On Building a Picture Book: Failure and Finding Your Voice by Vern Kousky

If you’ve ever wondered why an artist can take years to complete a project or feel remotely satisfied with an idea, this blog by Vern Kousky is as good an explanation as I could ever muster. I spend a good deal of time taking photos (see Instagram @meghanmouse) that are just not quite what I had in mind, even though to the outsider they look like a completed scene. This last round of photos I took of Mouse at the campfire took two nights of lying on the ground with my neck at a weird angle, completely immersed in the moment, trying to make sure the flames were at the right height, the lighting was authentic, and that Uncle Mus was sufficiently out of focus in the background. And then when I came out of it, I realized I’d missed the mark. The shots were good, charming even, but I hadn’t caught that magic angle on Mouse’s face that could give me an inner belly smile, or provoke a tear or some sort of emotion other than ‘hygge’ (that Danish word we all love for ‘cozy moments’). Because that is what Mouse is all about for me… capturing an emotion, a thought, a reflection, and I had let myself get too bogged down in the logistics of the shot. I’ll keep working on this photo in my head even if I’m not down there on the ground, shooting it over and over (it took 450 shots under a tarp in the rain to get this one!)… When I get back to this shot at a later date, I know it will have evolved in my head, and the magic I was looking for will translate on camera. It’s all part of the process.

Nerdy Book Club

I first came up with the idea for The Blue Songbird during a trip to the Japanese galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This is a place I often go when I have a spare moment or two. The rooms are generally quiet and dark and much of the work there has an illustrative quality that seems to me both modern and timeless. On this particular visit, a collection of books from the 18th and 19th centuries was on display. These books were wordless, composed entirely of woodblock prints, and centered around a distinctive theme.  In short, they were the picture books of their time. One such book was The Korin Album by Nakamura Hôchû. The page to which the book was turned showed a flock of birds in flight. All save for the last had their beaks open as if in song. As I examined the print, I…

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