Proper Etiquette When Dealing with Guardian Monsters
I'm just your average run-of-the-mill-type artist who also happens to talk to monsters... on (ahem) a daily basis. Yes, I realize that may sound a bit unusual, but they actually make pretty decent companions, especially when there is no one else around to talk to.
Baby Monster ©Gretchen Deahl
As a professional illustrator with too many ideas wanting to burst forth from my overactive (and slightly addled) mind, it seems the most natural outlet. Unfortunately, I have discovered that monsters - Guardian Monsters in particular - are rather high maintenance creatures and have become a bit annoying and whiny with their constant demands for attention, including I might add, requests for specialized "monster" food, which involves much time-wasting activity (at least for me).
When was the first time you knew you were an artist?
I don't know when I consciously realized I was an artist till much later in life, but since I was approximately 5-6 years old, I was fascinated with pictures and images of all kinds. Gathering piles of books (the hardcover American Heritage monthly magazine, as an example) around me was a favorite pastime. I would scour the pages for pictures and create stories in my head, since I was too young to read. I played with dolls too, of course, but books intrigued me. Books about dinosaurs were favorites! The scarier, the better!
Guardian Monster: Icckelby Slumberton ©Gretchen Deahl
Please tell us about your art
I've been a commercial artist since graduating college, creating art in almost every style and subject matter, depending on what various art directors required. However, when I finally got the chance to create my own art with no restrictions, I headed back to my first love - art for children (and children at heart).
Style - whimsical or moody. Medium - Watercolor/ink and bw/colored pencil.
Themes - Anything out of the ordinary, such as monsters and other odd or quirky creatures. Charming perhaps... cutesy, definitely not! Nothing against the "Care Bear" type pretty illustration, but I prefer art with an attitude, or at the least a challenging personality! :-)
My process tends to be time consuming, mostly because I enjoy creating intense pattern and texture in my work. It begins with pencil sketches, where the ideas exploding in my brain manifest themselves rather messily onto tracing paper. Slowly, they get erased and redrawn multiple times to become an image with some structure and composition. Color and pattern now enter the picture (literally) in the form of watercolor, colored pencil and digitally, via Photoshop.
What type of music do you listen to while you create?
That's a tough question. I enjoy so many different types of music, ranging from Classical dirges to Peaceful, lilting ballads to bawdy Country tunes! It all depends on what mood my art needs to project. Pattern making, for example, requires bright, uplifting music with no vocals -- lest I get distracted and start singing. It is perfect for the repetitive, sleep inducing trance that one can fall into. Moody, black and white pencil drawing requires, you guessed it, moody, slightly disturbing classical music playing softly in the background.
Go Deep (to find your bliss) ©Gretchen Deahl
How do you find inspiration when uninspired?
Believe it or not, I am rarely uninspired. What puts a halt to my production is just plain running out of steam. While my imagination continues to overflow with endless images and ideas, my body exerts its will occasionally and hides in the closet pretending to be asleep. (Okay, it really is asleep -- but it's the only way to effectively escape that bothersome imagination!)
Focus, on the other hand, is more of an issue than being uninspired. Sometimes the "mind-net" has a whopping big hole in it and has a hard time capturing those loud, yet elusive "great" ideas. That's when I turn to one of my favorite activities: "Artist Watching". Nothing soothes and focuses my overactive brain more than witnessing the creative masterpieces of other artists. While this practice does produce side-effects, such as sighing with envy over a technique that is beyond my (now, pathetic) abilities; growling with jealousy over some artist who apparently sucked an idea straight from my head and created a much better version (darn it!); whimpering in fear that I will never, ever become a "real" artist and have to give my certificate back, etc...
What do you like to do in your spare time besides making art?
Spare time? What spare time!? :-) When I am not actively "creating" art, I am usually thinking or dreaming about it. Pleasurable distractions from that obsessive process include concocting delicious (yet healthful and balanced) meals for my much-too-trusting husband; chatting with said husband (until his eyes glaze over - not caused by said meal); spending time with family and friends. Less than pleasurable distractions include those darn household chores that keep coming back each week -- why don't clothes STAY clean!! :-(
What is the most recent artwork you are working on?
As usual, I am "working" on several projects at the same time. By "working", I mean dreaming, thinking, researching, sketching, ... With the exception of one series (which have nothing whatsoever to do with monsters), the rest do. "Inner Monsters" (I have several of those) and (title-yet-to-come) Monsters. I tend to create work as part of a series, like my "Alphabet Monsters" and "Baby Monsters".
Guardian Monster: Lorcan Blitherish ©Gretchen Deahl
What would you say is your best guardian monster?
I suppose I would have to say it is my Guardian Monster Alphabet series. Not only did I have to create 26+ (some have siblings or cousins) individual Guardian Monsters, but each monster had to have a unique name & personality; a set of potential issues (we all have some, right?); and a set of beneficial & protective powers (they are guardians after all). Let's not forget the necessary research it took learning the proper etiquette that is required when being introduced for the first time. That is, if you want to leave with all your digits still intact! (I learned this the hard way and have the bite marks to prove it).
What role does the artist play in the world?
An essential role. Vital to the continued growth and healthy development of the human being - mind, body and spirit.
Are you having success at selling your art?
So far, so good! I sell open and limited edition prints, not originals. That seems like the best way to get my work out there in the world at an affordable price. I am involved in every aspect of the process, from creating the original work, scanning it into my computer for digital output, printing each piece on my Giclee quality, professional grade printer and packaging / shipping each print to it's final destination. I admit (for better or worse) that I am a perfectionist (a.k.a. control freak) about the quality of each piece. I also create by hand, cards, pin-back buttons and magnets. Currently, my outlets for sale are my 2 online Etsy.com shops and at select juried art festivals.
How do you promote your art?
I must be honest and declare that I am a promotion freak as well as control freak and have absolutely no shame promoting my work anywhere and everywhere (within reason) that I can manage. My excuse for this shameless behavior is the belief that while one may have great work to share -- if no one can find it, no one can buy it! I am always on the lookout for a great blog (ahem, such as this one), as well as Facebook: Where Monsters Meet, which is my favorite, since I get to meet / know each person who "Likes" it personally.
Others include: Twitter, LinkedIn, Behance Network, Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI.org), Martha Stewart's "Dreamers Into Doers", ETSYKids, etc...
People and Nature.
PEOPLE: other artists including the Great Master Painters and Illustrators (Paul Klee, Gustave Klimt, Vladimir Stankovic, Rebecca Dautremer, Alberto Cerriteno, the list is endless.) and general humanity, with a focus on the Human Psyche.
NATURE: Patterns, textures, design in nature like groupings of animals, clumpings of plants, piles of seed pods... virtually everything.
Corners - Hiding in Plain Sight ©Gretchen Deahl
Can you recommend a favorite contemporary artist?
At this particular moment in time, I have become enamoured with the art of Rebecca Dautremer, a French Illustrator whose work I find magically captivating. Rebecca Dautremer
I came across her website quite by accident, on the way to somewhere else. Her poetic style, daring composition, and use of rich color and pattern stopped me dead in my tracks and made me forget what I was looking for to begin with. She appears to be best known for her children's book illustrations. I am still in the process of uncovering more details about her life and work, since most of what I can find is in French. (My high school French doesn't help one little bit.)
Please tell us an interesting experience
Back in the mid 1980's my parents and I went on a trip to visit my mother's distant relatives in Sofia, Bulgaria. In many ways it felt like going back in time, where old women gathered together, covered entirely in black clothing called babushkas, and herds of sheep roamed between the high rise apartments of the capital city, tended by their shepard. Our gracious hosts were distant cousins who showered us with hospitality and plenty of delicious food. One evening they took us to a restaurant high up in the surrounding mountains, past endless fields of giant sunflowers. As we began our meal I noticed music playing gently in the background. Was it the hauntingly beautiful “Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares” (The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices)? sung by "The Bulgarian State Television Female Vocal Choir" - the "singers that won the Grammy Award and endorsement from such pop superstars as Paul Simon, Linda Ronstadt, George Harrison, Bobby Mcferrin, Midori and many others all over the world."
No... it was American country music singer-songwriter, Willie Nelson.
Where would you like to see yourself as an artist in 10 years?
Continuing to explore new ways of artistic expression. Deliberately (meaning not by accident - which is usually the case) taking artistic risks and stretching the boundaries of my abilities. I also hope to become more of an art collector, rather than just a seller. There are so many amazing artists out there whose work I would enjoy viewing "in person" and not just online. It would thrill me to be a financial supporter of newly hatched artists, as well support the efforts of expanding art appreciation in the community.
Can you leave us with some advice for aspiring and emerging artists?
The hardest thing a person (especially an artist) can do. Believe in yourself. Believe in your art. No matter what. Beware of criticism that is either too harsh or too over-the-top positive. Both are probably wrong. Be honest, but listen to yourself first and foremost.
Proper Etiquette When Dealing with Guardian Monsters
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