Overcoming a creative struggle
One pencil stroke at a time
A Guest post by Carla Hoffenberg
I'm currently working on a very exciting picture book - ‘Mia’s Glam-ma’.
I read the text and I immediately had strong images of a glamorous grandmother and a little girl form in my mind. Mia and her Glam-ma just flowed from my hand to a sketch.
So what was the struggle?
I couldn’t for the life of me take Mia into a fully-formed, full-colour, believable being.
It just did not work! The little girl, Mia, a four year old, first looked 10, then 2, then 20. Her face was distorted and her poses and proportions just weren’t plausible.
So what did I do???
I sketched some more
When something is challenging - I go back to the sketching phase, drawing things over and over again. I drew poses and portraits of kids with similar outfits and faces and in different angles. I also did some quick gesture sketches. This made me pay more attention to line and shape and also helped me form a clearer picture of what I wanted to present on my page.
I asked my kids to pose for me - nothing beats drawing from real life - and mainly used google images.
I drew a ‘bad’ version
I gave myself permission to do a very ‘bad’ full colour version of my character. This helped me to:
give myself permission to not produce my best work and just go with the flow,
review it and articulate what wasn’t working and what was so that I could make adjustments.
I got feedback
I showed my work to the illoguild during our regular review - the feedback was reassuring, helpful and kept me motivated.
I encourage you to find people who can provide advice and encouragement - it could be on facebook, though SCBWI, a colleague, a friend or a family member.
I wrote down key words about my character
This helped me understand her better and think about what I was trying to portray on the page.
I committed my time
This is to me is the hardest part. When something isn’t working - I find a million things to do that are “urgent” (mainly checking when my online shopping is arriving). I blocked out time in my day to focus on drawing and broke up my time into segments - for example: Sketch 1 hour, write 15 min, formal line drawing 1 hour and I (mostly) stuck to it.
I took breaks
This sounds counterproductive, but this allows my subconscious to get to work. When I come back to my iPad I have a fresh perspective on things and often see what I didn’t see before.
Also I somehow do my best thinking when I go for a run.
And eventually… things started to fall into place. My character got to a point where I was happy to show the Author (Josie Montano) and Publisher (Ipoz.kids) and get their feedback.
And now Mia is ready to go on adventures with her Glam-ma.
I hope this was useful to you in overcoming your creative struggles.
Please follow me on Instagram if you would like to see more behind the scenes of Mia’s Glam-ma and other projects.
Carla Hoffenberg News
Hard copies of ‘Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping’ are arriving at the end of the month. Pre-order here
Reserve your spot for the Brisbane launch of ‘Little Shark Lulu is Sleeping’ on 9 October at 1pm.
I’ve been working full-steam ahead on my September commissions - there is still one more spot available for October.