Esty and me

linedrawing_brownstonesI am not an illustrator, but sometimes I have no choice. This usually happens when a portrait of the subject doesn’t tell enough of the story, and there’s no time or money to hire a professional illustrator. Although I may be smiling on the outside when I find myself in this position, I’m usually filled with self-doubt and, frankly, fear.

“The Writer’s Block” came in very late. Twelve days before we were to go to press, actually. Another story didn’t pan out, but writer Mike Unger was able to tap into an interesting alumna, Julia Fierro, author of the forthcoming Cutting Teeth and founder of the Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in Brooklyn. Mike didn’t know how the story was going to flesh out so I couldn’t do any pre-planning. I had to wait for the story.

Freelancer Amanda Stevenson Lupke took some wonderful portraits of Julia but when I read Mike’s story I knew we needed to tap into Brooklyn, which is a major character in Julia’s story. We had to get a brownstone image and it had to be whimsical. It was Friday. I needed the layout done by Monday.

istock_brownstonesI searched my go-to stock image websites feeling a little sick until I came across a row of typical brownstones on I could use it as reference. All I needed was a light table—which, of course, I didn’t have. I may not be an illustrator, but I am resourceful. I took a flat lantern we had in our basement and glass from a frame hanging on our hallway wall to create a small, primitive light table. I purchased the iStock image and went to work. I found myself getting excited as the drawing was coming together. The iStock image only had two stories, but I could make three! I started to feel confident. I wanted to create matching art—street sign, crumbled paper, pencil, envelope, and Julia’s book—for the layout. The New Yorker popped into my mind and I decided to put my little black and white “doodles” in the text. I was pumped. I’d draw a frame for Julia’s portrait!

When I came into work on Monday, I showed my coworkers the drawings. I was so tickled and ignored my usual M.O. to lay low. One of my coworkers looked at the iStock image and my drawing and said, “You Etsy-fied it!”

I love Etsy so I took that as a compliment.