Earlier this summer, an email showed up in my in box that both delighted and terrified me. It was from the publisher of Mamalode magazine, Elke Govertsen, asking if I would consider collaborating with Annie Flavin and illustrating eight of her poems that would be featured as the centerfold in the next issue. EIGHT ILLUSTRATIONS! CENTERFOLD! IN PRINT! The theme would be It's Complicated. Further explaining that while the theme could be interpreted as complicated, it didn't need to be.
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Well, I think I replied with some little joke about the J. Geils Band's 80's hit single Angel is a Centerfold and them immediately said yes. HELL YES! I quickly decided that I would use Micron pens and watercolors and, in keeping with the theme, keep my line drawings clean and simple. I jumped up and down and shared the news with my husband and son. And then it really sank in and I freaked out a little bit from time to time, but I think that's normal, right? Right.
Mamalode gave me total creative license, but shared their preference for handwritten works. Annie requested that her poems be read in a certain thematic order and that really helped me with my creative process while interpreting her words and sentiments.
I came up with a lot of the concepts while I was in Homer, Alaska in early August, which just so happened to be the publisher's hometown. I was so fueled my the natural beauty that surrounded me, as well as an amazing ferry ride over to Halibut Cove, that I almost had too many ideas to sort through. I frequented their library to look at reference books on native plants and Alaskan Native art books. I took dozens of photos of their ubiquitous fireweed and tried to absorb all of the soul-piercing beauty and culture that surrounded me.
Fun fact :: The Homer Library denied me a library card the week that I was there, so I had to do most of my looking and note-taking at the library. Not a bad thing, but I really wanted a library card from Alaska. And, yes, I'm a complete library dork.
I started working on watercolor paper at first, but then changed to smooth legal paper in the end because the watercolor paper was too textured and it was hard to drag my lines across the paper. These weren't going to be originals for sale, so I opted for plain old copy paper and my Micron pens responded with clean, crisp lines for most of the illustrations. I also played around with a Copic drawing pen [size F02] for the hand-lettering. This pen was great during the assignment, but has proven schizophrenic when I tried to use it after the fact. It barely completes a letter without breaking the line. I'm so glad it held up during this assignment.
Motherhood, as well as the relationship between men & women, were always in the forefront of my mind while interpreting Annie's words. Gender roles & stereotypes, assumptions based on those stereotypes & the perceived simplicity of youth were my guides. The physicality of pregnancy and physiology of sex played a part in these line drawings, as well.
Wanting to keep a simple color palette, I chose hot pink gouache to represent girls-women-females and a vintage Prang turquoise blue watercolor to represent boys-men-males. I did throw in yellow and chartreuse green to marry the two typical boy-girl colors throughout the series. The pink and blue are symbolic and really pulled me into the stark, black lines and the stories being told through Annie's free verses.
|Umbilical cords (inspired by Alaskan seaweed) were the backdrop for "Before I Was Me, I Was You"|
|A curvy, endless road that we're all on as parents inspired by "Each Time"|
|Orgasms. Big & Small. Period.|
|Wonky flowers. Each different. Like our children. Inspired by "Our Gifts"|
|Womb with layers of love stacked up like spoons + the baby at its core. Inspired by "Spoons"|
|Double fencing and/or walls around the words in "The Way Home" serving as security; keeping home & those relationships safe inside.|
|Fish scales inspired by a line in this poem; also representing the number of choices we all have.|
|Radiant beams of light, positivity, hope. Little rays of sunshine inspired by "When I Die"|
Speaking of gifts, I'd like to offer a little giveaway. Please leave a comment on my Instagram feed or in the comment section below sharing how you plan on making this coming holiday season a little less complicated. I'd love to steal a few of your good ideas! I'll pick one lucky winner to receive a print of your choosing from this collection (printed on 80# card stock).
UPDATE: WINNERS SELECTED.
I couldn't just pick one, so Amy Larson, Tricia Kushman Anderson & Rudri Bhatt Patel all win. Thank you for sharing how you plan on keeping the holidays a little less complicated. Email me your mailing address and the print you would like and I'll pop in the mail next week. Thank you!
Mamalode will also be giving away one of my prints to a lucky reader next week. Have you started following Mamalode on Facebook or Instagram? Are you signed up to receive their newsletters? Have you ordered their ad-free copy of this next issue? Well, what are you waiting for? Sign up and you'll have another chance to win a print.
You can also submit your genius to the editors at Mamalode by following this link. Go ahead, do it. The theme for next month's online issue is also It's Complicated and they're are accepting submissions right NOW. Do you have a story to tell? I think we all do. What's yours? Poetry, photographs, essays & cute quotes from you kids all accepted.
Annie Flavin is also offering a giveaway of one of our prints from this series. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter for your chance to win.
This was my first illustration assignment and I couldn't be more proud or pleased with the results. Thank you for taking the time to read this long-winded, promotional post and following along in this fun journey I'm on.
I can't wait to see where it takes me next.