Jules: It seems like just a moment ago I was talking about the first Sunday in January, and here we are facing the first one of December. Crazy talk, I tell ya. And, as my dear readers know, the first Sunday of the month means I shine the spotlight on a student or new-to-children’s-books illustrator. Today, I welcome Amanda Laurel Atkins, who shakes things up with some portraiture this morning. (I don’t think I’ve featured a portrait artist since the talented Jody Hewgill in 2008, but don’t quote me on that.)
Amanda’s first illustrated children’s book is forthcoming, and she tells us a bit about that below, as well as why she’s drawn to the portraits you see here of these enigmatic women (mostly — there’s a bit of a departure with T.S. Eliot below), sometimes sad-eyed and sometimes contented, but always mysterious, as if they harbor great secrets they’re not quite willing to share but might gently hint at. Or secret narratives, as Amanda calls it at one of her sites.
Amanda lives and works in Boston. If you like what you see here, she has a Facebook page, “Amanda Laurel Atkins Art & Illustration.” Without further ado, here she is, and I thank her for stopping by.
Amanda: From the time I was little, I knew I wanted to be some type of artist. My mom absolutely loved children’s books and shared as many of them with us as possible. Every weekend, we’d visit the children’s room at the public library and pick out new books to read. This definitely instilled a love of reading and illustration in me at a very early age.
My whole life, one of my favorite things to draw has been cozy, detailed bedroom scenes. When I was little, I’d spend hours drawing intricate tree houses and bedrooms full of treasures. My favorite part of the process was adding all of the “character’s” personal belongings to the room. To me, a space wasn’t a space unless it was filled with your favorite things. I was really into secret things like lock-boxes and journals, which still show up in my art!
I think it’s this infatuation that transcended into my love of portraiture. The women I paint are fictional, and I get to build a little space around them and fill it with the things that I imagine would empower and inspire them. I’ve always been fascinated by portraiture — from very old paintings where symbolic objects were chosen to represent the subject to mid-century photography where people are posed in specific settings. I love thinking about those elements and creating ‘personal spaces’ for the ladies I dream up.
I’ve always found my biggest inspiration to be my love of the past. The past appeals to me more than the present in a number of ways, and vintage clothing and hair are staples in my paintings. My love for animals and my passion for literature are also constant undercurrents in my work.
I graduated from The Art Institute of Boston at Lesley University in 2008 with a BFA in Illustration, having minored in Literature and Writing. My first illustrated book will be coming out soon through Write Fuzzy Publishing. It’s called I Looove You Whale and was written by Derrick Brown. I wrote my own children’s book a few years ago and have decided that 2011 is the year I’m going to finally illustrate it and make it a reality. I can be found at AmandaAtkins.com.
One Pale Thing Amidst the Throttle (Meant to Be with Aristotle)
And if by boat he leaves my stare, / with grace I learn the art of air.”
All artwork © 2010 by Amanda Laurel Atkins and used with her permission.
As a reminder, 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you.
1). My thoughtful friend sent me a random gift this week, as well as a card that says, “I have over 300 friends on Facebook. You are the only one worthy of a card.” (Okay, I’m sure her other friends are, too, but you get the idea. Clever card, given the acquaintance-filled juggernaut that is Facebook. I think juggernaut is a fun word, and I just wanted to type it.) And how did I end up with such good friends? I mean, really.
P.S. If I were a really cool and big-name sailor, I’d be juggernautical.
2). I met with four Vanderbilt students on Friday, all grad students in Education, who will be interns for the book Betsy, Peter, and I are writing. INTERNS. FOUR OF THEM. I feel very lucky. I already have a lot for them to research. And they were all eager and smart and friendly and well-groomed and smiled a lot and such. Also, I didn’t scare them off. BONUS.
3). I am
slightly vastly obsessed with the CD pictured here. As in, if I haven’t absolutely had to talk to people this week, I’ve been walking around wearing my iPod with this man’s voice pouring into my ears. Villagers is really one guy, an Irishman named Conor J. O’Brien, who gets his friends to play with him occasionally. I guess. The CD is flippin’ brilliant. My Favorite Song of November is “Pieces,” which brings me a hefty amount of comfort. I wish I could play it for you here. Any live versions you find online of him singing “Pieces” with just his guitar (and they’re out there) won’t cut it, since—on the CD track—he completely unleashes himself and thoroughly dismantles the song at the end, all histrionically and heart-breakingly and with the instruments going berserk, and utterly and undeniably and quite literally howls. Like a jackal. I guess.
But since I can’t share that, we’ll settle for this, the title song. Which is hardly settling. This song is brilliant, too. He’s performing it in his cozy kitchen here. I wish we could all stay and have tea and toast with him afterwards. I see his lovely cornflower-blue teapot back there on a shelf.
I guess I should have warned you about the soul-preying, clothes-stripping jackals in the song. I swear, some of the songs on this CD are the sonic equivalent of an Edward Gorey book. But also beautiful and hopeful. (Not just all Gorey and jackals and flesh-ripping.)
4). While we’re on the subject of music, I enjoyed re-visiting this CD, which I wore out all summer. Summer seems like yesterday. Like the breath I just took. The hair I just brushed from my forehead. The keystroke I just executed. Oh you get the idea. But it quite clearly isn’t. It’s been a while, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes, winter’s settled in, and things are different, but going back to this CD was like stopping by to visit an old friend, as corny as that sounds. Plus, you gotta love any CD that opens with the sound of (what seems to be) a rocking chair on a wood floor just before the guitar strumming kicks in.
Also: Blind Boy Chocolate and The Milk Sheiks will cheer you up. Have a listen:
BUT WAIT. One more: Delta Spirit has this flawless, bluegrass-soaked, harmony-laden song, all Old-Testament and such, called “Flood.” I must have listened to it ten times in a row the other day. It is beautiful. I can’t find it online to embed for you, but there’s always this other brand-new one, if you feel like dancing. As in, this one’s a foot-stomper:
5). Finally wrapped up a new children’s novel with my girls that has taken us precisely forever to read. I had to hold the six-year-old while she cried over the death of a major character, and I cried as I leaned into her, too. We were just pathetic for a little while there.
6). How do you like the E. B. White quote I added to this page of the site? I’ve always loved that and decided this week that it should live on that page forevermore — or at least till the zombies (or jackals) come and even blogs get eaten. (Here is a picture of E.B. White, in all his smart-ness.) Also, while we’re on the subject of good quote-age, I have “JES” to thank for pointing this out to me from author Arundhati Roy: “I really worry about these political people that have no personal life. If there’s nothing that’s lovely, and if there’s nothing that’s just ephemeral, that you can just lie on the floor and bust a gut laughing at, then what’s the point?” I really want to exclaim that loudly. I think I will: “…then what’s the point?” Okay. There. That felt good.
As JES noted, that goes for anyone, wouldn’t you agree? (That is, not just the one-track-minded political folks she’s discussing.)
7). Last, but far from least, isn’t it nice to see and hear this? Mark and Andrea are tentatively back after a very hard 14-months. No matter what they decide to do about podcasting, it’s nice to see and hear them talk children’s books again (and, as always, hear the coffee mugs clinking in the background). I’ve always been their fan. And always will be. They could conduct podcasts about, say, the latest happenings in office furniture or, I dunno, the soy bean market, and I’d still tune in.
BONUS: The only thing better than cinnamon rolls and good, strong coffee for breakfast is when your friends come over and you get to share some with them.
NOTE OF INTRIGUE: I am curious about this children’s book, an old Christmas title from Finland (or so they say), called The Loneliest Ho. Yes, The Loneliest Ho. I actually ordered a copy. As in, not just for the kitsch factor, but as a children’s lit enthusiast, I just have to know: Is this for real? The Mayan fertility idol, the “Elf-juice,” “Christmas isn’t Christmas without HOs”: I am puzzled and laughing to myself and wondering if it’s a joke and shall report back, once I get my copy.
What are YOUR kicks this week?