Misty watercolored memories

It’s exciting getting to work on a new book. The excitement kicks off with the first advance check, now nestled in my bank — but that’s short-lived. The real fun is figuring out all of the bits and pieces and how they fit together. I don’t have a huge amount of time to work on this book but enough so that I can go back and rewrite and redraw things until I really like them.

When my editor read my blogpost announcing my deal with Chronicle, she wrote to me to remind me that the book is not in fact scheduled for next year but the middle of 2013. Yipes. I promised I could get things done faster if she could compress the schedule on her end and we managed to swap things around so now the book will come out six months earlier in the Fall/Winter 2012. I have until October 1 to get the first draft in which should be plenty of time (famous last words).

Much of this book is drawn from the illustrated journals I’ve kept over the past 13 months but they’re all being reworked and augmented. My journal captures the here and now so vividly but a book needs to have a more lofty perspective too, a way of winding everything together into a narrative. While the book has a clear beginning, the end is fuzzier and so I have decided to bring the story to an end after a full year, the official mourning period. Mourning, of course, takes a lot longer than a year — it seems to be  a lifelong process — but the book has to stop somewhere.

Beyond my illustrated journals, I have been writing a lot, little paragraphs, captured thoughts, revelations, and I am blending them into the pages I have already drawn and painted. That means a fair amount of editing but it’s all being created with snapshots of my moods taken as they appear.

The book will open with a section focussed on Patti’s life, trying to bring her to life on the page, to tell her story before I start to hog the stage. That section of the book is going to be done in a new way, quite different from my usual style, drawings done entirely with a brush and watercolors. There’s no ink, no solid lines. And I am working from photographs, as they are all I have of her now.

I worked with this palette of eight different shades of Dr.Ph Martin watercolors. I keep them in a dark bag because they just can’t stand the sunlight. They work fine in books that remain closed most of the time.

First I drew a light contour drawing in pencil, so I would have a vague sense of where I am going.

Then I used a couple of shades of blue to do an underpainting, getting a sense of the tones. Often, this is my favorite part of a painting and I wished I’d just left it monochromatic.

I next added two dark shades of brown to build up contrast.

Next I added warm tones and started to work on the skin.

Now I added more reds and yellows.

And here’s where I left off today, with a little bit of writing in the corner. Chances are I’ll tackle this picture again after it’s been lying around for a few days.There’s still something sort of frozen and taxidermic about this, one of the reasons I ‘m not wild about working from photos, particularly contrasty ones taken with a  flash. Hopefully it will also improve once I;ve written all around it. Look for it (or some descendant) in my next book.