Thursday, June 21, 2012

Inspiring Memories

Welcome to the third installment of the KidLitArtists series on inspiration! This time we have Jessica Lanan here to talk about what inspires her.

My work has its origin in my experiences with the world. My memory for the chronology of events is terrible (When was that trip to Arizona? What was the name of that street? I have no idea!) but the sights, smells, tastes and atmosphere of a certain moment in time can remain with me forever. Sometimes I imagine that my memory is like a pool of vivid experiences, relatively disconnected from one another in any rational, linear sense, but ripe with inspiration for paintings.

Weekends in my childhood were spent for the most part camping in the mountains. (In winter, this translated to cross-country skiing.) I grew up with aspen forests and wilderness sunrises, creeks laden with moose and beavers, incalculable mosquito bites and the ubiquitous smell of campfire smoke. These experiences are the inspiration for my most recent dummy book, but more importantly I think that it was during these trips that I really learned to observe things like atmosphere, emotion and quality of light.

Assisting with tent setup, circa 1986.

An illustrated camping trip. Note the tent. The cooler is straight out of history as well.
As I grew up and traveled to different parts of the country and the world, I tried to let the mood and atmosphere each unique the place soak into me, whether it be a misty forests in Southern Japan, a dusty, bustling street in India, or the bleak bitter cold of a Berlin winter. I spent a year traveling in Asia as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, and armed with a sketchbook and backpack I set out to meet people, collect stories, and sketch and paint as much as I could. I loved the experience so much that I’ve tried to make such observation and cultural immersion a habit when I can, and this has become one of my best sources of inspiration.

Rajasthani memories!
In addition to my experiences as a child and traveling through the world, I draw a lot of inspiration on a daily basis from other picture book authors and illustrators. I have a growing collection that began with the beautiful books that my grandfather sent me as a child. (One of my favorite such gifts was Margaret Hodges/Trina Schart Hyman’s Saint George and the Dragon. I was also quite entranced by the fantastic world and mind-blowing paintings from James Gurney’s Dinotopia.)

My own copy is looking pretty worn nowadays.
Whenever I have a spare moment downtown I try to spend some time in the awesome kid’s book section at the Boulder Bookstore or the public library and find a new author or illustrator who surprises and intrigues me.  I also love the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast which suffices for a bookstore when I’m stuck in front of a computer screen.

I hope my inspiration helps you find some inspiration! Next week, we’ll have the talented Andrea Zuill to talk about what inspires her. Thanks for reading!

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