Present Much?

28 Apr

Book Week

I recently gave a 30-minute presentation to an assembly of socially distanced, masked 6-12th graders and their incredible teachers at Shattuck-St. Mary’s Forest City International School in Johor, Malaysia. What an honor!

The wonderful upper school principal asked me to include:

  • pathways into becoming an author/illustrator using my personal story (“A Day in the Life”) as a springboard
  • other career opportunities in publishing
  • the importance of resilience, relationships, and responsibility
  • course recommendations for potential authors and illustrators
  • a list of skills to develop
  • at least five minutes at the end for Q&A

Wow—so much to cover!

Prep Time

Between book deadlines, I spent an entire week putting together a PowerPoint presentation. I made tons of visuals, which allowed me to sneak in lots of my own art. Yay! Also, I knew from experience that I would be very nervous, and the slides would keep me on track in case of a brain malfunction. As an added bonus, the visuals would hopefully aid comprehension. (Did I mention ESL? Most of the kids SSM-FC speak English as a second or third language.)

Time to Kill Some Darlings

I rehearsed for days, cutting content after every run through. Half of the slides that I created ended up on the discard heap, including some really great ones about the illustration process. Those, I relegated to individual classroom presentations, given to younger students on other days during Book Week. In the end, even with all of the editing, I still went on a few minutes longer than I should have. Everyone seemed happy, though. I think it went pretty well. :o)

Live and Learn… and Research!

My only regret: I cut RESEARCH from the list of skills that an author or illustrator should develop. What was I thinking! I had so much to say about research that I had to cut it—there just wasn’t time—but I wish I’d simply left the word on the slide. Research is an integral skill for writers and illustrators!

When working on any kind of historical project, of course, careful research is critical. I love working on biographies, because I love research! Learning makes me feel young and vibrant. But research is important in less obvious areas of publishing, too… especially when it comes time for authors to submit proposals to publishers. It’s essential to spend time determining which publisher is best suited for your project, and then, how they prefer that you submit it. It can take a lot of digging to figure all of this out.


Oh, well. Next time.

If you like, click here to see the complete presentation.

Studio Time

1 Apr

Office Space

Inspired by internet photos of awesome-looking illustration studios and cozy, inviting writing nooks, I once went to a lot of trouble to decorate my studio. A few months after every last detail was perfected, my husband got a new job out of state.

One of the only photos I have of my sweet little studio in Savannah, GA (circa 2012).

We sold the house, packed up my studio along with everything else, and moved north. The new home office was nice enough—same furniture (slightly banged up from the move), same colors—but was definitely not as precise and perfect. Not long after that, my husband began taking international gigs. We sold a bunch of stuff and put everything else in a POD, not knowing what the future would hold. Ultimately we became globe hoppers, never staying in one place for very long.

LEFT: One of my New Zealand work spaces. Had to hang a hoodie on the desk lamp to protect my eyes from the sun. RIGHT: Zooming into a midwestern classroom from the office space in our apartment in China.

While I have fond memories of the perfect little studio space that I decorated all of those years ago—especially my books, which are still in storage in the US—I’ve gotten used to working at any available table-like surface, preferably with a comfortable chair and a solid wifi signal.

Quiet Times

In late October 2020, my husband and I moved to Malaysia for his new position at the international boarding school where we now live. We were given keys to a lovely small apartment in the residence building, and a set of auxiliary rooms across the hall.

In the mornings I’ve been taking an on-line class, working on new book ideas, and writing. When I’m thinking, writing, trying to catch illusive flutters of creativity, I need silence. As in, please don’t drop any pins.

Stay-at-home orders had my noisy husband, whom I adore, working from home. Constant loud classic rock and Jets news (egad!) filled the place. God help me. To preserve my sanity, I had to get out of there. Luckily we had keys to those auxiliary rooms!

Bare-boned, but blissfully quiet. We moved my work table across the hall.

Working on my latest book (HarperColins/Spring 2022) in my lovely new work space.

Turn Up the Volume

When I’m illustrating final art for a book and most of the important decisions have already been made, I do listen to stuff while I work: music, TED talks, audiobooks, podcasts. Illustrating an entire book takes some serious time, so there are many silent hours to fill. I once binge-listened the entire canon of Gilmore Girls (153 hour-long episodes) when working toward multiple simultaneous deadlines, followed by one and a half traces through all 279 episodes of The Big Bang Theory. No joke.

Note that I could actually cohabit with my fella and his playlists—and even the NY Jets—during this phase of the illustration process, and often do, but now that I have a space across the hall, that’s where you’ll find me. Fred is back to work in his own office and our apartment is empty during the day, but I’ve grown to love this white box with it’s powerful ceiling fan and… well, that’s pretty much it! Just me in an otherwise empty, completely unadorned room.

For Your Listening Pleasure… and Professional Edification

Now that I’ve exhausted my Netflix favorites, podcasts have become my listening preference. Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Office Ladies are perpetual favorites. Funny, insightful, heartwarming, inspirational. Great stuff.

Recently, though, I made an important discovery: Children’s Book Insider‘s KidLit Distancing Socials!

Photo of the first CBI Kidlit Distancing Social that I was able to join live, after listening to most of the recorded sessions via Youtube. My Photoshop file at the top of the screen is blurred because it’s much too soon to share the art I was working on that day, which is for the same upcoming book referenced above.

These weekly socials (recordings of Zoom calls, basically) feature amazing interviews with all sorts of kidlit professionals. I’ve learned so much from these videos! They easily get five stars from me; I highly recommend CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials to anyone who is interested in writing books for children—from absolute beginners to highly published pros. You can join live via Zoom or catch the replays on YouTube. In the first few minutes of every episode, you’ll learn everything you need to know to get connected to Children’s Book Insider and their website WriteForKids.org, which is an amazing resource. Drumroll: newsletters are involved—newsletters!—and they are jam packed with seriously incredible content.

CBI’s Kidlit Distancing Socials have broadened my horizons, which was a delightful surprise. Who knew such treasures were available on Youtube?


Click here to be redirected to Children’s Book Insider, and/or click here for CBI’s Youtube channel where you’ll find replays all of their wonderful, informative Kidlit Distancing Socials.

And You?

Do you need silence when you work? If not, what are your listening preferences? Let me know in the comments section below.

Happy creating!!

That Time John Oliver Used My Art in a Segment About Pringles

7 Dec

Pringles Update: 

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

(Web Exclusive)



Yes, it’s true. My husband Fred and I were lounging on the couch watching clips from our favorite US late-night shows one night, and John Oliver got to wondering about the Pringles guy; specifically, what his body looks like.

Joe Biden had just been announced as the winner of the 2020 presidential election, and Jon was feeling good. Earlier in the show he dedicated 30 entire seconds to the marvels of the octopus. It was glorious.

So as we sat there enjoying all of this, my mind got to wondering about the Pringles guy, and somehow put it together with the octopus footage we’d just seen. I sat down to draw an octopus but then thought, Oh wait, I drew one of those for duopress’s 2015 book “Hello, Ocean Friends!”. I found the art, pasted a Pringle head from the internet over the octopus’s body, and voila: the Pringlepus was born.

It was miraculously easy.   Five minutes after tweeting the thing to Mr. Oliver, I was alseep. 

I woke to frantic e-mails from my agent, Mela. “Where are you? John Oliver wants to use this image! Is that okay?”

Is that okay? Oh, yes. How fun!!

Thanks so much, John Oliver. Not only for using my art in your clip, but also for your wisdom and clarity. Fred and I are huge fans. Love the show.

All best,

Violet

A new iMovie Trailer…

2 Dec

…for Healthy, Healthy. Love, Love, Love!

As usual, I’m probably late to the party. For the first time ever, I’ve created a movie trailer. Woo-hoo! Yep, I used iMovie’s “Retro” template to create a trailer for my latest book, Healthy, Healthy: Love, Love, Love.

Making the Trailer

If you’ve never messed around with iMovie’s trailer templates, oooh, you are missing out. Treat yourself! Adding images and tinkering with the text is fairly intuitive; I only had to ask Google one or two questions. Not bad. And results are instant, which is always gratifying. It took me about a day and a half to finish this trailer. Next time might be a little bit quicker, now that I know my way around, but realistically, between gathering all of the images and editing, editing, editing… if you’re making a trailer to promote an actual product, expect it to take at least a day.

True to form, I got overly excited and posted to YouTube a bit too soon. After this trailer went live I continued editing it a bit. The edited version is better, but I had already shared the YouTube link with my publisher. So… the YouTube version, linked above, will live forever. This is helping me with another hobby of mine: accepting personal mistakes and imperfections with grace. (Making iMovie trailers is easier, ha.)

YouTube

In coming months I hope to create more video content for my YouTube channel, including tutorials for kids. Would you like that? Let me know, and stay tuned. Move video content coming soon! Meanwhile, if you’d like to check out the videos I’ve posted over the years, click here. Be sure to follow my channel, so you won’t miss the good stuff that will be coming.

Get the book

I’m super excited about this new little board book for toddlers and will post much more about it soon, but for now, here are the basics:

Healthy, Healthy: Love, Love, Love by Violet Lemay (HarperCollins) will be in bookstores Dec. 15, 2020 (◕‿◕✿) Preorder now!

Doña Rosa

13 Oct

In 2015, Highlights High Five invited me to illustrate Doña Rosa, a bilingual series about a group of flamingo friends, written by Ana Galán.  

My very first Doña Rosa illustration. Doña Rosa is seen here shopping in her neighborhood for gifts for her friends. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

When Doña Rosa was first assigned to me, I was a watercolorist. My illustrations were scanned watercolor paintings, modified in Photoshop.

A scene from the 4th episode of Doña Rosa, in which her brother Oscar is introduced. This early attempt at digital watercolor was created in 2016. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

Seventeen Doña Rosa stories have been published—including the final episode which was released in mid-October of this year. Yes, it’s true! Doña Rosa has come to an end.

A photo of my Apple pencil in action, drawing a flamenco-dancing alligator character for a 2017 Doña Rosa story, in which the flamingos learn to dance.

My illustration technique changed a lot during Doña Rosa’s five-year run. I put away my watercolors late in 2016 and gradually learned to use digital brushes. Spoiler: I am impatient and am a slow learner. This is not an ideal mix of traits, but hopefully I get points for honesty. (o:

An illustration from the 8th episode, in which Doña Rosa’s friends throw her a surprise party. By this time I created this in 2018, I had begun mixing solid colors with transparent watercolor. Art direction: Kelley Cunningham Lanuto.

For a long time I tried to replicate the look of my watercolor paintings on my iPad, but eventually I had a “what am I clinging to” moment. From then on, I started experimenting. As I added a variety of different brushes to my quiver, my technique developed into something more solid… but I still use digital watercolor brushes from time to time.

I made this image in May, 2018, for the 10th episode of Doña Rosa. The flamingo friends have crafted holiday poems and are sending them off to loved ones. Side note, shout out to the United States Postal Service! Art direction: Yvonne Duran.
I was so busy in 2019 that I had to hire an assistant, Yuri Meister, to fill in colors for the flamingos for this episode. I painted the background with digital watercolor brushes. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.

Doña Rosa was a constant during my formative years as a digital illustrator. As would happen for any artist in a five year span, I made discoveries that affected my overall body of work. Doña Rosa grew with me, certainly, but I couldn’t stray too far from the series’s established look. This was a bit tricky to manage, but the challenge was completely worthwhile.

Created in 2019, this ice cream shop scene is one of my favorite Doña Rosa illustrations. I really like the otter character, introduced here for the first time. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.
Doña Rosa volunteers in her nephew’s classroom in the second-to-last episode, published earlier in 2020. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.

I have been blessed to illustrate three different series over the years: a monthly column for a nursing magazine way back in the early 2000s, followed by stylish “Elle Guy” and “Elle Girl” columns for Elle Canada, and most recently, Doña Rosa. I am sorry to see her go, but mostly, I’m glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of the Doña Rosa team. Drawing these flamingos, their animal friends, and their little Florida-ish world was a lot of fun.

In the final episode, Doña Rosa is feeling a bit nervous as she walk to her first class at adult school. Art direction: Yvonne Duran.

AnyFlip

Check out Doña Rosa and tons of other cool content in old issues of Highlights High Five at AnyFlip.

Library Babies

16 Apr

girl with LB_square

Welcome to the world, Library Babies! I am pleased to announce the release of this adorable new book, written by Puck, illustrated by Yours Truly.

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When I was making art for Library Babies last summer, I never dreamed that its release would coincide with a pandemic—especially not a pandemic that originated in China!

Our Family’s China Story

In the summer of 2019, my husband began year-long job in Ningbo, China, 2 hours south of Shanghai. He lived there for several months while I stayed back in New Zealand with our son, who was finishing high school. Several visits were planned and as a result, much of the art for Library Babies was created in airports.

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My husband joined us for our son’s high school graduation, and to help us close up shop and move to China.

china pic for blog

Six weeks after getting settled in Ningbo, we had to flee because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like many of you, we are currently locked down in home quarantine.

Thankfully…

Despite the current world health crisis, Library Babies—a follow up to duopress’s 2019 Bookstore Babies—launched on March 31.

LB_circulation desk

Hopefully the bright and cheery art of Library Babies will spread a little joy. :o)

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Free Activity Kits

Additionally, here are two free downloadable activity kits inspired by Library Babies. If you’re in isolation with your kiddos, these library-themed activities can help.

1. Play Library!

LB_My Home Library_coverHelp your kids convert their collection of books into their very own lending library! This fun family activity aims to nurture a love of books and reading, develop sharing skills, and celebrate libraries and librarians.

LB_MHL blog images

This kit includes includes: a customizable library sign, book plates, library cards, librarian I.D. badges, a library book sign-out sheet, a reading drive ledger and award certificate, a reading chart, suggested library organizing systems, and a “Staff Picks” form—so that your little librarians can recommend books to their borrowers.

Click here to download the My Home Library activity kit.

2. Library Fun!

LB_general activity kit_cover

This library-themed kit is a celebration of your family’s favorite books and local library.

LB_general kit blog images

Activities include a maze, a seek-and-find word puzzle, book and library themed drawing activities, a customizable thank you card for your child’s favorite local librarian, and a printable Library Babies poster.

Click here to download this adorable Library Babies Activity Kit.

________________

Share the Activities :o)

To share these activity kits and others with friends and family, copy/paste this link:

https://violetlemay.com/pdfs.html

Share Your Photos (o:

I would absolutely love to see photos of you and your kiddos having fun with these activities! If you post on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, please tag me @violetlemay.

Add Library Babies to your home library!!

Click here to order Library Babies (written by Puck, Illustrated by Violet Lemay).
If you prefer the digital version, click here.

Really Happy, Baby!

9 Oct

With the help of a group of enthusiastic little readers, Parents Magazine has chosen TummyTime™: Happy Baby as #4 in their list of the 30 Best Books of 2019. How awesome is that?

duopress rolled out their new TummyTime™ concept to the world only a few weeks ago by way of two books: Animal Parade (illustrated by Jannie Ho) and Happy Baby (illustrated by Violet Lemay), and the books are already getting noticed. Hooray!

What’s not to love? TummyTime™ books fold out, accordian-style, into play mats. The fronts are covered with full color art; flip them over for high-contrast patterns, ideal for baby’s developing eyesight. Both sides have a reflective surface to make tummy time even more fun.

Thanks to Parents, the little readers (and their parents!), and author Karen Cicero for selecting us as #4 in their list of the 30 best children’s books of 2019.

Click here to see more samples from TummyTime™: Happy Baby on my website.

Click here to order your copy of TummyTime™: Happy Baby today!

The Story Behind “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

9 Oct

obama cover w white dress

Finding the Format

The Essential Backstory

100 Pablo Picassos.

In 2014 I had the pleasure of illustrating 100 Pablo Picassos. Author Mauricio Velázquez de León cooked up the delicious idea for this interactive biography which invites kids to find one hundred instances of Picasso peppered throughout a fanciful 32-page book, resplendent with Picasso-inspired art.

cubism spread

Since then I have moved to New Zealand, voted for Hillary (from abroad! yes!), and have illustrated many other books, but One Hundred Pablo Picassos has always stayed with me. It helps that it’s been translated into several languages and was included in an exhibit at Korea’s Museum of Kids’ Books and Art.

The Lightning Bolt Moment

One quiet morning in April 2018, after listening to month after month of depressing political shenanigans from the US, I was remembering the hope and pride I used to feel when watching the news during the Obama years.

President Obama was a role model, admired and respected globally. The current holder of the office? Not so much. Nostalgia washed over me and I thought, we should make a book. We should make 100 Barack Obamas.

Mauricio loved the idea of an Obama book for kids, but didn’t think the “100” concept would work. We had included self-portraits in 100 Pablo Picassos‘ overall count, which was very clever and added spice to the “find this guy one hundred times” concept.

100pp_self portraits

The self-portraits were an essential ingredient that could only be included for a visual artist. Mauricio also pointed out that Picasso’s entire life was perhaps a bit more colorful than that that of anyone who gives speeches for a living.

Yep. Fair enough.

More importantly, we wanted to include Michelle as an equal partner, and the girls.

tiny ObamasWe considered the title 100 Obamas (instead of 100 Barack Obamas) but I was the only one who could visualize the resulting book. In my imagination it looked incredible, but sketching the whole thing in an attempt to sell the idea would have been such a giant time commitment that I wimped out immediately. Time to switch gears.

After researching popular kidlit biographies and the Obamas, I wrote three or four manuscripts (okay, six) of varying lengths, targeting different audiences with different types of books. Don’t be fooled: this took some quality time.

first Obama sketch

one of the first sketches made for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Ultimately we settled on the most concise manuscript, which utilized the device of flaps to make the book interactive.

Finding the Look

The Technique

Next decision: How should the art look?

After getting a concept approved for The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book, I tried out several techniques and presented them to the publisher. Simple flat color? Or my usual use of textures and patterns with minimal rendering? Or… how about adding paint texture? Using, like, real paint?

paints

We liked all of the choices but—of course—settled on the paint option, which was by far the most challenging. And time-consuming.

In case you’re wondering, writing and illustrating a book about Barack and Michelle Obama was, for me, incredibly intimidating. My artistic desires for this book outweighed my abilities. Thankfully, art director Tyler Garrison was there. Tyler’s guidance was invaluable. Never underestimate the value of good art direction. Can I get an Amen?

The Design

Speaking of trying out options, I also submitted a buffet of flap designs for every single spread. So. Many. Sketches. I will be forever grateful to duopress for their patience with my monkey brain.

early Obamas sketch_HOPE

one of the unused layout options for “The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book”

Finding the Book!

9781947458826_3D

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.The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book was released on Oct. 1, 2019 by duopress and is available everywhere books are sold, thanks to distribution by Workman Publishing.

Click here to see more samples from The Obamas: A Lift-the-Flap Book on my website.

LEARN_marketing

Click here to order your copy today!

Health & Happiness

24 Jul

draw wellIllustrating children’s books is a dream career, but drawing all day every day for months at a time can take a toll on the body.

In my twenty-plus years as an illustrator I’ve experienced an array of ailments, all of which were surprising, inconvenient and painful. Also: completely preventable. If only I had known, people. If only I had known.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Rather than wasting my mistakes, in the spirit of prevention, I thought I’d write a post or two about illustration health hazards.

Protect Your Money-makers

Xray 1

If you spend tons of time clicking away at a keyboard, mouse or track pad and your wrist is not at an ergonomically agreeable angle, you may have experienced the tingling and numbness of carpel tunnel syndrome (CTS). Try raising your chair, resting your feet on a box (necessary with higher seat), and buying a mouse pad with an attached wrist support. Not enough? Become ambidextrous! Training my non-dominant hand to perform simple tasks, including most of my non-artistic clicking, helped me out a lot.

Until.

A few years ago I abandoned traditional media and started working digitally. Millions of brushes and effects are now at my disposal, all created with my trusty Apple Pencil – and all created using the same motion. All day, every day.

For months.

Hello, Tendinitis

xray-2.png

Not to be confused with CTS, tendinitis is distinguished by pain. The under-side of the thumb and wrist can feel tender, achy, and over-worked. Bending the hand back sends lightning bolts through the forearm, forcing amateur yogis like me to attempt one-armed downward dogs—a practice fraught with perils of its own.

The symptoms of tendinitis are worse when the sun goes down.  In fact, it was in the middle of the night when I first realized that my hand and wrist—which had been sore for longer than I care to admit—were more than merely tired. I was jolted awake by an innocent mid-sleep stretch which caused not only pain, but also a horrible creaking in my forearm. It was as if the stretchy stuff in there had crumbled like an old rubber band.

Not a good feeling, people. Not good at all.

And you thought illustrating children’s books was all puppies and fairy dust. Ha!

Hello, Stretches

stretch

Luckily, help abounds. Youtube is full of videos that teach many helpful stretches to ease and even cure tendinitis. I found a few stretches that worked so well for me, I made them part of my daily routine. Now, every hour I break for fifteen minutes to stretch my wrist and rest. Bonus: Leaving the desk at regular intervals benefits the demeanour as well as the wrist—and nurtures creativity, too!

Hello, Gloves

Tommie CopperWhen I started complaining about aches and pains in my hands several years ago, my amazing husband sprang into action and bought a pair of Tommie Copper compression gloves. Many experts dismiss the healing properties of copper and magnets and all of that; all I know is, the glove helped. A lot. Maybe it’s just the compression, or the simple fact that wearing a glove helped warm my perpetually ice-cold hand.

fur folded

After adopting the glove as my work uniform, I bought some Thinsulate fingerless gloves, and also a pair of frivolous furry ones, but both were failed experiments; warm, sure, but too puffy on the palm-side. The puff and fluff restricted my range of motion, making it impossible to draw. A shame, especially about the furry ones—which seem very “War and Peace” to me. I was really hoping those would have worked, but… nyet.

oliver twist

When my sleek Tommie Copper gloves went missing for a few weeks last winter I snipped the fingers off a cheap black knit pair, which turned out to be a quality substitute. I still wear my “Oliver Twist” gloves when I’m at my desk during the chilly months. They work great!

Hello, Brace

braceWearing a brace designed to restrict range of motion (rather than designed for compression) has helped me quite a bit, too. Drawing while wearing the brace is impossible, but it’s the perfect way to keep my wrist properly aligned while sleeping.

Hello, Doctor

Xray 4

In addition to stretching, my doc prescribed OTC anti-inflammatories and recommended using ice-packs before bed. All of this has helped not only my wrist, but also my street cred. Between the fingerless gloves and icepacks on my hands at night, I’m feeling a lot like a boxer. 🙂

If you’re suffering with work-related pain in your hands or wrists, get professional help.  Talk to your doctor, see a physical therapist, and do your prescribed stretches. You’re an artist and you want to keep creating as long as possible. Take good care of those beautiful hands!

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Violet Lemay is not a doctor. Rather, she illustrates and sometimes writes books for children. You can see her work by clicking here.

 

The Art/Music Connection: Part 2

24 Dec

Part 1: In a Nutshell

Kandinsky writingKandinsky: 1920

Wassily Kandinsky opened the door to abstraction in art by painting music. That’s him in the image above, with his cat Vaske. Read the whole story in duopress’s new book Artists and Their Pets by Susie Hodge with illustrations by Violet Lemay.

Professor Violet: 1998

An art teacher uses music to help her students understand the expressive qualities of LINE.

Scroll to the previous post to read Part 1 in its entirety. 🙂

interlude

Part 2: Art Inspires Music Inspires Art

Mussorgsky_1

Gray: 2017

My teenage son is a talented artist and musician whose taste is almost exclusively classical. Once, as a baby, he danced to The Beach Boys. Video proof is locked in the family vault where it must stay lest I be disowned as a parent.

Mussorgsky_2

Excluding that singular event, Gray has always been an all-classics-all-the-time kind of guy. This year he’s gotten into classical Russian art and music.

In his research, my son stumbled across a cool story involving a collaboration between Russian artists and musicians, resulting in an amazing art prompt.

Mussorgsky_3

Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition

Composer Modest Mussorgsky and artist, architect, and designer Viktor Hartmann were friends who shared a love of Russian art.

After Hartmann died of aneurysm at the young age of 39, Mussorgsky and a group of mutual friends curated a memorial exhibition to celebrate their late comrade’s life.

Mussorgsky_4

Mussorgsky experienced the resulting gallery show as any viewer would, walking from room to room, admiring the 400 or so framed works that adorned the walls. The experience inspired him to compose Pictures at an Exhibition in 1874.

Each of the ten movements of Pictures at an Exhibition expresses emotions experienced by Mussorgsky as he stood before an image created by his late friend Viktor. The interlude expresses his emotions as he walked from one work to the next.

Click here to read a more complete version of the story.

Mussorgsky_5

Professor Gray’s Drawing Prompt

Gray sat me down to listen to Pictures at an Exhibition, at a table stocked with paper and a variety of drawing supplies.

Mussorgsky_6

The prompt: make a drawing in response to the music. Draw whatever pops into your head. Anything at all.

Mussorgsky_7

Gray paused the music between movements, to allow me to finish whatever I had been inspired to draw.

The exercise turned the Russian composer’s experience on it’s head. Mussorgsky composed music in response to visual art. We made visual art in response to his music.

Mussorgsky_8

My professor/son couldn’t wait to compare my drawings to Viktor Hartmann’s. Were they similar? Indeed, it was uncanny how closely my sketches resembled Hartmann’s original works, not only at an emotional level, but also in terms of subject matter. This was particularly interesting since I had never heard of Victor Hartmann, and had no idea what the source images looked like.

Mussorgsky_9

Gray stumbled across a YouTube video that pairs Mussorgsky’s score with the inspirational source images created by Hartmann. Click here to have a look and a listen. As for my drawings, they are sprinkled throughout this blog post.

Mussorgsky_10a

The Pictures at an Exhibition drawing prompt is extremely relaxing and fun. I recommend it for any artist who is looking for a break, or for general inspiration. And for the art teachers out there: this assignment would surely keep a class entertained for an entire period, and would be a springboard for a range of important topics. Enjoy! And if you give it a go, snap some photos and send them along… I’d love to see!

Mussorgsky_10b

 All best,

Professor Violet