I was recently commissioned to do an illustration for a Spanish magazine dedicated to Bread, its craft and its culture. The topic: my favorite bakery. It was easy to pick the bakery: a tiny ancient place tucked away in one of the many courtyards on Hannover's Podbielski Street. It isn't necessarily the quality of their bread--which is very good in a city with plenty of competition--but the feel of the place, with its over 100-year old oven, the soot-stained walls, shelves and baskets overflowing with spelt, rye and wheat breads in all shapes and forms. I threw myself into the job, read what I could about the bakery's history, got a tour of the place, felt the heat of the flames on my cheeks while I closely watched the baker pull out dozens of crusty 'Handwerker'--'workmen'-- as the white rolls are called. I took pictures, did a series of sketches, and then embarked on creating a picture that I felt most closely represented the inside of the bakery, the types of bread sold there, the cramped space. I labored over each little loaf almost as much as the baker himself.
'It's a well-done picture,' the editor told me. 'But I don't see you in it.' I was going to contradict him. I worked so hard! I was going to protest. Then I remembered the uneasy feeling I had when I looked at the finished piece. It's pretty, I thought. I wonder who painted it.
This is a lesson I will have to keep learning again many times, especially as a working illustrator. I know who I am when I stand in front of my easel. So why is it so difficult to hold on to that certainty when I step away from it?
I usually hate it when people draw direct relationships between me and the subjects I paint. But in this case, it seems that bread seller is indeed me, looking insecurely up at the prospective buyer. Come on, isn't this a perfect baguette?
A little about myself:
Hello there and thank you for visiting my website! I have lived in Spain, Mexico, France and the United States, but now make my home in Germany. I have a Ph.D. in Literary Studies and a Master's in TESOL, and have published several books for children, among them El Loro Tico Tango and El Fandango de Lola, a 2012 Ezra Jack Keats Honor Book. As a writer and an artist I'm in constant conversation with my own anxious mind even as I celebrate the joyful possibilities of our crazy, incomprehensible world.