Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A different kind of book illustration

When I was a student of Martin Prechtel at his school in New Mexico, he would challenge our modern technique of scholarship: taking notes. He claimed that this only really allowed us students to forget what was important, because since it was written down we no longer needed the discipline required to remember. I have recently received a copy of Martin’s new book, The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, and found myself wondering how to highlight personally significant teachings without underlining, which in my view serves the same function as note taking. Both represent selecting what is important in the moment, which allows the remainder to sink from view. Later, when the student has learned more and differently, the notes and underlines act as barriers to new layers of insight, by missing what was also heard, and by emphasizing what may no longer be special. So what to do?

While on holiday and away from my oracle card readings and shamanic painting, I like to go sketching, but the rainy Puna coast near Hilo, on the big island of Hawaii, is not always supportive of working outdoors. And so I discovered a different kind of book illustration. I began using my watercolor pencils to embellish meaningful passages in Martin’s book—as a way of re-finding their wisdom, but more importantly as a way of feeding the Holy in his words with my efforts to make something beautiful for them to wear.

Of course this different kind of book illustration takes a long time, since I first read the chapter in its entirely, and then re-read it, feeling for those passages that have a sparkle like the ocean does when the sun has climbed high enough into the spring sky to fox trot over the watery mirrored dance floor below. Next is finding an image and colors that have good fit with the passage—without being reduced to an illustration of it.

As it turns out, this kind of book illustration is turning a rainy day in paradise into lots of fun.