Tuesday, January 17, 2012

There and Back again, An Illustration Project of The Hobbit

I decided last year (several weeks ago) that 2012 I was going to learn more about illustration.  To do so, I needed to study and to practice.  But how to practice?  I needed a project.  I was inspired by all the daily or weekly projects being announced around the beginning of the year, like by artists Lisa Congdon and Cathy Cullis.  I was driving up to Portland not long ago and was listening to NPR and an interview with Matt Kish who talked about his project of illustrating a page every day from Moby Dick (over 500 pages, wow!).  I thought at the time about if I did such a thing, what book would I choose?  Immediately, The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein came to mind.  I had just re-read it the previous summer and had fallen in love with it all over again.  Every page was full of descriptive details and there were so many adventures to be followed.  But at the time I dismissed the idea, I just can't do daily projects.  I lack the stamina.  I know myself too well, it wouldn't have worked out.

The idea stuck with me, though, and soon I realized that I do not have to treat it as a daily project but a year-long project.  True, with 303 pages in my little paperback copy of The Hobbit it would nearly end up being a daily sort of thing, but that didn't mean I had to sit at my studio table every single day cranking out an illustration.  Which works better for me, especially as I still need to do other paintings as well (in fact, I'm still figuring out where I'll find the time for all of this...).

So, what this all means is that starting tomorrow I will begin sharing illustrations with you.  Each illustration is inspired by one page of The Hobbit, starting with page 1.  These illustrations, at least at this point, are not going to be super representational.  Probably more abstract as I will be taking a word, a sentence, or an idea from the page for my inspiration and doing whatever I like with it.  I'm keeping them purposely loose so I can play with different mediums and techniques, see what I like.  After all, this is supposed to be about practicing.  And they will likely change throughout the year as I try new things and try out new ways of illustrating.  Plus, since I'm not sure yet where this whole illustration thing will take me, whether I will actually do professional illustrations some day or maybe it will just add to my fine art practice, I want to keep this all open and flexible for myself.

All but perhaps 3 illustrations will be small, simple, and on paper.  So 300 illustrations will fit that description, more or less.  I plan to do 3 larger paintings over the course of the year.  Each will still be an illustration inspired by a particular page, I just plan to do it larger and more complex like one of my larger paintings.  I will also be keeping a sketchbook for the project (photographed above) so I can plan ahead a bit.

So there it is.  Here's hoping I can keep it going.  Hopefully by sharing here, it will keep me inspired.  I've had a lot of fun with the project so far and am excited to start sharing it with you!


Gracey said...

You inspire me BIGTIME! :) I'm currently reading The Hobbit, maybe i can try to sketch little things, too.

Sara said...

Oh, I like this idea! Saw your two first pages on Flickr (and then came here to find out more) and they're great! In fact, you have inspired me. I too read about Cathy Cullis' daily projects, but I know I can't commit to a daily project. Perhaps I could frame it in a different way, like you have, and see how I get on? Hmmm...off to think about this! ~ Sara

Elizabeth said...

Thanks Gracey and thanks Sara! So nice to hear I might have inspired you on your own projects. I'm with you, Sara, I can't do a daily project for an entire year (probably not even a month) but that shouldn't stop us from having a yearlong sort of project.

kate gabrielle said...

What a neat project!! Good luck!! :)

vivienne strauss said...

I already love what you're doing with this!

Elizabeth said...

Thanks Kate, thanks Vivienne!