of something within them. 
To me, it's just as rewarding when that happens, even if they don't buy the piece. Those are the conversations I love, and the words that I carry around in my head for several days afterward.
Each one of those conversations also affects me and affects the way I look at the piece that was discussed. Sometimes that takes a long time for me to assimilate. I think I'm glad that Final Friday only comes around every four or five weeks!

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all my blog friends! And PLEASE come join me on Facebook, which is where I've been spending most of my computer time! 

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Head In The Clouds

18 x 24 Colored Pencil
Katherine Thomas
This is the first cloud-filled sky I have ever attempted!
I've always been hesitant about clouds, because they can so easily detract from the subject. Also, they too often look like solid objects, rather than what they are: transparent water vapor.
As practice, I experimented with different techniques on smaller paper, until I felt like I had a system of sorts. Then I started in on the big paper. It took about a week, working every day, all day to get to this point! I still need to tweak these clouds, but I'll do that as the rest of the piece progresses.
Interestingly, I've already had an offer to buy the unfinished drawing, of just the cloudy sky with the white silhouette of the boat! I told them no, they couldn't have this one... but I'd be happy to do another piece for them,  depicting that same stage of progress. They agreed, and then mentioned that they would like to hang the two pieces side by side, showing the plain sky alongside the sky with the sailboat. That might be pretty cool!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


16 x 20 Graphite
"Once you have tasted flight, 
you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, 
for there you have been 
and there you will long to return."
 Leonardo da Vinci

This is supposed to be the preliminary graphite study in preparation for a larger colored pencil drawing. But I like this version as a finished piece, too. 
I'm really caught up in this duo! I hope I can do a series, portraying the adventures of the little girl and the grasshopper. 
I've been turning down house portraits right and left this week, and I'm sorry to say, it's getting easier and easier to just say no. Except for the return clients, who ask for a second, third, or in one case, a fifth house portrait! For those people, I mail them a little gift from my Etsy shop as an apology. Hopefully, they'll come back another time, and buy one of my existing drawings to add to their collections.
Speaking of collections, I received this photo from the customer in England who bought the original piece "Djembe". They have it hanging in their music room, which seems very befitting. I'm glad to know my drawing has a good home. It's hard to let them go, sometimes! 
I hope your holiday seasons are off to a good start! 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Sailors Aloft

WIP - 11x14 Graphite
I can't let go of that little grasshopper that I drew in the moleskine journal, so I'm trying to make a large colored pencil composition out of the idea, but it will need some spicing up. As usual, I'll start by drawing the whole thing in graphite. Some might call this stage the value study. Whatever name you give it, I believe it's a very necessary step in the process. Even later, when I'm working on the large-scale colored pencil version, I can come back to the graphite draft to work out problem areas, or change things, as I see fit, before committing the colored pencil to the paper. 
First order of business: The little fellow needs a traveling companion! I found this little girl in the free stock photos on Pixabay, but I changed her face a bit, to match my daughter's photos, when she was that age. This way, if I decide to use the same girl and grasshopper in another scene, I can use my daughter's old photos for reference. 
Second order of business: The sail is going to be too boring in the larger size piece, and I don't think I can effectively render the wispy, tattered net that's hanging in front of it. So I'm going to experiment a bit with this world map, and see if I can make it into the sail! It will involve some ripping, wrinkling, stomping, crumbling, etc.... I should be able to manage that. If not, my dog is ready to jump in and help!
Third order of business will be to change the object beneath the grasshopper's feet into a recognizable toy boat for the two companions to sail across the sky. While all that drawing is going on, I'll be thinking about the color palette that I want to use, and exactly what size piece I want to create. I'm thinking about 20" give or take.

Also, I won't regale you with the traumatic story of my 7-hour drive home from the island, which should have taken less than 4 hours. (I ran over a ladder, going 70 mph in the far left lane, blew two tires and maneuvered over four lanes to the shoulder, waited half an hour for the police or AAA to arrive, then gave up and walked to the next exit to use the restroom in a medical building that was closing, met the police at the top of the exit ramp, rode in the back seat of the cruiser, got dropped off at my car again, waited alone for another hour, got approached by a questionable person wanting to 'get out his hydraulic jack and fix'er up' for me, as it was getting dark outside....

Luckily, a friend was able to drive the 45 miles from home, through Friday rush hour, and rescue me, arriving just after the tow truck. 
Now my car has four lovely new tires, good as new. But I'm still a little scared about driving on the highway! 
Bet you're glad I didn't regale you with the whole story, huh?
P.S.- Did you know there are no cushions in the back seat of police cars? It's just a hard plastic bench... and there's no door handle either! 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Secluded Hideaways

6x8 Graphite in Moleskine Journal
Remember building little forts, and hiding inside? My siblings and I made all sorts of them... with blankets over tables, or pup tents in the backyard, or little tunnels inside the snow piles... 
That's the way I feel about my little moleskine journal. It's a place where I can draw anything that comes to mind, and then tuck it away where nobody can see. The ironic thing is... I've always shared everything I've drawn in the little journal, even though I was planning to keep those drawings to myself. 
...another one...
I'm staying with my folks for a few weeks, on the little island in Lake Erie, where I grew up. The island itself is like a secluded little fort, in a way, all surrounded by water. And the only drawing materials I've brought with me are the little moleskine journal and some pencils. I'm exploring all kinds of ideas, and maybe even generating some new story plots that I want to write some day. 

I also saw this really cool video about the Golden Ratio, and was all inspired to make some templates to fit the little journal pages. I haven't decided how they're going to help me, yet, but if I just let my imagination take over... because I don't have to show it to anyone, right?  

I tested some of my drawings already, and a few of them seem to align proportionally, which supports my theory that we naturally want to use the golden ratio because it just looks right to us. It's part of us, after all!
Here's a link to the video that inspired the templates, if you're interested.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

TISN'T The Season

I finished this house portrait this weekend, and it is probably going to be the last, for a long time... 
I have been declining requests all year, and I tried to decline this one, when the client contacted me last spring... but she said she'd be willing to wait until Christmas, so I went ahead with it. The portrait will  be a gift for her parents, who recently sold this home and moved away. That's a similar story to most of the house portraits that I've done for people. They want to remember the home where they once lived. And I'm always honored to be part of that remembrance. 
But I removed the house portrait section from my website finally. That was a risky move, I know.  When people are searching for somebody who does house portraits, my name is going to slip lower and lower in the search lists. I understand that, and that's alright with me. I'm hoping to do some illustration work these next few months, and I have some projects of my own that I'd like to do, too.
So... here's one last house portrait from me... Cheers!
Happy November, everybody! 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Someday My Prints Will Come

The wonderful people at Robin Imaging made these prints of my work, to hang in their foyer permanently, as examples of the type of printing they can do. (They also made these really cool name plaques)

This one is twice as big as my original drawing! When they said that it was going to be enlarged, I was worried about the drawing losing it's clarity and getting too blurry, but it didn't! It's just as crisp and every nuance of color is there, just like the original drawing. 

These two are printed on canvas and wrapped around a board. There are two types of canvas they can use. 
I'm thrilled that my work will be displayed on the walls there, and I'm also excited to order some prints of my work mounted on boards like this! No glass... no frames... I could go for that!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

New Finished Work!

17 x 20 Colored Pencil and Graphite
By Katherine Thomas
I think I can officially say that I've overcome my paranoia about skin tones!
I've always been so hesitant when rendering skin of any sort, and especially with facial features... I'm so afraid of them looking pasty-faced or muddy. As a result of my timidness, my subjects skin is often too light and the person looks ill, or washed out. With this piece, however, I took a few deep breaths and just layered the heck out of those skin tones. Over and over again, with a variety of ochres, umbers, golds, oranges, reds, lavenders, pinks, and olive greens...  It wasn't a matter of not knowing how to do it, I discovered. It was a matter of getting over my fear of it. 
In a roundabout way, I owe my new mindset to my fitness instructor at the gym! I go to a strength-building class four or five times a week. I love the challenge of working my muscles until they scream at me, and then pushing them just that little bit further. One instructor, in particular, really pushes me to the limit of my endurance. The other day she had some motivational signs on the front mirror.  One of them said, "Win The Moment".  
Bad Selfie at the Gym
To me, winning the moment does not mean beating out anybody else. It does not mean to simply seize the day and make use of an opportunity of some sort. To me winning the moment means that I've pushed myself beyond what I thought were my limits. I've ignored whatever pain or fear might hold me back, and for just that one moment, I've reached a little bit farther than I ever thought I could. Sometimes that means doing the extra push-up when my muscles are already shaking, or running a little bit faster when I can hardly catch my breath. Or it can mean adding one more layer of color below the jawbone, when I've already darkened it twice before, and I'm not sure if I'll ruin it or make it better... 
So anyway, I made a little sign for myself saying 'Win The Moment' and put it on my bulletin board over my desk for inspiration. 
Isn't it funny how meaning can be taken from one event and transfer so perfectly to another? I try to look for those parallels all the time!

(PS- That hashtag trick really works, by the way!)
#drawing #pencil #katherinethomas #art