I’ve started 2017 trying to overhaul Illustration, etc. That involved looking for help, mostly! Amy helps me for a few hours a week, I’m trying to take more time away from my desk, but still organising, sorting and cataloguing my past projects and work. I also decided it was time I went to the Cultural Enterprise Office last month for a one to one session to talk about Illustration, etc.’s future. I see these sessions as a kind of semi-emergency business therapy.
If I’m stuck and I don’t know what my next step is, I go for a chat
and I always feel so much better afterwards. I’m sometimes lacking another perspective and I can’t be very objective about the little business I’ve built for myself.
The upshot of this latest meeting* was that I should find more time to be creative, to pursue my own goals as well as those of my clients. HOORAY! Sounds like a great plan. Finding that time is part of the big overall plan, but for starters they encouraged me to consider taking on only projects that further my ‘story’.
So the things that interest me, that make me excited to be an illustrator, that I really believe in –heritage, equality, stories, community, education, all that sort of thing.
I joked about my recent organising and the folder marked ‘UNFINISHED’. It sits chronologically last in all my shelves of folders, encouraging me to add to it, or perhaps to finally migrate something from the folder to my desk and into a completed projects folder. The biggest of these ‘on-hold’ projects is pictured above. I call it A Midsummer Night’s Draft.
It’s so big. It sometimes feels pointless, but one of my goals (deep breath) is to illustrate the Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream as one single long panel using only Shakespeare’s words, like a lengthy tapestry. Back in Summer 2013 when I began this project (so long ago!) I edited the play down to (what I felt) was the minimum amount of text to tell the story properly. The play is set in ancient Greece, so my illustrations will reflect the vernacular art of that period. In this case I chose blackware pottery, you know, the elegant black and terracotta colour urns with all the people running around them, jaunty patterns, beasts, folk drinking and all that? The speech would go in the top and bottom borders, like a comic. I thought it would be fun. Turns out it is MASSIVE. Also, I don’t actually have a reason for doing it except that,
1. I think it would be so beautiful if I get it right.
2. It would be amazing to see the whole play all at one time so you could see all the themes and character arcs and mischief play out all at once.
3. I actually think as an educational tool, it’d be a great introduction to the (let’s face it, pretty confusing) play.
4. Folk who assume Shakespeare is too intellectual, too out of date, too boring would be able to see how much fun this magical play is right from the get go and would be able to see it and read it and understand it and it would still all be Shakespeare’s own words.
But it has been shelved. I don’t know how I would make it worthwhile, you see. Once I’ve finished it, then what? It’ll take several weeks to do at least, maybe months of not being paid. I just can’t do it. Who would fund something like this? The only remotely finished, inked section is the one I did for this blog post! I have only done the pencil sketches up to the end of Act II, Scene II and that took me at least an hour a day for three weeks in 2013. In pencil! Also, I’d do it a bit differently now so I guess it’s a page one rewrite.
I hope that other creatives have these folders - whether in their head or on a shelf or tucked away somewhere secret
– they feel to me like the dreams we return to when the rest of our working lives can feel somewhat staid or cynical. The thought of returning to this unfinished draft fills me with trepidation, but also I can still see its latent potential. It will give me pleasure to revisit it and build it up, inch by inch. I might even tweet some images at the Globe or the RSC or something - they might like the idea too. Looking through the folder of half baked ideas and forgotten sketches, I look forward to the possibility of placing some in the bin where they belong, others back on the shelf for another time and the occasional one onto my desk for much needed reconstructive surgery.
*Overall I have had three CEO meetings, two in 2014 that were connected to the Glasgow Alphabet Map project (it lacked direction initially) and then this latest one once I remembered it was an option.