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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Reflections to the Letter: An Interview with Jessey Ina-Lee and Diana Martens

Jessey Ina-Lee has earned various degrees and certificates which include interior design, art, music and even a master’s degree in psychology. She has had a number of different professions and a lot of jobs, including teacher, real estate sales/appraisal, secretary, interior and graphic designer, and homemaker. Oh, yes, and there’s the very important jobs of being daughter, sister, caretaker, companion, partner and friend. She has also been devoted to animal rescue work, other social causes, writing, art, music and dance.

Diana Martens grew up in Charleston, West Virginia and was immersed in art from the beginning with her father, Robert E. Martens, an architect and sculptor, and her mother, Eloise Guthrie Martens, a musician and composer. Shortly after graduating from college, she began “drawing” her unusual style on large acrylic spheres that were made to be used as covers for outdoor lighting. Loving the shape, and experimenting with many sizes of spheres, she found the clear, solid acrylic spheres to be the perfect “canvas” for her work.

Soon after Diana moved to Connecticut in 1994, she began drawing her unique alphabet which is now part of the book, Reflections to the Letter, which is a collaborative work with Jessey. The artwork from the book has been shown in a number of select galleries in Connecticut and West Virginia. It’s a beautiful and inspirational book, and I was really excited to talk to Diana and Jessey about it.

Shelly Rachanow: Tell us more your book, Reflections to the Letter.

Jessey Ina-Lee: This is the description we wrote for the cover of the book, and I hope it doesn't sound like bragging, but I think it's true. "Reflections to the Letter is a beautiful, thought-provoking book with stunning full-color illustrations of each letter of the alphabet. The unusual art with its interesting shapes and pulsating, vibrant color offers an adventure into the imagination. Each letter is represented by dramatic art accompanied by a short essay. From introspective reflections on childhood experiences to interesting observations from the vantage point of a back-yard lawn chair, each piece offers an unusual perspective. This book is a thought-provoking look at life that will make you go hmm....... "

Diana Martens: Reflections to the Letter is the culmination of many incarnations of our combined art work. The first one was my black and white letters with very simple, well wishing words to go with each letter. Each evolution of our book was a step toward the finished book you see today. The phrase that speaks most about our process is that we have ended up with a book where “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. It grew, it flowered, and it was a wonderful process!

Shelly Rachanow: The art inside your book is breathtaking. What made you start drawing the alphabet?

Diana Martens: I have always loved black and white pen and ink. Over the years I developed a distinct style of showing motion and movement that seems to be stopped at a given moment. A good friend had been watching my work and said. “Diana, do you think you could draw the letters of the alphabet in your style?” So the project began!

The more I worked on the letters, the more fascinated I became with the alphabet itself. It is amazing to me that only twenty six letters are the basis for our language .The letters of the alphabet tell stories, communicate thoughts, feeling, ideas, concerns, hopes and dreams. I wanted my drawing of the letters to be a tribute to their role in our lives. I read books about the history of the alphabet and my awe of these 26 letters continues to this day. It is amazing!

Shelly Rachanow: What inspired you and Jessey to collaborate?

Diana Martens: I had just finished putting border designs around each letter of my alphabet. These borders finished and framed the artwork and I was excited! I proudly showed them to my artist friend Jessey. She thought they were amazing and quickly asked if it would be alright with me for her to scan one of my letters in her computer and “see what would happen” when she added color to it. I said, “Sure. Why not.”

Neither of us knew, at that point, how many hours of work this suggestion would entail. I certainly had no idea or expectation of the results.

I will never forget opening the first file of the letter Jessey had colored. I was blown away! It was absolutely beautiful! It changed my work so dramatically that it took my breath away! And my work was still there. I loved it!

And so the work continued.

Jessey Ina-Lee: When I saw Diana's pen and ink drawings, I asked her if I could color them. I have a graphics background and in my mind's eye, I could see them in full color. I was very excited about the possibility of working on the letters. Diana agreed to let me do it and I spent many, many hours scanning and coloring the artwork. The computer sees each white space as a separate object, so I had to color every tiny space individually. It took months to finish the letters. But each one was so beautiful, it kept me going!

After that, Diana and I worked on putting together a book. Since she had originally done the drawings for a friend's child, we were thinking a children's book, but somehow that just didn't work. Then I got the idea of using some of my writing with the letters and making an inspirational book for adults. Diana liked the idea so I started working on our alphabet book for adults. The result was Reflections to the Letter.

Shelly Rachanow: The messages next to each letter are really inspiring. Give us a small sample of one of your favorites.

Jessey Ina-Lee: To me, the writings are like when you look at something and then tilt you head a little bit to the right or left to see a slightly different angle. That's how I see things - from a slightly different view - and that's what the writings are about – how I see the world. One of my favorites is the letter R - Realizations. It’s a slightly different view of some very familiar sights. An audio reading of that piece can be found by clicking on the Reflections Sound Clip at: http://womonswork.com/page15.php.

Diana Martens: The beauty of the vignettes that Jessey has written to go with each letter is that depending on what is going on in my life, different letters are my favorites.

My all time favorite letter is the letter B and it is also my favorite message. What Jessey says about “Brilliance” is a humbling and inspiring message. The more I know - the more there seems to be for me to know! (And, yes, the word is misspelled on its page – it was a test to see if all the brilliant people were paying attention!)

Shelly Rachanow: This book was definitely a labor of love for you, and I’m sure it was an amazing feeling when you finished it (which I totally understand myself as an author). What words of wisdom do you have for other people who are currently pursuing a dream?

Diana Martens: My advice to anyone pursuing a dream is to not limit the scope of your dream by the distance you can see right now. Don’t be afraid to let the dream grow and evolve as you move toward it. Remember how I thought I was “finished” when I completed the borders of each letter. This book would not have happened if I had let it stop there! And now the book is a reality and we’ve even been featured in a magazine! How exciting is that? See our write-up at http://www.womonswork.com/page20.php - link to Stylus Magazine.

Jessey Ina-Lee: My advice to anyone is just to work on what you love and in a way that will keep you in love with your work. Other than the graphic arts jobs, I’ve always had jobs unrelated to my creative work because I didn’t want to mix the two. So, how I make a living and what I do are not necessarily the same thing. I don’t want to create according to someone else’s specifications. I want the freedom to create what I choose when I choose. I work on many projects at once and love bouncing back and forth between them. Sometimes, I put a project aside for years and then come back to it with a fresh approach.

For me, what matters is the process. I love the process of creating. I’ve done books and art and videos and plays and jewelry – I can’t even remember all of my creative pursuits. But they’ve all been works of love, and they fill me with joy!

Shelly Rachanow: And last, the 'If Women Ran the World Blog' question for everyone - What would you do if you ran the world?

Diana Martens: If I ran the world, I would make food and shelter for everyone a priority.

Jessey Ina-Lee: I would bring back good old-fashioned manners. Judith Martin (Miss Manners) is one of my favorite authors and I love her book, MISS MANNERS RESCUES CIVILIZATION in which she “calls on etiquette to champion the quest for civil decency.” Bringing back common courtesy and consideration of others would go a long way toward solving world problems.

To contact Jessey or to learn more about her work, visit http://www.womonswork.com/ or email jesseyina-lee@sbcglobal.net.

To contact Diana, email dianamartens402@aol.com, or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn.

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