What A Week and A Word about Portfolio Content and Feedback

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

What a Week…

This past Thursday, after making the arrangements for my much-needed gall bladder surgery, we quite unexpectedly had to say good-bye to our dear little black cat Gwynn. She had just turned 14 years old on April 1st. A year and a half ago, Gwynn fought breast cancer and won during Breast Cancer Awareness month. We had an extra year and a half with our sweet girl. And extra year and a half with her chattiness, cuddles, middle of the night pawing at the blanket to be let under it when it was cold, her playfulness, and requests for Morning Reassurance that we weren’t moving again which were rewarded with nose lick kisses from her raspy pink tongue. Gwynn never liked to see me upset and would appear at my side, talk to me, and give kisses the moment she detected my sadness. She had seen me through the death of my little brother, the news of my infertility, the divorce, the hysterectomy, and countless other smaller sadnesses. We even moved cross-country together and, a few years later, she decided that the man I love was ok by her and we got married.

She began coughing a few days ago. It seemed like the usual hairball sort, but there was no hairball. Thursday morning, she was in distress. Just putting her collar on her to take her to the vet caused a coughing fit. I walked the half mile with her along quiet, shady streets to the vet, talking to her through the mesh windows of the soft side cat carrier. She snuggled against me, smelling the spring air.

An x-ray showed a lot of fluid surrounding her lungs. It was pretty much unreadable. The doctor said she could drain the fluid and take more x-rays, and then laid out the possible causes. None of them would end well. I took time to think about it. I asked more questions. I talked to Phil over the phone. And then I decided to do the least harm. Gwynn and I waited together for Phil to drive the half hour to the animal hospital. the staff were so kind. We were left undisturbed the whole time while around us I could hear appointments being shuffled, or delayed. Never once did they rush us.

While we waited, it was my turn to comfort Gwynn, or try to, but I couldn’t stop the tears. Even in her weakened state, she gave me kisses and rubbed my hand with her face. When Phil arrived, we were allowed even more time with her, and when we were ready, she was first sedated, allowed to slip into a calm and relaxed state, and then we gently let her go.

It was a long evening which we filled with rehearsal, walking, and a semi-gall bladder blowout dinner (A berry cider, moroccan salmon, and double chocolate Ghiradelli ice cream!). The next day, we were up early and off to the hospital for my surgery. for once, everything went as expected, albeit a little delayed. I went home in the afternoon and slept off and on. Phil in taking very good care of me and Natasha, our other black kitty, has been attentive as well.

I feel like someone kicked me down a flight of stairs and I’m nauseous if I stand for too long, so I’m not eating solids just yet. But under all of that, I feel better. It makes me wonder just how sick my gall bladder might have been making me.

Today, a condolences card from the vet arrived, as did flowers from a friend back East. Something else arrived, too…

A Word About Portfolio Content

The comments on the three sample pieces I submitted in prep for my portfolio review at NESCBWI’s Spring Conference! I hesitated. This could be good, or bad. But then I thought, Even if it’s bad, it’s an opportunity to learn something. So I opened the big white envelope.

Both reviews were from Art Directors at major publishers. Both had very good things to say. BOTH would like to see more of my work. And one included a special P.S. to keep in touch and a smiley face! To say I’m over-the-moon is an understatement.

Among the comments in both reviews is a concern about consistency of style. I have a couple of different styles I work in, which is a few less than I did in college. I’ve whittled down a bit and would say that I have three, which I spread over the three samples: Cartoon/comic, painterly comic, and cartoon realism. There was also a spread of execution style:

1 – Light, but very layered, hard pigment colored pencil.

2 – Layered watercolor washes with lighter ink line.

3 – Vivid and direct watercolor application with think & thin ink lines.

These samples were selected at a time when my being there was in the stars. I figured they were my best pieces for matching me up with a reviewer and the full portfolio would pull it all together.

What did I learn? When asked to do this again, I’ll choose my favorite style and the medium in which I am most proficient, and pick two pieces from there.  For my third, a similar style, but a different enough execution to hint at being flexible.

What else did I learn?

I need to work on the printing process itself. Perhaps matte presentation paper is not the best when she pages will not be in glossy sleeves. And I’ve got to get the whole scanner and printer color profile thing figured out better so that colors match the originals better and avoid looking even slightly “muddy”.

I can hardly wait to get back to work with these new reviews in mind. Getting good direction is so invigorating! But it’ll have to wait till I’m off the heavy painkillers. Falling asleep on a watercolor painting just makes a mess!

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