Art/Author Blog

Looking Back and Moving Forward

Drawing of a young girl looking behind her at a raven.
Whose There? 2016, Ink watercolour sketch

 

 

 

 

I completed the novella, Hannah’s Hearing about a week ago, and this week it was time to chose a new project.

But which one? They’re all clamouring for my attention all the time. Every silly idea, big or small wants prescidence and as I mentioned last week, I’m feeling entirely overwhelmed by all the work there is to do.

Growing Gills, a book on doing your creative work, by Jessica Abel, was recommended to me by someone at the Sketchbook Skool Facebook group.

Jessica’s book is full of good advice on how to narrow down and do one project–ONLY ONE–in order to focus and complete your work.

Can I stick to just ONE Project?

Snort. Of course I can’t. But I can take all those little ideas, write them down and promise them I’ll get to them in time. (Maybe not, but what do they know?) In the meantime, I’ve chosen one project to focus on.

Some years ago, I started a novel I called The Chronos Project. It is a time travel novel that takes place in 2087 and 1940 Germany. It seemed like an excellent idea, but I couldn’t make it work. It got too complicated and I didn’t have the chops for it. I revisited it a while later, but again, I set it aside for another shiny new idea, or was it because I couldn’t figure out how to end the story? At 120,000 words it didn’t feel as though it was coming to an end any time soon.

This week I pulled that story out again, and I’m reading it, back to front. Yes, weirdness. But I wanted to see it in a new way. I’m finding to my surprise that the writing is good, the story is coherent and has tension. And the idea is still exciting.

So, I made a small plan. As per Jessical Abel’s suggestion, I chose this project, and I will break it down to its small parts. This week and part of next week, I will continue to read the story and make a brief note about each chapter. The next project is to read each pov characters pages in order so that I can see their story arc and find out where I can strengthen them and where they’re story needs to go.

That’s all the plan there is for now. I’ll make more as I come to the end of a goal and am ready to move on to the next.

Oh, and while I’m reading I’m listening to Minor Matter. Do yourself a favour and give them a listen.

 

Help! I’m Drowning

14102383_10153305589557537_7493960287916582389_nWell, no, not really. But I am a little overwhelmed with all the work that comes along in spring. I have a huge yard and vegetable garden that needs all kind of attention this time of year. Not complaining, I’m very lucky.

I spent this morning buying seeds and looking for trees I might to plant in a bare spot. This afternoon I’ll need to reseed grass where Caro, my dog uhm…burned it out.

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On the plus side I finished Hannah’s Hearing, my fantasy/boomerlit novellayesterday and sent it out to beta readers and I managed three small sketchbook drawings (one was awful) and a cover mock-up for Hannah’s Hearing.

Have a great week!

Bear with Me

Drawing of a bear
Bear, digital, May 6, 2018

Spring is truly here! It’s astonishing to have temperatures of +27C so early in the year. With this marvelous weather comes birdsong, budding trees, and a tonne of yard work.

Between bouts of raking and digging, I continue to revise Hannah’s Hearing, a novella featuring a boomer-aged woman (think: Fredrik Bachman’s, A Man Called Ove) and I managed to get out to do at least one urban sketch.

It’s lame, I know, but I couldn’t bring myself to plant a stool on the sidewalk to draw, so I parked my car at a nearby mall and tried sketching a senior’s high-rise. I need to get over my fear of having people watch me do my work.

The bear was a digital practice drawing. I’m trying to expand my abilities and repertoire. Like many people, I gravitate to drawing faces or figures. It’s nice to change it up. For instance, I hate that my ability with perspective drawing is so iffy, that’s why I’ve been going out to draw buildings.

I’ve been listening/watching Youtube videos while I draw. Some on drawing, some on publishing, and many on thinking, philosophy, and psychology. It’s a bit like being back at university—without the writing papers bit—and I love it!

What about you? What do you listen to while you are doing your creative work?

Creativity and a Memoir

Cellist, digital drawing, 2018

 

 

On my recent visit to my granddaughter, she was persuaded to show me what she’d learned in her cello lessons. We talked about the cello while she was setting up. One of the threads on the bow was broken and we wondered what you did about something like that.

“What are they made of?” I asked.

“Horsetail hair,” was the reply.

“Hmm.”

Google told us, soon enough, what to do with the broken strand. Cut it off.

But this use of horsetail hair reminded me of another time in my life when these hairs had done something more than brush flies off a horse’s back end.

I was five, possible six when I first made use of a horsetail hair. On a regular weekday afternoon my two sisters and I, pestered our mother to let us sew doll clothes. We wanted to use a real needle and thread. We’d been allowed before under her supervision. This time Mom said no. She was tired. We had a little brother and he was keeping her up at night. She was going to take a nap, and we were to go outside and play. My mother wasn’t careless of her kids. These were different times and children were taught to grow up faster.

Grumbling and complaining–I’m sure I was the loudest–we went outside with our little scraps of fabric. We wondered around the farmyard in a desultory fashion for a while and ended up in an old broken down storage shed.

It was a grimy place full of rusted metal things, some hanging from the walls on nails, some in boxes stacked on makeshift shelves. There was one tiny window through whose dirty panes light strained to come in past the dirt and fly-blow. Blue-backed flies bumped against the glass trying to get out, wishing they’d never come in.

We found some boxes, arranged them in a row,  and sat.

And sat.

What to do?

My eyes roomed the walls. Nothing of interest. Nothing of–wait! Thread. Long thin threads.

For some reason, our dad had collected a clump of horsetail hairs and hung them on a peg in this shed.

“Hey, we could–”

I wasn’t sure what we could do–but thread! It seemed somehow that we had half the answer to our sewing needs. Where, in this place, could we find a needle?

I pulled one of the horsetail hairs from the peg and had a flash of understanding. The hair wasn’t limp like a thread, it was firm and springy. Maybe…

I came back to the boxes to sit with my sister. I folded the bit of cloth in half and threaded the tip of the horsetail hair through the layers of cloth.

I doubt we got far with our horsetail hair sewing. Little children lose interest fast and it was a dark and dirty place to hang out. I remember the hair going through the fabric, but it must have been a loose weave, for I tried, it again with the broken cello bow thread, and it was reluctant to go through the polyester fabric of my top.

You know those creativity tests where they ask you to think of a zillion things to do with a brick or a paper clip? I don’t do those. Tests make me nervous. But if they ever ask the question: what can you do with horse tail hair? I have at least one creative answer.

What about you? Do you remember a time when you came up with a truly creative idea?

Learning

by Aaron John Gregory

On our recent visit to California we attended the Pacific Grove Good Old Days. I’m not a fan of believing that the old days are somehow better then the ones we’re currently living, but it really didn’t matter because the Pacific Grove Good Old Days are basically a street fair, with arts displays, live music, midway rides for the young, and lot of things for sale including food.

It was a great deal of fun to weave through the various display and sellers booths. Among them we found a real gem–Cotton Crustacean. The booth was manned by Aaron John Gregory and sold T-shirt decorated with beautiful images of sea creatures. If you’re a prog-rock fan you may have heard of Aaron Gregory before. He’s a member of the band Giant Squid. I listen to some progressive rock, but hadn’t heard of Giant Squid before. Give them a listen. They might be just what you’ve been looking for.

Aaron is also an illustrator and designer, and draws the images for the T-shirts himself–hours and hours of night-time stippling. Stippling. I had, of course, heard of it, but it was something I’d never tried. In fact with my high and mighty fine arts degree I probably thought it was beneath me. Phah! I still have a lot to learn.

So, I tried it. Aaron uses pen and ink. His images lingered in my mind and while watching television with my husband I started out drawing a creature, cribbed from William O’Connor’s Dracopedia on my Samsung Tab A with S-pen tablet in Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro. As you can see, I didn’t get the idea of trying the stippling until I’d already added some colour. I let it stand, though it does nothing for the drawing overall. I think I need a whole lot more carefulness. Some of my dots ended up being little lines, but the process was enjoyable and I plan to do it again.

Digital Stippling

Sometimes it’s NOT about the Product

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Sometimes it’s the Experience

I was fortunate enough, in these past ten days, to visit my lovely daughter and her family in California. The Monterey Peninsula is beautiful, Especially at this time of year. In my part of Canada we, still, have snow on the ground and though we have gorgeous spring and summer wildflowers, they are often of the retiring type–small flowers, delicately tinted. Not so in California. Is there a wild flower in the world that speaks out as much as the California poppy? Perhaps, but I haven’t visited that land yet.

My daughter is an excellent artist, and one of the things we did together was to sit side by side with our sketchbooks, drawing the natural world around us. My results weren’t stellar, but the experience was sublime!

In Progress

Character Study
Character Study in Progress

It’s been a very short week for me and I’ve managed only a little art. I’ve been home for three days, all of which were taken up by much housekeeping and preparation for a further time away.

I did manage to get started on a digital drawing. While I was drawing this I was reading about sfumato, a technique that Leonardo da Vinci used in his painting. Alright, by now I should know all about that, having studied da Vinci in art history and through books I have, including Walter Isaacson’s biography of Leonardo da Vinci. And yet, though I admired the concept of creating smokey edges, especially into the shadows where you can’t really see what is going on, I didn’t have a clear idea of how to create that effect. In this drawing, I emphasized my outlines as I’m prone to do, but somewhere along the line, I decided I didn’t want that hard cut-out kind of look.

I searched Youtube and found Michael Schmitt. To my mind he does and excellent job of describing and illustrating sfumato in this video.

Thankfully, I can go back and ease up on some of the harsh lines.

If you are like most people who studied art at university in recent years, you will not have learned much about drawing or painting technique. At my university it was all about modernism and post-modernism, and who cares about chiaroscuro and sfumato. Now, I’m finding myself interested in some of the old ways.

Artists are like that–always in progress.