Art Journal- September 14, 2022 “The Creative Journey”
During childhood, a particular series of books caught my interest: Serendipity Books. Mostly written by Stephen Cosgrove and illustrated by Robin James, the illustrations were beautiful, vibrant, and evocative of the 80s. To this day, I’m not certain if the illustrations were rendered solely with watercolors or a mixture of watercolor, acrylic, with pen and ink outlines. Day after day, I flipped through the pages of Cosgrove and James’ books, fascinated by each illustration.
However, when I first began to make art, I preferred black and white pencil drawing. Now and then, a school art project came along which prompted me to try inexpensive retail watercolor sets. I was young and still learning, so those sets served me well. Early on, the biggest trick involved not loading too much water onto the paper, either causing the paper to disintegrate or form wavy belts. The application process could be unforgiving… especially when first learning.
Oil painting, on the other hand, was a one-time venture! The paint took forever to dry. By forever, I mean that I began a painting, then set it aside. Two weeks later, the paint was still as wet as the day I applied it to the canvas. “Nope!”
I continued to work mostly with pencil and charcoal. By college, I began to dabble with watercolors again. An instructor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, David Gildersleeve, seemed to prefer them. He introduced our class to the secret color: Payne’s Grey. Uncertain about what color to use next? Need to repair a mistake? Payne’s Grey. Whoops, I made a terrible mistake with my life choices! Payne’s Grey was always the answer. He also told us to throw out the tube of white paint that comes with most watercolor sets and opt for an acrylic white, as the watercolor version is mostly transparent and thereby useless, albeit for blending colors.
When it came time to illustrate the A Home Without graphic novel, I initially tested out a sketchy pen and ink style, with a very light wash of watercolors. Given the heartfelt and autobiographical nature of the story, I wanted a gritty, hand drawn aesthetic, even for the dialogue. After a few test pages, I decided to move forward with a style that offered more vibrant colors than what I initially had in mind. The end result probably isn’t too far removed from the artwork found within Serendipity Books, coupled with more cohesive line-work.
Conversely, Tennessee Williams crafted so much of the most natural dialogue I’ve ever read or heard. With A Streetcar Named Desire, when Blanche is in distress, there’s no doubt in the audience’s mind. We identify with her plight. One day in college, as part of a class exercise, instructor Mark Kneece brought us to a local coffee shop near campus. Without trying to be obvious, we eavesdropped on the conversations of fellow patrons and subsequently utilized some of their dialogue into our own stories. I wanted that same level of realism with A Home Without. There’s a fair amount of explicit language with Mitch Garrison, but it’s necessary to convey his anger and frustration with life.
Lastly, I’d like to close with a thank you to David Gildersleeve. Last year, I happened to be in a Savannah art gallery by City Market, looking through some of his work, when the lady next to me professed to be his wife. She then corrected herself to say widow—“He passed away from cancer several years ago.” I had no idea. One of his lectures is still circulating on YouTube, should anyone care to seek it out. In addition to various Batman titles, he was also an accomplished fine art painter. I would like to show appreciation to instructor Mark Kneece, author of Verdilak, as well as another instructor (and friend): Bob Pendarvis, creator of A Girl Called Ana Teaches Kittens How to Draw. Thanks for helping me grow as an artist and writer!
Warmth and Kindness,