A New Leaf for me!

So, I'm at the airport. I'm booked on the three-thirty flight to Reno, headed to South Lake Tahoe, Fallen-Leaf resort to be exact. It's been three months since I got the news. The news that could potentially, possibly, HOPEFULLY be a game changer in my career as a book illustrator. No pressure!

I was selected as a mentee in SCBWI Nevada's prestigious Mentorship program for 2014. The phone call came as a complete shock. I had applied a few months prior at the recommendation of a dear friend and successful YA author, Kirby Larsen, Hattie Big Sky. I looked over the choices for illustrator mentors. They were all accomplished and all amazing. But once I saw E.B. Lewis' work, my choice was obvious. I was a little amazed to see a realistic illustrator on the faculty! This was someone who actually did what I did only better, 55 books and counting! Most of the feedback I've received throughout my career although positive about my work, had been posed more in the form of a question. 
"Kary, your work is beautiful, but..... (then there's that awful pause) 
Why do you want to do picture books? You should be displaying in galleries. There's not much Trade work for realism. How do you feel about the Education market?" 
Seeing E.B.'s work pushed my little shadow of doubt to the side. Maybe I could make it with realism.

At that time I was knee deep in a book project for a small publisher. I was refining my style and adjusting according to what I thought was the logical direction for my work. I didn't feel great about it. It seemed forced but I couldn't put my finger on the problem. Lately I saw an underwhelmed reaction of my work from my peers. Then, ironically for reasons that in hindsight were somewhat related, the book deal fell through and I found myself with time on my hands. I looked at the sliver lining. Now I would have time to prepare for this mentorship! I would have time to analyse my mentor's work, contemplate what I want to gain from the experience. Maybe I should explain why I sound a little obsessed. (E.B., if your reading this, I promise I'm nothing like Kathryn Bates' character in Misery.) Truth be told, the first time I saw E.B.'s work, I cried. I did! I was overwhelmed. Here was a realistic picture book illustrator, not only published but creating beautiful, heartfelt images of people.... of children. The feelings I strive to capture in my own work flooded over me. 'This guy gets it,' I thought.  And, maybe just maybe he will get me! And if I am good enough to be selected, maybe he can coach me on how to stop excelling in the mediocre and make that move to the next level.  This opportunity could be a game changer. If I was lucky enough to be chosen I would make sure it was! 

 All this time to prepare and I didn't have a freaking clue what to do. I've felt paralyzed for the past two months. Didn't pick up a brush or a pencil. I've been honing my style, working on a respectable whimsy, keeping it light, drawing all sorts of things, pushing myself to fit in. It's all been quite frustrating. Every time I thought I might have a breakthrough, I would go another illustrator's blog, or look at books in my illustrator library filled with the Marla Frazee's and Tony DiTerlizzi of my world thinking, 'wow, why didn't I think of that.' It wasn't until last week when I was about to give up. I began fantasizing about being an accountant. And something amazing happened, I picked up my pencil (freshly sharpened) and exhaled. 

You see, one thing I'm not allowed to do when I get 'stuck' is leave my studio. I have to stay, even if I am sharpening pencils!  So I pulled out some photographs of kids playing and a beach scene of my friend's daughter spoke to me. I started sketching. No agenda, just playing around. It took about 5 minutes. Then, a quick trace onto watercolor paper and in less than an hour I had painted a cute little vignette. Nothing fancy, but it was mine! I felt that 'thing' I have missed for so long. That 'thing' that I can't describe. It's what causes me to want to go to the next 'thing.' And my energy started returning. I am feeling that voice (my voice) creep back into my head and it's loud and clear. 

I painted three more images this week! This one below I actually did yesterday. I think I'm ready for this new adventure and excited to be turning over a new leaf at Fallen Leaf Resort. 

-Wish me luck!


  1. Love it! Nice work and good job following your unique muse. I'd say good luck, but honestly, you are creating your own luck--that's easy to see from the outside. Big kiss!

    1. Awww, you are so sweet! Thank you for all of your support. It means the world to me.


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