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Drop Cap for Lila by Marilynne Robinson

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Hello!

The book I've chosen for my drop cap is a brand new book by the author Marilynne Robinson. The book, Lila, is the third in a series of books. The others are called Gilead and Home. In a nutshell, these books are about an old preacher who is a widower for most of his life after his wife and baby die during childbirth when he is a young man. He lives most of his life alone, save for a close friend and neighbor who is also a preacher. This friend names one of his sons after the preacher. The son turns out to be a troubled sort of person whom the preacher has a hard time loving. The preacher eventually marries a much younger woman (probably 30 years younger) named Lila who stumbles into his church during service one Sunday in order to get out of the rain. Shortly after their marriage, Lila becomes pregnant with their son Robby.

The first book, Gilead (named for the town they all live in), is a series of letters from the preacher to his young son about life in general and also highlights the preacher's difficulty in loving his namesake who has returned to Gilead after a long time away. The second book, Home, tells the story of the namesake mostly from the perspective of his family members, namely a particular sister. And this most recent book, Lila, tells the life story of the preachers wife and how she came to Gilead and ended up marrying the old preacher.

Lila's story takes place in the late 1920s-1950s. Lila may or may not have been an orphan, either way she was abandoned in a boarding house as small, nameless child and mistreated by the people who lived in and ran the boarding hosue. She was eventually kidnapped from the boarding house by a benevlolent itinerant worker who gives her a name and raises her. This kidnapping, although ilegal and controversial, ultimately saved Lila's life. The two travel around the midwest in search of work for most of Lila's childhood. She is only passing through Gilead, squating in a shack on the outskirts of town, when she meets the preacher, and the two are awkwardly drawn to one another. Lila and the preacher end up getting married and having a child. All the while, Lila is trying to reconcile her old life with her new one, and trying to figure out if she can remain in this new life with the preacher. She is preoccupied with existence; why things happen the way they do; baptism/washing/cleansing; neglect and abandonment; bible study and the goodness and harshness of god; her struggles with faith; new life (being born again herself, as well as having a child). Below are the notes I took while reading this book:  

I will finish up my initial concepts and sketches and upload those tomorrow.

UPDATE: 12/2/14

I have done a few sketches of Rs for the author's last name, but now I am thinking I would like to do an L for the name of the book and the main character, Lila. I think that in this case it just makes more sense. I am going to spend some time translating my concepts into Ls. Perhaps in the future I will do the two books that go along with Lila, also using the first letter of the titles and make them a set... tall order, I know. Sketches to follow very soon.

Is anyone actually reading this?

UPDATE: 12/4/14

Hi! Here are some of my sketches. As I mentioned above, I started out with the letter R for the author's last name, but decided that L for Lila is better. I am going to post sketches for both just because I have not yet had the change to transfer some of my concepts over to the L just yet. Ok, here they are:

I've highlighted my favorites with a pink box. so, let me explain a little about each:

#4--water/washing/cleansing/baptism is a major theme throughout this book, so the letter form is made out of water. I have a few other sketched up there that have to do with water as well, but I think this is the most successful.

#5--this direction is about growth/change/new life. And taking something wild and taming it. Lots of little weed-like wild flowers, their stems all coming together to make the letter form, and then there is a sprout of new life in the middle (the counter of the R has a new leaf).

#8--the main character (Lila) spends most of her life as an itinerant worker, always moving from place to place, never staying anywhere very long. when she marries and moves in with the old preacher, no one,  knows if she is goinng to stay, including herself. She goes off on her own without telling any one for long walks on the outside of town, and the preacher is always surprised and relieved when she comes back. when she becomes pregnant, she decides she will stay until the baby is born, but is unable to say whether she will stay after the baby is born. the arrows, of course, represenot not only her ambivalence about staying, but also her past as a drifter and a wanderer.

and switching over to the L--i like both of these, and I think they are both conceptually strong. I am going to try a few more sketch ideas with the L but need a little more time.

#1--the only possesion that Lila has or cares about for most of the book is a knife that was given to (or left to) her by Doll, the woman who kidnapped and raised her. Doll used the knife on a few occasions to defend herself and/or injure some one else. Doll used the knife to kill a man who may or may not have been Lila's father. Lila acquires the knife when Doll is taken away to jail to await trial. When Lila moves in with the preacher, she keeps the knife on the kitchen table so that the preacher knows that she is not yet gone forever, and also as a way to remind the preacher and herself of the harsh, godless and possibly sinful life she has lived before. it is also a symbol of protection (obviously). A lot of attention is given to the knife particularly in the second half of the book.

#2--this is the arrow direction again, but applied (more elegantly) to the L. I was thinking that the ends of the L could be some foliage (to represent new life) or some splashes of water (to represent the cleansing/baptism theme).

UPDATE 12/9/14

Hi! Here are some digitized versions of a few of my sketches.

I think the knife one (although completely devoid of detail at the moment--just the basic structure so far) is coming along pretty nicely. The only ptoblem is that I feel like it lacks a kind of elegance that I think is necessary to accurately capture the themes in the book. Perhaps that can be achaived with color and detail. Also, I am not wild about the leg of the L, I am going to be refining that a lot, and trying to make it work with the knife design in the stem instead of just attaching a leg that sort of works.

The more scripty L I think achecives that elegance, because scripts generally communicate elegance, but I am not digging this concept all that much in digital form. It needs a lot of work, but drawing that L in illustrator and making it look somewhat ok with all those curves took me a while...so I feel like I had to put it up. Again, this is just the basic structure, no detail yet. I am not quite ready to give up on this one yet, so I will keep playing around with it.

Comments? Thoughts? Anybody out there?

UPDATE 12/11/14

I spent some more time on this today. I redrew the knife concept a couple of time, but feel that something is off still. I feel like these letters are looking circus-y, and I don't think that really fits the book. The ornamentation does not suit Lila the main character of the book. I think I will try working with the knife in a more basic letterform. Anyway, here are the latest... I'll keep at it.

UPDATE 1/5/15

ok, I'm back. I got a little busy/lazy over the holidays. But I am here to finish this letter. I think I made some pretty good progress. I was thinking that my previous iterations were not really capturing the feeling of the book, so I change things up quite a bit. Additionally, I started playing with the gradient mesh tool in Illustrator, which I have never really used before. I think the gradients could still use some tweaking, though. I also plan to add a little more ornament, perheps bringing in some of the water elements that I have been trying to make happen on some of my sketches and previous attempts. I'll be back with more later...

UPDATE 1/7/15:

Well, this is starting to come together. It defintely needs some refinement (i'm still not happy with the gradients, and since I changed the background color, the fading blue needs some work), but I think I'm nearly done!

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