Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Christmas All Summer — Connection, Harmony, Joy

Continued from this post.

Fast-forward to 2010.
Suddenly everything was coming together more rapid than eagles: First, last fall I jumped on a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to study figure painting with world-renowned watercolorist Charles Reid. Miraculously my schedule was open and (for once) the money was there. So I took a road trip to Jackson Hole to paint with the master himself. We painted from live models all day every day, and I learned so much...including not to doubt my own abilities. I was able to overcome my skittishness about painting people, and Charles actually told me I should become a figure painter! Huge progress.

Next, there was Peter, the printer I had worked with for 17 years in Los Angeles, but with whom I had since lost contact. He was this amazing printer who helped me start my design business back in the early 90s with three great referrals...including the Los Angeles Philharmonic. But we hadn't spoken since I moved, six or seven years ago. I thought he’d sold his business. A previous project (also a book design) prompted me to try and reconnect, so I emailed his wife. :) [Vee haff oudr vays...mwah-ha-haha!]

Like a Christmas card from a long-lost friend, suddenly we were back in touch. It turns out that Peter is still in the printing business, but his focus has shifted slightly--and he now specializes in (of all things) printing fine art books! Astounded at the synchronicity, I asked him about the process. He told me he had personally calibrated a press in Korea. He did all the proofing in Los Angeles, and could virtually guarantee that the book would match the proofs and be delivered right to our doorstep from clear around the world in about six weeks. Amazing. (And affordable.) Almost as good as Santa Claus!

Close to the same time, a great friend from Pasadena (who I hadn't seen for 4-5 years) emailed me out of the blue saying her daughter, Katie, who was majoring in design and illustration at BYU, would like to intern in my studio. I hadn’t had an intern for years. What was I supposed to have her do? Straighten the studio? Catalog paintings in the computer? But I said yes, mostly as a favor to my friend. And then I remembered Ester's book. (I'm a little slow sometimes.) Katie could help with that! She could be the support staff I needed to actually get it done! When Katie brought me her portfolio, I knew it was a good fit. She showed some maturity in her concepts, some sensitivity in her drawings and paintings, and an eagerness to learn.

I approached Ester and told her I had an intern and a printer lined up, and I thought we could have a book ready by this Christmas. She was elated. We drafted an agreement, and suddenly, almost overnight, I was immersed in Christmas!

I put Katie straight to work. We played Christmas music the entire time, to keep us in harmony with the theme of the book, even though it was 90 degrees outside! We sat side by side at my kitchen table (and later the countertop in the downstairs studio) three days a week, munching on peanut m&ms as we pored over the manuscript, envisioning how best to bring each of the thoughts to life. My goal was to help the reader actually FEEL what the author was saying.


We broke it down, page by page, sketched out thumbnails, and discovered a powerful dark-to-light motif that we wanted to capture in the design of the pages. I also noticed a visual theme of repeating circles which felt significant, and certain segments that begged for a punch of vibrant color. Together we researched images, shot photographs, made preliminary drawings. Working in tandem was more comfortable than I thought it would be, and yielded good results. Katie was a godsend.

Ester was also a joy to work with -- she loved every idea, every little sketch we presented to her, saw the depth and detail of symbolism we were incorporating, and delighted in the whole process.

We were really on a roll! I was feeling great about what we'd accomplished — 32 pages plus the cover — all designed, laid out, sketches prepared and ready to create final artwork, in just six weeks. Now I had two full months left to finish the twenty paintings. It would be tight, but doable...

--And then the deadline changed. (da-da-da-DUM!)

To be continued...Part 3 is here.


22 comments:

DeNae said...

Hey, my friend, pop over to my place. I gave you a shout-out and alerted my readers to your wonderful book! Love you!

LisAway said...

Awesome how it all started coming together! I'm getting this book for my mom (a children's book lover/librarian) for Christmas. And probably for my sisters, too. (and obviously for me, but I didn't have to tell you that). But first I want to read the rest of your story!

deb said...

I'm completely thrilled for you!

I got lost yesterday after I followed the link to your webpage and immersed my soul in the beauty that is your art.

I don't know if I qualify for the giveaway as i live in Canada, but regardless I want you to know how I love this and support you and of course will buy this book to have in my home.

Luisa Perkins said...

I LOVE all the details. I'm going to blog about your book very soon.

For anyone who doesn't have it yet: IT'S GORGEOUS! Everyone on your Christmas list deserves and needs a copy.

breckster said...

I'm so glad you are sharing this! It is great fun to see how you spent your summer.

Kristina P. said...

This is amazing. I am so thrilled and proud for you.

Barbaloot said...

What a fascinating process! I keep thinking your intern is so lucky to get to be a part of this process.

Lara said...

Ack, another cliff-hanger! But it is cool to read how it all came together at once. Must have been how the Lord intended it!

L.T. Elliot said...

Of course you drop a bomb like deadline changes at the END of the post! You're killing me, Charrette! ;P

Roban said...

Thank you so much for visiting me.... I've been out of touch with the blog world really since last spring.... just trying to keep up with everything at school and at home.

I did receive the book and immediately wanted to send you a note but have kept waiting for an extra minute to "do it justice." I didn't even want to e-mail you because that wasn't good enough for me to express my feelings about this beautiful book.

Your paintings are so pretty, and the story is so meaningful. It holds a special place in my heart.

I can't wait to read all about how you two developed the book, so I will have to devote some time to catching up real soon. In the meantime, please accept my gratitude for the book. I actually have a collection of Christmas books that have special meaning to me, so this one is a very special addition.

Many hugs and much gratitude being sent your way....

Roban

ME said...

WOW--so fun to hear the back story on how it all came together! More, please!!

Cookie said...

It's so beautiful to see how these many important elements have been coming together for Ester's story! Thank you for showing us the story behind the resurrection of the story :) It's so good to read your blog again! I had really missed you.

Janet said...

Jana, It was so great to see you at UWS last night. I LOVE the book, and was honestly blown away by the absolutely gorgeous paintings you created. I'm amazed you were able to get all of them finished in such a short time. How fortunate to have an intern at just the right time : ) Remember to bring some extra books to December meeting to sell. Best wishes to you.

Jessica said...

I love reading about this process!

Happy Mom said...

After reading through the last three posts I had to follow the links and take a look at your work.

Simply lovely (the one of the Savior especially)

val of the south said...

Amazing how it all comes together. Such a journey!

Marie said...

Mesmerized!

Marie said...

Da da da dum! I'm kindof impatient about some stuff -- may have to call you to get to the end of the story!

Shari said...

It's so fun to read the story. Back story is the BEST.

The Mom said...

Can't wait to hear more!

Rachel said...

It's really neat how everything falls together sometime. I'm always amazed.

Kateastrophe said...

WHAT IS MY PROBLEM! I missed this day too! I think I'm getting early onset Alzheimers.