I am not a natural artist. At least not one of these da Vinci types who have art flow through them like water—effortlessly, beautifully, bountifully. Nope. That’s not me. I’m more the tortured artist type: re-hashing, erasing, scrunching up horrible attempts and playing basketball with the garbage (recycling) can, second-guessing, gnashing my teeth, hand-wringing... The undo button is my very favorite button on my computer. Years before my new young adult novel, The Great & the Small, was accepted, I had done an image that I thought didn’t work. I shelved it. When Ellie Sipila of Common Deer Press accepted the book (YAY, Ellie!!) she asked if I had any illustrations yet. I sent her everything I’d done—even the crummy one that I’d thrown out. That “crummy” one, turned into the cover. Ellie could see what I couldn’t see. The image was perfect for it. That, combined with another image I had discarded, became the front and back cover for The Great & the Small. The inside illustrations were then done over the next 6 months.
I’ve had to make peace with my inner critic, or at least a truce. I recognize that I will usually hate what I’m doing, initially. I have made an agreement with myself to do art, however badly, with the promise that I will not release anything to be seen by others before I am happy with it. I look longingly at other artists’ work, and see some of them post videos of their work process—so smooth, so beautiful—and I have learned to be glad for them. I am truly glad that art flows for some people. It’s a wonderful, inspiring thing to see and something I can aspire to.
There were quite a few years where I couldn’t draw at all. I was totally stuck. My arm felt heavy, like it was made of clay, separate from me. If you’ve read some of my other blog posts, you will know that I have had a history of struggling with mental health because of a traumatic event that I experienced as a very young child—depression, PTSD, and everything that goes along with that. I was shut down. My voice, my body, my hands that wanted to draw, but couldn’t…for years, it was as if I was a prisoner in my own body, unable to express myself. The first thaw came when I got the chance to write a novel. I was given 5 weeks. Because I wanted it so much—more than my inner critic could silence—I did it. From that experience, I gained my writing voice. The book that came from that experience is The Present.
My art was unlocked in much the same way. My picture book, Greenbeard the Pirate Pig, was given 5 weeks (do you see a pattern, here??!) to be illustrated. Having never really illustrated a book before, especially using a computer, it was one of the hardest things I’d ever done. But again—those 5 weeks forced me to throw out my inner critic and its paralyzing fears, and the book was finished. I had found my “voice” in my art. Slowly, my body, my abilities, have come back to life, as a Lazarus; and where there was once great pain, there is now joy.
I could never have written and illustrated The Great & the Small before I did, because I wasn’t ready yet. The book came, when I was finally unfrozen and able to fully feel, again. It has been a passage of yet more healing—probing those dark corners of my unconscious; playing with questions, without requiring answers. Learning again, what it means to me to be fully conscious, to be human, to be alive.
The Great & the Small releases TODAY!
ABOUT A.T. BALSARA
I am a children’s author and illustrator, and a hopeless optimist about the goodness in people…especially in children! My stories and art reflect my belief that we are all ONE (yes…you too!) and that no matter where we’ve come from, we are linked together.
The characters and critters that inhabit my stories get put through all sorts of mishaps and adventures. By the end of it, as they emerge blinking in the sun after the long night, they decide that life is good. They may be weary and lucky to be alive (thanks to me) but they are able to see that the sun still shines, and that the stars are always there, even when you can’t see them.
My stories and art come from questions I have, or ideas I want to explore…kind of like digging for buried treasure. I write between genres, and for different age groups (from picture books to young adult), and even switch between illustrating and writing. I believe We ALL have our own treasury of ideas and possibilities, that there is no limit to who we (YOU) can become. It is my hope that as you read my stories you will feel the excitement that comes when you reach for the stars!
Check out A.T.'s website http://torreybalsara.com/ or follow her on Facebook by clicking HERE, or check her out on Twitter by clicking HERE.
Follow A.T's Release Week Blog Tour:
Release day bash! at Girl Plus Book
Guest Blogging at The Creatively Green Write at Home Mom
Interview at The Book Junkie Reads
Spotlight at Ramblings of a Book Nerd
Spotlight at Mello and June, It's a Book Thang!
Special Giveaway Contest at Girl Plus Book
Spotlight at Siobhan's Novelties
Spotlight at Silver Dagger Scriptorium
Spotlight at 3 Partners in Shopping, Nana, Mommy, and Sissy, Too!
Spotlight at Reads 2 Love
Interview at Siobhan's Novelties
Interview at T's Stuff
Spotlight at SImply Kelina
Spotlight at Books, Dreams,Life
Spotlight at Lisa’s World of Books
Book Review at Siobhan's Novelties
Interview at Roxanne’s Realm
Guest Blogging at Books Direct
Spotlight at Vicky at Deal Sharing Aunt
Guest Blogging at Fang-tastic Books
Spotlight at Saph’s Books
Spotlight at CBY Book Club