Guess what I did in October?
- I bungee jumped from the skid of a helicopter into the caldera of a raging volcano, coming within over 500 feet of a pool of molten lava.
- I decided to take the month off from blogging, and all the posts you saw here were really composed by my clone, ’cause I’m like THAT with a super smart clone scientist.
- I completely forgot about my 7-Imp first-of-the-month student illustrator feature and just skipped October altogether.
Yep, it’s the third one, though I didn’t even make the first one up. (You can evidently pay over $10,000 to do that in Chilé.)
So, on the first Sunday of each month here at 7-Imp, I feature either student illustrators or illustrators brand-spankin’-new to the field, and I just completely blanked on the first Sunday of October — though, to be sure, it was a treat to see the work of Ingrid Godon.
But guess what else? I am more than making up for it today with the work of Dasha Tolstikova, who graduated just last year from the School of Visual Art’s Master’s program in illustration. Here she is — and with lots more of her art. I thank her for visiting.
Dasha: Before I became an illustrator, I was a photographer, a reporter, a newswire translator, a sales clerk, a cargo van driver, a film producer, and a decorative painter — not necessarily in that order. But the whole time I was doing all of those things, I was thinking about making books.
I started making books before I knew how to write. My mom would sew these little books for me, and I would write stories and draw pictures in them. I would “write” the text by drawing scribbly lines and then tell everybody that it was a foreign language. A trick I use to this day –- you’d be surprised how many people don’t know what Russian looks like.
I always drew pictures, but I grew up around artists and it seemed like such a serious endeavor and what I was doing—scribbling and doodling—did not seem really all that serious. So, it took me a long time to figure out that this was actually the only thing I would be happy doing.
When it became clearer to me, I went to graduate school. I know it’s a bit controversial whether one should go to school to learn to make art, but the program I went to, the SVA MFA illustration program, was the perfect place for me. It was the first time in my life that I felt surrounded by people who cared about exactly the same things I did –- stories and pencils. Also I learned to a) draw everyday and b) to trust myself, which I think are just really important life skills.
Since graduating, I’ve been doing a few different things -– some editorial illustration, some book work (I just did my first book cover for Enchanted Lion Books!), some personal stuff (including A Fox Diary tumblr – which is my favorite side project), and also shopping various books around. It looks like I’ll be continuing working on my thesis project—A Year Without Mom, a semi-autobiographical picture book novel for the 9-12 set—with Groundwood Books, which I could not be more thrilled about.
I work in a studio in Bushwick with some other alums from SVA. I love having the support of my studio mates. I drew at home for the first six months after I got out of school and found it very isolating. Also, I need the discipline of going outside of my house to work. Otherwise, I would just re-organize my books all day and take naps.
Just recently, I’ve been figuring out a new way of working, which is a little terrifying, but mostly exciting. Am getting back into using more color and pencils and various paints after being on the computer a lot, and it feels fun.
A few of the people (out of HUNDREDS!) I look at for inspiration are: Isabelle Arsenault, Laura Carlin, Anne Herbauts, Beatrice Alemagna, Alice Provensen, and always Edward Gorey [see image immediately below].
All images used with permission of Dasha Tolstikova.
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.
My kicks are all wrapped up in this, as I type this here on Saturday night: A day of reading stories to a group of children (which is what I miss the most about school librarianship), great Autumn weather, visiting the park with good friends, and some good, warm cocoa.
Oh, and I’m really grateful for thoughtful surprises that came in the mail this week from thoughtful people.
And oh again! One more thing: Today, I got to meet in person Camille Powell of BookMoot. Now, she has one of the oldest children’s lit blogs. It’s nearly ten years old, according to this ’08 interview I did with her. Camille also joined me and Adrienne Furness in doing these fun Jack-Gantos-for-Ambassador posts. It was great to meet Camille face-to-face.
Sorry to the number seven for not enumerating these kicks, but I’m pleasantly tired from a good day, which is a good kick overall to have.
What about you? What are YOUR kicks this week?