(Bayview Farmers Market opens this Saturday, our first market of the season! We have been so busy on the farm preparing delicious cheeses and dairy products for you that I haven’t had time to blog. My dear friend and leader of the Pandanistas decided to help me, and took on the challenge. Enjoy Anne’s thoughts and images below:)
PLANTING SEEDS (guest blog by Anne Belov)
In some ways, making art is a little like being a farmer. The hours are long, the pay is…well, let’s just say that no one’s getting rich around here. You have to get your hands dirty if you want to do it right. It is a compulsion you can’t ignore.
You plant your seeds, you breed your goats, you have an idea, and then something wonderful comes into the world. Maybe. Both with farming and making art, you take this small bit of seemingly inconsequential material, and sometimes, if all the stars are aligned, it becomes far greater than where you started.
Of course, nobody dies or starves if I make a mistake (well, except maybe for me.) I’m not responsible for a new life or feeding the masses. That’s a relief. But art does satisfy what I consider a crucial need. Expressing myself creatively fulfills my own need to turn my thoughts into something visible. It’s the way that I process what I see and experience. It’s a way that I can communicate that experience, and it’s a way that painting viewers can get in touch with what they feel and experience as well.
It seems so ordinary to me to observe the world this way that I forget that not everyone does.
So, about five years ago, I planted some seeds in my studio. These were the seeds of a story about…um…pandas. Okay, hold the phone, who let loose the pandas?
I’ve been a painter for more than four decades, but six plus years ago, pandas crossed my path and I started drawing them, and writing cartoons starring them. They would just pop into my head and a story would emerge. Sometimes it would be triggered by a news story, sometimes by a phrase I had heard. They are very silly. After drawing them for a year or so, I decided to start a blog, so I could see if anyone besides me would think that they were funny. It turns out that they did, and I was reminded of another need that often goes unfulfilled: the need to laugh, and to lighten the burdens of life that many people carry.
While writing and drawing the cartoons is a lot of fun, I wanted to combine the natural humor of pandas with my fine art background. Over the last decade, my paintings have taken on more of a narrative aspect, and I decided to turn my creative capacity to telling a story in picture book form. I was a reader growing up and I loved beautifully illustrated books.
And it was a great excuse to spend a lot of time watching panda videos. (Hey, this is work!!!)
I started working on a story about a girl who wanted to adopt a panda from the zoo and have it come to live with her. I wrote and I sketched and the story kept changing. Before I really knew what was going on, the focus of the story shifted from the girl to her cat, who wished she got as much attention as did the pandas. I kept writing and drawing and eventually started working on more finished drawings.
It took me almost four years to finally get the story where it needed to be. I did “final drawings” that I replaced with other final drawings. Even when I was arranging the final layout and order of the illustrations for the book designer, I was still editing the order as I realized that the story made more sense and had a better flow when I shifted the sequence of some drawings at the last minute.
There is something about being fully engaged in the process of making things, whether it is art or cheese or green things from the earth. It’s about doing something with your hands, that you can touch and smell. These are the things revive your spirit and they are worth sustaining.
My book, Pandamorphosis will be published later this spring. It’s been a long hard trip, but it’s worth it.
Anne Belov indulges her obsession for panda satire on The Panda Chronicles, she also writes regularly for Whidbey Life Magazine, an on-line and print journal of arts and culture, and shows her paintings at The Rob Schouten Gallery in Greenbank WA. You can also see her paintings and illustrations on her blog Nothing Overlooked. Her first book for children, Pandamorphosis will be published sometime in 2014 by Leaping Panda Press, Anne’s own panda-centric publishing venture. Previously published works include four volumes of the collected cartoons of The Panda Chronicles. Her main regret in life is that there is no MacArthur Foundation Grant in the field of Panda Satire.