I've been thinking about chops. Not lamb chops or pork chops but the wonderful new word that means you have the licks, the chops--to do something. Essentially, you have honed skills that you have earned by working at your craft. This is what I am working on as an illustrator. With chops comes the confidence that you can do anything put forward as you have been there, done that..or at least been there kinda sorta, done that kinda sorta...but a track record and the headset to do anything. Plus, in having this experience and trust in your own work, comes an ability to put a line down and know how to think and plan as the work progresses to rescue the piece or morph it to another place. It's knowing how to get into the trance from which the work evolves and changes.

We used to say "you need to put in the time" which for me as a young designer drove me batty as I had the skills and time...and it was never enough for those I worked with. However, looking backwards at this impatience, I think the age>experience combination was to a degree just a way of pushing me back...a way of not having to manage me because chops come from being bumped around, being directed as much as having the head/hand skills to take the work someplace. There are plenty of really talented designers and illustrators that definitely have the chops but do not have the ability to see the environment they are competing in, or see where they fit on the spectrum of illustration and reality. So, time does factor into chops or chopdom...but from a hand and skill standpoint--sometimes that is inate.

I was talking to R. about my thesis. The Garden project made me afraid because of my lacking chops in this world of decorative illustration. I just didn't know where to start. Sure, I sketched and traced. Sure, I researched and developed reference. Sure, I knew what and how I wanted to do this--and everything didnt work, everything froze. However, like the Memento Mori work, the valentines are flowing. Unlike the Memento Mori work and the Syracuse vector work--these valentines are being corrected, changed, colored, critiqued, aspects redrawn, reconsidered. So, from essentially spot illustrations with both the Syracuse work and the Memento Mori work, these pieces are getting context, being considered as illustrations with a frame, a world they live in--and this fear is beginning to ebb a bit. From this work, I am getting my legs in the heavy line work (above is the starting point on an Eden inspired valentine), to thin line work, to something in between. I am thinking about cut paper (something in the past I havent tried in a serious picture making versus sketch making way) and other aspects of approaches. This current body of work is giving me life to consider the Garden of Eden presented in a less threatening way. These valentines are the right diving board from which this work will morph to the Genesis work. And the valentines morphed from the daily picture making that the Memento Mori project was. Memento Mori was just an ink approach to daily illustrations on the topic of death, memory and remembrance. It was a new image a day...never revising, never refining. It was one shot...and on to the next. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but frankly, I should revisit those images and refine 12 of them to take the sketches to illustrations. More was better for the time. Now taking the more and condensing it down, and finishing them really takes it from a random thought, to a deliberate expression.

Hey now. Sounds like I have been learning something.