Above you see a harvest from my garden. I took this photo in the first few years we lived here.
It’s a holiday here in Canada, and though my weeks aren’t straitlaced by a nine-to-five job, I have decided to take the day off. Today is a fill up on gratitude day–oh, and turkey, and roasted vegetables, and pumpkin pie, and…
I’m not thinking of whether you outline, write your thesis sentence first, or how you develop your characters. What I’m considering is the physical process.
It’s interesting to hear about the processes writers employ. Many get up very early in the morning before any other family members are up, and in this early morning solitude they invite their characters to play, blithely typing away as they watch. Some only write late at night. Some write in coffee shops and so on.
It is said that Thomas Wolf wrote with a pencil on paper, using the top of his refridgerator as his desktop. And yes, he was tall, and refridgerators were shorter in those days.
I find that I have a more intimate connection to my story if I write longhand in a lined book. And it is easier on my back to sit in a recliner and write in a notebook than on my laptop. The problem is transcribing drives me crazy. Writing with a pen or pencil isn’t the hard thing. Reading handwritten narratives, is for me the hard thing. Tougher, still if you’re trying to type what you are reading, while you’re reading.
Recently, in a Joanna Penn podcast, her mother, Jacqui Penn, also a writer, described her writing process. She writes her stories longhand in a notebook, reads it into a recorder and let’s Dragon take care of the transcription. She then edits on her computer.
This sounds brilliant to me. Her reasons for working this way, is that she finds sitting at the keyboard for long periods of time very hard on her. Yes! Me too. Sore neck, sore back, sore wrists…
I know that people write longhand less and less often. Times change. Technologies come along and do a brilliant job, but I hear that longhand writing is actually very good for you brain. (Check this, and this) And Google Docs has a facility whereby you can dictate a document on your cellphone without an intervening software like Dragon. There are plenty of issues to be sure. You have to tell dragon your punctuation marks along with the words, and Google only understand things like period and comma, but hey, what’s another learning curve! I’m going to give it a try.
For a while now I’ve been taking a walk early every morning. I do it because it’s beautiful outside and because I think it’s good for my mental health. And who knows, it might just keep my hippocampus strong for longer.
I’ve been writing and drawing, but nothing exciting is happening on that front. I’m in the learning stage of things. I realized I needed to get a better handle on light and value and it occurred to me that taking my camera walking might help with that. You look with a whole other attention if you carry a camera. It was wonderful to find that all those boring things, I walk by in alleys, are quite beautiful with the right kind of attention.
A few weeks ago I wailed about not being able to paint. I’m not going to tell you that it’s all come back to me and I’m flying. But I am painting, and I’ve been completely immersed in it all week long. Everything is different, the medium, the style, the type of painting, but I’m learning, and I’m old enough to know that learning is one of life’s most important things for me. If I’m not learning, I lose interest and everything is washed over in blues.
Above is a digital piece worked in a painterly realistic style.
My whole art education was about abstraction with elements of either the sublime and/or expressionistic. I feel like a traitor to my education, and my mentors, but man, there’s a whole other world of art out there.
After years of creating art, usually with my head bent over a panel placed on a table or on the floor, I have succumbed to serious neck and shoulder pain.
As mentioned in my last post, I’m not painting in the traditional way right now, though what I was doing wasn’t exactly traditional either.
For years I’ve worked in encaustic. Encaustic is a mixture of beeswax, damar resin and pigment, which is heated and applied in various methods on a panel. I preferred to use regular bristle brushes to apply my wax, but because it solidifies very quickly I found that the best way for me to work was to have my panel flat on a table. A slight angle was fine too, but a vertical panel didn’t work well.
Hence, my 7 pound head was hanging over a table at a degree that made it feel more like 35 pounds and hey, I’ve got one of those nerdy, long, skinny necks, which means I was creating a lot of trouble for myself.
Now, I’m mostly working digitally and I’ve been striving to find a way to keep my posture neutral. No slumping shoulders, no out-stretched neck, no reaching arm and bent wrist.
To that end I modified a small computer table I bought at Staples. In the picture above you see it as it would be if I use it for my drawing tablet, but I took off the side panel (where the mouse would normall go) so that I could put a drawing board in this same table and use it for analog drawing too. This little table-top tilts to a 45 degree angle, and because the whole thing is small and on wheels I can easily move it out of my way when I need to use my computer for writing.
It’s early days, but I think this might do the trick. Now if I could just figure out how to get the lighting right.
In the mean time, as you can see, I’ve decided to practice. I may not have anything to say in paint right now, but drawing for me is meditative, so for now, I’m doing the equivalent of scales: drawing hands, feet, gestures, contours, and so on.
Oh and I made this very strange lady. I stole some bits of her from a drawing by Wylie Beckert.
My first real comic. I’ve wanted to learn to make comics and cartoons for a long time, but the amount of knowledge I don’t have is overwhelming.
Finding myself without a blog topic—AGAIN—I decided to give it a try, knowledge or not. In this case the story is one that happened to me about a week ago.
Honestly, I don’t often think I have a catastrophic health issue, but hey, age makes these things likelier. I’d been feeling so tired for a number of days. Along with the tiredness I had dizzyiness and a feeling of heaviness in my chest—a feeling as though I wasn’t getting enough air.
As you can see from the comic above, I aced all the heart attack tests. I was not having a heart attack. Thank goodness. The Medic decided that I was likely tired because I’d been working hard and that all those wonderful spring smells, like leaf mold, lilacs, lily-of-the-valley—blossoms of every kind, were giving my lungs a hard time. Hence, difficulty breathing and tiredness.
Yay! It’s all good.
So what do you think? Should I keep on with the cartooning? Did the story come through? Were the drawings interesting?
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?
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.
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.
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?
For a long time now I’ve wanted a digital graphics tablet, in particular, a screen tablet designed especially for artists. Last week I received a lovely gift of birthday money from my son, that he earmarked for a, someday, drawing tablet. You see these tablets, especially the ones developed by Wacom,the giant in graphic tablets, are very expensive.
But, but, but…
New manufacturers are catching up, and after I did a whole lot of research on graphic digital tablets, I found that companies like Huion, Ugee and others are producing excellent products at a fraction of the cost. A Wacom 13″ HD tablet on Ebay is still over a thousand dollars (CDN) whereas this lovely Huion 15.6″ HD tablet was about half that price. I pulled the trigger, as is obvious from the photos above.
So this brings me to a little philosophy about tools for artists. All credit to the wonderfulness of Wacom’s tablets, or Apples various devices, or any of those tools people rate as top of the line in paints, or inks, and papers. I’m glad these wonderful things are out there. But if you think you make art because you can’t afford these amazing things, think again. I hear that Shakespeare didn’t have a MacBook Pro and Scrivener. He managed to do a pretty good job of writing nonetheless.
I think artists are by their nature adapters. If they can’t afford one tool they’ll learn to use another. I haven’t tried a Wacom Cintiq, I can’t make a comparison between it and the Huion tablets.
Is the Huion tablet an excellent digital drawing tool?
I think so. The setup was easy. Krita, my preferred drawing application works well on it. Does it have problems? A couple. I hear it has more paralax (difference between where you put down your pen and where it draws) than some tablets. If it does, it hasn’t been a problem for me. One thing that annoys me a little is that the bottom right corner doesn’t respond as well to my pen touch as I’d like. I’ll figure a work around by moving my brush pallette to another area of the screen.
So, yes, it’s a tool, but its also a toy and I love it!