Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Journeying Toward Creativity

When working with children who are pursuing a creative passion or working on an assignment, it's important to remind them (and ourselves) that it's a process which requires patience and practice.  It is an essential habit to acquire. This perseverance never ends because it is fueled by a love of creativity and the art we wish to perfect or the goal we wish to accomplish.

When we are privy to the steps taken by others, it gives us encouragement and a greater appreciation for their results.  Sweaterweather & other short stories (First Second, February 2, 2016) written and illustrated by Sara Varon is a collection of seventeen nearly wordless narratives.  Each story begins with insights and commentary by Sara Varon.

The first eight stories in this book were originally published in 2003 as part of my very first book, "Sweaterweather."  It was the beginning of my comics career, so my drawing style and choice of materials have evolved a little over the years.

We start with a story released in February 2002 featuring two friends, a rabbit and a turtle, who caught in a snowstorm, improvise on shelter accommodations and attire on the walk home.  A year earlier a short comic, four pages, follows the preparations necessary for a meal among friends.  These two are followed by an exercise in creating a story with twenty-six panels, one for each letter of the alphabet.

A trade is made and an unusual item is grown, a pie-eating contest results in more than one winner and a pool provides opportunities for an assortment of creatures.  Bees and their keepers are showcased and explained in a delightful exchange.  There are paper doll pages with humorous backs for a cat, person, baker dog and a couple of travelers.

A dog longs for a companion which is acquired but later left through an unfortunate result of their day's activities.  In the middle of the night as two campers sleep a bandit discovers their food and guilt-ridden leaves behind a substitute.  Not even a boxing match can come between these two friends.  A bookish lion does not understand the simplest fact.

Two pages give a nod to a favorite new book, a five day diary chronicles the artist's life and panels highlight a subway ride in Mexico.  An ice cream truck goes prehistoric.  To support a big life choice the conclusion contains artists' interviews on time well spent.

The conversations Sara Varon has with her readers preceding each story are lively, informative and personal.  These paragraphs help readers to feel as though they are talking with their best friend.  They work splendidly with her intuitive visual storytelling. Here is the second half of one of those essays.

I remember using my Gocco Printer to print the covers, and I remember laying out all the slightly sticky prints on my kitchen floor to dry and trying to keep my dog (in her perpetual effort to be as close to me as possible) from stepping on them.  I think this story was inspired by Eun-ha Paek's story of a flying elephant, which I'd seen on her website.

The dust jacket front is only the beginning of the connections made in this illustration.  It continues over the spine with the mouse's scarf extending like a winding path over a group of characters engaged in a variety of activities.  The book case is completely different.  Most of the background is pale blue with white snowflakes and reversed in a border along the bottom.  Two snowmen walking from the left and right edges are reading a purple book.  The book's title is arched over the snowman on the right.

In the colors of a bright rose-pink and blue and white the opening and closing endpapers have a white island placed on a pink wavy sea.  Characters from the comics are enjoying themselves floating on a raft, sailing, peeking out from a lighthouse, sunning on the beach, swimming, reading, walking, entering into a subway (?) and participating in an interview.  This is a comical introduction to the quirky whimsy found within the book.

Varon uses a limited color palette for her stories, blue, white, pink and purple and shades of those.  She may frame her panels in white with a heavy or fine border or place her images within lots of white space.  Her panel sizes shift according to the story.  The delicate details in her Bee Comic are impressive.

One of my favorite pages of panels is of the campers enjoying a treat of roasted marshmallows at night with an excited raccoon waiting for them to retire into their tent.  The look on its face is hilarious.  No one else could eat those gooey treats as fast as this thief.

Sweaterweather & other short stories written and illustrated by Sara Varon is an inventive gathering of original tales.  It explores process and the power of imagination.  Readers will see what the freedom to follow your dreams can attain.

To learn more about Sara Varon and her other work please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's blog in a post by Gina Gagliano you can see more images of and from this title.  Teacher librarian Travis Jonker highlights Sara Varon and her projects plus a couple of interview questions with her on his blog, 100 Scope Notes.  There are many pieces of the artwork.  Sara is interviewed recently on Let's Get Busy, Episode #236, at Pen & Oink, and at the Los Angeles Times.

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