Friday, March 27, 2015

New Story: Family Gathering

It is traditional. Every time we have a family gathering at Great Gramma Marj's house, a bunch of us take off together for a walk in the woods, either before or after a gathering at the dinner table. The woods by Marj's house is the most beautiful woods I know.

This particular gathering was for River's Great Uncle Steve, who was visiting from China. Four generations gathered to visit him: River and her three yr old cousin Sebastian, River's father and two uncles, her Gramma Suzanna the artist, Grampa Rifaat, Great Uncle John the sailor, and Great Aunt Jeannie, Great Uncle Don, and cousin Morgan. Whew! Who could remember them all?

While Jeannie, Don, and Morgan were still on their way, River went for a walk in the woods with Dada, Uncles James and Jeremy, Great Uncle Steve, and Gramma Suzanna. Gramma Suzanna made a story out of the walk.

 Here is a draft of one of the panels in the story. I am Gramma Suzanna, of course.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Project: Stories on Silk--China

This bridge was at a park in Huzhou
When I visited China, it was as a family member, not as a tourist. My brother Steve Watkins, fluent in Mandarin and with an extensive knowledge of Chinese culture, married Xiao Ning, a delightful Chinese woman who lived through the Cultural Revolution and spent her working life as a television journalist in Jinghong, Yunnan Province, China. Steve has spent most of his working life in China.
letting me know what I missed in my sketch of the bridge

With Steve and Xiao Ning as my guides, I got a deeper understanding of China than I would have as a tourist visiting mostly the tourist spots. I collected folk tales and family stories, sketched daily life and places of beauty, talked with locals, and took over 1000 photos.

When I returned to the U.S., I wanted to share some of this adventure. I painted illustrations of some of the stories on silk and created a slide show I shared with my friends.

But that isn't enough. Several of you have mentioned that you would love a book of the stories behind the paintings. At last I have started on it! I'm calling it Stories on Silk--China from the Studio of Suzanna Leigh.

Some times it takes awhile for an idea to season before it can burst forth in the form it needs to take. In my case, it may take years. When it does blossom, it takes form with a depth and understanding that would have been impossible sooner.

Stories on Silk--China will feature paintings on silk with the stories that inspired them and the context from which they emerged. Each painting is associated with a city I got to know. There will be sketches, photos, and anecdotes to give you a fuller picture of the China I experienced.

I expect to have a limited first edition ready by May 1st. I plan to keep you informed with Wednesday blog posts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Jamila's Story

Here is the finished story, ready for you to see and enjoy. I would love your comments, both what you like about it and where  it is not clear. I can see already that the words on page one are hard to read. I'll fix that in my next book. Also....Oops! a misspelling or two! My spacial relations brain and my speller brain don't communicate well. Note to self: Always, Always get a proofreader!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

thumbnails for page 1

 I'm done, I'm done! My first ever story in pictures is finished! Here are some of the steps in the process.
1. list story points that might be images and the story arc (setting, characters,  problem, etc.)
2. decide on format (12 frame story? 6 frames? 9 frames? etc)
3. decide which story points go on which frames
This part can change as the story progresses.
4. draw thumbnails of images in frames. arrange, re-arrange, as necessary. This might require several drafts.

final pencil drawing page 1
5. final pencil drawing
6. transfer to final paper, ink
7. add values with ink wash
8. paint with watercolor washes

Steven Reddy builds his color and his washes layer after layer after layer.

This story is based on a story my friend Jemilla told at a gathering to honor a well loved friend.

ink and ink wash
I love this way of telling stories! I already have a dozen more I want to do this way. I have stories of Island life, of adventures in the desert, of travel to distant lands. I have my uncle's stories of being a pioneer missionary during the communist take-over of Laos. There are my mom's stories of growing up during the depression. and on and on. I can't wait to get started on those!

I expect I'll be doing several collections of stories.

I'm still working on how to integrate this way of working with the three dimensional fabric art of my last show. I want to continue to work in both mediums. But how do I present them? How do I let my current fans and friends know about this new way of working?

final color, part of page 1