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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Carlos

Change is Good

Updated: Aug 31, 2019

The path to change is often obscure but if you are attentive enough, it will come to you willingly. You just need to allow it.

autumn trees and a house
I like the idea of change and my fondess of autumn symbolizes that. "Change is Good" | Watercolor and digital collage | 2019

Shake Our Core

In my dream last night, there was an earthquake, which happens rarely in South Africa—or rather less discernible compared to my birthplace, the Philippines. I realized quickly that I was dreaming but let the story unfold in my sleep. The building where we live was collapsing but it only reached a certain angle—like the leaning Tower of Pisa. Everything was still in tact. I was only annoyed because I couldn’t cook properly since everything was slipping. In the corridor I heard women discussing the situation. The other one sounded concerned while the more authoritative voice assured her companion. I went out to get first hand information only to be told that everything is under control, which in South African standard means brace yourself for the worst. The woman, strangely in matching dead purple pajamas explained that the foundation was too muddy and so the earthquake wasn’t a real tectonic activity but rather a construction fault. As she went on to explain matters, my only thought was our impeding uprooting again and searching for a new apartment for the 4th time and that why did I have to throw away our packaging materials last Tuesday!

Lucid dreams like this prompt me to look up the meaning. My late grandfather had a book of dreams that match numbers to the meaning, which he then used to place a bet. I don’t need that. I have Google. Earthquake as well as collapsing buildings in dreams mean change but there seems to be a disagreement on whether it is positive or otherwise. Nevertheless it means movement and a disruption of the normal.

There is no such thing as a life of passion any more than a continuous earthquake, or an eternal fever. Besides, who would ever shave themselves in such a state? - Lord Byron

I am not a psychologist nor am I superstitious. I do like however the research part of every process and discovering the divine or mystical connection to actual life events. In our yoga class, we get to choose one Angel card, a form of tarot/oracle card that always tells us hints of what is happening or needs to be done in our lives. It also serves as an affirmation to guide us during the day or the week. You may choose to take whatever you want to take from the readings. In the recent sessions, my cards were the Sun, Travel, Dragonfly and Myrtle. I don’t remember exactly all the specific card meanings but what I took from them is the underlying symbolism of change. Likewise in any fitness exercise, when we start to shake during a workout, it only means that our sleepy muscles are responding to change that indicates making adjustments as we learn to stabilize our core. Beautiful, isn't it?

Watercolor landscape illustrations and watercolor paints on a wooden table
My process in creating the book cover design for "The Girl Who Said No!" for MATS ICB

A Necessary Criticism

In the recent Make Art That Sells e-course, Illustrating for Children’s Books, I was fortunate to be included among the chosen few during the live Facebook review. My cover art was reviewed. Strangely it’s one of those pieces that I worked on effortlessly. Once I got the concept clear in my head, I only needed to sit down and paint and kept on flowing in just 1.5 days of joyous labor. Now, this a big deal for me because I am a newbie in the course and out of 300+ participants from all over the planet, and after weeks of grueling conceptualization and drawing, I received a first hand critique on my work from industry experts, our mentors, art agent Lilla Rogers and picture books art director Zoë Tucker. They saw a style unique to me that Lilla encouraged me to develop.

What joy! They saw something I clearly didn’t but only instinctively felt while making the piece. What that instinct specifically told me was to make a landscape in the shape of a wolf's head, it's menacing eyes concealed but piercing through the forest. Dried out watercolor overlapping strokes naturally create these crisp outlines that can substitute pen line work, which I dearly like. The trees are to be painted alternately in single brush strokes to create density and depth. These will then be composed in Photoshop as a seamless collage—a technique I realized I have been employing since I learned Photoshop centuries ago.

illustrated houses on a wooden table
Similar single brushstroke technique was used in creating the stripes of these houses for the environment spread in "The Girl Who Said No!" story book assignment.

Throughout the course and even in other MATS courses, I have been experimenting a lot and I have been struggling to see which direction to take in my art career as well as artistic style. Since participating in MATS ICB paired with daily drawing exercises, I am slowly getting to know myself as an artist, my working routines and my own nuances. At the same time, I am relaxing even more. I’m putting lesser pressure on myself to find a distinctive style. At the same time, I am also subconsciously adding bits and pieces of my own life experiences and acquired technical skills from my former life, for example, color narrative as a colorist, visual concepts and blocking in filmmaking and likewise emotional maturity from life’s blows. True enough, as what our mentors and other seasoned artists I have encountered preached, style only develops with constant practice.

Let that happen. And then whatever you have to contribute will come out if you allow it to come out. —Charles Santore on Charles Santore: Down the Rabbit Hole, The Stockton Visual Arts Program School of Arts and Humanities, Stockton University

Let it Be

Charles Santore, renowned children’s books illustrator of Alice's Adventures Under Ground and Wizard of Oz said in an interview, “Most students, and I was one… We all thought, what could we possibly have to offer? There’s a world of illustration going on out there. It’s a parade that’s going by and we’re standing on the sidelines. We want to know how to get into the parade. If [sic] we think, what could we possibly offer? But the fact is, each individual is a tuning fork that is made really of the material from their own personal experiences and each one rings differently when you strike it because experiences that make that person who they are get them to respond differently from the next person. So if you can just really trust in that—if you can allow yourself to just respond to the material and not worry about a technique, your technique will develop over the years. It’ll develop unconsciously the way your handwriting does. Looking back at your handwriting you’ll notice it has a certain fluidity—a certain style whatever it is—sort of sketchiness, maybe a quirkiness but that is part and parcel of your personality. Let that happen. And then whatever you have to contribute will come out if you allow it to come out.”

"Be you with a vengeance", "People buy your joy", "Go for it" are just a few of the wisdom I have received from Lilla and Zoë apart from the technical know-hows they have shared. I think what they want us to learn most is that as an artist you have to find your voice to stand out from an ocean of gifted artists. It’s a competition alright but the first person to compete with is yourself because we all have our fears, egos, insecurities and these can overshadow our work. Our mentors tell us repeatedly to get over that so we could break free and just concentrate on making art. That you will only achieve if you know yourself well as a person and it will definitely resonate in the works you put out there.

Strongly I feel the artistic evolution that’s coming and it can only be fueled by inspiration, perseverance and my own extraordinary experiences. I just need to embrace it and let it happen and if it changes again, just let it be.


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