“And the winner of the 2013 American Christian Fiction Writer’s YA Category is… Loraine Kemp!”
I was dumbfounded! But over-the-top-excited!
My writing goals seemed to be forging ahead with two contest wins and acquiring an amazing agent in the same year. There was little doubt in my mind about where God was leading me and what my future had in store.
How completely wrong I was. At least for the next few years.
After a year of working with the agent and sending my novel in various directions, lukewarm responses were the result. I felt deflated and confused. “But, but God, I thought…”
That’s when a completely new direction was literally dropped in my lap.
I’ve always been an artist (I’ve provided illustrations for 3 novels to date) but when my buddy Karen Autio asked her publisher to offer the job of illustrating her historical picture book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon to me, I couldn’t say no, and signed a contract soon after. With my writing goals not being realized, I had some time on my hands.
To say I was overwhelmed by this illustration project would have been a gigantic understatement. I hadn’t painted for years and the book is an advanced picture book with 28 full-colour pictures that needed to be designed and painted. Not only was there research involved with making this historical fiction come to life (Karen had already done a mammoth amount already), but I also had to take many pictures in Wild Horse Canyon, which was a two-hour hike from our city.
In 2003, a wildfire devoured most of the trees in the canyon, so I had to rely heavily on my imagination to construct the illustrations that took place in the canyon.
I was also deeply worried that I wouldn’t physically be able to illustrate that huge a project under a deadline. Just thinking of it, my back cringed, as sitting for hours on end sent my back into spasms.
I felt strongly that this was a test of faith and that I had to trust God was with me on this one. As grace would have it, I now own the ideal set-up for illustrating: a stand-up chair with many positions available and an adjustable-height table. So far so good.
To start the process, a year and a half ago, Karen and I talked about each illustration. Normally illustrators and authors don’t work together, but Karen’s historical knowledge was invaluable. Tiny rough drawings of each scene (thumbnails) were finished first, and approved by the publisher. Then came the full-size drawings, again approved by the publisher. Then last fall I began the process of scouring through my thousands of photos (scenery, horses, other animals, and local students posing as historical characters) and painting the illustrations.
To show you all the different stages, I will take one illustration and walk you visually through the steps.
Here is the small thumbnail sketch of the ‘First Contact’ illustration where the fur traders are meeting the native first nation’s band, the Syilx. It is about 3″ by 5″.
Then came the full size drawing. After some research I added a fish drier in the background. The below illustration is about 8″ X 10″
Now you will have to forgive my bad photography of the painting steps, as my camera wasn’t good at the time. But you will see that I start in one corner and progress.
I found out that the pinto, (brown and white horse) needed to be changed to an appaloosa, a much coveted horse by the band. The coat my fur trader wore wasn’t going to work. So out came the white paint and the changes were made.
In addition, the western saddle was not used. A lower, more close-to-the-horse-but-very-uncomfortable saddle had been used. After I spoke to a consultant, I decided that the clothing should have been more what you see below, plus I needed to have an elder overseeing this meeting. (Penciled in below) I had to move the woman and her kids next to the fish dryer to accommodate the elder.
Almost done. However the rolled blanket on the horse’s saddle is one from the Hudson’s Bay company, not the Pacific Fur Company. Out came more white paint. Plus I completed the rest. I’d had many more tries to get it right than you see here. In all, probably four more changes were involved.
And just for fun, here are a few more pictures from our book. You will see even more on my website, http://www.lorainekemp.com and look under my portfolio. Or go to my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/lorainekempartist. Our book will be out this fall and you will see much more on this site about it. It is for kids and adults alike.
The below is a young Syilx man on a vision quest, sort of a ‘coming of age’ occurrence for every young man. Here he is painting the rock faces.
The below is all about the beginnings of the young in Wild Horse Canyon, a ponderosa pine, and the wild foal jumping over it.
Now don’t think for an instant that I am going to get rid of my word processor. I have some ideas for novels that I want to expand on that will need some illustrations as well. I feel that I have learned a great deal about myself and the strengths that I have through this complicated process that I would never have found out if God hadn’t pressed me in this direction. My plans were derailed for something else God had in mind for me, and I’m happy now with that, though admittedly I was not in the beginning. I’m still also a writer, and will always be. I just needed to be open for God’s new gifts for me.
One thing I’ll be eternally grateful for, is that during the contest mentioned above, I was taken on as a Scriblerian. They rock!
Have you ever been sure of your directions and then had the rug pulled out from under you to reveal a new direction?