Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From barnyard to page

Here's a sneak peek at some children's illustrations I'm working on - these are crops from two pieces. I hesitate to show the entire images right now, as I want to pitch them as a series. But I'm having fun with them, and really enjoy creating these little personalities.

I was really interested in yesterday's NPR interview of Neil Gaiman who just won the John Newberry Medal for his children's book 'The Graveyard Book'. Not only did I love the idea of his story, but hearing him talk about how he wrote it as a book, not necessarily as a children's or adult book, resonated with my style of writing. Now that I'm working on my first novel, I glean whatever I can from wherever I can. I am taking the bold position of "I am a writer", and just writing. I used the same approach in 1996 when I declared [to myself, and maybe the dog] "I am an illustrator". When I moved from Minneapolis to Portland in '02, I told myself I felt like writing. It wasn't until '06 when we had settled a bit at the farm, and someone suggested I start a blog [Thank you Stephanie, see what you've done?], that I started writing little stories and realized how much I liked it.

Since I have no formal training in writing a novel, I am stumbling through it in my raggedy fashion, I percolate the same way I do my paintings or art, usually before I go to sleep, and when I first awake. I have had the first sentence of the book written for a very long time, and have a glimpse of an ending. I have no concerns the middle will fill itself in as I go.

Of course I'm not writing it alone. When I'm working on those characters, I swear, they come to life. Or they are living - I walk to the barnyard, and I see a donkey skirt by. It looks just like the stance and posture of the donkey in my book. It's as if I live in two planes that are on level fields. Stepping in and out, from one plane to the other - at some points is not necessary. It all meshes together. Let me make one thing clear, I know my animals are animals. But by making them 2 dimensional in a book, and then adding stories and words and thoughts, they are 3 dimensional to a whole new set of readers - just like they are to me. Not only can I amuse readers with their stories, I can perhaps share their essence and subtle compassions, fears and imperfections that we as humans face every day. It's just something I want to do.


Eileen said...

Good for you!!....I love Paco's adventures by the way....

Zan Asha said...

Love the new illustrations, Catherine. Can't wait to see the finished stories, whatever their form :)

Cathy said...

Oh how wonderful! I love your children's books because they're not just for children.

coloredsock said...

yeah! i loved that interview too. so great to hear how he thought of Mogli and the jungle book when he was inspired to write this book and seeing his child playing in the graveyard. just acknowledging that--you know, i mean that's how a lot of ideas surface, from playing off of others'. i watched the award announcements on the internet mon morning and cried cause i was so giddy happy for all the winners.

and fun illos/scenes/characters. i look forward to reading your novel someday! xo

Debbie Schramer said...


Your new illustrations are fantastic!!! I can't wait for your book to be published so I can buy a copy. Your paintings get better and better, (though they were incredible to begin with). Don't you think that writing children's books is the most fun thing to do in the world? So excited for you!!

Amy Schimler-Safford said...

Katherine, there are no doubts that you are most definitely a writer. I love how your artwork tells a story, words then are just another tool alongside your paintbrushes- I marvel at how full of story you are.

I heard the interview too and was equally inspired.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Hi everyone - it's nice so many heard that interview- makes e want to read the book, but I don't want to right now while I'm writing mine, even though I'd learn from it. I tend to be a sponge. I'd love to hear from other first novel writers too, their process, if it can be explained. I think I'm able to focus better when I sit down to paint, whatever, now. I'm learning it's ok to paint three really good things, versus 20.

deedledumpling said...

Katherine, I so agree. Your illustrations, sense of play and narrations speak to all of us who hear them as magic. Stories to alight my imagination and take me to a magical farm. I believe it is all real and see it all in my mind's eye along with your drawings.

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Thank you for reading! The farm and my art/writing keep me hopping, so might not respond immediately. Thank you for understanding. ~Katherine & Apifera ~