Together is the last in the Love of Reading series; the last to get out of my head and into the computer and from there onto paper. As I've been releasing these drawings I've enjoyed (SO MUCH) hearing about which ones different people relate to, and this is the one most personal to me. It is all about encouragement, friendship, support.
At first, the blonde girl on the right was going to be sitting with a puppy, very similar to Portal Travel. The figure on her t-shirt was going to be the molecular structure for chocolate, not a fairy octopus. I was thinking of an old friend of mine who is a chemical engineer. She worked at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center while I was in college (such a significant chunk of these drawings have some tie to outer space!). I like the idea of drawing women scientists, because I think we have enough princesses and mermaids to last us a good long while already. But when I had the face done, and the hair, I realized that even though the little face on the right is so much like my old friend's face, the spirit of it is more me, goofy, perky-and-quirky me.
Then I thought my little avatar needed a human friend so I lifted the puppy out and let it be all its own thing, and I drew another person symbolizing my friend Amanda.
Amanda is one of my best friends. We have known each other umpteen years. For most of this time, she's been a great complement to me: some of the ways in which I didn't have my act together, she did, and vice versa. Now that we are both all grown up, we can each stand on our own two feet very well. Each of us is strong and confident. I do, however, thrive when I have a supportive coach and boy oh boy is Amanda a great coach. She is and has been so consistently vocal about getting me to do something with my artwork, to make it more of a vocation, to share it more. She thinks I could make a living at it; I'm utterly not ready to give up my day job (I feel passionate about the software mines, too, very sincerely). But I knew I would be happy to do both, if I could just manage it, and as these few reading-related drawings started to snowball into a series I tapped Amanda for assistance. She is not an artist herself but she is an art consumer. We would go out to lunch or dinner, during which she would point me at e-courses, blogs, likely mentors/role models, places to show and sell... and of course we would dish about life and gossip too.
In the picture, Amanda's avatar is in the role of the supporter. She has her arm draped around her friend. She is present, she is gentle, she is holding the space. She is beautifully dressed in a flowery print, not too loud. It's the sort of thing Amanda would wear if she were eight or nine years old. The avatar on the right is beaming, blooming, goofily dressed. The avatar on the right can wear the t-shirt with the magical fairy octopus on it because the supporting friend makes it safe for her to do so. A true friend loves you even when you wear unconventional things, the clothes that insecure people say are dorky.
The avatar on the right is also sporting a side ponytail because I love the 80's.
As for the book, it is based on a painting I did in 2006 called Flight Lesson. How in the world did I paint in 2006, working full time plus plus (like always), with a one-and-a-half-year-old that didn't yet sleep through the night? The answer is that we do the things we have to do. I drew so much that year, and would have withered and have been miserable otherwise. A lot of artists fear that becoming parents will crush their work but for me, having a baby was THE BEST because she inspired me so much (and still does). I should also mention that having a supportive partner and local grandparents are also THE BEST.
Here is the text of the page in the picture, removed of its obstacles and presented right-side-up so you don't have to twist your head or squint:
"I know you can do it," said Moe. "Take a leap, and flap your wings, like this."
Moe sprang from the branch. Suddenly, Jet and Lucy -- followed!
It has been my pleasure and a thrill to share these Love of Readings drawings with you. Thank you for all the kind remarks, for the likes on Facebook, for the etsy shop orders... and big, big thanks to Amanda and to my family for making it easier and more enjoyable for me to bring this series to life.