“She traveled with only a bird for company.”
It’s a pleasure to be featuring illustrator Susan Sorrell Hill this morning on the first Sunday of September. FIRST SUNDAY OF SEPTEMBER? Yes, I’m doing a double-take. Are you? How did this shifty month sneak up on us so quickly? I blame the ringleader on the right. (More on him below.)
Well, it’s not that September is inherently shifty. It’s that it’s gotten here so quickly, it seems. It’s even almost officially Fall, y’all. (Here I am saying that which is kinda silly and pointless. Those “where does the time go?” mutterings we all do at one point or another are rather inevitable and unanswerable, but 2012’s really flown by. Don’t you think?)
Where was I? On the first Sunday of each month, as many of my imp readers know, I like to feature the work of student illustrators, debut illustrators, or those otherwise seeking out that elusive thing called publication.
Having studied both textile design and children’s book illustration, Susan—who lives in northern California with her husband, sculptor Ernest Caballero—has for many years now worked in both illustration and the fine arts. She has worked in printmaking, pen and ink, oil painting, silversmithing, ceramics, silk painting, and more. However, watercolor and pencils on fine papers are still her favorites, as she notes at her Etsy site. She has also started writing and creating picture book manuscripts.
As she notes at her site, she can be found most days painting — or thinking about painting. “Lizards, deer, blue jays, jack rabbits and very tall trees (plus the occasional mountain lion, bear or skunk) are my neighbors,” she writes at Etsy. These creatures, she further writes, remind her of the inscrutable mysteries of life.
And one can see in her artwork that she’s trying to capture those mysteries, those fleeting graces.
As you’ll see below, Susan’s work has an imaginative, ethereal quality to it. Her fairy-tale pieces, in particular, are lovingly, elegantly visualized. I thank her for visiting today, and I’ll let her tell us more about herself and her work.
Susan: I love telling a story with pictures and have been doing it in one form or another for most of my artistic life. I suspect it was that ﬁrst box of fat crayons that hooked me.
[Ed. Note: Pictured below is A New Life (watercolor).]
My studio is a tiny room in the house I share with my sculptor husband, in a small town tucked away in the foothills of Northern California. My grown-up stepson is also an artist, but I don’t have any children myself. I do try to keep my child-like sense of wonder and curiosity alive, though — and temper it with a dash of humor whenever I can.
I have come to the world of books a bit later than many illustrators, and there have been many artistic adventures along my way. Larger-scale oil paintings was my focus for many years, but watercolor with pen & ink has become my favorite painting medium by far — perfect for the mysterious, subtle, and evocative stories I like to tell.
Artists of the Golden Age of Illustration (Rackham, Dulac, Charles and W. Heath Robinson, Beatrix Potter, and others) make me sigh with pleasure and envy, but I have contemporary heroes and heroines as well: Maurice Sendak, Angela Barrett, Lisbeth Zwerger, Edward Gorey, Chris Van Allsburg, Margot Tomes, Leo and Diane Dillon, and John Jude Palencar, to name just a few. Many of these artists have illustrated timeless stories that have complexity, mystery, magic, and themes of journeys, quests, and change, often in fairy-tale or folktale format. These are my favorite themes, too.
I get my best picture ideas while doing something entirely different: taking a shower, going for a walk, driving, doing yoga, or chopping vegetables for dinner.
Susan: “Even when I painted in oil, stories were my focus.
I mostly work in watercolor now, but my style is still very similar.”
Susan: “Inspired by the Brothers Grimm fairytale of the same name,
which is also known as ‘The Handless Maiden.'”
Susan: “Occasionally, I add a lot of pencil to my watercolors.
I like to play with the balance between drawing and painting.”
Susan: “That alarming scene from The Wizard of Oz…”
“They had no idea who he was, but he seemed harmless enough.”
“What would it be like? he wondered.”
“The trees watched them pass silently by.”
“They followed him willingly.”
I’ve written and illustrated a children’s picture book recently, The Emperor’s Pear Tree, which is looking for its publisher. My second book, The Teapot’s Tale, is my work-in-progress, along with the paintings I make for sale.
The following two illustrations are double spreads from The Emperor’s Pear Tree, a re-telling of a Korean folktale. It’s one of those quest stories that I’m so fond of.
“Reaching the mountaintop at midday, she left the ﬁrst bundle of dried ﬁsh,
crisp and salty, within sight of the sleeping Dragon King.”
“Without warning, the air was ﬁlled with a blue-green whirring and ﬂashing.”
These last three are not-so-scary demon sketches (watercolor pen & ink) from my work-in-progress, The Teapot’s Tale, inspired by the life of legendary Tibetan yogi and poet, Milarepa. The one in the cape is the ringleader.
As a reminder, Susan’s work can be seen here, and at her Etsy shop, AuntSoup, you can find even more of her paintings. Don’t miss her wonderful blog, too.
All images used with permission of Susan Sorrell Hill.
Note for any new readers: 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. New kickers are always welcome.
I know I’m supposed to list kicks here, dear imps. And I apologize in advance that I won’t be. But honestly? Can I be honest? I’m always honest here at 7-Imp, so why stop now?
I’m not one to get political here. Not at all. This is, plain and simple, not a political blog. But I was bummed out this week by speeches made at the GOP convention in Tampa. Of all the hateful and ridiculous things that can sometimes come out of the mouths of some to the radical Right, I was really bothered by the following from Mitt Romney:
“President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
I am very much not a member of the radical Right. Or even the Right. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions.
But, really? “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.” Those very utterances nearly sent me into a rage, and they definitely put me in a funk. They terrify me, in fact. I already worry that my daughters will live in a world one day where, say, we have land wars over clean water, and here is a POTENTIAL LEADER pretty much mocking the need to take care of our planet. Call it what you want, but the audience laughed—derisively, contemptuously—and he smirked.
How are taking care of our beleaguered planet and taking care of our families mutually exclusive acts? I would really like to know.
Grrr. Just GRRR.
I know this isn’t kick-like at all, and I apologize. For that reason I am now pasting the image here of an obscenely, ridiculously, HORRIFYINGLY cute kitten to lighten the mood. But I found it so bothersome that—I realize now as I’m sitting down to type—that it left me all befuddled as to what my kicks for the week of 8/26/12 actually were.
I’ll try harder next week. Promise.
So, I’ll say this. Two things:
1) Susan’s art makes me happy today. Please do tell me what you think of her artwork. That is the primary purpose of this post — to give her illustrations the spotlight, not my political griping.
2) And perhaps if you share your wonderful kicks with me, I’ll forget about my rage. How does that sound?
Oh, and here’s one non-gripey thing from me today, a little story.
3) Every time I hear “September,” I remember a game of Pictionary with my mother and my aunt.
I should add here that both women can get downright silly and have very delightful, rowdy, bawdy senses of humor. Even before the wine is opened.
For this particular game, my mother had to draw the word “September.” She broke the word up into “sip,” “ten,” and “bear.” (Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure if this was a game of Pictionary or Charades. AND I can’t remember which was one drawing, actually, and which one was guessing. Anyway. It was a long time ago. Onwards and upwards…)
So, this was a clever strategy, I thought, on the part of my mother. Indeed, my aunt got each word: sip, ten, and bear. And my mother kept nodding and pointing, as if to say YES! And she kept gesturing wildly for her to just smoosh those three words together already and then voilà! she’d have it! But my aunt just kept screaming, “SIP TEN BEAR! SIP TEN BEAR?? SIP … TEN … WHAT THE *&$%^!”
Aaaaaand…she kept yelling SIP? TEN? BEAR? (with some creative curses thrown in for good measure) until her time ran out. (In the meantime, I was in the fetal position on the floor, laughing so hard that I thought I’d soil my pants.)
And so I always think of that when September comes ’round the bend. And I laugh.
The End. (Maybe you had to be there?)
Kick #4) THAT KITTEN.
See? I almost made it to seven.
p.s. I think I can safely speak for all kickers when I write that our thoughts go out to those folks who live in the Isaac-ravaged areas of the Gulf Coast.