Deborah Marcero's URSA'S LIGHT - Guest Post

Ursa’s Light
by Deborah Marcero

      I have always loved writing and drawing. My love of making art took me to art school, then to New York City for a few years, which then led to me to an MFA in Poetry.
      In all those years of my twenties I collected many tools, but even after my MFA, I still wasn’t sure how I was going to use all that I had learned to build a creative life. After a few years of freelancing, I decided to take another turn altogether and dedicated myself to teaching.
      I worked in the Chicago Public Schools as a reading and writing lead teacher for three years. This job, with all its rewards and hardships, gave me an incredible gift: it re-introduced me to the books I fell in love with as a kid, and showed me NEW books I wished were around when I had been in fifth grade.
      I led enrichment programs, one of which was “Young Authors," where I stayed after school and helped my students publish their works as authors and illustrators. Working with them, made me realize, I want to do this. For real. That was 2009.
      In between then and now, I stopped teaching, started my own photography business, moved to a small city in Michigan and began to dedicate half or more of my time to writing and illustrating. In Ursa’s Light, my debut picture book, so much of my journey to publication is in her story. Ursa is a dreamer and a scientist. She embodies one of my favorite quotes from Thoreau:
“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”
     It is through being a dreamer and a pragmatist, that I found my path. And like Ursa, I have failed many times. Each of those failures shaped my journey and forced me to be even more determined, creative and patient.
      Ursa’s victory isn’t just that she becomes a shooting star in the play. It’s more than that. Her dream, her amplified study of the world, her taking risks and making embarrassing mistakes and ultimately being brave enough to be HERSELF in front of everyone - is her shining moment. To be her true self, to be seen, to be vulnerable – flaws, oddities and all – to follow the beat of her own drum, to forge her own path is Ursa’s journey, and it’s mine too.
      I am now writing and drawing every day. I wake up every morning to a life I am truly grateful for. I am still failing and learning and growing. But all those tools I’ve picked up along the way, from 1000 hours of figure drawing in art school to studying poetry, to teaching narrative writing to my fourth graders – all those tools are on my table now. They are in use, and helping me build the creative life I have always wanted.

      Once the manuscript was approved, I composed and paced all the spreads in detail with a very fine pencil (2H 0.3 mm lead).
      Once the sketches were approved, I inked in all the lines with Black Cat India ink and a dip-ink pen.
      Then, before I moved to color, I decided on a color palette for the entire book (this is the MOST important part!). I was also given the option to create a font for Ursa (which, consequently is one of my favorite things to do) so of course, I said YES.
     Ursa’s palettes of rusts, mossy greens, sometimes-heavy blacks, brick red and navy anchor the story in a gritty pull-yourself-up-with-your-own-bootstraps kind of tone, and avoids (for example) saccharine pastels, which could have turned Ursa’s tale into something different altogether. Not that I don’t love pastels – I DO! Just not for Ursa.
      After I established the palette, I created a stack of potential textures – woodblock cuts, ink lines, watercolor, gouache, etc. on my drawing table. Then, finally, I digitally layered, pieced and collaged them into the ink line-work.

     A little more behind the scenes development of my illustration style for Ursa’s Light can be found on my blog here:
Twitter: @deborahmarcero

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