greenwich park and the drawing lifeline

Once again, this morning I was out and about in Greenwich Park doing hard coursework for my Philip Reeve/Alex Milway Landscape Drawing 101. I was besieged by pigeons and reckless squirrels, and I was very tempted to draw them in. But the whole point of the exercise has been to draw the greenery because it’s my weakest link. I only slipped up once with that pigeon in the corner.

Very glad to get an e-mail from the Greenwich Phantom, to say she’s happily following the sketch progression. (Hello, Phantom!) Someone (a lovely person) made a funny comment the other day on the phone; they said they’d seen my blog and saw by my sketching that I wasn’t busy, so thought it must be a good time to call. And I’ve had a couple people recently say things like ‘if you have time to do that, you must have time to do [insert worthy activity]”.

The truth is, I’m almost panicking with how much I have to do before a whole host of events: Sunday’s Hypercomics family workshop in Battersea Park, Wigtown lit fest, Bath kids lit fest, Ally Pally Knitting & Stitching Show, four days of comics workshops in Ireland, the British International Comics Show in Birmingham, Cheltenham lit fest, Crystal Palace kids lit fest, two days live painting for Nottingham Game City, three days of London MCM Expo, Oxford FCBG conference, SCBWI Winter Conference, Leeds Thought Bubble and the Sheffield Children’s Book Award ceremony (Morris the Mankiest Monster is up for the award). And that’s not mentioning the Scholastic book illustrations due in January that I haven’t even started yet.

The thing is, those all involve a zillion e-mails, and if I sit in my studio trying to answer them all day, never drawing or going for a walk or anything, I will go completely mental and fat. I had to quit the rowing team because I couldn’t keep up with the training and races since I was doing so many weekend events. I’m rubbish at doing exercise just for the sake of it, so I’ve put on a lot of weight this year. Going to a gym in the morning makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel and makes me crabby all day. So getting up at 6am to cycle a ways, then draw in the park isn’t a bit of frivolous free time, it’s absolutely essential to keep me from going twitchy. And I’m new at this, too, so I don’t always know the best way to divide my day into perfect regimented segments.

The other thing is that, when people ask me to make children’s books and do events, they’re not asking a person who sits and does e-mail all day, they’re asking someone who can draw pictures and has experiences to tap into so the books are filled with life and joy and hope and all that good stuff that makes stories. And sitting all day in front of a computer just doesn’t make that happen. I like that bit in Neil Gaiman’s article, George RR Martin is not your bitch:

I remember hearing an upset comics editor telling a roomful of other editors about a comics artist who had taken a few weeks off to paint his house. The editor pointed out, repeatedly, that for the money the artist would have been paid for those weeks’ work he could easily have afforded to hire someone to paint his house, and made money too. And I thought, but did not say, “But what if he wanted to paint his house?”

Hehe, don’t even get me started on housework, that has gone way, way by the wayside and no, I can’t yet afford a cleaner. Which doesn’t thrill Stuart one bit. Blogging is another thing that isn’t a spare time thing, it’s how I remember what I did every day, and helps me sort out my thoughts. So if you see a lot of pictures here, it probably means I’m freaking out in every other part of my life. But at least the pictures mean I haven’t died, which is a good thing. Meeting Philip Reeve in Edinburgh and then being able to follow the sketches he’s been making at the same time is a great perk to the job. I love knowing it’s not just me trying to keep my brain working while the e-mails and deadlines whoosh toward us.

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