Revisits: Growing Up

I did some illustrations for an event at Fictive Dream, an online fiction magazine specializing in short stories. It’s called “Revisits”. In it, the magazine revisits “the best of the back catalog”, as editor Laura Black says. Every two weeks through August, a different theme will be explored.

Look here for the first post, Love, which also offers an overview of the parameters of the art aspects of this project.

Today, May 8, the theme is Growing Up. Here’s the image:

Image 6a blog

In earlier projects for Fictive Dream, as you know, I made a couple of images for each story. I followed that trend with the earlier Love and Abuse and I did the same with Growing Up.

These images represent more steps on the journey in creating a look that would be coherent through the project. As I mention in the previous post, for Abuse, we had developed some specifics. The tree motif was established as was the general layout of the images – sky, ground, tree, and text all had a specific place in the compositions.

For Growing Up, I wanted to give a sense of freshness and newness to fit the theme, and I also thought a group of smallish trees would be nice – a reminder of seedlings just starting out.

I created two images:

As you can see, we were still trying out the idea of trees in colors other than black. In discussing these entries, we decided that from now on, all trees should be black, for unity. Additionally, Laura thought the colors were a little brighter than she wanted.

This time I amended the pieces with most of my work in the real world, not the digital one. I collaged over the colorful trees and added black trees. I also toned down the whole composition (each piece) with a wash of white paint. Then I desaturated each piece digitally, just a little. I’m not fond of the effect of this last step, in most cases. It tends to gray things out, and anyway, as you know, my preference will always be for bright clear colors.

But – remember, in this project I am working to meet the wants and expectations of someone else. It was my job to make amendments to my work to suit editor Laura Black’s specifications. Commission work requires a focus on what the customer wants.

Let me back up and give you a little personal history to explain where I am coming from. When I first started doing art, I made fabric wall hangings, and a good proportion of my business was house portraits on commission. Here are a few samples:

By the time I was doing collage, I had decided I didn’t want to do commissions. I did not enjoy the stress and worry of meeting the (oftentimes unexpressed) expectations of customers. The moment when the commissioned work is shown to the customer: it’s scary for the artist!

So I made only a few commissioned images in collage; people often asked, but I turned them down.

Now, I have many examples I could show you, especially in collage, of images very faithful to the scenes that inspired them. For a long time, I took many photos as I traveled around and then represented them in collage, and I enjoyed it. The difference being, I only had to please myself – if the image didn’t come out exactly right, well, if I wasn’t bothered, then no one would be.

Commission work is not like that. Take the house portraits: naturally, the owners wanted the picture to look like the house, and while I did my best, there was always the risk of a mismatch in what I created and what the commissioner thought they might get. (Hint: always get an upfront nonrefundable deposit.)

In this project, however, Laura and I had a shared history from our other projects together, and I have always found her easy to work for from the very beginning in September Slam – she has a definite vision and is clear in her instructions, but she is also willing to listen to my ideas and respectful of my input.

With this in place, we worked together to make the best look possible for the Revisits series; though at times I was not sure if I was going in the right direction, I never doubted we would get there, and that both she and I would be happy with the results.  Hers was not an easy job at all, I think. Thank you, Laura, for everything!

All right, back to Growing Up. Here’s where we ended up.

Now all Laura needed to do was choose one of the images. And as you know from the beginning of the post, she decided on the one with the aqua ground. I like both of these images; they remind me of spring, a time when young things make their appearances and start to grow. I do admit to being partial to that aqua color, though…it makes for a happy growing-up impression, I think.

Thanks for reading! And take a look at the stories:  here at Fictive Dream.

13 thoughts on “Revisits: Growing Up

  1. memadtwo

    The aqua is more transitional, but I do like those bright greens!
    I spent my whole garment center career pleasing people–I finally got accustomed to not only the criticism but the insults. Well, it was business, and people like to posture I found.
    So I really identify with the freedom to please only yourself. One of the real gifts of getting old I think.(K)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you re: the art, I liked the green and yellow one too and on my own probably would have chosen that one, since I am very partial to yellow. But both of them pleased me so I was happy with Laura’s choice. I know what you mean about a whole career of pleasing people, I found the same in the banking world – people do love to posture and if you’re trying to sell to them, well, they have the upper hand. I agree, doing what you want is top of my list as a benefit of getting older – and what a benefit it is.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. It’s actually pretty easy to do a house portrait once you have made a good scale drawing. Took me some time to get the hang of that but the things I learned really have helped me over the years in all kinds of projects.

  2. tierneycreates

    I love the Growing Up Series; and WOW – those fabric wall hangings of houses! I want to be a multi-talented artist like you when I grow up artistically! I just remain in awe!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you. I did these houses in fabric when I first started out, and I taught classes on creating them and my work was feature in a fabric how to book published by Rodale back around 2000, I think. I wrote a how-to book myself on them but it’s sadly out of date since I did it in the late 90’s and there are so many products that make it easier now. But in all cases, making a good scale drawing was the key. Once I got that going, the rest was pretty easy.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      You’re welcome. I hadn’t looked at some of these photos in a long time. I did quite a few house or building portraits and I developed quite a method (it was published in a book by Rodale Press about 20 years ago). But now there are new products, creating these would be a lot easier, I think, nowadays.

  3. Fictive Dream

    The house portraits are stunning, Claudia, both fabric and the later collages. How nice that there’s link between your early work and the Revisits series. By the time we got to the Growing Up image we decided that the trees should always appear in black and I’m sure that establishing this link between the series images somehow helped me to further settle into the artwork. I understood better where it was going. For me at least there needed to be a strong identifiable element because I knew that the Revisits images would never appear side by side (unlike those for September Slam and Flash Fiction February). I ought to explain that Revisits posts appear twice per month at fortnightly intervals. In the end I chose the aqua images for several reasons: the colour of the sky engages well with the Fictive Dream logo, I like the more muted tones of the land and I particularly like the tiny green leaves on a couple of the branches. Yet, the trees themselves are spiky – growing up isn’t easy! This piece of artwork encapsulates growing up perfectly. Thank you, Claudia!

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Thank you, Laura. This project has reminded me of many of my past lives such as in fabric collage and paper collage, and I guess it is fitting that the theme of this artwork was Growing Up (or growing). You are right, it is not always easy, and there are bumps in the road along the way. I like how this one turned out and I think as a whole it expresses the theme.

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