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?
with Guy Béart's Les couleurs du temps, The Colors of Time. Another illustration for my Sixty Songs project.
Here's my own adaptation of a popular German children's song and game. The original is quite bloodthirsty (the poor horseman doesn't fare too well since he gets eaten first by crows and then by snails). My message here: we're all friends if we treat each other with respect.
When I take a break from painting (and from teaching!), I grab my iPad and have some fun with digital collages. Here are two from my series illustrating songs I plan to learn by the time I turn sixty. I better hurry ... (:
Here she is again, the old woman. She lets go off the dark thoughts that crowd her mind and talks to the fish. The big one had a close call.
... contemplating the future with gentle weariness. Not the canine, of course, for whom everything is shiny.
What is the old woman looking at as she pauses during her evening stroll? Is she gazing inside at a memory of her younger self, sharing a glass with an unsuitable boyfriend? Or is she looking at a young woman drinking one last sip of courage before she and her horse set off on a breathless adventure?
From my series of portraits of people I (may) have met, and who I definitely would like to meet (again).
And here he is again, the little faun, enjoying a peaceful afternoon in the woods... I still don't have a handle on the whole audio editing thing, but it's a start. Merci, Claude (Debussy) ...
On a beautiful island morning a couple of years ago, my good friend A. and I shared breakfast as we tried to come up with a name for this character I had created. Gus, my friend suggested, and we christened the little guy with the last drop of Irish coffee. I thought of him then as a little satyr, but he is in fact a shy and gentle soul, a faun, and not at all "satyrical." Things usually don't go that well for him, and yet he keeps at it. Le petit faune.
As I was working on this drawing, I remembered these words by an old friend. She wasn't talking about men, though I think we both would have agreed that cuteness in all forms fogs the mind. These days we seem to be wild about cuteness, especially when it comes to animals. Cute animals, I admit, are quite present in my Instagram feed. Lately, though, all the goodly-eyed critters are beginning to look the same to me. What would cats, those supremely elegant killers, make of our cutification of them? They may be curled up prettily on our lap, purring us to sleep, but they will always keep an eye open for danger or opportunity.
may I have the pleasure of your company at my garden party? There will be cake and ice cream and games. At night we'll light lanterns and we'll return to the time when we believed adults knew how to anchor the world, when summer lasted forever, followed by winter with snow and roasted chestnuts. Don't mind childish things if you come, though, and be ready to talk to animals. And plants. Come any time!
P.S.: Gifts are welcome, of course!!
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.