If she’s not illustrating, writing or guiding others through the drawing jungle, artist Elizabeth Haidle is dreaming of a fine summer in the northern New Mexico mountains. Here’s what she has to say about the speed of handwriting, the pandemic, and creative routines (spoiler: getting up early and freezing cold showers.) A dialogue.
Dear Beth, when it comes to creating, which routine is most important to you?
Going away on regular retreats so I can just focus on a few books and on generating new ideas. If I can’t get away, I get up early while it’s still dark, and sit in a pile of beanbags/pillows under blankets and try to let anything on my brain out onto the sketchbook!
What do you need to keep up a creative routine?
I realized that just physical fatigue is the biggest enemy of creative rundown. I have lots of tricks to keep from getting too tired, from boring stuff like going to bed early enough (and cutting back on caffeine so I can actually sleep) to more exciting or terrible sounding ones, like taking a one minute freezing cold shower. Honestly, this does wonders to give me a second wind in the afternoon! It was suggested to me 5 years ago, I swear I would never have thought that up on my own.
How important is journaling to you?
Journaling is only recently important to me! I do ‘automatic writing’ every day, usually first thing while drinking warm lemon-water, for 10 – 15 minutes. Everything that comes to my mind, I have to write it down, and I write without stopping until one page is filled. I never re-read these pages. In fact they’re so sloppy, if anyone looked at it, no one could possibly understand it! But this matters because it gets my mind to think more slowly, at the speed of hand writing — which is much slower than typing or talking — and also it sends a message to my brain that I can do difficult things. Writing doesn’t come naturally to me and I can’t say that I enjoy the process.
You work as an art director for Illustoria magazine, a creative magazine for kids. Which is your most favorite story for it?
You mean, that we’ve ever published or that I myself have written and drawn? I loved the article about Zooplankton, in the CREATURES issue, written by Jamylese Ryer and illustrated by Lan Truong. For my own research, I enjoyed writing the article on the Peacock Mantis Shrimp for our COLOR issue, illustrated by Julia McNamara. Those are both illustrated essays. For comics, I would say that I enjoyed Marina Muun’s The Rock Garden comic in our SYMBOLS issue, and by me, Literary Giants & Snacks in our FOOD issue.
I researched horror writers and found out what they snacked on while writing horrible things!Elizabeth Haidle
How do you keep inspired during the Pandemic?
Keeping in contact with other artists on Instagram who are creatively dealing with these times; conversations I’ve had with people all over the globe have helped me feel like we can use our creative and generative powers to relate, to heal, to be useful, and to draw attention to the changes we want to be and to see happen. I think hobbies matter! I started needle felting. Any type of wool surface in my house, whether a hat, a blanket, or pillow cover is now viewed as a blank canvas for me to stab bits of color onto.
I do LOTS of walking. Even if it’s boring, like the same loop, or if it’s grey and raining. Every day, maybe twice a day. Gotta keep moving, and also it’s soothing to my eyes. Being indoors, drawing lots, and getting older is not great for my eyesight. So half the time when I go outside, it is because I am taking my eyes on a walk. I would always rather be swimming around in my imagination, sitting at my desk, but the truth is that our bodies are the container for all this thinking. The pandemic has made it all the more of a focus for me — treating my body well. Also journal comics. I do them to amuse myself and to remember important moments. I tend to not take very many photos. So comics are my way of documenting my life.
And weirdly, I had the chance to create these Emotional Pajamas for a luxury PJ company called Rock Soup. I find it therapeutic every time I wear them!Elizabeth Haidle
Beth, any resolutions and plans for your 2021?
I’m running online illustrations courses, involving experimental exercises that are designed to get you thinking differently, especially in regards to a personal art practice. It’s called ‘Illustrating Personal Power Symbols’ (PPS I).
Also, my Tarot Deck for All Ages will be released this April by Lawrence King as well as my book with Houghton Publishing, Before They Were Artists. Famous Illustrators as Kids.
I’m excited about putting together a collection of my illustrations from life drawing sessions with Fantagraphics Books. It might be published in 2023. And I’m just beginning illustrations for a book about Christo and Jeanne-Claude, the installation artists, written by G. Neri and publisehd by Candlewick. Also 2023, I believe. That’s everything I know at this moment, though I also hope to be camping for most of July in the northern New Mexico mountains, where I used to live.