Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A Questpedition for a Literary Author/Illustrator-in-Residence

Quester on a questpedition.
How does one bottle the vast and varied experiences of an artist-in-residence? My mind keeps going back to the early autumn days on the shores of Martin Lake. Lichen-covered hill, spicy sweet fern, and jack pine breezes. Eagles and large-mouth bass! Aurora borealis and wolf howl in the early morning. Just a few things that will keep my spirit charged through the months ahead.

Looking high and low. Lichen beauties.
I began my U.P. questpedition at the end of July while I was in Marquette exhibiting my books at the Outback Art Fair. There I met Dr. Nancy Seminoff of the Literacy Legacy Fund Michigan (LLF of MI) www.literacylegacyfund.org. An educator and past dean at Northern Michigan University, Dr. Nancy and I discussed creative ways to promote literacy in Michigan. Since I had been artist-in-residence for both state and national parks in Michigan, we both decided to launch a new endeavor, an author/artist-in-residence in the Upper Peninsula. In fact, Dr. Nancy dubbed my stay, my A.I.R. as the Questpedition for Story, based on the title of my latest Holly Wild book and book that was donated to the libraries and kids of K.I. Sawyer.

The quester--hero--must find
the magic potion or cure, to
bring back to the people.
I would stay two weeks at Dr. Nancy's cottage outside of Marquette to create art and poetry for a new book project of mine on wolves. I would in trade for the stay present a program for children in K.I. Sawyer, speak with teachers at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, and fit in a book signing event at Falling Rocks Cafe & Bookstore in Munising. In addition to all of that, I will create a collaged, handmade book for LLF of MI to use as for fundraising at a later date. Whew! That's good, because I am BOOKED (heheh) right now, illustrating for a few clients.

K.I. Sawyer Community Center fun.
So with kayak, guitar, laptop, art supplies, and BOOKS in tow, the Big Blue Bear Track Bookmobile van and I made the trek--questpedition--north. Off to write, draw, and read. Silence. Solitude. Scenery. Yes, all that, but also a blend of meeting and talking with amazing kids, teens, tweens, librarians, counter help, musicians, food service people, teachers, bookstore owners, museum volunteers, and not just listening to, but truly hearing their stories, packing them away into my mind.

Showing the kids "the BIG picture"
of artist-in-residences past.
It is said, and I find it true, that during the creative process one needs to get up and get away and allow images and words to incubate. So I incubated often by bass fishing and kayaking. Taking drives into Marquette (pronounced by U.P. born folk as "market") to the Children's Museum, a quick side-trip to see Grand Island off Sand Point on Lake Superior, and a visit to the Laughing Whitefish Falls--a truly spectacular sight. Then it was back to "studio" time.

The words and art came at first were planned. But they were too predictable. Then the more I got out and away, images and words seemed to fall into place. The land spoke to me. The wind, ever constant (the cottage is named "Breezy Point"). Then somewhere between the flashing red darter dragonflies and sun-bathing painted turtles, I heard my voice. My voice filled the pages of my newly purchased and redesigned sketchbook. This would be a different book, an art book, a book for teens, adults. A story, a meditation--on life--through the eyes of a wolf and young girl. A kind of writing I had not done in a long, long time. It was exciting. The words and art became fresh and I was excited how they fell onto the pages.

How does one bottle the experiences of an artist-in-residence questpedition? They engage all of their senses and record in word and picture--then share it. A sketchbook becomes the magic, elixir, potion that heals and inspires. This treasure that the quester finds and brings back to the village, cures the people and themselves in the act of sharing the gift. So I share my bit of U.P. autumn A.I.R.with you.
Grand Island view from Sand Point.

Laughing Whitefish Falls. Can you hear the whitefish? 

Morning Rainbow from the deck!

Dinner awaits.
Evening autumnal meal overlooking Martin Lake.

Falling Rock Cafe & Books is an amazing place to spend the day! 

The collaged cover of my sketchbook "dummy".
Ephemera from my surroundings, poetry, drawings.

Tracks at the top of Laughing Whitefish Falls
Then two weeks later, in the wee hours of the morning, the day I was to leave my A.I.R., I heard the low, moaning, mournful cry of a wolf outside the cottage window.

The crowning experience, the seal of a mission accomplished. Oh, to bottle the rainbow colors, the flashing aurora, the crunch of dry lichen, the splash of bass leaping among lily pad, the whoosh of wings from the bald eagle overhead, the plop of turtles sliding off the abandoned beaver lodge at my approach. 

But that sound, that wolf song. Ah, to bottle that wildness of spirit. This--this is what I must try to capture not only in my art book but the art book to be donated to the LLF. A gathering of elements to inspire writing and literacy in Michigan. My work has begun, my questpedition is complete.
Last paddle on the lake in front of the cottage.

Sketch of Place. Field notes of my visit.

"My LLF of Michigan artist-in-residency was different than the others I've participated in, as the two weeks spent was a balance of public events where I listened and shared stories with people and the peaceful solitude of nature. During this time, I was pleased to complete a story "dummy", poetry, art, design, and layout for my graphic novel all of which was totally inspired by my A.I.R. stay." Lori Taylor