One common thread of advice I've received from a number of respected illustrators, story artists, and mentors is "Authenticity". I know, that's a noun. But when giving advice, it really can be a direction! As in:
"Go forth, young man, and rock!" Seeee?!
The emphasis on authenticity has been offered in numerous ways. Do what you know really well. Be truthful, it's more interesting and endearing. Be authentic, it speaks to the audience and offers sincerity. Audiences love sincerity, it's the believable vehicle for the story. Do what you know. Do what you know. Do what you know.
I am always letting my mind wander to places I don't know. And then I wonder why I emerge from my studio, hair mussed with pencil smudges on my arms and face, perplexed as to why I "just can't get it".
Doing what you know, as I've come to realize, doesn't mean only sticking to the characters or worlds you actually already know. When I was little, my mom used to perform "ice skaters" on my back until I fell asleep at night; choreographed back-tickling to her rendition of a variety of show tunes including "Getting to Know You" from The King and I. This is the tune that inevitably pops into my head when I'm faced with a character I do not know. Getting to know a character and their story is just plain fun.
But I will say, the MOST fun is doing what I actually know.
The story has essentially been written - and lived. The world and its characters are alive in columns written and stories told by my grandfather, Ray Orrock. But their visual representation is currently in the beginning stages of development - and I am beside myself I'm having so much fun.
We begin with "The Great Time Swindle". I'll post this gem of a column soon, either here or with the other columns on my grandfather's site. Meanwhile, here is a little inspirational sketch...
And some beginning character shapes/sketches...
Don't underestimate the Nana...
Nana is as sweet as a tiny old lady can be. She shuffles around with a smile and can often be found dozing in her rocker. But don't be fooled...How did that enormous chest of drawers get over there?! Who fixed the timing belt on the Olds?!
Inspired by Addie, a sweet elderly woman I cared for for nearly a year, I wanted to add a surprise element to Nana. Unfortunately Addie suffered from Alzheimer's and, even though she couldn't remember my name or why I was living in what used to be her late husband's office, she was sweet as pie, always overwhelmingly gracious, and called me "nice lady". But she had the brute strength of at least 3 men. On a number of occasions, I came home to rearranged furniture that could only be moved back with the help of friends or a few construction guys from the remodel across the street. I even came home to find my insanely heavy beach cruiser bicycle hung at the frame from a cut branch on the tree out front - at least 5 feet from the ground - with a "Free" sign attached. She found it in the garage and didn't know it was mine. I suppose Alzheimer's made her forget she was a tiny old woman.